Government puts Rizal's journey in cyberspace

MANILA, Philippines - Internet users may soon trace the journeys of national hero Jose Rizal, 150 years after his birth.

Chairman Ivan John Uy of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) said yesterday that in honor of Rizal’s birthday on June 19, they would come up with a “Google map” type of website showing the places he visited and the locations of statues and monuments erected in his honor in different countries.

Lawyer Ramoncita Reyes, a descendant of national hero Jose Rizal, stands next to a Rizal stamp exhibit launched by Philpost at the central post office in Manila yesterday

Once they have completed this project, people would become more familiar with Rizal, a national and international figure, Uy added.

Uy said with just a click of a computer mouse, visitors of the Google-type website would know the places that Rizal visited such as Germany, Spain, and Japan and the locations of his monuments and markers and the significance of these locations in the life of the national hero.

“Since the CICT is the technology arm of the government we’d like to bring Rizal to the 21st century mindset,” he said.

“To put him in virtual cyberspace… we have to capture the footprints that he left in the world by using technology.”

Uy spoke during yesterday’s launch of “Rizaliana Collection on Stamp Exhibit by Jorge Cuyugan and Philatelic Friends” at the Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) in Manila.

The stamps, dating as far as 1906, are the personal collection of Cuyugan.

Uy said many Filipinos today have forgotten Rizal and the sacrifices he had made for freedom and the motherland.

“As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of our national hero, we feel that we would bring him and the values that he represents to us, to create awareness, not just for our people, but worldwide on who Rizal was and what he fought for and what he symbolized,” he said.

“He is one of the very few national heroes who is recognized and honored in many parts of the world.”

The CICT would be working with the National Historic Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) for the content of the website.

Uy said while Rizal’s 150th birthday is on June 19, the website will carry information not only for the one-day event.

It will contain activities that would be laid out by the different agencies of government during the yearlong celebration.

“It is supposed to be a yearlong celebration, not just a day celebration,” he said.

“So let us commemorate it for the whole year... We would coordinate with the NHCP, we would provide our technical support and expertise there.”

Uy said they would also entertain ideas on how they could maximize the use of technology to “further immortalize our immortal national hero.”

He is also contemplating initiating a tie-up with international search engines such as Google, he added.

Uy said Google occasionally creates doodles on their logo to commemorate personalities or events in history.

“Next week I’m going to Singapore and I’m going to meet regional head of Google in the Asia Pacific Region, they actually invited me to speak before them, and I will bring that up,” he said.

Uy said while the proposal for Google to feature Rizal might not happen on June 19, it is possible that their request will be granted within 12 months.

A coffee table book on Rizal should be released to mark the occasion, Uy said.

Meanwhile, Philpost yesterday morning launched the Rizal stamp exhibit, using the collection of philatelic Cuyugan.

Cuyugan said he lent more than 100 different Philippine-issued stamps on Rizal to the Philpost for the exhibit.

“I could say that I am one of the very few lucky persons of the last two decades who started collecting Philippine stamps when most of the issues were still available and affordable and because of this, I was able to assemble an almost complete collection of Philippine stamps from our Spanish period up to the present,” he said.

The oldest stamp issued on display was dated 1906, regarded as among the first Rizal stamps. It was printed as part of the United States’ first regular stamp issues for the Philippine Islands.

At that time, the Rizal stamp appeared on the lowest denomination of 2 cents and was the only Filipino portrait in the set that featured famous American heroes.

There were 51,125,010 pieces of 1906 Rizal stamps that were printed.

Cuyugan said it was 20 years ago when he developed an interest to collect Rizal items particularly stamps, postcards, coins, posters and banknotes.

He would like to encourage today’s young Filipinos to develop a “nationalist hobby” by collecting Rizal items that are not heavy on the pocket, like stamps or coins.

“Kids nowadays spend more time in front of a computer, they play computer games to relax,” he said.

“But collecting these Rizal items can also be relaxing and it would be a learning experience for them.” Cuyugan has all Rizal stamps released by the Philippines except for three or four

issues that are rare and expensive. “The ones that I have are actually cheap. Two of them are worth P2,000 apiece, but for most of my collection the price range was between P50 to P7,” he said.

“As for the 1906 issued stamp, I think I bought it at P50 to P100.” However, he does not know the market value of his collection. The stamps were purchased from dealers, auction houses, while others were given to him by friends.