JOSE RIZAL, the national hero of the Philippines and pride of the Malayan race, was born on June 19, 1861, in the town of Calamba, Laguna. He was the seventh child in a family of 11 children. Both his parents were educated and belonged to distinguished families. His love for his country, and his observations of Spanish rule impassioned him to speak out about injustice. He was a peaceful man and used the power of the pen to express himself. It would eventually lead to his imprisonment and his execution on December 30, 1896. Aside from the information we get from books, what other things do we know about our national hero? Here we try to discover the different facets of Jose Rizal; his life, love and works.
Rizal as a Student
Rizal first studied under Justiniano Aquino Cruz in Biñan, Laguna before he was sent to Manila. As to his father's request, he took the entrance examination in Colegio de San Juan de Letran and studied there for almost three months. The Dominican Friars asked him to transfer to another school due to his radical and bold questions. He then enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and graduated as one of the nine students in his class declared sobresaliente or outstanding. He continued his education at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila to obtain a land surveyor and assessor's degree and at the same time at the University of Santo Tomas where he did take up a preparatory course in law. Upon learning that his mother was going blind, he decided to study medicine specializing in ophthalmology at the Surgery. Without his parents' knowledge and consent, but secretly supported by his brother Paciano, he traveled alone to Madrid, Spain in May 1882 and studied medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid where he earned the degree, Licentiate in Medicine. His education continued at the University of Paris and the University of Heidelberg where he earned a second doctorate. At Heidelberg, the 25-year-old Rizal, completed in 1887 his eye specialization under the renowned professor, Otto Becker. There he used the newly invented ophthalmoscope to later operate on his own mother's eye.
Rizal the Romantic
There were at least nine women romantically-linked with Rizal. These women might have been attracted by his intelligence, charm and wit. They were Gertrude Beckett, the blue eyed and buxom Londoner who helped him in his painting and sculpture, the wealthy and high-minded Nelly Boustead of the English and Iberian merchant family, the last descendant of a noble Japanese family Seiko Usui (affectionately called O-Sei-san), his first love, Segunda Katigbak and his childhood sweetheart, Leonor Rivera whom he had an eight-year romantic relationship and also his first cousin.
Other women with whom Rizal had romantic relationships included Leonor Valenzuela, to whom he wrote love notes in invisible ink, Consuelo Ortiga y Perez of Madrid to whom he wrote his best romantic poem, Suzanne Jacoby , and Josephine Bracken, his common-law wife during his exile in Dapitan till his execution on December 30, 1896.
Rizal the Writer
Poet, playwright, novelist, Jose Rizal was a very prolific author even from a young age. Among his earliest writings are El Consejo de los Dioses, A la juventud filipina, Canto del viajero, Canto de María Clara, Me piden versos, Por la educación, Junto al Pasig, A Las Flores de Heidelberg, El Cautiverio y el Triunfo: Batalla de Lucena y Prision de Boadbil, Alianza Intima Entre la Religion y la Buena Educacion, La Entrada Triunfal de los reyes Catolice en Granada, Sobre la Nueva Ortografia de la Lengua de Tagala, etc. On his early writings he frequently depicted renowned Spanish explorers, kings and generals, and pictured Education as "the breath of life instilling charming virtue".
In the hope of securing political and social reforms for his country and at the same time educate his countrymen, Rizal published, while in Europe, several works with highly nationalistic and revolutionary tendencies His two most famous novels Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. These writings angered both the Spaniards colonial elite and some of the hispanized Filipinos due to their insulting symbolism. They are highly critical of Spanish friars and the atrocities committed in the name of the Church.
Rizal’s most important poem “ Ultimo Adios or My Last Farewell” was written a day before his execution.
Rizal as a Leader
As a political figure, José Rizal was a prominent member of the Propaganda Movement. It is composed of Filipino liberals exiled in 1872 and students attending Europe's universities, the organization aimed to increase Spanish awareness of the needs of its colony, the Philippines, and to propagate a closer relationship between the colony and Spain. He also contributed essays, allegories, poems and editorials to the Spanish newspaper La Solidaridad. The core of his writings centers on liberal and progressive ideas of individual rights and freedom; specifically, rights for the Filipino people.
Jose Rizal also founded the La Liga Filipina. The organization derived from La Solidaridad and the Propaganda movement, aimed to build a new group sought to involve the people directly in the reform movement. It subsequently gave birth to the Katipunan led by Andres Bonifacio. He was a proponent of achieving Philippine self-government peacefully through institutional reform rather than through violent revolution. His execution by the Spanish helped bring about the Philippine Revolution
The Multifaceted Pepe
Having traveled extensively in Europe, America and Asia, he mastered 22 languages. A versatile genius, he was an architect, artists, businessman, cartoonist, educator, economist, ethnologist, scientific farmer, historian, inventor, journalist, linguist, musician, mythologist, nationalist, naturalist, novelist, ophthalmic surgeon, poet, propagandist, psychologist, scientist, sculptor, sociologist, and theologian. He was expert in fencing, martial arts and pistol shooting.