Lucas Santa Ana
he first things that could come to your mind when you hear the word ‘SUPERHERO’ are those in the likes of Superman, Batman, Iron Man, and Spiderman. What do these characters have in common? They all contain traits and abilities that go beyond the capabilities of the human body, like laser eyes, super speed, or webs that come out of your hands. With these abilities, they choose to uphold the dignified virtues and righteousness of society by using their overwhelming power to protect others. However, these heroes are only written into the realm of fiction. In reality, nobody has these abilities, everyone is one and the same. The only difference is the choice in what to do with these abilities. That is the realistic essence of a superhero, shaping the values we as individuals should hold to heart. They embody one idea. Hate and darkness cannot drive out hate and darkness, only love and light can do that.
The heroes of our world don’t have superpowers, but we call them heroes for a reason. They use their human power to create extraordinary and noble change. In the Philippines we have our own heroes, who use their wits and words to combat swords and oppression. José Rizal was this hero, embodying the Spirit of independence and peace.
The Spanish colonized and subjugated the Philippines for over 300 years, from 1565 to 1898. This gave the Spanish total control over the Philippines, making us, the Filipino, a minority in our own country. We would face injustice and inequality as the Spanish kept us in their shadow, stripping us of rights and our livelihoods. The Spanish made us into slaves, putting indigenous people to labor. Even with the implementation of new laws and rights, the Filipino were still discriminated against. We were criminals in our own home, and we were made to think the same way.
This would all change when José Rizal would make himself known. José Rizal fought blades and guns with the vigor of his words and the tip of his pen. His writings united the Philippines, giving the Filipino pride we have today. José Rizal had studied in the Philippines and traveled to Europe by himself. He studied many things like film, medicine, and writing. He studied in Madrid, Germany, Paris, and learned over 10 languages. Needless to say, he had seen the freedom of Europe and wanted to bring that to the oppressed Philippines. This was the light the Philippines needed.
In 1887José Rizal wrote ‘Noli Me Tangere’ or ‘Touch Me Not, The Social Cancer’, a realistic fictional novel. This was José Rizal’s way of showing the injustice the Spanish colonizers inflicted upon the Filipinos. It illustrated the corruption and oppressive powers the Spanish Catholic church had over the Filipino through vivid storytelling. The Spanish tried to stop his book from reaching the Filipinos, but it was smuggled onto streets, the hands, and the hearts of the people. The Spanish Catholic priests exiled him from the Philippines because of his texts going against the Spanish Empire that highlighted the Filipinos rights. Even in exile, he continued to write stories about the faults of the Spanish colonizers and soon he crept back into the Philippines. His writings commenting on the cruel rule of the Spanish awakened the Filipinos, bringing up a revolution through words. He didn't focus on the destruction of the Spanish Empire, but focused on bringing knowledge to the people, to let them know that freedom in the Philippines was a right, not a privilege. This was his way of spreading love and light.
These texts sparked the idea of independence within the Filipino people, leading to the creation of the Katipunan and La Liga, the foundations of bringing war to an end with peace. José Rizal found what his country needed most, knowledge.
With this knowledge, he enlightened the entire country. He made everyone realize that no matter who their colonizers were, the Philippines was for the Filipino. This simple idea of freedom was radical in the eyes of the Spanish. The more he wrote, the more Spanish fell and the Filipino rose. His light had grown so large that it had begun to drive out the Spanish oppression, taking the Philippines out of the darkness.
The writings had empowered the Filipino so much and threatened the Spanish so dearly, that they executed him publicly in 1896. They had to kill a man who used a pen as his weapon with a gun. The Philippines shook when José Rizal died, but his idea of an independent Philippines lived. His writings were the Filipino as a whole, their pride, their power, their belonging. In the same year, the Katipunan revolted against the Spanish, giving the Philippines its’ freedom after 500 years of oppression. The man who wrote with a pen brought down an entire empire within years. He spread ideas through peace, to abolish years of suffering and war. We say that superpowers should be left in the realm of fiction, but José Rizal had a superpower, the power of the people.