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 turmoil caused by events in history. Filipinos who were under the control of the Spanish colonialists suffered from corruption, failure of human rights, racial discrimination, forced labor and power drifting of the friars and the guardia civil.

The night of Rizal’s birth

On June 19, 1861, Wednesday night, the seventh child and second son of Doña Teodora and Francisco Mercado, Jose Rizal was born in the town of Calamba, Laguna. During delivery, Doña Teodora almost died because of Jose's 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 a Catholic Church by Fr. Rufino Collantes, the parish priest of Calamba. The event was witnessed by Fr. Pedro Casañas. During the 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 chose the name "Jose" because of Doña Teodora's devotion to San José. The second name Protasio was derived from the birthday of the saint, the same day Rizal was born.

The Rizal household

During the Spanish times, the house of the Rizal Family was one of the most distinguished stone houses in their town. It was a two-storey building, rectangular in shape, built with adobe stones, hard roof and woods and red tiles. Behind their residence were yards full of pigs, turkeys, and chickens and a garden with atis, balimbing, chico, macopa, papaya santol, tampoy, and other tropical fruits and trees.

Rizal’s family was one of the most distinguished families in Calamba. Belonging to the principalia, his parents managed to have farming, stockraising, a general goods store, a homemade ham press, and a small flour mill. Rizal’s family also owned a carriage and a private library consisting of a thousand volumes. His parents were able to send their children in colleges in Manila. During festivities and holidays, all guests coming from different ranks, social positions and economic status were all welcomed in their home.

Don Francisco and Doña Teodora were strict parents, they trained their child well believing in the maxim “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Rizal’s family heard mass every Sundays and Christian holidays. At home, they practiced 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 and tales of treasures. If José won’t eat his supper, he would 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”

At the age of three, Rizal began to take part in family prayers. When he was five, he read the Spanish family Bible. He loved to go and pray at the church. One of his early travels was when he went to a pilgrimage in Antipolo in order to fulfill his mothers vow. Doña Teodora wasn't able to come with them since she had just given birth to Trinidad.

One night, Doña Teodora became impatient hearing his son Jose read poorly. She retrieved the book from him and read each line. When Jose yawned, she stopped reading and asked him if he wanted to hear a story. Her mother told a fable of the young moth and the old one. Just like the story goes, Jose was impressed with the idea that 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 and his siblings laughed at him, he told them while they leave: “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 showed nationalistic sentiments. He then wrote his first work in Tagalog comedy.

As a young boy, Rizal also liked magic. He learned tricks like making a coin appear and disappear and a handkerchief vanish in the air. He also gained skills in manipulating a puppet show.

Rizal spent his early childhood days looking at the Laguna Bay thinking about the oppressed people around him.

He had a lot of influences when he was a young boy: his rich ancestry profound with sense of respect and self-sacrifice; his environment that was stimulated with scenic beauties of Calamba; his brother Paciano who taught him about independence and justice; his sisters to be a gentleman; his aya who awakened his interest with legends and folklores; his three uncles Tio Jose Alberto who inspired him to develop his artistic view, Tio Manuel who encouraged him to develop his weak body through exercises, horse riding and wrestling, and his Tio Gregorio who influenced him in reading good books; the sorrows of his family; the unjust society he lived 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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