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Home Sections DrRizal.com Things that Were, Things that Are: Revisiting the Questions that Challenged Rizal in his Lifetime
Things that Were, Things that Are: Revisiting the Questions that Challenged Rizal in his Lifetime PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 11 July 2008 07:21

Some heroes are called the Father of their country, but throughout the Far East Rizal is known as the father of freedom. None, among all the Great of the World, is greater. I speak his name in reverence. – Gen. Douglas MacArthur


[Dedicated to Jean Quintero Hall]

By Christoph S. Eberle

 


YEARS ago on my first flight from Frankfurt to Manila I saw my seat neighbor, a Filipino, reading Rizal’s “El Filibusterismo”. And I asked him, ”Sir, who is that Rizal?” He replied, “Our national hero, a Philippine legend. Did you know that he lived in Germany, too?” Since then, my curiosity has been unsatiated, and I have endeavored to know more about this man. I have never regretted discovering the country Rizal loved so much. As a person who works in a profession that produces knowledge, my philosophy coincides with Rizal, who believed that good character is formed through education. That such education does not end as long as we live, even if one’s life is not enough to turn the absorbed knowledge into wisdom. But what kind of knowledge should we know? Alas, even I too have experienced that the best minds are not necessarily enlightened simply by studying books.


Most of you know well that Juan Luna was one of Rizal’s companions during his time in Madrid. Did you also know that Antonio Luna, the brother of this talented artist, held a Ph.D. degree in chemistry?  With my professional background in Chemistry, this fact brings me once more closer to Rizal. To me he gives an example, and it is remarkable and rarely noted that a unity between science and art can be established. With Rizal as a scientist and an artist; with Juan Luna as an artist and Antonio Luna as a chemist, I am sure none of them would disagree with me when I say that knowledge about the nature of chemical bonds does not help us to measure bonds among human beings. And if art cannot do so as well, to which teacher should we turn to?

 

Editor’s Note: With pride, we publish this great work of Sir Christoph S. Eberle, one of the many Germans who have become true believers and followers of Jose Rizal. This essay tells best the reasons why Overseas Filipinos should go back to the homeland and launch a new peaceful revolution, so as to complete the unfinished business, mission and agenda of Rizal. We could not have written anything better than what Sir Christoph penned. Read on . . .Luna and Hidalgo were the two Philippine artists who were awarded the first and second prize on the occasion of the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1884. To honor them Rizal gave his so-called Brindis speech at a special banquet. With fraternal gesture his speech embraced the audience honestly with the desire “to join…in one single thought, in one single aspiration – the glory of genius, the splendor of the Motherland. Here is, in fact, the reason why we are gathered . . . genius knows no country, genius sprouts everywhere, genius is like light, air, the patrimony of everybody, cosmopolitan like space, like life, like God.” (1) Eloquent, it is a contradiction to the spirit of a period, wherein equality among people had no political power in Europe, nor it would have been desired.

 

In 1882, when Rizal first arrived in Madrid, he met Graciano Lopez Jaena. Upon meeting, Rizal questioned Jaena as to why he quit medical school. “It is a pity,” Rizal said, “that you don’t study and cultivate your great talent in order to serve better our country.” In defense, Jaena replied, “On the shoulders of slaves should not rest a doctor’s cape.” Rizal replied, “You can invoke that grandiloquent phrase to justify your laziness, but I tell you in turn that the shoulders do not honor the doctor’s cape, but the doctor’s cape honors the shoulders!” (2)

 

Does knowledge about the nature of chemical bonds help us to measure bonds among human beings? And if art cannot do so as well, to which teacher should we turn to?By executing him at the end of the its power in the Philippines, the Spanish colonial regime created Rizal into a martyr – a role he surely did not intend to take. But Rizal’s sacrifice was not in vain. He did so out of pure love. Things have changed since he was executed in Bagumbayan. Questions, which challenged him in his time, are now being revisited again. But many of his answers have remained valid and cannot be ignored. Every student in the Philippines is expected to know about Rizal. Institutions that bear his name are faced with the task of going beyond: that the youth outside the Philippines will have to get to know him as well. Every effort must be made towards this distant, but reachable goal. If we win the youth, we win future!

 

What makes Rizal great is an inspiration for us to put forth the effort, cognizant of the fact that this hero of freedom belongs not to one nation, but to all countries. We cherish freedom because it means the freedom to think differently, to feel differently, to decide differently and to be different. With these in mind, I found myself in our community dedicated to Rizal, whose heroic sacrifice will lead on so long as freedom, justice and dignity of man are threatened. The more Rizalists who will collaborate to make Rizal public beyond his status as the Philippine national hero, the more he surely will be noticed as he should be – a personality that reached historical greatness like Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

The world we live in today has become smaller. Frontiers that adventurers and discoverers of old were crossing have vanished. In their quest, they all needed courage, will and determination. Today, as it was then, we will need courage, will and power to move ahead into the endless distance and to an ever decreasing space. Yet there is no end to what can be achieved. But the greatest unknown lies within us. It is essential for us to recognize the wisdom when we first experience them.

 

Today, technical progress has enabled interaction among human beings of different cultures easier and faster than ever before. This should encourage us to use this convenience to our full advantage. Interacting is no longer outside our possibilities. Interacting is the key in our hands that opens doors to future. The spirit of Bagumbayan remains alive. Together we are called upon to spread this spirit everywhere. The power of the idea that unites us must not diminish. United as teachers of the teachings of Rizal, let us go forward to give face and voice with a sense of chivalry that we call Rizalian, which is anything but common. Nothing else unites our community’s soul. I am with her. Rizal lived his life admirably and in accordance with his ideals. If we can emulate this, I believe in the end and in a universal sense, if we succeed, we will be worthy of claiming to be genuine and bona-fide Rizalists. Nobody but Rizal could deny us that claim.

 

We cherish freedom because it means the freedom to think differently, to feel differently, to decide differently and to be different.
And yet each of us calls ourselves Rizalists without subscribing to the word’s intended meaning. We need to redefine the meaning we ascribe to the word. Only when the priests of Rizalism celebrate the “cult of the universal,” which Saint-Exupery elaborated, only when they do love more the land than the nation, Rizalism can take on a profound meaning. It can provide an identity to the Philippine name. And we can truly honor the man Rizal that became an institution we joined, each with his/her own reasons.

 

Although we are citizens of different nations, believers of different religions, supporters of different political and philosophical opinions, we accepted and embraced the Code of Ethics that unite us as Rizalists. Such does not forbid us to follow principles, laws and circumstances that oblige us elsewhere. As Rizalists we are part of another ‘community without borders’ that holds us to a common responsibility in our endeavor towards common aims, regardless of the professions we practice. In both halves of the globe Rizalism spreads Rizal’s ideals and speaks for the less-fortunate on Philippine soil. In this way, it makes me aware of what is more important than merits already earned are those that have still to be earned. And through the individual, this brotherhood honors the ethical code of Rizalism.

 

We must all strive for an objectivity, like Rizal did once, like many Rizalists now do and did on both halves of the globe. Through objectivity can we then be closer to the truths that are universal, valid for all times, valid for all people. Rizal's strongest ideals encompassed democracy, equality, and education with rights for human dignity. He himself called for Filipino unification, but he never upheld Filipino culture, nation and race above others. Quite the opposite: Rizal first learned the cultures and languages of the people he interacted with before interacting with them. Doing so proved that he understood human nature, that by studying their language, he not only complimented them, but also showed respect towards cultural differences. Knowing the language opens the windows to that country’s soul.

Although we are citizens of different nations, believers of different religions, supporters of different political and philosophical opinions, we accepted and embraced the Code of Ethics that unite us as Rizalists.

We face a new era. The nature of our global realities poses a challenge to those promoting Rizal’s ideals. But if we do not face the challenges, we will fall behind our best possibilities. Nevertheless, through all time, our mission remains the same, inalienable, clear like a crystal. Beyond national boundaries, crossing deep oceans and spanning continents we rally to it.

 

The task to use Rizal as our model when dealing with current issues, inspired by his spirit, challenges us. It applies to all who carry a banner against arbitrariness, to all who stand in his name for the virtues he found himself ready to die for. And what sort of brotherhood should represent his ideals? It should represent the best that can be said about that institution’s principles. In this way, it enriches traditions that have been written consistently in many pages of the book of universal history: duty, truthfulness, justice, bravery, honor, humility, cosmopolitanism, and love of country. Virtues like these serve as guide to the principles that bind us. They form the great characters of a new Round Table. They teach us, give us touchstones upon which we can be gauged against. Deep are the springs from which virtues that we stand for so that amidst the deserts of men no one will be exhausted.

 

But Rizalists from all walks of life do not deserve these ideals, if they do not serve. The noblest words cannot substitute for the noblest actions. We cannot change anything, if we are unable to change ourselves. This strength alone arises from ideals. Asking myself about what my mission’s quintessence should be and I see clearly that it is to prevent Rizal’s flag to go down.


My estimate of what this flag means is not final and it cannot be yet. Since deep within me I hear the words of another hero echo – one of the most controversial of all American generals, Douglas MacArthur. His promise of “I shall return,” which he proclaimed to a defeated nation in 1942, remains unforgotten. The words still reverberates to our time. Years later when visiting the country, whose “liberator and defender” he had become, he said about Rizal: 

This man died before a firing squad in his struggle for national freedom, human liberty and political equality. Some heroes are called the Father of their country, but throughout the Far East he is known as the father of freedom. None, among all the Great of the World, is greater. I speak his name in reverence.” (3)

On a completely different occasion it is a similar confession that has gathered us:  admirers, interested persons and researchers of Rizal. However, an international conference in his name like the one held in Toronto this year could not have been purely academic. Rizal’s thinking stimulates the minds. That makes him political. Although he died too early to ensure the growth of enlightenment’s ideas, he laid its roots in the Philippines.

There are plenty of organizations that bear Rizal’s name pretending to hold the hero’s heritage. Among those is the Order of the Knights of Rizal which is the one with the longest history. Republic Act 646 turned the original “Orden de Caballeros de Rizal,” founded in 1911, into a public corporation within Philippine realm. Although expanding with chapters to many foreign countries by immigrating Filipinos, this corporation failed to meet the standards of an international organization.

 

The noblest words cannot substitute for the noblest actions. We cannot change anything, if we are unable to change ourselves. This strength alone arises from ideals.Besides welcoming said Rizal conference participants in Toronto, heartily and mindfully, I address all Rizalists. We have witnessed that Rizalism is not represented anymore by the so-called Order of the Knights of Rizal. New concepts of federalization and knighthood are about to rise. Ours is to ensure that we earn their claims. Then our knighthood might become theirs as well – a knighthood that is distinguished by its bearers and our chosen symbols of what Rizalian means: illustrating the image a new persona. And who would we dignify in our ceremonies? One risks to be blinded, if one dignifies idols.

 

Any new Rizalist institution, which is a fraternity and a fraternity, which is an institution will designate members with names. It is up to you, the members, to assign them with meaning. They cannot implicate hierarchy, but maybe you will rise to a dignity that ennobles your inborn sense of honor. As members you are to distinguish yourselves; you prove your value because of what you are and what you can accomplish. However, your acceptance to the organization is primarily based on your potential, so your value as a member must be earned. This value is exemplified by neither titles nor medals, nor is it to be found stamped in any passport’s content. What I mean is that the glimmers from the depth of your soul through the colors of your character to the truthfulness of your ideals can be perceived by those around you. Believing those who tell the opposite, you will always as others do, mistake appearance for reality.

 

Yes, you can rise without degrading others. Dare to cross boundaries in your minds and in your hearts with your strength and courage! In space inside and outside of you! Dare to be different! Dare what you never dared before! The highest that obliges you is your conscience. Act whatever it dictates you! Then you are closer to Rizal than any written policy or philosophy could ever be. What he can teach you, you will not understand without Kant’s lessons.

No matter how often times change, what Rizal stands for will never change. It is uniting us throughout continents. And from generation to generation a single day gathers us so as not to forget that. Rizal never failed us. He knew about how easily men can be corrupted; that it is easier to demand than to fulfill. If we fail him, we would witness the later triumph of powers who believed it was possible to fight ideas by perishing the individual who gave them birth. I can only sense with admiration Rizal’s feelings for the Philippines. Although he is not like me, he belonged to her through bonds that were formed by nature: family, language, history; bonds that were his heritage, enriched with his own. And yet I am blessed with two countries: one where I come from and one I can adopt – a land which Rizal dreamed how it ought to be. But what it ought to be is uncertain. Here I am searching. There I enter a soil riddled with questions of my uncertainties.

 

With thoughts like these we may ask occasionally: Who teaches the teachers?How does Rizal look at us now? Through his biographer’s eyes? Today more than a century is gone since his execution. The man, fatally hit by the bullets of a firing squad and who has been martyred at Bagumbayan is alive in the memory of even those who never opened one of his books. What can happen if one does open them is the story of Jean Quintero Hall. Over the past 14 years she has worked as a lecturer in the Humanities Department of Western New Mexico University. As a well-known Rizal researcher in the United States she has been an invited speaker in international conferences on Rizal. Arising from her studies of Rizal, she compiled her poems of the last 20 years and published in 1996 under the title “Rizal – Our Beloved Beacon”. This work has gained much appreciation in both the United States and the Philippines and takes a worthy place in the literary commemoration of Jose Rizal as the Filipinos’ national hero. Reading it, I entirely agree with Frank Juszczyk’s judgment, who wrote in his foreword: “What reaffirmation of nobility we gain from the stories of Tristan and Iseult, Arthur and Guinivere, is alive in the devoted passion of Jean Quintero Hall’s love for Jose Rizal.” (4)

With thoughts like these we may ask occasionally: Who teaches the teachers? For “as a man thinks, so he is.” (5) Only what we give will even weight more than what we have and keep. That things we preach are things by which we can live: where we discover such, we do not see the end of all truth, but the beginning of all ways to the stars of Rizal. 

But these days we are not burdened by thoughts alone; they have also tint and mood and busy manifestations.

However, I am on the side of those who would rather realize what is possible instead of visualizing what is uncertain.

The horizons are broadening for us as well as our possibilities. A new year’s eve is upon us.  In the past we have won victories over ourselves. That is why we must not fear what is coming. No matter if days shall be good or against us. Prophecy was always strange to me, even though tempting. However, I am on the side of those who would rather realize what is possible instead of visualizing what is uncertain. If I knew the future, I would not seek it anymore, neither create. But its promise is one very tangible at this moment, in this realm, where we meet ideas and ideas meet us; to find their bearers and those who change them, as they are changed by them. Then a beacon is lighted. We are far from being weak so long as nothing weakens our message. As Rizal encouraged the women of Malolos, so we too should try what we never thought of. His message can be meant for us:

Let us, therefore, reflect; let us consider our situation and see how we stand.  May these poorly written lines aid you in your good purpose and help you to pursue the plan you have initiated.  May your profit be greater than the capital invested; and I shall gladly accept the usual reward of all who dare tell your people the truth.  May your desire to educate yourself be crowned with success; may you in the garden of learning gather not bitter, but choice fruit, looking well before you eat, because on the surface of the globe all is deceit, and the enemy sows weeds in your seedling plot.” (6) # # #

______________________

(1) Zaide, Gregorio F. and S. M. Zaide. Jose Rizal: Life, Works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and National Hero. Manila: National Book Store, Inc., 1984.

(2) Zaide, Gregorio F.  Great Filipinos in History – An Epic of Filipino Greatness in War and Peace. Manila: Verde Book Store, 1970.

(3) MacArthur, D. (Manila 1961). Statement given during his so-called sentimental journey to the Philippines three years before his death. Courtesy of James Zobel, Archivist General Douglas MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Norfolk, Virginia. 

(4) Hall, J. Q. Rizal – Our Beloved Beacon. Silver City, New Mexico, 1996.

(5) Rizal, J. “To the Young Women of Malolos,” in: G. F. Zaide, S. M. Zaide, Jose Rizal: Life, Works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and National Hero. Manila: National Book Store, Inc., 1984.

(6) Rizal, J. “To the Young Women of Malolos,” in: G. F. Zaide, S. M. Zaide, Jose Rizal: Life, Works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and National Hero. Manila: National Book Store, Inc.,1984.



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Last Updated on Friday, 11 July 2008 09:15
 

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