José Rizal

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Genius has no country. It blossoms everywhere. Genius is like the light, the air. It is the heritage of all.

José Rizal (June 19 1861December 30 1896) was a Filipino nationalist, doctor, writer, and polymath whose works and martyred death made him a hero of the Philippine Revolution.


  • Consummatum est (it is finished).
    • José Rizal's last words, quoted by Austin Coates, in Rizal: Philippine Nationalist and Martyr, Oxford University Press, (1968)
  • In the Middle Ages, everything bad was the work of the devil, everything good, the work of God. Today, the French see everything in reverse and blame the Germans for it.
    • Letter to Fr. Pastells (11 November 1892)
  • To doubt God is to doubt one's own conscience, and in consequence it would be to doubt everything.
    • Letter to Fr. Pastells (4 April 1893)
  • No, let us not make God in our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space. However brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished, and it alone can give us no idea of that blaze, that conflagration, that ocean of light.
    • Letter to Fr. Pastells (4 April 1893)
  • I believe in revelation, but not in revelation which each religion claims to possess... but in the living revelation which surrounds us on every side — mighty, eternal, unceasing, incorruptible, clear, distinct, universal as is the being from whom it proceeds, in that revelation which speaks to us and penetrates us from the moment we are born until we die.
    • Letter to Fr. Pastells (4 April 1893)
  • Each one writes history according to his convenience.
    • Letter to Blumentritt, written at Leipzig,(22 August 1886)
  • Today is Christmas Eve. Whether or not Christ was born exactly on this date is not important. But chronological accuracy has nothing to do with tonight's event. A grand genius had been born who preached truth and love; who suffered because of his mission; and on account of his sufferings the world has become better, if not saved. Only it gives me nausea to see how some people abuse his name to commit numerous crimes. If he is in heaven, he will certainly protest!
    • Letter to Blumentritt (24 December 1886)
crowns of flowers and laurels are the inventions of free people.
  • Is it not sad, I said to my countrymen, that we have to learn from a foreigner about ourselves? Thanks to the German scholars we get accurate information about ourselves, and when everything in our country has been destroyed and we wish to verify the historical correctness of certain facts we shall have to come to Germany to search for these facts, in German museums and books!
    • Letter to Blumentritt (13 April 1887)
  • The Philippines should be grateful to you if you would write a complete history of our country from an impartial point of view.. But don't expect thanks and laurels--crowns of flowers and laurels are the inventions of free people. But perhaps your children may gather the fruit of what the father planted.
    • Letter to Blumentritt (13 April 1887)
  • We want the happiness of the Philippines, but we want to obtain it through noble and just means. If I have to commit villainy to make her happy, I would refuse to do so, because I am sure that what is built on sand sooner or later would tumble down.
    • Letter to Blumentritt, (31 January 1887)
  • One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and will not present itself again.
    • Letter to Mariano Ponce, (1890)
  • To live is to be among men, and to be among men is to struggle, a struggle not only with them but with oneself; with their passions, but also with one's own.
    • Letter to his family, Dapitan (c. 1884)
  • ...Does your Excellency know the spirit of (my) country? If you did, you would not say that I am "a spirit twisted by a German education," for the spirit that animates me I already had since childhood, before I learned a word of German. My spirit is "twisted" because I have been reared among injustices and abuses which I saw everywhere, because since a child I have seen many suffer stupidly and because I also have suffered. My "twisted spirit" is the product of that constant vision of the moral ideal that succumbs before the powerful reality of abuses, arbitrariness, hypocrisies, farces, violence, perfidies and other base passions. And "twisted" like my spirit is that of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who have not yet left their miserable homes, who speak no other language except their own, and who, if they could write or express their thoughts, would make my Noli me tangere very tiny indeed, and with their volumes there would be enough to build pyramids for the corpses of all the tyrants...
    • Open letter to Barrantes on the Noli, published in La Solidaridad (15 February 1890)
  • Genius has no country. It blossoms everywhere. Genius is like the light, the air. It is the heritage of all.
  • It was a world which granted privileges to some and imposed prohibitions on others...Endowed with strength and eager to learn, one had to drag himself in a narrow prison cell when he could see an open field, a vast horizon in the distance; when he could feel the beatings of a heart; and when he believed himself entitled to enjoy the beauty of a dream.
    • "Laughter and Tears", an essay (c.1884)
  • Friar! What a strange name. I don't remember having created such a thing! (God speaking to the angel Gabriel)
    • "The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands", an allegory. (date unknown)
  • Filipinos don't realize that victory is the child of struggle, that joy blossoms from suffering, and redemption is a product of sacrifice.
    • "Como se gobiernan las Filipinas" (How one governs in the Philippines), published in La Solidaridad (15 December 1890)
  • Death has always been the first sign of European civilization when introduced in the Pacific.
    • Annotations to Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas
  • No one has a monopoly of the true God, nor is there a nation or religion that can claim, or at any rate prove, that it has been given the exclusive right to the Creator or sole knowledge of His Being.
    • Annotations to Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas - translated by Austin Craig
No, let us not make God into our image, poor inhabitants that we are of a distant planet lost in infinite space. However brilliant and sublime our intelligence may be, it is scarcely more than a small spark which shines and in an instant is extinguished.
  • The sea, the sea is everything! Its sovereign mass
    brings to me atoms of a myriad faraway lands;
    Its bright smile animates me in the limpid mornings
    And when at the end of day my faith has failed me
    My heart echoes the sound of its sorrow in the sands.
    • "Mi Retiro", st.6 - translated by Nick Joaquin.
  • The world laughs at another man's pain.
    • "Song of the Wanderer", st.8 - translated by Nick Joaquin.
  • He who would love much has also much to suffer.
    • "To My__" (December 1890)
  • Muse who in the past inspired me to sing of the throes of love:
    Go and repose.
    What I need is a sword, rivers of gold,
    and acrid prose.
    • "To My__" (December 1890)- translated by Nick Joaquin
The sea, the sea is everything! its sovereign mass
Brings to me atoms of a myriad faraway lands
Its bright smile animates me in the limpid mornings
And when at the end of day my faith has failed me
My heart echoes the sound of its sorrow in the sands.
  • No good water comes from a muddy spring. No sweet fruit comes from a bitter seed.
    • Letter to the Young Women of Malolos
  • The tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice of others.
    • Letter to the Young Women of Malolos (22 February 1889) - translated from Tagalog by Gregorio Zaide
  • Man works for an object. Remove that object and you reduce him into inaction.
    • "Indolence of the Filipino" in La Solidaridad (1890)
  • Man is multiplied by the number of languages he possesses and speaks.
  • Virtue lies in the middle ground.
  • God has made man a cosmopolite. He created seas for ships to glide on, the wind to push them, and the stars to guide them even in darkest night.
  • Travel is a caprice in childhood, a passion in youth, a necessity in manhood, and an elegy in old age.
    • "Los Viajes"
  • He who knows the surface of the earth and the topography of a country only through the examination of like a man who learns the opera of Meyerbeer or Rossini by reading only reviews in the newspapers. The brush of landscape artists Lorrain, Ruysdael, or Calame can reproduce on canvas the sun's ray, the coolness of the heavens, the green of the fields, the majesty of the mountains...but what can never be stolen from Nature is that vivid impression that she alone can and knows how to impart--the music of the birds, the movement of the trees, the aroma peculiar to the place--the inexplicable something the traveller feels that cannot be defined and which seems to awaken in him distant memories of happy days, sorrows and joys gone by, never to return
    • "Los Viajes" in La Solidaridad (15 May 1889)- translated from the Spanish by Nick Joaquin
  • Necessity is the most powerful divinity the world knows--it is the result of physical forces set in operation by ethical forces.
    • "The Philippines: A Century Hence"
  • Law has no skin, reason has no nostrils.
    • "The Philippines: A Century Hence"
  • The Filipino loves his country no less than the Spaniard does his, and although he is quieter, more peaceful and with more difficulty stirred up, once aroused he does not hesitate and for him the struggle means death to the finish. He has both the meekness and ferocity of the carabao. Climate affects bipeds in the same way it does quadrupeds.
    • "The Philippines: A Century Hence" in La Solidaridad (1889-90) - translated from the Spanish by Charles Derbyshire
  • It breaks immortality's neck
    Contemplates crime and therefore halts it;
    It humbles barbarous nations
    And makes of savages, champions.
    • "Por La Education" (To Education, c. 1876) - translator unknown
I go where there are no slaves, hangmen or oppressors
Where faith does not kill; where the one who reigns is God.
  • Oh how beautiful to fall to give you flight,
    To die to give you life, to rest under your sky;
    And in your enchanted land forever sleep.

  • I go where there are no slaves, hangmen or oppressors;
    Where faith does not kill; where the one who reigns is God.
    • "Mi Ultimo Adios" st. 13 - poem written on the eve of his execution (29 December 1896) - translated from the Spanish by Charles Derbyshire.

Noli me Tangere[edit]

The Social Cancer (1887) - translated from the Spanish by Charles Derbyshire - Full text online
  • I die without seeing the dawn brighten over my native land.You who have it to see, welcome it--and forget not those who have fallen during the night!
  • Truth does not need to borrow garments from error. (Also translated as: Truth does not need to borrow garments from falsehood.)
  • Fame to be sweet must resound in the ears of those we love, in the atmosphere of the land that will guard our ashes. Fame should hover over our tomb to warm with its heat the chill of death, so that we may not be completely reduced to nothingness, that something of us may survive.
  • Believing in accidents is like believing in miracles--both presuppose that God does not know the future.
  • Fate presented itself to some like a chinese fan--one side black, the other side gilded with flowers.
  • Not all were asleep during the night of our forefathers!

El Filibusterismo[edit]

The Reign of Greed (1891) - translations from the Spanish by Charles Derbyshire - Full text online
  • There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.
  • Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?
  • It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted in the field without becoming part of an edifice.
  • You must shatter the vase to spread its perfume, and smite the rock to get the spark.
  • The school of suffering tempers the spirit, the arena of combat strengthens the soul.
  • The glory of saving a country is not for him who has contributed to its ruin.
  • Pure and spotless must the victim be if the sacrifice is to be acceptable.
  • De nobis, post haec, tristis sententia fertur!
    After all this, you still speak ill of us!


Quotes about Rizal[edit]

His coming to the world is like the appearance of a rare comet, whose brilliance appears only every other century.
  • In recognition of the aspirations of the Filipino nation and in proclaiming its noble and patriotic sentiments, I hereby decree.
Article 1. In memory of the Filipino patriots, Dr. Jose Rizal and the other victims of the past Spanish domination, I declare the 30th of December as a national day of mourning.
Article 2. On account of this, all national flags shall be hoisted at half-mast from 12:00 noon on December 29, as a sign of mourning.
Article 3. All offices of the Revolutionary Government shall be closed during the whole day of December 30.
Given in Malolos, December 20,1898
Signed) Emilio Aguinaldo
  • Declaration of Rizal as a national hero by Pres. Aguinaldo of the First Philippine Republic (1898)
  • And now, gentlemen, you must have a national hero.
  • Taft quickly decided that it would be extremely useful for the Filipinos to have a national hero of their revolution against the Spanish in order to channel their feelings and focus their resentment backward on Spain. But he told his advisers that he wanted it to be someone who really wasn’t so much of a revolutionary that, if his life were examined too closely or his works read too carefully, this could cause us any trouble. He chose Rizal as the man who fit his model.
    • Charles Bohlen, former Ambassador to the Philippines, in Portrait of A Cold Warrior by Joseph B. Smith (1976)
  • Under what clime or what skies, has tyranny claimed a nobler victim?
    • Congressman Henry Cooper of Wisconsin, at the House of Representatives on a debate whether to grant autonomy to the Philippines, and right after reciting Rizal's valedictory poem, "Mi ultimo adios" in English: before members of U.S. Congress (1902)
  • It is eminently proper that Rizal should have become the acknowledged national hero of the Philippine people. Rizal never advocated independence, nor did he advocate armed resistance to the government. He urged reform from within by publicity, by public education, and appeal to the public conscience.
    • Governor W. Cameron Forbes, The Philippine Islands
  • The American decision to make Rizal our national hero was a master stroke.
  • Although the Americans encouraged the hero-worship of Rizal, the man was already a national hero to the Filipinos long before the Americans sponsored him as such.
  • There is no doubt that we would have made Rizal one of our heroes even without American intervention.
  • Rizal's greatest misfortune was becoming a national hero of the Philippines. He is everywhere and therefore nowhere.
  • The first Filipino.
    • Leon Ma. Guerrero, Rizal's biographer and historian, The First Filipino: Biography of Jose Rizal (1963)
  • To echo the first Filipino, you get the Rizal you deserve. (alluding to Rizal's statement, 'You get the government you deserve')
    • E. San Juan, author, in his essay "Rizal in our Time" (1997)
  • One of the best exemplars of nationalist thinking.
    • Benedict Anderson, historian and political theorist, in his book The spectre of Comparison: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and the World (1998)
  • Rizal is the spirit of contradiction; a soul that dreads the revolution, although deep down desires it.
    • Miguel de Unamuno, philosopher-writer, in his essay "Rizal, the Tagalog Hamlet", in Rizal: Contrary Essays (1990)
  • A gem of a man. (Un perla de hombre.)
    • Reinhold Rost, renowned 19th century philologist and head of the India Office, British Museum
  • His coming to the world is like the appearance of a rare comet, whose brilliance appears only every other century.
    • Ferdinand Blumentritt, Philippinologist and Rizal's best friend, in his book Biography of Rizal, translated from German by Howard Bray (1898)
  • The life Rizal lived is a more abiding gift than the things he said and wrote. His life will forever be of inestimable importance.
  • Sleep in the shadows of nothingness
    Redeemer of an enslaved land —
    Don't weep in the mystery of the tomb
    Nor grieve the momentary triumph of the Spaniard;
    For if the bullet ravaged your skull
    Your idea vanquished an empire!
    • Cecilio Apostol, Filipino poet, "Rizal, a Eulogy", on the 2nd anniversary of Rizal's death (30 December 1898)


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  • Zaide, Gregorio (2003), Jose Rizal: Life, Works and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist and National Hero. National Bookstore, Manila. ISBN 9710805207