Preface to 2nd edition of E. SAN JUAN, Jr., RIZAL IN OUR TIME (Manila: Anvil Publishing 2011)


RIZAL IN OUR TIME (Anvil Publishing 2011) by E. San Juan, Jr.

      With the advent of this new millennium, it is not premature to say that Jose Rizal, for over a hundred years the Philippines’ national hero, has now become an international, border-crossing public intellectual. This fame of course began with the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno’s tribute to Rizal after his execution in 1896. Rizal was invoked as a guiding spirit by both the Katipunan and the Aguinaldo-led Republic. From the American occupation up to now, various groups—millenarian, government, civic, clandestine sects—have made Rizal  a “disappeared” totem, his ideas left to gather mold in libraries and museums. Is he no longer needed except as a monument for lip-service and ritual mis-recognition?

Visiting socialist Cuba in 1980, however, I found Rizal’s two novels newly reprinted in the original Spanish and enthusiastically read, enjoyed, and discussed by millions of Cubans. Today, a new generation of Filipino Americans are discovering Rizal in colleges and in mass organizations working in solidarity with the national-democratic struggle in the Philippines.  Many internet Websites regularly feature Rizal’s works and writings; any Google search of “Rizal” will easily draw out a million leads and pointers. By leaps and bounds, Rizal is being brought back to life every time he is read and conversations begin about the Philippines in relation to Europe, North America, and wherever more than nine million OFWs are found. Ultimately, from the beginning to now, he remains a Filipino who sacrificed himself for patria adorada, for us, and the world in revolutionary ferment.

During the Cold War in the fifties, I studied Rizal in English and Tagalog translations. We did read “El Ultimo Adios” in Spanish only to compare it with Andres Bonifacio’s far more viscerally experienced version easily committed to memory. My engagement with a new Rizal project began with the anti-Vietnam war/Civil Rights struggles in the United States. One can say that my involvement with various social movements resurrected Rizal for me and many compatriots abroad. My first essay on “Rizal and the Human Condition” coincided with the phenomenological trend in the humanities and social sciences in the sixties. My undergraduate interest in Sartrean existentialism eventually led me to Georg Lukacs and Western Marxism in general. Their influence, together with the Cultural Revolution in China and the nationalist resurgence at home and in the “third world,” may be gleaned in my interpretation of Rizal’s novels in the seventies. While engaged with the anti-Marcos dictatorship campaigns from 1972 to the “People Power” revolt in 1986, I was also preoccupied with the debates in diverse radical formations around Althusser, Gramsci, Luxemburg, Brecht, feminism and racism–the condition of possibility for the early drafts of “Rizal For Our Time.”  The next series of discourses on “Memorias,” his US travel notes, and a schematic review of Rizal’s materialist dialectics,  register the vicissitudes of the international progressive movement before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall/Soviet Union and September 11, 2001.

After five decades since my first essay on Rizal, the 2008 meltdown of finance capitalism and the recent killing of Bin Laden may open a new horizon for re-situating the position of the Philippines in the global arena. Rizal tried to reflect on the homeland’s future but missed the target due to his failure to grasp the character of the imperial beast. We are not going to prophesize here, simply affirm that change will continue based on militant popular initiatives and insurgencies. The last two essays attempt to appraise Rizal not as the “first Filipino” but as the beginning of a new sequence of transformative theory and practiee in the Filipino collective experience, beginning with the novels, the Liga’s example, and hitherto unexplored writings/deeds during the Dapitan exile and after. Contextualized in global intellectual history, they offer ground for a more creative, interactive way of joining the body/spirit of Rizal in his more than 150 years of struggle to emancipate his people. Surely, as long as imperialism, class inequality, racism, sexism and all kinds of oppressions exist—the current wars going on, violence against immigrants, women, workers, indigenes, peasants, children, and so on all remind us of that everyday–Rizal’s oeuvre will continue to be studied, argued over, and appreciated by peoples around the planet struggling for justice, independence, and dignity.

For the record, I want to express my gratitude to Karina A. Bolasco’s timely intervention  and the resourceful staff of Anvil Publishing for making this second edition possible.




Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines/Storrs, Connecticut, USA

January-May 2011




About philcsc

E.SAN JUAN, Jr. directs the Philippines Cultural Studies Center, Washington DC, USA and lectures at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines.