This year, I vowed to blow 158 candles for the birthday of someone we all know but have mindlessly forgotten. I have been invited to go to his house, with our relatives, but those of us who were present last year will not be there this coming June, simply because we were so mortified by the behavior of the guest of honor who prattled inanities about the noble celebrant, comparing him to a most unworthy movieperson who was part of his entourage. They might invite him again because he won in the recent elections, so I am not taking any chances.
Due to the deplorable state of affairs we all have to bear, I think it is best to celebrate Jose Rizal’s 158th year by pondering on his vision for our nation, his masterplan that is embedded in the voluminous writings he bequeathed us. Since I am not going to Calamba this year, I will immerse myself in a conference titled, “Rethinking Rizal for the 21st Century, Unexplored Themes and New Interpretations.”Three distinguished Rizalists will enlighten the audience.
Dr. George Aseniero (descendant of one of Rizal’s pupils in Dapitan) will present “Game of the Great Powers: Rizal on Imperialism.” He bases his contention on Rizal’s prescient essay, “Filipinas, dentro de cien años,” which ends with what in those days were provocative geopolitical observations. Rizal perceived that dominant powers were waiting in the wings, watching the outcome of our Independence movement against Spain. He thought it possible for “la gran república Americana” to jump into the imperialist “game of thrones,” but that might be “contrary to her traditions.” Dr.Aseniero, will present an unfinished draft where Rizal reversed his position and warned that the USA’s geo-strategic interests in the Pacific “would impact negatively on the international conditions for a successful anticolonial revolutions.” He was right; the USA did go against its avowed democratic traditions and conquered the Philippines. Dr. Aseniero believes that that explains Rizal’s negative position on the Katipunan’s plan to revolt. It also influenced his conceptualization of the La Liga Filipina, which he envisioned as a “national federation of mutualist associations” with the ultimate objective of “forming a Civil Society irrespective of the State, whichever State that might be.”
Dr. Floro Quibuyen (Austin Coates sneered at a young Floro.) will revisit Rizal’s forgotten “borrador” on Melanesia, Malasia, Polinesia in his paper “The future has an ancient heart.” He also takes off from “Filipinas dentro de cien años,” specifically Rizal’s evocation of the future: “And free once more, [Filipinos] will discover their good old qualities…and again become movers of peace, jovial, cheerful, smiling, hospitable, and fearless…” These good old qualities are found in the abovementioned “borrador,” which brings to the fore neglected issues in Philippine prehistory, archaeology, and our pre-Sanskrit heritage. Dr. Quibuyen affirms that “Some 3,500 years ago, our seafaring ancestors sailed over 2000 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean and settled a group of islands that Spanish colonizers later named Las Islas Marianas and its inhabitants, Chamorros. Through our ancestors, the Chamorros, we can imagine what we were like thousands of years before the arrival of Sanskrit, Chinese, and Muslim traders—indeed, long before the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries. “
The third Rizalist is Dr. Lisandro E. Claudio (whom I have never met). His thesis, “The School of Suffering and the God of Liberty,” analyses Jose Rizal as a post-colonial liberal. He quotes Leon Ma Guerrero (The First Filipino, 1961), who said that Rizal was first a liberal before a nationalist. Rizal defended liberalism “as a plant that never dies” and Dr. Claudio asks whether Rizal’s liberalism was pacifist or insurgent. Was it derived from European liberalism? How did he tailor it to the specific concerns of Filipinas? Dr. Claudio looked for the answers in Rizal’s essays and novels where our hero discussed the notions of liberty and suffering. He argues that Rizal’s thoughts offer us insights into a postcolonial form of liberalism that can strip the blinders off its Western variant.
On 19 June, we should all troop to this brain-shaking conference sponsored by the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, Program on Alternative Development (UP CIDS AltDv), at the Bahay Alumni of UP Diliman. It begins at 1 p.m., Come punctually please and stay until 6 p m. and beyond.
On 22 June, should you be anywhere near Bataan, go to “Cabesang Tales,” a patriotic musical by Dr. Floro Quibuyen. The Balanga Kalayaan Chapter of the Knights of Rizal is sponsoring it.
On 14 June, the city of Calamba will hold a Baile de Gala at the LLC Auditorium Central II of Calamba city. Doors of the ballroom will open at 6 p.m.
Let us light 158 candles!