Junto al Pasig
Junto al Pasig (Beside the Pasig), a one-act zarzuela in Spanish written by the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal, was staged by the Academy of Spanish Literature members on December 8, 1880. Rizal wrote it to honor Nuestra Senora dela Paz y Buenviaje de Antipolo (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage).
Even when Rizal already graduated from the Ateneo, and while he is already studying medicine in the University of Santo Tomas (U.S.T.), he remained close to the Jesuits. As president of the Academy of Spanish Literature and through his skills in writing he was asked to contribute to the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the college’s patroness.
From there, he wrote “Junto al Pasig” and it was staged during 1880’s feast. A Spanish professor, Blas Echegoyen, wrote the music for the choruses while the members of the academy (mentioned below) played the following characters:
- Leonido – Isidro Perez
- Candido – Antoni Fuentes
- Pascual – Aquiles R. de Luzulaga
- Satan – Julio Llorente
- An Angel – Pedro Carranceja
The play basically poses questions related with what Christians believe. Through Leonido, the main character, a teenager, Rizal portrayed another perspective of Satan and the Virgin Mary. He centers on thoughts such as: Who is the real redeemer of mankind? Who should really be adored? Who should one believe? Does one have to believe?
Hence, the play starts when Candido, Pascual and other children were waiting for the coming of Virgin Mary (through the procession). The children boasted on who has the best present for the Virgin. The first boy proudly states about his bird cage at home; the second boy boasts of flowers; the third one wants firecrackers. Meanwhile, Pascual tells that he has a flute. Before they end up in a fight, Candido, barged in their conversation and suggested that they all help one another in setting up a banca (dugout canoe) with colorful pennants and banners and paddle slowly into the river. He then asked each to bring his own present for the Lady (flute, bird cage, flowers, and firecrackers). The rest of the children agreed. However, sometime later, they realized that their leader Leonido is missing. Thus, they searched for him.
The second scene starts through a monologue by Satan, asking about the possibility that those who once adored him could be saved. He guesses that it must be the Woman who cast him out of the heavenly seat who caused such redemption.
Satan also condemns his own suffering but comes to endure it. He accepts how the Conqueror loves the good, while he loves evil. He proclaims Him as his mortal enemy and so promises to conquer the world by waiting for an unwary Christian until he falls into his hands.
On the third scene, Leonido enters and wonders where his friends could be. He remembered Pascual telling him to meet them as they wait for the Immaculate Virgin to pass. Thus, he thought of looking for them.
As Leonido was about to leave (came the next scene), Satan enters (disguised as a “diwata”). Satan asked where he will be going, but Leonido questioned who he is. Satan replied, stating that he is the god of the Filipinos. From what he heard, Leonido opposed; he told Satan that as far as he knows, there is only one true God, the God who created man and the whole world. From there, Satan debated on by stressing how he can give everything Leonido desires if he just adores him. Leonido did not falter for he contested Satan through the Virgin’s power over him. Leonido continued defending his faith and finally asked Satan to unwrap himself.
True enough, the devil revealed his true appearance – in a devil’s dress – and revealed who he really was. He introduced himself as the angel who vanquished in hopeless defeat. Yet, he still believes that he is stronger and that if Leonido wishes to live, he should serve him. Yet, Leonido stands strong. He defends his faith and emphasizes how the devil shall never frighten the Christian child. From here on, Satan declared a battle against Leonido unless the Christian claims defeat. The debate went on again through the fifth scene, with Leonido never surrendering.
Finally, amidst the battle came an angel who countered Satan and the other devils surrounding him. The angel was so happy with Leonido as he constantly professed his faith despite Satan’s evil urges. He also told Leonido that the Virgin mercifully saved him from the clutches of hell. The sixth scene ended as Leonido and the angel bid farewell.
The last scene then started as Candido and the other children found Leonido already. Together, they saluted the Virgin Mary with a chorus.
The play’s theme revolves on Christianity, Innocence against Evil, and Paganism.
Observance of the Virgin’s Feast
During Rizal’s time, the townsfolk were used to carry the image of the Virgin of Antipolo during a solemn procession through the Pasig River. Thus, in 1904, as Wenceslao Retana notes, students from Ateneo sung the last chorus from Rizal’s play during the procession.
According to Rafael Palma’s observation, Rizal’s means of conveying the disguise of Satan (as a “diwata”) portrays Rizal’s nationalism. This is in line with the selection of a Filipino setting, cast, and even the selection of a native representation of the Virgin Mother in the Philippines (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage), the concept of the “diwata” likewise depicts an equally native means of paganism.
Two Schools of Thought from Palma and Retana
Wenceslao Retana and Rafael Palma both have their schools of thought concerning “Junto al Pasig.” First, Retana points out that Rizal was silently battling Spain, that around ten years after, through the annotations to the history of the Philippines by Morga, Rizal attempted to convey that Filipinos had a high level of prosperity and culture which the Spaniards tore down.
On the other hand, Palma points out that Rizal was very young at that time when he wrote the play to show nationalism. He then reiterated that Rizal was indeed devoted to Catholicism.
Patricio Mariano translated the play in Tagalog while the Spanish original was published in the “La Patria.” Meanwhile, Nick Joaquin translated it in English and included it in the “Complete Poems and Plays of Rizal” (1976).
- “Along the Pasig.” . (Accessed on August 6, 2011)
Gagelonia, Pedro A. Rizal’s Life, Works, and Writings. Navotas, Rizal: Navotas Press, 1974.
- “Rain Comes When You Least Expect.” . (Accessed on August 6, 2011)
- “UPLB Stages Junto al Pasig.” . (Accessed on August 6, 2011)