A noted Filipino nationalist, José Protasio Rizal Mercado Alonso Realonda (A.K.A. Jose Rizal) played a prominent role in advocating reforms in the Philippines, which was then under the Spanish rule.
He founded the civic organization La Liga Filipina, a precursor to the Katipunan (a notorious revolutionary organization founded in 1892, to bring together the rebel forces against Spanish colonialism). He was one of those who always favored institutional reforms over violent revolution.
Biography of Jose Rizal
José Rizal was born to Francisco Engracio Rizal Mercado Alejandra II and Teodora Morales Alonso Realonda Quintos. He hailed from a family of prosperous farmers. He was the seventh of eleven children. José's father adopted the family name 'Rizal' from 'Ricial', which meant 'green fields'.
Even as a child, José advocated political ideas ahead of the time. He passionately spoke of freedom and citizen rights, issues that brought on the ire of the authorities. He actively participated in poetry and essay writing and even made notable contributions to the Philippine literature. He openly criticized Spanish colonization of the Philippines.
Rizal graduated from Ateneo Municipal de Manila. He obtained a Land Surveyor and Assessor Degree. He also studied Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters.
He registered for the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery course in ophthalmology, but did not complete the course on account of indiscriminate behavior against Filipino students. Instead, he opted for Licentiate in Medicine from the Universidad Central de Madrid.
Rizal also attended the University of Paris and Heidelberg for a second doctorate. His induction as a member of Berlin's Ethnological and Anthropological Society is immortalized in his poem, A las flores del Heidelberg. He strongly advocated the unification of Oriental and Occidental values.
He is fondly remembered as a multi-faceted scholar. He displayed facets of his persona as a polymath, ophthalmologist, educator, and historian, alongside artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpting, and creative writing. He is remembered for authoring two popular novels: Noli me Tangere and El filibusterismo.
He advocated a political system that presented scope for Philippine's participation in the Cortes, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and equal rights for all citizens. In 1892, he legalized these social reforms at the expense of being disbanded.
He was openly declared the 'enemy of the state' by the Spanish due to his rebellious nature and ideologies promoted in his novels. He was imprisoned in 1896, while his brother, Paciano, was tortured by the Spanish.
Due to his participation in the nascent rebellion in 1892, he was deported to Zamboanga. There, he not only helped the locals to build a school and hospital, but also led the effort towards incorporating a better water supply system.
He was supportive of self sufficiency of the youth and resourcefulness of farmers. The four years of exile were also ones that witnessed the development of the revolution back home.
In spite of being elected the Honorary President of the Katipunan, he condemned the revolution. He courted Josephine Bracken, an Irish woman, but didn't marry her since marriage would require him to embrace Catholicism, which was against the revolution.
In 1896, there was a nationwide uprising in the Philippines, which eventually resulted in the proclamation of a democratic republic. While on his way to Cuba to help the victims of yellow fever, Rizal was arrested in Barcelona and sent back to Manila, where he was put to trial.
He was charged and convicted for rebellion and conspiracy, and sentenced to death. On December 30, 1896, he was executed by a firing squad. His death anniversary is observed as Rizal Day.