Rizal, the environmental planner

[caption id="attachment_70538" align="aligncenter" width="581"] The National Shrine (above) in Dapitan,Zamboanga, stands as symbol that Filipino hero Dr. Jose Rizal was part of building the city--fromdes designing the water system to the town plaza. Rizal as an environmental planner is detailed in the new book ‘Parangal Kay Gat Jose P. Rizal: Bayaning Environmental Planner.’[/caption]

National Shrine, Dapitan,Zamboanga, Dr. Jose Rizal, environmental planner, Manila Bulletin

Filipinos know Dr. Jose Rizal as the national hero whose superior intellectual abilities exceeded any Filipino during his time. He is known as the Filipino polymath who delved into different fields like literature, art, and science.

But unknown to many, Rizal was also an environmental planner. During his exile in Dapitan, it was discovered that he helped plan the now sprawling city in Zamboanga. He helped local fishermen build fish pens. He helped bring water to the area using a water system. He also helped plant numerous trees, turning the town into a green space.

“Swamp at gubat na gubat ang Dapitan noon. Sa loob ng dalawa hanggang tatlong taong paglagi ni Dr. Jose Rizal doon, na transform niya ang lugar. Nadala pa niya ‘yung tubig sa Dapitan kasi ang tubig mahirap doon. Siya ang nag design ng aqueduct, hanggang ngayon, buhay pa ‘yun. Kung mapunta kayo sa Dapitan, ‘yung plaza, siya rin ang nag design noon,” shares Professor Gabby Lopez, a faculty at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) Graduate School.

While helping build the town, he also made sure that everything was done without detrimental effects to the environment by planting trees and keeping natural things intact.

“Si Rizal ang nagplano at nag umpisang gumawa ng water system ng Dapitan. Nanalo siya sa lotto nung araw at ‘yun ang ginamit niya para maitayo ang water system. Swamp kasi ‘yung lugar kung saan siya naitapon, tinuruan niya ‘yung mga mangingisda doon to do productive fishing, Nag-imbita pa siya ng mga mangingisda ng Calamba, Laguna para ituro sa kanila kung paano magkaroon ng fish pens. At tinamnan niya ng iba’t-ibang uri ng punongkahoy. Kaya kung pupuntahan niyo ang Dapitan ngayon, napakaganda at napaka peaceful,” Lopez says.


Rizal’s remarkable achievements in this field were chronicled in the book, “Parangal Kay Gat Jose P. Rizal: Bayaning Environmental Planner” which was published by DAP and funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

DAP planned to publish the book in 2011 to coincide with his 150th birth anniversary. That year, DAP partnered with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), City of Dapitan, and the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) to honor the national hero through the event “Parangal Kay Gat Jose P. Rizal: Bayaning Environmental Planner,” thus, the book’s name. The event cited Rizal’s extensive public work projects which improved the quality of life in the remote town of Dapitan.

However, it was only in 2013 when NCCA gave a grant to DAP to publish the short book which features three resource persons – a known Rizalista and lecturer on international affairs, Prof. Jose David Lapuz, former vice mayor of Dapitan Patricia Chan, and NHCP chairperson Dr. Maria Serena Diokno.

“Two years ago, Prof. Gabby Lopez brought me a proposal. Why don’t DAP come up with an event for Jose Rizal’s 150th anniversary. I have doubts about it , ano kinalaman ng DAP kay Dr. Jose Rizal? Then he pointed out that Rizal was heavily involved, especially during his Dapitan exile, on planning Dapitan. The concept of environmental planning was already there at that time. We had a colloquium, we invited Ma. Serena Diokno, vice mayor of Dapitan City, Patricia Chan, and then Prof. Jose Lapuz. They gave some insights about Jose Rizal as an environmental planner and some other things,” shares DAP president Antonio Kalaw.

In the book, the three focuses on various aspects of Rizal’s life. Prof. Lapuz examines the national hero’s insights on international politics and foreign policy. Patricia Chan speaks of the growth of Dapitan as a vibrant center for the arts and sciences as a direct affect of Rizal’s efforts to improve the city. Dr. Diokno echoes the sentiments of Rizal on the apparent ‘indolence’ of the Filipino.

“Wala pang nagbibigay-pugay kay Rizal as environmental planner. Kinausap ko ang presidente at board namin sa Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners, bakit hindi siya gawaran ng posthumous award as an environmental planner. For honor purposes, ‘bayaning environmental planner’ ang ginawad namin,” Prof. Lopez says.


Initially established to train public officials, the Development Academy of the Philippines evolved into an academy of development not only devoted to training and educating individuals in public service but as a source of solutions to present problems.

“Ang key word dun development. When you talk about development, it is actually a progress in time, progress from point zero to point 10. That time 1973, 200 ang planning horizon noon. Kapag may development, may progress at pag may progress, may tinatawag na mga milestone events. Normally, hindi ka naman nagkaka progress pag walang changes. Maging think tank ng policies and action-oriented ideas, and generate ideas to solve the problems of the present so you can move forward. So new, innovative, pioneering, value-adding ideas,” Kalaw says.

For instance, Rizal’s ideas are universal and reach beyond his period. That is why scholars know that his ideas transcend this generation.

“Maraming sinulat si Rizal about nationalism. If you relate nationalism with these practical things being done in manufacturing, purchasing, and development, what better way to be a nationalist than to develop your place without detriment to the environment. Ang dami nang negative effects because of modernity, of things we do to make life easy. ‘Yan ang mentality ng consumerism. We manufacture, produce, buy pero when we do these things, sinisira ang pinanggagalingan ng natural resource,” Kalaw says.

One of the things DAP is pushing is Green Productivity (GP). GP was launched in 1994 in response to the results of the Rio Earth Summit held in 1992. With the support from the government of Japan, GP was introduced as a practical way to answer the challenge of sustainable development. DAP pushes the manufacturing industry to adopt green practices.

“Basically, Rizal is a well-traveled person so the ideas he saw sa New World as well as in Asia, inaabsorb niya ‘yun. Remember na artist din siya, so siguro ‘yung kanyang sense of what is natural, and what is balanced, ‘yun palagay ko ang nagbigay sa kanya ng inspirasyon para gawing maganda ang Dapitan. What Rizal did in a community like Dapitan is something we can do as well,” Prof. Lopez says.