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!

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