by Ferdinan S. Gregorio

      Filipinos are naturally inclined to music. In the pre-Spanish times, our ancestors loved to sing and play instruments during worship and festivities. Many of the ethnic groups today still have such practices. In the Philippine mainstream music, during the 1990’s, musicians categorized as “alternative” such as Yano, Radioactive Sago Project and Francis Magalona used sharp lyrics to call attention to the social problems in our country.  More than a century ago, Spanish authorities accused our national hero of igniting a revolution by means of writing a seditious poem which was later transformed into a song.

In a letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt dated March13, 1895, Rizal wrote that he was teaching 16 pupils in Talisay, a place near Dapitan. He did not charge his pupils tuition, but instead asked them to help him construct a water-depository for the dry season. The subjects Rizal taught them were Spanish, French, German, English, Geography, History, Mathematics, Arithmetic, Science, Environment, Values and Geometry.  Formal classes were held from 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon. After class, Rizal allowed his pupils the pupils to engage in sports to boost their strength, such as gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, boxing, boating and arnis. Rizal and his students often held class under a Talisay tree. In honor of this tree, he made this poem, which was later adapted to a melody, making it a song;


At Dapitan, the sandy shore
And rocks aloft on mountain crest
Form thy throne, O refuge blest,
That we from childhood days have known.
In your vales that flowers adorn
And your fruitful leafy shade,
Our thinking power are being made,
And soul with body being grown.

  We are youth not long on earth
But our souls are free from sorrow;
Calm, strong men we’ll be tomorrow,
Who can guard our families’ right.
Lads are we whom naught can frighten,
Whether thunder, waves, or rain
Swift of arm, serene of mien
In peril, shall we wage our fights.

  With our games we churn the sand,
Through the caves and crags we roam,
On the rocks  we make our home,
Everywhere our arms can reach.
Neither dark nor night obscure
Cause us fear, nor fierce torment
That even Satan can invent
Life or death? We must face each!

  “Talisayans”, people call us!
Mighty souls in bodies small
O’er Dapitan’s district all
No Talisay like this towers.
None can march our reservoir.
Our diving pool the sea profound!
No rowing boat the world around
For the moment can pass ours.

  We study science exact;
The history of our motherland;
Three languages or four command;
Bring faith and reason in accord.
Our hands can manage at one time
The sail and working spade and pen,
The mason’s maul – for virile men
Companions – and the gun and sword.

Live, live, O leafy green Talisay!
Our voices sing thy praise in chorus
Clear star, precious treasure for us.
Our childhood’s wisdom and its balm.
In fights that wait for every man,
In sorrow and adversity,
Thy memory a charm will be,
And in the tomb, thy name, thy calm.

Hail, O Talisay!
Firm and untiring
Ever aspiring,
Stately thy gait.
Things, everywhere
In sea, land and air
Shalt thou dominate 

The poem seemed to be free from any trace of revolutionary ideas. However, on December 2, 1896, at the time of the trial of Dr. Jose Rizal, copies of documents ascribed to Rizal were transmitted by Colonel Francisco Olive to the investigating officer Rafael Dominguez. The documents written in Tagalog, were confiscated by the Spanish authorities of the Veteran Civil Guard from Mr. Fresell’s warehouse, claiming that the papers were owned by Andres Bonifacio. Two of the subversive letters they found were entitled “To Talisay” (Verse), by Laonglaan (Rizal) and Kundiman (Verse) by J.P.R. (Jose P. Rizal).  The documents were translated in English as follows;

To Talisay (Verse), by Laonglaan (Rizal). We are children, we are the latest born. But our hearts beat high, and tomorrow we shall be full-grown men who will know how to defend their hearths and homes. We are children, yes we are children but nothing daunts us, neither wave nor storm nor thunder. With strong right arm and unclouded brow we shall know how to fight in the hour of danger. Our hands shall take up in turn those instruments of sovereign Reason, the sword, the pen, the spade.

Kundiman (Verse). In the fair Eastern Region where the sun rises, a beautiful enchanted land lies prostrate under the heel of tyrants. Alas, she is my country, the country I love. She languishes, a slave laden with chains; happy the man who can set her free – Manila , 12, 9, 91 – J.P.R. (Jose Rizal)

The Spanish prosecutors claimed that the lyrics of Rizal’s Hymn to Talisay and Kundiman contained seditious ideas, encouraging the Filipinos to revolt.  Jose Rizal denied that the confiscated papers with verses of Kundiman came from him, but he accepted the validity of To Talisay.   An interesting question that remains unanswered is if there was a possibility that a copy of the Hymn to Talisay reached the hands of Andres Bonifacio, despite the fact that it was exclusively taught by Jose Rizal to his students in Talisay. Could it be possible that Rizal gave Dr. Pio Valenzuela a copy of the song during Dr. Valenzuela’s visit to Dapitan? Or it was a mere accident that Bonifacio and Rizal both used the words “sword, pen and spade” in their poems and letters, to which the Spanish authorities attached rebellious meanings, and used them as evidences to incriminate Jose Rizal.


De la Costa, Horacio S.J. The Trial of Rizal: W.E. Retana’s Transcription of the Original Spanish Documents. Ateneo de Manila University Press. 1961

Jalosjos, Romeo. Jose Rizal’s Life and Legacies in Dapitan. Published by the City Government, Dapitan City. 2008

Tadhana. The Life and Works of Dr. Jose Rizal. Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission. 1960

The Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence Volume II.  Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission. 1961