Originally authored on August 30, 2015
“A friend in need is a friend indeed!” The original manuscript of Rizal’s first novel, Noli Me Tangere could not have seen the light of day due to financial constraint if not for the timely assistance of Viola. He funded the first 2,000 copies for publication. In deep gratitude, Rizal gave him the last galley proofs and the first published copy wherein it was written: “To my dear friend, Maximo Viola, the first to read and appreciate my work. Jose Rizal March 29, 1887, Berlin.”
Born in Barrio Sta. Rita, San Miguel, Bulacan, he was an only child of Isabel Sison of Malabon and Pedro Viola of San Miguel. After his early education in his hometown, he finished a degree in Colegio de San Juan de Letran and sailed to Spain to study Medicine in University of Barcelona where he met other Filipino students, notably Jose Rizal with whom he developed a close friendship. He finished his doctoral degree in 1886 and before returning to the Philippines, together with Rizal, they toured Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Switzerland where he met Ferdinand Blumentritt, a foreigner friend and supporter of Rizal.
Back home, known for his unselfish nature, he supported other propagandists such as Marcelo H. del Pilar whom he aided financially. He married Juana Roura also a native of San Miguel who bore him five sons, but the two died in infancy. Viola had a reunion with Rizal in Manila in 1892 and learned of his friend’s fate. With his association with Rizal, Viola was included in the watchlist by the Spanish authorities and his home in Bulacan was subjected to thorough inspection. In the peak of 1896 revolution, Viola went underground to escape harassment but he was apprehended and jailed in Manila military prison. He was transferred to Olangapo where he assisted Dr. Fresnell, an American doctor who was not familiar with tropical diseases. Later, Fresnell secured his freedom.
Dr. Viola became the president of Liga de Proprietarios, who helped the rice land owners in San Miguel in opposing politicians who were courting the tenants’ votes at the expense of the landlords. When Manila Railroad line was being extended to Cabanatuan, Viola once again rallied the concerned landowners in preventing the prestigious British Company from taking over their land without appropriate reparations. He continued his humanitarian services by treating indigent patients for free. One of his hobbies was building and designing furniture, where he won awards for his furniture pieces displayed in Manila.
In the later years of his life, he wrote memoirs of his friendship with Rizal which came out in three parts in Spanish newspaper El Ideal in 1913 and the English version was done by Alejandro Roces, one of the eminent writers, and published in Manila Times on the December 30, 1950 and January 1951 issues. At the age of 76, in September 3, 1933, Dr. Viola died in his hometown. A marker was installed in his honor in San Miguel, Bulacan.
* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures