Monday, 11 June 2012

Jose Rizal, National Hero of the Philippines (On His 151st Birth Anniversary-June 19 )

Rizal was a true renaissance man: Nationalist reformer, philosopher, polyglot, author, poet, medical doctor, naturalist, and artist (as this self-sketch below shows).


ONE HUNDRED fifty-one years ago, one of the great Filipinos, if not the greatest, who ever lived, was born in Calamba, Laguna.  

Many admire him for his genius and for his nationalism. “His coming to the world is like the appearance of a rare comet, whose brilliance appears only every other century”, said Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal's best friend, in his book Biography of Rizal.

 When I was in UP, we would debate whether Bonifacio should have been our national hero, and not Rizal. Now I believe Bonifacio and Rizal are two sides of a coin. 

Bonifacio needed a Rizal and Rizal needed the fiery Filipinos led by Bonifacio to make his point for peaceful independence from Spain,  because if Spain did not listen to the clamor, then the Filipinos were ready to shed blood for a righteous revolution.

A self-portrait
 But, national hero or not, Rizal was a man who was so easy to love and admire. 

He had a multifaceted personality, a genius who was already writing poetry at the age of three, a thinker and  a writer par excellence, but most of all, he was  an ardent nationalist, single-minded in working for the country’s independence, after seeing and experiencing  the abuses committed by the Spaniards and the friars .

 I grew up with a father so enamored with Rizal’s writings that to this day, I can recite in Spanish, from memory,  the Ultimo Adios. I can also recognize statements or phrases written by Rizal, often quoted by people without attribution to Kuya Pepe. 

And so, may I refresh your mind about some thoughts and statements of Rizal that have gained widespread usage, so that when you hear them or see them in print, you will have an aha! moment: That’s Rizal speaking!

1. There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.

2. Genius has no country. It blossoms everywhere. Genius is like the light, the air. It is the heritage of all.

3. He who would love much has also much to suffer.

4. The tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice of others.

5. No good water comes from a muddy spring. No sweet fruit comes from a bitter seed.
6. It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted in the field without becoming part of an edifice.

7. You must shatter the vase to spread its perfume, and smite the rock to get the spark
And of course: "Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika, daig pa ang hayop at malansang isda."
 Inspite of the many travails we have faced, and are continually facing, we have to remember that we have the seed of greatness in us, as any race who has produced a Rizal, must, indeed be great.   

Don’t forget to tell that to your sons and daughters , and to your grandchildren. 

(Dr Emma P Valencia is a physician and a health policy analyst and researcher. She also writes essays and poems when she is not busy with her work on health. She lives with her 85 year old aunt and 7 dogs.)

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