Duterte pays tribute to Rizal’s sacrifice, meets national hero’s kin
President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday paid tribute to Jose Rizal’s works and sacrifice, and called on Filipinos to follow his example as he led the country in commemorating the martyrdom of the national hero.
Waking up early for the occasion, Mr. Duterte raised the Philippine flag and laid a wreath at the Rizal monument in Manila for the 121st anniversary of the Great Malayan’s death.
Vice President Leni Robredo, Papal Nuncio Gabriele Caccia, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and other government officials and diplomats joined Mr. Duterte at the rites.
Rizal’s descendants attended the event and had a chat with the President. One of them, former Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz-Araneta, said Mr. Duterte had invited her family to lunch in Malacañang.
The President, she said, shared with them a historical tidbit about Rizal’s mother visiting Malacañang to talk to the governor general about her son.
In his Rizal Day message, Mr. Duterte lauded the hero for inspiring a movement during the Spanish occupation that he said gave rise to the Filipino identity.
“During that dark chapter in our nation’s history, his writings served as the light that guided our forebears in the fight for genuine equality and independence,” he said.
Rizal, as an author and scholar, also denounced corruption, greed and other social ills, which continue to plague the country up to now, Mr. Duterte said.
“Even in death, he imparted upon us aspirations for a nation that is free from the scourge of injustice, tyranny and suffering,” he added.
The President urged Filipinos to recognize Rizal’s sacrifice and to follow his lead to help build a strong nation.
“May we take this occasion as an opportunity to recognize Dr. Rizal’s ultimate sacrifice for the sake of our country. Let us reflect on his patriotism as we strive to continue his work of building a more united, peaceful and prosperous Philippines,” he said.
Senators also urged the Filipino youth and millennials to be like Rizal and keep his story alive by working for a better nation.
Rizal “was an ordinary man before he was a hero,” Sen. Grace Poe said in a statement.
“But he used his genius to help uplift the lives of the Filipinos. He served the people and that’s what made the difference. We hope his legacy and story will remain alive among us, especially the youth,” Poe said.
The Liberal Party said Rizal was a “millennial” of his time, inspiring Filipinos to believe that they were capable of ruling themselves.
“He used his time and talents to show his love of country. We urge today’s millennials to be like Rizal, to work for a better Philippines, free of poverty and fear, and where justice and solidarity reign,” it stated.
From her detention room in Camp Crame, Sen. Leila de Lima also encouraged Filipinos to live by Rizal’s principles and to not remain silent and blind to the atrocities and injustices in society.
Among Rizal’s prominent written works were the novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” which exposed and lampooned the abuses and hypocrisy of the Spanish friars and the colonial government, and are credited with inspiring Filipino nationalism.
Sen. Sonny Angara said Rizal’s courage in facing the firing squad during his execution should give Filipinos pause every Dec. 30.
“What should give us inspiration and pride is the fact that he fought for something, far greater than self-preservation: reforms, social equality and freedom,” he said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he chose to remember Rizal as a farmer who soiled his hands and feet to learn the basics of agriculture during his exile in Dapitan. He said the hero founded a cooperative that helped other farmers develop efficient farming techniques and market their produce.
“Ka Pepe left the haunting message that genuine independence cannot exist when Filipino farmers are still disrespected and poor. We need to measure development by how abundant their own dining tables are,” Pangilinan said.
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