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In his essay, “Manifesto to Certain Filipinos”, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal condemns the actions of the Katipunan (the Philippine rebellion group) in their attempt to stage a bloody rebellion against Spanish authorities due to the perceived injustices of Spain against the Filipino people (Rizal, 1896). Rizal elaborates on how he wanted no part of the rebellion, on how such actions would have largely negative consequences and that a better path to take would be that of education and hard work so as to earn liberation rather than fight for it.
It must be noted that towards the latter part of his essay Rizal mentions the need for reform and education, research into the 333 years of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines shows that while the colonial rule has in large part benefited the Philippines through the establishment of modern institutions in country, the use and benefits of such institutions are largely isolated towards the Spanish colonial powers, religious orders and illustrados (educated Filipinos who are part of middle class in the Philippines) (Delmendo, 1998).
The trickle down effect seen in most modern societies is largely absent with the population mostly at the mercy of Spanish authorities and the church who exert great amounts of influence in ensuring the subjugation of the Filipino people both intellectually and culturally.
This can be seen in the early refusal of the church to teach Spanish to the Filipino people, restricting higher forms of education and ensuring the continued domiciled behavior of the local populace through the effective use of religious subjugation.
The Works of Rizal
In some of the works of Rizal, most notably his titular novel Noli Me Tangere (The Social Cancer) Rizal elaborates through the main character, Jose Crisostomo Ibarra y Magsalin, that in order to for the country to effectively progress education is needed in order to show to the Spanish that the Filipino’s are equals and not subordinates (Gonzalez 1993). An examination of other works and documents by Rizal show’s that it was his desire that the Filipino people be eventually considered equals by the people of Spain (Lifshey, 2008).
The inherent problem, he states, of the situation in the Philippines is that through the oppression of the church in repressing education to the majority of Filipino’s most of the population is not able to show the hidden potential they possess (Bonoan, 1998). This particular notion is shown in the latter part of his essay where he mentions what is needed is reform to come from the top in order for Philippine society to improve as a whole.
Based on the examination of various historians examining the actions and writings of Rizal it generally agree upon that it was not his desire for rebellion to occur but rather integration wherein through the establishment of positive reforms and equal treatment to the Filipino people the Philippines would eventually be considered a province of Spain with its people accorded the same rights and privileges as any Spanish citizen (Bonoan, 1998).
Hence the fact he so vehemently condemned the rebellion being instigated by the Katipunan forces due to the fact such methods would not benefit the Philippines in the least.
The Concept of Self-Governance
The opinion of Rizal is largely justifiable due to the fact that the well educated class of citizens (the illustrados) within the Philippines was still quite few and as a result the effective governing of the country which only they could possibly do was in large part unfeasible. This is reflected in the fact that Rizal considered the rebellion “wholly absurd, worse than absurd, in fact it was disastrous” (Rizal, 1896).
For him the Filipino people weren’t ready due to the continued repercussions of the 333 years of Spanish colonial rule which in large part, while modernizing the country, left most of its people divided, uneducated and incapable of properly running a country (Delmendo, 1998).
Based off the speculation of various historians examining that particular period in history most if not all agree with the assumptions of Rizal that the Philippines was still not ready at that particular point in time for self-governance (Delmendo, 1998). Another factor to consider is what would have happened should the rebellion not have taken place and the reforms had been enacted.
It has been speculated that if the reforms Rizal had spoken of had actually taken place the Philippines would probably not have become independent but rather would have become a province of Spain with its people being considered Spanish citizens. While it can never be truly known if such an event would have truly occurred it can be said with certainty though that if it had, it would have benefited the Philippines immensely in terms of cultural, social and economic development.
Influences in Spain and the Philippines
In the initial parts of the essay Rizal mentions the use of his name as the instigator of rebellion (Rizal, 1896). It must be noted that this is due to the fact many of the works of Rizal such as his titular novel the Noli Me Tangere (The Social Cancer) and its sequel El Filibusterismo (The Reign of Greed) as well as a large portion of his essays all inherently criticize the current Spanish regime in the Philippines as well as mention the need for change.
This intellectual rebellion accomplished by Rizal not only had effects in Spain but also in the Philippines. While most of his work as considered “inappropriate” and subsequently banned by the local Spanish government as well as the Church enough made it through to the Philippines which lit the flames of nationalism so to speak creating the initial plans for open rebellion against the Spanish forces in the country (Lifshey, 2008).
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On the other hand in Spain the works of Rizal also had the effect of the public starting to question the methods employed by the Spanish government in the case of Philippines. If the rebellion had not started the growing public awareness of the situation in the Philippines might have actually started the reform process stated by Rizal as a necessity for the continued progress of the Philippines.
Overall, the essay can be considered a rant by Jose Rizal in that the pacifistic intellectual rebellion that he had worked so hard to attain over the course of his lifetime was in the end undone by the violent rebellion caused by a few who used his name to spark the initial flames of conflict.
It must be noted that while Rizal did not support the creation of the rebellion itself he did in fact become a part of it using his talents as a doctor. The essay itself seems to convey the message that people had twisted his words about change and created an entirely new message for their own ends. In the end Jose Rizal met his death by firing squad, immortalized as the icon of a rebellion that he himself did not want to bring about in the first place.
Bonoan, RJ, Jose Rizal, liberator of the Philippines, America, 175, 18, 1996, pp. 18-21.
Delmendo, S 1998, The American Factor in Jose Rizal’s Nationalism, Amerasia Journal, 24, 2, 1998 p. 34.
Gonzalez, NM 1993, The novel of justice, Chicago Review, 39, 3/4, 1993, p. 39.
Lifshey, A, The Literary Alterities of Philippine Nationalism in José Rizal’s El filibusterismo, PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 123, 5, 2008, pp. 1434-1447.
Rizal, J 1896, ‘Manifesto to Certain Filipinos’ in joserizal.info. Web.