E. San Juan Jr. at the Philippines Matrix Project: A specter is haunting las islas Filipinas—not just the territory, but also the Filipino diaspora around the world. Jose Rizal as ghost or the phantom in the neocolonial opera stalks across islands and continents. Rizal–the name is familiar, even a household word, like Avenida Rizal, Rizal Coliseum, the “Rizal” brand attached to all kinds of souvenirs, gewgaws, and collectibles. But over the decades and centuries, after 150 years, somehow the figure remains distant, alien, self-estranged. Rizal, the national hero, is routinely celebrated by bureaucrats, cult-followers, trendy pundits and inutile academics. But among so many fetishized images, counterfeit icons, and fabrications, who is the “real” and “true” Rizal? Such a question is perhaps anachronistic, irrelevant, or foolish in our postmodern age of simulacras, hybrid replicas, and virtual dissimulations. Our task in such a bind is to explore the nexus of duplicities and contradictions in our vexed and vexatious question. Rizal’s significance for us today remains problematic, contentious, open-ended. His prestige is no longer monolithic, unequivocal, standardized. Readers of his works are now prone to extract multiple ambiguous meanings.
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