Rizal and the making of the Filipino genius ... and madness | Inquirer Opinion

Rizal and the making of the Filipino genius … and madness

04:05 AM June 19, 2024

On June 25, 1884, at the banquet in Madrid to honor our Filipino painters, Dr. Jose P. Rizal said:“Luna and Hidalgo are Spanish as well as Philippine glories. They were born in the Philippines, but they could have been born in Spain, because genius knows no country, genius sprouts everywhere, genius is like light, air, the patrimony of everybody, cosmopolitan like space, like life, like God.”

These words of Rizal continue to inspire and invigorate our conviction that we Filipinos can be successful in our endeavors and be great in what we do. This is true despite the limitations that our sad and poor country can offer to us. Despite the incompetence of our politicians and leaders for many generations, we were able to withstand the hardship and challenges of life in the Philippines.

As a country, we failed; but as individuals, we have proven that we can succeed. As a country, we remained poor; but as individuals, we have achieved prosperity. Filipinos who remain in our country struggle to sustain a comfortable life but Filipinos who migrate and work in foreign land can fulfill their dreams and support their family. We need to translate and transform this personal achievement to a collective and social progress.

This saddest truth echoes a metaphorical sentiment of a flower that blooms more beautifully on a stranger’s soil.


This is the Filipino genius.

We are resilient. We are hardworking. We are born with the desire to succeed. We are gifted with remarkable talents and skills. We can easily adapt to new environments. We are friendly and hospitable. We are eloquent. Many foreigners admire this Filipino genius.

Yet the same Filipinos belittle and criticize our talents and genius. We fear vehemently when Filipinos climb the ladder of success. The glory of our brothers becomes our bitterness. This is the Filipino madness.

Like genius, madness knows no country as well, it is scattered everywhere and cripples our morals into decay, like demons.And here we are confronted to choose between these two gates of light and darkness. We are embattled with a moral crisis of our identity, of who we are as Filipinos. But let the life and sacrifices of Rizal continue to help us choose, consciously, deliberately, the right path. But the more we read about Rizal, his works, and writings, the more we realize that we can never be like him. There is only one Rizal. When we read his works and reflect on his message, we realize that Rizal wants us to find and search for our own identity, greatness, talents—our own genius. 


Rizal wants to challenge everyone to create the best version of who we are. When we examine his short-lived 35 years of existence, we will be amazed at how great a life he brought into this world, not only for himself but for others, and for our country. Only through this—by bringing the best in us to the field, by reaching the maximum level of self-actualization, by becoming passionate in what we do, by living like a free-spirited being, that we become like Rizal, or even better than him.

When we find ourselves, when we discover our purpose, then, we can offer the world a life like a hero. But in this modern era, we don’t need to die to become one because only when we have lived fully that we can leave a legacy worth remembering. This resonates with the motto of the Order of the Knights of Rizal “Non Omnis Moriar,” which means “Not everything in me will die.”


Rizal said:

“One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and does not present itself again.”

Rado Gatchalian, member,

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Order of the Knights of Rizal

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