Rizal Day: Let’s remember his birth not the day he was shot like a dog in a public park

By Daniel de la Rosa

I could never understand why we celebrate Rizal Day on December 30.

Let’s see, the Spaniards shot him in the back at Bagumbayan that morning in 1896 for inspiring a revolt later launched by Andres Bonifacio. It was a revolution whose leadership was offered to him by Bonifacio, but he turned it down in the belief the Philippines was not ready for it yet. Then he left to volunteer as a doctor in the Spanish army fighting the revolutionaries in Cuba.

Why would we celebrate the day our national hero was shot like a dog in a public park? Why don’t we celebrate his birth – June 19, 1861– and the meaningful life he led.

We don’t commemorate Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. Instead, Americans remember him on his birthday. Thus, every third Monday of January — around the time of his January 15 birth date — has been in our calendars as Martin Luther King Day, a federal holiday.

Well, one could argue December 30 is the day of his martyrdom, which inspired the revolution to greater fervor and was a fitting climax to his life. I would think June 19 would serve that too and affirm the greatness of a Filipino who rose to such heights. On a practical note, June 19 is the start of the school year in the Philippines, and you can weave all sorts of classroom projects around Rizal’s life.

But December 30? On that day, many Filipinos are trying to make sure they have enough firecrackers for New Year’s Eve. The last thing on their minds would be reflecting on Rizal’s martyrdom.

This is a call then to switch Rizal Day to June 19 (a week after our Independence Day on June 12) so we can give Rizal the due of a life led so brilliantly. I think Bonifacio Day on November 30 gets it right. We honor the Great Plebeian on his day of birth.

We should do no less with Rizal.

Daniel de la Rosa is a journalist who writes business, sports and, occasionally, current events.


  1. Solo Galura wrote:

    In defense of December 30, Rizal was not “shot like a dog.” There was a lot of pomp and circumstance thrown in to that day. He was not ambushed or killed in his sleep. The manner in which he was executed was very dignified. His executioners understood his worth and importance to a movement that was ongoing. I am all for moving the date in which we commemorate our national hero, certainly to fit the mood of the times.

    It may be just the semantics/idioms/metaphors I might be objecting to, but should we not show a bit more respect in showing our admiration. I believe maybe a different phrasing would have sufficed to at least not diminish the importance of THAT day.

    “We should do no less (for) Rizal.”

    • Rene Pastor wrote:

      I do not know how you define dignified. In fact, historians said Rizal wanted to face his executioners. The Spaniards refused. They wanted to humiliate him by shooting him in the back. That’s why he twisted his body around after the shots rang out so he could fall with his face facing the heavens.
      Dignifed and execution are rarely used in the same sentence. The word associatd with execution is often ignominous or even shameful. He was shot in the back. I doubt very much if the Spaniards main intention was to honor him.

      • Solo Galura wrote:

        I am simply stating that they made an example of Rizal. If they only wished to have him killed they would have done away with him when they caught him. They would not have gone through all the trouble of a court-martial.

  2. […] de la Rosa meanwhile calls for the shifting of Rizal Day from December 30 to the national hero’s birthday on June 19. Well, […]

  3. […] de la Rosa meanwhile calls for the shifting of Rizal Day from December 30 to the national hero’s birthday on June 19. Well, […]

  4. […] Daniel de la Rosa naman, sinabi na dapat baguhin yun Rizal Day, hindi na sa Disyembre 30 pero sa karaawan ni Rizal sa Hunyo 19: […]

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