Monday, July 13, 2015

Long live the legacy of Jose Rizal

Without struggle, there is, too, no freedom....Without freedom, there is no light. - Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tangere (1887).
I love Jose Rizal, and so do the people of the Philippines.  He is, after all, their national hero.  Streets, and schools are named after him. Every student that goes through the education system here reads volumes of his work.  Around the turn of the 20th century, author and doctor Jose Rizal and his fellow "illustrados" (enlightened, educated Filipino revolutionaries) led the non-violent struggle for independence from Spain and the unity of the 7,100 islands in this archipelago into nationhood.  He is THE symbol of national unity and dissent in the Philippines.

He was born privileged, but he recognized and used this privilege to not only unite his people, but to convince the rest of the power-players in turn-of-the-century global politics (namely, the West), that Spain's 333-year rule was over.  He also recognized the hypocrisies of the high education system and bravely critiqued his professors.  His words are still potent and relevant:
During college, the professor, often forgetting the lesson,  would lecture about our race and our country; and we, trembling before his omnipotence, cowardly swallowed our tears and kept silent...Later, at the university, despite the fact that the professors did not understand themselves, I understood better the world I was in; there were privileges for some and laws for others, and certainly not according to merit. - Jose Rizal, La Solaridad (1889).
Rizal was prophetic.  I wonder how he would assess our economic and political systems that continue to confer privileges on some, and create laws for others, as clearly illustrated by everything from the high-stakes, corporate-led, standardized testing movement to our own flawed American justice system. Still, I think he would not be without hope.
The country will again become cheerful, happy, joyous, hospitable, and daring.
And from what I've seen from my experience in the Philippines, it has indeed become cheerful, joyous, and hospitable.  We have a lot to learn from Rizal, and I am so happy to have made his acquaintance on this trip.  I am forever grateful to have been able to visit his birthplace and the museum dedicated to him, and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work and including his  writing in my Global Studies classes along with others who have used the power of the pen to push back against colonial power.  May the legacy of Rizal live on!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Poetry Without Borders: Where We're From (Bacolod edition)

As many of you know, Fortuna High 10th grade Global Studies students collaboratively composed a poem and contributed art and photographs to a giant poem/collage that I brought with me in my suitcase.  Over the last two days, their teachers graciously allowed me to take over their classes, and 7th and 10th graders at Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod did the same.  Below you will find the vibrant poem they are sending back from the Philippines.
Where We're From: Bacolod 

We are from chocolate hills and perfectly parallel banaue rice terraces, 
hot springs of Mambukal, and the delicate beaches of Borocay.
We are from volcanoes, active and dormant,
the perfectly shaped cone of Mount Mayon.

We are from the rays of sunshine hitting the ocean,
a blessing of natural beauty.
We are from the sweet nectar of santan flowers crowing our heads,
fragrant sampaguita flowers, jasmine of the Philippines.

We are from hundreds of dialects to express our feelings 
palangga taka, ginagugma taka,
the sounds of the guitara
original pilipino music and the melodic ilonggo language,
birds chirping and roosters crowing, our morning alarm clocks.

We are from the barefoot tinikling dancers
outdoor basketball without shoes,
the brightly lit masks of the Masskara Festival to chase away sadness,
We are from larong pinoy,
the ageless games played and loved across generations. 
We are from jeepneys, tricycles, and padyak, and street foods,
people selling inasals and lechon baboy on the side of the road,
adobo chicken, barbeque, and monak,
vibrant fruit stalls filled with rambutan, lanzones, and mangoes.

We are from chatting while eating
and taking pictures to document our joy, smiles, and friendship.
We are from Sundays are family days.
palanga ta ka and salamat,
I love you and I thank you.

We are from the traditions of our ancestors.
We are from 7000 islands.
We are from the City of Smiles, Bacolod.
We are from the true colors of Filipino tradition.