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  FEATURE

 

What Rizal died for: a view from a leader of Kababaihang Rizalista

                               

On march 10th, 2007 the Ladies for Rizal, Bonn Chapter, celebrated the induction of new members. As guest speaker Lady Resurreccion Repotente, MD,  President of Kababaihang Rizalista, Inc., Hamburg Chapter took the burden and travelled many hours to honour this important event. The writer of these lines is not easily carried away by emotions. However the experience Lady Resurreccion, shared with us, did not only touch me deep inside, but I saw many women and men became silent, and you could see a tear in many eyes. Please read the following speech and you probably will share feelings of those, who had the privilege to hear direct from Lady Dr. Resurreccion herself. The Bonn Chapters of the Ladies for Rizal and the Knights of Rizal are glad and proud, that we got the kind permission to share this speech with you all. If you agree with the thoughts of Lady Dr. Resurreccion Repotente, you have permission to distribute it to your friends. I’m proud to know a Filipina like Lady Dr.Resurreccion Repotente - Peter  P.  Plueckebaum Knights of Rizal, Bonn, Germany

 

 

Lady Dr. Resurreccion Repotente

A few years back, in a discourse on idealism of the youth, a former activist lamented the exodus of Filipinos. He said, “nineteen percent of our population has given up on this country and wants to live abroad. This is a startling statistic. Fully one fifth of our population wanting to abandon their land of birth, which owes to many things. Not least of them is the way we keep bungling even our most glorious achievements.”

 

Nineteen percent must have been correct. You don’t tell an inaccurate statistic and get away with it. And it doesn’t require much insight to admit that we do bungle even our most glorious achievements. Look at “people power.” But to say that we who left have given up on our country, to conclude that we have abandoned our land of birth is ignorant and unfair. By leaving, we have, in fact, become closer to our country.

 

We love the Philippines, and oh, how we miss her! We miss her resplendent countryside, her crowded cities, even her monsoon rains. We miss the busy Sunday mornings; the jeepney rides on rugged streets. We miss the children. We miss the music. We miss our families, our neighbors, our friends. We miss the way a sister’s face closes, the way a brother’s eyes watch, the way, when a son’s face opens, a light seems to go on everywhere. We miss our connections. In short, we miss the life that had produced us, and nourished us, and paid for us.

 

We left our country for reasons that were valid then. Many of us will go back, but many can’t go back, and others won’t go back for reasons that are valid now.

 

 “How does one show patriotism at a distance (from one’s own country)?”  and “what does Dr. Jose P. Rizal mean to you?” These are two of ten questions that a friend of mine, a charter and life member of our chapter, wanted me to answer in an interview of sorts about five years ago. To the second question, I had a ready reply, for I had asked myself the same question many times before.  Without hesitation I said, “Dr. Jose P. Rizal means more to me than his own assessment of himself. He was guilty. He was guilty of the crime he was accused of: sparking the Filipino revolution of 1896. But, more importantly, he is guilty. He is guilty of making me dream of a Philippines – not a country brought down to her knees and willing to sell her body and soul for a fistful of rice but a country who takes her rightful place among the League of Nations with her head and her honor unblemished and held high.”

 

I was not prepared for the first question…. “How does one show patriotism at a distance from one’s own country?” The first thing that came to my mind was revolution. And like any contemporary Filipino, I thought of the “people power” of 1986. I felt extremely guilty then for my absence. What gave me the right to be lying on a soft bed, in a heated room, in a comfortable dwelling, in a rich foreign land, when my people back home were defying the tanks with nothing but their worn-out bodies? Everybody else was paying their dues; I felt it was time I went home and paid mine.

 

But, if I knew my friend, this was not the answer she wanted. It was too predictable. Before I could stop myself, I started recounting an incident that until that moment I had not perceived as having to do with patriotism. It was too personal and intimate to be patriotic. In fact, I had labeled it “trivial” and banished it to the subconscious. But, if it was really that unimportant, why did it continue to haunt me?

 

It was in the autumn of 1999. My husband and I were invited to a cruise on the Mexican Riviera. On the penultimate evening, a Filipino steward requested me to join the glittering ladies in a queue, awaiting their turn to be photographed pouring champagne over a giant pyramid of glasses, a ceremony that always followed the final captain’s dinner.  Of course, I refused to oblige because I found the affair too pompous. He did not give up and I started getting annoyed. I turned to snap at him with all the arrogance I could muster. Then I realized that he was begging me to do it, as though his life depended on it. I understood. I felt a lump in my throat, my heart went out to him, and my eyes stung from the tears that threatened to flow, but I managed to smile. I gave him my hand and he led me up there, with his head held high. His eyes, gleaming with pride, swept the suddenly curious throng below and told them silently: “behold, you brightly painted, overdressed and bejewelled rich country nationals – this GUEST is a Filipina.”  There were murmurs of approval from the periphery. Then happy Filipino faces stepped from behind the shadows. Applauding, cheering! More than half of the crew were Filipinos.

 

This story happens everyday to Filipinos everywhere. The plot is so simple, yet so poignant. The crew are lucky. They are relatively well-paid. Still they feel inferior … rather they are treated like inferiors.

 

Perhaps we can’t help it. We are poor. It takes a Filipino one whole year of hard labor to earn what a Swiss or an American earns in a few days doing the same labor. Therefore, we export ourselves to the Swiss, or Americans, or other rich country nationals, and if we are unskilled, end up cleaning their toilets or minding their children while they are out earning their opulent lifestyles. Perhaps we can’t help it. We are a people who are used to being told what to do. We are pliable, subjugated and used to fighting for meager hand-outs, suffering natural and man-made calamities.

 

But aren’t these the Filipinos that Dr. Jose P. Rizal wrote about in his novels? Aren’t these the Filipino traits and conditions he urged our forefathers to get rid of? Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Don’t we know our history?

 

On that cruise ship, that evening, in the autumn of 1999, even if only for a few fleeting moments, the Filipinos were at par with the rest of the world. That mundane task of removing myself from the crowd, walking proudly to join the glittering ladies in the queue, mounting that makeshift stairs and pouring champagne over a giant pyramid of glasses became a patriotic act. The Filipino crew were not watching me; they were watching a dream come true. They were watching their beloved Philippines take her rightful place among the League of Nations, with her head and her honor unblemished and held high.

 

The good thing about dreams is that they are unlimited. And the only thing between a dream and reality is will.

 

My dear Ladies for Rizal and Knights of Rizal, our HERO lives in us. Let us not just dream; let us help make the dream a reality. Let us continue to acquire knowledge and expertise.  Let us look around and comprehend. Let us do noble deeds. Let us bear ourselves nobly. Let us remind our fellow expatriates that we can and should have the best of two worlds …. by keeping our Filipino gems and polishing them, by ridding ourselves of our undesirable Filipino attributes and by identifying the virtues of our host countries and making them our own.

 

Let us persuade our fellow expatriates to want this change in themselves, to strive for it and to welcome it. Because this is the Filipino that Dr. Jose Rizal envisioned: the able and respectable human being who is at par with the rest of the world, not just a commodity that ranks with the banana, copra, sugar and fish, that is the most desired export material of our country. For only when this Filipino emerges, can our beloved Philippines take her rightful place among the League of Nations with her head and her honor unblemished and held high.

 

This is what Dr. Jose Rizal lived and died for. This is what he meant when he said, “non omnis moriar” not everything in me shall die.

 

  

Resurreccion O. Repotente, MD

President Kababaihang Rizalista, Inc. Hamburg Chapter

 

Copyright 2007 Knights of Rizal Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

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