JOSE RIZAL, National Hero of the Philippines, authored Noli Me Tangere, El filibusterismo, and numerous poems and essays.

Painting by Dr Fermin Sanchez, previously exhibited at Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila

Here is an excerpt from Jose Rizal's poem "My Retreat," translated by Nick Joaquin. You can see the poem in its entirety HERE.

The sea, the sea is everything! Its sovereign mass 
brings to me atoms of a myriad faraway lands; 
its bright smile animates me in the limpid mornings; 
and when at the end of day my faith has proven futile, 
my heart echoes the sound of its sorrow on the sands. 

At night it is a mystery! … Its diaphanous element 
is carpeted with thousands and thousands of lights that climb; 
the wandering breeze is cool, the firmament is brilliant, 
the waves narrate with many a sigh to the mild wind 
histories that were lost in the dark night of time. 

‘Tis said they tell of the first morning on the earth, 
of the first kiss with which the sun inflamed her breast, 
when multitudes of beings materialized from nothing 
to populate the abyss and the overhanging summits 
and all the places where that quickening kiss was pressed. 

But when the winds rage in the darkness of the night 
and the unquiet waves commence their agony, 
across the air move cries that terrify the spirit, 
a chorus of voices praying, a lamentation that seems 
to come from those who, long ago, drowned in the sea. 

Then do the mountain ranges on high reverberate; 
the trees stir far and wide, by a fit of trembling seized; 
the cattle moan; the dark depths of the forest resound; 
their spirits say that they are on their way to the plain, 
summoned by the dead to a mortuary feast. 

The wild night hisses, hisses, confused and terrifying; 
one sees the sea afire with flames of green and blue; 
but calm is re-established with the approach of dawning 
and forthwith an intrepid little fishing vessel 
begins to navigate the weary waves anew. 

So pass the days of my life in my obscure retreat; 
cast out of the world where once I dwelt: such is my rare 
good fortune; and Providence be praised for my condition: 
a disregarded pebble that craves nothing but moss 
to hide from all the treasure that in myself I bear. 

I live with the remembrance of those that I have loved 
and hear their names still spoken, who haunt my memory; 
some already are dead, others have long forgotten— 
but what does it matter? I live remembering the past 
and no one can ever take the past away from me. 

Photo of Jose Rizal installation at Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila, Feb. 6, 2019 by Beverly Parayno. The photo was taken of Jose Rizal in the actual room where he had been imprisoned by the Spanish colonial government.

Click on images to enlarge.