José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (June 19, 1861 – December 30, 1896), was a Filipino polymath, patriot and the most prominent advocate for reform in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. He is regarded as the foremost Filipino patriot and is listed as one of the national heroes of the Philippines by the National Heroes Committee. His execution by the Spanish in 1896, a date marked annually asRizal Day, a Philippine national holiday, was one of the causes of the Philippine Revolution.
Rizal was born to a rich family in Calamba, Laguna and was the seventh of eleven children. He attended the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, earning a Bachelor of Arts, and enrolled in medicine at the University of Santo Tomas. He continued his studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid in Madrid, Spain, earning the degree of Licentiate in Medicine. He also attended the University of Paris and earned a second doctorate at theUniversity of Heidelberg.
As a political figure, José Rizal was the founder of La Liga Filipina, a civic organization that subsequently gave birth to the Katipunan led byAndrés Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo. He was a proponent of achieving Philippine self-government peacefully through institutional reform rather than through violent revolution, although he would support “violent means” as a last resort. Rizal believed that the only justification for national liberation and self-government is the restoration of the dignity of the people, saying “Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?” The general consensus among Rizal scholars is that his execution by the Spanish helped to bring about the Philippine Revolution.
Rizal’s Family Tree
His parents, Francisco Engracio Rizal Mercado y Alejandro (1818–1897) and Teodora Alonso Realonda de Quintos,were prosperous farmers who were granted lease of a hacienda and an accompanying rice farm by the Dominicans. Rizal was the seventh child of their eleven children namely: Saturnina (Neneng) (1850–1913), Paciano (1851–1930), Narcisa (Sisa) (1852–1939), Olimpia, Lucia (1857–1919), María (Biang) (1859–1945), José Protasio (1861–1896), Concepción (Concha) (1862–1865), Josefa (Panggoy) (1865–1945), Trinidad (1868–1951) and Soledad (Choleng) (1870–1929).
Rizal was a 5th-generation patrilineal descendant of Domingo Lam-co traditional Chinese: 柯儀南; simplified Chinese: 柯仪南; pinyin: Kē Yínán; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kho Gî-lâm, a Chinese immigrant entrepreneur who sailed to the Philippines from Jinjiang, Quanzhou in the mid-17th century. Lam-co married Inez de la Rosa, a Sangley of Luzon.
In 1849, then Governor-General of the Philippines Narciso Clavería, issued a Decree by which native Filipino and immigrant families were to adopt Spanish surnames from a list of Spanish family names. Although the Chino Mestizos were allowed to hold on to their Chinese surnames, Lam-co changed his surname to the Spanish “Mercado” (market), possibly to indicate their Chinese merchant roots. José’s father Francisco adopted the surname “Rizal” (originally Ricial,
the green of young growth or green fields), which was suggested to him by a provincial governor, or as José had described him, “a friend of the family”. However, the name change caused confusion in the business affairs of Francisco, most of which were begun under the old name. After a few years, he settled on the name “Rizal Mercado” as a compromise, but usually just used the original surname “Mercado”.
Upon enrolling at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, José dropped the last three names that make up his full name, on the advice of his brother, Paciano Rizal Mercado, and the Rizal Mercado family, thus rendering his name as “José Protasio Rizal”. Of this, Rizal writes: “My family never paid much attention [to our second surname Rizal], but now I had to use it, thus giving me the appearance of an illegitimate child!”This was to enable him to travel freely and disassociate him from his brother, who had gained notoriety with his earlier links with native priests who were sentenced to death as subversives. From early childhood, José and Paciano were already advancing unheard-of political ideas of freedom and individual rights which infuriated the authorities.Despite the name change, José, as “Rizal” soon distinguished himself in poetry writing contests, impressing his professors with his facility with Castilian and other foreign languages, and later, in writing essays that were critical of the Spanish historical accounts of the pre-colonial Philippine societies. Indeed, by 1891, the year he finished his El filibusterismo, this second surname had become so well known that, as he writes to another friend, “All my family now carry the name Rizal instead of Mercado because the name Rizal means persecution! Good! I too want to join them and be worthy of this family name…”.