THE MAKING OF A HERO

Jun 28, 2017

by Erlinda M. Burton, Ph.D.

 

June 19th is the birthday of our national hero—Dr. Jose Rizal—who turned 156 years old.

His life was snuffed off at the prime of his life when he was 37 years old.  However, despite the briefness of his life on earth, yet he had so many accomplishments for his country to marvel and be thankful because his heroism had stirred and awaken his countrymen’s consciousness to fight for justice and freedom.

The Rizal Monument in Plaza Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro marked its 100th year last June 19, 2017. It was donated a century ago by the spoused Porfirio Neri and Fausta Vamenta.

The Rizal Monument in Plaza Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro marked its 100th year last June 19, 2017. It was donated a century ago by the spoused Porfirio Neri and Fausta Vamenta.

 

Jose Rizal was hailed as a hero in this country but also admired and adulated by other countries—Spain, Mexico, Peru, Germany—for what his heroism stood for.

What made him a hero?  What are the fundamental principles and pre- disposing factors of becoming a hero?  The word hero has varied interpretations and meanings: one is hero because he saved the life of another; or he has done significant feats that saved a group of people during conflict; or he gave his own life to save mankind, e.g. Jesus Christ.

Mayor Oscar Moreno and Hiscom Chair Erlinda Burton unveils the centennial marker at the Rizal Monument at Plaza Divisoria 19 June 2017

Mayor Oscar Moreno and Hiscom Chair Erlinda Burton unveils the centennial marker at the Rizal Monument at Plaza Divisoria 19 June 2017

 

Perhaps to really understand what made Jose Rizal a hero, we should backtrack a bit to his origin—where is from?  Who were the people in his life; how was he raised or inculturated?

Birth and early childhood

 

José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda was on June 19, 1861 in the town of Calamba, Laguna.  He was baptized after three days in the Catholic Church in town. He was the 7th child of 11 children of Don Francisco Mercado and Dona Teodora Alonso.

Rizal was born of mixed ancestral origin:  Chinese (Father’s ancestors were Fujian who came to Manila to avoid famine and plague going on in his hometown. He converted to Catholicism and changed his name to Domingo Mercado and married a native woman.  His mother’s ancestry can also be traced to Chinese, Japanese and Malay and Negrito. The parents of Rizal were leaseholders of a hacienda and rice farm owned by the Dominicans stationed in Calamba, and thus were considered well-off and living in some comfort.

There were apparent indications of precocious intellect of the Boy Rizal; for at the age of three, he learned the alphabet from his mother who actually laid the foundation of his early education; at the age of five, he could read and write. One of his traits was his insistence to be taught to read and share lessons learned by his older sisters.  At the time he was learning to read, his father hired a classmate to teach Rizal rudimentary Latin.  As a boy he spent much of his time in church since their house was near it.  His mother suggested that this might be religious indication—but Rizal’s prompt reply was that he liked to observe the people coming in and out of church, but he was not religiously inclined.

Three brothers of Rizal’s mother had much influenced on the life of young Rizal: an uncle who was a teacher regularly taught him new lesson; another uncle helped developed Rizal’s physique for he was frail and sickly, wherein he developed more muscle and became more healthy; while the other uncle instilled in Rizal’s mind the lesson that it was not easy to obtain something until you work hard and put effort into it.

Rizal possessed artistic talent: he liked to make sketches of anything that caught his interest– he was able to draw a flying bird without lifting the pencil he was using from the paper until he finished drawing. He also molded clay and wax into the likeness of different animals, birds—this aroused his love and appreciation of nature.

The nurturance of Rizal in his childhood can be attributed to his mother who had detected the genius and brilliance of her son. Discovering that Rizal had a gift for writing, she encouraged him to write a poem in his native language- Tagalog- entitled “Sa asking mga Kababata” (To my Fellow children); it also had a theme of love for one’s language.

Rizal’s parents had inculcated among the children strong values of dignity and the respect for the rights of others especially the elders.  These values were further instilled by Rizal’s association with a parish priest of Calamba—Fr. Leoncio Lopez who was quite fond of the young Jose because the boy was well-behaved; on the other hand, Rizal was impressed by the priest’s remarkable intelligence and very open mind—this was one factor that influenced in the formation of Rizal’s character.

What were the influences that fostered the whole personality of Rizal?  First, he had a happy home filled with parental affection imbued with family joys celebrating events during the year like Christmas, fiestas, etc.  Second, the beauty of his hometown, Calamba, which impressed him deeply as a growing child—this had deeply influenced his mind and character. Thirdly, the happiest period of his life was his childhood days in Calamba because his life changed when he went to study at the Ateneo up until he went to the University of Santo Tomas.

What made him a hero?

In the first place, people saw Jose Rizal as a chosen one and most unique among all.  In analyzing the influences that made him a great hero, there are influences that could be stated.

1.      Environmental Influence.  Rizal grew up in a place where he had happy home with parental and relative affection. The beautiful sceneries which he saw while growing up in native town left an imprint in his consciousness as boy the beauty of nature—to him this was Eden.  In this environment, he learned the values of respect and dignity, this is where it was instilled into the mind of Rizal a great love for books—this same environment taught him to work hard, think for himself and to observe life keenly.

2.      Hereditary Influence.  According to some writers, Rizal’s mixed ancestry—Chinese, Malay, Spanish, Negrito and even Japanese could have contributed to his DNA.  From the Chinese, he acquired serious nature, frugality, patience and love for children.  From the Spanish ancestry, he got his elegance of bearing, sensitivity to insult and gallantry. And from the Malay, love of land and country.

3.      Aid of Divine Providence.  Some authors believe this is the greater influence than environment and heredity.  They believe that it was God’s plan for Rizal destined to be the pride and glory of the Filipino people.  Firstly, he was endowed with the versatile talent of a rare genius, the unsurpassed spirit of nationalism and valiant heart to give up his life for a noble cause.

Rizal’s existence was a unique one—this uniqueness had contributed to his great work in fostering freedom of the Filipino people.  His burning desire to free his fellow Filipino from the yoke of Spanish colonial regime inspired him to sacrifice his life.

Hiscom Chair Erlinda Burton addresses the Knights of Rizal Cagayan de Oro Chapter

Hiscom Chair Erlinda Burton addresses the Knights of Rizal Cagayan de Oro Chapter

 

 One authors says “Perhaps only a few Filipinos could surpass the greatness of our national hero. However, his life could provide inspiration to the young generation to be courageous and have determination to love our country—these patriotic ideals should be instilled to young people”.

 These outstanding qualities, intelligence and talent of Jose Rizal could serve as a lodestar to be emulated by the young Filipinos (the Millennials) to commit themselves in espousing justice and peace for a greater Philippines.

Hiscom Chair Erlinda Burton joins officers and members of the Knighs of Rizal Cagayan de Oro Chapter for a memento

Hiscom Chair Erlinda Burton joins officers and members of the Knighs of Rizal Cagayan de Oro Chapter for a memento

                             

(Delivered by the author during the 156th birthday anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal and Centennial of the Rizal Monument in Plaza Divisoria on June 19, 2017 during the general assembly of the Knights of Rizal, Cagayan de Oro Chapter held at Golden Stallion Suites, Nazareth, CDO. Erlinda M. Burton is the chairperson of the Cagayan de Oro City Historical and Cultural Commission and the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan Museo de Oro)

 

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