Filipinos should revisit Rizal’s life, works to avoid ‘distorting’ his legacy: teacher

Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 19 2022 11:36 PM

Scenes from Philippine hero Jose Rizal’s life, including his seminal novel Noli Me Tangere and his martyrdom are depicted in canvas at a paintings on display at the “Rizal Day Art Fair” in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila from June 17 to 19, 2022 as part of Rizal’s 161st birth anniversary. Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News
Scenes from Philippine hero Jose Rizal’s life, including his seminal novel Noli Me Tangere and his martyrdom are depicted in canvas at a paintings on display at the “Rizal Day Art Fair” in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila from June 17 to 19, 2022 as part of Rizal’s 161st birth anniversary. Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — More than 160 years since his birth, Jose Rizal’s life and works should be read and appreciated once more by Filipinos, especially the youth, to serve as lessons for the problems and issues of today, a history teacher said on Sunday.

Michael Tabuyan, who teaches social sciences at the senior high school of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila, told ABS-CBN News during Rizal’s 161st anniversary that the hero’s sayings and lessons have been “misused and abused” for varying ends over the century.

“Kaya siguro nagkakaroon tayo ng distortion sa mga paniniwala ni Rizal dahil hindi natin nabibigyan ang ating mga sarili ng pagkakataon basahin ‘yong mga gawa na iyon. And we can even say in some schools, hindi sineseryoso ang turo ng Noli, El Fili,” he said in the online interview.

(We are probably seeing a distortion of Rizal’s beliefs because we are not giving ourselves the chance to read for ourselves his works. And we can even say in some schools, the teaching of ‘Noli’ and ‘El Fili’ is not being taken seriously.)

Rizal’s novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” are required reading in Philippine high schools.

By law, the hero’s life and works are also taught as a requisite college subject.

For Tabuyan, these works bear rereading and reflecting over, adding there is more to Rizal than his well-known quotes like “The youth are the hope of the motherland”.

“Ang tanong, talaga bang nababasa natin, talaga bang naiintindihan natin ang kanyang mga salita? Kasi iba ‘yong alam nating ambag niya, at iba ‘yong nababatid natin fully kung ano ang kanyang mga kaisipan. At ‘yong mga kaisipan niya, ‘yong kanyang mga ideas on nationhood, politics, morality, history and everything is makikita in his works, hindi lamang sa Noli, sa El Fili,” he said.

(The question is, are we really reading, understanding his words? It’s one thing to know what he has done and another to fully realize his ideas. And those ideas on nationhood, politics, morality, history and everything can be seen in his works, not just in ‘Noli’ and ‘El Fili’.)

The educator hopes schools revisit and adapt the teaching of Rizal to the current needs of students.

He also sees public discussion of history and Rizal’s ideas as crucial in applying them to both policy and everyday decisions.

MAN OF ACTION

Rizal’s best quality, for Tabuyan, was having the conviction to see his advocacies through.

“He put his words, his ideas into action. Talagang naging successful siya. Lahat ng ideas niya, sinabuhay niya, pinatupad niya,” he said.

(He really became successful. He lived out all his ideas and made them come to pass.)

Rizal, an optometrist by profession, is also celebrated for accomplishments in science and other fields.

He was dubbed as “The First Filipino” by biographer Leon Ma. Guerrero

Tabuyan added Rizal was an advocate of both youth and women empowerment.

“Pinakita ni Rizal through his writings, na through social reform, through educational empowerment, makakamit 'yong minimithi nating kalayaan, pagkakaisa, at maging ang kasagutan sa ating mga social problems sa ngayon,” he said.

(Rizal showed through his writings, that through social reform, educational empowerment, we could achieve our goal of independence, unity, and even the answer to our social problems today.)

While revered and seen by many Filipinos as a “national hero”, no official declaration by the government has declared him as such.

Filipinos who visited Rizal Park in Manila on Sunday agreed Rizal’s lessons were still needed more than 150 years later—even as some were unaware it was his birth anniversary that day.

Athlete Patrick Salceno said: “I hope he is proud of us youth today who are helping the country like he did before.”

College student Carla Pascual feared the opposite, saying: “Siguro po madi-disappoint siya, lalo na po kung paano umakto ang mga kabataan ngayon.”

(Maybe he is disappointed, especially with how the youth are acting today.)

“Para sa atin kasi madali ring makalimot ng mga pagkakamaling ginawa, madaling ulitin ang mga maling gawa noon, so history repeats itself,” said fellow student Ysabel Utrera.

(For us, it’s easy to forget mistakes that have been made and repeat the wrong things done before, so history repeats itself.)

Tabuyan points to Rizal as remaining optimistic about the future, as long as people look back and learn.

As the hero wrote in his play “El Consejo de los Dioses” (The Council of the Gods): “We enter the future carrying a piece of the past.” 

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