Rare, personal letters of Jose Rizal hit auction block


FOUR handwritten and heartfelt letters of Dr. Jose Rizal to his sister go up for auction this weekend.

The letters, addressed to Rizal’s older and arguably most favorite sister Maria, highlight the The Kingly Treasures 2017 sale of Leon Gallery on December 2, 2 pm. The notes and other lots of the auction are currently on view at the Leon Gallery until December 1.

In Photo: Cultural writer Bambi Harper talks about Félix Resurección Hidalgo’s Portrait of Nelly Boustead, which is one of the featured lots along with the Rizal letters in Leon Gallery’s The Kingly Treasures 2017 auction on December 2.

According to cultural writer Bambi Harper, who was also the former president of the Heritage Conservation Society of the Philippines, and a former administrator of the Intramuros district, the letters give a peak into the lesser-known personality of the national hero.

“These reveal a softer side of him,” Harper said. “Especially since these are letters to his sister, so the guard is down. He’s much more different than when he’s talking to the reformists, or to [Ferdinand] Blumentritt.”

The four letters are more than a century old, but were kept in good condition by the heirs of Maria. One of the notes is dated in 1891 in Hong Kong, while the other three are dated in 1895 and 1896 in Dapitan.

The Hong Kong letter addresses Maria as “Pinakamamahal kong kapatid,” as Rizal tells her to put up with her problems.

Magtiis tiis ka na muna nang hirap dito sa lupa, at maasahan mong sa isang buhay ay ligaya na lamang at tuwa ang iyong kadamhan. Ang buhay natin ay maikli, at ang hirap nito’y madaling lumipas,” Rizal wrote. “Tiising mo nang lahat alang alang sa ngalan mong Rizal at sa iyong mga anak.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the notes give an intimate look at Rizal’s domesticated life while in exile in Dapitan.

In one letter, he asks for basic needs like petrol, flour, rice, salt and soap to go with a geography book. In another, he tells Maria the story of a certain “Mang Pedro,” a patient dissatisfied with his services. Rizal writes that if Mang Pedro is unhappy with him, he can go look for another doctor, adding that he doesn’t want to appear to be in dire need of patients’ money.

“I believe this is the first time that any letter of a national hero, somebody as important as Dr. Jose Rizal, have been offered to the public,” Harper said, adding that most of Rizal’s letters are with the government.

Leon Gallery Director Jaime Ponce de Leon said that bidding for the letters will start at P1 million each.

The Rizal letters figure into the 144 total lots of The Kingly Treasures 2017 auction.

“True to the nature of Leon Gallery, we always come up with the best pieces that are available in the market,” de Leon said at the sale’s recent media preview. The Kingly Treasures, which is part of Leon Gallery’s quarterly auctions, features important pieces from national artists, rare church silver, antique furniture and other prized works that coincidentaly relate to Rizal.

Part of the auction’s gems is a painting of Nelly Boustead—the woman who Rizal almost married—by Félix Resurección Hidalgo.

Nelly was half-Filipina born to an affluent European family. Rizal became friends with the Bousteds in an 1889 meetup in Paris. In 1891 they hosted Rizal’s stay at their winter residence in Biarritz in the French Rivera, while he was on vacation to seek respite from his problems in Madrid. It was in Biarritz that the author finished the last chapter of his second novel, El Filibusterismo. It was also there that he pursued the youngest of the Boustead daughters.

When Marcelo H. del Pilar knew about Rizal’s budding romance with Nelly, he teased the author to rename his first novel into “Nelly” Me Tangere.

Rizal intended to marry Boustead, even when at one point coming close to blows with Antonio Luna for the hand of the charming heiress. The wedding of Rizal and Boustead, however, didn’t materialize, as Rizal ultimately decided against giving up his Catholic faith to convert to Protestantism, as Boustead had requested.

Other lots in the auction that connect with Rizal are a settee by Isabel Tampinco for Don Maximo Viola, the man who financed the publication of Noli Me Tangere; and the Lucio Lacson Bed, which, according to oral family history, was slept on by Rizal during his visit to Iloilo.

The Kingly Treasures also showcase masterpieces by revered artist, such as Fernando Zobel, Vicente Manansala, HR Ocampo, Cesar Legazpi and Botong Francisco.

“I feel that all these national artists are represented by their best works that can ever be acquired in the market,” de Leon said.

Contemporary works take their space in the auction, as well. There are pieces from Bencab, Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani and Jose John Santos III.

For more information about Leon Gallery’s The Kingly Treasures 2017, call 856-2781, or e-mail [email protected]. Catalog access is available at www.leon-gallery.com. 

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