Today, as we commemorate the 160e anniversary, we remember his contribution as a poet, essayist, novelist who inspired his fellow human beings to aspire to freedom and democracy. Through his novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, he opened their eyes to the atrocities and injustices perpetrated by the colonizers. He was also a defender of freedom, founder of La Liga Filpina with Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini. While in Europe, he worked with other illustrators to encourage the growth of the propaganda movement.
In his essays “The Philippines, a Century From Here” and “Letter to the Women of Malolos,” Rizal expressed his concerns about independence from the Spaniards when he predicted an assault on the part of the Spaniards. other foreign colonizers. He denounced corruption in governance, social inequalities, the deterioration of the indigenous Filipino culture, as well as passivity and submission to the Spanish colonizers. He urged young people and women to continue their education and learn the Spanish language as well as make them aware of their true worth.
He believed in the abilities of the ordinary Filipino and explains his description of “indolence” as due to the abuse and repression of the freedom denied to Filipinos in his day.
We have seen parallels of these dynamics today in the corruption of public officials, violations of human rights, the concentration of power between the privileged few. We can compare the abuses perpetrated by the PNP with those of the “guardia civil” of the past. The arbitrary exercise of justice which has been demonstrated in the treatment of the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maria Lourdes Sereno who was ousted by quo guaranteed, recalls the abuses of the brothers and the courts at the time of Rizal.
During his exile in Dapitan, Rizal established a school, planted rice, corn and other food crops, engaged in the fishing, hemp and copra industries, organized a cooperative, practiced medicine, built residential houses and a small hospital, built a water supply system, and “lit” the streets of Dapitan.
He can legitimately claim the right to be called a pioneer in both the cooperative movement and the community development movement. His four-year exile in Dapitan can give him lessons in productivity and entrepreneurship.
As we reflect on all of the above accomplishments over a lifetime of three decades, we can’t help but marvel at how a man, even if he was a genius, could have accomplished so much. What was the secret of his success?
In his dedication to El Filibusterismo, Rizal recognized Fr. José Burgos who was executed along with two other priests, Fr. Gomez and Fr. Zamora, as the person who triggered his “epiphany”. Their execution for their alleged complicity in the Cavite mutiny in 1872 sparked a movement that had inspired Rizal’s quest for justice and other reforms.
Today, 160 years after Rizal was born or 125 years after his death, we realize that the task of nation building requires sacrifice and hard work. That this may require a spiritual renewal, a sort of epiphany that would rekindle the flame that had kept Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and the other heroes and patriots of their generation engaged in their quest for change.
Where Rizal differs from his compatriots is that the latter, mainly Bonifacio and his compatriots Katipuneros, believed that reforms can only be achieved through armed revolution.
We could learn from Rizal who had always espoused peaceful strategies – through writing and non-violent means. And this may be his first legacy.
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