He was born in the town of Calamba, Laguna, to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo.
José Rizal was quite well known for writing two novels, Noli Me Tangere 1887 and El Filibusterismo 1891, which are social commentaries of the Philippines under Spanish colonial rule. The Spanish authorities considered these novels as subversive and put Rizal under trial for instigating the Philippine Revolution. He was sentenced to death and was executed by a firing squad in Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park), in Manila.
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He first studied under Justiniano Cruz in Laguna. He went to Manila to study at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he received his bachelor of arts in 1877. He continued his education in the Ateneo Municipal to obtain a degree in land surveying and assessor, and at the same time in the University of Santo Tomas where he studied Philosophy and Letters. Upon learning that his mother was going blind, he then decided to study medicine in the University of Santo Tomas, but did not complete it because he felt that Filipinos were being discriminated by the Dominicans who operated the University.
He then went to Madrid, Spain, against the wishes of his father, to study Medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid where he earned the degree of Licentiate in Medicine.
He continued his studies at Paris and Heidelberg where he earned a second doctorate.
Rizal was a reformer for a more open society, rather than a revolutionary for political independence; as a leader of the Propaganda Movement of Filipino students in Spain, he contributed newspaper articles to La Solaridaridad in Barcelona with the following agenda:
However, when in 1896 the Katipunan national secret society rebelled, he was implicateded by association, arrested, trieded for sedition, condemned, and executedd by firing squad in Manila. By this fateful act, the Spanish enobled a martyr in behalf of the Philippine Revolution, and lost a colony.
See: Ultimo Adios, Rizal's Last Farewell, written in Spanish verse on the eve of execution.