02 January 2004

Jose Rizal: Liberated by Language?

Dean Jorge Bocobo's Philippine Commentary has an interesting take on a national hero.
JOSE RIZAL is a strange kind of national hero. He ... was basically a highly educated Spaniard of the late 19th Century. He was born and raised in the Philippines to a prominent indio family who were nevertheless tenants of a land-owning religious order near Calamba, an old Spanish colonial town on the southern shores of Laguna de Bai, south east of Manila. He was educated by Jesuit priests of the Ateneo de Manila (a Catholic school and university still considered among the creme de la creme of Philippine education; and by Dominicans of the famous Royal Pontifical University of Santo Tomas--established a decade before Harvard University, though slightly less, err, endowed)....

Jose Rizal was freed by his mastery of the Spanish language, and several other modern languages, from the purposive obscurantism of the colonial friars and their dogmatic theocracy. He escaped the intentional benighting of the Philippines and her people by absorbing the best of Western culture and civilization to finally see Spain and the Philippines in the total context of the past and present, and also, of future possibilities. That is what made Rizal dangerous, and sealed his fate at the Spanish Taliban's hands--he had become a Prometheus for a people that had long suspected the existence of fire, from ancestral memories and sentiments inherent to the human genome.

Almost all of Rizal is in Spanish, though he also competently wrote in French, German, English, Italian, though his output in these languages was minimal compared to his obras Español. But even in translation, Rizaliana surpasses every other Filipino who calls himself a writer. BAR NONE! ... And Rizal wrote all the time, about everything. Like an obsessive blogger in the Nineteenth Century with the only blogspot in the archipelago--the only one who could read, write and publish with panache and nobility and courage and surpassing mastery of the tools available to him.
Rizal's two most famous novels are Noli Me Tangere (Latin for 'touch me not') and El Filibusterismo (Spanish for 'subversion', but a word of many etymological twists and turns; scroll down at the link). The links at the titles are to a website containing the 1987 English translation printed in the Philippines of a 1983 work in German by an Austrian wartime exile about Ferdinand Blumentritt, another Austrian who was "Jose Rizal's closest friend and companion."

Ein Handkuß zu El Filibustero Wretchard at Belmont Club.

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