Filipinos commemorate Rizal Day on December 30, the day he was martyred by the Spaniards. But Wednesday was his birth anniversary, and it is likewise—if not more—fitting to celebrate the day one of the greatest thinkers and patriots of our country was born.
Rizal is hailed as a man of many abilities: medicine, literature, history. There is a reason, however, that he is our national hero: Of all the men and women recognized for their virtues that shaped our nation, Rizal stands out for what he did and what he continues to do.
These days it is easy to get stumped by the numerous issues competing for our nation’s attention. We wonder: If Rizal were alive today, what would he think of the way we are governing ourselves, with the freedom he and other heroes fought so hard to secure for us? If he were in our, or our leaders’, shoes, how would he conduct himself and deal with the problems we are now facing?
Foremost, he would likely rage against fake news. Rizal loved learning—he was himself a master of many trades—and he knew the value of information. He would take measures to ensure that his decisions would be based on facts, and not a tainted version of them.
He would also exercise logic and circumspection in everything he does, and eschew double talk. He would not purport to wait for the results of an investigation while in the same breath passing judgment and dismissing an incident as a “little” or insignificant.
He would defend our laws and our territory, and would always assert autonomy and independence in our sphere.
He would encourage the youth not only to make their voices heard, but even before that, to think and think critically instead of parroting rehearsed lines that are loud but meaningless. Certainly, he would welcome and encourage a free exchange of ideas. If anybody disagreed with him, he would not attack the dissenter but engage him or her in a rational, respectful conversation.
He would scoff at attempts at simplistic thinking: For instance, equating the act of protesting an illegal, unjust act by another country with waging war against it. There are numerous ways conflicting interests can be talked about and resolved outside of resorting to extremes.
Finally, he would know who his real friends are. Real friends respect each other’s territories or belongings and do not bully each other—and most especially not take offense when called out for their excesses or inadequacies.