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A PASTMASTERS Publication

The End Of Veneration
By

Bob Couttie
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The End Of Veneration 2•

Introduction
It was a time of global ferment. Images
of the Vietnam War brought combat
into living rooms worldwide. The Cold
War pitched America and its allies
against the Soviet Union and China,
with Asia, including the Philippines, as
a significant battlefront. An ever-
present threat of nuclear annihilation
leveraged skepticism towards
traditional authority, further fuelled by
the increasing economic power of the
youth. Student activism raged from Renato Constanino
one continent to another, university
campuses became war zones as the confused old world and the confident new
world collided.
This was the world of Renato Constantino, journalist, former WW2 guerrilla and
Philippine government official. A nationalist, he used Marxist historical class-based
analysis in writing several books and articles to promote the struggle of the masses
although his audience was predominantly middle class and wealthy students. He was an
intellectual commando in the Cold War for supremacy of the hearts, minds and
resources of the Philippines.
As part of his mission to overthrow the status quo, in 1969, Constantino called upon
his countrymen to topple the pre-eminent Philippine National Hero, 19th century activist
Jose Rizal, by posthumously identifying him with American imperialism in an article,
Veneration Without Understanding.
Ferdinand Marcos was president and just three years later declared Martial Law, a
dictatorship which ruled until, desperately ill and losing control to his wife, Imelda
Marcos, and his military righthand man,
Rizal has become an General Fabian Ver, he was overthrown in
the People’s Power Revolution of February
enduring victim of the 1986 by a loose coalition of the military
leadership, the Catholic Church and the
Cold War of the middle of people.
th
the 20 century The Soviet Union, which most certainly
pump-primed a number of radicals, has
fallen at the behest of its own masses. Images of the Hammer and Sickle, Lenin and
Che Guevarra have transmogrified from political statements to fashion statements.
China, whose own form of Maoist Communism influenced many a university campus in
the radical years, has tainted its political purity by courting Western capital, Western
markets and Western goods, selling uniform baseball caps to the armies of its
ideological rivals and by encouraging capitalism among its own huddled masses earning
for their portion of liberty.
Permanent US military bases in the Philippines have closed, partly because of US
Defense Department spending limitations, partly because the technology, tactics and
strategy of warfare made such forward basing unnecessary, partly because the fall of
the Soviet Union led to the closure of its Cam Ranh Bay facility to which Subic Bay
Naval Base was a counterweight, and partly because by a one vote majority the
Philippine Senate declined to ratify a treaty for the extension of the bases. Filipino
The End Of Veneration 3•

nationalists and the ghost of US President Eisenhower,
who consistently urged closure of American bases in the Constantino
Philippines, doubtless applauded.
The Cold War has gone, to be replaced by the alleged remains the
‘War On Terrorism’ and Islamic fundamentalism, with its
deeper roots in the Sunni-Shia Schism, the European
predominant
Crusades, the British and French betrayal of Arab image of Jose
nationalists in World War 1, American foreign policy post-
World War 2 and the Russian involvement in Afghanistan. Rizal
Anti-Americanism remains, protests continue over US and
Allied involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan but they carry little of the romance of
struggling masses that made the activism of the 1960s and 1970s so fashionable.
Even though nearly 40 years have passed since Veneration Without Understanding
was written, the picture painted by Constantino remains the predominant image of Jose
Rizal among many Filipinos and Filipinists. Is that image accurate or has Rizal become
an enduring victim of the Cold War of the 20th Century? 

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The End Of Veneration 4•

Preface
I lay no claim to originality in what follows, much of it has been said by others,
although rarely in a public forum.
Of the few who have dared to publicly question Constantino’s version of Rizal I
would recommend, as starting points, Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without The Overcoat and
Meaning and History (Both from Anvil Press), and John S. Schumacher’s The Making of
A Nation (Ateneo de Manila Press).
Renato Constantino’s article, Veneration Without Understanding is available on the
Internet at http://rizalslifewritings.tripod.com. Constantino’s self-published The
Philippines A Past Revisited is still widely available in bookstores. A non-Philippine-
based critique of Constantino’s A Past Revisited can be found in Glenn Anthony May’s
controversial A Past Recovered (New Day).
Rizal’s annotated Las Sucesos de Las Islas Filipinas by Antonio De Morga is still
available in English translation as Historical Events in the Philippine Islands at the
National Historical Institute on TM Kalaw, Manila. Information on pre-Hispanic
Philippines, as well as the Code of Kalantiaw and the Maragtas, can be found in William
Henry Scott’s fine Pre-Hispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History
(New Day), Behind the Parchment Curtain (New Day) and Barangay (Ateneo De Manila
University Press).
Rey Ileto’s classic work on history ‘from beneath’, Pasyon and Revolution, is a
valuable, though not unfaulted, exploration of how the Philippine Revolution may have
been viewed by the masses themselves. Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities
(Anvil Press) is a very readable classic study on the creation of nation, nationality and
nationalism.
Those who wish to study the issue further should consult the primary sources cited in
these works. These are not the only sources consulted for the preparation of this article.
Those who wish to have a better grasp of my own biases, prejudices and opinions
should refer to Hang The Dogs: The True Tragic History of the Balangiga Massacre
(New Day), The Philippine-American War entry in Scribner’s Dictionary of American
History, which I contributed, and the Philippine-American War entry in ABS-CLIO’s
War Crimes: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, which I also authored.
Any errors of fact or judgment are entirely my own and I apologise in advance. Any
political incorrectness is mine too, but there’s no need to apologise for that: As Theodoro
Agoncillo remarked, “The study of history is not a popularity contest”.
The End Of Veneration 5•

Part 1 – A Conspiracy Of Silence

Renato Constantino' s writings remain among the most influential body of work in
Philippine historiography. This has remained the case even though an increasing
number of professional historians have, quietly, come to the conclusion that those
works have relatively little value for modern historical studies, other than as
historical artifacts themselves, that they have contributed to an undue concentration
on one small part of the country's history at the expense – literally in the case of
such an underfunded area of scholarship – of research along paths less traveled that
may provide a firmer underpinning to national identity and nationhood.
What is especially worrying is the self-censorship by the Philippine scholarly history
community. Constantino's faults are discussed almost behind closed doors, much as
Filipinos would hesitate to discuss Ferdinand Marcos or Spanish era Filipinos speak out
about Spanish rule.
Constantino has acquired the status of a secular religion with his article denouncing
Jose Rizal, Veneration Without Understanding, representing one of its holy scriptures, to
be questioned at risk of treatment of which the medieval Catholic Inquisition would be
proud. It is fair to question whether such an
environment is conducive or inimical to the Constantino has
development of a nationalist history.
This, it should be said, is not the fault of acquired the status
Constantino but of followers who cite him and use his of a secular
writings as a primary source while censoring
Constantino' s own words regarding his methodology religion
and purpose. That purpose is made clear in his introduction to The Philippines: A Past
Revisited: Filipinos are not ready for objective data about their own history, that must be
suppressed until they have reached a level of nationalism, only then would they be ready
to read the truth about their own history. Precisely the same argument was used by
American officials to justify the colonization of the archipelago and withholding
Philippine Independence – Filipinos weren't ready for it.
Herein lays a significant difference between the two men. Rizal believed in liberty and
that knowledge was a path to liberty, Constantino saw knowledge as an inhibition of
liberty, and that freedom would be attained by limiting access to knowledge. In Rizal’s
concept of the State, people would be free to know wqhat they wanted to know, in
Constantino’s State they would be free to know only that which the state felt appropriate
for them to know.
I would submit that while myth plays an important role in creating and maintaining
national identity, deliberate falsification does not. A nation's myths reflect those values it
regards as unique to itself and which separate its identity from other nations. Nazi-era
Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union, Khmer Rouge Cambodia and modern North Korea
are examples of the sort of dysfunctional `nationhood' produced by such falsification.
Be that as it may, it is important to bear in mind that Constantino' s self-admitted
intent was not to reveal historical truth but to create an activist mindset among his
middle-class readership.
Constantino had a purpose that was markedly similar to that of Jose Rizal. This is
hardly surprising. Both lived at a time of enormous economic and political change. Both
The End Of Veneration 6•

lived under regimes in which outright criticism, or support for the overthrow of the status
quo, led to imprisonment, torture and, often death. Both perceived a largely fictional
`Golden Age' in the past – Rizal's pre-hispanic Filipino and Constantino' s revolutionary
masses of the Philippine war of independence. Both sought to exorcise cultural demons,
the influence of the friars in Rizal's case and the influence of the Americans in
Constantino' s.
While, as will be demonstrated with particular regard to Rizal, both believed in the
need for, or the option of, revolution neither writer explicitly and unequivocally called for
violent revolution against the reigning oppressors in their writings. Both men were
products of their time and place and express the zeistgeist of their environment.
Neither man lived to see the realization of their separate visions of nationalism and
liberty and their ghosts are likely themselves to be ghosts before those visions become
concrete.
To get back to the muttons. The power of Veneration Without Understanding owes
much to the Philippine school system which often projects Rizal as a flawless, almost
Christlike figure rather than the human being he was. Brought up with such hagiographic
pedagogy, students are ill prepared to view Veneration critically, a piece which appears
to overthrow all their preconceived notions, presented by politicized professors to whom
they must acquiesce or face poor grades for dissent. It undoubtedly comes as a shock.
It is now almost 30 year since the first publication of Veneration Without
Understanding and almost a decade since the death of its author.
Perhaps it is time to break the conspiracy of silence and ask the impertinent pertinent
question: Does Veneration Without Understanding stand up to scrutiny?
The End Of Veneration 7•

Part 2 – History and Polemics

If Constantino' s thesis that Rizal is unworthy of being the national hero of the
Philippines holds water then, of necessity, the law mandating compulsory study of
Rizal's books and life must be repealed. Such an act may well catapult Constantino
himself into the position vacated by Rizal, supported by generations of students who
have been forced to suffer some of the most turgid teaching the nation's educational
system has to offer.
One might suspect, with justification, that the popularity of Constantino' s Veneration
Without Understanding has less to do with what he actually says than the opportunity to
inflict a sort of surrogate revenge on all those teacher's who inflicted what Ambeth
Ocampo says was known as Putang Ina 101.
Constantino was a Marxist and his writings are inevitably based upon his political
viewpoint. This does not automatically invalidate Marxist historians such as Benedict
Anderson - named only because he's one of my personal favourites - have made original,
challenging contributions to our understanding of historical processes and how those
processes led from then to now. If
we are going to treat Constantino as Consciousness of the past is
a historian, which, strictly speaking
he was not (Nor am I), we must consciousness of what it is to be
judge him not by his political a Filipino, to validate the
viewpoint but by his choice of data,
his methodology for examining that national identity
data, and whether or not his
conclusions hold water.
If we are going to treat Constantino only as a polemicist then none of these restrictions
apply. We need only concern ourselves with how well he presented his case and how his
views were perceived and accepted. That he was a polemicist, and a very influential one,
is inarguable.
I would, and will, argue that the proper place for Constantino' s writings, including
Veneration Without Understanding is in the study of political science, not the study of
history. Their place in history is as documents showing Constantino' s thinking in the mid
late 20th century, not those of Rizal at the end of the 19th.
Constantino was not the first Filipino to use, and abuse, history for political purposes
in this manner. That credit almost certainly belongs to Jose Rizal. I would say that same
of Jose Rizal, in particular his annotated edition of Antonio De Morga's Sucessos de las
Islas Felipinas as of Constantino: They wrote history as polemic, not history so it is not
surprising that one echoes the other.
Says Rizal: "If this book succeeds in awakening your consciousness of your past,
already effaced from your memory, and to rectify what has been falsified and slandered,
then I have not worked in vain, and with this as a basis, however small it may be, we
shall be able to study the future". Consciousness of the past is consciousness of what it is
to be a Filipino, to validate the national identity. Re-construction of the lost Filipino past
The End Of Veneration 8•

would led to the construction of a Filipino future,which is precisely Constantino' s intent
the next century.
Was that to be a Filipino future under a Spanish sovereignty reformed and enlightened
by respect for Filipinos as an equal? Or as an independent nation? More than a hint is
apparent in Rizal's response to Blumentritt' s original prologue to the book. Although that
document itself is presently lost we do know that it contained a reference to fraternity
between Spaniards and Filipinos which Rizal struck out, explaining "If the Spanish do
not want us as brothers, neither are we eager for their affection… Fraternity, like alms
from the Spaniards we do not seek… You only have the best of intentions, you want to
see the whole world embraced by means of love and reason but I doubt if the Spanish
wish the same".
This letter is immensely revealing. Rizal rejects outright the notion of fraternity with
Spain and the affection of the Spanish, a condition that would be a necessary part of
continued existence under Spanish rule in a condition of parity. Independence is the
implicit condition he is referring to. He rejects, too, the notion that `love and reason' as a
solution to what could be termed `The Spanish problem'. If not love and reason, what
then? If one cannot appeal to love and reason, then only revolution is left on the table as
an option.
It also shows us that while Rizal and Blumentritt were cordial, the former did not
slavishly accept the counsel of the latter so when, in another letter, Blumentritt opposes
violent revolution it is unwise to assume that Rizal acquiesced in his views.
In his footnotes to De Morga Rizal intends to show that the Philippines not only owed
nothing to the Spanish, in particular the friars, there was no `utang na loob', but that there
was a flourishing culture, technology and literature which was stunted by their arrival and
that the modern Filipino of the 19th century was well behind his pre-Hispanic forebears.
With pride in their past as an anchor the Filipino could then carve for himself a future of
his own choosing.
Rizal was not above exaggeration and invention to achieve the aim of fitting his data
into his pre-conceived framework and makes claims for which, often, there is not just
little or no evidence but such evidence as exists runs counter to his assertions.
Three examples serve to make the point: That Filipinos were capable of making large
cannon before the arrival of the Spanish, a skill lost under the Spanish regime, that
Filipinos had a large and flourishing trade served by vessels of up to 2,000 tons before
the coming of the Spanish, and that Spanish friars destroyed a large and flourishing body
of pre-Hispanic literature. None of these claims hold water.
The End Of Veneration 9•

Part 3 - George W. Bush and Jose Rizal

Morga writes that Governor De Vera established a foundry to make artillery
"under the hands of an old indio called Pandapira, a native of Pampanga. He and
his sons served in this line of work until their deaths many years later". Rizal
clarifies the reference to Pandapira, or Panday Pira: "an indio who already knew
how to found cannons even before the arrival of the Spanish".
Neither De Morga nor anyone else refers to Pandapira as a cannon maker. Indeed, De
Vera, the governor who actually hired him, proves that he was not. De Vera wrote to the
Spanish Viceroy in Mexico to plead "I cannot find anyone who knows how to found
cannons, because those provided are by Indios who do not know how to make large
cannon. I request your excellency to send from New Spain founders and officers to
manufacture cannons".
So when Rizal comments upon De Morga' statement about a later governor, Perez-
Dasmarinas, that he "established a foundry for artillery in Manila where, owing to the
lack of experts or master founders, few large piece were made" that "This demonstrates
that, when the indio Pandapira died, there were no Spaniards who knew how to do what
he did, nor were his children as skilled as their fathers", he is, frankly, talking out of his
bowler.
Let's talk about boats. De Morga
describes Filipino vessels big George W. Bush, Jose Rizal
enough to carry 100 rowers
outboard and 30 soldiers on an and Renato Constantino meet
upper deck. Alcina describes such on common ground
vessels in the Visayas and expends
several chapters describing how to build one, a precise of which, along with an artist's
rendition can be found in the works of William Henry Scott.
Rizal mourns that such vessels had disappeared by his day but goes on to make the
astonishing assertion that "The country that at one time, with primitive means, built ships
of around 2,000 tons (Has to buy ships from Hong Kong)". For the non-nautical, 2,000
tons here refers to displacement, the weight of water displaced by the hull of the vessel,
not the weight of the ship.
Nowhere in the historical or archaeological record is there a trace of pre-Hispanic
Filipino vessels of such size outside Rizal's commentary and imagination.
As for Filipino warships carrying 100 rowers and 30 soldiers, the only reason we
know how to build one today is because the technology was recorded in detail by an
admiring Spanish friar.
A similar situation surrounds Rizal's assumption that there was a significant written
literature which was destroyed by the Spanish.
Literacy was, according to De Morga and others, widespread. That pre-Hispanic
Filipinos had a written language is certainly true. Even if one disregards the 900 AD
Laguna Copper Plate as a probable import, because its markings are in no known Filipino
script and it has never been translated, something similar was presented to the Chinese
The End Of Veneration 10•

court by the ruler of Butuan in 1011 AD as did later trade missions which also presented
the Emperor of All Under The Sky with a long narrow scroll written on bamboo.
Spanish writers comment upon the literacy of the Filipino and Spanish friars and
missionaries have preserved both the languages themselves and the scripts in which they
were written while, at the same time, Spanish script replaced them.
No pre-Hispanic documents have survived, not even a fragment. The documents from
which, for instance, the Code of Kalantiaw are drawn are demonstrably fraudulent
although they still find a place in the curricula of Philippine law schools. The Maragtas,
while not actually a fraud is a collection of folklore, the author of which states that no
pre-Hispanic documents were used in its preparation, which is still misrepresented again,
in Philippine law schools.
Notably, there is only one account, of the burning of a single book, of anything that
might be taken as pre-Hispanic Filipino literature. What happened to the rest of it?
Did the Spanish destroy it? Outside Iloilo and Cebu the Spanish hold generally
extended little more than 15 kilometres inland or more than 300 metres elevation until the
mid 19th century. Friar and missionaries extended that coverage, of course, but even so,
there were only a few hundred of them, insufficient to eradicate an entire written
literature in every part of the archipelago including the non-Christianized and Muslim
domains.
In fact, the earliest Spanish records state explicitly that the Filipinos had no literature
as such. All, including those Rizal himself consulted, echo independently the observation
of the late 16th century Boxer Codex: "They have neither books nor histories nor do they
write anything of any length but only letters and reminders to one another."
So, no literature existed for the Spanish to destroy.
Obviously, then, Rizal's commentaries on the De Morga must be treated with
circumspection. They must be viewed for what they actually were – committed
scholarship, not revelations of historical fact.
Rizal created a mythical `golden age' with the implicit message "We don't need the
Spanish". The intended question in the reader's mind is `If we don't need the Spanish and
cannot be their brothers, what do we do with them?" To which there is but one
answer: revolution.
The committed scholar first creates his framework then seeks out data to fit that
framework in order to inspire the reader to take a course of action. Data which does not
fit the framework is either ignored or tyre-ironed into place with exaggeration and
imagination until the data says what the scholar wants it to say. It is a form of deliberate
confirmation bias.
Just as Rizal created a Filipino Golden Age of cannon-makers and ship-builders with a
great literature, Constantino used the same methodology to promote a similar disputable
`Golden Age' of a revolt of the masses and a cowardly reformist man of clay called Jose
Rizal.
For Rizal, to dispute his data and analysis was an unpatriotic, anti-Filipino act. When
Isabelo De Los Reyes, a contemporary researcher in Philippine history questioned some
of Rizal's assertions and citing the Spanish Fr. Rada, Rizal wrote: "… had we no positive
proof of de los Reyes patriotism, we would believe that by giving so much credit to Fr.
Rada, he had intended to denigrate his own people". To question Rizal was unpatriotic,
The End Of Veneration 11•

pro-Spanish and anti-Filipino. Similarly, to question Constantino is to be regarded as
anti-Filipino, anti-masses and pro-imperialism.
Committed scholarship admits of no middle way, it says in effect: `If you're not with
us, you are against us. If you question us, you are the enemy'. Thus George W. Bush, Jose
Rizal and Renato Constantino meet on common ground.
The End Of Veneration 12•

Part 4 - The Truth Cannot Make You Free

To understand Constantino, his intent and his methodology one must explore the
framework into which he fitted his historical data. In the preface to his collection of
articles, Dissent and Counter-Consciousness, he writes “…although these essays were
not written as parts of a book, they nevertheless follow a consistent pattern of
discussing present society from the vantage point of the past and past society in the
light of present reality. Such a method of discussion could not but project ideas on
the modes and dimensions of social change”.
Compare this to the preface to Rizal’s annotated De Morga: “In the Noli I began to
sketch the present state of our native land. The effect that my attempt produced pointed
out to me, before proceeding to unfold the other successive pictures before your eyes, the
necessity of first making known to you the past in order that you may be able to judge
better the present and to measure the
road traversed during three Few history teachers bring
centuries… If the book succeeds in attention to, or discuss, the
awakening your consciousness of our
past, already effaced from your book’s introduction with their
memory, and to rectify what has been students, possibly because to
falsified and slandered… we shall be
able to study the future”. do so would bring into
Constantino’s philosophy for question the value of
dealing with historical data is further
clarified in a second book, published Constantino’s writings as
in 1975, “The Philippines – A Past historical source material.
Revisited”. The book is a primary
reference work for Filipino students but few have their own copies, most relying on
handouts of specific photocopied pages. Few history teachers bring attention to, or
discuss, the book’s introduction with their students, possibly because to do so would
bring into question the value of Constantino’s writings as historical source material.
Significantly, Constantino admits that ‘a Past Revisited’ is not a People’s History of
the Philippines and challenges Filipino historians to write one. As of this date, more than
30 years later, not a single committed scholar has taken up his challenge, even though
‘committed scholarship’, or committed ‘scholarship’, now represents the status quo. One
can imagine four reasons why no-one has taken up Constantino’ challenge – intellectual
cowardice, a dearth of new and original thinking, reluctance to research original sources,
or fear that Constatino’s assertions, based on those of Agoncillo, will not stand up to
close scrutiny.
It should be noted that Blumentritt’s critique of Rizal’s De Morga, and reviews of
Constantino, echo each other – neither said anything original about the effects of
imperialism that hadn’t been well-covered elsewhere.
In Rizal’s day there were few Filipino scholars of history, by Constantino’s there were
many. Constantino dismisses those historians who sought to be balanced and objective, to
do so, in his view, was a symptom of colonial mentality: “the work of these scholars was
till undertaken primarily in the interests of ‘objectivity’ and for this reason did not fall
The End Of Veneration 13•

within the framework of an essentially liberating scholarship.” What Constantino tells us,
then, is that objectivity cannot be liberating. To misquote the motto of a major Philippine
daily newspaper, he tells us ‘The truth cannot make you free’.
Of particular note is his comment: “when intellectual decolonisation shall have been
accomplished, a historical account can be produced which will present a fuller, more
balanced picture of reality”. For Constantino, then, Filipinos are not ready for an
objective study of their own history, rather as the Americans considered Filipinos ill-
prepared for independence. Further, this note is an implicit admission that his book does
not represent reality.
Constantino proposes that people’s access to information must be censored for their
own good, as have dictators and tyrants down the centuries. He does not identify whom
should be the censor, certainly not the masses since he accuses them, without trial, as
swallowing the American perception
of Rizal in toto. When Constantino
accuses Rizal of not trusting the Constantino proposes that
masses he is projecting upon the people’s access to information
national hero his own view of the
masa. must be censored for their own
Enforced ignorance is a form of good, as have dictators and
tyranny in itself. Ignorance is the
means by which tyranny seeks to tyrants down the centuries.
sustain itself. Contantino, therefore
seeks to overthrow one tyrant, Ferdinand Marcos (We might include American neo-
colonialists, too), with another of Constantino’s choosing.
He complains: “we habitually analyze Philippine society in the light of colonial myths
and foreign concepts and values…” Indeed, Constantino himself does so. His analysis is
based not on Filipino concepts and values but on those of a 19th century German
economist, Karl Marx. Since Marx and Rizal both studied at the British Museum it may
be that some mystical osmosis transferred Filipino concepts and values from Rizal to
Marx but somehow that seems a dubious proposition.
Moreover, Constantino depends upon an American concept of Rizal as merely a
reformer. So when Constantino complains that ‘we (Filipinos) habitually analyze
Philippine society in the light of … foreign values and concepts’ one cannot disagree
with him since he himself invokes alien ideologies to analyze his society.
One may, therefore question whether Constantino truly wrote history from a Filipino
viewpoint, as Rizal undoubtedly had done, but that would be to miss the point: Like
Rizal, Constantino was writing polemic, not history, and Veneration Without
Understanding is polemic intended to persuade Filipinos to ‘think properly’, ie., to think
like Constantino.
Let us look at how Constantino constructed his arguments and assembled his data.
The End Of Veneration 14•

Part 5 – Un-inventing A Revolutionary

Contantino presents us first with a list of national heroes: Washington, Lenin,
Bolivar, Sun Yat Sen, Mao and Ho Chi Minh. All led successful revolutions. What
Constantino fails to do is to present us with a list of national heroes who led failed
revolutions.
During the glorified tax-dodge that was the American War of Independence,
Washington withdrew to Valley Forge on a losing streak but, thanks in no small part to
French financial and materiel support and direct intervention, recovered to win
independence from the British. The
Philippine revolution has no …A national hero has a
comparable tale to tell and no
successful revolutionary leader to
variety of functions, one of
become the national hero because which is to be the archetype of
that revolution failed, thus there can
be no Philippine revolutionary
the people’s aspirations. Few
national hero to complete the people aspire to be a failure…
pantheon presented by Constantino
for comparison.
A national hero has a variety of functions, one of which is to be the archetype of the
people’s aspirations. Few people aspire to be a failure, which may be one good reason
why Filipinos chose Rizal as the person they most wanted to be.
Next, Constantino seeks to show that Rizal was pro-Spanish, anti-liberty, anti-
revolution and anti-independence using a calibrated scale from “he placed him against
Bonifacio” to “vehement condemnation of the mass movement” to “…our Revolution”.
Let’s explore this a little. Rizal was in Dapitan when he was approached by Pio
Valenzuela to support a revolution planned by a man he did not know, Bonifacio, and
whose personal qualities and integrity he could not judge.
There are various accounts of this meeting but the sum of them, including those
presented in Rizal’s trial, is that Rizal did not reject or repudiate revolution or his
involvement in it outright. He asked about money and arms, to be told there was little of
either. Rizal was clearly aware of the danger presented by the elite and the need to get
their support – otherwise where would the money and arms come from? He feared, too,
that their money and influence could crush the revolution and said as much.
He was told that this man, whom he did not know, without arms or money, had not
recruited such support. It was on those grounds that Rizal refused to back Bonifacio, not
because he was proposing a revolution but because Bonifacio and the Katipunan simply
hadn’t got their act together.
Rizal’s refusal had no effect on subsequent events because Bonifacio ensured that it
was kept a secret, although he continued to invoke Rizal’s name as the password for
entrance into Katipunan lodges, which were held under the gaze of photographs of Rizal.
The latter’s misgivings proved correct: learning of Bonifacio’s plans the Spanish
authorities seized the initiative, which Bonifacio was not able to recover. Bonifacio was
roundly beaten and went into hiding in Cavite. There, the Bonifacio revolution died and
was in its death throes even before his ignominious execution at Maragondon.
The End Of Veneration 15•

Bonifacio remained a largely forgotten, minor figure in Philippine history until
resurrected under American tutelage. It was the American regime which renamed Calle
Malecon as Calle Bonifacio, likewise in the 1920s it allowed the appropriation of 15,000
pesos, to be taken from the cedula taxes of Olongapo and Corregidor for a Bonifacio
Memorial School. A memorial to Bonifacio was allowed to be built in 1917 and a brass
plaque in Malacanang two decades later put his name not only alongside Rizal, but that of
William McKinley.
Unlike Rizal, it took an American puppet government to revive interest in Bonifacio
and the Americans recognized him AS a hero of the Philippines.
Be that as it may, Rizal’s hesitation to support the Bonifacio revolution was well
founded and by the time he was arrested the Luneta was already a sea of courageous
patriot’s blood being shed in his name in response to a leader then in hiding. It is against
that background that his manifesto to the Filipino people should be read. The manifesto
was not made public at the time because it repudiated neither revolution per se nor
independence and the fear was that releasing it would cause an upsurge in revolutionary
activity.
Constantino’s condemnation of Rizal lumps his refusal to join Bonifacio with an
implicit condemnation of ALL those fighting for the country’s freedom. Is this true?
Rizal’s unnamed poem which we know today as Mi Ultimo Ados is not merely a love
song to his country, it is a stirring call to arms to shed blood for it, which is very apparent
in the second stanza where he explicitly refers to the ongoing revolution and the
continuum of the struggle since at least 1876.
Now let’s take a brief look at the ‘mass movement’. Constantino borrows Teodoro
Agoncillo’s concept of a revolution of the masses and blames its failure on the
turncoatism of the elite. It is treated as axiomatic yet the historical record suggests
otherwise. Many of the much maligned elite fought it out to the end, even through the
Philippine-American War,
Vicente Lukban being just one
example. Like Agoncillo,
…the masses were disillusioned
Constantino avoids the very with the revolutionary
pertinent question: If it was a
movement of the masses, how
leadership and rather tired of
could the betrayal by a handful of being robbed, tortured, raped
the elite cause it to collapse?
There is, in fact, little evidence
and murdered by revolutionary
that the revolution was a commanders and their men…
revolution of the masses more
than, say, a revolution of the elite, merely calling it such doesn’t make it so. Indeed,
especially during the Philippine-American War period there is plentiful evidence that the
masses were disillusioned with the revolutionary leadership and rather tired of being
robbed, tortured, raped and murdered by revolutionary commanders and their men.
Hundreds of such reports, by Filipinos, are spread throughout the largely unexplored
volumes of the Philippine Revolutionary Records. Constantino was aware of these reports
because he edited the 1973 publication, by the Lopez Foundation, of JRM Taylor’s The
Philippine Insurrection Against The United States, which includes a selection of about
1,500 PRR documents out of a total of some 600,000.
The End Of Veneration 16•

The captures of Aguinaldo and Lukban and the surrenders of Trias and Macabulos
were followed by the end of effective resistance to American rule. Resistance did
continue but it was disorganized, disunited and sporadic. Often, Filipinos suffered more
than the enemy: During the Pulahanes period in Samar, more Filipinos were killed by the
Pulahanes than by the Americans during the Samar campaign, the ‘Hemp War’, of early
summer 1901 to April 1902. Indeed, the very same townsmen who, in 1901, had
successfully attacked and defeated an American garrison at Balangiga, the worse single
disaster for American forces during the 1899-1902 war, were driven to capture not only a
leading pulahane but one who was one of their own kinsman.
Historical data simply does not support Constantino’s concept of a revolution of the
masses. Rizal’s Golden Age of great Filipino cannon-makers, writers of great bodies of
Filipino literature and Filipino builders of 2,000 tonne ships occupy the same reality-
space as Constantino’s revolutionary masses.
The End Of Veneration 17•

Part 6 – Revolution? Which Revolution?

“Either the Revolution was wrong, yet we cannot disown it, or Rizal was wrong, yet
we cannot disown him either.” Says Constantino. These are worrying, challenging
questions for a patriotic, nationalistic Filipino, even one who is not a Marxist. But
are they the right questions?
Let us remind ourselves: We have the Spanish, not Bonifacio, to thank for launching
the revolution. Bonifacio proved an incompetent commander, was driven out of Manila
and failed again at Indang in Cavite. Aguinaldo, the bête noir of Constantino, as well as
other members of the elite, took and held territory with some success. None, however,
showed inspired military leadership. The revolutionaries had Manila invested in late 1896
yet did not push their advantage and throw out the
Spaniards. That lack of decisiveness allowed time
for the Spanish to receive reinforcements (Few
To simply blame the
veterans, most of them were raw, untrained elite may be
recruits). While the revolution did not collapse in its convenient, but it is
entirety it lost sufficient ground that, along with the
depredations by the Filipinos forces against the an excuse and far
common tao under the pretext of revolution, morale
fell sufficiently for the situation to become
too simplistic.
unwinnable for either side.
We cannot disown this history. We must accept it. To simply blame the elite may be
convenient, but it is an excuse and far too simplistic. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of
the book of the British: The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War was
suicidal, courageous, magnificent, and the result of incompetent leadership. Said a French
general, “It’s magnificence, but is it war?”.
In the early part of World War 2 British forces in Europe were thoroughly clobbered
by the Nazis and forced to withdraw across the English Channel (The French call it La
Manche, unwilling to accept that the English actually had a channel) through the small
French town of Dunkirk. Those forces had to be rescued by a fleet of ships and tiny
private yachts, some little more than exaggerated rowboats, which set off across the
channel to bring them back. Dunkirk was a failure yet the term ‘the Dunkirk spirit’, the
unwillingness to give up even when the odds are against you, still survives.
The Philippine Revolution, or rather Bonmfacio’s part of it, was the Filipino Charge of
the Light Brigade, its Dunkirk. It is not only victories that define national character, so do
defeats.
Even if we accept the concept of a revolution of the masses, was it a revolution for the
masses? There is nothing in Bonifacio’s or the Katipunan’s political philosophy that
suggested anything other than a change of personalities, certainly there is nothing to
suggest that systemic change in ownership of the economy or access to power. Indeed,
the elections at Tejeros, supervised by Bonifacio, suggest that the revolution would
merely extrapolate local municipal politics to a national scale. Since for most ordinary
Filipinos the interface with the power structure was these same principales, they could
expect little real change.
Constantino’s/Agoncillo’s concept demands that we think of the revolution as a single
monolithic movement. But was it? Although the Katipunan philosophy offered little to
The End Of Veneration 18•

the common tao there were others who underpinned ‘their’ revolution with something
more substantive. The Pensacola brothers in Zambales, for instance fought under the
motto ‘It is time for the rich to be poor and the poor to be rich’, a clear and distinct
demand for systemic economic and political change and equitable distribution of
resources for the benefit of the masses. No such philosophy tainted the revolution in
Cavite and Manila or the lips of Bonifacio or Aguinaldo.
So whose revolution is ‘our’ revolution, the ‘revolution of the masses? Bonifacio’s or
that of the Pensacolas? Which revolution did Rizal actually repudiate?
The End Of Veneration 19•

Part 7 – Constantino’s Equivocation On The Unequivocal

How ‘unequivocal’ was Rizal’s condemnation of the revolution in Manila? What he
repudiated was very specific, a conflict in which people were dying in the belief that
Bonifacio had Rizal’s support, an uprising which Rizal held, rightly as it turned out,
was premature, information that had been kept secret from the revolutionaries by
Bonifacio.
Correctly, the Spanish advocate at his trial, deduced that Rizal was not anti-revolution
or anti-separatist, ie., independent at that his opposition was a matter of time and
opportunity, not substance.
Rizal certainly favoured independence, as much is implicit in his published writings
and speeches and explicit in his private correspondence – if somewhat cautiously – and
private conversations – ‘who launches a revolution will have me at his side’ he told his
fellow ‘bedspacer’ in Europe, Jose Alejandrino.
Revolution was an optional route to independence, but not necessarily the only option.
Rizal’s focus was on liberty, a condition in which Filipinos could achieve their full
potential as individuals, as a society and
as a nation. This could only be achieved the greatest threat to liberty
through individual dignity and the
respect for the dignity of others. was not the Spanish but the
He was well aware that the greatest Filipinos themselves
threat to liberty was not the Spanish but
the Filipinos themselves. There was no point in independence if today’s slaves were to
become tomorrow’s tyrants. Revolution and independence were therefore useless unless
the endpoint was Filipino liberty – not merely removing the Spanish but preventing, too,
future tyranny by Filipinos.
The Manila revolution merely sought to replace Spaniards with Filipinos. No
underpinning of political philosophy as such was formalized until mid-1898. It was not
unequivocally a revolution for the masses.
Constantino’s dichotomy between owning or disowning the revolution or owning or
disowning Rizal as the National hero cannot be resolved in Constantino’s terms. It
requires objective study and understanding of the objectives of Bonifacio’s revolution
and of Rizal , the application of an instrument which Constantino himself confesses he
denies to his Filipino readers - objectivity. To quote Constantino out of context: “This is a
disservice to the event, to the man, and to ourselves.”
Freedom, to Constantino, is the absence of Spanish rulers and the presence of Filipino
rulers regardless of the quality of their leadership. To Rizal, freedom was the presence of
a Filipino liberty which promoted the interests and potential of all Filipinos. Constantino
was fully aware of this, he was a well-read man, so was Rizal the real target of
Veneration Without Understanding?
“(Considering Rizal as a nationalist leader) … has dangerous implications because it
can be used to exculpate those who actively betrayed the Revolution and may serve to
diminish the ardor of those who today may be called upon to support another great
nationalist undertaking to complete the anti-colonial movement” wrote Constantino.
Rizal, then, must be removed from his pedestal not because of his worth as an individual
but as an atomic particle in a class which Constantino hold betrayed the 1896 revolution
The End Of Veneration 20•

and the Katipunan, because he represents a class which Constantino considered a threat to
the anti-colonialist movement of the 1960s.
Rizal must be toppled because Constantino wanted to topple his class among whom,
by extrapolation, was Ferdinand Marcos, a lawyer, whose star was on the rise as
Constantino wrote his famous article. It has been said that the problem with dictators isn’t
that they don’t love their country but that they love it too much. Marcos, odious dictator
though he became, was a nationalist and cunningly played US interests against Russian
and Chinese interests. It is far too simplistic to see Marcos and merely a super-cacaique
to sought to preserve power and extract wealth. He loved his country, identified himself
with it and saw an attack on himself as an attack on his country and considered his own
leadership as the only one that could defend and protect it.
Out of that nationalism came the very tyranny that Rizal feared, a fear that led to his
repudiation of Bonifacio.
Bonifacio’s leadership was tested in the field of battle and found wanting. The
elections at the Tejeros convention were a judgement on his competence a leader..
In that context it is worth noting that one reason for the change from a Katipunan
leadership to a revolutionary government leadership at Tejeros was that many of those
fighting were not katipuneros and a Katipunan government would leave their struggle
unrepresented and unrecognized.
Years later a monument was built to memorialize all those who fought the Spanish in
1896, The Heroes of ’96, which singles out no individual hence encompasses both the
leaders and the masa, the Katipuneros and the non-Katipuneros, who participated in the
revolution.
Today, that monument stands in the grounds of UP and has been dubbed the Bonifacio
monument, its true meaning forgotten. Those anonymous thousands, the fighting masa,
once honoured by the statue have been sacrificed on the altar of Bonifacio.
The End Of Veneration 21•

Part 8 – The Filipino-Sponsored Hero

“'And now, gentlemen, you must have a national hero.' In these fateful words,
addressed by then Civil Governor W. H. Taft to the Filipino members of the civil
commission, Pardo de Tavera, Legarda, and Luzuriaga, lay the genesis of Rizal
Day…..” writes Constantino in a section of Veneration Without Understanding
subtitled An American Sponsored Hero. He is wrong.
The genesis of Rizal Day was December 31, 1898 when Emilio Aguinaldo declared
a national day of mourning for Rizal. It was repeated exactly a year later with
commemorative broadsheets distributed in Rizal’s honour. Taft became the civil
Governor of the Philippines on July 4 1901 by which time Rizal Day was already well
established, in fact if not in name.
A depressing number of young Filipinos today read ‘American-sponsored hero’ as
‘American-invented hero’, the latter is nonsense. Constantino concedes that Rizal was
already a revered figure and more so
after his death. “There is no question A depressing number of
that Rizal had the qualities of young Filipinos today read
greatness. History cannot deny his
patriotism. He was a martyr to ‘American-sponsored hero’
oppression, obscurantism and bigotry. as ‘American-invented hero’,
His dramatic death captured the
imagination of our people”, he writes. the latter is nonsense.
Rizal was more than that. His
patriotism was a self-less life-giving love of country that few can match. A cosmopolitan
man if immense nobility and dignity yet still tainted by humanity. Just 5’ 1” tall, he had
overcome personal short-comings and physical weakness to become an intellectual and
thinker respected in Europe, a poet and artist of talent, and a smart resourceful amateur
engineer, as his contributions to Dapitan show. His educational records show he was not
a natural genius, he literally created himself. Any Filipino could have been, and could
still be, Jose Rizal. He was, intentionally, an archetype of what the Filipino can be.
Herein lays a core fault in Constantino’s analysis. He sees Rizal solely in relation to
the revolution, or revolutions, he does not consider that Rizal is a hero for all ages,
revolution or not. He was perceived as a hero before the revolution and remained so
afterwards. Whether or not the Americans colonized the Philippines he’d still have been
just as great a hero.
Constantino surrounds his thesis that Rizal was a posthumous ‘Amboy’ with
significant qualifiers: “It cannot be denied that his pre-eminence among our heroes was
partly the result of American sponsorship… we must accept the fact that his formal
designation as our national hero, his elevation to his present eminence so far above all our
other heroes was abetted and encouraged by the Americans.” If Rizal’s elevation was
only partly the result of ‘American sponsorship’ then it must be conceded that it was also
partly, if not mostly, the result of the will of the Filipino people themselves.
The reference to the formal designation clearly does not refer to Aguinaldo’s 1898
order but to the acts promulgated by the American Philippine Commission which
renamed Morong province as Rizal, opened a public subscription for a monument and set
aside an annual day of observance, the latter, of course, had already been done by
The End Of Veneration 22•

Aguinaldo. Why the emphasis on formal? Because it is a weasel word without which
Constantino’s thesis falls apart. Rizal was already the de facto national hero, chosen by
the Filipinos, the acts of the Philippine Commission merely recognition of the prevailing
sentiment.
To parse his argument and avoid taking responsibility, Constantino relies upon a
foreigner, American historian Theodore Friend: ‘Taft "with other American colonial
officials and some conservative Filipinos, chose him (Rizal) as a model hero over other
contestants - Aguinaldo too militant, Bonifacio too radical, Mabini unregenerate."
This, as older generation Britons might
say, is just so much tosh. National heroes National heroes almost
almost always have one significant thing in
common: they’re dead. Aguinaldo was very always have one
much alive until the 1960s, and, in fact no significant thing in
longer militant. He was still under house
arrest in Manila. Mabini, at that time, was common: they’re dead.
also still alive. What about Bonifacio?
Courageous though he was, incompetent commanders aren’t usually nominated a
country’s national hero, and his willingness to split the revolutionary forces in a temper
tantrum at Tejeros makes him somewhat questionable.
But there are other considerations: The Americans conceded that Bonifacio wsa a
hero, his first monument was erected under an American puppet government in 1917 and
his name was inscribed along with others on a brass plaque mounted in Malacanang in
the 1920s (A plaque he shares, by the way, with President William McKinley!), but
would Bonifacio be acceptable to Cavitenos, who believe he threatened the revolution
and whose provincial son, Aguinaldo, killed Bonifacio? Would Aguinaldo be acceptable
to Manilenos, since he’d killed Bonifacio, or Nueva Ecijans, who blame Aguinaldo for
Luna death? Rizal’s name was known to virtually every Filipino, Mabini’s wasn’t.
The simple fact is that the Americans had no other choice but to accept the Filipino
choice of Rizal because no-one else was such an undisputed, uncontroversial choice as
national hero. Constantino himself concedes: “The honors bestowed on Rizal were
naturally appreciated by the Filipinos who were proud of him.”
Constantino then accepts, without question, another foreigner’s concept of Rizal, that
of former Governor-General Forbes: “Rizal never advocated independence, nor did he
advocate armed resistance to the government. He urged reform from within by
publicity, by public education, and appeal to the public conscience”. The emphasis is
supplied by Constantino, not Forbes. Had Forbes written: “Rizal never advocated
independence without liberty, nor did he advocate armed resistance to the government
unless liberty was the outcome..” he’d have shown far greater understanding of Rizal’s
thinking.
Certainly the Americans did revise Rizal into a pacifist reformer, of that there is no
question, but that is not Rizal’s fault. It is this American-created myth that Constantino
wishes us to judge Rizal by.
What Constantino utterly fails to tell us is what the masa actually thought of Rizal.
He talks about the masa, he talks at the masa, but nowhere does he listen to the masa.
What did his maid, or his cook, or his driver, or the sari-sari store owner, or the tricycle
driver or the truck driver, or the farm worker, or the sweat-shop labouring seamstress, or
The End Of Veneration 23•

the taho vendor think of Rizal? Did their views coincide with those of the Americans or
the schoolbook writers which he cites but whom a minority of Filipinos actually read?
We don’t know because Constantino never asked the people whom he claimed to
represent.
With irony, Constantino writes: “it is now time for us to view Rizal with more
rationality and with more historicity... Rizal will still occupy a good position in our
national pantheon even if we discard hagiolatry and subject him to a more mature
historical evaluation… A proper understanding of our history is very important to us
because it will serve to demonstrate how our present has been distorted by a faulty
knowledge of our past… That is why a critical evaluation of Rizal cannot but lead to a
revision of our understanding of history and of the role of the individual in history.”
All of which sounds fine but how can we view Rizal with ‘more rationality and with
more historicity… and subject him to more mature historical evaluation’ if we are denied
the tools of accuracy and objectivity, tools which Constantino says must be denied the
Filipino? True, objectivity is a challenge, an ideal which can rarely be quite reached yet
we find truth not in discarding it but in trying to achieve it.
Note that Constantino refers to “A proper (my emphasis) understanding of our
history” because “it will serve to demonstrate how our present has been distorted by a
faulty knowledge of our past…” Not an accurate understanding of history, not a full
understanding, but the understanding that Constantino would wish us to have by
suppressing data and creating “a faulty knowledge of our past”.
Where I do concur with Constantino is that Rizal is treated as some sort of superhero
and should not be. It was not a superhero who inspired the revolution, whose reputation
inspired others to shed blood for their nation, it was a man. Painting Rizal with a broad
hagiographic brush not only creates as false an image of Rizal and his thinking as
Constatino does in his article but, as far worse, creates a barrier between us and him, a
barrier between what we are and what we can be.
The End Of Veneration 24•

Part 9 – Liberty Or Tyranny?

“With or without these specific individuals the social relations engendered by
Spanish colonialism and the subsequent economic development of the country
would have produced the nationalist movement,” says Constantino, and he is
certainly correct. But is he correct when he says “But he is not a hero in the sense
that he could have stopped and altered the course of events. The truth of this
statement is demonstrated by the fact that the Revolution broke out despite his
refusal to lead it and continued despite his condemnation of it.”?
In fact, as noted earlier, Rizal’s refusal to support Bonifacio was kept secret and
Rizal’s condemnation of him remained suppressed so no-one actually knew about them.
What did go into public awareness was the poem we know today as Mi Ultimo Adios, a
moving call to arms to shed blood for the country. It would be more accurate to say that
the revolution broke out with Rizal’s assumed, but false, explicit blessing, thanks to
Bonifacio, and continued with the implicit
blessing given in Mi Ultimo Adios.
Constantino’s basis for dismissing the
…the revolution
possibility that Rizal could have altered the flow broke out with Rizal’s
of events, and thus cannot or should not be
regarded as a hero, is based on a false assumption.
assumed, but false,
Rizal appreciated that he was not the only explicit blessing,
game in town and yet had a place in history. In a
letter to be published after his death he wrote: “I
thanks to Bonifacio,
know that at present, the future of my country and continued with
gravitates in part around me…but my country has
many sons who can take it to advantange… there
the implicit blessing
are still others who can take my place…” given in Mi Ultimo
Yet “…he was only a limited Filipino, the
ilustrado Filipino who fought for national unity
Adios...
but feared the Revolution” writes Contantino, but Rizal feared tyranny far more. His
room-mate in Ghent, Jose Alejandrino, says: “One of the subjects he discussed frequently
with us were the means by which we could make use of in order to promote a revolution”
and quotes Rizal himself as saying: “I will never lead a disorderly revolution and one
which has no probability of success because I do not want to burden my conscience with
an imprudent and useless spilling of blood, but whoever leads a revolution in the
Philippines will have me at his side.”
Alejandrino read the galleyproofs of El Filibusterismo as it was being printed. Of his
characters Rizal said “I regret having killed Elias instead of Cristomo Ibarra; but when I
wrote the Noli Me Tangere… I never thought that I would be able to write its sequel and
speak of a revolution, otherwise I would have preserved the life of Elias, who was a noble
character, patriotic, self-denying and disinterested – necessary qualities in a man who
leads a revolution – whereas Cristomo Ibarra was an egotist who only decided to provoke
the rebellion when he was hurt in his interests… with men like him, success cannot be
expected in their undertakings”.
The echoes of Ibarra in Bonifacio are eery.
The End Of Veneration 25•

Further, Constantino ignores Rizal’s own testimony at his trial regarding his meeting
in Dapitan with Pio Valenzuela according to the court stenographer (My emphasis):
“(Rizal) told him that it was hardly the time to embark on such foolhardy ventures, as
there was no unity among the various classes of Filipino, nor did they have arms, nor
ships, nor education, nor any requirements for a resistance movement… it was (Rizal’s)
opinion that they ought to wait.”
In private conversation and correspondence such as that with Blumentritt, Rizal
considers revolution as an option but not as an end in itself. It was not revolution that
Rizal feared, but one that went off half-cock.
Rizal’s reference to Cuba raises a point almost universally overlooked. Cuba, too, had
been fighting a war of independence against Spain that seemed interminable and
unwinnable. Cuban revolutionaries, too, reached an agreement with the Spanish along
much the same lines as Aguinaldo was to reach at the Pact of Biak-Na-Bato. Rizal
advised “Let them learn from Cuba, where the people, although possessing abundant
means and the backing of a great power, and being schooled in war, are powerless to
achieve their objectives. Moreover, whatever may be the issue of that struggle, it will be
to Spain’s advantage to grant concessions to the Philippines.”
Clearly, Rizal saw the Cuban struggle as a warning and also an opportunity to take
another step towards liberty.
Usually ignored, too, is the fact that Spain lost its empire on the American continent in
a series of revolts in the early part of the 19th century. The result was a series of unstable
states from Mexico to Terra Del Fuego that were independent but, thanks to various
shades of tyranny and oppression, hardly advertisements for revolution as a process that
would automatically liberate the masses as Constantino assumes.
Writing, as usual, ex cathedra, Constantino writes “his (Rizal’s) cultural upbringing
was such that affection for Spain and Spanish civilization precluded the idea of breaking
the chains of colonialism. He had to become a Spaniard first before becoming a Filipino.”
This seems a little rich coming, as it does, from someone so dependent upon an imported,
alien, 19th century political philosophy rather than an indigenous philosophy developed
by Filipinos for Filipinos.
Responding to an article by Pablo Feced published in a Manila newpaper, Rizal
writes: “ (Feced aka Quioquiap) wants separation and he is right. The Filipinos have long
desired Hispanization and have been wrong. Spain should desire this hispanization, not
the Filipinos.”
True, in a couple of his writings, Rizal talks
of staying with Spain for the time being since To Rizal, the means
the Filipinos and Spanish share such a long
history. He does so, however, against the didn’t matter, the
backdrop of potential colonization by other endpoint, liberty, did.
existing and emerging powers like Britain,
Germany, Japan and the US. He recognizes that the state of disunity and lack of resources
available to the Filipino not only made a successful revolution unlikely, but even with a
successful revolution they did not have what was necessary to protect and defend
themselves as an independent state, as in fact, proved to be the case. In a realpolitik sense
the Philippines was not ready for independence since it could not maintain that
independence.
The End Of Veneration 26•

One must also consider that not only had Spain already lost most of its overseas
colonies to revolutions but Spain itself had undergone several revolutions since the mid-
19th century and was in danger of tearing itself apart in civil war.
Spain’s ability to preserve its empire by force was dwindling and historical forces
were limiting its options. Ultimately it would either have to surrender the Philippines,
abandoning it to its own future or by passing sovereignty to another colonizer, the latter
certainly through war as finally happened, or by increasing liberties to the Filipino,
offering parity and, ultimately, independence.
Thus independence without a revolution was already on the cards and Rizal was aware
of it. Indeed his manifesto, written during his trial, says as much and one can justifiably
wonder who was the intended audience, Filipinos or the Spanish administration.
It can be argued that if the Filipinos had sided with Spain in Spanish-American War
and held Manila until news of the cessation of hostilities reached the Philippines, the
country may had won independence earlier. In microcosm that may have been Rizal’s
strategy in applying to go to Cuba to provided medical services. In Dapitan he was
neutralized in exile. Had he served in Cuba, the Spanish could hardly have sent him back
into exile on his return or banned him from returning to the country. It would have been a
powerful propaganda coup for Philippine liberty and independence. His arrest and the
unauthorised use of his name by Bonifacio however sealed his fate.
Constantino concedes, “Rizal contributed much to the growth of this national
consciousness. It was a contribution not only in terms of propaganda but in something
positive that the present generation of Filipinos will owe to him and for which they will
honor him by completing the task which he so nobly began...This contribution was in the
realm of Filipino nationhood - the winning of our name as a race, the recognition of our
people as one, and the elevation of the indio into Filipino.”
That, of course, is one of the reasons why he is the National Hero, not solely a
revolutionary hero. However, in the midst of that ellipsis, Constantino describes Rizal’s
goal of liberty as “already passé, something we take for granted”. So, Constantino’s
generation will complete Rizal’s task (They didn’t), but it is already passé and taken for
granted. Huh?
No, Mr. Constantino, Rizal’s task will be passé when the Philippines is a land without
slaves or tyrants and when human dignity is respected, when it is a land in which each of
its people can reach their full potential.
Constantino cites Rizal’s brief to his defense lawyer as evidence that Rizal was anti-
Independence: ”. many have interpreted my phrase to have liberties as to have
independence, which are two different things. A people can be free without being
independent, and a people can be independent without being free. I have always desired
liberties for the Philippines and I have said so. Others who testify that I said
independence either have put the cart before the horse or they lie.”
Rizal does not say that he does not desire independence. Independence and liberty are
two separate states, as even a cursory glance around numerous of the world’s independent
but hardly free states, and he is cautioning against such situations as is evident in his
remark “(they) have put the cart before the horse”, they got it the wrong way around but
both cart and horse, liberty and independence, are part of the future.
Perhaps it is the zen-like simplicity of Rizal’s thought that eluded Constantino. Most
of us have heard the phrase “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” and
The End Of Veneration 27•

Rizal said something similar, also cited by Constantino: “I do not mean to say that our
liberty will be secured at the sword's point, for the sword plays but little part in modern
affairs, but that we must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it, by exalting the
intelligence and the dignity of the individual, by loving justice, right and greatness, even
to the extent of dying for them - and when a people reaches that height God will provide
a weapon, the idols will be shattered, the tyranny will crumble like a house of cards and
liberty will shine out like the first dawn.”
Constantino misinterprets this to mean that Rizal intends that “freedom is a diploma to
be granted by a superior people to an inferior one after years of apprenticeship”. Rizal
means nothing of the sort – the judge of when people are ready is not some ‘superior
people’, it is the people, the masses themselves and the interplay between them and
historical dynamics that will create the means by which their liberty is attained, whether
it be by revolution, by seizing independence, or through a peaceful, Gandhi-like ‘war’ of
attrition. To Rizal, the means didn’t matter, the endpoint, liberty, did.
It is important to note Rizal’s imagery of the dawn, “liberty will shine out like the first
dawn”. In a letter to the Filipino people written in 1892, for publication after his death, he
wrote “I shall die blessing my country and wishing her the dawn of redemption. This is
the dawn he refers to in Mi Ultimo Adios, a dawn he clearly believed was breaking as he
shed his blood on the earth of Bagumbayan and, in that same poem, urged his
countrymen to shed theirs.
The End Of Veneration 28•

Conclusions
Where does all this leave us? First, Rizal was a national hero sponsored by Filipinos
so forcefully that the Americans had little choice. Second, that Rizal believed that
when Filipinos achieved a national consciousness thatcontinuously denied tyrants
their supremacy the means for overthrowing the tyrants would self-generate out of
the people themselves. Third that Rizal saw revolution and independence as options
once national consciousness had been achieved.
The second conclusion is that Constantino is a thoroughly unreliable source of
analysis of Rizal’s philosophy since he has suppressed and distorted all data that does not
fit within his pre-conceived polemical framework.
Third, the value of Veneration Without Understanding is not as a source of historical
analysis of Rizal’s place as national hero, but in what it tells of someone who played a
key role in the political activism of the
1960s and 1970s, Renato Constantino. It “…the value of Veneration
should therefore be viewed as a polemical Without Understanding is
historical document of the mid-late 20th
century. not as a source of historical
Much has changed since Constantino’s analysis of Rizal’s place as
day, yet also little. Ferdinand Marcos was
overthrown in in 1986 in a revolution national hero, but in what it
begun by a military coup sponsored by tells of someone who
the wealthy elite that was co-opted by the
Catholic Church that succeeded as a coup played a key role in the
because of the power of the masses. Yet political activism of the
as a revolution it failed because the
masses did not maintain and defend what 1960s and 1970s, Renato
they had struggled for and the status quo Constantino…”
re-asserted itself, which is precisely what
Rizal feared almost a century before.
Without question a people have the right to liberty but implicit in that right are two
duties: To respect the right of liberty of others, those who do not do so are by definition
tyrants; and to fight for, defend and maintain that liberty. If these two duties are
abrogated then the right to liberty necessarily falls by the wayside. Only those who have
internalized those principles honour them and live by them can successfully achieve a
state of liberty, of kalayaan in the sense outlined in Rey Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution
and it is that internalization which is the liwanag, the light, that will illuminate the road to
kalayaan.
No-one can deny the heroism and courage of the thousands of ordinary Filipinos who
gathered on EDSA, any more than we can deny that of those who fought the Spanish and
American regimes. Each one of them became national heroes, even though they remain
largely nameless. Yet is it not time to explore why that unity and that awesome desire for
change foundered?
It is certainly time to ask, objectively and dispassionately why the movement of which
Constantino was a part failed to deliver the goods, failed to inspire the masses, and still
fails to inspire them today, the true role of activist events such a the First Quarter Storm
and their contribution, or lack thereof, to the events of 1986 and whether it is relevant to
The End Of Veneration 29•

today’s Philippines. Critical examination of the polemics of Veneration Without
Understanding should be a part of that exploration.
Liberty is not a fashion accessory to be worn once and put away in a cupboard like the
Che Guevarra sweat-shirts and radical chic of the 1960s and 1970s. It is a dynamic
process which must be defended anew each day. Rizal’s writings show that he understood
the need to dynamically maintain and defend liberty, Constantino did not.
Constantino wrote of Rizal and the masses: “He was their martyr; they recognized his
labors although they knew that he was already behind them in their forward march”. If
there is a forward march of the masses all one can say is that it is not Rizal that they left
behind, it is Constantino.

CE

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