2011 is not only UST’s 400th anniversary and EDSA’s 25th year. It is also the sesquicentennial or 150th birth anniversary of the country’s national hero, Dr. José Rizal. Born in 1861 in Calamba, Laguna, Rizal would become the Philippines’ national hero, renowned here and abroad not only for his various talents and body of written works but for his immense love for his people. His martyrdom in 1896 after being wrongly accused for initiating a revolution he himself denounced inspired the Filipino people to fight for their independence from Spain.
A product of a good background and a true Renaissance man, Rizal impressed his peers during his years. His fluency in the Spanish language as well as in other tongues as well as his innate talent with the pen gained him respect and esteem, and even the revolutionaries, Andres Bonifacio for example, thought highly of his novels and treated these with reverence.
Today, however, 150 years after his birth, the youth of 2011 is challenged to grapple and face the reality of Rizal. Rizal’s memory and life, his writings and works, for 150 years, have challenged the Filipino people to act for our country’s progress Rizal had lived a life he dedicated solely for the race of this archipelago, and he left many writings that sought to address sectors in Philippine society. The young Pinoys are no exception. Perhaps, his lasting words “the youth of today are the country’s hope tomorrow” come to us as a challenge, as an order or even a plea we try to fulfill. His poem “A la juventud filipina”, with his compelling statements and dreams for his peers in the 1800s still resonate with our generation today. Rizal, therefore, is alive and kicking, virtually kicking our behinds to wake up from our apathy and childishness.
Indeed, what Rizal has told Filipinos 150 years ago still applies to our timid and forgetful people. Rizal’s memory, 150 years old, haunts us to some degree, continuously chasing after us and telling us, through his body of works and ultimately, through his very life, that a Filipino can be worth emulating, that the Filipino can inspire the world, that the Filipino is different.
The challenge, however, is great especially if even among ourselves, we dedicate much of our time pulling our native identity down and even burying it. Many Filipinos build a lifetime trying to avoid speaking the native tongue, migrating abroad or by simply living an Americanized lifestyle. Our schools and centers of learning (including seminaries), which used to be bastions of the Spanish language as well as of Greek and Latin, have stopped teaching Spanish and the promotion of the Philippines’ Hispanic heritage, things utterly related to the memory and legacy of Rizal and our other patriots. Today, the country is in deep cultural crisis because of the many forces that are subtly destroying Philippine culture and heritage, and with Rizal’s birth anniversary, we need to heal these wounds and fix the errors we have committed, mistakes that were borne out of our harmful colonial mentality, our mediocrity as a people and our baffling non-interest in history. Why, even the sad national label as the Philippines being “a country that does not read” has to be corrected. In Rizal, we find our answer and our inspiration.
I would then like to take this opportunity to promote firstly, the blog of a good friend of mine, Camille. The blog is called “Jose Rizal Fans’ Site” and it is a blog dedicated to the memory of Dr. Rizal. It is an interesting, not to mention, youthful take on the magnanimous figure that is Rizal. It is worth the read.
Here is a link to the blog: http://joserizalfans.wordpress.com/
I hope you would all visit it and help it grow. Spread word that a young Filipina is trying to perpetuate the memory of Rizal in tumultuous 2011. It’s about time that we young Filipinos take up the fight of Rizal, of EDSA and of the rest of our ancestors (regardless of their political sentiments) for a better Philippines.
Likewise, if you want to get updated or to participate in the roster of activities being prepared by the National Commission on the 150th Anniversary of Dr. Rizal, do check out this official Facebook page of the commission: http://www.facebook.com/rizal150
Lastly, please read my essay on Dr. José Rizal, his friendship with Ferdinand Blumentritt and how their strong, and venerable relationship stood as a testament to Europe’s undeniable link and partnership with the Philippines. It was the Grand Prize Winner of the “Rizal Na, EUropa Pa” Nationwide Essay-Writing Contest of the Order of the Knights of Rizal and the European Union Delegation to the Philippines (Czech Presidency 2009). Here’s the link to my obra maestra, my humble oblation to our beloved national hero, a great human being who highlighted the undeniable important of friendship in any person’s pursuit of his/her dreams:
It is entitled “Europe’s Finest Gift to the Philippines”.
VIVA las FILIPINAS! VIVA RIZAL!