Ever wondered where Dr. Jose P. Rizal would be if he is alive today? And if he is a public servant, which government position will he hold? With his diverse background and interests, Dr. Rizal can be a secretary of any of the following departments: Education, Health, Agriculture, Social Welfare and Development, Foreign Affairs, and Science and Technology, according to experts gathered by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) during the Rediscovering Rizal: A Commemoration of the 125th Martyrdom of the National Hero webcast held last 30 December 2021.
This was the second part of the Rizal, the Filipino Scientist webinar series that aims to honor Dr. Rizal’s invaluable contributions to the development of science and technology in the Philippines especially in the field of agriculture, agricultural extension, biology, engineering, science education, and medicine, among others.
The event followed the unveiling of the 12.5-feet Dr. Jose P. Rizal: The Filipino Scientist monument, the first 3D-scanned and 3D-printed statue of the hero built in the country, at the DOST Complex in Bicutan, Taguig. Officials and staff from the DOST led by Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, Undersecretary for Research and Development DR. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, attached agencies including the Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMCen) of the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC); Science and Technology Information Institute (STII); NRCP, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP); government officials of Taguig led by Congresswoman Maria Laarni Cayetano; Prof. Jose Manuel “Manolo” Sicat, the sculptor of the monument; and Ms. Ester Lopez-Azurin, a descendant of Dr. Rizal, graced the momentous unveiling.
Meanwhile, the webcast’s panelists included the following: DOST Secretary de la Peña; Prof. Sicat; Dr. Analyn A. Cabras, Director at the Coleoptera Research Center of the University of Mindanao and taxonomist and beetle expert; Academician Arvin C. Diesmos, a field biologist and Director of the Biodiversity Information Management Unit, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity; Dr. Francis A. Gealogo, Professor at the History Department of the Ateneo De Manila University; and Ms. Gemma Cruz-Araneta, great-granddaughter of Doña Maria Mercado, one of Dr. Rizal’s sisters.
Prof. Sicat, who is also the sculptor of the NRCP’s Malayang Isip, shared how the design of the 3D-printed statue was conceptualized. After studying documents about Rizal’s accomplishments in science and technology and consultations with NRCP historians, scientists, and artists, he became more drawn to emphasizing how the hero used his knowledge to help his fellowmen especially those belonging to the vulnerable sectors. Through the statue, Prof. Sicat hopes to show the human side of Rizal.
On the other hand, Dr. Gealogo agreed that Rizal’s identity as a scientist is unpopular even among historians. He said that studies and discussions mostly focused on Rizal’s literary works, his world travels, as well as his love interests, possibly influenced by the ‘macho culture’. He added that the challenge now is to elevate the discourse about the life and legacy of Rizal by acknowledging not only the extent of his knowledge, but how he applied this knowledge to improve the lives of the people around him. Hence, Rizal’s monument at the DOST Plaza is a fitting tribute to his heroism and accomplishments as a scientist for the people.
Dr. Gealogo also mentioned other illustrados of science in the Philippines in the late 19th century who, similar to Rizal, also contributed for the greater good. Among them were Gen. Antonio Luna who wrote the thesis On Malarial Pathology and advocated for public health, Engr. Edilberto Evangelista who designed the trenches used by revolutionists, Dr. Dominador Gomez, Dr. Mariano Ponce, Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, and many others. He explained that the reformists were not just freethinkers and if we study our history, we will see that these men and women offered solutions to real-life challenges that transformed society.
For Secretary de la Peña, it is important to recognize the role of science and technology in addressing inequality in the past up to the future. He said that we often focus our efforts on the advancements of our cities and mirror the developments we see in other countries but we tend to forget the needs of communities in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas – similar to Dapitan during Rizal’s time, where he spent his days in exile treating poor patients for free, exploring the area’s flora and fauna, helping farmers and fisherfolks improve their livelihood, and educating children and the youth.
The secretary likened these efforts by Rizal to the DOST’s Community Empowerment thru Science and Technology (CEST) program, which he trumpets as an embodiment of ‘Science for the People’. The project has five main components or entry points which are: health and nutrition, human resource development, environmental protection and conservation, disaster risk reduction management and climate change adaptation, and economic development.
At the end of the discussions, Dr. Diesmos, who also served as the webcast’s moderator along with Dr. Aimee Lynn B. Dupo said that each of us can be a hero like Rizal. All we have to do is invest our time and use our knowledge and skills in the service of the people.
On 29 March 2022, the NRCP will conduct its second webinar for Rizal titled, Inspirations from Rizal: The Youth Speaks on the Philippines 100 years hence. For details of other activities related to Dr. Rizal, kindly visit the NRCP Research Pod or its website at www.nrcp.dost.gov.ph.
For the replay of the live webcast on Rediscovering Rizal can be watched via Research Pod or via this link: https://bit.ly/rizalwebcastREPLAY. (By Jil Danielle M. Caro, DOST-STII)