Notes on Rizal and the Spiritual Revolution

Originally posted online here

This was written in September 2008 for the last class I had to take as an undergrad. (PI100, for all ye UP folk.) It’s not for everyone, and a lot of things have changed since then–Lozada’s disappeared, Padaca and Panlilio have been forcibly removed, and the elections are but 90 days away, with Nicanor Perlas running for president under the banner of “new politics”. Still, it might be of interest to those who believe in socially-engaged spirituality, and what it might mean in these critical times.

Revolution and spirituality are not traditional bedfellows. As part of a generation that equates revolution with a movement that deems religion ‘the opium of the people’, it is difficult to reconcile radical action with the stuffy Catholicism of our childhoods. This difficulty triples with the entrance of Rizal in the discourse of revolution and spirit. Despite his status as national hero and avowed inspiration for the Philippine revolution, Rizal’s reputation as an American-sponsored assimilationist presents an ambiguous relationship with radicalism as well as spirituality via the Church that helped sentence him to death. Nevertheless, (relatively) recent scholarship has begun to cast Rizal in a completely different light. This, of course, pertains to Floro Quibuyen’s A Nation Aborted and Reynaldo Ileto’s influential Pasyon and Revolution. Both works take a distinctly hermeneutic approach to historiography. By using enacted texts, they reconstruct a Rizal that is not subject to a supposed “veneration without understanding”. There is indeed understanding—but of a completely different kind.

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