Why Rizal’s nickname is Pepe
MANILA, Philippines – Ever wondered why national hero Jose Rizal was called Pepe? Why did he describe his Ateneo days as the happiest of his life?
On Rizal’s 151st birthday on Tuesday, June 19, Rappler takes a look at interesting facets of Rizal’s childhood. Below are fast-facts about the novelist, artist and political thinker based on “Tidbits on a Boy Named Pepe,” an article of the National Historical Commission (NHC).
After all, “knowing Jose Rizal starts by knowing him as a child,” said the NHC.
1. Jose Protacio aka Pepe
Rizal was born on June 19, 1861, the 7th child of Don Francisco Mercado and Doña Teodora Alonso. He was christened Jose Protacio, in honor of two saints. His mother was a devotee of Saint Joseph while Saint Protacio is the patron saint for June 19.
In the book In Excelsis, writer Felice Prudente Santa Maria explained how Rizal got the nickname “Pepe.”
“Saint Joseph was the putative (commonly accepted) father of Jesus Christ. In Latin, San Jose’s name is always followed by the letters ‘P.P’ for pater putativus. In Spanish, the letter ‘P’ is pronounced as ‘peh’ giving rise to the nickname Pepe for Jose.”
2. Rizal was afraid of ghosts
Like many children, Pepe grew up fearing mysterious creatures.
His nanny, Aquilina, told him stories about the aswang, nuno sa punso and an imaginary ghost known as parce-nobis, often to scare him to finish his meal.
Rizal wrote in his student memoirs that every time his nanny frightened him, “My heart was fed with sad thoughts.”
3. Rizal couldn’t carry out a tune
Pepe spent his early years at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila in Intramuros. For a class called “Clase de Adorno,” he had to choose between singing lessons and art studies.
He admitted in his memoirs that singing was not his cup of tea. “If you hear me sing, you’d think you were in Spain for you’d hear the braying of an ass!"
While he was not gifted as a singer, Rizal was a talented craftsman. As a student, he carved an image of the Blessed Virgin that impressed his Jesuit professors. They later asked him to create a statuette of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The artwork was left at the Ateneo.
4. Rizal was a happy student
Unlike some students, Rizal loved school. His last night in high school was sleepless, feeling that the happiest days of his life were over.
The night before he was executed in 1896, a priest brought the Sacred Heart statuette that he crafted inside his cell in Fort Santiago. The image is said to have sparked in Rizal a rush of memories of his Ateneo days.
In his memoirs, he wrote about his student life, “I would give anything to get over this trying time of my youth. Goodbye, beautiful, unforgettable period of my life! Farewell, fortunate hours of my lost childhood!”
19 June 2012
151ST BIRTHDAY. Jose Rizal's nickname traces its roots to Saint Joseph and Latin. Photo from gov.ph