Rizal’s Olympic Dreams


The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.  1896-the year of the

Cry of Balintawak (Aug 16, 1896) and Rizal’s Last Farewell (Dec 30, 1896) but I wonder if Rizal would fare against the competition. Certainly not in the swimming events, as there were already doubts whether he could even swim. Fencing might have been his best chance. He had a few known skirmishes in his time.

The Philippines is yet to win a gold medal but again the country was crying for justice in 1896.  Fencing has been part of the competition since ancient times, but the Olympic committee has been adding new events to these martial sports like Taekwando. We might still get one, but I am sure our chances will be better once the game of yoyo is added. It is the second oldest game in the world according to Duncan Toy’s historical collection There are ancient Greek yo-yos made of terra cotta in the museums in Athens. However is the game Fil-am (from Flores to Viernes) brought to America. There are a lot of Filipinos who became famous because of YOYO, with their impressive hand and eye dexterity and showmanship.

Who was the first to string the yoyo to this country? It was earlier than
when you may think. During Rizal’s voyages from New York to Liverpool onboard
the steamer "City of Malta" in 1888 Rizal demonstrated his prowess in the art of Yoyo to his fellow passengers. (Check Guerero's version if you don’t believe me)  Maybe he was just honing his wrist for fencing had he known that the ancient Olympics would be coming back in 1896.

Several “what ifs:” If Rizal was allowed to join the Spanish Army in Cuba as a
Medical Officer this would have saved him from becoming the target of
sharpshooters of Luneta on that Olympic year 1896  He might have still been on the same
ship again however. The City of Malta was the choice of luxury liners in
1888 but a decade later she was just an ordinary liner. The ship "City of
Malta" transported the defeated Spanish soldier repatriated from Cuba
back to Spain.

Rizal would be back to the United States for the third time on his third Olympics. The third modern Olympic Games was held in St Louis the same year as the 1904 Exposition. Yes, he was an accomplished fencer.  He foiled with the Europeans and expatriates the likes of Juan Luna.  Rizal would not be allowed to enter the US after 9/11 if a Yoyo were
classified as a weapon  ;-)


I don't know when the Philippines will ever win a Gold Medal but this I am
sure: that if the Philippines finally win the right to hold a future Olympics
the games, it would be played in Rizal's memory. The Rizal Memorial Coliseum
has been waiting for it for almost 100 years in Manila.


If Natalie Coughlin declared herself as an independent country, her nation would be ahead of most for medals in this 2004 Olympiad in Athens. Her own part and time in the gold winning relay race would have been another individual gold medal for her had she chosen to participate  This is tantamount to any decathlon player jumping higher than the eventual winner of the individual high jump event.

(Inside joke: Pretend Rizal went on to become a great fencing Olympian and lived long enough for the 1936 Olympics in Munich. His “son” would be watching him and Jesse Owens from the grandstand – touché.)

I remember the 1960 Rome Games, the first Olympics that I attended.  If Rizal lived as long as Aguinaldo, he would have been there in Rome. I would have walked the “El Filibusterismo” who would be 100 years old to the Vatican to make peace. Maybe the Pope would have granted the old blessing that he did not get in 1896. At the same time, the Church might have implied guilt for any little past transgressions in the name of religion against Rizal. 


The pen is mightier than the sword.


The 2004 Rizal’s Birthday Celebration in Jersey City