History teachers did not fail to mention that Jose Rizal was smart to the point of being cocky, was a brilliant writer, and, not least of all, a hero. But did he ever have that swagger that only the demigods of coolness have the right to? We think so. On this, Dr. Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday, we celebrate him, our country, and the fact that we have an astig national hero. Here are 12 reasons Rizal was a cool cat:
We believe the book cover of historian Ambeth Ocampo's Rizal Without the Overcoat says it all!
1. He was a comedian.
Jose Rizal, the one who got the ancient Spanish friars scuttling about in constipated fear because of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, actually had a sense of humor. It wasn’t a well-known fact. Hell, even people in their 80s have never seen a photo of Rizal smiling. But he did smile and make jokes, just like any regular person. According to Rizal’s great great grand-niece (from his older sister Maria) and Philippine Star columnist Barbara Gonzalez, historians discovered a drawing Rizal once made – it was a cartoon, among many others, of someone farting.
2. He was cool til the end.
While history books talk of the firing squad and Rizal’s rejected request to stand facing it, they fail to mention how Rizal felt right before that. His grand-niece Barbara Gonzalez says a friend of Rizal’s sister was there, and “she said Rizal was very cool, very calm. He smiled at the people while walking to the spot in front of the firing squad. It didn’t look like he was afraid. It seemed like he was just out to buy bread.”
Historian Ambeth Ocampo adds in his essay, "The Death of Jose Rizal:" “From time to time he smiled and is said to have made a few jokes, and laughed at these himself because the Jesuits flanking him remained somber.” When Rizal was in front of the firing squad which, incidentally, was made up of eight Filipino soldiers, “...a curious Spanish military doctor felt Rizal’s pulse and was surprised to find it regular and normal.”
3. He, like all of us, liked his women.
Few things dictate coolness in this world. Two of those are being a hero and being a chick magnet. Rizal was both. By the time he was executed, at 35, there were at least, according to historian Ambeth Ocampo's count, 13 women who’d fallen for him. Three of the infatuated women were Filipinos, one, a Japanese, and the rest were Europeans. The grand slam winner was Chinese-Irish Josephine Bracken who, say many accounts, eventually became Mrs. Rizal.
4. He had tunnel vision.
Rizal and his older brother Paciano (who was the more revolutionary of the two) had a pact: only one of them would marry. This let the other one off the hook, says grand-niece Gonzalez, and free to focus on fighting for the country. So while Rizal had the pick of the lot, he never came close to tying the knot, determined as he was to fight for the freedom of Filipinos. He officially married Josephine Bracken in his cell a day before being executed – perhaps, he thought, he’d already fought all he could and he’d earned the right, then, to lose a bit of focus.
5. He was a regular dude from a regular family.
The only difference is, Rizal did extraordinarily smart stuff while being a regular dude. Growing up, Rizal, like any other younger brother, was the butt of jokes of his sisters. His big head and small body took particular hits. Rizal’s usual retort to this was, “Laugh all you want. Someday they’re going to make monuments for me. And who’ll be laughing then?” Cue goosebumps.
6. He is the father of Philippine comics.
According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, the comic strip Matsing at Pagong was the first of its kind created by a Filipino. And Jose Rizal penned it. Trubner’s Record, a magazine about Eastern Literature ran the strip in 1885. In 1892, while killing time in exile in Dapitan, Rizal created another strip about witchcraft in the Philippines. Makes you want to ask, is there anything this guy couldn’t do?
Next: Ho-hee! Pinoy Ako!