The Cult of José Rizal by Ms Kimberley Weir
Date : 02 Nov 2017
Time : 16:00 - 17:30
Venue : Asia Research Institute, Seminar Room
AS8 Level 4, 10 Kent Ridge Crescent, Singapore 119260
National University of Singapore @ KRC


Dr Sonia Lam, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Born in Spanish colonial Philippines in 1861, José Rizal was an ophthalmologist by profession but wrote extensively, advocating for political reforms for the country under Spanish rule. He was executed by the colonial government in 1896 after they accused him of inciting rebellion through his writing. Following his death and throughout the twentieth century, Rizal’s image and writing have dominated Philippine culture, particularly in the monuments to his figure, which are found across the country.

The origins of Rizal’s commemoration have been disputed, some attributing it to the US colonial government, while others argue commemorative events took place prior to US rule. In either case, there is little denying the prevalence of his image or his perception as a national figure, with many Philippine historians referring to him as “hero” or “father of the nation” (Camacho, 2011; Paulino, 2007; Delmendo, 2004; San Juan, 2000).

However, whilst Rizal is revered, his public statuary is not always celebrated, and is sometimes described as a reduced or compromised form of nationalism, particularly by those who perceive the statues as a consequence of US colonial rule (Mojares 2006; Morley 2016). In fact the statues often garner criticism, whereas the importance of Rizal himself is generally accepted (Paulino 2007). Although the statue is seen to have an agenda, Rizal is not.

Through an analysis of the development of the José Rizal Monument in Rizal Park, Manila and the commemorative activities that have taken place around the monument since its inauguration in 1913, this seminar will explore the growth of José Rizal as national hero, the political motivations behind this and the shifting public perceptions of the figure and monument.


Kimberley Weir is a PhD student in the Department of History at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her PhD is exploring how US colonial rule in the Philippines (1902 to 1946) shaped the public monuments erected in the country throughout the twentieth century and how these have affected the way in which Philippine historical events have been memorialised. Following her undergraduate degree in American and English Studies at the University of Nottingham, Kimberley completed a Masters in Art Gallery and Museum Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. After graduating she spent eight years working in the museums and visual arts sectors in the UK and Australia. She is currently on the editorial board of the Midlands Historical Review Journal.


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Minghua TAY