Little known facts about Rizal
by Rudy Arizala
Apart from 30 December 1896 when he was executed by musketry in the hands of Pinoy soldiers in the Spanish army; 25 December he wrote his defense; and on 26 December 1896, he was sentenced to death, what else do we know about Rizal especially his character, his strengths and weaknesses?
Last year, I wrote a long essay (14 page) about our national hero titled: "Seldom-known or Forgotten Aspects of the First Filipino." However, for purpose of brevity allow me simply to reproduce hereunder the conclusions or summary of said essay. But before we do that, let me remind the readers what were the charges filed against Rizal and what were his defenses against those charges.
A. Charges against Rizal
1. Principal organizer and living soul of the Filipino insurrection.
2. Founder of societies, periodicals and books dedicated to fomenting and propagating the ideas of rebellion.
B. Rizal´s Defenses
1. The Filipino rebels used his name without his knowledge.
2. He could have escaped in a Moro vinta if he had a hand in the revolution, instead of building a home, hospital and buying parcels of land in Dapitan.
3. Rizal advised Dr. Pio Valenzuela in Dapitan not to rise in revolution.
4. His life in Dapitan had been exemplary as the Spanish military commander and missionary priests could attest.
C. Hereunder are parts of the conclusion of my essay mentioned above about Rizal.
1. "Rizal" was not the original surname of our national hero. Mercado was the original surname. Surname was changed for "security" reasons.
2. He was not a "real" doctor because he failed to submit a thesis. His first love was the study of law and arts.
3. Rizal as a child was melancholy, frail and without appetite.
4. He lost his passport, mistaken for a spy by the German police and that his passport bear the name "Jose Mercado" and not "Jose Rizal."
5. He believed that a "federal republic" form of government for the Philippines could be an alternative.
6. When he was studying in Europe due to lack of money he missed his meals, did not take a bath for a long time; borrowed money from janitors of university where he was studying, and pawned the diamond ring given to him by his sister Saturnina..
7 While in Hong Kong on his way to Europe he was offered a job at the Spanish Consulate. but did not accept it.
8. Rizal and Antonio Luna almost killed each other in a duel due to disparaging remarks made by Luna against Rizal´s sweetheart Nellie Boustead.
9-While still engaged with Leonor Rivera for eleven years, Rizal had many other loves.
10. Rizal played the lottery and won a share of the winning ticket.
11. He engaged in farming and in business while in Dapitan.
12. Although he bitterly criticized the friars in his two novels, he hears mass every Sunday.
13. The one who shot Rizal was a squad of Filipino soldiers under the employ of the Spanish Army.
14. He drinks beer simply not to call attention of the people in restaurant. In other words, "pakitang tao lamang" o pagkukunyari.
15. Rizal suffered from depression and had premonition he would die early,
Despite Rizal´s greatness and fittingly declared as our national hero, he was also human and like ordinary mortals with foibles, weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, and strength. He was mistaken for a spy; offered a job at the Spanish Consulate in Hong Kong; had differences with other expatriates Filipinos in Europe; had to borrow money from friends and even from janitors of a university; fallen in love several times; and became ill or sick due perhaps to lack of nourishment. Aside from intellectual pursuits (more inclined to writing and drawing or making sketches of people), he was also a farmer and a businessman. And like any mortal also engaged in the game of chance by betting on a lottery ticket.
But such human frailties did not prevent him from rendering magnificent service to his people by awakening in them love of country, national consciousness, and take pride in their country´s history, tradition to attain greatness in the future. In so far as biographer Ambassador Leon Ma. Guerrero is concerned: "Rizal was the first Filipino" because from a historical point of view among those who preceded him "No one proclaimed himself a Filipino." And among his contemporaries, "it was Rizal, as we have seen, who taught his countrymen that they could be something else, Filipinos who were members of a Filipino nation. . ."(Guerrero, p. 496).
It may be asked what was the dream of Rizal for the Philippines? What kind of government? According to biographer Guerrero Rizal thinking was that "If the two peoples did not become an homogenous mass, then the Philippines would be fated without fail to declare themselves independent someday, probably as a federal republic." Ibid., p. 231. Underscoring, supplied.)
It may be further asked: "Why should Rizal (Mercado) be our national hero when he refused to fight on the side of Bonifacio´s Katipunan in the field of battle against Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines but rather preferred to face a firing squad of 8 Filipino soldiers belonging to the Spanish army on that early 30th December morning in 1896, their Remington rifles ready to implement the death penalty?
Ambassador Leon Ma. Guerrero justified it rather poetically in the following words.
". . . . We may honor the fighters who, in hills and cellars, serve their country with the strength of their arms and resourcefulness of their intelligence, the self-made men, the worldly men, the successful men who do the necessary work of conspiracy, organization, revolt, and government, without which nothing would be accomplished. But we reserve our highest homage and deepest love for the Christlike victims whose mission is to consummate by their tragic ´failure´ the redemption of our nation. They stand above the reproaches and recriminations of human life, and are blessed with true immortality. When, at their appointed time, they die, we feel that all of us have died with them, but also that by their death we have been saved." (Ibid., p. 500).
And so ordinary mortal Rizal as he was, despite his seldom-known or forgotten human foibles, mistakes and even failures, through firm determination, hard work and personal sacrifices, was able to emerge out of a hosts of other heroes as the "First Filipino" to consummate the birth of a free nation. And the above quote from Amb.. Leon Ma. Guerrero explain why we have chosen Jose Mercado (Rizal) as the "First Filipino" and consequently our national hero. We have chosen a "Filibustero" instead of a "Warrior." Rizal in his letter to his friend Blumentritt explain the meaning of "filibustero" as a "dangerous patriot who will soon be on the gallows. . . ." His words were prophetic, indeed.