Written by Rado Gatchalian, KOR Knights of Rizal — Northern Sydney Chapter
In the history of the Philippines and among Filipinos, past and present, there is but one man of great importance as an icon of the nation and perhaps the heart and soul and (re)birth of this country – Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
Jose Rizal was born on 19 June 1861 in Calamba, Laguna.
But more than his birth, it was his death, his martyrdom, on 30 December 1896 that truly sparked the “birth” of the Philippines as a free country. His death, and his great productive life, inspired many Filipinos to dedicate a life of excellence and service to the country and humanity.
Rizal was shot to death at Bagumbayan – now known as the Luneta Park in Manila – for inciting rebellion: a false accusation. Nevertheless, that fed the aim of the tyrannical colonizers. His two novels Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not; also known as The Social Cancer) and El Filibusterismo (The Reign of Greed) propelled him to become an enemy of the Church and the colonizing State.
However, he fought for reforms, and not revolution, for the Philippines.
Rizal was a man of vision. Thus, he knew that only through education that the Philippines can be truly free. This was his call for reformation – to give equality and opportunities to Filipinos.
His writings were indeed a work of a renaissance man, an enlightened.
His genius was rooted from a very early age and with the help of his mother, Teodora Alonso, as his first teacher. Blessed with supportive and educated parents and a rich family, Jose Rizal was able to maximise his potential and talents. This enabled him to continue his studies in Madrid, Spain.
To appreciate his great talents, one must realise that during his time (1861-1896) not many were given opportunities to study abroad and to travel to different parts of the world. Even in this contemporary period, not everyone is given a chance to study in prestigious universities in Europe and to have the luxury of enjoying a life of travel. But Jose Rizal did.
However, the most important and special part – Jose Rizal did it with a noble cause: for his country and humanity. He was selfless. This is what differentiates Jose Rizal from the rest of his contemporaries and to many Filipinos, past and present.
He dedicated his life – in whatever circumstances – for his country and for the people. When he was exiled in Dapitan, he has proven a resilient life worth remembering. Although it was an isolated island, he pursued a pragmatic life serving the community and his fellowmen. He built an irrigation, a Philippine map in the park, and a clinic and school for the people.
What a great and remarkable man and Filipino!
Jose Rizal was an ophthalmologist by profession. In fact, he studied this so that he could personally perform the eye surgery of his mother.
Attached to his names are many other professions and accolades such as: writer, poet, novelist, nationalist, scientist, inventor, sculptor, farmer, historian, and so on.
But above all, there is one certain attribute that marked him as a great Filipino – his unquestionable dedication and passion to live and die for his country. And this is what makes him “alive” until now – his legacy and virtues present in those men and women who continue to emulate him, among whom the Order of the Knights of Rizal is one…