by Ambrosio Brian F. Enciso
Quezon City Science High School

Have you ever heard of the Draco rizali, Apogania rizali, or the Rhacophorus rizali?

In case you haven't, well they are the scientific names of animals and insects which our National Hero Jose Rizal discovered--yes, discovered--during his exile in Dapitan. The naming of these fauna after their discoverer is the greatest tribute to Rizal's scientific endeavors and expertise.

Rizal is venerated almost solely for helping form a national consciousness and for fighting for reforms in the Spanish rulers' governance in the hope for a better life for his people. Unfortunately, his scientific accomplishments largely remain in the shadow of his writings, travels, supposed amorous affairs, and of course, martyrdom.

Aside from having been a linguist who mastered five languages; a prolific writer of numerous essays, letters, poems, and two novels; and a stubborn nationalist who died for what he believed in, Rizal early on displayed intellectual capabilities in the sciences as well.

Rizal was first educated by his mother and then by private school teachers in his hometown Calamba, and in Biñan, Laguna. Rizal's entrance into the Ateneo signaled the start of his streak of scholastic excellence.

Rizal as a Physician

After impressing the Jesuit friars and finishing his Bachelor of Arts with highest honors at the Ateneo, Rizal transferred to the University of Santo Tomas where he simultaneously took up Medicine and Philosophy and Letters.

In 1882, Rizal sailed for Spain and enrolled at the Universidad Central de Madrid. He received his licentiate in Medicine in 1884 and his licentiate in Philosophy and Letters the following year.

Because of his mother's failing eyesight, Rizal chose to specialize in ophthalmology and worked in the eye clinic of Dr. Louis Weckert, a famous French ophthalmologist. After his four month training with Weckert, Rizal left for Heidelberg, Germany in February 1886 to work under the tutelage of Dr. Otto Becker, an eminent German ophthalmologist. Rizal completed his studies in ophthalmic surgery in this city.

Rizal himself became a skilled ophthalmologist, later making quite a name for himself in Hong Kong. His most famous patient was of course his mother, Doña Teodora, whom he saved from impending blindness.