FOWARD-UK celebrated Philippine Independence Day and the life of Rizal at his old haunts in London, Sunday 15th June. FORWARD-UK or Filipinos Overseas Working to Advance Reform Democracy and Development, is a London-based organisation of Filipinos who would like to take an active part in the life of the Philippines nation even whilst living oceans away. “London Calling: Jose Rizal” re-traced the steps of Rizal as he arrived in the capital, and explored the commonalities between his experience and those of young Filipinos studying in the UK.
In commemoration of Rizal’s birthday (19th June 1861) and Philippine Independence Day (12th June 1898), participants toured Primrose Hill, where Rizal lived from June 1888 until March 1889. Number 37 Chalcot Crescent is marked with a blue plaque, commonly seen on historic buildings in London to celebrate great figures of the past and the buildings that they inhabited. Erected in 1983, his plaque reads: “Dr José Rizal (1861-1896), Writer and National Hero of the Philippines, lived here”.
During the tour, excerpts from Rizal’s letters and writings completed in London were read. The letters give a clear picture of his life in London, including both loves (Gertrude “Tottie” Beckett, daughter of his landlord) and gripes (“Sundays are very boring”!). Rizal regularly visited the reading room of the British Museum, where he annotated Antonio Morga’s Sucesos delas Islas Filipinas. Rizal was researching the pre-colonial past of Filipinos, searching for our identity as a people before the Spaniards came. His letter to the women of Malolos in support of their demand to set up a night school to learn Spanish, urged women to play a larger role in society and put forward the ideas of equality, human rights and the supremacy of reason.
Final stop was Primrose Hill park where the tour was rounded off with a reading of the inspiring writing “The Philippines a Century Hence”. Of particular resonance was the passage: “We said and once more we repeat, and all will ever assert, that reforms, which have a palliative character, are not only ineffectual but even prejudicial when the government is confronted with evils that must be cured radically”. Participants’ were then tested with the Rizal “pub quiz”, containing questions on the facts and and myths (Jose Rizal was Jack the Ripper!) surrounding our national hero. A picnic and lively discussions on what Filipinos overseas can do for the Philippines ensued. “Rizal looked clearly into the Philippines’ future and stated the need for true reforms. This remains true today. More than sending back remitances, we need to think how we can be more like Rizal and use our skills and knowledge to affect reforms in the Philippines”, commented Carla Montemayor of FORWARD-UK. In 2007, remittances accounted for just over 10 percent of the Philippine GDP(1); Only six percent of Filipino overseas workers registered to to vote in the 2007 senatorial and partylist elections (2).
For more information about FORWARD-UK visit www.forwardpilipinas.org (soon to go live!)