Biography of José Rizal

José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, known as José Rizal, lived from 1861 to 1896. He was a Filipino nationalist and writer who is now often regarded as the national hero of the Philippines. An ophthalmologist, or eye doctor, by trade, he was a key advocate for Filipino freedom from Spain. At only 35, he was executed by the Spanish government for the crime of rebellion after the breakout of the Philippine Revolution, which was partially inspired by his works.

Rizal was born in 1861 in Calamba, Philippines and was one of eleven children. He came from a family of diverse origins, with Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and indigenous Filipino heritage. Rizal initially planned to study law, but decided to study ophthalmology after learning that his mother was going blind. Without his parents’ knowledge, he traveled to Europe during his college years, where he wrote the novel Noli Me Tángere. In 1887, he returned to the Philippines, but he was targeted by the police there and returned to Europe, writing El Filibusterismo, the novel’s sequel, which was released in 1891. The next year, he returned to the Philippines again, convinced he needed to be in the country to truly effect change. Though he supported nonviolent action, he was exiled to another island in the Philippines. In 1896, Rizal was convicted of treason, despite having no ties to more violent groups, and executed on December 30. His killing created further opposition to Spanish rule in the Philippines.

Despite his short life, Rizal is one of the most famous Filipinos of all time, and Noli Me Tángere, his most famous work, is required to be taught in all schools in the Philippines.


Study Guides on Works by José Rizal

Noli Me Tángere, known in English as Touch Me Not (a literal translation of the Latin title) or The Social Cancer, is often considered the greatest novel of the Philippines, along with its sequel, El filibusterismo. It was originally written in...