Salcedo Stories

The Caballeros de Rizal: A Well-Appointed ‘Band of Brothers’

The Caballeros de Rizal: A Well-Appointed ‘Band of Brothers’

  • 28 August 2021

As the day begins in the household of Eulogio Balan Rodriguez (EBR), the sounds of a typical weekday morning begin to fill the air— the gentle sizzle of onions and rice caramelizing in a pan for breakfast, the shuffle for bags and books as children get ready for school, the AM radio buzzing in the background.

Except today will be different. As he quickly shuffles out of bed, EBR thinks excitedly about his unusually busy schedule, relishing this brief moment of calm before his day truly begins. He knows that after another day of work in the hallowed halls of the National Library, he’ll be making his way to the Manila Grand Opera House for a night of festivities hosted by the Caballeros de Rizal.

SAStories-2021-0828-The Caballeros de Rizal-01

This photo, sold in 2020, features prominent members of the Caballeros de Rizal. Look closely, can you find a young President Manuel L. Quezon?

Dressed more formally than usual, and taking his last few sips of coffee, EBR makes a mental note to ensure that his to-do list is complete before heading out the door. Each day, the same three essentials make up his morning routine: take his vitamins, prepare his briefcase, and take his tickler notebook on the road. Sticking to this established routine helps to keep his nervous energy at bay on such a thrilling day.

These objects from EBR’s life are reminiscent of Old Manila, the font style, the aesthetics— quintessential vintage!

EBR boards the tranvia, the electric streetcar that runs through most of the main streets of Manila, and pays his fare. The scenic commute treats him to a view of the city’s best Art Deco-inspired buildings and its environs places— like Escolta’s eye-catching store fronts and Binondo’s busy streets.

A glimpse at Old Manila, photo credit to the owner.

The same ticket was discovered by his grandson, Joseph Bernabe, tucked in between the pages of one of EBR’s many tickler notebooks. Bernabe shares that his lolo carried one or two pads everywhere he went— as a way to record his thoughts and track his schedule.

Moments later and he’s standing in front of the National Library, the institution where he spent most of his adolescence rising within the ranks and eventually attaining the coveted post of director— appointed by none other than a fellow member of the Caballeros de Rizal, former President Quezon.

The workday goes by without a hitch: just a few meetings here and there sprinkled into the director’s agenda. As the sun sets on the Pasig River, Manila appears all aglow— or could it simply be EBR’s jovial mood coloring the horizon? Finally, he was on his way to meet his fellow caballeros.

Who are the Caballeros de Rizal?

In order to fully understand the significance of this ‘band of brothers’— the Caballeros de Rizal*— we have to ask, *what did they stand for?

Fortunately, we have Republic Act No. 646 to guide us. The group was founded to preserve the memory of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal, promote his spirit of patriotism, and organize annual activities in his memory.

A photograph from the archives, EBR writes on the back: “Taken at 7:03. Luneta. 30 Dec 1947 – Caballeros de Rizal – with the President of the Philippines & Mrs Roxas”

The event EBR was attending at the Manila Grand Opera House that evening was being held to honor the National Hero’s 51st death anniversary.

This programme from Eulogio Balan Rodriguez’ private collection will be one of the lots for sale at Connoisseur Collection auction of The Well-Appointed Life on 18 September 2021.

A quick glance at the program shows that it was written entirely in Spanish— the language Rizal used to write his magnum opus, Noli Me Tangere, and its sequel, El Filibusterismo. The gala itself was a stunning tribute. There was an orchestra, a mass, several musical performances, and an adaptation of a chapter from Rizal’s second novella.

Now, more than half a century since that splendid night, the Caballeros de Rizal program, along with a curated selection of Rizaliana books from the former director of the National Library’s personal collection, will be at the center of yet another event paying tribute to excellence, legacy, and making a mark in history.

Revel in #TheWorldsWeCreate and bask in the nostalgia for Old Manila through the Connoisseur Collection online catalogue of the The Well-Appointed Life— out soon!