Do we really know Rizal? Rizal law ineffective
In the wake of the controversy over a bill seeking to integrate a course on the life of Andres Bonifacio in the college curriculum, a reassessment of the Rizal law and its effect on our educational system is called for.
The Rizal law has come a long way. After Republic Act No. 1425 aimed at including a study of the life and works of Jose Rizal in the curricula of public and private schools was approved by President Ramon Magsaysay on June 12, 1956, teaching Rizal has been mandatory in our school system.
Fifty-five years have passed. Now we live in a world dominated by cyber technology and scientific breakthroughs, revolution, terrorism, environmental crisis and natural catastrophes, a world of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, the X Factor and MTVs. Do we really still know Rizal?
Do we understand what he wanted for the country? Do we still remember why he was a hero?
Rizal’s death anniversary today was declared a national holiday to give Filipinos time to recall his achievements and contributions to the nation. Commemorative rites take place at his monument in Rizal Park and other parts of the country, even abroad.
The Rizal law was made so that the Filipinos, especially the youth, will not forget him. But the question remains, why should we not forget him?
The teaching of the Rizal course in the classroom is intended to awaken the sense of patriotism and nationalism in every Filipino youth and push them to apply the principles bequeathed by Rizal as solutions to present day problems.
Sadly, the years have shown that the Rizal law has not been effective.
Nowadays, when a Filipino is asked what she/he knows about Rizal, chances are she/he would say that Rizal is the image on the one-peso coin, or that he was the one shot in Luneta.
Knowledge of Rizal has been limited to knowing the streets named after him, or to the characters in his novel.
Deeper understanding of Rizal has been blocked by our interest in such things as the Internet. Some of us know Rizal only by name. And not knowing him, we have become what Rizal fought against all his life. We have become indifferent.
Scratching the surface
How have we come to this?
In school we only get the basic information about him. We get to read his novels and poems and learn of the places he visited and even the women who became part of his life. But we have ended up not knowing what he really stood for. We even wear shirts bearing his image but we do not go deeper in understanding him.
Some college students who take up technical courses, such as engineering or medicine, even question the relevance of the Rizal subject to their careers; they insist that the subject is just a waste of time and money.
Jose Rizal and the Rizal law are part of our history. Rizal the Filipino and Rizal the course both have a reason and purpose for us.
Rizal stood as one of the great men produced by the Malay race. His peaceful means of reform made him Asia’s first modern nonviolent proponent of political reforms. The Rizal law is an avenue for the youth to understand Rizal’s vision. The law aims to put Rizal closer to our hearts.
Why heroes exist
Strengthening not only the Rizal course but the subject of Philippine history is important. We will not only be inspired by Rizal but also by other heroes like Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Emilio Jacinto and Marcelo H. del Pilar who, like Rizal, exemplified the virtues of honesty, integrity, peace based on justice and patriotism.
Filipinos are capable of achieving great things in life and, like our heroes, we can excel in our ways.
But the most important thing is to know the reason why heroes exist, why there is a need for them. Studying Heroism 101 is to look beyond heroes’ lives, far into the social circumstances or problems that created them and which heroes are supposed to solve.
If the problems still exist today, then it is our turn to become heroes, too.
Bantug, Asuncion Lopez. Lolo Jose An Intimate and Illustrated Portrait of Jose Rizal. Manila, Vibal Foundation and Intramuros Administration, 2008.
Guerrero, Leon. First Filipino A Biography of Jose Rizal. Manila, National Historical Institute. 2008.
Republic Act No. 1425, www.chanrobles.com