Don’t forget role of masses too
The hype surrounding Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary gives us good reason to review our history, appreciate its relevance and break the negative cultural trend brought about by commercialization.
Rizal was proclaimed national hero in 1912 by the American colonial regime. He was the convenient choice over the revolutionists who took up arms against colonial Spain and, later, imperialist America. The American regime portrayed Rizal as an intellectual who advocated reforms. This was the model that the American occupiers wanted us to emulate—Rizal in overcoat holding a book.
Early in his youth, Rizal said that the national language is a symbol of freedom (in his poem “Sa aking mga Kabata”). This seems to be true today because the government advocates the intensification of the teaching of English.
Rizal is portrayed as a womanizer, having been linked by some historians to quite a number of women. This should not be an issue. Rizal’s “women” came one at a time, and he did not lure them with money or property bought with public funds. Rizal is a national hero, not a matinee idol whose ilk come and go. The works and deeds of heroes outlive their generation.
Rizal was a medical doctor, a writer, a linguist, an artist and a sportsman. A genius indeed, but bright as he was, he miscalculated the barbarism of colonial Spain. After writing his “subversive” novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” and joining his anti-colonial propagandist-compatriots in Europe, he came back to the Philippines and organized La Liga Filipina. Soon afterwards, he was arrested and exiled to Dapitan. Eventually, he was sentenced to death by the Spanish authorities for treason. He should have gone underground.
But this does not unmake Rizal as a hero. His novels exposed the decadence of the friars and the unjustness of the system. It presented the need for reforms and the possibility of revolution. He identified as a barrier to development the corrupt Filipino bourgeoisie that was given property, privileges and political power by the colonial regime. Rizal’s writings and those of the propaganda movement enlightened and inspired our countrymen toward patriotic goals.
Rizal played a big part in the making of our history, just like the other heroes of that era. Individually, they were great. But it was the collective heroism of the Filipino people who took up arms and fought the oppressive system that made the history of the 1896 Philippine Revolution.
—JULIE L. PO,
Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino,
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.