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Oct 04th
Home Sections Fil-Am Playwright Anglicizes Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios”
Fil-Am Playwright Anglicizes Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios” PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Tuesday, 22 December 2009 08:15


(© 2009 Journal Group Link International)


Fil-Am Playwright Anglicizes Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios

, Illinois (JGLi) – In 2005, the Wikipedia noted that there have been 35 English translations of Jose Rizal’s untitled poem posthumously titled as “Mi Ultimo Adios” (Spanish for “My Last Farewell”).

Among its more-popular English translators was Charles Derbyshire, an American, who also translated into English Rizal’s two other Spanish novels,Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which were both published in 1912. Rizal’s swan song was published in 1911.

The other English translator of one of two of Rizal’s last handwritten notes was Nick Joaquin, a National Artist of the
Philippines for Literature, who did it in 1997. Joaquin’s translation is cast in bronze and is displayed at the Rizal Park in Manila.

For this year’s celebration of Rizal’s 113th death anniversary on Dec. 30th, another English translation is being published – this time, by a Chicago-based Philippine cultural officer-turned playwright, Vedasto H. Diamante, Jr.

The poem, which was written by Rizal before his execution, has also been translated into 46 Filipino languages and 39 foreign languages, the latest of which was in Czech done by a Czech diplomat and addressed at the session of the Senate, making it the most-translated patriotic swan song in the world.

It was even recited by U.S. Rep. Henry Cooper before the U.S. House of Representatives, realizing the nobility of the author, that led to the enactment of the Philippine Bill of 1902 (renamed Jones Law) that enabled the self-government of the Philippines, although relative complete autonomy would not be granted until 1946.

It was reported that on Dec. 29, 1896, a day before his execution, Dr. Rizal was visited by his mother, Teodora Alonzo, siblings Lucia, Josefa, Trinidad, Maria and Narcisa and two nephews. Before leaving, Rizal told
Trinidad in English that there was something in the small alcohol stove (cocinilla), not kerosene lamp (lamparilla) and “look in my shoes.”

The stove was given to Narcisa by the guard. The Rizal sisters recovered from the stove a folded paper, written unsigned, untitled and undated poem of 14 five-line stanzas.

Another note written before his death was found in his shoe. But because Rizal was buried without a coffin, when Rizal’s body was exhumed, its text could not be read and remains a mystery.

In his “Mi Ultimo Adios,” although the guards did not know about it, Rizal predicted that he was going to be buried in an unmarked grave, when he said in the 10th stanza:


“And when my grave is no longer remembered --

Without a stone, without a cross to mark my resting place --

Plow it over, and by a spade let my ashes, before they return

To nothing, be scattered to nourish your barren earth,

So the grassroots down deep within can begin the rebirth.”


Mr. Vedasto, who taught English Literature at the Lyceum University of the Philippines, said the last line in the first stanza in the original that runs:

"Tambien por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien."

The literal translation in English is:

"I would still give it to you, to you alone, for your own good."

It is one of the best lines in the poem.

“I've read somewhere that this style -- the first part mirroring the second part -- was popular during Rizal's time. In my version the repetition of "would" is for emphasis. I want to portray Rizal as a man who is really willing to give his life for his country.”

He said what motivated him to translate the poem was that he found some translations “uncomfortable. Some attempted to have perfect rhymes but failed to sustain them, and with the juggling of words for the sake of rhyme, the thought and emotional contents of the poem, sad to say, become forced, false, and faked. Some also use high-sounding words for effect, unconcerned of imagery of the poem. But, of course, Nick Joaquin is Nick Joaquin and I have no quarrel with a stalwart.”

V edasto added, “I translated the poem for our youth, so they can understand and appreciate what Rizal has done to our country.”

He said, “the poem is our hero's biography, his life's journey from womb to tomb. Rizal is a romantic symbolist like Blake, who adheres to the dictum that to define is to destroy, to suggest is to create.”

In his rendering, Vedasto does not go for the usual word-for-word translation, and the same rhyme scheme, meter, etc., of the original. 

He said he intentionally avoided them. “To do so and with the juggling of words forced to rhyme, the flow of thoughts and emotional contents would be lost, so is the essence of the poem.

The Spanish language is very musical and any too-literal translation of a Spanish poem into English would render it "stale, flat and unprofitable".

Because of these uncomfortable signs, this new rendering is born.

“To preserve the lyrical quality of the original this new version uses alliterative words, internal rhymes, and words that are musical as well as evocative/suggestive of their meanings.

“The only rhyming lines are the last two lines of each stanza. The reason? Each stanza is treated as a scene of a play (remember Rizal is a playwright), and like a Shakespearean play, each scene ends with a couplet or two rhyming lines.

Also, take note: the "r" sounds (four of them as in the first line of the original) are retained with care.

“Rizal's imagery and metaphors are intact. Thus, his ideas and emotions are not lost in translation.” (



Farewell, O Country Beloved!

English rendering of Jose Rizal's "Mi Ultimo Adios"

© 2009

By Vedasto H. Diamante, Jr.


Farewell, O Country Beloved! Realm of the Radiant Sun!

Pearl of the Eastern Seas! Now, a ruined Paradise!

Willingly, I go to offer you my dreary, weary life;

Had it more brilliance, more freshness, more fragrance, I would

Still give it to you, to you alone, for your own good.


In the glare and blare of battle, struggling in a life-and-death fight,

Others risk themselves without question, without gloom;

The place does not matter -- where there is cypress, laurel, or lily;

On scaffold or open field, in combat or martyrdom's harsh hands --

It is ever the same when oblation is all the homeland demands.


I am to die when I see the light of dawn begin to glow,

Announcing a new day, after the dark-shrouded night;

If color is needed, at that very moment, pour out

My blood and let every dripping drop drench and dye

In splendor one gleam of the sun beaming across the sky.


My dreams when I was just a lad scarcely adolescent,

My dreams when I became a vigorous young man.

Were to behold you one day, O Gem of the Eastern Seas!

Your dusky eyes without tears, your head held high, calm and clear:

No furrows, no blemishes, no stains of shame or fear.


My lifetime dream, my endless passionate obsession:

Godspeed! Cries out the soul too soon to leave you!

Godspeed! How sweet it is to fall so you may rise,

To die so you may live, to bleed for you and cease to be

Under your sky and in your bosom to sleep eternally!


Should you ever find some day somewhere on my grave

A humble flower trembling among the leaves of grass,

Hold it gently close to your lips and you kiss my soul;

Beneath my cold tomb I shall feel upon my face

The tenderness of your touch, the ember of an embrace!


Suffer the moon to shine over me soft and serene;

Suffer the dawn to spread on me its brief resplendent rays;

Suffer the wind to whisper to me its mournful sigh;

And should on my cross a bird alight, suffer the bird to release

From its throat the long-hushed canticle of peace.


Suffer the rains to dissolve in the burning sun,

And, purified, ascend into heaven to present my plea;

Suffer a friend to lament the suddenness of my departure;

And at twilight, if someone remembers me in his prayer,

Pray also, O my Country, that my soul repose in God's care!


Pray for those who died denied of fortune, denied of fame,

For those who bear unbearable torments and pains,

For miserable mothers groaning in bitterness,

For orphans and widows, for prisoners tortured and cast;

And, likewise, pray for yourself that you be redeemed at last!


And when at night the graveyard is veiled in mourning black

And the dead only, only the dead keep vigil in the dark,

Disturb not their tranquility, disturb not the mystery;

And if you hear strains of zither or psaltery all night through,

It is I, O Country Beloved! It is I singing a hymn to you!


And when my grave is no longer remembered --

Without a stone, without a cross to mark my resting place --

Plow it over, and by a spade let my ashes, before they return

To nothing, be scattered to nourish your barren earth,

So the grassroots down deep within can begin the rebirth.


It will not matter then that I am lost in oblivion;

I shall cross your atmosphere, your space and your valleys;

A resounding note, vibrant and clear, I shall be in your ears --

Redolence, colors, light, murmur, music and moan --

Constantly repeating the essence of the faith that I have shown.


Land that I love, O deepest sorrow among my sorrows!

Beloved Pilipinas, hear my final parting word!

I leave you all, all that I have -- my family, my loved ones!

I go where there are no slaves, no oppressive regime;

Where faith does not kill, where God reigns supreme! 


Farewell, my parents, dear brother, fragments of my soul, 

Friends of my childhood in the old house we lost! 

Give thanks that I can pause after a long restless day!

Farewell, sweet foreigner, joy of my life briefly possessed!      

Farewell, to you all, dearest to my heart! To die is to rest! 



© opyright 2009 The Journal Group Link International. The contents provided in the JGLi may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of the Journal Group Link International.


(Editor’s Note: Watch out for the upcoming outlet-oriented, subscription-based website of Journal Group Link International that guarantees originally sourced stories, features, photos, audios and videos and multi-media contents.)


Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 December 2009 08:38
Comments (5)
1 Thursday, 07 January 2010 07:04
In a message dated 1/7/2010 6:47:59 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:
--- On Wed, 1/6/10, a correspondent asked:

Where did you find the 35 English Translations and the 38 International translations. I'd like to compile them ... Lead me to the sites. Thanks.


Without disclosing inquirer's identity because I blind cc'd others, go to:

Wikipedia /Mi Ultimo Adios / translations, reprinted as follows:



There are at least 35 English translations known and published (in print) of this poem as of 2005. The most popular is that of Charles Derbyshire (dated 1911) and is inscribed on bronze. Also on bronze at the Rizal Park in Manila, but less known, is that of novelist Nick Joaquin (dated 1944). The latest translation is in Czech made by a Czech diplomat and addressed at the session of the senate.

It could be the most translated patriotic swan song in the world. Aside from the 35 English versions and interpretations into 46 Filipino languages, this poem has been translated into at least 38 other languages: Indonesian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Fijian, French, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Korean, Latin, Māori, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Sanskrit, Sinhalese, Somali, Tahitian, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Wolof, and Yoruba."


Fred Natividad
Livonia, Michigan
2 Thursday, 07 January 2010 07:05
To: Fred Natividad
Livonia, Michigan

Dear Manong Fred:

For the information of your correspondents, there are at least three versions of Rizal's most-famous poem in the Bicol (the so-called Naga Bicol) language of the Bicol Region of the Philippines.

Joseph Lariosa wrote about the latest English version of Rizal's poem in this hyperlink -- from a Chicago-based Filipino-American playwright,
Fil-Am Playwright Anglicizes Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios”



Bobby M. Reyes
3 Monday, 12 April 2010 09:19
You have not answered me querry new e book review format.

i like ved diamante's translation. Ved was the cultural officerof the Phil embassy
chicago, before he defected. This was during the Marcosians years.
4 Tuesday, 11 May 2010 02:34
i need the message of the poem
5 Saturday, 21 August 2010 23:54
Bro. Ved, fellow Phian here from Luzonian and Lyceum.
Left for US before martial law. Now a retired Californian.

Your talent exudes in the works you do. Excellent translation. Snra. Madrid will be pleased.

How's Mario and Dante?
How do I get contact with LKP. Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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