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Dr. Jose Rizal in South Korea: A Migrant's Reflection

I am a Korean Government Scholar. I studied in Seoul, South Korea for three years.


Dr. Jose Rizal in The Little Manila-South Korea

The clock struck 1:00 pm as I got off the subway on my way to Hyewha to visit the Filipino market in Korea. The word "kababayan" was like music to my ears as I walked around the "Little Manila". The longing to see my Filipino friends and family back home was eased a bit by just walking around.

This was a typical picture on most Sundays when Filipino workers in and outside Seoul set off for Hyewha to attend the Filipino Catholic mass and buy some Philippine products. For some, they use this time to send remittances to their families.

The Filipino community in Korea recently initiated a signature campaign to conserve and improve the Filipino market in Hyewha. The threat of removing the Little Manila somehow ignited a sense of unity. This made me realize the same burning passion of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and of the brave Filipino migrants in Korea.

Dr. Jose Rizal fought for democracy, not with guns, but with his pen. Like Dr. Rizal, the signature campaign is a silent protest to safeguard the identity of the Filipino community in Korea.

I have great admiration for every Filipino migrant. Far beyond his remittances, he is an indispensable part of nation-building. This is why Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs are called modern living heroes. It is from this perspective that I want to talk about the essence of being like Dr. Jose Rizal - a Filipino, a migrant, and a hero.

Today, the definition of a Filipino hero ranges from the grand acts of martyrdom to the plain toil of sending remittances back home.


Dr. Jose Rizal as A Filipino

As Filipinos, we have with us our treasured values and cultures such as being hospitable, warm-hearted, and pious. We demonstrate these qualities wherever we go. I think every Filipino who leaves the country to work or study abroad instantly becomes an ambassador of goodwill.

Dr. Rizal himself is a good example of a true Filipino. He excelled in his studies and used this to serve his countrymen. He used his writings, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as a tool to reach out to his people. He could have worked and studied the rest of his life in other countries, but he still chose to go back home to serve his motherland.

Like Dr. Rizal, as migrants, we strive to do our best for our families. Working and studying abroad should not be for a lifetime. Going back home to serve our country, by any means, should be one of our objectives.


Dr. Jose Rizal as A Migrant

As migrants, we opt to leave our homeland to support our family. We are determined to survive all the hurdles that go along with it. We endure everything for our family, from the freezing weather to social discrimination.

Dr. Rizal endured all these challenges when he himself became a migrant. Yet his sacrifices of leaving his family and all the social prejudices he suffered were not futile. Being a migrant, a student abroad, he returned to our country with the recognition of being a great scholar.

My father is also a migrant. I also dreamt to go abroad and buy chocolates just like what my father used to give us. Remembering this childish dream always makes me smile. As a child, I never knew the hardships a migrant has to face and endure. Every time my father went home, I only heard about good things about his stay abroad. But as I grew older, I became aware of the reality that it is not easy to leave home and work abroad.

Now, I'm here in Korea, with the same purpose as any other migrants, that is to support my family. To live, study and work abroad is a life changing experience. But the sky is not always clear. There are some who become victims of inequity and abuse. These are some of the realizations that have enlightened my once narrow view of how it is and what it takes to be a migrant.


Dr. Jose Rizal as A Hero

Our hero, Dr. Rizal chose to face the consequences of serving his country against the Spanish rulers. He knew what his fate would be if he chose to persist in writing against the Spaniards. But he was never afraid. He knew that he has a great responsibility to his people. He saw the need to awaken the minds of his countrymen, to break away from the oppressive condition brought by the Spaniards.

Dr. Rizal's courageous effort to stand against the Spanish rulers through his writings made him a hero. But he fought not to be acclaimed nor to be honored as a hero. His objective was to stir a sense of nationalism amongst his countrymen. And he didn't fail.

Similarly, OFWs have the same responsibility. While it is not to fight against foreign invaders, they have become a crucial part in guarding and supporting our country's effort to overcome the economic crisis. The remittances sent by the Filipino workers from all over the world every year constitute a big reinforcement for moving our economy forward. Saving the country from economic turmoil through their remittances makes the OFWs instant heroes. It was never their dream to be called as heroes, but with that huge responsibility to support their families back home, they are now relentlessly tagged as the "Modern Living Heroes".

Standing in a corner, I realized that Dr. Jose Rizal is within every Filipino migrant in the Little Manila. With Dr. Rizal, we share congruent lives of being a Filipino, a migrant, and a hero.