Is Dr. Jose Rizal against the 1896 Philippine Revolution?

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Today is Rizal Day celebration in the Philippines, December 30, 2019, which, according to the official explanation, commemorates the life of Dr. Jose Rizal. Today is considered a national holiday because Filipinos look at Rizal as one of the most important heroes in the Philippine revolution. Furthermore, December 30 is also the day when Dr. Rizal was shot in Luneta because of his opposition to the Spanish rule during his time, along with other known Filipino national heroes such as Andres Bonifacio, Gregorio Del Pilar, among others. However, in a website by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), apparently, Jose Rizal opposed the revolution. This knowledge was based on Rizal’s manifesto he himself wrote sometime in December 15 of 1896 which clearly states that Rizal thought of the insurrection as “as absurd, and abhorred its alleged criminal methods”.

This is what historian and Professor Renato Constantino explored about in his lecture/pamphlet entitled “Veneration Without Understanding”. Agreeing to what Renato Constantino had said, the government website, particularly the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’,stated:

“In his Rizal Day lecture in 1969 entitled “Veneration without Understanding,” Prof. Renato Constantino tried to disclose the real Rizal and the truth of his heroism stripping off the superficial knick-knacks adorned on him by hagiographers and hero-worshippers. The very striking fact that Constantino forwarded was the notion that Rizal was not a leader of the Philippine Revolution, but a leading opponent of it.  Accordingly, in the manifesto of 15 December 1896 written by Rizal himself which he addressed to the Filipino people, he declared that when the plan of revolution came into his knowledge, he opposed its absolute impossibility and state his utmost willingness to offer anything he could to stifle the rebellion.”


Affirming to this notion, the government website continues to say: 

“Rizal in his manifesto put into premise the necessity of education in the achievement of liberties. Most importantly he believed that reforms to be fruitful must come from above and that those that come from below are shaky, irregular, and uncertain.”

Supporting this statement, it goes on to say:

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“Rizal’s weakness for this matter was his failure to fully understand his people.  He was unsuccessful in empathizing with the true sentiments of the people from below in launching the armed rebellion.   He repudiated the revolution because he thought that reforms to be successful should come from above.  It could be understandable that the hero thought of such because it was the belief of the prevailing class to which Rizal belonged.  It is also possible that Rizal disproved the revolution due to his belief that violence should not prevail.  In this case, Rizal unintentionally underestimated the capacity of those from below to compel changes and reforms.”


Jose Rizal’s two novels were considered by many Filipinos to be the most important things that triggered the revolution in 1896 to 1998. These are entitled “Noli me Tangere” and “El filibusterismo”; thought as the inspiration for the reforms and the desire for independence against a colonial rule during Rizal’s time. But the argument that Renato Constantino presented suggests a different story. And this notion was also supported by other experts as well. According to this official government website: 

“This hesitation of Rizal against the revolution was supported by Dr. Pio Valenzuela’s 1896 account of the revolution after he was sent by Andres Bonifacio to Dapitan to seek Rizal’s opinion and approval in launching an armed rebellion against the Spanish administration.In September 1896, Valenzuela before a military court testified that Rizal was resolutely opposed to the idea of a premature armed rebellion and used bad language in reference to it, the same statement was extracted from him in October 1896, only that he overturned that it was Bonifacio, not Rizal, who made use of foul words.”

Given that it was already second time that President Duterte issued a statement suggesting that he’s not so much interested to commemorate in Luneta for this event, could this be one of the main reasons? Could this be his reason why, according to his spokesperson Salvador Panelo, he would rather commemorate Gregorio Del Pilar’s day instead? However, earlier this day, speaking at the said celebration in Davao City, Duterte encouraged Filipinos to “follow what Rizal did”.  

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Alter Picar

Alter Picar is a writer, translator, self-published author, songwriter / musician, community worker, non-profit organization manager (volunteer), mental health advocate / educator, librarian, and organic gardener.



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