Book: Rizal Without the Overcoat – Chapter 4: Everyday Rizal

It is probably difficult to follow Jose Rizal’s footsteps because he’s a national hero. Filipinos, especially students, are pressured to emulate Rizal because he had top marks at school (if you recall in the first chapter, Rizal was not the only student who graduated at Ateneo De Manila University with sobresaliente marks).

But before he became a hero, he was a person. He was a human being just like the rest of us. He ate the same food like everybody else, he read the same books that anyone could’ve read, and he was also stingy just like some of us.

In this chapter, Ambeth Ocampo shows that Rizal was no different from us.


Based on Ocampo’s research, he discovered that Rizal usually had “hot chocolate, a cup of rice, and sardinas secas for breakfast” (61). Sardinas secas is just another word for tuyo (salted, dry fish).

tuyo fish

For lunch, Rizal usually ate rice and ayungin (Silver Perch) (61).

When the Rizal family lived in Hong Kong in 1892, the family had a 20-year-old cook named “Asing”. El Renacimiento Filipino published an interview between Vicente Sotto and the Chinese cook in June 15, 1913.

In the interview, Asing was “the cook of the Rizal family for more than a year”. Asing described Rizal as a good master who never shouted nor hit him. Rizal lived with his mother and two sisters, Trinidad and Josefa in 2 Rednaxela Terrace in Hong Kong. (65)

Asing added that his “amo (master) was not delicado (delicate) about his food. He ate everything, but he was very moderate”. “Bread and rice were often served at the dinner table” and “he drank nothing but water”. (66)

When Rizal was exiled in Dapitan in 1892, he had a cook named “Tinong”. Faustino “Tinong” Alfon, who was from Cebu, moved to Dapitan, Zamboanga Del Norte where he was hired as Rizal’s cook and handyman. Tinong lived and worked in Rizal’s Talisay estate, cooked meals, assisted Rizal during eye operations, and learned Spanish. (64)

In an interview with The Independent in 1929, Tinong mentioned that Rizal’s meals usually consisted of three dishes: a Filipino dish, a Spanish dish, and another Filipino or “mestizo dish”. Tinong also mentioned that Rizal liked lanzones and mangoes.

It’s interesting that tuyo is already a dish in the mid to late 1800s. What’s even more interesting is that Rizal liked eating tuyo. Just like today,


It was rare to have a large library in the 19th century, but the Rizal family home had the biggest library in the town of Calamba, Laguna. Jose was raised “to appreciate and care for books”, so it is no wonder that his interest in books and reading started at home.

These were some of the books and authors that Rizal read (Most books were in Spanish translation, but he also read English, French, and German):

Honoré de Balzac;
Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo;
Pierre-Jean de Béranger;
Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu;
Emmanuel, comte de Las Cases’s Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (The Memorial of Saint Helene: A Collection of Memories of Napoleon I of France);
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe;
Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield;
Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales;
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’s The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro;
Azcarraga y Pamero’s La Libertad de comercio en las Islas Filipinas;
Ferdinand Blumentritt’s Breve diccionario etnográfico de Filipinas;
Montero y Vidal’s El Archipiélago Filipino y las Islas Marianas and Carolinas y Palaos;
The Bible (three versions: Spanish, Catholic edition, and translated from the Latin Vulgate);
J. Baille’s Las Maravillas de la Electricidad;
Kōno Bairei’s Studies of Birds;
Buenet’s Drawings and Ornaments of Architecture;
Evert Augustus Duyckinck’s Lives and Portraits of the Presidents of the United States, from Washington to Grant;
James William B. Money’s Java; How to Manage a Colony: A Practical Solution of the Questions Now Affecting British India;
Michel Levy’s Treatise on Public and Private Hygiene.


Below is a copy of Jose Rizal’s expenses in January 1884, when he was a student in Madrid, Spain. This list was one of Rizal’s lists that he wrote in his diaries and notebooks.

Rizal’s expenses for Jan 1884

Rizal eating tuyo, Rizal reading Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and Rizal listing his expenses provide proof that Jose Rizal was, indeed, just like the rest of us.



Ocampo, Ambeth R. Rizal Without the Overcoat. Mandaluyong: Anvil Publishing, Inc. 2012. Print.

Image by mannangan. Tuyo.


This is Part 4 of a 9-Part Rizal series of Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without the Overcoat.

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