Jose Rizal, an ilustrado in the 19th Century Spanish Monarchy Restoration
By Carlos Alberdi | Updated October 25, 2011 - 12:00am
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MANILA, Philippines - The hero of Philippine independence was a genuine Spanish free-thinker during his time.
Last June 19 was the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal, the icon of Philippine independence. His memory clouded by the geographical and mental distance that now separates us from the Pacific Ocean, which was once called the “Spanish sea,” the life story of this Filipino is not replete with war stories nor victorious military achievements like the historical liberators of the Americas. An intellectual and a man of letters, assuming a role and figure more like that of Jose Marti but raised in a much more peripheral colonial world, Rizal was neither a criolle like most of the leading figures in the struggle for independence during the 19th Century. Born in a small town in the Philippines (Calamba), his family, a well-off country folk, was a product of a peculiar mix of Chinese, Malayan and Spanish blood. But it was in the Spanish tradition that his education, literature and his tragic destiny were shaped.
Pepe Rizal, as he was known to his friends, was an outstanding student of the Jesuits and Dominicans who traveled to Spain to complete his Bachelor of Arts and Medicine. It is interesting to note that he made that trip westward, crossing the Suez Canal, which had just opened a few years back, and navigating the Mediterranean from Egypt to Barcelona.
The opening of the Suez Canal brought the Philippines closer to Spain and Rizal’s generation made the most out of it. It should be said that it was a brilliant generation, one known in Philippine history as the ilustrado generation. Rizal shared his stay in Spain with a group of very special young Filipinos, among whom, one is compelled to highlight, was the painter Juan Luna, a winner of numerous awards in painting competitions organized by the...
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