Rizal: Renaissance Man
By Sam L. Marcelo
Jose Rizal wasn’t physically intimidating. Sources peg the National Hero’s height anywhere from 4’11” to 5’2”. The man who slammed Spanish colonial rule in a pair of scathing satirical novels was, in a word, short. His diminutive stature, however, belied the brilliance of his mind and the vastness of his intellect. This year, the nation is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the petite polymath who wrote that “love of country is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart, because it carries with it a divine stamp which renders it eternal and imperishable.”
“Eternal and imperishable” — the same can be said of Rizal’s legacy. In an essay titled “Why Rizal Is Great,” National Artist for Historical Literature Carlos Quirino declared Rizal “the first individual of his country who could be properly called ‘the universal man.’” He continues: “So diverse were his accomplishments that any race or country in the world would have been proud to have claimed him for their own.”
Under the banner Rizal@150, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) is spearheading a trio of commemorative programs that will happen simultaneously on June 19, the day of Rizal’s birth, in Calamba City, Manila and Dapitan City (where Rizal was born, executed and exiled, respectively). Activities include the unveiling of Calamba’s Rizal Monument, the launch of Rizal@150 commemorative stamps and the Rock Rizal album. There will also be conferences galore in universities such as University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo de Manila and Colegio de San Juan de Letran; presentations, foremost among them Rock Rizal concert presented by Rock Ed Philippines and a staging of Noli Me Tangere by the Cultural Center of the Philippines; tourism campaigns, exhibits and a slew awards searching for the next Rizal.
“Rizal plays such a critical and pivotal role in understanding what it is to be Filipino, what a ‘nation’ is, and what ‘identity’ is,” said Maria Serena I. Diokno, who was recently appointed chair of NHCP. “He was so insightful — there is much to learn from him and [he] continues to resonate and be relevant. His wit and satire was perfect for his period but if you read him again, you’ll realize that the questions debated during his time are similar to our uncertainty as a people today.”
She continued that Rizal’s youth — Noli Me Tangere was published the year he turned 26; El Filibusterismo, the year he turned 30 — is often forgotten in discussions of his greatness. “Our history was crafted by young people,” Ms. Diokno said. “Rizal belongs to the young, he was part of an energetic group of young men and women who had answers and had no fear. That’s why it upsets me when I come across young Pinoys who don’t care.”
Rock Rizal, the aforementioned concert and album, is a part of an effort to change that. Organized by Rock Ed Philippines, the project includes Ely Buendia, Gloc-9, Ebe Dancel, Jett Pangan, Peryodiko, Hijo, Aiza Seguerra and Radioactive Sago Project.
“Our goal is to take Rizal from the classroom and into radio stations, music video channels and mp3 players,” said Pepe Diokno, executive director of Rock Ed Philippines (and nephew of Ms. Diokno), in a statement. “The songs will cover the life and works of Rizal but will focus more on his ideas and how they can move us forward today.”
According to the NHCP chair, this lineup is only a “tiny excerpt” of year-long celebrations happening locally and internationally. “We all own him,” Ms. Diokno said of Rizal. “He was romantic, intellectual, creative, charming and really smart. Where do you find that sort of person today?,” she asked.
The National Hero’s sense of purpose, she continued, is missing from today’s rudderless Facebook generation. “Rizal was young but he cared. He was willing to risk everything and take action without uncertainty,” Ms. Diokno said. “He was one in a million.”
(For more information about Rizal@150, visit www.nhcp.gov.ph.)
(BUSINESS WORLD, Reposted by The Philippine Reporter)