'Students put sunglasses, Bob Marley cap on Rizal'

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – On Wednesday, June 19, it's going to be "just another regular day" here, the place of national hero Jose P. Rizal's exile more than a century ago.

And that's not good news on the national hero's 152nd birth anniversary.

Gabriel Cad, curator of Rizal Park here under the National Historical Institute (NHI), wishes that the government will give more importance to Rizal's birth anniversary, if not observe it as grandly as they do the hero's death anniversary every December 30.

"I believe it is more appropriate to observe Rizal Day on his birth anniversary than on the day he died," Cad said, "After all, it was not the way he died but the way he lived that made Rizal a hero – his intelligence, his wish to educate every Filipino, his desire to be free from the bounds of Spanish conquest, his being a visionary and his hope that we all may live the best we can."

Four years ago, the House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 5408 that sought to move the observance of Rizal Day from December 30, the date of his execution, to June 19, his birthday. Its counterpart bill in the Senate didn't pass, however.

The observance of Rizal Day on the day he was executed could be traced to a decree issued by President Emilio Aguinaldo on December 20, 1898.

"It would also be best if we commemorate Rizal Day on his birthday because it is just a few days after classes have started. We can request that students get involved [in the observabce]. After all, one of Rizal's most popular statements says the youth are our future," Cad stressed.

There is a need to reinvigorate Rizal's ideals among Filipinos, particularly to the young, he said.

The curator said most young people seem to become the opposite of what Rizal expected them to be – the hope of the motherland.

Even respect and reverence for the national hero seems to be slipping away, he said.

"There was a time I saw young students putting sunglasses and Bob Marley cap on Rizal's monument [at the Rizal Park] and took turns in taking photos while the others were putting their hands on Rizal's shoulders," Cad recalled.

For Wednesday, it's not Cad's office, the NHI, that's leading the commemoration, but the City Government of Dapitan. The local government will just conduct a short program and floral offering at Rizal's monument at the city plaza.

"Traditionally and by law we (NHI) leads in the commemoration of Rizal Day every December 30. Today we are on our own, we just support the City Government of Dapitan that has been spearheading the observance [of the hero's birth anniversary]." 

Rizal was sent in exile in this Zamboanga del Norte town in 1892 by the Spanish government in Manila. He stayed here for 4 years, during which he practised as a doctor and established a school for boys. – Rappler.com