OUR national hero, Jose Rizal, loved his country deeply. He had been to free, lovely, prosperous, and developed nations, yet he always preferred to return to his own. Love of country, the native land, the motherland, and the land of birth – this was the very character that defined his personality.
He was about 21 years old when he went to Spain for the first time in May 1882. While traveling, he recorded in his diary that his motherland was the seat of all his affection and that he loved it that no matter how beautiful Europe would be, he would still like to go back to her (Reminiscences and Travels of Jose Rizal, Centennial Edition, Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1961, pp. 44, 74).
Days after he arrived in Barcelona in June 1882, he wrote the essay El Amor Patrio (Love of Country), which contained the reasons behind that deep fondness for his land of birth. He wrote:
“It is a very natural feeling because there in our country are our first memories of childhood, a merry ode, known only in childhood, from whose traces spring forth the flower of innocence and happiness; because there slumbers a whole past and a future can be hoped. ”
“Is it because love of country is the purest, most heroic[,] and most sublime human sentiment? It is gratitude; it is affection for everything that reminds us of something of the first days of our life; it is the land where our ancestors are sleeping; it is the temple where we have worshipped God with the candor of babbling childhood; it is the sound of the church bell which had delighted us since [we were children]; they are the vast fields, the blue lake, the picturesque banks of the river? (Rizal’s Prose, Centennial Edition, Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1962, pp. 16, 17).
Rizal added that love of country was a great emotion that had been sung for centuries by all men, free or slaves, because it: “ … is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart, because it carries with it a divine stamp which renders it eternal and imperishable. … It has been said that love has always been the most powerful force behind the most sublime actions. Well then, of all loves, that of country is the greatest, the most heroic[,] and the most disinterested” (ibid., p. 18).
Rizal asked the readers to read history, the annals, and the traditions to find that because of this love:? Some have sacrificed for her their youth, their pleasures; others have dedicated to her the splendor of their genius; others shed their blood; all have died, bequeathing to their Motherland an immense fortune: Liberty and glory? (ibid., p. 19).
This essay first appeared in the Manila-based periodical Diariong Tagalog (Tagalog Paper) on August 20, 1882. It inspired a plebeian Manileno named Andres Bonifacio to write a poem faithfully echoing it. Titled Pag-ibig Sa Tinubuang Lupa (Love of the Native Land), Bonifacio’s long Tagalog poem was published in the Katipunan newspaper Kalayaan (Liberty) in its first issue dated January 18, 1896. Its first, sixth, seventh, and eight stanzas were taken from the preceding passages of El Amor Patrio. Those stanzas contained the following lines:
“What other love that can surpass/In purity and in greatness,/The love of the native land?/What other love? No, none there is.
“Why? What immense possession is this/That all obedience to her is tendered?/And to make her more esteemed ever,/Sacrificed even a life so sacred.
“Ah! It is the native Land of birth;/She is the mother, and from her only/Was first seen the pleasant rays of the sun/That gives warmth to the callused body.
“Owed to her is the very first taste/Of the breeze that gives remedy/To the aggrieved heart that struggles/In the depths of grief and agony.”
Bonifacio rewrote Rizal’slove of country is the greatest, the most heroic, and the most disinterested love? into a more effective no other love can surpass, in purity and in greatness, the love of the native land.?
Rizal’s motherland is so loved that her sons and daughters sacrificed their youth, their pleasures, their genius, and even their blood for her” became Bonifacio’s “the motherland is an immense possession that to her all obedience is tendered and even life is sacrificed.?
Rizal’ss “in our country are the first memories of childhood and the memories of the first days of our life” was paraphrased by Bonifacio into “from the mother only was first tasted breeze and seen the pleasant rays of the sun.”
Bonifacio was only 18 years old when he read El Amor Patrio for the first time in Diariong Tagalog. This was the first of Rizal’s works that would shape and sharpen his political convictions.
El Amor Patrio was the most beautiful essay that Rizal wrote. It was the first piece that dawned on the Filipinos one of the bright lights that they needed then—the concept of nationhood and love of country, or the idea that Filipinos had their own native land to mind and love, and that land was the Philippines, not Spain.
Never before had Filipinos read about giving care and love for their nation. They did not have any sense of this virtue before. El Amor Patrio was full of fiery endearment and just concern for the country. Its messages and wisdom urged the Filipinos to invest their time, strength, and knowledge for her.
This essay captured the attention it deserved. The publisher of Diariong Tagalog informed Rizal that the paper’s editorial staff and Manila’s enlightened groups poured praises on it, affirming that no one in the Philippines and Spain could write “an equal literary work so full of opportune concepts and poetic images” (Rizal’s Correspondence with Fellow Reformists, Centennial Edition, Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1963, p. 7).
It created a lasting impact on the hearts of those who had read it, an impact that rubbed off on their principles.
Regarding this article, Rizal’s brother-in-law, Silvestre Ubaldo, cautioned him in a letter dated January 19, 1883: “The news I have heard about you is that you are allegedly hated by those in white robes [friars] because of what was published in Diariong Tagalog, which you wrote while you were still in Barcelona; so take care there; it is advisable that you be careful as it seems that you are now in their black list” (Letters Between Rizal and Family Members, Centennial Edition, Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1964, p. 75).
El Amor Patrio led Rizal to become an enemy of the Church and State—the Spaniards were now keeping an eye on him. On the contrary, it enabled him to rise as the future political leader of the Filipinos and to father Filipino nationalism.
Rizal wanted to express that love for the country by bringing enlightenment to his countrymen, by working with them, by encouraging them to maintain their virtues, by helping them attain development, and by devoting himself to the sciences and the study of his country’s history and culture (The Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, Centennial Edition, Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1961, Part 1, pp. 21, 38, 196; Part 2, p. 344).
He felt that it was his duty to work for his fellow Filipinos because the philosophy of his entire life had been that love for the nation and her moral and material progress (Miscellaneous Correspondence, Centennial Edition, Manila: National Heroes Commission, 1963, p. 167). Even if he died for this duty, he would prefer such death because: “We die only once[,] and if we do not die well, we lose a great opportunity which will never come up again” (Rizal’s Correspondence with Fellow Reformists, p. 479).
His love for the country was very evident in his desires to always go back to her. Europe was a lovable, free, cultured, and civilized continent; yet he decided to leave it, feeling that it was in his own land where he would be more useful. His friends and compatriots were keeping him from returning, warning him that his destruction was awaiting him there. He did not listen to them because there was that strong urge to be in the place his heart found satisfying for him, beside his loved ones (The Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, Part 1, pp. 75, 96, 106). He returned to the country in August 1887.
When he was back in Europe again in May 1888, his longing to return again to the country kept inflaming in his heart. Europe to him seemed not suited to his definition of a worthy life. He would rather prefer to offer his life for his fellow Filipinos than stay there forever to lead a pleasurable life (ibid., Part 2, p. 373).
By 1891, he found Europe already becoming burdensome to him (ibid., p. 416). He would totally desert it to breathe in a new environment. He returned to the Philippines for the second time in June 1892 to realize his dreams for her.
Rizal’s love for the motherland meant absolute independence for the country, and for the people: honor and dignity, freedoms and righteousness, education and enlightenment, virtues and character, labor and industry, enrichment of their customs and traditions, studies of their rich history, and devotion to sciences and advancement.
It meant paying back all his debts of gratitude to her because in the natural landscapes and beauties of her tropical paradise, he first felt the strength of the sun and the touch of its rays.
It meant his parents, brother, sisters, relatives, and friends who gave him the love that he needed, the learning that he sought, the care when he was sick, the sympathy when he was in pains, and the laughter when he was in good times.
It meant staying in his country of origin (or going back to her if he was abroad), where he would work at the prime of his life, reminisce at old age, and wait to die because in her earth his ancestors were quietly reposed.
It meant a strong preference for universal peace because it suggested that if one loved his country, he must not injure other nations. Knowing that there would be hatred and retaliation against his beloved motherland once he injured others, he would refrain from doing it if he truly loved her.
Rizal’s love for the motherland meant knowing and cherishing who he was, where he came from, and what he could offer to her. He performed them all with his mind, heart, and spirit.
Lucky is a nation whose people love her because those people are proud of her and have beliefs in their own ability, her leaders prioritize the common good, there is no brain drain as most of those people do not abandon her but pour their talents for her (not for others), there is no financial outflow because her capitalists invest their wealth primarily for her (not for others), and constructive corrections of social defects are applied.
That was what Rizal did. He always thought of his native land, worked for her, cared for her, always returned to her, and even died for her. Although there is no longer a need to die in fighting for the country nowadays, there is at all times the need to work and care for her.