Rizal and the Dragons

One of the most common vandalism done during high school was to place an infamous moustache 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:

(i)The Beetle APOGONIA RIZALI HELLER 1897;
(ii)The Fungus Beetle SPATHOLMES RIZALI;
(iii)The rare frog RHACOPHORUS RIZALI BOETTGER

(iv)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 (http://mczbase.mcz.harvard.edu/SpecimenDetail.cfm?collection_object_id=393580)

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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