This day, in the year 1861, a hero was born. His name was Jose Protacio Rizal-Mercado y Alonzo-Realonda, a man we simply know as Dr. Jose Rizal.
This year, we commemorate the 154th birth anniversary of our national hero by dishing out 19 things you need to know about this remarkable freedom fighter:
1. He was born in Calamba, Laguna, which enjoys a special non-working holiday today.
2. He was the second son and the seventh out of eleven children born to parents Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonso.
3. He manifested exceptional intelligence from a young age while being tutored by his mother.
4. He could read and write by age 5.
5. He spoke multiple languages including Tagalog, English, Spanish, French, German, Greek, Dutch and Latin.
6. He had knowledge of several dialects and languages such as Ilocano, Visayan, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, among others.
7. Dropping the family surname Mercado, he enrolled in Ateneo Municipal de Manila as Jose Protacio Rizal. He graduated with honors under a degree in Land Surveying and Assessment in 1877.
8. A year later, he pursued his passion for the arts with a degree in Philosophy at the University of Santo Tomas, but later on, switched courses.
9. With his mother’s impending blindness, he studied Medicine specializing in Ophthalmology at the same university. However, he left the medical program and went to Spain.
10. He finished both degrees in Medicine and Philosophy at the Universidad Central de Madrid. He also pursued further studies in France.
11. He is also a sportsman, practicing eskrima, a Filipino martial art similar to fencing.
12. He wrote articles for reform in the propaganda newspaper La Solidaridad under the pen name Laong Laan and Dimasalang.
13. He founded La Liga Filipina, a short-lived association that aimed to unite Filipinos and encourage them to be educated.
14. He was the author of two controversial novels – Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which exposed the injustice done by Spanish colonizers.
15 Rizal was romantically linked with different women during his travels in different countries. These women include:
O-Sei-San of Japan
Gertrude Beckett of England
Nellie Bousted of France
Susanne Jacoby of Belgium
Consuelo Ortiga of Madrid
Leonora Valenzuela of Intramuros
Leonor Rivera of Tarlac
Segunda Katigbak of Batangas
Josephine Bracken whom he married two hours before his death.
16. He wrote the poem Mi Ultimo Adios translated as My Last Farewell prior to his execution.
17. He was arrested for treason and purported involvement in the rebellion, and was exiled to Dapitan in Mindanao.
18. He was sentenced by the Spanish Government to execution by a firing squad in Bagumbayan on December 30, 1896 at 7:00AM.
19. Rizal Day is annually celebrated on December 30.