Was Jose Rizal Really A Pacifist?

In second year high school, when we studied El Filibusterismo by Jose Rizal, my classmates had yet another proof that I was mataray when I disagreed with the notion that Rizal was against overthrowing Spanish colonial rule by force.

Today I came across an article that pigeonholes the Philippines’ national hero as one who prefers enduring oppression rather than resisting it.

I’m not sure that’s what Manuel L. Quezon III meant when he was cited, though.

Ang “pagtitiis” na mensahe ni Rizal ay kakaiba. Sinulat nya “Kailangan nating makamtan ang ating kalayaan sa pamamagitan ng pagigiging karapat-dapat dito, sa pamamagitan ng paghahasa sa isipan at pagpapataas sa dangal ng bawa’t isa, pagmamahal sa katarungan, sa kabutihan, sa kadakilaan, kahit hanggang sa kamatayan. Kapag natarok na iyan ng sambayanan, ang Diyos na mismo ang magbibigay ng sandata, at ang mga diyos-diyosan at malulupit na panginoon ay babagsak na parang bahay na gawa sa baraha.”

Leon Ma. Guerrero, from Si Rizal at ang Pilosopiya ng Pagtitiis by Manuel L. Quezon III

Rizal has a whole bunch of characters in his two novels (there’s a third one, actually, called Makamisa). Don’t assume Rizal’s convictions lived only inside of the liberal illustrado Crisostomo Ibarra. What about his alter ego, Simoun? Basilio? Padre Florentino? The mere fact that Simoun emerged from Ibarra’s grief and misfortune is a sign that Rizal considered supporting the revolution, if he hadn’t in the first place.

Rather than weighing the merits of assimilation versus bloodshed, I urge Filipinos—especially during this nationalistic season of the Independence Day and Rizal’s birth anniversary—to ask: do we really deserve the freedom we celebrate this very month?

More importantly, are we really free?

13 replies

  1. Maybe because this freedom we celebrate was never really the actual product of our collective struggle and unity, rather it was the gift of some foreign power, a gift that had so many strings attached.

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  2. Pingback: Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Wild goose chase in Maguindanao

  3. agree with jhay, I don’t think we deserve the “freedom” we have right now. If we’re going to act like irresponsible and spoiled brats, I think it’s better that we’re under foreign rule. That’s my cynical self talking hehe

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  4. If I think about it, does it really matter right now? I can’t see the benefit of being “free” in our current situation. We can at least relish and promote our history, culture, and heritage.

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  5. If you said that in our PI 100 class you would’ve flunked the final exam (and the class in general). Do you really think Rizal would write Noli and Fili to convince us to be children of Spain (or any other colonizer for that matter)? I think he’s smarter than that.

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  6. Let me quote Justice Puno’s speech on Independence Day in response to your question IA;

    “As long as the Filipino suffers from the lack of proper education, we are not free. Those who cannot understand their rights and responsibilities to society can never be free.”

    That says it all isn’t it? Until we allow the politicians to make a mockery of the electoral process we will never be free.

    CI

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  7. Please dont take my rebuttal wrongly.. I love smart conversations. I concede to you and to your teacher, but let me explain my opinion:

    We all know that Rizal was a victim of the revolution, not a proprietor. As a writer I think he wrote only what the times suggested were imminent. Did he share the convictions of the revolutionaries? We would be reading between the lines if we said ‘yes.’ (yet we choose to say ‘yes’) But what we know as fact is that, as a member of the La Liga Filipina, Rizal pushed for Filipinos and Spaniards to be treated as equal. :)

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  8. CI, yes, that’s a concrete example.

    Paolo, I understand your point as well. But my belief still stands—of course we should read between the lines. All great literature expects us to do that. Of course we can never confirm which one of us is right (and are great literary pieces really great? Did these writers really mean those things?) since Rizal is dead, so I guess this argument won’t end. :)

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  9. we have different views about rizal. it depends on you on how you will judge his personality. we should be thankful to the effort renedered by him to our country because without him, we filipinos will not be awaken. Rizal’s martyrdom awakens the filipinos to fight against the spaniards.

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