In My Eyes: by Edward B. Antonio
Jose Rizal’s story is one worth emulating, so our teachers said when we were in elementary.
“Including death by firing squad, ma’am,” I retorted, eliciting a sharp stare from my terror teacher.
We were taught then that Rizal is our national hero, that he was a born genius, that he possessed multiple intelligences, a philatelist, swordsman, writer, painter etc. etc.
Was he an extraordinary man who came to exist in an extraordinary time?
Contemporary historian Ambeth Ocampo says Rizal was just any ordinary Pinoy: He fell in love, got heartbroken, and fell in love again. It is through these stories that people can finally give a face to the otherwise trite Jose Rizal. However, along with this simplicity also came the enigma even more intriguing than any Hollywood legend. Here are just eight of the most insane myths and urban that have plagued Jose Rizal’s name over the years based on the books written by Ocampo himself: Looking Back and Rizal Without The Overcoat, both published by Anvil Publishing:
Myth # 8: Jose Rizal wrote ”Sa Aking Mga Kabata” The hearsay: In 1869, the then eight-year-old Jose Rizal wrote his first Tagalog poem. Entitled ”Sa Aking Mga Kabata” (“To My Fellow Children”), it soon immortalized the line ”Ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda” (He who loves not his own language is worse than a beast and a stinking fish).
Fact check: To this day, no manuscript linking Rizal to the poem has been identified yet. And let’s admit it, Rizal was probably too busy playing with his dog and siblings to even thought of making a poem mentioning the word ”kalayaan” (freedom). In the first place, Rizal was already 21 years old when he first encountered such word. In addition to that, the poem was only published ten years after Rizal’s death, leading historians into questioning its authenticity. Poets Herminigildo Cruz and Gabriel Beato Francisco have since been linked to the poem but so far, the case of the lost author remains an open mystery.
Myth # 7: Jose Rizal was a straight A+ student
The hearsay: Jose Rizal sailed through high school (Ateneo Municipal) and college (University of Santo Tomas) with straight “excellent” grades.
Fact check: Rizal may have possessed multiple intelligences but in terms of grades, his performance was anything but jaw-dropping. In Ateneo Municipal, for instance, Rizal graduated with a grade of sobresaliente. It might appear that he’s at the top of his class but actually, he got the award along with eight other classmates.
His records at UST were not too impressive either. He had a few “passing remarks” probably because of the negative atmosphere in his school or the subjects were just too dry for him. In other words, he was not that genius we were taught while at UST. There were many students brighter than him there.
Myth # 6: Jose Rizal is a fake hero
The hearsay: Jose Rizal was not the hero and patriot we all think he is.
Fact check: Bonifacio trumping Rizal as the national hero? Not likely. Still, the rumors about Rizal being a strong opponent of the Philippine Revolution continue to spread. Historian Xiao Chua revealed that Rizal, although forced to describe the revolution as “absurd” during his trial, had always been supportive of the Katipunan. In fact, policeman Martin Constantino testified on September 9, 1896 that Rizal was poised to be the Supreme Head as soon as the country has claimed independence from Spain. Jose Rizal also praised the Revolution in his farewell poem, ”Mi Ultimo Adios.”
(More next week)