Professor Rudolf Virchow’s Obituary
for Dr. José Rizal in 1897
Prof. Rudolf Virchow (1821 to 1902)
As a Liberal, Professor Rudolf Virchow was a member of the Prussian House of Representatives in Berlin and was co-founder and chairman of the Progress Party (1861)
At the annual general meeting of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Pre-history in 1897, no less a personage than Professor Rudolf Virchow, world-famous founder of cellular pathology, spoke in memory of the "highly esteemed ordinary member, Dr. José Rizal from Luzon, Philippines", taken by death from the Society for Anthropology. Virchow in his obituary:
"Don José Rizal was one of our members 10 years ago. He spoke at the meeting on 23 April 1887 on the art of Tagalog poetry. Although already a doctor of medicine, he was completely filled with patriotic ideas. The unhappy fate of his homeland under the rule of the Spaniards and the oppression of an all-powerful clergy made up the content of his literary products, mostly dressed in the garb of belles lettres. When, after a lengthy voluntary exile, he returned home, he accordingly became the object of incessant persecution. The growing discord in the Philippines and the ultimate outbreak of the revolution, not yet quelled even now, were largely ascribed to him. He was finally arrested and interned in Mindanao; when he was brought back from there to Manila, simultaneously with the replacement of the Governor, regarded as too lenient, by General Camilio de Polavieja, the direst rumours immediately began to spread as to the fate awaiting him. This concern was converted all too soon into reality: on 30th December, without judicial sentence and apparently without proof of guilt, as public opinion has it, he was shot.
“On the night before his death Rizal wrote his "last farewell" in prison. I received a copy of this beautiful poem. Both the original text and the excellent metrical translation by Mr. E. Seler will be appended to this meeting report. The high poetic quality of this writing, and in particular its patriotic and humane vivacity will contribute to the preservation of the memory of this highly gifted, noble martyr.
“Mr. Ferdinand Blumentritt published in the International Archives for Ethnography 1897, X, an account based on authentic information of the development, goals and essential nature of Rizal. From this may be added here in conclusion that he was born at Calamba, a small town in the province of La Laguna de Bay on the island of Luzon. His parents were Tagalogs. Although originally destined for the priesthood, he soon turned to medicine, which he studied in Manila and Madrid, where he was awarded his doctorate of medicine and philosophy. His further studies led him to Paris, Heidelberg, Leipzig and Berlin. From here he returned home and wrote his novel Noli me tangere, later to become famous, but whose emphasis on freedom attracted the hatred of the old-style Spaniards, obliging him to emigrate. He then lived successively in Japan, North America, England, France and Belgium, where he wrote his second political novel El Filibusterismo. For a time he then practiced as a doctor in Hong Kong, where he married an Englishwoman; later he went to British Borneo, where he intended to found a Filipino farming colony. From there he gained permission to visit his homeland again, but he was arrested there and interned in Dapitan. When the revolt broke out in the Philippines he was accused of initiating it. He was tried three times and the third time he was condemned to death.
“In the penetrating psycho- logical analysis of the man by Mr. Blumentritt there is mention of Rizal's sensitivity as an artist, Mr. Blumentritt being the possessor of three terracotta statues: ‘Prometheus Bound’, ‘The Victory of Death Over Life’, and ‘The Triumph of the Intellect Over Death’”.
“We are losing in Rizal not only a faithful friend of Germany and German scholarship but also the only man with sufficient knowledge and resolution to open a way for modern thought into that far-off island world.”
from: Proceedings of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Pre-history, Berlin, Germany, 1897. First appeared in German.