The Greatest Filipino Who Ever Lived
I am writing this issue of my column as a member of the Order Of The Knights Of Rizal, and, as such, I would like to reply to the challenge of an esteemed colleague from the staff of PinoyWatchDog.com, Atty. Alma Luna-Reyes, as to why she considers Supremo Andres Bonifacio of the Katipunan, who led the armed revolt against Spain in August of 1896, her National Hero. You see, I joined the Order Of The Knights Of Rizal out of love and admiration for my hero, Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal, who I consider to be the greatest Filipino who ever walked the surface of this Earth, and, therefore, I cannot let passed unanswered any challenge against the level of patriotism and heroism Rizal nurtured for his beloved country, for which he suffered martyrdom at the hands of his Spanish tormentors, with his execution on the cold morning of December 30, 1896. The accusations against him, for which he met his fate, were even connected with the revolution, of which he only approved as a last resort, and openly predicted as doomed to fail in its present state. It is in the context of this situation- a violent revolution versus a peaceful resistance- that gives us insight about the heroism of these two men. However, I subscribe to the truth of the maxim: The Pen is mightier than the Sword.
It must be remembered that the revolution against Spain failed because the Katipunan broke into two factions and that, as Rizal saw it, the struggle did not have the support of the rich and the “Illustrados” of Philippine society. Earlier, even before the “cry of Balintawak”of August 24, 1896, Bonifacio had been sending emissaries to Dapitan, where Rizal had been exiled, like Emilio Jacinto, Macario Sakay, and Dr. Pio Valenzuela, to solicit his support for an armed revolt, but he was adamant in his stand for a peaceful struggle, and instead cautioned them that the Filipino is not yet ready for a national uprising. Ensuing events saw the execution of Rizal and the following year in 1897, the Bonifacio brothers were executed for treason by their rivals, headed by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo of the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan. Later in the year, the insurrectos capitulated to their Spanish rulers, and Aguinaldo and his generals went on exile to Hongkong after getting paid the amount of 400,000.00 pesos as settlement. Then when the Filipino exiles thought they can restart the revolution with the aid of the Americans who was at war with Spain at this time, the Spaniards had another thing in their sleeve. They ceded the Philippines to the United States by way of the Treaty of Paris of 1898 and got paid the amount of 20 million dollars. And the United States got the Philippines, lock, stock and barrel.
The revolution against Spain claimed the lives of these two heroic personalities under different circumstances. Rizal was accused ofrebellion, among others, in connection with the revolution and was perceived to have inspired the struggle for freedom through hiswritings, particularly his two novels: the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Bonifacio was a tragic figure, although stubborn andhotheaded. He never won a battle, because he lacked military training. When his leadership was questioned by his rivals from the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan in that fateful Tejeros Convention, his temper immediately hit the roof and denounced all his rivals and insisted that they defer to him being the Supremo. That was his undoing, which later led to his execution as a traitor. The historian, Rafael Palma, contends that the revolution of Bonifacio is a consequence wrought about by the writings of Rizal, and that although the armed uprising produced an immediate outcome, the pen of Rizal generated a more lasting achievement.
The struggle for Philippine independence during the American colonization of the islands started with the enactment of the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 by the Congress of the United States, and its passage may be attributed to the poem of Dr. Jose P. Rizal-MI ULTIMO ADIOS. When the bill was being discussed in the House of Representatives, one of its sponsors, Representative Henry Cooper, a democrat from Wisconsin, recited the English translation of the poem and interjected about the poet: “Under what clime or what skies has tyranny claimed a nobler victim?” This clearly reffered to the martyrdom of Dr. Jose P. Rizal.The said law created the Philippine Legislature and appointed two delegates to the U.S. Congress, extended the U.S. Bill of Rights to Filipinos, and laid the foundation for an autonomous government ran by Filipinos and eventual independence. The Jones Law of 1916, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law of 1933 and the Tydings-Macduffie Law of 1934 became the enabling acts that assured the Filipinos of independence and sovereignty. Finally, on July 4, 1946, under the Treaty of Manila, the United States finally granted, or shall we say restored, independence and sovereignty to this “Pearl of the orient seas” of Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
The political philosophy of Rizal for a peaceful resistance was the primary reason the Taft Commission chose and recommended him as the national hero of the Philippines, which prompted the historian Renato Constantino to comment that Rizal was a U.S. sponsored hero. That singular honor and recognition by the U.S. Insular Government during the colonial period was perhaps the most helpful act that kept alive the topic of freedom and sovereignty. And after 1946, there were these two Republic Acts of the Philippine Government which bestowed recognition to the national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, namely: RA 646(1951) providing a charter to the Order of the Knights of Rizal, as a public law corporation of the Republic of the Philippines and constituted to uphold the teachings and ideals of Dr.Jose Protacio Rizal to the end that Filipinos may emulate and follow his examples; RA 1425 (1956), requiring all high school and college curricula a course in the study of the life, teachings and writings of Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal. This act was popularly known as the Noli-Fili law during my college days.
However, despite the lack of any official declaration from the Philippine government explicitly proclaiming them as national heroes, Rizal, along with Bonifacio, remains admired and revered for their role in Philippine history. Heroes, according to historians, should not be legislated. Their appreciation should be better left to academics. Acclamation for heroes, they felt, would be recognition enough.