Tag Archives: Jose Rizal

Rizal and my Heidelberg Trip

Here’s an interesting Rizal story you don’t hear everyday.

When my former company asked me to go to Germany, I was told that I’m staying in Walldorf. Too bad I said, I wish it was Heidelberg (also in the southwestern part). Jose Rizal studied and lived here.

Heidelberg is about 20 to 30 minutes ride to Walldorf. There’s no train station that connects the two. Most employees avoid getting booked far from the headquarter. I had to rent a van for my daily commute to work.

That night I started reading Rizal’s diary entries about Germany. I had to brush up on my history. I made a list of places to visit. I thought that I had to spare a day to see Heidelberg.

I read for hours, like a mad man. Even read his poem, “a las flores de heidelberg”, for the first time!

I slept that night reading this poem.

Two days later, the travel agency called. There were no hotels available in Walldorf. The agent sounded apologetic. She said the nearest they could get is Heidelberg!

This got me really excited but I pretended to be hassled by the whole thing.

I must’ve dreamt staying in Heidelberg to reality.

There’s another coincidence I thought was interesting.

The hotel (NH) they booked, rarely used by our employees is actually Spanish owned. However, I was disappointed to discover that they don’t serve Spanish cuisine. Yes, no paella.

The day I arrived, I quickly unpacked and went to the lobby to get WIFI. I can’t connect and it was getting dark outside. I decided to just go out. I went back after about an hour. It was too cold. I only had a shirt on and a windbreaker—I was terribly underdressed!

The next morning I decided to look for a bakery. I wanted something local for breakfast.

Took this photo on a Sunday morning. Around this time locals are slow to rise. They take their time.

From the hotel drop off area, I crossed to get to the other side. I remember the street was partly elevated right in the middle. There’s a tram track. It was a busy street.

While walking something caught my eye. A dark marble marker with a familiar seal, like that of Manila, on a building wall.

The address: 20 Bergheimer Straße.

The clinic where Rizal studied opthalmology!

What were the odds?

The hotel was in the same street and less than a mile from where Rizal learned to fix eyes!

I checked Trivago and looked up hotels in Heidelberg. It came up with around 130!

I conclude that Rizal liked it when I started reading lines from his “”a las flores de heidelberg” that night. He pulled some strings from up above. For sure.

Happy 156th birthday Tio Pepe!

Related links:


Another Rizal Monument, This Time in Calamba…

I visited the new monument dedicated to José Rizal located just in front of Calamba’s city hall yesterday and was surprised to find a monument made with great reverence, historical enthusiasm and respect!

Another Rizal monument. This one’s no too bad. I like it.

I’ve seen my share of Rizal monuments around the country. This one was obviously well planned unlike the other ones.  In the  past all municipalities were encouraged to put up Rizal monuments in front of their administrative buildings. The goal was to heighten nationalist awareness but this ended up producing some of the most utterly ridiculous Rizal monuments. A lot of doesn’t even resemble the hero! But they sure are interesting to look at.

This over emphasis on Rizal as the prime hero has obscured local heroes. People that locals could connect with easier because they share the same hometown are glossed over in exchange for more popular heroes like Rizal. Like the case of Antonino Guevara, a Muntinlupa resident considered as one of the “initiators of the revolution”. No one in Muntinlupa has ever heard of him. But go to our city hall and you’ll see a small bronze statue of Rizal.

I was talking with the Spanish scholar Señor Gomez last night and he made an interesting point when he said, “we’re all told to imitate Rizal’s example from grade school. Everything but his language and his ‘spanishness’ —he was, from all indications, a poor Tagalog speaker. No one even bothers to read him in his original writing.” We forget that he intended to be studied and to be read in Spanish, otherwise he would have never used it.

All my life I struggled to understand Rizal’s work. It was only later in life that I realized that if I was to  get anycloser to understanding his writings I would need to learn how to read Spanish. And so I did and was amazed how different the story reads. Reading Rizal’s work and letters made me understand that Spanish is a Filipino language that he intended for it to flourish, not brought down. So it was a tragedy that his very image would later be used to abolish Spanish.

This new Rizal park south of Manila is accessible and has a great view of Mount Makiling.  The monument’s facing Mount Makiling is a great detail. I feel that the right people were consulted during the planning stage of the project. There’s no doubt that Mt. Makiling, for RIzal, symbolizes his hometown of Calamba. Interesting is that Calamba’s claim to fame for having the tallest Rizal monument didn’t last that long. A 26th foot goldish monument where Rizal is portrayed as an escrimador was built somewhere in Sta.Cruz, Laguna.

I have not posted anything for the month of May. This was the result of office work and my return to training in jiu jitsu. Day off’s was spared for training but of course, I have to find time to travel and write here. There’s no excuse for not doing this.






Is Rizal’s execution photo a still from 1912 movie?

Pio Andrade, Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE PICTURE at left is the only known photograph of Rizal’s execution. The picture has been reproduced so many, many times in books and popular publications that its image is deeply imprinted in Filipino minds.

But is the picture authentic? This question, it seems, has never been seriously entertained. I have, however, stumbled on many articles on the execution written or told by eyewitnesses of the historical event. These articles, half of them in Spanish, and unknown to Rizal biographers, shed light on the question. The known Rizal execution picture is of doubtful authenticity.

Professor Austin Craig, the foremost authority on Rizal, related the provenance of the execution picture in the article “I Saw Rizal Shot!” in the Dec. 27, 1924 Philippine Free Press.

According to Craig, the picture “was taken by a Mr. Dumas, a French-Spaniard, who was an old resident of the city. When the Spanish military authorities found that Mr. Dumas had taken a picture, they tried to seize the plate, but he buried it in a hole in a stone wall and filled in the opening with cement. The plate was dug out after the American occupation.”

The Rizal execution picture later became the property of Col. Juan Dominguez, the chief of the Manila secret service force in the early ’30s according to Isidro Retizos article “Where Rizal Fell” in the Dec. 29, 1932 issue of Graphic.

The article described how the exact place where Rizal fell was determined by four eyewitnesses to the event: Manila Mayor Tomas Earnshaw, a corporal of the 70th Regiment, and two soldiers of the Spanish volunteer corps. Dumas’ picture was used to find the exact spot.

Werner Weinmann, Swiss citizen and a 30-year resident of the country, brother-in-law of Filipino patriot Jose Alejandrino, and an eyewitness to Rizal’s execution, strongly disputed the genuineness of the execution picture in his letter written in Spanish to the Free Press which was printed in the Jan. 24, 1925 issue.


Weinmann wrote: “That unique picture of Rizal’s execution taken by a certain Mr. Dumas, French-Spaniard, according to your article is ABSURD. First, because this Dumas is Elzingre Dumas whom I know being another Swiss citizen, young, and whom I know never carried a camera in his life. Second, for him to have taken that supposed picture, it was necessary for him to enter the military square which was impossible, given the strict order. And third, because the soldiers which formed the military cordon and the firing squad, were all dressed in navy blue, and should appear dark, not light, as they appeared in the supposed picture.”

Weinmann supplemented his letter with his own sketch of scene of the execution at the Luneta. (Fig. 2)

Extant pictures of the Luneta in 1886 (Fig. 3) or 1896 (Fig. 4) support Weinmann’s belief that the Rizal execution picture was a fake. First, the Luneta from 1886 to 1896 had no trees; whereas, the execution picture shows many trees between the lampposts. Second, Weinmann’s sketch and the 1886 picture show that there was a file of stones encircling the Luneta at that time but which is absent in the execution picture. The file of stones forming the curb of the Luneta then is amplified by this line from Weinmann’s letter: . . . “Blood running to inflame with red the surface of one square meter of ground and over the stones that circled the Luneta.”

Third, the lampposts in the execution picture are taller and lighter in color than the lampposts in the 1886 photograph. Being lighted by gas, the lampposts were short, and being made of iron, they should appear dark in picture.

Another argument against the picture: Could a box camera, the only camera Dumas could have used, produced a panoramic and well defined picture as the alleged Rizal execution picture?

Wrong hat

When I related my findings casting doubts on the genuiness of the execution picture to my friend Victor Buencamino, he told me that before the war he had seen Rizal’s hat and shoes enclosed in a glass case in the home of Don Leoncio Lopez, son of Narcisa Rizal, sister of the hero. The hat was not a derby and it was not black.

“At Victor’s urging, I visited Mrs. Carmen Consunji, the daughter of Don Leoncio Lopez. Lola Mameng confirmed that the hat, which was destroyed during the war, was not a derby and it was not black. It was gray. The gray color could be ascribed to the bleaching of the original black by underground burial, which, however, would not affect the shape of the hat. This is another compelling proof against the authenticity of the execution picture which shows Rizal’s hat as a derby.

Based on available evidence, the Rizal execution picture is a fraud, a big fraud. But then how could the existence of the picture be accounted for? That picture very likely was taken from either one of two films about Rizal produced in 1912. These films are interesting sidebars on the Rizal execution picture.

Two movies

In 1912, Harry Brown, owner of the Gaiety Theater in Ermita, teamed up with fellow American Ernest Meyer Gross, a surgeon and filmmaker, to produce a movie honoring Rizal. They hired Charles Martin of the Bureau of Science to be cameraman. Honorio Lopez, later famous publisher of the Honorio Lopez calendar, and Chananay, the best known Filipina actress then, played the hero and his mother, respectively. The finished film “Dr. Jose Rizal” was slated for showing in the Manila Grand Opera House on Aug. 24, 1912.

Unknown to them, rival film producer A. W. Yearsley, owner of Oriental Moving Pictures Company, Majestic, and Empire Theaters, was intent on making another Jose Rizal movie. Two days after Brown and Gross finished filming “Dr. Jose Rizal,” Yearsley hired the same cast of the said movie and shot the Rizal execution scene at the Cementerio del Norte.

Shooting began at 10 a.m. and was finished at 3 p.m., and the movie was shown at Majestic Theater that very same evening, Aug. 23, 1912. It was a big hit, and Yearsley had another copy for showing at the Empire Theater. Incidentally, the Yearsley Rizal movie had three different titles in newspaper advertisements: “La Vida y Muerte del Gran Martir Filipino Dr. Jose Rizal,” “Passion y Muerte del Dr. Jose Rizal,” and “Vida y Muerte del Dr. Jose Rizal.” However, film historians refer to this film as “El Fusilamiento del Dr. Jose Rizal.”

Brown and Gross’ Rizal movie was shown on Aug. 24, 1912 at the Manila Grand Opera House. It was also a big hit. It was the better Rizal movie, but Yearsley made the bigger money.

At this point the readers would be asking, “If the picture of Rizal’s execution was not the real thing and was taken from a movie, why then did nobody complain about the fakery?”

Movie advertisements then did not carry pictures in newspaper ads; thus, nobody noticed the passing of a fake picture for the real McCoy. Besides, Filipinos love to embellish our heroes. Witness our glossing of the big faults of Quezon, Bonifacio, MacArthur, Romulo, etc . . .. The execution picture only served to enhance the legend of Rizal.

Scholar’s flaws

Central to the acceptance of the authenticity of Rizal’s execution picture is the reputation of Austin Craig’s scholarship.

Indeed, there was no more ardent and diligent investigator of Rizal’s life than Craig. However, Craig admired Rizal so much that he may have taken liberties with the facts in his Rizal book. Glaring examples will now be cited to show this point.

Craig wrote that Rizal completely turned around after the volley and landed on his back his shut eyes facing the sun. He contradicted Retana and eyewitnesses who either wrote or told that Rizal tried but failed to turn around because death was instantaneous.

In his last book printed in 1940, Farthest Westing: A Philippine Footnote, Craig wrote that the Rizal execution picture was taken by a Frenchman he did not name, which contradicted his statement on the origin of the picture in the 1924 article “I Saw Rizal Shot.”

If it is true as Craig claimed that Dumas dug out his hidden Rizal execution picture when the Americans came, then that picture would have been circulating in the press in the early days of American rule. But I have not seen that picture in books about the Philippines and Rizal published between 1900 and 1910 which I encountered in my research.

The earliest use of that picture I found was in the last 1912 issue of the Free Press. Craig’s Rizal book printed in 1913 also carried the picture. However, Retana’s Vida y Escritos del Dr. Jose Rizal published in 1907 does not have it.

If that Rizal execution picture had already been released when the Americans came, as Craig implied in his writing, Retana would have included it in his Rizal book.

Is the Rizal execution picture real or not? Judge for yourself.

Taken from Pio Andrade‘s Inquirer column “Past Present”.

Diary of a Doctor, Rizal in Singapore

Jose Rizal (1861-1896), fondly remembered as the founding father of the modern Philippines, was one luminary who formed favourable impressions of Singapore. In May 1882, Rizal left the then Spanish colony of the Philippines on his way to Spains for further studies in medicine. As a keen 21 year old leaving home for the first time, nhe meticulously recorded his observations of life and events in a journal that offers a picturesque snap-shot of Singapore in the late 19th century, which are historically important for the breath of details captured.

An eagle-eyed visitor Rizal was also highly sensitive to the cultural nuance of the first foreign land he visited  commenting on the rich mix of ethnicities in the street-scapes he observed. His entry conveyed gus surprise at the finding a city more modern than he imagined. Writing in his diary, he was “surprised to find the streets bordered with trees and many… on both sides. The town is rather pretty.” Travel as the cliche goes, does indeed broaden the mind.

Rizal noted in his diary of his first day in Singapore that although there were “..crowds of Indians of Herculean figures; Chinese a few Europeans, and very, very few Chinese women.” He went on to ask about the presence of women in Sinapore, writing in his diary that he had seen a Chinese woman with the smallest feet; but I didn’t see either Indian women or Malayan. I asked about them and I was told they stayed home.”

Rizal also found the thriving British colony abuzz with people and economic activity, with English spoken everywhere. He described  in detail, building within the city such as St. Andrew’s Cathedral, along today’s St. Andrew’s road, interestingly described as a “Protestant church in Gothic style, the Catholic Cathedral of Good Shepherd (along today’s Victoria Road) as well as the Church of St. Joseph (by Waterloo Street today).

He was mistaken, though, in identifying the former Parliament Houses (now the Art House) as the “…palace of the Rajah of Siam…” He described it as “…notable and has a small iron elephant and what not on the pedestal placed in front of the building.”

Rizal was travelling in and around the north bank of Singapore River, He was to cross the Cavenagh Bridge to the south bank and reached the more “lively” part of town, described in his diary as having “… Beautiful European Buildings  shops  show-windows etc. It is the Escolta of the town.”

The keen botanist, Rizal visited the Singapore Botanical Gardens on his 2nd day of visit. He was bowled over by the park, observing that “its cleanliness and orderliness are admirable; numerous plants with their labels beside them.” He was to revisit the gardens on his second visit in 1887, commenting that he saw “a beautiful Royal Victoria. The leaves can be one meted in diameter.”

Rizal was to visit Singapore a total of four times, noticing changes that pointed to the rapid development of the city over the course of his visits. With elegance, he captured in an 1892 entry his observation that “Singapore has change much since I saw it for the first time n 1882.” This was to be his last visit to Singapore  for not long after this, this revered father of Philippine nation was executed on 30 December 1896, at the age of 35, labelled by the Spanish colonials as “the living soul of the rebellion”.

Today, a visitor can easily re-trace Rizal’s first visit in today’s heritage district of Bras Basah, as most of the buildings he visited are still standing on the exact spot! They co-exist elegantly alongside contemporary glass and steel structures of the modern city, in a history-rich environments and the walking trails of Singapore’s Civic District. Walking down busy Coleman Street today, one can still imagine the lively and bustling city that Rizal wandered about after emerging from the Hotel de la Paix. The hotel is no longer standing but another has risen on te same site and is known today as the Peninsula-Excelsior Hotel.

– Taken from Singapore’s National Heritage Board article “Friends & Neighbours” written by Tan Swee Hong.

NHB has been a great resource for me not only in retracing historical sites related to us Filipinos here but also in learning the history, culture and traditions of the island state — along with NLB, great stalwarts of South East Asian historical education.

Chijmes and or chimes

The CHIJMES with Swissotel as background.

Singaporeans could get really creative with how to make use of  their remaining heritage buildings. There’s not a lot around so collective effort are directed towards salvaging what’s left of their historical and cultural sites.

I was in the Victoria St. area earlier to take photos of CHIJMES. I marveled at the gracious and innovative transformation the historic convent underwent. One of the best example of architectural reuse I’ve ever seen.

You usually hear old churches and convents located in prime development areas giving way to new development. CHIJMES’ a unique exception. All the significant architectural features of the church and convent was retained. Then the entire area was leased to businesses. Ensuring its continuous utilization and survival for years to come.

The former Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus was established in 1840. Subsequent improvements in the property includes the eerily beautiful Gothic chapel. The entire complex is now a site for events, restaurants and shopping.

The new convent is located somewhere near the East Coast area of the island. I accidentally stumbled upon it when I took a new route on my way home (wanting to cut time). Someone, spirits from the old convent, wanted to show me where they’ve relocated?

With modern skyscrapers dwarfing the CHIJMES, the scene in Victoria St. is a fascinating contrast of new and old. A kind of visible historical strata that livens up not only the town but anyone with an imagination for the past.

Two gazetted structures can be found in the CHIJMES area: the Gothic Chapel and the neoclassical Caldwell house, designed by the British architect Coleman. It now houses contemporary art exhibits.

Near the gate of the chapel is a wooden door called “The Gate of Hope”. Here babies were dropped inside baskets for the Nuns to pick up in the past. According to a marker inside, “for over 100 years the orphanage was born to children from poor and broken families as well as unwanted babies.”

The orphanage and the mission here continued until 1983.

Father Jean Marie Beurel, who’s said to had bought the Caldwell House for the nuns of CHIJ with his own money, would be proud of the lasting legacy the mission left behind.

The curious globe trotting Jose Rizal wandered around this same area during his first visit.  Singapore holds the distinction as the country the national hero visited the most, a total of five times.

The area’s a great destination for those looking for religious and historical connection. The churches that Rizal saw in his time are still here. Victoria St. is where CHIJMES and the church of Good Shepherd are located. Not far, in Queen St., the church of Sts. Peter and Paul. There’s the Singapore Art Museum, a former La Sallian school established in the 1800’s. Then there’s the Portuguese founded St. Joseph church near Bugis, right in front of the towering National Library. Walk pass Middle St., and you’ll come across Manila St., (which is more of a back alley actually).

For a century, this door received hundreds of orphaned souls. The missionary nuns reared and educated those little angels. Where are they today? Those Sisters were unbelievably unselfish, dedicated human beings. Church people you would want others to know and members to be proud of.

The back side of the humble Gothic chapel. At a distant, the Good Shepherds bell tower.

Trees has begun to obscure the great architecture that has been preserved for the future generations of Singaporeans to witness.

The convent block as seen from Queen St.

Rizal’s Hong Kong

One of the remaining granite steps in Mid Levels. Even the colonial iron bars that separates the road was wonderfully restored.

The good thing about Hong Kong is that it’s just a two hours flight from Manila — and they don’t require a visa. You can grab round trip tickets on line for dirt cheap prices. Thanks to budget airlines.

There’s a huge Filipino community here. Never had problem finding my way around because there’s a Filipino in every corner. I heard Tagalog everywhere. Heck, I even saw a Jollibee on my way to the Mid Level.

Like many students, I saw those Rizal calling cards in Fort Santiago back in the 80’s. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of finding those Hong Kong addresses.

Finding Rednaxela Terrace and the hero’s eye clinic at no. 5 D’Aguilar Street didn’t posed that much of a challenge. Both have historical markers installed by the local government. Although the original structures are no longer there, seeing where they once stood was worth the visit.

The marker in D’Aguilar clinic.

The streets in this old quarters are narrow and crowded. Reminds me of Manila.

I have issues walking under these swinging billboards. Scare the you know what out of me.

That’s yours truly after a good cardio workout going up the Mid Levels just to see Rednaxela Terrace.

Another old road going up the hill.

The old Rizal home in Rednaxela was actually located further back near Peel Street. The marker was placed in the main path way for visibility. Rednaxela is Alexander misspelled. Obviously, someone messed it up pretty bad during the area’s zoning and the name got stuck.

The granite road and the street lamps Rizal wrote about in Duddell St. are still there. It’s a couple of blocks from the Central train station. The place appears to have been locked in a time capsule.

There’s another clinic, said to be somewhere near the Rizal’s Rednaxela Terrace home in the Mid Level. I haven’t come across any direct reference where this place used to stand.

Another site worth the visit is the location of the old Agoncillo residence in Morrison Hill Park. Said to be where Aguinaldo commissioned our flag to be sewn together. It also have a red metal marker courtesy of the Hong Kong Antiquities Council.

I’m interested to find where Aguinaldo and his men lodged during their exile. We don’t have any existing reference where this place was. Maybe someone would dug up this little piece of our history someday.

Another interesting location would be Jose Ma. Basa’s home. The unofficial Filipino center as it was customary for expats to pay it a courtesy visit upon arrival. I wonder what his opinion would be of his descendants feuding over the wealth he left behind.

Other places like the Mariano Ponce residence are yet to be discovered. In this house Juan Luna abruptly died of a heart attack. I read an interesting article from Ambeth Ocampo that alludes to the opinion that the painter was probably poisoned.

Later on, his son would take possession of his remains and stay in Hong Kong for some time before bringing his father to San Agustin church. It is said that he carried his father bones inside a bucket and would sleep with it under his bed. I assume that they stayed in a different location and not with Ponce. Where exactly, no one seems to know.

So many historic places that we have yet to find. I think it’s time our government commissions a study to find all these places.

Rizal in Chicago

Rizal saw a different Chicago in his time. This concrete, steel and glass jungle is the present day Chi town and that guy is not relieving himself but trying to absorb the strange beauty of this mega city.

From Japan, Rizal boarded a ship that took him across the pacific to San Francisco. His boarding ticket was first class. Not that many Asians during his time could afford such accommodation. In fact, in that same ship, Chinese immigrants that boarded in Hong Kong sat in crowded quarters below. In a letter to a friend, Rizal mentioned that during the quarantine (that delayed him for days on board the ship in the port of San Francisco) it was possible that some of those people died.

From San Francisco to Provost, he wrote down some interesting sights he saw along the way. The snow covered mountains of Colorado, the Mormons in Utah, the vast prairies and the isolated cabins of Mid West America. Noticeable is how his entries were short, not as detailed compared to the descriptions he made of his trips in Europe.

Austin Craig wrote of Rizal’s time in Chicago: “The thing that struck him most forcibly about that city was the large number of cigar stores with an Indian in front of each — and apparently no two Indians alike. The unexpressed idea was that in America the remembrance of the first inhabitants of the land and their dress was retained and popularized, while in the Philippines knowledge of the first inhabitants of the land was to be had only in foreign museums”.

What was not mentioned, by Rizal and Craig, his biographer was that the “Indian” in stores were actually life size wooden figures and not real Indians. These are popularly called “cigar store Indians” here and are now collectibles. Its not placed outside stores to promote Indian culture but to attract curiosity among the smoking public. Actually, they’re more decorative in purpose than cultural.

Some years after Rizal’s death, some of his writings were brought to US soil. An impressive Rizaliana collection is in Chicago’s Newberry Library. Some of the manuscripts in their possession includes; first edition copies of Noli and Fili, his 1884 diary, notes from his clinica medica and other writings from the period of 1881 to 1887. This library, located in West Walton St., is said to hold the biggest collection of original Filipiniana writings outside our country.

The library also have in its vault the papers of the Governor Simon de Anda during his administration and struggle against the British.

Their massive Filipiniana collection is attributed to Edward Ayer, an American business magnate that started buying historical manuscripts after the US took over from Spain. He later donated his acquisitions to libraries across the US.

I’m glad that these documents are here and safe. And that they’re being cared for with the most advanced technology available. I think the American deserves our sincere gratitude for safekeeping these manuscripts away from harm during the wars that ravaged the country but these documents belongs to us. Its only right that they be brought back to a place where they’ll serve a more meaningful purpose – Filipinas.

How would they feel if the original copy of their constitution is sitting somewhere in our National Library?

Can we recover these documents?

I doubt it.

But we should try.

Its ironic that pieces of Rizal’s writings ended up here in Chicago. A town that he briefly saw and hardly spent enough time to know.

Back to Vigan

This isn’t my first time in Ilocos but it sure feels like it. The last time, about 2+ years ago, was a disaster. I thought I could squeeze touring Ilocos Norte and Sur in just one weekend – epic fail – I ended up on a hurried tour of inspection.

You know you’ve messed up the travel when all you think about is getting back in time for work.

Well, I’m known for poor planning and weak time management when it comes to traveling. I leave a lot to chance. That’s the kind of traveler I am but I like it, keep things interesting.

How could I even begin to write about my Vigan experience here?


One has to see Vigan to fully grasp exactly how conserving heritage revives the spirit of identity — our ancestors came a long way before they started building these massive stone houses. In order for us to regain our lost sense of identity and pride we have to study the historic shift that took place during the last couple of centuries.

What a delight to see all these bahay na bato’s still standing as if they were rooted so deep that nothing could ever remove them from existence.

Today we’ve embraced the culture of planned obsolescence. Building for the generations is  a concept that is as foreign to us as another planet. We’ve come full circle – from pawid to stones to weak hollow blocks – nothings built to last anymore.

I feel that these giant houses are material manifestation of our ancestors longing to be different, to have an identity that is unique, incomparable. This was their way of saying, this is us now — capable of achieving development. Proud of what they have become.

But as in all civilization, decline is inevitable.

No wonder Vigan produced someone like Padre Burgos, who advocated for the Filipinization of parishes. There’s this proud history that led him to believe that we’re ready. The revolution we celebrate had its roots here in Vigan.

Vigan was not the original site of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia, Cagayan was but because the place where the old Diocese sat regularly gets flooded, the Bishops then requested to moved out toVigan. This was to be the beginning of the golden era of Vigan. A period started when there was a renaissance of interest in commerce, arts, traditions and religious culture. That the present Vigueños has managed to conserved much of its historical treasures, including its traditional food, is simply magical.

Related: Vigan Before Sunrise

September 2012

Calls to Save Casa Alberto of Biñan…Too Late the Hero

It’s a little too late. Casa Alberto has already been gutted from the inside. I’m not surprised that it collapsed. The house that caved in was just the exterior shell. The owner who sold the house, piece by piece, must be welcoming this development.

The heir of the house has expressed willingness to have the house rented out to government in the past. The guy claims that he also sought the assistance of the local government before he entertained the idea of selling it. He got none — of course. He must’ve grown tired waiting for help and just went ahead with his other option.

Inside Casa Alberto. Contemplating its future. Observing the people going about their business in the local mercado and the old municipio. Are they even aware of this house’s role in building this town?

Casa Alberto’s foundations has been uprooted, along with its floors, beams and other structural components. These were moved to a Bataan resort. It’s strange to think that there’s actually two Casa Alberto today, one in Biñan, the other in Bataan — are we even trying to save the real house here?

I feel it’s meaningless to save it now that it lies in shambles. Even if by some miraculous hand an order to save it comes – how in the world are we going to restore it back to its original? Buy back the pieces that was sold to Acuzar in Bataan?

If money was issue then, just imagine how much we’ll have to raise today to bring the house back.

Biñan’s local government failed to realize the potential of conserving this house. They have decades to figure it out and make their proposals. There’s the question of monetary compensation that was never reached or even substantially discussed between the private owner and the LGU.

Heritage conservation can be very expensive for local governments. Again, not all descendants would be willing to just give their ancestral houses for conservation and educational use, the question is how much are we willing to pay?

There’s also the lack of heritage management planning and promotion. With all the Antillean houses in Biñan and its history, how come no one ever came up with an effective program to promote this historic town’s heritage?

If Biñense’s are aware of Casa Alberto’s historical value, they would all rise and disallow plans to have it taken down. They’ll definitely hold someone accountable. And there’s nothing more frightening to politicians than losing elections – but with the exception of some local heritage groups, clamor to save this house has been relatively quiet.

One thing I know, and this needs no promoting: Biñan’s notoriety for being a political hotspot during local elections.

And, of course, Puto Viñang – baka naman pati ‘eto mawala na din d’yan? ‘wag naman.

Casa Alberto holds the record of having the most artictle in this site. I wrote about it here, here, here and here. How I wish that its still there but that’s not going to happen. In a  way it’s there but it’s not. That’s just the skin, the body has long been taken away. It’s just a matter of time before it completely collapse. Nothing makes me sadder than seeing these beautiful houses go.

Around Heidelberg

The plaque in the clinic where Rizal studied under Dr. Otto Becker

Thanks to these heritage conscious Germans I could see the same town as Rizal left it. It was the same Heidelberg he fell in love with – the same town where he wrote his “Las Flores de Heidelberg”. Same place where he watched those bloody fencing duels. Same place where he studied ophthalmology. Its amazing how an old building can connect you to the past. When will we ever feel this way about our old towns? Well, as we continue to witness the relentless destruction of our heritage structures, perhaps, never. Manila for example have very little to offer in terms of historical attractions aside from Intramuros. Not that the city is lacking, actually, its teeming with historical structures but they’re left to rot and eventually taken down. There’s still much to be save but with what I saw the last two mayors did with Manila’s historical treasures, honestly, I’m beginning to feel that all hope is lost.

Whenever I’ll go to the center of Heidelberg where the shops housed in old buildings are, I’ll pass by the old clinic (20 Bergheimer Straße) where Rizal practiced ophthalmology under Dr. Otto Becker. I stay in a small inexpensive room in Bergheimer, which is on the same street. I didn’t picked the place – I landed here by accident. Two weeks before my assignment, I was informed by the company’s travel agency that this place in Bergheimer is the only place they can get for me – for some strange reason all the regular hotels were booked. This means traveling 30 – 45 minutes by car to work everyday (which I don’t mind because I love seeing the German countryside).

One morning, while making my way to buy a sandwich I saw the metal plaque written in German with Rizal’s name on it. Just imagine my surprise. The place is less than 50 meters from where I stay. That was a strange feeling – if you believe in spiritual interventions this is probably one of those things. Heidelberg alone have more than 50 hotels and I’m here. I’d like to think that Rizal probably led those people to get the place for me, or perhaps, I just got lucky.

Rizal lodged in various places here in Heidelberg. The one in Grabengasse 12 (formerly Ludwigsplatz 12)  has a marker installed on the second floor of the building. Like almost all of the old buildings in the old town, this one is rented to commercial shops. The place must have been expensive even during his time because its located right in front of the old university. Not far is the town’s justice hall. The area is full of tourist and shoppers during the weekends. The streets around here feels like Divisoria. In this house he wrote his famous poem, “Las Flores de Heildelberg”.

Another nice place to visit is the Philosophers way (Philosophenweg) which is a popular path along the Neckar River. Story goes that this has been frequented by famous philosophers throughout history.  I’m not sure if that really was the case but Rizal for sure regularly strolled there. In Philosophenweg  he met Pastor Ullmer and his family one day. Just imagine total strangers that would one day live all together under one roof. This shows the character of Pastor Ullmer because imagine, he didn’t know the guy but he looked pass Rizal’s skin and appearance and offered him his home. The other address of Rizal in Heidelberg is 16 Karlstrasse and this one have a good view of the hills and the castle but that small space must’ve been too expensive because he left hurriedly.

Heidelberg is an expensive place today and even during Rizal’s time. There’s a Pizza Hut not far from my street and that helps me save a lot because two slices costs only a few euros. If you’re going to eat in restaurants here and you happen to have a meager budget you won’t get very far. The place where I stay serve free breakfast so that cushions the spending for me. Just by looking at the places Rizal rented, the life he lived and the education his family paid for here, even by European standards, they’re well off. I think this all the more highlights the sacrifice he made. He didn’t need to take part in reformist activities. But he did. And he died for it.

Heidelberg and Wilhemlfeld are  two places he really felt in his element. He became a full pledge eye doctor in Heidelberg while in Wilhemsfeld, he mastered his German and finished his book. We all know that he traveled all over Europe. He loved Paris and felt home in Spain but Germany holds a special place in his heart. He traveled it extensively and as his letters and diaries tells us, he loves everything German.

The old eye clinic. Its just wonderful how these places still stands. Its nice that our Filipino representatives here installed the plaque but why in German?

A short street near this statue called Karlstrasse is where Rizal first lived

Formerly Ludwigsplatz 12, One of Rizal’s former address here in Heidelberg. The marker is placed on the second level because the first level facade is made of glass.

Some other pictures I took…

The Zum Ritter hotel – a baroque style building. One of the more popular structures here. These two gals are both Filipinas. I had the honor of being asked later on to take their picture.

The old university pharmacy – it’s still a pharmacy. A tour guide was explaining its importance to his audience. Tried to listen in but the lecture was in German!

Old buildings galore…

The bricked streets and the old architecture is admired by tourist who can’t seem to stop taking pictures. Like me.

Everywhere people are just walking. And drinking beer. Big business in Germany of course.

The streets in the old town center are pretty narrow but that’s alright, Germans are pretty good drivers.

Renovations are done under strict government rules

One thing you’ll enjoy around here is seeing these kind of architecture. Makes you feel that not much has changed.

One of the original pillars of the oldest university in Europe.

A bakeshop selling specialty breads. The people around here speaks English well. I’m not surprised that tourists feels comfortable walking around here.

A wonderful ruin to have as a background!

Heidelberg has the longest shopping street in the continent, a total of  “1.6-kilometre long pedestrianized area, which is Europe’s longest”

The shops here are a bit out of my range so I take what I can take from around here. Pictures.

One Morning in Heidelberg Castle

Trying to exercise here is not easy. The weather is just too cold in the morning –its hard to get out of bed in the weekend – the cold weather makes your body ask for more rest. But somehow I did manage to get out to do some exercise today. I decided to climb the hill where the red castle of Heidelberg sits.

A walk around the old district of Heilderberg has become one of my favorite past times here. This university town has some of the most outstanding old architectural structures I’ve ever seen. Most has been around longer than one could imagine. Many of these priceless gems were converted to shops, restos and residences – wonderful examples of architectural reuse. I realized that a people with a strong understanding of their cultural identity are driven to conserve what’s left of their tangible heritage. I’ve learned to respect this about the Germans. They’ve been at the forefront of heritage conservation in Europe.

Heidelberger Schloss is considered a ruin but from a distance, especially during night time it gives out the impression that royalties still lives in its lofty rooms. I enjoy seeing this red castle especially when light starts to fade. It glows like a giant floating ember. The original builders of the castle wanted to make an imposing structure meant to display their power and influence – they’ve achieved that because up to this day Heidelberger Schloss still makes an impression that glorifies the ancient time and culture unlike any other German castle.

I was told that there’s a restaurant there somewhere – I haven’t seen it nor do I plan to try it – money is as scarce as water in the desert these days for me. This brief assignment has taught me how expensive life is in Europe.

Not sure if this the main entrance. The castle can be reached by several passages. This one is popular among the tourist. Not far is the tourism office where souvenirs can be bought.

If you’re too lazy to climb the steps leading to the hill there’s a light train service that can take you all the way to the top. I read that from base to the top is about 300 feet (I think its much less) – so I know that there wasn’t that much climbing to do. I wanted to experience its ancient steps but before I started my ascent I dropped by the train station to do an errand. This station has the only mailbox I know. Its about 1 km from where I stay – quite a long stroll just to be sending mails.

While dropping my mails I met a group of Filipino students from the Ateneo (or A-tee-ney-ooo if I heard them right) buying train tickets. They’re studying French in Paris (less than 2 hours away) and was visiting Heidelberg to see the castle. I told them that they should visit the buildings where Rizal lived and studied since their in town. I hope they did – I saw the group again after about an hour or so, this time in the castle area taking pictures. Nice and respectful group of young people. I love seeing fellow Kababayans doing well but meeting this group also reminded me of the extremely wide social gap that exists in our land. While these good kids are experiencing the world by traveling it, back home, a lot of young Filipinos could not even afford to go to school. Its sad to think that poverty has dragged a significant number of our youth into violence, drugs and crime because of our dire economic reality.

This is the fourth castle I’ve seen in this country. Its crazy to think that power resided with just a few groups of elites back in the day. Everybody was serving in favor and pleasure of these powerful people. How they perpetuated themselves in power is fascinating. Religion has a lot to do with this success. But all of these eventually must come to an end – even the Arab monarchs of today are slowly realizing this reality. Its interesting that some European state kept their royal families as figure heads while some never did. European history is as complex and fascinating as the people who populates it.

The town and its castle had been written about by many great writers in the past. One of them was the American writer Mark Twain. His novel is responsible for popularizing Heidelberg among his countrymen. I met an American couple that told me they’ve read about Heidelberg in their school literature. Some people suggest that Gen Patton spared Heidelberg because of what Twain had written about it. For the writer it was “the last possibility of the beautiful” – I don’t think Patton wanted to mess with that – just imagine if Twain’s words really did save this town – another case of the pen triumphing over the sword?

The castle from a distance. It rained a bit but it did not last for long. The weather was almost perfect by German standards!

This spot is quite popular for wedding pictorials. The ruins have this romantic feel to it (the people in this photo are doing some rehearsals I think). Today I probably heard six languages spoken around. This castle is certainly Heidelberg’s tourist draw.

The houses around the hills of Heilderberg looks like scenes I saw in that old movie Sound of Music .

I saw what appears to be dungeons below this area. Not sure if they were. I guess those things are real. Even Rizal tried to figure out what the place was, “At times a small door opens on one side of the corridor into a dark and humid room… sometimes it is a little spiral stairway that gets lost above among the ruins and below in the shadows of the underground.”.

Castles around here had produced some of the most beautiful sculptures, arts and memorials. All of these reminds visitors of the towns great past and its place in German history.

Palatial courtyards I guess are never complete without fountains. I wonder how old is this one. This is part of the legendary Hortus Palatinos, the famed garden known around Europe.

Some people that manage to reach the castle utilizing the moss covered steps. The reward was seeing the less seen side of the castle. The castle appeared to be a fort around here.

I’ll never get used to several layers of clothing but there’s no choice under this cold German weather. I miss just wearing camisetas and sando (or just boxers when sleeping!)

Some sheep herded near the castles walls.

A beautiful vista of the Altstadt seen from the castle.

May 2012

Discussions on the State of the Spanish Language during the American Occupation

I spent the whole morning talking with Pio Andrade and GGR about the true state of the Spanish language during the American occupation in the early 1990’s [and some other historical stuff].

Below are some of what they had to say about the topic:

PA: The Americans forbided the teaching of Spanish when they came yet the Spanish capability of the Filipinos increased because the Thomasites had to learn Spanish for them to teach English effectively. Instead of decreasing the speakers of Spanish, they increased it.

A number of English publications in 1903 compared to the number of English and Spanish publications of 1918 shows the latter increasing. Almost all English publications had to dedicate Spanish sections in order to be widely read. Agoncillo’s claim of 2% [Spanish speakers in the 1900’s] have no reference. It’s a big  lie.

GGR: It’s a lie to you, to me and to all Filipinos [that Spanish was never spoken by Filipinos]. That’s why they’re [the US] here, to lie. The exploitation was unbelievable since the beginning.

You should have a copy of the book “Rizal’s Unfading Glory”, written by Padre Jesús María Cavanna y Manso. Its the most exhaustive research on the man. Its all there. They try to wishy washy Rizal. Trying to justify American colonialism by promoting the Americanized version of this hero. If they want to get serious about Rizal then they should study his poems, novels, songs and plays in Spanish!

The brave women of Malolos wanted to learn Spanish. Rizal supported them. The message was clear. A lot of people appears to be afraid of the true Rizal but the true Rizal must come out! People just want to repeat the same stories about the man.

WOP: I’ll never forget the stories of my adopted grandmother about Spanish [language]. Having been born in prewar Manila she grew up around people who spoke Spanish. Her father was Irish, having stayed in the country for so long learned Spanish. Her mestiza mom, part Swiss, also spoke it. Intramuros  exclusively spoke Spanish. This includes according to her the servants and the Chinese merchants!

She saw it as something very Filipino. She’s so proud that her generation spoke “the language”. She succeeded in teaching it to her children and grandchildren. And this is an American citizen.

My biological great grandparents, and this came from those who lived with them, spoke the language. My maternal great grandfather was said to be a strict disciplinarian [he evicted my grandpa from Dumangas] exclusively spoke Spanish at home. He was Aglipayan.

Its just strange that we all remember our grandparents speaking Spanish and yet we believe what was taught in school. That it was never widely spoken by Filipinos.

Pio and GGR posing with the newspaper interview ( ¿se retracto Rizal?...¡si!) showing Trinidad Rizal admitting that Jose indeed retracted before he died. GGR here commenting and having fun on the printed shirt (waikiki) of Don Pio!


All other text enclosed in parenthesis is mine.

The Rizal Manifesto

Having visited Rizal’s reconstructed house in Calambâ recently (biking all the way there from Muntinglupà!), I became interested again in the circumstances that led to his execution. I reread “The Trial of Rizal” (a book almost forgotten today) and saw some interesting facts that are often glossed over by our history teachers.

For example, not many are aware that those witnesses who testified against Rizal were all Filipinos — not a single Spaniard pointed an accusing finger. This could be trivial to some but nonetheless an illustration of how the trial was conducted. These witnesses signed a written affidavit confirming that they acted on their free will. Of course, we could no longer determine if they were forced or they willingly provided the information.

There are lots of questions revolving around that historic trial.

Were they pinning Rizal down so he could take the fall? They say that all great movements need a martyr to believe in…

It is not conspiracy theory; Rizal made some enemies in his years as a propagandist. He was admired and envied. In his trial, he even mentioned names that he considered hostile against him. The peaceful man that he was, he chose to retire and begin a new life. But his past haunted him. Powerful forces were out to get him. And they did get their quarry.

Rizal was aware that his name was being used not only to solicit funds but also as some sort of a head figure for the Katipunan. His family had warned him about it. And this concerned him gravely. Fearing that such an activity would result to loss of lives, he requested the governor general that he be permitted to publicly denounce it. On 11 December 1896 (a few weeks before his death sentence), he wrote a manifesto to address the issue:

”Fellow countrymen: Upon my return from Spain I learned that my name was being used as a rallying cry by some who had taken up arms. This information surprised and grieved me but thinking that the whole affair was finished, I refrained from commenting on something that could no longer be remedied. Now, rumors reach me that the disturbances have not ceased. It may be that persons continue to use my name in good or in bad faith; if so, wishing to put a stop to this abuse and to undeceive the gullible, I hasten to address these lines to you that the truth may be known. From the very beginning, when I first received information of what was being planned, I opposed it, I fought against it, and I made clear that it was absolutely impossible.  This is the truth, and they are still alive who can bear witness to my words. I was convinced that the very idea was wholly absurd — worse than absurd, it was disastrous. I did more than this. When later on, in spite of my urgings, the uprising broke out, I came forward voluntarily to offer not only my services but my life and even my good name in order that they may use me in any manner they may think opportune to smother the rebellion. For I was convinced of the evils which that rebellion would bring in its train, and so I considered it a privilege if at whatever sacrifice I could ward off so much useless suffering. This is also of record.

“Fellow countrymen: I have given many proofs that I desire as much as the next man liberties for our country; I continue to desire them. But I laid down as a prerequisite the education of the people in order that by means of such instruction, and by hard work, they may acquire a personality of their own and so become worthy of such liberties. In my writings I have recommended study and the civic virtues, without which no redemption is possible. I have also written (and my words have been repeated by others) that reforms, if they are to bear fruit, must come from above, for reforms that come from below are upheavals both violent and transitory. Thoroughly imbued with these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, as I do condemn, this ridiculous and barbarous uprising, plotted behind my back, which both dishonors us Filipinos and discredits those who might have taken our part. I abominate the crimes for which it is responsible and I will have no part in it. With all my heart I am sorry for those who have rashly allowed themselves to be deceived. Let them, then, return to their homes, and may God pardon those who have acted in bad faith.”

After clearly dismissing any involvement in the planned uprising, wanting his countrymen to avoid its evils, Rizal laid out plans on what he saw as the proper approach and focus so that civil liberties and eventual freedom can be achieved. Sadly, these “prerequisites” were totally forgotten by the generation of leaders who had succeeded him.

The manifesto cannot be any clearer and articulate than how it was written by Rizal. He was a revolutionary, yes, but he never wanted a bloody one. In his view, it was not only costly in terms of lives but was self-defeating. His was a revolution of the mind.

What’s striking about the document is that it was written weeks before his execution. It was apparent to him that, after the discovery of the Katipunan,  a mass revolt was soon to follow and that his death would most likely ignite it. What I find fascinating about Rizal is that he was a gifted psychic. Although he defended himself well against the accusation leveled against him, he knew that he would end up in Bagumbayan. He predicted this years even before he was implicated in the rebellion (Bagumbayan was mentioned five times in Noli Me Tangere)! This clairvoyance probably made it easier for him to accept his fate.

A closer examination of the trial documents will show that Rizal was actually innocent on the charge of rebellion. Aside from testimonies and letters, there was nothing solid that can pin him down for initiating the rebellion. He had proven that there was no link between his La Liga Filipina and Andrés Bonifacio’s Katipunanother than some of those who were with him during the founding of his group (which, according to him, “died stillborn”) who later got involved or joined Bonifacio’s group altogether.Curiously, however, the words Liga and Katipunan mean the same thing in English: “league”.

Now I can understand why we were kept away from such documents. They were protecting Rizal’s reputation of being the prime mover of independence. I believe there’s no need to hide such historical lessons. After learning what he was fighting for, personally, he even became greater than he ever was. His revolution goes beyond winning wars — he wanted a revolution of the mind, to see our fellow Filipinos as part of our selves. The Rizal who was sentenced to death wanted us to dedicate ourselves to the civic and social betterment of the Filipino nation.

Violence can never be justified in Rizal’s revolution.

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