Learning from Jose Rizal
I am looking forward to our studying nationalist movements because I am eager to share with my grade 7 students in Our Lady of Joy Learning Center the very interesting life of Jose Rizal. Although he lived a relatively short life, many can learn a great deal from the various phases of his life. The richness of his life started at home. His love for learning began with his mother who had a library of about a thousand books; besides, she had been a person who had a heart for others even beyond her family. His only brother was a nationalist ahead of him. His yaya also entertained the boy with stories of native fairies and other spirits.
Early in his life, he was exposed to racial discrimination. He responded by earnestly working on literary works which resulted in his winning the top prize, surprising these people. I am glad that I can show young males that there is nothing wrong with males doing well in other endeavors aside from sports. But I really loved the fact that throughout his life he asserted that Filipinos have much to be proud of such as the time when he happily copied Morga’s book because it showed that we had a distinct culture before the coming of the Spanish. Or his happiness over the winning of both Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo in the Paris painting competition.
When it comes to Rizal’s novels, I guide students to reflect on why his novels became widely read. Because I realize that among these students are future writers or visual artists, I lead them to the fact that these novels really struck a chord among the Filipinos then and even now because of how they actually reflected the realities of the time: the concentration of power, the abuse of power, the hypocrisy, the colonial mentality as well as the exploitation and oppression and the idealism and love of country that prevailed.
I want them to know that Rizal did inspire Bonifacio. It must have been that the objectives of the La Liga Filipina for a united country with people working together for its development was what Andres Bonifacio hoped for too.
Rizal valued connectedness; his many letters show how he wanted to keep in touch with family members and friends. He did have something in common with today’s young people who do this with their gadgets.
Rizal believed in the power of education and its power to change things and provide solutions. As a teacher, he had very effective techniques. He made the locality a source of learning in the various subjects. Together with his students, he explored the physical environment, learning together with them. Part of their education was community service. He taught them that they can confront their fears and actually survive and win over them. He did this by actually exposing them to a frightful experience. Now when I think about how many people fail because they evade the fearful, I realize how I have failed to teach this very important lesson to my students.
When it comes to the issue of gender, Rizal was quite progressive. He believed in the importance of educating girls. He was really happy to hear of the women of Malolos wanting to learn Spanish and actually fighting for what was then a privilege. In his Letter to the Women of Malolos, we see that he had a traditional concept of the role of women, motherhood.
But he pointed out that this was not to be taken lightly. He recognized the power of mothers as they rear children. They, therefore, needed learning, wisdom and strength of character.
He had a sense of the future. He actually learned English having the foresight of the future rise of the USA. He cherished the future — asserting in his Mi Ultimo Adios that the youth are the hope of our country. He is treasured not only by Filipinos; he has global admiration. Ahead of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he and his companions in the Propaganda Movement worked for human rights and equality. He provided all of us a very rich legacy, yet he wanted only a simple burial.
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