Senators on Rizal Day: Protect the freedom he died for

Mara Cepeda
Senators on Rizal Day: Protect the freedom he died for
Senator Francis Pangilinan calls Jose Rizal a 'millennial who cares, and says he used his talents to fight for the country's liberation from Spain

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers urged Filipinos to emulate Jose Rizal and continue fighting for freedom as the nation remembers the national hero on Friday, December 30. 

Senator Francis Pangilinan recalled that Rizal was only in his mid-20s when he wrote his novel Noli Me Tangere, which discussed the abuses of the Spanish friars and the then ruling colonial government. 

The senator called Rizal a “millennial na may pakialam (who cares)” and a “multi-tasker” for using his skills as a writer, doctor, and teacher to help open his countrymen’s eyes to the atrocities committed by the Spaniards. (READ: Duterte on Rizal Day: Be a hero, help effect change)

‘Di pa naiimbento ang kataga, multi-tasker na siya. Marami ang galit sa kanya noon. Tinawag siyang ipokrito, maramdamin, at rebelde. Pero tinuloy lang niya ang mga gawaing sa tingin niya’y dapat niyang gawin para sa bayan,” Pangilinan said.

(He was a multi-tasker even before the term was coined. Many were angry at him then. He was called a hypocrite, sensitive, and a rebel. But he continued to do what he thought was right for the country.)

One hundred twenty years after Rizal was executed at Bagumbayan, Pangilinan said Filipinos can continue fighting for the freedom he fought for in their own ways.  

Hindi dapat mamatay para ituring tulad ni Ka Pepe. At araw-araw may tumutugon sa pagtawag ng kabayanihan, hindi lang ang mga makabagong bayaning OFW (overseas Filipino worker) natin. Marami rin ang bayaning narito lang sa Pilipinas at sinasagot o pilit sinasagot ang hamon ng kahirapan at ‘di pagkakapantay-pantay,” said Pangilinan.

(You don’t have to die to be considered like Ka Pepe. Every day, there are people who respond to heroism, not just our modern day heroes, the OFWs. There are many in the Philippines who respond to the challenge posed by poverty and inequality.)

Nag-mu-multi-task din, lalo na ngayong kapaskuhan: Mga nanay at tatay, ate at kuya, tito at tita, at minsan lolo at lola at bunsong tumatanggap ng sideline o raket para mairaos o mapaligaya ang mga mahal sa buhay. At kahit nahihirapan na o tinatawag pang tamad o tanga o tard, dinadaan na lang sa ngiti o awit o biro,” he added.

(There are those who multi-task, too, especially this Christmas: Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, and sometimes grandparents and youngest children who accept sideline jobs just to bring happiness to their loved ones. And even if it is difficult for them or they are called as lazy or stupid or tard, they just get by through a smile, a song, or a joke.)

Senator Leila de Lima, meanwhile, cited one of the iconic quotes of Noli Me Tangere character Elias, who said: “Mamamatay akong hindi man lang makikita ang ningning ng bukang-liwayway sa aking Bayan. Kayong mga makakakita, salubungin ninyo siya at huwag ninyong kalimutan ang mga taong nalugmok sa dilim ng gabi.”

(I will die without even seeing the brightness of the dawn in my country. To those who will see it, welcome it and do not forget the people who have fallen to the darkness of the night.)

For De Lima, Filipinos who currently have seen the light in darkness like Elias have the responsibility to protect the Philippines from the corrupt and greedy. 

Tandaan sana natin: Hangga’t may nagbubulag-bulagan sa katotohanan, magpapatuloy ang panlilinlang at pang-aabuso ng ilan, hangga’t marami ang nananahimik, laging mangingibabaw ang takot at dahas. Ilang Rizal o Elias pa kaya ang mapapatay, ilang musmos o inosenteng sibilyan pa ang madadamay, bago tayo kumilos at mahinto ang karahasan sa ating lipunan?” said De Lima.

(Let us remember: As long as those who blind themselves from the truth, as long as dishonesty and abuse continue, as long as many continue to stay silent, fear and violence will reign. How many other Rizals or Eliases would have to be killed, young and innocent children be involved, before we will move to end this violence in the country?) 

De Lima advised the public to uphold the principles shown by Rizal. 

Bilang Pilipinong nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa kapwa at bansa, isabuhay natin ang prinsipyong itinaguyod ni Gat Jose Rizal at ng marami pa nating bayani. Ipagtanggol natin ang kalayaang hindi man nasilayan ng mga nauna sa atin, ay siya namang buong tapang nilang ipinaglaban, upang maipamana sa atin ang isang makatarungan at mapayapang kinabukasan,” she said. 

(As Filipinos who love and care for others and the country, let us practice the principles shown by Jose Rizal and our other heroes. Let us fight for the freedom that was not witnessed by those before us, for the freedom they fought for bravely, so that we would be able experience a just and peaceful tomorrow.)

Filipino pride 

Senator Loren Legarda shared the same sentiments as her colleagues, calling Rizal an “unparalleled visionary” who changed the landscape of the Filipino identity.

She said that like Rizal, Filipinos possess a “resilient spirit that enables them to weather challenges, even the worst economic and social conditions.” 

“Even after experiencing the worst disasters, Filipinos find reason to smile and laugh, help others even if they are victims too, and immediately go about their business and it is something to be proud of. Rizal was the epitome of strength and resiliency and overcame the monumental challenges he faced as we know from our nation’s history. He drew strength from his family, his faith and his beloved nation. I hope Filipinos would follow his example,” said Legarda.  

The senator also wants Filipinos to take pride in the Philippine heritage.  

“We will be more confident of ourselves if we know who we are and if we understand our roots. We must all strive to know about our heritage, appreciate it and preserve it for the future generations,” she said. 

As President Rodrigo Duterte wages his bloody war against drugs, Senator Grace Poe said there should no longer be any bloodshed in the country.  

“The spirit of Rizal’s heroism lies in loving our country in our thoughts, words, and deeds. There need not be bloodshed to show our love for the motherland,” she said. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.