Rizal in Dapitan

Published January 1, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

When we commemorated our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal’s 125th death anniversary last Thursday, we remembered as one of the most notable, last four years – 1892-96 of his life which were spent in exile in Dapitan.

This is because what he did during those times is the kind of community development that will be needed in thousands of communities in many parts of the country devastated by Typhoon Odette. They may need the kind of responsive intervention that Rizal had brought to Dapitan. Enabling the people to become productive and ensuring that their basic needs are met.

I remembered the time we visited Dapitan during the commemoration of the Philippine Centennial in 1998. A conference on the life and works of Rizal where social scientists were commissioned to present research papers was part of the several conferences we planned and coordinated in several regions in the country. Before the conference, we visited the houses (reconstructed) and various projects that the hero had implemented during his Dapitan sojourn.

It will be remembered that after Rizal settled in Dapitan, he bought a 16-hectare land using lottery winnings. He planted rice and corn, built a house and clinic from bamboo, wood, and nipa. There, he treated patients in the morning, taught the boys in the afternoon and the rest of his time was spent in agriculture. He taught 16 local high school boys reading, writing in English and Spanish, geography, history, mathematics, industrial work, nature studies, morals, and gymnastics. One of our conference participants during the 1998 conference was the grandson of Aseniero, one of Rizal’s former students.

Rizal, according to historical records, helped upgrade agricultural products, insured profits for farmers, established the first consumer cooperative so that people can purchase goods at moderate prices.

He built a water tank with the help of his students whom he taught skills such as building a dike and making bricks.

He developed the town’s park, built street lamps and a garden relief map of Mindanao. With the help of local authorities and residents, he constructed Dapitan’s aqueduct with the length of several kilometers using clay tiles and lime.

During evenings, he would usually read and write. And one of the more significant highlights of this time spent in writing was the “protracted and lengthy correspondence” between him and the thenSuperior of the Jesuits in the Philippines, Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J.

I am quoting from one of four letters written by Rizal in an autographed copy of the book gifted to me by Fr. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J., who translated and provided a historical background and theological critique. This exchange which later turned into a debate was due to Pastell’s wanting to bring Rizal back to the Church. This was the reply of Rizal to Pastells: Your Reverence exclaims: “What a pity that such an outstanding young man had not lavished his talents on the defense of worthy causes!” Rizal’s reply: “Is it possible that there are causes worthier than that which I have embraced, but my cause is a worthy one and that is enough for me. Other causes undoubtedly will bring me more lucre, more renown, more honors, more glory, but the bamboo wood, growing as it does on our soil is intended to support nipa huts, not the massive structures of European buildings. I am not sorry that my cause is low and its returns meager, but that I am, I would be able to render better service. But he who made things the way they are, sees what the future brings, and does not go wrong in any of its acts – he knows only too well the uses of humble things.” Rizal goes on to say – “I am always a common and ordinary man, that I submit myself to the circumstances; I have dedicated myself to farming. I am thinking of asking permission to live in my orchard so that I can cultivate it properly… With little to nourish them, the people spend the whole day in the rice fields, drenched in the rain and burned by the sun, inhaling the miasmic vapors from the waters that reach up to their waists. I really would like very much to offer them some remedy.” But this desire to be just an ordinary farmer never came to pass. The rest is history.

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