Every Filipino and netizens of the world know that Efren Penaflorida of the kariton klasrooms is the CNN Hero of the Year. He's 28, and with 10,000 other youngsters, he's reaching out to children who are shackled away by poverty from the regular schools. They teach them not only the 'Rs--reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic--but also basic hygiene and moral values, deeper than the usual GMRC (good manners & right conduct) of yore.
Efren brings the classroom to the children's prisons--the streets, tambayans and informal settlements--with the basic tools to dream, believe, survive (to borrow the television StarStruck talent search motto) and make a better life for themselves.
Jose Rizal at 31 was not yet hero but the idolo ng masa of the underground revolutionary movement. He anteceded Efren in reverse. In his Dapitan exile, July 1892 to July 1896, he, a prisoner, was the volunteer teacher of select schoolboys from the island's prominent families. He did not have a kariton klasroom but he built them an octagonal house cum school where he taught them "reading, writing, languages (Spanish and English), geography, history, mathematics (arithmetic and geometry), industrial work, nature study, morals and gymnastics" (Epistolario Rizalino V:II) without paying any tuition at all.
Rizal's Dapitan boys were already English literate when the Americans set up the public school system. The first curriculum was structured that boys and girls could qualify to teach when they finish grade 4. We can imagine the boys having an easier time at the new school because they only had to recall Rizal's English lessons.
We wonder how many of them joined the corps of very young Filipino teachers during the first two decades of the American regime. These were the educators who organized the The Philippine Teachers' Association sometime in 1901, and put out their printed voice in Spanish, Tagalog and English--The Filipino Teacher--six years later in 1907.
At that time, Rizal was still fresh in their memories, and for the much younger ones, he was the inspiration derived from stories about his life and death from their parents. Thus, Rizal Day was religiously observed as a national event in towns and cities with teachers actively participating in the commemorative programs. Teacher-correspondents wrote about the celebrations in The Filipino Teacher in English, a second language they were learning fast to effectively teach the new curriculum to an increasing enrollment of boys and girls in schools being built by the Bureau of Instruction all over the Philippine Islands.
"The celebration of the 12th anniversary of Dr. Rizal's death eclipsed the celebrations of former years," reported a Manila teacher about Rizal Day 1908. "The parade which took place in the morning was witnessed by an immensed crowd of people who, inspite of the sun which at that time shone without pity, turned out to render their most fervent tribute to the memory of him who twelve years ago gave up his life for his country. The parade stopped at the Luneta where a grand-stand was erected not far from the place where Rizal's execution took place." Dignitaries gave patriotic speeches after the parade, and in the evening, "a grand entertainment was given in the Opera House."
The following year, Rizal Day again started with a civic parade in the morning that lasted three hours "in which were represented practically all the institutions of the city--commercial, educational and bureaucratic." The 'artistic floats' came from these institutions as well as from the 'Chinese colony' and labor organizations. Distinguised citizens paid tribute to the hero through speeches at a grandstand erected at the Luneta, and "the celebration of the day was gloriously ended by a grand literary entertainment held in the Manila Grand Opera House."
In that Rizal Day a century ago, there were school contests in different subject areas like English, Arithmetic, Hygiene and Domestic Services, etc. In Drawing, the first prize went to Mr Fernando Amorsolo of the School of Fine Arts. Amorsolo became a National Artist.
Civic parades, speeches and orations, literary entertainments even athletics were also held in the towns "in commemoration of the Patriot's immortal deeds." In Iba, Zambales, for example, the town's young men and women also performed "a melodrama on the boyhood and manhood of Rizal" during the 12th anniversary of his death.
The only Rizal Day that is still alive today, as far as we know, is that of Olongapo City. It's fiesta time there every December 30 but we are not too sure if the celebration has something to do anymore with Dr. Jose Rizal.
Note: Thirty five issues of The Filipino Teacher, volumes 1 to 4, are found in the digital library collection The United States and its Territories 1870-1925: the Age of Imperialism of the Univeristy of Michigan Ann Arbor.