Rizal is dead

Jose Rizal.

The Philippines’ national hero. Symbol of democracy. Beacon of Peaceful Revolutions. Icon of nationalism in the hearts of many Filipinos.

This is how most Rizalist biographers would describe the country’s national hero. In fact, in some cases, they add a few more flowery words to describe him.

– Rizal as an archaeologist.

– Rizal as a propagandist.

– Rizal as a “wonder child”

Blah. Blah. Blah. So on, and so forth.

A lot of different people have different concepts and ideas about who Rizal really is, and why he is an important symbol for the Filipinos.

But sometimes, these concepts and ideas – theories, assumptions, facts, and even myths – about his identity and role in shaping the Filipino nation are overstated. Almost every information attributed to him are played up to make him seem like a demi-god. An icon of mythicism – mystified – and made almost perfect.

A lot of Filipinos know who Rizal is, alright. They can see sculptures of him in every town plaza. They can see pictures of him in every History book. His presence in the life of every Filipino is inevitable, it is impossible for any of them to not know his face and name. Heck, even their peso coins have his face imprinted on them.
But, ask a Filipino what Rizal’s complete name is. Ask any Filipino, young or old, why he was chosen as the national hero. Ask anyone who has ever lived in the Philippines what else he did for the country other than write the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo.

Ask them any random question about Rizal, and they will all give you one confused look. No one in the Philippines really knows who Rizal is. In actuality, no one really cares. Most of them just know Rizal is their country’s national hero. Students in school could only attest that he is just a subject to learn about, an answer to every quiz in Philippine History. But, no one really cares.

Historians and politicians may argue. They may give the most flowery statements about Jose Rizal, about him being the “symbol of nationalism and democracy”. They will all praise him. They will say anything to prove that he is really that great. Historians may rant on and on about what has happened in Rizal’s life to prove that he is worthy of his role.

But to the general masses, no one really cares. No one really wants to give a damn about him.

To the many thousands who only know Rizal by name and picture (or sculpture), he is nothing but a figure. Nothing more, nothing less.

And, that is one of the saddest things about the Philippines.

How could a nation so praised by its freedom – bestowed by all the richness and glory of Mother Nature, cried and fought for by almost every hero – be uncaring about an individual well-praised for his contributions in attaining that freedom?

Why? Because the Filipinos have never been free – ever.

These Filipinos, brown-skinned men of short statures and small noses, have never tasted democracy.

They have never known anything other than slavery. They never think of anything other than their colonial mentality. Even now, after 1_ presidencies, when the Philippines has declared itself an independent country, the Filipinos have remained enslaved. They are enslaved with the thoughts of the West, thinking the grass over there is always greener compared to the ones they are already stepping on. The Filipinos have enslaved themselves to their own lack of identity, their lack of sense of nationality.

Where else in the world can you find children so literate about the English language, yet so uninterested in their own? Where else in the world do people enjoy more foreign games, such as Basketball, Billiards and Boxing, than their own traditional forms of sport? Where else in the world do you see Doctors studying as Nurses just so they could leave the country? Where else in the world do you see most people wearing and using almost everything Western, with hardly any traces of being “Original” on their small brown bodies? Where else in the world do people predominantly detest their own cultures, subcultures and even traditions, in favor of adapting another country’s own?

Only in the Philippines. Only in the Philippines.

This amazing love of country and nationalism has inhibited in the Filipinos traits that would make even Rizal cry and question why he even bothered to die for such a country.

Yes. The Filipinos live in a free country, freer than how they once were over a century ago.

But this kind of freedom, with a lack of national identity, does not make it any different from being enslaved by a colony for more than 300 years. In fact, this kind of freedom could probably be worse than that kind of slavery.

That is why Rizal will always remain a figure. Just a figure. No one will know him. No one will care. He will always remain a figure, a statue in the town plazas where couples date, and a picture in the dusty unread history books in the library. That is Rizal – a national icon – whose country can never give him enough love…But, hopefully, this is just a “not yet”.

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