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Jose Rizal - Legacy of the Philippines National Hero
December 30 may be known for plenty other events that have occurred throughout history but in the Southeast Asian region, particularly in Philippines, December 30 1896 marked the execution of Jose Rizal, Philippines’ National Hero. December 30 is considered a national holiday in the Philippines known as Rizal Day, to commemorate the martyrdom of Jose Rizal. A hugely popular figure, the nationalist is known worldwide for his push towards reform in the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Era and known as the most prominent Filipino; Jose Rizal has left a long lasting legacy and monuments of Rizal has been erected as far away as the United States and even Czech Republic. Singapore also has at least one plaque erected in tribute to Rizal.
Jose Rizal, born to a wealthy family on June 19 1861 was a true intellectual; Rizal traveled to Spain, Paris and even Germany to gain his second doctorate and was believed to be conversant in over ten languages. His literary skills writing poems and novels proved to be the key as he became Asia’s very first modern non-violent proponent of political reforms as he urged Philippines to undergo revolution against the Spanish Colonial Era. Rizal, through peaceful means, founded The Philippine League (known as the La Liga Filipina in the Philippines), an organization to reform the Spanish rule.
Legacy of Jose Rizal
Rizal was perhaps best known as a polymath, a man with multiple exceptional skills. Besides his talent in writing poems and novels, Rizal was a well known educator, sculptor, painter, historian, playwright and ophthalmologist amongst other skills and was also known to be skilled in fencing, martial arts and in the matters of sociology, economics and cartography. Rizal’s best known novels were the Noli Me Tangere and the El filibusterismo, novels that lambasted the Spanish friars and the Catholic Church and criticized the Spanish Colonial Era more than ever. Rizal’s push for reforms did not end there as under pen names, he submitted several essays, thought pieces and editorials to express liberal ideas and equal rights for Filipinos.
Rizal’s largely anti-Spanish reforms led to him being eventually persecuted and being in exile from July 1892 onwards. In 1896, the Philippine Revolution was in full swing when Katipunan, a secret society that was rebelling against the Spanish Colonialists started a revolution. Rizal, even though disassociating himself from the revolution, was apprehended in Barcelona and was charged with the founding of the Philippine League (La Liga Filipina), a claim by the Spaniards that La Liga Filipina was meant to create the rebellion which sparked the revolution. Rizal was also charged for involvement in the ongoing rebellion and was sentenced to be executed on December 30.
Rizal was executed in what was then known as Bagumbayan Field (now known as Luneta) and was buried in Paco Cemetary in Manila. Even though Rizal is well known as a national hero for the Filipinos, there have been claims that while Rizal favored peaceful reforms, he approved non-peaceful reforms as well, which led to the Philippine Revolution. Rizal was also controversial through means of his connection with Josephine Bracken, a retraction of his faith in the Catholic Church. Despite his controversies, Jose Rizal was indeed a man of strong ideas following the likes of peaceful activists such as Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Sun Yat Sen. A true national hero, his achievement to reform the Philippines without holding a gun or a sword has left a truly memorable legacy.