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Early Education in Calamba and Biñan

Rizal had his early education in Calamba and Biñan. It was a typical schooling
that a son of an ilustrado family received during his time, characterized by the four R’s-
reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion. Instruction was rigid and strict. Knowledge was
forced into the minds of the pupils by means of the tedious memory method aided by
the teacher’s whip. Despite the defects of the Spanish system of elementary education,
Rizal was able to acquire the necessary instruction preparatory for college work in
Manila. It may be said that Rizal, who was born a physical weakling, rose to become an
intellectual giant not because of, but rather in spite of, the outmoded and backward
system of instruction obtaining in the Philippines during the last decades of Spanish

The Hero’s First Teacher

The first teacher of Rizal was his mother, who was a remarkable woman of good
character and fine culture. On her lap, he learned at the age of three the alphabet and
the prayers. "My mother," wrote Rizal in his student memoirs, "taught me how to read
and to say haltingly the humble prayers which I raised fervently to God."

As tutor, Doña Teodora was patient, conscientious, and understanding. It was
she who first discovered that her son had a talent for poetry. Accordingly, she
encouraged him to write poems. To lighten the monotony of memorizing the ABC’s and
to stimulate her son’s imagination, she related many stories.

As Jose grew older, his parents employed private tutors to give him lessons at
home. The first was Maestro Celestino and the second, Maestro Lucas Padua. Later, an
old man named Leon Monroy, a former classmate of Rizal’s father, became the boy’s
tutor. This old teacher lived at the Rizal home and instructed Jose in Spanish and Latin.
Unfortunately, he did not lived long. He died five months later.

After a Monroy’s death, the hero’s parents decided to send their gifted son to a
private school in Biñan.

Jose Goes to Biñan

One Sunday afternoon in June , 1869, Jose, after kissing the hands of his
parents and a tearful parting from his sister, left Calamba for Biñan. He was
accompanied by Paciano , who acted as his second father. The two brothers rode in a
carromata, reaching their destination after one and one-half hours’ drive. They
proceeded to their aunt’s house, where Jose was to lodge. It was almost night when
they arrived, and the moon was about to rise.

That same night, Jose, with his cousin named Leandro, went sightseeing in the
town. Instead of enjoying the sights, Jose became depressed because of
homesickness. "In the moonlight," he recounted, "I remembered my home town, my

The latter readily accepted. perhaps vague. he became popular among his classmates. much to the glee of their classmates. Immediately. a classmate named Andres Salandanan challenged him to an arm-wrestling match. Paciano knew the teacher quite well because he had been a pupil under him before. The teacher sharply stopped all noises and begun the lessons of the day. defeated the bigger boy. in spite of the fact that was not as wealthy as Biñan. especially Pedro. He introduced Jose to the teacher. thin. He knew by the heart the grammars by Nebrija and Gainza. which was a small nipa hut about 30 meters from the home of Jose’s aunt. but I remember only this." The boys in the class. Jose met the bully. Jose challenged Pedro to a fight. and he used to wear a sinamay shirt. when the teacher was having his siesta. The school was in the house of the teacher. They went to a sidewalk of a house and . thinking that he could easily beat the Calamba boy who was smaller and younger. The teacher asked him: "Do you know Spanish?" "A little. Jose. woven by the skilled hands of the women of Batangas. having learned the art of wrestling from his athletic Tio Manuel. The two boys wrestled furiously in the classroom. my own town. after which he departed to return to Calamba. the teacher’s son laughed at Jose’s answers. sir. Jose described his teacher in Biñan as follows: "He was tall. with sharp nose and a body slightly bent forward. long-necked." First School BrawlIn the afternoon of his first day in school. After the class in the afternoon. Add to this severity that in my judgement was exaggerated and you have a picture. He was angry at this bully for making fun of him during his conversation with the teacher in the morning. sir. and my solicitous sisters. Ah. Pedro. "Do you know Latin?" "A little. that I have made of him.idolized mother." First Day in Biñan School The next morning (Monday) Paciano brought his younger brother to the school of Maestro Justiniano Aquino Cruz." replied the Calamba lad. For this feat. Jose was assigned his seat in the class. how sweet to me was Calamba.

who was a boarding student in the Concordia College. Then he saw Manila. As darkness fell he spent the hours by the katig. Best Student in School In academic studies. Latin. and other subjects. Consequently the teacher had to punish Jose. of whom he would later sing in elegant verses. In succeeding days he had other fights with the boys of Biñan. He surpassed them all in Spanish. with its Chinese sores and European bazaars. Some of his older classmates were jealous of his intellectual superiority. At the age of seven he traveled with his father for the first time to Manila and thence to Antipolo to fulfill the promise of a pilgrimage made by his mother at the time of his birth. With what joy did he see the sun at the daybreak as its luminous rays shone upon the glistening surface of the wide lake. They wickedly squealed to the teacher whenever Jose had a fight outside the school. His brother Paciano took him to Biñan one Sunday. for he had not uttered a word during the night! When they proceeded to Antipolo. he experienced the sweetest emotions upon seeing the gay banks of the Pasig and the towns of Cainta and Taytay. Jose. producing a brilliant effect! With what joy did he talk to his father. When he was nine years old. the great metropolis . kneeling before the image of the Virgin of Peace and Good Voyage. having the weaker arm. Saturnina. They embarked in a casco. admiring the grandeur of the water and the stillness of the night. In Antipolo he prayed. lost and nearly cracked his head on the sidewalk. although he was seized with a superstitious fear when he saw a water snake entwine itself around the bamboo beams of the katig. Oh." he explained. because his first teacher had died. how it saddened him to leave for the first time and live far from his home and his family! But he felt ashamed to cry and had to conceal his tears and sentiments. "O Shame. his father sent him to Biñan to continue studying Latin. And visited his elder sister. and even told lies to discredit him before the teacher’s eyes. Early Schooling in Biñan Jose had a very vivid imagination and a very keen sense of observation. He was not quarrelsome by nature. in Santa Ana. Jose beat all Biñan boys. "how many beautiful and pathetic scenes the world would witness without thee!" . and Jose bade his parents and sisters good-bye with tears in his eyes.wrestled with their arms. It was the first trip on the lake that Jose could recollect. but he never ran away from a fight. a very ponderous vessel commonly used in the Philippines.

then he took his breakfast. How long the road seemed to him in going and how short in coming! When from afar he descried the roof of his house. for which. he might look in the orchard for a mambolo fruit to eat. he returned to his hometown now and then. To him the town looked extensive and rich but sad and ugly. from which he was dismissed at ten. a flower that he touched. "He was a tall man. and how he wept. a stone that attracted his attention he gathered. He might play for a short time with some cousins before returning home. His teacher in Biñan was a severe disciplinarian. His brother took him to the house of his aunt where he was to stay. his friends would invite him to play in the street in company with other boys. then home again. his idolized mother. a master painter. or studied his lesson at that hour and went to mass afterwards. when he saw the calesa that was flower that him Biñan! Then everything looked sad. At night. Ah. in my judgement I have made of him. two nephews. After that he would go to class. fearful that he might not see it again upon his return. how sweet was his town even though not so opulent as Biñan! He grew sad and thoughtful. His way life was methodical and well regulated. secret joy filled his breast. . Rare was the day when he was not stretched on the bench for a whipping or punished with five or six blows on the open palm. Jose’s reaction to all these punishments was one of intense resentment in order to learn and thus carry out his father’s will. then home again. they accused him before the teacher. and a grandson. and left him after introducing him to the teacher. At half past two he returned to class and left at five. even without reason. He used to wear a sinamay shirt woven by the deft hands of Batangas women. His name was Justiniano Aquino Cruz. He ate with his aunt and then began to study. and his solicitous sisters. To this add a severity which. He studied his lessons. How he looked for pretexts to remain longer at home! A day more seemed to him a day spent in heaven. drew for a while. He ate with his aunt and then began at ten. It was a sad but delicate and quite pain that possessed him." The boy Jose distinguished himself in class. in company with his aunt’s grandson named Leandro. and then prayed and if there was a moon. Jose took a walk around the town in the light of the moon. He knew by memory the grammars of Nebrija and Gainza. though silently and secretly. Jose spent his leisure hours with Justiniano’s father-in-law. lean and long-necked. Returning home. he received many whippings and strokes from the ferule. with a sharp nose and a body slightly bent forward. he thought with tears in his eyes of his beloved father. He heard mass at four if there was one that early. Some of these were so wicked that. in spite of his progress. While he was studying in Biñan. consisting generally of a plate of rice and two dried sardines. and succeeded in surpassing many of his older classmates. which is all I remember. From him he took his first two sons. They arrived at Biñan in the evening. Whenever he remembered his town.

Paciano who accompanied Jose. and painting. had come under suspicion of the authorities because it was the name used by Paciano when he was studying and working with Father Burgos. Jose did not take his entrance examinations Jose did not remain in Manila but returned first to his town to celebrate the fiesta of its patron saint. Tribune. the Carthaginian Empire. found him a house in Walled City. In each empire there were five dignitaries: Emperor. Jose adopted the second surname. . At the end of each week or two. its principal purpose was to mold the character and the will of the boys to comply more easily with the percepts of the Church. it was then that his father changed his mind and decided to send him to the Ateneo instead. Since Mercado. and when an individual of one empire was caught in error by one belonging to the enemy empire. such as music. the points in favor of each were added and the empire. they had to apply to the City of Manila for subsidies. he became acquainted in that house with various mestizos. was called the Ateneo Municipal. but Intramuros looked gloomy to Jose. Its discipline was rigid and its methods less mechanical. The empires considered themselves in perpetual warfare. To enter the Ateneo a candidate was subjected to an entrance examination on Christian doctrine. and Standard-Bearer. when they were permitted to return to the Philippines. writing. and he later found lodging outside. Decurion. In the first two terms the classes were divided into groups of interns and externs: the first constituted the Roman Empire and the second. although their power to administer parishes was restricted except in the remote regions of Mindanao. The Jesuitical system of instruction was considered more advanced than that of other colleges in that epoch. It also establishes vocational courses in agriculture. a point was counted in favor of the latter. and mechanics as a religious institute. in whose house he lived. the first surname of the family. That is why the college which began to function in the year 1865. As if chance would furnish him data for his future campaigns. which was opened and closed with prayers. These dignities were won by means of individual competitions in which it was necessary to catch one’s adversary in error three times. Centurion. in the house of a spinster situated on Calle Carballo. commerce. Life and Studies at Ateneo The Jesuits were considered the best educators of Spain. reading. district of Santa Cruz. was declared winner. grammar. drawing. begotten by friars. It introduced physical culture as part of its program as well as the cultivation of the arts. the privilege of founding colleges. which obtained more point. Rizal. and perhaps of Europe. and elementary arithmetic. and so. The students heard mass before the beginning of the class.

He must have uttered this exclamation on learning from his mother that they had played her a mean trick. to which only those who distinguished themselves in the class for their piety and diligence could belong. With all these inducements it was only natural that should be a spirit of emulation. The sufferings of the . This was three months before her release. He had reason to feel proud of his advancement. Francisco G. Oliva. There was a fraternity of Mary and Saint Louis Gonzaga. Jose had the same professor as in the previous year. Thus he disciplined his will and subjected it to the commands of his reason. he again visited his mother in jail alone. thin lips forming an arch with its sides directed toward the chin. she pleaded guilty. The first professor Jose had was Fr. and upon returning to his town. At the end of the term he obtained marks of excellent in all the subjects and in the examinations. who occupied the throne of Emperor." He was somewhat of a lunatic and of an uneven humor. he ran alone to see his mother in the prison and tell her the happy news. 6 Calle Magallanes. As a newcomer. instead of releasing her. Among Jose’s classmates were Peninsulares and sons of Peninsulares. Jose Bech. a striving to surpass ones colleagues found in the Ateneo. The rejoicing that her release produced in his spirit had much influence on the result of his studies in the third year. small. severe and inspired. The judge. whom he describes as a man of high stature. Jose was at first put at the tail of the class. This fraternity met on Sundays and after mass held public programs in which poems were recited or debates were held. sometimes he was hard and little tolerant and at other times he was gay and playful as a child. for he began to win prizes in the quarterly examinations. sunken eyes. told her that if she confessed her culpability he would release her at once. and one of those he enjoyed most was Dumas’ (father) The Count of Monte Cristo. quick gait. About that time he devoted himself to reading novels. bent forward. Joaquin Garrido. but the case had no remedy because it was already on appeal. convicted her. but instead of lodging outside the City. who was a blind partisan of the friars having been a domestic of theirs. With the desire to see her children again. and Gonzalo Marzano. lean body. very talented but not very studious. and so when he went home on vacation that year. In a few months the judge asked her forgiveness for what he had done because according to him his conscience hurt him. At the end of the term he obtained a medal. From the first days Jose learned to systematize his work. he resided at No. sharp Grecian nose. The second year. but he was soon promoted and kept on being promoted so that at the end of one month he had attained to the rank of Emperor. ascetic physiognomy. endowed with a poor memory but with much talent and industry. but the judge. he fixed a program of what he had to do in the twenty-four hours of the day and did not in the least deviate from it.

who was a great friend of his father. and his studied mathematics. which made him cry. The family. Francisco Sanchez as professor. and natural history. and a dialogue. rhetoric. Jose. for at the end of the year he-obtained five medals. and from that time on he did not cease to cultivate it. inquiring into the wherefores of things. Fr. he surprised his family with his skill in handling the sword when he gave an exhibition bout with the best swordsman of the town. just and serve. Jose describes him as a model of rectitude. Afterward Father Lopez came to know from the Jesuits themselves that Jose was a pupil who excelled in poetry. In the fifth years Jose had other professors: Frs. for which his mother reprehended him. That gesture of Father Lopez’ won him Jose’s esteem and they became good friends again. who saw in Jose great aptitude for study. However. which pleased him immensely because with them I could repay my father somewhat for his sacrifices. and love for the student.hero of the twelve years. Jose was considered small of stature and he tried to correct this defect by applying himself regularly to gymnastics in the college. In the fourth year of his course he had Fr. He studied philosophy. Leoncio Lopez. One day Jose’s mother showed Father Lopez a poem of his young friend and that the latter must have copied it from a book. . drawing back the veil that divine drama of nature was enacted. such as fencing. who heard this. and. also liked Jose as a little friend. After his baccalaureate. He also asked his father to buy him a copy of The Universal History by Cesar Cantanu. a solicitude. natural history seemed to him somewhat uninteresting although he much liked the shells and sometimes imagined seeing a goddess in each shell he was on the shelf. interested him as much as poetry. But in his rest hours he continued cultivating the Muses under the direction of his old professor. physics. In the corner of the dormitory facing the sea and the pier Jose passed his two years of internship. which was enacted at the end of the course. alluding to the collegians’ farewell. chemistry. He was cultured but at the same time timid and tender. which was only slightly corrected by his professor. parish priest of the town. and according to himself he profited much from its perusal. lending each other the books they had. His aptitude for poetry revealed itself early. He also engaged in other physical exercises. An incident which demonstrates Jose’s independence of character took place at this time. Jose had then written a short story (leyenda). and he must have progressed much. answered the priest violently. Father Sanchez. physics. Vilaclara and Mineves. and Greek. decided to place him as intern or boarding student in the college the following year. made a trip to Manila expressly to apologize to Jose. in spite of his age. but his devotion to poetry was such that his professor in philosophy advised him once to leave it. philosophy.

who felt proud in the last years of his life of having had such an excellent pupil. Romualdo de Jesus. who honored him with his affection and consideration because of his progress. In drawing and painting he was under the guidance and direction of the Ateneo professor. In sculpture his instructor was a Filipino. . the Peninsula Don Augustin Saez. He also devoted time to painting and sculpture.

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