INTRODUCTION A nation forms and transforms its national identity though its symbols that embody its historical and cultural heritage. Nowhere is this more patent in the way the Philippines and the Filipino people have kept alive the memories of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero. It was on December 30, 1898 on Rizal’s second death anniversary that the Filipino people could properly commemorate and pay their respect to Rizal as they celebrated the First Philippine National Heroes’ Day.
In the morning, the first monument-an obelisk with a mythical sun- to honor Rizal was unveiled in the province of Camarines Norte in the Bicol region. In the evening, in the presence of Rizal’s mother, sisters, and brother invited as guests of honor, together with distinguished members from the government, business, and military sectors, the first all-Filipino social society, Club Filipino, unveiled a bust cast in bronze in the likeness of Rizal was received warmly by all those present.
The unveiling was followed by songs and poetry to honor Rizal: a prelude to Cavalleria was played, his poems, including My Last Farewell and My Retreat, were declaimed, and his Song of Maria was sung. And as the guests joyously and proudly left, the national anthem was played. During the American occupation of the Philippines, Rizal Day and Rizal’s Birthday celebration was permitted even as the new colonizer banned that display of the Philippine flag. On the tenth anniversary of Rizal death on December 30, 1906, a speaker exclaimed that every nation had its day of honor and that for the Philippines that day was December 30, 1896.
And on that day, Rizal’s sacrifice was still vivid in the minds and hearts of the people. By the time Rizal’s fiftieth death anniversary was commemorated in 1946, the Philippines was again free from foreign control as it gained its freedom from the United States. In 1956, Rizal’s writings including the uncensored copies of his novels became required readings in school. Today, Rizal, who paid the ultimate price with his life to free the Filipino people, is considered as an Asian Renaissance Man for his intellect and humanism. BACKGROUND OF THE AUTHOR The author of the Book, “In Excelsis: The Mission of Jose P.
Rizal, Humanist and Philippine national hero”, is not just a writer but also a photographer and lecturer who began her career since 1973. She has written several and various genres of books such as socio-political events, culinary history and cuisine, art and aesthetics, sociology, humanities, cultural environment development and values regeneration. She stayed as a former president of the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum in Manila, and she is highly regarded in the Philippine museum sector for her Filipino language text for museum exhibitions with English adaptations.
She also has won several awards for her works such as “The Governor-General’s Kitchen: Philippine Culinary Vignettes and Period Recipes, 1521-1935”, which won National Book Awards 2006 and Gourmand Awards for books 2006-2007, “Household Antiques and Heirlooms”, which won National Book Award, Art, 1983, and much more. She is currently staying as Chair of Social and Human Sciences Committee Philippine National Commission for UNESCO. She always strives hard to develop Philippine culture not because of her position as “someone who introduces one’s country,” but because of her passion towards her beloved motherland, Filipinas.
THE PROPHECY On June 19, 1861, after a difficult delivery, Teodora Alonso gave birth to Jose Rizal before midnight during a full moon. When he was baptized, the parish priest advised his mother to guard his head for he would be a great man someday. Jose Rizal, or Pepe as he was known when he was young, spent his childhood in his playhouse surrounded by native Philippine fruit trees where birds abound. He had a pony, a dog, and a rabbit for pets. Even as a young boy, he showed interest in painting sculpting, and even puppetry.
One day, when his sisters teased him about his childish work, he told them that one day people would be making many monuments to him. Rizal’s love for reading and literature was encouraged early by his mother who was his first teacher. His family had one of the best private libraries containing about a thousand books. A story is told that one evening, his mother read him about a young moth that died after it disobeyed its mother’s warning to stay away from the flame. Although Rizal understood the lesson of the story, he felt that the moth died for a good reason because the flame was truly beguiling.
As a young child, he showed precociousness when he learned to read the alphabet when he was two. His parents also taught him to be honest, punctual, and patient and to observe proper behavior at all times to uphold the family name. As a pre-teen, he was exposed to the Jesuit’s devotion to the Virgin Mary that he even served as secretary in the Marian Congregation. In 1872, passed the entrance examination and was accepted into Ateneo Municipal School ran by the Jesuits.
In 1877 he took up philosophy at the Dominican Order’s University of Santo Tomas while taking a course on surveying at the Ateneo which he finished in 1881. In 1879, he won first prize in a literary contest for his poem To The Filipino Youth where he stated that the youth is the hope of the fatherland. In 1880, in honor the fourth centennial of the death of Cervantes, he won again for his work The Council of the Gods, a one act allegory where Rizal hails Homer, Virgil, and Cervantes as the “core of the intense light that shall illumine the universe. In 1882, Rizal sailed for Spain to continue his medical studies using Mercado in his passport because of the controversy he created when he beat the Spaniards in literary contests. THE CALL Rizal reached Madrid on June 15, 1882. While abroad, he deliberately associated himself to communities of varied economic backgrounds and fellow students to improve his grammar and jargon. By the time he turned 30, he knew 22 languages. His journals and letters described the lifestyle, culture, customs and traditions unique to each country.
In Europe, he was happy with the respect and friendship shown to him as a Filipino by the foreigners he met while studying for a licentiate and doctorate in medicine and the same in philosophy and letters. To further improve his skills in painting, sculpting, fencing and riding, he took lessons. In order to afford books, he had to scrimp and had to skip meals sometimes. He was able to buy books by C. Bernard and Horace and other titles such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Wandering Jew. Rizal became a titular head of the Filipino intellectuals in Spain who finally united for the purpose of drawing attention to the Philippines’ plight.
During a celebration for the Luna’s and Hidalgo’s victories in an art contest, he offered a heartfelt toast and a fervent wish that may the Filipino youth imitate their examples and that Spain would put reforms into practice. After his toast to the two painters, Rizal’s reformist position and priority were evident. In 1887, the expatriates who called themselves The Colony were horrified and angered when indigenous people were brought in Madrid and exhibited like animals to show the unspoken message that the Filipinos were not ready for Spanish citizenship or representation.
On February 1887, Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere was finally published with the help of Maximo Viola. The novel revealed the injustice and the abuses of the Spaniards in the Philippines. It was banned and branded heretical and subversive by the authorities that Rizal was advised not to return to the Philippines in the meantime. Viola feared Rizal would lose his head. But Rizal returned to the Philippines after more than five years spent abroad. He went to Calamba to see his family and stayed with them for a while. The furor caused by his novel prodded the friars to seek ways to punish the author.
To prevent any untoward incidents befalling his family because of him, Rizal sailed again with a heavy heart. THE CRUSADE On self-imposed exile, Rizal accepted the calling and gave his all to a crusade to give his countrymen human rights based upon respect for basic human dignity, stop racial prejudice and promote religious tolerance. To boost the image of the Filipino, he organized the International Association of Filipinologists which counted among its members Europe’s influential and respected men. Rizal has become confident as a socio-political activist.
In this regard, he wanted to publish evidence that his people had a unique culture that is worthy of respect even before the Spaniards came to colonize the islands. In this pursuit, he chose to annotate Antonio Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas because it contains objective description of local government systems, trading, and the initial effects of colonization on the lives of the Filipinos. His annotations came from other books about the Philippines and his own personal experiences. In his annotations, he showed how imperialism can destroy the spirit of the colonized people.
Rizal also wrote for La Solidaridad, the mouthpiece for political sentiment of the Propagandists. They put up the reformist newspaper to push for among other things, the assimilation of Filipinos as Spanish citizens and a permanent representation in the Spanish Cortez. Rizal’s contributions revolved around the issue of how the benevolent intentions of Mother Spain are thwarted by the misconduct of the officials and friars in the colony. One of his notable essays is The Indolence of the Filipinos in which he defended the Filipinos’ initiative and industry thwarted by government apathy and neglect.
In another essay entitled The Philippines a Century Hence, he foretold that the abused and long-suffering Filipinos would rise up in a war against Spain or the Philippines would remain under Spain if the people are given more rights and freedom. On March 29, 1891, Rizal finished his second novel El Filibusterismo with the help of Valentin Ventura. Fili is a sequel to the Noli which became very controversial because it advocated revolution. Rizal was pained to learn that his family suffered again because of his writing.
But with his friends’ help, he was reunited with his family in Hong Kong where the Rizals were together on the Christmas of 1891 since 1887. THE CALM As Rizal traveled incognito and posing as Mr. Dimas Alang, he became aware of the great respect that people had for Rizal since his message that it not yet time for revolution was heard by the people. On July 3, 1892, Rizal founded the Filipino League with the aims of among other things, uniting the whole country for mutual protection and application of reforms. Through this organization, Rizal sought to awaken the national consciousness of the Filipinos.
But on July 17, Rizal was escorted off the naval boat that brought him to his place of exile –Dapitan. From the money he won in a lottery, he purchased a estate in Talisay, dotted with fruit trees. And so Rizal started his life as a farmer. While in Dapitan, Rizal put up a school where bright boys could live and study. They learned by doing and value the dignity of labor and to behave like men. Rizal was a progressive teacher of his time where he advocated starting where the interests of the pupils lie and according to their abilities since “we cannot all be doctors. Rizal became a role model for his students and the people of Dapitan. He started caring and curing for his patients while making do with what he had.. For those who can afford it, they paid generously. For those who can’t, Rizal accepted payment in kind, and for those poor patients who couldn’t pay, they were treated for free. Rizal was also kept busy collecting botanical and biological specimens and sending them to his scientist friends abroad, and studying native witchcraft scientifically, among other things. But all of these did not totally free him from melancholy as his life “passes peacefully and monotonously. It was during his exile in Dapitan that he was visited by Dr. Pio Valenzuela to get his support for a planned revolution but Rizal condemned it upon learning that it would happen soon. He told Valenzuela the next day that his aim in applying for military service was to be able to study the war because he might find something useful that would help remedy the bad situation in the country. A surprise came when Rizal received a letter from the governor-general permitting him to go to Cuba with the Spanish soldiers. THE GLORY When Rizal left Dapitan, the town band ominously played Chopin’s Funeral Pyre.
But when he reached Manila, the ship bound for Cuba had already left and gone a day. Since he knew that the planned revolution that he disagreed with could erupt at any moment, he asked that he be held incommunicado except for family members. It was while he was on board a Spanish cruiser that he heard of the revolt led by Andres Bonifacio’s KKK. Rizal was then on his way to Spain but upon reaching Barcelona on October 3, he was kept under surveillance. On the same day, he was aboard a ship that would bring him back to the Philippines. When Rizal arrived in Manila on November 3, he was quickly incarcerated at Fort Santiago.
When an inquisition began on his case, Rizal was not even given a chance to face his accusers but was only given a chance to give a statement on his behalf. Documents to establish Rizal’s guilt included private correspondence. Though there was no conclusive evidence that connected him to the ongoing revolution, he was interrogated for five days. When the findings were submitted, Rizal was tagged as the leading organizer of the revolution and that his writings fomented rebellion and sedition. After a farce of a trial, Rizal was convicted and sentenced to death for founding illegal associations and promoting and inciting rebellion.
On December 28, Camilo G. Polavieja signed his name agreeing with the findings of the Judge Advocate General. Then Rizal was informed that he would be executed on December 30, 1896 by firing squad. Before his execution, Rizal was able to give his sister a lamp containing his magnificent poem known as Mi Ultimo Adios. On the day of his execution, a military doctor who checked his pulse found it surprisingly normal. Rizal request that he be allowed to face the firing squad while being shot was denied though his request that his head be spared was allowed.
As the command for his execution was given, Rizal twisted his body and faced the heavens. It was 7:03 AM. CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK Why is Rizal called as national hero of the Philippines? It’s simply because of his contribution toward his country. With his knowledge and passion for education, he could have success on other fields with happier life. He could have just applied what he learned to for his survival instead of fighting against Spaniards that risks his life. In fact, he had more choices for him to stay alive than sacrifice himself.
But why did he end up sacrificing his life to his country and leave sadness to his beloved family? Well, it could be because of his strong will and heart, but I believe that the thing which led him to have such life is because he was realistic thinker. When Rizal was still a kid, his mother told him a story of young moth. And as Rizal heard the end of the story, he said the moth died for a good reason because the flame was truly beguiling. This shows that Rizal was a realistic thinker even when he was young. And to see his works, for what I have seen, they are all based on fact but covered by a fictional story.
Poems, letters, essay, books, etc. composed by Rizal since he was still young are mostly based on facts which have been just covered. With this behavior, he might have wanted to change the reality through his works. Though he loved to learn various fields of learning, most of his works are never just written purely fiction. That’s why it led him to death by forcing himself to write hidden message unlike other propagandists. Jose Rizal could be one of the most unfortunate men in history; but in other hand, he could also be one of the luckiest men in history too.
With his birth at a time when Philippines was in a worst condition, the surrounding changed him to realize the reality in a young age. This definitely led him to be one of the most unfortunate men since he used his talent in sacrificing his life toward his country, but was also one of the luckiest men because this also led him to leave glory even after his death. CONCLUSION When I was still a high school student, I once asked a classmate of mine about how he thinks about his national hero, Jose Rizal. I was expecting to hear a “bragging” of his national hero but it was totally opposite.
He said he’s somehow ashamed of Rizal because he is a womanizer or a playboy. And he added he would want Andres Bonifacio as their national hero since he bravely fought the Spaniards to eliminate them and if I’m not mistaken, he was one of the first presidents of the Philippines. So as a foreigner’s view, I automatically viewed Jose Rizal as a playboy before national hero. After I read this book, I cleared myself that Jose Rizal is a personality that Filipino shouldn’t be ashamed of, and a personality who must be respected by them. It is simply because he is too good to be playboy.
Every writings he wrote risked his life, but he never got afraid of it and kept writing until his death. His writings didn’t attack Spaniards physically, but Filipinos to have rage against the Spaniards. The Andres Bonifacio’s sword could hurt enemies at once, but Jose Rizal’s writings keep remaining in present and it still urge Filipinos to feel rage toward Spaniards even the incident now left as a history. Every country got its own heroes; Napoleon, Chingiz Khan, Mao Zedong, General Lee, etc. A common point of them are they all used strength in protecting their country, or in ruling their country.
But Rizal was different since he used writings on fighting for his country. I see this as really effective and unique way of fighting the enemy. In fact, I, as a foreigner, think if we had personality like Jose Rizal in the past, our country would be more prosper compared to present. In my opinion, there’s no reason to hate Rizal. Even he courted a lot of women and changed his partner often; the important thing here is he accomplished his task very well. It would be a problem if he stops fighting against Spaniards because of those women, but he did not. So now, why curse and why not admit Rizal as Philippine’s national hero?