MANILA, Philippines - For a nation that does not have a reading culture, the National Hero, José Rizal, must have overdone himself by producing 25 types of work including novels, essays and poems, among others.
In his lecture “José Rizal and Switzerland,” historian Ambeth Ocampo said this is the irony of Rizal’s life as he tried to enlighten his countrymen to become better Filipinos. “He wrote a lot for a nation that does not read,” said Ocampo, history department chairman of the Ateneo de Manila University, and former chairman of the National Historical Commission.
Ocampo pointed out that it is important to read the works of the National Hero because by reading his works, Filipinos will better understand him. “Maybe we can see ourselves in his writings,” said Ocampo.
Ocampo finds it amusing that Rizal had enemies even after his execution. He cited the opposition of the conservative elements and the Roman Catholic Church over the Noli-Fili bill which calls for the teaching of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in high school.
In the Senate, the bill was supported by Sens. Claro M. Recto, Jose Laurel and Domacao Alonto. In the House of Representatives, the supporters were Congressmen Jacobo Z. Gonzalez, Emilio Cortez and Mario Bengzon.
On the other side, the original bill was opposed by Sens. Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, Mariano J. Cuenco and Decoroso Rosales.
Rodrigo, a former Student Catholic Action president, later became a member of Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) party led by former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. which ran and lost in the 1978 Interim Batasang Pambansa elections.
Cuenco was the brother of a Roman Catholic archbishop. In the Lower House, the bill was also opposed by Congressmen Ramon Durano, Jose Nuguid, Marciano Lim, Manuel Zosa, Lucas Paredes, Godofredo Ramos, Miguel Cuenco, Carmen Consing and Tecla San Andres Ziga.
Fortunately, the bill was passed, thus paving the way for the teaching of Rizal’s works.
In another lecture, National Artist F. Sionil Jose said the current generation must continue to pursue the vision and ideals of Rizal because of the very strong anti-intellectualism currently prevailing in Philippine society.
He pointed out that the current situation is being exacerbated by the proliferation of telenovelas shown during prime time on television.
“Telenovelas are useless in educating the Filipinos because they’re generally irrelevant, senseless and stupid,” he said.
Furthermore, Sionil Jose said Filipinos particularly the writers must embody the virtues of Rizal because he represents the true Filipino.
In his concluding note, Ocampo pointed out that history is not to blame for the tragedies in Philippine history. “It is the people that should be blamed because they have been there playing the events,” he said.