Rizal Monument? Of course it's moveable!

MANILA: Yes, I said it's movable. And I’ll show you. But it's not like Manila 5th District Representative Amado Bagatsing's moving proposal.

The National Commission for Culture & the Arts (NCCA) says about the proposal of Bagatsing "to turn the Rizal statue 180 degrees to resolve the Torre de Manila controversy" that it is not moveable. Evelyn Macairan quotes NCCA Legal Counsel Trixie Cruz-Angeles as saying (03 July 2015, philstar.com):

Monuments are not movable. The purpose why they were put there, their location and their structure are not accidents. They are put there for their specific purpose and they have their own symbolism. The (Rizal) monument was not intended to recreate where he was facing when he was shot… the symbolism why he is turned away from the people… is a position of leadership. He is in front; he is not facing his people; he is leading them. You have to give this site the respect it is due because Rizal is buried there.

I said the Rizal statue is movable, but with a big difference.

Bagatsing had suggested that Rizal be turned around front to back to face the City of Manila instead of Manila Bay, so that it cannot be said that the Torre de Manila, which is right in front of the monument, detracts & subtracts from Rizal's view of the Bay; no one can then distract Rizal's whole view of the City. And so that the doubt of some historians can be erased that the monument's position right now is "an indication that Rizal was a traitor" to his people, his back behind turned toward the City. (Actually, they want the Rizal statue moved such to negate the fact that the Torre de Manila is the national hero's photobomber.)

Miss Trixie is logical and wrong! Read again what she has just said: "He is in front; he is not facing his people (the City); he is leading them." Therefore, the message is movement; today, we need only to debate where Jose Rizal is leading us to. So I agree a little with Manila Rep Bagatsing and disagree wholly with NCCA Counsel Cruz-Angeles; I believe that the Rizal monument is a moveable feast for the eyes.

Of course Rizal is movable!

To turn or not to turn, that is the question. To where should Rizal be pointing today? With the power of global positioning system (GPS) up there in the sky to pinpoint exact locations with the accuracy of within a millimeter anywhere in the world, all we have to do is debate nationally – and, incidentally, learn more about our national hero's peregrinations – where we want the Rizal monument to point to. So, GPS where to?

(1)     Roman Catholic Church, Calamba City – and thereby to hate? I remember the story where Rizal's mother was in confession when suddenly there was a loud cry from a baby. It was Jose in her mother's womb – did he want to be born inside the church? Later, under the umbrella of European liberalism, he would leave the Catholic Church and its dogmas. I believe he was wrong; in his novel Noli Me Tangere, he was equating the teachings of the Catholic Church with the excesses of the friars in his country. Or, which is the same, Jose Rizal did not learn to hate the sin but not the sinner.

(2)     Dagupan City – and thereby to learn about love? This is in Pangasinan; the old cathedral was where Leonor Rivera and the English railroad engineer Henry Kipping were married in 1890 (Gabriel Cardinoza, onlinehome.us). Leonor was Rizal's first love-break. And his immortal friend Ferdinand Blumentritt urged him to forget her, because she was not as worthy as Filipinas.

(3)     Ancestral House, Calamba City – and thereby to love the Filipino language? Rizal was born in Calamba, Laguna, on 19 June 1861. Unfortunately, now a City, Calamba today seems disoriented, as it has in its logo Mt Makiling, when it is the town of Los Baños nearby that owns this legendary mountain, not Calamba. The ancestral home, which is now the Rizal Shrine, is at the Calamba town proper, right next to the Roman Catholic Church across the street. And in the little hut in the yard behind the ancestral house, the boy Jose wrote his poem "Sa Aking Mga Kabata" (To The Kids Of My Own Time). When I translated into English this boy poem, I found that Filipinos have been misinterpreting the poem, saying this poem was about love of the Tagalog language, when in fact it was about love of freedom! Not one of our historians, Filipino or foreigner saw this; only this non-historian saw it – see my essay, "Rizal Misunderstood" (08 June 2014, A Magazine Called Love, blogspot.com). It has taken a non-Tagalog (an Ilocano) to figure it out. Let not our biases lead us to veneration without understanding.

(4)     Bay, Laguna – and thereby to appreciate agriculture and modern knowledge? Jose Rizal must have visited his brother Paciano who lived here because he was tending the family's sugarcane farm, the land rented from the Dominican friars. Sugarcane was the source of income of the Rizals that enabled the family to send Jose to study abroad, the first famous OFW – overseas Filipino wanderer. He visited many countries to learn the best in them, but they were 50 years ahead of their time.

(5)     Madrid – and thereby to study religiously? Jose lived in Calle Amor de Dios from 12 September 1882 to May 1883, prepared to lead a Spartan life as he had a limited allowance of 50 pesos a month when the sugarcane harvest was good, further limited to 35 pesos when the harvest was bad (philembassymadrid.com). An apt Calle Amor de Dios, Boulevard for Love of God, as Jose was a very religious boy; I said was. It was walking distance from the Universidad de Madrid, where he studied medicine. He was literally taking steps towards his education.

(6)     Barcelona – and thereby to betrayal? On 08 April 2011, the Philippine Consulate General in Barcelona inaugurated the "Sala Jose Rizal" room at the Montjuic Castle where Jose Rizal was unjustly brought and imprisoned (MRT/JV, 15 April 2011, gmanetwork.com). Did you know that this was the time he was on his way to Cuba as a volunteer doctor and the Spanish authorities had approved such a request? Who betrayed Rizal? You betray your friend when you no longer understand or appreciate him.

(7)     Wilhelmsfeld, Germany – and thereby to overkill? There is a Jose Rizal Park at Wilhelmsfeld, whose vicariate Jose stayed as the guest of Pastor Karl Ullmer for 2 months in 1886, and where he finished his novel Noli Me Tangere (ufreytag.michel-media.de). Protestant territory; it seems fitting, as the Noli was anti-Roman Catholic, even if the author did not realize that its effect would be that.

(8)     Belgium – and thereby to power struggle? From Paris, Rizal arrived in Brussels, Belgium and stayed from 02 February 1890 to 31 July 1890 (joserizal.ph). He had disengaged himself from the management of La Solidaridad, "only resting and giving others the opportunity to use their pen" – he kept on writing for the paper anyway. In fact, Marcelo H del Pilar had grabbed the editorship of the paper from him, and the funds that came all the way from Manila. When funds get in the way, it isn't fun to write anymore even for your country.

(9)     London – and thereby to love? Jose Rizal had a fling in London by the name of Gertrude Beckett (Jensen DG Mañebog, ourhappyschool.com). "She helped Jose Rizal mix his colors for painting and prepared the clay for his sculpturing, hoping that a colorful romantic relationship would be formed between them." It was May 1888. With her help, Jose finished his sculptural pieces like Prometheus Bound, The Triumph of Death over Life, and The Triumph of Science over Death. Gertrude fell in love with Jose, but he did not reciprocate. He left on 19 March 1889 so she could forget him. From 1889 to 1890, Rizal spent several months in London doing historical research on pre-Spanish Philippines (islandsentinel.com). Not that he loved Gertrude less but that he loved Filipinas more.

(10) Japan – and thereby to love but not to forget one's true love? Jose Rizal visited Japan and cultivated the friendship-love of O Sei San, a Japanese samurai's daughter, who taught him the Japanese art of painting (su-mie) and helped him with his Japanese (joserizal.ph). He was in love again, yet he moved on, as he had another love he would not forsake.

(11) Paris – and thereby to doing one's research well? Here he is writing the sequel to the Noli, which is the Fili. He sends a letter to his friend Mariano Ponce, to whom he says, "I have the manuscript" (joserizal.nhcp.gov.ph). He is referring to his annotation of Antonio Morga's book Sucesos de Las Islas Filipinas. He is ending one and beginning another. In his annotation, Jose Rizal showed that Filipinos had developed their own culture even before the coming of the Spanish conquistadores (joserizal.ph). Morga had not done his homework at all.


(12) Ateneo – and thereby to learn from a student? In his diary, Jose wrote, "(One) professor was a model of uprightness, earnestness, and devotion to the progress of his pupils; and such was his zeal that I, who scarcely spoke middling Spanish, was able after a short time to write it fairly well. His name was Francisco de Paula Sanchez. With his aid, I studied mathematics, rhetoric, and Greek to some advantage. Father Sanchez was a penetrating observer, although rather pessimistic, always looking at the bad side of things. When we were in school we used to call him a 'dark spirit,' and the students nicknamed him Paniki, which is a kind of bat" (ateneo.edu). When Rizal chucked his devotion to Mother Mary and the rest of the Catholic Church, Father Sanchez was the one who tried to coax him back to his old faith. He failed because, reading those letters, I can see he was acting as if he was talking to his student back at the Ateneo! Some teachers never learn!

(13) UST – and thereby to learn about racial prejudice? In 1878, Jose Rizal enrolled in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas, but decided to stop when he realized that the Filipino students were victims of racial prejudice by their Dominican friar-instructors (Teofilo H Montemayor, joserizal.ph). He dramatized this in his chapter "A Class In Physics" in the Fili. You discriminate to hide your lack of self-worth.

(14) Laguna Lake – and thereby to learn about fighting City Hall? There was the time when the Rizal family and the rest of the farmers were at loggerheads with the local friars who had ordered that 80% of their harvest be surrendered to the Church (thinkorbebeaten.com). They were all renting land from the friars. Rizal's father refused and, of course, the other farmers refused. I know Rizal helped write the farmers' petition against the friars. When the father died, 4 days later, the corpse was excavated and thrown into the lake, which outraged Jose Rizal. Hell knows no fury like the friars spurned.

(15) Dapitan – and thereby to settle down? Rizal built 3 houses in his exile in this part of Mindanao: the square was home for him, mother, sister Trinidad, and nephew; the octagonal for his young boy students, and the hexagonal for his chickens (joserizal.ph). "From my house, I hear the murmur of a clear brook, which comes from the high rocks." It must have been music to his ears.

Will repositioning his Luneta monument to our heart's desire break Jose Rizal's heart? I sincerely don't think so. The national debate on the new GPS positioning of his monument will delight him no end. Because then people will start talking about him again, about:

his likes, loves and hates;

his young boy's message on language and love of freedom;

revolution devouring its own children;

studying for the good of one's country;
nationalism and internationalism;

making sacrifices.


Moving the Rizal monument would be another sacrifice.

Still, as a compromise, we can reengineer the base of the monument so that it will point to all places in the world – it will turn around ever so slowly and completely from sunrise to sunset! Remember: Jose Rizal was not a nationalist; rather, he was an internationalist!

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