Dr. Jose P. Rizal Day 2020

On December 30, 2020, the Philippines celebrated Rizal Day, which commemorated the life and works of Dr. Jose P. Rizal. It is also the 124th year since Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, was shot by a firing squad in Bagumbayan (present day Rizal Park) because of the charges against him for playing a key role in the revolution against the Spanish colonizers.

Many books have been written about Rizal. He is known as a well-educated person, well-versed in several languages, talented in several areas of learning, and the author of two famous novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo among many published works. A charming, well-mannered man, Rizal received the affection of many women whom he had romantic relationships, kilig stories of which have been mentioned in books written about him. Rizal is known not only in the Philippines but also in many countries. His bust and sculptures can be found in many halls or parks in several countries in the world.

Rizal was well-travelled man. Based on published articles and books about his travels, he visited Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, United States, Vietnam, Yemen and others. His purpose for his travels varied–to study, to learn about each country’s culture and politics and to gain ideas for the country’s freedom.

The latter part of this article will focus on Rizal’s stay in France as written in Part 2 (pages 58-137) of the book “The Philippines and France: Discovery, Rediscovery” (2019) published by the Philippine Embassy in France. The book is well-researched and many facts here are presented for the first time in this book. Even the pictures, many of which were antique postcards combed through libraries and street stores in Paris, are published for the first time. For easier reading, the facts are enumerated:

  • Rizal first arrived in France on 13 June 1882, particularly in Marseille. It was a short two and a half stay stopover before going to Barcelona.
  • The second time Rizal visited France was a year after (June 1883), which lasted over two months. The main purpose of this visit was to improve his medical training.
  • Rizal went to France for the third time in October 1885. During this time, he studied opthalmology and trained for three months under the supervision of Dr. Louis de Wecker, one of the famous specialists at the time. Through Dr. De Wecker’s patronage, Rizal had the opportunity to study in the best German universities.
  • In September 1888, Rizal stayed in Paris for a week to do research about the Philippines in the National Library. In January 1889, while working on Morga’s Sucesos, he started a project, the “Association Internationale des Philippines” that aimed to to bring together scholars studying the Philippines, who are all based in Europe, into an academic society. Rizal’s proposal was to use the society as way to conduct an international conference about the Philippines during the Paris World Exposition in August that year.
  • Rizal formed an informal club among incoming Filipinos during the Exposition in 1889. The group was first named Kidlat but was soon changed to Los Indios Bravos.
  • From 1889 to 1890, Rizal wrote the translation of Morga’s Sucesos, articles for the La Solidaridad, and the outline of the sequel to the Noli Me Tangere, “El Filibusterismo.” He continued writing his novel until 1891, working on it for several days in Paris, and finally in Ghent (Belgium) where he found a publisher, living bext door to him, until he finished editing the manuscript.
  • Rizal then went back to Paris in October 1891 carrying with him several hundred copies of the novel. From Paris, he went to Marseille and from there, he went back to Manila. That would be his last visit to France.

The outline presented above is only a portion of the eventful life Dr. Jose P. Rizal had in France. To learn the complete story of Rizal’s life and works in this country, it is best to read the book published by the Philippine Embassy. What stood out was that in all trips Rizal took and all the activities he did, it was not so much as enjoying the exploration of new countries but to work for the cause to improve the situation of his fellow Filipinos and his beloved country, the Philippines.

A photo I took of Place Jose Rizal during my first visit in June 2018
Rizal Day 2018 Celebration at the Philippine Embassy (photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Paris official Facebook page)
Rizal Day 2019 Celebration at the Philippine Embassy (photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Paris official Facebook page)

I was introduced to Rizal’s life and works at a young age. When I was a child, we had an illustrated book about Rizal, but I was then too young to know about the significance of his life to the country. In high school, Rizal’s two novels, the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were required readings, but I must say, I read them that time more because they were a requirement in school (for recitations, essays, role plays) and not so much because I was so impressed by our national hero and by his great love for the country. Then, in college, I did a review of the book “Rizal Without the Overcoat” (by Prof. Ambeth Ocampo) which is written in a light, easy-to-read manner. Now, there are many published books on Rizal. Even some trivia about his life are discussed and every year, interesting articles are written about him. His story is even told in the Manga. 😉

I really think Filipino students should take time to study his life and his works to be inspired and to discover once again, the instrumental role that Dr. Jose P. Rizal in our country’s history. I think too that it is time for me to once again reread his novels, relive the characters and their lines and ideologies, gain more insights about his life and works, and have a deeper understanding of societal issues in the past and at present.

(Author’s Note: The featured image was taken from pages 60-61 of the book “The Philippines and France: Discovery, Rediscovery“, 2019.)

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