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Rizal's Noli, Fili and "Mi Ultimo Adios"

Photos of front and back of what is perhaps the best-known and most-translated document written by a Filipino. Note that it does not have a title. Click photos to enlarge.

Jose Rizal's original, handwritten manuscripts of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo will be exhibited at the National Library of the Philippines on 17 June 2011 [UPDATE JUN 15: Extended to June 18] as part of its "Exhibit of Original Rizaliana Materials." It is unclear from the announcement whether the "Mi Ultimo Adios" will also be on display, but I certainly hope it will also be shown to visitors. [UPDATE JUN 15: According to its caretaker, the "Mi Ultimo Adios" is "too delicate and too faded to be exhibited."]

I just happened to be around on 12 May 2011, when the Noli, Filiand "Mi Ultimo Adios" were officially turned over to the directors of the National Library and the National Archives by the German conservators who undertook the repair of Rizal's best-known works. It was interesting to learn that Rizal himself had bound the manuscripts of his novels, and that the Noli had been so tightly bound, according to the conservators who reconstructed Rizal's binding, that it is practically impossible to open the manuscript without breaking its spine (see photo below).

The conservator shows just how far the Noli manuscript
can be opened without damaging its spine.

The Fili manuscript, unlike the Noli, can be opened easily,
but it does not have a cover like the one Rizal designed for the Noli.

What struck me most, however, was the the size of the "Mi Ultimo Adios," which was only slightly larger than an iPhone. But even more remarkable is the fact that all these were written in Spanish, and that somehow—despite the reality that very few Filipinos were fluent in Spanish during the late nineteenth century AND even fewer copies were available—Rizal's words and ideas inspired his countrymen to fight both their Spanish and American colonizers in pursuit of the establishment of an independent Philippines.

Thanks to Director Antonio Santos of the National Library, Director Ino Manalo of the National Archives, and Anne Rosette G. Crelencia (head of the Rare Books and Manuscripts section of the National Library) for letting me—perhaps the only last-minute guest at the turnover—join the exclusive event and blog about it, too!

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