Jose Rizal: Birth and Formative Years

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A glimpse of the world during Rizal’s time

During the 19th century, Asia, Europe and in America lived in a century of turmoil caused by events in the history. In the Philippines, the excessive reign of the Spanish colonialists. Filipinos suffered from instability, corruption, failure of human rights, racial discrimination, forced labour and power drifting of the friars and guardia civil.

The night of Rizal’s birth

On June 19, 1861, wednesday night, the seventh child and second son of Dona Teodora and Francisco Mercado was born in the town of Calamba, Laguna. During the delivery, Doña Teodora almost died because of his big head.

“I was born in Calamba on 19 June, 1861, between eleven and twelve midnight, a few days before fullmoon. It was a Wednesday and my coming out in the vale of tears would have cost my mother and her life had she not vowed to the Virgin of Antipolo to take me to her sanctuary by the way of Pilgrimage”, Rizal recounted in his memoirs."

Rizal’s baptism

On June 22, 1861, on a saturday morning, Rizal was baptized in the Catholic Church by Fr. Rufino Collantes, the parish priest of Calamba and was witnessed by Fr. Pedro Casañas. During his Christening ceremony, the priest was impressed by the baby’s big head.

“Take good care of this child, for someday he will become a great man.” according to Father Rufino

Rizal's parents picked the name "Jose" because of Doña Teodora's devotion to San José. The second name Protasio was derived from the birthday of the saint, which coincided with the day of Rizal's birth.

The Rizal household

During the Spanish times, the house of the Rizal Family is one of the most distinguished stone houses in their town it is a two-storey building, rectangular in shape, built with adobe stones, hard roofs and woods and red tiles. Behind their residence were the poultry yards full of pigs, turkeys and chicken and a garden with atis, balimbing, chico, macopa, papaya santol, tampoy and other tropical fruits and trees. Rizal’s family is one of the distinguished family in Calamba, belonging to the principalia his parents managed to have farming, stockraising, general goods store, a homemade ham press and a small flour mill. Rizal’s family also own carriage and a private library consisting of 1000 volumes. They were able to send their child in colleges in Manila. During festivities and holidays all guest, ranks, social position and economic status are all welcome in their home.

Don Francisco and Dona Teodora were strict parents, they trained their child well, they believe in a maxim “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Rizal’s Family heard mass every Sundays and Christian holidays. At home they practice the angelus and the rosary, after every family prayer all their siblings kissed the hands of their parents.

The toddler Rizal's early achievements

When Rizal was 3 years old, he was looked after by his aya, a nurse maid. His aya told him stories of fairies, tales of treasures and if José won’t eat his supper, he will tell stories of aswang, nuno, tikbalang and turbaned Bombay. The aya took care of him, as he wrote in his diary,

“Thus my heart fed on sombre and melancholic thoughts so that even while still a child, I already dared on wings of fantasy in high regions of the unknown”

Jose Rizal at the age of three, he began to take part in family prayers when he was five, he read Spanish family Bible. He loves to go and pray at the church, one of his early travels is when he go to a pilgrimage in Antipolo in order to fulfil his mothers vow on the other hand, Dona Teodora can’t come with them since she had given birth to Trinidad. One night, Dona Teodora became impatient hearing his son Jose read poorly she began to get the book from him and read each line, suddenly Jose yawned then she stops reading, she ask him if he wants to hear a story. Her mother began to tell a story about a fable of the young moth and the old one. Just like the story goes, Jose was impressed with the idea of sacrificing one’s life is worthwhile.

At the age of five, he revealed his talents in sketching and sculpturing. When he was six years old, an argument between his sister rise when they laugh at him, Jose kept himself in silence but as they leave, he told them “all right laugh at me now, Someday when I die, people will make monuments and images of me”.

At the age of eight, he wrote his first poem entitled “Sa Aking Mga Kabata”. In his poetic verses he already shows early nationalistic sentiments. After his poem, he wrote his first dramatic work in Tagalog comedy. Rizal as a young boy also likes magic, with his handshe learn tricks like making a coin appear and disappear and even make a handkerchief vanish in the air. He is also gained skills in manipulating a puppet show.

Rizal spends his early childhood days looking at the Laguna Bay thinking about the oppressed people around him. He has a lot of influences when he was a young boy, his rich ancestry that is profound with sense of respect and self sacrifice, his environment that is stimulated with scenic beauties of Calamba, his brother Paciano who teach him about independence and justice, from his sisters to be a gentleman, his aya who awaken his interest with legends and folklores, his three uncles Tio Jose Alberto who inspired him develop his artistic view, Tio Manuel who encourage him to develop his weak body through exercises, horse riding and wrestling, his Tio Gregorio who influence him in reading good books, the sorrows of his family, the unjust society he lives in, the death of Gomburza, and the Divine providence that blessed him with gifts of a genius, a spirit of a nationalist and heart of sacrifice for a noble cause.


  • Ancheta, Celedonio A. Jose Rizal's Life and His Complete Works. Diliman, Quezon City: National Bookstore, Inc., 1977.
  • Zaide, Gregorio F. and Zaide, Sonia M. Jose Rizal: Life, works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and a National Hero Second Edition, Quezon City, All Nations Publishing Co. Inc. 1999 xxxii, 438 pp; 22 cm

External Links

  • Poblete, Pascual H., Buhay at mga Ginawa ni Dr. Jose Rizal, [1] (Accessed 7 July 2011)



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