December 4, 2022

I was traversing the great, yet controversial (h)istory of Ambeth Ocampo when I came across the greatest mistake of the Filipinos – Jose Rizal as superman. While contemplating and grasping the heart of what Ocampo is allegedly claiming, I tried to reflect on the situations of the Philippines, where Filipino unity is put into test. Can this be a manifestation of a misunderstanding of the life, teachings, and principles of our very own hero?
Who wouldn’t know the man behind the bronze statue specifically designed to commemorate his battle for the El Patria? Who wouldn’t know the extraordinary works Noli and El Fili – the catalysts of revolution? Who wouldn’t know the unfiltered battle of a hero who strived to liberate the nation from the oppressive Spanish reign? Who wouldn’t know the great name Mr. Jose Rizal?
The national hero has been portrayed as a perfect man – intelligent, talented, and was noteworthy of all of his endeavors. In fact, in the eye of the Filipinos no one can ever surpass his greatness – he is indeed a superman! However, this excellence of the great Rizal was misinterpreted by many. Rizal’s “human side” was overlooked. While Rizal lies peacefully in the heavens, people commemorate his death, to the extent of putting up statues of him all over the land, this was never the dream of our national hero since in his diary he only wished for a simple tomb in the center of an untouched forest.
However, due to Rizal’s greatness, Filipinos overly exemplified the hero. Filipinos strengthened the concept of Rizal as “superman.” Unconsciously, this idea is making the country and its people doomed. The national hero’s ideals, thoughts, teachings, and life-values are not recognized the way Rizal would like to present it. How can Filipinos follow the patriotic objectives of Rizal if the man was portrayed to be so impossible and unreachable? Can we at least look at him as an ordinary person? Someone who was as intelligent as his classmates at Ateneo, but apparently did not graduate with flying colors. A man who was tested by temptation – who turned out to be a womanizer, although some historians are claiming that the hero could be a homosexual. A man who had a lot of insecurities in his body, to the extent of asking tailors to add pads to his coats to hide his imbalanced frail shoulders, not to mention his halitosis. And a man who cannot carry the title “Dr. Rizal” since he failed to sit in his final examination. These qualities and going-on in his life were “so human.” Very human, to be exact.
Filipinos have difficulties emulating Rizal’s teachings because they thought of him as a “superman” and have this misconception that only Rizal can do extraordinary things. This is what Filipinos must recognize: that the national hero is only a human being, an ordinary man, who is not exempted from “sablay” moments. If Filipinos will recognize the human side of Rizal, perhaps it is easier for us to emulate his principles. It will be easier for us to live by his teachings.
In this challenging situation where the Philippines is almost at a loss, may this be the time to view the hero as an ordinary man, who has got the extraordinary will to change the world using his ordinary God-given gifts. May Filipinos realize that regardless of their ordinary strengths, they can live by the ideals and principles of Rizal and emulate his great deeds using ordinary human powers. (JENNY-LYN G. AMBEGUIA)