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7163298 Renato ConstantinoVeneration Without Understanding

7163298 Renato ConstantinoVeneration Without Understanding

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Published by Yen Cano
A classic read for every Rizal class
A classic read for every Rizal class

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Published by: Yen Cano on Jun 25, 2012
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Constantino, Renato.
Dissent and Counter-Consciousness
(Quezon City: Malaya Books,Inc., 1970).
Veneration Without Understanding
In the histories of many nations, thenational revolution represents a peak of achievement to which the minds of man returntime and again in reverence and for a renewal of faith in freedom. For the national revolution isinvariably the one period in a nation's historywhen the people were most united, mostinvolved, and most decisively active in the fightfor freedom. It is not to be wondered at,therefore, that almost always the leader of thatrevolution becomes the principal hero of hispeople. There is Washington for the UnitedStates, Lenin for the Soviet Union, Bolivar forLatin America, Sun Yat Sen, then Mao Tse-Tungfor China and Ho Chi Minh for Vietnam. The unitybetween the venerated mass action and thehonored single individual enhances the influenceof both.In our case, our national hero was not theleader of our Revolution. In fact, he repudiatedthat Revolution. In no uncertain terms he placedhimself against Bonifacio and those Filipinos whowere fighting for the country's liberty. In fact,when he was arrested he was on his way to Cubato use his med-[p. 125]ical skills in the serviceof Spain. And in the manifesto of December 15,1896 which he addressed to the Filipino people,he declared:From the very beginning, when I firsthad notice of what was being planned, Iopposed it, fought it, and demonstrated itsabsolute impossibility.I did even more. When later, against myadvice, the movement materialized, of my ownaccord I offered my good offices, but my verylife, and even my name, to be used in whateverway might seem best, toward stifling therebellion; for convinced of the ills which it wouldbring, I considered myself fortunate if, at anysacrifice, I could prevent such uselessmisfortune…. I have written also (and I repeatmy words) that reforms, to be beneficial, mustcome from above, and those which comes frombelow are irregularly gained and uncertain.Holding these ideas, I cannot do lessthan condemn, and I do condemn this uprising-which dishonors us Filipinos and discredits thosethat could plead our cause. I abhor its criminalmethods and disclaim all part in it, pitying fromthe bottom of my heart the unwary that havebeen deceived into taking part in it. [1]
Rizal and The Revolution
Rizal's refusal to align himself with therevolutionary forces and his vehementcondemnation of the mass movement and of itsleaders have placed Filipinos in a dilemma. Eitherthe Revolution was wrong, yet we cannot disownit, or Rizal was wrong, yet we cannot disown himeither. By and large, we have chosen to ignorethis apparent contradiction. Rizalists, especially,have taken the easy way out, which is to glossover the matter. They have treated Rizal'scondemnation of the Katipunan as a skeleton inhis closet and have been responsible for the"silent treatment" on his unequivocal positionagainst the Revolution.To my knowledge, there has been noextensive analysis of the question. For someRizalists, this aspect of Rizal has been a source of embarrassment inasmuch as they picture him asthe supreme symbol of our struggle for freedom.Other in fact[p. 126]privately agree with hisstand as evidenced by their emphasis on thegradualism of Rizal's teachings particularly hisinsistence on the primacy of education. Theywould probably praise Rizal's stand against theRevolution, if they dared. Since they do not darefor themselves, the are also prudently silent forRizal's sake. Others, careless and superficial intheir approach to history and perhaps afraid tostir a hornet's nest of controversy, do not think itimportant to dwell on this contradiction betweenour Revolution and our national hero and elect toleave well enough alone. Perhaps they do notperceive the adverse consequences of our refusalto analyze and resolve this contradiction. Yet theconsequences are manifest in our regard for ourRevolution and in our understanding of Rizal.The Philippine Revolution has always beenovershadowed by the omnipresent figure and thetowering reputation of Rizal. Because Rizal tookno part in that Revolution and in fact repudiatedit, the general regard for our Revolution is not ashigh as it otherwise would be. On the other hand,because we refuse to analyze the significance of his repudiation, our understanding of Rizal and of his role in our national development remainssuperficial. This is a disservice to the event, tothe man, and to ourselves.
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
Free Press
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,
BetweenTwo Empires
, 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." [2]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) [3]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) [4]
Taft's appreciation for Rizal has much the samebasis, as evidenced by his calling Rizal "thegreatest Filipino, a physician, a novelist and apoet (who) because of his struggle for abetterment of conditions under Spanish rulewas unjustly convicted and shot…. "The public image that the Americandesired for a Filipino national hero was quiteclear. They favored a hero who would not runagainst the grain of American colonial policy. Wemust take these acts of the Americans infurtherance of a Rizal cult in the light of theirinitial policies which required the passage of theSedition Law prohibiting the display of the Filipinoflag. The heroes who advocated independencewere therefore ignored. For to have encouraged amovement to revere Bonifacio or Mabini wouldnot have been consistent with American colonialpolicy.Several factors contributed to Rizal'sacceptability to the[p.129]Americans as theofficial hero of the Filipinos. In the first place, hewas safely dead by the time the American begantheir aggression. No embarrassing anti-Americanquotations could ever be attributed to him.Moreover, Rizal's dramatic martyrdom hadalready made him the symbol of Spanishoppression. To focus attention on him wouldserve not only to concentrate Filipino hatredagainst the erstwhile oppressors, it would alsoblunt their feelings of animosity toward the newconquerors against whom there was stillorganized resistance at that time. His choice wasa master stroke by the Americans. The honorsbestowed on Rizal were naturally appreciated bythe Filipinos who were proud of him.At the same time, the attention lavishedon Rizal relegated other heroes to thebackground-heroes whose revolutionary exampleand anti-American pronouncements might havestiffened Filipino resistance to the newconquerors. The Americans especiallyemphasized the fact that Rizal was a reformer,not a separatist. He could therefore not beinvoked on the question of Philippineindependence. He could not be a rallying point inthe resistance against the invaders.It must also be remembered that theFilipino members of the Philippine Commissionwere conservative
. The Americansregarded Rizal as belonging to this class. Thiswas, therefore, one more point in his favor. Rizalbelonged to the right social class -- the class thatthey were cultivating and building up forleadership.It may be argued that, faced with thehumiliation of a second colonization, we as apeople felt the need for a super-hero to bolsterthe national ego and we therefore allowedourselves to be propagandized in favor of oneacceptable to the colonizer. Be that as it may,certainly it is now time for us to view Rizal withmore rationality and with more historicity. Thisneed not alarm anyone but the blind worshipper.Rizal will still occupy a good position in ournational pantheon even if we discard hagiolatryand subject him to a more mature historicalevaluation.A proper understanding of our history isvery important to us because it will serve todemonstrate how our present has been distortedby a faulty knowledge of our past. By unravelingthe past we become confronted with the presentalready as[p.130]future. Such a re-evaluationmay result in a down-grading of some heroes andeven a discarding of others. It cannot spare evenRizal. The exposure of his weaknesses andlimitations will also mean our liberation, for hehas, to a certain extent become part of thesuperstructure that supports presentconsciousness. That is why a critical evaluation of Rizal cannot but lead to a revision of ourunderstanding of history and of the role of theindividual in history.Orthodox historians have presentedhistory as a succession of exploits of eminentpersonalities, leading many of us to regardhistory as the product of gifted individuals. Thistendency is strongly noticeable in those who havetried of late to manufacture new heroes throughpress releases, by the creation of foundations, orby the proclamation of centennial celebrations.Though such tactics may succeed for a limitedperiod, they cannot insure immortality wherethere exists no solid basis for it. In the case of Rizal, while he was favored by colonial supportand became good copy for propagandists, he hadthe qualifications to assume immortality. It mustbe admitted however, that the study of his lifeand works has developed into a cult distortingthe role and the place of Rizal in our history.The uncritical attitude of his cultists hasbeen greatly responsible for transformingbiographers into hagiographers. His weaknessesand errors have been subtly underplayed and his

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