The Rizal Letters

Reading Rizal Yesterday & Today

Friday, August 25, 2006

1882 & 2006:
Writing & Publishing
Then & Now

From the 12 September 1882 letter of Basilio Teodoro Moran in Manila to Jose Rizal in Barcelona, Spain; Moran is publisher of Diariong Tagalog which has just published Rizal’s article, El Amor Patrio, The Love Of Country (with my editing):

When we published your article El Amor Patrio, the terrible cholera morbus had begun to claim thousands of victims in this capital city. In these last days it has slackened its fatal effects, due undoubtedly to the energetic measures that our most worthy Governor General, the Marquis of Estella (Fernando Primo de Rivera), has taken to combat it and to the atmospheric change observed lately on account of the continuous squalls and rains that we are having.

Your article was published whole in one single issue (of 20 August last) so that the reading can be continuous and the reader will not lose interest in it. The censor of this periodical has boldly added the distinctive mark of el Bueno to the name Guzman, which the Editor strongly disapproved, telling him rightly that he ought never to add to or remove from an article even one letter, inasmuch as the one who does so becomes ridiculous in desiring to share the glory of its author; and if the editorial staff consider an article bad, they should not publish it; if they do, they should not mutilate it. After this reprimand of the aforesaid censor, we have excused his fault which was the result of misunderstood zeal rather than of a blameable desire, and I hope you will do the same.

The members of this editorial staff including the editor, and enlightened groups of this capital have lavished praises on your work and said that neither here nor in Spain, except Castelar, can produce an equal literary work so full of opportune concepts and poetic images. I therefore felicitate you warmly for it, wishing that you continue the work you have begun, for all of us predict for you unfading honors for your own glory and that of the Spanish territory that saw you born.

I don’t know yet if the Diariong Tagalog can support itself. I doubt it because our fellow countrymen are indifferent to it.

By this mail we send you a set of this periodical from its first appearance to date and in the future you will receive the issues as they come out.

We should like to request you to favor us with a fortnightly review of the topmost news of that city and of others in Europe, six or eight articles every fortnight, and see if there are publications there that would to exchange with us, and if you do not find any, you can subscribe for a year to a newspaper. If by chance there is some one there who wants to subscribe to ours, it would be desirable for you to accept it. We give you ample powers and you can consider yourself, as we already consider you, collaborator and staff writer of Diariong Tagalog. xxx

If your work will allow you, I beg you not to fail to send at least your literary articles every fortnightly, because I’m planning to reduce the personnel so that the periodical can support itself. Now the expenses amount to one thousand four hundred pesos monthly. You already know that I don’t count on a large fund.

For the last 2 hours, I have been surfing the Internet for an English translation of El Amor Patrio but I can’t even find the Spanish version. I don’t understand - a seminal writing like that and it has been ignored by historians and knowledge keepers? It may of course only mean that they have not discovered the value of historical documents being published for easy access in the Internet. I hope the National Historical Institute can do something about this, and soon.

It’s interesting that Rizal’s patriotic article was printed whole in one issue and not in series, for the reader’s convenience and the author’s assurance that once someone fancies reading it, he can and will read through to the end. If I were the editor of the publication, I would have done the same thing. In fact, whenever I lay out a newsletter of which I am Editor, for one-flow reading I always see to it that each article finishes on the same page or continues to the very next page.

‘If the editorial staff consider an article bad, they should not publish it; if they do, they should not mutilate it.’ That’s what I do when I edit manuscripts: unless the grammar is poor, the meaning is unclear or the logic is bad, I leave the sentences alone. Not being the author, I do not rewrite the paper according to my style. An editor is not a licensed rewriter.

‘I don’t know yet if the Diariong Tagalog can support itself. I doubt it because our fellow countrymen are indifferent to it.’ Well, it works both ways. Did the publisher think of coming out with a publication that suited the taste and/or met the needs of its target readers? Why would I buy a copy of your paper if I don’t see the need to read it, or if I don’t like it? I am indifferent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer because I do not espouse what the paper espouses. And it’s too judgmental for my taste. In contrast, I like the Philippine Star and am happy reading it. I’ll buy a copy anytime.

Moran is requesting Rizal to write either a fortnightly review of the news in Europe or his own literary works as often as he can. In fact, he’s actually asking Rizal to write much of the content of the paper!

The problem with Diariong Tagalog is not lack of news but too much political news, which is the same problem with most of our newspapers today (including the tabloids). Diariong Tagalog did not and today’s papers do not consider important any positive developments whether in the big cities or in the small villages in remote hills. Today, all the mass media considers itself the guardian of the people’s interests without trying to understand what those interests are. If they ask me, I will tell them they can start with man’s hierarchical needs as according to Abraham Maslow.

Moran wrote of planning to reduce the personnel of his publishing house. That means to me he started big – 1,400 pesos a month was big money at that time. This was 1882; to give you an idea of that amount, in 1887, the cost of printing 2,000 copies of Rizal’s book Noli Me Tangere was 800 pesos. Moran was over-spending! He had too much zeal and not enough sense of proportion. I understand Diariong Tagalog printed 2 issues and then was seen no more. 100% patriotism does not translate into a 50-50 proposition.