Remembering the Young Pepe

by

A week before the last holiday of December, I planned to revisit both the Rizal Shrine in Laguna and the Aguinaldo Shrine in Cavite. I wanted my family to be present during the celebration of Jose Rizal’s 118th martyrdom. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our visit to Cavite because of the heavy traffic and spent the day remembering the young Jose Rizal or Pepe to his family in his hometown in Calamba, Laguna.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I really, really love History. My penchant for the olden days is partly genetics and partly due to my high school History teacher, Ms. Violeta Roxas who has sparked woke up the sleeping History buff in me. Having said that,  I won’t be surprised if Coby has been smitten by the bug of antiquity too!

So, we headed to the South Luzon Expressway en route to Calamba, Laguna. As we stopped at the first gas station, we saw cars queuing for gas and people moving in and out of the convenience stores and fast food restaurants. I anticipated the traffic as we headed further south.

It was a fairly smooth ride as we continued the long stretch of SLEX. But upon reaching Calamba’s marketplace, traffic was terrible as street vendors, tricycle drivers, pedestrians and cars swarmed the narrow two-way street that led to the Shrine. After sitting in traffic for 20-30 minutes, we made it out of that jam. I had a better view of the small town where our hero was born. Although modern homes, shops and establishments lined the small road, I was able to spot a few of the ancestral homes of the townsfolk.

Finally, we arrived at the Shrine which was at the corner of F. Mercado and JP Rizal Street. We parked along Mercado St. near the back entrance of the Shrine. The St. John the Baptist Parish Church which stool adjacent to the Shrine caught my eye because of its beauty and built. I just adore old structures like churches, buildings and houses.

As we walked around the corner to the main entrance, there were leis surrounding the old house and some areas of the garden. I was informed that there was a program early in the morning that we missed. As we entered the dark cuadra or zaguan (basement), we were met by Pepe himself and his friend (well, actors of course), Governor General Ramon Blanco.

There were some artifacts in the basement that were worth capturing including Pepe’s beautiful handwriting and a standee of the young Pepe, probably in his tweens or teens. I had to take a photo with Coby, of course. I am reminded of our hero’s short stature, about 4’11” to 5’2” tall and I kidded Coby saying that he can grow taller than our national hero. You see, Coby stands 5’1” at age 11… go figure!

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After an hour of moving about in the old home, the museum, and the garden, I couldn’t help but imagine how Pepe’s life was then. His first teacher was his mother Dona Teodora, who taught him the alphabet. So you may say he was homeschooled too 🙂

Pepe felt the love of his parents, older brother and sisters. He was confident that he can do anything because they always backed him up. They were probably always cheering him on in every challenge he faced in school and supported him in every endeavor.

I also pictured him playing outdoors like any other kid. He was probably as curious as any boy then who carefully observed everything he saw. As he matured, his God-given talents, exceptional skills and intellect strongly developed but the love for his fellowmen filled his heart. A poster hanging on one of the walls in the basement encapsulates what I felt in their home.

“A child that is nurtured by a loving family will mature with self-confidence.”

(Ang batang kinalinga ng pamilyang mapagmahal ay gugulang na may tiwala sa sarili)

Later that afternoon, as I watched a show about the Rizal family’s “dirty secrets”, I realized that Pepe had family issues too. He and his family were not spared from intrigue and controversies. He was like any of us. Yet, Rizal came out strong, unfazed by all of those and became a hero not only for his family but for his nation. At the end the segment, Pepe’s descendant said that yes there were scandals in the family but it only goes to show that anybody can be a hero. Heroes are not born from perfect families but from imperfect ones.

Rizal’s love for the country epitomizes a far greater love than we can imagine. Jesus Christ became man so that he can show His love not only to the Jews, his fellowmen but also to the Gentiles, which includes you and me. He died so you can live.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

Jesus did not live in luxury when we walked among us for 33 years. He did not have a big house with a lovely garden like Jose Rizal. Even his own siblings did not believe that he was the promised Messiah.

He was ridiculed, persecuted, and rejected by his own people. Yet, he continued his mission for three years. He dirtied his feet as he walked among the people. He touched the people who were sick of contagious diseases and healed them. He fed five thousand men with only a handful of fish and bread. He set people free from their bondage. He taught the simple-minded about God and His kingdom. He He loved them and prayed for them every single morning.

He genuinely showed compassion, true love and mercy, yet he was judged, denied a fair trial and condemned to die the most humiliating form of death, death on the cross. Can you imagine what he went through? Watching films depicting his suffering always brings me to tears. He did not have to do that. He is God. He could have zapped everybody at the courtyard. But He did not take advantage of His position. He suffered because that was God’s will and He obeyed. He did it because you are precious to Him.

I hope we don’t forget the courage of Jose Rizal. He became a hero because he died for his countrymen. He died so we can be free from the tyranny of foreign rule. Let us not also forget that Jesus Christ hung on the cross because He loved you and me. He suffered and died so that we can be free from the punishment of sin. He died so that we can have life, an everlasting life with Him and the Father.

Do you believe that Christ did it ALL for you? There is nothing more we can do to add to what He has done 2000 years ago. He paid the penalty of our sin in FULL. He only asks that you trust in Him and follow Him all the days of your life. Would you like to have the life that He is offering you? Would you like to spend eternity with Him? Let’s talk more, shall we? You can write in the comments section or like Inspirited Mom on FB and leave me a message. I can’t wait to hear from you 🙂 


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