Life of Jose Rizal

Life of Jose Rizal

T. Gomez


One of the most important historical events in the history of the Philippines is the life of a national hero who greatly influenced many Filipinos and had significant contributions in the development of Filipino nation. He is none other than, Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado. The pride of the Malayan race was born on June 19, 1861, in the town of Calamba, Laguna. They used to call him “Pepe” as his nickname and he belonged to a big family of thirteen members including his parents. Rizal’s father, Francisco Mercado Rizal was a diligent and hard-working farmer whom Rizal called “a model of fathers.” His father’s hometown was in Biñan, Laguna. While his mother, Teodora Alonzo y Quintos was a very successful woman whom Rizal called “loving and prudent mother.” His mother’s hometown was in Meisic, Sta. Cruz, Manila. Rizal’s parents were both carreer-oriented persons, wealthy land owners, and they belonged to a recognized family. Rizal was the seventh child among his nine siblings, namely: Saturnina Rizal, eldest child of the Rizal-Alonzo marriage, Paciano Rizal, only brother of Jose Rizal and the second child,Narcisa Rizal, the third child, Olympia Rizal, the fourth child, Lucia Rizal, the fifth child, Maria Rizal, the sixth child, Concepcion Rizal, the eight child who died at the age of three, Josefa Rizal, the ninth child whose an epileptic, Trinidad Rizal, the tenth child who was the last of the family to dieand Soledad Rizal, the youngest child.




During his early childhood, Rizal showed dominant disposition in different areas as intellectual, creative, artistic and excelled in his academic fields. At an early age of three, he started to learn alphabet and prayers. When he reached the age of five, he learned how to read and write. At the age of eight, he wrote his first poem which was written in Tagalog. It was entitled, “Sa AkingMgaKababata.” The poem has a meaningful message which has a theme, “Love of One’s Language.” The first teacher of Rizal was his beloved mother. She played an important role in teaching him valuable lessons and she discovered that her son has a great potential. Her mother gave so much encouragement on Rizal’s passion in writing.Jose Rizal spent his early education in Calamba and Biñan, Laguna. The Spanish educational system was very complex but despite all the odds that he had to experience, Jose Rizal managed to accomplished all necessary requirements for college in Manila. His parents hired private tutors for Rizal and they were Maestro Celestino, Maestro Lucas and Leon Monroy.But the idea of employing private tutors didn’t satisfy his young mind’s eagerness for knowledge and the family started to complete their son’s admission to Ateneo Municipal de Manila. While he was studying in Manila, Jose Rizal took a degree in Land surveying and Assessment where he graduated with honors on March 14, 1877. He successfully passed the Licensure exam on the said course in 1878 and he was given a license when he reached the age of 21. It was the year 1878 when he completed his degree from Ateneo Municipal de Manila and he followed his passion in Arts. He had his admission at the Faculty of Arts and Letters which has a degree in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas. Unfortunately, Jose Rizal had to set aside his degree in Philosophy when he heard his mother’s impending blindness so he needed to prioritize his mother’s situation. It made him decide to study Medicine and in it was year 1878 when he had his admission in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at University of Santo Tomas to specialize Ophthalmology.


Jose Rizal didn’t stop his burning passion and willingness to learn and it made him took the risk to leave the Philippines. On this scenario, Jose Rizal was known as a great Filipino traveller in the history. His first trip was on year 1882 which was bound to Spain. Having gone through many places, he learned nearly 22 languages like Latin, Spanish, Greek, English, French, German, Arabic, Malay, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Dutch, Catalan, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish, and Russian including his native languages and dialects. Rizal had travelled different countries and he’s been to Singapore, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Italy, France, Spain, Gemany, Czech Republic, Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, U.S.A. and United Kingdom.These adventures of a hero serve as an important aspect of his education where he learned other nation’s culture and politics. These travels of Rizal have something to do with his desire to bring changes on his beloved native land and the struggles he had to conquer. Meanwhile, when Rizal was in Spain, he continued his degree in Medicine and Philosophy at the Universidad Central de Madrid. It was on year 1884 and 1885 that he finished his degrees, respectively, that were once denied to him by his Dominican professors while he was still studying in the Philippines. But even after the completion of these higher degrees, he was still not contented with his achievements. He eventually travelled to France and studied at the University of Paris.


He pursued his desire to further develop his knowledge in his chosen field of specialization which is Ophthalmology. He studied at the University of Heidelberg under the well-known eye specialist, Professor Otto Becker. During his stay in Spain, Rizal had significant recognitions on his different fields of study like land assessment, medicine, literature, sculpting, painting and architecture. As a painter, Rizal used oil, water color and crayons. He also made sketches using ink and pencil. On his sculpture, he used clay, wood, terra cotta, ivory, bas relief, wax and plaster. He even had created maps and plans in addition to his works. Aside from that he was also active in physical activities such as martial arts, fencing and pistol shooting. Rizal’s life was very remarkable and it is not surprising to think that he had a very interesting personality.


As a poet, Rizal wrote many meaningful poems dedicated to his personal relationship to others, love to his country and other aspects of his life. These poems include, Mi Ultimo Adios, To The Philippines, Our Mother Tongue, Memories Of My Town, Hymn to Labor, Kundiman, A Poem That Has No Title, Song Of Maria Clara, To The Philippines Youth, To Josephine, Education Gives Luster To The Motherland, To The Virgin Mary and Sa akingMgaKababata.


Apart from these achievements of Rizal, there were also romantic side of Rizal’s story that gave spice and colour on his life. Jose Rizal gained so many friends on his journey and lovers as well. He had romantic relationships with at least nine significant women in his life, namely,SegundaKatigbak, Leonor Valenzuela, Leonor Rivera, Consuelo Ortiga, O-Sei San, Gertrude Beckette, Nelly Boustead, Suzanne Jacoby and Josephine Bracken. These women might have been impressed by his witty personality and charisma. SegundaKatigbak was Rizal’s first puppy love and she was unfortunately engaged to his town-mate. Eventually, Rizal met Leonor Valenzuela, a tall girl from Pagsanjan whom he visited on the night of his departure to Spain and bid her a last goodbye. On the other hand, Leonor Rivera, Rizal’s lover for 11 years played the greatest influenced to Rizal in keeping him from having romantic relationships with other women during his travel. Sad to say, Leonor’s mother didn’t have an approval on their relationship and she even hid Rizal’s love letters for Leonor Rivera. Believing that Rizal had already forgotten their long-term relationship, her mother consented her to marry an Englishman. Among these women of Jose Rizal, he ended up marrying Josephine Bracken, an 18-year-old petite Irish girl. Rizal met this girl with a happy disposition in the last days of February 1895 while he was still in Dapitan. Josephine Bracken was an adopted daughter of George Taufer who came from Hong Kong to aid his eye problem and seek for an eye treatment. Jose Rizal fell in love with Josephine and he had a physical attraction to her. But the sisters of Rizal had doubt the sincerity and loyalty of Josephine because they were worried the she was a secret agent of the friars and they considered her as a threat to Rizal’s security. Their mutual feelings for each other were good and enough reason to continue their relationship. Josephine Bracken took consideration about her responsibility to his blind father although Rizal asked her to marry him. Since Taufer’s blindness was not curable, he went back to Hong Kong on March 1895. Josephine decided to stay with Rizal’s family in Manila. Rizal returned in Dapitan and arranged their marriage through Father Antonio Obach. However, the priest demanded Rizal to cover up something as a precondition in order to marry them. Upon the advice of Rizal’s family and with Josephine’s consent, Rizal took Josephine as his wife even without the blessings of the Church. Josephine Bracken gave birth to a premature baby and as a result had caused her to get frightened and shocked.


As a young man during his time, Jose Rizal was very much aware of his surroundings and the difficult situations of his fellowmen under the Spanish colonial government. He was aware about the tragic scenarios of how the government treated his native land. He had even witnessed the unfair treatment of the Spanish authorities to his family members especially to his older brother, Paciano, a man who had been connected toFilipino priests, Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, popularly known as GomBurZa who sought reform within the Catholic church in support of equal rights for Filipinos and Spanish priests. Her beloved mother was also accused by the Spanish authorities of attempted poisoning on her cousin. Her mother was sent to prison in Sta. Cruz, Laguna and was made to walk sixteen kilometres from their home to all the way to jail. Teodora Mercado was detained two and a half yearsuntil a successful appeal at the highest court of the Spanish government cleared her of the charges.


When he was still in Europe where he lived in ten years, Rizal wrote his novel entitled, “Noli Me Tangere.” In   He wrote his novel using the Spanish Language and it was published in Berlin, Germany in 1887. The significant story of his novel tells about a young Filipino man who travelled to Europe in order to study and returned to his native land with truth on his eyes against the injustices and corruption of government. For Rizal, Spain was a perfect place in reaching and realizing his dreams. After finishing his studies in Madrid, he realized that it was the start of a wider part of his ambition. It awakened him to deeply understand human nature and that his fellow Filipino people needed him. During the re-organizational meeting of the Circulo-Hispano-Filipino, he was encouraged to pursue the publication of his book where the members would give contributions on different aspects and conditions of the Philippines.


On his novel, “Noli Me Tangere,” Rizal emphasized the characters of different personalities between oppressors and oppressed. He gave attention on his novel to those Filipinos who had adopted the customs and traditions of the foreign colonizers and taking for granted their own nationality. His novel also centers on Spanish friars in robes who were described as being lascivious and having selfish desires for wealth in order to satisfy their own needs. The novel also presents the poor and uneducated members of the society who suffered under the cruelty of the Spanish authorities on their own native land.


When Jose Rizal returned to the Philippines, he was urgently called by the Governor General of the Philippine islands to further give explanations about the accusations against him that he established a rebellion. Rizal was brave enough to face the charges against him and he openly defended himself. Although he was discharged, his name remained on the watch list of the Spanish colonial government. Despite the negative reaction to his novel “Noli Me Tangere,” Rizal did not think it as a distraction to write his second novel. In 1891, his second novel was published entitled, “El Filibusterismo.” On his first novel whose character named Ibarra was a peacemaker, the significant character named Simeon on the novel “El Filibusterismo” was more militant. Both characters on Rizal’s novel lead to the same end where they both wanted to achieve significant changes in the system of the Spanish colonial government. The word ”filibusterismo” was written by Rizal to his friend named Blumentritt who was not so much well-known in the Philippines. Inspired by what the word ”filibusterismo”, Rizal’s second novel was dedicated to the three martyred priests as his adoration to their contributions and to pay respect to their good deeds.


Upon his return to the Philippines in 1892, Rizal arrested and jailed by the Spanish authorities for getting involved in the rebellion against the government. He was eventually exiled to Dapitan in Mindanao, the southernmost island group in the Philippines. Jose Rizal had a very peaceful life during his stay in Dapitan. He even sent a letter to his friend, Blumentritt describing the serenity of the place. During his exiled in Dapitan, Jose Rizal built a school that taught young boys the English language. He also worked on agricultural projects on abaca and he didn’t stop to practice medicine.He experienced how to be a farmer and a merchant and he earned a prize from the Manila lottery where he used it in building three houses made of bamboo, wood and nipa.


Rizal’s life after his peaceful life in Dapitan focused on how he spent every moment by letting his loved ones know every detailed happening that he was going through. During the dawn of Manila bay, he was not able depart for Spain because the Isla de Luzon which Rizal supposed to board left early before they arrived in Manila.During these days, he instructed his family members how they could visit him and requested his sister, Narcisa to buy fruits for the cruise officers who treated him well. He also wrote Narcisa a letter, thanking her for the hospitality when she lets Josephine bracken stayed in her house.


On August 30, 1896, governor Ramon Blanco sent a letter of recommendation to the Minister of war stating that Rizal had shown exceptional conduct during his stay in Dapitan and that he had no connection with the Philippines revolution.


At around six in the evening, Rizal was transferred to the boat Isla de Panay and he was assisted by the Captain of the boat named Capt. Alemany where he was given the best cabin. Later, Rizal wrote a letter to his beloved mother in order to let her know that he was in a good condition on board to the ship. He informed his mother about his departure to Cuba and extending his comfort that everybody is in the hands of the Divine Providence. Aside from that, Rizal also asked his sisters to take good care of their aged parents just like what they wanted their children to do and love them.


Rizal was given privileged by governor Genera Ramon Blanco to travel in Cuba which was another Spanish colony during his time. He was requested to support and give medical missions to eliminate an outbreak of yellow fever. On the way to Cuba, Rizal got arrested in Barcelona due to political accusations of the friars and he saw the replacement from Blanco to Camilo de Polavieja. Jose Rizal was brought back to the Philippines to face charges of rebellion against him where he was found guilty in establishing rebellion and taking part in revolutionary movement against the Spanish colonial government. He was eventually sentence to death.


During the last hours of Rizal, he spent his last moments without worrying about the difficult situation that he was facing. On Dec. 29, 1896, around 6:00 to 7:00 A.M., Sr. Mataix requested and asked permission from Rizal to interview him. It was Capt. Dominguez who read the death sentence of Rizal. Around 7:00 to 8:00 in the morning, Rizal was transferred to his death cell. After an hour, Rizal shared his milk and coffee with Fr. Rosell, Lt. Andrade and chief of Artillery. Eventually, Rizal scribbles a note inviting his family to visit him.


A night before Rizal’s execution, he slept peacefully because he was confident in the goodness of God and his faith strengthens him despite of his nearly death. On the day of his execution, Rizal picked up imitation of Christ, reads,meditates and then writes to his wife Josephine and by this very act in itself he gives to her their only
certificate of marriage. Around 5:00 in the morning, Rizal washed up, took breakfast and attended to his personal needs. He also wrote a letter to his parents, read the bible and meditate. Unfortunately, his wife Josephine Bracken was restricted by the Spanish authorities in seeing Rizal. Rizal walked to the place of execution between Fr. March and Fr. Villaclara. On December 30, 1896 at 7:00 in the morning, his final day of execution, Rizal kept looking around as if looking for someone and expecting someone to see. The hero’s last words, said in a loud voice: “It is finished.” The sounds of guns of the firing squad were heard and Rizal turned halfway around falls down backwards and lies on the ground facing the sun.


The legacy of the of the national hero, Jose Rizal not just only centers on his intelligence, personality and ideals but it he was also worthy to be named as a national hero because of his patriotism, optimism, his inevitable love to his country and his belief in his fellowmen which made him different from others. Rizal not just only believed on the independence of his beloved country but more importantly, the potential of his fellow Filipinos to overcome the unjust Spanish colonial government. For this reason, he truly deserve and earned his symbol as a national hero of the Philippines.


Rizal also had a contribution in terms of his philosophies which was made known to his legacy as a national hero. The philosophy of Rizal in education focuses on the proper motivation to cultivate the young minds’ intelligence. He also had his religious philosophy that made him a better person and servant of God as he belonged to a nurtured Catholic family. When it comes to his political philosophy, he believed that as a victim of colonization, the Philippines should developed and be civilized. His ethical philosophy, however, has something to do with human behaviour and focuses between good or bad and right or wrong. The social philosophy of Rizal, on the other hand includes the wisdom based on his personal experience.


Finally, Jose Rizal was greatly known throughout the Philippines as the national hero in the Philippine history and his life, works and writings continually serve as an inspiration to many young Filipinos. He was very well-known for his brilliance, courage and compassion in bringing significant and memorable contributions to the native land.