In the early morning of December 30, 1896, 35 year old Jose' Rizal, an indio with strong oriental features but the bearing of a western intellectual, wearing a black suit and hat, stood erect and calm in an open field by Manila Bay. Ministering to him were two Jesuit priests. Wanting to be master of his own execution, he refused to kneel and be blindfolded. He asked to face the firing squad but was forced by the officer in charge to turn his back. A military doctor took his pulse. It was, strangely, normal. At 7:03 the bark of bullets rent the air. Rizal fell, and so, virtually, did Spanish colonial rule.
Born on the island of Luzon on June 19, 1861, Rizal studied under the Jesuits and then at the Dominican University of Santo Tomas, also in Manila. In 1882 he left the Philippines ostensibly for further medical studies abroad, but principally in pursuit of some vague political objective.
Something of a genius, Rizal was an unlikely political activist. He had been trained as an ophthalmic
surgeon by leading specialists in Paris, Heidelberg, and Berlin. At heart, however, he was an artist and a poet, and by conscious
choice a scholar, historian, researcher, and prolific writer. He wrote in Spanish, Tagalog, German, French, Englisg, and Italian and spoke a few other modern languages. In addition, he knew Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The references in his writings to Cervantes, Schiller, Shakespeare, and Dante are evidence of his broad humanistic interests and worldwide perspectives. Through Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austrian scholar and personal friend, Rizal came in contact with leading European intellectuals and was admitted into two learned societies in Berlin.
The Enlightenment and Liberalism
No sooner had Rizal arrived in Madrid for studies in medicine than he was recognized as a leader by the Philippino students at the University of Madrid who were determined to work for reforms in their country.... [continues]
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