“Then suddenly, as if if from nowhere, a small dog appeared and ran in circles around the body of Rizal, barking and whimpering. The Capitan Militar de Sanidad, or medical officer, knelt before the fallen man, and felt his pulse. Looking up, the medical officer beckoned a member of the firing squad to come forward and give the body the ‘tiro de gracia’: a shot done at close range. I thought I saw a faint haze rise from Rizal’s coat, but it might have been a wisp of morning mist. Seeing the body before me, I felt faint. I wanted to see the face of the man for the last time. Rizal lay dead on the dewy grass. The day had started and little- did I realise that I was gazing on the face of the greatest malayan of them all, that I was witnessing history in the making.”
“When I saw him. I know he was Jose Rizal. He was of regular built, unshaven and quite pale perhaps on account of his confinement, but was visibly composed and serene. Amidst the silence, Rizal began to move his head very slowly up and down, his lips moving as if in prayer. Then the commanding officer, by means of means of a saber, signalled the firing squad to aim. The saber dropped and there was a simultaneous crackle of rifle-fire. Jose Rizal wheeled in one last effort and toppled forward with a thud;his face turned toward the sky and his derby hat thrown forward. He fell facing the bay.”
“It was six o’clock in the morning of December 30, 1896, when we woke up at our quarters at the corner of Sta. Potenciana and Magallanes Streets, in Intramuros, to attend the execution of Jose Rizal, about which we had already been briefed the day before. We were theLeales Voluntarios de Manila, a semi-military organization under the command of Capt. Manuel Leaño. Our immediate officer was a youthful Spanish lieutenant named Juan Pereira. I was twenty years old then, and a member of the drum corps.
We marched out of Intramuros through the Puerta Real, or where Nozaleda (now General Luna) Street out through the walls on the south, clad in our camamo uniforms and with our cajas vivas(or drums) strapped around our waists. We proceeded to what is now Padre Burgos Street, under an overcast sky and in a chilling December morn.
As we rounded the corner of P. Burgos and General Luna Streets, we got a glimpse of thecuadro, a square formation of about ten companies of Filipino and Spanish soldiers. The former occupied the inner portion of the quadrangle, while the latter were at the rear. This formation was strategic because the Filipino soldiers’ position with-in the cuadros ignified that the Spanish authorities wanted Rizal to die in the hands of the Filipino soldiers. If the latter disobeyed the command to fire upon Rizal, the Spanish soldiers positioned at the rear would fire upon them.
There were civilian spectators, too. The side of the cuadronear the bay was open.
As we approached the quadrangle, we saw some Spanish military officers earnestly talking in low voices. Rizal was not yet anywhere to be seen. Not having had a glimpse of the man before, I began to wonder what he looked like. I remembered what my mother had told me about Rizal: that he was so learned that he could not be poisoned by anybody because he always carried with him his own spoon and fork, by means whereof he could detect whether his food was poisoned or not; that many other legends had started to be woven around him; and that he was fighting for the cause of his country and countrymen.
Soon the small crowd heard the muffle sound of our approaching vivas(or drums) draped with black cloth during execution ceremonies. A slight commotion broke out at the right end of the cuadronear the bay as some soldiers with fixed bayonets entered, followed by a man in black suit, his elbows tied from the back, on his head achistera(or black derby hat), on one side a Spanish officer and on the other a Jesuit priest.
When I saw the man, I knew he was Rizal.
A group of Spanish officers who were standing nearby opened into amedia luna(i.e., a semicircular formation). Then a Spaniard (we would learn later he was Lt. Luis Andrade, one of Rizal’s popular Spanish defenders and sympathizers) affectionately shook the latter’s hand. When Rizal was near the center of the quadrangle, themayor de la plaza, a colonel, announced at the bandillo:‘En el nombre del Rey, el que se levante la voz a favor del reo sera ejecutado’(In the name of the King, he who raises his voice in fovor of the criminal will be executed).
A deep silence enshrouded the whole assembly.
The commanding officer accosted us and gave us this injunction: ‘Should Rizal attempt to speak aloud, beat your drums so hard as to drown his voice’.
I looked at Rizal. He was regularly built, unshaven, and quite pale, perhaps as a result of his detention. But he was visibly composed and serene. A Jesuit priest approached him, prayed, and blessed him.
Then a colonel approached Rizal likewise, as the commanding officer ordered us to move two paces backwards. The firing squad, composed of six Filipinos, came forward and took our former position behind Rizal.
I saw Rizal exert effort to raise his right hand, which was tied at the elbow, and take off his chistera.” (the darby hat)
My heart beat fast, and as in all other executions I had witnessed before, I felt tense and nervous. Amid the silence, I saw Rizal move his head very slowly up and down, his lips moving as if he was praying.
Then the commanding officer raised his saber – a signal for the firing squad to aim. Then he dropped his saber to a fuego position. The simultaneous crack of rifle-fire shattered the stillness of the morning. Jose Rizal exerted one last effort to face his executioners and toppled down with a thud, his face towards the sky and his derby hat thrown ahead. He fell dead at his feet in the direction of the bay.
Many of the reos or offenders had been caused to kneel and be hoodwinked before they were shot on the head. But Rizal was spared that humiliation.
Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a small dog appeared and ran in circles around Rizal’s fallen body, barking and whimpering. (This incident would much later be the subject of our talk in our quarters. To some of my comrades, it was an omen of a coming misfortune.)
Then the capitan militar de la sanidad (i.e., medical officer) stepped forward, knelt before the fallen man, and felt his pulse. Looking up, he beckoned to a member of the firing squad to come forward and give the final tiro de gracia (i.e., another close-range shot to the heart), probably to ensure that Rizal could not come up with the miracle of life anymore. I thought I saw a faint haze from Rizal’s coat, but it might have been a wisp of morning mist. Seeing the body of the fallen Rizal in front of me, I felt very weak.
The officers began to show animation again. They fell in formation and marched to the tune of the Spanish national air, the paso doble Marcha de Cadiz.
As in previous executions, we members of the drum corps filed past the body to view it for the last time. When I heard to command “Eyes left”, I did not shut my eyes as I had done at the sight of the several roes whose heads were blown off by rifle-fire. I really wanted to take a close look at the man one last time. He lay dead on the dewy grass. The day had already progressed, and little did I realize then that I was gazing at the face of the greatest Malayan, and that I was witnessing history of in making.”
Hilarion Martinez was, indeed, lucky to have lived in historic times. He subsequently joined the Philippine Revolution. During the Filipino-American War, he was a member of the “Batallon de Manila” under General Pantaleon Garcia and Col. Rosendo Simon. He distinguished himself in several engagements, so that he was promoted later to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. In an assault on the American cavalry stationed in the church of Tondo, he was captured and imprisoned for about eight months in Intramuros and later in Cavite, where he was released shortly after the cessation of hostilities.