Understanding: Philippines and National Hero

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Veneration without Understanding

It is in the national revolution that the people were most united, most involved and most active on the fight for freedom. Almost always the leader of the revolution becomes the principal hero of his people. The unity between the people and the leader enhances the effects of both. In our case, Rizal, our national hero was not the leader of our revolution. In fact, he refused to be associated with it. He said in his manifesto that he was only for the reforms and that reforms must willingly come from above, not by force. His condemnation of the revolution has placed us in Filipinos in a situation in which we have to choose between two undesirable choices. In our case, we chose to ignore this contradiction because we still haven’t realized the consequences of our refusal to resolve this contradiction. The Philippine revolution has always been overshadowed by the widespread reputation of Rizal. Because our national hero took no part in the revolution, it gave less significance to the event, to the man, and to us. Such appraisal has dangerous effects because it can be used to exculpate those who actively betrayed the revolution and may lessen the passion of those who today may be called upon to support another revolution to complete the anti-colonial movement. We have magnified Rizal’s role to such a point that we have lost our sense of delegation of our other great men. It cannot be denied that his pre-eminence among our heroes was a result of American sponsorship. Governor William Howard Taft and other conservative Filipinos chose Rizal to be our national hero because Rizal never advocated independence, nor did he advocate armed resistance to the government. He wanted reforms by means of public education. It is the public image that the Americans desired for us Filipinos to follow. They favoured a hero who would not run against American colonial policy and ignored heroes who...
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