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.

Book: Rizal Without the Overcoat – Chapter 3: Family and Others

This chapter focuses on Rizal’s family and friends and how they played a part in the national hero’s life.

Teodora Alonso Quintos

She was married to Francisco Mercado where they had eleven children.

She was related to Jose Alberto of Biñan. Jose Rizal lived in Jose Alberto’s house when he was studying in Biñan.

Teodora’s father, Lorenzo Alberto Alonso, married Ilocana Paula Florentino in 1814. A few years later, the same Lorenzo Alberto Alonso was living with Brigida Quintos, Teodora’s mother. This relationship makes Teodora and Jose Alberto half-siblings. (38)

Paciano Rizal

Born on March 7, 1851, Paciano Rizal was the second of the eleven Rizal children. He was 10 years older than Jose Rizal.

He had a fair complexion and rosy cheeks. He was handsome—more handsome than Rizal. He was tall, around 5’7’’ or 5’9’. Rizal admitted it himself and described Paciano as “more refined and serious” than him. (43)

Paciano studied at University of Santo Tomas but he had to drop out because he was associated with Father Jose Burgos, a filibustero. Father Jose Burgos, together with Father Mariano Gomez and Father Jacinto Zamora, were executed in 1872 for the Cavite Mutiny of 1872. Due to Paciano’s reputation at school, Jose used “Rizal” instead of “Mercado” at school to avoid being associated with his brother. (40)

It was Paciano who sent Rizal to Europe, corresponding with him, and sending him monthly allowance. When Rizal came home and insisted on marrying Leonor Rivera, Paciano discouraged him by saying, “Iniisip mo ang iyong sarili, ” (You’re only thinking about yourself) and sent him off to Europe again. (41)

Paciano courted a few women but never married. But he had a daughter, Emiliana, with Severina Decena. (41)

He died in Los Baños, Laguna on April 13, 1930.

There are only two photographs of Paciano Rizal: one taken without his consent and one when he was in his coffin. One of Paciano’s granddaughter said that their lolo didn’t liked to be photographed because “he was a wanted man in the past and if there were no photographs of him, then it would be hard for the authorities to arrest him. He could walk everywhere without being recognized.” (43)

Father Leoncio Lopez

Father Leoncio Lopez was the parish priest of Calamba, Laguna.

On August 23, 1891, when Rizal was writing to Ferdinand Blumentritt, he mentioned Father Lopez. Rizal described Fr. Lopez as an

indio, tall, straight, and distinguished; cultured but timid and tender… A friend of my father. He was related to my family. He was a just, liberal, and tolerant man. You will see his image in my new book [El Filibusterismo]; I call him Fr. Florentino. He was a musician, poet and naturalist. He never meddled in politics. He never had anything to do with the election of the gobernadorcillo. We were at peace. (46)

Aside from the inspiration of the character Father Florentino, how were the Rizals and Father Leoncio Lopez related? Father Lopez was related to the national hero because Rizal’s sister, Narcisa, married Antonino Lopez, Father Lopez’ son. (47)

Ferdinand Blumentritt

Today, Blumentritt is a busy street in Santa Cruz, Manila. Blumentritt Road (or Blumentritt LRT Station) was named after Ferdinand Blumentritt, one of Rizal’s friends. He was also friends with painter Juan Luna and diplomat Felipe Agoncillo.

Ferdinand Blumentritt was an Austrian scholar who studied the Philippines. He and Rizal often wrote letters because they’re good friends. These letters make up almost two volumes of Epistolario Rizalino, a collection of Rizal’s letters. (48)

After Rizal died, he wrote to Higino Francisco from 1906 to 1913. Francisco, Rizal’s relative, smuggled copies of Noli Me Tangere into the Philippines. In their letters, Blumentritt mentioned that he attacked anti-Filipinos such as Quioquiap and Retana and American writer James Le Roy. (48)

Without these people, Rizal wouldn’t be Rizal. It’s unfortunate that these people were only  mentioned in history books because of their relationship to the hero. It would’ve been better if Filipinos know more about them because the Philippines wouldn’t be what it is today without them.


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


This is Part 3 of a 9-Part Rizal series of Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without the Overcoat.

Book: Rizal Without the Overcoat – Chapter 2: Facts and Possibilities


Meeting with ex-patriates (L-R, seated): Jose Rizal, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, and Juan Luna

1 de enero 1883. La Noche. Estoy muy triste yo. No sé qué vaga melancolía, indefinida soledad ahoga el alma, semejante a la profunda tristeza de las ciudades después de un tumultuoso júbilo, a una ciudad después de una felicísima unión. Soñé que imitando yo a un actor en una escena en que muere, sentí vivamente que me faltaba el aliento y perdía rápidamente las fuerzas. Después se me oscurecía la vista y densas tinieblas, como las de la nada, se apoderaban de mí: las angustias de la muerte. Quise gritar y pedir socorro a Antonio Paterno, sintiendo que iba a morir. Desperté sin fuerzas y sin aliento.

Night. Mournful am I. I do not know what vague melancholy, what indefinable loneliness stifles the soul, similar to the profound sadness of cities after a tumultuous rejoicing, to a city after an exceedingly happy union. [Two nights ago, that is, December 30], I had a frightful nightmare when I almost died. I dreamed that imitating an actor in a scene in which he dies, I felt vividly that my breath was failing and I was rapidly losing strength. Then my vision became dim and dense darkness like that of nothingness overpowered me: the anguish of death. I wanted to shout and ask for help from Antonio Paterno, feeling that I was about to die. I awoke weak and breathless. (27)

(Translated by Austin Coates and Leon Ma. Guerrero, Rizal’s biographers)

The paragraph above was from Jose Rizal’s journal entry for January 1, 1883, exactly 13 years before his execution. Did Rizal really write this entry? Did he really have that dream?

Based on this journal entry, it seems that Rizal knew that he was going to die. “Austin Coates is even surprised that many incidents Rizal wrote about in his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo eventually happened to him in real life.” (28) It’s incredible to think that Rizal had these dreams or premonitions—this is a side of Rizal that not a lot of people know.

This was not the first time Rizal mentioned this dream—in fact, when Rizal was in Brussels, Belgium, he wrote a letter to Marcelo H. del Pilar dated June 11, 1890 about his plans and the use of the pseudonym Laong Laan.

… I am sad and in the midst of mournful presentiments but I don’t believe all of them. When I was a boy I believed that I would not reach the age of 30, and I don’t know why I used to think that way. Night after night, for the last two months, I have had dreams of friends and relatives who are now dead. Once, I even dreamed of descending into the depths of the earth where I was met by many people who were seated and dressed in white. They had white faces, were quiet and encircled with a white light. It was there that I saw two of my relatives, one already dead and the other still living. Even if I don’t believe in these things and though my body is strong and I have no fear nor sickness of any kind, nevertheless, I prepare myself for death, arranging things I will leave behind and disposing myself for any eventuality. Laong Laan (Ever prepared), is my real name. (32)

If one needs more evidence of Rizal’s dreams, they should go through Epistolario Rizalino and Escritos de Rizal. Epistolario Rizalino is a six-volume collection of Rizal’s letters and correspondence to relatives and friends while Escritos de Rizal is a multi-volume of his notes and diaries. (28)

It is normal to be skeptical of Rizal’s paranormal experiences. But how does one explain the dream he had in December 30th? Was it a coincidence? Or was it because he was psychic?


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

Image by Bayanihan News. Rare Photos of Dr. Jose Rizal.


This is Part 2 of a 9-Part Rizal series of Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without the Overcoat.

Book: Rizal Without the Overcoat – Chapter 1: Many Rizals

Sa Aking Mga Kabata If Rizal stayed in Hong Kong and never returned to the Philippines in 1892, he wouldn’t have died on December 30, 1896. But he did.

Ambeth Ocampo describes Jose Rizal as a “conscious hero” because Rizal planned his entire life in details based on his letters, diaries, and writings (9).

In June 1892, Rizal wrote a letter that shows his love for his country and his fellow Filipinos.

The step that I have taken, or am about to take, is undoubtedly very risky, and it is unnecessary to say that I have pondered on it a great deal. I know that everyone is opposed to it but I realize also that no one knows what goes on in my heart. I cannot live knowing that many are suffering unjust persecution because of me; I cannot live seeing my brothers [hermanos] and their large families persecuted like criminals. I prefer to face death and gladly give my life to free so many innocent persons from this unjust persecution.

I know that, at present, the future of my country gravitates in part around me; that with my death, many would rejoice, and that, consequently, many are longing for my end. But what am I to do? I have duties of conscience toward my aged parents whose sighs pierce my heart; I know that I alone, even my death, can make them happy by returning them to their country and the tranquility of their home. My parents are all that I have, but my country has many sons still who can take it to advantage.

Moreover, I wish to show those who deny us patriotism that we know how to die for our duty and for our convictions. What matters death if one dies for what one loves, for one’s country and for those whom he loves?

If I know that I were the only pillar of Philippine politics and if I were convinced that my countrymen were going to make me use of my services, perhaps I would hesitate to take this step, but there are still others who can take my place, who can take my place to advantage. Furthermore, there are those who find me superfluous and in no need of my services, thus they reduce me to inaction.

I have always loved my poor country and I am sure that I shall lover her until my last moment. Perhaps some people will be unjust to me; well, my future, my life, my joys, everything, I have sacrificed for love of her. Whatever fate my be, I shall die blessing my country and wishing her the dawn of her redemption.

But let’s not forget; even though he loved the Philippines, he was only human.

Even though he graduated with sobresaliente (excellent) marks in Ateneo De Manila University, eighth of his other classmates (out of the 12 students) graduated sobresaliente as well (14).

Even though the Americans sponsored him as a national hero, Rizal thought the country didn’t have “real civil liberty” when he travelled in United States from April to May 1888 (17).

And even though Filipino students are taught with Rizal’s first poem, “Sa Aking Mga Kabata”, he didn’t write it at all. Ocampo refuted this notion and provided examples. He said that while “Rizal spoke and wrote Tagalog fluently”, Rizal couldn’t write a novel in his native tongue. There was no existing manuscript of the original poem, and Rizal never published it when he was alive. (5) 

As smart as he was, there was no way that Rizal wrote the poem when he was eight years old. He was still a child.

How would you describe Rizal? What are his other ‘identities’ that you’ve heard of?


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


This is Part 1 of a 9-Part Rizal series of Ambeth Ocampo’s Rizal Without the Overcoat.