Backtracking towards a Transformative Rizal Curriculum, pp. 7 of 11

As history would have it, democracy was thrust on us by our American colonizers so that Filipinos bypassed the period of penance that Rizal stipulated as a pre-requisite for independence. The social cancer thus surviving into a democratic Philippines, the consequent mismatch between democratic values and our Filipino defects may explain the dysfunction of Philippine democracy. The Rizal course’s carefully developed conclusion has shaped my conviction that a functioning democracy requires civic virtue to underpin self-governance. This is a belief I had first to enact in my own life.

  1. The course framed Rizal’s ideas as his personal response to the social conditions of his time, leading me to the truth that the nation is the ongoing project of the individual.

As we considered the progression of Rizal’s political thought, Professor Dumol explained the changes and developments in his ideas by grounding them in their wider socio-historical context and in the personal events of his life. Most important to know was the period of Philippine history in which Rizal lived and wrote: a time when Filipinos did not yet conceive of themselves as a nation (with the town being the highest form of socio-political organization) but when a nascent sense of nationhood was palpable after the unjust execution in 1872 of three Filipino priests by the Spanish military tribunal bestowed on Filipinos a common cause. The course, therefore, framed Rizal’s political thought as a man’s personal response to contemporary social challenges, and he became a shining example of an individual who had dedicated his life to the ongoing project of the nation.  

This depiction of Rizal was likely the course’s most compelling element in my personal transformation. It touched me to see how earnestly Rizal sought solutions for the Philippine social cancer, demonstrating a love for nation that prevailed not “because . . .” but “so that . . .” I realized that his heroism, so often equated with his renowned intellect, was firstly the product of deep love. In this way, his heroism became relatable, a task of love attainable for the Everyman. Additionally, in showing me how Rizal sought solutions for his time, Professor Dumol’s course taught me that citizenship is one’s lived response to contemporary social challenges, a task that continues for us today, with our distinctive problems and conditions.

Distilling my educational experience into these four central points has allowed me to grasp the potency of Professor Dumol’s Rizal course: overall, his curriculum gave me a profound sense of the individual’s role in the ongoing project of the nation. Studying the Noli and the Fili taught me that if Philippine society’s problems rest fundamentally in the individual, then our solutions must also begin with internal change from the individual. From Rizal’s own life, I saw an unparalleled example of a man who had wholeheartedly made the nation his responsibility.

The course’s emphasis on the individual’s duty towards the nation had profound effects on my twenty-year-old self. As much as I identified as a daughter, sister, and friend, I began to identify as a Filipino citizen. I realized my responsibility towards the nation and could no longer content myself with a life lived only for my immediate circle. These ideas came to influence my personal choices, the most significant being my decision to pursue a career in teaching. I felt that my capabilities could best be put to service through education, to continue developing a love for the common good in my students.

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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