by John Nery (from his column ‘Newsstand’ in the Philippine Daily Inquirer)
The idea that Rizal was prickly, sensitive to slights and quick to take offense, was a criticism he himself heard again and again. On Oct. 9, 1891, for instance, while preparing to leave for Hong Kong (and eventually to return to the Philippines), he declined his great friend Ferdinand Blumentritt’s suggestion that he resume writing for La Solidaridad. “I have suggested many projects; they engaged in a secret war against me. When I tried to make the Filipinos work, they called me ‘idol,’ they said that I was a despot, etc. …. They said that Rizal is a very difficult person; well, Rizal clears out.”
It is easy enough to multiply the instances of “difficulty.” One only has to comb through Rizal’s correspondence. But it would be misleading to conclude that Rizal had no use for criticism, or no stomach for controversy. In fact, it would be more accurate to say he welcomed debate or disagreement, even with polemicists he clearly considered to be his inferiors; he understood that dispute played a role, both in the determination of the truth and in the making of patriots.