My Personal Tribute to our National Hero Dr.Jose Rizal (on his 150th Birth Anniversary)

June 19, 2011

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My Personal Tribute to our National Hero
Dr.Jose Rizal 
(on his 150th Birth Anniversary)

In school, we were asked to read the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo, but the work of Dr. Jose Rizal that made the most impact on me and had the greatest influence in my life, is his "Letter to the Young Women of Malolos".  He emphasizes the importance of women and mothers and how the country's future lay in their hands. I reproduce this letter below in the hope each Filipino woman and mother will read and ponder the words of one of the greatest Filipinos who ever lived.  

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To My Young Countrywomen of Malolos 
by Rizal, Jose

When I wrote the Noli Me Tangere, I asked myself if courage was a common trait of our young women. Although I recalled and passed in review the women I had known since my boyhood, only a few resembled the image I had formed. True, there were plenty of girls who were sweet in their dealings, who had beautiful manners and modest demeanor; but for all that there was in them an admixture of servility to and full aquiscence in the words or whims of the so-called “spiritual fathers” (as if the soul had any father other than God). This admixture was the result of an excess of kindness, of modesty, and perhaps of ignorance. They were like faded plants reared in darkness whose flowers had no fragrance and whose fruits lacked juice.
Today, however, when the news of what had happened in your town reached me, I realized my mistake, and great was my joy. For such mistake, I could not, of course, be blamed. I did not know Malolos nor did I know its young women except one called Emilia, and even her I knew only by name.
Now that you have responded to our first appeal for the welfare of our people; now that you have set an example for those who, like you, long to have their eyes opened and be delivered from servitude, our hopes are revived and with you as our allies we even dare to face adversity, confident of victory.
No longer do Filipino women have to stand with their heads bowed or appear on bended knees. Hope for the future now quickened their heart-beats. No longer is there any mother who will contribute to the blindness of her daughter and raise her in self-contempt and utter moral debasement. Submission to an unjust order or ready complaisance is no longer the quintessence of wisdom. Nor a polite smile now the only weapon against insult or a humble tear the ineffable panacea for all tribulations.
You already know that God's will is different and distinct from the will of a priest; that religiousness does not consist in bending one's knees for a long time, much less in mumbling kilometrical prayers, counting the heads of big rosaries, and wearing grimy scapularies. It consists rather in spotless conduct, in the purity of one's intention and in the uprightness of one's judgment or criterion. You know that prudence does not mean blind obedience to whatever whims may strike the fancy of godlings. It means doing what is reasonable and just, because blind obedience is itself the cause of such whims, and hence those who provoke them are the real sinners.
Officials or friars can no longer assert that they alone are responsible for their unjust orders, because God has endowed each person with reason and a will of his or her own, and that reason enables its possessor to distinguish what is just from what is unjust. All of us were born free, unshackled, and nobody has the right to subjugate the will and the spirit of another. And why should one submit one's thoughts, free and noble, to another?
It is cowardice and a mistake to believe that saintliness is blind obedience and that prudence and the ability to think are signs of presumption. Ignorance has ever been ignorance; it has never been prudence and honor. God, the primal source of all wisdom, does not demand that man, created in his own image, allow himself to be deceived or hoodwinked. He wants us to use and let shine the light of reason with which he has so mercifully endowed us. He is like the father who handed a torch to each of his sons to light their way in the darkness, bidding them to keep its flame ever bright and not to trust to the light of the others, but to help and advise one another to find the right path. Fools they would be if they fell headlong for following the light of another; and the father would be right in reproaching them, thus: “Did I not give a torch to each of you?” But he would have no reason to hide them if they fell due to the light of their respective torches because then the light might have been dim and the road extremely bad.
Commonplace to the deceiver is the saying that it is presumptuous to rely on one's own judgment. In my opinion, what is presumptuous is to impose one's will on others and insist on having one's own way. And it is more presumptuous for a man to constitute himself into an idol and pretend to know the thoughts of God. What is more presumptuous still—it is even blasphemous—is for a person to ascribe to God every movement of his lips, to present every whim of his as God's will and to brand his own enemy as God's enemy. Certainly, we should not rely on our own judgment alone. We should consult and hear the opinion of others, before we do what appears to us most reasonable.
The habit or the cassock does not by itself generate or impart wisdom. A wildman from the hills, although clad in a priest's robe, will still be a hillsman and will deceive only the weakling and the ignorant. You could bear me out by just buying a priest's robe like that of a Franciscan and putting it on a carabao. You will be lucky if the carabao does not become lazier as a result of the robe itself. However, I shall leave this point and speak of something else.
Youth, the nursery of fructiferous flowers, must accumulate wealth for its successors. What kind of offspring will a woman have whose kindness of character is expressed by heart mumbled prayers, who knows nothing by heart except awits, novenas, and fake miracles; whose amusement consists in playing panguingue or in confessing the same sins over and over again? What children can she have but acolytes, priests' servants, or cockpit gamblers? Mothers are responsible for the present servitude of our countrymen because of their unlimited trust and their ardent desire to elevate their sons. Maturity is the fruit of infancy but the infant is raised on the lap of its mother. The mother who knows nothing but to teach her child how to bend its knees and kiss the hand must not expect her sons to have anything but the spirit of a slave. A tree that grows in the mud is either light or is good only for firewood. If by chance a mother's son should possess a bold heart, such boldness would be deceitful and he would use it for vile purposes. It would be like the bat that can not show itself except at vesper-time.

Prudence is said to be sanctity and love of God. Yet what sanctity has been taught us? To pray and kneel often, to kiss the hand of a priest, waste money on churches and swallow everything the friar is pleased to tell us. Result: gossip, hardened knees and blistered noses . . .

As to offerings and gifts to God, is there anything in the world that does not belong to him? What would you say of a servant who gave his master as a present the very cloth he had borrowed from him? Who is so vain and crazy as to give alms to God and believe that his miserable gift will serve to clothe the Creator of all things? Blessed are they who succor their fellow men, help the poor and feed the hungry; but cursed are they who turn a deaf ear to the supplications of the poor, who give only to him who has plenty and spend their money lavishly on silver altar hangings for the church, or donate it to the friar who wallows in wealth secured from fees for masses of thanksgiving, from serenades and fireworks. Such money squeezed out of the marrow of the poor is offered to the master so that he can forge more chains with which to subdue better, and hire thugs and executioners. Oh, what blindness and lack of understanding!
The first requisite of saintliness is obedience to the dictates of reason, happen what may, “Deeds, not words, are what I wish from you,” said Christ. “He is no son of my father who comes repeating, my father, my father: but he who lives doing my father's will.” Saintliness does not lie in abjentness. Christ's successor is not to be distinguished by his willingness to extend his hand to be kissed. Christ did not give the kiss of peace to the Pharisees and never extended his hand and to be kissed. He did not cater to the rich and vain Scribes, he did not mention scapularies, nor did he manufacture rosaries. He did not solicit alms or offerings for saying special masses nor did he exact payment for praying. If John the Baptist did not demand fees for baptizing in Jordan, and Christ did not charge for his teaching, how did it happen that the friars now refuse to move unless they are paid in advance? And, as if they were starving, they sell scapularies, rosaries, belts, and other things which are nothing more than schemes for making money to the prejudice of the soul itself. Because even if all the rags on earth were converted into scapularies and all the trees in the forests into rosaries, and even if the skins of all the beasts were transformed into belts, and signs of the Cross were made and all the priests on earth mumbled prayers and sprinkled oceans of holy water, still all this would not purify a rogue or forgive his sin if he himself did not repent.
Through cupidity or greed, the numerous bans or prohibitions, such as those against eating meat, marrying close relatives, et., are lifted for a price. Why? Can God be bribed and blinded by money through no less than a friar? Can the bandit who has obtained a bull of compromise live in peace with his booty? Will God sit at a table where robbery provides the viands? Has the Omnipotent become a pauper that he must assume the role of the excise man or civil guard? If that is the God the friars worship, then I turn my back on him.
Let us be reasonable and open our eyes especially you, women, who are the first to influence the conscience of man. Bear in mind that a good mother does not resemble the mother that the friar has evolved. She must bring up her child as the image of the true God; not of an extorting and avaricious god, but of God the Father of all, who is just, who does not suck the life-blood of the poor like a vampire, nor scoff at the agony of the afflicted, nor bend the path of justice.
Awaken and prepare the will of your children to a just and proper appreciation of honor, of sincere and firm purpose, clear judgment, clean behavior, honest acts, love of fellowmen, and respect for God—this is what you must teach your children. And, since life is beset with sorrows and sufferings, you must fortify their minds against every stroke of misfortune and inure their hearts to danger. People can expect neither honor nor prosperity so long as they will not educate the children in a manly way and as long as the woman who guides the child in its tender years is slavish and ignorant. One cannot drink from a turbid, bitter spring; no savory fruit can come from acrid seeds.
The duties that woman has to perform in order to deliver the people from suffering are not unimportant. Whatever they may be, they are duties which can not excel the strength and character of the Filipino women. Well-known are the power and good judgment of the women in the Philippines; that is why they are blinded and tied and pusillanimous. Their enslavers can now rest at ease, because so long as the Filipino mother remains a slave, as long will her children be slaves. This is the cause of Asia's prostration: her woman are ignorant and oppressed. Europe and America are powerful because there the women are free and well-educated, lucid in intellect and strong of will.
We know that you lack instructive books; we know that nothing is done to develop your intelligence, the purpose being to distinguish your natural light. All these we know, hence our endeavor to being to you the light that illuminates your equals here in Europe. If what I am going to tell you does not provoke your ire, and you will pay a little attention to it, and I shall say that however dense the mist that envelope our people, we will exert our utmost efforts to dissipate it with the beautiful rays of the sun, which will shine though dimly. We will not feel tired if you help us; God, too, will help us scatter the mist, since he is the God of truth. The fair name of the Filipino women seem lacking, will return to its pristine beauty, because she possesses more than enough good qualities.
Such is our dream. Such is the desire we cherish in our breasts; to restore the honor of woman, who is half our heart and who is our companion in the joys and tribulations of life. If she is a maiden, let her be loved not only for her beauty and amiable character, but also for her strength of mind and loftiness of purpose, which enliven and raise the feeble and the timid and ward off all vain thoughts. Let her be the pride of her country and let her command respect. It is a common saying here among Spaniards and friars returned from the Islands that the Filipino woman is complaisant and ignorant as if all could be blamed for the mistakes of a few, and as if women of weak character could not be found in other lands. From the point of view of purity, does not the Filipino woman stand high above others?
Nevertheless, returning Spaniards and friars, garrulous and gossipy can hardly find enough time to brag and brawl, amidst guffaws and insulting remarks, that a certain woman was this and that; that she behaved in that way at the convent and conducted herself thus with the Spaniards who was once her guest; and other things that madden one when one comes to think of them. All such faults or shortcomings are by and large due to candor, excessive kindness, meekness, or perhaps, ignorance, qualities or defects which in reality are all work of the defamers themselves. There is a Spaniard, now in high office, whom we fed and who enjoyed our hospitality during the time he wandered through the Philippines. Upon his return to Spain, he rushed forthwith into print. He related that once he sought shelter in Pampanga, ate and slept at a house, and that the lady who entertained him behaved in such and such a manner with him; that is how he repaid her for her profuse hospitality! Similar insinuations are made by friars to their first visitor from Spain concerning their very obedient confessers, hand-kissers, etc. The story is accompanied with smiles and very significant winks of the eye.
A book published by D. Sinibaldo de Mas as well as sketches by friars mention certain sins of which women accused themselves in the confessional of having committed and of which the friars made no secret in retailing to their Spanish visitors, seasoning them at best, with idiotic and lewd tales unworthy of belief. I can not repeat here the shameless stories that a friar told Mas and to which Mas gave no credence whatever. Every time we hear or read anything of this kind, we ask one another: Are all Spanish women patterned after Virgin Mary and are all Filipino women reprobates? I believe that if we are to balance accounts on this delicate question, perhaps . . . But I must drop the subject because I am neither a confessor nor a Spanish traveler with a yard with which to injure the good name of anybody. I shall put this aside and speak instead of the duties of woman.
People who respect woman, like the people of the Philippines, must know the truth of the situation in order to be able to do what is expected of them. It seems an established fact that when a young student falls in love, he throws everything overboard: learning honor, and money, as if a girl could not do anything but sow misfortune. The bravest youth becomes a coward when he marries, and the born coward becomes shameless, as if he had been waiting to get married in order to show his cowardice. To hide his pusillanimity, the son appeals to the teachings and memory of his mother, swallows his pride, suffers himself to be slapped, obeys the most foolish order, and becomes an accomplice to his own dishonor. One should remember that where nobody flees, there is no pursuer: that where there are no little fish, there can be no big ones. Why does the girl not require her lover a noble and honored name, a manly heart to protect her weakness, and a resolute spirit which will not be satisfied with engendering slaves? Let her discard all fear, behave nobly and yield not her youth to the weak and faint-hearted. When she is married, she must aid her husband, inspire him with courage, share his perils, refrain from causing him worry, and sweeten his moments of affliction,always remembering that there is no grief that a stout heart can not bear and there is no worse inheritance than that of infamy and slavery.
Open your children's eyes so that they may jealously guard their honor, love their fellow men and their native land, and do their duty. Always impress upon them that it is better to die with honor than to live in dishonor. The women of Sparta should serve you as an object of emulation on this. Let me indicate some of their traits.
When a mother handed the shield to her son on his way to the battlefield, all her injunction was this: “Return with it,or on it,” meaning, “return in triumph or return dead,” because it was customary for a fleeing warrior to throw away his shield, and if he died fighting to have his corpse brought back on his shield. A mother one received word that her son had been killed in battle and the army routed. She did not utter a word, but gave thanks that her son had been saved from ignominy; but when her son returned alive, she went in mourning. One of the mothers who sallied forth to meet the warriors returning from battle was told by a soldier that her three sons had perished. “I am not asking you about them,” said the mother; “what I want to know is whether we won or not.” “We triumphed,” answered the warrior.
“If that is so, then let us thank God,” and she proceeded to the temple.
Once upon a time a Spartan king who had been defeated hid himself in the temple, fearing the people's wrath. The Spartans resolved to shut him up there and starve him to death. When they were blocking the door, his mother was the first to bring stones. All this represented the custom in Sparta. That is why all Greece admired the Spartan woman. “Of all women,” said a woman jestingly, “only you, Spartans, have power over the men.” “Quite natural,” they replied. “Of all women only we give birth to men,” “Man” the Spartan women said, “is not born to live for himself alone, but for his native land.” So long as this mode of thinking and this kind of women prevailed in Sparta, no enemy was able to set his foot upon her soil, nor was there a woman in Sparta who ever saw a hostile army.
I do not expect you to believe me simply because I am the one saying it. There are many people who will not listen to reason itself, but will listen only to those who wear the cassock or have gray hair or no teeth. But if age is venerable because of its arduous experiences, the life I have led, consecrated to the welfare of the people, should also be credited with experiences though not many. I do not pretend to be looked upon as an idol listened to with closed eyes, heads bowed, and arms folded. What I ask of all is to reflect on what I tell them, ponder over it and sift it carefully through the sieve of reason.
First of all: The tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice and negligence of others.
Second: What makes a man contemptible is his lack of dignity and his abject of fear of the contemner.
Third: Ignorance is servitude, because as a man thinks, so is he. A man who not does not think for himself lacks personality. The blind man who allows himself to be guided by the thought of another is like the beast led by a halter.
Fourth: He who loves his independence must first aid his fellowmen. He who refuses to give protection to others will find himself abandoned. The detached rib of the palm is easily broken, but not the ribs of the same palm bound together into a broom.
Fifth: If the Filipino woman will not change her way of life, let her not rear children, but just bear them. She must be deprived of being the mistress of the house, otherwise she will unconsciously betray husband, child, native land, and all.
Sixth: All men are born equal, naked, without bonds. God did not create man to be a slave. He did not endow him with intelligence so that he may be imposed upon, nor did he bless him with reason so that he may be deceived by others. It is not fatuous to refuse to worship one's equal, to sharpen one's intellect, and to use reason in all things. Fatuous is he who makes a god of himself, who brutifies others and strives to subject to his whims all that is reasonable and just.
Seventh: Consider well what kind of religion is being taught you. See whether it is the will of God or it follows the teachings of Christ that the poor be succored and that those who suffer be alleviated. Reflect on what is being preached to you, the object of the sermon, what is behind the masses, novenas, rosaries, scapularies, images, miracles, candles, belts, etc. etc. which daily and rudely and with shoutings and gesticulations are presented before you. Find out whence they came and whither they go, and then compare that religion with the pure religion of Christ and see whether that pretended observance of the teachings of Christ does not remind you of the fat milch cow or the fattened pig which was well fed not for love, but for grossly selfish purposes.
Let us therefore reflect on and study our situation and see how we stand. May these poorly written lines aid you in your good purpose and help you pursue the plan you have begun. “My profit will be greater than the capital invested;” and I shall gladly accept the usual reward for anyone who dares tell the truth to our people. May success crown your desire to educate yourselves; may you gather in the garden of learning not bitter but choice fruits, and may you look before you eat them, because on the face of the globe all is deceit, and not infrequently the enemy puts weeds in the seed plot.
All this is the ardent wish of your countryman.
Europe, 1889.

NOTE: Bold letters supplied by me.