José Rizal

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realondo (b. 19 June 1861, Calamba, Luzon, Philippinesd. 30 December 1896, Manila, Philippines), popularly known as José Rizal, was a doctor, intellectual and patriot.1 He helped to inspire the Philippine Revolution from 1896 to 1898, which ended over two centuries of Spanish rule.2 Rizal made four visits to Singapore during his lifetime,3 and passed through again shortly before his execution.

Early life
Of Chinese-Filipino ancestry, Rizal was the seventh child of sugar planter and landowner Francisco Mercado Rizal and Teodora Alonso y Quintos, who had 11 children.4

Rizal was partly educated at home before entering Ateneo Municipal de Manila, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1877.5 To save his mother’s failing eyesight, he went on to study medicine at the University of Santo Tomas.6 A winner of literary prizes at the university, Rizal was, however, disillusioned by the faculty’s and Spanish students’ attitudes towards Filipinos.7 In 1882, he travelled to Madrid to complete his studies, and was conferred a Licentiate in Medicine two years later.8 Rizal’s first job was with a leading oculist in Paris, France.9

Travel, writings and reform activities
Rizal travelled extensively. He stayed in cities such as Heidelberg and Leipzig in Germany, and learned many languages.10 He had a wide range of interests, including science, and was also a poet, artist and sculptor.11

In 1887, Rizal published his novel Noli Me Tangere ( “touch Me Not” in Latin) in Berlin, Germany, which satirises the corruption of the Spanish clergy.12 The book was a sensation before it was banned by furious church officials in the Philippines.13 Rizal returned home later that year, but the controversy forced him to abandon his newly established clinic in Calamba and return to Europe via Japan and America.14

Between 1889 and 1891, Rizal regularly contributed articles advocating political, religious and social reform to La Solidaridad, a newspaper published by Filipinos in Barcelona, Spain.15 In 1890, Rizal also annotated and republished a 1609 book written by Antonio Morga titled Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (“Events in the Philippine Islands” in Spanish), which describes the achievements of precolonial Philippines.16 Through his annotation, Rizal showed that the Filipinos had developed culture even before the arrival of the Spanish.17 The following year, he published El Filibusterismo in Ghent, Belgium. It was a sequel to Noli Me Tangere, dedicated to three Filipino priests executed by the Spanish.18 He then spent several months practising medicine in Hong Kong.19

Rizal’s family endured official harassment as a result of his writings. Despite warnings, he returned home in 1892 with hopes to form a Filipino colony in North Borneo and to introduce the statutes for La Liga Filipina, a mutual-aid association he had founded.20

Conflict with the authorities and martyrdom
The governor-general of the Philippines had Rizal arrested, and deported him to Dapitan in 1892 after purportedly finding subversive leaflets in his luggage.21 Consequently, La Liga Filipina became inactive and subsequently split up.22

During his island exile, Rizal established a school and a hospital.23 In 1896, he received permission to travel to Cuba as an army doctor to fight against yellow fever.24 Shortly after his departure, the Katipunan, a successor to La Liga Filipina and whose methods Rizal rejected, launched an insurrection. The Spanish government falsely blamed Rizal for the insurgence and ordered his arrest.25

Following Rizal’s return to Manila, he was charged with rebellion and starting an illegal society.26 Witnesses testified to his involvement with the rebels and he was convicted by a military court.27

Rizal composed a patriotic valedictory poem before he was executed in Manila’s Bagumbayan Field on 30 December 1896.28

Lasting significance
The struggle continued, and in 1898 the First Republic of the Philippines was proclaimed. Rizal was quickly acclaimed as a national hero.29 His life and work have been commemorated with countless memorials worldwide, including a national holiday and a province in the Philippines.30

Visits to Singapore
The first of Rizal’s many visits to foreign lands was a two-day stopover in Singapore in 1882.31 He toured the island by carriage, visiting sites such as the Raffles statue, the Botanical Gardens, temples, markets, and a school.32 He was impressed by the city’s greenery and noted that its population seemed assured of their rights.33 However, he found the city less attractive in 1887, and observed in 1891 and 1896 how much it had changed.34

In 1896, Rizal’s friend urged him to save himself by remaining in Singapore, but Rizal chose to trust that the Philippine governor-general would not arrest him and was determined not to be a fugitive.35 He was subsequently arrested and put on a ship bound for Manila. On that final voyage home, Rizal was shackled and not allowed to leave the ship.36 While the ship was docked in Singapore, his supporters, including Charles Burton Buckley, attempted to secure his release at the Supreme Court but were unsuccessful.37

Memorial in Singapore
In 2008, then Singapore President S. R. Nathan and the Philippine Education Minister Jasli Lapus unveiled a memorial near the Asian Civilisations Museum, featuring a bronze bust relief of Rizal. The bust relief was created by Filipino artists Fabian de la Rosa and Guillermo Tolentino.38

In 1891, Rizal proposed unsuccessfully to Nellie Boustead, whose grandfather founded Boustead and Company in Singapore.39 He took Josephine Bracken as his common-law wife in 1895, after the church refused to solemnise their marriage.40 Their son Francisco died shortly after birth.41

Selected publications

Miscellaneous correspondence (Vol. 2, book 4). (1963). Manila: National Heroes Commission.

(Call no.: RSEA 959.902 RIZ)

Miscellaneous writings of Dr José Rizal. (1964). Manila: National Heroes Commission.
(Call no.: RSEA 868.208 RIZ)

Noli me tangere – Touch me not. (1997; originally published 1887). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
(Call no.: RSEA 893 RIZ)

Rizal’s poems: 1869–1896. (1990). Manila: National Historical Institute.

(Call no.: RSEA 861.2 RIZ)

Rizal’s prose. (1990). Manila: National Historical Institute.
(Call no.: RSEA 899.210808 RIZ)

The Rizal-Blumentritt correspondence (2 vols.). (1961). Manila: José Rizal National Centennial Commission.
(Call no.: RSEA 959.902 RIZ)


Duncan Sutherland

1. Craig Austin, Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal: Philippine Patriot (Philippines: Tulay Foundation, 2011), 64. (Call no. RSEA 959.902092 CRA); Criselda Yabes, A Journey of Friendship: The Philippines-Singapore Relations, with foreword by Tommy Koh (Singapore: Philippine Embassy, 2002), 12. (Call no. RSING q327.59905957 YAB); David Baratham, “Death of a Patriot,” Straits Times, 4 February 1962, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “Row Over Plague for Philippine Hero,” Straits Times, 28 December 1996, 9; “National Heroes,” Straits Times, 23 September 1984, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Philippine Information Agency, “Singapore Honors Rizal,” press release, 9 July 2008, accessed on 3 February 2017. 
4. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” Jose Rizal and the Asian Renaissance, ed. M. Rajaretnam (Kuala Lumpur: Institut Kajian Dasar, 1996), 4. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 JOS); Jose Rizal University. (2004). “In Calamba, Laguna,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017.
5. “In Calamba, Laguna”; Teofilo H. Montemayor, “Jose Rizal: A Biographical Sketch,” accessed on 3 February 2017.
6. “Jose Rizal”; Pedro A. Gagelonia, Man of the Century: Biography of Jose Rizal (Manila: Villanueva Pub., 1964), 39. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 RIZ.G)
7. Rajaretnam, ed., “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 8; Gagelonia, Man of the Century, 45–46.
8. “Jose Rizal.”
9. Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
10. Rajaretnam, ed., “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 8; Gagelonia, Man of the Century, 11–12; “Jose Rizal.”
11. “Patriot, Martyr and Scholar,” Straits Times, 20 January 1930, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Baratham, “Death of a Patriot”; “Jose Rizal.”
13. “Noli Me Tangere,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017.
14. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity, 14–16.
15. “Rizal’s Articles in La Solidaridad,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017; Jose Rizal, Reminiscences and Travels of Jose Rizal (Manila: Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, 1961), xxi. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 RIZ); Yabes, A Journey of Friendship, 2.
16. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 16–18; Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
17. “Rizal and the Propaganda Movement,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017.
18. “Jose Rizal”; “El Flibusterismo,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017.
19. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 21.
20. Yabes, A Journey of Friendship, 22; Jose Rizal University, “Rizal in Hong Kong,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017; O. D. Corpus, “Dr. Jose Rizal: The First Filipino,” in Jose Rizal and the Asian Renaissance, ed. M. Rajaretnam (Kuala Lumpur: Institut Kajian Dasar, 1996), 72. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 JOS)
21. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 22–23.
22. Gagelonia, Man of the Century, 412.
23. Baratham, “Death of a Patriot”; “Jose Rizal.
24. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 25; Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
25. Corpus, Dr Jose Rizal, 73; Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
26. Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
27. “Jose Rizal”; Gregorio F. Zaide and Sonia M. Zaide, Jose Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero (Quezon City: All-Nations, 1999), 259. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 ZAI)
28. “Jose Rizal.”
29. Rizal, “Reminiscences and Ravels of Jose Rizal,” xiii, xxxiii.
30. “Philippines Observes Hero’s Death Anniversary,” Syonan Shimbun, 31 December 1984, 2. (From NewspaperSG); “National Heroes.”
31. “Rizal’s First Trip Abroad,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017.
32. Zaide and Zaide,
Jose Rizal, 59; Yabes, A Journey of Friendship, 18–19, 23; Rizal, “Reminiscences and Ravels of Jose Rizal,” 54.
33. Rizal, “Reminiscences and Ravels of Jose Rizal,” 53; Asunción López Bantug, Lolo Jose: An Intimate and Illustrated Portrait of Jose Rizal (Manila: Vibal Foundation: Intramuros Administration, 2008), 58. (Call no. RSEA 959.902092 BAN)
34. Rizal, “Reminiscences and Ravels of Jose Rizal,” 130, 179, 200.
35. Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
36. Yabes, A Journey of Friendship, 13.
37. Baratham, “Death of a Patriot.”
38. “Singapore Honors Rizal.”
39. Zaide and Zaide, Jose Rizal, 184–185; Melanie Chew, Boustead 1828 (Singapore: Boustead Singapore, 2008), 39. (Call no. RSING 338.76095957 CHE)
40. “A Legacy of Sensibility and Dignity,” 24–25.
41. “Rizal’s Son Dies,” Jose Rizal University, accessed on 3 February 2017.

Further resources
Esteban A. de Ocampo, Why is Rizal the Greatest Filipino Hero? (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1993), 4, 7. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 DEO)

Floro C. Quibuyen, A Nation Aborted: Rizal, American Hegemony and Philippine Nationalism, (Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2008), 135–136. (Call no. RSEA 959.902 QUI)

Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, In Excelsis: The Mission of José P. Rizal, Humanist and Philippine National Hero, (Makati City: Studio Five Designs, 1996). (Call no. RSEA q959.902092 STA)

H. de la Costa, The Trial of Rizal: W.E. Retana’s Transcription of the Official Spanish Documents (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 1996). (Call no. RSEA 959.9020924 TRI)

Jose S. Arcilla, S. J., Rizal and the Emergence of the Philippine Nation. (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 1991). (Call no. RSEA 959.902 ARC)

Pedro A. Gagelonia, Rizal: Our Noble Heritage. (Manila: Cruz Bookstore, 1968), 35–37, 190–191, 213–216. (Call no. RSEA 959.902092 GAG)

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders
Rizal, José, 1861-1896
Law and government>>Political ideologies>>Nationalism