Jose Rizal (1861-1896)
by: Sir Felix O. Gonzales, KCR
Jose Rizal is the greatest hero of the Philippines.
God has richly blessed Dr. Rizal with superb intellectual,
moral, and physical qualities. His God-given talents,
he highly consecrated, making him sacrifice his
life for the redemption of his own people. He was
born on June 19, 1861. Jose was the seventh of the
eleventh child of Francisco Mercado Rizal and Teodora
Jose was born, the delivery was extremely difficult.
His mother almost died. Later Jose wrote, "my
arrival in this valley of tears would have cost
my mother her life had she not vowed to the Virgin
of Antipolo that she would take me on a pilgrimage
to that shrine." The boy was baptized by Rev.
Rufino Collantes in the Catholic church in Calamba
on June 22, 1861. The Rizal (Mercado) family was
blessed with eleven children - two boys and nine
girls. They were as follows: Saturnina, Paciano,
Narcisa, Olympia, Lucia, Maria, JOSE, Concepcion,
Josefa, Trinidad and Soledad. In 1849, Governor
Claveria issued a decree that all Filipino families
should choose new family names from a list of Spanish
family names. Jose Francisco Mercado chose his own
surname Rizal from the Spanish word ricial
which means "green field" or "new
was very frail when he was a little boy. He gets
all the attention from both his parents, his aya
(maid) and the rest of the family. At night, Mercado
family would gather together the children to pray
the Angelus. After the prayers, their mother would
tell them stories of fairies, of buried treasures
and other fabulous stories. But the death of Joses
little sister Concha had hurt him so much. The death
of his little sister was his first sorrow.
Jose went to Binan, Laguna for formal schooling,
he has been proficient in the brush, chisel, penknife
and the pen. He wrote a poem, entitled Sa King Mga
Kababata (To My Fellow Children). From 1870 to 1871,
Jose attended the private school of Maestro Justiniano
Aquino Cruz. The school was a nipa house which is
also the house of the teacher, not too far away
from Joses aunt. He excelled in Spanish, Latin
and other subjects. Time came when Jose learned
all the things that Maestro Justiniano could teach
him. He should be sent to college in Manila.
June 10, 1872, Jose took the entrance examinations
at the College of San Juan de Letran, and passed
them all. His father changed his mind about sending
Jose to Letran, instead decided to send him to Ateneo.
On his first day in class, Jose was placed at the
bottom of the class. After the first week, the frail
boy progressed rapidly. At the end of the month,
he was the brightest in the whole class. At the
end of his second year in Ateneo, he received excellent
grades in all subjects and a gold medal. Jose topped
all his classmates in all subjects and won five
medals at the end of the term. He graduated with
the highest grades in all subjects. Jose received
from Ateneo, the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Rizal finished his first year with a course of Philosophy
and Letters, then he transferred to the medical
course at the University of Sto. Tomas. The primary
reason why he wants to enroll in medical school
is to cure his mothers failing eyesight and
the Father Rector of the Ateneo recommended that
he take a course in medicine.
is very fortunate to be able to go to school in
Manila. He studied at the Ateneo de Manila and the
University of Sto. Tomas. In 1879, Artistic Literary
Lyceum of Manila, a society of literary men and
artists held a literary contest. Jose Rizal at that
time only eighteen years old, submitted the poem,
A La Juventud Filipina (To the Filipino Youth) where
he earned first prize. This was the first poem ever
written by a native Filipino and it arose the nationalistic
concept among the Filipinos.
Rizal finished four years in a medical course at
the University of Sto. Tomas. He was expecting to
have gotten higher grades, but due to discrimination
of the Dominican friars, Jose did not gain what
he expected. Against the will of his parents, he
left for Spain on May 3, 1882. After several weeks
passing different towns and cities in France, Dr.
Rizal arrived in Barcelona. He wrote the essay Amor
Patrio (Love of Country), the first he wrote in
Spain. He sent this essay to Manila to be published
by the editorial staff of the Diariong Tagalog.
He used the pen name Laong Laan.
November 3, 1882, Rizal enrolled in the Universidad
Central de Madrid in two courses - Medicine and
Philosophy and Letters. He did everything to learn
different skills while he was in Madrid. He knew
that he has to prepare himself for service to his
fatherland. He strictly budgeted his money and time.
It was in Spain where he became a Mason. He adopted
the Masonic Name Dimasalang belonging to the Masonic
Lodge Acacia. On June 21, 1884, Rizal was awarded
the degree of Licentiate in Medicine. The next academic
year, he passed all subjects leading to the degree
of Doctor of Medicine.
completing his studies in Spain, Dr. Rizal went
to Paris and Berlin to specialize in ophthalmology.
In Paris, he worked as an assistant to Dr. Louis
de Weckert, leading French ophthalmologists. On
February 8, 1886, he arrived in Heidelberg. It was
in Heidelberg, Germany where he finished his novel
Noli Me Tangere. The sequel, El Filibusterismo followed
soon when it was printed in Ghent on September 18,
1891. He later moved to the home of Pastor Karl
Ullmer, in Wilhelmsfeld. In Heidelberg, he worked
in the clinic of Dr. Javier Galezowsky, a Polish
ophthalmologist and studied under Dr. Otto Becker,
a German authority on ophthalmology. While in Berlin,
Dr. Rizal was in deep financial trouble, Paciano
could not send him enough money for his crop failed.
Dr. Rizals health broke due to lack of proper
Jose Rizal was about twenty-four years old when
he wrote his first novel, Noli Me Tangere. He wrote
the first half in Madrid and another quarter in
Paris. It was finished in Germany on the 21st of
February 1887. The Noli as it would be affectionately
called, was printed in the Imprenta Lette, In Berlin.
Two thousand copies were printed by March 1887 with
the help of a loan of 300 copies form his friend
Dr. Maximo Viola. Dr. Rizal dedicated his novel
to his country. He himself explained that he wrote
the Noli "to awaken the feelings of his countrymen."
Proof of the success of his aim in writing the novel
was the reaction to it by the friar and the Spanish
government in the Philippines. It was pronounced
heretical and subversive by the Church and State.
Those who were caught in possession of it were subject
to arrest and imprisonment. The Philippine government
later purchased the manuscript for the Birth Centennial
of Dr. Rizal, for the sum of twenty five-thousand
pesos. It is presently stored in a vault on the
August 6, 1887, he arrived in Manila. He reached
Calamba on August 8 and was received by his family
with great joy. He established a medical clinic
in Calamba and he operated on his mothers
double cataract. News of the success of the operation
Rizal was forced to go abroad for the second time
in February 1888. The reason why he left the Philippines
was because he was hounded by a lot of his enemies.
His novel, Noli exposed the deplorable conditions
of tenancy in Calamba. The friars also want to eliminate
Dr. Jose Rizal. During his stay in Hong Kong, he
wrote to his friend Ferdinand Blumentritt where
he expressed his bitterness and frustrations in
the Philippines. He went on with his journey and
stayed in Japan for one and a half month. Her arrived
in Yokohama and proceeded to Tokyo the next day.
He was favorably impressed in the Japanese customs
and culture of the people. He was particularly impressed
by the beauty of the country, the cleanliness, politeness
and industry of the Japanese. It was in Japan where
Dr. Rizal met O-Sei-San. Dr. Rizals love for
O-Sei-San was attested in his diary. On April 13,
1888 he boarded the English steamer, the Belgic
bound for the United States.
steamer arrived in San Francisco on April 28, 1888.
After a week of quarantine, Dr. Rizal was allowed
to land. Dr. Rizal registered at the Palace Hotel
in San Francisco on May 4, 1888. On May 6, 1888,
he left San Francisco via a ferry to Oakland. He
boarded a train on May 7 passing through Reno, Ogden,
Denver and Salt Lake City. He passed through Omaha,
Nebraska before reaching the Missouri River. On
May 11, 1888, he passed by Chicago. He then proceeded
through Niagara Falls, Canada. On May 13 he reached
New York ending his trip across the United States.
He left New York on May 16, 1888 for Liverpool,
England on board the City of Rome.
London, Dr. Rizal stayed at the home of Dr. Antonio
Ma. Regidor, a practicing lawyer. Later, Dr. Rizal
was a boarder of the Beckett family. Rizal spent
much time in the British Museum concentrating over
the pages of Morgas Sucesos de las Islas
Filipinas and other historical works in the
Philippines. He moved to Paris in March 1889. He
found it difficult to find a place to live in for
all the rates are beyond his means. He shared quarters
with two other Filipinos - Capitan Justo Trinidad
and Jose Albert. Dr. Rizal continued to study French
and could speak and write it like a Frenchman. At
the end of March, he organized his paisanos
into a society called Kidlat Club. It was
in Paris that he finished the annotated edition
of Morgas Sucessos and printed by Garnier
Freres. The idea of establishing a college for Filipinos
in Hong Kong was conceived in Paris. Unluckily,
the idea never materialized. However, Dr. Rizal
was able to establish a school for boys in Dapitan.
Rizal moved to Brussels on January 28, 1890 due
to two reasons. The cost of living in Paris is very
high and his social life hampers his literary works.
Rizal was busy writing the El Filibusterismo and
still finds time in writing articles for the La
Solidaridad. He took a part time job in the medical
clinic. He received sad news regarding his family
and so he made the decision to go back to the Philippines.
By early August 1890, Rizal arrived in Madrid to
try all legal means to seek justice for his family
and the Calamba tenants. He asked the help of the
Association Hispano-Filipina and the Spanish newspaper
La Justicia, El Dia, El Globo, La Republica and
El Resumen. Nothing came out of Rizals efforts
to seek justice for his fellow men back home. His
frustrations turned him back to Briarritz, Belgium
to stay for a while with the Boustead family. However,
he decided to go back to Brussels to finish his
began writing the El Filibusterismo in Calamba.
While in London, he made some changes in the plot
and revised some chapters. He made more chapters
in Paris, Madrid and Briarritz. He finished the
manuscript on March 29, 1891 and had it printed
in Ghent. The El Filibusterismo came out of the
press on September 18, 1891. On October 18, 1891,
Dr. Rizal boarded the steamer Melbourne for Hong
Kong. During his voyage he started to write his
third novel in Tagalog. This novel was intended
for the Tagalog readers but never finished the work.
He arrived in Hong Kong where he was joined by his
family who was in exile due to persecution from
the Spanish authorities. Dr. Rizal conceived the
establishment of a Filipino colony in Borneo. He
planned to move the landless Filipino families in
that virgin wilderness and call it "New Calamba."
In April 1892, Dr. Rizal went to Borneo to negotiate
with the British authorities and his mission was
a success. He planned to settle at Bengkoka River
in Maradu River. The British government was willing
to give the Filipino colonist 100,000 acres of land
free of all charges for 999 years.
June 26, 1892, Rizal arrived in Manila. A week later,
he founded the Liga Filipina. Four days later, he
was arrested and exiled to Dapitan. He wasted no
time during his deportation where he even enriched
his life there by practicing medicine, conducting
scientific researches, engaging in business and
farming. In February 1895, Doña Teodora returned
to Manila. Upon her request, he wrote a poem in
Dapitan entitled Mi Retiro. Josephine Bracken arrived
in Dapitan on February 1895 with a blind man named
Mr. Taufer. They came all the way from Hong Kong
to get medical help from Dr. Jose Rizal. Dr. Rizal
and Josephine fell in love with each other but were
refused by Father Obach without the permission of
the Bishop of Cebu. Since no priest would marry
them, Dr. Rizal and Josephine held hands together
and married themselves before the eyes of God. Josephine
had a miscarriage to an eight-month baby boy, who
lived only for three hours. Dr. Rizal named his
lost son Francisco in honor of his father. The baby
boy was buried in Dapitan. On July 31, 1896, Dr.
Rizals exile was over.
Rizal left for Cuba where he hoped to contribute
his medical skill to combat the yellow fever epidemic.
He was arrested and was brought back to Manila and
imprisoned at Fort Santiago. His trial by court-martial
on December 26, 1896 was a farce. Dr. Rizal was
given the only right to choose his own counsel.
He chose Don Luis Taviel de Andrade who is the brother
of his own bodyguard in Calamba in 1887. He was
accused of three crimes: rebellion, sedition and
illegal association. The verdict was death by firing
squad and was executed on December 30, 1896 at Bagumbayan.
On the eve of his execution, he wrote his Mi Ultimo
Adios which he hid in an alcohol cooking stove (other
authors claim it as a lamp) and gave it to her sister
Trinidad. The following morning he was marched to
Bagumbayan. He was dressed elegantly in black suit.
His arms were tied behind from elbow to elbow. The
Spanish captain was in strict orders to shoot Dr.
Rizal on his back. Dr. Rizal with all his might,
turned sharply to the firing squad his bullet riddled
body and fell dead facing upward to the rising sun.
It was exactly 7:03 a.m. when he died. He died a
traitor to Spain. Dr. Rizal lives as a martyr to
fighting for freedom. As his famous words we quote
Non Omnis Moriar (Not Everything In Me Will Die).