JEDDAH, 22 August — Members of the Filipino community in Jeddah have organized a local chapter of the Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKOR), a Manila-based civic organization dedicated to the perpetuation of the life and works of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
The chapter's elected officers and charter members are:
Commander, Muhammad Pedro H. Holanda; deputy commander Corlito Obtinalla; chancellor, Esmael S. Ali; pursuivant, Vicente Aguila, Jr.; exchaquer, Estelito Martin; archivist, Ricardo Cordero.
Trustees: Gil Manese, Benjamin Garcia, Nazruddin Dianalan, Surafah. A. Campiao, Gerry Cuares, Mauricio Marzo, Mitchell Hadji Omar, and Romulo Bani.
Founding members: Feliciano Reyes, Edwin Monge, Gregorio Quimos, Narciso Areglado, Edilberto Rufino, Jun Ocampo, Rodolfo Cornejo, Alberto Osorio, Marciano Asuncion, Hernan Huerto, Resty Mercado, Gilmore Garcia, and Dominic Malapitan.
The officers were administered the OKOR oath last Sunday by Vice Consul Jose Jacob of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, who pointed out that OKOR is a prestigious and prominent organization that has much to contribute to the Filipino community.
Initiating the charter members was OKOR area commander for the Middle East and Africa, Consul Jesus S. Domingo of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.
In his speech, Domingo exhorted the members to keep in mind that Dr. Rizal was "the first OFW" and serves as a relevant hero and inspiration for today's Bagong Bayani or modern-day heroes.
After finishing medicine in Spain in the 1880s, Rizal worked as an intern in France and Germany and also stayed in Austria and Belgium as he worked on his books, the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, attacking the abuses of Spanish friars and colonial rulers.
He returned to the Philippines later but because the colonial rulers made life extremely difficult for his family, he was forced to leave for Hong Kong.
It was in that British colony where he established himself as an ophthalmologist, becoming the most famous of the 19th century OFWs.
It was Rizal's two books that inspired progressive-minded Filipinos to form the Katipunan, a secret organization led by Andres Bonifacio, to wage a revolution in 1896.
Although Rizal had refused to join the armed struggle, citing that the Filipinos were not ready for it, he was executed on Dec. 30, 1898, by the Spanish rulers who considered him the most dangerous man in the colony.
More than a century after his martyrdom, Rizal's greatness is still being debated upon, with some saying he should be placed after Bonifacio since it was Bonifacio who led the revolution.
Others argue that no less than Bonifacio subsumed himself to Rizal by citing the doctor's writings as an inspiration in their quest for independence.
The irony is that while some Filipinos have been trying to put down Rizal, he had been honored by scholars in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei as one of the greatest Malays.
Even Western scholars have placed Rizal alongside Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore of India and Sun Yat-sen of China, considered among Asia's greats during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In forming the OKOR group in Jeddah, chapter commander Muhammad Pedro Holanda said their primary concern is to pursue the good works of Rizal, with an orientation toward youth development.
These, he said, will include commemoration of Rizal's nativity and death, holding of inter-school academic and talent competitions, dissemination of Rizal's writings and generally raising public awareness and appreciation of Rizal's legacy.
"OKOR is not a political organization but rather an international civic, patriotic and fraternal organization," Holanda explained to Arab News.
The Jeddah chapter is the latest addition to the OKOR family in the Kingdom, which also consists of chapters in Riyadh and Alkhobar. Founded in 1911, OKOR has active chapters not only in the Philippines and the Kingdom but in many other countries where there are concentrations of OFWs, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, China.