Friday, April 13, 2012

On why we have to study 'Life and Works of Jose Rizal'

It's not the first time that I heard it; actually, most of the college students complain about taking history and Rizal courses. They question the use of these subjects on the career that they will be pursuing after graduation, how their money is wasted on those units, and how their time is consumed just to earn good grades for the subjects. 

Truth be told, I felt just the same when I was in high school. We were made to report or dramatize Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo per chapter, and every five chapters, there would be an exam covering names, places and dates from those sections. Their importance were not explained deeply, and they were forgotten when exams were over. 

But college came and I took a different perspective because of one thing: my Rizal professor told us that they teach those courses because it's a law. The Republic Act No. 1425, An Act to Include in the Curricula of All Public and Private Schools, Colleges and Universities Courses On the Life, Works and Writings of Jose Rizal, Particularly His Novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Authorizing the Printing and Distribution Thereof, and for Other Purposes, commonly known as the Rizal Law, mandates all educational institutions in the Philippines to offer courses about Jose Rizal

But he didn't stop there. He told us how stupid we are not to want to know history, and it's evident on the way we respond to the what is happening in the Philippines. If we are learned in history, we will not still be in the society that Rizal drew in Noli and El Fili, but alas, most of their chapters are reflections of the present Philippines still. From the falsehood of the Filipino Catholic church as 'church for the poor', to usurping of lands from the indios, to mockery of too-Filipino-looking people (pango, kayumanggi, maliit). 

Padre Salvi and Sisa's family story is parallel to Bishop Teodoro Bacani and his sex scandals, Tandang Selo's family story is parallel to Hacienda Luisita's farmers' never-ending battle (I hope not) with the Aquino-Cojuangco clan, and powdered Dona Victorina is parallel to every out-of-stock condition of whitening products in the Philippine market. 

If only these were taught to every Filipino since high school, no one would dare ask again of its relevance.

In the end, nothing's changed because we don't know the value and meaning of the things that are required for us to learn.