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PHILIPPINE INSTITUTIONS 100 – Ang Buhay at mga Akda ni Jose Rizal

Prof. Wilfreda P. Jorge-Legaspi

PI 100 X2-D
GINES, Kimberly A.
BS Chemical Engineering

JOSE RIZAL: The Makings of a National Hero

I have come to know about Jose Rizal since I was just a girl in primary school. Every
parent would have taught their child who the national hero was. As a student, I never had an
interest in Rizal other than another name to be memorized just in case his name happens to be an
answer in one of the examination questions. In High School, I got to know more about his life
and works, especially Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo since they were novels we studied
discussed in my third year. I became fond of these novels and found them very well written
actually. But then, my interest in them ended when I graduated high school.
Now that I’m taking a course about Rizal’s life and works, my interest in Rizal is once
again ignited. Just recently, all I cared about were facts—the dates, the names, the places, the
events—and not really on how they affected the life of Rizal. Having been given the opportunity
to be able to do my own research on him, with the goal of learning more about how he came to
be, I’m looking forward to discovering new things about our national hero.
The goal of this report is to give a summary of the influences that molded Jose Rizal into
becoming a person known around the world to be the Philippine’s National Hero. It would
include some (because given the time constraint, I would not be able to enumerate all) of the
most relevant persons, places, events and the like that helped Rizal form his beliefs, his
character, his legacy. There would be a total of four parts, the last of which would be Rizal’s
legacy resulting from the three main influences in his life: his family, his education and his
political views and involvement.
It is not a myth to say that the actions and thoughts of an individual is a result of the
totality of the influences in his lifetime, which is why it is important to talk about these places,
people and events in Rizal’s life. At the end of this report, one should be able to have a deeper
understanding as to why Rizal is Rizal, why he is regarded as the National Hero of the
The Makings of a National Hero GINES, 2014

Historical Background
Before delving into the life of Rizal, it is important that one sets the stage. Rizal was born
in the second half of the 19th century. During this period, the political stability of Spain is
withering. Since the reign of King Ferdinand VII, chaos was prominent in their government
resulting to “party strifes, revolutions and political upheavals” due to the tension between
despotism and liberalism in the country. This clearly affected the Philippines as a colony, having
over 50 governor-generals in a span of 62 years, therefore having constant changes in the ruling
scheme and a rise in the number of corrupt and incompetent officials appointed in the Philippine
government (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
In Rizal’s early years, the Philippines was still then under the rule of the Spaniards with
General Carlos Maria de la Torre as the most prominent governor-general (1869). Unlike the
other governor-generals who stepped foot on Philippine soil, de la Torre “showed his democratic
tendencies when he dismissed the palace halberdiers, lived simply within his means, walked in
the streets in mufti, and abolished flogging as a punishment” which the middle class took as a
chance to enter the political scene and showcase their potential (Agoncillo, 1990). Another
important event in this century would be the rise of the middle class, the mestizos who had the
means to acquire tertiary education and were given opportunities to travel and study abroad.
They played an important role in the reform movements in the late 19th century.
Reform movements were also taking place to recognize the Philippines as a province of
Spain and consequently become represented in the Spanish Cortés. With this, Filipinos would
become Spanish citizens and therefore free from the abuses and mistreats of the Spaniards, as
well as paying unreasonable taxes—the root of the dissatisfaction of most Filipinos (Agoncillo,
1990). Talks and plans about a revolution were also taking place especially after Rizal’s
deportation to Dapitan in 1896. Led by the Katipuneros, the Filipinos were now yearning for
complete freedom from the Spaniards, not a colony nor a province but a free country (Agoncillo,
Overseas, countries especially in Europe have become liberal and are open to new ideas
and reforms. This platform was where Rizal and other prominent historical figures such as Luna
were exposed to in the height of their youth.
This is the setting in which Rizal was born into and lived his relatively short yet profound
life. Now that the stage is set, the first step is to look into Rizal’s first relationships—his family.

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Rizal and His Family

The family, as most are aware, is one of the main sources of influence in a child’s
upbringing. More often than not, the child’s relationship with his family would be a reflection of
his future actions. In this segment, Rizal’s relationship with his family would be discussed as
well as the important influences each person has to Rizal in his life.
As a son. Rizal is the 7th out of the eleven children of Don Francisco Rizal Mercado and
Doña Teodora Realonda born on June 19, 1861. He is the youngest son of the family, given that
Don Francisco and Doña Teodora only had two sons. Jose had a simple and happy family life
despite being one of the well-known families in Calamba, Laguna (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
Rizal’s relationship with his parents can be described as loving and close-knit. Don
Francisco, to Rizal, is “a model of fathers” as stated in his early memoirs (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
Don Francisco himself comes from a line of hardworking and respectable people. He is an able
family man and loves his children dearly. In fact, it was said that he built Jose a little nipa
cottage to play in during the day (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). Being a graduate of Philosophy from the
College of San Jose in Manila, Don Francisco may have been one of the first people to enlighten
Rizal in Philosophy and the like. To Jose, he may have instilled values of hardwork, respect, and
confidence. Since Jose is a frail child at first glance, he was taught various sports by Don
Francisco to aid him in defending himself. Even if he was often bullied both in school and by his
neighbors and relatives, Jose would always defend himself successfully (Guerrero, 1974).
Indeed, Don Francisco was a model of fathers.
On the other hand, Jose’s relationship with his mother, Doña Teodora, is deemed tighter
and close than to his relationship with his father. In most of his journals and diaries, Rizal would
often write about how his mother would teach him mathematics, help him in his poems, in his
sculptures—in many things (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). It can be said that much of Jose’s interest and
fondness of the arts and literature is due to his mother’s constant guidance. His closeness to his
mother (and to his family as well) is exemplified in the fact that he immediately took medicine
after hearing of his mother’s eye problems.
Rizal’s parents were both loving and strict, and they never spoiled their children. They
would get a good spanking when they did wrong, even Jose. In this manner, it can be seen as to
why Rizal grew up to be a respectable and honourable man.

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As a sibling. Jose is as close to his siblings as he is to his parents. Growing up being

outnumbered by females in the household, Jose has deep respect for women. He would go as far
as to call them Señorita when his sisters are still single. This respect for women is seen even with
his lovers, for he never mistreated them and had always something good to say about them. Rizal
was so fond of his sisters that the death of his beloved younger sister, Concha, brought him grief
and despair. This tragedy was known to be Rizal’s first sorrow (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
Among his siblings, Jose would be closest to his older brother Paciano. With their ten-
year age gap, Paciano may be considered as Jose’s second father especially after their father
entrusted the lands and family to him. Paciano was one of the first people to share to Jose
thoughts of freedom and justice. Paciano is also one of the reasons why Rizal was able to go
abroad. He would fund not only his trips and schooling but also his publications (Zaide & Zaide,
1999). All in all, he was a very supportive brother to Jose. With this, one can conclude that
Paciano is an important factor in Rizal’s resulting legacy.
As a Rizal. Rizal was heavily influenced not only by his immediate family but also by his
other relatives. His three uncles from his mother’s side had significant roles in his own
development. His Tio Jose Alberto inspired him to develop his artistic ability with his stories of
his travels oversees. His Tio Manuel encouraged him to do more physical exercises to make up
for his frail body. This includes horse-back riding and wrestling. Finally, his Tio Gregorio, a
lover of books, intensified his love for literature (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
As a boy. Other than his family and relatives, other people gave significant contributions
to the development of Rizal’s character. An unnamed aya (hired maid) would often tell him
stories and have a stroll with him in the family compound (Guerrero, 1974). He was very fond of
his aya who cared for him at a very young age.
As a Christian. Rizal grew up being taught to pray and attend mass in Church on
Sundays. Father Leoncio Lopez, a parish priest in Calamba, fostered Rizal’s love for scholarship
and intellectual honesty. Even as a young boy, he was aware of the struggles and sufferings of
his Motherland. He often prayed and hoped to the Lord for the peace in the land. This would
explain Rizal’s fondness for parish priests especially that of the secular priests and Jesuits (Zaide
& Zaide, 1999). He himself was a religious man, who honoured the correct teachings that the
Bible holds—something he made very clear in Noli Me Tangere.

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As a lover and husband. Rizal was naturally charming and charismatic which is why
many women found themselves falling for him. His deep respect and courtesy for women made
him a caring lover and eventually, a husband. He was a loyal man, as exemplified in his
relationship with Leonor Rivera. He loved deeply and truly all his lovers.
Albeit his many lovers, Jose finally settled down with Josephine Bracken during his exile
in Dapitan. Evidently, he carried with him the way his father treated their family—he was caring
and loving to his wife. Regretfully, however, their son Francisco only lived for 3 hours due to
premature birth (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
From all these, it can be seen that Rizal never lost the values he learned as a child. In
spite of him being an icon in the Revolution and Reform Movement, he was still a man who
grew up in a very simple, contented and happy family. His love for his country started with his
love for his own family and love ones. They played an integral part in making Rizal the man
known as a hero.

Rizal and His Education

Apart from what he is taught at home, Rizal’s beliefs and character were further molded
by his education. Being the ever curious and bright child that he is, he was exemplary in his
classes and he always found something else to learn. His teachers also greatly influenced him,
both good and bad. Studying abroad also opened new doors for him and there he also realized a
lot of things.
Studying in Biñan. Even before having formal schooling, Rizal was already taught by his
mother, Doña Teodora. He learned the alphabet at the age of 3 and started writing poems a few
years after. Before he was sent to a private school, Rizal was home-schooled and had three
tutors: Maestro Celestino, Maestro Lucas Padua and Leon Monroy (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). He
was very fond of his first tutors and their teaching styles.
After the death of Monroy, Rizal was sent to Biñan to study. He was not very fond of his
schoolmaster, Justiniano Aquino Cruz, who knew what he was teaching but taught it with the use
of a stick. Rizal accounts for those times in which he himself received beatings even if he
manages to become the top student in his class. Although not a very good memory to be
reminded of, Rizal takes the opportunity in Noli Me Tangere to expose this way of teaching
(Guerrero, 1974). He believes that there are more productive and conducive ways of learning.

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In Biñan, Rizal also enhanced his painting skills with the help of the free lessons given to
him by Old Juancho, a painter who lived near the school he studies in. Eventually, he became
one of Juancho’s apprentices, along with Jose Guevarra (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). Here, it can be
seen that Rizal really has a talent for art. Even if he had studies in school to worry about, he
would still find the time to enhance his other skills. This shows how well-rounded he is even in
his early years.
Studying in Ateneo. On June 10, 1872, at the age of 11, Jose went to Manila with his
brother Paciano, just months after the execution of Gom-Bur-Za and the imprisonment of Doña
Teodora. Originally, he was to study in San Juan de Letran but his father changed his mind and
decided to make him study in Ateneo. Upon the intercession of Manuel Xerez Burgos, a nephew
of Father Burgos, Jose was accepted into Ateneo and adopted the surname “Rizal” (Zaide &
Zaide, 1999). The reason behind this is the fact that Paciano at that time was already involved in
many political movements gearing towards reformation. Most probably, Paciano encouraged
Jose to take the surname “Rizal” so as to keep him away from further harm especially since
Paciano was known to be one of Father Burgos’ best and most favourite students. Here, one sees
that Paciano does not only accompany his brother out of duty but also to ensure his safety and to
help him in learning more for maybe he sees that Jose has a lot of potential.
Another significant person in Rizal’s life would be a Jesuit professor named Fr. Francisco
de Paula Sanchez whom he described as a “model of uprightness, earnestness, and love for the
advancement of his pupils” (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). Other Jesuit priests such as Father Jacinto
and Father Jose Vilaclara have influenced him greatly and he would often exchange letters with
them during the time he was overseas.
Once again, Rizal was the underdog in Ateneo. Nevertheless, he excelled just months in
to the term. One characteristic of Rizal that was developed in his stay in Ateneo is his
determination and constant urge to be better in his studies. This is reflected not only in his grades
and scholastic achievements but in the way he fights for reformation in the Philippines. Rizal
was never fond of the “physical way” in dealing with things. That is, he is not fond of bloodshed,
fighting and disputes. He would rather settle the problem using peaceful ways such as conversing
and debates. These can be attributed to the fact that instead of literally fighting back against his
classmates and professors whom he disliked and vice versa, he chose to push himself further into
excelling in his own capabilities to show that he is not a person to be looked down upon.

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The Jesuit education also instilled in Rizal the concept of race consciousness. From his
stay in Ateneo, he saw the way indios are being deprived of a proper education such as being
taught Spanish. He was not only buried in his books but he was also aware of his social
environment since he too, was being ridiculed at some point. His sensitiveness and self-
assertiveness, two traits which he already learned of as a child were further ignited by the social
constructs he is now being exposed to (Guerrero 1974).
Studying in the University of Santo Tomas. Rizal, along with his father and brother,
wanted to take further studies after graduating in Ateneo. His mother, however, thought
otherwise. She feared of what may happen to Rizal after the execution of Gom-Bur-Za. Rizal
wondered whether his mother had foreshadowed what is to happen to him. Nevertheless, Rizal
still proceeded to enrol in the university and took up surveying. Later on, he took up medicine
(Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
Rizal was proclaimed the first indio to win first prize in a literary competition with
Spanish contestants. Even the Spanish judges could not deny the fact that his work surpassed all
the others. Here, Rizal clearly debunked the Spanish notion that indios are incapable of grasping
such kind of education and will never surpass the abilities of a Spaniard (Guerrero, 1974).
Indirectly, Rizal is already stirring up unwanted thoughts in the minds of the Spaniards. The
indios are finally learning and not long after, they would learn to fight back.
It was during his time in this university that he experienced his first encounter of Spanish
brutality. Although he was clearly a victim of abuse, his complaints did not bring him any justice
since he was an indio and he was accusing a Spanish civil guard (Guerrero, 1974). It may have
been during this experience that Rizal has realized the gravity of the situation in which his
Motherland is in. This event would definitely give him further drive to seek out reformations in
the Spanish rule in the Philippines.
Compared to his stay in Ateneo, Rizal was not as happy in Santo Tomas. His reasons
were that the Dominican professors were hostile towards him, the Filipinos were being
discriminated, and the teaching style is backward and obsolete. This situation was reflected in his
novel El Filibusterismo during the chapter involving the Physics class (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). It
can be said that Rizal was not just bitter because of his grades in this university but also because
the educational style was very much discriminating and unfair to the Filipinos, even those like
him who are obviously capable and bright. Here one can see that Rizal has developed his own

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views into how education should be done and racial discrimination is one of the main factors in
Studying abroad. Rizal’s decision to go to Spain was not just for further studies but also
to study the lifestyle and ways of people abroad. His secret mission was to “prepare himself for
the might task of liberating his oppressed people from Spanish tyranny”—a mission disclosed
only in letters to his family and from Paciano (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). With his decision, Rizal
has already committed himself in helping his Motherland. One can say that all his experiences
led to this decision and he his experience in Santo Tomas just furthered his drive to go to Spain.
Up until this moment, Rizal never had the clear intention of being involved in the politics
of the Philippines. But, as stated earlier, it can be said that all events led to his decision to help
his country. For one, I believe he is no longer able to stand the treatment of the Spaniards to his
fellow Filipinos and the deprivation of opportunities much like those given to him and yet not
fully used.

Rizal and Politics.

Noli Me Tangere. One of Rizal’s first major contributions in the reform propaganda was
his novel, Noli Me Tangere, published in Berlin in 1887. Latin for “Touch Me Not”, the novel is
based on the real situations and events happening in the Philippines. According to Rizal,
everything in the book really happened—the characters, the places, the events (Zaide & Zaide,
His novel gained praises as well as criticisms especially from his enemies. This was
probably the official revolt of Rizal against the Spaniards. From his close friend, Blumentritt, he
was told that his work has received praises from around the world and is a novel written “with
the blood of the heart” (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). Evidently, the Spaniards saw Rizal as their enemy
and a front liner in the revolt against their rule. The novel was deemed heretic and subversive. In
his first homecoming, he was already met with charges and accusations led by Governor General
Terrero to which he simply stated that he merely exposed the truth therefore the novel is not
subversive. Being the liberal-minded Governor General that he is, Terrero assigned Don Jose
Taviel de Andrade as Rizal’s bodyguard in which a friendship was formed (Zaide & Zaide,

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Prominent friars such as the Archbishop of Manila, Msgr. Pedro Payo, Father Rector
Gregorio Echevarria and Fr. Salvador Font all concluded that the novel was subversive against
both the Church and Spain. Most defenders of the novel also rose such as Marcelo del Pilar,
Graciano Lopez Jaena and Mariano Ponce. Even Father Sanchez supported Rizal’s novel. Rev.
Vicente Garcia debunks the arguments previously made by Father Rodriguez regarding the novel
(Zaide & Zaide, 1999). This proves that Rizal’s novel got the response it deserved: it exposed the
wrongdoings of the corrupt officials and friars and expressed the desire for change and reform.
The reactions and movement to accuse Rizal and imprison him seals the efficacy of his novel as
a tool for change.
During his second voyage abroad, Rizal’s comrade, Graciano Lopez Jaena was able to
establish La Solidaridad in 1889 in Barcelona. The main purpose of this newspaper was to
become an organ in the Propaganda Movement gearing towards political and social reforms,
basically (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). Rizal was an avid contributor in the newspaper, clearly stating
his stand in the Propaganda Movement (Guerrero, 1974).
In 1891, the sequel to Noli Me Tangere was published in Ghent entitled El
Filibusterismo. The second novel lean towards a political stand compared to the first novel
which was a romantic novel of sorts. Even so, both novels describe the situation in the
Philippines (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). This change in the mood of the novel can be attributed to the
fact that Noli was written during Rizal’s first trip abroad still harbouring much of his romantic
feelings toward Leonor Rivera. While his intentions of exposing the truth regarding the Spanish
rule in the Philippines, he manages to include wit, humor and lightness to the novel since during
that time he still hasn’t faced as much problems as he did during the writing of El Fili. After he
came back the first time, he was immediately faced with crimes and charges, his family was
exiled from Calamba, his mother was imprisoned once again and more. One can say that
compared to the environment and setting he had when he was writing Noli, the drive to write El
Fili was driven more by the injustice and the desire for reforms in the country. That is why El
Fili is considered to be a “work of the head” and a “book of the thought” compared to Noli
which is a “work of the heart” and a “book of feeling”.
Another significant contribution of Rizal to the Propaganda Movement was his
establishment of La Liga Filipina, a civic league of Filipinos in 1892 (Guerrero, 1974). From the
constitution drafted by Rizal for Liga, it has become clear that he is not for the revolution for he

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simply sees that the Filipinos are not yet ready to stand on its own. He stated that the members
are to study all areas concerning reform and changes in the management of the Philippines by the
Spanish government. He was aiming for a long term change that would slowly guide the
Filipinos into learning how to handle their own affairs.
Not long after, Rizal was sentenced to exile in Dapitan, Cebu. During his exile, Rizal did
not cease to help his fellow Filipinos. He was spearheaded community projects and created a
water system in Dapitan. He was constantly sought for advice for the apparently ongoing
revolution against the Spaniards led by the Katipuneros. He was a farmer, an engineer, a doctor,
a teacher, a husband in his days of exile (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). This attitude of Rizal shows that
he is always able to find a way to be productive and helpful to those around him.
In Rizal’s final voyage abroad, he was informed of the impending revolution against the
Spaniards. Rizal was not too happy about the decision for he was not for the revolution from the
start. He believes that it will only cause more problems for both parties and would push back
reforms even further.
After his trip to Barcelona, Rizal was arrested and came back to the Philippines on
October 6, 1896. In a span of three months, he was persecuted and sentenced to death on
December 30, 1896 (Zaide & Zaide, 1999).
Until his death, Rizal fought for the change he desired for his fellow Filipinos. With his
final strength he brought forth the hope for freedom from the oppression of the Spaniards. It is
just regretful that he may have contributed a lot more to the Propaganda Movement and that
history may have taken a different path if he had not been killed. Nevertheless, his life proved to
be very significant and offered more than just novels and poems that rival the greatest.

The Aftermath of His Death

To his enemies, Rizal’s death was a mark of Spanish triumph against the Filipinos. To
them, the leader was dead and gone. The aftermath of Rizal’s death brought on 2 things: first, a
newfound nationalism from his martyrdom and second, a blind triumph for the enemies. But, the
death of Rizal was still a grave loss for the patriots. First of all, his death was almost too sudden
that the reformists almost instantly vanished and the revolutionists rose. The purpose of the Liga
was wiped away since the desire for vengeance and bloodshed was too much.

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Looking at it in today’s time, I believe Rizal left quite a legacy for us. He left us novels
that, although outdated, the situations still remain and are still happening. His work ethic and
discipline is what one should strive for. Rizal will always be a source of hope and admiration for
Filipinos. His legacy was his whole life. One can truly learn a lot even in just one segment of his
From the different parts discussed in this report, it can be seen how important the
development of the person is as he grows and ages. The people, places and events would always
affect what happens in the future. As they say, the future is the result of the decisions made in the
past. Maybe Rizal was really destined for greatness. Then again, maybe his parents’ choices
made him great. Maybe Paciano made him half the greatness he is. Maybe he made himself
One important realization I’ve gotten from this report is that heroes are not simply made
or born. Heroes are carefully molded. Heroes can become the villains with a single choice. I
believe Jose Rizal was molded into a hero. Even if he isn’t the National Hero in any sense, he
would remain one.

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Agoncillo, T. A., (1990). History of the Filipino People, 8th Edition. Garotech Publishing:
Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City.
Guerrero, L. Ma., (1974). The First Filipino: A Biography of Jose Rizal. National Historical
Commission, Manila.
Zaide, G. F. & Zaide, S. M. (1999). Jose Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer,
Scientist, and National Hero. All-Nations Publishing Co., Inc.: Cubao, Quezon City.

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