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wilfrido david
wilfrido david BURP! I have had my fill of Father's Day greetings and of Dr. Jose Rizal over the weekend. I feel bloated. Coincidentally, Father's Day fell on the birthday of our national hero. Fathers are extolled to high heavens once a year, and I can relate to that, being one myself. But Dr. Jose Rizal is one for the books. I only learned of Rizal when I was in Catholic grade school, in History class (one of the subjects I yawned the most in). I did not even know that he had a monument at the Luneta.

As far as I knew, Rizal Avenue was the only familiar street that led to Escolta, the pre-cursor of modern-day shopping malls. Most everything else in the Philippines is named after Rizal—provinces, buildings, streets, parks, you name it. There are monuments of him in almost every country he visited during his time. He has adherents who venerate him as a cult image, who call themselves Rizalistas. He has books written about him, as well as countless plays and movies, although seemingly not much about his love life. But one thing about him sticks out in my mind. How come he preferred to suffer the sweltering tropical heat in his western suit instead of less formal clothes?

Was Rizal a trend-setter also, or was it the style of the so-called illustrados to flaunt that they were on equal footing with the then Spanish upperclass whose influence was on the wane? Well, of course, the barong tagalog, as we know it today, was the standard wear of the lower social caste. Natives who were wannabees naturally avoided wearing it. Sometimes I also wonder if Rizal was ever a father. He was irresistible, well-educated, charismatic, although not much of a looker, but still fairly wealthy as he hailed from an influencial family. By today's standards, he would be woman-bait—Joseph Estradaish!

If Dr. Jose Rizal were alive today, would he support the RH or Divorce bills? No doubt about it. He was a radical thinker and would probably be both just so to displease the church, with which he found himself conveniently at odds. (President Noynoy comes to mind—he who would be incarcerated if the church is still as influencial and as powerful.)

One bone of contention—did Rizal really plan on being a martyr or was he "pushed" into it by his friends, who thought he was the right material for a sacrificial lamb to further foment unrest. Call it conjecture or speculation, but it does stir the imagination well beyond the usual over-a-bottle-of-beer conversation. I guess we'll never know. The history books have it down pat. After Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Dr. Jose Rizal's prestige grew within and among the Filipino intelligentsia. He was deemed to be the ultimate instrument for change. He was it for all intents and purposes and, inevitably, the people made his mind up for him. And the rest is history.

Back then, there were no media to speak of. Perhaps the local paper, which was mainly pro-government, and one underground tabloid, or for the most part, through the grapevine. Up until Rizal was sentenced to the firing squad, he went through several exiles, incarcerations. Despite Bonifacio's offer for the Katipunan to rescue him, he never wavered. Leave it to politics—the katipunaneros probably have their own differences from within, causing confusion and indecision.

Let's give rein to our imagination and transplant Rizal's predicament to modern times. The government, through constant badgering from the Catholic Church, gives the NBI derogatory information about Rizal's proclivities. The military as well as the national police are given due notice for his arrest. He is to be arrested as soon as he lands at the airport, his passport confiscated, and will be confined at camp crame. He isn't given the opportunity to shop at the duty-free shop, even as he has his list of pasalubongs for his friends and family in Calamba. The national media already knows of his pending arrest, having been apprised of the situation after publication of his two anti-government novels. At the same time the Catholic clergy is up in arms about his allegations and so is also after his neck.

Rizal, however, is granted permission to be interviewed on public TV by the authorities, even as the Catholic bishops, et al., are fuming mad. The appeals court is alarmed by the millions of emails, comments on Facebook and tweets on Twitter—all protesting his arrest, although later are in appeasement at the prospect of him getting in and out of his jail cell at will, as per promise of jail warden Ernest Diokno just in case he lands in Muntinglupa. Rizal also gets a text message from Antonio Leviste, who assures him of the privilege. The authorities are frantically searching for a whistleblower from his inner circle. But no one comes forward, having seen George Rabusa squirm in his seat as he tried to appear cool but who eventually seemed to be the one destined for the cooler.

The news about Rizal's impending conviction is updated everyday. One time he is guested and participates in "Pinoy Henyo" on Eat Bulaga, but he fails miserably. Joey de Leon even tries hard to make him sing "I did it my way..." via karaoke. Rizal graciously turns down Joey's overtures, Rizal being averse to such silliness. He is also called upon by Edu Manzano to participate in Family Feud. He consents only on the condition that the opposing family would be led by a popular archbishop.

Rizal's case is never referred to the Office of the Ombudsman because it has lost its credibility. He fears he wouldn't get a fair shake. The Supreme Court issues some guidelines on media coverage of his trial and that there would be only one stationary camera. He seems to be cool under pressure, taking comfort in the thought that the former PGMA had repealed the death penalty. Being conversant in ten languages, he chooses to express his sentiments in Spanish ("Que cera, cera!), knowng full well how slowly the wheels of justice turn in the Philippines. Besides, he knows someone at the Supreme Court.

Rizal's fate would be entirely different. Upon his release after a protracted trial, having been granted full pardon by the president, and after being made to promise to not run for public office, there is full coverage by the major TV channels showing him hugging and being hugged by friends and relatives. (He actually has gained weight, and with his moustache shaved he doesn't look a bit like Manny Pacquiao anymore.)

But, of course, the friars get their way. There seems now to be some doubt cast upon his less-known relationships. We make our own conclusions as to how he manages to turn around after the capitan del guardia civil gives the fatal instruction, "Fuego!" He manages to yell at the top of his voice, "Huling paalam!" The crowd falls into deep silence, convinced that he has this "other girl," Julia. By the way, she never surfaces, petrified at being confronted by Josephine Bracken.

Every story has a lighter side. This one will never make it in the history books. Let us just press on that he deserves more to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani than Ferdinand Marcos (as the latter's family can ever hope for him to be accorded the privilege—ask PNoy!").

I am a father like you, but I do not relish the idea of being appreciated only on this particular day (introduced by American enterpreneurs who invented greeting cards). Too bad, the practice of mailing greeting cards is no longer followed faithfully as before (as it was pushed aside by services provided in the Internet). Your TV screen will tell you that you have a message on Facebook or Twitter, automatically shared with others including those who do not even know you but who still wish you to be happy on such a day (even as you are having a spat with your wife incidentally). I don't know what category as a father you fall under (unreliable, lazy, gay, indifferent, philanderer, wife beater, child beater, credit card-debt maximizer, porn addict, incestuous, drug addict, rapist, child molester, carnapper, just plain unemployable or intolerable, or any or all of the above), but you might simply do not deserve to be happy!

Let us be more discriminating and sincere. Let us wish happiness to someone who truly deserves it. The only way to find out is to send the greeting to yourself. And don't forget to say, "Thank You." You might just be entitled to it.

[About the author. Wilfrido David is a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico since 1985. He is an avid news consumer, habitually tuned to global TV via satellite. In turn, he occasionally comes up with spiced up essays and anecdotes liberally sprinkled with his wry humor, at times irreverent, oftentimes as corny as corn-on-the-cob, but nontheless thought provoking. He thinks of himself as a "junior senior," a mature gentleman with very active brain cells but a waning testosterone count. He is an American citizen by necessity, not by choice, as he so aptly put it. He is as Kapampangan as sisig, no more, no less.]

-Posted: 9:17 AM 6/24/11 | More of this author on eK!