Rizal and the Dragon

One of the most common vandalism done during high school was to place an infamous mustouche on Rizal. This was because one of the most popular gossip about Rizal was that he was the father of an Austrian who would later on become Der Furher of the Third Reich, Adolph Hitler. Who had started this rumor no one can tell but it was there. Almost as persistent as the portrait Rizal in an overcoat. There are probably more people know about it than people who knew about the retraction controversy or Rizal’s essay on the laziness of Filipinos or his prediction about the country a  century after his time. 

For most of us Rizal is the National Hero. But do we know Rizal beyond Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterisimo and Mi Ultimo Adios ? Or do we just accept him as the National Hero who was shot in Bagumbayan?
If he was not shot that fateful day would we know him? Do we know him now?
If Rizal had lived beyond Bagumbayan one of the people in Filipino Society and The world would probably know him because of dragons.

During Rizal’s exile in Dapitan, he was able to do a number of things that he probably would be unable to do one because he had the time and two because he was in Mindanao. 

Rizal became a school master and he started a school where he developed his own curriculum his own O.B. Rizal.  And with his students, Rizal the naturalist began collecting the several specimens of flora and fauna or plants and animals of Mindanao. 

At that time he had one of the largest private collection of sea shells in the country. His collection had around 340 shells composed of more than 200 species. 

Rizal and his students collected a big number of birds, insects, butterflies, shells, snakes, and plants, most of which he sent to Europe, mostly to Director A.B. Meyer of the Anthropological and Ethnographic Museum of Dresden in Germany. 

For instance, in October 1893 , Rizal sent Meyer the following : twelve snakes; one sea horse; two scorpions ; and a number of butterflies.

In exchange Meyer paid Rizal in kind : Meyer sent back scientific books and journals; artificial eyes; microscopes and surgical equipment. 

And Rizal kept on sending specimens to Europe. But it was not only volume or amount of specimens he and his boys sent that mattered. Mindanao was not yet fully explored at that time and there were several scientific gems found in the treasure Rizal and his students to Europe. Naturalists and biologist praised the rare specimens discovered by Rizal and company. Now one way naturalist and biologist honored people was by adding their names to the scientific name among them can be found the following:

The Beetle Apogonia rizali HELLER 1897;
The Fungus Beetle Spatholmes rizali;
The rare frog Rhacophorus rizali Boettger,1899;

And the Dragon: the  flying Dragon : the Draco Lizard or Draco Rizali. Here is a specimen and picture of the dragon collected by Dr. Edward Harrison Taylor on March 11, 1923,

Link to see the Draco Lizard

The flying dragon are tree lizards that only come down from the trees to lay their eggs. And they got their name from their ability to glide. This is because they can extend their ribs and skin flaps to form wings. 

Rizal being Rizal a Renaissance Man was not limited to teaching and biology. His interest in geography and archeology were also important since he was able to make contributions to that body of knowledge about the Philippines. 

In a letter (written in Spanish by Rizal and translated by scholars into English for us ) to his Austrian friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal speaks of his life in Dapitan. Buying land and becoming farmer naming the trees he has on his land. He also mentions the weather how it is more personally more agreable than Manila; his inability to practice medicine ;  and how he missed civilized life :
“I am very far from the incessant and indefatigable life of civilized Europe where everything is discussed, where everything is placed in doubt, and nothing is accepted without previous examination, previous analysis – the life of the societies of linguistics, ethnography, geography, medicine, and archaeology… ”

He does mention though Nature
“…But on the other hand, I am nearer nature, I hear constantly the song of the sea, the murmur of the leaves, and I see the continuous fluttering of the palms stirred by the breeze.”

I would like to think that based on what Rizal and his students have done that in fact Rizal had found a way to appreciate the Nature and Culture of Dapitan and Mindanao and at the same satisfy his thirst for knowledge and discovery … Becoming the Rizal without the overcoat or Rizal and the Dragons of Dapitan.

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China and the Philippines: How Do You Deal With Napoleon’s Giant?

Napoleon Bonaparte once described China as a sleeping giant. Of course Napoleon also miscalculated other countries – he once described England as a nation of shop keepers. And it was this nation of shop keepers tput a cap on his dream of Bonapartist restoration and sent him to exile. But he was correct about China – today it is an economic and military super power and intent on maintaining dominance in Asia.

And because of this it is intent on making the area we call the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea its own lake. Regardless and no respect of territorial limits of the other Asean countries. In effect this marine corridor , which is rich in mineral and fisheries, becomes a defacto territory of China. Effectively practising Mao Zedong’s maxim political power comes from the barrel of a gun. The gun being the military might of China, the tested PLA and the highly untested navy – although it is one of the countries in Asia with air craft carriers. Think of it as a modern day version of gun boat diplomacy.

What to do?

In terms of the maritime integrity of the Philippines one of basic things needed for defending is naval fleet in Ancient Greece it was the wooden wall of Themistocles – the fleet of triremes that defeated the Persian fleet of Xerxes. Unfortunately, the Philippines lack this and South East Asia does not have a military alliance to make this possible.

So what are our options?

(Nota Bene: Nearly all options here are military options. However it would be foolish to consider the sword and the shield as the only option they are just one of many other tools – foreign policy and economic policy can and should be applied.)

First, Rely on the United States to protect us from China.In as much as this now happening unless China threatens the United States directly, any assistance in the form of hand holding, diplomatic protests and sitzkrieg will be only after something has happened – only after first strike or an invasion. There will be no pre-emptive actions from the United States.

Second, Rely on Japan. In the past Japan has proven its mettle in naval warfare – defeating the Russians in Port Arthur and the Americans initially during World War II. There is of course the issue of Japan and its attempt to impose a Co-Prosperity Sphere in the whole of Asia. It did not turn out well. Of course in World War II, China was among the most oppressed countries by the Japanese Empire. Now it is different, will Japan then become the bulwark against the rise of China? Will and can it provide support the freedom of Asia’s seas? Despite the war time baggage of Japan, it must be remember Japan has the distinction of developing a sound Land and Naval military forces. Also it was Japan who initially supported Filipino revolutionaries during the war of independence from Spain.

Third, Unlikely solution would be actually aligned to China itself. In the absence of the capacity to defend our sovereignty, would it be more practical to become an ally or a junior ally to China? Stranger things have happened. Of course as a junior ally, expected to be treated as Hyena or Fox by the Lion. Then again think of this as a temporary measure.

Fourth, Invest military technology that will eliminate the edge of China. Investing in ICBMs, EMP bombs, Drones and even nuclear bomb. Such an endeavour would need a greater amount of capital and time. .

Unless China implodes politically or become isolationist and dismantle its fleet the reality is that a Super Power has arrived and it is hungry to establish its influence. The Philippines has to deal with it and the usual diplomatic solution is not enough. At the least we need a leadership strong in character and wise to deal with it, which at present we do not have.

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Happy Taong Bahay: Enjoying being a homebody

I am not sure if it is age but I must admit I enjoy being homebody. Our family had sold part of our house and with the funds were able to construct a compound of flats for each family member. The arrangement gave each of us a domicile of our own, without going far away from each other. I am not sure if this is a normal feeling: The feeling of not leaving your new home. favouring to stay at home during the weekends or even stay-cationing during the holidays.

There is something about your own home aside from the money you spent and keep on spending on it that endears you to it. (i) One would probably like the proverbial man’s castle one has customised it to one’s personality, prompting one say the Sheldon Cooper line that is my space.(ii) After customising, It then becomes your own island, As Will said in the film About A Boy I am Ibiza, and only needs to get out or go to the mainland to get supplies. (iii) Of course you potentially can save more money by dinning in, as Felix Unger said in the Odd Couple.

Not surprisingly the present traffic problems around Metro Manila and the dismal state of the MRT are factors that make being homebound easy. Add to this the human proclivity to spend time and money inside mall, it makes sense, at least to me, to be homebound. Of course one goes out to earn, to be entertained, and interact, no question there. But being homebound makes you more circumspect whether to go out or not. It has to be worth the trip back and forth – (i) family; (ii) true and tested friends; (iiI) a worthy cause or quest; (iv) And a worthy business opportunity.

In this respect, I think I have been fortunate to have a house and somehow find the means to live in it. And in the uncertain world we live in we need to work so that among other things we can afford to live in our home.

Perhaps that is another reason why I prefer to be homebody, given the amount of time and money spent in maintaining the home.

Also contrary to most notions there are a lot of things that can be done in one’s home. Aside from the usual chores, sleeping. eating and day-to-day tasks; One can have time to enjoy one’s hobby whether its reading a book, cooking, writing, watching, breeding fishes, taking of your garden, and a host of other things.

Come to think of it even as a corporate slave in Makati. Nothing can be more relaxing than going to one’s home.

Perhaps I have had my fair share of travel and experiences outside that today I am more fond of my place. It is 21 Baker Street: It is Bag End: It is Toad Hall … rather Mr. Badger’s burrow: I might even be Isengard or Mordor if I were Saruman or Sauron: Or even Tom Bombadil somewhere in his forest :)

Believe it or not I enjoy being a homebody. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. And being a homebody does not mean being a shut-in. I enjoy company if they visit or if I visit them, well of course it depends on what type of company. Then again why would you invite foul company into your home it is akin to a vampire inside your house.

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