by Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design, Maplewood, N.J.)
…José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, AKA José Rizal (1861-1896)!
Author, poet, essayist, correspondent, patriot, revolutionary founder of La Liga Filipina, the civic organization that gave birth to the Katipunan (the society dedicated to the expulsion of Colonial Spain), a polymath who was conversant in 22 languages, a painter and sculptor (and graphic artist), and finally, martyr. No other Hero of the Philippines looms larger in our history and memory. Not the mythic figure of Lapu-Lapu whose real life is shrouded in the mists of time and legend, but a flesh and blood man who was known in his lifetime for his writings and impact on Filipino society.
He is best known for his writings Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), published in 1887, and El Filibusterismo (The Filibustering, or The Reign of Greed), published in 1891. The works angered colonial authorities and their vassals as they are highly critical of Spanish friars and the many atrocities committed “in the name of the church.” Noli Me Tangere’s book cover was rendered in graphic form by Rizal, with a distinctive, counter-intuitive composition and title typography that was raw and illustrative—more like a political broadside or agit prop poster.
In addition to his published oeuvre, Rizal wrote essays, allegories, poems, and editorials to the Spanish newspaper La Solidaridad in Barcelona—using the nom de plume, “Dimasalang”). In them he advocated liberal and progressive ideas of individual rights and freedom—specifically the rights of the Filipino people—and that Filipinos were in conflict with a “double-faced goliath” in both corrupt friars and bad government. Even though his ideas of reform were supported by progressives in Spain, colonial authorities sought to prosecute him as an inciter of revolution (fascists are always wary of intellectuals first and foremost which is why the educated and the artists are always among their first targets—it was no different in the Colonial Philippines).
Rizal faced a military trial and was executed. The Spanish authorities had him shot by a firing squad of native Filipino infantry, backed by an insurance force of Spanish soldiers in case the Filipinos chose not to cooperate. Nice, huh?
In 2006 Penguin Books adopted Noli Me Tangere into the Penguin Classics pantheon. El Filibusterismo was published just this past month in Penguin Classics.
Noli Me Tangere
Penguin Classics, 2006
Illustration adapting the original book cover deisgn by José Rizal
Classics Art Director: Jasmine Lee
Penguin Art Director: Paul Buckley — with Augusto Surtida.