Carlos Celdran is wrong. Which, is kind of unsurprising; and no, we aren’t talking about his decisions on how to go about promoting the pro-RH agenda. Instead, we’re talking about history and specifically his recent take on Jose Rizal.
John Nery ran a column today concerning Celdran’s (and the editors of FHM) take that Rizal was pro-Spain. Pro-Spain. Nery points out that Celdran was probably basing this assertion on an errorneous reading of Noli Mi Tangere.
“Rizal was emphatically not pro-Spain. This is the same fundamental error that Rizal’s first biographer, Wenceslao Retana, shared with that biography’s epilogue-writer, the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. In the twilight of the Spanish empire, they saw this splendid specimen of humanity and claimed him for Mother Spain.
On what did Celdran base his conclusion? On “Noli Me Tangere.”
As Nery goes on to point out, and I whole-heartedly agree, any halfway decent ‘historian’ who has spent anytime reading the other works of Jose Rizal would never come to this conclusion.
But, for us who think it’s just more entertaining to make up history than actually learn it, that’s par for the course. And I’m not even criticizing those who come up with alternate streams of history; as long as they are based on source documentation and backed up by sound reasoning. Hell, I want more alternate interpretations, our understanding of history demands it. Actually, I find some of the alternate streams of history far more believable than what is 'common knowledge’.
What we don’t need are complete mis-readings of Rizal’s writings and this penchant for taking one moment out of time and context and applying it as a broad generalization. That at the time he wrote Noli Rizal could be interpreted as being reformist does not mean that is how he thought for his entire life. Or even at the time he wrote Noli. Remember, Rizal’s public writings were propaganda, they were specifically written to incite certain sentiments. Most of the Propagandists and Revolutionaries began as Reformists. This fallacy demonstrates more than anything else, superficial thinking and a lack of contextual history.
Before I go to far afield criticizing Celdran and his 'understanding’ of history and Rizal, let’s talk about Rizal and his Spanish sentiments. By the way, you know Retana right? No? Ok, then. He was an anti-Filipino Spanish writer, who pretty much hated the Philippines. Yet he is the unbiased historian and the basis for much of our understanding of Jose Rizal; since he collected most of Rizal’s papers after his death and wrote the first biography of Rizal. A biography that is frequently referenced even today. Oh look at that, the story of Jose Rizal was written by a vehemently anti-Filipino, pro-Spanish 'historian’. And we wonder why our histories are so shitty, most of our historians and culture 'gurus’ don’t even vet their sources.
Have we forgotten the sequences with the priests? His letter’s concerning how crappy Spanish cities were? The Spanish failure to provide the type of broad education and modernization that was promised? (Seriously, read his damn footnotes on de Morga). You can appreciate what Spain provided to the Philippines and not be pro-Spanish (hey look at that, is anyone surprised that binary thinking shows up again?).
See, this whole misrepresentation comes right back to the idea that Rizal was solely a reformist, this confusion concerning his long-stated antipathy towards violence. We praise Gandhi for being non-violent, yet we deride Rizal for being his philosophical predecessor? And let’s not forget, being non-violent is far different from never raising arms when necessary; when appropriate. Rizal, like Gandhi, believed in non-violence, but understood that there are times when force must be met with resistance.
There is one overarching theme here that irritates the hell out of me when it comes to looking at Rizal the reformist, Rizal the pro-Spanish. It’s the idea that Rizal was not a fighter; that he would not have raised arms when necessary. It is a derived from him repudiating the 1896 Revolution. He repudiated it, because of its timing. Nothing more. He believed the Philippines was not ready, the people were not ready, in his estimation for self-governance. He foresaw something even more insidious. Whether he was right or wrong is a matter of historical debate. But, no matter, it was consistent with his belief structure; one founded on self-determinaton, education and the willingness to fight when it is understood what you are fighting for. Him finding fault with THAT revolution is not finding fault with A revolution.
That ultimately remains one of the great inconsistencies when it comes to Rizal, and one of the great failings when it comes to our understanding of him. People like Celdran and FHM are not illuminating anything; they are doing nothing more than perpetuating ignorant ideas. And inevitably obscuring our national hero.