From a Young Man’s Vision: It’s Never Too Late

2012 PreMYo Rizal Essay Writing Contest

From a Young Man’s Vision: It’s Never Too Late

By: Dwight Angelo L. De Leon

Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy, Division of Oriental Mindoro
Region IV-MIMAROPA

Champion – Oriental Mindoro Division Level
Second Place – MIMAROPA Regional Level
Finalist – National Level

***

Who says it’s too late for change?

In a pragmatic status quo where textbooks teach us at early ages to appreciate the events that truly mattered in the development of history, no one of the Filipino blood could turn his back on Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Throughout my academic journey in school, my knowledge about him consistently evolves. If before, I’ve known him as a hero with distinctive title, now I’ve come to appreciate his literary pieces that awakened the patriotism of our heritage. But after such studies and idealisms learned in the academies, the existent thing that we, as individuals with brown complexion, need to augment is the real life’s application of the valuable deeds that were realized a hundred and fifty-one years ago. Was Rizal’s battle for independence worth fighting for? Or did his citizens turn into dependent and reluctant shadows decades after?

A vigilant Filipino would know that the missing pieces in a country’s jigsaw puzzle to progress lie in two main groups. These two groups are not actually intended to be separated from each other. If truth be told, none of the two would have existed without the other one.

The first of the two groups is the Philippine government. While it is evident that kind-hearted officials still exist, we cannot deny that our democratic leadership is being pestered by fiends. For almost every day, we hear reports exposing the debauched acts — may it be graft or bribery — of our political leaders. Probably, if Rizal were just alive, he would have this question in mind: How come that the symbolisms he intended for Spaniards back then are imageries very applicable to the high-ranking officials of today?

After Noli Me Tangere — or The Social Cancer as alternative title in English — was published in 1887, the said novel effectively disturbed the ruling Spanish government. Of course, as dominant invaders of our fearful citizenry, the Spaniards claimed to have been insulted by the novel’s audacious portrayal of corruption and social abuse. Rizal’s approach in writing was very satirical and emblematic, since most of the characters in the novel — from the discerning administration to the hypocritical clergy to the dissociating natives — represented the flaws of the society in reality.

Giving a sense of parallelism between the 1800s and today, we still experience injustices. Some of our leaders steal as if it were a right bestowed to them by the public. Not just that, we also become victims of social abuse — choosing the influential and powerful over the immobilized. Did anything change? Nonetheless, yes. We now denounce the race of our own.

These analyses led me to a certain conclusion. If Dr. Jose Rizal were only living, he would have continued to write. And in my opinion, he would have written about ‘trapos’, the people in believable suits who try to badger a history that had long suffered from crooked conventions. In a contemporary state of the populace where many want to start anew, the shades of gray need to be lightened, if not truly removed.

TraPo’, or traditional politician in formal context, is defined as someone who makes false promises. He doesn’t just make fools out of people; he also maximizes his position as primary source of dominion. He makes vices and luxury out of the citizens’ riches, and yet, he still has the guts to face his people. So why trapos, when there are other political figures whom Rizal can write about? In an analogous point of view, it is because traditional politicians complement the harassing invaders of the 18th century.

When El Filibusterismo, Rizal’s second novel, was translated in English, its title was renamed The Reign of Greed. With that four-word title alone, one can already imply the connection between Rizal’s perspectives and the trapos of today. Back then, our national hero condemned the avaricious Spanish colony through his pen. In our time, he could have done the same thing to our insatiable elected executives.

If Rizal were living today, he would have suffered from a deep state of melancholy. Why is ‘tradition’ attributed with an impression of negativity? Right then, we used the word ‘tradition’ to state something worth commending for. In fact, we pass it from generation to generation. After Rizal was executed, intolerance continued to exist in the government. Don’t we realize that this implies our negligence to the subservient act of Dr. Jose Rizal in offering his life for our country?  While no one would be strong enough to admit a chain of mistakes, it is indubitably time to clean an infected culture.

In reality, Rizal fought neither by sword nor dagger. He wasn’t as visible in blood-spattered battles as Bonifacio or as competitive as Aguinaldo in ruling the nation. But indeed, the inks of regime was the most fatal of all. Today, while it is still naive to push pins to the conscience of the traditional politicians through writing, what matters more than anything else is the showing of concern to our countrymen. Remember, Rizal didn’t expect Filipinos to be awakened by these imperfections right after his novel was published. He just had the nationalistic spirit that soon made his endeavors big.

This brings us to the general public, the second piece that would perfectly fit the puzzle to progress. If Rizal comes to life, he would have considered not just the government, but also the general public as the obstacle to prosperity. Eventually, our society is bound by characters Rizal had written in his two novels. And somehow, the traits of these characters won’t help in the nation’s progress.

Many of us are like Doña Victorina of Noli Me Tangere. We are ashamed of our roots; we patronize and try to imitate what is not our own. Unconsciously, we become shadows of other nationalities, not knowing that it is a great privilege to be part of the Filipino race. If everyone’s mindset is like hers, who else will make a stand for our people?

At times, we become carbon copies of Padre Damaso, also from Noli Me Tangere. Apparently, he was insecure and judgmental. He looked at the fault of others without looking at his own. In reality, our adversary is our inner beings. Because of our anxieties in life, we pull down those who we think don’t deserve what they have. This trait won’t bring us anything good. Instead of minding other people’s lives, we must focus on our own situation and look for the best way to improve it. By pulling down other people, we can never prove our genuine potentials. It would only justify that we can never be on top.

But most of all, we tend to be like Simoun of El Filibusterismo. Simoun, who used to be the Crisostomo Ibarra that we admired, had changed. The patient, courteous and well-principled young man turned into a revengeful saboteur whose anger overpowered his idealisms. Yes, for every passing day of our lives, we suffer from injustices, whether big or small. However, these acts of unfairness don’t give us the right to retaliate against other persons.

To add on those three, we also have the new generation Pedro who is irresponsible and ruthless and who wastes money for gambling purposes. We are inhabited by hypocrites like the Alferez. Furthermore, we are replicas of Doña Consolacion’s self-centeredness. I know you might have overlooked these characters in Rizal’s novel. But truthfully, even the most minor characters contribute to the totality of the story.

In the end, all of these logical scrutinies would break down to one simple conclusion. We are the shadows that hinder the nation from moving forward. We can’t blame only the trapos of the Philippine government; nor can we point our fingers solely to those who manifest the negative traits of the characters in Rizal’s novels. Success is a two-way process, and in order to beat our shadows, we must unleash the light within us.

The thing is, be your own Rizal. Be the model that will make him proud if he were alive. Be a worthy citizen. It doesn’t have to be defined so much. But it is one that does not lie to his fellowmen for the purpose of benefiting oneself. You are a Filipino. You are supposed to be one. It’s a privilege and a challenge at the same time.

When Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, I know he believed that it’s never too late for the change that he believed in. Today, a fifteen-year old lad had the guts to write this. Parallelism says the hero of the past and the youth of today hold on to the same belief. Never will it be too late!

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