Sir Choy Arnaldo, KGOR in Dapitan

Isle of Dapitan
Isle of Triumph

For Dr José Rizal, landing in Dapitan in the evening of 17 July 1892, was not a defeat, but a triumph.

This was the theme developed by Sir Carlos A. Arnaldo, KGOR, Supreme Archivist of the Knights of Rizal as he delivered the Rizal lecture in the gardens of Talisay where Rizal lived and worked for four years. Similar lectures were delivered at Fort Santiago, Intramuros by Professor Roberto Paulino, University of the Philippines, and at the Calamba residence of Rizal By Sir JePaul Verstraeten, KGOR.

In Dapitan, it rained fairly heavily in the afternoon of 28 December, but sunshine broke through the clouds just before the lecture started. Some 200 professionals, university professors and school teachers, students and several Knights of Rizal had come for the ceremonies. Dapitan has one of the largest chapters in the Philippines, numbering almost 140 members.

The lecturer referred to the newly implanted life-size sculpture of the landing of Rizal designed by M anuelTolentino, saying the art piece “does not show Rizal in chains, led as a prisoner from the boat to the dock that fateful day of July 17, 1892. It does not show the soldiers roughly treating a political prisoner accused of sedition and revolt. It does not show a commanding officer marshalling his troops and mistreating a criminal.” In fact Rizal himself is “leading his ‘captors’ from the skiff to the shore; a soldier carries Rizal’s valise and is holding a lantern to light the way to the town, for they arrive at dusk. Rizal is elegantly dressed, as usual, in his Spanish styled overcoat. The Commanding General Ricardo Carnicero actually went to meet him and accompanies him, but walks slightly behind. . . .

“For the leader of this expedition is Dr José Rizal himself, making landfall in all curiosity and wonder, ‘What is this new land I have come to?’ Look at the expression on his face. ‘How beautiful is this island of Mindanao and this humble strip of beach called Dapitan! How can I make a new land here for our farmers and peasants so wickedly mistreated and evicted by the friars?’”

Arnaldo presented in detail the works of Rizal during his stay in Dapitan and ended with three proposals.

1. Education. Recalling the octagonal nipa hut Rizal built as a school for talented students, could not Dapitan be reinforced as a center of educational excellence? Dapitan has produced two winners of the national Rizal history quiz contest and one second place winner of the Rizal Essay contest plus a number of winners at the provincial level. Several students have placed on the national bar exams and nursing tests. The José Rizal Memorial Institute has advanced from a college to a state university of five campuses. It should not be difficult to persuade commercial companies to invest in building chemistry and physics laboratories of the highest quality, and computer equipment to build an IT center. Perhaps, the descendants of those who were directly taught by Rizal, might consider organizing a Rizal alumni association that could spark this movement to educational excellence.

2. Medicine. Arnaldo pointed to the hexagonal nipa hut just at the edge of the Talisay gardens, where Rizal held his clinic and treated patients, often without payment. He operated on his mother and removed the cataract from her eye. There is in Dapitan the José Rizal Memorial Hospital. Could not this be built up to become an ophthalmological center for the region of north Mindanao? The center would attract specialist doctors who would treat patients and conduct scientific research. The center could also offer free operations on cataract and related illnesses on Saturdays, as Rizal did everyday.

3. El Retiro. The Rizal Shrine in Dapitan has been very well maintained and developed. However, tourism in the modern age is imposing new demands on cultural ad historical sites, especially in the way of information to the public, and particularly the foreign visitor who may be totally unfamiliar with the life and works of the national hero. It may be beneficial to undertake a new look for Rizal’s El Retiro: the use of digital technology to provide audio information at the important sites of the Talisay Shrine; a multimedia auditorium for lectures and symposia on Rizal; an outdoor amphitheatre for performing arts; information kits on CD-rom and DVDs; and enhanced memorabilia of Rizal, such as the reproduction of his beautiful cover of the Noli on coffee mugs and Tshirts. These and similar measures would make Talisay a modern center for history and culture.

Arnaldo closed his lecture on a positive note.

Rizal’s four years here was a life of service to the community– hardly the makings of a life in exile. . . .

Look again at his bronzed statue. It depicts Rizal landing in Dapitan, not in defeat, not as a prisoner, not chained in exile. It is Rizal in triumph!

Mabuhay si Rizal!

Mabuhay ang Dapitan!

El Retiro, by Dr José Rizal

Su techo es fragil nipa, su suelo debil cana
Sus vigas y columnas madero sin labrar
Nada vale por cierto mi rustica cabana
Mas duerme en el regazo de la eterna montana
Y la canta y arulla noche y dia la mar.

or in Nick Joaquin’s elegant hand —

Its roof is fragile nipa , its floor is brittle bamboo
Its beams and posts are rough as rough-hewn wood can be
Of no worth, it is certain, is my rustic cabin
But on the lap of the eternal mount it slumbers
And night and day is lulled by the crooning of the sea.

View Photos in Dapitan here






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