Yo la tengo, y yo espero que ha de brillar un dia en que venza la Idea a la fuerza brutal, que despues de la lucha y la lenta agonia, otra vzx mas sonora, mas feliz que la mi sabra cantar entonces el cantico triunfal. [I have the hope that the day will dawn/when the Idea will conquer brutal force; that after the struggle and the lingering travail,/another voice, more sonorous, happier than mine shall know then how to sing the triumphant hymn.] -- Jose Rizal, “Mi Retiro” (22 October 1895)
On June 19, 2011, we are celebrating 150 years of Rizal’s achievement and its enduring significance in this new millennium. It seems fortuitous that Rizal’s date of birth would fall just six days after the celebration of Philippine Independence Day - the proclamation of independence from Spanish rule by General Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, in 1898. In 1962 then President Diosdado Macapagal decreed the change of date from July 4 to June 12 to reaffirm the primacy of the Filipinos’ right to national self-determination. After more than three generations, we are a people still in quest of the right, instruments, and opportunity to determine ourselves as an autonomous, sovereign and singular nation-state. Either ironical or prescient, Aguinaldo’s proclamation (read in the context of US Special Forces engaged today in fighting Filipino socialists and other progressive elements) contains the kernel of the contradictions that have plagued the ruling elite’s claim to political legitimacy: he invoked the mythical benevolence of the occupying power. Aguinaldo unwittingly mortgaged his leadership to the “protection of the Mighty and Humane North American Nation.” Mighty, yes, but “humane”? The U.S. genocide of 1.4 million Filipinos is, despite incontrovertible
San Juan / Afterword
evidence, still disputed by apologists of “Manifest Destiny.” But there is no doubt that Aguinaldo’s gratitude to the Americans who brought him back from exile after the Pact of Biakna-Bato spelled the doom of the ilustrado oligarchy which, despite the demagogic ruses of Marcos and his successors, has proved utterly bankrupt in its incorrigible corruption, electoral cynicism, and para-military gangster violence. Obedient to US dictates, the current regime appears to follow its predecessors along the path of neocolonial decadence and barbarism, further opening the country’s dwindling resources to predatory transnational corporations and their mercenaries. And so, sotto voce: “Long live Filipino Independence Day!” The 150th anniversary of Rizal’s birth affords us the occasion to reassess his work, particularly in the context of ongoing fierce class war between the exploited, impoverished majority and the few privileged landlords, bureaucrats and business moguls patronized by global capital. This is taking place at a time when the Philippines is being re-colonized by the United States, the world's moribund hegemon, under the cover of the global war on terrorism, also labeled Islamic “extremism.” The Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army serve as pretexts for perennial US military intervention. Would Rizal want the country partitioned by greedy corporate speculators and their agents in the ongoing genocidal war against peoples of color? Numerous biographies celebrate Rizal as “the first Filipino” (Guerrero) “the pride of the Malay Race” (Palma}, even the antithetical American-made hero (Constantino)—the canonical icon of the patriot-liberator (Bonoan 1996) worshipped every June and December. Unless we want to be pharisaical acolytes and hagiographers, we need to renew our commitment to Rizal’s ideas, not his image. The commentaries in my previous book Rizal In Our Time (1977), as well as my reflections on Rizal’s travels in the US (included in Balikbayang Sinta: An E. San Juan Reader (2008), seek to...