MANILA, Philippines - “A black suit and a derby hat on my execution day,” Jose Rizal tweeted as he prepared to be brought to Bagumbayan. Or he would have, if he lived in today’s day and age. Since he died over a century ago, someone else is tweeting in his place.
Bloggers recreated Jose Rizal’s execution on Twitter today via @tweetnirizal. The account is run by an entrepreneur who also works as a management consultant when he isn’t posting tweets as a national hero.
He is only one of several members of the Dead Heroes Society, a group of bloggers posing as national heroes online to make netizens more aware of history and current events.
Also part of the group are historical figures such as Rizal’s common-law wife Josephine Bracken (@RealJoBracken), his lost love Leonor Rivera (@LeonorNiRizal), his elder brother Paciano (@PacianoRizal), Apolinario Mabini (@ApolioMabini) and Andres Bonifacio (@SupremoBonifacio).
The society also manages accounts of fictional characters from Rizal’s books such as Padre Damaso (@BishopDamaso), and Sisa (@sisanirizal).
“Dec.30, 1896. Tomorrow people will cry as true accounts of the Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal unfold for the very first time via @tweetnirizal,” the group said on Twitter yesterday.
Last night, @tweetnirizal started posting about his “conversations” with people visiting him before his execution.
“The priests spoke about the authority of the [C]hurch, its infallibility and divine authority. I flatly said I’m not convinced. I reject them all,” he said at around 9 p.m. last night, and posted that Father Vicente Balaguer told him that he would go to hell for his disbelief.
@tweetnirizal had been recreating the priest’s attempts to secure a retraction from him for his words against the church. It is controversial whether Rizal did sign the retraction letter presented to him by Balaguer, one of several drafts shown him the night before his execution.
This morning, @tweetnirizal told of the clergy’s attempts to get him to marry Josephine Bracken canonically. Historians are not sure whether Rizal did marry Bracken in a religious ceremony, because there were no records of it taking place.
“My love, this is not the end. This is only the beginning. I love you… Always… Till we meet again. See you on the other side,” tweeted @RealJoBracken this morning. Later, she responded to a tweet by a fan asking @tweetnirizal if she could be his @RealJoBracken. “Dear, there can never be two RealJoBracken[s]. Try next lifetime. :)”
@tweetnirizal then posted about his walk to Bagumbayan, and his views on the people who supposedly came to watch him die.
“I arrived at my own execution,” @tweetnirizal said on 9:47a.m., after which he said “I was brought in front of the Firing Squad.”
“A colonel ordered the brass band to play loud music before the execution to make sure the crowd didn’t hear my final words…he also threatened anyone caught saying even one word of support for Rizal would be shot on the spot…But who would dare?”
About the national hero’s death, @SupremoBonifacio had one thing to say. “Hanggang sa huling sandali, pinatunayan ni @tweetnirizal na siya ay hindi traidor. HUMARAP sya sa mga kalaban ng siya ay barilin!”
“I am ready,” @tweetnirizal said at 10 a.m. “Consummatum est,” he tweeted at 10:25 a.m. These were Rizal’s last words before he was executed, said the caption to a photo of Rizal’s execution posted by the Dead Heroes Society on Tumblr.
In a letter Rizal wrote to his friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, his execution will take place at 7 a.m. “I shall be shot, but I am innocent of the crime of rebellion,” he wrote.
Online response to @tweetnirizal’s tweets were sometimes dramatic. “@tweetnirizal is about to be executed! Masaya ka na ba @BishopDamaso?” @forgineo said.
@BishopDamaso serves as the Dead Heroes Society’s resident heckler. He had been ridiculing Rizal’s execution and the Indios.
“Kinikilabutan ako,” said @Velvet_Freak.
“I’m just appalled that Manila’s Spanish population [was] celebrating Rizal’s execution with parties that morning,” said Manila tour guide and artist Carlos Celdran on Twitter.
“Wish my history teacher way back in [high school] taught history the same way @tweetnirizal tweets. Very interesting,” said @joshPTRP_RPT.
@thenikidlrt however, pointed out that @tweetnirizal had made a mistake. “You forgot LISTO,” he said about @tweetnirizal’s firing squad countdown.
Aside from Twitter, the Dead Heroes Society also uses Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr to post historical content.