Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fort Santiago

To José Rizal

I visited your cold, stone prison.
Bereft of spirit,
Empty of words.
Your cell rang like footsteps

Inside a bell. I could not
Imagine you alive.
Supine, you lay
Motionless, a pigeon

Strangled by the hand
Of forces greater than
Your idealism, stronger than
Overpowering sentiment—

Your love of country exceeding
Your love of life, a pearl.
Yes, you penned poems, essays,
Two novels. You wrought

Drawings, paintings, sculptures—
At least one famous piece:
The Triumph of Science over Death.
Buildings, cities, towns, streets

Today carry your name.
Yet you are not deathless.
You are dead,
Slain by migrant necessity

Born of want, poverty
Pulling grubs from the soil,
Nailing down rusty iron sheets
To fashion flimsy shelters

Soon blown apart like paper
By tornadoes, locusts
On annual rampage.
But wait—now I see you rise,

Arms bound, marching off.
As if on a stage, players assemble.
Your back is to the firing line.
At that moment of volley

I see you transformed:
You turn—shot as a traitor,
Dying as a martyr.
Despair spinning into hope.

Jose Rizal (2012) by Amen Zamora


  1. Image courtesy of Amen Zamora

    Image link:


  2. Today, June 19, 2016, is Jose Rizal's 155th birthday.


  3. Publication credits - original version:

    Philippines Free Press (December 31, 2011)

    Eastlit (December 1, 2014)