Education in the Philippines: Jose Rizal in Ateneo
On June 10, 1872, Jose together with his brother went to Manila to grant his wish of enrolling Jose in San Juan de Letran. Jose Rizal took the entrance examination and passed them with flying colors, then he went back to Calamba to stay for a while with his family and attend their town fiesta only to find out that his father’s wish changed instead of enrolling him to San Juan de Letran he wished to enroll him to Ateneo de Manila.
Thus, being an obedient child, upon his return to Manila accompanied again by his brother Paciano, they proceeded to Ateneo Municipal. At first Father Magin Fernando, who was the college registrar, denied them of admittance for two reasons: 1.) he was late for registration and 2.) he was sickly and undersize for his age. Jose Rizal was then eleven years old. However, they sought the intercession of Manual Xerez Burgos, nephew of Father Burgos. As a result, he was reluctantly admitted at the Ateneo.
First Year in Ateneo (1972-73)
Jose Rizal belonged to the class composed of Spaniards, mestizos and Filipinos. His first teacher was Fr. Jose Bech. As a newcomer and knowing little Spanish, he was considered as inferior and placed at the bottom of the class. He was an externo hence he was assigned to the Carthaginians, an occupant of the end of the line.
He proved he was no inferior for at the end of the month he became the emperor and received a prize, a religious picture. To improve his Spanish, Jose Rizal took private lesson in Santa Isabel College during the noon recess while students were playing and gossiping. In the second half of the first year, his performance declined and was not able to maintain his academic supremacy that he held during his first half of the term for the reason that he was affected so much by the remarks of some professors. He placed second at the end of the year although his grades were marked excellent. According to Ambeth Ocampo there were only twelve students in a class, nine of which, including Jose Rizal, graduated sobresaliente with the same excellent mark in all their subjects in school year 1876-77.
Second year in Ateneo (1873-74)
Jose Rizal repented having neglected his studies the previous year. He studied harder this year and regained his leadership composure and became an emperor again.
His Favorite Books
- ‘Count of Monte Cristo’ (Alexander Dumas) – characterized by Edmond Dantes (the hero) in prison, is spectacular escape from the dungeon of Chateau d’ If, the finding of buried treasure on the rocky island of Monte Cristo, and his dramatic revenge on his enemies who had wronged him;
- ‘Travels in the Philippines’ (Dr. Feodor Jagor) – a German scientist-traveler who visited the Philippines in 1859-1860. What struck him most in this book were Jagor’s keen oberservations of the defects of Spanish colonization and his prophecy that someday Spain would lose the Philippines and that America would come to succeed her as colonizer;
- ‘Universal History’ (Cesar Cantu) – a non-fiction historical work. He was able to acquire an expensive set of this book by convincing his father that this book would be of great aid in his studies and enabled him to win more prizes.
Third year in Ateneo (187-75)
Jose Rizal returned to Ateneo shortly before the classes began to start his junior year. He met his mother and informed him that she was finally released from prison, just as he predicted when he visited her to her prison cell in Santa Cruz, Laguna.
However, he was disappointed to the result of his class performance as in the previous year, although his grades remained excellent in all subjects. He won a single medal in Latin. He failed to win a medal in Spanish because his spoken Spanish was not that fluent. A Spaniard who delivered Spanish with fluency and right accentuation defeated him.
Fourth Year in Ateneo (1875-76)
On June 16, 1875, he became a boarder in Ateneo. He befriended his professor Fr. Francisco de Paula Sanchez, whom he regarded as great educator and scholar. He inspired him to write poetry and to study harder. Fr. Sanchez recognized his God-given talents. Because of the inspiration and recognition given, he regarded the Jesuit professor as “model of uprightness, earnestness, and love” for the advancement of his students.
Consequently, he resumed his studies with vigor and dedication and topped all his classmates in all subjects and won five medals at the end of the school term.
Last year in Ateneo (1876-77)
Although there was a great improvement in his performance but his previous years of performance made a great effect, he graduated on March 23, 1877 (16 years old) and received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, with highest honors and not a valedictorian.
Extra Curricular Involvement
- an emperor inside the classroom
- campus leader
- active member and became a secretary, the Marian Congregation Religious Society
- member of the Academy of Spanish Literature and the Academy of Natural Sciences
- studied painting under the famous Spanish Painter, Agustin Saez
- improved his sculpture talents under the supervision of Romualdo de Jesus
- engaged in gymnastics and fencing and continued the physical training under his sports-minded Tio Manuel.