MANILA, Philippines --- First, I would like to make sure our readers remember that this coming Tuesday, June 19, is the 151st anniversary of the birth of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
We dedicate this Sunday's column to the honor of his memory.
I would like to pay tribute to him as an outstanding ophthalmologist. Yes, Dr. Rizal was one true great eye doctor. And, I admire him for that.
It is not clear to me why Dr. Rizal decided to go to Europe to study to become one. What is clear from accounts of historians is that he studied and trained under two of that continent's most outstanding ophthalmologists of that era: Dr. Louis de Wecker of Paris and Dr. Otto Becker of Heidelberg.
What was his motivation for choosing to specialize in this field? If he was such an outstanding writer and poet, why didn't he pursue a post-graduate degree in literature instead?
Did he want to become an eye specialist to become richer? More famous? To have a more "secure" future? Aren't those the usual motivation nowadays for post-graduate studies?
Some historical writers say he had a reason more powerful than mere personal motivations.
His personal reason: he wanted to treat his mother's eye ailment.
From historical accounts, Dr. Rizal's mother suffered from cataracts.
Eye cataract was, and still is, an affliction among aging persons. It begins as a "clouding" in the crystalline lens of the eye. Old folks describe the symptom quite accurately. "Nag-uulap ang paningin," they would complain.
Cataracts usually signals the gradual deterioration of a person's vision. In some instances, the ending is total loss of vision. Yes, blindness.
It is said that, among the human senses, the sense of sight is usually the first to be lost.
Many would find this medical reality tragic. This is because most of the enjoyment in our life in this world is based on the sense of sight. Among a baby's first experience of ecstatic joy is the first time he recognizes light and color. That joy would be repeated many times as the baby grows up and appreciates the sight of moving objects and persons. Nothing, of course, would surpass the joy of seeing the face of a loved one - most specially, the face of a mother. Yes, the sense of sight causes an infant to experience love for the first time. And, the object of that love, without question, is the first human face that the baby beholds - that of his mother.
That Dr. Rizal's love for his mother, Doña Teodora Alonzo Realonda de Quintos, never faded was beyond question. We won't be surprised, too, if it is indeed true that he became an eye doctor in order to spare her the affliction and pain of gradual loss of vision due to cataracts.
Historical writers relate that Dr. Rizal did succeed in that aspiration. While on exile in Dapitan City, he concluded the operations on Doña Teodora's eyes.
He was one great eye doctor - people from here and abroad knew that. He had many patients other than his mother. Some were rich, others were poor. A handful of patients from other countries came to see him in order to have their sense of sight saved by the skillful hands of the great eye doctor.
As an outstanding eye doctor, Dr. Rizal helped many to see clearly once more. Of him, it could be said that he was the enemy of blindness.
As one great eye doctor, he did more than save people's eyesight.
He helped one Nation get rid of its collective blindness.
He helped us see two things more clearly.
First, he made us see more clearly our dignity as individuals and as a Nation.
Second, he made us see more clearly our potential as a people - the vast possibilities that lay ahead of us. He showed us that a Filipino, even under the most adverse social, economic, and political circumstances, can become the best.
He truly walked the talk, for he was the best in all the things he did. He became the best not in order to be recognized as number one. Becoming the best was his way of teaching us, of making us see more clearly the beauty of our person, the strength of our character, and the giftedness of our humanity.
As one great eye doctor, he had fantastic eyesight. He saw not just what the bare eye can. Dr. Rizal saw early on the innate, but dormant, excellence within the Filipino.
And having seen that, Dr. Rizal must have been the first die-hard fan of the Filipino. A die-hard fan. He was such a die-hard fan that he was willing to die for that belief, that passion for the Filipino.
Some say that there are more contemporary personalities whom today's Filipino might consider a more "relevant" hero.
That's a valid viewpoint that must be respected.
But here's the view from Rizal: As long as social, spiritual, and intellectual blindness exists, there would be a need for one great eye doctor to get our sights back and help us see more clearly.
I would still go for this one great ophthalmologist from the Southern Tagalog Region and whose name our province still sports.
Happy birthday, Doctor.
Happy Father's Day!
Speaking of die-hard fans, Rizaleños have one in the person of former Governor Ito Ynares.
Decades ago, he fell in love with the people of his province, thereafter committing his life to their service.
He also happens to be my father and mentor.
So, on this special day, I convey my warmest greetings to my dad and to all the dads out there.
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