As a current fourth year student in the Philippines, one of the classes I am taking up is Rizal, a class where we study the life, the works, the death, and the impact of Jose Rizal, our national hero. Jose Rizal is a very renowned Filipino for writing the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo which were about the oppressions and injustice during the Spanish colonization in the Philippines. He is considered a hero by many for becoming the inspiration of the Filipinos to bring justice to themselves and their country. Jose Rizal is also one of the many ilustrados of his time but what exactly is an ilustrado?
During Spain’s rule of the Philippines, the ilustrados belonged to the European- educated middle-class Filipinos. Many of the names we know and remember today in our country belonged to this class: Juan Luna, Graciana Lopez Jaena, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Felix Resureccion Hidalgo, Antonio Luna, and Mariano Ponce. These names are the names of Filipinos whose works of art shaped the society and the history of the Philippines.
The fifth chapter of the WYA Certified Training Program (CTP), talks about art and culture. It talks about how art reflects our values and our beliefs, about the influence of art in the past, and how it shapes our culture and our society. For me, ilustrados like Jose Rizal, Mariano Ponce, Juan Luna, and Marcelo H. Del Pilar became big influencers as to why the Philippine society is how the way it is today.
Jose Rizal wrote novels about the Philippines under Spanish rule which has greatly shaped our society since Rizal’s death. Mariano Ponce was also a writer who is famous for Ang Wika At Lahi, a discussion about the importance of national language. Juan Luna was a painter and sculptor who is famous for his painting Spolarium which won a gold medal in 1884 at the Madrid Exposition. Marcelo H. Del Pilar was a writer and a journalist who was an editor for La Solidaridad. La Solidaridad was an organization created in Spain whose aim was to increase awareness of the Spanish to the needs of its colony.
Up until today, their names have not been forgotten and their works have not been forgotten. Their poems, novels, articles, and paintings are still of big importance in the Philippines for the impact and the inspiration that these works have. These Filipinos used their talents, and the advantage of their education, to fight for the rights of their fellow Filipinos and to increase awareness on the abuses done under Spanish rule.
There are people who believe that being an artist isn’t a “good” profession. The youth are praised for wanting to become doctors, scientists, businessmen, and lawyers but discouraged from being an “artist” mainly due to its economic limitations. But time and again, history has proven just how powerful the pen and the brush may be.
As we have read, art does make a difference and that it is the representation and the reflection of our culture and our society. Though not everyone can afford an education abroad, every person is still able to create or make art regardless of their social status. In World Youth Alliance, culture and society are of great importance because it is integral to human development and our growth.
How, then, could we use whatever talent we have to make a positive impact on society?
Written by Margaux Madamba, a current intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office.