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The art of Rizal

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - June 26, 2010 - 12:00am

The first essay of Jose Rizal as Propagandist is sometimes forgotten. El Amor Patrio (Love of Country) was penned in the first months he was overseas in 1882. It appeared in Diariong Filipino in Manila under the pseudonym Laong Laan on 20 August 1882. It was his first published work, and in many ways, spelled out what he hoped and prayed for what would be the Philippines.

The artistic abilities of Jose Rizal are well known. Felice Sta. Maria in Rizal in Excelsis, writes: “Languages, painting, sculpture, and literature would remain Jose Rizal’s favorite subjects even overseas. His artistic talents were noted early…The Jesuits appreciated his work, and even requested him at the age of 17 to design an altar for the Dipolog church in Zamboanga del Norte…and to furnish drawings of Manila’s best altars for the reference of workmen in remote areas.” It was his literary accomplishments, one even as young as seven, that would win him lasting acclaim. For Jose Rizal science, arts and education were the paths to “enlightenment” for Filipinos.

El Amor Patrio, much like his later works (and his final work) focused on his perceptions of the Philippines; in a tangible and imagined sense. Like A La Juventud Filipina (written a few years earlier in 1879) it paints the Philippines as a homeland, worthy of love and protection. In both instances he exhorts the youth to stand up for Filipinas.

From La Juventud Filipina:

“Bearing the good light

Of art and science, to the battleground

Descend, O youth, and smite:

Loosen the heavy pound

Of chains that keeps poetic genius bound.”

In El Amor Patrio, Rizal takes a naturally more prosaic approach, though no less powerful: “It has always been said that love is an extremely powerful force behind most noble activities. Well then, of all loves, the love of country has inspired the grandest, the most heroic and the most selfless of deeds. Do read history books or historical records and traditions,” (from Father Raul Bonoan, SJ’s translation). Here we also see spelled-out something that he believed; the path to understanding your country is to understand your history.

Rizal believed in the study of history and culture as a path to the development of national consciousness: “If only I might become a professor in my homeland, I would wake to life these studies, this nosci te ipsum (know thyself) which creates a true sense of national identity (Selbstgefuhl) and impels nations to do great deeds.” In between Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo he would put this belief into action. In London he would painstakingly handwrite out a copy of Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas. To that 17th century work he would include annotations of his own. As Father John Schumacher wrote: “In his preface Rizal makes clear its place in his master plan. The Noli has revealed ‘the present state of our fatherland’; his Morga now attempts to awaken in Filipinos ‘the consciousness of our past’ in order to be able to ‘dedicate ourselves to studying the future.’”

For Jose Rizal arts, philosophy, science, history, education in general was the means of enlightenment. For him (and the Founding Fathers), they offered the mechanism through which national consciousness, national identity, could be discovered, defined and expressed.

A LA JUVENTUD FILIPINA AS FATHER JOHN SCHUMACHER DIARIONG FILIPINO EL AMOR PATRIO EL FILIBUSTERISMO FATHER RAUL BONOAN FELICE STA FOR JOSE RIZAL FOUNDING FATHERS JOSE RIZAL RIZAL
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