More than a hundred years ago Dr. Jose P. Rizal in his first novel, the Noli Me Tangere, wrote about the social cancer that afflicted Philippine society. Dr. Rizal traced and attributed this social cancer that has shackled and impeded the progress of the Philippines from centuries of Spanish colonial rule.
He also vowed to expose this illness to the Filipino people through his works and writings and to do his best to find a “cure” for it. Dr. Rizal said:
“Desiring your well-being, which is our own, and searching for the best cure, I will do with you as the ancients of old did with their afflicted: expose them on the steps of the temple so that each one who would come to invoke the Divine, would propose a cure for them.”
Determination and conviction can be clearly traced in Dr. Rizal’s words. He vowed to faithfully explain and reproduce the conditions of oppression in his country the best he could. In 1886, he wrote the following in Europe: “I will lift part of the shroud that conceals your illness, sacrificing to the truth everything, even my own self-respect, for, as your son, I also suffer in your defects and failings.”
Noli Me Tangere was followed by a second novel, the “El Filibutersimo.” In the El Filibusterismo, again we saw some lines and words that still resonate and touch our condition as a people up to this time—
“Our ills we owe to ourselves alone, so let us blame no one.”
“With Spain or without Spain they would always be the same, and perhaps worse! Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.”
It’s sad that Dr. Rizal is long gone because we need more leaders like him who are not only willing to commit to sacrifice— but who are also willing to think and make a principled stand for the Philippines’ best interest. In the Philippines, even the level of discourse about the state of affairs is at an all-time low as we speak. A cuss there, swearing here, a personal attack online is what we now call and refer to as a discourse. I wonder how this could be “meaningful.”
It’s good that some institutions and leaders are making and taking a principled stand against the EJKs and the way we Filipinos behave these days. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Socrates Villegas said the following during the “Forgive Us, and Heal Our Land” prayer rally recently:
“Bayan ng Diyos, bumalik na tayo sa Panginoon. Naligaw na tayo ng landas at pinili natin ang kadiliman kaysa liwanag. Bakit tayo pumapalakpak sa patayan? Pinili natin ang karahasan kaysa kapayapaan. Pinili natin ang magsinungaling kaysa katotohanan. Pinili natin ang pagtawanan ang malaswa sa halip na iwasto. Pinili nating manahimik kaysa makisangkot. Sa maling akalang ito na ang huling baraha, nasubukan na natin lahat ng uri ng pamumuno. . . kumapit na tayo sa patalim. Ang dating bayan ng mga bayani ay naging bayang walang pakiramdam at walang pakialam. Magsisi ang manhid.”
The bishop reminds us that society should not kill its own people because there is a costly retribution to such act. A “kill-kill-kill” philosophy is also tyrannical and is akin to the years when the Philippines was a colony of foreign powers or when it was under martial law. It sets us back to the painful past when institutions were destroyed or non-existent and when “only a few people” had the voice and the say about who lives and who dies. Remember the days when neighbors were forced to turn against their own neighbors to save themselves?
It’s time to ask ourselves why we applaud when people are killed; why we chose violence over peaceful and civilized solutions; and why we laugh and clap our hands when we hear obscene and oppressive words against others.
“Desiring your well-being, which is our own, and searching for the best cure” as Dr. Rizal said more than a hundred years ago is again relevant to the challenges that Filipinos face today. We are challenged to raise our consciousness to what is happening around so that genuine healing can begin.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.