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It’s Joe R’s Birthday

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

Today is the birthday of our foremost Philippine hero, Jose Protacio Rizal, and I hope that despite the absorption of our people on the ravages wrought by the COVID, appropriate ceremonies are being held, even if not with as much fanfare as before. Jose Rizal is a true hero, he preferred to be executed rather than repudiate his loyalty to our country. Do we still have modern-day heroes who would rather give up their lives than live like a vassal to another country?

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Not even when he was given a chance to declare his loyalty to the invaders, who were insulted and shocked at his writings that showed to the world how the Spanish invaders were treating his people, would he retract his writings and his statements. His acts were living examples  of how “The pen is mightier than the sword”, because it had been his books, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo” that angered the Spanish conquistadores so much and led to his sentencing to death by firing squad.

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Will we still have men like him who will prefer to die rather than pledge allegiance to another country whose people were treating his fellow Filipinos like slaves? He was one of the most brilliant products of our country. With his privilege of having studied abroad, and seeing for himself how people in free countries were treated, he used his talent in writing to rouse the patriotism and disgust of all Filipinos against the way the invading foreigners were treating them.

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I hope students of today are still taught about Jose Rizal and our other heroes to also arouse in them love of country and willingness to even die for it. We have few enough heroes or men and womenour youth can emulate. Sadly, the ones who get noticed  and are often admired are those who are cunning and able to enrich themselves at the expense of others. One thing I can never forget about our studies on Rizal was the fact that when his executioners ordered him to turn his back as they were about to shoot him, he managed to twist around, just as they fired to face their bullets! Will we ever see men of his caliber in our generation?

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An incident in yesterday’s news brought to mind the story of Rizal and our present enjoyment of the freedom of the press. But recent happenings seem to indicate that such freedom could be eroding lately, not in our country, Thank God, but in others. The latest report, that is, as of yesterday was  that policemen had raided newspaper offices in Hong Kong. Ah, I had forgotten that Hong Kong is no longer under British control, but had been returned to China. Some of its media people may have forgotten that!

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I don’t think he was lipsyching, but does Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin really that articulate in English? What an advantage  to his country if he does. Now, let’s find out if U.S. President Joe Biden can also speak Russian. If not, he better get himself a tutor so he can have a tit-for-tat with Putin the next time they meet. I think the time will come when politicians, and especially those who become heads of state, must make sure they are conversant in the major languages. That is where we Pinoys have an advantage, because from Kindergarten to college, we have been instructed in English, and most of us can speak it better than Tagalog, or “Pilipino”, if you insist!

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Oh, but the United States have just been gifted a new “Federal Holiday”! Yesterday, June 18, was declared by President Joe Biden as one because it was the date when the end of slavery was declared in that country. I learned about that in our school subject, American History, but I do not know if the subject is still included in today’s high school subjects in the Philippines. I guess I am out of touch with school activities and subjects now that my teaching days have been over for decades.

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I often wonder, because I watch CNN most of the time, being in “solitary confinement” these days, rather, all this year, that I have yet to see any report about the Philippines. Myanmar, Taiwan, Iran, Lebanon, and many others are often featured, but I have yet to see our country being featured, or maybe I have missed those, since our time schedules are not the same? But I am a night owl, too, being in this business calls for it. But let’s take the good side “No news is good news”!*

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