ON DECEMBER 30, the Filipinos will once again commemorate the death of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our national hero. In his time, he was a revolutionary model together with Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo. Let us know Rizal better and the circumstances in his time.
Rizal obtained his education at Ateneo, University of Santo Tomas, and Universidad Central de Madrid. He was a doctor and an intellectual. He was an “ilustrado” (upper middle). Politically, he would be categorized as subversive but ideologically, he was liberal. His Zodiac sign is Gemini (June 19). He advocated for peaceful and legal form to change society.
He was affiliated with two organizations: Propaganda Movement and La Liga Filipina. He was a founding member of both organizations. His career highlights could be attributed to his two published books, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.” His tragic flow was when he called on the people to lay down their arms. He was for “reconciliation.” His tragic end… a few days later, he was executed for being culpable for the revolution.
Rizal was not just another martyr. He was an “ilustrado.” His execution marked a transgression into their illustrious ranks. Thus did the “ilustrados” who finally shifted their considerable social weight to the side of the revolutionary masses. This could be the turning point in the revolution of the “indios” against the colonizers.
In general, the “ilustrados” refused to support the revolution. They were in their comfort zone with the Spaniards. The “status quo” was not that bad for them. Rizal himself believed that the revolution was premature and bound to fail. (This made Andres Bonifacio mad, considering Rizal was his idol.) Nevertheless, the Spaniards accused Rizal of being its instigator and had him executed by musketry. The people gained another martyr, a powerful rallying symbol.
It’s a long story, but let’s make it short. The colonial masters governed from Manila, which Legaspi’s men forcibly got from the powerful Rajah Sulayman. Upon this ancient Islamic settlement, Spanish governors built a fortress city, Intramuros. It protected the natives and the Chinese by a moat, and from pirates and invaders by Fort Santiago.
At the center were great stone houses, amid domed churches and palatial government buildings, the highest officials of the land lived in leisure and luxury. The aristocratic lifestyle was supported by the immensely profitable government monopoly known as the Galleon Trade.
According to the “History of the Burgis”… At that time, there was no direct link between Spain and the Philippines. The galleons brought Chinese silks and porcelain to Europe via Mexico and European luxury goods and Mexican silver to China via Manila.
A successful journey bringing millions of pesos for the Spanish community was greeted with joyous peals of church bells and days of merrymaking. Thus preoccupied, colonial officials left the local economy underdeveloped for over 200 years. Enriching themselves were the friars, Spanish government officials, and the traders. They were all working for the Spanish Crown but they were intriguing each other… one wanted to corrupt the other.
The Spanish government officials were busy enjoying their loot. So, who were looking after the Christianized “indios”? The King’s best servants, the friars. They taught the “indios” obedience and humility, also long suffering just like Christ. The “indios” suffered because Christ suffered. Heaven is waiting for those who are “poor in spirit.”
The friars were absentee landlords. The land of the church were leased to tenants who were treated no better than serfs. Besides tilling the fields, the “indios” were made to build roads, churches and convents. The friars distinguished themselves as scholars, educators and scientists. Some got power greater than the governor general.
Rizal enumerated their corruption and abuses: sexual debauchery behind the mask of piety; violation of the vow of poverty; fraudulent acquisition of estates; cruel treatment of tenants; exclusion of the Filipino secular clergy from favored parishes; suppression of education, liberalism, and modernity; and racism and bigotry. They said that all the liberals will go to hell.
Religion was used to oppress the people. The friars encouraged lavish fiestas, donations of land and jewels to the Blessed Mother, women (especially beautiful) should be trained in good morals and spiritual penetration. Rizal saw all these but did not favor a revolution. He died for what he stood for. Hail Rizal!