No 1045, District 25, Under The United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & ACT Australia [Views herein does not necessarily reflect those of LJR 1045 & UGL NSW & ACT.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rizal and the martyrs of our time

ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces (The Philippine Star) Updated June 18, 2009 12:00 AM

Much has been said through time about Jose Rizal, the man we know from our history books to be the great Philippine national hero, martyred for defending the cause of the nation and its people during the Spanish occupation. He, to me, is still unmatched as the most remarkable Filipino in history, with his multiple skills and extraordinary intelligence and wit. Years after his execution, his story of heroism still echo, though sometimes, its significance lost in the repetitive stories commonly told about his life and death, and the recitation of important events and achievements surrounding his personhood.

Without mentioning his moving literary works like Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo and his indefatigable advocacy for freedom and democracy for his country that led to his martyrdom, the man that we came to know as Jose Rizal from history is a great person in himself — a man of character the likes of whom is hard to come by these days. In fact, his words and deeds became a stirring example and inspiration to other Filipinos who would later become enshrined in the pages of history as great heroes in their time. One of these heroes is Andres Bonifacio, who established the revolutionary organization called Katipunan from the civic organization La Liga Filipina that Rizal organized. Katipunan mounted a fierce campaign for independence from the Spanish colonizers and Emilio Aguinaldo, who later became the first president of the Republic, was one of the more prominent leaders who joined the spreading revolt waged by the Katipunan. We can count other great men and women who were inspired by Rizal’s selfless cause and with the same ardour advocated for the rights and liberty of the Filipino people.

His thirst for knowledge was so intense that, unlike frivolous young men born to wealthy families, he pursued varied fields of knowledge with no less than sobresaliente at a pace likened to a race. At 21 years old, he travelled alone to Europe to study medicine upon learning that his mother was going blind. Four years later at 25, he would complete his studies and practice in ophthalmology, during which time he also learned to speak German. And as his family’s funds dried up and away from his family, he persevered, not minding the sacrifices he had to make to finish his career. Until the age of 35 before his trial and execution, he continued to master various skills and subjects from the arts and letters to business and economics, to the sciences and sports, showing the high importance he gave to educating oneself. The ophthalmologist was also a sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright and journalist. He wrote his novels in Spanish, the language of the elite, at a time when there were less than 11 million Filipinos.

The greatest example he bequeathed to generations after him and up to the present was the peaceful but inspiring way that he awakened the consciousness of a people who were then nestled in a convenient but shackling colonial rule and how he, through the values and ideals he espoused in his writings, and a brilliant satirical way with which he described people and situations, instituted reforms in a society beholden to a religious culture that is at the same time foreign and repressive.

Rizal said, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.” Hence, he made his life, not only a useful one, but one that excelled and shines brightly to this day. He is the cornerstone that served as a strong foundation of Philippine democracy.

To honor the memory of a great martyr, I dedicate this column to seven slain Marines who were killed last week during fierce encounters with the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu. Sargeants Rafael Quinones and Wilhelm Alvarez, Privates First Class Randy Sacro, Marlon Quidep, Robert Fedochino, Willy Cabilite, and Dioan Tamayo were the frontliners in the military effort to rescue Italian Eugenio Vagni of the International Committee of the Red Cross still being held hostage after six months. These soldiers were also part of the team that rescued a popular TV broadcaster and her 2 cameramen last year. I salute them as martyrs and modern day heroes as well as the other military and police personnel who have sacrificed their lives to preserve the country’s honor and uphold the people’s peace and freedom.

More than a century after his death, the memory of Rizal’s life and works empowers and inspires Filipinos and even other nationalities to emerge as unique and outstanding people in a new and complex global village. Despite its many problems, our race stands proud and jubilant because it has a hero like Rizal.

A collection of writings about Rizal, for the benefit of Lodge Jose Rizal No 1045 members.

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