Rizal’s first essay, “The Love of Country,” was written when he was 21 and newlyarrived in Madrid. It was published under the name of “Laong Laan” on 20 August 1882 in Diarong Tagalog,”
a Philippine newspaper, then on 31 October 1890 in
Madrid.This essay is a poignant dissertation of what Rizal calls a “beautiful but hackneyed subject,” love of country. In crystallizing his concept on love of country, Rizal reveals a foretasteof the style and substance of his novels. He could have had Maria Clara and Sisa in mreind whenhe described the country as “enveloped in morning clouds and mist, always beautiful and poetic,and the more idolized by her sons when they are absent and far away from her.”Love of country is the purest, most heroic and most sublime human sentiment. It isgratitude, it is affection for everything that reminds us of something of the first days of our life; itis the land where our ancestors are sleeping. Love of country is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart, because it carries with it a divine stamp which renders it eternal andimperishable. Of all loves, that of country is the greatest, the most heroic and the mostdisinterested. Some have sacrificed for her their youth, their pleasures; others have dedicated toher the splendors of their genius; others shed their blood; all have died, bequeathing to their Motherland an immense future: liberty and glory. This idea of dying for the country reverberated in Rizal’s writings. In a letter to Mariano Ponce, he declared: If one has to die, at least one must die in his own country, by his country and for hiscountry. A year later, Rizal decided to return to the Philippines, the first step that would ultimately lead to his death for country:I believe that it is now the opportune time for me to return to the Philippines and sharewith them all the dangers. For I have always been of the opinion that I can do more in mycountry than abroad. What good have I done in...