“To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book of stories that tells of his past and let it seeds grow as inspirations…”
Every hero in our history is a product of his own time. Hence it is equally important to give due recognition and learn the significant facts about the life, heroic deeds, sense of nationhood, patriotism, and struggles for the country`s freedom like that of Dr. Jose P. Rizal who was destined as National Hero and our patriot.
Dr. Jose P. Rizal is known to be a mixture of races, in his veins, runs the blood of the blending of the East and West and this could be shown in Rizal`s Lineage. On the paternal side, the Great- Great Grandparents of Jose Rizal, Domingo Lam-co and Ines dela Rosa are both Chinese merchant traders while on the maternal side, the great – great grandparents were Eugenio Ursua, a Japanese and Benigna, a Filipino. More so, the great grandparents and his grandparents both from paternal and maternal side has a mixture of races of Spanish-Filipino and Filipino- Chinese- Japanese. Therefore, Rizal inherited the following traits from his ancestors such as the sense of frugality and industriousness (Chinese); self- determination and courage (Malay); open competition and decision- making (Japanese); and sensitivity and self-esteem (Spanish). These hereditary traits could be traced in the entire life of Rizal.
As regards to the conception, Jose “ Pepe” Rizal was born on the 19 th day of June 1861 in Calamba, Laguna, between eleven and midnight of Wednesday. He was the seventh among the eleventh children and the second son of Francisco and Teodora Mercado Rizal. He was named Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda. Her mother named him Jose in honor of Saint Joseph whom his mother was a devotee. His second name Protasio, was taken from Saint Protasius, the saint during his birth.
His mother experienced difficulty in delivery that almost took her life but she was saved when she made a pledge to the virgin of Antipolo. Three days after his birth, Jose was baptized as a Roman Catholic by Father Rufino Collantes. Don Pedro Casanas served as his godfather.
Rizal`s family came from the affluent principalia (native nobilities) citizen. They owned a stone house, a carriage, a library and were able to send children to school which were the symbols of a well-to-do family during that time.
Rizal`s early taste of education was surrounded by people who possessed different skills and talents which were selflessly shared to him. The first teacher of Rizal was his mother, who was a remarkable woman of good character and fine culture. On her lap, he learned at the age of three the alphabet and the prayers. “My mother,” wrote Rizal in his student memoirs, “taught me how to read and to say haltingly the humble prayers which I raised fervently to God”. It was also his mother who transmitted to him her love of Tagalog poetry and related him lot of stories and one of which was the famous Story of Moth.
Rizal had his early formal education in Calamba and Biñan. It was a typical schooling that a son of an illustrado family received during his time, characterized by the four R’s- reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. He mastered the basic Latin and Spanish courses which were required for higher learning. In academic studies, Jose beat all Biñan boys. He surpassed them all in Spanish, Latin, and other subjects. He continued his schooling in Ateneo de Manila under the supervision of Jesuits who brought advancement to the educational system in the Philippines in 1865. Academically, Rizal was a brilliant, diligent, and competent student which made him to become consistent “emperor” in their class and received consistent sobresaliente (excellent) grades in all his subjects. Jose Rizal was characterized as a voracious reader, he read both fiction and non-fiction books and loved reading books in History. His five years of stay in Ateneo developed his artistic skills in poetry where he was able to compose numerous poems on education, religion, childhood memories as well as defeats and victories on war. Through the guidance of the Peninsular Don Augustin Saez, his knowledge in drawing and painting was awakened while the sculptural abilities were molded by Romualdo de Jesus in his sculpture shop. Two of his plastic arts preserved in the Ateneo Library- the figure of Our Lady and the image of the Sacred Heart.
His diligent labors in Ateneo paid off when he finished his degree in Bachelor of Arts on March 23, 1877, with highest honors- sobresaliente (excellent). Indeed, the Jesuit system of education really cultivated Rizal`s drive towards excellence through his academics, developed his patriotic sentiments in his writings and further strengthened his faith through the foundation of religion. Even to the very last hour of his life, he expressed his deepest sentiment to his school which means that Ateneo really did contribute to the formation of the young Rizal.
Having finished his Bachelor of Arts in Ateneo, Rizal was qualified to enter the Royal and Pontificial Universidad de Santo Tomas, a school supervised by the Dominicans. He enrolled in the Preparatory Course of Theology and Law taking the course Philosophia y Letras ( Philosophy and Letters) where he obtained sobresaliente(excellent ) grades in all his subjects. Rizal also finished vocational courses: surveying, agriculture, and topography at the age only of seventeen. With the advised of Father Pablo Ramon and his concern to the state of mother`s sight, Rizal shifted to the Preparatory Course of Medicine. In medicine, Rizal did not shine as he done at the Ateneo nevertheless, among the twenty four (24) students enrolled in Medicine, he was one among the seven (7) who reached the beginning of the fifth year course until he decided to continue his studies abroad.
Though he was not able to finish his course in the university, he earned a lot of meaningful experiences like as a teenager, it was a normal experience in the life of Rizal to be attracted with the opposite sex and he felt the first emotion of love with Segundina Katigbak, a schoolmate of his sister Olimpia followed by the two Leonors- Leonor Valenzuela and Leonor Rivera. The proper values taught to him were became meaningful too as he needed them for his next challenges in life- to study abroad.
It was on May 3, 1882 when Rizal left Philippines and moved to Spain for the first time. He boarded the Salvadora using a passport of Jose Mercado, which was procured for him by his uncle Antonio Rivera, father of Leonor Rivera. He was accompanied to the quay where the Salvadora was moored by his uncle Antonio, Vicente Gella, and Mateo Evangelista.
After three months of stay in Barcelona, Spain, Rizal moved to Madrid Spain and enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine and at the same time in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. He also took lessons in languages in Ateneo de Madrid, studied painting and sculpture where he received prizes, scholarships and good grades in his academics that moved his compatriots to become serious too in their studies. The scholastic years of Rizal in Europe was different from that of the Philippines because since the beginning, he spent his time observing the customs of the people, spent his time in the library, corresponded with friends, wrote articles and poems on patriotism and nationalism as well as his melancholies and romance, and delivered speeches during triumphs of his compatriots, Luna, Hidalgo in the National Exposition of fine Arts in Madrid. He also became an active member of different associations namely: the Circulo Hispano- Filipino (Hispano-Philippine Circle) and the Brotherhood of Masons. These two associations depicted the possibility of indios and mestizos to be together and the freedom to speak freely regarding authorities of the Church and State in contrary of the scenario in the Philippines.
The diligence of Rizal paid off when the degree Licentiate in Medicine was conferred to him on June 21, 1884, which qualified him to practice his course. The following year, in his 24th birthday, June 19, 1885, the degree Licentiate of Philosophy and Letters was awarded to him which qualified him to be a professor of humanities in any Spanish University. However, he chose to practice his medical profession and specialized in ophthalmology because of his mother`s condition.
The education achieved by Rizal in Europe broadened his understanding of what progressive education should be. He became radical and critical most especially to the system of education of his motherland. For Rizal, the mission of education is to elevate the country to the highest seat of glory and to develop the people’s mentality. Since education is the foundation of society and a prerequisite for social progress, Rizal claimed that only through education could the country be saved from domination.
Truly, José Protasio Rizal Mercado Y Alonso Realonda was a patriot, physician and man of letters who served as an inspiration to the Philippine nationalist movement. In 1886, Rizal published his first novel, Noli Me Tangere, a passionate exposure of the evils of Spanish rule in the Philippines which gives off a societal message that the citizens should be the leaders of its governing body and not the other way around. His second novel is a sequel, El Filibusterismo that established his reputation as the leading spokesman of the Philippine reform movement. They serve an underlying commentary and of belief for rights, justice, and freedom, and the need to attain it. These two novels were created to mimic the writer’s intention of gaining liberty, freedom, independence for its people, to have it manifest in real-life situations, during the hundreds of years of oppression and darkest days of imperialism. These also serve lessons for the generations to read it and take it to heart, from nationalism and patriotism to responsible social and political activism and ways of fighting for what is right. Rizal’s political program included integration of the Philippines as a province of Spain, representation in the Cortes (the Spanish parliament), the replacement of Spanish friars by Filipino priests, freedom of assembly and expression and equality of Filipinos and Spaniards before the law.
Rizal founded a nonviolent-reform society, the Liga Filipina, in Manila, and was deported to Dapitan in northwest Mindanao. He remained in exile for the next four years in his ignorance in bringing leaflets in Hongkong entitled Pobres Friars(Poor Friars), an article written against the rich Dominican friars who had violated their vow of poverty, Rizal was arrested and exiled in Fort Santiago charged of being an incommunicado (ex-communicated) and was sailed to Dapitan for his deportation without due trial.
In his stay, he continuously practiced his profession. Rizal was gifted with many talents and skills which were polished by time. His giftedness was experienced by the people in Dapitan during his four years confinement in the place. His liberty despite of his confinement enabled him to demonstrate the following profession:
Rendered free medical services to his poor patients helping the community in preventing the spread of malaria disease using local medicinal plants in the absence of drugstores during that time. He also performed the medical operation to his mother`s eye which led his reputation as a medical doctor become widely known to different places. He was visited by wealthy patients coming from other parts of the country and even far away from Honkong which opened an intimate affair with Josephine Bracken though it was not sanctified by marriage in the church.
With the amount of P2,600 won in a lottery, he invested it in purchasing agricultural lands and cultivated the soil and planted cacao, coffee, coconuts, and other fruit bearing tress with the help of his pupils and some laborers. Rizal had demonstrated the significance and the dignity of being a farmer where he introduced the modern methods of agriculture using fertilizers, rotation of crops and the use of farm machines which he had observed during his travel.
He spoke over 20 foreign languages. In Dapitan, he found time to study Malayan language and several Philippine dialects especially the lingua franca of the community- Bisayan and Subanun to easily communicate with the local folks and in doing business.
He organized the Cooperative Association of Dapitan Farmers to improve farm products and obtain better outlet of buying prime commodities at moderate prices than the Chinese merchants. He had also a partner in Dapitan in the Abaca business in the person of Ramon Carreon.
He drew maps of Dapitan, The Philippines and other places he visited.
He had a good shell collection in Dapitan. An American conchologist praised him.
Rizal taught in his special school in Dapitan and charged no tuition fees, instead the boys helped him in his clinic and worked in his farm. He taught the basic rudiments: reading, writing, and arithmetic, Spanish and English languages, geography and good manners and right conduct. To balance it, he also taught them boxing, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling an arnis. Moreso, he taught the boys to earn their living from their labor and skill.
He collected numerous species of birds, insects, butterflies, shells, snakes, and plants through the help of his pupils which he set to the Anthropological and Ethnographical Museum of Dresden for identification. There were rare specimens of animals which earned him high praises from European scientists who name them in his honor.
He played the flute and composed pieces of music and cultivated music appreciation.
Rizal displayed his artistic abilities amid his busy life in Dapitan. He made sketches of persons and species of animals painted and designed chapel, and molded busts of people and statues. As a literary genius, he wrote poems about the ordinaries of life in Dapitan, a love poem to Josephine Bracken, a manuscript, and letters of debate with his mentor, Fr. Pablo Pastells about religious views and opinions.
He provided the town with a water system in which the stream from the mountain heights several kilometers away supplied water. The da, and aqueduct pipes and foundations were built out of discarded roof tiles, bricks, gin bottles and stones and the mortar they used was made of burned seashells and corals. Le likewise provided the town with lightning system using coconut oil lamps placed on dark streets and beautified the town plaza.
He invented a wooden machine for making bricks and introduced the hemp stripping machine to improve abaca industry and increase production of the abaca planters.
Rizal`s stay in Dapitan ended after the preliminary investigation began and he was informed of his arraignment and during that time he was in Barcelona after he was granted to move to Cuba and serve as a volunteer doctor when the rise of the revolution happened in 1896. The Katipunan, a Filipino nationalist secret society, revolted against Spain. Although he had no connections with that organization and he had had no part in the insurrection of the Katipunan headed by Andres Bonifacio, he was implicated by the said revolution resulting to his arrest back to Manila on November 3, 1896 and was transferred to Fort Santiago. Until, in the end, he had enough and gradually became radical in his ideals and beliefs, eager to pursue his vision for a better Philippines. He did not wish for the proliferation of bloodshed and violence and denounced the revolutionary movements in the first place. For Rizal`s voice to be heard from the trial, he was allowed to choose his defense counsel and chose the army officer, Don Luis Taviel de Andrade as his defender. Rizal`s case was prejudged since after presenting his supplementary defense by his defender ,the presiding officer considered the trial over and after a short deliberation of his case for sedition, the military court found guilty and gave him verdict- death. Governor General Camilo G. Polavieja approved the court`s decision and Dr. Jose Rizal was ordered be publicly executed in the morning of December 30, 1896 at Bagumbayan ( now Luneta) by a firing squad in Manila.
Indeed, the philosophy of liberalism was greatly played by Dr. Jose Rizal as he fight for our freedom and lift our country`s socio-political condition during the Spanish period.
The name JOSE RIZAL will never be forgotten in Philippine history. He has been instrumental in the Filipino’s struggle towards independence and several developments in various sectors. Undoubtedly, Rizal made huge contributions to Philippine art, literature, and medicine, which continues to fascinate his countrymen even during today`s generation.
Rizal being hailed as our Philippine national hero, his peaceful yet powerful approach in demanding government reform from the oppressive Spanish rule and his contributions to the Philippines that go beyond the political scene will always be continued to uphold for Rizal’s love, nationalism, patriotism, and heroic deeds for the Philippines was evident and manifested in nearly all his actions.
The famous line of Dr. Jose Rizal, “The youth is the hope of our fatherland,” remain true despite the realities of youth we see, hear, and read about every day. Thus, we should continue allow them to create change and challenge them to be the real hope of our future and for them to value their importance and their capability to shape the future of our Motherland. Therefore, let us take our counterpart to carry out the aspirations of Dr. Jose Rizal for our country in our own time and for the future of our country that is to equip our youth with solid knowledge and skills that will elevate them to accomplish their noble purpose and likewise instill in their hearts and minds the legacy that Dr. Jose Rizal had portrayed in the entire humanity.
The excerpt “may his memory light up the fire within us to become patriots. Rizal taught us that selflessness and sacrifice could change our country`s future. The bravery of Rizal completes the fabric of our identity as Filipinos” was taken from the delivered inaugural speech of vice-president Sarah Duterte truly emphasizes once again the contribution of Dr. Jose Rizal in the attainment of “change” in the country. Hence, let us all be inspired to show our love and duty as we live in conformity with God , nature and in harmony with the needs and aspirations of the people in our own country, the Philippines.
“He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” Jose P. Rizal.
By: Evelyn B. Altiz, Sto. Tomas National High School (SDO Candon City)
Cabuatan, Wilfred F. and Valdez, Juner Windel M., Rizal A Holistic Approach, Manila:Mindshapers Co.,Inc., 2016.