Published on October 20, 2015.
BONIFACIO BEGAN to eat his simple fare, and while thus employed he heard a rifle shot that made him start. He put down the bowl and looked blankly at his uncle-in-law. His heart beat loudly, savagely against his breast.
“What was that, Uncle?” he asked, fidgeting nervously. “Did they kill my brother?”
“No, my son,” the old man answered laconically.
“Well, how is he doing? Please feed him, too,” he implored, fearing that his brother was suffering from hunger. Continue reading
Published on October 13, 2015.
If Teodoro Agoncillo was the Moses of the class-conflict theory of the Philippine Revolution, the historian Renato Constantino was its Joshua—he led their followers into the promised land. Since the late 1960s, the rich-versus-poor theory has become mainstream fare, even conventional wisdom; despite the efforts of the director and the cast of “Heneral Luna” to add layers of nuance to their interpretation of history, for instance, the movie’s narrative momentum leads easily to a confirmation of the Agoncillo-Constantino thesis. It is the frame that fits most conveniently.
To Agoncillo’s pioneering work, Constantino added structure and consistency; unfortunately for the Philippine revolutionary experience, it was the structure and consistency of a Marxist ideology. In groundbreaking, icon-shattering lectures and essays such as “Veneration without Understanding” and “The Miseducation of the Filipino,” and in forceful textbook-length arguments like “A Past Revisited,” Constantino advocated, in the words of his most perceptive critic, “the importance of the correct understanding of the Filipino past in order to have insight into the problems of the present.” The scholar John Schumacher, SJ, summed up the historian’s driving impulse: “[H]e has expounded on the pernicious role that the official view of the Filipino past inculcated by colonial historiography and the American educational system has had in disfiguring in the minds of Filipinos the true story of their past.”
It is a profound irony, then, that Constantino sought to recover that “true story” using a Marxist framework, which the revolutionaries themselves did not use and which the revolutionary experience disproved.
Published on July 26, 2011.
A YOUNG person relatively fresh out of college posted something on Facebook yesterday, several hours before President Aquino addressed the 2nd joint session of the 15th Congress. Her status update struck me, because it seemed emblematic—of much of what is wrong in our political culture. Continue reading
The second of three Rizal columns written in June 2011. Published on June 21, 2011.
The idea that Rizal was prickly, sensitive to slights and quick to take offense, was a criticism he himself heard again and again. On Oct. 9, 1891, for instance, while preparing to leave for Hong Kong (and eventually to return to the Philippines), he declined his great friend Ferdinand Blumentritt’s suggestion that he resume writing for La Solidaridad. “I have suggested many projects; they engaged in a secret war against me. When I tried to make the Filipinos work, they called me ‘idol,’ they said that I was a despot, etc. …. They said that Rizal is a very difficult person; well, Rizal clears out.” Continue reading
Published on November 30, 2010. It was a thrill to receive, a few days after the column came out, a letter from Jim Richardson (about whom, well, see below).
I don’t think there is any question that Senator Francis Escudero’s campaign support for the vice-presidential candidacy of Jejomar Binay proved pivotal in the May elections. One political ad of Escudero’s was especially well-timed and well done; it featured the popular first-term senator asking the simple question, Who is my vice president? against a backdrop of Binay images. His lengthy answer began this way: “Ang bise-presidente ko, hindi mayaman, hindi ilustrado, kulay Pilipino (My vice president is not rich, not an ilustrado, looks Filipino).” Continue reading
Published on June 29, 2010. Howie Severino, editor in chief of gmanews.tv, gave my idea (calling the new President “P. Noy”) the benefit of a public workout (thanks, Howie!), but eventually decided on the more elegant, and more tech-friendly, “PNoy.”
I don’t know if my editors will agree with me, but I think the way to render President-elect Noynoy Aquino’s preferred short name is not ‘”P-Noy,” with a hyphen, but “P. Noy,” with a period. The hyphenated name is a made-up term, justified in part, if I’m not mistaken, by the Internet-era habit of “intercapping.” (Eg, CompuServe, MasterCard, YouTube.) Nothing wrong with that, but why choose something made up when you have something ready to hand?
“P. Noy” accurately captures what we think when we wish to say or write “President Noy.” In other words, the abbreviation of “President” into a solitary “P,” with its emphatic period, comes naturally to us. Read over almost any correspondence, even in today’s fleeting e-mails, and the abbreviations we use in daily life are reflected in it. I vote, thus, for “P. Noy.” Continue reading
“Veneration without Understanding,” Renato Constantino’s still-controversial Rizal Day lecture, can easily be found on the Net. Here is a link to the version in joserizal.info, the mother-of-all-Rizal-websites. (“The Life and Writings of Jose Rizal” is maintained by Dr. Robert Yoder.) The version used is the one found in Constantino’s Dissent and Counter-Consciousness. It has the added advantage of greater perspective, since the Table of Contents allows us to “place” the lecture in Constantino’s nationalist project.
E. San Juan Jr’s more successful Marxist reading of Rizal, “Understanding Rizal without Veneration,” has since been updated (or integrated) into a longer version, here.
Among those who were kind enough to respond to my two-part critique of Constantino (1, 2) was Bob Couttie, the “Mad Dog” himself, who referred me to a series of posts he wrote in 2007 deconstructing Constantino’s influential lecture. Unfortunately, the link to the PDF file no longer works; here is the first part of the series (which should allow those interested to thread the rest together). Happy hunting.
Of the many interesting reactions to the two-part column on Renato Constantino’s Americanized view of Rizal, Sonny Melencio’s was the most detailed, the most thought-out. A shorter version of his original letter (whittled down to under 3,000 characters, the limit for letters) was printed on July 6, 2010 in the Letters to the Editor page.
Constantino’s view of Rizal still valid
John Nery’s critique of Renato Constantino’s “Veneration Without Understanding” (Newsstand, Inquirer, 6/15/10 and 6/22/10) may be summarized by the following point: that Jose Rizal was depicted by Constantino as unworthy of being a nationalist hero, a reformist who repudiated the Philippine revolution and whose rise to preeminence was mainly due to American sponsorship.
There is nowhere in Constantino’s writing, however, where Rizal is depicted as “counter-revolutionary” nor an “insufficiently nationalistic” figure. Continue reading
Second of two parts, published on June 22, 2010.
Of the many false choices that are splayed throughout “Veneration without Understanding” like so much faulty electrical wiring, the most charged, it seems to me, is Renato Constantino’s argument from Americanization. “Although Rizal was already a revered figure and became more so after his martyrdom, it cannot be denied that his pre-eminence among our heroes was partly the result of American sponsorship.” And again: “History cannot deny his patriotism … Still, we must accept the fact that his formal designation as our national hero, his elevation to his present eminence so far above all our other heroes was abetted and encouraged by the Americans.” And yet again: “His choice was a master stroke by the Americans.” Continue reading
The first of a two-part column, published on June 15, 2010.
The classic critique of Rizal, whose 149th birthday we mark on Saturday, has itself become venerable. Renato Constantino’s “Veneration without Understanding” was the astounding Rizal Day Lecture of 1969, over 40 years ago. In my view, it does not fare as well as any of Rizal’s key writings. But it continues to be a popular read, and is sometimes used to punctuate, or even stop, a discussion. Everything that a genuine nationalist ought to know about Rizal, I can remember a friend saying, is in Constantino.
What, exactly, did Constantino say, in the courageous, cobweb-clearing lecture that perhaps best reflects his approach to history? He says Filipinos who hold Rizal up as the ideal hero do not understand that he was, in truth, a counter-revolutionary—and therefore insufficiently nationalistic. “Rizal repudiated the one act which really synthesized our nationalist aspiration, and yet we consider him a nationalist leader.” That “one act” is the revolution of 1896. Continue reading