Much like any average Filipino, our national hero, Jose Rizal loved to eat. And despite living in Europe for several years, his palate remained truly Pinoy.
In fact, his love of food reflected on his novels and journals, as well as on letters to his family (documented in Reminiscences and Travels of José Rizal and One Hundred Letters of José Rizal to his Parents, Brothers, Sisters, Relatives).
During his exile in Dapitan, Rizal would write his family, for instance his mother Teodora Alonso, requesting to send him mangoes, Laguna cheese, and foie gras.
He also wrote to his sister—during the time when vegetables and fish were scarce—to send tokwa, dried small fish, and monggo.
Monggo appeared to be one of his favorites as he also once served monggo soup with young leaves of ampalaya to his visiting nephews and nieces, according to his descendant Francisco Rizal Lopez, as written by Milagros Enriquez in Kasaysayan ng Kaluto ng Bayan.
His cook in Dapitan revealed that Rizal’s meals consisted of three viands. And his favorite breakfast was composed of hot chocolate, rice, and sardinas secas (dried sardines or tuyo), according to Michael Datario, a junior grand lecturer at the Masonry in Pangasinan.
Rizal also favored lanzones, yema, toasted pastillas, and empanada.
He used his favorite soup dish tinola as a political and social symbol in his novel Noli Me Tangere, particularly in the part about the welcome home dinner hosted by Kapitan Tiago for Crisostomo Ibarra.
Food historian Rheeza Santiago, in a report on GMA News, said that tinola determined the characters’ class in the society, which explained Padre Damaso’s reaction when he received the neck—considered an inferior part—of the chicken.
And on his last day, on Dec. 30, 1896, at 5:30 a.m. the beloved hero shared his last meal with his “cell-mates.” The “poor rats” in his cell had their “fiesta” too as he threw some eggs in the corners, according to stories told to his sister Narcisa.