In full known as Jose Rizal y Mercado, or Jose Rizal y Alonzo. Born on June 19, 1861 and died on December 30, 1896 in Manila. Patriot, physician, and man of letters whose life and literary works were an inspiration to the literary works were an inspiration to the Philippine nationalist movement.
Rizal was the son of a prosperous landowner and sugar planter of Chinese-Filipino descent on the island of Luzon; his mother, Teodora Alonso, one of the most highly educated women in the Philippines, exerted a powerful influence on his intellectual development. Educated at Ateneo de Manila and the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, in 1882 he went overseas to study medicine and liberal arts at the University of Madrid. A brilliant student, he soon became the leader of the small community of Filipino students in Spain and passionately committed himself to the reform of Spanish rule in his home country. He never advocated Philippine independence. The chief enemy of reform, in his eyes, was not Spain, which was going through a profound revolution, but the Franciscan, Augustinian, and Dominican friars, who held the country in political and economic paralysis.
Rizal continued his medical studies in Paris and Heidelberg; in 1887 he wrote his first novel, Noli me tangere (“Touch Me Not”), a passionate exposure of the evils of the friars rule, comparable in its impact to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s exposure of Negro suppression in the United States, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A sequel, El Filibusterismo (1891, “Filibusterism”) established his reputation as the leading spokesman of the Philippine reform movement. In1890 he wrote an edition of Antonio Morgas’ Succesos de las Islas Filipinas, which showed that the native people of the Philippines had a long history before the coming of the Spaniards. He became the leader of the Propaganda Movement, contributing numerous articles to its newspaper, La Solidaridad, published in Barcelona. Rizal’s political program, as expressed in the columns of the newspaper, included integration of the Philippines as a province of Spain, representation in the Cortes (the Spanish parliament), the replacement of the Spanish friars by native Philippine priests, freedom of assembly and expression, and equality of Filipinos and Spaniards before the law.
Against the advice of his parents and friends, Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1892. When he founded a nonviolent reform society, the Liga Filipina, in Manila, the Spanish arrested and deported him to Dapitan in northwest Mindanao. He remained in exile for four years, doing scientific research and founding a school and hospital. In 1896, however, an insurrection led by the nationalist secret society, the Katipunan, broke out; although he had no connections with that organization or any part in the revolt, he was arrested and tried for sedition by the military. Found guilty, he was publicly executed by a firing squad in Manila. His martyrdom convinced Filipinos from Spain. On the eve of his execution, while confined in Ft. Santiago, Rizal wrote Ultimo Adios (“The Last Farewell”), a masterpiece of 19th-century Spanish verse.
Reference: Encyclopedia Britannica – William Benton (1943-1973); Helen Hemingway Benton (1973-1974)