SOAS University of London

Philippine Studies at SOAS

Annotating Colonial Histories: José Rizal and The Rethinking of Filipino Identity in 19th Century England

Jose Rizal
Prof Jose Victor Z. Torres (De La Salle University-Manila)

Date: 24 May 2019Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 24 May 2019Time: 10:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

To celebrate the launch of Sentro Rizal London, Philippine Studies at SOAS with the Philippine Embassy and the National Commission on Culture presents a discussion on Rizal, rewriting Philippine history and the formation of the Philippine nation-state.


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Annotating Colonial Histories: José Rizal and The Rethinking of Filipino Identity in 19th Century England


Filipino reformist Jose Rizal was a minor celebrity when he arrived in London in 1888. His first novel, the Noli me Tangere, published in 1887, was praised by Spanish and Filipino liberals in Europe but condemned by the Spanish colonial government and the Catholic Church in the Philippines. His first homecoming that same year was cut short when the decision to ban his book by government censors was announced and made Rizal a wanted man in his own country.

Carrying a letter of introduction from eminent scholar and India Office Library director, Reinhold Rost, Rizal obtained permission to use the library of the British Museum. It was here that he found a work by a Spanish government official, Antonio de Morga, which chronicled the early years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines.

The discovery of Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas proved to be serendipitous to Rizal. He had been rethinking the idea of the Filipino not as a people who were equal to their Spanish colonizers but a people with a unique civilization that was destroyed by colonization. Rizal found the answer to his idea in Morga’s book and it was this work that he decided to reprint with his annotations.

This lecture will discuss how Jose Rizal rewrote the Philippine history of his time with what has now been considered as his second major work. The Morga annotations provided the seeds of the idea of how the Filipinos should view themselves amidst a growing nationalism that eventually led to the formation of a nation.

Speaker Biography

Jose Victor Z. Torres is an Associate Professor at the History Department of the De La Salle University-Manila and an Associate Director for Drama and History at the Bienvenido N. Santos Creative Writing Center in the same university. He graduated with an AB Journalism degree at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and a M.A. and PhD (magna cum laude) in History at the UST Graduate School. He was a former researcher for the Intramuros Administration before he entered the teaching profession at UST and DLSU-Manila. He is a multi-awarded writer, winning the prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature five times and the National Book Award for Travel Writing in 2006 for his book: Ciudad Murada: A Walk Through Historic Intramuros. In 2017, he won his second National Book Award for the Essays in English category for his book, To the Person Sitting in Darkness and Other Footnotes of Our Past. He is the author and editor of 15 books on Philippine history and culture and a contributor of articles on history and culture to local magazines and university journals. He has also lectured in both local and international conferences on history and culture.

Organiser: Philippine Studies at SOAS

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