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Rizal as a Wonder Child

By Prof. Jet T. Castillo

Some Notable Anecdotes on Rizal’s

• Based on stories told by his mother and sisters

during the American Period
Physical Appearance
• Rizal’s childhood nickname was Pepe.
• His sisters would make fun of little Pepe
because he was short for his age, and he had a
big head that was not proportional to his
Early Literacy
• He learned how to read and write before the
age of 5
• His mother was his first teacher
Favorite Story
• The Story of the Moth(Gamo-gamo)
• Told by his mother
• Happened to Pepe in his adulthood
Rizal and his Dog
• Rizal has a male black dog named Usman
• He would walk his dog every afternoon up to
the lake shore (ilaya) of Calamba.
• He would talk to his dog about social issues
such as the abuses of the Spaniards on his
Little Pepe’s Poetry
• When he was a little boy, Rizal would write
• His priest-uncle Fr. Leoncio wouldn’t believe
Pepe wrote those poems.
• Pepe would raise his voice and argue that they
were really his writings.
Schooling in Binan
• He was sent to his mother’s hometown of
Binan to study under a native maestro
• During the Spanish Era, there were no
elementary schools similar to our public and
private schools.
• There were only private tutors who teach kids
in their backyards.
Schooling in Binan
• Pepe excelled here over his other classmates.
• He became a better Spanish writer and
speaker here.
The Controversial Poem
• Rizal’s most famous line: “Ang hindi magmahal
sa sarilig wika ay mabaho pa sa malansang
• Came from the poem “Sa Aking Kabata”
• Allegedly written by Rizal when he was 8 years
The Controversial Poem
• But Rizal’s sisters wouldn’t confirm this.
• They said they never remember Pepe writing
such a poem.
• Actually, “Sa Aking Kabata” first came out in
1906; that’s one decade after his death!
The Controversial Poem
• In those years, many other poems & writings
came out with the “Jose Rizal” by-line.
• He was so popular during that time; writers
were glad to attribute their works to Rizal.
The Controversial Poem
• Clue that Rizal didn’t write it: Sa Aking Kabata
was written in Tagalog.
• All of Rizal’s poems, novels, and essays were
written in Spanish.
The Controversial Poem
• Another clue: the word “kalayaan” in the
• It’s hard to imagine an 8-year old boy to have
understanding of this word.
The Controversial Poem
• But the biggest clue is…
• His sisters wouldn’t agree that it was little
Pepe who wrote this.
Prophetic Pepe
• When Pepe was a little boy, he would
often hangout by himself in the bahay
kubo in their yard.
• One day, his sisters found him there
molding clay into a little statue of
• They laughed at him for idolizing
Napoleon, who was also short.
Prophetic Pepe
• Pepe snapped back at his sisters, saying…
• “Don’t be surprised, one day, people will be
making statues of me!”
Prophetic Pepe
• His sisters were the guests of honor during the
inauguration of Rizal’s statue in Luneta during
the American Period.
• They were also present in the unveiling of
several other Rizal statues all over the country
during the American Period.
Prophetic Pepe
• What could the sisters have felt during these
• Who had the last laugh?