Rizal as President (Interview with Ambeth Ocampo)

Posted: June 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

To enshrine José Rizal in myth is probably the worse accolade one could give a real life hero. It’s so unlike Rizal to glory in what is principally make-believe. He preferred to speak the truth, however painfully real, over and above a well-polished, buffed-to-the-grain reputation. Do you think he was the type of guy who’d take a wild crack at being President of the Republic?

Writer and columnist Ambeth R. Ocampo believes Rizal might take a crack at it, but to be elected President is a whole different ballgame. Ocampo tells the Philippines Graphic that with Rizal’s forthright demeanor, many of today’s Filipinos may not look kindly on it:

Rizal will NEVER be elected president of thePhilippines,” Ocampo maintains. “With his temperament he wouldn’t even be elected Barangay Captain because he will not campaign the way politicians do today and will not bend on matters of principle. If Rizal were alive today, he would not be president; they would shoot him in Luneta all over again!”

Writer and historian Ambeth Ocampo (from FB site)

“He will not bend on matters of principle.” This requires an inhuman amount of moral grit and mettle, and no doubt, Rizal had more than his share to wag around. No, he’d hardly make the roster of canonized saints, albeit some do think of him as such. He was a man who wanted to do what was right and fair, and what was beneficial to an overall understanding of what to be Filipino in the context of nation.

All this talk about who should and should not be buried as a hero should take their cue from José Rizal. It should be noted that this country must have a standard when it comes to the subject of heroism. And I’m not talking only of “heroism” on a daily basis, but one that provokes a high standard of aspiration and a sense of nation—without forgetting that heroes, in the end, are no less human than the “hero” next door.

Here’s a peek into the Philippines Graphic interview with writer and historian Ambeth R. Ocampo (at the newsstands next week!):

Philippines Graphic: What would Rizal’s inaugural address highlight if he ever won as President of this country? Please give three issues that would be close to Rizal’s heart and why.

Ambeth R. Ocampo: The main issue would be education, but an education not just to mean classroom education but an education in what it is and what it means to be Filipino, the ethics of being part of a national community.

His next issue would be land reform because it is not emphasized that his heroism was based in the agrarian unrest experienced by his family. He was shot not just for writing two novels that nobody has read, rather his being a guiding force in the Calamba land problem.

What do you think his relationship with the Philippine millitary would be like? Him being a man of letters?

Rizal was basically a man of letters, but he was both a marksman and a swordsman. His relationship with the military would be, as stated above, to encourage ethical notions of nationhood.

Do you think his response to internet social media would be favorable? Do you see him using Facebook or Twitter?

He used the communication instruments of his time, given the same opportunities we have in the 21st century he would use for his ends.

Do you think Rizal will vote for the RH Bill? Please explain whether yes or no.

Rizal was a physician he will decide what is best for the patient. He will not be dissuaded by the rantings of some clerics.


How do you think Rizal would respond to media’s reports on his love life? Would he respond in the same manner as President Noynoy Aquino?

Rizal’s love life was an open book. When he lived-in with Josephine in Dapitan, he wrote to his family saying they know his situation and if they can live with it they could stay with him. If not, he would rent a house for them in town. His own words were a warning that he didn’t want to be treated like a child

If Rizal decides to write a novel in our day and age, what do you think would be the primary issue he would tackle?

All the issues he wanted to tackle are in his three books. The Noli Me Tangere talked about the present; the Morga talked about the past; the El Filibusterismo talked about the future. He said all he wanted to say in these three works. The fact that we find them relevant today is not so much because he is prophetic, but rather we have not developed much since his day.

Do you think Rizal would make a good president?

Rizal will NEVER be elected president of thePhilippines. With his temperament he wouldnt even be elected Barangay Captain because he will not campaign the way polticians do today and will not bend on matters of principle. if Rizal were alvive today, he would not be president, they would shoot him in Luneta all over again!

*Watch out for it in the next issue of the Philippines Graphic.




JOEL PABLO SALUD is the editor-in-chief and interim literary editor of the Philippines Graphic magazine, the country’s top newsweekly publication under the ALC Group of Publications, which include the BusinessMirror.  He is a member of the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the Manila Critics Circle. He regularly writes reviews for the Philippines Graphic Review of Literature.


  1. absolutely agree with you, sir ambeth. if rizal were alive today, i’d follow him on twitter and fb!

  2. Ely Ambi says:

    Sir, thank you for this issue, more power and God Bless !

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