essay about jose rizal, the philippine national hero
Current events to think about while reading:
Saudi Arabia & Iran
The countless black men gunned down by police
Widespread social exclusion
The purpose of this lecture series is to reignite Filipino courage, perseverance, and resilience. It is but one story, out of many, that our parish may tell as a community to investigate together what brings us together and what divides us. Jose Rizal, the Philippine national hero is the story through which all Filipinos of the diaspora are united. My parents tell me they studied Rizal’s two books Noli me tangere and El Filibisterismodeeply in school and internalized his story of liberation against the Spanish.
As a Filipino-Canadian educated entirely in Canada, I have no idea what the Philippines is or what it means. I went to Alexander Stirling Public School then to West Hill, educated about Canadian history and the old dead white man’s canon. I didn’t know where I came from and the opportunities at school did not allow for such exploration. After I was afflicted with anxiety and depression just two years ago, I committed myself to the task of figuring out who I was, where I came from, and was my lack of concrete knowledge in this subject contributing to my anxiety and depression?
Something I didn’t know growing up was that Filipino kids grow up pretty much the same. At least the ones my age, our parents immigrated from the Philippines, they had kids, the grandparents cared for the kids while the parents worked. The kid went to school, maybe they had swimming lessons, piano lessons, then kid goes to elementary school and high school during this time. They may go off to college or university, and in my particular case, I went off to graduate school. But do you see how most Filipino kids can fall into this scheme? Even most kids sitting in this parish today could relate to this story.
I was speaking to my grandmother about Jose Rizal. She knew her stuff. She was throwing down facts and correct my misconceptions like it was her job. I noticed in that that she had a very comprehensive knowledge bank about Jose Rizal that she says that she studied in school. My parents also had a similar breadth of knowledge. Both parties bemoan their forgetfulness of little details since it has been a long time since they had actively studied Rizal. Canadian students don’t have this. We don’t have a hero that we all look up to. We don’t have a successful public person that we can look up to? And that’s not to say that they’re not out there. They’re out there for sure. But we don’t see them. Why don’t we see them?
As a person of colour, it is obviously impossible to see my story and relate to the mainstream media that we consume. I’m not wealthy, I’m not a secret agent, and I’m a person of colour. Mainstream media is made up almost entirely of white stories and tropes. I don’t have representation in media. And if I do, the Asian is usually the butt of the joke or some degenerate that they play tricks on. Not a healthy psychological environment for a developing child.
With all of this potential for identity confusion, how does a Filipino-Canadian boy reconnect to his roots in order to better connect with his reality? This lecture series is a personal research project I am conducting to learn about the history of my people, where we came from, and where we went, and are going.
Could Jose Rizal’s story parallel the story of Jesus Christ. Through investigating each story, could we find the way of being that tie all of us together in humanity. Let’s answer a question. Was Christ a self or did he become a self? He was born, he grew up, then he started performing miracles. We could maybe say that his brain was undergoing a psychological event. He was growing up, he was teaching, he was curing people, he was further the philosophical religious discourse. He was being himself and people were documenting it. If we studied how Christ became himself, would we then not have a good base of knowledge to try to explore how to become selves ourselves?
One way to explore being yourself is through music. I want to share with you a song. A Visayan folk song called Dandansoy. It is about a boy named Dandansoy who is yearning for home. He informs his friends, if you look for me, just look toward my home.
Dandansoy, bayan ta ikaw Dandansoy, I’d like to leave you,
Pauli ako sa payaw I’m going back home to Payao.
Ugaling kung ikaw hidlawon Though if you year for me,
Ang payaw imo lang lantawon Just look towards Payao.
I saw this folk song as sheet music around my house as a child. I liked the way the name looked. Dandansoy. Ah, how satisfying, I would say.
Rizal and Christ are both two people who were executed for speaking their mind. In Rizal’s case, he spoke against the Spanish monastic order, and was killed by firing squad. There is a rumour that when he was forced to be shot in the back, he turned around at the last minute to look his killer in the eye. In the case of Jesus Christ, he brought the word of God, and overwhelmed the skepticism of those who doubted him. In Christ’s case, malevolence was more powerful than the son of God.
I research oppression. I get my hands on anything I can read so that I can investigate further just how deep oppression can be found in our hearts, our minds, and in our institutions. My heart is pained whenever I read about the Soviet gulags or about the Nazi concentration camps. My ache and body aches when I examine the course of history and wince at every wrong turn that the human race has taken in the past. I’m horrified. How could another human do that? How could another me do that? This is often the central question to my research.
I’m a musician. I trained as a classical musician at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario and Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland & Labrador. Though my university degree was an intense regiment of musical training, we learned how to share music with one another. We learned how to recognize that magical quality that music has. In graduate school, I had a professor who was extracting from indigenous educational practices how we could share music so that it is a democratic opportunity. Classical music.
I also do health research. The most pressing concern of mine in the health research is that there are so many distractions and barriers in our society today that hinders us from becoming fully ourselves. These forces do not only make it difficult, it straight up tries to stop you, and destroy you. It is a neurological trope that I study very deeply, along with other health professionals also trying to address this problem. It’s called malevolence. It’s a force, an evil force, that lurks in the back ground of our minds and in reality. It’s a natural force of evil that is pinned against the natural force of love, that, for example, our parish, and all parishes stand for. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around, but that’s the very nature of the concern. People don’t know these things because we were never taught these things, and now it has negative health consequences. Anxiety and depression is what I’ve been struggling with whole life, in fighting this force. I didn’t know I was fighting malevolence. I thought I was just having a hard time, and I was having a hard time because I didn’t think I was good enough. I was taught to think this way about myself in school. School is so high pressure that it’s a miracle if you don’t spontaneously combust. That’s what we kids were subjected to everyday, and it seems that it can manifest in at least one person as a severe mental illness.
How do we come together, repair the rifts in our society, mend the wound left behind from malevolence? First we have to recognize the problem. Do you suffer from anxiety? Do you know how to identify anxiety? Do you have trouble sleeping? Why? Have you tried dream analysis? Can your family be better? Can you be better? Are you currently not in a good position? How do you get yourself to the best position?
Jose Rizal said in Noli me tangere, “my medication is your medication. If you have an ailment, the medication for it will also be relevant to me, because we have the same ailment, because we are both Filipino.” He also said, “The best, and highest, Filipino word, is the world that aims us toward [the freedom of our homeland but] freedom nonetheless.
Dandansoyfrom Songs & Rhymes From Philippines. Mama Lisa’s World: International Music & Culture. Retrieved from https://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=3216