Rizal & his filipino philosophy


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“Every society has had its own philosophers, whose ideas reflect their individual cultures.”1

To say that the Filipinos didn’t have “philosophy” before Western philosophy came to be known to us through the intellectuals is like saying that the Filipinos didn’t have “history” before March 16, 1521, the day our first colonizers arrived. May kasaysayan ang mga Pilipino at may pilosopiya ang mga Pilipino. False analogy between kasaysayan and pilosopiya? I think not. I remember from my Kasaysayan II class: ang kasaysayan ay isang sanaysay na may saysay sa isang grupo ng taong pinagsasaysayan; an example of this is the Ilocano – wait, the term ‘Ilocano’ is redundant2 because I means taga-, luko means kapatagan, and -ano also means taga- (it was a Spanish historian who used the term ‘Ilocano’ to refer to the people of the plains), so it should be ‘Iluko’ – epic Biag Ti Lam-ang3. “Kasaysayan” is not necessarily a “record of past events,” for as long as it is a narrative which has significance to the people, it is considered as “kasaysayan”… our kasaysayan. In this same line I shall argue for FILIPINO PHILOSOPHY.

I believe now that those who keep asking whether or not there is a “Pilosopiyang Pilipino” are less likely to find the answer. They are unaware (wow, I’m on dangerous grounds here – and I haven’t even taken a course on Filipino Philosophy!) that what they are looking for is a Western kind of Philosophy or even a non-Western kind, i.e., still using the standards set by Western philosophy. We were asked in our Speculative Thought class if there was any other philosophy besides Greek philosophy; there seemed to be none. Do you get my point? I suppose we are only looking for the “label.” But what is ours has been there all along.

Take the case of the babaylan4. In the classless societies of the yet “unhispanized” Philippines, the babaylans were teachers and doctors. They also assumed gender roles (they are androgynous). Most importantly, they held a specific type of episteme (knowledge): that of the herbal medicine. In other parts of the country, they were called manag-anitos. Despite the suppression of that knowledge during the time of the Spaniards, up to this day, the manag-anitos are still powerful. Now we have created this ampalaya-bitter herbs in capsules, Noni juice, etc., which to them are actually very basic stuff. And there are a lot of medicinal plants they have discovered a long time ago which the scientific community knows very little about. We don’t call them – the babaylans and the manag-anitos (and the catalonans to the Tagalogs) – philosophers do we? We call them shamans or warlocks. The title ‘manag-anito’ came from anitismo or the worship of the anitos. Anitismo is different from animismo. Animism is the worship of animals, ancestors, or inanimate objects. Anitism is specifically the worship of spirits, which our ancestors called anitos. Anitismo is something indigenous, something unique, to us. Our scholars use this term so as to show how distinct our culture is. UPD’s Department of Anthropology prefers to be called “Departamento ng Aghamtao” because they said that anthropology used to be an instrument of invasion; it was originally the study of tribes/minorities outside Europe and America. We have to claim anitismo. We have to promote our own terms. This is what I believe to be lacking in the search for a “Filipino Philosophy.” It shouldn’t be mere attachment of the word ‘Filipino.’ For me, “to strive towards the development of a Filipino Philosophy that is relevant to Philippine society”5 would mean using the Filipino language, i.e., “Filipinizing” Filipino Philosophy itself.

That was the introduction. (Who says intros should be short?) I am now going to explore on the topic: Rizal & His Filipino Philosophy.

It is important to bear in mind that the term Filipino originally referred to creoles – the Spaniards born in the Philippines – the Españoles-Filipinos, for short. The natives were called indios. […] The indios led by Rizal gained acceptability as Filipinos because they proved their equality with the Spaniards in terms of both culture and property. This was an important stage in our appropriation of the term Filipino. Rizal’s intellectual excellence paved the way for the winning of the name for the natives of the land.6
If kasaysayan can be found in the epic – I guess another example would be the awit (in pre-colonial times, we had different awit for different events; from birth to panliligaw to war and until death, our ancestors had songs for each one of them7) – then Pilosopiyang Pilipino can be found in the salawikain (another example is the bugtong, as we have read in other writings on Filipino Philosophy such as the one printed in the Feb 2003 issue of B.T.8). And if this is the case then Rizal is definitely a proponent of Pilosopiyang Pilipino.

“Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika

Ay nakakatulad ng malansang isda.”
“Ang di marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan

Di makararating sa paroroonan.”

The first salawikain was taken from Rizal’s poem “Sa Aking Mga Kabata,” which scholars claim was written by Rizal when he was only eight years old. The second one was taken from another poem of his entitled “Sa Mga Kabataang Pilipino,” for which he won a silver pen when he was 18. I’ll give you another salawikain9: “Ang buhay ng tao ay parang gulong / Magulungan at makagulong.” This doesn’t come from Rizal. But compare it with this: “Parang gulong ang buhay ng tao / Minsan amoy ihi ng aso.” I’m not sure if these were Booba’s10 exact words. Anyway. Tsk tsk. We’ve lost it. Even though you can interpret the latter and say it’s somewhat similar to “shit happens,” like you know, nasty stuff can happen to you which you may not have had any control of, in my own honest opinion, I’d say “Parang gulong ang buhay ng tao / Minsan amoy ihi ng aso” unfortunately embodies the way of thinking of Filipinos nowadays. Filipinos don’t think seriously about anything at all anymore. This is too much of a generalization but let’s face it, the Philippine society is going nowhere (or maybe downward). With this kind of people – people who erect statues and sing praises to the Virgin Mary after their victory over tyranny (si Sir de Villa galit na galit sa kanila), people who tolerate crime and suffering by staying silent instead of exposing civil wrongs (we can’t blame them though because we know that the military and the police have “vital” connections to criminals), people who want Erap back in position (‘nuff said), people who allow the capitalists to use the lands for their private interests (UP ChaCha ba ‘to?), people who are constantly fooled by GMA’s fake smiles (according to a very reliable source, before, GMA’s kickback was only about P10,000 per gig; now it’s millions of pesos on the average per stint/program/gig/whatever she’s doing), people who destroy the environment (take care of our planet I beg you), people who treat everything as a joke and who just laugh their way out of the misery of their lives? Yup, the Philippine society is going nowhere (again, maybe downward). But there are people who thought seriously about things. (Sorry if I can’t name anyone who’s alive; “who thought” is what I wrote anyway. Presently we are going back to the serious level of our discussion.) One of those people is Rizal. In the following paragraphs you will discover why.

Tasio el filosofo.11 The best way to talk about Rizal & His Filipino Philosophy is through the exposition of ourselves12… of Pilosopo Tasyo.

The Noli Me Tangere grew out of the unique intellectual milieu of the late 19th century Europe, which may be broadly described as liberal, rationalist, scientific. Rizal’s formal initiation into this secularist mentality took place within the halls of the Universidad Central de Madrid, where in 1882-85 he enrolled in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters while at the same time pursuing his medical studies.

Tasio was a philosopher in the Enlightenment usage of the word: a social critic who pricked the consciences of men; adviser and guide to Basilio, Crispin, Filipo, the nameless schoolmaster, Ibarra and all of San Diego; an expert in lightning rods and ancient languages; a teacher of science and preacher of the gospel of reason; a secular prophet of Progress and his country’s redemption…
Tasio was unthinkable within the halls of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and Pontificia y Real, Universidad de Santo Tomas; he could have arisen only out of the academic temper of the Universidad de Madrid. Nonetheless, there is no perfect fit between Tasio and the classic mold of the philosophe13. Tasio went to church when no one was around and prayed. His statement that at the hour of death “I shall place myself in His hands without fear, to do with me as He will”14 does not reflect an impersonal God, unfeeling and unconcerned with the affairs of men.

In fact, like his character Tasio, Rizal himself was not a rigorous rationalist deist. […] Only once in all his writings did he employ the deist image of God as the Perfect Workman who created the machinery of the world, and this he placed in the mouth of Elias in the Noli. […] Thus even Tasio points beyond the layer of Enlightenment ideas and attitudes to the deeper stratum of Catholic religiosity which Rizal never succeeded in extricating completely from his psyche.
Pilosopo Tasyo emerged from Rizal’s Filipino Philosophy which was formed through the assimilation of the popular Enlightenment ideas into his own religious beliefs. You can see in Rizal that the philosophy of Aufklarung15 was blended with the Filipino attitude towards religion perfectly. Note that it is only in the Philippines where you can find “devout” Christians. Filipinos go to church regularly (you won’t observe this in Spain, the very country that brought us Christianity) and they even make the sign of the cross every time they pass by the church. Way back then, our ancestors had the conscious habit of uttering phrases each time they walk on unfamiliar territories in order to appease the spirits who supposedly own the lands. This actually was the practice from which the sign-of-the-cross-when-passing-by-the-church thing originated. Up to now, people still say “tabi-tabi po” when they have to pee or pupu on the hillside or whatever, not knowing this pretty much has the same purpose with the sign-of-the-cross-when-passing-by-the-church thing: to show respect to unknown beings. This is a proof that assimilation does not mean losing one’s identity but instead it means adding something new to one’s identity – regardless of favorable or unfavorable consequences – making one uniquely Filipino, if you may wish to call it.

Meanwhile, the following story, which is ultimately based on one chapter in the Noli16, is a story about the lost twin sister of…

Nang araw na iyon ay bumaba siya ng bundok upang hanapin ang puntod ng ina. Ang pagkakilala na sa kanya ng mga mangmang ay isang mangkukulam o isang bruha.

Anak siya ng mayaman. Pero, dahil sa hindi niya paniniwala sa sakramento ng kumpisal, ay itinakwil siya ng kanyang ina. Aniya rito, “Ano pa ho ang silbi ng pangungumpisal kung maaari ka namang magdasal ng taimtim sa Panginoon at doon na ihayag ang iyong mga nagawang pagkakamali? Mas mabuti ho iyon sa halip na mangumpisal ka nang paulit-ulit dahil paulit-ulit ka ring nagkakasala.” Natatakot kasi ang kanyang ina na baka mapagbuntunan ng mga kura ang kanilang pamilya at lalo na ang kanilang ari-arian. Isa pa, gusto ng kanyang ina na siya ay mag-asawa ng español, na higit naman niyang tinutulan. Namuhay na lamang siya sa bundok malapit sa bayan at inukol ang sarili sa pagbabasa ng mga aklat – karamihan sa mga ito’y umaatake sa relihiyon – na ibinigay sa kanya ng kanyang kapatid noong siya’y lumisan.

Bagamat nang hapong iyon mayroong babala na darating ang unos sapagkat matatalim na kidlat ang gumuguhit sa nagdidilim na langit, masaya pa rin ang hitsura ni Anastacia. Ito ang ipinagtaka ng mga taong nakakausap niya. Tinanong siya kung bakit, diretso ang sagot niya: “Ang pagdating ng bagyo ang tangi kong pag-asa sapagkat ito ang magdadala ng mga lintik na siyang papatay sa mga kura at susunog sa mga simbahan!” Iniwanan ni Tasya ang kausap at nagtuloy ito sa lugar kung saan nakalibing ang kanyang ina. Wala siyang kaalam-alam na namatay pala ito mga ilang buwan matapos mag-asawa ang kanyang kapatid, na ninais naman ng kanyang ina na magpari.

Palakas nang palakas ang buhos ng ulan. Ito ay sinasalitan ng matatalim na kidlat at kulog. Siyang-siya si Tasya sa gayong pangyayari. Nakataas pa ang kanyang dalawang kamay at nagsisigaw habang naglalakad pabalik sa kabundukan.

How I wish Rizal included Pilosopo Tasyo’s female counterpart17 in his Noli. Although for me, there really is no difference if a philosopher is male or female; or if a philosophy professor is male or female. Just don’t take two female philosophy professors in one semester – both of them might be pregnant at that time (which I ironically experienced last year).

Besides the character of Pilosopo Tasyo, there is another one which reflects Rizal’s own sentiments: Elias18.

I regret having killed Elias… But I was in such poor health when I wrote the Noli that I felt I could not go on with it and talk of revolution. Otherwise, I would have preserved the life of Elias, a noble character, a patriot, self-sacrificing, truly a man who could lead a revolution. --- Jose Rizal, Letters
…Some revolutions destroy institutions – not in the name of new ones, but in the name of what they pretend to stand for. Elias, in this respect, desired the abolishment of the Civil Guards because they failed to perform the task for which they were created, the religious corporations because they were not only unnecessary but (or because of that) oppressive as well. Elias’ revolutionary position was indigenous, native [underscore mine]. Unlike the French philosophers of 1793, Elias was not thinking of a revolution based on the principle that one should kill God by killing his representatives on earth. On the contrary, Elias rested his valiant protest on the same God the authorities invoked as their right to power. By opposing the Christian premises on which the society was supposedly founded with the actual society itself, Elias concluded: we are living under a sacrilegious19 society.

Perhaps I have not made clear what Filipino Philosophy is. What I have done so far is claim that Rizal has his Filipino Philosophy. My point exactly. We should reconsider the search for Filipino Philosophy; what we ought to do is try to discover what Filipino Philosophy should be. Right from the start I encouraged you to think of our OWN terminologies for Filipino Philosophy. I was not asking you to translate. I am asking you to assimilate, to absorb, ‘philosophy’ into our system. Eventually we will be able come up with a term for “Filipino Philosophy” itself20. Eventually. And it would be what Filipino Philosophy should be.

Florida V. Ortiz

Priority Problems & Questions on the State & Traditions of Filipino Philosophy


1 “A Young Person’s Guide to Philosophy” (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1998)

2 from my Philippine Institutions (P.I.) 100 class

3 from my Kasaysayan (KAS) II readings

4 the following discussion on babaylan and anitismo was taken from my P.I. 100 class

5 the no. 1 objective of the UP Kabataang Pilosopo Tasyo (KAPITAS) as stated in Art. III, Sec. 1 of its Constitution

6 excerpt from Veneration Without Understanding by Renato Constantino (P.I. 100 pamphlet)

7 from my P.I. 100 class

8 Balitang Tasyo, the official publication of UP KAPITAS

9 the previous two and this one were taken from The New Filipino-English English-Filipino Dictionary by Maria Odulio de Guzman (Metro Manila: National Book Store, Inc., 1968)

10 Rufa Mae Quinto played the lead role Booba in the Tagalog movie with the same title

11 all the following quotations regarding Pilosopo Tasyo were taken from “Tasio el Filosofo and Padre Florentino: An Inquiry Into Rizal’s Prophetic Vision” by Raul J. Bonoan, SJ (from my P.I. 100 readings)

12 I’m referring to my organization (KAPITAS), although, yeah, it can refer to philosophy majors can’t it?

13 “The philosophe… was “the preceptor of mankind,” a social critic, or if you will, a secular prophet of the age.” (emphasis mine)

14 Noli Me Tangere, translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero (Hong Kong: Longman, 1961), p. 74.

15 German word for ‘Enlightenment’

16 Kabanata XIV-Si Pilosopo Tasyo (Ang Buod), from http://www.joserizal.ph/noli_k14.htm.

17 Anastacia is of my own working; she is a product of major alterations in the summary I found on the above website (see footnote 13). I apologize if the story is an unjust adaptation of Rizal’s character ‘Tasyo’.

18 all of the following quotations regarding Elias were taken from “Elias: The Ethics of Revolution” by Adrian E. Cristobal (from my P.I. 100 readings)

19 sacrilegious = violating something sacred (Webster’s New Dictionary)

20 patterning after kasaysayan, for which they now have “bagong kasaysayan”, an example for ‘absorbing’ pilosopiya is calling it “bagong pagdadalumat” – or something to that extent


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