It is one of the fortunate accidents in life that a single letter to someone known only by reputation can turn into a lifelong friendship. It is not often that a casual inquiry about a person’s research grows into brotherly affection.
But such was the case between our national hero Jose Rizal and Ferdinand Blumentritt, the Austrian scholar and schoolteacher to whom Rizal first wrote in July 1886. Journalist John Nery traces the evolution of this friendship by noting the gradual changes in the salutations that each used to address the other in the over 200 existing letters that they exchanged during their ten-year correspondence. Nery notes that in their earliest letters, they addressed each other as “Esteemed Sir.” Five months into the correspondence, they began their letters with “Esteemed Friend.” After Rizal’s visit with Blumentritt in May 1887, they addressed each other with the more personal “Dear Friend,” and by late 1889 until their correspondence ended with Rizal’s death in December 1896, they affectionately addressed each other as “Dear Brother” (Nery 2011, 238-9).
The Friendship Begins
Born to a well-to-do family in Calamba, Laguna on 19 June 1861, Rizal began his early schooling in the town of Biñan. In 1872, his older brother Paciano accompanied him to enroll in the Jesuit-run Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he would complete the degree of Bachelor of Arts with the highest honors in 1877. Rizal began his medical studies at the University of Santo Tomas while simultaneously enrolling in courses in topography and agriculture at the Ateneo Municipal (Ateneo de Manila University ). Without the permission of his parents, Rizal sailed to Spain in 1882 to continue his medical studies and to “search for the good which we all desire….for the good you are doing your countrymen” (Vicente Gella to Jose Rizal, 30 June 1882, quoted in Guerrero 2008, 83).
Born in Prague (then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) on 10 September 1853, Blumentritt studied History at Prague University. When his correspondence with Rizal began, he was a master teacher at Leitmeritz (today known as Litomerice in the Czech Republic) and had already published scholarly writings on Philippine languages and ethnography. The 33-year old Blumentritt was married to Rosa Muller and had three children: two sons – Friedrich and Konrad – and a daughter named Dolores, whom Blumentritt sometimes affectionately addressed with the Tagalog nickname, “Loleng” (Tomas 2008, 15; Guerrero 2008, 157).
While continuing his medical studies in Germany, the 25-year old Rizal heard of an Austrian scholar in Leitmeritz whose historical and ethnographic publications on the Philippines betrayed his abiding interest in a people and a country he had never even seen with his own eyes. Upon learning that Blumentritt was studying the Tagalog language, “[t]he lonely Rizal, so fiercely proud of his race, [and] touched by this foreigner’s interest in his native culture,” (Guerrero 2008, 158), initiated what was to become a lifelong correspondence. In his letter, Rizal said, "Esteemed Sir: Having heard that Your Lordship is studying our language and that you have already published some works on the subject, I take the liberty of sending you a valuable book written in that language by a countryman of mine" (Rizal to Blumentritt, 31 July 1886, in National Historical Institute 1992, 1: 7).
Blumentritt soon reciprocated with a gift of two books (Rizal to Blumentritt, 16 August 1886, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 38). The two then continued to exchange letters about their scholarly endeavors. Books, manuscripts, maps were gifted as well, one to the other. Oftentimes Rizal would write about his search for Filipiniana and his efforts at translating German works on the Philippines. Blumentritt would respond by sending his own ethnographic studies and also provided Rizal with letters of introduction to a number of German scholars (See for example, Rizal’s letter to Blumentritt dated 24 May 1887, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 53). Here was a budding friendship born of an intimate love for all things Philippine (Guerrero 2008, 161).
In his biography of Rizal, Leon Ma. Guerrero remarks, "It is a charming and, in its own way, fascinating correspondence...the letters they exchanged also illustrate something that is very rare, the evolution of a purely intellectual friendship....Clearly Blumentritt the Austrian schoolmaster, is Rizal’s mentor; he has a greater command of the authorities, a better knowledge of the world; but the young Malay can also teach the erudite Czech what cannot be found in maps and ethnographical treatises; political realities, the feeling of a people" (Guerrero 2008, 162-3).
After five years in Europe, Rizal longed for home. On this way back, however, Rizal took an extended tour of Europe, visiting such places as Prague and Vienna, Stuttgart and Munich, Geneva and Basel, Rome and Marseilles before heading to the Philippines. The tour made it possible for him to spend a few days in Leitmeritz to finally meet his Austrian friend. This visit lasted a mere four days.
Accompanied by Maximo Viola – who had helped Rizal publish the Noli Me Tangere – Rizal arrived in Leitmeritz on 14 May 1887. Accompanied by his wife and children, Blumentritt met the two travelers at the train station and helped them check in at the Hotel Krebs. Blumentritt would meet up with his Filipino guests after breakfast and take them around the city. On one of these walks, they had occasion to meet the mayor of Leitmeritz and the two Filipino travelers signed the city’s guest book. Each day would end with dinner at the Blumentritt home. Before finally leaving Leitmeritz, Rizal left a pencil sketch of Blumentritt, as a memento of their all too brief but memorable encounter (Guerrero 2008, 166).
Of this encounter, Guerrero remarks, “A friendship by correspondence does not always improve upon personal acquaintance; happily enough, Rizal and Blumentritt got on remarkably well” (2008, 165). That such is the case is evident in an emotional letter Rizal wrote to Blumentritt two days after leaving Leitmeritz, "…my heart was full, and I asked myself: What have I done to deserve the friendship and sympathy of such kind souls....I will also bear in mind my good friends in Leitmeritz and I will say... ‘You are not alone, Rizal; there in a little corner of Bohemia, there are good, noble souls and friends who appreciate you; think of them; consider them as if they were with you, as if they were seeing you; they will gladden at your joys and they will weep for your sorrows (Rizal to Blumentritt, 19 May 1887, in National Historical Institute 1992, 1: 80).
The Deepening Friendship
After what was the first and only face-to-face encounter between the two scholars, the “friendship by correspondence” continued. Arriving back in the Philippines in August 1887, Rizal kept his Austrian friend informed of events and conditions in the Philippines. He wrote about his medical practice, which he engaged in so as not to be a burden to his family. He spoke also of the fear of his family and friends, of how he would avoid calling on friends so as not to put them in any danger, and of how everyone wanted him to leave the country. (Rizal to Blumentritt, 19 October 1887 and 3 December 1887, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 62).
Under pressure from Spanish colonial authorities and the religious orders, Rizal left the Philippines for Hong Kong in February 1888 (Nery 2011, 34). By June he was in London where he spent much of the year copying by hand Antonio de Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas and then annotating this 17th century chronicle of the Philippine Islands to prove that the Filipinos possessed a high level of civilization even before the Spaniards arrived (Guerrero 2008, 208).
All this time, the Rizal-Blumentritt correspondence continued. Their interest in Philippine history and culture led to collaborative efforts such as translating each other’s works and sharing their discoveries about the existence of Filipiniana titles in various libraries. Such collaboration can also be seen in Blumentritt’s agreeing to write the Prologue to Rizal’s annotations of Morga’s Sucesos.
Rizal shared news about the Philippines. Many times, the news was not good – such as the deportation of his brother-in-law, Manuel Hidalgo, to Bohol (Rizal to Blumentritt, 13 October 1888, summarized in Ocampo 2010, 73), the death of another brother-in-law, Mariano Herbosa, due to cholera (Rizal to Blumentritt, 15 July 1889, summarized in Ocampo 2010, 90), and the continued persecution of his family (Rizal to Blumentritt, 28 June 1890, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 101).
Rizal would also bemoan how Spanish authorities back home and Spanish writers in the peninsula looked down on Filipinos (Rizal to Blumentritt, 1 November 1888, summarized in Ocampo 2010, 73). He lamented that, without freedom, Filipinos were worse off under Spain (Rizal to Blumentritt, 13 October 1888, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 73).
Blumentritt was a staunch advocate of Philippine freedom and was not afraid to make his sentiments known in the Filipino newspaper La Solidaridad and other publications. For this, as well as for his defense of the Noli, Blumentritt earned the ire of some Spaniards who openly attacked him in Spanish periodicals (Rizal to Blumentritt, 20 January 1890, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 98).
By late March 1891, Rizal reported to Blumentritt that he had finished writing his second novel, El Filibusterismo (Rizal to Blumentritt, 29 March 1891, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 104).
Later that year, against the advice of his family and friends – including Blumentritt – Rizal left Europe for good. “The field of battle is in the Philippines,” Rizal declared, “there is where we should be found….There we will help each other, there we will suffer united, and perhaps even triumph” (quoted in Schumacher 1991, 100).
Rizal, however, opted first to stay in Hong Kong, where he was joined by his parents and siblings (Rizal to Blumentritt, 10 December 1891, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 110). Reunited with his family, Rizal could write Blumentritt that, “we all live together, my parents, sisters, and brother – in peace, far from the persecutions they suffered in the Philippines” (Rizal to Blumentritt, 31 January 1892, in National Historical Institute 1992, 2: 433).
By June 1892, however, Rizal was back in the Philippines and on 15 July he was deported to Dapitan in northern Zamboanga. While in far-away Dapitan, Rizal dabbled in business, opened a school for young boys, and continued his medical practice (Rizal to Blumentritt, 31 July 1894, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 140). By April 1896, Rizal expressed sadness over his separation from friends and his wish to leave Dapitan (Rizal to Blumentritt, 5 April 1896, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 147). Blumentritt suggested that he offer his services as a volunteer doctor to Cuba (Nery 2011, 49) and it was while he was making his way there via Spain that Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan rose in revolt against Spain. Upon reaching Barcelona in October 1896, Rizal was arrested, detained, and sent back to Manila where he was immediately imprisoned at Fort Santiago. On 26 December, the Spanish court-martial found Rizal guilty of rebellion and three days later, he was informed that he had been sentenced to die by execution.
The Final Letter
As he prepared to meet his death, Rizal wrote his final goodbyes to members of his family. From them he asked for forgiveness for the suffering that he had caused (Rizal to his family, December 1896, summarized in Ocampo 2011, 153). Among his last letters was one to his Austrian friend: "My dear brother: When you receive this letter, I shall be dead by then. Tomorrow at seven, I shall be shot; but I am innocent of the crime of rebellion. I am going to die with a tranquil conscience. Adieu, my best, my dearest friend, and never think ill of me! (Rizal to Blumentritt, 29 December 1896, in National Historical Institute 1992, 2: 539)
The death of his “best and dearest friend” did not end Blumentritt’s relationship with the Philippines. The Austrian scholar continued his ethnographic and historical studies on the Philippines and remained a loyal advocate of Philippine independence. He corresponded with a number of Filipino nationalists during the years of the Revolution and the first decade of the twentieth century (Ocampo 2000, 39-40; Tomas 2008, 46-9).
Blumentritt passed away in Leitmeritz on 13 September 1913. At the time of his death, only seventeen years after 1896, Rizal was already a revered hero in the eyes of the Filipinos. During his final moments, it was said that Blumentritt “spoke only the Spanish dialect used in the Philippines” (Tomas 2008, 50). A year later, the Philippine Assembly published Vida y Obras de Ferdinand Blumentritt, a bibliography of Blumentritt’s works on the Philippines to honor Rizal’s “alma gemela, su hermano espiritual mas querido” (Asamblea Filipina, 1914, 14).
Asamblea Filipina. 1914. Vida y obras de Ferdinand Blumentritt. Manila: Bureau of Printing.
Guerrero, Leon Ma. 2008. The first Filipino: A biography of Jose Rizal. Manila: National Historical Institute.
Ateneo de Manila University. [1977?]. Jose Rizal: Bachiller en artes, 1877. Issued by the Ateneo de Manila University on the occasion of its 118th commencement exercises in commemoration of the centenary of Jose Rizal’s graduation from the Ateneo, 1877-1987.
Locsin, Ma. Soledad L., trans. 1997. Jose Rizal: El filibusterismo: Subversion: A sequel to Noli me tangere. Makati City: Bookmark, Inc.
Montemayor, Teofilo H. 2004. Rizal Pictorial Calendar. Manila: National Historical Institute.
Nery, John. 2011. Revolutionary spirit: Jose Rizal in Southeast Asia. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Ocampo, Ambeth R. 2000. Blumentritt’s role in the propaganda war. In Rizal without the overcoat, 39-40. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc.
__________. 2011. A calendar of Rizaliana. Manila: UST Publishing House.
National Historical Institute. 1992. The Rizal and Blumentritt correspondence. 2 vols. Manila: National Historical Institute.
Schumacher, John N., S.J. 1991. The making of a nation: Essays on nineteenth-century Filipino nationalism. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
__________. 1997. The Propaganda movement: 1880-1895. Rev. ed. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
Tomas, Jindrich. Jose Rizal, Ferdinand Blumentritt and the Philippines in the new age. The City of Litomerice, 2008.
"Laong Laan" redirects here. For the railway station, see Laong Laan (PNR station).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Mercado and the second or maternal family name is Alonso Realonda.
|Born||José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda|
June 19, 1861
Calamba, Laguna, Spanish Philippines
|Died||December 30, 1896(1896-12-30) (aged 35)|
Bagumbayan, Manila, Spanish Philippines
|Cause of death||Execution by firing squad|
|Monuments||Luneta Park, Manila,|
Daet, Camarines Norte,
|Other names||Pepe, Jose (nicknames)|
|Alma mater||Ateneo Municipal de Manila, University of Santo Tomas, Universidad Central de Madrid|
|Organization||La Solidaridad, La Liga Filipina|
|Spouse(s)||Josephine Bracken (1896)|
|Parent(s)||Francisco Mercado Rizal (father)|
Teodora Alonso Realonda (mother)
José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, widely known as José Rizal (Spanish pronunciation: [xoˈse riˈsal]; June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896), was a Filipino nationalist and polymath during the tail end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines. An ophthalmologist by profession, Rizal became a writer and a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement which advocated political reforms for the colony under Spain.
He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after the Philippine Revolution, inspired in part by his writings, broke out. Though he was not actively involved in its planning or conduct, he ultimately approved of its goals which eventually led to Philippine independence.
He is widely considered one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines and has been recommended to be so honored by an officially empaneled National Heroes Committee. However, no law, executive order or proclamation has been enacted or issued officially proclaiming any Filipino historical figure as a national hero. He was the author of the novels Noli Me Tángere and El filibusterismo, and a number of poems and essays.
José Rizal was born in 1861 to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonso in the town of Calamba in Laguna province. He had nine sisters and one brother. His parents were leaseholders of a hacienda and an accompanying rice farm by the Dominicans. Both their families had adopted the additional surnames of Rizal and Realonda in 1849, after Governor General Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa decreed the adoption of Spanish surnames among the Filipinos for census purposes (though they already had Spanish names).
Like many families in the Philippines, the Rizals were of mixed origin. José's patrilineal lineage could be traced back to Fujian in China through his father's ancestor Lam-Co, a Chinese merchant who immigrated to the Philippines in the late 17th century.[note 1] Lam-Co traveled to Manila from Amoy, China, possibly to avoid the famine or plague in his home district, and more probably to escape the Manchu invasion. He finally decided to stay in the islands as a farmer. In 1697, to escape the bitter anti-Chinese prejudice that existed in the Philippines, he converted to Catholicism, changed his name to Domingo Mercado and married the daughter of Chinese friend Augustin Chin-co. On his mother's side, Rizal's ancestry included Chinese, Japanese and Tagalog blood. His mother's lineage can be traced to the affluent Florentina family of Chinese mestizo families originating in Baliuag, Bulacan. José Rizal also had scant Spanish ancestry. His grandfather was a half Spaniard engineer named Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo. Rizal even had Negrito ancestors.
From an early age, José showed a precocious intellect. He learned the alphabet from his mother at 3, and could read and write at age 5. Upon enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, he dropped the last three names that made up his full name, on the advice of his brother, Paciano and the Mercado family, thus rendering his name as "José Protasio Rizal". Of this, he later wrote: "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 to Filipino priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (popularly known as Gomburza) who had been accused and executed for treason.
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 but 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 switch to medicine at the medical school of Santo Tomas specializing later in ophthalmology.
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. He also attended medical lectures at the University of Paris and the University of Heidelberg. In Berlin, he was inducted as a member of the Berlin Ethnological Society and the Berlin Anthropological Society under the patronage of the famous pathologistRudolf 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 in Wilhelmsfeld, where he wrote the last few chapters of Noli Me Tángere.
Rizal was a polymath, skilled in both science and the arts. He painted, sketched, and made sculptures and woodcarving. He was a prolific poet, essayist, and novelist whose most famous works were his two novels, Noli Me Tángere and its sequel, El filibusterismo.[note 2] These social commentaries during the Spanish colonization of the country formed the nucleus of literature that inspired peaceful reformists and armed revolutionaries alike. Rizal was also a polyglot, conversant in twenty-two languages.[note 3][note 4]
Rizal's multifacetedness was described by his German friend, Dr. Adolf Bernhard Meyer, as "stupendous."[note 5] 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.
Personal life, relationships and ventures
José Rizal's life is one of the most documented of 19th century Filipinos 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.
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 "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 for him, Katigbak was engaged to Manuel Luz.
From December 1891 to June 1892, Rizal lived with his family in Number 2 of Rednaxela 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 life included his recorded affections of which nine were identified. They were Gertrude Beckett 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 (popularly thought to be the inspiration for the character of María Clara in Noli me tangere).
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.[note 6]
Association with Leonor Rivera
See also: Leonor Rivera
Leonor Rivera is thought to be the inspiration for the character of Maria Clara in Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. Rivera and Rizal first met in Manila when Rivera was only 14 years old. When Rizal left for Europe on May 3, 1882, Rivera was 16 years of age. Their correspondence began when Rizal left a poem for Rivera saying farewell.
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. 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 and her family had moved back to Dagupan, Pangasinan. Rizal was forbidden by his father Francisco Mercado to see Rivera in order to avoid putting the Rivera family in danger because at the time Rizal was already labeled by the criollo elite as a filibustero or subversive because of his novel Noli Me Tángere. 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 Antonio de Morga's writings, he became a regular guest in the home of Reinhold Rost of the British Museum who referred to him as "a gem of a man."[note 7] 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.
Relationship with Josephine Bracken
Further information: Josephine Bracken
In February 1895, Rizal, 33, met Josephine Bracken, an Irish woman from Hong Kong, when she accompanied her blind adoptive father, George Taufer, to have his eyes checked by Rizal. After frequent visits, Rizal and Bracken fell in love with each other. They applied to marry but, because of Rizal's reputation from his writings and political stance, the local priest Father Obach would only hold the ceremony if Rizal could get permission from the Bishop of Cebu. He was unable to obtain an ecclesiastical marriage because he would not return to Catholicism.
After accompanying her father to Manila on her return to Hong Kong, and before heading back to Dapitan to live with Rizal, Josephine introduced herself to members of Rizal's family in Manila. His mother suggested a civil marriage, which she believed to be a lesser sacrament but less sinful to Rizal's conscience than making any sort of political retraction in order to gain permission from the Bishop. Rizal and Josephine lived as husband and wife in a common-law marriage in Talisay in Dapitan. The couple had a son who lived only for a few hours after Josephine suffered a miscarriage; Rizal named him after his father Francisco.
In Brussels and Spain (1890–92)
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 (1609). He lived in the boarding house of the two Jacoby sisters, Catherina and Suzanna, who had a niece Suzanna ("Thil"), age 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 17-year-old niece, Suzanna Thil, as his other liaisons were all with young women. He found records clarifying their names and ages.
Rizal's Brussels stay was short-lived; he moved to Madrid, giving the young Suzanna a box of chocolates. She wrote to him 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 shoes 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…" In 2007, Slachmuylders' group arranged for an historical marker honoring Rizal to be placed at the house.
The content of Rizal's writings changed considerably in his two most famous novels, Noli Me Tángere, published in Berlin in 1887, and El Filibusterismo, published in Ghent in 1891. For the latter, he used funds borrowed from his friends. These writings angered both the Spanish colonial elite and many educated Filipinos due to their 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 from writing the preface of El filibusterismo after he had translated Noli Me Tángere into German. As Blumentritt had warned, these books resulted in Rizal's being prosecuted as the inciter of revolution. He was eventually tried by the military, convicted and executed. 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, Rizal contributed essays, allegories, poems, and editorials to the Spanish newspaper La Solidaridad in Barcelona (in this case Rizal used a pen name, "Dimasalang", "Laong Laan" and "May Pagasa"). 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:[note 8]
- That the Philippines be made a province of Spain (The Philippines was a province of New Spain – now Mexico, administered from Mexico city from 1565 to 1821. From 1821 to 1898 it was administered directly from Spain.)
- Representation in the Cortes
- Filipino priests instead of Spanish friars – Augustinians, Dominicans, and Franciscans – in parishes and remote sitios
- 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. Such Spanish intellectuals as Morayta, Unamuno, Pi y Margall, and others did endorse them.
Wenceslao Retana, a political commentator in Spain, had slighted Rizal by writing an insulting article in La Epoca, a newspaper in Madrid. He implied that the family and friends of Rizal were evicted from their lands in Calamba for not having paid their due rents. The incident (when Rizal was ten) stemmed from an accusation that Rizal's mother, Teodora, tried to poison the wife of a cousin, but she said she was trying 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.
Upon reading the article, Rizal sent 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, Vida y Escritos del José Rizal.[note 9]
Return to Philippines (1892–96)
Exile in Dapitan
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.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 of Zamboanga.
In Dapitan, the Jesuits mounted a great effort to secure his return to the fold led by Fray Francisco de Paula 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 faith in 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.
He is known to making the resolution of bearing personal sacrifice instead of the incoming revolution, believing that a peaceful stand is the best way to avoid further suffering in the country and loss of Filipino lives. In Rizal's own words, "I consider myself happy for being able to suffer a little for a cause which I believe to be sacred [...]. I believe further that in any undertaking, the more one suffers for it, the surer its success. If this be fanaticism may God pardon me, but my poor judgment does not see it as such."
In Dapitan, Rizal wrote "Haec Est Sibylla Cumana", a parlor-game for his students, with questions and answers for which a wooden top was used. In 2004, Jean Paul Verstraeten traced this book and the wooden top, as well as Rizal's personal watch, spoon and salter.
Arrest and trial
By 1896, the rebellion fomented by the Katipunan, a militant secret society, had become a full-blown revolution, proving to be a nationwide uprising. Rizal had earlier volunteered his services as a doctor in Cuba and was given leave by Governor-General Ramón Blanco to serve in Cuba to minister to victims of yellow fever. Rizal and Josephine left Dapitan on August 1, 1896, with letter of recommendation from Blanco.
Rizal was arrested en route to Cuba via Spain and was imprisoned in Barcelona on October 6, 1896. He was sent back the same day to Manila to stand trial as 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.
Rizal was tried before a court-martial for rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy, was convicted on all three charges, and sentenced to death. Blanco, who was sympathetic to Rizal, had been forced out of office. 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 on December 30, 1896, 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.[note 10]
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 have been written a few days 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.:91 During their visit, 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. And now he is buried in Rizal Monument in Manila.
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." He gave his family instructions for his burial: "Bury me in the ground. Place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If later you wish to surround my grave with a fence, you can do it. No anniversaries."
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. Rizal is believed to be the first Filipino 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 primacy 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.
Works and writings
Rizal wrote mostly in Spanish, the lingua franca of the Spanish Philippines, though some of his letters (for example Sa Mga Kababaihang Taga Malolos) were written in Tagalog. His works have since been translated into a number of languages including Tagalog and English.
Novels and essays
- Noli Me Tángere, novel, 1887 (literally Latin for 'touch me not', from John 20:17)
- El Filibusterismo, (novel, 1891), sequel to Noli Me Tángere
- Alin Mang Lahi("Whate'er the Race"), a Kundiman attributed to Dr. José Rizal
- The Friars and the Filipinos (Unfinished)
- Toast to Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo (Speech, 1884), given at Restaurante Ingles, Madrid
- The Diaries of José Rizal
- Rizal's Letters is a compendium of Dr. Jose Rizal's letters to his family members, Blumentritt, Fr. Pablo Pastells and other reformers
- "Come se gobiernan las Filipinas" (Governing the Philippine islands)
- Filipinas dentro de cien añosessay, 1889–90 (The Philippines a Century Hence)
- La Indolencia de los Filipinos, essay, 1890 (The indolence of Filipinos)
- Makamisaunfinished novel
- Sa Mga Kababaihang Taga Malolos, essay, 1889, To the Young Women of Malolos
- Annotations to Antonio de Moragas, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (essay, 1889, Events in the Philippine Islands)
- A La Juventud Filipina (To The Philippine Youth)
- El Canto Del Viajero
- Briayle Crismarl
- Canto de María Clara
- Dalit sa Paggawa (Himno Al Trabajo)
- Kundiman (Tagalog)
- Me Piden Versos
- Mi primera inspiracion
- Mi Retiro
- Mi Ultimo Adiós
- Por La Educación (Recibe Lustre La Patria)
- Sa Sanggol na si Jesus
- To My Muse (A Mi Musa)
- Un Recuerdo A Mi Pueblo
- A Man in Dapitan
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.
Reactions after death
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."[note 11] However, there are doubts of its authenticity given that there is no certificate of Rizal's Catholic marriage to Josephine Bracken. Also there is an allegation that the retraction document was a forgery.
After analyzing six 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.
Those who affirm the authenticity of Rizal's retraction are prominent Philippine historians such as Nick Joaquin,[note 12]Nicolas Zafra of UPLeón María Guerrero III,[note 13]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.
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,"[note 14] 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 independence activists across the region and beyond was recited (in its Indonesian translation by Rosihan Anwar) by Indonesian soldiers of independence before going into battle.
Later life of Bracken
Josephine Bracken, 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 across enemy lines, and helped reloading spent cartridges at the arsenal in Imus under the revolutionary General Pantaleón García. Imus came under threat of recapture that the operation was moved, with Bracken, 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 tuberculosis 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.
Criticism and controversies
Attempts to debunk legends surrounding Rizal, and the tug of war between free thinker and Catholic, have kept his legacy controversial.
National hero status
The confusion over Rizal's real stance on the Philippine Revolution leads to the sometimes bitter question of his ranking as the nation's premier hero. But then again, according to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Section Chief Teodoro Atienza, and Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo, there is no Filipino historical figure, including Rizal, that was officially declared as national hero through law or executive order. Although, there were laws and proclamations honoring Filipino heroes.
Made national hero by colonial Americans
Some[who?] suggest that Jose Rizal was made a legislated national hero by the American forces occupying Philippines. In 1901, the American Governor General William Howard Taft suggested that the U.S. sponsored Philippine Commission name Rizal a national hero for Filipinos. Jose Rizal was an ideal candidate, favourable to the American occupiers since he was dead, and non-violent, a favourable quality which, if emulated by Filipinos, would not threaten the American rule or change the status quo of the occupiers of Philippine islands. Rizal did not advocate independence for Philippines either. Subsequently, the US-sponsored commission passed Act No. 346 which set the anniversary of Rizal’s death as a “day of observance.”
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 Andrés Bonifacio who was viewed "too radical" and Apolinario Mabini who was considered "unregenerate."
Made national hero by Emilio Aguinaldo
On the other hand, numerous sources