Today, the Philippines celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of its national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal—a patriot, polymath, and distinguished reform advocate during the Spanish Colonial Era in the country.
Born Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda to a wealthy family in Calamba, Laguna, he was the seventh of eleven children and manifested intelligence at a young age. Later on, after obtaining education from some of the most prestigious schools in Manila and Europe, Rizal inevitably earned his polymath status. He became an ophthalmologist, painter, educator, sculptor, playwright, poet, linguist, and novelist, among other things.
Rizal was one of the notable Ilustrados—the fortunate members of the Filipino middle class who had the chance to obtain education in Spanish, and thus had access to the ideals of Spanish liberalism and European nationalism. As a man whose eyes and mind were opened wide by his observations of life in and out of the Philippines, Rizal couldn’t just live a relatively comfortable life and do nothing for his suffering countrymen. While in Europe, he wrote two of his best known works, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which depicted the injustices inflicted on Filipinos during the Spanish Colonial Era. In 1892, Rizal returned to the Philippines and founded La Liga Filipina which sought social reforms through legal methods, but it was dissolved by the governor.
By this time, Rizal had already caught the attention of Spanish authorities and friars in the Philippines for his undaunted writings and advocacies. The authorities also suspected him of being connected with the budding rebellion and had him exiled in Dapitan in Zamboanga in 1892. When the rebellion started by the secret militant group Katipunan became a full-blown uprising in 1896, Rizal was implicated and arrested due to his association with some of the Katipunan’s members.
During his military trial, he was declared guilty of rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy and was sentenced to execution by firing squad. The photograph of Rizal’s execution on December 31, 1896 below became one of the earliest evidence of documentary photography in the Philippines.
Here are more interesting photographs of Rizal:
Sources and additional readings: