Friday, December 30, 2011

I'm Stingy Like Jose Rizal

By Guest Blogger: PJ Lanot


I start this article with a tweet from my wife Alessandra Lanot:
And to make us all feel better, he published El Fili at 30. 

We see Jose Rizal statues all over the country and in many parts of the world, tributes to his greatness. In one of my trips to the province, my teenage cousin confided, "To be Rizal is just impossible. He's too perfect. It's so overwhelming to idolize him, it's like wanting to be Superman." 
In school, I was force-fed romanticized tales of Rizal's life, him being the "First Filipino", or "The Greatest Malay." But instead of equating Rizal as Clark Kent / Superman, I think he's more human--like Peter Parker / Spiderman. I stumbled upon a book after college, published by the National Historical Institute (NHI) in 1993, Letters Between Rizal and Family Members 1876-1896, and learned that he is, indeed, one of us.
In this article I will highlight three letters among many, which show his human side. In this first, Pepe was ranting about being short on allowance, primarily when their Calamba sugar harvest and sales were down, or sometimes just plain delayed.

13-2nd right, Pizarro, Madrid (Spain)
17 December 1884 owe me three months allowance, a friend of mine has been helping me all this time, sometimes to pay my matriculation fees, sometimes to pay for the house and food, because with P50 one cannot make many miracles in Madrid.

If that were the 21st Century, "load" would form part of his worries.

And in a letter written probably in that same year, he gets turned-off when a Lieutenant of the Guardia Civil never returns a book borrowed from his Laguna library.

How nice is it that while I economize in order to buy books, anyone can get away with them. I'm tempted to buy all books in German with certainty that no lieutenant of civil guard will understand them, but for your sake I don't do it for you'll get no benefit from them.

This is the 1884 equivalent of me getting pissed when my brothers borrow my shirts and "own" them eventually. 

And as a recurring theme in many of his posts, he sarcastically scolds his family when his letters go unrequited, or when his allowances gets delayed:
Wilhelmsfeld (Germany), 9 June 1886
Since the beginning of January until now, I haven't received either a letter or draft, though according to my calculation I ought to receive money a month ago, for what I have would barely last until the beginning of May...

...I repeat once more, lest you may have forgotten it, the convenience and necessity of writing me in advance when you cannot send me the promised amount. Thus, I shall be at ease knowing by what to abide and I don't contract obligations which later will cause me displeasures that are not easy to imagine.

If you don't have much to tell me, a postal card with four or five words will suffice, which is very convenient and costs one-half. With an expenditure of four cuartos, you save me many displeasures. This is always easy to do.

And he ends this post with a PS, Please answer this letter.

(All letters translated from Spanish by the NHI. Phrases in italics are my highlights.)

Rizal suffers our similar experiences: constant utang, disappointments, and homesickness. Or maybe, in our times, gas prices going up, BBM not working, or a friend "un-following" you. Nonetheless, we still move on with our lives and produce small daily miracles in school, the office and at home. We may not have the big ends in mind like Rizal, e.g. freedom and equality, but we are just like him in the way that we constantly do what we love to do in the hopes of fulfilling our dreams and aspirations, and continue doing it really well. 

You, the sleepless copywriter, who love to make puns for personal glory, will get it soon. You, the scrimping Philippine-trotting blogger, who want to make millions to gallivant Europe, will eventually spend those Euros. And I, the Rizal-wannabe, will be the next. Just skip the Bagumbayan part, please.
Alessa's notes:
A couple of years ago, Peej and I tripped out on this photo shoot & with Photoshop to bayani-fy him. This is the result: Gat Pa Jota (PJ) Lanot. Haha :P