To What Extent Do We Honor Rizal?

by Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.

“Let us, therefore, reflect: let us consider our situation and see how we stand.” This was the final advice of the foremost national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, to the young women of Malolos, Bulacan, who in 1888 petitioned the Spanish Governor General to allow them to open a night school where they could learn Spanish. This may well be an advice not only to the young women to whom his letter was addressed to, but to all the Filipino people then, today, and of the future.

This June 19, 2020, we celebrate the 159th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Through the years, the Filipino people have kept his memories alive by naming streets and avenues, schools, plazas, awards, organizations, villages, libraries, museums and government entities, after his name. We know more of him by the numerous books and articles written about him. Anyone who attended Philippine schools knows his name. A study of his life, works and writings was even a prescribed course of study in colleges.

“We remember him for his ideals or ideas on anti-racism, equality among races, universality of genius, value of education as a means of improving one’s station in life and promoting prosperity to the nation, peaceful and rational discussions to settle disputes, and performance … and not for expectation of rewards, among others. We revere him for his role in the birth of the Filipino nation.”

We honor Dr. Rizal for the exemplary life he lived as he peacefully fought for freedom. Unlike leaders of the struggle for independence of other countries who were mostly military men, Rizal left writings containing his philosophies. We remember him for his ideals or ideas on anti-racism, equality among races, universality of genius, value of education as a means of improving one’s station in life and promoting prosperity to the nation, peaceful and rational discussions to settle disputes, and performance of duties for their own sake and not for expectation of rewards, among others. We revere him for his role in the birth of the Filipino nation.

How has organizations observed the teachings of Rizal? How have they reacted to members’ clamor for changes? How has the people acted and contributed to promoting prosperity to the country?

This June 19, 2020, flag raising ceremonies and programs will be conducted before Rizal’s monuments in many parts of the Philippines and various places in the world, including New York and New Jersey. His monuments will be washed, repainted, or otherwise cleaned. Plazas named after him will see celebratory events. Dramatizations of excerpts from his famous novels, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and his life will be reinterpreted and staged. Lectures about his life and his writings will be delivered, encouraging the audiences to emulate Rizal’s life and follow his teachings.

But what do we do after and between those commemorations? What do we do with our professed knowledge of Rizal’s ideals? How has the government officials dealt with peaceful demonstrations and with demands for reforms? How has organizations observed the teachings of Rizal? How have they reacted to members’ clamor for changes? How has the people acted and contributed to promoting prosperity to the country? Do we spend time to reflect about the situation in the country, our organizations, and as an individual citizen? Having reflected, what have we done or what have we decided to do about them?

The answers to those questions will suggest how much we honor Dr. Jose P. Rizal. If we find our answers wanting, we will have to reflect further and deeper, and decide to introduce reforms to improve the situation in the country, the organizations we belong, and ourselves as members of the community.

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