By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Sunday called on Filipinos to emulate national hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s teaching on education and right to life and human dignity as the nation commemorates the sacrifice he gave for the country 122 years ago.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara lamented that unifying the country remains an uphill battle until this day because many Filipinos still experience poverty and suffer from lack of education.
“Paano nga naman magkakaisa ang bayan kung marami pa rin ang nahihirapan at nasasadlak sa kamangmangan at kasalatan? (How would the country unite when many of our people are still trapped in poverty and still living in ignorance and scarcity),” Angara pointed out during the commemoration of Rizal’s 122nd death anniversary held in Naic, Cavite on Sunday.
“Nasa ibang panahon man tayo mula sa kapanahunan ni Rizal, kailangan pa rin natin mag-rebolusyon laban sa paniniil. Hindi ito paniniil ng dayuhan, ito’y paniniil mula sa sarili nating gawa, (We may be living in a time different from Rizal, but we still need to go on a revolution against tyranny. It’s not tyranny brought about by foreigners, but tyranny that we ourselves caused),” Angara stressed.
Angara saidFilipinos of today should “give flesh” to the right to life and dignity, that Rizal and other national heroes fought for more than a century ago.
“Kung pinaglaban nina Rizal ang karapatan ng bawat tao na mabuhay nang matiwasay at marangal, kailangan natin buhayin—bigyan ng laman—ang mga karapatan na ito (if Rizal fought for the rights of every Filipinos to live quiet and honorable lives, we need to revive—and put flesh—on these rights),” the senator said.
Rizal, he said, always considered education as a cure to the socioeconomic problems during the colonial period.
Rizal, in his novel El Filibusterismo—a sequel to his first novel, Noli Me Tangere—had said: “We must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual,” Angara quoted.
Angara said the enactment of the Free College Law or Republic Act 10931 or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education can be considered part of the influence and impact of Rizal’s work and sacrifice that are still felt to this day.
In terms of upholding human dignity, the lawmaker hailed the passage into law of the Universal Health Care for all Filipinos.
“It is important that Filipino families are not pushed deeper into poverty due to sickness,” he said.
Sen. Paolo “Bam” Aquino IV echoed Angara’s view saying the Free College Law “is Rizal’s legacy.”
“Sa totoo lang po, ang isa sa mga naunang nangarap ng abot-kayang edukasyon tulad ng Libreng Kolehiyo para sa mga kabataang Pilipino ay si Jose Rizal (In reality, the very first person who dreamt of affordable and accessible education like the Free College law we passed for the youth was Jose Rizal),” Aquino pointed out.
“Ang pangarap ni Rizal dati nagkakatotoo na. Sa araw ni Gat Jose Rizal, bigyang buhay natin ang diwa ng ating pambansang bayani sa pagtiyak na kahit kapos ay makapagtatapos (What Rizal dreamed of has finally come true. As we commemorate the life of Dr. Jose Rizal, let’s give life to the spirit of our national hero by ensuring that students who don’t have much means can find the chance finish their schooling),” he said.
For his part, Sen. Joel Villanueva urged Filipinos to remember Rizal’s martyrdom.
For Villanueva, Rizal is “a great man whose life and work embody patriotism and sacrifice for our beloved country.”
“As a tribute to our national hero, let this special occasion be a constant reminder for every Filipino to follow in the footsteps of Rizal and strive to help each other bring our nation to prosperity and genuine freedom,” Villanueva said.