JOSE Rizal not only ignited the Filipino’s fight for liberty, but also inspired other nations to embrace his deep sense of nationalism.

Through his writings, he showed how a people could rise from tyranny and define their national identity. Filipinos learned from him and so did the world.

Global hero

Jose David Lapuz, a UST professor and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) commissioner, described the national hero as “a profound Filipino, an Asian, and most especially, a citizen of the world.”

“He was completely aware of world affairs as he was the most sophisticatedly educated in terms of the international affairs of Filipinos,” said Lapuz, noting that Rizal showed his countrymen what it meant to be a Filipino.

Aside from conceptualizing the idea of an independent nation, Rizal was also admired as a genius, possessing “the character of a great man” that was said to be “different among others, being so disciplined almost like a Spartan,” according to Lapuz.

In a way, Rizal was a “man of the Renaissance period,” he said.

Even 150 years after his death, people from the various parts of the globe have something to say about Rizal’s heroic persona.

According to Lapuz, professor Julia Yevtonova of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Central University in Moscow, once remarked that Russia regarded Rizal as “a great Filipino” because of his efforts that helped liberate his country.

Dr. Michel Leifer, a professor in international relations in the London School of Economics, described Rizal as “bellwether” as he served as the “principal agent of the first revolution in Asia.”

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Stanford University professor Dr. Margaret Fischer hailed the Filipino hero as the “Thomas Jefferson of Asia,” citing Rizal’s idea of democracy that inspired other Asian nations to emulate.

Rizal was also revered by Father of Indonesian freedom Bong Sukarno, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Russian communist thinker Leon Trotsky.

“Jose Rizal was an icon judged by history and civilization as one of the greatest men ever since,” Lapuz said, who was also a Knight Grand Cross of Rizal awardee, the highest recognition given to dedicated members of the Knights of Rizal.

Igniting liberalism

For Rizal, a nation must possess sovereignty for it to properly fulfill the needs of its citizens. This notion was shown in his famous novels Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which both gained international recognition for their revolutionary and satirical approach to social issues confronting the Philippines then.

“In writing the Noli and the Fili, his purpose was to give us a wakeup call and to throw a challenge to us,” Lapuz said.

His writings inspired Filipinos to rise against Spanish rule while also serving as a model to other Asian countries like Indonesia.

“The fact that we (Philippines) are the first to be independent in Asia will show to you that the Filipinos easily understood the concept of independence and national freedom,” Lapuz said.

Rizal also influenced early Filipinos to value education as it “exalts and elevates the mind.” He believed that it was through knowledge that the country received light and direction.

Commemorating a hero

Aside from the admiration given by foreign personalities on Rizal, the global icon is also commemorated in various parts of the world through statues built in honor of him.

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A number of monuments can be found in Germany, Mexico, Singapore, China, Russia, East Germany, and North America, among others.

A jubilee edition of the Noli me Tangere translated in Russian was published by the Institute of Oriental Affairs in the Central University of Moscow.

International conferences and symposiums were also held in honor of Rizal like the one in Kuala Lumpur last 1995, where he was acclaimed as the “greatest Malayan.”

At present, a joint project of the Philippine Consulate and Filipino-American Historical Society of Chicago led by Cultural officer Berth D. Salvador will honor Rizal in Chicago, Illinois in line with his 150th birth anniversary.

Lapuz is also lobbying for Rizal’s recognition by Unesco as one of the greatest men in history similar to his contemporary in Cuba, Jose Marti, and former American presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

“Rizal is eternal. He is the one and only international superstar known in the literate world for his true resting place lies in the grateful hearts of every Filipino,” he said.


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