Viewed superficially, Rizal's reactiontoward the Revolution is unexpected, coming as itdid from a man whose life and labors weresupposed to have been dedicated to the cause of his country's freedom. Had someone of lesserstature uttered those words of condemnation, hewould have been considered a traitor to thecause. As a matter of fact, those words weretreasonous in the light of the Filipinos' struggleagainst Spain. Rizal repudiated the one act whichreally synthesized our nationalist aspiration, andyet we consider him a nationalist leader. Such anappraisal has dangerous implications because itcan be used to exculpate those who activelybetrayed the Revolution and may serve todiminish the ardor of those who today may becalled upon to support another great nationalistundertaking to complete the anti-colonialmovement.
An American-Sponsored Hero
We have magnified Rizal's role to such anextent that we have lost our sense of proportionand relegated to a subordinate position our othergreat men and the historic events in[p.127]which they took part. Although Rizal was alreadya revered figure and became more so after hismartyrdom, it cannot be denied that his pre-eminence among our heroes was partly the resultof American sponsorship. This sponsorship tooktwo forms: on one hand, that of encouraging aRizal cult, on the other, that of minimizing theimportance of other heroes or even of vilifyingthem. There is no question that Rizal had thequalities of greatness. History cannot deny hispatriotism. He was a martyr to oppression,obscurantism and bigotry. His dramatic deathcaptured the imagination of our people. Still, wemust accept the fact that his formal designationas our national hero, his elevation to his presenteminence so far above all our other heroes wasabetted and encouraged by the Americans. It was Governor William Howard Taft whoin 1901 suggested that the PhilippineCommission that the Filipinos be given a nationalhero. The
of December 28, 1946gives this account of a meeting of the PhilippineCommission:'And now, gentlemen, you must have anational hero.' In these fateful words,addressed by then Civil Governor W. H. Taft tothe Filipino members of the civil commission,Pardo de Tavera, Legarda, and Luzuriaga, laythe genesis of Rizal Day…..'In the subsequent discussion in whichthe rival merits of the revolutionary heroes wereconsidered, the final choice-now universallyacclaimed as a wise one-was Rizal. And so washistory made.'Theodore Friend in his book,
, says that Taft "with otherAmerican colonial officials and some conservativeFilipinos, chose him (Rizal) as a model hero overother contestants - Aguinaldo too militant,Bonifacio too radical, Mabini unregenerate." This decision to sponsor Rizal was implementedwith the passage of the following Acts of thePhilippine Commission: (1) Act No. 137 whichorganized the politico-military district of Morongand named it the province of Rizal "in honor of the most illustrious Filipino and the mostillustrious Tagalog the islands had ever known," (2) Act No.243 which authorized a publicsubscription for the erection of a monument inhonor or Rizal at the Luneta, and (3) Act No. 346[p.128]which set aside the anniversary of hisdeath as a day of observance.This early example of American "aid" issummarized by Governor W. Cameron Forbeswho wrote in his book,
The Philippine Islands
:It is eminently proper that Rizal shouldhave become the acknowledged national hero of the Philippine people.
The Americanadministration has lent every assistance tothis recognition,
setting aside the anniversaryof his death to be a day of observance, placinghis picture on the postage stamp mostcommonly used in the islands, and on thecurrency …. And throughout the islands thepublic schools tech the young Filipinos to reverehis memory as the greatest of Filipino patriots.(Underscoring supplied) The reason for the enthusiastic Americanattitude becomes clear in the following appraisalof Rizal by Forbes:
Rizal never advocatedindependence, nor did he advocate armedresistance to the government.
He urgedreform from within by publicity, by publiceducation, and appeal to the public conscience.(Underscoring supplied)