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Rizal in Ray-Bans: Does the Icon Need Modernization?

by Culture Team
31 Jul 2017 | 2:10 PM

Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal y Alonzo Realonda.

Perhaps only a few people today (still) know the complete name of our country's National Hero. Maybe some have even forgotten that he celebrated his 153rd birthday just recently (that's June 19, you nitpickers).

Today, many people think that we have put Rizal on the sidelines, his importance reduced to a one-day year-end holiday.

Rizal's spirit has seemingly lost its significance in our society, and now we only remember him in history books and in the names of schools and streets.

This poses one very important question: is Rizal still relevant today?


We're stuck in a time where there are several issues that we have to address. And it's just similar to the sociopolitical context of the time when Rizal made his mark in history as we know it. Interestingly, we can still apply some of his quotes to our current societal problems.

"Ang ipinagiging taksil ng ilan ay nasa kaduagan at kapabayaan ng iba."

In Rizal's letter to the young women of Malolos, his first point was how the cowardice of others paves the way for the tyranny of a few.

Enter the infamous Pork Barrel scam. We can consider this crime a tyranny, as only a select few benefited from our taxes, money that should've been devoted to the improvement of the lives of the Filipino people. 

Rizal makes us realize that it is only because of the cowardice (and perhaps tolerance) of the people who know about this matter that we experienced this.

Fortunately, hearings are underway and there is some progress to the case. Hopefully, everyone who milked the country's coffers be held accountable for their crimes.

"Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika ay higit sa hayop at malansang isda."

Recently, the Commission on Higher Education's memorandum to make Filipino an optional medium of instruction in college has sparked a nationwide uproar. The rationale behind this? The extra two years in the new K-12 system are "sufficient" enough to arm everyone with extensive knowledge in our local language.

And to think that the common Filipino often doesn't know the difference between "ng" and "nang" and "rito" and "dito." This doesn't even include the possible employment-related repercussions of this memorandum to both Filipino and English teachers.

If Rizal were alive, he'd probably shake his head and say, "Whatever happened to 'Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan'?"
"To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past."

A quick trip to Fort Santiago and you'd see this often-quoted line. This line doesn't mean mere retrospection of whatever we have experienced as a nation; it's an opportunity for us to see where we committed mistakes and how we can start changing everything for a brighter future.

So, to answer the question on the title: no, not really. Rizal neither needs a pair of Ray-Bans nor does he have to be the poster boy of trendy T-shirts and caps to remain relevant. There's nothing wrong with adding a modern touch to the interpretation of our great heroes on T-shirts and what have you, but these additions are not necessary to sustain the relevance of these people's contributions to our country.

What we need to do, as the Filipino people Rizal oh so loved, is appropriate the life lessons we can learn from him and other heroes - sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa.

Instead of thinking whether or not Rizal needs a dash of modernization, let's think about how we can put his works and philosophies under a modern context, how these can solve what Rizal called the "cancers of society." After all, it is Rizal who said that "Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan."