Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy 150, Dr. Jose Rizal!

A hundred and fifty years old, that is our national hero, Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Alonso Realonda. To friends and family, Pepe, to us common men, Jose Rizal. On the 19th June 1861, never did any Spaniard expect that one man, a not too tall or fair one, a common-looking man, would be born to spur an oppressed nation into fighting for their freedom. Never have the Spaniards seen the potent powers of this short young man from Calamba, that he would be able to inspire millions of Filipinos from all over the nation. Pepe was truly a one-of-a-kind Filipino. The first Filipino, as the historians would say. A renaissance man, that even other Asian countries praise his various works.

After a hundred and fifty years of existence, hundreds of writings and tons of contribution to building our nation’s history, how do we take Rizal to heart? Does he still inspire Filipinos of today?

In one forum held at the Philippine Embassy here in Washington DC, one of the speakers, Trixie Herrera, who is a descendant of Narcisa, one of Pepe’s sisters, talked about her roots and how to “Rizalize” the present and the future. She did a little elaboration on how to go about it, and I agree with her in all of her examples of how to do it. After the talk, I asked myself how can I, as a regular Filipino, “Rizalize” the nation?

Rizal indeed taught us many lessons that we Filipinos could be inspired and emulate in our daily lives. I will only enumerate and elaborate on three. These three Rizal traits I believe, may be used to Rizalize our nation’s present and future.

In my early years as a student of Philippine History, I found myself amazed at how much Rizal had contributed not just in our nation’s history, but also in art, literature and science. He never ceased to want to learn. Even when in exile, he learned new things. He never stopped learning despite having mastered at least 5 languages, mastered Opthalmology, and wrote a few books. He just kept on learning. Here’s the first “Rizalizing” trait I think we Filipinos should emulate: Never cease to learn. Learning does not end in a College Degree, nor does it end in having a child. He who ceases to learn ceases to live. That is one way a Filipino can Rizalize his life.

Another way to Rizalize the nation is to strive to be the best that every Filipino can be. Rizal showed us how the brown race can be at par with any other race in the world. He was persecuted in his early days in Letran and Ateneo because of his color, but these did not stop him from being excellent. Her showed that he could be equally great in the medical profession as he studied in Spain. He showed the world that a Filipino has every right to be great with his various writings and teachings. He showed how a Filipino should stand in the grand scheme of things. Competitiveness, that is how we could further Rizalize our values.

Remember the famous Rizal quote? Who wouldn’t? Every Filipino in one way or another, has come across the saying, “Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika, ay masahol pa sa malansang isda.” I myself am ashamed of having written this in English, but of course, the bottomline of this saying is not just the language, but the total package of being a Filipino. Rizal, for one, had many encounters where he was teased and made fun of because of his brown complexion. In his earlier days, he would often get into fights because of his color. He fought for it to the very end. He wanted equality among the white race in the Philippines. He died for it. We got it afterwards. How do we Rizalize the present then? We should be proud to be Filipinos, and continuously work to uplift our race, wherever we may be. Rizal had left the country to study abroad, and he came back to help improve the country. Our OFWs can do the same. Work abroad, learn new things, apply them in the Philippines. Work abroad, gain enough capital, invest in the Philippines, generate new jobs, teach, improve the country.

Some might say that it’s a daunting and very difficult task, but I think every Filipino, in one way or another, can od at least one of these ways to Rizalization. Rizal did it a hundred years ago, when the world was far more oppressing and difficult. In this technology age, the sky is the limit in reaching our potential.

Mabuhay ang ika-150 taon ng kaarawan ni Dr. Jose Rizal! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

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