Missing Rizal and his ideals

By Herbert Vego

IF Dr. Jose P. Rizal were alive today (June 19, 2024), he would have turned 163 years old. He died very young at 35, executed by the Spanish colonial government on December 30, 1896 in Bagumbayan Field (what is now Rizal Park) for the crime of rebellion.

He could have opted to live longer by kowtowing to Spanish authorities.  Instead, he sacrificed his abundant life while articulating his people’s outcry against a barbaric regime pretending to be Christian.

It was not an easy job for his executioners who were Filipino soldiers of the Spanish Army, whose lives depended on carrying out the order to shoot. A back-up force of regular Spanish Army troops stood ready to shoot them should they fail to obey the order.

Any ordinary mortal would have long been forgotten, but not Rizal. He remains unique and extraordinary in his single-minded commitment to his people’s liberation through peaceful means.

His derogatory opinions against the Roman Catholic faith as reflected in his novels El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere are believed to have pushed the panic button that forced the theocratic Spanish regime to end his life.

His romantic interlude with an Irish woman proves his aversion to the clergy. History records that in February 1895, the 33-year-old Rizal met Josephine Bracken, an Irishwoman. Falling in love with each other, they applied for a marriage contract but the local priest would perform the ceremony only if he could get permission from the bishop of Cebu. The bishop refused to grant permission because he would not return to Catholicism.

His significance for us today, however, remains open-ended. Readers of his works are now prone to extract multiple ambiguous meanings.  In El Filibusterismo he posited the rationale of his quest for life’s meaning: “A life not consecrated to a great ideal is a useless one. Redemption presumes virtue; virtue presumes sacrifice; sacrifice presumes love.”

The logic of those words led to Rizal’s arrest, trial, and execution. His sacrificial death by musketry identified him as a victim of colonialism.

In Rizal’s letter to his friend Mariano Ponce, he considered all the persecutions, cruelties and abuses as necessary for Filipinos to prove their fortitude and valor, so that “in spite of everything and everybody, they will be worthy of liberty. In every struggle there must be victims, and it is the greatest of battles which are the most sanguinary. What is imprisonment? What is death? An illness sends us to bed at times and takes our life. The question is whether this infirmity and this death will afterwards be useless for those who survive.”

Rizal opposed narcissism.  His motivation in writing El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere was not meant to exalt himself but to rub on fellow Filipinos the fidelity to principles and national ideals above self-serving welfare.

In a letter to Marcelo del Pilar, Rizal exhorted his comrades to exercise restraint even while encouraging militant solidarity: “God and Destiny are on our side because we have justice and right and because we struggle not for ourselves but for the sacred love we hold for our country and for our fellow countrymen.”

Today, while the colonial regimes have long gone, giving way to Filipino leadership since 1945, it is doubtful whether the evils that Rizal fought against have also gone away. If Rizal were alive today, would he oppose the present Philippine government?

Yes! To put it bluntly, the problems that Rizal spoke against in his time are the same ones plaguing the country today, where the Filipino President controls, whether directly or indirectly, all three branches – executive, legislative and judicial — of government.

By the way, happy birthday to Rizal’s ka-birthday, Jon Cabrera. He’s the prolific media relations consultant of MORE Power.



INITIAL investigation by the Bureau of Fire Protection confirmed that a candle lit by a nine-year-old boy on a plastic bowl at the family home in Barangay Tanza Bonifacio, Iloilo City Proper had caused the fire that completely destroyed 32 houses and partially damaged 12 others, displacing 84 families last Monday.

The boy’s mother said they had lost electrical connection after failing to pay their electricity bill.

Based on our chat with electricians from MORE Power, lighted candles are dangerous, but only in combination with flammable materials, such as the plastic bowl mentioned above.

Thus, they advise us to keep candles away from flammable materials. It’s a better idea to put them in a steady glass or well-ventilated lantern on a fire-proof base. This way, it will not come into contact with ignitable objects.