By AmbethOcampo

(From Looking Back 5 Rizal’s Teeth, Bonifacio Bones)


Generations of college students reared on the standard textbook by Gregorio Zaide were introduced to the so called “Rizal A to Z” that depicted the many facets of Rizal’s personality. Students either used Zaide’s list or created their own based on their readings. A for Agronomy, B for Businessman, C for Cartographer, M for Magician, all the way to Z for Zoologist. A century and a half since Rizal was born, with so much material, both old and new, we can compose many more Rizal A to Zs like the one that follows:



Adios patria adorada, is the first line of the unsigned, untitled, valedictory poem he wrote on a slip of paper folded neatly and hid in an alcohol burner recovered by his sisters after his execution. The poem was copied out and reproduced, and given the title Mi Ultimo Pensamiento and much later MiUltimo AdiosEmilio Aguinaldo declared December 30, 1898 a day of mourning to remember Filipino heroes especially Rizal whose 2nd death anniversary fell on that day. Ateneo Municipal was a public secondary school in Intramuros run by the Jesuits that later developed into the present-day Ateneo de Manila University.



Ferdinand Blumentritt is more than a street name in downtown Manila, he was Rizal’s friend who campaigned for Philippine Independence from Spain and the United States. Jose Burgos was one of the three priests martyred in 1872 hence GOMBURZA. His influenced was transmitted to Rizal from his brother Paciano. Bagumbayan was the place of execution of Gomburza and Rizal, it is now known as either Luneta because of an old feature in it the shape of a half-moon (moon is luna in Spanish) or Rizal Park. Andres Bonifacio read Rizal’s writings and is said to have translated the Ultimo Adios from the original Spanish to Tagalog.



Calamba, Laguna. Rizal was born in this town sometime between 11:30 to midnight on June 19, 1861. He falls under the astrological sign Gemini but in the Chinese Zodiac he is a Rooster.


D             DAPITAN

Dapitan, Zamboangadel Norte. Place of exile, 1892-1896. The present Rizal Shrine is part of the beach front estate Rizal acquired using winnings from the lotto.


E             ELIAS

                Elias is a character in Noli Me Tangereoften interpreted or depicted as Andres Bonifacio wearing a white camisa de chino and red Kundiman pants. However, Rizal and Bonifacio had not met by the time the Noli was published in 1887. Rizal is said to have regretted killing Elias in the Noli.



                Federico Faurawas one of Rizal’s teachers who is acknowledged as the founder of the Manila Observatory and inventor of the Faura barometer that provided warning on typhoons. El Filibusterismo, the second of Rizal’s books, it was published in Ghent in 1891, the sequel to the Noli Me Tangere. Francisco Mercado is Rizal’s father overshadowed in our textbooks by his wife Teodora Alonzo.


G             GERTRUDE

                Gertrude Beckett was the daughter of Rizal’s landlord in London. In her letters to Rizal she signed herself “Gettie” and referred to Rizal as “Pettie”.



                Heidelberg is the university town where Rizal took specialized courses in ophthalmology in the Augenklinik under Otto Becker. One of his famous poems, “To the Flowers of Heidelberg” was composed here. One of the enduring urban legends of the Philippines is that Rizal is the father of Adolf Hitler.

I               INDOLENCE

                Indolence of the Filipinos” is one of Rizal’smost anthologized essays. It is a response to the myth of the lazy native spread by the Spaniards and explains the effects of climate on the Philippines.


J               JOSE, JOSEFA, A JOSEFINA

                Jose Rizal was the second son, the seventh of eleven children born to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo. Josefa Rizal a.k.a. Panggoy was Rizal’s younger sister. Josefina is the Spanish form for Josephine thus Rizal composed a love poem for Josephine Bracken, his common-law-wife in Dapitan entitled simply “A Josefina” (To Josephine).


K             KABABATA

                “Sa akingmgakabata” is a much anthological poem on the beauty of Tagalog allegedly written when Rizal was eight years old. At best, this poem is attributed to Rizal, at worst it may not have been written by Rizal at all.



                Not many know that a year after his graduation from the Ateneo in 1877 Rizal graduated again with a degree in land surveying. He attained his professional license as agrimensor y peritotasador de tierras(land surveyor and assessor) in 1881. Rizal was once described as “Doble Leonor” (Double Leonor) because while a student in UST he was associated with Leonor Rivera and Leonor Valenzuela. The Rizal family was fond of the lottery and Rizal’s Madrid diary lists regular purchase of lottery tickets. Rizal hit the second prize while he was in exile in Dapitan. Unfortunately, Rizal did not buy the entire ticket thus the prize was divided among him, the Governor of Dapitan and a third party.


M            MAKAMISA, MORGA

                In 1892 Rizal wrote the beginnings of a third satirical novel in Tagalog, the opening chapter was called “Makamisa” (After the Mass). Later he shifted from Tagalog to Spanish and after writing up 245 pages in draft he left this novel unfinished. Antonio de Morgain 1609 published the Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (Events of the Philippine Islands) that Rizal re-published with long explanatory footnotes in London in 1890.



                Noli me Tangere(Touch me not) was Rizal’s first book, the first of two novels, that first saw print in Berlin in 1887. Nellie Boustead was the woman who caused the jealous Antonio Luna to get drunk and challenge Rizal to a duel.


O             OPTHALMOLOGY

Rizal specialized in ophthalmology after his medical studies in Madrid to cure his mother’s failing eyesight. He studied under Louis de Wecker in Paris and Otto Becker in Germany.


P              PACIANO, PASTELLS

                Paciano Mercado is Rizal’s elder brother, who inspired and guided Rizal’s life and career. He translated the Noli in Tagalog. He fought the Spaniards during the Philippine Revolution and also became a general during the Filipino-American War. Pablo Pastellswas the Jesuit superior with whom Rizal corresponded from Dapitan on religious and philosophical issues.



                Quirogais a character in El Fili and Quiopquiapwas the pseudonym of Pablo Feced, a journalist known for his anti-Filipino writings.



                Rednaxelais Alexander spelled backwards and was the name of the street, Rednaxela Terrace, where Rizal lived in Hongkong. Ricial, Risal or later Rizal was word denoted a green field ready for harvest. Mercado and Rizal were two surnames Rizal used interchangeably during his schooling in Ateneo and UST. Another urban legend circulating is that Rizal could have been the infamous Jack the Ripper because when he was in London and the time the ripper murders took place. It has also been suggested that there is connection between their initials “J.R.”





                Rizal proposed to establish a Filipino colony in Sandakan, North Borneo that did not push through. SegundaKatigbakwas Rizal’s first love as depicted in his student diary where she referred to as “Miss K”. La Solidaridad was the Filipino reformed newspaper in Spain edited by Graciano Lopez Jaen and later Marcelo H. delPilar. Rizal published some of his most famous essays here: To the Women of Malolos, Indolence of the Filipinos and the Philippines Within a Century Hence.




                Teodora Alonso, Rizal’s mother, needs no introduction nor explanation. TetchoSuehirowas a Japanese journalist who Rizal met on a ship bound for the United States. Tetcho later wrote about his meeting “The Man from Manila”.



                Some people during Rizal’s lifetime referred to Rizal as “Dr. Uliman” from “el doctor aleman” (the German doctor). Unter den Linden is a famous Berlin boulevard mentioned in Rizal’s writings. Usui Seiko was a Japanese woman with whom he fell in love. She is mentioned in his 1888 diary and appears in a small notebook of drawings he made in Japan.



                Valentin Ventura was a wealthy friend from Pampanga who lived in Paris and advanced the funds to defray the costs for the publication of El Fili. Part of Rizal’s vertebra or backbone is displayed in Fort Santiago. When Rizal’s remains were buried under the Rizal monument this particular piece of chipped backbone was set aside to show Filipinos where the bullet snuffed out his life.


W            WOMEN of MALOLOS

                Rizal wrote a lengthy letter to the women of Malolos, Bulacan, who against friar objections, proposed a night school where they could learn Spanish. The letter was published in La Solidaridad.


X              XEREZ-BURGOS

                Manuel Xerez-Burgos, nephew of the ill-fated Fr. Jose Burgos interceded with the Jesuits when Rizal was not admitted into Ateneo Municipal due to his small stature.



                In Spanish orthography the letters “I” and “Y” are sometimes interchangeable and his manuscripts Rizal spells the names of these characters Ybarra/Ibarra and Ysagani/Isagani. The same for the group of friends that called themselves Yndios/Indios Bravos after the “Brave Indians” who performed Wild West show during the 1889 Paris Expo. Indio was a negative word used to describe native Filipinos, Rizal and friends turned in around and made it a badge of courage.


Z              ZOOLOGIST, BEN ZAYB

                Rizal was not a professional zoologist but is considered such because he collected specimens: seashells, butterflies, flora and fauna, and other artifacts that he sent to scientists in Europe during his exile in Dapitan. Rizal’s name appears in the classification for a winged lizard (Draco rizali), a frog or toad (Racophorusrizali) and a beetle (Apogoniarizali). Ben Zaybis a character in El Fili whose name is said to have come from Ybanez.




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