Biography

José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda (June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896), the "Pride of the Malay Race" and "The Great Malayan," is the national hero of the Philippines.

As a polyglot, he mastered 22 languages including Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Malay, Sanskrit, Spanish, Tagalog, and other Philippine languages.

As a polymath, he was also an architect, artist, educator, economist, ethnologist, scientific farmer, historian, inventor, journalist, linguist, musician, mythologist, nationalist, naturalist, novelist, ophthalmologist, physician, poet, propagandist, sculptor, and sociologist.

A famous patriot, the anniversary of Rizal's death, December 30, is now celebrated as a holiday in the Philippines, called Rizal Day.

Family

The seventh of the eleven children of Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo. José Rizal was born into a prosperous middle class Filipino family in the town of Calamba in the Province of Laguna. Dominican friars granted the family the privilege of the lease of a hacienda and an accompanying rice farm, but contentious litigation followed; later, Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau had the buildings destroyed.

Rizal is the descendant of Domingo Lam-co, a Chinese immigrant who sailed to the Philippines from Amoy, China in the mid 17th century (see Chinese Filipino). Lam-co married Inez de la Rosa, a Sangley native of Luzon. To free his descendants from the racist anti-Chinese policies of the Spanish authorities, Lam-co changed the family surname to the Spanish surname "Mercado" (market) so that they would not forget their Chinese merchant roots.

As José became more embroiled in controversy, his elder brother and mentor Paciano advised him to change his name to protect the Mercados from Spanish authority. José changed his surname from Mercado to his middle name, "Rizal." The name is derived from Spanish "rizal" or "ricial," meaning "verdant" or "green" (as ricestalk), the main agricultural crop of their family industry.

Aside from his indigenous Malay and Chinese ancestry, recent genealogical research has found that José had traces of Spanish, Japanese and Negrito ancestry. His maternal great-great-grandfather (Teodora's great-grandfather) is Eugenio Ursua, a descendant of Japanese settlers, who married a Filipina named Benigna (surname unknown). These two gave birth to Regina Ursua who married a Sangley mestizo from Pangasinán named Atty. Manuel de Quintos, Teodora's grandfather. Their daughter Brígida de Quintos married a mestizo (half-caste Spaniard) named Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo, the father of Teodora.

Education

He first studied under Justiniano Cruz in Biñan, Laguna. He went to Manila to study at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now Ateneo de Manila University) where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1877. He continued his education in the Ateneo Municipal to obtain a degree in land surveying and assessor, and at the same time in the University of Santo Tomas where he studied Philosophy and Letters. Upon learning that his mother was going blind, he then decided to study medicine (ophthalmology) in the University of Santo Tomas, but did not complete it because he felt that Filipinos were being discriminated by the Dominicans who operated the University.

Against his father's wishes, he traveled to Madrid 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.

Writings

José Rizal was known for two novels, Noli Me Tangere (1887) published in Berlin and El Filibusterismo (1891) published in Ghent, which are social commentaries of the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule. These books, inspired by Cervantes' Don Quixotes' ideals are responsible for the development of a unified Filipino consciousness and identity, which led to the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

Legacy

Rizal was a reformer for an open society rather than a revolutionary for political independence. As a leader of the Propaganda Movement of Filipino students in Spain, he contributed newspaper articles to La Solidaridad in Barcelona with the following agenda:

· That the Philippines be a province of Spain
· Representation in the Cortes (Parliament)
· Filipino priests rather than the Spanish Augustinians, Dominicans, or Franciscans
· Freedom of assembly and speech
· Equal rights before the law (for both Filipino and Spanish plaintiffs)

The authorities in the Philippines could not accept these reforms, as the social reforms threatened the status quo; thus upon his return to Manila in 1892 he was exiled, being accused of subversion for forming a civic movement called La Liga Filipina. While exiled in Dapitan, Mindanao, he established a school and a hospital.

Last Days

In 1896, the Katipunan, a patriotic secret society, launched a revolution. Rizal had been given leave by the colonial government to serve in Cuba as a volunteer to minister to victims of yellow fever. He was arrested en route, imprisoned in Barcelona, and returned to stand trial. He was implicated by association with members of the Katipunan and tried before a court-martial for rebellion, sedition, and establishing an illegal association. Rizal was convicted of all three and sentenced to death.

With his execution nearing, he wrote his last poem, "Mi Último Adiós" (My Last Farewell), which played a role in later events. In the early morning, he assisted in two Masses and was finally allowed to marry his fiancée and lover, Josephine Bracken at 5:30 am, after having been denied a marriage license the year before. He was executed by firing squad in Bagumbayan Field (now Rizal Park) in Manila) some two hours later. His body was buried in a secret grave in Paco Cemetery, registered as a suicide.

A statue is present now at the place where he fell, designed by Richard Kissling of the famed "William Tell" sculpture, with 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 rights and convictions, death does not matter if one dies for those one loves- for his country and for others dear to him.


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