Rizal as a Naturalist

Upon his arrival from Europe in 1892, Rizal was promptly arrested and incarcerated at Fort Santiago. Soon after, he was exiled to Dapitan where he lived for four years. During this period, Rizal immersed himself in the study of nature.

Rizal was a dedicated naturalist. With the help of his Dapitan pupils, he collected numerous species of birds, insects, butterflies, shells, snakes, and plants. His collection of shells was said to be the richest private collection of conchology in the Philippines during his time. It consisted of over 340 shells representing more than 200 species.

Driven by curiosity and an eagerness to contribute to the pool of scientific knowledge, Rizal sent many specimens of animals, insects, and plants for identification to the museums of Europe, particularly the Anthropological and Ethnographical Museum of Dresden.

He however never accepted money for these specimens, only scientific books and magazines and surgical instruments which he needed in Dapitan. In October 1893 for instance, he sent Director A.B. Meyer of the Anthropological and Ethnographic Museum of Dresden 12 snakes, one sea horse, two scorpions, and several butterflies. In subsequent months, he sent more specimens for the museum, including various kinds of insects, birds, and lizards. In payment for these specimens Rizal shipped to Dresden, Meyer sent him scientific books and journals , artificial eyes, microscopes, and surgical instruments.

Three rare specimens of animals discovered by Rizal earned him high praises from European scientists who named them in his honor: the Draco rizali, a small lizard popularly known as a flying dragon; Apogania rizali, a rare kind of beetle; and the Rhacophorus rizali, a peculiar frog species.

Rizal as an Inventor

Rizal was not an inventive wizard like Thomas Edison but he did have a certain talent for invention. He invented a cigarette lighter, which he called sulpakan, and sent it to Blumentritt in 1887 as a gift. The lighter used a compressed air mechanism.

While in Dapitan, Rizal also invented a wooden machine for making bricks which turned out about 6,000 bricks daily.


Although Rizal spent much of his adult years in foreign lands, the Philippines remained his consuming passion. From this burning patriotism and love for his countrymen were born two novels, Noli Me Tangere and its sequel El Filibusterismo. These were the two novels for which Rizal paid the ultimate price--his life.

Rizal is not revered because he fought in the battlefield and carried a gun--he was a pacifist to the very end. Rizal is the Philippine National Hero and the Greatest son of the Malay race because he was a great man who used his great heart for great purposes.

Sources:

Bantug, J.P. Rizal: Scholar and Scientist. Manila: Bureau of Print, 1946

Craig, Austin. Lineage, Life, and Labors of Jose Rizal. Manila: Philippine Education Co., 1957.

Kalaw, Teodoro. Epistolario Rizalino. Manila: Bureau of Print, 1930.

Zaide, Gregorio and Sonia M. Zaide. Metro Manila: National Book Store Inc., 1984.


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