The Youth: Fair Hope of our Motherland
There are two famous quotations attributed to Rizal and for which he has been known: 1. "The youth is the fair hope of the motherland..." (A la Juventud Filipina, Ma. Corona S. Romero et al, Rizal and the Development of Consciousness, p 102) 2. "...Our talented men have died without bequeathing to us nothing more than the fame of their name... Dr. Pilapil, Fr. Pelaez, Fr. Mariano Garcia, Dr. Joson, Benedicto Luna, Lorenzo Francisco and more. Nevertheless [what] all these men have studied, learned and discovered will die with them and end in them and we shall recommence the study of life. There is then individual progress or improvement in the Philippines, but there is no national...progress. Here you have the individual as the only one who improves and not the species." (Letter to Fr. Vicente Garcia 7 Jan 1891 Epistolario Rizalino III, No. 432, p. 137).
These quotations inspired the then young Fine Arts Instructor, Guillermo Tolentino, in the making of the UP Oblation (upon the direction of President Rafael Palma). The "Youth as Fair Hope of the Motherland," though popular, has been misunderstood by many. Usually, it is taken out of historical context when separated from the 2nd quotation. For to Rizal the term "youth" is not simply "being young" in age but being part of a collective... what he would call the "species" and may in fact be the equivalent of a "generation."
In his musing on the death of Burgos in 1872, he had an inkling of what a "generation" meant. The generation of Burgos referred to those youth who rallied for liberal reforms and secularization of the parishes before 1872—the year when the three priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were executed at the Bagumbayan. Recalling that as a young boy of eleven he heard how Burgos cried just before the execution, Rizal told himself that he would be brave under a similar situation. Yet in retrospect, he promised that he would not allow such injustice to remain unpunished. His sentiment awakened, he decided not to become a priest (Jesuit) as he once imagined himself to be but an antagonist of the Empire, rallying his fellow young men to likewise do the same.
But speaking of Burgos, he noted that their generation worked for their own interests: Cuesta, to seek revenge, Novales to secure higher ranks and Burgos, for his parishes (Schumacher, Revolutionary Clergy, p. 31). Comparing his own generation to that of Burgos, he claimed that the youth of his time worked for justice and the rights of Man. In short, not for personal interests but for the whole (common good), such that the individual sacrifice would metamorphose into a representative action of the "species," and of the nation.
Understood this way, we can see that the "juventud" of Rizal was a concept that encompasses a collective—a generation, as he would often describe it. And truly, this should be consistent with a historical perspective/context in the use of the term.
When we speak of the generation of Burgos, we relate it to a historical marker called the "events of 1872." When we speak of Rizal’s generation, we are thinking of the period that produced like-minded individuals who eventually made the Revolution of 1896. And, when we speak of the generation of the 1960s and 1970s, we are thinking of that historical marker called Martial Law. The youth for which Rizal had put much hope was therefore, the generation of the 1960s and 1970s which marched the streets and created a new stage in the political education of the Filipinos—a nation confronting a dictatorship.
The youth of Rizal’s generation did not bequeath to us just their names—they recovered for us, from the Spaniards, a sense of pride and nation, of values that ennobled our people, of kabayanihan for which we do things for our kapwa without expecting rewards in return. And even if these values could simply be mouthed without much thought by politicians, these are embedded in our sub-consciousness as a people such that when time comes that it becomes necessary to activate them, they reemerge and provide the force that energize our people and nation. /MP