José Rizal, son of a Filipino father and a Chinese mother, came from a wealthy family. Despite his family's wealth, they suffered discrimination because neither parent was born in the peninsula. Rizal studied at the Ateneo, a private high school, and then to the University of St. Thomas in Manila. He did his post graduate work at the University of Madrid in 1882. For the next five years, he wandered through Europe discussing politics wherever he went. In 1886, he studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg and wrote his classic novel Noli me Tangere, which condemned the Catholic Church in the Philippines for its promotion of Spanish colonialism. Immediately upon its publication, he became a target for the police who even shadowed him when he returned to the Philippines in 1887. He left his country shortly thereafter to return to Spain where he wrote a second novel, El Filibusterismo (1891), and many articles in his support of Filipino nationalism and his crusade to include representatives from his homeland in the Spanish Cortes.
He returned to Manila in 1892 and created the Liga Filipina, a political group that called for peaceful change for the islands. Nevertheless, Spanish officials were displeased and exiled Rizal to the island of Mindanao. During his four years there, he practiced medicine, taught students, and collected local examples of flora and fauna while recording his discoveries. Even though he lost touch with others who were working for Filipino independence, he quickly denounced the movement when it became violent and revolutionary. After Andrés Bonifacio issued the Grito de Balintawak in 1896, Rizal was arrested, convicted of sedition, and executed by firing squad on December 30, 1896.
Following the revolution, Rizal was made a saint by many religious cults while the United States authorities seized on his non-violent stance and emphasized his views on Filipino nationalism rather than those of the more action-oriented Emilio Aguinaldo and Andrés Bonifacio.