The national hero of the Philippines, José Rizal, mainly devoted his short life to the liberation of his native country from the Spanish colonization. In addition he was one of the most famous poets of the Philippines – still today his numerous poems and his two novels belong to the standard literature of all Philippinian schools.
José Prostasio Mercado was born on June 19, 1861 in Kalamba on the island of Luzon. He was the seventh child among the eleven children of a prosperous sugar cane farmer. Too, his family tried to oppose against the omnipotence of the Spanish monacistic orders of the Franciscans, Augustines, and Dominicans. One of is elder brothers, Brüder, Paciano Mercado, had been kept under surveillance since he was suspected to work for the aim to replace the Spanish priests by native ones. When José started his studies in the old and famous Ateneo Municipal at Manila his family advised him to change his family name and to use the name Rizal since he should try to avoid that the priests of the school might ought to bring him into connection with his brother Paciano. Later José enrolled at the Santo Tomás university of the Dominicans at Manila and there he studied Literature, the Fine Arts, and Medicine. In all disciplines he achieved excellent results.
In 1882 Rizal traveled to Europe and visited besides of Spain England, Italy, Poland (at that time Russian Poland), Austria, and Germany. So he studied besides of Berlin also in the well-known university of Heidelberg oculist. In Spain he already become soon the speaker of the Filipinos who were residing in Spain and he pleaded for circumcision of the omnipotence of the clerical orders in the state, for the representation of Filipino deputies in the Spanish parlament, the Cortes, and for the admission of equal rights between Spaniards and Filipinos in the Spanish constitution.
Rizal published two novels and one of them is the novel that got in Tagalog, the language of the Filipinos of central Luzon, the title “Noli me Tangere” (1887) that had been translated into a lot of foreign languages meanwhile. Rizal wrote both novels during his stay in Europe. – You find a German translation of the books on this website!
In 1892 Rizal returned to the Philippines and there he founded the „Liga Filipina“, a group of enlightened Filipinois who tried to improve the human rights of their fellow countrymen. They just accepted peaceful means to reform the country and to grant more rights to the population in all aspects. The consequence was that the Spaniards arrested Rizal and they deported him to the southern island of Mindanao that is far away from the capital. Since he was not allowed to occupy himself with any politics he mainly spent the time by scientific researches of the local fauna and flora and he discovered and named numerous insects and plants that had been unknown to scientists before.
Very soon after his ban another liberation group had formed under Bonifacio and Aguinaldo. It was the militant resistance movement that called himself “Katipunan” and it violently fought against the Spanish suppression in order to free the country from its occupation. This organization declared the absent Rizal to its “President in Honor” since it wanted to get the sympathizers among the Filipino population who knew his books and that had been secretly published by circumventing the Spanish censorship.
In 1896 Rizal was allowed to enlist as a physician in an army of volunteers for the Spanish colony of Cuba where another revolution had started that was supported by the Americans. He already had embarked the ship when he was arrested again and immediately brought into the prison of the Fort Santiago at Manila. In a lawsuit that caused a sensation not only among the Filipinos he was condemned to death because of treason und instigation of a rebellion. Still in the prison he wrote his most famous poem “Mi Ultimo Adios” (My last Farewell) the night before he was shot at the city wall on the Bagumbayan on December 30, 1996.
José Rizal was a talented poet, artist, biologist, and physician and besides he also was a faithful patriot of his native country, the Philippines. Too, he had proven that the Filipinos had been equal to the Spaniards in their intellectual abilities. Although he firmly believed during all his lifetime – till he was shot – that any reforms only can succeed by peaceful means he became the most famous martyr of the resistance movement of the “Katipunan” in their fight for the Philippinian independence.