A hundred fifty five years ago, on this very day, [perhaps] the greatest child of the Malayan race was born into this world. Like how infant Christ came into the world, no one expects little Jose Rizal to become the redeemer of his oppressed countrymen.
From his childhood days until his last breath, Rizal’s fervent love for the motherland has never wavered. He has turned his back on the comfort of his life, and bravely fought the Spanish colonizers even if that would cost his life.
The enemies might have been successful in taking away Rizal’s life, but they have failed to suppress his influence already embedded in the minds and hearts of his contemporaries. Rizal’s death paved way to the birth of our nation’s independence.
A hundred fifty five years later, the national hero continues to be relevant in innumerable ways. In today’s difficult times when our morality is being tested by harsh realities and we are haunted by the corruption of one’s own countrymen, we remember Dr. Jose Rizal with a stinging pain and great sense of loss.
When our country is in search of a true icon and a role model for the youth, Rizal is probably the first figure that would pop into our minds.
He could have inspired the new generations, the millennials, for them to realize that the future of this nation is in their hands. He could have served as a perfect example of a student who strived to gain knowledge in the hope that it will be his weapon in his crusade to free his countrymen.
Rizal could have been the selfless leader who wants nothing but the good for his constituents. He could have taught our country’s leaders about simplicity, integrity, and the sincerity to serve the nation without gaining any favor in return.
We could have been Rizal, the man who takes pride in our heritage and culture. We could have been him, the law-abiding citizen, who knows how to respect the authorities, but at the same time knows when to speak out and criticize their wrongdoings.
Rizal taught us more than just love for the country and freedom. His death and martyrdom gave us the hope to remain united amidst all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes. His martyrdom makes us wonder how many of today’s leaders could sacrifice their very life for the love of this nation.
Indeed, we owe him, and to the many other patriots who had shed their blood to free this nation, the independence and freedom we are now taking for granted. The freedom that allows us to voice out our opinions, the freedom to question and criticize those in power, and the freedom to exercise our basic human rights.
With Rizal’s unending and unwavering influence to every Filipino, he is truly ‘el primus inter pares,’ the first among equals. We might never have the same Rizal again in this lifetime, but we could give birth to a little bit of him in each of our lives, by simply living by his deeds and wisdom. (RA Gonzales)