Today, the last Monday of August, is National Heroes Day. To many, that might as well be another national joke. But more on that later.
At the Philippine Literary Festival 2015 last August 28, Filipino historian and author Ambeth R. Ocampo’s had a talk on “25 Years of Finding Rizal without the Overcoat.” The talk was an engaging way of showing different facets of Rizal’s character that few people knew about. It was an encapsulation of the book Rizal without the Overcoat (RWTO), perhaps the most popular work by Ocampo, published in 1990.Twenty-five years after it first saw print, much remains to be discovered about the great Filipino patriot.
As Ambeth Ocampo says, “Rizal is everywhere, yet he is nowhere.”
We see him in banks and bank notes, province and street names, schools, cigars and matches, soft drinks and beer, cement, theater, and a lot more.
His name is all around us. From cradle…
But beneath his overcoat, what do we know of José Protacio Mercado Rizal y Alonso Realonda? Stripped down to his calzoncillos (he was a chick boy, that we know), what was he really like?
In the RWTO book, various research works provide insights to these posers:
- Was Rizal the father of Hitler? Or was he the real Jack the Ripper?
- Was he a psychic?
- Did he really die in Bagumbayan?
And to these hypothetical questions:
If he were alive today, would he be taking selfies? (Trivia: In the absence of digicams, the closest to a selfie in his time was this self-sketch showing a young Rizal without his shirt.)
Would he show his wacky side?
In this photo that he might have wanted to be kept hidden, he is shown with his equally distinguished friends Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Trinidad Pardo de Tavera after having a little too much to drink. Rizal is poised to throw an apple at Pardo de Tavera lying on the floor.
And how would he have reacted to the Pambansang Photobomb issue?
Interestingly, Rizal left very specific instructions on how he wanted his remains handled.
“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.” (Paang Bundok is where Manila North Cemetery now stands).
Ironically, too, despite his “no anniversaries” wish, there is still that debate on whether he should be honored on his date of birth (June 19) or date of execution (December 30).
Today is National Heroes Day (originally celebrated on November 30 each year, in honor of Andres Bonifacio’s birthday). Jose Rizal is generally recognized as the Philippine national hero for making the ultimate sacrifice. He’s not alone in that area, of course. In 1995, the National Heroes Committee recommended not only Rizal but also Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and Juan Luna, among others, to be recognized as national heroes.
“Rizal’s greatness lies in his being human.
In Rizal’s humanity, we realize our own capacity for greatness.”
– Ambeth R. Ocampo