AN HONOR TO PLAY RIZAL
By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes
Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers
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FEW WEEKS ago, I came to attend a meeting of representatives from various parts of the University of the Philippines system, upon an invitation from my friend, UP Manila Prof. Benjie Mangubat. I was asked to represent Kamalaysayan (Campaign for Sense of History) in providing some suggestions and views for their planned joint commemoration of the Jose Rizal martyrdom centennial. They were planning an artistic commemoration, a reenactment of the fateful December event in 1996, where Rizal was fetched from his cell in Fort Santiago in Intramuros and, with his hands tied at his back, was marched, with a procession of spectators, all the way to Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) where he was publicly executed.
Benjie's script called for Rizal to recall important events in his life, and for those, students from various UP campuses were to present tableaus, combining drama, singing, dance and poetry reading. The Rizal character was to watch all these tableaus to unfold before his eyes. He was even supposed to see himself in those tableaus. Nice plan, I said, adding specific comments here and there. The meeting, however, sprung up a surprise on me. Before it was over, I was cast in the role of the Rizal figure to witness all those tableaus and to be shot. I refused at first, saying I am not from the UP community, but they prevailed upon me to agree.
Costuming was a problem. I don't wear a suit; I don't have one. And so I asked around among friends who stand about the same height and with the same build as I and found no solution, except from Rod, a new friend, a doctor in our neighborhood who has been an ardent believer and preacher of Rizal's teachings. He said his Kuya Anding had many suits and would be glad to lend me one.
After I had had my fitting for a pair of suit and vest, I was told that what I was wearing before the mirror had not been worn by anyone and would not be worn by anyone else after me. It was one of the sets of suit that their group was using on Rizal's statue in the shrine at Fort Santiago in Intramuros. Both Rizalistas later expressed surprise that the suit had fit me. By build, they said, was larger that the statue's. They added that it was not really that surprising that "Rizal allowed the suit to grow a little to fit (me)." Wow!
What was happening? I was being doubly honored. First, the UP guys choose me for the role of Rizal, and then, these Rizalistas, and according to them, even the hero himself, allow me to use the suit they had been keeping in reserve for Rizal's statue. And a close friend who held a vital post in the National Centennial Commission volunteers to give me some pointers (the coaching was not related to the NCC job; it came from her background as an arnis player, who taught me how to "fall to death" safely after being "shot by the firing squad").
Maybe, it did help that my hairdo and bigote made me somehow resemble this national hero. Or maybe they felt my veneration of both Rizal and Bonifacio, along with Jacinto and the others, as heroic founders of this nation.
The days rolled fast before and after it. The whole thing took four hours that sunny morning where I felt hot and thirsty and posture-weary with my hands tied behind my back. The following day, photos of the event, mostly colored, were frontpaged in quite a few large-circulation newspapers in Manila, Cebu and Baguio.
I felt great and grateful. It really was an honor to play that role in commemorating the Rizal Martyrdom Centennial.
(Kamalaysayan Media Service)
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