One of the most challenging trials of going through general education classes was my attempt at memorizing the entire Mi Último Adiós for Rizal class. That was a bitch.
I took Rizal–a course dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal, so you know he is very important to the country–during the tail end of my MassCom days, during a summer semester. I took it with one of my best friends Bernard, who was a huge fan of Dr. Rizal. I mean, HUUUUGE. He always ecstatically reminded me that he and his idol were both born on June 19th, and he took it upon himself to adopt Popc’s DVD copy of José Rizal, a film adaptation of Rizal’s life starring Cesar Montano.
Rizal was an interesting man. Throughout junior and senior years in high school, we covered two of his most famous books: Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. I won’t attempt to explain these books because the politics of it is just mind-blowing. But give them a read. They have been translated into hundreds of different languages. They are both a part of Project Gutenberg, and as such are available for free download. Find Noli here and El Fili here.
But I digress…
The summer was spent discussing Rizal’s biography–from birth to death. He was an intelligent man, a seasoned traveler, and an incredible writer. I do not doubt one bit why he is considered the Philippine national hero, even if he spent a lot more time in Europe (if I remember correctly). I enjoyed the class, for the most part…
…Because for finals, we were instructed to memorize Mi Último Adiós, an all-Spanish poem Rizal wrote on the eve of his execution. That’s when the fun part ended.
My reaction to that news can be summarized in three letters: WTF.
Seventy lines of Spanish to be delivered in front of an entire class. Our professor must have been high.
It was an intense few weeks after that announcement. I had long strips of paper with the entire poem on it, and I carried that around everywhere I went.
Thankfully, during finals, the professor must have realized he overestimated us because he accepted our best efforts. Didn’t have to sweat out the whole thing; just what we can. I mean, who in their right mind would actually dedicate that much time memorizing a Spanish poem for a gen-ed. class? It was pointless and unnecessary.
By now you’re curious…how far did I get?
¡Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,
Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más florida,
También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien.
En campos de batalla, luchando con delirio,
Otros te dan sus vidas sin dudas, sin pesar;
El sitio nada importa, ciprés, laurel o lirio,
Cadalso o campo abierto, combate o cruel martirio,
Lo mismo es si lo piden la patria y el hogar.
Yo muero cuando veo que el cielo se colora
Y al fin anuncia el día tras lóbrego capuz;
si grana necesitas para teñir tu aurora,
Vierte la sangre mía, derrámala en buen hora
Y dórela un reflejo de su naciente luz.
My presentation was a painful 15 minutes and I think I developed wrinkles from scrunching up my face in concentration.
Read the rest of the poem here. It comes with an English translation. Beautiful poem, but a pain in the ass to commit to memory.