Emilio Aguinaldo and Rizal
Rizal and the Philippine Culture To expound on “Rizal and the Philippine Culture” as I am privileged to do so on this commemorative occasion, is for a Filipino, to speak with a sense of national dignity and pride. For Jos© Protacio Rizal y Mercado, who staunchly identified himself with his countrymen and invariably proclaimed his status as Filipino, is the unparalleled epitome of Philippine culture at its best. Truly “a pearl of a man” before the eyes of the world, he exemplified the vast potentialities and capabilities of the Filipino which, in turn, reflect the cultural climate of his country.
There has been, to this day, no exponent of Philippine culture as remarkable as Rizal. Dedicating his life to the supreme ideal of national redemption and progress for his fellow citizens, he preached the gospel of the people’s solidarity as a basic prerequisite to an independent, sound and strong statehood, and recognizing the unifying and galvanizing power of a national culture, he spared no effort to ascertain, make out and distinguish the main features and characteristics of the Philippine culture, stressed its imprint as our common heritage, and imparted thereto the spirit f his versatile and universal genius.
Rizal’s genuine concern and regard for our native culture – either as “a particular form or type of intellectual development,” or as “the intellectual or artistic content of civilization,” or as “the total pattern of behavior and its products embodied in thought, speech, action and artifacts and dependent upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations…. ” or “the body of customary beliefs, social forms and material traits constituting a distinct complex of tradition ofa racial, religious or social group ” s the term culture is often described – was manifest and incontestable.
Indeed, a nation that would give up its cultural patrimony in favor of one of alien vintage cannot but be doomed to become, as Rizal had aptly put it, “a people without a soul. ” Thus, he strove zealously to awaken in his countrymen a meaningful awareness of their indigenous culture and to develop in them a suitable appreciation thereof. He undertook, for instance, to annotate Morga’s “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas” for the purpose – as he revealed it, in an introoductory note addressed “to the Filipinos” – of aking “our past known so as to better Judge the present assess our movement in three centuries. He did everything he could to preserve and promote the cultural advancement of his countrymen. Thus, not only did he write in then Tagalog dialect, now – Filipino language. He, likewise, engaged himself in serious studies of that language in order to develop it and establish or give thereto its scientific basis. The fundamental nature of his commitment to this task is made more obvious by the circumstance that, even while only eight years of age, he said, in a poem dedicated to his fellow children: smelling fish.
To make our language richer ought to be our wish the same as any mother loves to feed her young It is however, a well-known fact that Rizal was not a blind, bigoted and intolerant nationalist. He stood not only for the preservation and development of Philippine culture, cleansed of its imperfections. He also favored the freest possible assimilation of the best there is in the culture of other lands. And, the wisdom of such course of action found a living proof in his superb personality. In fact, it is difficult to subdue my sense of elation and pride as citizen of the Philippines whenever I recall that
Rizal, who was prouder than anyone else of being a Filipino, had so many sterling qualities in a superlative degree that one unwittingly wishes he had, at least, some of them. As the Austrian scholar, Ferdinand Blumentritt – a good friend and great admirer of Rizal – had adverted to “his lively and keen intelligence, his personal charm, his refined and polished manners, and his noble and good heart, made him friends everywhere. ” His travels had improved and enhanced his personality. And truly he could – as he did – affirm that: New sights suggest new thoughts, one admires man in his greatness, as in misery ne pities him.
The old blind exclusiveness changes into universal and fraternal esteem for the rest of the world and at once ceases to be an echo of the opinions of others in order to express one’s own, suggested by direct observations and firsthand knowledge of other people’s way. Assiduously and with extraordinary as well as sustained discipline, Rizal cultivated all his God-given faculties. In consequence of his unremitting endeavors for self- development, Rizal, at the age of 35, had become – as another great Filipino, the late Dr. Jose P.
Laurel, once noted – “an accomplished poet and writer; he was proficient n medicine and in ophthalmology and a skillful surgeon; he was a gifted linguist, an easy and captivating story-teller; his works in natural science are remembered and recognized in centers of science in Europe to this day; he wrote admirably on matters of history, political science, sociology, linguistics, art, and philosophy; he did good paintings, drawing and sculptural pieces; he was proficient in agricultural engineering as his work at Dapitan testifies to this day and the Spanish colonial government once gave him license as an assessor.
He was a dead shot and good swordsman. Rizal had been truly described as a universal genius; he was that rare combination of great thinker and great doer” Indeed, Rizal’s was “a life piloted by a high purpose, a character that was uniformly clean, consecrated to a great, and devoted to worthy ends. ” Of paramount importance for us now, no less than future generations of Filipinos, personality and develop his talents and faculties. He wanted, first and foremost, to establish and prove the excellence of Filipino manhood.
It may be well to recall, for instance, that he organized the “Indios Bravos,” a society of Filipinos in Paris, whose members were pledged to promote their ntellectual and physical prowess in order to command the respect of other people. Indeed, as often as they could, the “Indios Bravos” had their gatherings, in which members recited or read literary pieces of their own making and displayed their talents in music and other branches of arts and letters, apart from having dialogues on matters relevant to the future of their country.
And, with increasing determination and enthusiasm, they engaged in physical exercises and practiced especially the use of the sword and pistol, in which eventually they became quite proficient. Rizal imself taught Jujitsu, the art of self-defense learned in Japan. Then, too, he wanted to impart to his countrymen a measure of confidence in their own potentialities as a people and a nation. At the early age of eighteen, he had, in fact, urged the Philippine youth to “rise from lethargy, to let his genius fly swifter than the wind and descend with art and science to break the chain that has long bound the poetic genius of the country. Needless to say, Rizal’s faith in the capabilities of his countrymen was more than amply Justified. Indeed, two Filipino painters copped the highest prizes at the National Exposition of Fine Arts held in Madrid in 1884, in competition with Spanish and other foreign entries Juan Luna’s canvas, the bold and dramatic “Spolarium,” won the highly coveted gold medal, whereas Felix Resurrecci¶n Hidalgos “Christian Virgins Exposed to the Populace,” with a basically different technique, was awarded the silver medal.
Again, a master Filipino polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, Marcelo H. del Pilar, was a fearless propagandist, whose fiery and convincing editorials earned for him the respect of his own antagonists. So too, Antonio Luna, a harmacist by profession, whose fervent, if not ardent, to save his country from ignominious abuses under foreign domination prompted him to pursue a military career, became the brilliant Filipino Strategist of the Philippine-American War.
Then, also there was Apolinario Mabini, the brains of the Philippine Revolution, whose profound intellect, dauntless and noble spirit, and dedication to the well-being of his country and people made him truly “the sublime paralytic” – the appellation with which he fittingly came to be known. On the other hand, General Gregorio Del Pilar’s devotion to duty, more articularly his heroic and legendary defense of Tirad Pass, could not but earn the recognition of all, including the victorious American forces he had so valiantly fought.
Similarly, his role as Filipino minister plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference in Washington and in Paris was so ably discharged by Felife Agoncillo that President William McKinley of the U. S. remarked: “If there were many Filipinos like their representatives. ” One can keep on spelling our the names of countless Filipinos who vindicated Rizal’s belief in the potentialities of his countrymen in consequence of heir rich cultural heritage. Rizal, of course, stands at the top of his national hall of fame.
Again, while Rizal championed the cause of our people, he believed that to attain dignity, command the respect of others states, and earn for the live, think and act as men of honor, ready, willing and able to discharge their duties and responsibilities as citizens of a sovereign state worthy of its name. “We must win our freedom,” he said through Father Florentino in El Filibusterismo,” by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual, loving what is Just, what is good, what is reat, to the point of dying for it. Aside from his natural and seemingly unquenchable thirst for self-improvement, Rizal strove for personal development in an earnest desire to be of great service to his fellow countrymen. This longing found rich fulfillment. His linguistic talents, for example”his command, particularly, of the Spanish language”made him an eloquent and effective spokesman of the Filipino people in the Philippines, and more important still, before the whole world, when, in the course of their struggle for political emancipation, they were in desperate need of the sympathy and moral, if not aterial, support of other nations.
The life of Rizal in Dapitan offers a striking illustration of how one many apply his talents to the service of the community in which he lives. In that place of exile, he established clinics where he treated the poor and the rich alike, giving them the same degree of attention and care. He established a school and taught his young pupils to earn a living through their labor and skill. He built his own house with local materials.
With the aid of his students, he constructed a waterworks system, using our own natural resources such as bamboo poles to pipe down water to the heart of he town, and powered shells of clams and oysters to cement ditches. He also invented a wooden machine to make bricks with a view to establishing a factory that would produce, at least, 6,000 bricks a day. He installed a lighting system for the benefit of the entire community. He likewise made, in the town plaza, a relief map of Mindanao. With native agricultural implements, he planted cacao, some coffee and other fruits.
He raised poultry, pigs, ducks, turkey, and rabbits. By importing skilled fishermen from Calamba, he so improved the fishing industry in Dapitan that it was ble to supply fresh fish to the people of that place and those of neighboring towns as well. He managed to impress upon them the necessity of observing rules of sanitation and hygiene. He taught the people how to drain the swamps in order to control insect-borne diseases so as to eradicate mosquitoes and other harmful insects. He moreover, tried to discourage superstition and fanaticism.
The ingenuity and civic spirit thus underscoring Rizal’s pattern of behavior in Dipolog attains greater magnitude when we view it in the context in which it took place. Indeed, he was then a political prisoner of the Spanish governments and it was appeared in the Philippines, even before the Spanish-American war, when the U. S. is deemed to have its initial bid as a world power. The world, in general, and general, and the Philippines, in particular, were a far city from their present degree of social and industrial sophistication.
Rizal inspired his countrymen to heights of nobility, patriotism and heroism, not only by the way he lived but also by the way he died. Through his immolation at Bagumbayan early in the morning of December 30, 1896, he taught his people that eath can be a beautiful oblation for one’s native hand. Strange as it may seem, his execution brought into fruition the labors of his life. His own words, bearing almost a tinge of exultation, were Ensueno de mi Vida, mi ardiente vivo anhelo, Salud! e grita el alma que pronto va a partir; Salud! ah, que es hermoso caer por darte vuelo, Morir por darte Vida, morir balo tu Cielo Yen tu encantada tierra la eternidad dormer! It would seem as if Rizal were in the mind of Adlai Stevenson when he postulated: What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our time? A patriotism that uts country ahead of self; a patriotism that is not short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil dedication of a lifetime.
There are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fght for principles than to live up to them. Indeed, the fusillade that put an end to the life of Rizal likewise summoned his countrymen to a unity of sentiments as a nation, to a common life of dignity and responsibility, of political consciousness and maturity, of courage and devotion to the commonweal. With absolute to the emergence and sublimation of the national spirit nd character of the Filipino people. Hence, the ringing words of Cecilio Apostol: No Ilores de la tumba en el misterio Del espanol el triunfo momentaneo, Que si una bala destrozo to craneo Tu idea, en cambio, destruyo un imperiol Rizal knew that nothing short of a concerted effort on a national scale would suffice to bring about a lasting improvement of the condition of the Filipino people. Solidarity, above all, was indispensable – a singleness of sentiments and purposes that would galvanize the people into action and spur them to work for their advancement and progress as a nation.