Sunday, May 4, 2008

JOURNAL | Inspirations and Realizations: Jose Rizal's Childhood

Wherever education is implanted there will go up a youth invigorated and strong, firmly eradicating error and broadening itself on the strength of noble ideas.
-Jose Rizal, Por La Educación Recibe Lustre La Patria
(Through Education the Fatherland Acquires Glory)


Jose’s childhood was as colorful as when he reached his more grown up years. In fact this childhood proved valuable in forming his consciousness about his country and his role that he needed to play. There are so many things to discuss about Rizal’s childhood but I decided pick some interesting points that I can relate to.

First, Paciano Mercado’s strong relationship with Jose had a significant impact with the latter’s childhood. They both share similar ideologies. Paciano being the older son was dangerously outspoken about public affairs that had anything to do with injustices. This trait of Paciano influenced Jose greatly. Gleaning through Paciano’s psyche shows that such was caused by two significant events that took place in his life – one, the execution of Padre Burgos, his mentor and friend and the imprisonment of their mother Teodora Alonso for two years. 

However, Paciano’s critical attitude often leads to predicaments that even prevented him from acquiring his baccalaureate. With this in mind, Paciano advised Jose to change his name from Mercado to Rizal fearing that the friars might associate Jose with him and give Jose a hard time. Funny though because according to later writings of Jose, particularly that with Blumentritt, he felt illegitimate when he changed his surname. Jose’s real name was Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda.

All throughout Jose’s life, Paciano played not only as a brother but a father too. While Jose was studying, Paciano took charge of their family especially their aging parents. Paciano was there to accompany him to Ateneo, found Jose’s lodging, sent money, etc. Between Jose and Paciano were myriads of correspondences too. I would surmise that most of their topics were about politics and I would not be surprised if Jose was able to imbibe the philosophies of his brother. With all these things, I admire their relationship especially Paciano’s generosity for letting Jose finish his education while he was left at Calamba.

On the other hand, I was surprised to know that Jose and Paciano had a secret pact. No evidence would prove about this verbal pact apart from Narcissa’s account to her grand-daughter Asuncion. Narcissa’s brothers, Jose and Paciano were already dead when she brought this matter into light as a sign of respect for the pact. It was said that the two brothers talked about whom between them will marry and who will stay single. Staying single is vital to pursue their aspirations to do something great for their land. Well, it was not clear between Jose and Paciano who would play the part, but what is apparent is that the two both assumed that the other should marry. This pact somehow explains Jose’s fleeting relationships with women. He never got married despite several idylls. Of course there’s the gay issue but that is a different story.

Paciano, thinking Jose should be celibate to move their cause also had second thoughts about it. Paciano realized that Jose needs someone that would assure that he would not leave his cause while abroad. This could be the reason why Paciano was keen enough to link Jose with their young cousin Leonor Rivera. But until Jose’s death, he was never married unless we consider the affair with Josephine Bracken in Dapitan. I am just curious though, did Jose’s with Josephine survived? Or was there ever a child?[1]

Jose’s education was another point I want to reflect on. I am very much aware that he was not the “bona kid, batang may laban” type. In fact, he was so fragile he himself thought he will not live long enough to reach his later goals. This is the reason why he was motivated to maximize his potentials. Not only was he health conscious, but he has issues with confidence too because he was not “attractive”. He tried to do sports like gymnastics but that was in vain. He also did fencing, this time, he was in love with the sport he practiced it until adulthood.

Jose’s academic excellence was a product of his discipline and determination plus his amazing memory. This was his recipe for success. Even his Spanish was not excellent at first. It was a fruit of reading volumes of Spanish literature at Ateneo and tutelage under Jesuit Francisco de Paula Sanchez, the twenty-six, dark, gloomy, bat-like person, given to pessimistic observations, but whom young Jose described as a model of uprightness, earnestness, and love of the advancement of his pupils. It was this friar who helped Jose with Spanish and eventually inspired Jose with literature.

All in all, Jose’s education was exceptional but if there’s one thing worth mentioning was Jose’s realization of this – he must dedicate his life to the service of his people, above all the improvement of their lot under the Spaniards.

I bet many aspire to become like Jose too and I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of them minus the Bagumbayan hullabaloo. But seriously, I still find thousand of reasons to follow Jose’s footsteps, with all the evils of despotic rule. What I lack are the discipline, determination, and most of all courage Jose exhibited. To leave my family behind and think about “cruel preeminence” as Jose once said before he left Ateneo is simply disheartening.
I love this country much as Jose does. I am even humbled by his words,
“I have always loved my poor country and I’m sure I shall love her until my last moment, should men prove unjust to me I shall die happy. Satisfied with the thought that all I have suffered, my life, my loves, my joys, my everything, I have sacrificed for the love of her.”[2]
But with all that are happening to this land, I do not know how or where to start patching the wound. If only Jose could live again! If only!


_________________________________________________________________
[1] Something that I need to look up in the coming days.
[2] Fort Santiago graffiti.



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