Rizal as teacher of the young
Of the many items in the Rizal Shrine Museum in Dapitan, two stand out because they are neither replicas nor reproductions: the original wood table and blackboard that the hero used in his modest but modern school for boys. They are most significant for me as a teacher because I draw inspiration from them just wondering what he used for chalk, what his teaching methods were, and what he was like as a mentor. The students did not pay tuition in cash; they paid in kind through the work they did on the Rizal estate: cleaning the surroundings, assisting in the clinic, building a dam for a water system, etc.
Having lived abroad for many years, Rizal was asked to be ninong or to congratulate Filipinos born overseas. He did not live to see the rise of overseas Filipino workers and a generation of Filipinos born and raised abroad, but his words, on the occasion of the baptism of the son of Fernando Canon in May 1889, rings true for over a century since they were first written. First he apologized that he had lost the muse of poetry and couldn’t write verses to lull the baby to sleep. Then he continued:
“…I truly share your joy, I congratulate you and your wife, I felicitate Spain, because I am sure that Fernandito can only fall heir to the noble qualities and good dispositions of his parents, and such citizens do not abound everywhere. Nevertheless, I cannot refrain from expressing to you a certain melancholy upon thinking that this new being in whose veins Filipino blood runs and who will be educated with so much care will afterwards be a lost member for a country that is in need of men. I have the same sentiment when I hold in my arms the son of [Juan] Luna and Pacita Pardo—he is one French more and one Filipino less.
“It is true that the Europeans who go to the Philippines give us their children, but what children, what education, and what love they have for the country! But no one is to blame for this except the country itself that reserves for its inhabitants many things besides malaria, earthquakes and typhoons.
“In the great whirlwind of the world, let each atom look for the best nucleus, let it rise when and where it can! The only thing you can do is to educate well your child and inculcate in him noble and honorable sentiments so that one day, if good luck sends him to the Philippines, he may not be one of so many who exploit the ignorance of the unfortunate, and be one more tyrant to the brothers of his father. All honorable men of the world are compatriots.
“May you and your family be happy, may your son be the mirror which reflects your good qualities, and if the Philippines loses a son, at least humanity may gain one.
“May the lechon and dinuguan sacrificed at his baptism influence somewhat his tender being like the atmosphere of a distant homeland, like the perfumes of tropical flowers…”
During Rizal’s exile in Dapitan in 1892-1896, some nephews were sent to him for schooling. His progress reports to his sister Lucia are delightful:
“Today I have made them write a letter. The writer was Tan and Teodosio helped him. You will see by the characters that Teodosio is economical and Tan is generous. Here I shall teach them Spanish, English, Arithmetic, and Gymnastics.”
“Tell Delfina that I have received her letter and that I’m not returning it because it has no mistakes. There is only one accent left out: when she writes muchísimo she does not put an accent on ‘i’; it ought to be muchísimo. She should continue studying as she is getting along well.”
In another letter to Lucia he reported:
“Your two sons are getting along well in their studies. Now they send you their letters written by themselves alone without dictation. They are studying fractions. They swim a great deal and Osio can swim until 30 braces, though slowly. Tanis dives very well and he is nimble like a fish, but he tires quickly. Tanis is going to be a strong lad, he now lifts up to twenty-five pounds over his head… I’m sorry I have no horse or a bicycle to teach them how to ride. They already speak English… Moris is also very much advanced, but the poor one cannot write yet like Tanis.”
Dapitan reminds us that Rizal is much more than a hero who wrote two novels for a nation that does not read, and got shot for them. Dapitan reminds us of the promise of youth and education.
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