Today is Rizal Day

After the Rizal day ceremonies there were activities headed by various groups that followed around Manila. The sky as clear as it was when Rizal walked to his hill of death. Military men all prepared for the days ceremonial rites.

Parades and other festivities were held to commemorate the death of the Filipino hero around the country. But celebrations are largely confined to places like Dapitan, Luneta and Calamba.

While seeing all the activities (including the ceremony in Luneta led by the President) I thought that many of these people were just going through the motions. New Year celebrations is a day away and Rizal day, being an official state holiday, is just one of those that is required to be celebrated.

I wonder if the meaning and purpose of this day are still with us.

In Calamba, the mayor declared the country’s “biggest Rizal statue” in their town plaza as the town’s greatest gift to their greatest son. As if Rizal needed another monument –  a pathetically shallow commemoration.

One day some politician would fund a bigger statue – would that be a far greater tribute?

Filipino politicians are most creative when it comes to projects that would bear their names and faces.

Rizal the icon is popular. No doubt. There are shirts, monuments, streets, movies and countless books about him. Many people have made careers out of Rizal. The Rizal business is probably worth millions of pesos!

So does this mean that Rizal’s real message has finally caught on?

Not really.

His martyrdom has become the face of our struggle for national identity. Unfortunately, his message was lost amid the fervor of Filipino nationalism and opportunism.

Politicians who claims they know Rizal are liars – believe me. What Rizal did in Dapitan was what he was all about. Our politicians can’t part ways with their rich lifestyle. They can’t be counted upon to cultivate land and minds back in their home provinces.

This explains why they can’t possibly understand the Rizal we commemorate.

Who wants to sacrifice? Not even the seating president is willing to help the farmers in his family’s farm!

Rizal, first and foremost, was an artist. His novel (taken by many as history books) are novels that reflected his feelings, humor, aspirations and emotions. Aside from the two novels, he wrote songs, plays and poems. Our education about the man does not expose us to the life that he led.

Not unless you’re prepared to study Rizal outside the class you’ll never get close to the real Rizal. We better begin to appreciate and read about how he lived and not just how he died.

Another topic that is never mentioned these days when people talk about Rizal is his passion for the Spanish language. Most of us are not even made aware that he wrote in Spanish.

Understandably, the Spanish speaking Rizal does not sit well with the English speaking academe and leaders. If we have been taught of the Rizal that almost exclusively wrote in Spanish we would have a different view of this language.

This is Rizal speaking through his character Padre Hernandez about the need to teach the Spanish language:

“The teaching of Spanish can be conceded, without danger whatsoever… Why should we be in continuous tension with the people (who wants to learn it), when after all , we are the few and they are the many, when we need them and they do not need us!… Tomorrow or after tomorrow, they will be stronger, they will know what suits them and we cannot prevent it as we cannot prevent children, reaching a certain age, to get to know many things”.

Spanish as a liberating language? Tomas Capinpin had the same idea. He referred to it as the language that could set the Filipino free. But how can Rizal and the other revolutionary men in our history fight for something foreign?

Well, you see, this is why our educators skipped this part.

One of the most contentious issues during his time was the teaching of the Spanish language. He along with other Filipinos of his time fought to have it taught to the public. They wanted the Filipino to be able to read and catch up with the changing tides of history. Of course, the conservative Friars didn’t want any of it. Up to mid 18th century, many Filipino leaders carried on this advocacy – continuing the tradition that Rizal’s generation started.

Somehow, along the way, their message and that of Rizal got lost in the Filipino consciousness. The national identity that Rizal had in mind was removed and replaced by something else.

We call it Amey-ri-kayn.

30 December 2011


One response to “Today is Rizal Day

  • Bong

    Rizal fought for the teaching of Spanish because he wants Filipinos to be informed and educated since prevailing literature at that time were in Spanish – if they were in English he would’ve fought for English to be taught to the public if its being prohibited.

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