Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Why I hate Jose Rizal

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Some Filipinos hate Jose Rizal. I am one of them.

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Reasons vary. For some, Rizal was too much a part of the bourgeoisie to soil his hands with blood and gunpowder. Others stress he was a lackey of the Americans, a “safe” choice for a Filipino national hero all because his image as a writer fit into their “democratic” and “savior of the world” molds, unlike the temperamental and fiery insurrecto Andres Bonifacio.

Likewise, there are those who insist that Rizal’s refusal to be rescued from his prison in Dapitan and to take part in the revolution, regardless of Bonifacio’s prodding via Pio Valenzuela, did much to reveal Rizal’s “true” intentions: assimilation into the Spanish government rather than complete and utter independence from the colonizers.

To many, Rizal was a traitorous pencil pusher, a self-willed Ivory Tower recalcitrant too soft for a country hankering for independence.

Duwag. Plain and simple.

As for my reason, I hate Dr. Jose Rizal because he was right in refusing to direct a premature bloody revolution.

Notice that I didn’t say he was against the revolution.

On the night Pio Alejandrino Valenzuela paid Rizal a visit in Dapitan, and there expressed word of the Katipunan’s plans to rescue him, with additional revelation that the Katipunan’s revolution might kick off prematurely despite the lack of arms, Rizal said:

“This I do not approve. A revolution without arms should never be started against an armed nation. Its consequences will be fatal and disastrous to the country. The Filipinos will necessarily have to lose owing to lack of arms” (Taken from “My Conference with Dr. Jose Rizal in Dapitan,” which forms part of the “Memoirs of the Katipunan and the Philippine Revolution” by Dr. Pio A. Valenzuela, http://j-rizal.blogspot.com/2007/04/dr-pio-valenzuelas-conference-with-dr.html).

Pio Valenzuela

In the same memoir, Pio Valenzuela offers us a glimpse into both their exchanges:

RIZAL.—Tell our countrymen that, at the same time that we are preparing for a war against Spain, I desire to see a college established in Japan which will be converted later into a university for Filipino youths. I shall be greatly pleased to be the director of said college.

VALENZUELA.—I shall bear in mind all what you say and counsel, but I believe you would rather direct the revolution than manage the college.

RIZAL.—I am ready for both.

VALENZUELA.—As soon as we have arms and munitions we shall try to take you out of Dapitan before the revolution starts in order that the Spaniards may not get you and shoot you.

RIZAL.—As soon as you obtain arms, start the war against Spain right away; do not bother about me for I will know how to get out of here by any craft with the help of the Moros. When it comes to the redemption of the country, you must not look behind for just one man.

VALENZUELA.—If the revolution breaks out before schedule and you are still in Dapitan, the Spaniards will hold you and have you shot.

RIZAL.—To die and conquer is pleasant; but to die and be conquered is painful.

Historian Teodoro Agoncillo, in Chapter 10 of his book “Revolt of the Masses” published by the U.P. Press in 1956, made a startling revelation regarding this account:

“It has been customary to cite Dr. Valenzuela’s 1896 testimony, as printed in Archivo, Vol. III, to the effect that Bonifacio, upon hearing that Dr. Rizal objected to the proposed uprising without the necessary arms, exclaimed: “Lintik! Where did he read that in order to have a revolution there must be arms?” In that testimony, it was also pointed out that Bonifacio insulted Dr. Rizal behind his back and went so far as to call the latter a coward. When interviewed on this particular account, Dr. Valenzuela said: “No such thing ever occurred. In fact, TO PROTECT RIZAL I purposely told the investigator that I was not even allowed by the hero to step into his house upon knowing the purpose of my visit to Dapitan. I also reported Dr. Rizal as having said: “No! No! No! And a thousand no!” Even so, the Spanish prosecutor during Rizal’s trial did not make my statement public – a fact which showed the authorities were bent on liquidating Rizal at all cost. As to Bonifacio’s outburst, I can say that, too, was my own invention, obviously TO PROTECT DR. RIZAL BY MAKING HIM APPEAR VERY MUCH AGAINST THE REVOLUTION. The truth is that Bonifacio saw the logic and wisdom of Dr. Rizal. Bonifacio himself knew that we lacked arms for the projected uprising, and so he instructed me to order some two thousand bolos, which I immediately complied with. I ordered 1,000 bolos from the men in Saluysoy, Maykawayan, Bulakan and another 1,000 from Binakayan, Cawit, Cavite.”

I’m no historian. For all we know this could all be bogus. To whet my curiosity, I asked a friend, a respected historian, if we can trust the account. He said, yes, thanks to the mentioned source. So, if this account of the conversation between Jose Rizal and Pio Valenzuela holds true, then there is much to say about some people’s prejudicial hatred for Rizal.

For Rizal, apparently, a revolution waged prematurely, without sufficient weapons at their disposal, would be a bloody revolution—much of it their own. To lose and be conquered yet again wasn’t an option. To lose the fight—their one chance at beating the odds—would crush whatever confidence was left in the Filipino to stage an uprising.

Rizal knew, on the other hand, that this struggle would drive the Spanish conquistadores crazy, what with another revolution in Cuba siphoning much of Spain’s war resources at the time.

Desperate to hold on to its colonies, Spain’s monarchy could unleash a violent reprisal the likes of which would render the resistance broken and, later, obsolete. Filipinos had one chance at battling the odds. To lose now was to douse the fire of the resistance for all time.

Forced to wage an armed uprising shortly after having been discovered by the Spanish authorities, Andres Bonifacio’s revolution had little choice but to commence on August 1896. Four months later, Rizal was executed in Bagumbayan via firing squad.

Pio Valenzuela knew the authorities would come for them sooner than later, thus he reiterated to Rizal the possibility of staging a premature rebellion.

No, Rizal wasn’t against the revolution, if at all Pio Valenzuela’s account of their conversation proves true. In addition to Valenzuela’s memoirs, all of Rizal’s writings point to this fact.

My own take on the matter is this: Rizal’s refusal to direct the revolution comes as a lesson in the art of Rizalian struggle: to never look at one person as the source of the light and the fire. To him, heart and mind must figure in the battle for our freedom. To charge with one and dispense with the other is suicide.

Who will build and lead the republic if all were ignorant, or worse, dead because of ignorance? Because all they had to go on was rage?

To belatedly celebrate Bonifacio’s 155th birth anniversary, allow me to say it’s cool to want to be the revolutionary at a time when tyranny is alive and well in our country. It’s good to emulate Bonifacio’s courage in the thick of a dictator’s murderous rampage.

However, remember this: no Filipino can be an Andres Bonifacio without Jose Rizal. They formed the revolution’s duality of means and singularity of purpose. Bonifacio himself acknowledged, even hailed, Rizal’s contribution to his revolution.

To hand over to Rizal the job of directing the revolution, what did it mean for Bonifacio, the leader and Supremo of the Katipunan? “Command me and my men, and we will go.” That’s about the gist of it. Bonifacio was willing to put his life and the lives of his Katipuneros in the hands of Rizal.

But why would Rizal refuse such an honor? For him, perhaps,there was more to waging a revolution than meets the eye. Revolution, for Rizal, is the enterprise of the individual bonding with the many, each individual fire melding and fusing to form a single huge conflagration. For it to flourish, no man must hold the torch alone.

“When it comes to the redemption of the country, you must not look behind for just one man.”

To add, who in his right mind would agree to leading a poorly-clad, worse, poorly armed army of blue-collar workers to their doom? Why don’t you for once put yourselves in Rizal’s shoes?

Likewise, it would be naive to say that Rizal wasn’t aware of Bonifacio’s ability—both mentally and physically—to wage war against Spain, if only weapons were at hand.

And this, in particular, is why I hate Rizal: that his open refusal to direct the uprising was but a smokescreen to deflect his true intentions—to be the spark of the revolution.

He was, and still is, too good for us. G

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