ON the evening of the last day of pre-enlistment for the coming first semester in our school, I received frantic messages from graduating students.
These incoming seniors were worried that they might not be able to graduate on time because of a misunderstanding over P. I. 100, which is the mandated course on Rizal’s Life, Works and Writings.
The University of the Philippines (UP) system requires all undergraduates to enroll in P. I. 100 in compliance with Republic Act (RA) No. 1425. Some students mistakenly presumed that P. I. 100 is one of the options to meet six units of Philippine studies, which are also prerequisites for graduation.
Millennial frustrations with Jose Rizal come to mind today, June 19, the 155th birth anniversary of the national hero. Students gripe about the relevance of Rizal to their lives, specially since P. I. 100 is required during the final year of college, when seniors address weightier concerns, such as thesis, internship and the dilemma to date or go solo on their last prom.
So while the course description is Philippine Institutions 100 on paper, among generations of students resentful of the “useless” academic burden of studying the “national sell-out” chosen by American imperialists for epitomizing the unheroic values of accommodation and assimilation, P. I. 100 is sometimes referred to in less exalted terms as “P__ I__, Rizal” 100.
Long before the curse-spewing presidential elect Rodrigo Duterte turned this profanity into a statement of “cool,” I noticed how the youth may be the most irreverent but they’re not alone in being cavalier in their remembrance of Jose Rizal.
One of the quizzes I give to test students’ power of observation is to ask them to recall the heroes and historical figures featured in our coins and bills. While reviewing the mistakes I made in taking the quiz, I noticed for the first time how the profile of Jose Rizal is featured in the P1.00 coin.
Among the coins of lower denomination—P0.01, P0.25, and P0.10—P1.00 is the coin that’s most commonly used. It’s telling that I didn’t even remember the familiar profile before taking the pop quiz.
Passed on June 12, 1956, RA 1425 was posted on Vol. 52, No. 6, p. 2971 in the June 1956 edition of the Official Gazette. Viewed online on www.gov.ph, the law mandates the youth to read Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”.
Section 3 directs the Board of National Education to translate the novels and other Rizal works into “English, Tagalog and the principal Philippine dialects”. It also stipulates that Rizal’s works should be printed in “cheap, popular editions” and distributed for free through purok organizations and barrio councils throughout the country.
In the 60 years since the passage of RA 1425, Section 3 remains a pipe dream, a delusion, even an unkindness. It is not just our failure to translate Rizal into all the mother tongues and make him accessible to the masses. Not even the absence of free copies of Rizal’s great novels of national consciousness in the barangay and pure.
The phrase that cuts is buried, fittingly, in Section 3: free copies of Rizal’s novels should be made available to “persons desiring to read them”.
Where do we find them?
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu's June 19, 2016 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, "Matamata"