I promised Nanay I would take her to the Rizal Shrine in Calamba for her 65th birthday. Jose Rizal and she share the same birth month after all. However, some circumstances kept me from taking her on her birthday. I was bent on fulfilling my promise, so I planned again on taking her last June 12th. When I asked Ms. N, my former editor-in-chief who lives in Calamba, for directions to the Rizal Shrine, she advised me to take Nanay when the tallest monument of Rizal has been unveiled.
The unveiling was last Saturday, June 19th, the very day of Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary. It was raining rather heavily, but checking online for updates on the scheduled events, I learned that everything was pushing through. Although Nanay and I left home later than we initially planned, we went on our way.
I used to know a lot about Jose Rizal. To me, he was more than the guy in the blue two-peso paper bill back then. The section I belonged to in Grade 6 and in fourth year was named after him. There was even a concrete bust of him at the flagpole area in my elementary school. In high school, unlike those who read either the comic books or the Cliff Notes equivalent of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, I patiently read the “thick” versions. I remember writing chapter titles on the chalkboard for my teacher and classmates, and religiously writing a summary of each chapter on my notebook. I was even inspired by a line from El Fili to write an essay for the school paper.
I learned more about Rizal’s life and works in the required Rizal course in college. My professor told us that Rizal’s nickname was Pepe, an abbreviation for padre putativo, which is Spanish for foster father, because Rizal was named after San Jose, Jesus’ foster father. He made us read Renato Constantino’s Veneration Without Understanding. For Spanish class, I had to memorize at least three stanzas of Mi Ultimo Adios, one of Rizal’s last pieces of writing.
As I have forgotten Spanish for lack of use, I have also forgotten many of the things I used to know about Rizal. They have given way to the many other things that I need or want to know.
Taking Nanay on a “field trip” to Calamba and then to Fort Santiago became more than a fulfillment of a promise; it made me remember what I know about Rizal. I also learned some things about him that I did not know before. Once more, I am in awe of who he was, what he did, and what he stands for. However, this time, I will strive to remember longer.