What Aquino and Rizal had in common



They came home. They did not have to; the threats they faced to life or liberty were real and manifest, the work they could have done outside the country to continue to contribute to the freedom struggle useful and varied.

The advice they received was almost uniformly negative. “I am prepared for the worst, and have decided against the advice of my mother, my spiritual adviser, many of my tested friends and a few of my most valued political mentors,” Ninoy Aquino wrote in his arrival statement. He had planned to read it the day he returned to Manila 30 years ago; he did not get the chance.

Jose Rizal prepared two letters before leaving Hong Kong in June 1892, to return to the Philippines for the second time. They were to be opened in the event of his death; about three years after his execution, Apolinario Mabini became the first to make them public.

In the letter addressed “A los Filipinos,” Rizal wrote: “The step that I have taken or I am about to take is undoubtedly very perilous, and I need not say that I have pondered on it a great deal. I realize that everyone is opposed to it; but I realize also that hardly anybody knows what is going on in my heart.”

Aquino knew the stakes involved.

“A death sentence awaits me. Two more subversion charges, both calling for death penalties, have been filed since I left three years ago and are now pending with the courts.” And again: “Six years ago, I was sentenced to die before a firing squad by a Military Tribunal whose jurisdiction I steadfastly refused to recognize. It is now time for the regime to decide. Order my IMMEDIATE EXECUTION OR SET ME FREE.” (The capitalization is in the version printed in the booklet “Human Society No. 21,” published the day after his funeral.)

I do not get the impression that Rizal saw in advance that the Spanish legal machinery would be used to entrap him (he certainly did not foresee that it would take the authorities four years to spring it). But he clearly understood that he was putting his life on the line.

We read in the other letter, the one addressed to his family: “Gladly I depart to expose myself to danger, not to atone for my faults (for on this point I do not believe I have committed any), but to finish my work and to confirm with my example what I have always preached.” (I am using the translation of the two letters as found in Dr. Robert Yoder’s  indispensable website, “The Life and Writings of Dr. Jose Rizal.”)

Both Aquino and Rizal could be accused of some wishful thinking.

Cory Aquino’s speech at her husband’s funeral Mass in Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City, on Aug. 31, 1983, contains the following telling paragraph.

“… And he told me that most likely he would be rearrested and brought back to Fort Bonifacio. In that case, he said he would ask Gen. Josephus Ramas to allow him to call me up. If, on the other hand, he would be placed under house arrest, he would call me up as soon as he arrived at our home in Quezon City. Then he told me that if [he] were brought back to Fort Bonifacio, there would be no need for me to hurry home. Instead, he said I should take my time finishing my packing. And in the event that our children and I would be issued passports, he said that I should take our three older daughters on a side trip to Europe.”

The master politician, adept in the most intricate arts of politics, did not fully realize the danger he posed to a failing, increasingly decrepit regime. It was a misreading made also by the writer and reluctant political reformer.

Several days before returning to Manila, Rizal wrote Marcelo del Pilar another vigorous letter, responding to what he perceived to be a personal attack against him on the very pages of La Solidaridad, but ending with the following prayer: “I wish to see you in Manila or here [that is, Hong Kong] so that we can come to an understanding and again become what we had always been. I hope that once out of that atmosphere [the toxic politics of the Filipino colony in Madrid], and seeing ourselves more closely, we may understand each other.”

So Rizal, too, thought it was possible to conduct meetings with the most renowned critics of Spanish rule, right in Manila.

I understand this misreading of the political situation, this practical failing, to be a direct consequence of the moral clarity Aquino and Rizal had both achieved. Aquino in his arrival statement: “I return voluntarily armed only with a clear conscience and fortified in the faith that in the end justice will emerge triumphant. According to Gandhi, the WILLING sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful answer to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God and man.” Rizal, in his letter to all Filipinos: “At present I know that the future of my country gravitates in some degree towards me, that at my death, many would rejoice, and consequently many are longing for my downfall. But what am I to do? I have duties of conscience above all else …”

* * *

To mark a personal milestone, I have set about putting new life into my old blog. (Talk about wishful thinking.) By this week, I should have uploaded all my columns, as well as some of the speeches and lectures that are a by-product of a columnist’s life. I will also start compiling all my Rizal-related writing on a Facebook page. Please follow my blog at, and look for Revolutionary Spirit on Facebook.

* * *

My Opinion Journalism class in UP will host the inimitable Jessica Zafra in this semester’s Shaping of Opinion forum, on Aug. 29, from 9 to 11 am, at the College of Mass Communication auditorium. The basic question remains the same: What is it that you do, and how do you do it? World domination, here we come!

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand

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  • Noel

    Of course. Lim Seng was also Enrile’s compadre who warned him and even tried to help him by asking Marcos to stop executing him. After the public execution, no more drug lords. Drugs were not as rampant as they are today. At that time, it was marijuana which is now even legally allowed in some countries.

  • pepito gwaps

    Rizal is very talented person. He is incomparable to other heroes. He is an artist, poet, linguistic, novelist, wizard and many more. In sports, nobody could bet him playing chess too as well as in fencing. His sensitivity and acumen are remarkable that he could not take the abuses done by Spaniards to the Filipinos. In modern days, there are a lot of brilliant Pnoys but don’ t have the guts to go against the corrupt system instead they joined them and for that Rizal and Ninoy are different from them because they had noble cause to fight for no matter what …

  • alex ca

    ano ba to? Walang dapat ikumpara sa kanilang dalawa kasi hindi magkapareho….Ang layo naman ng pagkakakumpara….Gamitin naman ninyo ang utak nyo kung magkumpara kayo ng tao…

  • alex ca

    kung magkupara kayo gamit naman ng konting utak pag may time……

  • mad_as_Hamlet

    * * * * * * * * * *
    Whatever people may say about Rizal and Aquino, their debits and credits, one thing is sure—the two of them combined can’t beat Marcos in the sonofabitch category. They can’t even come close to the first runner-up—-sonofabitch Enrile.
    – – -

  • Hardkorero


  • oldsong23

    Rizal is incomparable. Don’t compare him with Aquino. Aquino was only an incident president. He was fortunate because of his mother’s death, people sympathize with him. His senatorial stint doesn’t say much,,,he’s just lucky to get voted to become president,,,

    • Maj Gen Luo Yuan

      I scoured this article and have not seen anything that refers to the current president.

  • oldsong23

    Next time do not compare Aquino with any other heroes living or dead…it suck !

  • jorgii0550

    Ninoy is the catalyst for the EDSA revolution which resulted in the removal of Marcos dictatorship which eventually resulted for the Philippines to become a 3rd world country and it’s citizens forced to work abroad to have a better life.

    Cory although not corrupt she was the worst Philippine President by a mile……she allowed herself to be manipulated by her greedy KKK and her weakness and inexperience resulted in numerous coup d’etat. During her time was the golden age for Asia where most Asian country economies are booming except of course the Philippines who got left behind in the dust.

    Pnoy should have been one of the best if not the best President this country ever had but he drop the ball on FOI and the PDAF. He has shown that he inherited his mothers weakness of character and her father’s guile, his “tuwid na daan” is now becoming a joke.

    • HoyGago

      A few notes on some of your info:

      The flight of human capital (the modern OFW) began in the 1960s, and was first institutionalized by Marcos when he encouraged Filipino nurses to go to the US. Marcos saw remittances as a way to pay off the enormous foreign debt he had contracted. The 1986 revolution actually had people coming back, but the economy was not able to accommodate them.


      Cory’s presidency was hampered most by the coups of Enrile. Take note that the economy was growing strongly under Aquino (6.75% in 1988) until Gringo et al derailed our country’s recovery. That, and Pinatubo contributed to the backslide of GDP in 1991.

      Still, under her presidency the Philippines enjoyed relatively good economic growth. She still has the distinction of being the last president when the legislated minimum wage satisfied the actual living wage.


      Now with Noynoy, I can see why he’s not too keen on dropping PDAF and adopting FOI. If anything, his deliberate approach on enacting laws adopting FOI and junking PDAF shows how he is not one to be swayed by political expediency.

      Would it be nice if he got rid of PDAF? Sure, although to wish that is to disregard our Marcos experience, where the president was the only one who had all the money (the beautiful roads of Ilocos and Leyte point to the folly of this system).

      Is FOI overdue? Oh yes. But I wouldn’t mind making sure that what gets revealed are those that are supposed to be open to the public to begin with.

      • jorgii0550

        Wrong The flight of human capital (the modern OFW) did not began in the 1960’s it began all the way back to 1565 with Filipino sea farers for the Spanish Manila-Mexico galleon trade, then in the 1900’s where Filipino’s went to USA to work on apple and pineapple plantations but all of it is just a trickle, the flood gates was opened when unemployment in the Philippines exploded in the beginning of the 1990’s , even professionals went abroad to work as domestic helpers.

        Even until this day the damages of Cory’s administration policy favoring his KKK which has resulted in the empowerment of the oligarch in the Philippines.

        – the 60-40 rule to blame for low foreign investments in RP which resulted in a Philippine economy run by oligarch

        – the closure of the Bataan nuclear power plant is the main cause of the expensive power rates in this country

        “he is not one to be swayed by political expediency.”

        you have it backwards , political expediency is a regard for what is politic or advantageous rather than for what is right or just; a sense of self-interest….clearly with Philippine culture of candidates spending a fortune during election just to win, the politicians with rare exceptions will not be able to help themselves but become corrupted due to PDAF , 70M and 200M is not small change. It is also known that president use PDAF to bribe the congressman and senators so he can have what he wants.

      • HoyGago

        1. Granting, not admitting, that the modern ofw emerged in 1565, you prove my point that the diaspora did not begin with Cory’s administration.

        2. The 60-40 rule is not unique to the Cory Constitution. It is taken from the 1973 Constitution (Art XIV, Sec 5 & 9), which in turn was taken from the 1935 Constitution (Art XIII, Sec 1, Art XIV, Sec8).

        Unfortunately, blaming the 60-40 rule for low foreign investments is wrong. If you read your 1987 Constitution, you’ll find that the prohibition only applies to ownership and exploitation of the national patrimony, and ownership of public utilities.

        Further, the drawing of a “negative list” for foreign investments has allowed for the delineation of industries where foreign ownership greater than 40% are allowed. This makes Cory’s Constitution more appreciative of foreign investments than of Constitutions past.

        3. The Bataan Power Plant was closed for its shoddy worksmanship. No doubt nuclear can be the answer to rising electricity costs, but the benefits of this technology can only be reaped if one can be sure that no shortcuts in safety were taken.

        4. It would be expedient for Noynoy to just dump PDAF as it would appease you and many others that want it gone. Sikat kaagad siya nun, diba? Tataas lalo approval ratings niya. Pero bakit hindi niya ginagawa agad-agad?

        Kasi, gaya ng sinabi niya, he sees that it serves a purpose. It needs safeguards; no need to junk it altogether. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

        Expediency is giving into clamor without doing due diligence. If he eventually decides to do away with PDAF, then we know that he weighed all sides.

  • opinon only

    If Aquino and Rizal are heroes. Then the Muslims in the south are heroes TIMES 1,000. They did not wait 350 years to sacrifice for the homeland. They maintained their culture against all odds. Teach your children about the Muslims chieftains that would not surrender to Spain or any foreign invader. That’s heroism right there. Kind of awkward though huh?

    • ManilaMan

      The same can be said of our Cordilleran, Aeta and Lumad tribes.
      Kinda inaccurate story though, as Palawan, Jolo, Basilan and Cotabato surrendered to the Spanish in the late 19th century. The remaining moros and sultanates also eventually surrendered to the Americans after the Moro wars, reason why the whole of Mindanao and Sulu Archipelago were annexed to the Philippines. Please get your story straight.

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