Today is the 113th death anniversary of the national hero Jose Rizal. Some towns or cities like Olongapo celebrate Rizal Day as a fiesta. We don't know if the fiesta-goers set aside a minute of their time to relate Rizal to themselves and their country today before going on to wine, dine and dance with their favorite dance instructor/instructress in the town/city auditorium.
On the 13th death anniversary in December 1909, and that's exactly one hundred years ago, The Filipino Teacher, the tri-lingual monthly journal of the Philippine Teachers' Association, was already agitating for a more meaningful commemoration of the hero's life and martyrdom. That is a valid issue until today even if Rizal Day is moved to June 16, his birthdate, currently a legislative agendum, or whether it remains ipit between Christmas and New Year on December 30.
Let's listen to what the Filipino teacher a century ago had to say on celebrating Rizal Day --
"May the joy of this Christmas reach all far and near,
"May the message of Christmas to all hearts be clear;
"May it sooth every sorrow and dry every tear,
"May it bind closer to us each soul that is dear, And the spirit of Christmas last all through the year"
"As one reads the words that head these lines there appears in his mind the calm, noble figure of a man whose life has been one of complete self-forgetfulness and a perfect example of what a man's true love for his country should be. As one ponders at the story of this man's life, he can not but have an unconscious admiration for genius and express doubt at the righteousness of human's justice.
"To the Filipinos, that first Rizal day thirteen years ago, was the culmination of the unbroken chain of unhappy facts and events in their history which justified them in the eyes of the world in their wish of separating themselves from Spain, their mother country. The execution which took place on that day was the last of the long series of executions undertaken by those in power in their vain hope of wiping out of existence any educated Filpino who dared raise his voice against their arbitrary rule. The circumstances culminating up to the tragic death of the man in whose honor this day has been named, are well known to all. The place he held in the estimation of his countrymen and the friendship that connected him with influential men abroad are no secrets to us. His return to Manila from Hongkong in 1892; his being arrested on the charge of anti-religious and anti-patriotic campaigns of education; his four years exile to Dapitan; his departure from the Philippines to join the Spanish forces in Cuba in the capacity of army surgeon; his recall while en route to be tried for "sedition and rebellion," and lastly his execution on that memorable field where hundreds of his countrymen faced death in the cause of Right, are topics too well-known as to necessitate further mention here.
"We believe, however, that a few remarks on the yearly observance of RIZAL DAY would not be out of place.
"In what manner can RIZAL DAY be fittingly observed? Let there be public parades, let there be literary entertainments but let not the observance of the day end here. Public parades and literary entertainments are but outward manifestations of tribute to the memory of a man, and while they are by no means objectionable, still they do not make the observance of the day complete. Rizal, whom we just love to call our martyred hero, lived and died for the sake of his country. Can we on every anniversary of his death honor him better than to faithfully follow his wise teachings? Can we who love our country and work for its advancement have better guides than the worthy examples set by Rizal, Mabini, Del Pilar and others?
"Let us then celebrate RIZAL DAY by following the wise teachings of the man in whose memory we dedicate the day. Let his name be in every Filipino Home. Let mothers repeat to their children Rizal's life; let the school teacher make his pupils see the excellent traits in Rizal's character while a boy, which enabled him later to become the learned man that he was; let every newspaper contrast Rizal's attitude towards his country and some of the present day patriots whose personal ambitions all tend to the glorification of the selfish "I". Thus and only thus can RIZAL DAY yearly celebrations be properly and fittingly held."
-- and this holds true every year, doesn't it?
Note: The illustration was taken from The Philippine Republic. (1927, December 15). 4:11(4). Washington DC.