On the 30th of December of 1896, Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda, the Philippine national hero was born. Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda, better known as Jose Rizal was born in the town of Calamba, Laguna. His parents, Teodora Alonzo (mother) and Francisco Mercado (father), were leaseholders of a hacienda then. It is noticeable that Jose Rizal had too many last names, Rizal and Realonda respectively due to Governor General Narciso Claveria y Zaldua’s orders for Filipino to adopt Spanish surnames for the census conducted back in 1849. Jose was considered a mixed race due to his mother’s roots coming from China and Japanese blood while his father was an indigenous Filipino who also had Spanish blood, having Jose Rizal as part Chinese, part Japanese, part Filipino, and part Spanish.
At a very young age, Jose who was then called “Pepe” by his family and friends, possessed high levels of intelligence and showed much talent which was unusual for his age. He knew the alphabet just at the age of three and knew how to read and write at the age of five. He entered the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and much to his family’s delight, excelled in academics there. He graduated as one of the most outstanding students in his class which motivated him to continue his studies in the same school. He acquired a degree in land surveying and assessor as well as took a preparatory course in law at the University of Santo Tomas. While he was studying, his mother was going blind which made him shift from law school to medicine wherein he specialized in ophthalmology later on.
With the support of his brother Paciano, he travelled to Spain to continue studying medicine. He entered Universidad Central de Madrid without telling his parents and after finishing his medical course, he attended medical lectures at the University of Heidelberg and University of Paris. At a young age of 27 years, he managed to complete his specialization as an ophthalmologist and went back to the Philippines to perform an eye operation on his mother before going back to Germany and started to write one of his famous novels, Noli Me Tangere.
Pepe was considered highly gifted due to his intelligence and skills but just like any man, he also had his series of relationships. It was said that his ex-girlfriend Leonor Rivera was his inspiration for the character of Maria Clara in his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Pepe and Leonora experienced young love and long distance relationship because Pepe had to study far. They sent each other letters and poems to show their love and affection for each other until the time Rizal wrote a farewell poem for Leonara. The break up between Jose and Leonora gave Rizal more time to focus on his studies in Europe and at the time, was known to have contact with Filipino men who were against the Spanish regime.
Back in August 5, 1887, Rizal went back to Manila and tried to visit Leonora but her father did not allow him for safety reasons since Rizal was already labeled as a Filibustero or subversive because of his novel Noli Me Tangere which was written as a wakeup call for Filipinos to be informed of the oppression done by the Spaniards to their countrymen. As Rizal left the country, he kept on sending Leonora love letters until he found out that the woman fell in love with another man.
After his moments with Leonora, another woman managed to capture his heart whom went by the name Josephine Bracken. Josephine Bracken was an Irish woman Rizal met in Hong Kong and brought her back to the Philippines and introduced her to his family. Rizal wanted to marry Josephine but the latter disagreed; however, they did live together as husband and wife, and had a son who died shortly after birth. Josephine and Rizal later separated for unknown reason(s).
Rizal returned again to Manila in 1892 and formed a civic movement known as La Liga Filipina which was dedicated in producing pamphlets and newspapers regarding the abusive treatment of the Spaniards to the Filipino people. He fought for the freedom of the country through his writing and opened up the mind of the Filipino people about their rights and freedom before being convicted by the Spanish government and executed at the Bagumbayan, now known as Luneta Park in December of 1896.
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