Ambeth Ocampo describes Jose Rizal as a “conscious hero” because Rizal planned his entire life in details based on his letters, diaries, and writings (9).
In June 1892, Rizal wrote a letter that shows his love for his country and his fellow Filipinos.
The step that I have taken, or am about to take, is undoubtedly very risky, and it is unnecessary to say that I have pondered on it a great deal. I know that everyone is opposed to it but I realize also that no one knows what goes on in my heart. I cannot live knowing that many are suffering unjust persecution because of me; I cannot live seeing my brothers [hermanos] and their large families persecuted like criminals. I prefer to face death and gladly give my life to free so many innocent persons from this unjust persecution.
I know that, at present, the future of my country gravitates in part around me; that with my death, many would rejoice, and that, consequently, many are longing for my end. But what am I to do? I have duties of conscience toward my aged parents whose sighs pierce my heart; I know that I alone, even my death, can make them happy by returning them to their country and the tranquility of their home. My parents are all that I have, but my country has many sons still who can take it to advantage.
Moreover, I wish to show those who deny us patriotism that we know how to die for our duty and for our convictions. What matters death if one dies for what one loves, for one’s country and for those whom he loves?
If I know that I were the only pillar of Philippine politics and if I were convinced that my countrymen were going to make me use of my services, perhaps I would hesitate to take this step, but there are still others who can take my place, who can take my place to advantage. Furthermore, there are those who find me superfluous and in no need of my services, thus they reduce me to inaction.
I have always loved my poor country and I am sure that I shall lover her until my last moment. Perhaps some people will be unjust to me; well, my future, my life, my joys, everything, I have sacrificed for love of her. Whatever fate my be, I shall die blessing my country and wishing her the dawn of her redemption.
But let’s not forget; even though he loved the Philippines, he was only human.
Even though he graduated with sobresaliente (excellent) marks in Ateneo De Manila University, eighth of his other classmates (out of the 12 students) graduated sobresaliente as well (14).
Even though the Americans sponsored him as a national hero, Rizal thought the country didn’t have “real civil liberty” when he travelled in United States from April to May 1888 (17).
And even though Filipino students are taught with Rizal’s first poem, “Sa Aking Mga Kabata”, he didn’t write it at all. Ocampo refuted this notion and provided examples. He said that while “Rizal spoke and wrote Tagalog fluently”, Rizal couldn’t write a novel in his native tongue. There was no existing manuscript of the original poem, and Rizal never published it when he was alive. (5)
As smart as he was, there was no way that Rizal wrote the poem when he was eight years old. He was still a child.
How would you describe Rizal? What are his other ‘identities’ that you’ve heard of?
Ocampo, Ambeth R. Rizal Without the Overcoat. Mandaluyong: Anvil Publishing, Inc. 2012. Print.
This is Part 1 of a 9-Part Rizal series of Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without the Overcoat.