Veneration Without

Every settlement in this country that rates a paved main street has a street named after Dr. Jose Rizal. This is less out of respect for our national hero, whose shoes (though small) are impossible to fill, than out of a national guilt at having only read his works in school, and doing it cursorily while picking out the details that would probably come up on the exam. (That Fr. Damaso was served a chicken neck in his tinola, say.)

Never mind that he was a doctor, historian, philosopher, artist, polyglot and a hundred other things that we will never be, to most Filipinos, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are the end all and be all of Rizal.

To keep his spirit from turning into a hungry ghost and haunting us with aphorisms and snippets of his correspondence with everyone from the women of Malolos to Blumentritt to the Rajah of Madripoor, we’ve named our streets after him. “See?,” we can say with a clean conscience, “we remember.” What it is exactly that we remember must give us pause, but we do remember.

Elsewhere on the bastardization of history: the monument to Apolinario Mabini in Mabini, Batangas shows the hero on his feet in direct contempt of the one thing we all know about the Sublime Paralytic.


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