December 30, 2021 | 4:45 p.m.
MANILA, Philippines – After exploring foreign countries, it often becomes easier to notice and appreciate the beauty of one’s homeland. We Filipinos should be aware that over the past two decades many more Filipinos have developed the ability and inclination to travel abroad, in many cases as workers, but quite often also as than tourists. And after such exposure to foreign places and cultures, many of us learn to love our own.
It seems like we have more in common with national hero Jose Rizal, a mere historical figure of the current generation, than we realize. According to renowned historian Professor Ambeth Ocampo, it was during the hero’s years abroad that he developed a deep love for the country.
Perhaps looking at our national hero beyond his more well-known image as a patriotic novelist, poet, physician and profile on a coin will allow us to see him in a different light. Here are some little-known and interesting anecdotes that show other sides of a man whose courage we commemorate in Bagumbayan today, 125 years later.
1. He spent a lot of time studying nature during his political exile, discovering several rare animal species that came to bear his name.
Rizal wrote and published books and articles that criticized Spain during a time when the Philippines was under Spanish rule. For this, he was apprehended in Manila and banished to Dapitan, part of what is now Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao. He was truly a rebel with a cause, but during his exile from 1892 to 1896, he not only set up a medical clinic to treat patients and established an informal school to help educate children. Among his many concerns were scientific explorations.
He gathered a large assortment of seashells, birds and insects and discovered rare animal specimens which he then sent to Germany for proper identification. The result was that three rare animals were given scientific names in honor of the Filipinos who discovered them: a lizard (Draco rizali), a frog (Rhacophorus rizali) and a beetle (Apogonia rizali).
2. He was also a master of visual arts.
We all know of the Rizal monument that stands proudly in Rizal Park or Luneta, the site of his execution by firing squad on December 30, 1896. Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling made the work of art in bronze, but did you know? you that Rizal himself was a sculptor?
The artist, who worked primarily with clay, terracotta, and wood, and occasionally plaster and wax, was apparently much more than an enthusiast with mundane talent, as he was invited at one point to participate in the Paris Salon exhibition in 1889., in which only exceptional international artists exhibit their work. We know that around forty sculptures were shaped by the national hero, with subjects ranging from Catholic saints and hermits to dogs, young girls and everyday objects.
3. He posed for âThe Blood Compactâ by painter Juan Luna.
Painter Juan Luna is probably best known for his iconic “Spoliarium”, the award-winning work of dying gladiators. Another of Luna’s brilliant paintings is the one that immortalizes an important moment in the history of the Philippines: the blood pact of 1565 made by the Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and the leader of Bohol Sikatuna to signify friendship. While Luna worked her brush, no less than her good friend the national hero was pretending to be Sikatuna.
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