Who was Dr Jose Rizal of Dr Jose Rizal Park?
Rizal was a Filipino writer and activist whose works played a key role in inspiring the Philippine Revolution of 1896.
He was born in 1860 when the Philippines were still under the rule of New Spain (modern day Mexico). His full name was Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realondo but he was encouraged by his older brother to drop the last part to hide the fact that they were related. His brother was at the time known for associating with dissidents and didn't want this to impact Jose's freedom of movement.
Jose excelled as a student and went on to study law. He later switched to medicine, specialising in ophthalmology, upon learning his mother was going blind.
His talents stretched beyond just science however, he was a talented writer and artist, and could converse in 22 languages. He travelled all around Europe where he gained friends as well as foes.
At one point, following the publication of a political essay, he was arrested by the German police on suspicion of being a French spy. But it was literature not essays that gained him the most notoriety.
His novel Noli Me Tangere ‘Touch Me Not’ (1887) and its sequel El Filibusterismo ‘The Reign of Greed’ (1892) criticized the church, angering the Spanish and Filipino elite and inspiring the Filipino people. They, along with his activism, helped bring about the revolution of 1896.
Dr Jose Rizal and the Philippines Revolution
On August 24 1896 a Manila-based group of Filipino activists rose up against the occupying Spanish powers, declaring nationwide revolution. Their initial revolt failed but inspired similar uprisings in the surrounding provinces.
Rizal, despite himself being an advocate of peaceful reform, was arrested by the Spanish authorities and sentenced to death for rebellion, sedition and conspiracy. A Filipino firing squad was made to carry out his execution, a back-up Spanish firing squad standing behind them, ready to shoot anyone who defied orders.
Rizal was buried in secret, the Spanish authorities wanting to prevent him from becoming a martyr. His sister later tracked down his grave and had him reburied.
By this point the country was no longer in Spanish hands. Nor was it free.
The revolutionaries had all but gained control of the country by May 1898 only for US forces to arrive and seize Manila, having decisively defeated the Spanish Navy in the ongoing Spanish-American war. Despite resistance from the revolutionaries the Philippines soon became an American colony. It did not gain its independence until 1946.
Dr Jose Rizal Park
Seattle has a large Filipino community, thanks in part to the 48 years the Philippines spent as a US colony. The first Filipino known to live in the city was a lumber mill worker called Manilla. He arrived in 1883 and was followed by waves of his countrymen.
Despite facing discrimination and persecution over the years they have contributed greatly to the city's artistic and cultural heritage. Dr Jose Rizal Park celebrates this in its name and its contents. It boasts a bronze bust of Dr Rizal made by Filipino master sculptor Anastacio Caedo, and a mosaic mural designed by Filipino artist Val Laigo.
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