It is Rizal Day today in the Philippines. The death anniversary of the country’s national hero Jose Rizal, a patriot and advocate for reforms in the country during the Spanish colonial times. A quick bio on Rizal: Unlike the armed Philippine revolutionaries before him, he used the pen as his weapon, writing many works criticizing the Spanish colonial authorities. The most prominent were his two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo (required reading for all Filipino students), which were critical of the Spanish friars and the other abuses of the colonizers and the Church. Spanish authorities got mad, arrested him for inciting revolution, and after a military trial, executed him in 1896. That execution, many believe, was the main catalyst for the Philippine Revolution. Nice going Spanish colonizers.
Rizal was imprisoned in Fort Santiago, one of the oldest fortifications in Manila. It’s one of the historic sites in the Philippine capital and funny, irreverent tour guide Carlos Celdran includes it in his Walk This Way: Tour of Intramuros (a must-do if you’re visiting Manila). I just don’t think going inside the Rizal Shrine is part of the tour, so if you’re going to tour around this part of Manila yourself, walk further into the house-turned-museum where Rizal spent his last night, step inside the “Contemplation Room” where some of Rizal’s writings are engraved on the wall, and peek into his cell, where he wrote his last poem, Mi Ultimo Adios (My Last Farewell). He was 35 when he died.