MANILA, Philippines – In commemoration of Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday on June 19, youths wearing Rizal face masks staged a protest action today in Mendiola against current social ills like poverty and corruption. They likewise called on the youth to be active agents in nation-building.
According to Athena Gardon, Secretary General of Kabataan Partylist, “If Rizal were alive today, he would also be agitated by the current social situation which alarmingly resembles the historical period he sought to change. His time and ours bear witness to blatant assaults to the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the form of poverty, corruption, political killings, restrained access to social services like education, and so on. We keep his legacy alive by continuing the fight.”
Gardon explained that the wearing of Rizal face masks aimed to “resuscitate the radical Rizal who sharply exposed the ills of society and stood up against social injustices. The challenge remains the same for today’s youth and people.”
Rizal, the country’s venerated national hero, famously said that the “youth is the hope of the nation.”
Rizal vs. PNoy
Gardon also said that should Rizal experience life under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the former would be dismayed over “the apparent absence of genuine social change.”
“In Noli and Fili, Rizal portrayed a decaying society ruled by anti-people colonizers and their local puppets. Does this not remain the case today? Colonialism takes in the form of US control through policies that chain our nation to abjection. President Aquino embraces this colonial setup as our ticket to a better tomorrow. Rizal would be perceptive enough to think otherwise. The KKK, whose formation was inspired by Rizal’s banishment, has now been transformed by President Aquino as Kamag-anak, Kaklase, and Kaibigan,” she said.
Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are two novels considered as Rizal’s magnum opus. The novels caused the ire of the Spanish colonizers who ordered Rizal’s execution on December 30, 1896.
Gardon said that it also crucial to rehabilitate Rizal against crude constructions of him as “an anarchist and a naïve reformist”
“While it is true that in Noli and Fili, the two protagonists associated with Rizal – Crisostomo Ibarra and Simoun – are actually an anarchist and a naïve reformist, we have to understand these novels as unfinished stories of our nation. Rizal, due to social circumstances, left these radical works open for our generation to develop and complete,” she said.
“The task for the youth and people is therefore to realize the project of emancipation laid out by Rizal. The celebration of his 150th should not be reduced to mere pageantry and flamboyant affairs,” Gardon said.