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Dr. Jose Rizal is a unique example of many-splendored genius who became the greatest hero of a nation. Endowed by God with versatile gifts, he truly ranked with the world’s geniuses. He was a physician, poet, dramatist, essayist, educator, architect, historian, painter, linguist, ethnologist, surveyor, farmer businessman, economist, geographer, cartographer, folklorist, humorist, satirist, magician, inventor, translator, sportsman, and traveler. Above all of these, he was a hero and political martyr who consecrated his life for the redemption of his oppressed people.
No wonder, he is now acclaimed as the national hero of the Philippines.
On June 19, 1861, the Mercado Family from the town of Calamba in the province of Laguna in the Philippines, happily greeted the birth of their newest member — a baby boy born as the seventh child to proud parents Francisco Rizal Mercado y Alejandro and Teodora Alonza y Quintos. They named the bouncing baby boy Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado. Being the seventh of a brood of eleven, Jose Rizal Mercado demonstrated an astounding intelligence and aptitude for learning at a very young age when he learned his letters from his mother and could read and write at the age of five.
At an early age of eight, Rizal wrote his first poem entitled “Sa Aking Mga Kababata”.
Whenever people of a country truly love
The language which by heav’n they were taught to use
That country also surely liberty pursue
As does the bird which soars to freer space above.
For language is the final judge and referee
Upon the people in the land where it holds sway;
In truth our human race resembles in this way
The other living beings born in liberty.
Whoever knows not how to love his native tongue
Is worse than any best or evil smelling fish.
To make our language richer ought to be our wish
The same as any mother loves to feed her young.
Tagalog and the Latin language are the same
And English and Castilian and the angels’ tongue;
And God, whose watchful care o’er all is flung,
Has given us His blessing in the speech we calim,
Our mother tongue, like all the highest tht we know
Had alphabet and letters of its very own;
But these were lost — by furious waves were overthrown
Like bancas in the stormy sea, long years ago
This poem reveals Rizal’s nationalist sentiment. He proudly proclaimed that a people who love his native language will surely strive liberty and that Tagalog is equal to Latin, Spanish, English, and any other language.
During his Bi
June 1872, being a newcomer and knowing little in Spanish, Rizal was placed at the bottom of the class. After the first week, he rapidly excelled and earned the title of the emperor. He was the brightest pupil of his class and he was awarded a religious picture as a prize. At the end of the year, he was placed second although his grades were still marked excellent.
Having lost his class leadership on the previous year, he studied harder. Rizal received excellent grades and gold medal at the end of the year.
June 1874. His grades remained excellent in all subject but he only won one medal – in Latin.
Inspired by his Jesuit professor, he topped all his classmates in all subjects and won five medals at the end of the school year.
Last Year in Ateneo
On his last year, he excelled in all subject and recognized as the “Pride of Jesuits” for he is the most brilliant Atenean of his time.
LITERARY WORKS WRITTEN IN ATENEO
After the release of his mother, Rizal wrote his first poem during his days in Ateneo entitled “Mi Primera Inspiracion” which he dedicated to his mother on her birthday.
Why falls so rich a spray
of fragrance from the bowers
of the balmy flowers
upon this festive day?
Why from woods and vales
do we hear sweet measures ringing
that seem to be the singing
of a choir of nightingales?
Why in the grass below
do birds start at the wind’s noises,
unleashing their honeyed voices
as they hop from bough to bough?
Why should the spring that glows
its crystalline murmur be tuning
to the zephyr’s mellow crooning
as among the flowers it flows?
Why seems to me more endearing,
more fair than on other days,
the dawn’s enchanting face
among red clouds appearing?
The reason, dear mother, is
they feast your day of bloom:
the rose with its perfume,
the bird with its harmonies.
And the spring that rings with laughter
upon this joyful day
with its murmur seems to say:
“Live happily ever after!”
And from that spring in the grove
now turn to hear the first note
that from my lute I emote
to the impulse of my love.
Rizal had a very high regard for education. His poem proved that he valued education so much that may give the power of the country to survive from any forces in the struggles of societal freedom . Through education, it creates the virtue of power to human race. This gives security and peace to the motherland as the Filipinos would learn the sciences and arts as the basis to calm down the life of the society. Also he believes that education without God is not true education.
The vital breath of prudent Education
Instills a virtue of enchanting power;
She lifts the motherland to highest station
And endless dazzling glories on her shower.
And as the zephyr’s gentle exhalation
Revives the matrix of the fragrant flower,
So education multiplies her gifts of grace;
With prudent hand imparts them to the human race.
For her a mortal-man will gladly part
With all he has; will give his calm repose;
For her are born all science and all art,
That brows of men with laurel fair enclose.
As from the towering mountain’s lofty heart
The purest current of the streamlet flows,
So education without stint or measure gives
Security and peace to lands in which she lives.
Where Education reigns on lofty seat
Youth blossoms forth with vigor and agility;
He error subjugates with solid feet,
And is exalted by conceptions of nobility.
She breaks the neck of vice and its deceit;
Black crime turns pale at Her hostility;
The barbarous nations She knows how to tame,
From savages creates heroic fame.
And as the spring doth sustenance bestow
On all the plants, on bushes in the mead,
Its placid plenty goes to overflow
And endlessly with lavish love to feed
The banks by which it wanders, gliding slow,
Supplying beauteous nature’s every need;
So he who prudent Education doth procure
The towering heights of honor will secure.
From out his lips the water, crystal pure,
Of perfect virtue shall not cease to go.
With careful doctrines of his faith made sure,
The powers of evil he will overthrow,
Like foaming waves that never long endure,
But perish on the shore at every blow;
And from his good example other men shall learn
Their upward steps toward the heavenly paths to turn.
Within the breast of wretched humankind
She lights the living flame of goodness bright;
The hands of fiercest criminal doth bind;
And in those breasts will surely pour delight
Which seek her mystic benefits to find,
Those souls She sets aflame with love of right.
It is a noble fully-rounded Education
That gives to life its surest consolation.
And as the mighty rock aloft may tower
Above the center of the stormy deep
In scorn of storm, or fierce Sou’wester’s power,
Or fury of the waves that raging seep,
Until, their first mad hatred spent, they cower,
And, tired at last, subside and fall asleep, —
So he that takes wise Education by the hand,
Invincible shall guide the reigns of motherland.
On sapphires shall his service be engraved,
A thousand honors to him by his land be granted:
For in their bosoms will his noble sons have saved
Luxuriant flowers his virtue had transplanted:
And by the love of goodness ever lived,
The lords and governors will see implanted
To endless days, the Christian Education,
Within their noble, faith-enrapture nation.
And as in early morning we behold
The ruby sun pour forth resplendent rays;
And lovely dawn her scarlet and her gold,
Her brilliant colors all about her sprays;
So skillful noble Teaching doth unfold
To living minds the joy of virtuous ways.
She offers our dear motherland the light
That leads us to immortal glory’s height.
As the climbing ivy over lefty elm
Creeps tortuously, together the adornment
Of the verdant plain, embellishing
Each other and together growing,
But should the kindly elm refuse its aid
The ivy would impotent and friendless wither
So is Education to Religion
By spiritual alliance bound
Through Religion, Education gains reknown, and
Woe to the impious mind that blindly spurning
The sapient teachings of religion, this
Unpolluted fountain-head forsakes.
As the sprout, growing from the pompous vine,
Proudly offers us its honeyed clusters
While the generous and loving garment
Feeds its roots; so the fresh’ning waters
Of celestial virtue give new life
To Education true, shedding
On it warmth and light; because of them
The vine smells sweet and gives delicious fruit
Without Religion, Human Education
Is like unto a vessel struck by winds
Which, sore beset, is of its helm deprived
By the roaring blows and buffets of the dread
Tempestuous Boreas, who fiercely wields
His power until he proudly send her down
Into the deep abysses of then angered sea.
As the heaven’s dew the meadow feeds and strengthen
So that blooming flowers all the earth
Embrioder in the days of spring; so also
If Religion holy nourishes
Education with its doctrine, she
Shall walk in joy and generosity
Toward the good, and everywhere bestrew
The fragrant and luxuriant fruits of virtue
As being born and bred in a wholesome atmosphere of Catholicism. Rizal grew up a good Catholic. With his poems, he expressed his devotion to his Catholic faith.
Why have you come to earth,
Child-God, in a poor manger?
Does Fortune find you a stranger
from the moment of your birth?
Alas, of heavenly stock
now turned an earthly resident!
Do you not wish to be president
but the shepherd of your flock?
Mary, sweet peace and dearest consolation
of suffering mortal: you are the fount whence springs
the current of solicitude that brings
unto our soil unceasing fecundation.
From your abode, enthroned on heaven’s height,
in mercy deign to hear my cry of woe
and to the radiance of your mantle draw
my voice that rises with so swift a flight.
You are my mother, Mary, and shall be
my life, my stronghold, my defense most thorough;
and you shall be my guide on this wild sea.
If vice pursues me madly on the morrow,
if death harasses me with agony:
come to my aid and dissipate my sorrow!
On 1879, a society of literary men and artists held a literary contest. It offered a prize for the best poem by a native or a mestizo. Rizal who is still a student that time submitted his poem entitled “A La Juventud Filipina”. As the judges were impressed by his poem, they gave him the first prize which is a silver pen, feathered-shaped and decorated with ribbon. It was the first great poem written in Spanish by a Filipino. It expressed the nationalistic concept that the Filipinos and not the foreigners were the “Fair Hope of Fatherland”. A LA JUVENTUD FILIPINA
Alza su tersa frente,
Juventud Filipina, en este día!
Tu rica gallardía,
Bella esperanza de la Patria Mía!
Vuela, genio grandioso,
Y les infunde noble pensamiento,
Que lance vigoroso,
Más rápido que el viento,
Su mente virgen al glorioso asiento.
Baja con la luz grata
De las artes y ciencias a la arena,
Juventud, y desata
La pesada cadena
Que tu genio poético encadena.
Ve que en la ardiente zona
Do moraron las sombras, el hispano
Con pía sabia mano,
Ofrece al hijo de este suelo indiano.
Tú, que buscando subes,
En alas de tu rica fantasia,
Del Olimpo en las nubes
Mas sabrosa que nectar y ambrosia.
Tú, de celeste acento, Melodioso rival Filomena, Que en variado concierto En la noche serena Disipas del mortal la amarga pena.
Tú que la pena dura
Animas al impulso de tu mente ,
Y la memoria pura
Del genio refulgente
Eternizas con genio prepotente.
Y tú, que el vario encanto
De Febo, amado del divino Apeles,
Y de natura el manto
Con mágicos pinceles
Trasladar al sencillo lienzo sueles.
Corred! que sacra llama
Del genio el lauro coronar espera,
Esparciendo la Fama
Con trompa pregonera
El nombre del mortal por la ancha espera.
Día, día felice,
Filipinas gentil, para tu suelo!
Al Potente bendice
Que con amante anhelo
La ventura te envía y el consuelo.
Jose Rizal as a literary genius
The literary aspect of Rizal’s works should commend itself to each of us as an inspiration to do our own duty. I think no man can read Rizal’s novels without feeling his powerful impulse of sympathy for and understanding of the people of this country. We can be moved not only by his profound reading of human nature, but we can also be inspired to emulate, if we may, the high level of talent for which his name will ever be famous in the history of literature.
To the Filipino Youth
Unfold, oh timid flower!
Lift up your radiant brow,
This day, Youth of my native strand!
Your abounding talents show
Resplendently and grand,
Fair hope of my Motherland!
Soar high, oh genius great,
And with noble thoughts fill their mind;
The honor’s glorious seat,
May their virgin mind fly and find
More rapidly than the wind.
The first line, “unfold, oh timid flower,” implies that the youth is silent, maybe daunted, and consequently has not yet gone into full bloom for whatever reason there is that may have silenced them. In the beginning stanza, Rizal encourages the youth, by telling them to hold their heads high for they possess talents and skills and abilities that would make their country proud.
The second verse can be rearranged in contemporary English to say: “Oh genius great, soar high; and fill their mind with noble thoughts. May their virgin mind fly and find the honor’s glorious seat more rapidly than the wind.” Here, Rizal calls to genious to fill young minds with noble thoughts and hopes that as they release their thinking from the chains that bind, they may be able to soar swiftly high where the joy of honor is.
Descend with the pleasing light
Of the arts and sciences to the plain,
Oh Youth, and break forthright
The links of the heavy chain
That your poetic genius enchain.
Contrary to the second verse, which talked about ascending and soaring to the heights, this third stanza now talks about descent, and a downward motion of the great genius to fill the earthly strokes of art and science with their magnificent ideas. Again, Rizal calls them to break the chains that bind their intellect. “Poetic genius” here does not necessarily pertain to the talent of writing poetry. Instead, the term “poetic” is simply an adjective to describe genius, meaning that it is deep and mystifying and heavy with meaning.
See that in the ardent zone,
The Spaniard, where shadows stand,
Doth offer a shining crown,
With wise and merciful hand
To the son of this Indian land.
Rizal challenges the youth, that in their pursuit of knowledge and wisdom they may humble the hand of Spain, whose proud chin did not look kindly upon the people whom they labelled as “Indios” and whom they treated with contempt. He dreams that in their journey to intellectual greatness they may humble even the proudest nations that look down on them and rightfully deserve “a crown that shines, even where shadows stand.”
You, who heavenward rise
On wings of your rich fantasy,
Seek in the Olympian skies
The tenderest poesy,
More sweet than divine honey;
You of heavenly harmony,
On a calm unperturbed night,
Philomel’s match in melody,
That in varied symphony
Dissipate man’s sorrow’s blight;
In these two stanzas, Rizal calls the youth to seek the beauty of poetry and music, which he himself values greatly as essentials in every manner of life. He claims that poetry is “more sweet than divine honey,” and that music can “dissipate man’s sorrow’s blight.”
You at th’ impulse of your mind
The hard rock animate
And your mind with great pow’r consigned
Transformed into immortal state
The pure mem’ry of genius great;
Speaking to the youth, Rizal says that by the very impulse of their mind, they are capable of bringing to life or animating even someting as lifeless and unmoving as a hard rock. He continues to say that the youth is able, to immortalize their thoughts and their words through the help of great genius (as he has done himself. This stanza can be arranged in a more contemporary English structure as follows: “You can animate the hard rock at the impulse of your mind; and transform, with the great power of your mind, the pure memory of great genius into immortality.”
And you, who with magic brush
On canvas plain capture
The varied charm of Phoebus,
Loved by the divine Apelles,
And the mantle of Nature;
Rizal here addresses the youth, comparing their abilities to a magic brush that can capture even the most majestic views and the most glorious charms on a blank canvas.
Run ! For genius’ sacred flame
Awaits the artist’s crowning
Spreading far and wide the fame
Throughout the sphere proclaiming
With trumpet the mortal’s name
Oh, joyful, joyful day,
The Almighty blessed be
Who, with loving eagerness
Sends you luck and happiness.
The last stanza is a charge, urging the youth to run, for a glorious crown awaits them. The “sphere” here pertains to the world, showing that Rizal believed the Filipino youth is as brilliant as those in any other nation, and is able to contend with even the strongest powers if they only set their mind to making most of what they already have.
Sa Aking mga Kababata
Kapagka ang baya’y sadyang umiibig
Sa langit salitang kaloob ng langit
Sanlang kalayaan nasa ring masapi
Katulad ng ibong nasa himpapawid
This first stanza in Rizal’s poem shows that long before he sprouted the first fruits of his youth, he had already placed distinguished value in the importance of one’s mother tongue. According to these verses, if a nation’s people wholeheartedly embrace and love their native language, that nation will also surely pursue liberty. He likens this idea to a bird soaring freely in the vast, eternal sky above.
Pagka’t ang salita’y isang kahatulan
Sa bayan, sa nayo’t mga kaharian
At ang isang tao’y katulad, kabagay
Ng alin mang likha noong kalayaan.
Language here is likened to a people born into freedom. In Rizal’s time, Filipinos were held in slavery by Spain. Rizal, however, believed that if the people treasured and loved and used their mother tongue, it would become a symbol of relative freedom, and of identity.
Ang hindi magmahal sa kanyang salita
Mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda
Kaya ang marapat pagyamanin kusa
Na tulad sa inang tunay na nagpala
It is here in these lines of verse that we find Rizal’s famous quote: “He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and smelly fish.” He further adds that Filipinos must work to make the language richer, and likens this endeavor to a mother feeding her young. The native tongue is now compared to a helpless child that must be nurtured in order to grow and flourish. Ang salita nati’y tulad din sa iba
Na may alfabeto at sariling letra,
Na kaya nawala’y dinatnan ng sigwa
Ang lunday sa lawa noong dakong una.
These last lines may very well be referring to the Alibata, or the old Filipino alphabet whose characters are unique in every essence, finding no likeness in any other alphabet. The Tagalog language, according to Rizal, has letters and characters of its very own, similar to the way other “elite tongues” do. These letters, however, were overthrown by strong waves and lost, like fragile, fickle boats in the stormy sea, many long years ago.
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