by Gang Badoy
first published, UNO Magazine Aug-Sep 2011 Once in Europe, in the year 1889, a 28 year old Filipino named Jose Rizal wrote, “All men are born without chains, free, and no one can subject the will and spirit of another. Why would you submit to another your noble and free thought?” At the height of the Spanish rule over the Philippines, this young Filipino wrote of freedom, love of country, and the distant dream of being our own sovereign.This year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth and many of us are compelled to take part in this elaborate remembering. As most of the nation’s institutions chose their own way of marking this sesquicentennial, our group, Rock Ed Philippines, decided to hold our own festivities in the one way we know how: through music. While coming up with a multi-artist album is certainly not a groundbreaking idea, I’d like to imagine that the manner by which we created this gathering of works can be considered novel. A tribute to such a dazzling man should be fitting, we supposed.Under the guidance of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the artists featured on this recording sat together for a few History classes with professors. Like classmates, we spent a number of days reading, inquiring, surmising together how we see Jose Rizal, his life and works and realizing at some point how little we know of him. Rizal, arguably the most talked about Filipino polymath of all time, has been hailed as our country’s foremost hero. For generations now, his novels are required reading. But we came to the conclusion that we do not know him as we should. ‘One cannot remember what one does not know.’ Our first task as a team was to get to know him and reassess some of the long-standing impressions formed through years of half-heartedly studying Rizal.
Each artist chose a facet of Jose Rizal to focus on. Radioactive Sago Project, Jett Pangan, Ely Buendia, Sandwich, Hijo, Peryodiko, Ebe Dancel, Aiza Seguerra, Gloc-9, and Gab Cabangon and his friends all chose a side of Rizal and went from there.
Many other artists contributed to the album, Hijo, Kakoy Legaspi, Pepe Smith, Kat Agarrado, Sarah Gaugler, Nitoy Adriano, Paolo Peralta, Nino Messina, Pepe Diokno, Mike Campillanes, Francis de Veyra, Laya Diokno, Leslie Umaly, the list goes on. Produced mainly by Mark Laccay and recorded at Shinji Tanaka’s Sound Creation studio, the Rock Rizal team labored for months, meticulously producing, discussing, arguing about the tracks. The album’s only goal was for Rizal to be discussed again. We know him through city streets, town plazas, our legal tender but Team Rock Rizal wanted to transcend that edifice of the historical Rizal. To show the man in a different light, with a more human face to the granite bas relief we know so well.
Admittedly, I cannot really write this piece for fear of the accusation of bias and horn tooting, but I am so rightfully proud of this collection. Work was required of us and we gave it. We approached this album with serious thought, we studied Rizal with even more academic attention than we ever gave when it was required back in school. We’d like to imagine that the learning we all took from this journey with Rizal is that work is what makes heroes. Not luck nor inheritance—but genuine industry, in the form of long nights, hoarse throats, and fatigued hands.
Rizal once wrote to his friend Marcelo del Pilar, (Plaridel) praising him for his literary work, “Onward and write! Rizal can now die; nobody will miss him; there is a Plaridel who can take his place with indisputable advantage. I say it with sincerity and without regret. I do not work for my renown but for the good of my country, and my greatest pleasure would be to see 20 or 30 young men who are two or three times more worthy than I.”
This project is hopefully worthy enough of that line. If anything, we had everything to gain by trying.
Rock Rizal the album is free. It is not for profit.
Rock Rizal is our response, our offering. This is the elaborate remembering of Rock Ed Philippines, a grateful collective, to a man who we celebrate as our own. This is how we repay the giant whose shoulders we stand on today. We say this with neither a hint of irony nor a sneer at this cliché. There is no space for that today.
Today is for remembering.