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Jose Rizal was a man of incredible intellectual power, with amazing artistic tal ent as well.

He excelled at anything that he put his mind to - medicine, poetry, sketching, architecture, sociology... the list seems nearly endless. Thus, Rizal's martyrdom by the Spanish colonial authorities while he was still q uite young was a huge loss to the Philippines, and to the world at large. Today, the people of the Philippines honor him as their national hero. Early Life: On June 19, 1861, Francisco Rizal Mercado and Teodora Alonzo y Quintos welcomed their seventh child into the world at Calamba, Laguna. They named the boy Jose P rotasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda. The Mercado family were wealthy farmers who rented land from the Dominican relig ious order. Descendants of a Chinese immigrant named Domingo Lam-co, they change d their name to Mercado ("market") under the pressure of anti-Chinese feeling am ongst the Spanish colonizers. From an early age, Jose Rizal Mercado showed a precocious intellect. He learned the alphabet from his mother at 3, and could read and write at age 5. Education: Jose Rizal Mercado attended the Ateneo Municipal de Manila, graduating at the ag e of 16 with highest honors. He took a post-graduate course there in land survey ing. Rizal Mercado completed his surveyor's training in 1877, and passed the licensin g exam in May 1878, but could not receive a license to practice because he was o nly 17 years old. (He was granted a license in 1881, when he reached the age of majority.) In 1878, the young man also enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas as a medic al student. He later quit the school, alleging discrimination against Filipino s tudents by the Dominican professors. Rizal Goes to Madrid: In May of 1882, Jose Rizal got on a ship to Spain without informing his parents of his intentions. He enrolled at the Universidad Central de Madrid. In June of 1884, he received his medical degree at the age of 23; the following year, he also graduated from the Philosophy and Letters department. Inspired of Paris field of Becker. by his mother's advancing blindness, Rizal next went to the University and then the University of Heidelberg to complete further study in the ophthalmology. At Heidelberg, he studied under the famed professor Otto Rizal finished his second doctorate at Heidelberg in 1887.

Rizal's Life in Europe: Jose Rizal lived in Europe for 10 years. During that time, he picked up a number of languages; in fact, he could converse in more than 10 different tongues. While in Europe, the young Filipino impressed everyone who met him with his char m, his intelligence, and his mastery of an incredible range of different fields of study.

Rizal excelled at martial arts, fencing, sculpture, painting, teaching, anthropo logy, and journalism, among other things. During his European sojourn, he also began to write novels. Rizal finished his f irst book, Noli Me Tangere, while living in Wilhemsfeld with the Reverend Karl U llmer. Novels and Other Works: Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere in Spanish; it was published in 1887 in Berlin. The novel is a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church and Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. This book cemented Jose Rizal on the Spanish colonial government's list of troub lemakers. When Rizal returned home for a visit, he received a summons from the G overnor General, and had to defend himself from charges of disseminating subvers ive ideas. Although the Spanish governor accepted Rizal's explanations, the Catholic Church was less willing to forgive. In 1891, Rizal published a sequel, titled El Filibusterismo. Program of Reforms: Both in his novels and in newspaper editorials, Jose Rizal called for a number o f reforms of the Spanish colonial system in the Philippines. He advocated freedom of speech and assembly, equal rights before the law for Fil ipinos, and Filipino priests in place of the often-corrupt Spanish churchmen. In addition, Rizal called for the Philippines to become a province within Spain, w ith representation in the Spanish legislature (the Cortes Generales). Rizal never called for independence for the Philippines. Nonetheless, the coloni al government considered him a dangerous radical, and declared him an enemy of t he state. Exile and Courtship: In 1892, Rizal returned to the Philippines. He was almost immediately accused of being involved in the brewing rebellion, and was exiled to Dapitan, on the isla nd of Mindanao. Rizal would stay there for four years, teaching school and encou raging agricultural reforms. During that same period, the people of the Philippines grew more eager to revolt against the Spanish colonial presence. Inspired in part by Rizal's organization , La Liga, rebel leaders like Andres Bonifacio began to press for military actio n against the Spanish regime. In Dapitan, Rizal met and fell in love with Josephine Bracken, who brought her s tepfather to him for a cataract operation. The couple applied for a marriage lic ense, but were denied by the Church (which had excommunicated Rizal). Trial and Execution: The Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896. Rizal denounced the violence, and r eceived permission to travel to Cuba in order to tend victims of yellow fever in exchange for his freedom. Bonifacio and two associates sneaked aboard the ship to Cuba before it left the Philippines, trying to convince Rizal to escape with them, but Rizal refused.

He was arrested by the Spanish on the way, taken to Barcelona, and then extradit ed to Manila for trial. Jose Rizal was tried by court martial, charged with cons piracy, sedition and rebellion. Despite a lack of any evidence of his complicity in the Revolution, Rizal was co nvicted on all counts and given the death sentence. He was allowed to marry Josephine two hours before his execution by firing squad on December 30, 1896. Jose Rizal was just 35 years old. Jose Rizal's Legacy: Jose Rizal is remembered today throughout the Philippines for his brilliance, hi s courage, his peaceful resistance to tyranny, and his compassion. Filipino scho ol children study his final literary work, a poem called Mi Ultimo Adios ("My La st Goodbye"), as well as his two famous novels. Spurred on by Rizal's martyrdom, the Philippine Revolution continued until 1898. With assistance from the United States, the Philippine archipelago was able to defeat the Spanish army. The Philippines declared its independence from Spain on June 12, 1898. It was the first democratic republic in Asia.