We’ve seen countless book written about our national hero, José Rizal. There are biographies written depicting his colorful and adventurous life such as Biografia de Rizal (Rafael Palma), The Great Malayan (Carlos Quirino), Jose Rizal: Life, Works, and Writing (Gregorio F. Zaide) and Vida y Escritos del José Rizal written by the 19th century Spanish civil servant Wenceslao Emilio Retana y Gamboa. There are also countless books exploring his vibrant lovelife, and some written accounts about him excelling in his profession as an ophthalmologist.

Indeed, Jose Rizal has become a symbol of resistance and patriotism in our country. This time, let’s explore his priceless literary contributions that not only reflect the pulse of his time but still echoes in our contemporary setting. From poems, essays, novels, and even letters, there’s no denying that Rizal has a talent for writing. In this article, dive deep into his works and see Rizal as an amazing wordsmith. We’ve curated some of Jose Rizal’s notable works as a way to commemorate and celebrate Rizal Day!

Related Read: 6 Enlightening Facts About Jose Rizal: Unmasking the Philippine National Hero

8 Best Jose Rizal Literary Works

Noli Me Tángere

jose rizal works noli me tangere
Photo: Ateneo Rizal Library

Undeniably one of the famous works of Jose Rizal, Noli Me Tángere (translated as Touch Me Not) follows the story of Crisostomo Ibarra and his journey to overthrow the Spanish colonizers. In an interesting way, Rizal wrote the novel mirroring the harsh realities Filipinos experiencedunder the Spanish rule.

The novel introduces Crisostomo Ibarra, a young and idealistic Filipino who returns to his homeland after completing his education in Europe after seven years. Going back to his home country, his eyes unfolded at the harsh realities his fellow countrymen experience under the Spanish rule. The novel further explores the power struggle between the rich and the poor, the exploitation of the lower class and pervasive abuse of power. Appalled by such atrocities, Ibarra devised a plan to take revenge on the Spanish friars. The ending of the novel? Well, it’s up to you to find out.

The controversial book was banned the Spanish due to its theme. However, it didn’t stop the Filipinos from acquiring copies of the novel, and soon enough, the novel served as a catalyst for social awakening and the Filipino’s quest for independence.

Here’s an interesting fact: Do you know that Rizal discarded one chapter from Noli? It was Chapter 25 entitled Elias and Salome. The reason why it was removed wasn’t clear though, but it could be that he deemed the part irrelevant to the story or he had to save printing costs. Nonetheless, a manuscript of it was found and is included in the recent editions of the novel.

El Filibusterismo

The sequel to Rizal’s Noli me Tángere, 13 years after that prison escape, we now follow Ibarra disguised as Simoun, a wealthy jeweller here in El Filibusterismo (translated as The Reign of the Greed). In the second novel, Simoun tries to operate within the system, blending within the higher ups and forming ties with the enemies while gathering strength with his newfound allies. His plan was clear and carefully devised, but an unexpected turn of events made an impact into the trajectory of his plan.

Just like its prequel, El Filibusterismo is one of the celebrated written works of Jose Rizal, playing a significant role in igniting the flames of nationalism among the Filipinos.

Trivia: Jose Rizal dedicated El Filibusterismo to the GOMBURZA, the three martyr Filipino priests who were accused of subversion and were executed in the garrote.

Junto al Pasig

In 1880, Rizal received a request from the the Jesuits at the Ateneo de Municipal de Manila, asking for his participation to the festivities in honor of La Inmaculada Concepcion, which was the patroness of Ateneo. Despite being a student at UST that time, he remained friends with the Jesuits and granted them their request. Thus, a zarzuela entitled Junto al Pasig was born. Translated as ‘Along the Pasig,’ this short play revolves around the themes of Christianity, the struggle between good and evil, and mentions of paganism.

To the Young Women of Malolos

Rizal shows his impression and admiration to the young women of Malolos who showed commendable spirit in achieving the same opportunities enjoyed by men in terms of education during that time.

In this letter, Rizal commended the women of Malolos for their pursuit of education and their desire to uplift themselves intellectually and socially. He acknowledged their bravery in challenging the oppressive attitudes that restricted women’s education and empowerment during the Spanish colonial period. Rizal encouraged the women to continue their quest for knowledge and enlightenment, emphasizing the importance of education in fostering individual growth and contributing to the betterment of society. He urged them to stand firm in their convictions and to resist the societal pressures that sought to confine them to traditional roles.

The Diaries of José Rizal

Rizal’s letters is a collection of his insights in the form of diaries. Such entries and letters to his family provides an introspective view of our hero.

The diaries cover various periods of Rizal’s life, including his travels in Europe, his academic pursuits, and his reflections on the conditions of the Philippines under Spanish rule. They reveal his multifaceted character, showcasing not only his activism and concerns for social justice but also his love for the sciences, literature, and the arts.

El Canto Del Viajero

This poems provides a perspective of Rizal as a traveler. It was born from his joyous thought of being able to travel again– particularly to Europe and then to Cuba. The ‘Song of the Wanderer’ also unravels the lonelines that comes in arriving at a foreign land and that somber feeling when you realize that you’e become a stranger in your own motherland upon arriving home.

Goodbye to Leonor

Nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing your childhood love be married to someone else. In his farewell poem entitled ‘Goodbye to Leonor,’ Rizal expressed his agony and grief upon knowing that his childhood sweetheart Leonor Rivera tied the knot with Henry Kipping, a British railway engineer.

Rizal met the then 13-year old Leonor in 1880, during his second year of studying Medicine in UST. The two fell in love with each other almost instantly and got engaged the same year. Rivera’s parents were against their relationship but despite this, the pair continued the flamed of their romance by exchanging letters and photographs, majority of which were intercepted by Leonor’s parents.

Rizal and Rivera’s story is a Romeo and Juliet kind of tale, with the same bitter ending. Their romance lasted for 11 years; and it is said that Rizal immortalized Leonor as Maria Clara in his famous novel Noli and El Fili.

Mi Ultimo Adios

Also known as ‘My Last Farewell’ is a poem written by Rizal the eve of his execution. This bittersweet letter emphasizes the hero’s undying love for his country, serving as a sacrifice to achieve freedom. He acknowledges the sacrifices made by Filipinos in their struggle for independence and calls on future generations to continue the fight for freedom. The poem also expresses Rizal’s acceptance of his imminent death, portraying a sense of peace and resignation.

The poem also served as his good bye to Rizal family, friends, and ultimately, a beacon of hope for the nation’s future.

Did Rizal wrote ‘Sa Aking Mga Kabata’?

Contrary to popular belief, Rizal did not write the well-known poem that has been taught to us since elementary. According to Inquirer, there are no known manuscripts proving that Rizal indeed penned the poem.

Pen is Mightier than a Bolo

Rizal’s enduring legacy completely underlines such powerful adage. Through his writings, he meticulously exposed the injustices, abuses, and cultural disparities under the colonial regime, compelling Filipinos to confront the harsh realities of their situation. Such works served as catalysts of change, the starting line for the pursuit of knowledge, the push towards enlightenment, the grasp for freedom.

José Protasio Rizal Mercado– a hero, a doctor, a passionate lover, a writer.

Visiting historical places such as Fort Santiago and the Rizal Shrine Museum will help you appreciate Rizal’s life and works.