Rizal’s 145th birthday marked

- Ghio Ong, Helen Flores () - June 19, 2006 - 12:00am
National hero Jose Rizal was just an ordinary man who would pick up his pen and write the blues away.

This was what historian and "Rizalista" Pablo Trillana III said of Rizal, whose 145th birth anniversary the nation commemorates today.

"To many Filipinos Dr. Jose Rizal was a superman, a demi-god. People mistake him to have been born a hero, with a charmed and perfect life that was destined from the beginning to achieve greatness," wrote Trillana who, however, said the hero was an ordinary man.

"Often people mistake Rizal as perfect in every respect. Yet there were doubts that he was ever an effective organizer," Trillana said.

"Rizal always led by example, but when unity was not forthcoming his reaction was not to patch things up but to go it alone," wrote Trillana, deputy supreme commander and co-chairman of the Order of the Knights of Rizal.

According to Trillana, Rizal convinced Filipino students in Madrid to contribute essays to a book that would expose the real problems of the Philippines.

But even after he was provided the idea for the book, he lacked the disposition to be an effective and patient organizer, Trillana said.

Instead Rizal decided to go it alone and wrote the powerful novel, Noli Me Tangere.

Aside from "Noli Me Tangere," Rizal’s "El Filibusterismo" would also awaken the minds of Filipinos on the long drawn struggle against the Philippine colonizers. 

In his article "Rizal was also Human Like Us," Trillana emphasized that Rizal "was a bit as human as we are, beset with weakness and vulnerable to temptations" adding that Rizal became a hero only because he was able to "lift himself above the common rank."

He described Rizal as "a man who possessed an oversized head in an undersized body." 

"He was frail and sickly. As a child, he was rather aloof, more observant than protagonist as other boys his age," Trillana wrote. 

Rizal grew up less than five feet tall, "mukhang bansot," he noted.

But Trillana said these physical shortcomings that could spell inferiority feelings for many others became a challenge for Rizal, who became obsessed with stories of strong men.

The then six-year-old Rizal took his uncle’s interests in the art of physical fitness and learned sports like swimming and horseback riding. He even spent time with his uncle to take long walks.

In fact, when he journeyed in Europe, one of the first things he would visit was the gymnasium.

His love for sports led him to excel in sharp shooting and fencing. 

Like any other Filipino, Rizal was also interested in gambling. Trillana wrote that during his time, Rizal used to play jueteng or the lottery.

"Rizal had a penchant for lotteries," Trillana quoted writer Austin Coates as saying. He shared a lottery ticket with his warden Ricardo Carnicero during his early days of exile in Dapitan City.

In September 1892, the two won the lottery where the share of winnings was used by Rizal to acquire a "sizable seaside farm in Talisay which became a working plantation." 

"Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right, but even winners can get wounded in the fight. People say that I’m amazing, I’m strong beyond my years. But they don’t see inside of me I’m hiding all the tears," so goes the song of Gary Valenciano’s "Warrior is a Child," which relates Rizal to a warrior with a soft heart like a child.

"When his child by Josephine died after birth, Rizal felt that his world, like that of his child’s had stood still," Trillana wrote. 

Trillana wrote in his article some of the hero’s down moments like his breakup with Leonor Rivera, when he received news that his family and other Calamba farmers were thrown out of their homes, including his breakup with Marcelo del Pilar over the drawn-out elections for leadership of the Filipino cause in Europe. In his letter to del Pilar, Rizal said, "scratches from a friend hurt more than wounds from an enemy."

Rizal also became famous for his involvement with various women like Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Valenzuela, Leonor Rivera, O-Sei-San, Consuelo Ortiga y Perez, Gertrude Beckett, Suzanne Jacoby, Nelly Boustead and Josephine Bracken. 

"History tells that the man with a mission must be able at any given moment, to turn his back on romantic bliss and live a life of sacrifice and chastity," Trillana wrote.

"The young must be made to realize that Rizal was once like them, like all of us, flesh and blood, prone to weaknesses and temptations. But unlike most of them, he knew how to overcome them… I want the young to know that it wasn’t all that easy for Rizal to become a hero," Trillana quoted Asuncion Lopez-Bantug, granddaughter of Rizal’s sister Narcisa, as saying.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with