“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” – Meridel Le Sueur, American writer, 1900-1996
We native Filipinos, at the very least, all recognize Jose Rizal as a martyr-hero, given that all of us grew up learning about him, seeing his statue or other in our schools, town plazas, etc., and elevating him practically to a cult of personality by a few Filipinos. We know Rizal was in the forefront of the Propaganda Movement for Spanish reform in our homeland.
Thanks to native ilustrados then who were generally elitist (as most of today's so-called educated and from exclusive Catholic schools like Rizal was) and the American colonizers (who at the time were discarding the anti-imperialist stance of their Founding Fathers), Rizal was made "the" national hero because of his more acceptable reformist and thus less threatening outlook (rather than a revolutionary one, i.e. Andres Bonifacio).
In comparison, we barely know much about Apolinario Mabini beyond being the "Dakilang Lumpo;" however with some inquiring effort, we can know/understand that Mabini moved beyond propaganda, to discover that he has actively engaged in revolutionary activities against the Spaniards and much more so thereafter, against the American invaders.
We natives ought to know more about him and other Filipino heroes. Hopefully they are still being taught and learned in today's schools. Since we Filipinos think hierarchically, let us put Mabini way up there, if not higher, with Rizal (and Andres Bonifacio).
Mabini believed that a foreign nation does not colonize another nation for purely altruistic reasons. Imagine seeing President McKinley doing his claimed hogwash -on his knees praying about what to do with the Islands- as narrated in school and military textbooks, etc. Mabini was proven correct by our past and ongoing national/people's history.
Mabini believed in the importance of bravely expressing one's political beliefs.
He was considered a dangerous and uncompromising insurgent who aroused enthusiasm to keep the struggle alive. When amnesty was proclaimed on June 1900, Mabini refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, which was the condition for release.
Many of these guys are taught in schools to be our "heroes" and our streets are named after these early quislings; subsequently emulated by many of our supposed leaders in government, military and business, past and present.
Unwittingly, generations of native Filipinos were conditioned and grew up with reverence for such traitors to our homeland. And subtly worst, our generations of so-called leaders in government, military and business perennially exhibit a beholden, mendicant, and kiss-ass behavior towards foreigners (Americans et al.) at the expense of the common good for native Malay Filipinos.
U.S. Secretary of War Elihu Root stated in a letter to Pres. Roosevelt that: "...to prevent the great body of ignorant natives from being led again into the horrors of insurrection and civil war, should prevail over any sentimental consideration over this one individual (Mabini)...."
What he desires is to be brought to Manila, because he thinks that even if imprisoned here he will form a point of concentration for the rapidly diminishing number of irreconcilables in these Islands.
Mabini died on May 13,1903 less than three months since his return from exile.
This post is comprised of short articles on our three heroes written, at different dates, by Indalecio (Yeyeng) P. Soliongco, who was editorial writer/columnist of the Manila Chronicle from the late 1940s to 1971.
Soliongco's take on the stories about our three heroes, coming from a journalist --not a professional historian, is critically objective and well written (and nationalistic though he was not much known as one).
I find the Soliongco writings credible and relevant for us native Filipinos, then and today; and want to share them with you all. I extracted the article from my Source book.
The efforts of a determined few to honor the memory of Andres Bonifacio at a way that befits his true stature have been deterred somewhat by the supercilious conviction which prevails in the upper classes that Rizal cannot be replaced as the hero of the Filipinos.
This conviction has even acquired the nature of an official one, a fact that can easily be seen in the almost complete indifference of the national government to the City of Manila's determination to impart a more substantial meaning to the celebration of Bonifacio's Centenary.
And yet, nothing could be more harmful than the cultivation of an artificial rivalry between Rizal and Bonifacio. Nothing could be more revealing of the ignorance of social and revolutionary action on the part of the so-called Filipino educated class than the insidious campaign it is waging that the man from Calamba and the man from Tondo were poles apart in their aims and purposes.
The simple truth, we believe, is that like the famous bow and arrow of Longfellow, Bonifacio and Rizal were useless each without the other. They complemented each other, although they identified themselves with the use of apparently divergent means. There was, to be sure, a difference in view as to the future of the Philippines, but this difference was dictated by the difference in their character and in their basic orientation.
All this may sound paradoxical, even contradictory. But not when it is considered that in the Philippine revolution, as well as in all the classic revolutions which have shaped human institutions, there was always a division of labor instinctively arrived at.
Rizal and his group in the Propaganda Movement were the men who laid down the theoretical foundations, the justifications and the morality of the Filipino grievance against Spain. It was they who, by the power of the written word or by the urgency of vocal appeal, opened the eyes of their countrymen to their own plight and who inspired them to aspire for dignity.
Rizal then was essentially a man of thought. He was the encyclopedist, the pamphleteer, the philosopher, the poet who wrote and sang of love of country. He was the theorist, immersed in thought and rendered incapable of action, not only by the corrosive effects of "thinking too precisely on the events," but also by his implacably safe and middle-class background.
But after he has achieved his assigned task --after, in other words, the man of thought had reached the end of the tether -- the man of action had to take over and give reality to what had been said and discussed before.
The man of action in Philippine history was Andres Bonifacio. here was a man who could not boast of the profundity of learning and of the eloquence of the men of the propaganda Movement. But here, also, was a man who had been endowed with the gift of action.
Bonifacio saw the situation steadily and he saw the whole, and he acted on what he saw. he acted, not by propounding more theories or indulging in more philosophical vacillations, but in laying the foundation of the Katipunan the one and only purpose of which was to fight a necessary and timely revolution. (12-01-1963)
The so-called Filipino middle class, composed of real estate owners and import/export merchants, remembered Bonifacio only because his birthday happens to be one of the four consecutive holidays toward the end of November.
And so, slowly, but surely and perhaps unconsciously, we are turning back to those basic ideas of the revolution which sustained Bonifacio and which inspired him in all his greatness. Those ideas inevitably should have a contemporary ring and they are, among others: independence, Filipino-First and Filipinization of the clergy. (11-30-1958)
Worcester and other adventurers, under the guise of explorers and scientists, as the editorial writers of El Renacimiento put it, were on the campaign for imperialist booty. The Filipinos, suppressed by superior arms, were in a restive state,. It would be bad policy therefore to allow them to be inspired once again by the memory of a a man of action, a revolutionist like Andres Bonifacio.
This, we believe, is the reason why vast numbers of Filipinos of the present have found it convenient not to grow out of their early indoctrination and have contented themselves to remember Bonifacio only once a year and pay nothing but lip-service to his greatness. They fear that Bonifacio's brand of nationalism might lead, as surely it will lead, to inconveniences and sacrifices. And so, they decided to embrace the nationalism sanctioned by the state department and judiciously propagated by the Lions, Jaycees and Rotarians. (11-30-1955)
A number of them who feel the tragedy of being grooved have realized the terrible blunder of acceding to the systematic propaganda of relegating Andres Bonifacio to the status of a second-class hero. And some of them, with a prescience that comes along with time, are beginning to understand the meaning of the fact that when Rizal was hard at work laying the foundation of La Liga Filipina and preaching the notion that the Philippines should not separate from Spain and that the Filipino should be contented with reforms, Bonifacio was organizing a secret society aimed at the overthrow of Spanish domination.
While the intellectual middle class awaited confidently the reforms asked for and promised," Teodoro M. Kalaw, one of the nation's real historians, wrote 28 years ago in the Philippine Free Press "Bonifacio, with the instinct and discernment of the masses, had already lost faith in Spain, and while many of his countrymen were satisfied to lead a life of ease in the Oriental fashion, without giving a thought to their position as slaves or to the future of their country, he prepared the masses for a moral revolution by describing to them their sad plight and speaking to them of a new day which, he said, would come only through union, discipline and sacrifice."
But the tremendous truth in these phrases and clauses have fallen on the ears of Filipinos who have been subjected from birth to senility to the propaganda about the greatness, courage and wisdom of Rizal.
The Rizal cult has grown to such proportions that an execrable word --Rizalist-- had been coined to describe the fatuous boobs who are still shouting at the international conferences that the Martyr of Bagumbayan "spoke 19 languages," as if proficiency in languages had any relevance to the grim business of changing society.
But it has become the truism to say that Rizal is a safe hero, particularly in those places in the suburbs where time does not seem to move. And the inhabitants of suburbia have not stopped thanking the Americans for their choice of Rizal as the national hero, for even today, despite a heresy here and a heresy there, Rizal fulfills the need for permanence.
The almost secure position of Rizal in the national pantheon, however, is more a reflection of the deteriorating character of the Filipinos than a tribute to his greatness. For there was a time, not so long after the coming of the Americans in 1898, when the Filipino intellectuals --the professionals mostly --looked up to Bonifacio rather than Rizal for the inspiration of their nationalism.
One of them and perhaps one of the most eloquent of them was Fernando Ma. Guerrero. He came from Ermita, not Tondo, but he knew what Bonifacio stood for, and for what it was worth, he sang the man's praises. Teodoro Kalaw was another, and the whole membership of Philippine Masonry during the era when being a mason meant something, worshiped at the shrine of Bonifacio.
But the replacement of these people by a race of middle men, by a race of Jaycees and Rotarians seem to have doomed the Founder of the Katipunan to an inferior category.
The relegation, it is becoming increasingly clear, will not last forever. Already the rising generation of Filipinos has begun to see more than the symbolism of Bonifacio Day and Rizal Day, and seeing, they might learn that the choice of heroes is their exclusive prerogative. (11-30-1968)
The infirm and salivating members of the Knights of Rizal may not know it and will certainly deny it but the Americans who chose Rizal as the national hero of the Philippines did well for them. For today, a great majority of the members of the Fraternity are there to preserve the cult of the martyr of Bagumbayan against the determined efforts of the part of young and sensitive Filipinos to promote the ascendancy of Bonifacio and Mabini to a more prominent place in our echelon of leaders and heroes.
In a way, the Knights of Rizal and others of their curious thinking and social predilection are compelled to stand by their idol for fear that the popularity of Bonifacio and Mabini and, consequently, of their teaching, might bring about a trans-valuation of values which may well be the first move that will lead to the displacement of those who compose the privileged class.
It is possible to argue, of course, that in their blind worship of Rizal, many of the members of the Knights of Rizal are oblivious of the tremendous implications of their strange behavior. But the fact that most of them move in affluent circles has imparted the elements of class to the simple process of choosing the proper national hero for the Filipinos.
But what, the question can justifiably be asked, should the criteria for choosing, say, Bonifacio rather than Rizal or Mabini rather than Marcelo H. Del Pilar?
Is the courage displayed by Rizal at Bagumbayan on December 30, 1896 the supreme quality that should entitle him to be the national hero? Should his uncanny ability to master languages be counted in his favor? Or should his numerous love affairs, as recorded in the pages of a nonnook by one who had profited from the Rizal centenary, constitute a point to be posted in the credit column of his ledger?
All these granted, there remains the embarrassing inquiry, into his inability --refusal would be a better word --to read what o'clock it was, to know that when he was organizing La Liga Filipina, any plea for the continuation of relationships with Spain even under the most favorable circumstances was literally an act of treason to the Philippines, and to realize that when he did not give his sanction to the formation of any society for action, he was, as a matter of truth, simply dissembling his desire to preserve the status quo.
It has often been argued that Rizal's capacity for action had been corroded by his powers of thought. Unhappily, even a meticulous search among the hundreds of papers he had written will not reveal a single original idea which could have pragmatic sanction in the field of action. This painful truth that must be admitted is that Rizal was not a man of action, like Bonifacio was, not because he was a man of thought, but because he was afraid, deadly afraid, of the logical consequences of action.
In a word, he had the wisdom to realize that any action, particularly revolutionary action, participated in and led by the dispossessed like Bonifacio would be a leveling process that may bring up the property-less to the level of the propertied but will surely bring down the men of property to the level of the poor.
Thus, to the elite which still rules our society, Rizal remains the ideal hero. He is safe, and what is more important, is that even his foibles are the very foibles of his worshipers.
How long Jose Rizal will remain in high official regard is something that cannot be determined by rule of thumb. After all, the hero of the people, like their government, is what they deserve.
But one indication that Rizal might not retain his premier position in the national pantheon for long is that the young Filipinos who are fast coming to the fore are beginning to be disturbed by the thought that the consuming ambition of the man whose birth and death they are celebrating annually was to remain a subject of Spain. (12-28-1968).
Limitations of Rizal
Today,three days before the anniversary of the execution of Jose Rizal, the votaries of the increasingly large cult of the national hero will smoother him with praise as if he were a Rotarian or an overgrown Jaycee, and the doddering members of that strange and curious organization known as "Knights of Rizal" will try, yet once more, to transform his frailties into canonical virtues.
Every town square which boasts of a Rizal monument --and what public square in this country does not? -- will be whitewashed and preparations made for the annual parade, beauty contest and program.
The speeches will be delivered by the political leaders of the community, and will invariably dwell, as if it were a feat of automation, on the heroism, the sacrifices, and the teachings of the good doctor. The clincher will be the usual, "Emulate the example of our great hero," a sentence which on the lips of our politicians, sounds as cheap and transparent as a procurer's propositioning.
What has happened to Rizal is that, perhaps through no fault of his own, he has become a carnival hero, and like all carnival heroes, he is worshiped and honored in a degree that is completely out of proportion to his intrinsic merits --his merits, that is, viewed under the aspect of eternity.
For while it is proper to say that some of the most vivid scenes in the novels have in them a measure of relevance to the conditions of the time, it would be a wild exaggeration to insist that Rizal can still be regarded as a guide and inspiration in the task of transforming our basically static society into a dynamic one.
Moreover, it is just possible that Rizal would be an anachronism among a people the vast majority of whom are youths who have been detached by their will to survival from the old scale of values which dominated the lives of their forebears.
How, to ask the first question that comes to mind, can those youths, with the dynamic example of their counterparts in the more advanced regions of the world staring down in the face, accept the meliorist and ultimately self-defeating advocacies of Rizal?
Once, the great Goethe was asked what he thought of a certain poet who was enjoying a great popularity. "He can serve us no more," Goethe answered. A frankly utilitarian approach, one might say. But with poets as with the heroes, the approach must be utilitarian.
For the over-riding fact about Rizal is that after 1892, he could serve us no more. One is under a severe compulsion to admit that from the days of the Propaganda Movement to the fateful year of 1892, Rizal was necessary and the work he performed was the rough equivalent of the work performed by Voltaire and other french intellectuals to prepare the ground for the Revolution.
But the completely middle-class background of Rizal and the passion he had for security and stability made him useless, made him a hindrance, as a matter of fact, to the fulfillment of the task of shifting from mere propaganda to political action.
This is why the pertinent question to ask is whether Rizal, with his devotion to the job of preserving the status quo, with slight modifications to give the status of his class some dignity, can be of service and inspiration to the armies of young men and young women who have learned to express their protests in terms of rallies and demonstrations.
The worn-out aphorisms with which Tasio regaled Crisostomo and the exhortations of Elias are dependable standbys in the staging of Rizal pageants. But in the grim task of changing the structure of society in a manner that will save the present-day versions of Crispin and Tarsilo from the fate which befell their predecessors in the novel, what is needed is what Rizal feared most and which Bonifacio and Mabini embraced willingly --political action.
Rizal would make a perfect hero for a society which has been isolated from stress and want. But in the Philippines today is not that society. The young Filipinos who will soon hold the floor have become venturesome, and, what is of utmost importance, they have made themselves receptive to the example of their fellows elsewhere. To them, therefore, Rizal has nothing to say. (12-27-1968).
The Rizal cultists
The current flood of pamphlets and books on the national hero should be an occasion for rejoicing in those quarters which, for a long time now, have been working to the end that the essence of the man's teachings will sink into the minds of as many Filipinos as possible.
Under normal circumstances, this should be so. But it is unfortunate that the works which have been published, with the exception of a tiny handful, are the result of the labors of a rising group composed of so-called Rizalists. What this horrid term really means, we do not know, but we are sure that it can never have the same meaning as Jeffersonian scholar or Thomist. The reason for this is obvious. For Rizal, whatever his stature as a national hero, in the light of accepted standards, had certain limitations as a thinker.
But the Rizalists refuse to accept this limitations. One of them, a fellow with more enthusiasm than sense, has made a habit of insisting that Rizal was as great as Victor Hugo and Leonardo. Thus arrant nonsense has only served to make the national hero appear ridiculous in the eyes of objective readers.
This movement of making Rizal more than he was will continue. For the Rizalistas are a determined lot. And since the vast majority of them are equipped neither with the patience nor the insight of true scholars, what they will ultimately accomplish is frightening even to contemplate.
Already they have made an esoteric cult of the hero. There are published works on his love affairs. There are pamphlets on his travels and even brochures on the hotels he stayed in. There are long essays purporting to interpret his adolescent poems in terms he never imagined. Above all, there is a constant stream of articles on his most trivial thoughts.
This is all very regrettable, for granting his limitations, Rizal left some very sound ideas which can serve us today. These ideas, which form the core of his essays and novels, have a validity all their own. And strange as it may seem to the Rizalistas these ideas can stand by themselves, without being propped up by the hardly relevant fact that Rizal was a compulsive lover or by the fact that he spoke, according to an oppressively ignorant Rizalist, eighteen languages.
Why this concentration on the incidental acts of the hero rather than on his ideas? The simple answer is that any analysis of the latter requires an intellectual precision and an imagination that the average Rizalist lacks. It is even possible that he is in mortal fear of Rizal's ideas. Or that, in obedience to the compulsions of his betters, he has made it his duty to deflect popular attention from those ideas to the less serious accomplishments of Rizal.
This is the danger that the so-called Rizalistas pose. For if they succeed completely in their organized effort to surround Rizal with their cultist cloud, the image of the national hero will degenerate to the level of quaint personality.
Thus the Rizalist will accomplish with their adoration for the hero what Rizal's enemies have failed to accomplish with their fear and hatred of his thoughts and ideas. (6-19-1962).
Apolinario Mabini is one of the few of our national heroes whose intellectual stature has grown with the years. In former times, he was known to every schoolboy as the "Sublime Paralytic" and the "Brains of the Revolution." The picture of his frail and haggard face has been engraved on the peso bill, and because of this his popularity has been more or less assured.
But beyond the fetching facts of life --his poverty, his heroic efforts to educate himself and his reverence for his mother --little is really known about him. He is thus like an iceberg in the sense that his greater and more important achievements are under water, unseen and unknown by the very people who ought to see and know them.
But unfortunately, the man was infinitely greater than what his contemporaries recognized him to be. He was in more ways than one, the victim of their endless machinations and his voice would not have been heard had he not enjoyed the supreme confidence of president Aguinaldo.
This, we submit, is a great tribute to the sagacity and sense of character of the first Filipino President. For it can now be told that without Mabini's wisdom, foresight and realism the republic might not have come about.
Little by little, these facts are being recognized today. The writings of Mabini have won their prpoper place in university reading lists. Graduate students have adopted the man as a favorite subject for term papers and dissertations and critical studies on Mabini's political philosophy have begun to appear.
Those who have been exposed to the meat of Mabini's writing have come out from the experience with a new attitude and a healthier respect for the philosopher from Batangas. But Mabini deserves to be the object of this spate of intellectual curiosity.
For more than Rizal, Mabini was the intellectual of the Revolution. Rizal's highest glory was attained during the Propaganda Movement. But during the period of stress and uncertainty of the Revolution, during that tremendous crisis which brought forth the Republic, it was Mabini, his mind and ideas which served as the source of that intellectual guidance without which the Revolution would have been led astray -- either in anarchy or in surrender.
For Mabini represented the happy middle between the two extremes which were struggling for power during our revolutionary era. On the one extreme, there were diehards who believed that the endless shedding of blood and the taking of all odds were the only way to nationhood. On the other extreme, there were the compromisers, the moneyed merchants, landowners and professionals who sought salvation in surrender.
But Mabini, the unfettered realist he was, saw through the benevolent trappings of American policy and detected the essential cynicism of the Filipinos who later were to become the nucleus of the Federal Party. All this he analyzed and exposed in his essays which, for all their emotional overtones, are the real theoretical foundation of the Republic.
Government proclamations may have confined Apolinario Mabini to the category of a provincial hero. No matter. For in time and on the strength of his character as a man and the logic of his social and political ideas, Mabini will come to his own. (7-22-1962).
Sourcebook: SOLIONGCO TODAY, A Contemporary from the Past. Edited by Prof. Renato Constantino, 1981, pages 243-254
NOTE: As alluded to in the Preface of the source book: Mr. Indalecio (Yeyeng) P. Soliongco was editorial writer/columnist of the Manila Chronicle from the late 1940s to 1971. He wrote over 8000 columns in his "Seriously Speaking" column. He discussed various subjects but concentrating on day-to-day sociopolitical developments; exposing the hypocrisy, lack of intellectual and moral integrity of many public figures.
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"Those who profess to favor freedom
and yet deprecate agitation
are men who want crops without
plowing up the ground;
they want rain without thunder and
They want the ocean without the
awful roar of its waters.
This struggle may be a moral one
or it may be a physical one
or it may be both moral and physical
but it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a
It never did, and never will." – Frederick Douglass, American Abolitionist, Lecturer, Author and Slave, 1817-1895)
“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” – Meridel Le Sueur, American writer, 1900-1996