A paper on Veneration without Understanding by Renato Constantino.
“In the histories of many nations,” Constantino writes, “the national revolution represents a peak of achievement to which the minds of man return time and again in reverence and for a renewal of faith in freedom. For the national revolution is invariably the one period in a nation’s history when the people were most united, most involved, and most decisively active in the fight for freedom. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that almost always the leader of that revolution becomes the principal hero of his people. There is Washington for the United States, Lenin for the Soviet Union, Bolivar for Latin America, Sun Yat Sen, then Mao Tse-Tung for China and Ho Chi Minh for Vietnam. The unity between the venerated mass action and the honored single individual enhances the influence of both.”
“In our case, our national hero was not the leader of our Revolution. In fact, he repudiated that Revolution.” *
In 1901 the Governor of the so-called Philippines, William Howard Taft suggested to the Philippine Commission that we so-called Filipinos be given a national hero. He boldly states, “And now, gentlemen, you must have a national hero.” “Taft with other American colonial officials and some conservative Filipinos chose him (Rizal) as a model hero over other contestants – Aguinaldo too militant, Bonifacio too radical, Mabini unregenerate.”** Charles Bohlen, one-time ambassador to the Philippines, described Taft’s motivations like this: “Taft quickly decided that it would be extremely useful for the Filipinos to have a national hero of their revolution against the Spanish in order to channel their feelings and focus their resentment backward on Spain. But he told his advisers that he wanted it to be someone who really wasn’t so much of a revolutionary that, if his life was examined too closely or his works read too carefully, this could cause us any trouble. He chose Rizal as the man who fit his model.”***
Governor Taft told Pardo de Tavera, Legarda and Luzuriaga, the Filipino members of the civil commission, to impose the beginning of Rizal day. With this decision, Philippine Commission implemented: (1) Act No. 137, in which the district of Morong is named after Rizal; (2) Act No. 234, in which Rizal should have a monument at Luneta; and (3) Act No. 345, setting aside the anniversary of his death to be a day of observance, placing Rizal’s picture on the postage stamp and on the currency and teach the young Filipinos to revere his memory as the greatest of the Filipino patriots. *
There is no doubt that Rizal was a great man and was unjustly killed. But by elevating him to national hero, we neglect the other great men. In school, media, government and etc. we hear Rizal this, Rizal that, until our ears bleed. What about our heroes who advocated independence for us? Rizal pointed out problems in the Spanish colonial society, but he did not want to drive out the Spanish. He never wanted independence for the so-called Philippines. That was the important factor because it would be a contradiction for the so-called Filipino people to advocate independence from the USA. He did not join Bonifacio and Katipunan. He was a conformist. He wanted better conditions for so-called Filipinos under Spanish rule. Taft also picked Rizal because he was already dead and he could not speak against the American neocolonialism.
Every aspect of so-called Filipino life is infiltrated by our colonial and neocolonial past, even our heroes have become used against us.
*Veneration Without Understanding by Renato Constantino
**Between Two Empires by Theodore Friend, 1965, p.16
***Portrait of a Cold Warrior by Joseph B. Smith, 1976, p.283