Despite living to only 35 years of age, Dr José Rizal (1861–96) – one of the Philippines’ most revered figures – managed to pack a whole lot into his extraordinary life. The genius of the man is showcased at the modern Rizal Shrine ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Fort Santiago; adult/student P75/50; h9am-6pm Tue-Sun, 1-5pm Mon) inside Fort Santiago, Intramuros. At this museum you’ll learn that beyond being credited as the man responsible for forging the national identity of the Filipino people, in his short life he managed to speak 22 languages, found a political movement (La Liga Filipina), write two novels (most notably Noli Me Tángere; he was also an accomplished poet and essayist), become a doctor in ophthalmology, and gain recognition as an acclaimed artist (painter, sculptor and cartoonist cited as ‘the father of Filipino comics’); he was also a world traveller and a fencing and martial-arts enthusiast. And if that’s not enough, during his time in exile in Dapitan, in between discovering two species of frog and lizard (both named after him), he also won the lottery!

However it was only in death that Rizal really started to add to his extraordinary CV. Not only did his execution by firing squad in 1896 immortalise him as a martyr, elevating him to the status of national hero, it allowed him to add ‘deity’ to his list of achievements – dozens of cults known as Rizalistas in the Mt Banahaw area still worship him today as anything from the reincarnation of Christ to the messiah himself.

While detractors like to point out that his position as national hero was one bestowed upon him by American colonialists (who wanted the Filipino people to revere someone who preached non-violence), or that he was an aristocrat who spent more time abroad than in the Philippines (and was more fluent in Spanish than Tagalog) and had very little in common with the average Filipino, or that he was a womaniser – there’s not much dirt on the man to take away from the greatness that is José Rizal.

Originally posted 2021-05-05 21:13:06.