By Ariem V. Cinco
THE intertwining paradox of death and birth finds profound meaning and cohesion when collocated with the name Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Realonda, whose execution in Bagumbayan on December 30, 1896 marked the fateful ending of a 35-year-old illustrious life and the awakening of the Filipino psyche.
Today, as we gather to memorialize the life and legacy of Jose Rizal, our National Hero among others, let us delve into a narrative that transcends mere historical milestones. His death, as significant as his birth, stands not only as a chapter in our nation's past but as an enduring source of inspiration. It served as a catalyst, inspiring a nation's rebirth—a liberation from the shackles of colonial subjugation. His publicly staged death stands as a testament to courage, not fear; to patriotism, not ignominy; and a celebration of honor in the face of adversity, not cowardice. Rizal's sacrifice brought overwhelming catharsis to the Philippines, uniting its people into one nation. His was a life that inspired the Filipino nation.
As we reflect on this poignant moment in history, let us unravel some invaluable lessons of Rizal's life—lessons that extend far beyond the pages of the past and find resonance in the challenges and triumphs of our modern times. His story is not just a historical account; it is a living testament to principles that can guide us in our pursuit of efficiency, effectiveness, and spirituality in the workplace.
His unwavering commitment to helping others without expecting anything in return serves as a moving reminder in our professional lives. "He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination," he aptly noted. In the workplace, fostering a culture of mutual support and collaboration, without the expectation of immediate reciprocation, creates a harmonious environment conducive to collective success. Indeed, he has foreseen that cooperation and collaboration, not competition, are the key to effectiveness.
Rizal's emphasis on the importance of education is another lesson we must weave into our professional tapestry. In our workplaces, recognizing that continual learning is the cornerstone of progress ensures that we stay agile and relevant in an ever-evolving landscape. We are not old to learn new technology, new skills, and new perspectives. Others do not change because they refuse to learn.
He detested violence, and this resonates in our professional ethos. Violence is not an alternative; conflicts are better resolved through respectful dialogues and understanding. In the face of workplace challenges, fostering a culture of open communication and conflict resolution devoid of hostility contributes to a healthier and more productive environment. Professional jealousy, envy, and gossips should not foster at work as these disrupt team dynamics, and undermine organizational performance. Personal interests should never prevail over our genuine intent for public service.
Focusing on our goal was a principle dear to Rizal's heart. "The man who does not know where he is going is condemned to remain where he is," he opined. In our workplaces, maintaining a clear vision and directing our efforts toward defined goals is key to achieving sustainable success. And our goal should not only be about being present for the sake of compliance and attendance – a perfect Daily Time Record (DTR). It is imperative that we ask what we have done that makes our existence in the office worth every penny of Juan dela Cruz. We should not be mere slaves of the Bundy clock. We must make every minute count, not count every minute.
Rizal's call to use time to the fullest and an emboldened commitment to fight until the very end resonate deeply. "The majority of Filipinos would wish to leave as heirlooms to their children a highly finished education, a modest competence, and a good example," he asserted. In our workplaces, optimizing our time and resources ensures that we leave a positive legacy—a testament to diligence and purpose. In our professional pursuits, facing challenges with resilience and tenacity is essential. Perseverance often leads to triumph, and Rizal exemplified this steadfast spirit.
However, reflecting through these lessons still begs the questions: 127 years later, are we really free as a nation? Who are we now? Was our “freedom” really worth dying for?
We hope that Rizal's repugnance of corruption, hypocrisy, and indifference reverberates in our contemporary work culture. Corruption erodes the foundations of trust; hypocrisy undermines integrity; and indifference stifles progress. Embracing his disdain for these depravities allow us to build workplaces where transparency, authenticity, and genuine concern for others are nurtured.
In commemorating the life of Jose Rizal today, it is right and fitting to ponder these simple yet profound questions. Rizal, an icon of resistance against external oppression, recognized that the worst oppression is that of the mind. His legacy invites us to reflect on whether, as a nation and as individuals, we have enlightened our minds from the lingering vestiges of colonial influences.
As we plunge into the insightful lessons from Jose Rizal's life, let us also examine the dynamics within our modern workplaces. It is crucial that we recognize the shadows of colonial mentalities that may linger, manifesting in forms such as favoritism, sycophancy, and patronage among many other manifestations.
Favoritism, often rooted in historical power structures, can find its resonances in workplaces where individuals in positions of authority replicate hierarchical norms established during colonial rule. This perpetuation of preferential treatment, detached from merit, can create an environment that mirrors the injustices of the past.
Similarly, the specter of cultural hierarchy, a colonial legacy, may infiltrate our workplaces, influencing favoritism towards individuals from specific cultural groups while marginalizing others. This subtle bias can undermine the principles of diversity and equality that are essential for a thriving and innovative work environment. Our aim to be inclusive is reduced to nothing when people who express their divergent opinions are at times sidelined, silenced, and excluded.
The historical practice of patronage, rewarding loyalty over competence, is another facet that may contribute to the emergence of sycophancy in the workplace. Some are blatant. Some lurk in the grapevine. Individuals who romanticize patronage might prioritize pleasing those in power rather than focusing on professional competence, perpetuating a culture of flattery over merit. I know you’re not stranger to this phenomenon. This also is probably one of the reasons some do not speak up in the guise of diplomacy, but really are afraid of retribution or they are protecting their own interests to get a share of the pie no matter how undeserved.
Moreover, the lack of religious implementation of the meritocratic system, can impede the recognition and promotion of individuals based on their skills and accomplishments. Instead, personal relationships and sycophantic behaviors may take precedence, hindering the establishment of a fair and just professional landscape. Furthermore, the historical power imbalances from colonial times may also cast a shadow of fear over employees, making them hesitant to challenge authority or speak out against favoritism. This fear, deeply ingrained in a colonial psyche, can breed a culture of brownnosing as individuals seek to align themselves with those in power, further perpetuating an unhealthy power dynamic.
To combat these workplace conundrums, organizations must actively work towards dismantling practices rooted in colonial mindset. In concluding our reflections on Jose Rizal's enduring legacy, we must strive to create workplaces that reflect the principles of justice and integrity.
Ariem V. Cinco is the administrative officer V at the Department of Education (DepEd)-Eastern Visayas Regional Office in Palo, Leyte.