|THE FIL*AM PRESS
March 2006 Issue
AS I SEE IT
by Lope Lindio
Rizal Monument Is Our Very Own
The Houston Filipino American community should
welcome the plan of the Filipino American Council
of South Texas (FACOST), under the leadership of
chairman Lucy de Villa, to undertake the construction
of a pedestal for the bust of Dr. Jose Rizal, at
the dedicated grounds set aside for great men, at
the Garden Center of Hermann Park, located in the
general area of the world-famous Medical Center
in Houston, Texas.
This hollowed ground will soon become a reality
for Filipino-Americans and everyone who values freedom
or admires genius once this project is successfully
completed. Dr. Rizal will then be taking his deserving
place in the site reserved by the city of Houston
to honor certified heroes and great men and joining
the illustrious ranks of people like the peace apostle
Mahatma Gandhi, the Chilean liberator General Bernardo
Oâ€™Higgins, and a host of other
international luminaries recognized for their noble
and heroic deeds.
Filipino Americans should be fully aware of the
significance of this project. There is here a unique
opportunity to showcase their community and make
themselves be known by the kind of hero they keep.
He was what the late ambassador Leon Ma. Guerrero,
who wrote Rizalâ€™s biography,
The First Filipino, called â€œthe
very embodiment of the intelligentsia and the petite
bourgeoisie.â€ I would add that
in Rizal, Filipinos just donâ€™t
have a hero but also a mirror image of themselves.
He just took the extra mile to do better!
If their community can work together to make him
a Houston icon at the heroes park, the Filipino
Americans will be elevating their cultural profile
and reinforcing their credentials in one fell sweep
just by honoring the greatest man of their race.
Once people see and learn about Rizal, they will
look at them from a more informed perspective.
For true enough, Dr. Rizal was a hero equal to
anyone being so glorified anywhere in the world.
He was a man for all seasons who could be everyoneâ€™s
hero. Children, for example, will marvel at his
drawings, like the hare and the turtle cartoons,
and his having supposedly understood at a very tender
age the meaning of a mothâ€™s act
trying to burn itself and die in the flames of a
Athletes will idolize him for developing his small
and frail physique become tough and powerful through
bodybuilding, calisthenics, fencing and horse riding.
Aging mothers will look up to him for being a son
whose keen filial duty led him to become a doctor
and specialize in ophthalmology so that he could
save her from becoming blind. An eye doctor he was,
indeed, but never an â€œIâ€
Siblings and relatives could find no better brother
hero. He risked his life and personal safety asking
permission from the Spanish government to settle
his family and kin in British Borneo in order to
save them from further persecution by the powers
that be. Like Filipino expatriates of today, he
believed in moving to another land in search of
He could be a hero to writers and poets because
they are of kindred spirit. He could be frivolous
to write silly childhood adventures and melodramatic
romantic escapades, yet serious enough to pen well
thought out political, economic and social tomes
and complex novels, like, Noli Me Tangere and El
Filibusterismo. He also composed juvenile and great
poems, including Mi Ultimo Adios, which he wrote
on the eve of his martyrdom. Multilingual speakers
will have to reckon with Rizalâ€™s
reported ability to use 6 or 7 languages before
they could brag about being linguists. He spoke
not just his mother Tagalog tongue or the Castilian
idiom of his countryâ€™s rulers.
He also dabbled in learning Chinese and Japanese,
which must have been considered truly strange and
very esoteric in the old days.
He is a soul brother of artists because he was
obsessed with painting, drawing, carving, sculpting,
that even before the age of puberty, he made religious
images good enough to decorate the academic grounds
of the Ateneo de Manila. Instead of brooding and
lamenting his fate in humdrum exile, he passed the
time pursuing artistic works, farming, teaching,
designing and building his house in Dapitan, which
he landscaped with a relief map of the Philippines.
His art works impressed not only his professors,
the politically powerful, but also great households
and saloons in Europe where his talent was put to
work or to the test in an instant or at the whim
Readers who never miss buying the Mega Lotto are
in good company. Rizal was himself an aficionado,
betting in the world famous Spanish El Gordo lottery,
which is still popular to this day, and even in
raffles common in small Filipino towns. He never
hit it big until he was in exile in Dapitan where
he won a respectable amount of money in a raffle
that enabled him to buy landholdings and engage
in the buy and sale of abaca. This activity also
makes him a model for budding Filipino businessmen.
After all, he lamented while in Dapitan that everyone
was in business except the Filipinos.
Itâ€™s no secret that Rizal was
a ladiesâ€™ man but little has
been written that Rizal would have been a politician
if the illustrados had prevailed in their campaign
for political reforms. He dreamed of becoming a
legislator in the Cortes, the Spanish parliament,
where he thought he could expose the tyranny and
oppression by the friars and the suffering of the
natives in the Philippines.
Rizal was a great hero and selfless leader. But
he also showed a bit of the trait dogging his modern
compatriots. He got himself involved in a power
struggle for leadership of the Filipino colony in
Spain with the older Marcelo H. del Pilar! When
he lost in an election for the presidency, he did
not take his defeat gracefully at first that he
supposedly left Barcelona angry. But he later made
it up with him after nursing his bruised ego from
the pangs of defeat.
We can go on and on to show why Dr. Jose Rizal
was very much like us. Although a hero and a genius,
he was still craving the food that we like, practicing
the virtues in our homeland, and capable of doing
the follies that make us Filipinos all.
A monument to his greatness will also be a monument
of what we are.