The Filipino Sir: Significance of the Prefix Title of a Rizalian Knight

I admit that one of the reasons I joined the Knights of Rizal was because, being a knight, you get to use the title “Sir” as a prefix to your name, which I found pretty fascinating.

I grew up captivated by chivalrous stories, not unlike the story of Don Quixote. I read novelizations of King Arthur and his knights in paperback.

It was also interesting to know that modern knights existed who happened to be celebrities and other important people in the UK like Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and even Sir Paul McCartney.

But since the Philippines was not a monarchy with no king or queen to knight people, I shrugged the idea of becoming an official Sir out of my mind.

It wasn’t until recently that I was introduced to the Order of the Knights of Rizal. A chartered organization by the Philippine Government under Republic Act 646. I was fascinated when I saw one of my online friends sharing his journey to becoming a knight.

It wasn’t long before I was soon inducted into the Order and was officially knighted.

Now, as a full-fledged Knight of Rizal, I realized that there is great significance in the title of Sir other than supposed ceremonial pomp and my personal vanity. With this title, I was introduced to a whole new deep perspective of what it truly means to carry that title.

Here are some of the things I discovered while bearing the title of Sir as a Rizalian knight in the Philippines.

Being a Sir and how to use the title properly

The prefix Sir is used expressly in official documents and correspondence within the Order of the Knights of Rizal. Whenever you write letters on behalf of your Chapter as a Knight of Rizal, the prefix Sir is used. The title is used in news reports or other texts when you’re acting in your capacity as a knight.

Technically, you can formally use the title Sir however you wish, but it is often designated to Order-related business. We don’t expect banks or government institutions to carve in the title in our official names when dealing with our finances and government obligations.

This is because while we are the only Order that can officially use the title Sir in the Philippines, the prefix is regarded as a courtesy rather than an entitlement. Unlike knights bachelors, or baronets in the UK, our knighthoods are not hereditary and are only granted upon being knighted.

The Order of the Knights of Rizal was founded at the turn of the century in 1911. It was officially chartered in 1951. So the practice of using the official title of Sir in the Philippines is relatively new and may understandably lead to some confusion despite the Order’s eventual rise in popularity and growth.

Being a Sir is a public reminder of an oath

I realized that using the title Sir publicly immediately indicates to other people to question your use of it. Usually, this leads to explaining to them the oath you took to be a champion of Rizalian ideals.

As a knight of Rizal, we took oaths to seriously study the teachings of Rizal and endeavor to put them into practice in keeping with our motto: NON OMNIS MORIAR, translated as “not everything in me will die.”

We also promised to work for perfect unity with our community, do no wrong and protect and defend our fellowman against violence and injustice, extend assistance to my brother knights and fellowman, and uphold and obey the rules of the Order.

Being a Sir engenders a sense of duty

Knights in the UK or other countries regard being knighted as a type of recognition for services to the state. On the flip side, being a knight of Rizal is an active continuous enterprise.

Essentially, the Order is a socio-civic patriotic organization that exists to inculcate and propagate the teachings of Dr. Jose Rizal among all classes of people who would want to follow his instructions and examples.

Taking on the title of Sir means you are a living instrument in continuing this mission. Initially, the knights of Rizal were founded by Col. Antonio C. Torres to commemorate Rizal’s martyrdom. The first knights of the Order served as honor guards during Rizal’s state funeral.

Today, the spirit of duty continues to be impressed among the Order’s members. What’s exciting is that this mission of propagating Rizal’s teachings stretches outside the Philippines, as the Order is not restricted to Filipino citizens.

Being a Sir assigns you a platform of influence

Being part of an international organization, we are uniquely positioned to influence our fellowmen on behalf of the Order of the Knights of Rizal.

As a matter of fact, we are empowered by the Order to sponsor events, publications, and programs to fulfill our duties as cultural advocates of Rizal.

While being a Rizalian knight doesn’t automatically make anyone an expert on Rizal, knights are afforded the platform to help push for the Order’s goals. We wear our official barongs and medals to publicly display our unity to the cause so that the public may easily recognize us as leaders representing Rizal’s ideals.

And no, we are not a cult. Wearing our vestments is not unlike a chef wearing a toque or a policeman wearing his uniform.

Being a Sir and the Pitfalls of a Title

In a Filipino setup, the title of Sir is usually reserved for male teachers in the academe. This has been a practice left to us by Americans who supposedly brought education during their occupation.

Sir also signifies respect to superiors or paying customers and clients at work. Ultimately, the term Sir, used in a non-ceremonial context, is a linguistic tool to indicate respect. As someone afforded this courtesy title, I realize that the respect that comes with it is something that must be earned.

Titles have often been a point of contention, particularly in titled occupations (i.e., Physicians, Lawyers, Engineers, Architects, etc.) or titled positions in the government (i.e., Superintendent, SPO1, General, Mayor, etc.).

I personally believe that titles must never be a source of entitlement. Titles must always be indicators of the achievement of skill and using that skill as a service to the community. Using one’s title to curry favors or special treatment is highly unbecoming and distasteful.

Being a Sir connects you to a historical legacy

A large part of being a knight of Rizal is part of historical ceremonies!

We attend events commemorating our forebears and past heroes. Of course, on the top of our list are the events for Dr. Jose Rizal. More than just being warm bodies in an event, our presence there continues long-held traditions.

As knights, we take part in traditional ceremonial rites. Many people may find it old-fashioned, but this is how we show our respect to our past who came before us.

We, Sirs, are torchbearers of the Filipino culture. We are part of a long line of brother knights who share the same goals and the same vision of a prosperous and united nation.

Being a Sir captures the imagination

I heard that some brother knights were so moved during their knighting ceremonies that they wept!

Some may think it’s like joining some local club, but for others, being knighted can be so meaningful that they consider it one of the high points of their lives. It’s an opportunity of becoming part of something much larger than yourself.

The image of a medieval knight continues to inspire me. Be it the knight templars or the knights of King Arthur, the very idea behind them as well-mannered men of action continues to capture my imagination.

And I think that’s very important! In a world of immediate gratification, the constant bombardment of information, and hours over hours of noise, it’s essential to have something grounded in tradition, ceremony, and substance to hold on to.

Also, I must point out that the same opportunity to be part of something great extends to women. The Las Damas de Rizal is a counterpart organization to the Order of the Knights of Rizal. They are open to women that share the passion for propagating Rizal’s teachings.

Regarding titles, they use the courtesy title of Lady to prefix their names. Interestingly, wives of knights of Rizal are also afforded this courtesy title.

Final Thoughts on Being a Filipino Sir

There is a significant weight you have to bear whenever you take on the title of Sir. More than anything else, it’s a responsibility that no man should take lightly. Like any other title, one has to use it proudly as a badge of honor, duty, achievement, and, most importantly, service to the community. Behind this title are sacrifices of great men in the past, particularly by the one man the Order named after. It is, therefore, our responsibility to continually live a life following Rizalian values and leave a legacy that one can be proud of. Because in the end, not everything in us will die.

Non Omnis Moriar

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