Jose Rizal needs no introduction.
He is, after all, the country’s quintessential patriotic hero. And unlike other forgotten superstars of the Revolution, Jose Rizal’s influence has gone beyond our boring history textbooks.
In fact, you can literally touch, smell, taste, and see Jose Rizal nowadays. From Rizal Bakery to Jose Rizal University, our national hero’s popularity is as clear as daylight.
Ironically, Rizal’s fame was also his greatest downfall. In the words of award-winning historian Ambeth Ocampo, “Rizal is everywhere yet he is nowhere.” For those who dislike memorization, Rizal has turned into one of the most boring, overrated, and, therefore, obsolete characters in Philippine history.
But Rizal was just any ordinary Pinoy: He fell in love, got heartbroken, and fell in love again. It is through these stories that people can finally give a face to the otherwise trite Jose Rizal.
However, along with this simplicity also comes the enigma even more intriguing than any Hollywood legend. Here are just eight of the most insane myths and urban legends that have plagued Jose Rizal’s name over the years:
Myth # 8: Jose Rizal wrote “Sa aking mga Kabata.”
The hearsay: In 1869, the then eight-year-old Jose Rizal wrote his first Tagalog poem. Entitled “Sa aking mga Kabata” (“To My Fellow Children”), it soon immortalized the line “ang hindi marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda” (he who loves not his own language is worse than a beast and a stinking fish).
Fact check: To this day, no official manuscript linking Rizal to the poem has been identified yet. And let’s admit it, Rizal was probably too busy playing with his dog and siblings to even think of making a poem mentioning the word “kalayaan” (freedom). Rizal was already 21 years old when he first encountered the word. In addition to that, the poem was only published ten years after Rizal’s death, leading historians to question its authenticity. Poets Herminigildo Cruz and Gabriel Beato Francisco have since been linked to the poem but so far, the case of the lost author remains an open mystery.
Myth # 7: Jose Rizal was a straight A+ student.
The hearsay: Jose Rizal sailed through high school (Ateneo Municipal) and college (University of Santo Tomas) with straight “excellent” grades.
Fact check: Rizal may have possessed multiple intelligence but in terms of grades, his performance was anything but jaw-dropping. In Ateneo Municipal, for instance, Rizal graduated with a grade of sobresaliente. It might appear that he’s at the top of his class but actually, he got the award along with eight other classmates.
His records at UST were not too impressive either. He had a few “passing remarks” probably because of the negative atmosphere in his school or the subjects were just too dry for him. [Image source: pusoseattle.wordpress.com]
Myth # 6: Jose Rizal is a fake hero.
Fact check: Bonifacio trumping Rizal as the national hero? Not likely. Still, the rumors about Rizal being a strong opponent of the Philippine Revolution continue to spread. Historian Xiao Chua revealed that Rizal, although forced to describe the revolution as “absurd” during his trial, had always been supportive of the Katipunan. In fact, policeman Martin Constantino testified on September 9, 1896 that Rizal was poised to be the Supreme Head as soon as the country has claimed independence from Spain. Jose Rizal also praised the Revolution in his farewell poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios”. [Image source: stellify.net]
Myth # 5: Jose Rizal was a foreign spy.
The hearsay: Jose Rizal was involved either in German or French espionage.
Fact check: Rizal didn’t have the same charisma as James Bond. Nonetheless, German authorities still suspected him as a French spy. It all started when a chief of police visited Rizal in his Berlin apartment and asked for his passport. As it turned out, Rizal was being investigated for his questionable behavior. If you didn’t know Rizal at that point, you would surely suspect him as a spy: He was fluent in several European languages and wandered throughout the country to learn more about its culture. Later, he was also accused of being a German spy (France and Germany had conflicts back then) but eventually, both allegations were proven false. [Image source: eyespypei.com ]
Myth # 4: Jose Rizal was gay.
The hearsay: Jose Rizal was gay–the reason why he never sired a child. Yes, Josephine Bracken had a miscarriage but that kid was not Rizal’s either. Rumor has it that Josephine was raped by her own father so the dead child was just a product of incest.
Fact check: In his 1884 diary, Rizal wrote a very intriguing “I am gay.” But there was nothing homosexual about it–after all, ‘gay’ can also mean ‘bright and lively.’ On the other hand, the rumor about Rizal’s ‘fake child’ is more of an urban legend possibly started by bored–and ill-informed–students. Or maybe its because Rizal was close to her mother, successful in his every pursuit, and very keen on his looks—traits of a stereotypical closeted homosexual. But malicious gossips aside, Rizal was just metrosexual–somebody who knows a lot about grooming, fashion, and culture. [Image source: lifefuntastique.blogspot.com ]
Myth # 3: Jose Rizal survived his execution.
The hearsay: After his execution in Bagumbayan, Jose Rizal allegedly rose from the dead due to a divine miracle.
Fact check: If there’s anyone willing to buy this story, that would be the Rizalistas. But how did this rumor started? According to Prof. Ambeth Ocampo, a document from the National Archives reveals a bizarre incident that happened on March 29, 1897. Rizal’s remains purportedly disappeared on the way to the Paco cemetery. It was replaced by a mysterious “white cock” who then flew towards Cavite. Whether the story was used by rebels to recruit more people or was actually based on true events is still unknown. [Image source: linasgallery.blogspot.com]
Myth # 2: Jose Rizal was the father of Adolf Hitler.
The hearsay: While visiting Austria in May 1887, Rizal allegedly had a one-night stand with an Austrian prostitute. Dr. Maximo Viola, Rizal’s companion, wrote about this event in one of his diary entries. Adolf Hitler, also an Austrian, was born not long after the passionate encounter. Go figure.
Fact check: The original story goes something like this: Rizal impregnated some unidentified girl while studying in Heidelberg, University. Rizal left Germany in 1887 and two years later, Adolf Hitler was born. In other words, the myth suggests that not only Hitler was German but was also born a delayed baby. Viola’s diary has proven both assumptions as false but what really happened that night in Austria leaves something for our imagination. [Image source: sinosipepe.wordpress.com]
Myth # 1: Jose Rizal was the real ‘Jack the Ripper.’
Fact check: Before anything else, let’s examine the facts that started it all: On May 24, 1888, Rizal was in London’s British Library to copy the book “Sucesos de las islas Filipinas” by hand. During this time, Jack the Ripper began to terrorize the Whitechapel district, killing more than 5 victims in the end. Rizal then left London to publish the book in January 1889–exactly the same time when the murders stopped.
Due to the intricate method used in the killings, the murderer has been suspected to be a surgeon or someone equipped with medical knowledge. Jose Rizal, as we all know, was also a doctor. Was this coincidence? The story seems plausible but with no tangible proof and tons of speculations surrounding the case, it will likely remain an interesting legend. [Image source: floost.com]
Ocampo, A. 1990. Looking back. Pasig, Metro Manila: Published and exclusively distributed Anvil Pub..
Ocampo, A. 1990. Rizal without the overcoat. Pasig, Metro Manila: Anvil Pub..
Featured image courtesy of: nikolaihoe27 (deviantART)