Monday, June 22, 2009

The Greening of Jose Rizal

HISTORIAN AMBETH OCAMPO explains why the National Historical Institute recently painted a certain very famous House in Calamba, Laguna a much-remarked upon shade of green (and for which he was referred to unkindly "the idiot who painted Rizal's house green).
AMBETH:...While our lawmakers debate the pros and cons of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, while farmers march to Congress to push for the implementation of CARP, we should remember that one of the seeds of Rizal’s heroism was that his family was evicted not just from Calamba but from Laguna. Contrary to popular belief, the Rizals did not own land; they were tenants of the Dominican hacienda. They refused to pay increased rent, went to court and lost.

...Finally, the reason for painting Rizal’s house green highlights and informs visitors of the meaning of his surname. Following the 1849 Claveria decree giving surnames to Filipinos for tax and census purposes, the Rizals who were also known by their other surname Mercado (market) chose “Risal” from the “Catalogo alfabetico de apellidos.” The word comes from the Spanish “ricial” which describes a green field ready for harvest. It was hoped that after asking, “Why is Rizal’s house green?” the visitor will get a relevant answer: the green hues are meant to honor the memory of the Rizal family and their way of life.

I have not seen the newly painted house at Rizal Shrine in Calamba, so I cannot really speak as to aesthetics, but I am won over by Ambeth's substantial reasoning above. (Read his whole piece!).

For me this actually also goes hand in glove with the recent UNANIMOUS APPROVAL of House Bill 5408 which seeks to move the December 30 holiday to Jose Rizal's Birthday on June 19. By celebrating his life instead of his death, perhaps we shall get away from Rizal the Morose and Melancholy Victim to living, breathing hero he can be in the 21st Century.

That is the true 'GREENING' of Jose Rizal.

Jose Rizal as the symbol of our struggling tenant farmers and an environmentalist fighting for modern agriculture. I like it!


blackshama said...

I find the translation of Rizal Day from December 30 to June 19 as another case of historical amnesia probably of the worst kind. Rizal Day is the first national holiday of the Philippine Republic and Emilio Aguinaldo recognised what it meant to Pueblo Filipino. What Congress ought to do is to send the proposal to Pueblo Filipino for a referendum!

And I am afraid that Ambeth Ocampo is already a superannuated historian here. While he can create his own Rizal, he should have asked Calamba citizens what they think should the house be. The Calambenos argument that if my surname was Guinto, should my house be painted gold? is very much commonsensical. Ambeth has very little ground to connect the fact the ricial should mean a house painted green unless HE HAS HISTORICAL OR ARCHAEOLOGICAL evidence that the original house was indeed green. That's why I believe Ambeth is in his flights of fancy here. It puzzles me DJB that you could be won by Ambeth's reasoning.

Now even Zahi Hawass is loathe to paint his antiquities with a specific colour unless he had evidence to do otherwise. Now that's being scientific.

Pedestrian Observer GB said...

Although green is mod this days it will pass and people's taste change as time goes so the key really is preservation and restoration..........

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Haha! I didn't like the idea of painting it green myself, and as Ambeth mentions, there is green and there is the sick pale shade they used.

But I think the point of connecting the Rizal Family to the tenants and farmers of the Philippines, and not to the landlord classes or hacenderos is an important one, no?

As you can see in the painting, my own conception of "Rizal's House" is that of a treasure trove that can never be exhausted!

Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Right you are! Just the act of painting it probably necessitated at least cleaning up the garbage nearby and patching up holes and cracks. It could probably use a good termite proofing too, despite being "Bahay na Bato". And of course as taste changes, so can the superficial hues.

Dave said...

In passing through the USA, Jose Rizal made astute note of American shortcomings and of American strengths. He concluded the latter
outweighed the former by a considerable amount.

The implication seems to be that he preferred the rancher/trail boss
to cowhand social structure of the American West to the peonage-based
structure found in the Philippines
and other portions of the Spanish Empire.

Now what that has to do with the proper color of the house, I do not know. I do know that there seems to be a strong similarity between Jose Rizal's notions of propriety and those generally prevailing in the Permian Basin in particular.

For that reason, making Juneteenth
an official holiday in the Philippines seems oddly appropriate.

Vicente Calibo de Jesus said...

Ocampo’s Schlimmbesserungen

This is a case of Schlimmbesserungen, a German term for a solution--painting the Rizal home neon green (see a perceived problem, ignorance of the Spanish provenance of the Rizal name which is “racial”, which makes conditions worse.

The Chair of the National Historical Institute of the Philippines, Dr. Ambeth Ocampo, gave a precise definition of his “ricial”. In his column (click, Ocampo states, “The word comes from the Spanish ‘ricial’ which describes a green field ready for harvest.”

Dr. Ocampo further defines his “racial” to more precisely fit what specific green he had in mind as “the color of palay or ripe rice stalk.”

“Ripe rice”ready for harvest is “golden yellow” (click showing rice that’s ripe for harvest).

Ocampo notion of the color of “ripe rice stalk’ conflicts with reality. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this. In fact even an illiterate rice farmer knows this basic fact.

So, even the basic assumption of Ocampo that underpins his solution is a “historian’s logical fallacy.”

His solution to a self-inflicted problem consists of several fallacies:

1. Painting Rizal’s home with an “offensive green” (Ocampo’s own term) is an aesthetic solution to a lexical problem or more to the point an information problem. He can very well make use of a limitless array of lexical armamentarium open to Ocampo: radio, TV, newspapers, DVDs, movies, magazines, books, brochures, listservs, Facebook, Flickr, Multiply, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, advertising in all forms of media, etc. Imagination is the only limit;

2. Any solution applied to an architectural object that speaks to a people’s sense of their past should be in harmony with good taste (aesthetics), good history, and good public relations, i.e., it should be respectful of the feelings of people who have to live with the object. Ocampo and it seems the entire Board of NHI do not reside in Calamba and do not have to suffer the pain of this aesthetic monstrosity;

3. It’s clear Ocampo is in error in many respects, lexically, aesthetically, architectuarally, strategically, tactically, etc. Now it seems he’s determined to get even more wrong (wronger or wrongest). Ocampo has triumphantly announced Boysen has offered to repaint Rizal’s home at no cost to the taxpayer (that’s you and me). So what does Ocampo decide? He will paint Rizal’s home a another shade green this time “dark green.” Which is to redefine his “racial” as the color of palay when it is most unsuitable for harvest.

There is a term for this, “Jumping from the frying fan to the fire.” The Germans have a term for this, schlimmbesserungen, which denotes making something worse through an attempt to make things better.

History is replete with examples of schlimbesserungen: the eighteenth-century correction of asparagus to sparrow-grass. An extreme example was the notion seriously thought of by John von Neuman (father of the electronic computer) and Edward Teller (father of the hydrogen bomb) who both enthusiastically proposed using nuclear explosions to deflect hurricanes.

Ocampo’s green solution may not be so devastating to the world but it may well be disastrous to Calamba’s people, at least.

Dr. Ocampo has to have enough humility, grace, and sense to accept the fact he’s wrong in painting the Rizal home green.

If he does not have the strength of character to admit an error publicly and to apologize to the people for a grave error, he can very well just announce the NHI now wants to consult the people of Calamba for them to decide what is the best solution that the people can live with, maybe even be proud of.