Backtracking towards a Transformative Rizal Curriculum, pp. 6 of 11

  1. The course traced the progression of Rizal’s political thought, an exploration that allowed me to form a solid conviction in Rizal’s final solution to the social cancer for past and present society.

Throughout the course, we approached the Noli and the Fili, not as novels of plot or character, but as novels of the author’s ideas: while the Noli contained the problems that Rizal observed in Philippine society, the Fili was his solution to the social cancer. The rationale for Professor Dumol’s approach hinged on a line from Rizal’s dedication in the Noli, which was addressed to the Philippines:

Desiring your health which is ours and seeking the best treatment, I will do with you what the ancients did with the sick: they would display them on the temple steps, so that each person who came to invoke the Divinity would propose a remedy. (Rizal, 1887/1912, author’s dedication)

Desiring your health which is ours and seeking the best treatment, I will do with you what the ancients did with the sick: they would display them on the temple steps, so that each person who came to invoke the Divinity would propose a remedy. (Rizal, 1887/1912, author’s dedication)

I have described in my previous point the ills that Rizal saw in society, so malignant that he was led to ask, in a society so unjust that it seemed God was asleep, what was man to do? Under Professor Dumol’s careful guidance, we were able to discern the different solutions Rizal tested throughout the length of his novels: In the Noli was Rizal’s early endorsement of the anti-friar campaign, carried away as he was by the European doctrine of progress. We saw him toy with the idea of revolution as a remedy, though he struggled with the thought of the innocent lives that might be lost and with the merits of an insurrection carried out for personal motivations like revenge. We also saw how he debated with himself (under the guise of two of his characters) about the right means to achieve civic liberties, such as freedom of speech and the right to vote, for the Filipinos: did one achieve freedom through education or political struggle? And lastly, we saw him hypothesize the destruction of the Filipino race altogether, whom one disillusioned character described as a “slavish people,” with the scientific development of bombs. Overall, Professor Dumol’s course was a survey of Rizal’s hypotheses.

Understanding how extensively Rizal had searched for an answer allowed me to appreciate the depth and substance of his final solution: In the last chapter of the Fili, Rizal concludes that, before independence from their colonizers, the Filipino people needed redemption or internal change. The values of a social institution, he explains, can only be upheld if the people that comprise it are willing to defend them. How was a people who did not love the common good to maintain self-rule? Thus, Rizal felt that Filipinos needed to develop a regard for the common good to replace their individualistic and patron-client mindsets, before they could graduate to independence: “What is the use of independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?” (Rizal, 1891/1912, chapter XXXIX). God’s justice, he concludes philosophically, was to allow the people to suffer and work at present, which would temper the Filipino spirit to develop civic virtue for eventual independence. Returning to the point, only a Rizal course structured according to his novels of ideas could evince the power of his eventual conclusion. 

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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