On the latest Filipino Independence day held last June 8, 2019, the mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq spoke about the great connection between Ghent and The Philippines through José Rizal. Later that day, it was mentioned that the city of Ghent has the possibility to name one of their streets after José Rizal. Let’s find out who José Rizal was, and why he made history in the City of Ghent with publishing his book ‘The Reign of Greed’ or commonly known as ‘El Filibusterismo’.
José Rizal a Filipino Hero
José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Realonda born on June 19, 1861, is a Filipino hero during the end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines.
Rizal an ophthalmologist by profession, polymath, became a writer and a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement which advocated political reforms for the colony under Spain.
José Rizal is a freedom fighter armed with pen and paper. He was a polymath and protagonist for the independent Philippines.Belgian Filipino Lovers
José Rizal’s short biography republished in 2018
He was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after the Philippine Revolution, inspired in part by his writings, broke out. Though he was not actively involved in its planning or conduct, he ultimately approved of its goals which eventually led to the Philippine independence.
He is widely considered as one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines and has been recommended to be so honored by an officially enlisted, National Heroes Committee. However, no law, executive order or proclamation has been enacted or issued officially proclaiming any Filipino historical figure as a national hero. He was the author of the novels Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo, and a number of poems and essays.
José Rizal in Belgium
Without going into full details about the Chronology of The Life of José Rizal, he lived in Brussels and Ghent for a short time.
El Filibusterismo, published in Ghent on the 18th of September 1891. On July 5, 1891, Rizal left from Brussels to Ghent. The main reason for moving was the cost of printing in Ghent was cheaper than in Brussels. Furthermore, he had to escape from the enticing attraction of Suzanne Jacoby(a Belgian landlady who had an affection for Jose Rizal) .
Jose Alejandro (Pampanga) and Edilberto Evangelista (Manila) – compatriots met in Ghent were both studying engineering in the University of Ghent.
Jose Alejandro recalls in his memoirs that Rizal lived in a cheap boarding house with him as room-mate. They decided to buy their own breakfast to reduced the rent expense. Rizal bought tea, sugar, alcohol and a box of biscuits and divided it equally between them. They planned to consume it within 30 days. But Alejandro consumed it 15 days while Rizal successfully consumed it in 30 days.
Historical marker José Rizal in Ghent
Historical marker for José Rizal. He published El Filibusterismo in Ghent, Belgium, while he was living in the Henegouwenstraat.
José Rizal’s historical marker in the City of Ghent
El Filibusterismo (The Reign of Greed)
F. MEYER VAN LOO PRESS, No. 66 Vlaanderen Straat – publishing house where they printed El Filibusterismo and offered installment basis. Rizal pawned his jewelry to pay down payment and early partial payments during the printing.
The Reign Of Greed by José Rizal
July 1891– Rizal wrote to Basa from Ghent warning that he may stop the printing if the money doesn’t come.
August 6, 1891– printing of El Filibusterismo had suspended.
September 18, 1891– El Fili came off the press and copies were given to Basa and Sixto Lopez.
Will José Rizal be commemorated with a street name in Ghent? The future will tell. As a Filipino Hero and social change protagonist, he fought for freedom with his silent words against the oppression and injustice in his time. Who would even deserve it better, than a man who mastered multiple crafts, skills, and languages; and in the end, laid his life down for the love of his country.