Jose Rizal as Asian Hero

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FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) Updated December 27, 2009 12:00 AM

A friend from schooldays asked me to comment on an article that appeared in the other newspaper recently: “If Rizal were alive, he’d visit his old Jesuit mentors here”. It was a categorical statement and did not reflect the controversy on his alleged retraction and how a former Jesuit teacher played an important part in persuading him to do so.

It is said that this former Jesuit teacher had come carrying a statue of the Sacred Heart that was supposedly carved by Jose Rizal while a student at the Ateneo. The Jesuit, at least through some stories tried to refresh his memories on his education at the Ateneo and why what he learned there should matter to him now that he was near death.

I wrote my friend he had asked the wrong person. Even if it were proven that he did retract, I would still be interested to know the intent of the Jesuits in trying to elicit a retraction.

I would have rephrased the title, in keeping with the controversy about the retraction, into a question: “If Rizal were alive today, would he have visited his old Jesuit mentors here?” It might be more polemical but it would bring out nuances that influenced the making of the Philippine nation. Since no such national debate took place, Filipinos were not able to benefit from the lessons they might have learned if it had taken place. For one, they would have confronted the role Jesuits played, for good or ill, in building up our nation.

Up to this day, the received wisdom is that he had retracted and the many objections to it have been forgotten through the years. Rizal’s alleged retraction became just another controversy and his heroism diminished under a cloud.

I believe that had there been no controversy about what Rizal did before his execution, Filipinos would have taken a different intellectual direction. The effect of the legacy of a hero defiant until death for what he believed in...
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