12 June 2008

Happy Independence Day

The Noli in Australia

Noli Me Tangere is a novel written in Spanish by Filipino writer and national hero José Rizal. It was first published in 1887 in Berlin. The novel is commonly referred to by its shortened name Noli; the English translation was originally titled The Social Cancer, although recent publications have retained the original Latin.

Rizal was not only an eye surgeon, linguist, and world traveler, but also, a famous novelist, who authored Noli Me Tangere (The Social Cancer) and El Filibusterismo (The Reign of Greed). His life and execution or martyrdom created an indellible mark in Philippines art and politics.On August 21, 2007, Rizal's 480-page English translation of Noli Me Tangere (published by Penguin Books Classics) hit major Australian book shelves. The Australian edition of Noli was translated by Harold Augenbraum, the American writer, presently the executive director of the National Book Foundation and the National Book Awards, who first read Noli in 1992. Rizal has a total of six landmarks in Australia - 3 Rizal Parks are in Campbelltown and Blacktown in the State of New South Wales and in the City of Ballarat in the State of Victoria. Rizal also has a bust in Sydney’s Central Train Station, a statue in Ashfield and a street named in honor of him in Campbelltown.

The Noli is Rizal's exposé of corrupt friars who have made the Catholic religion an instrument for enriching and perpetuating themselves in power by seeking to mire ignorant Filipinos in fanaticism and superstition. According to Rizal, instead of teaching Filipinos true Christianity, they control the government by opposing all progress and persecuting members of the ilustrado unless they make themselves their servile flatterers.

Rizal does not, however, spare his FELLOW countrymen. The superstitious and hypocritical fanaticism of many who consider themselves religious people; the ignorance, corruption, and brutality of the Filipino civil guards(POLICE); the passion for gambling unchecked by the thought of duty and responsibility; the servility of the wealthy Filipino towards friars and government officials; the ridiculous efforts of Filipinos to dissociate themselves from their fellowmen or to lord it over them--all these are ridiculed and disclosed.

Nevertheless, Rizal clearly implies that many of these failings are traceable to the misguided policy of the government and the questionable practices of the friars.

Rizal nevertheless balances the national portrait by highlighting the virtues and good qualities of his unspoiled countryman: the modesty and devotion of the Filipina, the unstinting hospitality of the Filipino family, the devotion of parents to their children and children to their parents, the deep sense of gratitude, and the SOLID common sense of the untutored peasant.

Happy Independence Day to everyone!

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