Today we celebrate our National Day together with the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day. This celebration is taking place at a memorable time of the 150th anniversary of our national hero, Jose Rizal.
Allow me then to focus my remarks on the relevance and influence of Dr. Jose Rizal to the twin events we commemorate today.
The friendship between Spain and the Philippines was forged by a common history that gave birth to a rich culture, a unique heritage that binds us up to this day. It is this same friendship between our two nations that gave birth to the ideals of our national hero: Jose Rizal’s notions of nationhood, social justice, reforms, and the promise of youth.
Rizal’s very first trip abroad was to Spain, on May 1882, aboard the Salvadora. How fitting that the ship’s name means “savior”. To Rizal, going to Spain was a way to “save” himself and his ambitions, a venue for realizing his dreams.
It was Spain that educated Rizal. He studied to become a medical doctor at the Universidad Central de Madrid. But his evolution as an intellectual did not happen inside the classroom – it was a product of his life and experiences in Spain.
He witnessed a demonstration for the first time when students and professors at his university rallied against the excommunication of a professor for proclaiming academic freedom. It was his first brush with public protest against the excesses of the church, to which he related the grave abuses by the friars in the Philippines.
The idea of writing a novel and using the pen as a medium grew on him while he was in Spain, where he in fact wrote most of his significant works.
The ideas that would form his masterpiece Noli Me Tangere were conceived during his membership at the Circulo Hispano-Filipino — where fellow intellectuals like Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, Antonio Luna, and Pedro Paterno reflected on the Philippine situation. He sought the freedom of the press in the Philippines, a representation for the Filipinos in the Spanish Cortes, and the secularization of the parishes.
Jose Rizal is truly the pride of the Malayan race, and we should be proud to claim him as our own. But while we take credit for the greatness of Jose Rizal, we cannot take away the fact that Spain nurtured him to become who he is.
His advocacy of institutional reforms by peaceful means rather than by violent revolution makes him Asia’s first modern non-violent proponent of political reforms. His body of work is known to hundreds of scholars around the globe. Rizal is recognized as the forerunner of Gandhi and contemporary of Tagore and Sun Yat Sen, all of whom created a new climate of thought throughout Asia.
Rizal continues to be an inspiration for Filipinos of the present generation, as well as a bridge for the Philippines and Spain.
Two days ago, we launched and dedicate a Sentro Rizal in Madrid, the first such institution we are committed to install overseas, a remembrance and the repository of Philippine culture and arts, history and literature.
Philippine National Day
and Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day
14 June 2011, Madrid
Senator Edgardo J. Angara
Guest of Honor