Home Research PapersAfter the Americans took over

After the Americans took over

After the Americans took over (1899ff), they opted for Rizal over other Filipino candidates as “national hero” because he was the safest – he had never fought against the USA (unlike Aguinaldo) because he died before they invaded, and he apparently advocated non-violent change (unlike Bonifacio). They sponsored Rizal’s image in schools and in public display (statues, etc.) throughout the country. In the 1960s there arose a campaign – originally from UP, citing the works of Teodoro Agoncillo – which used the fact of this sponsorship to try to promote Bonifacio instead, sometimes trying to discredit Rizal as a sell-out

But many Filipinos had already made Rizal a “national hero” even before the Americans arrived. The Katipunan itself venerated Rizal, and Reynaldo Ileto’s research reveals how deeply this veneration – verging on worship – had penetrated the peasantry, especially in the Tagalog region. So it could be argued that what the Americans were doing was simply confirming officially a decision the Filipino people had already made unofficially, that Rizal was the greatest Filipino, and the one who most completely embodied the national dream.

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I have to say that as an outsider who has studied Philippine history for nearly 50 years I find Rizal to be far and away the most admirable Filipino, worthiest to be the national hero (if we must single out one of many). He is/was perhaps the country’s greatest novelist and among its greatest essayists, historians, and poets, and he dedicated his life – and eventually his death – to the welfare of “Filipinas” at a time when many of his countrymen were scarcely aware of the “nation” as such. He had his flaws – who doesn’t? – but his combination of intelligence/creativity and patriotism has rarely been equaled in any country. The Philippines should be proud of him


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