On this day, 114 years ago, Jose Rizal was executed at the then Bagumbayan, outside the walls of Intramuros. Now, we all know that place to be Rizal Park.
Had Rizal not been executed, that place would probably still be called Wallace Field thanks to the Americans. Rizal’s death has not only changed that, but it has changed our nation’s history forever as popular belief has taught us that it led to the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan.
However, Patricio Mangubat would like to clarify that it wasn’t so. He points out in his post at New Philippine Revolution:
As an historiographer, let me correct the popular perception that Rizal’s execution on the thirtieth of December 1896 sparked the 1896 Revolution. Far from it.
Rizal’s execution was not the trigger that led to the August Revolt. No. It was his arrest and detention that Filipinos interpreted as a sign that there was no other recourse but to fight foreign aggression.
Had the Spaniards allowed Rizal to live, history would have been different.
And history would have been different indeed, not only if Rizal wasn’t executed but what if it had been so except that instead of remembering his death every year, we celebrate his life and many of his other great achievements aside from taking a bullet for the motherland.
Take for example Penelope V. Flores’ insights on Jose Rizal as a teenager, taking inspiration from an oil painting done by his friend and contemporary Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo which provided a glimpse of the young Rizal:
He met Felix Resurreccion Hidlago, the painter. He sat for an oil painting. It is the 2nd picture above. Resurreccion captured the teen-aged José Rizal. Felix is the consummate interpreter of character nuances. This is my favorite Rizal portrait….impish, rakish grin, tousled hair–which he tidies most of the time–off-skilted tie, twinkling eyes as if contemplating on doing something silly: in general, of being such a lovely teen-age matinee idol.
Felix brought this oil painting to Manila and presented it to Don Antonio Rivera, Rizal’s uncle and Leonora Rivera’s father. Visitors came to admire the artist’s signature, not the image. It was after all signed by a Resurreccion. Paciano actually glossed it over. Only later, when viewing from afar, that the resemblance to his own brother struck him. Paciano had actually forgotten the image of a young teen-ager. All this time, he was projecting the aura of Jose Rizal as a Europeanized medieval gentleman: the ilustrado: upright and proper (in his cuerpo (Rizal never wore an overcoat, but was dressed in the impeccable European style frock coat).
The artist in his painterly manner, gave us the humanized young essence of Rizal seldom brought out by our Rizalist scholars who want to present to us an intellectualized Rizal forgetting that like our own teen-aged offsprings and sibings, he too went through the process of teen-aged ambivalence as he was training to be the Great Hero that he had become.
Of course when we talk about Rizal and his execution, we cannot not talk about one of the reason he got into trouble with the Spanish authorities to begin with.
Basically, the Spanish friars wanted him dead because of the novels he wrote which exposed their abuses and virtual dictatorship of the Philippines. Rizal was not only branded as a heretic, he was ex-communicated for being a Freemason.
Sustines E. Laplana dug a little deeper into this bitter relationship between Rizal and the Catholic Church. She started with an intriguing snippet of a supposed letter of Josephine Brackern accusing the Catholic Archbishop in the Philippines for bribing the acting Governor General of the Philippines, Camilo Polavieja!
Truly, Rizal had become an icon of our history, his influence reaching beyond his generation. This has led to many writers, historians and even the ordinary folk to muse what would happen if Rizal were still alive today.
For instance, EQualizer Post points out that Rizal had long proposed the best tourism slogan for the Philippines in that immortal poem he wrote during his last moments alive:
Farewell, beloved Country, treasured region of the sun,
Pearl of the sea of the Orient, our lost Eden!
To you eagerly I surrender this sad and gloomy life;
And were it brighter, fresher, more florid,
Even then I’d give it to you, for your sake alone.
My dreams, when scarcely an adolescent,
My dreams, when a young man already full of life,
Were to see you one day, jewel of the sea of the Orient,
Dry those eyes of black, that forehead high,
Without frown, without wrinkles, without stains of shame.
And what if Rizal, being an avid traveller, would say if he encounters the TSA upon arriving at an American airport? The Vincenton Post aptly says:
If he were alive today, this polyglot, who loved to travel, would have told America’s Transportation Security Administration: “Touch me not!”
Clever play on Rizal, his life, execution and his legacy, we all come back to why we even set aside a national holiday for him, that all of us, in one way or another be inspired by Jose Rizal to help our countrymen and our motherland to reach great heights. Just like Urish Peter Jain:
Dr. José Rizal’s remarkable characteristics or intelligences, amazes me, and inspires me to follow his footsteps, in helping him attain his dream, even in this century. Like Rizal, I wish to be an inspiration to others, in helping people, realize their dreams, by continuously making people believe in themselves. Rizal is very admirable with his linguistic skills, this also inspired me, to work more on my speech, writing, foreign language speaking, and translating. Rizal is a well-known phycist, and following his path, he has also played an important role in my life, in choosing the medical profession. Rizal, to me, is a person that I think, is worth emulating, for he has found it’s way not only into the hearts of all Filipino’s, but especially to the entire world.
One way of paying homage to Rizal is to visit his monument and explore Rizal Park, there are lots to see and you’d walk away from it with a lesson or two about the man and our history.