Recycling, Rizal style

AS EASY AS ABC - The Philippine Star

Never mind the public figures who proudly declare that they do not believe in climate change. They ought to be blown along with the next strong wind that visits with a disaster. Recycling, one of man’s ways to make amends with the environment, is as important to Earth as it is to preserving how we live. Rizal’s mind, which has produced ideas that not even more than a century of modernization can bury, is not bereft of recycling thoughts, although in national hero’s fashion.

Perhaps, it is safe to say that everyone, pre-millennial generation, had worn tsinelas (slippers). Sure, tsinelas leveled up with artwork designs, but the prohibitive price of a trendy imported pair today could not keep the patrons away. We used to love wearing the traditional tsinelas, and loved throwing them at empty cans in a game of tumbang preso. A young Rizal, after losing one of his slippers while at sea, threw the other slipper into the waters as well. He was certain he couldn’t recover the first slipper he lost, so he threw his remaining slipper for the better odds of someone else finding both slippers along with the tide of the waves – this may be his earliest recorded thought of charity. Indeed, one man’s trash could be another man’s treasure.

On that thought, it may not be off to suggest as the year closes to have a plan to convert our individual trash into someone else’s gain. A good way to have more closet space is to put clothes and shoes we don’t use into boxes, labeled according to size, prepared to be personally delivered to a ravaged community when disaster strikes again. Those who suffer tragedies from natural disasters may be eating canned goods for the meantime, but could also be eating them in presentable, comfortable clothing, thanks to your closet clean-up boxes.

Even at a more tender age, Rizal, known as young Pepe to his family, while being read to by his mother, was fascinated by the moths circling the flame from the coconut oil-powered lamp. He explained that “the light, seemed to me, more beautiful, the flame, more attractive. I really envied the fortune of insects. They frolicked so joyously in its enchanting splendor that the ones which had fallen and been drowned in the oil did not cause me any dread.” Rizal recycled the scene in his mind and saw the wisdom of going after things that give his spirit great joy, regardless of the risks. Not the ideal decision-making principle in today’s risk management protocols, but certainly a principle that younger folks have the luxury of embracing.

This Rizal idea resonates and connects quite clearly when dished out by a popular Hollywood comedian with a serious side during a commencement exercise. He said his father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, so he made a safe choice, and got a safe job as an accountant. When his dad lost his job, their family fell on hard times. He said: “I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

In El Filibusterismo, Rizal raised the bar and challenged the youth if their chosen field was enough to make them relevant. Through Simon talking to Basilio, who wanted to be a physician, he said, “don’t you realize that that is a useless life which is not consecrated to a great ideal? It is like a stone wasted in the fields without becoming part of an edifice”. His timeless analogy touching on the recycling of loose stones into construction says that individually, we can be successful, but as part of a worthy cause, we can be greater.

Of all his recycling ideas, none can be more poignant than that which involved the recycling of his own self. In the poem he composed on the week of his last Christmas spent in a dark cell before his execution, even in death he didn’t want to be constrained to a place of uselessness. He wrote in part:

“And when my grave by all is no more remembered,

with neither cross nor stone to mark its place,

Let it be plowed by man, with spade let it be scattered

And my ashes ere to nothingness restored

Let them turn to dust to cover your earthly space”

Pardon my attempted little tribute to Rizal, my favorite individual and hero. Maybe his hard lessons are too stiff for a season where gifts abound and when pursuit of happiness is totally allowed. My last reflection then from all of the above: The greatest gift of our Creator, to each one of us who are still here, is time. How we consume that time is our gift to ourselves. How we allow that time, that greater ideal, to consume us is our gift for others.

To all ABC readers, thank you for spending time with me this past year – you see, it’s our second Christmas together. Merry Christmas, and here is to creating something new this New Year!

* * *

Alexander B. Cabrera is the chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. Email your comments and questions to aseasyasABC@ph.pwc.com. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

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