“When will the Philippine[s] have another Rizal?” A museum curator who is a Japanese once asked me. I don’t know if he sees Rizal on me or that the situation and the condition in the Philippines was so bad that they were clamoring for Rizal to be resurrected so that he can come and save the day again by giving a big push towards liberation from the chains of slavery and ignorance that were binding us. I myself was asking that question since grade school.
Literally, we can never have a Rizal again because Rizal’s bloodline has long been diminished. Genetically, if only Rizal, or his brother Paciano, had direct descendants, then there is a possibility that a descendant would inherit the qualities that Rizal had. However, Jose Rizal’s only offspring who was miscarried was already converted by nature back into earth, and Paciano never married nor had a child for the rest of his life. Maybe, it is for the better, so that the possibility of the descendants staining that legacy is diminished, or the Filipinos in the first place, never deserved somebody as disinterested, courageous, and patriotic as Rizal.
The Filipinos were raised with the mentality of powerlessness. We seek grace and guidance from God above, and we seek heroes who will come and save the day, because we were made to believe that we can’t help ourselves. Also because of four hundred years of colonialism, Filipinos always have an inferiority complex. When one Filipino uplifts his status, it will spur envy to others who will exert unnecessary efforts to bring him down for them to feel that he was their equal again, instead of helping themselves so that they can achieve the same. That is the danger of putting our venerated heroes on high pedestals. It made us forget that these people were humans too, flawed creatures whose examples which were seemed impossible to emulate, are in-fact doable. When we try to follow their example, people will try to put us down through insults and isolation as “trying to be a hero” was an insult to them. This vicious mindset and malicious insecurities have been putting us into inaction, making the situation that we were trying to solve worse.
It is all in the mind, that the situation is hopeless, and that we are powerless. It is all in the mind really where we can find the solution to our problems. Just like what Rizal said afterall, the youth holds the future of the nation. What does Rizal mean with that statement of his? What hinders the youth from securing the future?
“Advise him (Antonio Luna) to study constantly, and not as some of our countrymen do, who only study when examinations are approaching. In short, you know what it is to be a student and all our countrymen students should be inspired by your example, as they are the hope of our people.”
– Juan Luna’s letter to Jose Rizal
“My country has a social cancer that should be exposed to all Filipinos. And to this extent, I intend to record our situation faithfully, without prejudice. I shall lift the shroud that covers the evil, sacrificing everything to the truth, even vanity itself, for as your son, I am conscious of my own defects and weaknesses. The book contains certain revelation, so scandalous that no one dares to touch them. I have attempted what others refused to undertake, and tried to correct the slander which for centuries has been attributed to our nation.”
– Jose Rizal on the preface of his Noli me Tangere
The youth holds a vast amount of untapped potential. They have the energy, vigor, and curiosity to explore new things and learn new knowledge. They have the potential to think outside of the box. They hold the power that can change the stagnant status quo. They would raising the succeeding generations themselves.
Rizal already hinted it in his Sobre la Indolencia de los Filipinos that there is one way that we can uplift ourselves. He acknowledges a social disease (social cancer) that ravages society and the only way to cure it, according to Rizal, was “transfusion of the blood.”
What does he mean by that? Are we running short of “blood”? Nope. In the context of Rizal’s Indolencia, he meant replacement of the “blood” running stagnant in the body, favoring that social disease. Rizal was asking us to change. But what was that kind of change that he was clamoring? Everybody was clamoring change to everything that was around them. But do they welcome change in themselves? Would they change?
“It is now time for the light of truth to shine; it is now time for us to show that we have feelings, honor, shame, and mutual cooperation. Now is the time to commence the diffusion of the noble and great gospel that will rend asunder the thick curtain that obfuscates our minds; now is the time for the Filipinos to know the sources of their misfortunes. Now is the time to realize that for every move we make we are stepping on and heading toward the brink of abyss of death that our enemies have dug to ensnare us. Therefore, O my countrymen! Let us open the eyes of our minds and voluntarily consecrate our strength to what is good in the true and full faith that the prosperity of the land of our birth, which is aimed at, will come to pass.”
– Andres Bonifacio (What the Filipinos Should Know)
The present administration promises change. But does that change align with Rizal’s ideals? With injustices, killings, abuses of power, betrayals of public trust, and ignorance ruling again, with the endorsement of the administration, the answer is a resounding NO. Rizal fought those and even gave his life. If he was seeing us from the other side, then to him, it would be a terrible nightmare to witness because that “change” was in fact “REVERT”!
In this situation of today, which is similar to Rizal’s situation back then, what kind of change should be implemented? Should we face our situation and overcome it? Or should we just make a way out of the situation? Quoting Hikigaya Hachiman from OreGairu (やはり俺の青春ラブコメはまちがっている): “They say the world changes when you change. But that’s not true. You simply give in to the lies that they force on you and compromise.” The society, led by the stagnant older generation, has been forcing the youth to adjust to adapt to the present situation even if it is riddled with problems and even if it means condoning the ills of society. A problem can only be a problem to them if they see it as one. (比企谷 八幡)
The willingness to “change” could mean adjusting to mindlessly accept one’s powerlessness and the status quo. It is a defeatist and an enslaving euphemism of the change Rizal wanted. It is indeed a defeatist stance coming from a stagnant mind. These kinds of minds who were condoning the ills of the society always tell anyone who to be for the sake of their personal conveniences. Those who resist their conformism were accused of running away from the situation or the problem. They can’t accept anyone who is different from them or thinks different from them. But no matter how well they deceived themselves, the problem is still there, growing worse by the minute. Look at the concept of pakikisama as an example!
They were discouraged into going and thinking outside of their personal realm. They were encouraged to entertain senseless gossips instead of cries for help. They were encouraged to prefer talking about their narcissistic features and self-gratifications rather than state affairs or discourse on knowledge. They were being fooled that criticism is a dastardly act. They were encouraged to be silent, stagnant like the previous generation, self-serving, and docile in order to produce an illusion of peace and unity.
Is change really meant changing for the better? Are problems meant to be solved and vanquished? Are not running away, facing, and battling, the real ways to solve it?
“These young men are the one at whom the eyes of the people are directed, across distances, because in them are pinned all their hopes. These patriots who work for the liberty of their country, for the regeneration of their brothers have to against the old fears of their forefathers who had known, perhaps, how to win a fortune, accumulate money for themselves but who did not have the courage to employ a moment of their life for the well-being of the nation. Blessed is the youth who has enough of the spirit of self-sacrifice to dedicate all his sacrifices to his unfortunate country; and unhappy is the old man who had not contributed a single stone to the edifice of prosperity for his country. The former will struggle with a firm faith and will die at peace; the latter will antagonize with cruel remorse. Both will have the government they deserve. The good of all is founded on the good of one; with individual effort and constancy, the good for all is obtained. Therefore, let not our countrymen forget their duty in the present moment. The welfare of the Philippines is a progressive development; let everyone work for it and we shall achieve our goals, fighting always on the side of law.”
– Antonio Luna, “The Spanish-Philippine Association”
Yes. The change that Rizal wanted with his notion of “blood transfusion” was the replacement of the stagnant mindset, with a progressive one. The social diseases were in fact egoism and the stagnation of the mind. People were raised to believe that development of the mind stops at adulthood. Yet, in reality, learning is a continuous process requiring a lifetime of dedication.
A stagnant mind is limited by the premise of its personal realm. A stagnant mind believes that it has learned everything already. A stagnant mind creates prejudices and stereotypes.
Egoism, on the other hand, reinforces the stagnation of the mind. It gives the impression that the person would be offended if the arguments and statements – which cause cognitive dissonance to him – invalidates his prejudices, stereotypes, and misconceptions. It does not let the individual admit that he still lack in knowledge, and would compel him to fabricate his own stories to reinforce his delusions. Egoism ensnares the individual with the thought that he was the center of everything. It emboldens the individual to distort the meaning of some values to his benefit. It also emboldens the individual to defy logic and reason with statements whose logical jump has outclassed Neil Armstrong’s moon jump for mankind.
Most of the older generation possess these stagnant and egoistic minds. They restrict the development of the youth or they distort this development for their selfish gains. They instruct them into never questioning the authority. They instruct them to remain silent. They instruct them to look after themselves. They manipulate the youth with measures that suppress the freedom of the individual. They make the youth chase after vague concepts (maturity, and the like) which they can easily distort.
Insecurity and denial of their shortcomings compel them to restrict the youth from ever touching the problem that the older generation let slip and adjusted into. Criticism to them became disrespect. The unwillingness, closed-mindedness, and the stubborness of these older people indicate stagnation and worsening ignorance that they willingly promoted so that they can keep the youth at least. Families are not exempted with this dilemma.
“Departing from happiness, to you I give the sad remains of my life. And had it been a life more brilliant, more fine, more fulfilling, even so, I would have given it willingly to you.”
– Jose Rizal (Mi Ultimo Adios)
There are three things/instances that the Rizal family clearly opposed and intervened into throughout Jose Rizal’s life: his agnosticism, his relationship with Leonor Rivera, and his relationship with Josephine Bracken. Although they objected also, they respected Rizal’s decision on leading the struggle towards freedom, unlike most families of today. They never felt insecure with the enlightenment of Rizal, although they were aware of the consequential dangers of finding out the sad realities as enlightenment brought him on a higher stand-point past the obscuring walls that separated the personal realm from reality.
They wished Rizal should have instead led a peaceful life, already securing a stable future as a doctor in Hong Kong, yet they know that that wish was nothing against a nobler and greater aspiration. They accepted the dangers of criticizing against the injustices and never hindered Rizal from doing it for these injustices were real and they should not be turning a blind eye to them.
Although Rizal betrayed his obligations to his family for his sacred duty to his country, they understood that selflessness is not service to nor satisfaction of the interest and selfishness of one’s family, but fulfilling the wishes of the Filipino people towards better lives. They understood that using what one has learned is not a form of bragging or arrogance, but a moral consequence, brought by enlightenment, of seeing those sad realities of life being exposed behind the deceptive curtains of illusions and fear. They followed Rizal’s example on operating on reason, logic, and principles.
Unlike most families, the Rizal family knows the limits of family affairs and intervention. Those three things that were mentioned earlier were within those bounds (the religious tradition of the family, and the decision on who to be part of the family). They never intruded into Rizal’s own will and freedom of expression. They never treated him as a financial investment or obligation who they can extort and manipulate for personal profit in the future. They find the honor on Pepe’s patriotism to the point that amidst the persecution that Pepe and his family were having after publishing two novels that the colonial government deemed subversive, they change their surname from Mercado to Rizal to show support. They were ready for suffrage because they knew that they cannot dwell in comfort if other Filipinos around them were still suffering.
They never hindered Rizal in achieving and chasing his patriotic aspirations. They were generous to the point that they gave Rizal, who sacrificed his life to martyrdom, to the patria.
Could modern Filipino families do that?
What benefits can we get from these teachings of Rizal? It is evident that not all of us can pretend to be reformers of our people, but we can practice the preachings which that great apostle died for, reducing our efforts for the upliftment of our own selves in accordance with the ideals of Rizal. When politicians practice self-denial in order to consider nothing but the general welfare of the country; when judges make their decisions according to the dictates of their conscience, without taking into account outside influences; when a lawyer takes for his sacred mission the defense of truth and justice; when a physician unites to his private interests the welfare of humanity; when a farmer tries his best to get from the land of the maximum produce possible; when a merchant or an industrial magnate takes for his motto the prosperity of his country; when a student studies not only in order to come out with flying colors in the examination but also to be able to investigate the secrets of science in order to place them at the service of his country; then undoubtedly we will have complied with the doctrines preached and practiced by Rizal and will have laid the solid foundations of a strong nationalist feeling which no power on Earth can destroy.
-Jose Alejandrino, La Sendra del Sacrificio
What qualities do Rizal have that separates him from the rest of us Filipinos? Yes, he operates on logic, and reason alone, and he has a sound and extensive moral, ethical, and philosophical fiber. He values the pursuit of knowledge and truth. He honors pragmatism that separates prejudices from those with real conclusive evidences, idealism that envisions a bright future, and realism that takes into account all of the evidences available and presents calculated consequences.
He was the man of the world. He has studied on many fields of knowledge – more than any people would. He sacrificed food for books of knowledge for he hungered in soul more than in flesh. He sacrificed times allotted for leisure for the libraries. He respected liberalism and the process of exchange of ideas. He does not take pride on what he has studied and is willing to correct himself if the arguments that his opposition raised were more conclusive and well-founded, although those instances were rare because he prepared himself thoroughly with facts and literature before engaging and raising an argument.
His pride was not even directed to himself. He never whined publicly about the troubles that he had, especially with the Calamba dispute in 1891. He went to certain extremes just to maintain his dignity and that of the Filipino people. Dignity to him did not mean asserting superiority to others but a service of fair judgment and treatment, and assurance that he and the Filipinos would be viewed as people and not as savages.
He hates animosity and divisiveness, which are both results of stubbornness and cowardice, and prefers a direct confrontation in order to settle differences. He was aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He acknowledges that conflict is inevitable and the friction that it causes will serve better on the long run. He did not fool himself that there was no problem. He did not run away from it and instead, he faced and battled it, waging his life on the process.
He was a man of principles. He detested hypocrisy and never yielded to the circumstances that invoked it. As what Alejandrino had told about him, Rizal has not failed even once on living with his principles, which were founded on reason, moral integrity, and love of country. He served no interest but of his nation. He valued his country so much that he has placed none on himself. That was his ultimate quality that separated him from us. That was his superpower.
But all would come to naught if courage was not added on the equation. Rizal, time and again, was already given foretelling of the perils that would come if he were to continue, with his nightmares of death and the executions of the people who did the same thing, notably the GomBurZa. That fear has served as darkness to the convictions of the people back then. But Rizal did not see fear in that darkness. That dream of his was not a curse, but a hope. Fear indeed stopped Rizal momentarily at some points of his life. But for him, fear was a thing to overcome, and in in fact, he transcended it beyond death.
Yes. The current administration was flaunting dead bodies on the streets to instill fear to the citizens. It has been giving us an illusion of peace with eerie silence and an overwhelming fear, it has been forcing us into silence, just like what authoritarian governments do. But we cannot let ourselves remain silent, because it will embolden the government to do whatever it want, even bringing more injustices and backwardness, and we would be acting as its accomplices with our silence.
Some may fear for their lives. But as what the parable of the talent implies, we were not given life and talent just to hold on to them and render them unused. By the fact that many were afraid to voice out the obvious wrong invalidates the government and the fanatics’ claim that the streets were getting safer. Many were given an illusion that if ever they were to raise their voice, then they would be just alone and vulnerable in that struggle. In reality, there were many courageous Filipinos, heeding the wishes of Rizal and his compatriots, relentlessly pressuring the government to stop its misdeeds, waiting for you to join them.
It actually works. Look at South Korea for example. The youth who were protesting on the streets, finally persuaded the parliament to impeach – because of the grave abuses on power and betrayal of public trust – the president who was elected by the older generation still disillusioned by the deceptive facade of her father’s authoritarian rule. We can do the same for the Philippines. We can do something, if we are together. We can lead ourselves to a better life. We can be like Jose Rizal.