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Money lessons from Jose Rizal

When it comes to knowledge and talent combined, no Filipino can compare to our national hero Jose Rizal. He was the ultimate Renaissance man, with expertise in a variety of fields – science, agriculture, literature, the arts, linguistics, and even martial arts.

Ignacio BunyeIt may not be well-known to many but apart from being a gifted scholar, artist, and fighter, Rizal was also a very practical man who knew the value of money and was smart in handling it.

In fact, when a ticket he bought with two friends won the lottery in 1892, Rizal did not spend his share of the prize money like a “one day millionaire.” Instead, he made an investment.

According to the website www.dapitan.com, after giving part of his winnings to his father and a friend, Rizal used the money to buy a property near Dapitan, where he was exiled.

On this land, he built a school and a hospital, where he taught children and treated the poor for free. His income came from patients who came from all points of the country and who were more than willing to pay to be treated by him. Based on other accounts, he also had an abaca business and a store there.

Apart from investing money and taking part in trade, Rizal also knew how to save. In the 1913 book “Lineage, Life, and Labors of Jose Rizal,” historian Austin Craig said Rizal saved over 5,000 pesos in just seven months. If you are wondering how much that is, think about this: From his earnings in the hospital alone, Rizal was able to buy diamonds as a secure way of carrying funds.

His knack in money matters did not come from nowhere. We can probably attribute this to Rizal’s upbringing and to his experiences as a student in Europe.

Although he was the youngest child born into the wealthy Mercado family, Rizal did not grow up spoiled. Craig said Rizal’s maternal uncle Gregorio made sure he earned his “candy money” and that he valued rapidity in work.

In Europe, these lessons were useful in guiding him away from many temptations. Contrary to stories that depicted Rizal as a drinker or womanizer, Craig said Rizal actually spent much of his time and money on books, mostly secondhand.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo also told of the hero’s frugality in his book “Rizal Without the Overcoat.” He said that in one party, Rizal even asked his friends to chip in for the champagne he brought, saying he just paid in advance for everyone.

Sadly, despite being disciplined in his spending, Rizal still experienced being in debt. There was a time his family could not send him allowance and he had to rely on friends to pay for matriculation. Still, even if he was struggling and starving, the young Rizal never lost focus in returning the money he borrowed.

Rizal’s attitude towards money can also be seen in his works. In his novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” Rizal hit the extravagant lifestyles of the clergy, government officials, and even fellow Filipinos.

For him, money symbolized hard work and should be used for productive things. In his piece “Hymn to Labor,” he even said “Go to the field to till the land, For the labour of man sustains Fam’ly, home and Motherland.”

It may take one more lifetime or two to find another person with the same genius as Jose Rizal. However, even if we cannot match his intellectual and artistic gifts, we can still emulate him in his approach to work and money.

That would be a fitting gift for him when the nation observers his 152nd birth anniversary this June 19.

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