Monday, December 04, 2006

Jose Rizal Post #2, Elmer, Humanis Rex, Babies

What's with all the babies in December?

I thought I'd write about the things that's been keeping me busy recently. Surprisingly, December is turning out to be quite a busy month with many activities. My weekends are all booked up with trips outside of San Pablo. I just came from my nephew Robin's Fist Communion yesterday at La Consolacion in Mendiola (video forthcoming). Last week I went to the baptism party for the baby of an old college friend of mine. This Sunday, another baptism, and then another baptism the weekend after that. What's with all these babies in December? Our friend and Komikero Edgee just gave birth herself (right on her birthday) yesterday. I expect I'll be going to that baptism very soon as well. It's become so that I simply won't be able to attend them all, as much as I want to.

Elmer and Humanis Rex!

The most active projects on my roster right at the moment are ELMER (I'm currently writing the 3rd issue), and HUMANIS REX!, which is now on the homestretch! Only 4 or 5 installments remain until the finish, and I'm already planning the compilation that comes after. I won't be able to just simply compile them into one book. Humanis Rex, as it is currently done, is meant to be read 2 pages a month at a time. To read them in one quick go would make the story read very strange. I will be adding pages to further expound the story and make the pages flow smoothly from one page to the other. Naturally, I would have to re-letter everything, and this would give me perfect opportunity to rewrite dialogue that would work better in a compiled work.

Jose Rizal Post #2

My research continues for my Jose Rizal project. The more I read, the more I find out things I never knew about our National Hero. The most telling revelation for me is how much of our grade school and high school textbooks on Rizal are quite simply CRAP. A lot of Rizal's history was written by people with superhero blinders on, exalting him as some infalliable near-deity, remote and unattainable. It does give you, as a Filipino, an icon to look up to, but personally, I would prefer an icon that's uplifted by truth.

As far as Jose Rizal is concerned, what is the truth?

There are many books and pamphlets, as well as articles online about Rizal. When I first wrote about this project, a couple of people sent me links to articles that have been quite enlightening. But what I have noticed is that given the same basic sets of facts, different writers and historians interpret such facts differently. Their interpretation of history is affected a little too much by their own personal perspective and world view. Their "history" then becomes more of an opinion piece rather than a clear and concise telling of what really happened.

It's hard to find a book/article/publication that's more objective than most. One such book I found, and indeed one of the most interesting, is "Letters Between Rizal and Family Members: 1876-1896" published the National Historical Institute. It reproduces personal letters between Rizal and his mother, his brother, his girlfriend, and friends.

It's like reading a blog, to tell you the truth. It allows you to get into the head of Rizal because you are witness to his actual words and thoughts. These letters are enlightening in that they paint a portrait of Rizal as completely human, equally susceptible to the same weaknesses and flaws such as any man would be. He cries, like everyone else. He needs money, like everyone else. He sometimes forgets himself when he's with women, just like any other man.

I have recently acquired a couple of books courtesy of my dad, collecting Rizal's personal reminisces, and other correspondences, which promise the same kind of clear window into who he really is.

One fascinating book I found is Ambeth Ocampo's Rizal: Without the Overcoat. Not really a biography but a collection of lectures on Jose Rizal. What I like about Ambeth is that he does not write pretentiously. He writes with a familiarity to the reader, and demonstrates the demeanor of a person completely enthusiastic about his subject and just can't wait to share every bit of info with you. It kind of reminds me of Dennis Villegas, and how he talks about Philippine comics. Ambeth doesn't pound you over the head with opinions, but rather offers supportable evidence and proof of his historical claims.

That his historical claims punch a clear wide hole into the infalliable Rizal we have grown to know clearly demonstrates how much we have been misinformed.

Although Ambeth by no means disrespects Rizal or denigrates his legacy, he does successfully demystifies Rizal and gives us the truth, or at least part of it. And informed of the truth, Jose Rizal is still unquestionably an icon and a hero to me. In fact, he is even more so.