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Houston Texas
March 2006 Issue

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 O’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 Rizal’s biography, The First Filipino, called “the very embodiment of the intelligentsia and the petite bourgeoisie.” I would add that in Rizal, Filipinos just don’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 everyone’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 moth’s act trying to burn itself and die in the flames of a reading lamp.

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 “I” specialist.

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 opportunities.

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 Rizal’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 country’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 of fancy.

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.

It’s no secret that Rizal was a ladies’ 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.


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