NHI: Rizal’s dying wishes unfulfilled
By Jerry E. Esplanada [Philippine Daily Inquirer]
First Posted 02:05:00 12/30/2009
MANILA, Philippines—Unknown to many Filipinos, most of Dr. Jose Rizal’s wishes on his death remain unfulfilled, including the nonobservance of his execution on Dec. 30, 1896, according to National Historical Institute (NHI) Chair Ambeth R. Ocampo.
Speaking at a recent Metrobank Foundation lecture series on best teaching practices, Ocampo said the national hero left the following instructions in an undated letter to his family, written in Fort Santiago before he was shot: ”... Bury me in the ground, place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If you later wish to surround my grave with a fence, you may do so. No anniversaries. I prefer Paang Bundok [where Manila’s North Cemetery now stands, as my burial place].”
These final instructions were not followed, except for the construction of a fence around his grave—the Rizal Monument at Luneta Park in Manila.
“There is no cross on his grave. Instead of the simple piece of stone above his grave we have a whole obelisk topped with three gold stars and a statue of him. The simple inscription with his name and dates of birth and death may be there in elaborate bronze, but you have all sorts of other inscriptions around the grave,” said Ocampo, who writes a column for the Inquirer.
Neither was Rizal’s request to be buried in Paang Bundok complied with, “so there he lies in Luneta close to the spot where he was shot,” Ocampo said, adding:
“Worse, every year there are two anniversaries celebrated there: his birthday on June 19 and his death day on Dec. 30. On the latter, the president of the Philippines leads the nation in a Rizal Day celebration, when Rizal didn’t want any.”
The same information was presented by Ocampo in his book “Rizal Without the Overcoat,” a collection of essays on the national hero.
Day of mourning
The observance of Rizal Day goes back to the decree issued by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on Dec. 20, 1898, declaring Dec. 30 as a “national day of mourning” for Rizal and other casualties of the revolution against Spain.
The first-ever commemoration of Rizal Day was held in Manila by Club Filipino on Dec. 30, 1898, which coincided with the unveiling of the Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte.
On Feb. 1, 1902, the Philippine Commission enacted Act No. 345, which set Dec. 30 of each year as Rizal Day.
Today, President Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to again lead Rizal Day rites at the Rizal Monument in Baguio City.
Vice President Noli de Castro, on the other hand, will lead wreath-laying rites at the Rizal Monument at Luneta Park.
Other wreath-laying ceremonies will be held simultaneously at the Rizal Shrines in Calamba, Dapitan City, San Nicolas in Ilocos Norte, Davao City, and Cebu City, among other places nationwide.
Early this year, Ocampo expressed full support for the proposed transfer of Rizal Day from Dec. 30 to June 19. It was believed that the move would give Rizal the prominence he deserved instead of the seeming afterthought squeezed between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
In June, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading House Bill No. 5408 seeking to move Rizal Day to June 19.
The Senate, however, has yet to approve the proposal, which seeks to amend Executive Order No. 292, or the Administrative Code of 1987 which covers the commemoration of Rizal’s death anniversary.
Manila Rep. Jaime Lopez, who sponsored HB 5408, said June 19 was the appropriate date to mark Rizal Day because it was the hero’s writings, and not his death alone, that triggered the 1896 revolution and that roused Filipinos to unite in order to win independence against foreign domination.
Why Rizal Day on Dec. 30
But last year, Dr. Pablo Trillana III, former NHI chair and Knight Grand Officer of the Order of the Knights of Rizal, wrote a piece in the Inquirer stating what he described as the “compelling reasons why we should continue celebrating Rizal Day on Dec. 30.”
Said Trillana: “Rizal’s death, not his birth, is the greater event... The newborn Rizal, like any newborn, held nothing more than the promise of a life that could be filled with meaning. His death, on the other hand, summed up his life, held the record for what he had become, and defined its meaning.
“Births, deaths or days of great achievements can be milestones for commemoration. The fundamental objective is to choose an event which locks the lives of the hero and his nation in a tight embrace of context and meaning... Rizal’s death, more than his birth, embodies that spirit.”
In his Dec. 21, 2006, column in this paper, Ocampo wrote: “While it is traditional and proper to celebrate the national hero’s martyrdom, there is a more practical reason for a change.
“Each year, Rizal Day passes by almost unnoticed because the official ceremonial wreath-laying in Rizal Park takes less than half an hour and even if it is aired live on TV, radio or the Internet, almost everyone is asleep at 7 a.m., enjoying the holiday and the cold December weather...
“One would think that moving Rizal Day to June 19 would provide a logical excuse for reflections on nationhood by having a weeklong celebration that begins on June 19. Unfortunately, people are so comfortable with the present setup to even consider change.”
25-volume of hero’s writings
In his Jan. 9, 2009 column, Ocampo wrote: “There are people who think we should wear long faces and commemorate Dec. 30 with somber thoughts of death and martyrdom and ‘Ultimo Adios.’
“I would rather that people read Rizal’s novels and discuss them instead of repeating stock phrases and praises that have numbed our youth. Better yet, try and read Rizal’s other writings, those that were not forced on you in school,” including the little known volumes in the complete 25-volume compilation of the hero’s writings.
A Biographical Sketch