I can’t recall where exactly I first encountered the term “rizz” while doomscrolling, but I do remember having a passing thought of Dr. Jose Rizal while seeing it. For some reason, it just sounded like it fit him—especially after finding out that this term allegedly originates from “charisma,” and means “the skill in attracting people.”
Five years ago, we pondered on whether Rizal was the first softboy. Now, everyone seems to have fun riding on the belief that “rizz” unofficially originates from the man behind crucial works “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”. But despite the term being largely linked to romantic context—and Rizal being popularly known to have a rich (read: chaotic) dating history—we tried to look for facts that would offer a different perspective behind everyone’s intrigue and admiration toward him. What facts would prove that he remains extraordinary until today?
On Jose Rizal’s 162nd birthday, we revisit some moments in history and try to make a case for his strange, century-spanning “charm.”
Creatures are named after Rizal
Your neighbor’s baby’s name being lifted from your childhood moniker is one thing, but animals being officially named after you is another. During the time Rizal was exiled in Dapitan, he studied various species. Three of the specimens he collected were eventually named after him: Rhacophorus rizali (orange-brown frog), Draco rizali (winged lizard), and Apogonia rizali (rare flying beetle). Now that’s a flex.
Rizal: The Ultimate Polyglot
Who would have the stamina, dedication, and intelligence to learn more languages in their lifetime? Apparently, Rizal had that and more. He reportedly achieved fluency in more than 20 languages: Tagalog, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, and French, among others. “I speak with everybody and at times I serve them as interpreter,” said Rizal in his letters to Ferdinand Blumentritt, a friend with whom he shared his love for languages. RIP Pepe, you would’ve loved Duolingo.
Rizal wore many hats
Apart from the fact that hats are an indispensable element in every 21st century Rizal movie (it’s a genre at this point), he figuratively wore many of them. Aside from practicing medicine and being an author, he also dabbled in poetry, drawing, sculpture, anthropology, and more. (Trying to make a Sims character based on him might take two hours for the outfit, and another two hours for the traits.)
(Maybe) you can pass the aux cord to Rizal
Rizal is a known writer and physician. But many forget that he was into music, too. According to Filipinas Heritage Library, Rizal’s grandniece Asuncion Lopez-Rizal Bantug revealed that music was our (unofficial) national hero’s “first love” among other forms of art. Though he wasn’t exactly stellar at it, Rizal was persistent to learn the craft—he practiced playing the flute and immersed in piano, voice, and solfeggio (a vocal exercise) culture.
Rizal spat bars after bars
Many have associated Rizal with decade-spanning words of wisdom (like the ones in the poem “Sa Aking Mga Kabata,” which historian Ambeth Ocampo argued that Rizal actually did not write). But here’s an actual line from him that rings true until today: “In order to foretell the destiny of a nation, one has to first open the book of her past.”
But while these facts show how Rizal stands out, it’s also important to remember that he wasn’t perfect. Immersing further into history would show us why debates about his role in the revolution and his elite privilege continue to spark, and why there are still people who believe that Andres Bonifacio should take the “national hero” label instead. Exploring these layers would be a good step to meaningfully connecting our present with our past—which is one way to consider Rizal’s important teachings as a nationalist.
Art by Kealan Paul C. Cortez