Early in the morning of December 30, 1896, they walked him with his hands tied behind his back from Fort Santiago to Bagumbayan Field in Luneta.
At 7 a.m. of that same day, 35-year-old Filipino nationalist and polymath Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, widely known as Jose Rizal, was dead.
He was shot in the back by a firing squad of Filipino soldiers in the Spanish Army for the crimes of sedition, rebellion, and conspiracy after a revolution broke out against the colonial government, inspired in part by his writings.
Just as the soldiers fired, Rizal turned halfway around to face his executioners. He fell, facing the sun, just close to where his monument now stands in Rizal Park.
This bronze-and-granite Rizal Monument, designed by Swiss Richard Kissling of the William Tell sculpture in Altdorf, Uri, also contains his remains. It is one of the most famous sculptural landmarks in the country.
To commemorate the life of one widely considered to be among the greatest heroes of the Philippines, the United States Philippine Commission sought to build a monument in his honor by passing Act No. 243 on September 28, 1901.
A committee formed by the act initiated an international design competition between 1905 and 1907 and invited sculptors from Europe and the United States to submit entries.
Carlos Nicoli of Carrara, Italy bested 40 other entries with his scaled plaster model of “Al Martir de Bagumbayan (To the Martyr of Bagumbayan)” but the contract was awarded to second-placer Kissling for his “Motto Stella (Guiding Star).”
This shrine was finally unveiled during Rizal’s 17th death anniversary on December 30, 1913.
Ceremonial soldiers of the Philippine Marine Corps’ Marine Security and Escort Group now guard the site on a 24-hour basis.
Rizal was born on June 19, 1861 to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonso in the town of Calamba in Laguna Province. He had nine sisters and one brother.
The Rizals were of mixed origin, and Jose’s ancestors on his father’s side could be traced back to Lam-Co of Fujian in China who immigrated to the Philippines in the late 17th century. On his mother’s side, Rizal’s ancestry included Chinese, Japanese, and Tagalog blood.
Jose was a precocious child: he learned the alphabet when he was only 3 and could read and write at age 5. He distinguished himself in his studies and impressed his professors with his grasp of Castilian and other foreign languages.
Life and works
When he learned that his mother was going blind, he decided to take up medicine and focus on ophthalmology, completing his eye specialization in Heidelberg at 25 under renowned professor Otto Becker.
A German friend, Dr. Adolf Bernhard Meyer, described Rizal’s multifacetedness as “stupendous.” Rizal was a lot of things: ophthalmologist, sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright and journalist. He was into poetry and creative writing, and achieved varying degrees of expertise in architecture, cartography, economics, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, dramatics, martial arts, fencing and pistol shooting.
His famous works include two novels, Noli Me Tángere, 1887, and its sequel El Filibusterismo, 1891. He also wrote essays, poetry, and plays.