Jose Rizal’s identity as a national hero may still raise doubts even though his sacrifice had contributed largely to the Philippine Revolution against Spain. But this might just be a thought that springs from questioning heroism as portrayed in history.
This was one of the many discussions tackled during the “Bayani Ba ‘To?” forum at the Xavier University Little Theater recently. Dakila, a collective of passionate and artistic individuals, initiated the event through the support of TBA Studios as part of their school tour to promote the upcoming film, Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral, a sequel to the 2015 biopic, Heneral Luna.
With the collaboration of Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts and Xavier Ateneo’s History, International Studies, and Political Science Department, the forum provided an educational experience for students and the academe to view heroism in a new perspective.
As the initiative sought to redefine the representation and manifestation of heroes in mainstream culture for three years now, Dakila encouraged participants to re-evaluate the individuals they look up to or their “idols.”
Was Rizal’s sacrifice enough to constitutionalize his national heroism? This might be an open topic for debate, but Rizal was not the only one exemplified during the forum.
Prof Michael Charleston Chua, a historian and an educator from the University of the Philippines Diliman and De La Salle University, enumerated the known heroes of Philippine history, their noble deeds, as well as their flaws. From General Luna’s short temper to Apolinario Mabini’s alleged allegiance to the United States during the Filipino-American War, and Emilio Aguinaldo’s decisions that led to heinous consequences, Chua noted that all these individuals, like the people who see them as messianic, were not entirely perfect during their time.
“We see what they have done for our country,” Chua said, “but when they commit mistakes, we must not justify them.”
Also directed by Jerrold Tarog, the film serves as the bridge between Heneral Luna and Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.
“Admiration should be tempered with critical thinking,” Chua declared. “When we have critical thinking, we venerate with understanding.”
He posited that this thought process is essential in a country that practices democracy and recognizes the heroes who established it years ago. But, he noted further, this must be done by viewing people not through the literal lenses of good and evil but through their gray areas.
“Critical thinking can be one small step for you, but it can be a giant leap for a greater society and a better nation,” Chua remarked. (angelo lorenzo)