Why Rizal Did Not Deserve to Be the Philippines’s National Hero
Today, Dec. 30, is Rizal Day, the commemoration of the death anniversary of Jose Rizal, the national hero. As usual, Filipinos will be subjected to hagiographic stories about him. To be sure, Rizal was a great man. But, as Renato Constantino explains in his classic “Veneration Without Understanding,” he did not deserve to be the Philippines’s national hero.
“In the histories of many nations,” Constantino writes, “the national revolution represents a peak of achievement to which the minds of man return time and again in reverence and for a renewal of faith in freedom. For the national revolution is invariably the one period in a nation’s history when the people were most united, most involved, and most decisively active in the fight for freedom. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that almost always the leader of that revolution becomes the principal hero of his people. There is Washington for the United States, Lenin for the Soviet Union, Bolivar for Latin America, Sun Yat Sen, then Mao Tse-Tung for China and Ho Chi Minh for Vietnam. The unity between the venerated mass action and the honored single individual enhances the influence of both.
“In our case, our national hero was not the leader of our Revolution. In fact, he repudiated that Revolution.”