Time to relearn what Rizal stood for
(Editor’s Note: The author is a shrine curator at the historic sites and education division of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.)
Revolutions these days take on a myriad of colors to symbolize a variety of causes.
Green and blue are for environmentalists opposing ecological threats. LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) prefer the rainbow to embody their multicultural crusade against gender discrimination. Yellow stands for the current administration’s initiative to counter corruption.
Much as these causes are valid, the means by which they are expressed have become a source of amusement.
Only in the Philippines can you find a demonstration rigged up like a fiesta, with protesters donning masks, carrying colorful placards and shouting slogans alongside mocking jingles. Some activists spend thousands of pesos to create papier-mâché effigies of politicians, burning them in a bonfire of the vanities.
If he were alive today, would Jose Rizal exult at the freedom of expression of contemporary Filipinos, or shake his head at the motley circus?
Rizal aspired for a peaceful revolution that could be achieved through the sociopolitical and cultural transformation of all Filipinos.
That attitude was deeply rooted in his patriotism, for he wrote “… love of country is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart, because it carries with it a divine stamp which renders it eternal and imperishable … Of all loves, that of country is the greatest, the most heroic, and the most disinterested.”
As a devoted hijo del pais, he was willing to suffer for the sake of the country’s welfare, echoing his future martyrdom and fame:
“Some have sacrificed for her their youth, their pleasures; others have dedicated to her the splendors of their genius; others shed their blood; all have died, bequeathing to their Motherland an immense fortune: liberty and glory … And what has she done for them? She mourns them and proudly presents them to the world, to posterity and to her children to serve as an example.”
Rizal knew the difficulties he had to face for his nationalistic aspirations—from the mismanagement of the colonial government to the conservative frailocracy and to the malaise suffered by the Filipinos themselves.
He pointed out: “Within these last few years, the future of the Philippines has preoccupied not only its inhabitants … but also many Spaniards … All can see, all forebode, all are convinced that things are in a bad way, that something leaves much to be desired … The ruling government there agree that necessary evils exist … The very friars who benefit from the country and govern it … agree that there are deficiencies, imperfections, abuses, and that reforms are necessary and imperative …”
Blaming each other
Rizal realized that the problems besieging the country remained because there were no concerted efforts from the state institutions and its citizens to resolve them. Everyone was blaming each other’s inefficiency and scant abilities in governance and in promoting economic development.
He wrote: “… Those employees or rulers there … shout and throw the blame on the Indio, on the indolence of the Indio, perhaps in order to attract public attention … Thus their own faults would not be discovered … those (employees) who have complied conscientiously with their obligations … impute the disorganization to the system of government, to the personnel, to the lack of stability in government posts, to the intrigues …
“The friars attribute the country’s ills to the Liberal ministers … The little good that there is, they attribute to themselves …
“The Filipinos … also forget their responsibility in the present situation, for if the saying that where the skipper commands, the sailor doesn’t command is true, so also is the other one, that ‘every country has the government that it deserves.’”
‘People without a soul’
With all this chaos, Rizal believed that Spain could not institute reforms in the country.
In fact, the diatribe of Simon, Rizal’s protagonist in “El Filibusterismo,” against Basilio’s naïveté mirrors his own trenchant remarks against colonial reforms: “You pool your efforts thinking to unite your country with rosy garlands and in reality you forge iron chains. You ask parity of rights, the Spanish way of life, and you do not realize that what you are asking is death, the destruction of your national identity, the disappearance of your homeland, the ratification of tyranny …
“What is to become of you? A people without a soul, a nation without freedom; everything in you will be borrowed, even your very defects. You ask for Hispanization and do not blush for shame when it is denied you.”
Rizal’s outlook signifies his acquiescence to an alternative form of governance for the Philippines, free from Spain’s “civilizing” involvement. Consequently, on his return to the Philippines on June 26, 1892, he organized La Liga Filipina to carry out the crusade.
Its five principles were imbued with patriotic ideals: to unite the archipelago into one compact, strong, and homogeneous body; mutual protection against every want and necessity; defense against violence and injustice; promotion of education, agriculture, and trade; and study and application of improved methods and technology.
These principles were visionary since Rizal saw that all Filipinos formed one nation and future development lay in a strongly bonded community working together. It was every Filipino’s duty to work for the welfare and betterment of society and country through education and improved technologies in agriculture, business, and industry.
With Rizal’s arrest and deportation to Dapitan, the aspirations of La Liga Filipina were deferred.
Rizal’s transformative revolution is a work in progress. He had great faith that Filipinos would carry out his initiatives, not out of mere obligation, but through an assertive and genuine love of country.
He said: “You who wish to love but find no one worthy, look to your country, love her! … A brighter dawn is on the horizon, softer and more peaceful, the messenger of life and peace, the true dawn, in brief, of Christianity, the harbinger of happy and tranquil days. It will be our duty to follow the arid but peaceful and productive paths of Science which lead to Progress …”
Probably this is the right time for us to relearn the transformative revolution that Rizal and a host of other Filipino heroes participated in.
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.