To many Filipinos, Dr. Jose Rizal’s life had been an open book, but his works and sacrifices seems not to achieve independence for his country and countrymen but still admired and remembered up to this day. His life was full of controversies and unanswered issues about his works and beliefs. One of them was the issue of his supposed retraction. Retraction is defined as to withdraw a promise, statement or opinion.(Miriam Webster, 1999 p520).
It was said that he refuted his writing against the teachings and practices of Catholic Church, returned to the Catholic faith, and abominated masonry, but there seemed to be a discrepancy in the documents linked to his retraction. Rizal’s alleged retraction was declared to be true by the friars who were with him before his execution. During the last 24 hours before Rizal will be executed, Jesuits came in and out together with other visitors, including members of his own family. That night Rizal wrote out a retraction based on the formula of Father Pi and signed it about 11:30 pm. The retraction contains two significant points: First: the rejection of Masonry (“I abominate Masonry”) and Second: a repudiation of “anything in my words, writings, publications, and conduct that has been contrary to my character as a son of the Catholic Church.”(Dr Eugene Hessel, Rizal’s Retraction: A Note on the debate, 1965).
Father Visa, one of the Jesuit priests who visited Rizal, testified that, “Rizal wrote and signed in his own handwriting in my presence the document of retraction.” His testimony was later on notarized on May 22, 1916. There were also circumstantial evidences pertaining to Rizal’s retraction, for instance, his marriage to Josephine Bracken. Father Balaguer, another Jesuit priest who visited Rizal, claimed that he officiated the marriage of Rizal to Josephine Bracken subsequent to Rizal’s returning faith to the Roman Catholic, but no proof or record that Rizal really married Bracken. Although there were numerous notarized testimonies and circumstantial evidences concerning Rizal’s retraction, the side who didn’t believe Rizal’s Letter of retraction are still intrigued on the authenticity of the documents, they believed that the retraction paper was forged.
Dr. Ricardo Pascual of the University of the Philippines made a study about the authenticity of the document. He notes a number of variations with the hand writing of the Retraction Document. Pascual also noted differences between the text of the document found in 1935 and other versions of the Retraction including the one issued by Father Balaguer (Dr. Eugene Hessel, Rizal’s Retraction: A Note on the debate,1965). Also, when the family came looking for the document of Retraction, it was said to be lost not until 1935 when it was made public.
I believe that Dr. Jose Rizal did not sign the Document of Retraction for the reason that he come to the terms with the fact that even if he signs the retraction paper, he will still be executed. Rizal knew that eventually the authorities would try to stop him permanently with his influential convictions against them. Rizal himself has a mature state of mind and would stick to what he believes in. He has been consistent with his behavior and I think for the friars to be able to change it would be absurd.
Moreover, I do not think that the Jesuits were that irresponsible to have lost the original copy of the document as well as to not issue a marriage certificate of Rizal’s marriage with Josephine Bracken. I recognize that many study will arise concerning Rizal’s retraction, but it does not invalidate his works and contributions for the better Philippines, but for me he should not be the National Hero of the Philippines even he sacrifices a lot I’m not convince why, even he retracted or not from all allegations he wrote the idea of his is not for Independence but for equality of treatment by the Spaniards to the Filipinos and to be a colony of Spain, because Rizal believed that the Philippines is not yet ready for Independence.