Rizal in the 21st Century

by Blooey P. Singson
(source: http://www.mb.com.ph/YTCP20080629128410.html)


With the 'Complete Jose Rizal, NHI and Filipiniana.net deliver Rizal in equal measure, providing a more balanced and accurate impression of both the man and the hero.

Over the years, hundreds of books have been produced about Rizal, ever since the Rizal Bill (Republic Act 1425) was passed in 1956, mandating the inclusion of the study of Rizal’s life and works in school curricula.

Filipino students are just too familiar with the stories of the moth and flame, the rough piƱa shirt and the missing slipper; Rizal’s education and travels abroad; his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo; his exile in Dapitan; and his trial and martyrdom at Bagumbayan.

Most Filipinos believe they know everything that there is to be known about Rizal, when the general information is actually just a very small component of the complex picture that is the Philippines’ national hero.

To shed more light on the life and works of Jose Rizal, Filipiniana.net, a digital library of Philippine studies resources, has launched the Complete Jose Rizal online at http://www.filipiniana.net/rizaliana.jsp, conceived in time for the national hero’s 147th birthday.

Online Rizal canon

The Complete Jose Rizal brings a wealth of knowledge on Rizal from both primary and secondary sources – a complete bibliography of all of Rizal’s works and correspondence, including full-text versions of Rizal’s novels, poems, and essays.

"The Complete Jose Rizal is an attempt to create a canon, in the same way that others have put together all of Shakespeare’s works, such as the MIT’s The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (http://shakespeare.mit.edu)," states Gaspar Vibal, founder of Filipiniana.net.

The site is a joint project between the Vibal Foundation and the National Historical Insitutite, itself borne out of the 1961 Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission (JRNCC). Its Escritos de Jose Rizal project published Rizal’s complete literary canon in dozens of volumes, with translations from Spanish into Tagalog and English and many key Filipino languages.

"That effort has never been surpassed, but many of the books published by the JRNCC are no longer distributed or in print, particularly Rizal’s Spanish works," Vibal notes. "The website addresses that rarity and makes the whole canon available for free 24 hours a day, seven days of the week, on the Internet."

Rizal's letters

Central to this voluminous collection are 954 letters written by and to Rizal, who was a prolific and eloquent correspondent.

The Epistolario Rizalino will be fully published in the original Spanish, along with the Tagalog and English translations.

The site also contains an image gallery showcasing over 100 photographs of Rizal and the people closest to him, his artworks, and the places he visited during his travels.

"The site aims to be the definitive repository of all of Rizal’s known cultural output," Vibal adds. "This is why the site’s first publication is the complete bibliography of his correspondence, prose, poetry, and artistic works."

Unlike other websites which contain full-text versions as flat HTML or web files, the contents of The Complete Jose Rizal are fully-indexed and searchable to the ultimate keyword, marrying bibliography (the study of books) with technology, using MySQL, an open-source database, to store and index everything.

"For the letters we are using the masterful bibliographies compiled by Wenceslao Retana and Luis Montillia, while Angel Tiaoqui Hidalgo’s bibliography serves as the basis for the listing of his literary and artistic works" adds Vibal.

A team of librarians and content specialists assign subject headings, keywords, executive summaries and hyperlinks to all the content to facilitate searching and understanding. Users of the site can research a topic, such as the image of Maria Clara in Rizal’s novels, and the search technology easily allows the user to identify all the specific pages in which that search term appears.

"Fortunately for us, technology is the handmaiden to this monumental project. So much open source software is available, and the costs of storage and bandwidth are virtually nil, so technology allows us to fulfill this outsize ambition. We are also buoyed on by the many volunteers around the world who truly love this man and his writings," Vibal says.

The man and the hero

With the Complete Jose Rizal, NHI and Filipiniana.net deliver the man and the hero in equal measure, providing a more balanced and accurate impression of both the man and the hero.

"Rizal has remained an enigma through the ages," Vibal asserts. "Did he support the ideas of the revolution? Did he retract? Was he ever a Catholic? Did he marry? Was he gay? Was he really a heretical free thinker? All of these ageless questions can be answered by reading his works, especially his letters, which are a direct link to his mind and soul. There is also a collection of sketches made by Rizal that are considered ephemera, but reveal the playful and sensitive side of the man."

Teachers, students, and any lover of literature will be continually refreshed by delving into Rizal’s corpus of work.

"Rizal himself preferred to collect the complete works of writers and not just a selection," Vibal points out. "Rizal wrote in April 1888 to Mariano Ponce, ‘I believe that with regard to great men, everything is worthy of study, and that it is very difficult to state absolutely which (works) are better and which are worse’."

The Complete Jose Rizal is part of the Vibal Foundation’s commitment to free learning for all through digital platforms.

"The site is still a work in progress – we plan to include a public graffiti board on the site to invite netizens to react, comment, and annotate our national hero, to copy, paste and remix and match Rizal into their own creative works," concludes Vibal. "It is an ambitious undertaking, and it will take many long years to publish all his cultural works online, but this is a great opportunity for Filipinos to see and appreciate the enormity of Rizal’s contribution to Philippine culture."