The Philippines take pride in its National Hero, the martyred poet, accomplished writer, playwright, art aficionado and an international man, Dr. Jose Rizal. His story is a constant reminder of how the Filipino waged a silent struggle against Spain, a lonesome voice of freedom and liberty, too detached from the hallucinating encumbrances of colonization. Spain, after all, is the lone colonial power who ruled the Philippines for more than 300 years and it takes a voice and the pen of Jose Rizal, to question the status quo imposed by the Spaniards.
A visit to Manila will never be historically meaningful and politically-correct if a visit to the Rizal Shrine inside the Walled City of Manila, Intramuros will be missed. Manila may be pulsating with modernity, teeming with the demands of development but a visit to the Shrine of the National Hero gives one a breather from the craziness of the metropolis. It is the place where beauty, tranquillity and history is maintained. Momentarily transported back to the olden days, a walk about to the Fort Santiago where the shrine is located is nostalgic for many of us.
Without even bothered by the humidity and the sun, I aced going to the shrine as a reflective commitment and help trace back Dr. Jose Rizal’s footsteps towards freedom, a feat I did and fulfilled. I would bet Philippine politicians do just what I did, retracing and gaining insights on how freedom is fought and hardly won by the struggles of a man many countries around the world honor.
The shrine of Dr. Jose Rizal is a well-manicured building of rich history. When I went to the Shrine, I saw Dr. Jose Rizal’s prison cell, a cold and inconsolable place where he was deprived of liberty and but that morose prison cell never broke his spirit for the freedom he sought for most Filipinos, including me to enjoy. Touching its cold walls transported me back to where Dr. Jose Rizal wields his pen, most potent than a gun, to get his ideas across.
I slowly walk pass artists’ rendition of Dr. Jose Rizal in portraits and the wooden stairs just reminded me of how simple life was like in his time. On the second floor of the shrine, there I saw the one I am seeking in my life, a relic where Spain’s hold on the Philippines loosen. It is the only place in the entire Philippines where you find the vertebrae of Dr. Jose Rizal (a first class relic) is kept and the Spaniards bullet still lodged unto it remains. His relic is prominently place at the center of the room. In the same room too, you will find his trousers, his inner vest and his overcoat coat, considered to 2nd class relics.
In afterthought though, the Shrine of Dr. Jose Rizal which houses his relic is a living testament of how great the Filipino is and how highly Dr. Jose Rizal thinks of the Philippines as a nation. Freedom, as waged by Dr. Jose Rizal is what I enjoyed today as mostly all of my fellowmen however it is only one which sadly, some wantonly abuse. As I reflect on my visit, freedom must be enshrined in the hearts of all Filipinos and one which must be wielded in the express will of majority while also encouraging dissent for it is how democracy must work.
How I wished I will see more politicians going to the shrine nowadays, to see the relic and to allow them time enough to reflect that their power, perceived or not, is not entirely of their origins and makings but lent to them by the majority. The people in this country also ought to be reminded that freedom is never absolute but its protection must at all times, resolute.
In this country however, sadly as it seemed to appear, freedom as won by early Filipinos are irresponsibly wielded by the few who have corrupted our society, polluted the minds of the younger generations and mislead this once great nation to believe that ours is just the way democracy must work under the spellbinding legacy of our national hero.
If only Jose Rizal is alive in all Filipinos, may be, just a slight may be; this country will be a different country. It will be a nation governed by upright men and women, whose interests comes at the bottom of the interests of the majority, where the poverty of the mind is not as widespread and hopelessness is not as much felt.
If only Jose Rizal is alive in us and then if only I have you come and visit him and learned what I have had and pass it on, we can make the change spread forward, not in manifold thousands but just like Rizal, a lonesome feisty voice in the sea of corruption yet remained eternally incorruptible!