Rizal was born in Calamba, Laguna on June 19, 1861. He came from a substantial family of traders and farm owners. He secured his formal education at the Ateneo de Manila.
Interested in pursuing medicine, Rizal studied at the University of Sto. Tomas. He did not stay long in this Dominican institution, but went abroad instead. In Madrid, Rizal studied both medicine and literature. He also took up courses in languages and other cultural subjects.
Rizal in Spain came in contact with a group of young Filipinos who made renascent Europe both their school and their springboard of political activities.
Wide reading and experience made Rizal distrust the efficiency of satire and direct assault on the worsening political and social problems of his day. So he began writing his novel in his own way as he freely revealed the ignorance, cruelty, and greed of most Spaniards in the Philippines as well as the apparent weaknesses and follies of his own people.
On February 19, 1887, Rizal completed his first novel. He lacked the money at this time to publish his own book, and had to secure a loan form Dr. Maximo Viola to publish some 2,000 copies of his novel in Germany. Because of financial limitations, the chapter, “Elias and Salome,” was discarded.
Rizal sold many copies of his books and also sent copies to friends and foes. Dr. Ferdinand Blumentritt of Bohemia described "Noli Me Tangere" as, “The first impartial and daring book on the life of the Tagalogs. Filipinos will find in their history during the past decades. I hope you will notice how different my descriptions are form those of other writers of our time.
In 1889, he followed his early literary success by publishing in Ghent, Belgium, the sequel to his novel, "El Filibusterismo," which he dedicated to the martyrs of Bagumbayan: Fathers Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora.
Rizal’s Famous Works
"Noli Me Tangere," Rizal’s first novel, was written in Spanish prose to unveil the hypocrisy of the authorities and to open the eyes of Filipinos to the abuses to which they were subjected. It tells the story of romance set against the background of oppression by petty tyrants.
In the novel, several sublots like the stories of Sisa, Filosofo Tasio, Elias and others were sued by Rizal to paint vividly the oppressive conditions in his country.
"El Filibusterismo" is the sequel to Noli Me Tangere. It is with the story of Simoun, the jeweler, and his revolutionary misadventures in the Philippines.
To expose effectively the deplorable conditions of his country and to create characters to voice his innermost thoughts, Rizal wrote the stories of Juli and Basilio, Isagani and Paulita Gomez, Cabesang Tales and other victims of maladministration.
From a literary point of view, critics have described "El Filibusterismo" as inferior to "Noli Me Tangere" because the main plot is so subordinated to what might be called its nationalistic mission that at times it seems to disappear. In "Noli Me Tangere," what the characters do is important and interesting. In "El Filibusterismo," the emphasis is more on what the characters say and think.
Character delineation is "El Filibusterismo," however, is remarkably forceful and clear; and as an arraignment of the social and political evils in the country, the book is almost brutal in its stark reality.
"Memoria de un Estudiate de Manila" is Rizal’s autobiography. To forestall untoward criticism, he hid his identity under the name P. Jacinto. "Memoria de un Estudiante de Manila" is an intimate glimpse of Rizal’s life as a youngster and as a student.
"Filipinas dentro de Cien Anos" (The Philippines a Century Hence) is an analysis of the Philippine condition during Rizal’s time.
Rizal wrote in "The Philppine a Century Hence," “ Political transformation in the Islands will be violent and fatal if it proceeds form the ranks of the people, but peaceful and fruitful if it emanates form the upper class.
To destroy the allegations that eh Filipinos were indolent, Rizal wrote the "Sobre la Indolencia de los Filipinos" (The Indolence of the Filipinos). Rizal dissected the issue, saying: “The indolence of the Philipapines is a chronic malady, but not a hereditary one. The Filipinos have not always been what they are; and witnesses to this fact are all the historians of the first years after the discovery of the islands.”
Medina, Buenaventura S., Jr., and Teofilo del Castillo y Tuazon, eds. Philippine Literature:
From ancient times to present. Caloocan City: Philippine Graphic Arts, 1974. Print.