we celebrate the 150th birthday anniversary of Dr. Jose
Rizal, the most famous national hero of the Philippines,
I had a chance to visit his town last June 19, 2011.
We braved the raging typhoon Egay with its wind and
rain. But it was worth to be able to visit the house
of the hero who, equipped with his intellect, had sparked
the 1898 Philippine Revolution—leading to Asia’s
enough, in spite of the harsh winds and rains, people
were queuing up for a tour of Rizal’s ancestral
house in Calamba. The atmosphere was not that sacred
and solemn as compared to that of a religious shrine,
and this goes to show how much a lay person Rizal really
is. But there was joy and festivity. Of course, bystanders
joked and laughed as people dressed up in Spanish costumes
like Guardia Civil uniforms (with pride).
people’s admiration for Rizal was evident as they
waited their turn to have their pictures taken before
a big 3D effect wall which displayed the face of Rizal
as one clicked the camera. Of course, I grabbed the
chance to visit the newly inaugurated 22 feet statue
of Rizal in front of Calamba City Hall – its 22
feet symbolizing the 22 languages and dialects that
Rizal had mastered. Even if it was drizzling and windy,
I approached the tall Rizal statue at the expense of
my poor and weak umbrella. It was great to be up there
and to see little children braving the rain and playing
on the stairs before the statue of Rizal.
has really found a place in the heart of many Filipinos
as the most respected and admired national hero. In
fact, every city and municipal hall, each public school
boasts a statue of him. But it wasn’t so 120 years
ago. This man had to fight for his principles almost
alone, and it was a quite a lonely life because he was
also misunderstood by his compatriots. Perhaps, after
watching Marilou Diaz-Abayas’s film of Rizal starring
multi awarded actor Cesar Montano, one can understand
the struggles that he had to go through. And we can
get a better glimpse of the man if we read his writings,
poems and novels.
and the struggle for freedom
visit to Intramuros completed my Rizal pilgrimage. The
walls of Intramuros still stand today as a symbol of
Spanish glory. There, one can have an inkling of how
the Spanish governors and the Church in Rizal’s
times became so rich and abusive. A sensitive soul might
even be a little scandalized to witness the richness
of San Agustin Church.
visit to the Lights and Sounds Museum featuring the
history of the Philippines up to Rizal’s times
will help us understand the evolution of the Filipino
people from its early settlers to Rizal, who stands
as a symbol of the loosening or unfettering of chains
from the colonial rule. In the last part of the Lights
and Sound tour, visitors are encouraged to overcome
the walls that still divide us in society, to widen
their horizons and their visions, so as to really achieve
that freedom that Rizal had once desired for our nation.
Modern Damasos and Colonizers
are the struggles that Rizal faced not different from
ours? Yes and no! Of course, the struggle for justice
and freedom will always be present as new tyrants and
colonizers arise from time to time. Now that colonial
rule from Spain is far back in history, it will be very
irrelevant if we go back to dwell on the sins of the
friars. Rizal had already exposed them during his time
with his two novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
local Church has already somehow redeemed itself with
the death of the three Filipino priests popularly known
as Gomburza, and more recently in the EDSA People Power.
Yes there are still abuses which one could focus on
but we cannot diminish the role of the Church in contemporary
history. In the past, she sent dedicated missionaries
who went to the mountains to help preserve the language
and culture of the natives, she set up basic ecclesial
communities in Mindanao and Visayas which saved hundreds
or thousands of lives by helping them take the road
to peace rather than violence, and she gave us the late
Cardinal Sin who paved the way for the Edsa people power
for modern colonizers, we often express our anger over
the US meddling in local affairs, even though through
our Senators, with Mount Pinatubo’s help, we had
voted for the removal of the American bases. Now that
we need US help because of the Spratly dispute with
China, we are requesting the help of US once again.
Funny isn’t it? One is tempted to think that we
should have retained the US bases after all.
from another point of view, the removal of the US bases
through a senate vote was part of our growing up as
a nation. Hopefully, that decision will be respected
and not exploited when we are in need. Warmongers are
already prophesying that war may result, but we should
not exaggerate as the UN, ASEAN and China herself with
thousands of years of experience have a history of respect
for treaties of International Agreement and this could
also happen as in the Spratly’s case.
so who are the Padre Damasos, or the Governadors of
our time – the grinding poverty that afflicts
our people now and its causes, those illegal recruiters
who take advantage of our people, the abusive local
leaders who cannot take criticism from journalists and
resort to killing them… The story of Rizal continues,
as the struggle for justice and true freedom lives on.
And we need to write more novels like Fili, and Noli
for our times in order to keep alive the awareness of
a nation longing for freedom… of course as Rizal
wished, and without bloodshed.
Rizal was very much ahead of his times. Ninoy somehow
completed his dream of a peaceful fight by offering
his life which sparked a silent, amazing and non-violent
revolution, but the story doesn’t end with their
sacrifice, for we still witness the agony of our countrymen
and it will be very hard to respond to their cry if
we are disunited.
countrymen really need to be guided by true love that
seeks the real good of their fellow men and women. And
our creativity should never be lacking nor exhausted
when placed at the service of others.