Thursday, January 3, 2008

A continuing death

The phrase comes from Apolinario Mabini who used it to describe Jose Rizal´s life. Mabini believed that Rizal “bravely endured the terrors of death that awaited him… thus he learned not to fear it, and had no fear when it came to take him away” Rizal was calm and even cheerful as he was led to Bagumbayan, “…to show that he was happy to sacrifice his life, which he had dedicated to the good of all Filipinos.” Mabini concluded, “ In truth the merit of Rizal’s sacrifice consists precisely in that it was voluntary and conscious... God grant that they will know how to render to him the only tribute worthy of his memory-- the imitation of his virtue.” Rizal lived and died for the Filipino.

Last 30 December, Dr. Floro Quibuyen (Asian Studies Center, UP) gave the annual Rizal lecture sponsored by the National Historical Institute. He spoke about some relatively unexplored facets of Rizal’s life. These are: 1) Rizal´s essay, “Filipinas dentro de cien años”, 2) his concept of the nation, 3) his Dapitan years, and 4) Rizal´s hitherto unnoticed minor study on Oceania.

Dr. Quibuyan described Rizal´s essay as ground-breaking and futuristic for no other Filipino scholar of his time had dared envision the Philippines in one hundred years. (This appeared in the Sept 1889- Jan 1890 issue of “La Solidaridad”).Thorough in his analysis of historical forces—both local and global—that impinged on the Philippines towards the 1890s, Rizal foresaw that these islands would eventually have to contend with the USA.

“Filipinas dentro de cien años” began with some annotations Rizal had made to correct Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas ( published in Mexico in 1609). Rizal described the impact of Spanish conquest on the natives of these islands as a “terrible crisis” because it changed “government, laws, usages, customs, religion and beliefs” which resulted in depopulation and impoverishment.

Rizal argued that the natives lost “confidence in the past, [while] still without faith in the future.” Because “they gave up their writing, their songs, their poems, their laws in order to learn by rote other doctrines they did not understand, another morality, another aesthetics, different from those inspired by their climate and their manner of thinking…” decline and self-degradation set in until “they began to admire and praise whatever was foreign and incomprehensible, their spirit was dismayed and it surrendered.”

Dr. Quibuyen pointed out that Rizal´s wrote about “a factor which did not exist before” called “national spirit” that was finally awakened by “… a common misfortune and a common abasement” . It united all the inhabitants of the Islands and was promoted by a “large enlightened class within and without the Archipelago” which Rizal called “the brains of the country” and that “.. within a few years it will constitute its entire nervous system and demonstrate its existence in all its acts.”

In that edifying essay, Rizal argued that the road to progress could no longer be blocked, that the Philippines could no longer remain a colony as it will either be assimilated by Spain, “ … with more rights and freedom or will declare herself independent after staining herself and the Mother Country with her own blood. Either way, the advancement and moral progress of the Philippines is inevitable; it is fated .”

Prophetically, our national hero concluded that “Spain is not the only factor to be considered. In fact, because she is already on the decline, she is no longer the most crucial factor in the Philippines’ future. The younger generation of Filipinos, who would shoulder the task of building a new nation and preparing the country for the 20th century, would have to contend with the rising superpower in the Asia-Pacific region-- the United States of America.” ( And the rest is history!—if I may add.)There will be more on Dr. Quibuyen´s enlightening Rizal lecture.