Jose Rizal is the National Hero of the Philippines. Dr. José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda was born June 19, 1861 and died December 30, 1896 in Bagumbayan. His parents Francisco Engracio Rizal Mercado y Alejandro and Teodora Morales Alonzo Realonda y Quintos were prosperous farmers who were granted lease of hacienda. He was the 7th child of their eleven children.
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. Most everything in his short life is recorded somewhere, being himself a regular diarist and prolific letter writer, much of these material having survived. His biographers, however, have faced the difficulty of 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.
Rizal was a very prolific author since young age. Among his earliest writings are El Canto de los Dioses, A la juventud filipina, Canto del viajero, Canto de Maria Clara, Me piden verson, Por la ducacion, Junto al Pasig, 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”.
Rizal also tried his hand at painting and sculpture. His most famous sculpture work is “The Triumph of Science over Death”, a clay sculpture composed of a naked, young woman standing on a skull while bearing a torch.
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.
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.
By 1896, the rebellion fomented by the Katipunan, a militant secret society, had become a full-blown revolution, proving to be a nationwide uprising and leading to the first proclamation of a democratic republic in Asia. To dissociate himself, Rizal volunteered and was given leave by the Governor-General, Ramon Blanco, to serve in Cuba to minister to victims of yellow fever. Blanco later was to present his sash and sword to the Rizal family as an apology.
Moments before his execution by a firing squad of native infantry of the Spanish Army, backed by an insurance force of Spanish troops, the Spanish surgeon general requested to take his pulse; it was normal. Aware of this, the Spanish sergeant in charge of the backup force hushed his men to silence when they began raising ‘¡vivas!’ with the partisan crowd. His last words were those of Jesus Christ: “consummatum est“,–it is finished.