Category: floro quibuyen

Rizal’s Legacy for the 21st Century


Social Science Diliman Dec 2011

Floro Quibuyen


Rizal’s four years in Dapitan have not been fully explored for the light they can shed on contemporary issues in community development and education. In particular, the significance of the school he founded in Talisay has not merited scholarly commentary. Those fruitful four years in Dapitan have become Rizal’s most unappreciated legacy, yet they are precisely what make Rizal singularly relevant to the 21st century. This essay explains why.

Keywords: Dapitan, Talisay, progressive education, community development, social entrepreneurship, Jose Rizal


Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte has always celebrated its town fiesta with fireworks, from the Spanish colonial era to today’s Republic. Fireworks, as the Chinese had taught us, are meant to drive away the demons and bring cheer for happier and more prosperous days. Dapitan’s fiesta on July 24,1892 seemed like any other fiesta when firecrackers blew up in the hands of a carelessman. But as he writhed helplessly in pain—the bystanders could do nothing but look on in pity—an unknown doctor hurried down from Casa Real to attend to him. This was the distinguished doctor who had just arrived days before and that propitious night was his introduction to the people of Dapitan and the neighboring towns. The doctor’s name was Jose Rizal.1

Within a year, the newcomer would be more esteemed and revered than Dapitan’s pompous overlords. Wenceslao Retana, in his now classic 1907 Vida y Escritos del Dr. Jose Rizal, the first full-length documented biography of Rizal, recounts:

The townsfolk adored and revered him. “Dr Rizal!” people would call out, with great respect, upon seeing him pass by: they doffed their hats and bowed. The townsfolk greeted him with more reverence than they did the comandante and the parish priest. Just as he enjoyed fame as a wise man amongst Europeans for being an indio puro, the natives thought of him as something extraterrestrial (p.18).2

Four years later, on July 31, 1896, as the sun was setting, Rizal walked from his house to Talisay’s shores for the last time. Frank Laubach describes the scene:

All the people of Dapitan, old and young, formed a funeral procession and walked weeping to the shore, saying as they went:

“We will never see our Doctor Rizal again.” Seven3 of his loyal students went with him to Manila. The other boys wept because they were too poor to go (1909, ch.14).

Who was this man, this “extraterrestrial” being? What did he do in Dapitan? How did he live among the townsfolk? Why did they weep upon seeing him leave for good?

On the deck of the ship that was to take him away, as he looked at the teary-eyed townsfolk, still waving bandanas and tree branches, he must have smiled and waved back with mixed feelings of gratitude, a sense of fulfilment
and sadness. A sense of fulfilment, because, in Dapitan, he had put into practice all that he had advocated in his writings. Gratitude, because he could not have done much without the townsfolk’s enthusiastic support and participation. And sadness, because he was leaving a cherished place of refuge that he knew in his heart he would never see again. As he affectionately described it:

Dapitan is situated by a handsome bay that faces West, on some sort of island formed expressly for her, as if in order to isolate her from the vulgar world, by a lovely river which to this end has graciously consented to split itself into two, thus to embrace her with two silvery arms and carry her towards the sea as an offering, the most beautiful that it has found in its tortuous and eventful pilgrimage over mountains and valleys, through forests and plain (Translated from the original Spanish by George Aseniero; cited in Walpole, 2011).

Having settled in his cabin, Rizal recounted in his diary the hectic preparations for his departure. Of his life in Dapitan, however, he could only write, “I have been in that district four years, thirteen days, and a few hours.”

Tired and gripped with sadness and foreboding, Rizal could say no more. But what momentous years they were!

Forging the nation in Dapitan

The Spanish colonial state had presumed that in exiling Rizal to Dapitan they were punishing and isolating a recalcitrant subversive. Because he was a European-educated polymath, and, at 31 years of age, already an accomplished man of science and letters and adored by his compatriots, he was considered a dangerous and formidable enemy of the state and the church. But the wily Jesuits, who were entrusted with the spiritual care of Mindanao, took on the challenge to win him back to the fold. Rizal’s former mentors had hoped that, through their influence, he would revert to being the devoted Atenean of his teenage years.

But rather than returning to the fold like the prodigal son, Rizal ended up transforming his adopted town towards his radical vision of human development and social justice and thus resolving the urgent question of how Filipinos should live and relate to each other, and what sort of nation we should aspire to be.

Rizal had agonized over this question in the Noli-Fili, and the answer he came up with was: cast away greed and selfishness, “unite with the people,” “sow an idea,” and “aspire to be a nation.” All very well, but these were motherhood statements that did not address the pressing question: What is to be done? When the disconsolate Simoun pressed Fr. Florentino for an answer, all that the good priest could say was a disappointing, “Suffer and wait.” It seemed that Rizal had not yet figured out the answer in the Fili.

Two years after writing El Filibusterismo, Rizal was closer to the answer.The way forward was to form the La Liga Filipina, a mass-based organization that would pursue a five-point program of social transformation, namely: 1) unite the whole archipelago into one compact, vigorous, and homogenous body; 2) mutual protection in every case of trouble and need, 3) defense against every violence and injustice; 4) development of education, agriculture, and commerce; 5) study and implementation of reforms.

Post-colonial Filipinos (unlike the un-Americanized Katipunan and revolutionary ilustrados) have misconstrued the fifth aim of the Liga— “Estudio y aplicaciòn de reformas”—to mean the study and application of reformist measures within the framework of the colonial system. This is contrary to what was meant by Rizal, who regarded such measures as merely “palliative”:

We said, and once more we repeat, and will ever assert, that reforms which have a palliative character are not only ineffectual but even prejudicial, when the government is confronted with evils that must be cured radically (1912).

The term reformas in the context of the Liga referred to the radical changes that will redound to the benefit of the people and lead to the development of the country independent of Spain.

The Spanish regime correctly saw Rizal’s project as a movement towards an independent nation and, thus, promptly arrested and exiled him to Dapitan in 1892. This event proved to be a blessing in disguise for it was in Dapitan that Rizal finally realized and put into practice the solution to the problem posed by Simoun in the Fili.

Rizal had declared explicitly in 1888 that “our sacred mission” is “the formation of the Filipino nation.” Rizal’s July 27, 1888 letter to Mariano Ponce reads in part:

If you write to Plaridel [del Pilar’s nom de plume], please tell him that I rejoice with our country and all our good countrymen that we are united and solid so that we can help one another… On the day when all Filipinos should think like him and like us, on that day we shall have fulfilled our sacred mission which is the formation of the Filipino nation (italics mine; in Rizal, 1963, p.187).

He had hoped that the Liga would be the means—the social movement—towards this end. But where to begin, and how? In Dapitan, Rizal realized that the best way, if not the only way, to proceed is by acting locally—working with the people of a particular place, using local resources and responding to local needs.4

Rizal’s four years in Dapitan have not been fully explored for the light they can shed on contemporary issues in community development and education. So far, I’ve not come across or heard of a coffee table book, let alone a dissertation on Rizal’s Dapitan years. His poems during this period have not been critically studied. More seriously, the significance of the school he founded in Talisay has not merited scholarly commentary. This is puzzling, for the pedagogical innovations he practiced in Talisay anticipate the anti-bureaucratic and democratic principles of what is now known as “progressive education” or the “alternative school movement” which historians have divided into the Progressive Movement (1890-1940) and the Free School Movement (1960-1975) (see Emery, 2000; Gorham, 2005).

Indeed, Rizal’s Talisay school predates the experimental school projects of Rabindranath Tagore’s Santiniketan ashram [ca. 1901], Marietta Johnson’s School of Organic Education in Fairhope, Alabama (1907), Arthur Morgan’s Moraine Park School in Dayton, Ohio (1917), A.S.Neill’s Summerhill in Suffolk, England [ca. 1921], Bertrand and Dora Russell’s Beacon Hill School in Sussex, England [ca. 1927]. What these schools have in common is the idea that education should not be confined within the walls of a classroom, that children learn best by doing and should be encouraged in their innate desire to discover and explore their surroundings, that the teacher is most effective when he is a co-learner with his wards and serves as their role model in the joys and excitement of learning (see Kohn, 2008). As Pedagogy of the Oppressed author Paolo Freire puts it,

Education must begin with the solution of the student-teacher contradiction by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously students and teachers. (Freire, 1982, p.59).

But more than this, the progressive school movement deconstructed the taken-for-granted idea that the school is an enclave where the student learns first and then later, after graduation, gets a job and, hopefully, becomes a productive member of the community. Against this notion, it advocated and practiced the principle that the school is an integral part of community life— that education is most fruitful when students are learning and working and promoting the well-being of the community all at the same time. Ivan Illich, a leading light in the free school movement, has advocated the creation of “educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing and caring”.5 Rizal’s school in Talisay may be viewed as one such “educational web.”

The philosophy of progressive education flows from the wellspring of the Enlightenment—in particular from Rousseau’s Emile, which Rizal had avidly read. Emile, nominally a novel but actually Rousseau’s treatise on education, is addressed to mothers—advising them on how best to nurture their children to grow to their fullest potential and learn to become self-realizing individuals. Emile remains as fresh today as when it was published in 1762. Consider this gem of an advice to prospective mentors:

Put questions within [the child’s] reach and let him solve them himself. Let him know nothing because you have told him, but because he has learned it for himself. (Rousseau, 1762, paragraph 564)6

Most of the fundamental prescriptions—from Rousseau to Ivan Illich—are exactly what Rizal’s students lived by in his Talisay school. It was a revolutionary educational program way ahead of its time in Catholic Church-dominated Philippines, if not the whole colonized world of the nineteenth century.

Those fruitful four years in Dapitan have become Rizal’s most unappreciated legacy, yet they are precisely what make Rizal singularly relevant to the 21st century.

Talisay: the first progressive school in Asia

Upon his arrival in Dapitan, Rizal lived in the house of the governor and military commandant, Capt. Ricardo Carnicero, which was just across the town’s central plaza. He later bought, with Carnicero and another Spaniard residing in Dipolog, a lottery ticket. This was to prove fortuitous. Rizal’s lottery ticket won second prize—20,000 pesos—which was awarded on September 21, 1892, and promptly divided among themselves by the three men. From his share of 6,200 pesos, Rizal gave 2,000 pesos to his father and 200 pesos to pay his debt to his friend Basa in Hong Kong (Baron-Fernandez, 1981, p. 255).7

With what remained of his lottery earnings, Rizal was able to move to Talisay, a coastal barrio off the Dapitan poblacion named after the talisay, a large deciduous tree that is usually found along Philippine seashores. Rizal bought a 16-hectare piece of land. But, as he noted in his February 8, 1893 letter to his brother-in-law Manuel Hidalgo, there were no talisay trees in Talisay, so Rizal thought of naming his place Balunò or Baunò, after the large trees that actually grew there. The first thing he did was to clear the land “to sow rice and corn” (Rizal, 1964, p. 356). Then he built a house, a clinic and a school for local boys who he described as mostly “poor and intelligent.” On March 7, 1893, he wrote to Hidalgo saying:

My house will be finished either tomorrow or after tomorrow. It is very pretty for its price (40 pesos) and it turned out better than what I wanted. My lot cannot be better and I am improving it every day… I’m sure that if you come, you will be pleased with my property. I have plenty of land to accommodate at least five families with houses and orchards. (Rizal, 1964, pp. 358-359)

In his sojourns, Rizal had always dreamed of settling down in a farm and founding a school. In his March 31, 1890 letter to his best friend, the Austrian ethnologist Ferdinand Blumentritt, he confided his wish to build a secular and independent school in the Philippines, with Blumentritt as the director, and to devote himself entirely to the pursuit of science and the study and writing of history (Rizal, 1961a, Vol. II, p.344). Now the dream of a school was coming true—with him as the teacher!

Describing his charmed life in Talisay, Rizal wrote to Blumentritt on Dec. 19, 1893:

I shall tell you how we live here. I have three houses; one square, another hexagonal, and a third octagonal, all of bamboo, wood and nipa. In the square house we live, my mother, sister Trinidad, a nephew and I; in the octagonal live my boys or some good youngsters whom I teach arithmetic, Spanish and English8; and in the hexagonal live my chickens. From my house I hear the murmur of a crystal clear brook which comes from the high rocks; I see the seashore, the sea where I have small boats, two canoes or barotos, as they say here. I have many fruit trees, mangoes, lanzones, guayabanos, baluno, nangka, etc. I have rabbits, dogs, cats, etc. I rise early—at five—visit my plants, feed the chickens, awaken my people and put them in movement. At half-past seven we breakfast with tea, pastries, cheese, sweetmeats, etc. Later I treat my poor patients who come to my land; I dress, I go to the town in my baroto, treat the people there, and return at 12 when my luncheon awaits me. Then I teach the boys until 4 P.M. and devote the after-noon to agriculture. I spend the night reading and studying. (Rizal, 1961a, Vol. II, p.475)

Retana’s account of Rizal’s role as a teacher is effusively appreciative:

How could he not be adored, when he was second father to all abandoned children who turned up? What’s more, he taught them the art of catching insects, gathering shells, etc., brought them home, fed them, clothed and tidied them up, and practiced passionate charity to the extreme in teaching them Spanish, English, French and German. Those who excelled, who could give the name of a thing in more languages than the others, were awarded with something extraordinary, a knickknack, a novelty, and this encouraged others to emulate them, so that rare was the urchin who did not strive to learn and be a useful boy. He became a teacher, as can be seen in letters he wrote in the years 95 and 96 to his family. He made the boys useful by constructing a dam of stonework which served to conduct water from a waterfall into the house which he had built in a place called Talisay, near the center of Dapitan. (Translated from Retana, 1907, p. 318)

Retana’s account may be faulted for its strange reference to “abandoned children” (practically all were entrusted to Rizal by their parents) and its glaring omission of the role of Rizal’s partner Josephine Bracken, who was in fact the one who looked after the children and kept them glued to their homework when Rizal was away. Rizal said so himself in his March 12, 1896 letter to his mother: “She bathes them, and washes and mends their clothes, so that, poor girl, she is never at rest, but she does it willingly for she has a great love for the boys, and they love her more than they love me!”9

Interesting details about life in Rizal’s Talisay school are now coming to light, thanks to the reminiscences and anecdotes of Rizal’s former pupils and their descendants. Rizal’s nephew, Estanislao Herbosa (the great grandfather of the Philippines’ current Undersecretary of Health, Dr. Teodoro Herbosa) who was an eight-year-old participant in Rizal’s school, interviewed in his 80s by Rizal’s grandnephew Saturnina Rizal-Hidalgo’s grandson Angel Hidalgo, recalled that in the mornings, Dr. Rizal would usually go to town to visit his patients. Josephine Bracken was left in charge of his students and she would see to it that they finished their homework. (Hidalgo, 1971, pp. 31-38)

George Aseniero, grandson of Rizal’s star pupil, Jose Aseniero (who became governor of the province of Zamboanga in 1925-1928), relates that Estanislao’s son, the late Francisco (Paquito) Herbosa, told him when he visited us in Dapitan that his little puppy of a father was “in love” with Josephine (George Aseniero, personal communication, 06 October 2011). From his Lolo’s memoirs, Aseniero also learned that Rizal’s Talisay school was both a primary and secondary school (modelled after the German gymnasium), and that Rizal was both a teacher and surrogate father to his nephews:

…in effect there were two groups of students: the high school boys (those who were 16 by 1896, including my lolo) and the elementary kids who were primarily Rizal’s nephews who were sent over to him for guardianship given the turmoil in the Rizal family in Luzon. The Herbosa kids had lost their father to cholera, so Tio Pepe would be the surrogate father. Maria had divorced, so little Moris needed a surrogate father too. And of course the surrogate mother was Josephine, who was adored by the nephews.

The older boys’ curriculum was based on the German high school, Rizal’s ideal. And they were meant to be cadres who would go on to pursue higher education. They would then form the core group of teachers for a future institution of higher learning that Rizal was planning for with Blumentritt. The four boys he took with him to Manila were going to study medicine, law, agriculture and (my lolo) engineering.10

As if following the advice of the narrator-mentor in Rousseau’s Emile, Rizal was keenly aware and accepting of the individual differences among his nephews and adjusted his educational approach to each one. He wrote his sister Lucia (February 12, 1896):

[Teodosio] has more liking for the land than for the books. We cannot all be doctors. It is necessary that there be some to cultivate the land. One must follow one’s inclination. Tan [Estanislao], on the other hand, is a boy who likes to study and has ability… When I asked them what was their order in Manila, Teodosio asked for his bolo and Tan for his book.” (Rizal, 1964, p.422)

And to his sister Maria, Rizal wrote (March 12, 1896):11

[Moris] is just beginning to learn how to write…and he knows how to swim a little. Only he is too lively and playful, always running and overturning the bottles in our house… He is bright and beats the two of Osio and Tan in memorization, but Tan beats him in arithmetic and English. In slow reckoning Osio beats them all. (1964, p.424)

Rizal oversaw his nephews’ physical and mental development and was proud of their progress. In an undated letter to Lucia, he wrote:

Your two sons are getting along well in their studies. Now they send you their letters written by themselves alone without dictation. They are studying fractions. They swim a great deal and Osio can swim until 30 braces, though slowly. Tanis dives very well and he is nimble like a fish, but he tires quickly. Tanis is going to be a strong lad, he now lifts up twenty-five pounds over his head; I believe he is stronger than Uncle Nengoy. I’m sorry I have no horse or bicycle to teach them how to ride. They already speak English. (1964, p.426)

Rizal’s affection for his nephews is revealed in his parting advice to them when he left for Cuba in 1896:

To Osio [Teodosio]: Continue to be a good boy, studious, hardworking and obedient.
To Tanis [Estanislao]: Do not try to have the best thing for yourself. Try to do the best for others.
To Moris [Mauricio]: Be always good and obedient. (Palma, 1949, p.356)

Rizal’s attention was of course not limited to his nephews. Asuncion Lopez Bantug, Rizal’s grandniece, portrays Rizal’s resourcefulness, casual teaching style, and method of assessing and rewarding the progress of his students:

He devised his own teaching aids; made his own writing tools, blackboards and maps; used natural specimens during lessons; translated what textbooks were needed but as much as possible concentrated on practical instruction rather than book learning. Classes were held at the square house or in the kiosko he had built as a private retreat for himself on a hillside. Usually he taught from a hammock, with the boys gathered around him, sitting on floor or grass or bench, just as they pleased, though whoever was currently the top scholar occupied a place of honor. Periodic exams were given, with outsiders as examiners. Boys with high marks were rewarded with useful prizes: a pen, a book, a net or a rifle. (Bantug, 2008, p.134)

Education was not confined within the classroom: the older boys were vtaught the use of the rifle and went hunting with Rizal; the younger ones explored the forest and seashores with Rizal to collect butterflies and assorted bugs, dig for seashells, and dive for rare fish—which gave them “fascinating if practical lessons in botany and zoology.” (Bantug, 2008, p.134)

And there were gym classes for physical fitness and martial arts—weightlifting, wrestling, boxing and fencing. Rizal’s grandniece relates a family anecdote:

During one fencing lesson, his pupils dared him to take all of them on at the same time. When the mock fray ended, his coat was still immaculate, unmarked by the sooty ends of the bamboo swords they wielded. No one won the prize he had offered to whoever could smudge his clothes. (Bantug, 2008, p.135)

What an exciting departure from the insipid and staid parochial school! But there was more—Rizal also taught his pupils lessons in courage and the art of living well and wisely. Again from Rizal’s grandniece,

To instil courage in them, he would on dark nights start a session, all about ghosts and vampires and monsters, until they were all ashudder. Then he would send them one by one out into the dark night, to fetch a cane he had hung on a tree, or a bundle he had left on the hillside, or some package planted on the riverside. (Bantug, 2008, p.135)

Bantug forgot to mention a riveting method that Rizal devised to entice his young wards to think about the future and the larger questions of life—a fortune-telling board game he named La Sibila Cumana, after a prophetess in Greek legend. (The rule for playing was simple: the player chooses one question on a list and then spins a top on a board marked with numbers and Roman numerals that point to a corresponding answer or explanation in a card. Rizal arranged the numbers such that many different types of answers could come out, depending on where the top spun to a stop.)12

Rizal also had an ingenious way of dealing with infractions among his students. One day in 1894, some of his students secretly rowed a boat from Talisay to the town. A puppy of Rizal’s dog followed them but was devoured by a crocodile. The students felt guilty and upset by the puppy’s horrible end. Rizal, however, did not simply reprimand them for disobeying his rule not to go to town without his permission. He made a moral lesson out of it in a creative way—by sculpting a statue of the mother dog killing the crocodile and entitling it “The Mother’s Revenge”, thus driving the point that the mother was grief-stricken when she lost her puppy (Craig, 1913, pp.203-204).

What a wonderful time Rizal’s students must have had in all those four years! The schoolmaster’s words in the Noli Me Tangere, ca. 1887, could veritably be Rizal’s, ca. 1896, except that in Dapitan, no friar frustrated his pedagogical project:

I endeavoured to make study a thing of love and joy, I wished to make the primer not a black book bathed in the tears of childhood but a friend who was going to reveal wonderful secrets, and of the schoolroom not a place of sorrows but a scene of intellectual refreshment. So, little by little, I abolished corporal punishment, taking the instruments of it entirely away from the school and replacing them with emulation and personal pride. If one was careless about his lesson, I charged it to lack of desire and never to lack of capacity. I made them think that they were more capable than they really were, which urged them on to study just as any confidence leads to notable achievements. At first it seemed that the change of method was impracticable; many ceased their studies, but I persisted and observed that little by little their minds were being elevated and that more children came, that they came with more regularity, and that he who was praised in the presence of the others studied with double diligence on the next day. (“The Schoolmaster’s Difficulties,” in chapter 6 of Noli Me Tangere/Rizal, 1912).

Himno a Talisay

In keeping with his participatory pedagogy, and perhaps to celebrate his most important achievement in Talisay, Rizal wrote Himno a Talisay in 1895, dedicated to his pupils and meant to be sung by them.

Though hardly taught, much less sang by, school kids today, Himno a Talisay is not just a beautiful poem, it has historic significance. The Spanish authorities used the Himno a Talisay as evidence against Rizal in his trial for treason in December 1896. Although Nick Joaquin finds this “incredible” (1976, p.279), it is easy to see why: the very thrust of the new school of Talisay was subversive of the colonial educational system. The Himno a Talisay heralds something entirely new—a radical departure from the way children were supposed to be educated and raised at that time.

Consider the Talisay boys’ proud description of their education in the new school of Talisay:

Los problemas de ciencias exactas,
de la patria la historia estudiamos
tres y cuatro lenguajes hablamos
acordando la fe y la razon.

The problems of the exact sciences,
of the history of the nation we study,
three or four languages we speak
harmonizing faith and reason.*
(*my translation)

Unlike the rote memorization and passive learning characteristic of the parochial school, the Talisay system deploys the inquiry method—the stress is on solving “los problemas de ciencias exactas”, covering both sciences and maths. The history of the country, and the study of three or four languages—which have been deliberately avoided in the parochial school—are among the hallmark of the new Talisay curriculum. Religion is taught ‘in accordance with reason’, echoing Rizal’s Dapitan debate (by way of correspondence) with Fr. Pablo Pastells on the issue of revelation.13

Remarkably, aside from the academic disciplines, the new school also teaches practical skills useful in agriculture and construction work—“a azada, la picqueta”. Moreover, the new school of Talisay teaches martial arts—“el cuchillo, el fusil y la espada”—necessary skills of the strong man!

Nuestros brazos manejan a un
tiempoel cuchillo, la pluma, la azada,
la picqueta, el fusil y la espada,
compañeros del fuerte varon. companions of the strong man.

Our hands can wield at the same
time the knife, the pen, the spade,
the pickaxe, the rifle, and the sword,
necessary skills of the strong man!

The new school keeps the children healthy in body and spirit, nurtures them to be brave and self-reliant, and to grow into strong and capable men who can protect their homes, ready to fight effectively when the need arises—

Somos niños que nada intimada
ni las olas, ni el baguio, ni el trueño;
pronto el brazo y el rostro sereno
en el trance sabremos luchar. …
No hay tinieblas, no hay noches oscuras
que temamos, ni fiera tormenta;
y si el mismo Luzbel se presenta,
muerto o vivo cogido ha de ser.

We are children that nothing frightens
not the waves, nor the storm, nor the thunder;
the arm ready, and the face serene,
in a difficult situation we shall know how to fight. …
There’s no darkness, no dark night,
that we fear, no savage storm;
if Lucifer himself comes forward
we shall catch him, dead or alive!

The reference to Lucifer is significant. The boys of Talisay, the Talisaynons, as they proudly call themselves, are capable of defending themselves and subduing Satan—without divine intervention!

But this heretical point was ignored by the Spanish prosecutors in Rizal’s trial. They instead pounced on the lines “en el trance sabremos luchar” and “Nuestros brazos manejan a un tiempo el cuchillo, la pluma, la azada, la picqueta, el fusil y la espada, compañeros del fuerte varon” to prove that Rizal was training his boys for revolutionary action. Rizal, in his defence, nonchalantly replied that he was simply portraying his young pupils as ready to defend Dapitan in the event of a Moro raid (Joaquin, 1976, p.279).

Rizal was not being completely honest with the prosecution. For he had expressed similar sentiments elsewhere. In his June 27, 1888 letter to Mariano
Ponce, he wrote:

The principal thing that should be demanded from a Filipino of our generation is…to be a good man, a good citizen, who would help his country to progress with his head, his heart, and if need be, with his arms. With the head and the heart we ought to work always; with the arms when the time comes. (Rizal, 1963, p.173)

The whole point of the new school of Talisay was precisely to produce the good human being, the good citizen who would serve the country by promoting the common good. This is the practical realization of the aims of the La Liga Filipina—which, if carried out throughout the archipelago, would lead, as Rizal had dreamed, to the formation of an independent, prosperous, just and progressive Filipino nation.

Rizal’s cogency for the 21st century

When Rizal arrived in Dapitan in 1892, there were only two colonial authorities in that district: the Spanish commandant and the Jesuit priest. Judging from Rizal’s January 15, 1896 letter to his mother, Dapitan had the advantage of being free from the dreaded guardia civil and the lecherous friar. But there was no park, no streetlights, no irrigation system. The farming and fishing folk were left to their ancient devices, without assistance from the colonial regime, although they were required to pay taxes, go to confession, attend Sunday mass, and give their weekly offerings to the church. Although there was a health officer, there was no medical doctor attending to the medical needs of the poor villagers, nor, for that matter, was there a hospital.

Dapitan’s dire situation prompted Rizal to pledge: “I want to do all I can for this town.”14 And he did!

Every school kid today must have heard that Rizal developed Dapitan’s first park, complete with street lamps and a garden/flower relief map of the whole island of Mindanao. Not so well discussed are the other, even more impressive projects.

Rizal built a one-doctor hospital, and paid with his own money for the medical supplies and instruments. Notwithstanding his expenses, the Dapitan folk received free medical and surgical care. Wenceslao Retana narrates in his biography of Rizal:

It was said that Rizal the doctor did not charge anyone who was of the town. But if a stranger came to consult him, and there were several, he charged them according to their means; money thus earned he dedicated entirely to something or other that would redound to the benefit of the town. There was a rich Englishman who came to consult him: Rizal removed his cataract and charged him 500 duros, which the Englishman gladly paid. Those 500 duros Rizal donated to Dapitan for public lighting which it did not have. In the front yard of his home he built a hospital, open to all on his account… (Translated from Retana, 1907, p. 318)

Retana does not quite capture the difficulties that Rizal had to surmount. Rizal wrote Jose Basa on December 18, 1894:

This town of Dapitan is very good. I’m in good terms with everyone. I live peacefully, but the town is very poor, very poor. Life in it is not unpleasant to me because it is isolated and lonesome; but I am sorry to see so many twisted things and not be able to remedy them, for there is no money or means to buy instruments and medicine. Here a man fell from a coconut tree and perhaps I could have saved him if I had instruments and chloroform on hand. I perform operations with the little that I have. I treat lameless and hernias with reeds and canes. I do the funniest cures with the means available. I cannot order anything, for the patients cannot pay; at times I even give medicine gratis. (Rizal, 1963, p. 717)

In addition to being Dapitan’s unofficial or non-governmental public health provider, Rizal engaged in what we now call “social entrepreneurship”, perhaps the first Filipino, if not the first Asian, to do so. Social entrepreneurship is innovative business activity aimed principally at benefiting and transforming the community in which it is undertaken (with most of the profit reinvested back into the community). Martin and Osberg’s description of the modern social entrepreneur, in contrast to the typical capitalist, could very well fit Rizal:15

[The social entrepreneur] neither anticipates nor organizes to create substantial financial profit for his or her investors…or for himself or herself. Instead, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of large-scale, transformational benefit that accrues either to a significant segment of society or to society at large. …[The social entrepreneur’s project] targets an underserved, neglected, or highly disadvantaged population that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve the transformative benefit on its own. This does not mean that social entrepreneurs as a hard-and-fast rule shun profitmaking… Ventures created by social entrepreneurs can certainly generate income, and they can be organized as either not-for-profits or for-profits. What distinguishes social entrepreneurship is the primacy of social benefit, what Duke University professor Greg Dees in his seminal work on the field characterizes as the pursuit of ‘mission-related impact’. (Martin & Osberg, 2007, pp. 34-35)

Rizal formed Dapitan’s first farmers’ cooperative, the Sociedad de Agricultores Dapitanos (SAD), where capital was to be provided by “socios industriales” [industrial partners] and “socios accionistas” [shareholders]. As stated in the Estatutos de la Sociedad de Agricultores Dapitanos, 1 Enero 1895, the SAD aimed to “improve/promote agricultural products, obtain better profits for them, provide capital for the purchase of these goods, and help to the extent possible the harvesters and labourers by means of a store (co-op) where articles of basic necessity are sold at moderate prices” (Rizal, 1961b, pp. 328-330).

Rizal also engaged in a joint-venture with a certain Carreon (a Spanish businessman) for the construction and operation of a lime-burner (for making building mortar), whereby Rizal would provide capital and Carreon would mobilize and supervise labor whose wages were to be paid by Rizal; these advances would be deducted from the sale proceeds of lime, the profit thereof to be equally divided between Rizal and Carreon.

Nothing that needed improvement, or offered the prospect of boosting the local economy, escaped Rizal’s eye. When he saw the inefficient fishing methods of the fisherfolk of Dapitan, he sought to remedy it, using his personal funds. He wrote his brother-in-law Manuel “Maneng” Hidalgo on January 19, 1893:

Here I have formed a partnership with a Spaniard to supply the town with fish of which it lacks. In Dapitan alone there are six thousand inhabitants and in the interior some two or three thousands more and for so many people there is nothing but small sakag that catches little fish of the size of the talaisá. Aquilino told me that with one pukútan [net] alone like yours, the whole town could be supplied with fish, because here there is a good beach and fish abound a little distance away from the shore. If you wish to sell me your pukútan at an agreed price, and if it is still in good condition, I would buy it. If not, I would appreciate it if you would buy me a pukútan in the same condition, good, strong, etc. Here nobody knows how to weave the mesh of a net… I would appreciate also very much if you would look for me for two men or families of the beach of Kalamba who understand fishing. If they come, I will pay their fare…. They will have a house and all they may need for their subsistence. I believe this would be a good business. (Rizal, 1964, p. 354)

Another new technology Rizal introduced was the European method of brickmaking. He wrote Blumentritt on November 20,1895: “I have made a wooden machine for making bricks and I believe that with it I can make at least 6,000 a day; well now, I lack an oven” (Rizal, 1961a, p. 514). He eventually built an oven whose remnant can still be seen in Dapitan today.16

With the support of Dapitan’s authorities—the military governor and the Jesuits—and the townsfolk, who provided the labor, Rizal initiated important public work projects for the benefit of the community. He designed Dapitan’s first water system—a clay pipeline that delivered springwater from the hilltop to the edge of the town where people came in bancas to get drinking water. Years later, under a new colonial regime, an American engineer, H.F. Cameron, inspected Dapitan’s water system and was impressed:

[The water] supply comes from a little mountain stream across the river from Dapitan and follows the contour of the country for the whole distance. When one considers that Doctor Rizal had no explosives with which to block the hard rocks and no resources save his own ingenuity, one cannot help but honor a man, who against adverse conditions, had the courage and tenacity to construct the aqueduct which had for its bottom the fluted tile from the house roofs, and was covered with concrete made from lime burned from the sea coral. The length of this aqueduct is several kilometers, and it winds in and out among the rocks and is carried across gullies in bamboo pipes upheld by rocks or brick piers to the distribution reservoir.17

Ironically, Rizal’s success in Dapitan belies what the opening lines of the Noli insinuate—that the country “shut its doors against nothing except commerce and all new or bold ideas.” Unlike Ibarra and the schoolmaster in the Noli, Rizal was given a free hand and, in some cases, even supported by the authorities in Dapitan. Captain Carnicero and his successor Sitges provided funding for Rizal’s public works. These included the water pipeline, kiln for brick-making, streetlamps, Mindanao map, plaza beautification and clean-up of marshes to get rid of mosquitoes. Rizal built Dapitan’s first waterworks with the help of Fr. Sanchez and some Jesuit brothers. The support from the authorities plus the enthusiastic involvement of the townsfolk enabled Rizal to successfully carry out his projects. And although he did not receive any official support for his Talisay school project, it appears that neither the commandant nor the Jesuits interfered with Rizal’s unconventional pedagogical activities.

But some contrary thoughts intrude: Could Rizal’s exemplary behavior in Dapitan—ostensibly supported or at least tolerated by the local authorities—have convinced the powers-that-be in Manila (who were receiving regular confidential updates on Rizal from Dapitan’s military governor) that Rizal was a hopeless subversive whose vision and strategies for social change posed a real threat to Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, and, therefore, must be put away? Thus, in December 1896, Rizal was tried in Fort Santiago for being “the principal organizer and living soul of the Filipino insurrection”.18 It was a sham; the guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion.

By the beginning of 1896, apparently oblivious to what would soon befall him, Rizal had set his mind to settling down in Dapitan for good, in a place that was apparently lovelier than Talisay, as Rizal’s January 15 letter to his mother shows:

I bought here a piece of land beside a river that has great resemblance to the Calamba river, with the only difference that this here is wider and its stream is more abundant and crystalline… My land has 6,000 abaca plants. If you want to come here, I shall build a house where we can all live together until we die. I am going to persuade my father to come and beside me, I hope he will always be gay. My land is beautiful; it is in the interior, far from the sea, about a half-hour’s walk; it is in a very picturesque place. The land is very fertile. In addition to the abaca plantation there is land for planting two cavanes [150 liters] of corn. Little by little we can buy the remaining lands near mine. There are plenty of dalag [mudfish], pakò [ferns] and little round stones… If you come and they grant me freedom to establish myself there, we are going to revive our old town, without friars or civil guards, without bandits. (Rizal, 1964, pp.416-417; italics mine)

Alas, Rizal’s proto-utopian dream would not come true. And today, the irenic idyll of Talisay is all forgotten.

Epilogue: Rizal’s legacy and Dapitan today

In his four years in Dapitan, Rizal played multiple roles: doctor, social worker, farmer, social entrepreneur, public works engineer, town planner, school founder, teacher and scientist. He worked with the people as a civic volunteer, for he was unwaged and without an official title. Whatever earnings he made from his social entrepreneurship and from his wealthy patients went to the upkeep of his household, school and hospital. He took to his tasks with vigor and vitality—mindful that they were all part of his pledge to do everything he could for Dapitan. Rizal’s four years there are unparalled in the history of the Philippines, if not Southeast Asia.

We can point to a few similar cases of exemplary community service, but they come only after Rizal—the German-born French citizen and polymath Albert Schweitzer, who built a hospital in Lambarènè, Gabon in 1913; the New Zealand-born Australian ophthalmologist Fred Hollows, who pioneered the treatment of eye diseases among Aboriginal Australians in the 1970s and did philantrophic medical missions in Nepal in 1985, Eritrea in 1987 and Vietnam in 1991; and the Briton Eric Jensen, who lived and worked among the longhousedwelling Iban Dayaks of Sarawak, Borneo, from 1959-1966, engaging in what is now hailed as a model of “on-the-ground development” covering areas such as “education, skills training programmes, health care, agricultural extension, encouraging attitudinal and behavioural change, promoting infrastructural improvements, and interaction with government bureaucracy”.19

Unlike his successors, however, Rizal had not received any accolade, even posthumously—in the Philippines and internationally—for his four years in Dapitan, where he was not simply a medical doctor like Schweitzer or Hollows or a community development officer like Jensen. Rizal was both doctor and community worker, and a pioneer educator to boot!

Progressive education is perhaps Rizal’s greatest legacy in Dapitan. In his Talisay school, Rizal pioneered what are now extolled as “school-based management” and “community-based education”—concepts which Dr. Maria Luisa C. Doronila is said to have spearheaded and promoted in Philippine education (Abrera et al., 2009, p.90).

“School-based management” is the decentralization of authority from the central government to the school level wherein responsibility for, and decision-making authority over school operations is transferred to principals, teachers, and parents, and sometimes to students and other school community members (Caldwell, 2005). However, as the World Bank is keen to stress, “these school-level actors have to conform to or operate within a set of policies determined by the central government” (World Bank 2008, p.2). Rizal’s Talisay school went further. Neither conforming to nor operating within the framework of the colonial system, Rizal’s school went outside of it, thereby subverting it.

Doronila writes of ‘community-based education’ as a “school of the people”—a “learning community where literacy and education, as well as social participation, mobilization and advocacy for reform are integrated towards the singular and continuing project of enabling people to move from the margins of society to a social space in the mainstream which they have created and helped to transform for themselves” (1996, p.192). Doronila acknowledges Paolo Freire as the source of this concept, but she could as well have cited Rizal whose pedagogical practice in Talisay in 1892 to 1896 may be regarded as the beginnings of ‘community-based education’ in Asia.

Rather than celebrating Rizal’s trail-blazing accomplishments in Dapitan, however, the Philippine state has been fixated on the yearly commemoration of his December martyrdom. This is the singular event that is celebrated in pomp and ceremony, speeches and flowers for a day, while the enduring and ever cogent message of Rizal’s four years in Dapitan is unfortunately missed or ignored, year after year.

The model community that Rizal built in Talisay has since been made into a stale museum of replicas of his house, school and clinic, sitting like fossilized relics on manicured lawns for the benefit of the uncomprehending tourist. This shrine, which is overseen by the National Historical Commission (formerly the National Historical Institute) but managed by the local government, comprises 10 hectares of Rizal’s original 16-hectare property in Talisay. The other six hectares were gifted by Rizal to his pupil and valet Jose Acopiado in 1896, when he set off for Manila enroute to Cuba. The Acopiado heirs now occupy some three hectares; the rest have been taken over by squatters, among them a Rizalista cult. The beach is littered with the plastic detritus of modern living.20

Save for the dam which is in a decrepit state, the other infrastructure that Rizal built with the help of the townsfolk are now forgotten ruins and discarded debris. A recent visitor, the environmentalist Jesuit Pedro Walpole, notes with chagrin what came of the structures that Rizal had designed and built:

It is a wonderful surprise to find the base of the lion fountain in the tidal waste of Barangay Talisay. Stretches of the double clay piping are still visible along the hillside… The domed oven [where the clay pipes were baked] now supports a barangay road on top of it and has pigs at one end and roosters at the other. (Walpole, 2011)

Judging from his description of Talisay in his poem Mi Retiro, Rizal would weep were he to see today, ca 2011, the Talisay that he gave away in 1896.

What has the Philippine Centennial Commission (PCC) done with the reported 35-million peso fund that was allocated for the Dapitan shrine during the centenary of the Revolution in 1998? The Manila experts21 cavalierly (without consulting the Dapitanos) proceeded to build boardwalks all over the Dapitan shrine, presumably so that tourists can walk around the shrine without soiling their shoes. They also thought it nice to build, observes Walpole, “a new monument to Rizal on the foreshore where he arrived and was escorted to the Casa Real in 1892 and a cement prow of a boat in the coastal wall at Talisay from where he left in 1896” (2011). This two-fold achievement of the boardwalk and the cement prow was later touted by one of the PCC museology experts as “a most recent effort of the comprehensive curatorial rehabilitation of the site of exile of the Philippine national hero” and “the Philippines’ first realization of a completely outdoor museum in an environmentally protected site” (‘Marian Pastor Roces’, n.d.).

Before long, the fund had vanished into thin air. Nothing was left. There were no other efforts to revive Rizal’s forgotten legacy in Talisay and transform it into a flourishing heritage site for the benefit of present and future generations of Filipinos.22

Imagine if Rizal’s 16 hectares were converted into a living museum and cultural center—restoring Rizal’s organic farm, the school and the clinic to their original function of serving the needs of the community, as well as boosting the local economy through eco-historical tourism? The 1996-1998 centenary of the Philippine Revolution was a lost opportunity. The meaning of Rizal’s Dapitan was overlooked by so-called museology and heritage experts (selfproclaimed experts with corporate ties are not to be trusted, Ivan Illich had warned us).

Now forgotten, Rizal’s community work in Talisay and throughout Dapitan antedate the innovative community development strategies that concerned social scientists, and progressive economic and political analysts are advocating today to prepare for the looming ‘triple whammy’ of climate change, resource depletion (such as peak oil), and the global economic crisis.

Meanwhile, not well covered in the mainstream media or the formal school curriculum, many community-based initiatives have sprung which aim to build resilient and sustainable communities—for example: transition towns, permaculture (a design system based on natural, organic farming), and community currencies. The goal of these “community solutions” is to enable communities to overcome the shock of the ‘triple whammy’, and pave the way for a transition to a steady-state, post-growth, post-capitalist economy.23

One example of a community solution in the event of an economic meltdown or depression is a form of exchange that does not involve the national currency (legal tender) through which people can still obtain the goods and services they need. “Time Banks” or “timebanking” is a type of ‘community currency’ in which the users create a form of mutual currency based on time. Community members can earn the currency by doing community-focused activities and ‘spend’ it receiving services from others in the community.24 Although considered an innovative concept in the developed capitalist countries, timebanking is not exactly new in the Philippines or in Bali, Indonesia. Bali’s tradition of narayan banjar (work for the common good of the community) and the Philippine’s tradition of bayanihan or bataris (or batarisan) are indigenous forms of timebanking.25

Many of Rizal’s community projects must have been carried out through a system of cooperative labor that we now call batarisan. We could likewise imagine that the many recipients of Rizal’s services as a medical doctor, a secondary school teacher, a community worker, and organizer/manager of his farm cooperative ‘paid’ or reciprocated by lending their labor-time to his community projects. Thus, even with minimal financial resources, the projects were realized by sheer community spirit.

This, then, is Rizal’s legacy for the 21st century: Dapitan, the creation of a robust community; a demonstration of what it takes, and how easy it is after all, to pursue the common good. Bernard Lietaer, professor of finance, designer of the Euro and advocate of community currency, defines community thus—

The origin of the word “community” comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other. Therefore I define my community as a group of people who welcome and honor my gifts, and from whom I can reasonably expect to receive gifts in return (1997).

Rizal gifted the people of Dapitan with his vision, his talents and skills, knowledge and experience to realize projects that would redound to their wellbeing; the people, in turn, welcomed and honored his gifts and gave him the gift of their labor and wholehearted participation in his projects. It was thisreciprocity and sharing that revitalized Dapitan into a thriving community.

Today, as we prepare for the coming storm, we would do well to learn from Rizal’s Dapitan years. And, like Rizal, we’ll have to be creative about our “grassroots innovations” and “community action.” Actually, we will have no choice. With the end of cheap oil, soaring commodity prices and financial instability, we have to emulate or improve on Rizal’s Dapitan. Like Rizal’s exile, the threat of global catastrophes could be a blessing in disguise—forcing us to rediscover what really matters in our lives.

As energy analyst James Kunstler puts it:

If there is any positive side to the stark changes coming our way, it may be in the benefits of close communal relations, of having to really work intimately (and physically with your neighbours), to be part of an enterprise that really matters, and to be fully engaged in meaningful social enactments instead of being merely entertained to avoid boredom. (2005, p.304)

Forget Rizal’s martyrdom. It is how Rizal lived, not how he died, that will help us now. Instead of a national commemoration every December 30, we Filipinos should be remembering and celebrating July 17, 1892, the day Rizal arrived in Dapitan.

Rizal’s Dapitan is a story that needs to be told; a story that our present generation needs to hear if we are to find our way out of the converging catastrophes of the 21st century, towards a better world.


Social Science Diliman, Volume 7, No. 2, December 2011 issue


1 The firecracker incident is recounted in the unpublished memoirs written in Spanish of Jose Aseniero, Rizal’s star pupil in Dapitan, who eventually became governor of the province of Zamboanga (1925-1928) under American rule. Jose Aseniero’s grandson, George Aseniero, is currently editing and translating the memoirs of his grandfather for future publication. Subsequent citations of personal communication from George Aseniero are mostly based on his grandfather’s memoirs.

2 In the original text “los indígenas le conceptuaban algo extraterreno”. Translated by George Aseniero.

3 Laubach’s count was not accurate. In his diary, Rizal wrote, “Those who were departing were Josephine, my sister N. (Narcisa) and her daughter Ang. [Angélica], Mr. and Mrs. Súnico, my three nephews, six boys and I” (Rizal, 1896).

4 The argument in this section (Forging the Nation in Dapitan) and the rest of the essay goes beyond the thesis of my A Nation Aborted (Quibuyen, 2008).

5 From Ivan Illich’s introduction to his Deschooling Society (1971).

6 Rousseau’s Emile proceeds as a series of numbered paragraphs. For a good introduction to Rousseau, see Doyle & Smith (2007).

7 Jose Baron-Fernandez’ Jose Rizal: Filipino Doctor and Patriot offers unedited documents that Baron-Fernandez discovered in the Archives of the Spanish government.

8 Rizal mentions 14 pupils, which must have grown to 24 (as listed in the Dapitan shrine today).

9 Cited in Guerrero, 1963, p. 366; also included (Rizal,1959, p. 493). For a fuller account of Josephine’s role in Dapitan, see my “Josefina: Dulce Extranjera” (Quibuyen, 2001).

10 As mentioned earlier, Rizal took with him to Manila six boys, in addition to his three young nephews.

11 Rizal’s sister Maria is the great-grandmother of Gemma Cruz-Araneta, first Filipino Miss International and Secretary of the Department of Tourism under the Estrada administration.

12 The original spinning top, board and cards have been passed on to Francisco Rizal Lopez, the son of Emiliana, Paciano’s lovechild. George Aseniero recalls playing the board game with Don Francisco in Paciano’s house in Los Baños some years ago (George Aseniero, personal communication, 21 September 2011). Rizal’s board game was featured on GMA news TV on May 15, 2011. (See ‘24oras: La Sibila Cumana, nilikhang board game ni Dr. Jose Rizal’.)

13 A good place to start in exploring Rizal’s religious thought is The Rizal-Pastells Correspondence: The Hitherto Unpublished Letters of Joseì Rizal and Portions of Fr. Pablo Pastell’s Fourth Letter and Translation of the Correspondence Together with a Historical Background and Theological Critique by Jose Rizal, Pablo Pastells, and Raul Bonoan (1994). For non-Jesuit commentaries, see Hessel (The Religious Thought of Rizal, 1983); see also Gripaldo, 2002.

14 Rizal had expressed this pledge to Pastells. Cited in Fr. Pedro Walpole’s blog, “Dapitan, Most Beautiful” (11 May 2011).

15 See also Dees, 2001.

16 See Walpole ’s blog (2011).

17 Bulletin of the Bureau of Public Works, 1912; cited in Jose P. Rizal’s Exile in Dapitan (1892-1896) (n.d.).

18 For the official Spanish documents, see The Trial of Rizal by H. de la Costa (1998).

19 See the laudatory review of the memoirs of Eric Jensen, Where Hornbills Fly: A Journey with the Headhunters of Borneo (2010) by King et al. (2011).

20 I visited Dapitan for the third time in early February 2011. George Aseniero and his gracious wife Maria were my hosts. Through them I met the heirs of Acopiado, who gave me information about what had become of Rizal’s six-hectare gift to his former pupil.

21 The PCC team was headed by Felice Sta. Maria.

22 At the open forum following Ms. Marian Pastor Roces ’ presentation on “Rizal as cultural text” during the International Sesquicentennial Conference Rizal in the 21st Century held at the Asian Center, UP Diliman last June 22-24, 2011, I asked her why the Dapitan folks were not consulted and whether apart from a boardwalk the PCC had not thought of other ways of using the P35 million. Her reply was that the PCC had many plans, which involved consulting the local folks, but couldn’t realize them because they ran out of money.

23 See Greco, 2009; Heinberg, 2011; Holmgren, 2003; Hopkins, 2008; Jackson, 2009; Knight, 2009; Korten, 2009; Kunstler, 2005; Lietaer, 2001; Mollison, 1988; Suzuki, 2010; Trainer, [n.d.].

24 See A step-by-step guide to time banking (n.d.).

25 For a discussion of the Bali tradition of narayan banjar, see Lietaer and DeMeulenaere, 2003.


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Rizal, J. ([1896] 2007). ‘15. Dapitan to Barcelona’. In The Diaries of Jose Rizal, The Life and Writings of Dr. Jose Rizal. Webpage maintained by Dr. Rober Yoder, USA.

Rizal, J. (1912). The social cancer (Noli Me Tangere). (Derbyshire, C., Trans.). Manila: Philippine Education Company. [E-book may also be retrieved from http://www.].

Rizal, J. (2010). El Filibusterismo. Gutenberg Ebook Project Accessed 02 January 2011

Rizal, J. (1959). One hundred letters of Rizal. Manila : Philippine National Historical Society.

Rizal, J. (1912). The Philippines a century hence. (Derbyshire, C. Trans.). A. Craig (Ed.). Manila: Philippine Education Co. [The text may also be retrieved from].

Rizal, J. (1961a). The Rizal-Blumentritt correspondence, Volumes I and II. Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission.

Rizal, J. (1961b). Escritos de Jose Rizal, Tomo VII: Escritos Politicos e Historicos. Manila: Comision Nacional del Centenario de Jose Rizal.

Rizal, J. (1961c). On the indolence of the Filipinos. In Historical and Political Writings of Jose Rizal. Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission. [The text may also be retrieved from].

Rizal, J. (1963). Rizal’s correspondence with fellow reformists, 1882-1896. Manila: National Heroes Commission.

Rizal, J. (1964). Letters between Rizal and family members. Manila: National Heroes Commission.

Rizal, J., Pastells, P., & Bonoan, R. (1994). The Rizal-Pastells correspondence: The hitherto unpublished letters of Jose Rizal and portions of Fr. Pablo Pastell’s fourth letter and translation of the correspondence together with a historical bacakground and theological critique. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Rousseau, J. J. (1762). Emile. Paris. [The English translation of Emile is available at Institute for Learning Technologies,].

Suzuki, D. (2010). The legacy: An elder’s vision for a sustainable future. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Books.

Trainer, T. (n.d.). The simpler way: Working for transition from consumer society to a simpler, more cooperative, just and ecologically sustainable society. Social Work, University of NSW, Kensington. Retrieved 05 August 2011 from

Walpole, P. (2011, May 11). Dapitan Most Beautiful. [Msg. 39]. Posted to ESSC – Environmental Science for Social Change, archived at

World Bank. (2008). What is school-based management? Washington, D.C: The World Bank. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from EDUCATION/Resources/278200-1099079877269/547664-1099079934475 547667-1145313948551/what_is_SBM.pdf

‘24oras: La Sibila Cumana, nilikhang board game ni Dr. Jose Rizal’. GMA News Online. [Video excerpt from television news] posted May 15, 2011.

Floro Quibuyen obtained the Ph.D in Political Science and M.A in Anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the B.A in Philosophy (minor in Psychology) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses across the disciplines, such as philosophy, mathematical logic, debating, art appreciation, drama and cinema, filmmaking and TV direction, anthropology, psychology, political science, and history (at the University of the Philipines, University of Santo Tomas, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa), and has worked professionally as a TV director-producer and audio-visual consultant. His publications include A Nation Aborted: Rizal, American Hegemony, and Philippine Nationalism (2008); ‘and woman will prevail over man:’ Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Counter-Hegemonic Discourse in Mt. Banahaw (1990); ‘Japan and America in the Filipino Nationalist Imagination: From Rizal to Ricarte’ in The Philippines and Japan in America’s Shadow, edited by Kiichi Fujiwara and Yoshiko Nagano (2011), and ‘Sulipan, Apalit: A Lost Opportunity in Heritage Conservation,’ in Towns and Cities of the Philippines: Selected Cases on the History and Evolution of Settlements (2011). He was editor of the Asian Center’s Asian Studies journal’s special issue on peak oil (2008). He currently serves in the consultative board of the Philippine Center for Gifted Education, Inc., and the executive board of the Parents and Citizens Association of Fort Street High School (a selective high school for the gifted and talented in NSW, Australia).


winnie monsod & BNPP

got an email with attachment 4 days ago from dr. floro quibuyen, anthropologist and political scientist, greatly concerned about dr. solita “winnie” monsod’s inquirer column where she supports in no uncertain terms mark cojuangco’s push to activate the bataan nuclear processing plant, post-fukushima, published march 18.

quibuyen wrote a 5-page researched reply, and sent the inquirer a 2-page version that has not been published to date.

Despite my repeated attemps at contacting the Inquirer (and submitting a shorter 2-paged version), the PDI refuses to respond, let alone publish my paper. I’d appreciate it if you can pass it on to your readers and interested individuals and groups. Critical comments are of course welcome.


Floro Quibuyen, PhD
Croydon, Greater Sydney, Australia
25 March 2011

It is stunning how Dr. Solita Monsod, UP economics professor, in her March 18, 2011 Philippine Daily Inquirer column, could wholeheartedly endorse Mark Cojuangco’s recent claim that what happened to the Fukushima Dai’ichi Nuclear Processing Plant would not have happened to the Bataan Nuclear Processing Plant had the same magnitude of earthquake and tsunami occurred at Subic Bay. The notion that BNPP can be safe has been debunked two years ago by Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo (Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago) in a well documented and widely distributed paper—Geological Hazards of the Bataan Nuclear Plant: Propaganda and Scientific Fact (2009)—as well as in well-attended public fora.

Yet, Monsod persists in trumpeting Cojuangco’s call for a revived BNPP, unmindful of the fact that this call has been based on wrong presuppositions. This is evident even in Cojuangco’s new claims, as reported approvingly by Monsod:

Claim 1. Well, says Cojuangco, for one thing, the BNPP is built on a hilltop, 18 meters above sea level, so no tsunami could have touched it. Is this a big deal? Yes, because the FNPP problems were caused by the tsunami that followed the earthquake

One wonders why Monsod blindly believes all that Mark Cojuangco says. While it is true that the BNPP is 18 meters above sea level, it does not follow that “no tsunami could have touched it.” I’ve emailed Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo regarding Cojuangco’s claim. He replied, Im a marine geologist who has studied Subic Bay and its tectonics. But even I cannot predict a tsunami height there. But bear in mind that the 2004 tsunami was 33 meters high, and that the record tsunami height (Lituya Bay, Alaska, 1958) was 524 m [or 1720 feet]!

Aside from the real possibility that a tsunami could swamp the BNPP, so many other things can happen that could damage or disable the reactor’s cooling system—precisely what triggered the overheating, fires and explosions at the Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear power plant (FDNPP). As Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo notes,

A disruption would not be very difficult: Failure of a pump or valve, rupture of a pipe, an inattentive or sleepy technician, an electrical brownout or power surge… Not much of a task for an even moderate earthquake, let alone an eruption.

Claim 2. Because the BNPP was designed to withstand a seismic load (definition: the force on a structure caused by acceleration induced on its mass by an earthquake) of 0.4g, while the FNPP was designed to a seismic load of only 0.18g. Cojuangco also points out that the FNPP did not crumble despite the fact that the earthquake was stronger than its design basis, because apparently nuclear plants are built conservatively with “overkill „safety factors‟.

The integrity of the structure of the reactor is not the only issue. Indeed, as what happened to the FDNPP shows, the Achilles heel of a nuclear reactor is its cooling system. Failure to keep the fuel rods, as well as the spent fuel rods from overheating would lead to a meltdown. Rodolfo explains,

The spent fuel rods must be kept immersed in a pool of water, typically 40 by 40 feet in area and 40 feet deep. Millions of gallons of water must flow through the plant every day not only to cool the reactor core, but also to absorb the radiation in the spent-fuel pool. There, the radiation energy is removed and transformed into heat. But the heated water must be continually replenished with cool ocean water. Interruption of that water supply could be catastrophic.

The spent fuel rods are armored with a zirconium alloy. If the pool water were lost, the armor of the newest spent-fuel assembly would ignite, and in turn could ignite adjacent fuel assemblies. Once started, the fire would be virtually impossible to put out. Spraying it with water would only make it worse, because even more heat is generated when zirconium reacts with steam. A fire and explosion in the spent fuel storage pool could release huge volumes of radioactive gases to the atmosphere, including much radioactive cesium-137, which is water-soluble and extremely toxic in minute amounts.

Claim 3. Cojuangco mentions that while the FNPP is a BWR (Boiling Water Reactor) with only one cooling circuit, the BNPP is a PWR [Pressurized Water Reactor] with two separate and distinct cooling circuits. The additional isolation apparently makes for “more forgiving of extreme situations” although the tradeoff is a reduction in efficiency (4 percent).

Having two separate and distinct cooling circuits is not a guarantee that the cooling system will never be disrupted—whether by an earthquake, a tsunami, or a volcanic eruption.

And why does Monsod keep repeating the already refuted idea that the BNPP is in an isolated site? In his paper, Rodolfo has already exposed and corrected Cojuangco’s misunderstandings, if not sheer ignorance of the geological context pertaining to the site of the BNPP.

To mention a few: BNPP is not just ten kilometers from Mt. Natib, which constitutes more than the entire northern half of the Bataan Peninsula. Its base is below sea level. The BNPP site is on the flank of the volcano, at Napot Point; the last eruption of Mt.Natib is not between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago—In the years since Marcos decided to go nuclear, many more earthquakes have occurred in the vicinity of the BNPP. From 1973 to 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey has located many earthquakes of moderate magnitude in the vicinity of the BNPP, one of them directly under Napot Point, like the one mentioned by Hernandez and Santos in 1977; the fact that the BNPP does not sit directly over a fault does not mean that it will never be threatened by an earthquake—Manileňos need to know that a major earthquake on the West Marikina Valley fault would probably be most damaging not along the fault zone itself, but in places built on natural and artificial bay fill kilometers away, like Tondo and the Asia Mall. The earthquake damage directly along the trace of a fault is usually minor compared to the total damage in the affected area.We must remember that the great 1990 earthquake in Nueva Ecija greatly damaged Baguio and Dagupan, cities 100 kilometers away from the epicenter; the idea that the farthest a volcanic mass can travel is six times the elevation of the volcano is true only with respect to landslides—During an eruption, pyroclastic flows — dense mixtures of explosion debris and very hot gases — can surge great distances down the volcano flanks at hurricane speeds, searing and obliterating everything in their paths. These are not landslides! to bruit about the notion that the BNPP is safe because it withstood the 1990 Luzon quake and the 1991 Pinatubo eruption is absurd; the plant was not running! Think of the spent fuel pool and high-tension cables of an operating plant; etc.

One has to actually read Rodolfo’s paper, backed by peer reviewed scientific studies, to realize the full extent of Cojuangco’s numerous egregious inaccuracies and misunderstandings of geology, if not outright distortions of the scientific data.

It takes one’s breath away how Monsod can concoct, without any qualms, this spin:

Cojuangco’s views are a welcome relief from the rush to judgment that has apparently gripped any number of people, led and fed of course by the so-called “anti-nukes.” But that does not excuse the inaccuracies being bruited about to bolster the anti-nuke position. Thankfully, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo and Sen. Miriam Santiago refuse to be stampeded.

On top of this, Monsod gushes over Cojuangco’s credibility and intentions:

Cojuangco is credible, because he has no financial interest in any activity related to the issue, his main concern being how to make the country more competitive by lowering its energy costs, not to mention reduce its pollution. Moreover, he has done a lot of homework on the subject.

Of course only God in his infinite wisdom and mercy can tell whether Cojuangco indeed has no financial interest relating to the revival of the BNPP, but we mortals can at least ascertain if it is indeed true that the BNPP would lower the Philippines’ energy cost and reduce its pollution.

Today, it costs US$12B just to build a nuclear plant. But let us assume that the Philippines needs only one plant, and that all that is needed is to make the BNPP operational. It is said that refurbishing the BNPP will cost only $2B (or 86 Billion Php), but this does not include the cost of its maintenance and operation, let alone the uranium that is needed to make it operational. As Rodolfo has pointed out, the Philippines does not have uranium, and so it will be importing, most likely, from Australia. Moreover, we should also consider how much it will cost to decommission a nuclear plant, once it has reached its expiry date—the costs are huge, according to environmentalist and consumer advocate Ralph Nader. How much will be the total cost of rebuilding, operating and maintaining the BNPP?

Not only does it cost too much, nuclear power is just too risky. That is why, in the USA, observes Nader, “nuclear power is uninsurable in the private insurance market” and “Wall Street will not finance new nuclear plants without a 100% taxpayer loan guarantee. (Nader, 2011)

Is the BNPP pollution free? The fact that the BNPP (like the Fukushima Dai’ichi Power Plant) was built on the coast, next to the sea, had a reason—massive amounts of water has to be pumped into the reactor to cool it. But ignored by Congressman Cojuangco and economist Monsod is something environmentally crucial— “the impact,” notes Rodolfo, “of millions of gallons of seawater heated and released every day on Subic Bay and adjacent coastal environments and ecosystems should BNPP be operated.” Rodolfo asks, “Does an Environmental Impact Statement for BNPP include an evaluation of such questions?”

Finally, is the BNPP the best option in making the Philippines competitive? Even the more prudent among advocates for a revived BNPP—notably Mark Cojuangco’s wife and replacement in Congress, Kimi Cojuangco, who, unlike Monsod, realizes that the disaster at Japan’s FDNPP has dealt a death blow to her husband’s pet project—have not given up on their conviction that a revived Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) “is one way out of poverty,” and that there is “no other alternative that could offer cheap and stable source of power” [Bill seeking BNPP revival shelved By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez]

In fact there is a better alternative—solar power!

Author, inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil—who became famous for predicting that the internet would emerge by the 1990s, that a computer would beat the best human chess player by 1998 (Deep Blue beat Kasparov in 1997), and that the IT would facilitate the spread of information that would accelerate the collapse of the Soviet Union—is now predicting that solar energy will soon be able to compete economically with fossil fuels.

Kurzweil is not looking at the crystal ball, he is deriving his predictions from his law of accelerating returns:

One of my primary theses is that information technologies grow exponentially in capability and power and bandwidth and so on. If you buy an iPhone today, it‟s twice as good as two years ago for half that cost. That is happening with solar energy — it is doubling every two years. And it didn‟t start two years ago, it started 20 years ago. Every two years we have twice as much solar energy in the world.

Today, solar is still more expensive than fossil fuels, and in most situations it still needs subsidies or special circumstances, but the costs are coming down rapidly — we are only a few years away from parity. And then it‟s going to keep coming down, and people will be gravitating towards solar, even if they don‟t care at all about the environment, because of the economics. … People say we‟re running out of energy. That‟s only true if we stick with these old 19th century technologies. We are awash in energy from the sunlight.

Ralph Nader observes that concerned scientists are saying much the same thing:

Nuclear power is both uneconomical and unnecessary. It can‟t compete against energy conservation, including cogeneration, wind power and ever more efficient, quicker, safer, renewable forms of providing electricity. Amory Lovins argues this point convincingly (see Physicist Lovins asserts that nuclear power “will reduce and retard climate protection.” His reasoning: shifting the tens of billions invested in nuclear power to efficiency and renewables reduce far more carbon per dollar. Peter Bradford, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner has also made a compelling case against nuclear power on economic and safety grounds. [] [Nuclear Nightmare by Ralph Nader]

Indeed, as Kurzweil has pointed out, the nuclear reactor is fundamentally a 19th century technology—the steam engine. It uses nuclear fission—which was originally developed to create, at the height of World War II, what was then the most powerful weapon of mass destruction—to produce the steam that would turn the turbines of an electric generator. Given the lessons of the tragedy of the Fukushima Dai’ichi Nuclear Power Plant, it is time to discard this 19th century model, and turn to solar power and other renewables.


When a reputed professor of economics argues, without shame or embarrassment, that it is the anti-nukes who bruit about “inaccuracies” and “rush to judgment”, when otherwise intelligent people like DOST secretary Mario Montejo and Sen. Miriam Santiago “refuse to be stampeded” into the anti-nuke position, one wonders what is driving their dogged push for the revival of the BNPP? We can be sure it’s not scientific reasoning and knowledge, much less the lessons of history. Perhaps something else is at stake—something so compelling that not even the scientific findings of distinguished scientists and the currently unfolding horror at Fukushima can make them think more sensibly and responsibly.

Could this unstated agenda, whatever it is, be the reason why the DOST abruptly, without explanation, ended the balik scientist program? Was it to discourage the likes of Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo from coming to the Philippines and providing scientific support to the anti-nuke activists loathed by Monsod (which, by the way, includes several progressive lawmakers, environmental groups and the Church led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)? There’s the rub!


Contact info: Floro Quibuyen
Australia mobile number: 0410031093
Phil Globe roaming: 09273986728

rizal redux

a decade or so ago, when all i had read were renato constantino’s and teodoro agoncillo’s versions of revolutionary philippine history i actually believed that andres bonifacio, not jose rizal, deserved to be national hero; that rizal didn’t even approve of that glorious revolution that bonifacio led; that he was against all violence, and would have preferred to continue fighting for reforms and representation in mother spain, which fit in exactly with the benevolent-assimilation drama of the new colonizers, no wonder the americans chose to build him up as national hero/role model rather than the radical bonifacio.

and then i got into floro quibuyen’s A Nation Aborted, an alternative reading of rizal’s words and deeds, correspondence with family and friends, as well as testimonies and diaries of people who knew him personally, and wow what an eye opener.

Rizal certainly never precluded the use of force, if it became necessary, as his 19 June 1887 letter to Blumentritt reveals:

I can assure you that I have no desire to take part in conspiracies which seem to me premature and risky in the extreme. But if the government drives us to it, that is to say, when there remains to us no other hope than to seek out ruin in war, when the Filipinos shall prefer to die rather than to endure their miseries any longer, then I too shall advocate violent means. [page 18]

i see now that rizal was the mind and spirit behind the revolution that bonifacio organized and led on the ground as supremo.

The leading light <…> was Rizal, whose initiative in building a “historic bloc” against the colonial regime through his founding of the Liga Filipina, forged an “educative alliance” between the ilustrados and the masses. Though the Liga Filipina lasted barely a week, it provided the model, as well as the springboard, for Bonifacio’s revolutionary party, the Katipunan. [305]

so why did he not lead or take part in the revolution himself? why did he submit to arrest? what was he thinking?

What was Rizal’s vision? In his letter to Marcelo H. del Pilar Rizal had declared explicitly that “our sacred mission” is “the formation of the Filipino nation.” And so he had called on his fellow expatriates to come home “to fight for the nation, the Philippines.”

The great puzzle for us postcolonial Filipinos is that when the moment of truth came in 1896, rather than leading the revolution, Rizal allowed himself to be arrested and, while awaiting his inevitable death sentence, condemned the revolution.

This seeming contradiction has bedeviled nationalist historians like Agoncillo and Constantino. Agoncillo regarded Rizal as a “revolutionary reformist” or a “reformist revolutionary,” which only adds to the confusion. Constantino was more unforgiving, and therefore more mistaken, in dec;aring that Rizal’s real agenda was the hispanization of the indio and the assimilation of the Philippines to Spain.

But is there a contradiction in Rizal? Our problem is that we tend to view the nation in Enlightenment terms, the liberal concept of the nation-state. The nation-state is founded on the principle of sovereignty and is constituted by a people, a state, and a geographic territory. In a so-called democratic nation-state, the theory is that sovereignty resides in the people and the state is to exercise power–in making and enforcing laws as well as waging wars against other sovereign nations-states–in behalf of the sovereign people it supposedly represents.

Yet, Rizal’s vision went beyond the liberalism of the Englightenment, his was a post-Enlightenment vision which at the same time drew on the earlier pre-Enlightenment ethics of Catholicism. Rizal’s concept of the nation, particularly as inscribed in the Noli-Fili,both predates and transcends the liberal concept of the nation-state. Rizal’s perspective is antistatist, counterposing the nation against the state, in terms of an ethics that transcend the imperatives of the state.

For Rizal, the seizure of state power–the quintessential revolutionary goal from the American and French revolutions to the national liberation movements of the twentieth century–cannot be the solution, for the simple reason that the state itself is the problem. Rizal did not welcome the revolution when it came. But he did not condemn his people for embracing it [Emphasis mine].  In his farewell to his people, he linked his martyrdom with their revolutionary struggle:

En campos de batalla, luchando con delirio
Otros te dan sus vidas sin dudas, sin pesar
El sitio nada importa, cipres, laurel o lirio,
Cadalso o campo abierto, combate o cruel martirio,
Lo mismo es si lo piden la Patria y el hogar.

Bonifacio understood well Rizal’s sentiments when he enlarged the stanza into two in his Tagalog translation:

Sa pakikidigma at pamimiyapis
ang alay ng iba’y ang buhay na kipkip
walang agam-agam, maluwag sa dibdib
matamis sa puso at di ikahapis
[emphasis Quibuyen’s].

Saan man mautas ay di kailangan
cipres o laurel, lirio ma’y putungan
pakikipaghamok at ang bibitayan
yaon ay gaon [gayon] din kung hiling ng Bayan.

Rizal’s concept of the nation resonated deeply with the Pasyon tradition and thus struck a chord in the popular imagination. It resonates as well with the very contemporary notion of civil society. [4-6]

and why did he not escape from dapitan, when he could have, easily?

What he tried successfuly to prove, byhis refusal to escape, was a moral imperative that the Filipinos must have the courage to do what was good for the community even in the face of colonial domination. If his example could be universalized, that is, if every community in the Philippines followed the Dapitan example, in which the ilustrados and the masses worked together for the well-being of the community, a national trend towards social transformation would have ensued. If the Calamba example could inspire every community to resist injustice anywhere, it would be easier to perpetuate injustice anywhere, it would be easier to promote the public welfare. If more and more Calambas and Dapitans could sprout all over the archipelago,a massive movement for social transformation could emerge. This could bring about the reform of civil society on a national scale. In such a situation Spain would have no choice but grant the demands of the people. But if, given such a social momentum, Spain refuses to budge, the people would be better prepared to rise up in arms. With a united people and a strengthened civil society, a revolution would have a better chance of fulfilling its dreams. [312-313]

and a united people who had just won the revolution vs spain would have had a better chance of seriously spurning america.

The road to Redemption is never easy, and many sacrifices have to be made. Over the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, Rizal and his family, Bonifacio and Jacinto, Mabini, Evangelista, Malvar, and Sakay, and thousands of nameless others, offered their best years, their youth and their talents, if not their lives, to pave the way for an envisioned national Redemption–a robust and democratic civil society. Looking at the sorry mess in which the Philippines finds itself today, one wonders if all that sacrifice has meant anything at all. But if Jose Rizal were confronted with this question, he would surely have replied that a good man or woman has no choice but to do what is right. [313]

Rizal, American Hegemony, and Philippine Nationalism
Floro C. Quibuyen
Ateneo de Manila University Press 1999

not surprisingly leftists who swear by constantino are offended.   here’s roland simbulan’s scathing review:  Rizal as Religion, haha.    quibuyen’s reply:  Constantino as Dogma, hehe.