By Josh Grossberg – Jose Rizal helped start a movement to secure Philippine independence. He’s a national symbol, a martyr to revolution and an intellectual giant who helped lead his country to independence.
Jose Rizal was many things to the people of the Philippines and on Saturday, residents of Carson, which has a sizable Filipino population, paid tribute to him on the anniversary of his death in 1896.
The gathering took place under a statue of Rizal that sits in a parking lot of the Seafood City supermarket at Carson and Main streets.
The ceremony drew curious looks from some shoppers, but to the people celebrating, it didn’t matter where they were.
“He’s our national hero,” said Carson resident Willie Manacsa. “He protected the Philippines. He’s a genius.”
An author, sculptor, linguist and ophthalmologist, Rizal galvanized the people of the Philippines when the country was under Spanish rule. His most famous works are Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, novels that dealt with the struggle for Philippine independence. He was killed by a firing squad in Manila for championing that cause.
“He didn’t lead the revolution, but once he was martyred, it ignited the revolution,” said Fe Koons, who helped organize the event.
Carson Councilman Elito Santarina read excerpts from some of Rizal’s writings and called Rizal the “pride of the Malayan race.” Mayor Jim Dear called him a beacon for free people everywhere.
“He’s not just a patriot of the Philippines, he’s a patriot of the world,” Dear said. “He’s a martyr for all freedom-loving people.”
A wreath was placed next to the statue and national anthems of both the United States and the Philippines were sung.
A similar ceremony was held in downtown Los Angeles.
For the people celebrating the event, Rizal is similar in stature to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
“He fought the Spanish with ideas,” said Carson resident Joe Merton.