Reflecting on Rizal’s thoughts on how to be prosperous

Published December 28, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina


Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina

Enlightenment is essential and an enlightened citizenry is crucial in attaining prosperity for all Filipinos.

This conclusion can be reached as one contemplates on the thinking of Dr. Jose Rizal whose martyrdom 125 years ago will be commemorated by a grateful nation this Thursday.

And among the many writings of our national hero, it is in his insightful four-part essay, The Philippines a Century Hence, where I find his thoughts most profoundly expressed.

The essay, first published in La Solidaridad on Sept. 30, 1889 to Feb. 1, 1890, gives us a glimpse on what Rizal thought of Filipinos, our country’s future, and what it would take for the Philippines to be prosperous.

In line with Rizal’s thoughts, I firmly believe that prosperity for all Filipinos lies in establishing a strong, organized, united and enlightened citizenry, willing and able to fight systemic corruption and grinding poverty, and in relentless pursuit of excellence in governance to achieve this vision of prosperity for all.

These enlightened Filipinos, few as they may be presently, must be able to reach out and touch the lives of fellow Filipinos and help them transcend all challenges that have prevailed since Rizal’s time.

In his essay, Rizal portrayed Filipinos as “broken” during the centuries of Spain’s domination of the Philippines.

“They gradually lost their ancient traditions, their recollections – they forgot their writings, their songs, their poetry, their laws, in order to learn by heart other doctrines, which they did not understand, other ethics, other tastes, different from those inspired in their race by their climate and their way of thinking,” Rizal wrote. “Then there was a falling-off, they were lowered in their own eyes, they became ashamed of what was distinctively their own, in order to admire and praise what was foreign and incomprehensible: their spirit was broken and they acquiesced.” But although broken, the people’s was not destroyed altogether. In fact, the “lethargic spirit woke to life” when the people realized their misfortune amid all the abuses and mistakes of the colonizers, Rizal said.

“The spirit of the people was not thereby cowed, and even though it had been awakened in only a few hearts, its flame nevertheless was surely and consumingly propagated, thanks to abuses and the stupid endeavors of certain classes to stifle noble and generous sentiments. Thus when a flame catches a garment, fear and confusion propagate it more and more, and each shake, each blow, is a blast from the bellows to fan it into life.” The awakening of Filipinos can, therefore, be sparked by just a few. These enlightened few must be agents of change to influence and lead the people to transform and uplift the nation to a higher level of existence.

And among the various sectors of Philippine society, it is the Filipino youth that can mostly be relied upon in our country’s transformation. Rizal himself believed in their potential for nation-building as he expressed his love and admiration for the youth whom he called “Bella esperanza de la patria (fair hope of the fatherland) in his poem, A la Juventud Filipina (To the Filipino Youth).

“Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their native land?” Rizal also asked in his novel El Filibusterismo.

The youth can indeed change our nation’s quality of life. They can establish an effective and honest government, especially in the coming elections. They can choose God-fearing, competent and compassionate leaders who will pursue inclusive growth, create jobs and livelihood for the people and bail out the country from poverty, underdevelopment, injustice, inequality, and breakdown in peace and order.

Youth empowerment is a must and history is replete with examples of youth power – of young people who sacrificed their lives to achieve freedom and fight oppression.

In pursuit of youth empowerment, the Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKR) – for which I had served as its Supreme Commander in 2006 – trains and develops the youth in character building, citizenship training, democratic leadership, patriotism, universal brotherhood, and dedicated service to God, country and people. OKR is also tasked to study and spread the ideals, teachings and exemplary life of Rizal and exhort the youth to emulate and practice the examples set by our national hero.

The youth is the largest sector of our society, with hardly any vested interest to protect, with time on their side, and with talent to develop. When fully enlightened, mobilized, motivated, and inspired, the youth sector is the biggest single block of citizens that can change Philippine society.

As Rizal said, the youth is the hope of the fatherland. With an enlightened Filipino youth, we can be hopeful of brighter prospects for 2022 and beyond.

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