This article is about the Philippine national hero. For other uses, see José Rizal (disambiguation).
|Born||June 19, 1861
Calamba, Laguna, Philippines
|Died||December 30, 1896 (aged 35)
Bagumbayan, Manila, Philippines
|Cause of death||execution by firing squad|
|Monuments||Rizal Park, Manila
Calamba City, Laguna
|Alma mater||Ateneo Municipal de Manila,University of Santo Tomas,Universidad Central de Madrid,University of Paris, Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg|
|Organization||La Solidaridad, La Liga Filipina|
|Spouse||Josephine Bracken (1896)
|Children||Francísco Rizal y Bracken (who died after birth)|
José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda  (June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896), was a Filipinopolymath, patriot and the most prominent advocate for reform in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. He is regarded as the foremost Filipino patriot and is listed as one of the national heroes of the Philippines by the National Heroes Committee. His execution day in 1896, now known as Rizal Day, is anational holiday in the Philippines.
Rizal was born to a rich family in Calamba, Laguna and was the seventh of eleven children. He attended theAteneo Municipal de Manila, earning a Bachelor of Arts, and enrolled in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas. He continued his studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid in Madrid, Spain, earning the degree ofLicentiate in Medicine. He also attended the University of Paris and earned a second doctorate at theUniversity of Heidelberg.
Rizal was a polyglot, conversant in twenty-two languages. He was a prolific poet, essayist, diarist, correspondent, and novelist whose most famous works were his two novels, Noli me Tangere and El filibusterismo. These social commentaries on Spanish rule formed the nucleus of literature that inspired peaceful reformists and armed revolutionaries alike.
As a political figure, José Rizal was the founder of La Liga Filipina, a civic organization that subsequently gave birth to the Katipunan led by Andrés Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo. He was a proponent of achieving Philippine self-government peacefully through institutional reform rather than through violent revolution, although he would support “violent means” as a last resort. Rizal believed that the only justification for national liberation and self-government is the restoration of the dignity of the people, saying “Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?” The general consensus among Rizal scholars is that his execution by the Spanish government ignited the Philippine Revolution.
The family of Jose Rizal
He was born to Francisco Engracio Rizal Mercado (1818–1897) and Teodora Alonso Realonda de Quintos, who were both prosperous farmers that were granted lease of a hacienda and an accompanying rice farm by theDominicans. Rizal was the seventh child of their eleven children namely: Saturina (Neneng) (1850–1913), Paciano(1851–1930), Narcisa (Sisa) (1852–1939), Lucia (1857–1919), María (Biang) (1859–1945), José Protasio (1861–1896), Concepción (Concha) (1862–1865), Josefa (Panggoy) (1865–1945), Trinidad (1868–1951) and Soledad (Choleng) (1870–1929).
Rizal was a 5th-generation patrilineal descendant of Domingo Lam-co traditional Chinese: 柯儀南; simplified Chinese:柯仪南; pinyin: Kē Yínán; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kho Gî-lâm, a Chinese immigrant entrepreneur who sailed to the Philippines fromJinjiang, Quanzhou in the mid-17th century. Lam-co married Inez de la Rosa, a Sangley of Luzon.
José Rizal also had Spanish and Japanese ancestors. His grandfather and father of Teodora was a half Spaniard engineer named Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo. His maternal great-great-grandfather was Eugenio Ursua, a descendant of Japanese settlers.
In 1849, then Governor-General of the Philippines Narciso Clavería, issued a Decree by which native Filipino and immigrant families were to adopt Spanish surnames from a list of Spanish family names. Although the Chino Mestizos were allowed to hold on to their Chinese surnames, Lam-co changed his surname to the Spanish “Mercado” (market), possibly to indicate their Chinese merchant roots. José’s father Francisco adopted the surname “Rizal” (originally Ricial, the green of young growth or green fields), which was suggested to him by a provincial governor, or as José had described him, “a friend of the family”. However, the name change caused confusion in the business affairs of Francisco, most of which were begun under the old name. After a few years, he settled on the name “Rizal Mercado” as a compromise, but usually just used the original surname “Mercado”.
Upon enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, José dropped the last three names that make up his full name, on the advice of his brother, Paciano Rizal, and the Rizal Mercado family, thus rendering his name as “José Protasio Rizal”. Of this, Rizal writes: “My family never paid much attention [to our second surname Rizal], but now I had to use it, thus giving me the appearance of an illegitimate child!” This was to enable him to travel freely and disassociate him from his brother, who had gained notoriety with his earlier links with native priests who were sentenced to death as subversives. From early childhood, José and Paciano were already advancing unheard-of political ideas of freedom and individual rights which infuriated the authorities. Despite the name change, José, as “Rizal” soon distinguished himself in poetry writing contests, impressing his professors with his facility with Castilian and other foreign languages, and later, in writing essays that were critical of the Spanish historical accounts of the pre-colonial Philippine societies. Indeed, by 1891, the year he finished his El filibusterismo, this second surname had become so well known that, as he writes to another friend, “All my family now carry the name Rizal instead of Mercado because the name Rizal means persecution! Good! I too want to join them and be worthy of this family name…”.
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 University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and 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 theUniversity of Paris and the University of Heidelberg where he earned a second doctorate. In Berlin he was inducted as a member of the Berlin Ethnological Society and the Berlin Anthropological Society under the patronage of the famous pathologist Rudolf Virchow. Following custom, he delivered an address in German in April 1887 before the Anthropological Society on the orthography and structure of the Tagalog language. He left Heidelberg a poem, “A las flores del Heidelberg,” which was both an evocation and a prayer for the welfare of his native land and the unification of common values between East and West.
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 (invented by Hermann von Helmholtz) to later operate on his own mother’s eye. From Heidelberg, Rizal wrote his parents: “I spend half of the day in the study of German and the other half, in the diseases of the eye. Twice a week, I go to the bierbrauerie, or beerhall, to speak German with my student friends.” He lived in a Karlstraße boarding house then moved to Ludwigsplatz. There, he met Reverend Karl Ullmer and stayed with them inWilhelmsfeld, where he wrote the last few chapters of “Noli Me Tangere”
Rizal’s multifacetedness was described by his German friend, Dr. Adolf Meyer, as “stupendous.” Documented studies show him to be a polymath with the ability to master various skills and subjects. He was an ophthalmologist, sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright and journalist. Besides poetry and creative writing, he dabbled, with varying degrees of expertise, in architecture, cartography, economics, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, dramatics, martial arts,fencing and pistol shooting. He was also a Freemason, joining Acacia Lodge No. 9 during his time in Spain and becoming a Master Mason in 1884.
Early relationships and venture
José Rizal’s life is one of the most documented of the 19th century due to the vast and extensive records written by and about him. Almost everything in his short life is recorded somewhere, being himself a regular diarist and prolific letter writer, much of the material having survived. His biographers, however, have faced difficulty in translating his writings because of Rizal’s habit of switching from one language to another. They drew largely from his travel diaries with their insights of a young Asian encountering the West for the first time. They included his later trips, home and back again to Europe through Japan and the United States, and, finally, through his self-imposed exile in Hong Kong. During December 1891 to June 1892, Rizal lived with his family in Number 2 ofRednaxela Terrace, Mid-levels, Hong Kong Island. Rizal used 5 D’Aguilar Street, Central district, Hong Kong Island as his ophthalmologist clinic from 2 pm to 6 pm. This period of his education and his frenetic pursuit of life included his recorded affections. Historians write of Rizal’s “dozen women”, even if only nine were identified. They were Gertrude Becket of Chalcot Crescent (London), wealthy and high-minded Nelly Boustead of the English and Iberian merchant family, last descendant of a noble Japanese family Seiko Usui (affectionately called O-Sei-san), his earlier friendship with Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Valenzuela, and eight-year romantic relationship with a distant cousin, Leonor Rivera.
Shortly after he graduated from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now Ateneo de Manila University), Rizal (who was then 16 years old) and a friend, Mariano Katigbak, came to visit Rizal’s maternal Grandmother in Tondo, Manila. Mariano brought along his sister, Segunda Katigbak, a 14-year old Batangueña from Lipa, Batangas. It was the first time they met and Rizal described Segunda as “She was rather short, with eyes that were eloquent and ardent at times and languid at others, rosy–cheeked, with an enchanting and provocative smile that revealed very beautiful teeth, and the air of a sylph; her entire self diffused a mysterious charm.” His grandmother’s guests were mostly college students and they knew that Rizal had skills in painting. They suggested that Rizal should make a portrait of Segunda. He complied reluctantly and made a pencil sketch of her. Unfortunately, Katigbak was engaged to Manuel Luz.
Leonor Rivera is thought to be the inspiration for the character of Maria Clara in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Rivera and Rizal first met in Manila when Rivera was only 13 years old. When Rizal left for Europe on May 3, 1882, Rivera was 15 years of age. Their correspondence began when Rizal left a poem for Rivera saying farewell. Their letters to each other slowly became romantic. The correspondence between Rivera and Rizal kept Rizal focused on his studies in Europe. They employed codes in their letters because Rivera’s mother did not favor Rizal as a suitor for Rivera. A letter from Mariano Katigbak dated June 27, 1884 referred to Rivera as Rizal’s “betrothed”. Katigbak described Rivera as having been greatly affected by Rizal’s departure, frequently sick because of insomnia. When Rizal returned to the Philippines on August 5, 1887, Rivera was no longer living in Manila because she and her family had moved back to Dagupan, Pangasinan. Rizal wanted to meet Rivera and Rivera also wanted to see Rizal, but both were prohibited by their fathers. Rizal was forbidden by his father Francisco Mercado in order to avoid putting the Rivera family in danger because at the time Rizal was already labeled by the Spaniards as a filibustero orsubversive because of the contents of his novel Noli Me Tangere. Rizal wanted to marry Rivera while he was still in the Philippines because of Rivera’s uncomplaining fidelity. Rizal asked permission from his father one more time before his second departure from the Philippines. The meeting never happened. In 1888, Rizal stopped receiving letters from Rivera for a year, although Rizal kept sending letters to Rivera. The reason for Rivera’s year of silence was the connivance between Rivera’s mother and the Englishman named Henry Kipping, a railway engineer who fell in love with Rivera and was favored by Rivera’s mother. The news of Leonor Rivera’s marriage to Kipping devastated Rizal.
His European friends kept almost everything he gave them, including doodlings on pieces of paper. In the home of a Spanish liberal, Pedro Ortiga y Pérez, he left an impression that was to be remembered by his daughter, Consuelo. In her diary, she wrote of a day Rizal spent there and regaled them with his wit, social graces, and sleight-of-hand tricks. In London, during his research on Morga’s writings, he became a regular guest in the home of Dr. Reinhold Rost of the British Museum who referred to him as “a gem of a man.” The family of Karl Ullmer, pastor of Wilhelmsfeld, and the Blumentritts saved even buttonholes and napkins with sketches and notes. They were ultimately bequeathed to the Rizal family to form a treasure trove of memorabilia.
In 1890, Rizal, 29, left Paris for Brussels as he was preparing for the publication of his annotations of Antonio de Morga’s “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas.” There, he lived in the boarding house of the two Jacoby sisters, Catherina and Suzanna who had a niece also named Suzanna (“Thil”), 16. Historian Gregorio F. Zaide states that Rizal had “his romance with Suzanne Jacoby, 45, the petite niece of his landladies.” Belgian Pros Slachmuylders, however, believed that Rizal had a romance with the niece, Suzanna Thil, in 1890. Rizal’s Brussels’ stay was short-lived, as he moved to Madrid, leaving the young Suzanna a box of chocolates. Suzanna replied in French: “After your departure, I did not take the chocolate. The box is still intact as on the day of your parting. Don’t delay too long writing us because I wear out the soles of my for running to the mailbox to see if there is a letter from you. There will never be any home in which you are so loved as in that in Brussels, so, you little bad boy, hurry up and come back…” (Oct. 1, 1890 letter). Slachmuylders’ group in 2007 unveiled a historical marker commemorating Rizal’s stay in Brussels in 1890.
Rizal was a very prolific author 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 (the Philippines enjoyed a free public system of education established by the Spaniards) as “the breath of life instilling charming virtue”. He had even written of one of his Spanish teachers as having brought “the light of the eternal splendor”.
While in Berlin, Rizal published an essay in French, Dimanche des Rameaux, mentioning the “entry [of Jesus into Jerusalem] decided the fate of the jealous priests, the Pharisees, of all those who believed themselves the only ones who had the right to speak in the name of God, of those who would not admit the truths said by others because they have not been said by them” and alluded to those in authorities in colonial countries. This made the German police suspect that he was a French spy.
The content of Rizal’s writings changed considerably in his two most famous novels, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. These writings angered both the Spanish colonial elite and many educated Filipinos due to their insulting symbolism. They are critical of Spanish friars and the power of the Church. Rizal’s friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austria-Hungary born professor and historian wrote that the novel’s characters were drawn from real life and that every episode can be repeated on any day in the Philippines. Blumentritt was the grandson of the Imperial Treasurer at Vienna in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and a staunch defender of the Catholic faith. This did not dissuade him however from writing the preface of El filibusterismo after he had translated Noli me Tangere into German. Noli was published in Berlin (1887) and Fili in Ghent (1891) with funds borrowed largely from Rizal’s friends. As Blumentritt had warned, these led to Rizal’s prosecution as the inciter of revolution and eventually, to a military trial and execution. The intended consequence of teaching the natives where they stood brought about an adverse reaction, as the Philippine Revolution of 1896 took off virulently thereafter.
As leader of the reform movement of Filipino students in Spain, he contributed essays, allegories, poems, andeditorials to the Spanish newspaper La Solidaridad in Barcelona (in this case Rizal used a pen name, Dimasalang). The core of his writings centers on liberal and progressive ideas of individual rights and freedom; specifically, rights for the Filipino people. He shared the same sentiments with members of the movement: that the Philippines is battling, in Rizal’s own words, “a double-faced Goliath”–corrupt friars and bad government. His commentaries reiterate the following agenda:
- That the Philippines be a province of Spain
- Representation in the Cortes
- Filipino priests instead of Spanish friars–Augustinians, Dominicans, and Franciscans–in parishes and remotesitios
- Freedom of assembly and speech
- Equal rights before the law (for both Filipino and Spanish plaintiffs)
The colonial authorities in the Philippines did not favor these reforms even if they were more openly endorsed by Spanish intellectuals like Morayta, Unamuno, Pi y Margall, and others.
Upon his return to Manila in 1892, he formed a civic movement called La Liga Filipina. The league advocated these moderate social reforms through legal means, but was disbanded by the governor. At that time, he had already been declared an enemy of the state by the Spanish authorities because of the publication of his novel.
Wenceslao Retana, a political commentator in Spain, had slighted Rizal by writing an insulting article in “La Epoca”, a newspaper in Madrid, in which he insinuated that the family and friends of Rizal were ejected from their lands in Calamba for not having paid their due rents. Upon reading the article, Rizal sent immediately a representative to challenge Retana to a duel. Retana published a public apology and later became one of Rizal’s biggest admirers, writing Rizal’s most important biography. The painful memories of his mother’s treatment (when he was ten) at the hands of the civil authorities explain his reaction to Retana. The incident stemmed from an accusation that Rizal’s mother, Teodora, tried to poison the wife of a cousin when she claimed she only intervened to help. With the approval of the Church prelates, and without a hearing, she was ordered to prison in Santa Cruz in 1871. She was made to walk the ten miles (16 km) from Calamba. She was released after two-and-a-half years of appeals to the highest court.
In 1887 Rizal wrote a petition on behalf of the tenants of Calamba, and later that year led them to speak out against the friars’ attempts to raise rent. They initiated a litigation which resulted in the Dominicans evicting them from their homes, including the Rizal family. General Valeriano Weyler had the buildings on the farm torn down.
Exile in Dapitan
Rizal was implicated in the activities of the nascent rebellion and in July 1892, was deported to Dapitan in the province of Zamboanga, a peninsula of Mindanao. There he built a school, a hospital and a water supply system, and taught and engaged in farming and horticulture. Abaca, then the vital raw material for cordage and which Rizal and his students planted in the thousands, was a memorial.
The boys’ school, which taught in Spanish, and included English as a foreign language (considered a prescient if unusual option then) was conceived by Rizal and antedated Gordonstoun with its aims of inculcating resourcefulness and self sufficiency in young men. They would later enjoy successful lives as farmers and honest government officials. One, a Muslim, became a datu, and another, José Aseniero, who was with Rizal throughout the life of the school, became Governor ofZamboanga.
In Dapitan, the Jesuits mounted a great effort to secure his return to the fold led by Fray Sánchez, his former professor, who failed in his mission. The task was resumed by Fray Pastells, a prominent member of the Order. In a letter to Pastells, Rizal sails close to the ecumenism familiar to us today.
– “We are entirely in accord in admitting the existence of God. How can I doubt his when I am convinced of mine. Who so recognizes the effect recognizes the cause. To doubt God is to doubt one’s own conscience, and in consequence, it would be to doubt everything; and then what is life for? Now then, my faithin God, if the result of a ratiocination may be called faith, is blind, blind in the sense of knowing nothing. I neither believe nor disbelieve the qualities which many attribute to him; before theologians’ and philosophers’ definitions and lucubrations of this ineffable and inscrutable being I find myself smiling. Faced with the conviction of seeing myself confronting the supreme Problem, which confused voices seek to explain to me, I cannot but reply: ‘It could be; but the God that I foreknow is far more grand, far more good: Plus Supra!…I believe in (revelation); but not in revelation or revelations which each religion or religions claim to possess. Examining them impartially, comparing them and scrutinizing them, one cannot avoid discerning the human ‘fingernail’ and the stamp of the time in which they were written… No, let us not make God in our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space. However, brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished, and it alone can give us no idea of that blaze, that conflagration, that ocean of light. I believe in revelation, but in that living revelation which surrounds us on every side, in that voice, mighty, eternal, unceasing, incorruptible, clear, distinct, universal as is the being from whom it proceeds, in that revelation which speaks to us and penetrates us from the moment we are born until we die. What books can better reveal to us the goodness of God, his love, his providence, his eternity, his glory, his wisdom? ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork’.”
His best friend, professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, kept him in touch with European friends and fellow-scientists who wrote a stream of letters which arrived in Dutch, French, German and English and which baffled the censors, delaying their transmittal. Those four years of his exile coincided with the development of the Philippine Revolution from inception and to its final breakout, which, from the viewpoint of the court which was to try him, suggested his complicity in it. He condemned the uprising, although all the members of the Katipunan had made him their honorary president and had used his name as a cry for war, unity, and liberty.
Further information: Josephine Bracken
In February 1895, Rizal, 33, became acquainted with an Irish woman from Hong Kong named Josephine Bracken when she accompanied her blind adoptive father, George Taufer, to have his eye checked by Rizal.  After frequent visits, Rizal and Bracken soon fell in love with each other and later applied for marriage, but because of his bad reputation from his own writings and political stance, the local priest Father Obach, only agreed to the hold the ceremony if Rizal could get a permission from the Bishop of Cebu. He was unable to obtain an ecclesiastical marriage because he would not return to Catholicism.
After accompanying his father to Manila on his return to Hong Kong and before heading back to Dapitan to live with Rizal, she introduced herself to members of his family in Manila. His mother suggested a civil marriage who believed it as a lesser sacrament, and would be less sinful to Rizal’s conscience than making any sort of political retraction in order to gain permission from the Bishop. He, nonetheless, considered Josephine to be his wife and the couple lived together in Barangay Talisay in Dapitan. The couple had a child who was born prematurely, Francísco Rizal y Bracken, who died after only a few hours.
See also: Philippine Revolution
By 1896, the rebellion fomented by the Katipunan, a militant secret society, had become a full-blown revolution, proving to be a nationwide uprising which eventually led to the Declaration of Independence and the inauguration the earliest constitutional republic in Asia. To dissociate himself from the rebellion, Rizal volunteered his services as a doctor in Cuba and was given leave by the Governor-General, Ramón Blanco, to serve in Cuba to minister to victims ofyellow fever.
Rizal had predicted that the USA was going to be a “troublesome rival” if his prophecy that the “Great American Republic, whose interests lie in the Pacific, will someday dream of possessing the Philippines” will ever come true. During his only visit to the United States in 1888, Rizal described the USA: “I visited the largest cities of America with their big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions. Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects. There is no real civil liberty.” He was quarantined in San Francisco’s pier as a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act and witnessed the inequality experienced by African Americans and people of color. Rizal knew, that if ever the Philippines came under American rule racism would be a major concern. It was likewise important that for the revolution to succeed there must be a foreign ally that will provide the revolution (which he considered as a last resort) arms, food, ammunition and diplomacy. It is widely accepted by scholars that even prior to Rizal’s banishment to Dapitan, he was already regarded by Filipinos as a national hero. José Rizal was elected honorary president by the Katipunan without his knowledge and his name would be used by the revolutionaries in their battlecry.
Arrest and trial
Rizal was arrested en route to Cuba, imprisoned in Barcelona, and sent back to Manila to stand trial. He was implicated in the revolution through his association with members of the Katipunan. During the entire passage, he was unchained, no Spaniard laid a hand on him, and had many opportunities to escape but refused to do so. While imprisoned in Fort Santiago, he issued a manifesto disavowing the current revolution in its present state and declaring that the education of Filipinos and their achievement of a national identity were prerequisites to freedom; he was to be tried before a court-martial for rebellion,sedition, and conspiracy. Rizal was convicted on all three charges and sentenced to death. Blanco, who was sympathetic to Rizal, had been forced out of office, and the friars, led by then Archbishop of Manila Bernardino Nozaleda, had ‘intercalated’ Camilo de Polavieja in his stead, as the new Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines after pressuring Queen-Regent Maria Cristina of Spain, thus sealing Rizal’s fate.
Moments before his execution by a squad of Filipino soldiers of the Spanish Army, a backup force of regular Spanish Army troops stood ready to shoot the executioners should they fail to obey orders. The Spanish Army Surgeon General requested to take his pulse: it was normal. Aware of this the Sergeant commanding the backup force hushed his men to silence when they began raising “vivas” with the highly partisan crowd of Peninsular and Mestizo Spaniards. His last words were those of Jesus Christ: “consummatum est“,–it is finished.
He was secretly buried in Pacò Cemetery in Manila with no identification on his grave. His sister Narcisa toured all possible gravesites and found freshly turned earth at the cemetery with guards posted at the gate. Assuming this could be the most likely spot, there never having any ground burials, she made a gift to the caretaker to mark the site “RPJ”, Rizal’s initials in reverse.
His undated poem, Mi último adiós believed to be written on the day before his execution, was hidden in an alcohol stove, which was later handed to his family with his few remaining possessions, including the final letters and his last bequests. During their visit to Rizal reminded his sisters in English, “There is something inside it,” referring to the alcohol stove given by the Pardo de Taveras which was to be returned after his execution, thereby emphasizing the importance of the poem. This instruction was followed by another, “Look in my shoes,” in which another item was secreted. Exhumation of his remains in August 1898, under American rule, revealed he had been uncoffined, his burial not on sanctified ground granted the ‘confessed’ faithful, and whatever was in his shoes had disintegrated.
In his letter to his family he wrote: “Treat our aged parents as you would wish to be treated…Love them greatly in memory of me…December 30, 1896.”
In his final letter, to Blumentritt – Tomorrow at 7, I shall be shot; but I am innocent of the crime of rebellion. I am going to die with a tranquil conscience. Indeed, Rizal is perhaps the first revolutionary whose death is attributed entirely to his work as a writer; and through dissent and civil disobedience enabled him to successfully destroy Spain’s moral ascendancy to rule. He also bequeathed a book personally bound by him in Dapitan to his ‘best and dearest friend.’ When Blumentritt received it in his hometown Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) he broke down and wept.
Several historians report that Rizal retracted his anti-Catholic ideas through a document which stated: “I retract with all my heart whatever in my words, writings, publications and conduct have been contrary to my character as a son of the Catholic Church.” However, there are doubts of its authenticity given that there is no certificate of Rizal’s Catholic marriage to Josephine Bracken. Anti-retractionists also point to “Adiós”: “I go where…faith does not kill,” which they believe refers to the Catholic religion. Also there is an allegation that the retraction document was a forgery. After analyzing 6 major documents of Rizal, Ricardo Pascual concluded that the retraction document, said to have been discovered in 1935, was not in Rizal’s handwriting. Senator Rafael Palma, a former President of the University of the Philippines and a prominent Mason, argued that a retraction is not in keeping with Rizal’s character and mature beliefs. He called the retraction story a “pious fraud.” Others who deny the retraction are Frank Laubach, a Protestant minister; Austin Coates, a British writer; and Ricardo Manapat, director of the National Archives.
On the other side are prominent Philippine historians such as Nick Joaquin, Nicolas Zafra of UP Leon Maria Guerrero III, Gregorio Zaide,Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Ambeth Ocampo, John Schumacher, Antonio Molina, Paul Dumol and Austin Craig. They take the retraction document as authentic, having been judged as such by a foremost expert on the writings of Rizal, Teodoro Kalaw (a 33rd degree Mason) and “handwriting experts…known and recognized in our courts of justice,” H. Otley Beyer and Dr. José I. Del Rosario, both of UP. Historians also refer to 11 eyewitnesses when Rizal wrote his retraction, signed a Catholic prayer book, and recited Catholic prayers, and the multitude who saw him kiss the crucifix before his execution. A great grand nephew of Rizal, Fr. Marciano Guzman, cites that Rizal’s 4 confessions were certified by 5 eyewitnesses, 10 qualified witnesses, 7 newspapers, and 12 historians and writers including Aglipayan bishops, Masons and anti-clericals. One witness was the head of the Spanish Supreme Court at the time of his notarized declaration and was highly esteemed by Rizal for his integrity. One of his last letters to his family gave instructions for his burial: “Place a stone and a cross over it.” Because of what he sees as the strength these direct evidence have in the light of the historical method, in contrast with merely circumstantial evidence, UP professor emeritus of history Nicolas Zafra called the retraction “a plain unadorned fact of history.”Guzmán attributes the denial of retraction to “the blatant disbelief and stubbornness” of some Masons.
Supporters see in the retraction Rizal’s “moral courage…to recognize his mistakes,” his reversion to the “true faith,” and thus his “unfading glory,”and a return to the “ideals of his fathers” which “did not diminish his stature as a great patriot; on the contrary, it increased that stature to greatness.” On the other hand, senator Jose Diokno stated: “Surely whether Rizal died as a Catholic or an apostate adds or detracts nothing from his greatness as a Filipino… Catholic or Mason, Rizal is still Rizal: the hero who courted death ‘to prove to those who deny our patriotism that we know how to die for our duty and our beliefs’.”
“Mi último adiós”
Main article: Mi último adiós
The poem is more aptly titled, “Adiós, Patria Adorada” (literally “Farewell, Beloved Fatherland”), by virtue of logic and literary tradition, the words coming from the first line of the poem itself. It first appeared in print not in Manila but in Hong Kong in 1897, when a copy of the poem and an accompanying photograph came to J. P. Braga who decided to publish it in a monthly journal he edited. There was a delay when Braga, who greatly admired Rizal, wanted a good job of the photograph and sent it to be engraved in London, a process taking well over two months. It finally appeared under ‘Mi último pensamiento,’ a title he supplied and by which it was known for a few years. Thus, when the Jesuit Balaguer’s anonymous account of the retraction and the marriage to Josephine was appearing in Barcelona, no word of the poem’s existence reached him in time to revise what he had written. His account was too elaborate that Rizal would have had no time to write “Adiós.”
Six years after his death, when the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 was being debated in the United States Congress, Representative Henry Cooper of Wisconsin rendered an English translation of Rizal’s valedictory poem capped by the peroration, “Under what clime or what skies has tyranny claimed a nobler victim?” Subsequently, the US Congress passed the bill into law which is now known as the Philippine Organic Act of 1902. This was a major breakthrough for a US Congress that had yet to grant equal rights to African Americans guaranteed to them in the US Constitution and the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in effect. It created the Philippine legislature, appointed two Filipino delegates to the US Congress, extended the US Bill of Rights to Filipinos, and laid the foundation for an autonomous government. The colony was on its way to independence. The Americans, however, would not sign the bill into law until 1916 and did not recognize Philippine Independence until the Treaty of Manila in 1946—fifty years after Rizal’s death.This same poem which has inspired liberty-loving peoples across the region and beyond was recited (in its Bahasa Indonesia translation by Rosihan Anwar) by Indonesian soldiers of independence before going into battle.
Josephine, whom Rizal addressed as his wife on his last day, promptly joined the revolutionary forces in Cavite province, making her way through thicket and mud, and helped operate a reloading jig for Mauser cartridges at the arsenal at Imus. The short-lived arsenal under the Revolutionary General Pantaleón García had been reloading spent cartridges again and again and the reloading jig was in continuous use, but Imus was under threat of recapture that the operation had to move, with Josephine, to Maragondon, the mountain redoubt in Cavite. She witnessed the Tejeros Convention prior to returning to Manila and was summoned by the Governor-General, but owing to her stepfather’s American citizenship she could not be forcibly deported. She left voluntarily returning to Hong Kong. She later married another Filipino, Vicente Abad, a mestizo acting as agent for the Tabacalera firm in the Philippines. She died of tubercolosis in Hong Kong in March 15, 1902 and was buried at the Happy Valley Cemetery. She was immortalized by Rizal in the last stanza of Mi Ultimo Adios: “Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, my joy…“.
Polavieja and Blanco
Polavieja faced condemnation by his countrymen after his return to Spain. While visiting Girona, in Catalonia, circulars were distributed among the crowd bearing Rizal’s last verses, his portrait, and the charge that Polavieja was responsible for the loss of the Philippines to Spain. Ramon Blanco later presented his sash and sword to the Rizal family as an apology.
Attempts to debunk legends surrounding Rizal, and the tug of war between free thinker and Catholic, have kept his legacy controversial. In one recorded fall from grace he succumbed to the temptation of a ‘lady of the camellias.’ The writer, Maximo Viola, a friend of Rizal’s, was alluding to Dumas’s 1848 novel, La dame aux camelias, about a man who fell in love with a courtesan. While the affair was on record, there was no account in Viola’s letter whether it was more than one-night and if it was more a business transaction than an amorous affair.
Others present him as a man of contradictions. Miguel de Unamuno in “Rizal: the Tagalog Hamlet”, said of him, “a soul that dreads the revolution although deep down desires it. He pivots between fear and hope, between faith and despair.” His critics assert this character flaw is translated into his two novels where he opposes violence in Noli and appears to advocate it in Fili, contrasting Ibarra’s idealism to Simoun’s cynicism. His defenders insist this ambivalence is trounced when Simoun is struck down in the sequel’s final chapters, reaffirming the author’s resolute stance, Pure and spotless must the victim be if the sacrifice is to be acceptable.
In the same tenor, Rizal condemned the uprising when Bonifacio asked for his support. Bonifacio, in turn, openly denounced him as a coward for his refusal, although he was obviously missing his mark, as Rizal had proved in numerous occasions throughout his life, such as when he challenged Wenceslao Retana or Antonio Luna to duel, to be a very brave man.
Rizal believed that an armed struggle for independence was premature and ill-conceived, as embodied by Bonifacio’s Katipunan, which Rizal knew needed a more capable general and organized military able to inflict severe damage on the enemy. Here Rizal is speaking through Father Florentino: …our liberty will (not) be secured at the sword’s point…we must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it. And when a people reaches that height God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, tyranny will crumble like a house of cards and liberty will shine out like the first dawn.
The fact that Rizal never fought in the battlefield and that he ultimately disowned Bonifacio’s Katipunan; which misled some to believe as the entire Philippine Revolution itself, points to the sometimes bitter question of his ranking as the nation’s premier hero. There are those who believe in the beatification ofBonifacio in his stead, even if Bonifacio failed to bequeath a single military victory to the Philippine Revolution. It has been argued that it is odd that the Philippines, along with India, are the only two countries with a non-military leader as its foremost national hero.
Teodoro Agoncillo opines that the Philippine national hero, unlike those of other countries, is not “the leader of its liberation forces”. He gives the opinion that Bonifacio not replace Rizal as national hero but that be honored alongside him. Renato Constantino writes Rizal is a “United States-sponsored hero” who was promoted as the greatest Filipino hero during the American colonial period of the Philippines – after Aguinaldo lost the Philippine-American War. The United States promoted Rizal, who represented peaceful political advocacy (in fact, repudiation of violent means in general) instead of more radical figures whose ideas could inspire resistance against American rule. Rizal was selected over Bonifacio who was viewed “too radical” and Apolinario Mabini who was considered “unregenerate.” Constantino’s analysis has been criticised for its polemicism and inaccuracies. Milagros Guerrero reveres Bonifacio for founding and organizing the Katipunan, “the first anticolonial revolution in Asia” and “the first Filipino national government. In his defense, the historian, Rafael Palma, contends that the revolution of Bonifacio is a consequence wrought by the writings of Rizal and that although the Bonifacio’s revolver produced an immediate outcome, the pen of Rizal generated a more lasting achievement. Rizal disowned Bonifacio’s Katipunan (and not the Philippine Revolution of 1896 per se), calling it “highly absurd.”
Despite the lack of any official declaration explicitly proclaiming them as national heroes, Rizal, along with Bonifacio, remains admired and revered for his role in Philippine history. Heroes, according to historians, should not be legislated. Their appreciation should be better left to academics. Acclamation for heroes, they felt, would be recognition enough.
Some writers have noted that, despite his Chinese ancestry, Rizal’s writings show an anti-Sinicism almost bordering on anti-Chinese racism.Commenting on the scene in the El filibusterismo where a Chinese vendor is bullied by students (Chapter 14), Benedict Anderson notes that “[o]ne cannot miss the strong whiff of racism.”
Rizal’s advocacy of liberty through peaceful means rather than by violent revolution makes him Asia’s first modern non-violent proponent of freedom. Forerunner of Gandhi and contemporary of Tagore and Sun Yat Sen, all four created a new climate of thought throughout Asia, leading to the attrition ofcolonialism. Rizal was active when the power of other European nations was growing in Asia, mostly motivated by trade, some for the purpose of bringing Western forms of government and education to Asian peoples. Coinciding with the appearance of those other leaders, Rizal from an early age had been enunciating in poems, tracts and plays, ideas all his own of modern nationhood as a practical possibility in Asia. In the Noli he stated that if European civilization had nothing better to offer, colonialism in Asia was doomed.Such was recognized by Gandhi who regarded him as a forerunner in the cause of freedom. Jawaharlal Nehru, in his prison letters to his daughter Indira, acknowledged Rizal’s significant contributions in the Asian freedom movement. These leaders regarded these contributions as keystones and acknowledged Rizal’s role in the movement as foundation layer.
Rizal, through his reading of Morga and other western historians, knew of the genial image of Spain’s early relations with his people. In his writings, he showed the disparity between the early colonialists and those of his day, with the latter’s injustices giving rise to Gomburza and the Philippine Revolution of 1896. The English biographer, Austin Coates, and writer, Benedict Anderson, believe that Rizal gave the Philippine revolution a genuinely national character; and that Rizal’s patriotism and his standing as one of Asia’s first intellectuals have inspired others of the importance of a national identity to nation-building.
Several titles were bestowed on him: “the First Filipino”, “Greatest Man of the Brown Race,” among others. The Order of the Knights of Rizal, a civic and patriotic organization, boasts of dozens of chapters all over the globe  . There are some remote-area religious sects who claim him as a sublimation of Christ.
- The Rizal Monument now stands near the place where he fell at the Luneta in Bagumbayan, which is now calledRizal Park, the urban park of Manila. The monument, which also contains his remains, was designed by the SwissRichard Kissling of the William Tell sculpture in Altdorf, Switzerland. The monument carries the inscription “I want to show to those who deprive people the right to love of country, that when we know how to sacrifice ourselves for our duties and convictions, death does not matter if one dies for those one loves – for his country and for others dear to him.”
- Although his field of action lay in politics, Rizal’s real interests lay in the arts and sciences, in literature and in his profession as an ophthalmologist. Shortly after his death, the Anthropological Society of Berlin met to honor him with a reading of a German translation of his farewell poem and Dr. Rudolf Virchow delivering the eulogy.
- The Taft Commission in June 1901 approved Act 137 renaming the District of Morong into the Province of Rizal, and Act 346 authorizing a government subscription for the erection of a national monument in Rizal’s honor. Republic Act 1425 was passed in 1956 by the Philippine legislature that would include in all high school and college curricula a course in the study of his life, works and writings.
- The wide acceptance of Rizal is partly evidenced by the countless towns, streets, and numerous parks in the Philippines named in his honor.
- Monuments in his honor were erected in Madrid; Tokyo; Wilhelmsfeld, Germany; Jinjiang, Fujian, China; Chicago; Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey; Honolulu; San Diego; Mexico City, Mexico; Lima, Peru; Litomerice, Czech Republic; Toronto, Ontario;and Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
- The USS Rizal (DD-174) was a Wickes-class destroyer named after Rizal by the United States Navy and launched on September 21, 1918.
- The Rizal Park in the city of Seattle in Washington state was dedicated to Rizal.
- A two-sided marker bearing a painting of Rizal by Fabian de la Rosa on one side and a bronze bust relief of him by Philippine artist Guillermo Tolentino stands at the Asian Civilisations Museum Green marking his visits to Singapore in 1882, 1887, 1891 and 1896.
- A Rizal bronze bust was erected at La Molina district, Lima, Peru, designed by Czech sculptor Hanstroff, mounted atop a pedestal base with four inaugural plaque markers with the following inscription on one: “Dr. José P. Rizal, Héroe Nacional de Filipinas, Nacionalista, Reformador Political, Escritor, Lingüistica y Poeta, 1861–1896.”
- A plaque marks the Heidelberg building where he trained with Professor Becker, while in Wilhemsfeld, a smaller version of the Rizal Park with his bronze statue stands and the street where he lived was also renamed after him. A sandstone fountain in Pastor Ullmer’s house garden where Rizal lived in Wilhelmsfeld, stands.
- Throughout 2011, the National Historical Institute and other institutions have organized several activities commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Rizal, which took place on June 19 of that year.
Rizal also tried his hand at painting and sculpture. His most famous sculptural work was “The Triumph of Science over Death”, a clay sculpture of a naked young woman with overflowing hair, standing on a skull while bearing a torch held high. The woman symbolized the ignorance of humankind during the Dark Ages, while the torch she bore symbolized the enlightenment science brings over the whole world. He sent the sculpture as a gift to his dear friend Ferdinand Blumentritt, together with another one named “The Triumph of Death over Life”.
The woman is shown trampling the skull, a symbol of death, to signify the victory the humankind achieved by conquering the bane of death through their scientific advancements. The original sculpture is now displayed at the Rizal Shrine Museum at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila. A large replica, made of concrete, stands in front of Fernando Calderón Hall, the building which houses the College of Medicine of the University of the Philippines Manila along Pedro Gil Street in Ermita, Manila.
Rizal in popular culture
Adaptation of his works
The cinematic depiction of Rizal’s literary works won two film industry awards more than a century after his birth. In the 10th FAMAS Awards, he was honored in the Best Story category for Gerardo de León’s adaptation of his book Noli me Tangere. The recognition was repeated the following year with his movie version of El Filibusterismo, making him the only person to win back-to-back FAMAS Awards posthumously.
Both novels were translated into opera by the composer-librettist Felipe Padilla de León: Noli me tangere in 1957 and El filibusterismo in 1970; and his 1939 overture, Mariang Makiling, was inspired by Rizal’s tale of the same name.
Several films were produced narrating Rizal’s life. The most successful was Jose Rizal, produced by GMA Films and released in 1998. Cesar Montano played the title role.. A year before it was shown another movie was made portraying his life while in exile in the island of Dapitan. Titled Rizal sa Dapitan produced by Viva Films it stars Albert Martínez as Rizal and Amanda Page as Josephine Bracken. The film was the top grosser of the 1997 Manila Film Festival and won the best actor and actress trophies.. Another film that tackled particularly on the heroism of Rizal was the 2000 filmBayaning 3rd World, directed by Mike de Leon and starring Joel Torre as José Rizal.
Rizal also appeared in the 1999 video game Medal of Honor as a secret character in multiplayer, alongside other historical figures such as William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill. He can be unlocked by completing the single-player mode, or through cheat codes.