Sino si Pepe?

Sino ka ba, Pepe?

Pinanganak June 19, 1861 Calamba Laguna Namatay December 30, 1896 sa Bagong Bayan na ngayon ay Luneta Dito nanumpa ang maraming mga pangulo at binabaril minsan ang mga turista Ang dami mong sinulat pero sino ba ang nagbabasa? Kabayanihan mo’y nasa aming ugat pero tunay ka ba naming kilala? Mula kapanganakan hanggang kamatayan kasama namin ang iyong pangalan Nalimutan na namin kung sino ka talaga

Sino ka ba, Pepe? 

Pero naku, ang dami naming tanong. Talaga bang ikaw ay para sa rebolusyon o assimilasyon? Talaga bang binawi mo ang mga sinulat at sinabi mo noon? O ikaw ba’y isang dakilang ilusyon ng panahon? Sabi mo noon gusto mo ang libingan ay simpleng hukay. Isang bato, isang krus sa paanan ng bundok. Walang anibersaryo, walang seremonias, walang palabok. Pero Pepe, wala kang magagawa, paminsan-minsan masabi lang namin, may kalahi kaming dakila.

Sino ka ba, Pepe? 

Pero tignan mo naman ngayon, Pepe.
Hindi ka lang pinag-aaralan, dinadakila, Ikaw rin ay dinadasalan, sinasamba na parang Jesus Christ lang. Kaya idol talaga kita Pepe. Kahit ano pang sabihin nila hindi na bale. Dahil wala kang katulad. The first Filipino. The great Malayan. The Pride of the Malay Race. Tagalog Christ. National Hero. Sobresaliente. Kahit ang mukha mo ay nakikita lang namin sa piso na nawawala na nang halaga.

Sino ka ba, Pepe? Sino ka ba talaga, Pepe?

Who is Pepe? Who is Jose Rizal?

I was then a cute and talented grade one student in my former school (the adjectives may be unnecessary but trust me, it’s essential for this article). You know how things go along on schools during the celebration of its foundation. there were programs, parties, field demonstrations, and other things that our teachers forced us to do. I was the candidate of our class in the usual mister and miss pageant/talent show/whatever you call those contests. During the question and answer portion, the host asked me what will I do if ever I got the chance to meet Jesus. Yes, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Now most of the kids my age would probably ask the God about material things, blessings, and other kiddie stuff (you know, he’s omnipotent) but did you know what I answered? I told the host that if ever I got to meet Jesus, I will ask him to tell me a story. Not the usual stories or parables of Jesus but the life story of Dr. Jose Rizal.

Guess what? I lost the competition and did not even place. I think I got one special award but it was too unessential to have a place in my memory.

Do I have any regrets answering that way? Maybe a little. Because my parents – with their high expectations for the said competition – repeatedly taunt the way I answered. (But for the record, I did not hate them for that. It’s actually funny to remember those things after all these years.)

As I grew up, I had other chances to meet Dr. Jose Rizal. I was in grade three when I first visited his house in Calamba, Laguna. I was in grade four when the biopic Jose Rizal starring Cesar Montano came out at the Metro Manila Film Fest. I was in High School when I studied his life and two novels – Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. And in college, I took the required Rizal subject and looked at him in a deeper perspective. I studied his life, works, his escapades, his women, and the controversies surrounding his life.

I thought I already knew Jose Rizal. I was wrong. It turned out that I would learn more about him after finishing college.

This may sound ridiculous but although my favorite subject in school history, I had a tough time dealing with bookish teachers who seem to know nothing about the subject. I suffered from poor teachers teaching bad history and apathetic classmates (i.e. “Huwag ka nang magtanong. Aanhin mo ba yang history sa trabaho?”). So I resorted to my own effort to know the subject more.

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Of course, we learned who Dr. Jose Rizal is, his achievements, (some of) his works, the number of women whom he allegedly went to bed with, the number of places he’s been to, and the number of languages that he can speak. But are those enough? Is that the way Pepe wants us to remember him?

I think knowing and understanding who Pepe is is a continuing work (or a struggle, if you may permit). We live in the world where everybody seems to be speaking in behalf of a great person; where history can be manipulated; and the stories heard are from those with a loud voice.

I am no expert when it comes to history nor have a sufficient knowledge about Dr. Jose Rizal but let me share with you the things that I have learned after graduating  from school: Do not be contented with your teacher’s history. Read other books. Compare. Ask questions. And do not be gullible.

As we celebrate and commemorate Pepe’s 151st birthday today, I hope we all make an effort to know him more and to really understand his legacy and message. Let us not let the man’s noble efforts and sacrifice die in vain.

Ikaw? Ano ang pagkakakilala mo kay Jose Rizal?

Elsewhere:

  • Rock Rizal – The song above is Sino si Pepe? by Radioactive Sago Project. It is included in last year’s Rock Rizal compilation featuring original songs inspired by Jose Rizal’s life and works. Check out the other tracks from Ely Buendia, Gloc-9, Ebe Dancel, Jett Pangan, Peryodiko, Aiza Seguerra and many more. 
  • Reflections on Rizal-Three Thoughts – Sir Nik’s piece about how we Filipinos view Jose Rizal, how he grew up with him, and how we should view his works. This is a must-read. 

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