Backtracking towards a Transformative Rizal Curriculum, pp. 5 of 11

Along with my compatriots, I have been trained to build a national identity on a historical narrative of revolts and rebellions against foreign oppressors, a legacy difficult to live out as modern citizenship. What duty for my country remains in the age of self-rule with the absence of an external oppressor? Within Professor Dumol’s classroom, this powerful, new idea that perhaps Filipinos had been their own obstacle to achieving self-rule inspired in me more fruitful conceptualizations of nationhood and citizenship: perhaps it was time to take my glance away from historical enemies and to turn inward, to ask how I might overcome this Filipino attitude of self-interest to build a greater love for the common good.

  1. The course tackled Rizal’s novels as works of continued relevance so that, in the distinctive problems, issues, and social and political situation of nineteenth-century society, I recognized the roots of present societal ills. 

Rizal’s novels are typically read as literary works, with a focus on their literary qualities, or as historical documents that throw light on Filipinos and the Philippines during the nineteenth century (Dumol & Camposano, 2018). Professor Dumol established from the beginning of our course that we would employ a third way of reading the Noli and the Fili: as works of present relevance from whose depiction of the nineteenth-century social cancer we might gain deeper understanding of present societal ills. The course posed two questions: Is the social cancer that Rizal wrote about still present today? If so, how may it be extirpated at present? 

Challenged to interrogate the text for its relevance to the present, I developed a keener awareness of current Philippine society’s most deeply rooted problems. Just as Rizal had posited about nineteenth-century Filipinos, I discovered that a deep-seated attitude of self-interest, which cancels out regard for the common good, stubbornly remains our primary impediment to a functional democracy. Even problems that are structural or political in nature have beneath them an inward-looking people that account for a lack of action towards solutions. By elucidating the survival of the social cancer into the twenty-first century, the course presented me with the pressing need for individual change in order to bring about social change. 

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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