Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rizal as Religion, Constantino as Dogma (UPDATED)

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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)

(quoted in Fr.Salgado’s Philippine Economy: History and Analysis, 1985)

Two years ago, I posted Rizal as Religion, a review by Prof. Roland G. Simbulan (YONIP) written about the book "A Nation Aborted," authored by Prof. Floro Quibuyen. 

(Note that I entitled the book review as "Rizal: Reformist or Revolutionary?)

Late last month, Prof. Quibuyen came across the above posting and emailed to request for the sake of fairness that I post his response "Constantino as Dogma" which I frankly was not aware of; thus this below posting: Constantino as Dogma: Reply to Simbulan's "Rizal as Religion" - by Floro Quibuyen

Personally, although History is not my profession, I have a very deep interest in it. History drives me to backpack a lot especially to Western Europe; which has influenced to a degree our "modernized" or westernized way of thinking, and the large relevance to our Spanish cultural heritage that includes some of our (acquired) native Filipino customs, values and Christian religiosity - for good or bad.

I have not researched yet as much as I want about Jose Rizal though I think and believe that per definition he was not truly a revolutionary; though he was a great reformist who wrote to expose the abuses of the Spanish rulers and religious friars in the homeland. I think and believe that the likes of Andres Bonifacio are truly revolutionary; and Apolinario Mabini was more of a revolutionary and nationalistic thinker than Rizal.

[Mabini, the "brains of the Katipunan/Revolution", urged his fellow Filipinos not to give aid to either the Spanish or the Americans; but to capture as much of the islands as possible so that the Americans -who were sure to be victors- would become convinced that here we have a strong and organized people that know how to defend their honor." Of course, our disunity, which was exhibited right from the beginning of the Katipunan doomed the national independence movement.

Back in 1987, retired CIA Agent Joseph B. Smith in his very personal story/book "Portrait of a Cold Warrior, -Second Thoughts of A Top CIA Agent," narrated (page 275) a conversation he had with then Ambassador Bohlen whereby the latter said:..."I want to tell you something I don't want you to let Recto know. Do you realize that the selection of Rizal as national hero for the Filipinos was (William Howard)Taft's doing?"

Taft quickly decided that it would be extremely useful for the Filipinos to have a national hero of their revolution against the Spanish in order to channel their feelings and focus their resentment backward on Spain. But he told his advisers that he wanted it to be someone who really wasn't so much a revolutionary that, if his life were examined too closely or his works read too carefully, this could cause us any trouble. He chose Rizal as the man who fit his model."

I do not doubt the veracity of Smith's story.

But today the bottom line is: it is time to and way overdue that we emulate all of our heroes -then and now, to decide and act with the nationalistic needs of our present (and future) time.

- Bert

Definitions:  In politics, a revolutionary is someone who supports abrupt, rapid, and drastic change, while a reformist is someone who supports more gradual and incremental change. A conservative is someone who opposes all such changes. A reactionary is someone who wants things to go back to the way they were before the change has happened. (WIKIPEDIA) 

"The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall." - Che Guevara


Constantino as Dogma: Reply to Simbulan's "Rizal as Religion" -  by Floro Quibuyen

I had expected a critical but careful reading of my book from a reviewer. But it seems that, for Prof. Roland Simbulan, to review a book, one does not have to read it in its entirety. I get this impression from the question he raises

Was Rizal  a revolutionary, Why did he condemn the revolution…? 
Was there a retraction by Rizal before the execution? 

These are questions the book tries to argue favorably and positively for Rizal.
But the issue of retraction was the one issue that my book never addressed.
My refutation of Renato Constantino in Chapters 1 and 2 must have been so disturbing to Simbulan that he had to heap vicious ad hominems against me and my publisher. In Simbulan's mind, I am guilty of two crimes:
1. The book "had created, or shall we say, added a new religion, to the already dozens of Rizalistas and cultists in our midst who have 'not seen nor heard nor spoken evil' about Rizal." "Every positive word or letter of Rizal as well as documented testimonies from his associates and contemporaries and biographers are harnessed to support the view that he was after all a consistent revolutionary"--"He presents testimonies and letters to back this up." Then Simbulan declares, "Quibuyen asserts that Rizal is indeed a revolutionary theoretician of the 1896 Revolution, but this kind of Rizalism is in danger of becoming a cult, if not a religion."

2. Quibuyen "committed a grave sin of omission" by not including the essay of           Kabataang Makabayan and new Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, which "became one of the most widely read interpretations in the 1960s and the era of the First Quarter Storm." The essay would have lent support to Quibuyen's positive views of Rizal "though Sison merely used Rizal and his martyrdom to show the futility of reformism and to direct it towards the revolutionary road."

Simbulan's accusations refer only to the book's first two chapters, which constitute my critique of the orthodoxy set by Agoncillo and Constantino. What I did in these two chapters was to point out their historiographic errors and theoretical flaws, and thus, set the record straight regarding what Rizal actually did and said. I proceeded by relating all the relevant facts--Rizal's works and political acts, his correspondence with his countrymen and family, testimonies and diaries of people who have known him personally--around     the trajectory of Rizal's life-history. Certain key events in this life-history were taken as the contexts for reading all the relevant texts. Through this critical hermeneutic method, I clarified Rizal's stand vis-à-vis separatism and the revolution, and highlighted what Agoncillo and Constantino had obscured, and, thus, exposed their distortions and misrepresentations of the historical record.

Unfortunately, in Simbulan's mind, to refute Constantino and set the record straight are tantamount to "an extreme adulation" which "does not do justice to Rizal."

If I harnessed "every positive word or letter of Rizal as well as documented testimonies…to support the view that he was after all a consistent revolutionary" (this is a distortion of my argument, as I'll show shortly), what is wrong with this? Are my documents fake, or my inferences from them dubious  On the contrary, Simbulan credits me with having produced a "scholarly and well-written treatise" which "has contributed immensely to the existing Rizaliana scholarship." 

But how could a scholarly study contribute, as Simbulan alleges, to the further mystification of Rizal? Is Simbulan declaring by innuendo that I am guilty of card stacking, that is, of suppressing contrary evidence. But Simbulan, as reviewer, has the responsibility to show that this is the case, and not simply insinuate it. Any reader can see that I have engaged with practically every author who espouses the orthodoxy, as well with scholars who come up with new perspectives that, in my view, are not supported by the documentary evidence. For example, in Chapter 3, I critique Benedict Anderson's new perspective on Rizal and Philippine nationalism--which Simbulan completely ignores, or perhaps has not read.

And why should my not citing Jose Ma. Sison constitute a "grave sin"? What support would I have gotten in citing Sison's very short, undocumented essay? There is nothing in Sison's essay that Cesar Majul and Leon Ma. Guerrero had not already said. Nor, more importantly, is there anything in Sison's essay that contradicts what Agoncillo and Constantino had asserted. In fact, Sison's essay was largely ignored in favor of Constantino's polemical "Veneration without Understanding." Even in his latest book, Philippine Economy and Politics(1998), Sison does not go beyond the orthodoxy that Agoncillo and Constantino had set:
The best of the reformists, like Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar, were able to expose and criticize the worst features of colonialism and feudalism….Upon the frustration of the reformist movement, culminating in the arrest of Jose Rizal and the suppression of La Liga Filipina, the Katipunan was established as the political organization of the revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie to lead the Filipino nation in fighting for national independence against Spanish colonialism.(Sison, 1998: 71)

Note that Sison takes del Pilar and Rizal to be kindred spirits. I have argued in Chapter 1 that "there were more profound political/ideological differences between Rizal and Del Pilar, both ilustrados, than between Rizal and Bonifacio" (16).

Simbulan declares, "This book should have been given the title Rizal the Revolutionary instead as this is the real contention of this book." He pronounces, "But Quibuyen is unconvincing." So, this was my double crime--I "[tried] to argue" that Rizal was a "consistent revolutionary", and yet did not indicate it in the title.

Simbulan cannot but hate anything outside of his dichotomous mind-set: if Rizal is not revolutionary (in the Leninist sense), then he must be reformist-assimilationist like Marcelo H. del Pilar; either Rizal is revolutionary and, therefore, incredibly perfect, or Rizal is not revolutionary and therefore flawed. This cognitive straight-jacket determines Simbulan's logic: Constantino's assertion that Rizal condemned the revolution is the correct line, because no human [read: ilustrado] is perfect. Therefore, if one argues that Rizal is a revolutionary, he is creating a "a saint to be worshiped  a demigod to be transformed into a religion." Any evidence not in keeping with this logic is inadmissible!

But the real problem is that Simbulan has completely distorted and misrepresented my argument. In fact, right in the Prologue, I said, "Rizal did not welcome the revolution when it came. But he did not condemn his people for embracing it. In his farewell to his people he linked his martyrdom with their revolutionary struggle." (5). Not once, but twice did I lay down in the Prologue Rizal's position on the question of revolution:

For Rizal, the seizure of state power--the quintessential revolutionary goal from the American and French revolutions to the national liberation movements of the twentieth century--cannot be the solution, for the simple reason that the state itself is the problem. (5)

He was convinced that the road to national liberation, to freedom and justice, was not via the violent seizure of state power--wherein today's slaves become tomorrow's tyrants--but through local, grass-roots, community-oriented struggles in civil society. (10)

Unmindful of the nuances of my argument, and unable to counter my documentary evidence, Simbulan simply repeats the Agoncillo-Constantino line about Rizal, and raises the very question that I had in fact addressed.

Simbulan asks, "Why was Rizal willing to serve the Spanish army as a medical doctor against the Cuban revolutionaries when he was arrested and sentenced to die?" Note again the distortion. Rizal, as most everyone knows, had applied to serve as a medical doctor long before he was arrested and sentenced to die. And he was arrested while on his way to Cuba, and sentenced to die a few months later. Simbulan ignores my reference, in page 51, of Pio Valenzuela's recollection of what Rizal confided in him when they met in Dapitan: "[Rizal] said that his intention in applying for the post of military doctor was to study the war in a practical way; go the Cuban soldiery if he thought he would find there solutions which would remedy the bad situation in the Philippines. If he were admitted as a military doctor in Cuba, he explained, he could return to the Philippines when the necessity arose."

Instead, Simbulan repeats the Agoncillo-Constantino line, based on Pio Valenzuela's 1896 prison testimony: "[Rizal] could have escaped when there was a chance and when the opportunity was offered by the Katipunan. But he instead told the Katipunan that he had even given his word to his colonial captors that he would not escape and behave well." But what exactly did Rizal say to Valenzuela?

I have devoted 13 pages of Chapter 2 to this question alone (pp. 44-56) by analysing several documents, in particular "the third and last sworn testimony given by Valenzuela before a civilian court in 1917, which supports his 1914 memoir." These two sets of testimonies belie Valenzuela's 1896 prison statements, made under duress, which Valenzuela himself later disavowed. Neither Agoncillo or Constantino had considered the 1917 document. Thus, Simbulan does not see fit to consider it either, even if the book he is supposed to review discusses it at length. Both the 1914 and the 1917 testimonies establish two points: one, Rizal's support for and counsel to the Katipunan; two, the Katipunan's unanimous adoption of his counsel.

I again addressed the question of Rizal's refusal to escape on pages 312-313 (apparently unread by Simbulan):

What [Rizal] tried successfully to prove, by his refusal to escape, was a moral imperative that the Filipinos must have the courage to do what was good for the community even in the face of colonial domination. If his example could be universalized, that is, if every community in the Philippines followed the Dapitan example, in which ilustrados and the masses worked together for the well-being of the community, a national trend towards social transformation would have ensued. If the Calamba example could inspire every community to resist injustice, not only would it be more difficult to perpetuate injustice anywhere, it would be easier to promote the public welfare. 

If more and more Calambas and Dapitans could sprout all over the archipelago, a massive movement for social transformation could emerge. This could bring about the reform of civil society on a national scale. In such a situation Spain would have no choice but grant the demands of the people. But if, given such a social momentum, Spain refuses to budge, the people would be better prepared to rise up in arms. With a united people and a strengthened civil society, a revolution would have a better chance of fulfilling its dreams. (312-313)

Any effort that contributes towards national emancipation is fine--as Rizal said in his farewell poem, Cadalso o campo abierto, combate o cruel martirio, Lo mismo es si lo piden la Patria y el hogar. As I wrote in Chapter 2, "Confronted with the option between revolution and martyrdom, Rizal chose the latter" (62). Did Rizal's martyrdom further the cause of the revolution? From Mabini's, Bonifacio's, and the revolutionary masses' perspective, it did. Might things have turned out better had Rizal led the revolution? Simbulan says that "it is much easier to speculate." Exactly! That's why, as I wrote in Chapter 9, we can only go by the effects of Rizal's words and deeds--and these were positive as far as inspiring both the ilustrados and the masses were concerned. Why should making these points be tantamount to creating a dangerous Rizal cult?

Simbulan credits me with doing only two things: one, reviewing "almost all the interpretations of Rizal"; and two, reviving and supporting "the favorable interpretations about Rizal written by Fr. John Schumacher, Cesar Adib Majul, Zeus Salazar, Setsuho Ikehata, Igor Podveresky, and Austin Coates." Anyone who reads my book can see that I was not merely reviving and supporting these distinguished scholars' interpretations, and that I have in fact built on their invaluable research to venture into new ground, into unexplored territory.

Simbulan fails to follow the book's argument, which is developed  along three stages. The first three chapters, as I have mentioned, constitute a critique, which is but a preliminary to the second stage. Here I reconstruct Rizal's project--the formation of the Filipino nation--and delineate how this project contributed to the development of a "historic bloc" (Gramsci's term) and the construction of a grand narrative of redemption which underpinned the revolution. I discuss both Rizal's ideas--by a detailed analysis of his literary, historical, and political works--and political initiatives, such as the Liga Filipina, and show how these ideas and initiatives impacted the so-called Propaganda movement as well as the Katipunan. This is the core of the book, consisting of five chapters (Chapter 4 to 8).

The third part of the book (chapters 9 and 10) examines--by analyzing vital documents, some used for the first time--what eventually became of the nationalist project after Rizal's execution. It explores the two-fold problem of why the revolution failed, and how American conquest completely undid the achievements of the 19th century nationalist movement (hence, the book's title, A Nation Aborted). The last two chapters are crucial in understanding post-colonial Filipino nationalism.

Sadly, for someone who believes that the final word on Rizal had already been said by Renato Constantino and Jose Maria Sison, this whole argument is irrelevant, or, perhaps, too taxing to follow.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bert! Thanks for sharing. I hope you won't mind my forwarding it to some friends. Shalom!

- Bro. Ed Tirona

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sending this, Bert. I read and reread Dr. Quibuyen's book as soon as it was published, and can
see his point clearly. I believe he's right. Now I have to
read Simbulan's argument closely.

:) Sylvia

Anonymous said...

Mr. Drona,

I do not question that Mabini is truly "thhe revolutionary thinker than Rizal". In fact, historians and writers dubbed Mabini as the Brain of the Philippine Revolution while Emilio Jacinto is the Brain of the Katipunan.

Jose Sison Luzadas
Delray Beach, FL

Anonymous said...

Can Bonifacio be a true revolutoinary when his concepts were not fully developed or at least explained? Emotionally maybe, but intellectually is there real basis? Mabini may be an even more developed revoutionary.

Rizal, however, was clearly revolutionary in his concepts and practice, although it can be argued that this revolutionary character rose and ebbed in different periods (he is only human, after all).

Constantino had no praxis, like many Filipino bourgeous nationalist intellectuals. He continued to work for oligarchs who were sustained by and disguised the colonial power behind their "Filipino enterprise" which exploited the country and its people with even more gusto.

Bonifacio was a proletarian idealist, patriot and class leader, but as whole revolutionary I still have to be convinced.


Anonymous said...

Hi Bert!

I really enjoy your site. it is an eye opening. It makes me think and learn our history and politics.
whenever I have time, I try to read your articles.
I have the same insights like yours wish I have time to read.
I'm still not done with the book I'm reading "The Blood of Government"

OK take care and good luck and continue the filipino mind blog site.


Bert M. Drona said...

Hello May,

Thank you for taking time to respond. Any response, for that matter, encourages me to continue blogging about our homeland. Take care

I have a post back in October 2007 re the author of your book (Paul Kramer):

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Thanks Sr. Bert for sending me updates over the email.

This are deep arguments (wow's the history buff in me), the kind that scares college kids away from Philippine history classes ^_^

Anonymous said...

I hope sooner or later, our text book on Philippine history will be reviewed and revised. Most of us Filipinos don't really know our history(The TRUE HISTORY). I grew up without a deeper understanding of my identity as Filipino. I can't remember it was taught during my high school or college days. I learned so much from this. From now on, I will continue to read books with regards to our culture, heritage and origin as Filipino.

Mario V. Bautista

Bert M. Drona said...


I appreciate for your feedback.

There already are a few history books which you can start with. To name a couple: THE HISTORY OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE (published around late 1960s)- Teodoro Agoncillo and Alfonso; FILIPINO NATIONALISM by Agoncillo (1974).

I have posted some excerpts from these books; just click the keywords or tags in the Archive (see sidebar at the right of this posting).

I am glad if the posting piqued your interest about our true history. Please share the blog with your friends and relatives. Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

This must be what Doc Q discussed to us in our MA class when Prof Simbulan reviewed his book last 2008.

Lumri said...

Rizal was a genius and may have been sincere in his love for Filipino compatriots, but still he lack perception of other vitally important issues and perhaps he even lack the right spirit. He may have been afraid of the risks when supporting a movement for CHANGE, he would rather speculate that Spain will grant the Filipinos better conditions in the future and would be willing to wait. Rizal, being a mestizo, was experiencing internal conflict for he love his own compatriots, but at the same time he also love Spain and also enjoy the benefits of being an elite class.

Nevertheless, he made his own great contribution in his own way as a Filipino hero in the history.

As with regards to his status among the other national heroes, I do not consider him above the others, all of them made their own contributions.

Maybe, many of us put too much emphasis on forms and do not penetrate to see results.

Kailan tayo magkakaroon ng bayani na hindi muna mamatay hangat hindi naiisangkatuparan ang pagangat ng Pilipinas?

Perhaps a few line of words would be worth sharing,

Be Open with Ourselves and Accept the Responsibilities that had been Left to Us.

We Need Spirit that Manifest in Action.

Bert M. Drona said...

Welcome, Sylvia.

We Filipinos always tend to think in terms of hierarchies: anyway, I do think and believe that Jose Rizal, as far as I have looked into, is a reformist, as typical of many fellow ilustrados of his time (except Mabini and Ricarte); and later those ilustrados who pandered/easily sold out to the new conquering masters, the Americans.

Mabini and Ricarte were true and consistent Filipino revolutionaries. I think Rizal became most revered as inculcated into us through our Americanized educational system.

No small thing for Rizal too for being an Atenean, as most Jesuits at the Ateneo University are Americans. LOL!?!


Bert M. Drona said...

Ed, forwarding is always welcomed!


Bert M. Drona said...

You are right Jose.

- Bert

Bert M. Drona said...


I think students (not just in the Philippines) are not very interested in history due mainly to how it is traditionally taught: memorizing names, places and dates; instead of the more challenging discussion of the "what, why, how" of events and "who" of names.

Apparently history teachers should have better/deeper knowledge and training on teaching history to make the course more attractive and worthwhile (this is true for any subject anyway).


Bert M. Drona said...

In my recent visit to our homeland late last year, I purchased and read Floro Quibuyen's book "A Nation Aborted."

Obviously, Quibuyen presented a different spin (expected especially if one's position is to critique another's interpretation of history). His book dwelt mostly on Rizal and latter's defense; i.e. to show that Rizal was revolutionary, which Simbulan correctly noted. There is no question that Quibuyen has come out with new (to me) information or documentation to support his position.

In any conversation, it is always good to define and preferably agree on terms being used. For me, to be revolutionary is to use force, to engage in the violent overthrow of the ruling regime/system, in this case, Spanish colonialism and by extension, our native Katipuneros fighting the new invaders: the American interventionist/colonialist/duplicitous foreigners. To be less is, at best, being a reformist. Thus, Rizal is a reformist.

We may not like the injection of "classes" in socioeconomic-political discussion, but the reality is that classes do exist and that classes exhibit some predictable attitudes/behaviors in society - though there may be no absolute agreement between individuals within each class.

Rizal is of the ilustrado class,i.e.relatively wealthy and educated class. Rizal was apparently one of the rare exceptions in his socioeconomic class since he empathized with the poor of his time. Still, to a significant degree, his thoughts and actuations still reflect those of his ilustrado class.

I think and feel that Quibuyen went into some "What If(s)?" scenarios. This approach reminds me of "What If" books which have recently come out in American publishing that I think is, at best, engaging in speculative entertainment; but for us native Filipinos, applying such an approach in our own national history is a waste of time.

I also do not know/understand why Quibuyen would feel insulted when Simbulan wrote that his book as pleasing to the Jesuits and its publishing house (or Ateneans who brag about Rizal being a fellow Atenean, a few Atenean friends of mine do too). Personally, I was thinking similarly, given that Jesuits in the Philippines were mostly Americans during American colonization, post-WW2 and up to the recent decades. I guess Quibuyen exhibits the typical Filipino sensitivity here.

Quibuyen plays up Rizal's supposed ethical prerequisite to the national sentiment. As much as I agree that ethics (attitudes and behaviors) must be present in civil society, they are not imperative nor attainable in a revolutionary situation, as revolutions are often, if not always, necessarily violent to attain radical socio-economic/political changes --as seemingly the case in our homeland.

It is only after such violence/bloodshed, as past and recent world history demonstrated, can ethics be hopefully considered by the new revolutionary regime. What is critical to assure such is for a significant number of the revolutionaries/followers to know and understand the reasons why of the revolutionary struggles and vigilant so as to ensure that they identify and support revolutionary leadership who are truly for the common, national good and not aspiring tyrants.

In our homeland's case, a truly civil society can happen only after a successful revolution, not the other way around.

- Bert

Bert M. Drona said...


As the EDSA-1 demonstrated, trying to be a civil society right after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, Cora Aquino with her public religiosity, her churchy supporters, and desire to please the world or assure America in particular, destroyed the one, rarest opportunity for the needed radical changes in our economic and political fields.

Thanks to Aquino's incompetent actions as our ruler, our homeland and the native majority henceforth have fallen into much deeper predicaments.

More than a century hence since Rizal wrote his essay, our children, grandchildren and future generations seem headed into a perpetually, much, much deeper misery.

As our homeland is henceforth converted into:

- a garden of paradise for foreigners and their native partners/native wanna-bes serviced by our impoverished native Filipinos;

- our national sovereignty trampled upon;

-and our national patrimony horded away/destroyed by foreigners.

- All facilitated via cultural globalization, i.e. began even before the term was coined. Via our Americanized education and greatly reinforced by the tsunami of foreign media (again mainly American) has completely alienated us native Filipinos from our own Filipinism/Filipino nationalism; and to think more like the them, and worst, to identify/see foreign interests as good for ourselves natives.

All these conversions to our homeland and alienation of our people have accelerated towards completion eversince.