On December 30, 2014, the Filipino nation will commemorate the martyrdom of Dr. Jose P. Rizal 118th years ago. Rizal is the foremost national hero of the Philippines. Rizal was foremost, a Filipino, born in a territory waiting to break out as an independent country and with a group of people awakening as a cohesive nation. With the power of his pen and the strength of his ideas, he inspired a colonized people to think free and live free at a time when most of the world was under the claws of oppressive colonial rule. He was, in the words of the nationalist Cecilio Apostol, a “Redeemer of a country in bondage!”
Indeed, he redeemed a country in bondage but at the highest price: his life. It could be said, perhaps, that he accomplished what he wanted, faster with his death than if he were alive. For while he was alive, he witnessed the divisiveness of the people who were just beginning to get used to being called “Filipinos”. He saw how Filipinos overseas, particularly in Europe, were more interested in the pursuit of mundane, ephemeral and fleeting pleasures, rather work for the nobler goal of liberation and development of the islands and the people they left behind. He saw the seeming unwillingness of many to support the struggle for reforms.
His death touched a people aspiring to become a nation. His name became the battle cry for national independence that could only be won by a united people. His life, work and writings hastened the Philippine Revolution, the first revolution for independence in Asia.
But his ideas were not for Filipinos alone. In fact it cannot be said that his ideas were his own original creations. He was a product of the accumulation of ideas until his time. His ideas were shared by many other great men of reason and substance from all ages and cultures. His goal of independence for his country was shared later leaders of colonies waiting to be born as independent states. Sun Yat Sen fought for the same ideas and goal of independence for China, as did Mahatma Gandhi for India. Or Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan. And other later leaders of Asia. By race, Rizal, was a Filipino, a Malayan, an Asian. By ideology, he was a universal man. His Rizalism transcends geographical boundaries and cultural backgrounds.
Within the Philippines and many other parts of the world where significant number of Filipinos reside, there will be ceremonies and gatherings commemorating his death and celebrating his life, works and writings. Perhaps, new monuments will be inaugurated and new markers will be displayed. Perhaps new buildings will be named or renamed Rizal. And new organizations will be formed with his name and for his honor, but later will turn out to be just another social organization. Filipino leaders will deliver speeches glorifying his achievements and urging us to emulate Rizal’s life and to live by and according to Rizalisms. We have heard similar calls many times and they have become annual rituals with no substance. The ways that most of them live and the paths they travel show nothing but a road farther from the isms of Rizal.
Despite all, however, these commemoration ceremonies are annual reminders for us where we should be going, and what we must be doing as a distinct community in the foreign lands we have adopted and as part a shrinking world needing more cooperation and tolerance.
To borrow the words of Dr. Jose P. Rizal in his February 22, 1889 letter To the Young Women of Malolos: “ Let us, therefore, reflect: let us consider our situation and see how we stand.”
Then, maybe, we will know what to do and where to go from where we stand. It is time to go from mere perorations to serious attempts at emulation.
See other works of Brod Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.
Inspirational Words to Live By
The Universality of Rizal’s Ideas and Its Relevance to Filipinos Today
Constitution: To Amend or not to Amend?
The Law and Politics in Impeachment
Words: The Tools of the Legal Profession
About the Author
Brod Manuel B. Quintal, Esquire, is a former college professor of Political Science and Law, with graduate degrees in both disciplines. He practices law in the State of New York. His Law Offices of Manuel B. Quintal, P.C. is located at 291 Broadway, Suite 1501, New York, NY 10007, United
States of America. He is the president of the Tau Kappa Phi Law Fraternity Alumni Society – USA/Canada, for 2014-2016.