Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jose Rizal: Intellectual evolution, not political revolution

There are some Filipinos to this day who do not accept Dr. Jose Rizal as our true national hero.They argue that those who fought on the battlefields against the Spaniards and then against the Americans were indisputably more worthwhile to be hailed as heroes.  They fail to understand the merits of Rizal’s intention -- to lead the country towards mental evolution through education, not stir up the raw emotions of the people and spur them to raise their machetes; thereby risking their precious lives in exchange for some nebulous and desultory political independence.

Nevertheless, the following sums up Dr. Jose Rizal’s character to the very end, and his vision for the overall well-being of his fellowmen and country -- as profiled by Margarita Ventinella-Hamada:

An Open Letter to the Author of Rizal, Josephine and the Jesuits
From: Margarita Ventenilla-Hamada

Dear Dr. R.M. Bernardo,

      I just finished reading your book, and I’d like to express my sincere appreciation for the time, money and energy you spent in rescuing Jose Rizal from the accepted and damaging lie that he retracted before his execution.  That it had to be you  a non-historian to do so, does not speak well at all of our historians.

      I never believed the lie about his retraction, even before I got hold of your book (Volume II).  I did not need the evidences you had fortuitously stumbled upon to convince me that Rizal did not retract, as he truly did not. What made me so sure he never retracted? A thorough re-reading of his works.  Nobody who can see and write so brilliantly and fearlessly about the evils of religion as he had done will take back what he said just like that. How can a highly spiritual person like him suddenly reduce himself to a mere sectarianist? A roaring lion or tiger cannot be reduced to a mewling kitten overnight. The retraction fiction is a fine example of priestcraft that boomeranged on these hounds of heaven as Leon Ma. Guerrero called them.  It confirmed everything that Rizal had written about religious villainy/chicanery and Filipino gullibility.

      However, hand in hand with my pleasure over your success in rescuing him from being the self-betrayer that the lie on his retraction portrayed him to be, is my dismay over your failure to see another lie about him:  that he was a bloody subversive/separatist. It bothers me that you have accepted this lie about him, without thinking the worse of Rizal, in the process. By proudly tagging on him the epithets subversive”and separatist”many times in your book, you have cooperated with most of our historians in diminishing this great man that you proudly rank amongst the world’s greatest. This is tantamount to putting back on him the label “self-betrayer” that your book intends to remove from his distinguished persona.

      Rizal’s Noli & Fili and his Ultimo Adios are not only anti-religion.  They are also anti-rebellion.  Kindly re-read them. Both religion and rebellion are evil because priests and rebels use love for God/love for country as excuse to murder their fellowmen. He could not be against religion and not be against rebellion, too. Indeed, how could Rizal whose high level of maturity that sets him apart from Filipinos then and now subscribe to either one of these evil kid stuff? How could someone who so valued human life and who devoted his whole life to uplift the Filipinos’ dignity suddenly advocate a revolution that will send these people he loved  to their untimely deaths without even the slightest prospect of winning?

       May I respectfully direct your attention to the 7th stanza’s last two lines of the Adios that you yourself had translated:

                       Yet if a bird on high descends to pose on my cross,
                       Allow the songbird to intone its canticles of peace.

      Now, will you please tell me how an advocate of an armed revolution that you suppose Rizal to be can wax poetic on PEACE in the same breath?

      His Ultimo Adios describes the rebels as “delirious others offering their lives, not doubting, not counting cost.” (Stanza 2)  The word he used,  “delirious” is hardly what someone who believes in their cause would use. It is derogatory. It paints them as “sick”.  His phrase, not doubting, not counting the cost” means that the rebels are reckless and gullible. Again, it is derogatory.  This description tallies with how he depicted Ibarra/Simoun and the men he instigated to take up arms in the Fili.  They were an unenlightened, unthinking, reckless mob whose leader, Ibarra/Simoun lets them down twice because of personal, not nationalistic motivations, and they in blind fury turn on him to kill him but he escapes and kills himself after  Father Florentino makes him see himself as the reckless fool that he is.

      In the same stanza cited above, he continues:

                          The places matter not: cypress, laurel or lily fields,
                          Scaffolding or open plain, combat or cruel martyrdom,
                         They are made the same if for it country and home ask.

       But did our home and country ask for it?  Rizal himself said that what our country asks for is the freedom to get enlightened so we can pursue human rights, through reforms, not independence via an armed revolution. Independence, he said will do us little good without the moral basis for it. Before pursuing independence, he said, let us educate ourselves first so we will deserve it when, after we have become mentally, emotionally and morally healthy and strong, it automatically comes to us without our having to shed blood for it.

      But because of the rebels delirium, Rizal, the advocate of peace must die, as he wrote in his Adios’ 3rd stanza. He became a casualty, among thousands of others, of this unenlightened recklessness he could not stop. He got run over by it. But he doesn’t mind dying, he says, in the 5th stanza, if his death will propel the country’s evolution:

                       Salud! Ah, how beautiful is dying propelling your flight,
                       Dying giving you life.
       It was the execution of Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (which was a result of the reckless Cavite mutiny, the false testimony of Saldua- a Filipino, and the disunity of the Cavite mutineers) that sparked in the 11-year old Rizal’s mind the realization that the Filipinos lack of enlightenment and national consciousness are the true cause of our sufferings. So now, Rizal hopes that his execution under similar circumstances would spark the same realization in his countrymen’s minds. This paradigm shift will usher self-renewal and evolution. Wouldn’t his death indeed be beautiful to have sparked this evolution, the twin of freedom?

      The Adios explicitly says in its 4th stanza that he has dreamed since his youth to deliver his country from suffering, to see his countrymen without tears, anxieties and without shame.  Nowhere in this poem does he say that political independence via an armed uprising was his idea of deliverance. Look at us now, 103 years after he penned that misunderstood poem: We are politically independent (courtesy of the guilt-ridden Americans, not the Katipunan that killed Rizal), yes, but, are we happy?  Have our anxieties, tears and shame disappeared from our brows, eyes and visage? You’ll agree that they have not. Shame on us until now. Time has proved all Rizal’s statements about the futility of independence correct.

      Rizal never wrote the words “Kill for your country’s independence!” in his Adios.  On the contrary, his about-to-depart soul cried for  Salud!” (Stanza 5)—meaning, Health! Life, not death!  He wishes health for his country that he had portrayed in his novels as deliriously sick with social cancer that only an evolution of the mind, not an armed revolution, can cure. He could easily have inserted the words, “Independence! Death to tyrants!, but he did not, because in his own words, an armed revolution is not just foolish and premature, it is criminal” and will only end in wholesale death and destruction. In different words, he said that the independence the separatists were ostensibly fighting for will not solve our problems if we remained as believers, not doubters, and  if we lack national consciousness. And may I repeat, he was right, as the present reality tells us.

      After exhorting his readers to pray for grieving mothers, widows, orphans and prisoners that the armed revolution had produced, he exhorts us in stanza 9, to pray for yourself for REDEMPTION” not for political independence.  Self-redemption means to finally grow up and be strong, to think, and not to believe, to live with dignity and not with fear, unlike the weak, immature characters he showed in his novels who, lacking in self-realization, became their own selves’ executioners. Please read Rizal’s novels again.  Then you will see what I saw: that Filipinos used the Spaniards and/or allowed the Spaniards to use them to kill their fellow-Filipinos. His novels were prophetic because he did not invent his characters.  They were the people he actually saw, lived amongst and interacted with. They were as real as the Filipinos in the Katipunan who killed one another instead of their proclaimed enemy, the Spaniards.  They were as real as the 30,000 Filipinos who helped Polavieja rout the Katipunan instead of the other way around. They were the prototypes of Pedro A. Paterno and Emilio Aguinaldo who sold the revolution to the enemy for P800,000.00.  Rizal himself was maliciously implicated by bloodthirsty Filipinos, who, by dint of our historians’ astigmatism have been passed off to us as heroes for us to emulate: Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, Pio Valenzuela, and Antonio Luna. They, not the Spaniards, were his real executioners. What is galling is that we were and still are told that they are heroes when in truth and in fact, they are no different from criminals that ought to be hanged. And now, you have ranked Rizal among them, by saying he is a subversive and separatist.

      His beloved country, he says in his Adios, is his “agony of agonies” (stanza 13) because it is a country of tyrants and slaves who use religion and false ideologies on patriotism to kill and enslave themselves. Please note that the tyrants in his novels were not just the Spaniards but the Filipinos: Lucas, who gathered men for an uprising and tagged Ibarra as the leader, the bystanders who pelted their innocent kababayans with stones as they were marched off to jail, the chief sacristan who stole Fray Salvi’s gold coins and beat Crispin to death, after accusing him of the theft, Consolacion, who flogged Sisa for a whim, the servants of Fathers Salvi and Camorra who shoved Sisa down the stairs and who beat and pushed old Selo when they inquired about the deaths of Crispin and Juli, the convict who whipped fellow-Filipino convicts, the  soldier who flogged Filipino suspects, the insurgents who wounded Ibarra/Simoun (their false deliverer), the yellowish man who tried to murder Ibarra during the laying of the cornerstone of his schoolhouse, Capitan Tiago and Victorina who hated themselves for being Filipino, Patrocinio who was willing to impoverish herself just to beat her kababayan and rival in their vulgar display of religious obsequiousness, the friar’s  lackey whom the friars used to usurp the land Tales had cleared and cultivated, the  court employees and clerks who mercilessly fleeced Tales when he sued the friars, the tulisanes who kidnapped their fellow-Filipinos for ransom, and many more.

       Rizal’s perception that we are tyrants and slaves holds true up to now.  We still brutalize one another here and abroad, long after the white colonists had left our shores because we did not listen to him when he repeatedly said, “With or without Spain we will be the same if not worse.””  We refused to heed his plea for evolution, not revolution.  We recklessly chased after political independence which is a loaded gun in our immature hands, instead of self-redemption through education.  Being a sick society, we could not tell education from certification, freedom from political independence,  patriots from delirious zealots, heroes from criminals, friends from foes, spirituality from religion.  We still could not tell treasure from trinket as we keep celebrating this trinket called independence while we trash the technology or treasure that will finally give us the evolution and thence the freedom Rizal had so yearned for.  So we still suffer at the hands of our own leaders, our own policemen and our own kababayans in spite of the fact that we already have independence and diplomas.

      Please do not dismiss Rizal’s final statement that he was never a traitor to Spain as another lie that the friars had concocted.  Have you forgotten that he volunteered his services as medical officer to the Spanish army in Cuba? This means that he loved Spain just as he loved the Philippines. Just before he was marched out to be shot, he wrote a letter to Blumentritt, his confidante, telling him, “I am innocent of the crime of rebellion.””  At the point of death, do you think he would lie to his dearest friend? Then, he expressed this statement most dramatically and most eloquently again, when he twisted his body to face the firing squad so he won’t die the way of traitors who are shot at the back. This information did not come from the friars who fabricated the lie about his retraction.  It came from an impartial source Andre Bellesort, a French journalist who learned about it from an eyewitness at Rizal’s public execution. Through body language, Rizal announced to the public that he wasn’t a traitor to Spain, that he never inspired the revolution, and that he never was its leader.

       Rizal wasn’t a traitor to Spain because he saw her not as our enemy but as our mother to whose civilization he owed his enlightenment.  Our enemy, Rizal said, is OURSELVES.  The chilling circumstances behind his tragic, unnecessary death, orchestrated by his unenlightened countrymen and the religious, plus the present-day scenario in his beloved Philippines prove that his marksmanship is excellent.

       Finally, let me quote from his Adios to vindicate him once and for all from the misconception that he had inspired and encouraged the uprising:

                    Clean note I’ll ever be, a vibrant tune in your ears,
                    In aroma light-rays colors, rumor, song or lament,
                    Constant I’ll be repeating the essentials of my faith.

         Clean note.  That means innocent, not guilty. Constant.  That means steadfast, unchanging, unwavering. He therefore could not have preached so earnestly against an armed revolution and then wavered, and changed his mind and endorsed it in the end, as your book declares. His faith is different from the rebels and the priests’. Their faith kills. Religion prohibits free thought and the exercise of reason, thereby killing human dignity. It therefore kills progress and freedom borne of this dignity. It even kills free-thinkers like Rizal, literally.  Zealots display their false patriotism in wars and revolutions. So the faith of these rebels, these zealots, kills. Rizal’s faith does not kill. His faith is in reason, which comes from God, in its full culturing and full exercise, not in tenets/beliefs and delirious recklessness. Thus he wrote in the 13th  stanza :

                   I  go where there are no slaves, oppressors, executioners,
                   Where faith does not kill, where he who reigns is God.

      And so, let’s believe Rizal, for goodness’ sake!  He died as a spiritually developed person, not a repentant believer, and he wasn’t and was never a bloody separatist!  Tyranny and Slavery, Religion and Wars go together, just as Spirituality and Self-realization/Evolution go together. They are the two ends of the same stick and so they always come in pairs. If Rizal retracted, he belongs to religion, and it follows that he also advocates an armed revolution.  But your book clearly exonerated him from belonging to the dark world of religion, so why say he was a subversive? He was not a religionist, but a highly evolved person, who knew what true spirituality is all about and practiced its morality well. He died clean, with nobody’s blood in his hands, and constant to his sterling principles to the end.

      We can only achieve Rizal’s dream of a healthy”society if we see religion and armed revolution as he saw them: as foils to enlightenment –which is the only means towards a mature, hence progressive, free society. I hope the upcoming third volume of your book will help enable our countrymen to see this so that your noble goal of plucking Rizal from the pit of ignominy he has been consigned to by our illustrious historians these past 103 years will be achieved one hundred, not just fifty percent.

      I hope, too that you will get to read my book, Swatting the Spanish Flies, which aims to remove Rizal from the stinking ranks of bloody separatists. These separatists pursued the independence they don’t deserve from an unenlightened, therefore false, sense of patriotism and failed. But we got independence due to the guilt-ridden Americans, which has hurt us more than helped us rise above our problems.  My book discusses these matters. It will come out, hopefully on Rizal’s death anniversary this year.

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About Margarita Ventenilla-Hamada:

I am an ardent admirer of Margarita Ventenilla-Hamada's accomplishments as both writer and author, as well as the founder and directress of Harvent Schools in Pangasinan.  She is, I truly believe, amongst our country's intrepid non-conformists much like Dr. Jose Rizal.

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Suggested reads:

Philippine Daily Inquirer:  No race for grades in this school


 Newspaper articles and essays by Margarita Ventinella-Hamada as featured on this blog:

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!


  1. Nothing against the greatness of Rizal but I'd rather have Andres Bonifacio as our National Hero.

  2. Not familiar with the history...but it was a very interesting read.

    1. One of the novels he wrote, "Noli Me Tangere," (Touch Me Not), was picked-up and published as paperback by Penguin Classics a few years back, Wanda. This book illustrates the ills/foibles of the Filipinos. Regrettably, many remain the same today.

  3. This was new information for me. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

    1. He was chosen by the American colonial administrators as the National Hero when they were assigning various national this and that. Unlike the other candidates for such position, Dr. Jose Rizal was more for polishing the peoples' intelligence instead of their emotions toward self-rule, which they were not ready at all. For this, many locals resented his being the "national hero."

  4. ABC Wednesday brings us facts we otherwise would not have been aware of! Thank you so much for taking the time for this.
    Denise ABC Team

    1. My pleasure, Denise. ABC Wednesday has very interesting, learned participants. It is indeed a joy to come up with smart weekly contributions. Many thanks, too!

  5. History and mystery make for interesting blogging....thanks for sharing your interests♫♪

    1. My pleasure! Yes, a dash of mystery adds distinct flavor to historical matters :)

  6. it takes all kinds to create a country- the revolutionaries and the evolutionaries
    ROG, ABC Wednesday team