MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos to "strengthen and protect" their freedom and keep nationalism alive as the country commemorated the 123rd death anniversary of hero Jose Rizal.
Duterte hailed Rizal's "ardent love of country" and desire to cultivate his and the nation's intellect that "led to a reawakening of the Filipinos' patriotism and sense of responsibility."
"May his shining example to always think of the greater good be emulated by generations of our youth who look up to him today," Duterte said in his Rizal Day message.
"Let us keep the embers of nationalism alive as we courageously face the challenges of apathy and divisiveness, and triumph over them just like what Rizal tenaciously did more than 120 years ago."
Duterte again skipped the observance of Rizal Day in Rizal Park, Manila and was represented by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
He joined his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, in offering flowers to the hero's monument in their hometown.
The President would rather pay tribute to other Filipino heroes who do not have special days dedicated to them, such as the young general Gregorio del Pilar, his spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said.