Dr Jose Rizal and the Orden de Caballeros de Rizal
Dr George Reiff*
Dr. José Protasio Rizal
Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896, Bagumbayan), was a Filipino reform oriented scholar and human rights activist. He was also an optometrist who studied in the Philippines, Spain, France and Germany and practiced in Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines. Dr. Rizal is formally recognized as a National Hero of the Philippines, a fact commemorated annually on the 30th of December as this was the date that he was executed by the Spanish colonial power in 1896.
In Germany Dr Rizal came in contact with the philosophical school of humanism established once by Alexander von Humboldt. He attended meetings of intellectuals in Berlin, which we would nowadays describe as the foremost think tank of Germany at that time. Among them were scientific giants like Dr. Robert Virchow. Dr. Rizal was the founder of La Liga Filipina, a civic organization that subsequently gave birth to the Katipunan led by Andrés Bonifacio who finally started the Philippino Revolt against the Spanish.
Dr. Rizal’s philosophy stipulated development through education; he aimed at institutional reforms by peaceful means rather than by revolution and civil warfare. However, Rizal’s writings (e.g. Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo) made him the intellectual pace-maker of the Philippine Revolution causing dissent among peaceful reformists and strongly boosting the militancy of armed resistance against the Spaniards.
The year 2011 marks the 150th Year since Rizal’s birth; there have been world wide as well as ongoing celebrations in the Philippines.
Rizal finished his studies in Madrid, By this time his understanding of human nature had broadened and he had come to realize that his true ambition and vision laying in meeting the needs of his people. His first idea was to publish an anthology from various Philippine authors but he finally published only his own work and called it Noli Me Tangere. This work was criticized as being influenced by the German Protestants due to Rizal’s close contact to the Berlin group, but he agued that he had written three quarters of it in Catholic countries like Spain and France. From the beginning Rizal was afraid that Noli (as the title is called in the Philippines) would never be published and remain unread. Eventually he was offered a gift of 300 Peso and 2000 copies were printed. Rizal sent a copy of this his first book to his close German friend Herr Blumentritt on the 21st March 1887. In a letter to Blumentritt, he wrote, ‘The novel is the first impartial and bold account of the life of the tagalogs. The Filipinos will find in it the history of the last ten years’1.
Criticism came first from a committee of the University of Santo Tomas that had been set by Archbishop Pedro Payo. It condemned the novel as heretical, impious, and scandalous in its religious aspect, and unpatriotic, subversive of public order and harmful to the Spanish government and its administration of these islands in its political aspect. However, the negative publicity was better than none in that it awakened the curiosity of the many people who managed to get copies of the book. Rizal’s writings opened the eyes of his countrymen to sufferings, the truth of which had long remained unspoken if not totally unheard.
PHILOSOPHIES OF LIFE
Jose Rizal had been a victim of Spanish brutality early in his life in Calamba, and this experience was the nucleus of a developing unfavorable opinion of Spanish imperialistic administration of his country and people. Pitiful social conditions existed in the Philippines as late as three centuries after its conquest in Spain, with agriculture, commerce, communications and education languishing. These social maladies led to an inferiority complex amongst the native population; timidity and false pride pervaded the local culture and contributed to the decay of social life. Rizal’s life philosophy was to contain if not eliminate these social ills by any and every means.
Rizal’s concept of the importance of education is clearly enunciated in his work entitled Instruction.
In which he advocated improvements in schools and methods of teaching. He maintained that the backwardness of his country during the Spanish rule was not due to the Filipinos’ indifference, apathy or indolence as claimed by the rulers, but due to the neglect of the Spanish authorities in the slands. For Rizal, the mission of education is to elevate the country to the highest seat of glory and to develop the people’s mentality. Since education is the foundation of society and a prerequisite for social progress, Rizal claimed that only through education could the country be saved from domination. Rizal’s philosophy of education centred on motivation with the aim that the great social forces that make education a success were bolstered, and that within the youth there was created an innate desire to cultivate intelligence and a better life.
Rizal grew up nurtured by a closely-knit Catholic family, was educated in the foremost Catholic schools of the period on elementary, secondary and college levels. Logically he should have been a propagator of strictly Catholic traditions. But in later life he developed a life philosophy of a far different nature, one based more on reason and logic where the God was closer to being a force that engineered the world than the hyper-spiritual view that the church had at that time.
Why the change? It could have been the result of contemporary contact, companionship, observation, research and the possession of an independent spirit. Being a critical observer, a thinker and a zealous reformer, Rizal did not agree with the prevailing Christian propagation of the Faith by fire and sword. This is clear from his Annotation of Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas “No one has a monopoly of the true God, nor is there a nation or religion that can claim, or at any rate prove, that it has been given the exclusive right to the Creator or sole knowledge of His Being”2.
Rizal did not believe in the Catholic dogma that salvation was only for Catholics. Nor did he believe in such practices as the Catholic observation of fasting and the sale of religious items like the cross, medals, rosaries and the like in order to propagate the Faith and raise church funds. He also lambasted the superstitious beliefs propagated by the priests in the church and in the schools.
In Rizal’s political view, a conquered country like the Philippines should not be taken advantage of but rather should be developed, civilized, educated and trained in the science of self-government. In his publications, he bitterly assailed and criticized the apparent backwardness of the Spanish ruler’s method of governing the country which resulted in:
- The bondage and slavery of the conquered
- Forced labor and force military service by natives
- The abuse of power by means of exploitation
- The government ruling that any complaint against the authorities was criminal; and
- Making the people ignorant, destitute and fanatic, thus discouraging the formation of a national sentiment.
Rizal’s guiding political philosophy proved to be the study and application of reforms, the extension of human rights, the training for self government and the arousing of a spirit of discontent over oppression, brutality, inhumanity, sensitiveness and self love.
The study of human behavior as to whether it is good or bad or whether it is right or wrong is that science upon which Rizal’s ethical philosophy was based. The fact that the Philippines was under Spanish domination during Rizal’s time led him to subordinate his philosophy to moral problems. This trend was needed at that time because the Spaniards and the Filipinos had different and sometimes conflicting morals. The moral status of the Philippines during this period was one with a lack of freedom, one with predominance of foreign masters, one with an imposition of foreign religious worship, devotion, homage and foreign habits. This led to moral confusion among the people, what with justice being stifled, limited or curtailed and the people not enjoying any individual rights.
To bolster his ethical philosophy, Rizal recognized not only the forces of good and evil, but also tendencies towards good and evil. As a result, he made use of the practical method of appealing to the better nature of the conquerors and of offering useful methods of solving the moral problems of the conquered. To support his ethical philosophy in life, Rizal:
- Censured the friars for abusing the advantage of their position as spiritual leaders and the ignorance and fanaticism of the natives
- Counseled the Filipinos not to resent a defect attributed to them but to accept the same as reasonable and just
- Advised the masses that the object of marriage was the happiness and love of the couple and not financial gain
- Censured the priests who preached greed and a wrong morality; and
- Advised every one that love and respect for parents must be strictly observed.
That body of knowledge relating to society, including the wisdom which man’s experience in society has taught him, is social philosophy. The facts dealt with are principles involved in nation building and not individual social problems. The subject matter of this social philosophy covers the problems of the whole race, with every problem having a distinct solution to bolster the people’s social knowledge. Rizal’s social philosophy was comprehensive, including:
- Man in society
- Influential factors in human life
- Racial problems
- Social constant
- Social justice
- Social ideals
- Poverty and wealth
- Youth and greatness
- History and progress
- A future Philippines
The above dealt with man in his environment and attempted to explain such aspects of human behavior and capacity as (1) the will to live; (2) the desire to possess happiness; (3) the change of his mentality; (4) the role of virtuous women in the guidance of great men; (5) the need for elevating and inspiring mission; (6) the duties and dictates of man’s conscience; (7) man’s need of practicing gratitude; (8) the necessity of consulting reliable people; (9) his need for experience; (10) man’s ability to deny; (11) the importance of deliberation; (12) the voluntary offer of man’s abilities and possibilities; (13) the ability to think, aspire and strive to rise; (14) and the proper use of heart, brain and spirit – all of which combine to enhance the intricacies, beauty and values of human nature. All of the above served as Rizal’s guide in his continuous effort to make over his beloved Philippines.
THE ORDER OF THE KNIGHTS OF RIZAL
The history of the Order of the Knights of Rizal goes back to December 30, 1911 when Police Colonel Antonio C. Torres organized a group of patriots from different walks of life for the purpose of commemorating the execution and martyrdom of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. This became an annual ceremony and tradition among this core group and grew stronger from year to year as those gentlemen lived like knights of the old times who were known for their chivalry and exemplary conduct. The group incorporated the “Orden de Caballeros de Rizal.” on November 16, 1916, as a private non-stock corporation.
In 1951 the Supreme Council of the Order created a Committee on Legislation for the purpose of filing a bill in the Congress of the Philippines to be enacted into law with the purpose of registering the Knights of Rizal as an incorporated body under Philippine law.
The bill seeking to give the Order of the Knights of Rizal a legislative charter was docketed as Senate Bill No. 251, and was sponsored by Senators Enrique Magalona, Lorenzo Sumulong, Esteban Abada, Emiliano Tria Tirona, Camilo Osias, Geronima Pecson, Jose Avelino and Ramon Torres as sponsors. The explanatory note of the Bill read as follows:
“The purpose of the attached bill is to accord to the civic and patriotic organization known as “Orden’ de Caballeros de Rizal” (Order of the Knights of Rizal) the same kind of official recognition and encouragement as that accorded to the Boy Scouts of the Philippines by Commonwealth Act No. 111, by granting to it a legislative Charter and investing it with the necessary powers to enable it more fully and more effectively to accomplish the laudable purposes for which it was organized”3.
”This Bill if enacted into law will also serve as a historical monument to Rizal; it will constitute an official recognition by the Republic of the Philippines of the inestimable value to the nation of his teachings and examples and of the wisdom and necessity of inculcating them in the minds and hearts of our people so they may strive to follow and practice them. The authors and proponents of this Bill believe that if the purposes thereof are faithfully and effectively carried out, social discipline, civic virtues, and love of justice will be fostered, promoted, ‘and enhanced in this country, and that the Knights of Rizal as a chartered entity is the most convenient instrumentality by which these desirable ends can be attained. Let Rizal’s life and martyrdom influence and guide the destiny of the nation. Let this and future generations live the Rizal Way” 3.
The Bill was recommended for approval on May 15, 1951 signed into law by the President of the Philippines on June 14, 1951 and became Republic Act 6464 which is still valid to date. The Order of the Knights of Rizal is therefore in its 100th year of existence and the 50th year in its present legal structure. The purposes or objectives of the Knights of Rizal are as follow:
- To study the teachings of Dr. Jose Rizal and to inculcate and propagate them in and among all classes of the Filipino people, and by words and deeds to exhort our citizenry to emulate and practice the example and teachings of our national hero.
- To promote among the associated knights the spirit of patriotism and Rizalian chivalry
- To develop a perfect union among the Filipinos in revering the memory of Dr. Jose Rizal; and
- To organize and hold programs commemorative of Rizal’s and martyrdom.
- To study to spread the ideals, teachings and exemplary life of Dr. Rizal especially to the youth of the land;
- To organize chapters in all provinces and to undertake such programs of activities which will promote individual commitment to the ideals of Rizal and encourage personal involvement in the contemporary problems of the nation
- To train and develop the Filipino youth in character building citizenship training, democratic leadership, enlightened nationalism and dedicated service to country and people.
The Code of Ethics of the Knights of Rizal
Since its establishment in the present legal form, the Order of the Knights of Rizal has become a civic and patriotic organization recognized by law as an instrumentality by which the teachings of Philippino national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal may be propagated among the Filipino people, and others who may believe in his teachings to the end that they may emulate and follow his examples. Moreover, the order is also a cultural, non-sectarian, non-partisan and- non-racially oriented organization.
The Code of Ethics claims that ‘a Rizalian’:
- Loves his country and people
- Promotes international understanding among peoples and nations
- Venerates the memory of the nations’ heroes
by making their ideals his own
- Values honor as he values his life
- Strives to do justice to all his fellow men
- Finds meaning and purpose in life
- Upholds freedom at all costs
- Maintains a tolerant & understanding attitude towards his fellow men
- Believes in the value of education essential to the formation of the character of men
- Promotes social justice and general welfare
- Is industrious, self-reliant, persevering and conscious of the plight of the less fortunate