By Jade Pangilinan
Retracing Rizal’s Footsteps
in Hibiya Park
On June 19, 2011 we are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of publicly-acclaimed National Hero Jose Protacio Rizal. Let me pay tribute to him with a reprint of an essay I wrote in 2007 when I visited Japan.
My Japan sojourn will not be complete without paying homage to my idol, the great Philippine patriot and our national hero Jose Rizal. This meant a visit to Hibiya Park, Tokyo where a marker was erected during the centenary of Rizal’s birth in remembrance of his Japanese trip in 1888. The marker is nestled at the former site of the Tokyo Hotel, the precursor of the contemporary Imperial Hotel which is now located just across the park. In 1998, as part of the Philippine Centennial Celebrations, the Philippine Embassy in Japan added a bust of our hero to the marker.
I have gone around Hibiya Park once before I approached the information center to ask for the location of the Rizal marker there. I had difficulty finding it since the maps were all in Japanese and the marker was not placed in a prominent place in the park grounds.
I could have hugged Rizal when I finally caught sight of the bust. The same impeccable hairstyle and the immaculate manner of dressing could not be mistaken anywhere. It was on a partly - hidden, solitary pathway shaded by a canopy of trees that I found Rizal, looking quite forlorn in the serenity of the surroundings. Rizal, as depicted, appears rather lost in deep thought.
The bust is located behind the stonewall remnants of the Hibiya Gate from the Edo period centuries back. From Rizal’s perspective, one has a good vantage point of a peaceful looking pond and greenery well - suited for wistful thinking.
As I was taking pictures of Rizal, I was trying to recall from my readings and university days the facts that led to his journey to Japan. I remember that Rizal visited Japan, en route to Europe, in the late 1880s (1888 according to the marker) at the peak of controversy after his first novel Noli Me Tangere was published. What stands out in my memory is Rizal’s love affair with the beautiful daughter of a samurai, Seiko Usui, who went down in history more popularly known as Osei-san.
While his love affair with Osei-san fizzled, Rizal must have been enamored by Japan – the scenic beauty of its nature and the attitude of the people. In the Rizaliana archives somewhere, there survive brush and ink sketches unmistakably done in the Japanese style by Rizal, as may have been influenced by his short sojourn.
Visionary that he was, Rizal even went so far as to foresee that Japan will rise to become among the leading nations of the world, and in his essay “The Philippines, A Century Hence” there was a passage referring to how Japan will set its imperial eye on the neighboring Korea, which did happen as recorded in world history.
While strolling around Hibiya Park, I was wondering whether the same trees must have greeted Rizal in his walks. He must have enjoyed watching the cherry blossoms fall as the flower is etched in his marker, and he visited Japan in springtime when the phenomenon takes place.
Even then, Rizal must have taken much pleasure in the serene atmosphere that such open spaces in Tokyo offer. There is even an anecdote narrating how Rizal met some Filipino musicians playing Strauss while taking a stroll at what is now Hibiya Park, to his surprised delight.
I learned from the Hibiya Park office that what constitutes the grounds now used to be part of the mansion of a daimyo or feudal lord during the Edo period, and were used as army drill grounds in the more recent Meiji period, during which Rizal visited Japan. The park as we know it now was planned as such only in 1903 as the first western style garden in Tokyo.
In my effort to retrace Rizal’s steps in Tokyo, I feel that Filipinos who come to visit Japan must take a bit of their time to visit Rizal’s marker and bust at the Hibiya Park and experience, even for a while, a sense of connection, a little pride and a burst of nationalist sentiment in remembering the past by treading the way which Rizal himself had passed. In this foreign land, it is only to us that Rizal’s sojourn to Japan will find a meaning, more than anybody else who pass the park everyday.
As for me, my afternoon at Hibiya Park will be etched in my memory along with the sense of fulfillment at having paid homage to one who greatly deserved it. My only regret about visiting Rizal there was that I didn’t come sooner in time for his birthday.
A Cup of Coffee
by Richard Diaz Alorro
Keeping With the Pace of Time
It seems that time has never travelled at such a frightening speed as these days. As a proof, parang kailan lang nilabas ang ating spring issue but now you are holding and flipping at the pages of our summer issue already. The sands of time are dripping faster than we expected. If we don’t keep notice of the passing of time, we might get caught unaware and puff, it’s game over!
What happened? Magkaiba ba ang ikot ng orasan ngayong panahon kung ikumpara sa nakaraang sampung taon? Did our planet get smaller making its rotation around the axis less than 24 hours to define a complete daytime? Time has never changed ever since man has started to measure and record it. The tickling of the minute hand as you are reading this article is the same as when the day you were born. What changed was our way of living, our lifestyle.
It has been scientifically proven that our state of being busy or our lifestyle affects on how we perceive the passing of time. People who have very swamped schedules tend to notice that time seems to pass by swiftly and more often complain about not having enough time to complete their tasks. While those who have very relaxed calendars may think everything seems coming very slow and feel impatient about the passing of time. The pace of time is only in a state of mind and the word that makes the difference is “busy.”
While having a cup of a brewed coffee in a broad warm afternoon, I wondered how many times do we hear or speak of the word busy as an adjective to describe our day? In my case, hindi ko na ata mabilang. When asked by friends how my day or my week is, “busy” seems to be the easiest and non-complicated answer.
I can’t help but recall the life that I left behind more than 5 years ago when I chose to pursue a postgraduate study and start a career in Japan – payak ang buhay, simple needs, simple joys, undemanding, somewhat laid-back at hawak mo lagi ang iyong oras. I spoke of busy very seldom. Ngunit dahil sa kagustuhan kong mapag-husayan lalo ang aking propesyon, umangat ang antas ng pamumuhay, at makatulong sa aking pamilya, I chose the opposite. There are no regrets, so far. By choosing the life that I am treading now, I was defined as an individual, I learned to know my capabilities, my strengths and weaknesses, and I was molded to become a better person.
Pinili ba natin ang Japan upang maging “busy”? Naging layunin ba natin sa buhay ang maging busy? Sabi nga nila, we are not on this earth to be busy. Nandito daw tayo para makipagkapwa, lasapin ang buhay, bumuo ng mga bagay-bagay, o tumulong sa kapwa. It was never our goal to be busy but the society that we have embraced continues to emit this concept of a lifestyle and trains us to be this way. This is what Japan is, where being busy is thought to be good and a measure of worth.
Alam kong hindi ako nag-iisa sa usaping ito. Marami sa ating mga kababayan dito sa Japan ang nakaka-relate sa topic na ito. Marahil ang iba sa atin ay nasanay na rin at naging hiyang na sa Japanese way of living. Thanks to the Filipino versatility! Madali kasing maka-adapt ang mga Pinoy sa iba’t ibang sitwasyon. Ngunit sa araw-araw na pagsisikap natin dito sa bansang Hapon para sa iba’t ibang layunin, we should always remember that life is irreversible. As we move forward, we can never repeat the gold, olden days or rewind the precious moments spent together with family or friends. We can always re-visit the places we’ve been at but everything will never be the same again. The best we can do is to find joy in whatever we do and to keep abreast with the pace of time.
Before I finished my cup of coffee, I was convinced that it is very difficult to go against the tide. This is the kind of life that we chose to live so we must stand for it. Ika nga, “Go with the flow” and “When in Rome, do as Romans do”. Instead, we have to find joy and positive things even in the most frustrating situations. During rush hours when trains are crammed, why don’t we fill our senses with our favorite music from our iPod and shut our world for a while from the chaos of the city life. While waiting in a long queue, why don’t we take the opportunity to observe the faces and expressions of the people around us, compare and contrast our similarities and differences?
Finally, why don’t we eliminate the word “busy” in our list of adjectives to define our day? Change it with “crammed”, “full”, “occupied”, “great”, “demanding”, or any other word. There is something negative about the word “busy” when we use it to characterize our schedule. Let us see how this could change our perception of life and the evolution of time.