The National Hero of the Philippine Republic is Dr. Jose Rizal mostly popularly known for his struggle against the Spaniards while studying in Europe and upon coming back to Manila, have upstaged the elite in writing his version of freedom, from the clutches of the colonizers. He has written various notable works and plays that portrayed the Spaniards as heartless conquestadores and that the Filipino’s (Indio) quest for freedom should be pursued earnestly.
Such was his struggle that he became popular among the natives in the Philippine islands and that his writings has appealed to the middle class, which the Spaniards so avoided. In short, Dr. Jose Rizal was accosted and detained in now Fort Santiago, in the walled City of Manila, called Intramuros. This was history in the Philippines relived, portrayed in life-size statue and bronze-inlaid steps towards Luneta Park where Dr. Jose Rizal was shot to death.
My primary destination upon arriving in Manila was to retrace Dr. Jose Rizal’s steps to where freedom is enjoyed by most modern-day Filipinos. I arrived around 9.35AM in the metropolis and went straight to my task. I went to Fort Santiago in the Intramuros and this one is prominent among tourists and backpackers. It is near the Manila Cathedral and as appropriately stationed, the Governor’s House.
After having paid Php 75 entrance fee, off I went to see the historic landmark and retrace back where I learn from history books. My university course called Rizal will pale in comparison with what I have to experience alone, walking in the same way Rizal walked going in for detention and later, on his way out to Luneta for his execution by the Spaniards.
As I am fond of absorbing everything significant in my many travels, I was standing in front the majestic gate of the Fort Santiago, where its moat surrounded its beauteous grandeur. I am seeing what many usually don’t want to see in this place. At precisely 1PM, the sun was so mightily high and I am, drenched in sweat, camera on hand, taking snapshots and learning the ways of the old and juxtaposed it with my interpretation of history in our modern society.
When I came to Fort Santiago, the impeachment of the Supreme Court Chief Justice was being earnestly pursued in the Senate and there I was, wondering if all is well in our democracy and asking my own self, by way of reflection, if indeed, this is what Dr. Jose Rizal would have wished all along. I came here to question perhaps, my own interpretation of how our National Hero have fought hard to win the freedom I so enjoy now and how it relates to what I often abuse as a citizen. Is it after all, a battle successfully fought when all I see are corruption, stifling of freedom of speech under the threat of libel, stifling the freedom of expression, the blatant abuse of power by the powerful and the hopelessness of the poor among us. I have had integrated all these questions, without a concrete answer as I retrace Dr. Jose Rizal’s steps towards Luneta, once called, Bagumbayan.
How would Dr. Jose Rizal felt at that moment under the heat of the sun which rises proudly under the throne of Spain? How will he decipher his thoughts and reflect truly if his sacrifices are indeed one that is a victory won for all Filipinos?
As I stepped into the bronze-footsteps, I noticed it is huge for my size. They said Dr. Jose Rizal was a short man but the foot was unusually larger. Perhaps, because Dr. Jose Rizal is a Filipino demigod of freedom, of democracy and transparency, it was intended that way. I have absorbed as I walked, under the sun which proudly rises under our own tri-color flag, that freedom was never won, collectively and individually, even after Dr. Jose Rizal’s death. It was because we Filipinos remained apathetic to those abuses done against our civil rights and liberties by the very people whom we voted into public office. As I reflect, I say, Dr. Jose Rizal is the ideal of what Philippine democracy should be, far-reaching and encompassing, compassionate and affective and caring as well as responsible. This is yet to be seen in the modern Philippine society, one I think perhaps can be remedied if our leaders take the journey back to Fort Santiago, perhaps reflect on how their contributions have made our republic stronger or question perhaps why their contributions weaken its foundation each day.
As I stepped back to where Dr. Jose Rizal walked, I am reassured that one day, the Philippines dreamt by our National Hero will rise up, stand up to abuses of power, straighten what has been crooked and one which makes the bulwark of republicanism benefits the poorest of the poor. Until then, I shall continually dream for like Dr. Jose Rizal, I believe that my dreams will make my destiny for this country a step closer to reality.
- Intramuros is the Walled City of Manila and stands as it was and is today. It is very easy to locate Fort Santiago from anywhere in Metro Manila. The cab driver will know.
- While you are inside the Intramuros complex, you may fancy taking a ride on the horse-drawn carriage we call “Kalesa”. It goes with a fee.
- Buy yourself a sombrero from the vendors outside the gates. It is affordable though. Just practice your haggling skills earnestly.
- Take as much photos along the way;
- Don’t hurry walks to and around Fort Santiago. You will be able to reflect more if you stop awhile to see how beautifully manicured the gardens are, see the cobble stones;
- Retrace the steps of Dr. Jose Rizal, either literally or figuratively. I did both! It is rewarding.