RIZAL is not a hero because he died.
As the country marks 120 years since the martyrdom of Jose Rizal at the hands of Spain, Rizalists and historians reminded Filipinos of the reason he became National Hero: his exposure of the “social cancer” that gave birth to nationalism and a sense of nationhood.
“His writings show our history. He is the first or one of the first persons who gave a Filipino perspective in our history. He showed in his writings the social cancer, he explained the status quo and gave an ideal future for us,” John Rey Ramos, chapter commander of the Sucessos Chapter of the Knights of Rizal, said.
After the publication of his two novels exposing the ills of Spanish Philippines—Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo—in Europe, Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892 and founded the civic organization La Liga Filipina, only to be incarcerated in Fort Santiago and then exiled to Dapitan where he served as physician, teacher, artist and farmer to the community.
In 1896, Rizal volunteered to serve as a doctor in Cuba, but became implicated in the Katipunan revolt, imprisoned in Fort Santiago anew and executed by firing squad on December 30 that year at Bagumbayan, now Rizal Park.
“He has a significant role in the revolution because he is the soul of this. Although he was not part of the movement, he served as the symbol of the Katipuneros,” Ramos said.
But Rizal is “not a hero because he died,” he said.
“The problem with us Filipinos, we only see Rizal as someone who caught bullets…He inspired the nation to fight for our freedom and it is important to remember this,” he said.
Historian Xiao Chua of De La Salle University took note of Rizal’s “sacrifices.”
“[His sacrifices] wanted to prove a point that we are great people. With colonialism, the Spaniards did not only conquer us too much by force as much as they conquered us with an idea that we have no culture. Rizal shattered that idea,” he said.
Chua said Rizal Day should be a time for a reexamination of Filipino identity.
“Let’s come together as a people. Let’s talk about Jose Rizal, talk about not just trivia but the significance of his life, and read his writings again so we would know how he wants us to be as a people. And then let’s contemplate: Are we the nation that Rizal wants us to be?” he said.
Duterte, Estrada to lead rites
Each year, the Rizal Day celebration on December 30 includes simultaneous wreath-laying and flag-raising ceremonies in different Rizal shrines in the country, with the focal point being Rizal Park, where the flag is hoisted on the Independence Flagpole (marking the spot where the Independence Ceremony of July 4, 1946, was held) in front of the Rizal Monument.
President Rodrigo Duterte and Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada will lead the 120th Rizal death anniversary rites today with the wreath laying at 7 a.m.
The National Historical Commission said commemorative rites will simultaneously be held at 7 a.m. in Museo ni Jose Rizal in Calamba, Laguna; Museo ni Jose Rizal in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte; and the Rizal Monument at Quezon City Hall.
Free medical, dental and optical services will be offered at Noli Me Tangere Garden in Rizal Park from 7 a.m. to 12 noon.
There will be free LRT and MRT rides from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
A re-enactment of Rizal’s final walk from Fort Santiago to Rizal Park will be staged today at 5 a.m.
A free guided tour will be held also today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rizal Park’s Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal light and sound show.
WITH JAIME R. PILAPIL