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Jose Rizal: National Hero of the Philippines

Jose Rizal: National hero of the Philippines

On June 19, 1861, the Mercado Family from the town of Calamba in the province of
Laguna in the Philippines, happily greeted the birth of their newest member a
baby boy born as the seventh child to proud parents Francisco Rizal Mercado y
Alejandro and Teodora Alonza y Quintos. They named the bouncing baby boy Jose
Protacio Rizal Mercado. Being the seventh of a brood of eleven, Jose Rizal Mercado
demonstrated an astounding intelligence and aptitude for learning at a very young
age when he learned his letters from his mother and could read and write at the age
of five.
Educational foundations
The Mercado family enjoyed relative wealth as landowners who rented the land of theirhacienda to
the Dominican friars in Laguna. Hence, education was a priority for the Mercado family and young Jose
Protacio was sent to learn from Justiniano Aquino Cruz, a tutor from nearby Binan, Laguna. But the
education of a small town and a tutor did not sufficiently quench the young mans thirst for knowledge and
soon, the family began to make preparations for his admission to the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, in the
capital of the Philippines.
The school was run by the Jesuit Order and was one of the most prominent and academic institutions in the
country which catered to the rich, the powerful and most intelligent students that country had, certainly a
place for a young man like Jose Protacio Mercado.
Studying in Manila
Prior to his enrollment in this prominent learning institution, his older brother Paciano Rizal Mercado,
insisted that Jose drop the surname Mercado, to ensure that the younger Mercado would be
disassociated with the outspoken and borderline subversive reputation of his older brother. As such, the
young man known as Jose Protacio Rizal enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila.
Being the child of a family of wealthy landowners, Jose Rizal decided to study for a degree in Land
Surveying and Assessment at the Ateneo de Municipal de Manila where he graduated on March 14, 1877,
with honors or sobresaliente. He took and passed the licensure exam for land surveying and assessment in
1878 but was not given a license until 1881 when he turned 21.
In 1878, after his completion of his degree from Ateneo Municipal de Manila, he pursued, his passion for
the arts as he enrolled at the Faculty of Arts and Letters for a degree in Philosophy at the University of
Santo Tomas. Although he excelled at philosophy, the news of his mothers impending blindness convinced
him to study Medicine, and in 1878 he enrolled in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at University of Santo
Tomas to specialize in ophthalmology. Citing discrimination against Filipino students by the Dominican
professors in Medicine, Rizal left the medical program in 1882.

Believing that education in the country was limited, he boarded a ship to Spain with the support of his
older brother Paciano but without informing his parents. The ten years he would spend on the European
continent would leave an indelible mark on his personality and open his eyes to the world, develop his
natural talents and strengthen his devotion to his motherland.
Academics in Europe
In Spain, he continued the studies that were stalled in the Philippines and enrolled at the Universidad
Central de Madrid where he graduated in 1884 with a degree in Medicine, and a year later with a degree in
Philosophy and letters from the same institution. Even after the completion of these two degrees, he still
was not satisfied and traveled to France and studied at the University of Paris.
In his pursuit to further increase his knowledge in his chosen field of specialization ophthalmology he
studied at the University of Heidelberg under the distinguished eye specialist, Professor Otto Becker.
Recognition in Europe
Born a few centuries too late, Rizal could have been an ideal Renaissance Man, he was a polymath who
excelled at anything he put his considerable mind and talents to. The study of land assessment, medicine,
and literature are just a few of his known accomplishments but he also excellent in arts such as sculpting,
painting, architecture; physical activities such as martial arts, fencing, pistol shooting were also where he
demonstrated his prowess; he was well read could discuss agriculture, economics, sociology, anthropology
and history at will.
Photo courtesy of Lopez Museum
117 years after Rizals death, the government where his family hailed in Calamba, Laguna recognized
Rizals ability in various sports during his lifetime.
READ: Jose Rizal as a hero sportsman, the great eskrimador or dueler.
Apart from these, he was also multilingual and was known to have been able to converse in over 10
languages including Filipino, Spanish, English, French, German, and Dutch, among others.
Rizal was also a member of the Freemasons. It is therefore no surprise that wherever he went, people were
drawn to his charm, wit, intelligence and personality. He made friends and lovers wherever he went and
left an impression and reputation that would outlive him.
Foundations for reform
Even as a youth, Jose Rizal had been exposed to the difficulties of being under the Spanish colonial
government, which had instilled in him the need for change in the system of how the country was being
run. Jose Rizal spent most of his time with his older brother Paciano, a man who had been linked to Filipino
priests, Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, who sought reform within the catholic church by advocating equal
rights for Filipino and Spanish priests in the Philippines. The three priests were later accused of being
subversive and were executed by the Spanish colonial government.

Even closer to home, Rizal saw the treatment accorded to his beloved mother by the Spanish authorities
who accused her of attempting to poison her cousin and sent her to jail in Santa Cruz, Laguna. Teodora
Mercado was made to walk sixteen kilometers from their home to the prison and was incarcerated for 2
and a half years until a successful appeal at the highest court of the Spanish government cleared her of
the charges.
During his stay in first stay in Europe, Rizal wrote his novel, Noli Me Tangere.The book was written in
Spanish and first published in Berlin, Germany in 1887. The Noli, as it is more commonly known, tells the
story of a young Filipino man who travels to Europe to study and returns home with new eyes to the
injustices and corruption in his native land.
Rizal used elaborate characters to symbolize the different personalities and characteristics of both the
oppressors and the oppressed, paying notable attention to Filipinos who had adopted the customs of their
colonizers, forgetting their own nationality; the Spanish friars who were portrayed as lustful and greedy
men in robes who sought only to satisfy their own needs, and the poor and ignorant members of society
who knew no other life but that of one of abject poverty and cruelty under the yoke of the church and
state. Rizals first novel was a scalding criticism of the Spanish colonial system in the country and
Philippine society in general, was met with harsh reactions from the elite, the church and the government.
Upon his return to the country, he was summoned by the Governor General of the Philippine Islands to
explain himself in light of accusations that he was a subversive and an inciter of rebellion. Rizal faced the
charges and defended himself admirably, and although he was exonerated, his name would remain on the
watch list of the colonial government. Similarly, his work also produced a great uproar in the Catholic
Church in the country, so much so that later, he was excommunicated.
Despite the reaction to his first novel, Rizal wrote a second novel, El Filibusterismo, and published it in
1891. Where the protagonist of Noli, Ibarra, was a pacifist and advocate of peaceful means of reforms to
enact the necessary change in the system, the lead character in Fili, Simeon, was more militant and
preferred to incite an armed uprising to achieve the same end. Hence the government could not help but
notice that instead of being merely a commentary on Philippine society, the second novel could become
the catalyst which would encourage Filipinos to revolt against the Spanish colonizers and overthrow the
colonial government.
Arrest, exile, and incarceration
Upon his return to the Philippines in 1892, he was arrested by the Spanish government for being a
subversive and for his reported involvement in the rebellion. He was then exiled to the island of the
Dapitan in the southernmost island group of the Philippines, Mindanao. There he established a school that
taught English to young boys, he worked on agricultural projects on abaca, a plant used for rope, and he
continued to practice medicine, eventually meeting one of the most famous women in his life, Josephine

Although Jose Rizal had repeatedly said that he advocated peaceful reforms in the Philippines, the Spanish
government were correct in assuming that his novels would indeed stir up a hornets nest of unrest in the
islands. One of the leaders of the revolutionary group called Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio, had read the
Rizals novels and had used these as a basis for the revolution. So influential was Rizal that even without
his permission they named him as a member and Katipuneros shouted his name as part of the their
With no wish to be further implicated in the revolution, Rizal asked and was granted permission by then
governor General Ramon Blanco to travel to Cuba, another Spanish Colony at the time, to support in the
medical efforts needed to suppress an outbreak of yellow fever. On the way to Cuba, Rizal was arrested
and incarcerated in Barcelona due to the political manoeuvrings of the friars which saw Blanco removed
from office and replaced by Camilo de Polavieja.
Execution and death
READ: Rizal on trial
Rizal was then brought back to the Philippines to face charges of rebellion due to his reported association
with the revolutionary movement. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Jose Rizal was
executed by a firing squad on December 30 1896, at 7:00am, in Bagumbayan (now called Rizal Park) and
his remains were buried in an unmarked grave in the nearby Paco Cemetery.
Through the years, Rizals works and ideals have been cited by many reformists, such as Jawaharlal Nehru,
Sun Yat Sen and even Ghandi as the means for peace reforms. As the national hero of the Philippines, his
works, are required reading for all students and streets, buildings, and parks have been named after him
and the 30th of December, his death anniversary, was declared a national holiday.
Rizals legacy
What made Jose Rizal worthy of becoming the Philippines national hero was not merely his intelligence,
personality, literary acumen, or his pacifist ideals. Rather, it was his patriotism, optimism, undying love for
his country and his belief in his countrymen which set him apart. He believed not merely in freedom but in
the potential of the Filipino people to surpass what they were under the Spanish colonial government, and
all he wished was for them to be given the chance to tap that potential. And for that, he has earned his
right place as a symbol of what a Filipino can do in one short lifetime.
Philosophies in Life
PHILOSOPHY may be defined as the study and pursuit of facts which deal with the ultimate reality or
causes of things as they affect life.
The philosophy of a country like the Philippines is made up of the intricate and composite interrelationship
of the life histories of its people; in other word, the philosophy of our nation would be strange and
undefinable if we do not delve into the past tied up with the notable life experiences of the representative
personalities of our nation.
Being one of the prominent representatives of Filipino personalities, Jose Rizal is a fit subject whose life

philosophy deserves to be recognized.

Having been a victim of Spanish brutality early in his life in Calamba, Rizal had thus already formed the
nucleus of an unfavorable opinion of Castillian imperialistic administration of his country and people.
Pitiful social conditions existed in the Philippines as late as three centuries after his conquest in Spain, with
agriculture, commerce, communications and education languishing under its most backward state. It was
because of this social malady that social evils like inferiority complex, cowardice, timidity and false pride
pervaded nationally and contributed to the decay of social life. This stimulated and shaped Rizals life
phylosophy to be to contain if not eliminate these social ills.
Educational Philosophy
Rizals concept of the importance of education is clearly enunciated in his work entitled Instruction wherein
he sought improvements in the schools and in the methods of teaching. He maintained that the
backwardness of his country during the Spanish ear was not due to the Filipinos indifference, apathy or
indolence as claimed by the rulers, but to the neglect of the Spanish authorities in the islands. For Rizal,
the mission of education is to elevate the country to the highest seat of glory and to develop the peoples
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.
Rizals philosophy of education, therefore, centers on the provision of proper motivation in order to bolster
the great social forces that make education a success, to create in the youth an innate desire to cultivate
his intelligence and give him life eternal.
Religious Philosophy
Rizal grew up nurtured by a closely-knit Catholic family, was educated in the foremost Catholic schools of
the period in the elementary, secondary and college levels; logically, therefore, he should have been a
propagator of strictly Catholic traditions. However, in later life, he developed a life philosophy of a different
nature, a philosophy of a different Catholic practice intermingled with the use of Truth and Reason.
Why the change?
It could have been the result of contemporary contact, companionship, observation, research and the
possession of an independent spirit.Being a critical observer, a profound thinker and a zealous reformer,
Rizal did not agree with the prevailing Christian propagation of the Faith by fire and sword. This is shown in
his Annotation of Morgas Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas.
Rizal did not believe in the Catholic dogma that salvation was only for Catholics and that outside
Christianity, salvation was not possible even if Catholics composed only a small minority of the worlds
religious groups. Nor did he believe in the Catholic observation of fasting as a sacrifice, nor in the sale of
such religious items as the cross, medals, rosaries and the like in order to propagate the Faith and raise
church funds. He also lambasted the superstitious beliefs propagated by the priests in the church and in
the schools. All of these and a lot more are evidences of Rizals religious philosophy.
Political Philosophy
In Rizals political view, a conquered country like the Philippines should not be taken advantage of but
rather should be developed, civilized, educated and trained in the science of self-government.
He bitterly assailed and criticized in publications the apparent backwardness of the Spanish rulers method
of governing the country which resulted in:
1. the bondage and slavery of the conquered ;
2. the Spanish governments requirement of forced labor and force military service upon the n natives;
3. the abuse of power by means of exploitation;
4. the government ruling that any complaint against the authorities was criminal; and

5. Making the people ignorant, destitute and fanatic, thus discouraging the formation of a national
Rizals guiding political philosophy proved to be the study and application of reforms, the extension of
human rights, the training for self government and the arousing of spirit of discontent over oppression,
brutality, inhumanity, sensitiveness and self love.
Ethical Philosophy
The study of human behavior as to whether it is good or bad or whether it is right or wrong is that science
upon which Rizals ethical philosophy was based. The fact that the Philippines was under Spanish
domination during Rizals time led him to subordinate his philosophy to moral problems. This trend was
much more needed at that time because the Spaniards and the Filipinos had different and sometimes
conflicting morals. The moral status of the Philippines during this period was one with a lack of freedom,
one with predominance of foreign masters, one with an imposition of foreign religious worship, devotion,
homage and racial habits. This led to moral confusion among the people, what with justice being stifled,
limited or curtailed and the people not enjoying any individual rights.
To bolster his ethical philosophy, Dr. Rizal had recognized not only the forces of good and evil, but also the
tendencies towards good and evil. As a result, he made use of the practical method of appealing to the
better nature of the conquerors and of offering useful methods of solving the moral problems of the
To support his ethical philosophy in life, Rizal:
1. censured the friars for abusing the advantage of their position as spiritual leaders and the ignorance and
fanaticism of the natives;
2. counseled the Filipinos not to resent a defect attributed to them but to accept same as reasonable and
3. advised the masses that the object of marriage was the happiness and love of the couple and not
financial gain;
4. censured the priests who preached greed and wrong morality; and
5. advised every one that love and respect for parents must be strictly observed.
Social Philosophy
That body of knowledge relating to society including the wisdom which man's experience in society has
taught him is social philosophy. The facts dealt with are principles involved in nation building and not
individual social problems. The subject matter of this social philosophy covers the problems of the whole
race, with every problem having a distinct solution to bolster the peoples social knowledge.
Rizals social philosophy dealt with;
1. man in society;
2. influential factors in human life;
3. racial problems;
4. social constant;
5. social justice;
6. social ideal;
7. poverty and wealth;
8. reforms;
9. youth and greatness;
10. history and progress;
11. future Philippines.
The above dealt with mans evolution and his environment, explaining for the most part human behavior

and capacities like his will to live; his desire to possess happiness; the change of his mentality; the role of
virtuous women in the guidance of great men; the need for elevating and inspiring mission; the duties and
dictates of mans conscience; mans need of practicing gratitude; the necessity for consulting reliable
people; his need for experience; his ability to deny; the importance of deliberation; the voluntary offer of
mans abilities and possibilities; the ability to think, aspire and strive to rise; and the proper use of hearth,
brain and spirit-all of these combining to enhance the intricacies, beauty and values of human nature. All
of the above served as Rizals guide in his continuous effort to make over his beloved Philippines.


Jos Rizal was the person who inspired the Filipinos to fight for independence from Spain even though he himself was
not in favor for total independence from Spain.
Today, 19 June is the 151st birthday of the national hero of our country, Jos Rizal. The date of birth was
significant to us as a Filipino who fought for independence from the excesses of friar-led Spanish colonial
rule even though Rizal personally was not in favor for outright independence from Spain.
His emergence as a patriot, novelist, ophthalmologist, polymath, and a linguist inspired many Filipinos not
just during his time but also to later generations to fight for freedom from the excesses of colonial rule of
Spain, the United States and also the excesses of post-colonial economic, political, and social policies. His
ideas like equality among Filipinos and the Spaniards that time caught him a significant followers
regardless of personal ideas like Andrs Bonifacio and many others.
His entire life was practically spent to fight the excesses of friar-led Spanish colonial rule as he was the
apparent heir to continue the legacies of his family. His exceptional talents gave him a comparative
advantage over his colleagues that time to fight the excesses of the colonial rule like the obvious
preferences by the religious orders to Spanish individuals over a Philippine-born individuals of appointing
priests to the various parishes in all over the archipelago.
His exceptional talents enabled him to raise the concerns of the Filipino people to the Spanish people when
he went to Spain and the entire Europe in order to awaken not just the Spaniards but the entire world on
what the grievances of the Filipino people then. It was in Europe when Jos Rizal wrote his ideals and
grievances like Noli me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, and La Solidaridad.
His goals for a better Philippines incurred the ire from the people who enjoys the status quo especially from
the friars who got threatened by Rizals writings like the exploitation of native Filipino women for personal
benefit of some friars in their respective parishes. His writings was the cause of his unjustified death in the
hands of the friars on 30 December 1896.
After then, later generations took Rizals life as an inspiration to fight the excesses not just against foreign
occupiers but also against some local interests who controlled the political, social, and economic lives of
the vast majority for their personal benefit. In spite of several interpretations on how should Rizal be
remembered to the eyes of the people, Jos Rizal was still the symbol and the inspiration for the Filipinos
that need to be emulated for the next generation of people to come.