Jose Rizal's 113th Anniversary

Since I was taking a break from updating, I wanted to inform everyone on this post that December 30th was Jose Rizal’s 113th Death Anniversary.  For those who are not familiar with Philippine history, Rizal was a Filipino polymath, nationalistand the most prominent advocate for reforms in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era.  He is considered the Philippines’ national hero and the anniversary of Rizal’s death is commemorated as a Philippine holiday called Rizal Day. Rizal’s 1896 military trial and execution made him a martyr of the Philippine Revolution.  I wanted to share this article written by Danilo A. Basilio for Migrant Heritage Chronicle (MHC) because it touches on the subject of Rizal’s vision of the Philippines and what has become of our motherland (e.g. corruption, poverty, devastation of Typhoon Ondoy/Ketsana, etc.).


By Danilo A. Basilio, Writer (in CA) for Migrant Heritage Chronicle

It was the best of times, the worst of  times…It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness…It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” This provocative series of paradoxical statements by which Dickens began his classic novel “A Tale of Two Cities”, might as well aptly describe the post-Rizal era in the Philippines, from the turn of the twentieth century to the first three  years of the new century and the new millennium. The four or five generations of Filipinos spanning this timeline witnessed recurring but unpredictable seasons of gloom and exhilaration, mood swings of buoyancy of spirit and stoic acceptance of inexorable fate and harsh realities, flashes of brilliance, heroism and martyrdom, as well as dark episodes of tyranny and national shame. We  have weathered two more imperialist regimes after the Spanish colonial rule; we have survived a brief but brutal and bloody war; we were elated at the  birth of the Republic, and for a brief sparkling moment, our young nation shone above the rest of war-ravaged Asia as the bulwark of Western-style democratic processes and economic stability. More recently we have seen the rise and fall of an infamous dictatorship, the emergence of a  modern-day martyr in Ninoy Aquino and the brandishing of a newly found  awesome power, by harnessing the groundswell of public indignation and by the assertion of the popular will as exemplified in the historic EDSA I and EDSA II revolutions.

Now, barely a  decade into the new century, we are again engulfed by a pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity, and we find ourselves grappling with a fragile economy, a sickening culture of corruption in the government bureaucracy, unbridled political bickering and an an insidious erosion of trust in our political leaders. More often than not, people look askance at earnest programs of good governance and fiscal reforms, and dismiss them as sheer sloganeering and vote-generating gimmickry.

Against this grim backdrop, we are faced with the inevitable question: what happens next?  What does the future have in store for the Filipino? Shall the vision of  Jose Rizal and the Liga Filipina of a “free, homogenous and vigorous archipelago “ ever come to pass in our time?

It would be sheer folly to provide even a modest extrapolation of the shape and tenor of things to come. But our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, offered a time-tested oracle of divining the future when he said:  “ In order to foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book of its past”.

Indeed, there is no better way of judging the future, as the fiery orator Patrick Henry once declared, than by looking at the past. This is not to be construed solely in the sense of history repeating itself. We take it to mean that the sum total of a nation’s experience is an integral part of its character, its identity, its heritage, like the genetic codes that determine the idiosyncrasies and behavioral patterns of individual organisms.

Aldous Huxley rightly states that “experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him”. In this sense, it is our  collective reaction to historical events that define our collective experience, and from this quantum of experience , we can have a clear consciousness of who we are, of what we, as a nation are capable of, armed as we are by lessons gained from past mistakes, and inspired by great things done by great men in our history. The past will always be with us, and from there we can draw the dimensions of our potentials  as well as our limitations based on our ethos or character as a people.

In this context, what prognostications can we assume from the Filipino character and quantum of experience?

We have seen, in the course of our history, that the Filipino has the capacity for greatness and can rise to the occasion when the exigencies of the times so demand. The valor of the Filipino is beyond question. Hermano Pule, Diego Silang, Gabriella Silang, Andres Bonifacio and so many others clearly demonstrated their courage and dogged determination by fighting against insurmountable odds and the risk of certain death. Ninoy Aquino rose to the occasion when the nation needed a hero, and his martyrdom became the biggest single catalyst that brought the downfall of an abusive dictatorial regime.

We have seen too, that the Filipino has great tolerance for suffering and is extremely resilient. We have endured the ravages of war and risen from its ashes; Year after year,  we are battered by typhoons and floods; we have been shaken by an earthquake of the greatest magnitude and a volcanic eruption of cataclysmic proportions in recent times. Yet the Filipino spirit remains high. We rise from the debris quickly and take all these things in stride: it’s not the end of everything, and life goes on.

History has proven too that the Filipino can excel in  intellectual brilliance, in the arts, and in almost every field of endeavor. The genius of Rizal is the paragon of Filipino excellence. We are proud of Carlos P. Romulo, Lea Salonga, Manny Pacquiao,Charice Pempengco, Gemma Cruz and the numerous international beauty queens. And yes, we are proud of  Monsignor Oscar Solis, the first Filipino-American to be appointed Bishop in the U.S.A.

So, the Filipino potential for greatness is beyond question. What remains now is how to harness this potential and direct it towards the realization of that elusive vision of political maturity, stability and economic prosperity as envisioned by our patriots. How can this be facilitated?

Again we turn to Rizal’s political views on a parallel situation in history. It is obvious that Rizal, from the start, was wary of outright and immediate independence. He rightly believed that the Katipuneros were yet  ill-prepared and politically immature for the responsibilities of nationhood. History proved him right.  Barely a year after his death, political in-fighting between the Magdiwang and Magdalo factions led to the execution of Andres Bonifacio, the firebrand of the Revolution.

The Filipinos, Rizal maintained, must first prove themselves worthy of their liberties and prepare themselves for independence principally through education and moral regeneration. “What is the use of independence if the slaves of today become the tyrants of tomorrow?”

Rizal’s solution therefore hinges on two elements: education and moral regeneration. By education,  Rizal meant to encompass humanism, the development of the whole man. The basis for nationhood, in Rizal’s terms, “is not race, ethnic origin, religion or language, but a commonality that derives from education. The binding factor is the broadening of the mind”.

On moral regeneration, Rizal has this to say: “..We must win our freedom by deserving it…by loving what is just, what is good, what is great to the point of dying for it. When people reach these heights, God provides the weapon, and idols and tyrants fall like a house of cards, and freedom shines with the first dawn”.

These words of admonition were written more a hundred years ago, but they still ring true, very true indeed today and at any point in a nation’s history when agonizing times necessitate the emergence of sincere, unselfish and truly dedicated leaders. It is,  as Shakespeare said, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

It is written that Rizal, at the throes of instant death from the volley of gunfire from the firing squad, veered with supreme effort to the right, and fell dead to the ground with his face upwards to the rising sun. This instinctive, heliotropic movement towards the light was perhaps Rizal’s final, willful, dramatic gesture to symbolize the Filipino’s unfulfilled dreams and aspirations towards the season of light, the spring of hope and the golden era of belief and faith in  the Filipino.

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