History’s intense moments of heroism are about blood and thunder, reckless courage and eerie war cries. Such were the passions that seized control of heroes who fought in the Trojan War, at the storming of the Bastille in France, and in the Indonesian army’s bloody counter-coup against the communists.
In our history, two such awesome episodes of heroism marked our nation’s evolution from an archipelagic habitat of tribal villages into a single cohesive nation.
The first was Lapu-Lapu’s victory in Mactan in 1521 when he defeated Ferdinand Magellan’s expeditionary forces, killing the Portuguese circumnavigator conquistador in a bloody battle by the seashore. Lapu-Lapu’s sword and his raw courage dealt a catastrophic blow to the pride and prestige of the powerful Spanish royalty in Europe. I rejoice in this one clear victory of Lapu-Lapu against the Spanish invaders.
The second is the public execution of Jose Rizal, who was accused by Spain’s colonial ruler for leading a rebellion in 1896. Rizal’s pen proved to be mightier than the sword in igniting the people, as one country with one aspiration for freedom. I beam with extreme pride at Rizal’s martyrdom, a triumph for our enlightened mind, a defeat for the Spaniard’s weakening hegemony.
Lapu-Lapu’s muscular arrogance and Rizal’s intellectual humanism proved to be our people’s inherent faculties needed to successfully create a nation worthy of evolving selfrule along democratic concept and structure.
During Lapu-Lapu’s time, pirates, buccaneers, soldiers of fortune, and institutional land grabbers roamed the earth, many of them serving the pompous royalty of Europe who believed that the “unkown” world was there for the taking, ignorant of the fact that peaceful natives with a civilization and culture of their own had the right of domain.
Gunboat diplomacy was one of the most vicious creations of the civilized world during the age of exploration.
The next 300 years after Lapu-Lapu’s victory in Mactan, the unique combination of Spain’s civil rule and the clergy’s evangelization of the people developed a Christian society with a common religiosity and a foreign ruling elite of Spanish interest and design. The spread of Christianity, courtesy of various religious orders, was tantamount to elementary education in basic literacy for the understanding and propagation of the gospel.
For higher learning and professional careers, Catholic schools and universities produced the earliest professionals and ilustrados, even if limited in size. The encomienda or land grant system to local bureaucrats gave way to feudal societies that kept the poor in hock to their landlord.
The milieu of Rizal’s patriotism existed under the combined influence of Church and State serving their self-interest, the State for the temporal and the Church for the spiritual. Under the colonial rule, the distinction between church and state was oftentimes blurred, so dramatically portrayed by Rizal’s propagandist novel, “Noli Me Tangere.” The novel dealt with abuses of some friars and injustices committed by cruel officials.
Rizal’s route to and mission of patriotism began as youthful idealism. From boyhood to adulthood he excelled in his chosen work, whether as artist, a linguist, a novelist, an eye doctor or a political reformist. He had excellent written and oral communication. His written treaties on sociopolitical reforms were left intact for use by future generations.
Ferment in Europe
His humanities background courtesy of the Jesuits system of education at Ateneo prepared him to thrive in the intellectual and philosophical ferment in Europe. During Rizal’s travels in Europe, the continent was undergoing reforms in socio-political fields. Rizal’s reform-oriented communications was written in the dying days of colonialism and the spread of libertarian philosophies.
Rizal’s mission to effect reforms in governance centered on the publishing of his two propaganda novels, “Noli” and “Fili.” The Noli stirred a hornet’s nest and placed Rizal on the list of revolutionaries. His involvement in La Liga Filipina, an association of Filipino patriots working for social reforms, placed Rizal on a list of confirmed enemies of the colonial government. His arrest and execution at Bagumbayan on Dec. 30, 1896 symbolized the enlightened demand of the Filipino people for human dignity and freedom from tyrannical rule.
Three hundred years ago, Lapu-Lapu personified the same demand for freedom with the swift unsheathing of his kampilan that slew Ferdinand Magellan. Lapu-Lapu was bereft of any sociopolitical ideology in the league of the French revolution’s “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.” Lapu-Lapu was all raw courage, all hubris and muscle. He lived the hand-to-hand combat war culture to acquire and project his manhood. His physical prowess and his sharp sword were the source of his charisma and of the idolatry of his village warriors.
The war cries, the attack charge, the kill-or-be-killed fixation of Lapu-Lapu in Mactan was heroism in its most naked and visceral form, the perfect antidote to the presumptuous posturing of European royalty and its military adventurers in Europe.
Rizal’s proud march to his execution was no humiliation, but an act of fortitude before an enlightened public. The man in his regal and elegant black attire was the most intelligent and eloquent freedom fighter in Asia. Rizal’s pen was mightier than the sword.
Rizal served as the perfect model for future heroes wanting to cast away the yoke of a tyrannical colonialist in many evolving nationalist countries under foreign rule. Truly, Rizal was the pride of the Malay race.
Our country had the best of two worlds—Lapu-Lapu’s brawn and Rizal’s brains. Rizalapu—a two-in-one brand for true freedom to succeed.
Rizalapu—Filipino heroism unique in all the world.