Deflating the Historical
Jose Rizal is made the model of all students because he was supposed
to have graduated with a grade of sobresaliente (excellent) in all his subjects.
Well, I was skeptical enough to visit the Ateneo University Archives in
of Rizal's transcript. It was not available, but there was a printed booklet on
the distribution of prizes for the school year 1876-77.
Now, Rizal won many prizes, but to my great surprise, I discovered there
were only 12 students in Rizal's class. Of this 12, nine including Rizal, graduated
sobresaliente! So what's the big deal about this if there were eight others with
the same grade? You see, we imagine getting sobresaliente as equivalent to
being a valedictorian. Hindi pala!
Rizal did get good grades at the Ateneo, but at the University of Santo
well, let's just say he wasn't as great a student as he's been made out to be.
Before we go on, I guess you must have heard about the erroneous use of
title "Dr." before Rizal's name. For some reason -- perhaps lack of money, time,
or interest -- Rizal was not able to take the examination which would have qualified
him for a doctorate. Rizal had a Licentiate in Medicine, and being a medical doctor,
he was allowed to practice in eh profession. Technically speaking, however,
he could not carry the academic title "Dr." Shocking, di ba?
From the great Rizal, let's turn now to a dropout who succeeded without
formal degree -- Juan Luna y Novicio.
The Academia de Dibujo in Manila was run by a mean Spaniard, Agusti Saez,
who ran against his own students in a contest to find the best cover design for the
book, Flora de Filipinas. He was bastos, with no delicadeza at all.
Of course, Saez won, with Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo getting second place.
But Hidalgo could have won the top prize had his teacher not joined. Luna did
not even get to join the contest, since he was already out of school by then. If a
friend like Rizal described Luna's early paintings as "contrary to art," Saez as
director of the Academy must have thought worse.
Perhaps Saez wanted the stubborn Luna to conform, to paint like everyone
which is natural in any school which tended to hamper creativity. Things came to
ahead, and Luna was either dropped out or expelled, depending on which biography
you are reading.
After studying under the Filipino painter, Lorenzo Guerrero, Luna left
for Madrid. At the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, he was
strongly influenced by his mentor, Alejo Vera. The teacher so impressed him
that when Vera left Madrid to fulfill some commissions in Rome, Luna left school,
said goodbyeto the diploma, and apprenticed himself under Vera.
At the Madrid Exposition of 1884, Luna's huge Spolarium won.
Thus, a Filipino
proved himself in Spain as an "international artist." Unfortunately, this is one other
thing from school we have yet to unlearn.
Luna's triumph was far from "international," because Madrid was an artistic
backwater. The center of the real art scene at the time was Paris. But Luna
won the gold medal for Spolarium and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo the silver for
Virgenes Cristianas Expuestas al Populacho, right? And as in school prizes,
we think Luna's gold won first prize and Hidalo's silver second.
Well to shatter a myth further, Luna won one gold medal out of three gold
medals given out, and Hidalgo won one silver medal out of fifteen given out in
Our teachers oversimplified this and created a myth. Pero, nasaan
first and second prize diyan?
Luna did not even win the grand prize int that Exposition but as consuelo
bobo he was commissioned the mural Battle of Lepanto, which now hangs in
the Spanish Senate in Madrid.
As you can see, there are quite a number of things taught in school that
has to unlearn.