Manila Philippines (June 19, 2011) - The Jose Rizal mystique lives on in a nation that for long was in need of heroes. Filipinos learning to find the hero in themselves celebrate today the 150th birthday of Dr. Jose Rizal,the national hero of the Philippines amid a rekindled patriotic fervor.
Rizal was born in Calamba on June 19, 1861 and was executed in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) on Dec. 30, 1896 by the Spanish colonialists.
People from different walks of life exult the facet in the hero's life that they can identify with - what with Rizal's many talents and qualities! He was a physician, environmentalist, development communicator, land surveyor,linguist, farmer, scientist, zoologist, patriot, a writer-poet and what have you.
The newly resurgent Philippine National Railways (PNR) is poised to benefit from renewed interest in the life of the national hero bolstered by accounts that Rizal frequently rode the trains, then operated by PNR's forerunner Ferrocaril de Manila-Dagupan, to visit his Maria Clara, his chilhood sweetheart Leonor Rivera, who lived up north. Jun Ragragio, PNR's new manager related Rizal’s fondness for riding trains as he visited co-patriots in Bulacan, Pampanga and Tarlac while campaigning for support for his La Liga Filipina.
The old railroad station in Barangay Sto. Niño in San Fernando, Pampanga is in the list to be visited under Lakbay Jose Rizal@150, which was launched to commemorate the 150th birthday of national hero Jose Rizal.
It is expected to unravel not only unknown episodes in his life, but also the heroism of Kapampangans.
In June 1892, Rizal visited known Kapampangans in San Fernando to boost support for La Liga Filipina, which he founded in the same year in Tondo, Manila.
The organization aimed to unite the whole archipelago into a strong nation and sought various reforms from the Spanish government, among other objectives.
“He also visited Bacolor and what happened afterwards should downplay some accusations that Kapampangans were not involved in the initial stages of the Philippine Revolution toward independence from Spanish rule,” regional tourism director Ronnie Tiotuico told The STAR.
Lakbay Jose Rizal@150 is a joint project of the Department of Tourism, the National Parks Development Committee, Heritage Conservation Society, the NHCP, Intramuros Administration, and Cebu Pacific. It encourages knowledge of Rizal by including tourism itineraries in the country which had historical links to the national hero.
Quoting historian Dr. Evangeline Lacson, Tiotuico said Rizal’s trip to San Fernando, then a small town, “played a major role in the history of the Philippine Revolution.”
One of the houses Rizal visited was the Hilario residence in San Juan, San Fernando, where Rizal met with brothers Cecilio and Tiburcio, grandfather of Lacson.
Lacson’s sister, former ambassador Rafaelita Soriano, in her book “Shaft of Light,” said Rizal did not know the Hilario brothers and first heard about them from a common friend - Valentin Ventura, Rizal’s companion in Spain.
San Fernando folk were reportedly thrilled by Rizal’s visit and went to see him at the Hilario residence, where the hero distributed pamphlets and booklets on La Liga Filipina.
On his way back to Manila, Rizal passed by Bacolor town to visit acquaintances surnamed Malig and Joven in their residences. These residences used to be preserved, but were among those that vanished in lahar flows after Mt. Pinatubo exploded in 1991, Soriano recalled in her book.
Rizal’s visit led to raids by Spaniards who found Rizal’s La Liga pamphlets in the Hilario residence. Arrests were made while others were either exiled or deported.
Lacson said one of those who had met with Rizal, Balbino Ventura, died on the same night of his arrest. He was the brother of Valentin and father of Honorio Ventura, founder of Asia’s oldest vocational school called Don Ventura College of Arts and Trades in Bacolor.
The house of the Hilarios and others suspected of having hosted Rizal were burned down by the Guardia Civil.
Meanwhile, Soriano said the Hilario brothers were exiled to remote areas of the country. Others such as Maximino Hizon, Mamerto Lacsamana and Felix David were exiled to Jolo and Mariano Alejandrino to the Cordilleras.
Lacson said many noted Kapampangans were not able to participate in the initial stages of the revolution because of this, but that other Kapampangans had nevertheless joined the revolutionary forces.
The following July, Rizal was exiled to Dapitan. La Liga Filipina became inactive until, through the efforts of Domingo Franco and Andres Bonifacio, it was reorganized with Apolinario Mabini as secretary of the Supreme Council.
While the houses Rizal visited in San Fernando and Bacolor no longer exist, Lakbay Jose Rizal@150 has cited the old railway station in San Fernando as part of the historical itinerary.
Tiotuico said Governor-General Eulogio Despujol and Manila Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda inaugurated the San Fernando railroad station, together with the Bagbag-Mabalacat stretch of the Manila-Dagupan railroad, on Feb. 23, 1892.
“On June 27 of the same year, Rizal alighted from a train there for his overnight visit to gain support for La Liga,” he said.
Tourism Secretary Albert Lim has expressed full support for the Rizal project.
“Every Filipino should avail of this chance to get to know our national hero better, to learn from his experiences, and to appreciate the many significant places in his life,” he said.
“Our foreign visitors are welcome to participate and share our pride. With increased tourist traffic to these areas, the project helps spread the economic benefits to the host communities.”
Rizal had many talents that different people can identify with.
Development communicators will be proud to know that national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was a practitioner of their profession.
Those in information dissemination and training will also be pleased to learn that he was also an agricultural extensionist.
Rizal was also a land surveyor.
These are some of the little known facts about the national hero.
Before enrolling at the Central University in Madrid, Spain, Rizal earned a Bachelor of Agriculture degree from Ateneo Municipal.
And while in exile in Dapitan (now a city in Zamboanga del Norte) he undertook extension work, organizing the community’s first association of farmers to improve their farm produce and to help them find better markets.
Rizal practiced development communication, gathering vital information and sharing these with farmers so they could improve their productivity. At one time, he sold abaca fiber in Manila to study its prices.
Rizal also was a holder of a degree in Land Surveying, which helped him understand land use.
A scion of a landed family, he understood large-scale farming. Such background came in handy when he was exiled in the first half of the 1890s.
During the early part of his exile, Rizal acquired land from the Spanish government for his agricultural activities. Not satisfied with his small farm, he procured 16 hectares more of neglected land from various owners.
In just half a year, he had planted about 5,000 pineapples and 1,400 coffee and 200 cacao trees on his farm. Later, he bought more land which he planted to abaca and corn.
“The Philippines of Rizal’s time was agricultural and he knew that if his country were to prosper economically, idle lands must be rapidly transformed into productive ones,” states a report titled “Rizal’s Contribution to Science and Technology” which delved about his life as a farmer.
Rizal was also known as a natural scientist and played a key role in the identification of the Philippine snail that harbors the parasite that causes schistosomiasis, a deadly disease plaguing some areas in Eastern Visayas even to this day.
The snail was scientifically named Oncomelania cuadrasi, after a certain Mr. Cuadrasi to whom Rizal sent his specimens of insects and animals for identification.
Cuadrasi was a known naturalist in Manila and the origin of the Philippine snail was Dapitan.
“Dr. Rizal was not a scientist by accident,” states the report attributed to the Los Baños-based Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD).
PCARRD is DOST’s sectoral planning body that coordinates, evaluates, and monitors agriculture, forestry, and natural resources R&D in the country.
Rizal intended to use education and science and technology to lift the Filipinos from ignorance and poverty, the report said.
It cites his letter to his Austrian friend Prof. Ferdinand Blumentritt in 1880 which stated: “I have a big library. I shall have a house built on a hill. Then I shall dedicate myself to the sciences.”
PCARRD’s report further notes: “Under modern judgment, what he did in Dapitan turned out to be practical expressions of integrated development programs in agriculture, ecology, and public health.”
Also while in exile in Dapitan, Rizal reestablished connections with his scientist-friends.
He submitted specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, and other invertebrates to the Dresden Museum.
For this, he was recognized as a zoologist.
A frog (Rachophorus rizali), a beetle (Apogonia rizali), and a flying lizard (Draco rizali) were named in his honor.
He also sent shells to Dr. A.B. Meyer, director of the Royal Saxony Ethnographical Institute, in exchange for much-needed books.
The PCARRD report further notes: “Rizal was a respected member of the Anthropological and Ethnological Society of Berlin and the Geographic Society of Berlin. This membership in science organizations also provided the line of exchange of information that supported Dr. Rizal’s medical practice and the technological need of his varied projects.”
Leaders of the House of Representatives called on the country’s political leaders and the youth to take a page from Rizal to help the nation address its various economic and security challenges.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday ordinary Filipinos can be heroes, and the nation as a whole can confront various economic, political and security challenges facing the country today if Rizal is emulated.
“His honest and incisive critique of the ills of society stimulated national reflection, emboldened the reform movement, and ultimately inspired a revolution for independence,” he said.
“His perseverance and will, undeterred even in the most oppressive and difficult of circumstances, remind us that the achievement of great causes is made possible by ordinary people who are willing to make extraordinary sacrifices.”
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III said the nation’s remembrance of the life and works of Rizal on his 150th birthday “should also remind national leaders that patriotism and love of country can be emulated in dealing with the Spratlys issue.”
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said Filipinos must relive the principles for which Rizal fought and died for to bail themselves from poverty.
“I call upon the youth to lead in espousing on a sustained basis Rizal’s vision of the country where there are no slaves of poverty and hopelessness,” he said.
Ang Kasangga sa Kaunlaran Rep. Teodorico Haresco said, “Rizal’s ideals of one country free from tyranny should live stronger than ever... The Filipinos today are blessed with a sincere and honest President who embodies Rizal’s nobility of purpose.”
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said it is time to look back on Rizal’s life and be inspired by his heroic deeds.
“It doesn’t take a hero to practice patriotism,” he said. “All you have to do is live the life of Rizal.”
Sen. Loren Legarda also called on all Filipinos to emulate Rizal, not only for his patriotism but also his efforts to care for the environment.
Legarda said the little known fact about Rizal being a “hero of the environment” was recently highlighted by the EcoWaste Coalition, which cited instances of the national hero’s life in exile in Dapitan where he carried out various projects that were beneficial to both the environment and the people’s health.
While in Dapitan, Rizal was said to have carried out various projects such as the construction of an aqueduct that provided people with clean water, draining of swamps to avoid being breeding places of mosquitoes, use of coconut oil lamps to light up streets,beautification of the town plaza and planting of trees in different parts of the town.
“Most of us know Dr. Jose Rizal as the highly educated hero who disclosed the system of colonial rule in the Philippines and prompted Filipinos to fight for their freedom through his notable books Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Little did we know about his environmental advocacies that are worth emulating,” she said.
Environmentalists honor Dr. Jose Rizal as “hero for the environment” as the nation celebrates his 150th birthday.
The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of over 125 public interest groups, bestowed the title on Rizal, citing his deep concern and love for Mother Earth and her people.
“We pay homage to our national hero Jose Rizal for his keen devotion to improving community health and environment long before the Constitution formally committed to promoting and protecting the health and environmental rights of the people,” Roy Alvarez, president of EcoWaste Coalition, said in a statement.
“We can find in Rizal the qualities and skills of an authentic Filipino who treasures our natural patrimony and uses the earth’s resources for the health and well-being of the people,” he said.
As “the greatest product of the Philippines,” in the words of his best friend professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal, an animal and plant lover, also excelled in many fields of environmental work being an agriculturist, botanist, conchologist, horticulturist, ichthyologist, sanitary engineer and zoologist.
The EcoWaste Coalition specifically pointed to Rizal’s vibrant life as a political exile from 1892 to 1896 in the town of Dapitan, now a thriving city with scenic beaches and hills in the province of Zamboanga del Norte.
“Also, as a farmer, he planted and cared for hundreds of trees in Dapitan, including a very old dao tree that is still standing in the city, a living testament of Rizal’s passion for nature,” Alvarez said.
Environmentalists are against the release of 150 balloons to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal.
The EcoWaste Coalition said balloons that can land in Manila Bay “may last many months with potentially harmful consequences.”
“A long list of marine creatures have been reported with balloons in their stomachs,” the coalition said.
The Instituto Cervantes, which is promoting the teaching, study and use of Spanish as a second language, was planning to release Saturday 150 balloons with excerpts from a Rizal’s poem inside, coinciding with the celebration of the International Spanish Day but called it off.
The EcoWaste Coalition lauded the Institute after it decided not to push through with the plan.
As the 78 Instituto Cervantes Centers all over the world kicked off its annual El Dia E (Spanish Language Day), the Philippines celebrated it with a chorale reading of ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ (The Last Farewell) written by Rizal.
Some 150 people gathered at the Instituto Cervantes (IC) Center yesterday to pay tribute to the country’s national hero by reading his famous poem Mi Ultimo Adios in the original Spanish.
IC director Jose Rodriguez led the chorale reading, the center’s main activity in connection with its festive celebration of the third El Dia del E.
“Today we pay tribute to Rizal’s 150th anniversary. Mi Ultimo Adios is really a very touching poem... This is our tribute not only to perhaps one of the most influential Filipinos of all time, but also to one of the most prolific writers since the Fil-Hispanic literature,” said Rodriguez.
Rizal wrote the poem on the eve of his execution on Dec. 30, 1896.
Wearing black shirts with the words “Voy donde no hay esclavo verdugas ni
opresores (I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen),” the chorale participants, who included representatives of the Spanish-speaking diplomatic corps, students from their partner schools, and curious public, read Rizal’s famous work.
One of the participants was Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, who said his participation in the chorale reading was his way of giving honor to the Filipino hero.
“When I was in high school, we were reading this but I have never read the poem as a whole. Reading it, it had a different tone but then of course we already know the message in English or Pilipino. But this is also a good experience because at least you would know how Rizal thinks, so it’s good to read it in its original language,” he said.
As one of the highlights of today's celebration, President Aquino will unveil the world’s tallest statue of Dr. Jose Rizal in the national hero’s hometown, Calamba Laguna.
Standing from a pedestal equivalent to a four-story high edifice, the statue measures 22 feet.
The Rizal statue in Calamba was constructed in the middle of a 6.7-hectare lot acquired by the city government.
The 6.7-hectare Tinahuyan park just opposite and outside the Calamba City Hall will be the permanent home of Rizal’s tallest statue.
Calamba City spokesman Peter Capitan said the 22-foot Rizal statue can be construed to represent the 22 major languages that Rizal fluently spoke, while the 15 steps at its base can represent the 15th position of Aquino in the presidency.
Laguna police director Senior Superintendent Gilbert Cruz said a special group led by the Calamba police chief will handle the security measures during the unveiling of the statue.
Additional policemen will also be deployed to increase police visibility and to manage traffic and maintain peace and order.
Ambulances, doctors, and first aid volunteers, mobile patrols, non-civic organizations and radio volunteers will be on standby for any emergency as they expect thousands of people to witness the event, Cruz said.
A similar event took place in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya yesterday as a historical marker for the Rizal shrine and statue was also unveiled.
Among the dignitaries who graced the unveiling of the Rizal marker were Emelita Almosara, deputy executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and Malou Villaroman, a great grandniece of the national hero.
Former lawmaker Rodolfo Agbayani, who was present at the event, said the NHCP gave due recognition to the shrine built by Jordanian-born Mahmoud Asfour, a naturalized Filipino.
“The NHCP gave formal recognition of the shrine with the management still remaining with Mr. Asfour,” he said.
The multimillion-peso Rizal shrine was conceptualized and constructed during Agbayani’s 12-year administration as governor of Nueva Vizcaya.
The Rizal shrine, touted to be the world’s largest, is nestled along a hill at the outskirts of Barangay Casat.
Made of bronze and weighing some 2.5 tons, including its base, the statue lies imposingly atop Casat hill, overlooking the expanse of fields here and in neighboring Solano town.
The Rizal shrine and statue, which were formally inaugurated in July 2009 by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who himself hails from the region, and Bayombong Bishop Ramon Villena, have become one of the province’s major tourist destinations.
The shrine also features the bronze but smaller busts of other Filipino heroes, among them Andres Bonifacio, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Gen. Antonio Luna, Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, Emilio Jacinto, Apolinario Mabini, Rajah Soliman, and Gabriela Silang.
Rizal's 150th birthday falls within the Arab Spring when oppressed people have now learned to conquer their fears and give up their lives for democracy, dignity and freedom - a sacrifice Rizal did more than 100 years ago. By his example, Rizal taught the Filipinos that that these ideals are worth dying for, so they were ready to stand, body and soul, against the likes of Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
"There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves," a quote from Rizal's Noli Mi Tangere, has served as a wake up call for Filipinos in the past and shall acquire new significance as the nation tries to stengthen its democratic institutions and solve the problem of social inequities, corruption, poverty and dogmatism.
The Filipino nation has indeed so much to thank Dr. Jose Rizal for. (from philstar.com)