Tell it to SunStar: National hero? or not?

IT WAS on June 19, 1861 when José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda or in short Jose Rizal, was born in Calamba, Laguna, and faced his death on Dec. 30, 1896 in Bagumbayan, Manila. As we commemorate this day, is Rizal really a National Hero?

According to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), there are two heroes competing for the title, namely Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio. But still, there’s no law or any rule that declared either of them as a National Hero.

Rizal is regarded by the public as the National Hero merely by perception, as “Rizal Day,” which we commemorate every 30th of December, as declared under the Philippine Commission through Act 345 on Feb. 1, 1902, was not a declaration that grants him the title as the National Hero. It is only a form of honoring his memory for what he had done for the country.

There were several actions that tried to proclaim a certain person as a National Hero, especially in 1995. The Philippine National Heroes Committee through Executive Order 5 by then President Fidel V. Ramos officially declared several historic-heroic people for the designation, but this was not implemented afterwards. Although Rizal was elected as the National Hero of the Philippines during the American occupation in the Philippines, it was the American legislators’ decision. Still, it is not valid because the ones who implemented this are the Americans, plus the fact that it was purely biased.

On June 11, 1901, the province of Rizal (former name Politico Militar Distrito de Morong) was legally created under the virtue of an Act 137 by the First Philippine Commission. The new province was named after Jose Rizal. By then, many have thought that through this, Jose Rizal was already declared as a National Hero. Other reasons why this manifestation still exists is that the tradition still passes from generation to the next. Example of that are schools that have taught this through years with nobody making it a big deal and blindly accepting it as a fact. The teachings that were taught in schools, the oral traditions that were passed on were not in compliance with the existing laws.

Why does the government still have doubts in declaring someone as the official National Hero? Is there any politics or biases behind it?

Aside from being extremely intelligent and talented, Jose Rizal himself was a victim of different misconceptions. For us he symbolizes freedom, but for the Spaniards he symbolizes rebellion. That’s why he was executed. Will Spain be held liable for killing our National Hero? Maybe, if we do so, they will also do the same to our Lapu-Lapu. The rise of Rizal under the Spanish colonization also triggers the rise of the Filipino’s nationalism. Even though there is still no one being designated as a National Hero, there are deeds and sacrifices for the sake of the country that are worth remembering.

Having the title or not is not a big deal. Their influence and their role in making the Filipinos aware of their immense realities are what is important. (By Jake Flourence Camasura)