Jose Rizal (1861-1896) is known by many as the national hero of the Philippines. Rizal was born in Calamba, Laguna as Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda and was the seventh of 11 children. Rizal attended Ateneo Municipal de Manila, and graduated at the age of 16 with honors, taking a post-graduate course in land surveying. In 1878, Rizal enrolled in the University of Santo Tomas as a medical student, but quit the school because of discrimination against Filipino students by Dominican professors. In 1882, without informing his parents, Rizal left on a ship for Spain and enrolled at the Universidad Central de Madrid.In 1884, Rizal received his medical degree and graduated from the Philosophy and Letters department the next year. Inspired by the increasing blindness of his mother, Rizal went to the University of Paris and later to the University of Heidelberg to study ophthalmology. While on his travels of Europe and Asia, Rizal learned 22 different languages including Arabic, Chinese, Sanskrit, Latin, French, and English. Rizal hoped to secure political and social reforms for the Philippines, published works with nationalistic and revolutionary tendencies. In March of 1887, Rizal published Noli Me Tangere, a satirical novel on the arrogance and despotism of the Spanish clergy. In 1891, El Filibusterismo, the sequel to Noli Me Tangere, was published. These works and others provoked the Spanish officials in the Philippines into imprisoning Rizal in Fort Santiago in Manila. Rizal was exiled to Dapitain, on the island of Mindanao, for four years. During those four years, Rizal taught school and encouraged agricultural reform While on Dapiatn, Rizal met and fell in love with Josephine Braken, who brought her father to him for a cataract operation. When the two applied for a marriage
license, the Church denied the application due to Rizal's excommunication. The Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896. Rizal denounced the violence and received permission to travel to Cuba to tend to yellow fever victims. On the way, the Spanish arrested him, then took Rizal to Barcelona then Manila for trial. Tried by court martial, Rizal was charged with conspiracy, sedition, and rebellion. Although there was a lack of evidence, Rizal was given the death sentence. Rizal was allowed to marry Josephine two hours before his execution by a firing squad on December 30, 1896. He was 35 years old. Rizal's last literary work was a poem entitled Mi Ultimo Adios ("My Last Goodbye"). Spurred on by the death of Rizal, the Revolution continued until 1898, and with the help of the United States, the Philippines defeated the Spanish and declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, creating the first democratic republic in Asia.