Rizal was phenomenonal. He earned his first degree at 16 in the Philippines and never looked back. At 18 he ran away to Europe and earned a medical degree in Spain, and followed it up with degrees in France. While in Europe and in many in other countries during his travels around the world, he taught himself fluency in Spanish, German, English, and French and he did it all in a short 35 years of life. From childhood, he was a prolific writer and he remained so right up until minutes before being a martyr.
Rizal’s reputation as a hero is well earned.
He hated how the Spanish treated the natives of the Philippines, whom the Spanish called Indios. The novels and essays he wrote were aimed mostly at Spaniards back in Spain. His objective was to get them to stop the practices of Spanish friars and governors in colonial Philippines. I believe he was convinced that if the Spaniards in Europe knew of the cruelty and injustice going on in their colony for years, that they would finally interfere and stop the merciless brutality that had gone on for centuries.
In Spain, Spaniards treated Rizal with respect and admiration, but for some reason the Spaniards in the Philippines were entirely different. They did not hesitate to use torture, terror and execution to keep their Indios under their complete control, and that included controlling Rizal as well. Spanish priests who were called friars, who called the shots in his home land. after years away, he returned to Manila and almost immediately the friars found a means to get him out of the way.
He was found guilty of spreading sedition based on his anti-friar novels written while he was overseas. These novels were not intended to cause a Spanish overthrow, but to show decent, liberal-minded Spaniards how unjust things were back in his beloved islands. Jose was found guilty and exiled hundreds of miles away to the very fringes of the archipelago to the tiny town of Dapitan on Mindanao. He spent years there, and during the end of that time, a man named Bonifacio back in Manila put together the beginnings of a major revolt against Spain. Andres Bonifacio was captivating.
Although he didn’t have the natural genius of Rizal, he was an incredible fellow just the same. He came from nothing and taught himself everything. The fact that he was poor, self-taught, and self-made, a man who could not afford any formal schooling, much less college, and yet excelled as a leader and independent thinker, he is great. I more I learn about Bonifacio the more I realize that this guy is a perfect form of an authentic Filipino. He has more in common with the bulk of the population here than most any other figure from this country’s past.
He was born and raised in Tondo, a very poor place in the mid 19th century, and even more so now. He was dirt poor and suffered through the same troubles and problems that most Filipinos suffer today. Yet he overcame all those issues and became known as Supremo, the leader of the revolutionary government against Spain. Unlike Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio hated the Spanish and wanted nothing to do with them. Where Rizal wanted justice under the rule of Spain, Bonifacio wanted only Filipinos to be dominant over his own island.
Also, Bonifacio was instrumental in writing the Katipunan, the guiding document of this country’s first home-grown government. despite no formal education, Andres managed almost single-handedly to spark THE most successful insurrection ever against Spain—and going back hundreds of years, there were scores of revolts and uprisings, all horribly crushed into bloody oblivion. His rebellion was so successful that today we call it The Philippine Revolution. Also, Bonifacio was instrumental in writing the Katipunan, the guiding document of this country’s first home-grown government.