Jose Rizal of Today

When one of your slippers/ would fall into the river,/ what would you do? // Dive into the water/ to retrieve it? // Or throw the other/ to complete the pair/ for someone else to use it? // Honorable members /of the board of judges,/ distinguished guests,/ friends,/ my fellow Filipinos—// I am sure /you are all familiar with this story,/ a story that happened /more than a century ago,/ so simple yet noble,/ that lingers through the hearts/ and minds of every Filipino. // This is a story of a boy who,/ unlike mythological heroes/ who were born strong and almighty,/ was just an ordinary human/ yet became legendary. / We all aspire to be great,/ or for the more ambitious,/ powerful. // But have you ever wondered/ how this boy from Calamba,/ who,/ without even aspiring to,/ gained recognition around the world/ and made a mark in history? // A hundred and fifty years ago,/ in the nineteenth of June to be precise,/ the life of a hero began. // He was a blessing to his family/ especially to his parents. // Little did they know/ that their innocent newborn/ would soon be an extraordinary person/ who would also be a blessing/ to the future generations. / We remember today/ the legacy of the writer,/ the linguist,/ the anthropologist,/ the journalist,/ the biologist,/ the artist,/ the son,/ the Filipino icon,/ our national hero,/ Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda. // He was a fighter. // He fought /and died for a nation. // But when he died,/ he left his heart/ and gave his spirit back/ for the people he loved so dearly. // He is our liberator. // Intelligent that he was,/ at a young age,/ he committed his life on pen and paper. // He peered into the dying hearts/ of the Filipino people through his words/ that burned with wisdom. / Through his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo,/ he unlocked the minds and hearts/ of his people to expose them /to the Spaniard’s colonial plots,/ and brought the Filipinos back/ from the grave of slavery. // The Filipinos hearts’ /frantically beat with love for their country. // Rizal made them hope and believe/ that one day,/ the Philippines will soar//—wounded but free! // He is our icon. // He became a phenomenon. // Rizal mastered 22 languages/ and finished numerous professions. // He discovered/ and named species of animals. // He painted/ and sculpted works of art. / But most important of all,/ he wrote epic books and grand poems,/ instead of grabbing the sword. // He ignited a fire,/ a fire that hungered for one thing. // Freedom. // He stood up for his race,/ his blood and his country. // And his determination drew/ and enticed his people to fight by his side. // He is our inspiration. // After 150 years,/ his name still resounds with a depth/ and strength unforgotten. // He savored death/ so that we may all live as free men. // And his last words for us,/ for those who will see the dawn breaking/ over our native land,/ “Greet it! // And so my fellow Filipinos,/ for us it is clear. // A proposition was offered to us:// that we aspire to live/ and leave a mark,/ be a hero to everybody every day. // No,/ we don’t need to fight bloody battles/ and do audacious acts of heroism. // We can be heroes:// plant trees,/ recycle wastes,/ respect the elders,/ study hard,/ share,/ participate,/ volunteer,/ be a change maker/ and be the country’s pride and asset! // And just like that little boy/ who threw his other slipper into the water,/ may we willingly give a part of ourselves/ in the service of our fellowmen and be the Jose Rizal of today. //

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