How do I relate to Rizal? Dr. Jose P. Rizal, of the “Noli” and “Fili”, the Universal Genius and Philippines National Patriot.
Filipinos continue to invoke Rizal because his dream of what the Philippines should be remains elusive. One hundred and fifteen years after his martyrdom and nearly one hundred and fourteen years after independence from Spain, the Philippines is held back, struggles and languishes behind most of its Asian neighbours.
I often hear Filipinos admit even begrudgingly how they feel sorrow when they visit Asian capitals of Hongkong, Bangkok, Kuala Lampur, Jakarta and even belatedly the growing metropolis of Ho Chi Minh, amazed at the physical infrastructure, the mirror of economic prosperity of these cities, not even including the frontrunner, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei.
National heroes of many countries, be they revolutionary, evolutionary, discoverers or explorers are relegated to the pages of history, revered and honoured, for their works are fait accompli – China, fulfilled, America, freed, Japan and Korea, recovered, and even Australia, prospered.
But the Filipinos keep on going back to Rizal. We persistently ask what Rizal would have done? How Rizal would have been if he survived and led the Philippines in the years of American occupation? Even now, as a nation in modern times? Or, as people at home or as citizens, immigrants or workers of many countries?
The reason for returning to Rizal is the failure of Philippine leadership and as we share in such outcome, we sense a collective guilt. Had our leaders steered our country as our neighbours did, the Filipinos would not suffer at home and overseas.
Have we really failed Rizal?
Yes, we have failed Rizal as a nation, as a people.
We note on what preoccupies the country today – impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, near impeachment of an Ombudsman, plunder cases of a former president and Comelec Chairman and criminal charges against former Army Chief and numerous scandals. Despite the need to reclaim moral ascendancy through these prosecutions, they are, however, distractions in governance, in economic planning and trade.
This is not what Rizal dreamt of an independent Philippines. Rizal’s mantra is supreme love of country and service to people. Had Rizal’s Philippines become a reality, we would gaze in awe at his heroic form on the pedestal and not plead for his second coming.
Yet again, we hope to find Rizal and act on his ideal – the supreme love of country and end the miseries of Filipinos.