Dr. José Rizal, the Philippines’ National Hero, is celebrated on his namesake day every 30 December.
The first president of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo, commemorated the first Rizal Day in 1898. Born on 19 June 1861, José Rizal is considered as the one of the greatest heroes in Philippine history, and is credited as starting the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonisers.
Rizal, a man of many talents, was notably a ophthalmologist and a novelist. His two novels, “Noli me Tangere” (“Touch me not”) and the sequel “El filibusterismo” (“The Filibustering” or “Reign of Greed”) exposed the injustices brought on by the Spanish colonisers in the Philippines. Many scholars and historians would agree that it was the ideas in these two books that influenced the already discontented Filipinos to act against the Spanish.
Subsequently, he was arrested for treason and for being associated with the revolutionary forces (although he did not take part in any type of warfare). He was convicted on the grounds of rebellion, sedition and conspiring against the government, and was sentenced to execution by a firing squad on 30 December 30 1896. His death was the last straw for the Filipinos and thus began the end for the Spanish colonisers.
Official events centre around the main Rizal shrine, in Rizal Park in Manila. Flags are at half-mast and the President of the Philippines lays a wreath at Rizal’s shrine, as a symbol of the nation’s gratitude and reverence. As it is a public holiday, most people take the day off from work and spend time with family and friends.