While Jose Rizal is considered a national hero by many for his pivotal role in the Philippine Revolution against the Spaniards, there is no official national hero of the Philippines. In 1898, December 30 was declared a national day of mourning for the death of Rizal and others during the revolution.
Born in 1861 in Calabra, Laguna, Jose Rizal studied in the Philippines and in Spain, where he obtained his Licentiate in Medicine as well as a degree in philosophy. He traveled extensively and learned 22 languages.
In March of 1887, the novel Noli Me Tangere was published in Berlin. It was a satirical novel that poked fun at the arrogance of the Spanish clergy who he had been exposed to during his studies. In Paris in 1890, he reprinted an annotated version of an older Philippine work, Morga's Succesos de la Islas Filipinos, to prove that Philippine culture had value even before the arrival of the Spaniards.
El Filibusterismo, his second novel and a sequel to Noli, was published in 1891, further exposing and criticizing both the Spanish clergy and electoral corruption. This led to his persecution by authorities, including a brief incarceration in 1892.
His work became influential in the Philippines, and he was hunted down by authorities and imprisoned a few months after the revolution began in September 1896. He was executed by firing squad on December 30, 1896.