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Book Report on a Nation Aborted

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Book Report on a Nation Aborted

I. Introduction

About recovering a lost history and vision, an invitation to re-read Rizal, rethink his project, and revision Philippine nationalism. Traces the trajectory of the Philippine nationalist movement from its inception in the late nineteenth century to its deformation and co-optation by US imperialism in the early years of the 20th century--- through a genealogy of the rise and fall of the symbol of Rizal, the national hero. Reconstructs Rizal's vision of the nation, a moral vision that was appreciated by kindred spirits in the so-called Propaganda Movement as well as the Katipunan, and resonated deeply with the revolutionary spirit of 1896--- the moral vision that constitutes what is most crucial and cogent in Rizal's lifework, in today's era of genocidal assertions of national sovereignty and predatory, corporate-driven globalization.

II. Body

Was Rizal a revolutionary? Why did he condemn the revolution that was to be waged by the Bonifacio-led Katipunan? Was there a retraction by Rizal before his execution? These are questions the book tries to argue favorably and positively for Rizal. I am sure that this is a book that our good Jesuits who are so proud to have educated Rizal would have dreamed of writing, publishing and promoting themselves (they actually published it through Ateneo University Press). What Quibuyen calls Constantino's viciousness in denigrating Rizal and giving him up to the enemy is matched by an almost perfect picture of Rizal. Rizal here is a saint to be worshipped, a demigod to be transformed into a religion. This does not do justice to Rizal and is an extreme adulation of our national hero who, instead of being treated as one of us, is molded into a religious relic by Quibuyen. Defending Rizal from his critics does not necessarily give justice to him. Perhaps the critics of Rizal were not out to belittle or devalue him but to present the human Rizal, as flesh and blood, with virtues and vices, strengths and weaknesses like any other mortal.

Quibuyen confronts and takes to task Constantino's assertions that while Rizal was an illustrado reformist who was seeking our assimilation with Spain, Bonifacio was the real plebeian revolutionary who guided and led the independence struggle. This line of thinking, according to Quibuyen, had been at the expense of Rizal. To accomplish this, Quibuyen has instead painted a flawless Rizal. Every positive word or letter of Rizal as well as documented testimonies from his associates and contemporaries and biographers are harnessed to support the view that he was after all a consistent revolutionary.

But Quibuyen is unconvincing. For Rizal's deeds were inconsistent with this revolutionary zeal. Of course, this can be explained by the fact that he was a complex, sophisticated man. Why was Rizal willing to serve the Spanish army as a medical doctor against Cuban revolutionaries when he was arrested and sentenced to die? His actions while he was in Dapitan in captivity only show how much trust he had in the Spanish authorities in whose hands he placed his life. He could have escaped when there was a chance and when the opportunity was offered by the Katipunan. But he instead told the Katipunan that he had even given his word to his colonial captors that he would not escape and would behave well. For if he was indeed a revolutionary, he must have been an armchair revolutionary. He could have been a Jose Marti, the Cuban writer and revolutionary who led the Cuban people's revolt against Spain. But he passed up these challenges and opportunities. Still, Quibuyen insists that Rizal was a revolutionary, both in word and deed.

But history is usually kind to its victims. It sacrificed Rizal at the altar of martyrdom and immortality, a Rizal showing the world and his people that one could die unafraid, proudly and with dignity for one's country. This was the Rizal that was the subject of veneration by the Katipunan and the popular imagination of the masses, and one that continues in some of our millennarian movements. That was how that martyrdom was used by the 1896 revolutionaries, as Rizal was already a personality known for his well-rounded genius, his open defiance to the clerico-fascist friars through his novels and other writings. The Katipuneros whom Rizal had condemned began spreading the word that Rizal was actually their adviser and his dramatic death geometrically multiplied the ranks of the Katipunan that even his beloved Josephine Bracken and his brother and sisters later joined it. The author Quibuyen even provides

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