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Tuesday , 16 July 2024

Rizal and the Making of the Filipino Genius

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Jason Cordi
Jason Cordi
Editor-in-Chief, The Philippine Times

By Rado Gatchalian, KCR

Past Eastern Australia Area Deputy Commander, KOR ANZO Region

(This is the author’s Rizaliana delivered at the Combined Knighting and Elevation Ceremony hosted by the Knights of Rizal Southern Sydney Chapter on 16 June 2024 at Picton Masonic Centre, Picton NSW, Australia)

On June 25, 1884, at the banquet in Madrid, to honour our Filipino painters, Dr. Jose P. Rizal said:

“Luna and Hidalgo are Spanish as well as Philippine glories. 

They were born in the Philippines, but they could have been born in Spain, 

because genius knows no country, genius sprouts everywhere, 

genius is like light, air, the patrimony of everybody, 

cosmopolitan like space, like life, like God.”

These words of Jose Rizal continue to bring inspiration to many of us and invigorate our conviction that we Filipinos can be successful in our individual endeavours and be great in what we do. This is true despite the limitations that our sad and poor country can offer to us. Despite the incompetence of our politicians and leaders for many generations – we were able to withstand the hardship and challenges of life in the Philippines…

As a country, we failed; but as individuals, we have proven that we can succeed. As a country, we remained poor; but as individuals, we have achieved prosperity. Filipinos who remain in our country struggle to sustain a comfortable life but Filipinos who migrate and work in foreign land can fulfill their dreams and support their family.

We need to translate and transform this personal achievement to a collective and social progress of our country. 

This saddest truth echoes a metaphorical sentiment of a flower that blooms more beautifully on a stranger soil. We are flowers that bloom with such beauty yet deep within us we hide our frustrations, our regrets, our pain… 

And yet we continue to shine…

This is the Filipino Genius.

We are resilient. We are hardworking. We are born with the desire to succeed. We are gifted with remarkable talents and skills. We can easily adapt to new environments. We are friendly and hospitable. We are eloquent. When Filipino speaks, the world listens…

Many foreigners admire this Filipino Genius. 

Yet the same Filipinos belittle and criticise our own talents and genius. We are intimidated by our own brothers. We fear vehemently when our own Filipinos climb the ladder of success. The glory of our own brothers becomes our own bitterness. We tend to destroy the great Filipino dream.

In contrast, this is the Filipino Madness.

But like genius, madness knows no country as well, it is scattered everywhere; madness is like an evil force, like dust, like dirt which destroys our capacity to think correctly; madness is contagious, like virus, like disease, it cripples our morals into decay, like demons…

And here we are confronted to choose between these two gates of Light and Darkness. We are embattled with a moral crisis of our identity, of WHO WE ARE AS FILIPINOS. Somehow with this overflowing volume of genius we have, we have been drowned by our own madness and deception. We have lost our identity as a true Filipino.

But let the life and sacrifices of Dr. Jose P. Rizal continue to help us choose, consciously, deliberately, the right path. Let the life and death of our Hero inspire us to choose a life worth living…

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However, the more we read about Rizal, the more we read his works and writings, the more we realise that we can never be like him. There is only one Jose Rizal. When we read his works and reflect his message, we realise that Jose Rizal wants us to find and search our own identity, our own greatness, our own talents, our own genius.

Who will be the next Juan Luna? The next Felix Resurreccion-Hidalgo? Let us look at ourselves.

Rizal wants to challenge everyone to create the best version of who we are. When we examine his short-lived 35 years of existence, we will be amazed of how great a life he brought into this world, not only for himself but for others, and for our country. Only through this – by bringing the best in us to the field, by reaching the maximum level of self-actualisation, by becoming passionate in what we do, by living like a free-spirited being, that we become like Rizal, or even better than him. 

When we find ourselves, when we discover our purpose, then, we can offer the world a life like a hero. But in this modern era, we don’t need to die to become one because only when we have lived fully that we can leave a legacy worth remembering. This resonates the motto of the Order of the Knights of Rizal “Non Omnis Moriar,” which means “Not everything in me will die.”

When we have elevated to this optimistic mindset and raised to this spiritual awakening – we will see the grandest Light, the illuminating wisdom, that Rizal wants us the Filipinos, who were once considered as Indios by our coloniser Spain, to discover, to become equals with the Spaniards, with all nationalities, to be at the same level with everyone regardless of one’s status and backgrounds, to lift our heads high with great pride, to prove to the rest of the world that Filipinos are remarkably genius.

And perhaps when we realise these aspirations and dreams of Rizal for Filipinos, for our country, we will once again find who we are. And when we find who we are as Filipinos, we will be able to feel the love of being one. 

And the death of Rizal immortally inscribes this highest truth that genius is great but love is supreme, that knowledge is power but wisdom is light, that mind is a tool but heart is beauty.

This is the true mark of a Genius. May we use it well.

Rizal said:

“One only dies once, and if one does not die well, 

a good opportunity is lost and does not present itself again.”            

And I humbly say:

                  “Those who are prepared to die are those who are prepared to live.”

May we all live well… May we bloom like radiant flowers, not only in a foreign soil but most especially in our own native land, ang ating Lupang Hinirang, ang ating Bayang Magiliw.

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