Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Filipino Martyr: MAXIMO S. VIOLA

Patriot and Financier of Noli Me Tangere
Known as the man who saved for posterity the Noli Me Tangere, the first of Rizal’s two
great novels, Dr. Maximo Viola was born on October 17, 1857 in Barrio Sta. Rita, San Miguel,
Bulacan. He was the only child of Isabel Sison of Malabon, Rizal and Pedro Viola from San Rafael,
Viola finished his early education in San Miguel. He took his pre-medical studies at the
University of Santo Tomas, where he witnessed the prejudice of Spaniards against the Filipino
students. In 1882, he sailed to Spain and enrolled Medicine at the University of Barcelona, where
he met other Filipino students particularly Jose Rizal, with whom he developed close friendship.
Soon, he became an active member of the Propaganda Movement.
In 1886, Viola finished his course in Medicine. In March 1887, Viola played an important
role in the life of Jose Rizal, he financed the publication of Noli Me Tangere, which original
manuscript had already planned by his friend to destroy because of financial inability to pay its
publication. Thus, the first 2,000 copies of the novel were printed. In deep gratitude, Rizal gave
him the last galley proofs and the first published copy, on which he wrote, “To my friend, Maximo
Viola, the first to read and appreciate my work-Jose Rizal, March 29, 1887, Berlin.”
In May 1887, he toured Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland with Rizal. It was
during the trip that he personally met Ferdinand Blumentritt, one of Rizal’s foreigner friend and
Dr. Viola returned to the Philippines in 1887 and began his medical practice. In 1890, he
married Juana Roura, a native of San Miguel, by whom he had five sons. However, two of them
died in infancy.
In the latter part of June 1892, he had a reunion with Rizal in Manila and learned about
the sad persecution of his friend, who had to report before Governor General Despujol. His
association with Rizal included him to be watched by the Spanish authorities so that he could not
stay long in the city. His home in Bulacan had been subjected to thorough inspection by the
Spanish Guardia Civil.
When the revolution erupted in 1896, Viola went underground to evade the harassment of
the Spanish authorities. The Spanish authorities, because of his father’s support to the revolution,
had demolished their family house in Santa Rita, Bulacan. He was also incarcerated, initially in a
Manila military prison and, later, in Olongapo. During his imprisonment, he came to know and
assist Dr. Fresnell, an American doctor who was unfamiliar with tropical diseases. Fresnell later
helped him secure his freedom.
Viola’s firm character and heart for his countrymen was always manifested in peaceful
means. As president of the Liga de Propietarios, he aided the owners of rice lands in San Miguel,
Bulacan in opposing politicians who were courting the tenant’s votes at the expense of the
landlords. His fight against the politicians, among whom was Manuel L. Quezon, reached the Court
of the First Instance of Malolos, Bulacan, which the court dismissed owing to its political nature.
When the Manila Railroad line was being extended to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, Viola once again
rallied the concerned landowners in preventing the prestigious British Company from taking over
their land without appropriate reparations.
A kind-hearted physician, Dr. Viola treated his indigent patients for free and often resorted
to simple remedies so that they would not have to spend. For instance, he would disinfect common
snakebites by using matchsticks instead of prescribing expensive solutions.
Dr. Viola found time for his favorite hobby, designing and building furniture. In the 1920’s,
he proved his competence as an amateur designer by winning awards for his furniture pieces
displayed in several shows in Manila.
He wrote memoirs of his friendship with Rizal in later years. These came out in three parts
in the Spanish newspaper El Ideal, dated June to 20, 1913. Their English version, done by eminent
writer A.R. Roces, was published in the Manila Times on the December 30 and 31, 1950 and
January 1, 1951 issues.
On September 3, 1933, Dr. Viola, aged 76 died in Barrio San Jose in his hometown. Later,
another house was constructed on the same lot where an heir of Pedro Viola lived.
In 1962, a marker in honor of Dr. Viola was installed in San Miguel, Bulacan.
Eminent Filipinos. Manila: National Historical Commission, 1970.
Quirino, Carlos. Who’s who in Philippine History. Manila: Tahanan Books, 1995.

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