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Home Sections DrRizal.com Jose Rizal: From National Hero to Fishmarket Sentinel
Jose Rizal: From National Hero to Fishmarket Sentinel PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 28 December 2007 05:39
The News UpFront: (TOP STORY) as of Friday, December 28, 2007 
 
The Filipino community is invited to join the commemorative activities marking the 111th year of Jose Rizal's execution. He is the national hero of the Philippines. In San Diego, however, Rizal is no more than a hapless merchandising icon whose importance has been reduced to a mere sentinel for a fishmarket.
 
A MARTYRDOM GONE WICKED
 
Jose Rizal: From National Hero to Fishmarket Sentinel
 
By ROMEO P. MARQUEZ
Member, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and National Press Club of the Philippines-USA.
 
SAN DIEGO -  The Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, according to the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO), "was the epitome of all that a Filipino should be".
 
His death by musketry 111 years ago on Sunday, Dec. 30, COPAO continued, should "be a reminder for us to always be proud of our Filipino heritage . . . "
 
I quoted those lines from a COPAO press release published on the occasion of his death anniversary. As in the last nine years in San Diego, COPAO is the spearhead of the commemorative activities that include the customary wreath-laying and speechifying.
 
The press release was replete with ironies. A namesake diminutive of the hero who is not a hero but who is into all kinds of heroics is listed as among the guests.
 
It escapes me how COPAO and its officers led by its president Rita Andrews could feel proud about the scheduled activities at the venue, the frontage of Seafood City on Plaza Blvd. in National City, where stands Rizal's bust, a mute witness to the ebb and flow of shoppers at the supermarket. 
 
Who are they honoring -- Rizal, the man whose works elevated him to the apogee of popular worship, or his bust (the caption of a picture in the entertainment paper the Filipino Press says "to pay homage to the Rizal bust" -- gosh, it can't even distinguish)?
 
Whatever it was, the activities fit snugly into the very core of merchandising the store; it becomes the focal point where the Filipino community looks like it's paying obeisance to the fishmarket that hosts his cheap sculpture.
 
The decision that led to Rizal's sudden appearance at Seafood City in 1998 is just as scandalous as the $27,000 that went missing in COPAO. Both instances have a certain sleigh-of-hand magic to them.
 
The bust traveled thousands of miles across the ocean only to surface at the fishmarket almost unnoticed. On the other hand, the $27,000 vanished just like a bubble. The advent and the vanishment . . . only in COPAO, by COPAO.
 
A proud people would not debase their national hero and appear so depraved as to let his likeness look like a withered piece of metal sentinel on the lookout for shoplifters and parking violators. That's the essential issue.
 
But it's there, Rizal's replica, keeping watch on COPAO and the rest of Seafood City shoppers, cemented to a concrete pedestal surrounded by shopping carts, and we call him the national hero of the Philippines?
 
I can't find a reason to be proud about Rizal's diminution. Truth to tell, his "presence" humiliates us all. It relegates us to where we've always been: a non-thinking, idol-worshipping minority within a minority.
 
Were COPAO sincere and its officers genuinely saying things beyond their usual lip service, the bust would have been taken down the moment it was being erected days before June 12, 1998.
 
I was there before, during and after the centennial celebration of Philippine independence. And the century of freedom found Rizal shedding his iconic image because some spineless COPAO officials found the dollar mightier than all the nation's sacrifices of almost four hundred years.
 
"Rizal: Proud to be a Filipino" is said to be this year's theme of the observance. COPAO then enjoins the community  "to always honor him". I thought this COPAO press release was the perfect way to dishonor him as it says one thing and does another.
 
What was Rizal? Who was he to be, as COPAO says, "the epitome of all that a Filipino should be"?.
 
I don't remember Rizal pocketing $27,000 or its equivalent during his time from the organizations he had belonged to. In that respect, he is a fine example. He wasn't corrupt.
 
I have no recollection of my earlier studies that Rizal had been bought for a mere $1,000 or its equivalent then to recant a decision by a cross-section of the community, as what COPAO had done in 1998. That means Rizal was not a crook.
 
I know for a fact that Rizal was a doctor of medicine, not a bumbling quack who paraded what little money can buy from a school than what the intelligence can accomplish through academic studies. On that score, he is a role model.
 
COPAO says Rizal "was willing to die for his country". Quite the opposite here in San Diego, since he dies an inglorious death every time an unknowing stranger asks: what man does that bust in Seafood City represent in the Filipino community?
 
What kind of people are they whose names are inscribed on the south side of the pedestal who had so willingly lent their approval to Rizal's odious demise just to please the store's Filipino owners with the Chinese-sounding names?
 
Whenever I think about these things, I feel COPAO and its officials are taking the community for a scenic ride again along the pathway of notoriety and irrelevance.
 
The Philippines had endured the Spanish conquistadors and a spark named Jose Rizal triggered a revolution that had regained freedom and a new way of life.
 
On the other hand, the Filipino community in San Diego has endured nine years watching Rizal in captivity!
 
COPAO must really be proud to see Rizal morphed from hero to fishmarket sentinel to a monument of greed and dishonor. All it took for Seafood City to have him there is one thousand dollars. And the money went to COPAO!


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Last Updated on Friday, 28 December 2007 05:41
 

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