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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rizal's Tasio and Noynoy Aquino: What's the Connection?

This article is reposted with permission from the original author and as requested to reach and inform the public of this very timely and inner looking view.

Rizal's Tasio and Noynoy
Fastlanes/ August 31, 2009
By BenCyrus G. Ellorin/ (National Heroes Day Special)

BANGKOK, Thailand – “I honor the father on account of the son and not the son on account of the father.” - Jose Rizal in Noli Me Tangere, Chapter 14, English translation by Charles Derbyshire, 1912.

The shallowness in our appreciation and analysis of social realities especially in the realm of politics is already synonymous to absurdity.

It betrays the Philippines’ glorious moments like when it won the revolution for independence against 333 years of Spanish Colonialism more than a hundred years ago and when it started the tide of bloodless regime changes all over the world with the People’s Power Revolution that toppled the diabolic dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

This shallowness may bespeak of our inferior social analysis skills to the point that it insults the profundity of the inspirations and sacrifices of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, two beacons of struggle for democracy.

I don’t know if it is lack of imagination or evil idolatry that is behind this looming movement to thrust Noynoy Aquino, Ninoy’s and Cory’s only son to run for President.

In light of the present circus in Philippine politics more than 120 years after the publication of the Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere (Social Cancer), it may be fitting to revisit even just a chapter of the book, Chapter 14.

Tasio or Don Anastasio is an important character in Noli Me Tangere. He is an intelligent person coming from a rich family turned cynical by his frustrations over the rotteness of the country under Spain. His character gave scathing and accurate commentaries on the excesses and decadence of the theocratic Spanish colonialial government.

Rizal creation of the character of Tasio is thought provoking and may provide some wisdom as we near the 2010 elections.

In one scene, a merry Tasio got a sarcastic remark from the Gobernadorcillo.

“The storm? Are you thinking of taking a bath?” said the Gobernadorcillo.

To which Tasio replied: “A bath? Not a bad idea, especially when one has just stumbled over some trash.”

The cynical Tasio was actually in “merry mood” as he was looking for something better like a storm which will bring “thunderbolts that will kill people and burn down houses.”

Throughout the book Rizal played magically with ironies and paradox and in this scene was a paradox which says that the country under Spain was worst than being hit by a vicious storm. It could also be the tagalog expression of exasperation “matamaan ka sana ng kidlat” (may you be hit by lighting).
Tasio’s conversation with two sakristans (altar boys) who were later prominently portrayed by Rizal in the novel as Crispin and Basilio, children of the destitute mother Sisa is a livid commentary on the sufferings of Inang Bayan (Motherland) under the Spanish cross and sword.

What caught me as most fitting for our political situation and political exercises (in futility, I hope not) was Tasio’s conversation with Dona Teodora Vina about the arrival of Crisostomo Ibarra, son of the Don Rafael, a respectable elite who died after unjustly put behind bars at the behest of the vile friar Padre Damaso.

In a stirring rebuke to misplaced sympathies and patronage, Tasio made it clear that he was not at all excited with the arrival of the son of Don Rafael, even as held the elder Ibarra is very high esteem.

“Ya Saba V., Senora, que no soy partidario de la monarquia hereditaria... honro al padre por el hijo pero no al hijo por el padre. Que cada uno reciba el premio el castigo por sus obras no por las de los otros.” (“But, madam, I am not a believer in hereditary monarchy. I honor the father on account of the son and not the son on account of the father. I believe that each one should receive the reward or punishment for his own deeds, not for those of another.”)

I have observed Noynoy at close range both in the August Hall of Congress and in meetings during the Congressional hearings of the second Impeachment of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as one of the citizen complainants in 2006. To be clear about it, Noynoy is not a bad politician, neither can he be considered as a brilliant one. If that episode in our history is to be a measure, he paled in comparison to young oppositionists like Chiz Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano, and even the shouting TG Guingona.

We can go further, and a check with his lawmaking performance in the House of Representatives and now in the Senate wouldn’t make anyone grin with excitement either. Without the shining stars of his venerable parents Ninoy and Cory, Noynoy is a lackluster politician.

There are already many bugheads in the presidentiable list, the addition of another lackluster politician may not be comforting and not at all compelling.

With the country’s current unemployment rate at more than 30%, many Filipinos are hopelessly wandering in the streets or have chosen to abandon ship and find greener pastures elsewhere in the world as opportunity for upward social mobility seems to be exclusively franchised to the scions of the elites.

Thus the challenge for the 2010 elections if genuine political change is to be attained is for it to transcend patronage and transactional politics. It should be beyond entertainment and idolatrous hero worship.

There are many out there who have by far shown genuine vision and solid plans for the country but are not considered as mainstream to Philippines politics. They are definitely what we need now.

Otherwise, more than 120 years after Noli Me Tangere we as a nation is still a caricature of that distraught and destitute mother Sisa frantically shouting “Crispin! Basilio!” in some mortifying talent show of a barrio beauty pageant somewhere.

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