jose-rizalJune 19, 2011 is Fathers day in many countries in the world. Also in the Philippines. But the Filipinos also remember the 150th birthday of one of their greatest hero’s: Jose Rizal.

JOSE RIZAL, the national hero of the Philippines and pride of the Malayan race, was born on June 19, 1861, in the town of Calamba, Laguna as the son of Francisco Mercado y Alejandro and Teodora Realonda y Quintos, so the name on his birth certificate was “Jose Protacio Mercado y Realonda” and that was the name he used until he enrolled at the Ateneo de Manila in 1872. He was the seventh child in a family of 11 children (2 boys and 9 girls). Both his parents were educated and belonged to distinguished families.

Rizal’s older brother, Paciano Mercado, was wanted by the Spanish authorities for being an associate of Fr. Jose Burgos, a leader of the clergy Filipinization movement who had been executed. Paciano feared that Rizal’s association with him, by their common surname, would have prevented Rizal from being accepted at the Ateneo. So, with Paciano’s assistance in obtaining a false birth certificate, Jose Mercado became “Jose Protacio Rizal”.

“Rizal” was picked because it was the name (originally “Ricial” for “greenfields”), which his father adopted at one point until confusion in business transactions compelled him to return back to “Mercado” (Spanish for “market”), the surname his great grandfather, Domingo Lam Co, used after immigrating to the Philippines from Jinjiang, Quanzhou in the mid-17th century.
In one letter to a friend, Rizal complained that the use of this assumed name was “giving me the appearance of an illegitimate child!” Ironically, after Rizal acquired notoriety as the author of Noli Mi Tangere (Touch Me Not) and El Filibusterismo (The Subversive), the entire Mercado family defiantly changed their surname to Rizal in 1891 in solidarity with him.

Rizal may have had a premonition of this future because two years after his U.S, visit, Rizal wrote “The Philippines: A Century Hence” where he explained why none of the European powers as well as a China and Japan would be interested in colonizing the Philippines once Filipinos declared their independence. “Perhaps the great American Republic, whose interests lie in the Pacific,… may some day dream of foreign possession.”

Just a few years later the USA took over the Philippines from the Spanish.

Jose Rizal was a very intelligent man:

  • At the age of 3, he learned the alphabet from his mother; at 5, while learning to read and write, he already showed inclinations to be an artist. He astounded his family and relatives by his pencil drawings and sketches and by his moldings of clay. At the age 8, he wrote a Tagalog poem, “Sa Aking Mga Kabata,” the theme of which revolves on the love of one’s language. In 1877, at the age of 16, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree with an average of “excellent” from the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. In the same year, he enrolled in Philosophy and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas, while at the same time took courses leading to the degree of surveyor and expert assessor at the Ateneo. He finished the latter course on March 21, 1877 and passed the Surveyor’s examination on May 21, 1878; but because of his age, 17, he was not granted license to practice the profession until December 30, 1881. In 1878, he enrolled in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas but had to stop in his studies when he felt that the Filipino students were being discriminated upon by their Dominican tutors. On May 3, 1882, he sailed for Spain where he continued his studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid. On June 21, 1884, at the age of 23, he was conferred the degree of Licentiate in Medicine and on June 19,1885, at the age of 24, he finished his course in Philosophy and Letters with a grade of “excellent.”
  • Rizal spoke and wrote in 20 languages. He was a great artist and a man of many sciences: he painted, made sculptures, wrote poems, wrote novels, was an agriculturist, he was a musician and composer, he was a physician, a scientist in many ways and he travelled around the world three times.

Filipinos and foreigners alike have paid tribute to Jose Rizal claiming that his place of honor in history is secure. It was his Austrian bosom friend, Professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, rector of the Imperial Atheneum of Leitmeritz, who said “Rizal was the greatest product of the Philippines and his coming to the world was like the appearance of a rare comet, whose rare brilliance appears only every other century.” Another German friend, Dr. Adolf B. Meyer, director of the Dresden Museum who admired his all around knowledge and ability, remarked “Rizal’s many-sidedness was stupendous.”

December 30, 1898 at 7 AM Jose Rizal was executed by the Spanish at Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park, Manila)

The Last Poem of Rizal
His friend Mariano Ponce gave it the title of MI ULTIMO ADIOS, as it originally had none (this is the English translation of it)

Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.

On the fields of battle, in the fury of fight,
Others give you their lives without pain or hesitancy,
The place does not matter: cypress laurel, lily white,
Scaffold, open field, conflict or martyrdom’s site,
It is the same if asked by home and Country.

I die as I see tints on the sky b’gin to show
And at last announce the day, after a gloomy night;
If you need a hue to dye your matutinal glow,
Pour my blood and at the right moment spread it so,
And gild it with a reflection of your nascent light!

My dreams, when scarcely a lad adolescent,
My dreams when already a youth, full of vigor to attain,
Were to see you, gem of the sea of the Orient,
Your dark eyes dry, smooth brow held to a high plane
Without frown, without wrinkles and of shame without stain.

My life’s fancy, my ardent, passionate desire,
Hail! Cries out the soul to you, that will soon part from thee;
Hail! How sweet ’tis to fall that fullness you may acquire;
To die to give you life, ‘neath your skies to expire,
And in your mystic land to sleep through eternity!

If over my tomb some day, you would see blow,
A simple humble flow’r amidst thick grasses,
Bring it up to your lips and kiss my soul so,
And under the cold tomb, I may feel on my brow,
Warmth of your breath, a whiff of your tenderness.

Let the moon with soft, gentle light me descry,
Let the dawn send forth its fleeting, brilliant light,
In murmurs grave allow the wind to sigh,
And should a bird descend on my cross and alight,
Let the bird intone a song of peace o’er my site.

Let the burning sun the raindrops vaporize
And with my clamor behind return pure to the sky;
Let a friend shed tears over my early demise;
And on quiet afternoons when one prays for me on high,
Pray too, oh, my Motherland, that in God may rest I.

Pray thee for all the hapless who have died,
For all those who unequalled torments have undergone;
For our poor mothers who in bitterness have cried;
For orphans, widows and captives to tortures were shied,
And pray too that you may see your own redemption.

And when the dark night wraps the cemet’ry
And only the dead to vigil there are left alone,
Don’t disturb their repose, don’t disturb the mystery:
If you hear the sounds of cittern or psaltery,
It is I, dear Country, who, a song t’you intone.

And when my grave by all is no more remembered,
With neither cross nor stone to mark its place,
Let it be plowed by man, with spade let it be scattered
And my ashes ere to nothingness are restored,
Let them turn to dust to cover your earthly space.

Then it doesn’t matter that you should forget me:
Your atmosphere, your skies, your vales I’ll sweep;
Vibrant and clear note to your ears I shall be:
Aroma, light, hues, murmur, song, moanings deep,
Constantly repeating the essence of the faith I keep.

My idolized Country, for whom I most gravely pine,
Dear Philippines, to my last goodbye, oh, harken
There I leave all: my parents, loves of mine,
I’ll go where there are no slaves, tyrants or hangmen
Where faith does not kill and where God alone does reign.

Farewell, parents, brothers, beloved by me,
Friends of my childhood, in the home distressed;
Give thanks that now I rest from the wearisome day;
Farewell, sweet stranger, my friend, who brightened my way;
Farewell, to all I love. To die is to rest.

Happy 150th birthday, Dr. Jose Rizal, born Jose Protacio Mercado y Realonda.