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NATIVE The TV just churned out yet another documentary on Jose Rizal, one of the many shows, symposia,

films, and events celebrating 150 years of our national hero. Along with such commemorations is the oft-repeated call, almost a plea: be like Rizal. But what does this mean, really? Be like Rizal? Be an excellent student? A helpful son? A writer and poet of international accolades? Rizals legacy is not just his works that advance nationalism. It is not just the profound insights and foresight in his writings. It was in the decisions he took in life amidst the repression in his native land, decisions that altered the course of his life and culminated in his martyrdom. Be like Rizal? Can we be like Rizal without disturbing the status quo? If Rizal were alive today and did the same things, would we even recognize him? Or would we simply dismiss him as another rabble-rousing Leftist? A blue-faced nationalist? An anti-government activist who inconveniences us? We are not bereft of heroes much less of Rizals. There are doctors who went to far-flung areas to serve the underserved, but we vilified and tortured them, like the Alex Montes and Merry Mia, or simply murdered them, like Bobby De La Paz. Some spoke out against government abuses and strove for better democracy, but we ambushed and shot them, like Chandu Claver. Others actually joined a revolution to change the system that exploits and impoverishes us, but to them we reserved the most vicious forms of atrocities, like those inflicted upon Johnny Escandor and Leo Velasco. Our sad fate is that we cannot recognize todays Rizals because we look for the greatness but not the sacrifice, the hero but not the struggle. We hold dearly to certain values on one hand, yet dish out intolerant social prejudices on the other. Be like Rizal? Do we know how? Because when the universe wants to know if we are willing to die for our principles, it will not be posed as a question but as a matter of choices, choices that we face in our daily lives no matter how mundane. Do we speak out against repression or do we just grin and bear it for as long as we are not the victims? Do we stand up against insufferable injustices or

do we go quietly amidst the noise and haste? Do we endeavor to make this world a better place or do we ensure the safety and security of our lives, even in a society that imposes inequity? Yes, let us remember Rizal. But let us also celebrate the lives of others who followed him even though they suffered the same, if not worse, fate. Yes, let us emulate Rizal. But let us honor him by continuing what he has done. Because the causes that turned Rizal from man to legend are still causes worth dying for: justice, democracy, freedom. If his words still resonate with unmistakable truth today, then we know that the epic saga in which Rizal immersed himself remains unfinished. And we should contribute our verse.