HomeCommentaryHonoring Rizal’s literature, social activism

Honoring Rizal’s literature, social activism

Remembering the works on social activism of our heroes like Jose Rizal is made easy through the use of different platforms like movies, plays, and TV series.

Music, literature, and social activism are intimately linked with each other due to their complementary nature.

People write, raise their voices to highlight injustice, and sing songs to memorialize their struggle.



Rizal’s two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” inspired many of those who fought for freedom, including Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio. In turn, many playwrights and composers have honored Rizal through their works.

Rizal dedicated his novel El Filibusterismo to the memory of GOMBURZA  which stands for the surnames of the three priests who were implicated in the 1872 Cavite mutiny and later executed with the gruesome garrote on February 17, 1872 — Fr. Mariano Gomez, Fr. Jose Burgos, and Fr. Jacinto Zamora.

 “Let these pages serve as a tardy wreath of dried leaves over your unknown tombs, and let it be understood that everyone who without clear proof attacks your memory stains his hands in your blood!” Rizal said.

The film GOMBURZA won seven awards during the 2023 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) including Best Actor for Cedrick Juan as Fr. Jose Burgos, Best Director for Pepe Diokno, 2nd Best Picture, Gatpuno Antonio Villegas cultural award, best cinematography, best production design and best sound design.

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The film focuses on the rise of the secularization movement led by Roman Catholic priest Pedro Pelaez (Piolo Pascual) in the Spanish Philippines as well as the struggles and execution of  GomBurZa.

In the opening scene, Peláez argued against parishes being taken from “seculars” (priests who were not members of a religious or friar order) and turned over to Spanish friars who discriminated against native priests and even “Filipinos” (Insular Spaniards who were born in the Philippines rather than Peninsular Spaniards born in Spain). Aside from Juan, Dante Rivero played Fr. Gomez while  Enchong Dee acted as Fr. Zamora.

It was considered the first spark of patriotism that forged the “Filipino” identity that eventually united inhabitants of these islands into one nation in the last quarter of the 19th century.

It depicts the martyrdom of GomBurZa from the perspective of a young witness—Jose Rizal who was mentored by his brother Paciano, who in turn was mentored by Padre Jose Burgos, and who, in turn, was also mentored by Padre Pedro Pelaez.

The story of GomBurZa was shared with Jose Rizal by his older brother Paciano, who was also one of the students of Padre Burgos.

I earlier watched Piolo Pascual as  Crisostomo Ibarra of the award-winning musical play “Ibarra” (original title Kanser)  written by Jomar Fleras. It had its run in June 2023 at the GSIS theatre which coincided with the country’s 125th Independence Day.

It is based on Rizal’s book “Noli Me Tangere,” published in 1887 and written in Spanish, which is a sweeping and passionate unmasking of the brutality and corruption of Spanish rule in the Philippines (1565–1898) that is seen as a disease of the society, thus the title, Latin for “touch me not.”

The story follows Crisostomo Ibarra, who went back home after his European studies. He rekindled his romance with childhood sweetheart Maria Clara but triggered an old rift with the town friar, Padre Damaso. As the story progressed, Ibarra realized that the malady of oppression and colonial brutality had been killing not only his town but his motherland as well.

Fleras explained that “Kanser” was retitled into “Ibarra” so that the younger generation would associate the play more with the iconic character of Crisostomo Ibarra than the meaning of Noli Me Tangere (The Social Cancer).

“Ibarra” bagged nine major awards during the recent 36th ALIW Awards including Best Lead Actor in a Musical for  Piolo Pascual, best musical,  best ensemble performance, best musical director,  best composer, best director for Frannie Zamora, best lead actress for Myramae Meneses, best child actor for JD Tena, and best-featured actor for Jon Joven Uy.

Directed by Zig Dulay, “Maria Clara at Ibarra”  is a  TV fantasy series aired over  GMA Network that follows Klay Infantes (Barbie Forteza), a Gen-Z nursing student who gets transported into the setting of Noli and El Fili where she meets Maria Clara (Julie Anne San Jose),  Crisostomo Ibarra (Dennis Trillo), and other characters. It had a total of 105 episodes that premiered on October 3, 2022 and concluded on February 24, 2023.

It won a Bronze award in the 2023 New York Festivals TV & Film Awards in the Entertainment Program Drama category.

The ideas behind the novels of Rizal evolve through the years but the message remains solid: Filipinos must not be silenced amid ills and injustices in society.

Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786

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