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Jose Rizal: A Biographical Sketch
BY TEOFILO H. MONTEMAYOR

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

  • Seventh child in a family of 11 children (2 boys and 9 girls)

  • Both his parents were educated and belonged to distinguished families

Francisco Mercado Rizal

  • an industrious farmer whom Rizal called "a model of fathers," came from Biñan, Laguna;

Teodora Alonzo y Quintos

  • A highly cultured and accomplished woman whom Rizal called "loving and prudent mother," was born in Meisic, Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Early Childhood

  • At the age of 3, he learned the alphabet from his mother

  • At 5, while learning to read and write, he already showed inclinations to be an artist. He astounded his family and relatives by his pencil drawings and sketches and by his moldings of clay.

  • At the age 8, he wrote a Tagalog poem, "Sa Aking Mga Kabata," the theme of which revolves on the love of one’s language.
  • In 1877, at the age of 16, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree with an average of "excellent" from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. In the same year, he enrolled in Philosophy and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas, while at the same time took courses leading to the degree of surveyor and expert assessor at the Ateneo. He finished the latter course on March 21, 1877 and passed the Surveyor’s examination on May 21, 1878; but because of his age, 17, he was not granted license to practice the profession until December 30, 1881. In 1878, he enrolled in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas but had to stop in his studies when he felt that the Filipino students were being discriminated upon by their Dominican tutors.


  • On May 3, 1882, he sailed for Spain where he continued his studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid. On June 21, 1884, at the age of 23, he was conferred the degree of Licentiate in Medicine and on June 19,1885,

  • At the age of 24, he finished his course in Philosophy and Letters with a grade of "excellent." 

Having traveled extensively in Europe, America and Asia, he mastered 22 languages. These include Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Malayan, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Spanish, Tagalog, and other native dialects. A versatile genius, he was an architect, artists, businessman, cartoonist, educator, economist, ethnologist, scientific farmer, historian, inventor, journalist, linguist, musician, mythologist, nationalist, naturalist, novelist, opthalmic surgeon, poet, propagandist, psychologist, scientist, sculptor, sociologist, and theologian.

He was an expert swordsman and a good shot. In the hope of securing political and social reforms for his country and at the same time educate his countrymen, Rizal, the greatest apostle of Filipino nationalism, published, while in Europe, several works with highly nationalistic and revolutionary tendencies.



  • In March 1887, his daring book, NOLI ME TANGERE, a satirical novel exposing the arrogance and despotism of the Spanish clergy, was published in Berlin;
  • in 1890 he reprinted in Paris, Morga’s SUCCESSOS DE LAS ISLAS FILIPINAS with his annotations to prove that the Filipinos had a civilization worthy to be proud of even long before the Spaniards set foot on Philippine soil


  • On September 18, 1891, EL FILIBUSTERISMO, his second novel and a sequel to the NOLI and more revolutionary and tragic than the latter, was printed in Ghent. Because of his fearless exposures of the injustices committed by the civil and clerical officials, Rizal provoked the animosity of those in power. This led himself, his relatives and countrymen into trouble with the Spanish officials of the country. As a consequence, he and those who had contacts with him, were shadowed; the authorities were not only finding faults but even fabricating charges to pin him down. Thus, he was imprisoned in Fort Santiago from July 6, 1892 to July 15, 1892 on a charge that anti-friar pamphlets were found in the luggage of his sister Lucia who arrive with him from Hong Kong. While a political exile in Dapitan, he engaged in agriculture, fishing and business; he maintained and operated a hospital; he conducted classes- taught his pupils the English and Spanish languages, the arts.

The sciences, vocational courses including agriculture, surveying, sculpturing, and painting, as well as the art of self defense; he did some researches and collected specimens; he entered into correspondence with renowned men of letters and sciences abroad; and with the help of his pupils, he constructed water dam and a relief map of Mindanao - both considered remarkable engineering feats. His sincerity and friendliness won for him the trust and confidence of even those assigned to guard him; his good manners and warm personality were found irresistible by women of all races with whom he had personal contacts; his intelligence and humility gained for him the respect and admiration of prominent men of other nations; while his undaunted courage and determination to uplift the welfare of his people were feared by his enemies.

When the Philippine Revolution started on August 26, 1896, his enemies lost no time in pressing him down. They were able to enlist witnesses that linked him with the revolt and these were never allowed to be confronted by him. Thus, from November 3, 1986, to the date of his execution, he was again committed to Fort Santiago. In his prison cell, he wrote an untitled poem, now known as "Ultimo Adios" which is considered a masterpiece and a living document expressing not only the hero’s great love of country but also that of all Filipinos. After a mock trial, he was convicted of rebellion, sedition and of forming illegal association. In the cold morning of December 30, 1896, Rizal, a man whose 35 years of life had been packed with varied activities which proved that the Filipino has capacity to equal if not excel even those who treat him as a slave, was shot at Bagumbayan Field


The Mercado - Rizal Family

The Rizals is considered one of the biggest families during their time. Domingo Lam-co, the family's paternal ascendant was a full-blooded Chinese who came to the Philippines from Amoy, China in the closing years of the 17th century and married a Chinese half-breed by the name of Ines de la Rosa.

Researchers revealed that the Mercado-Rizal family had also traces of Japanese, Spanish, Malay and even Negrito blood aside from Chinese.

Jose Rizal came from a 13-member family consisting of his parents, Francisco Mercado II and Teodora Alonso Realonda, and nine sisters and one brother.



FRANCISCO MERCADO (1818-1898)
Father of Jose Rizal who was the youngest of 13 offsprings of Juan and Cirila Mercado. Born in Biñan, Laguna on April 18, 1818; studied in San Jose College, Manila; and died in Manila.

TEODORA ALONSO (1827-1913)
Mother of Jose Rizal who was the second child of Lorenzo Alonso and Brijida de Quintos. She studied at the Colegio de Santa Rosa. She was a business-minded woman, courteous, religious, hard-working and well-read. She was born in Santa Cruz, Manila on November 14, 1827 and died in 1913 in Manila.

SATURNINA RIZAL (1850-1913)
Eldest child of the Rizal-Alonzo marriage. Married Manuel Timoteo Hidalgo of Tanauan, Batangas.

PACIANO RIZAL (1851-1930)

Only brother of Jose Rizal and the second child. Studied at San Jose College in Manila; became a farmer and later a general of the Philippine Revolution.


NARCISA RIZAL (1852-1939) 
The third child. married Antonio Lopez at Morong, Rizal; a teacher and musician.

OLYMPIA RIZAL (1855-1887)
The fourth child. Married Silvestre Ubaldo; died in 1887 from childbirth.

LUCIA RIZAL (1857-1919)
The fifth child. Married Matriano Herbosa.

MARIA RIZAL (1859-1945)
The sixth child. Married Daniel Faustino Cruz of Biñan, Laguna.

JOSE RIZAL (1861-1896)
The second son and the seventh child. He was executed by the Spaniards on December 30,1896.

CONCEPCION RIZAL (1862-1865)
The eight child. Died at the age of three.

JOSEFA RIZAL (1865-1945)
The ninth child. An epileptic died a spinster.

TRINIDAD RIZAL (1868-1951)
The tenth child. Died a spinster and the last of the family to die.

SOLEDAD RIZAL (1870-1929)
The youngest child married Pantaleon Quintero.

Early Childhood

In Calamba, Laguna 19 June 1861
JOSE RIZAL

22 June 1861
He was baptized JOSE RIZAL MERCADO at the Catholic of Calamba by the parish priest Rev. Rufino Collantes with Rev. Pedro Casañas as the sponsor.

28 September 1862

The parochial church of Calamba and the canonical books, including the book in which Rizal’s baptismal records were entered, were burned.

1865
When he was four years old, his sister Conception, the eight child in the Rizal family, died at the age of three. It was on this occasion that Rizal remembered having shed real tears for the first time.

1865 – 1867
During this time his mother taught him how to read and write. His father hired a classmate by the name of Leon Monroy who, for five months until his (Monroy) death, taught Rizal the rudiments of Latin.

At about this time two of his mother’s cousin frequented Calamba. Uncle Manuel Alberto, seeing Rizal frail in body, concerned himself with the physical development of his young nephew and taught the latter love for the open air and developed in him a great admiration for the beauty of nature, while Uncle Gregorio, a scholar, instilled into the mind of the boy love for education. He advised Rizal: "Work hard and perform every task very carefully; learn to be swift as well as thorough; be independent in thinking and make visual pictures of everything."



6 June 1868 
With his father, Rizal made a pilgrimage to Antipolo to fulfill the vow made by his mother to take the child to the Shrine of the Virgin of Antipolo should she and her child survive the ordeal of delivery which nearly caused his mother’s life.

From there they proceeded to Manila and visited his sister Saturnina who was at the time studying in the La Concordia College in Sta. Ana.



1869
At the age of eight, Rizal wrote his first poem entitled "Sa Aking Mga Kabata." The poem was written in tagalog and had for its theme "Love of One’s Language."

Early Education in Calamba and Biñan Rizal had his early education in Calamba and Biñan. It was a typical schooling that a son of an ilustrado family received during his time, characterized by the four R’s- reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. Instruction was rigid and strict. Knowledge was forced into the minds of the pupils by means of the tedious memory method aided by the teacher’s whip. Despite the defects of the Spanish system of elementary education, Rizal was able to acquire the necessary instruction preparatory for college work in Manila. It may be said that Rizal, who was born a physical weakling, rose to become an intellectual giant not because of, but rather in spite of, the outmoded and backward system of instruction obtaining in the Philippines during the last decades of Spanish regime.

The Hero’s First Teacher

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."

As tutor, Doña Teodora was patient, conscientious, and understanding. It was she who first discovered that her son had a talent for poetry. Accordingly, she encouraged him to write poems. To lighten the monotony of memorizing the ABC’s and to stimulate her son’s imagination, she related many stories.

As Jose grew older, his parents employed private tutors to give him lessons at home. The first was Maestro Celestino and the second, Maestro Lucas Padua. Later, an old man named Leon Monroy, a former classmate of Rizal’s father, became the boy’s tutor. This old teacher lived at the Rizal home and instructed Jose in Spanish and Latin. Unfortunately, he did not lived long. He died five months later.

After a Monroy’s death, the hero’s parents decided to send their gifted son to a private school in Biñan.

Jose Goes to Biñan

One Sunday afternoon in June , 1869, Jose, after kissing the hands of his parents and a tearful parting from his sister, left Calamba for Biñan. He was accompanied by Paciano , who acted as his second father. The two brothers rode in a carromata, reaching their destination after one and one-half hours’ drive. They proceeded to their aunt’s house, where Jose was to lodge. It was almost night when they arrived, and the moon was about to rise.

That same night, Jose, with his cousin named Leandro, went sightseeing in the town. Instead of enjoying the sights, Jose became depressed because of homesickness. "In the moonlight," he recounted, "I remembered my home town, my idolized mother, and my solicitous sisters. Ah, how sweet to me was Calamba, my own town, in spite of the fact that was not as wealthy as Biñan."


First Day in Biñan School

The next morning (Monday) Paciano brought his younger brother to the school of Maestro Justiniano Aquino Cruz.

The school was in the house of the teacher, which was a small nipa hut about 30 meters from the home of Jose’s aunt.

Paciano knew the teacher quite well because he had been a pupil under him before. He introduced Jose to the teacher, after which he departed to return to Calamba.

Immediately, Jose was assigned his seat in the class. The teacher asked him:

"Do you know Spanish?"


"A little, sir," replied the Calamba lad.
"Do you know Latin?"

"A little, sir."

The boys in the class, especially Pedro, the teacher’s son laughed at Jose’s answers.

The teacher sharply stopped all noises and begun the lessons of the day.

Jose described his teacher in Biñan as follows: "He was tall, thin, long-necked, with sharp nose and a body slightly bent forward, and he used to wear a sinamay shirt, woven by the skilled hands of the women of Batangas. He knew by the heart the grammars by Nebrija and Gainza. Add to this severity that in my judgement was exaggerated and you have a picture, perhaps vague, that I have made of him, but I remember only this."

First School BrawlIn the afternoon of his first day in school, when the teacher was having his siesta, Jose met the bully, Pedro. He was angry at this bully for making fun of him during his conversation with the teacher in the morning.

Jose challenged Pedro to a fight. The latter readily accepted, thinking that he could easily beat the Calamba boy who was smaller and younger.

The two boys wrestled furiously in the classroom, much to the glee of their classmates. Jose, having learned the art of wrestling from his athletic Tio Manuel, defeated the bigger boy. For this feat, he became popular among his classmates.

After the class in the afternoon, a classmate named Andres Salandanan challenged him to an arm-wrestling match. They went to a sidewalk of a house and wrestled with their arms. Jose, having the weaker arm, lost and nearly cracked his head on the sidewalk.

In succeeding days he had other fights with the boys of Biñan. He was not quarrelsome by nature, but he never ran away from a fight.


Best Student in School

In academic studies, Jose beat all Biñan boys. He surpassed them all in Spanish, Latin, and other subjects.

Some of his older classmates were jealous of his intellectual superiority. They wickedly squealed to the teacher whenever Jose had a fight outside the school, and even told lies to discredit him before the teacher’s eyes. Consequently the teacher had to punish Jose. 

Early Schooling in Biñan

Jose had a very vivid imagination and a very keen sense of observation. At the age of seven he traveled with his father for the first time to Manila and thence to Antipolo to fulfill the promise of a pilgrimage made by his mother at the time of his birth. They embarked in a casco, a very ponderous vessel commonly used in the Philippines. It was the first trip on the lake that Jose could recollect. As darkness fell he spent the hours by the katig, admiring the grandeur of the water and the stillness of the night, although he was seized with a superstitious fear when he saw a water snake entwine itself around the bamboo beams of the katig. With what joy did he see the sun at the daybreak as its luminous rays shone upon the glistening surface of the wide lake, producing a brilliant effect! With what joy did he talk to his father, for he had not uttered a word during the night!

When they proceeded to Antipolo, he experienced the sweetest emotions upon seeing the gay banks of the Pasig and the towns of Cainta and Taytay. In Antipolo he prayed, kneeling before the image of the Virgin of Peace and Good Voyage, of whom he would later sing in elegant verses. Then he saw Manila, the great metropolis , with its Chinese sores and European bazaars. And visited his elder sister, Saturnina, in Santa Ana, who was a boarding student in the Concordia College.

When he was nine years old, his father sent him to Biñan to continue studying Latin, because his first teacher had died. His brother Paciano took him to Biñan one Sunday, and Jose bade his parents and sisters good-bye with tears in his eyes. Oh, how it saddened him to leave for the first time and live far from his home and his family! But he felt ashamed to cry and had to conceal his tears and sentiments. "O Shame," he explained, "how many beautiful and pathetic scenes the world would witness without thee!"

They arrived at Biñan in the evening. His brother took him to the house of his aunt where he was to stay, and left him after introducing him to the teacher. At night, in company with his aunt’s grandson named Leandro, Jose took a walk around the town in the light of the moon. To him the town looked extensive and rich but sad and ugly.

His teacher in Biñan was a severe disciplinarian. His name was Justiniano Aquino Cruz. "He was a tall man, lean and long-necked, with a sharp nose and a body slightly bent forward. He used to wear a sinamay shirt woven by the deft hands of Batangas women. He knew by memory the grammars of Nebrija and Gainza. To this add a severity which, in my judgement I have made of him, which is all I remember."

The boy Jose distinguished himself in class, and succeeded in surpassing many of his older classmates. Some of these were so wicked that, even without reason, they accused him before the teacher, for which, in spite of his progress, he received many whippings and strokes from the ferule. Rare was the day when he was not stretched on the bench for a whipping or punished with five or six blows on the open palm. Jose’s reaction to all these punishments was one of intense resentment in order to learn and thus carry out his father’s will.

Jose spent his leisure hours with Justiniano’s father-in-law, a master painter. From him he took his first two sons, two nephews, and a grandson. His way life was methodical and well regulated. He heard mass at four if there was one that early, or studied his lesson at that hour and went to mass afterwards. Returning home, he might look in the orchard for a mambolo fruit to eat, then he took his breakfast, consisting generally of a plate of rice and two dried sardines. 

After that he would go to class, from which he was dismissed at ten, then home again. He ate with his aunt and then began at ten, then home again. He ate with his aunt and then began to study. At half past two he returned to class and left at five. He might play for a short time with some cousins before returning home. He studied his lessons, drew for a while, and then prayed and if there was a moon, his friends would invite him to play in the street in company with other boys.

Whenever he remembered his town, he thought with tears in his eyes of his beloved father, his idolized mother, and his solicitous sisters. Ah, how sweet was his town even though not so opulent as Biñan! He grew sad and thoughtful.

While he was studying in Biñan, he returned to his hometown now and then. How long the road seemed to him in going and how short in coming! When from afar he descried the roof of his house, secret joy filled his breast. How he looked for pretexts to remain longer at home! A day more seemed to him a day spent in heaven, and how he wept, though silently and secretly, when he saw the calesa that was flower that him Biñan! Then everything looked sad; a flower that he touched, a stone that attracted his attention he gathered, fearful that he might not see it again upon his return. It was a sad but delicate and quite pain that possessed him. 


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 Rizal’s life philosophy to be to contain if not eliminate these social ills.

Educational Philosophy

Rizal’s 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 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. 

Rizal’s 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 Morga’s 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 world’s 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 Rizal’s religious philosophy. 

Political Philosophy

In Rizal’s 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 ruler’s method of governing the country which resulted in: 

1. the bondage and slavery of the conquered ;

2. the Spanish government’s 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 sentiment.

Rizal’s 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 Rizal’s ethical philosophy was based. The fact that the Philippines was under Spanish domination during Rizal’s 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 conquered.

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 just;

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 people’s social knowledge.

Rizal’s 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 man’s 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 man’s conscience; man’s 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 man’s 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 Rizal’s guide in his continuous effort to make over his beloved Philippines.


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