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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rizal @151

Last year, I was lucky enough to present my paper during the International Conference to commemorate Rizal's 150th birth anniversary.

I remember vividly a question asked by one of the audiences, a teacher, I suppose. "How do we teach Rizal's novels? Do we base it on various interpretations of scholars or the actual meaning of the work?"

Well, who knows exactly the meaning of any work? Even the creator of the work will be hard put to interpret his own work. I remember a song writer/producer who was asked what he meant by his work. He said, I don't know. I just wrote it.

A lot of works suffer from over reading. Rizal's works are not exemptions. Pick any book written by Ambeth Ocampo on Rizal, and you will see how every phrase of the novels Noli and El Fili are given symbols and meanings. I was pretty embarrassed that Ocampo pointed out that the five holes on the floor of the boat that the excursionists used to get to the picnic grounds meant the five women on it. It was a happy occasion in the novel to be tarnished that way. Ugh. But I love the vivid description of how the sinigang was made out of fish fresh from the fish traps in the river. Just gotta love Rizal, but I hate the "holes" metaphor!

So, how does one teach Rizal?

Know him.
Then you'll love him.

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