Jose Rizal: The Adventurous Voyager


Jose Rizal: The Adventurous Voyager
Jose Rizal’s thrilling experience during his first lake-and-river voyage perhaps inspired him to travel more.
          Riding in a ‘casco’, Jose temporarily left his hometown Calamba on June 6, 1868. He and his father went on a pilgrimage to Antipolo and afterward visited his sister Saturnina in Manila, who was at the time a student at La Concordia. Across Laguna de Bay and the Pasig River, Jose had an unforgettably amazing trip that he did not fail to record the journey in his memoir.
In Biñan and Manila
A year after, Paciano brought Jose to the nearby town Biñan to attend the school of Maestro Justiniano Aquino Cruz. Except for occasional homecomings, he stayed in the town for a year and a half of schooling, living in an aunt’s house where his breakfasts generally consisted of a plate of rice and two dried sardines (‘tuyo’).
Don Francisco sent Jose to Manila in June 1872 to enroll in Ateneo Municipal. Paciano found Jose a boarding house in Intramuros though Jose later transferred to a house on Calle Carballo in Santa Cruz area. The following year, Jose transferred residence to No. 6 Calle Magallanes. Two years after, he became an intern (boarding student) in Ateneo and stayed there until his graduation in the institution.
From 1877 to 1882, Rizal studied in the University of Santo Tomas, enrolling in the course on Philosophy in Letters, but shifted to Medicine a year after. During his first year in UST, he simultaneously took in Ateneo a vocational course leading to being an expert surveyor. He boarded in the house of a certain Concha Leyva in Intramuros, and later in “Casa Tomasina,” at Calle 6, Santo Tomas, Intramuros. In ‘Casa Tomasina’, his landlord-uncle Antonio Rivera had a daughter, Leonor, who became Jose’s sweetheart.
In Europe
Sick and tired of the discriminatory and oppressive Dominican professors, Rizal stopped attending classes at UST in 1882. On May 3 of that year, he left for Spain to complete his studies and widen his political knowledge through exposure to European governments. It’s funny that his departure for Spain had gone down to history as a ‘secret departure’ although at least ten sure people—including his three siblings and an uncle—collaborated in his going away, exclusive of the unnamed and unnumbered ‘Jesuit priests’ and ‘intimate friends’ who co-conspired in the plan.
On his way to Madrid, Rizal had many stopovers. He first disembarked and visited the town of Singapore. Onboard the steamship ‘Djemnah’ he passed through Punta de Gales, Colombo, and Aden. En route to Marseilles, he also went across the historic waterway of Suez Canal and visited the Italian city of Naples. He left Marseilles, France for Barcelona in an express train.
After some months, Rizal left Barcelona for Madrid and enrolled in Medicine and Philosophy and Letters at the Universidad Central de Madrid on November 3, 1882. In Rizal’s letter dated February 13, 1883, he informed Paciano of his meeting with other Filipinos: “The Tuesday of the Carnival we had a Filipino luncheon and dinner in the house of the Paternos, each one contributing one ‘duro’. We ate with our hands, boiled rice, chicken adobo, fried fish and roast pig.”
Ironically, a year after that sumptuous feasting, Rizal became penniless as his family encountered economic regression. One day in June 1884, Rizal who failed to eat breakfast still went to school and even won a gold medal in a contest. At night, he attended the feast held in honor of two award-winning Filipino painters, Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. In the occasion, he delivered a daring liberal speech which became so controversial that it even caused sickness to his worrying mother. Perhaps, being broke and hungry could really make one braver and more impulsive. As one student commented, “Hayop man, ‘pag gutom, tumatapang.”
In 1885, Rizal who had finished his two courses in Madrid went to Paris, France. From November 1885 to February 1886, he worked as an assistant tothe celebrated ophthalmologistDr. Louis de Weckert.
In February 3, 1886, he left Paris for Heidelberg, Germany. He attended lectures and training at the University of Heidelberg where he is said to have completed his eye specialization.Afterward, Rizal settled for three months in the nearby village, Wilhemsfeld, at the pastoral house of a Protestant pastor, Dr. Karl Ullmer. It was also during this time that the correspondence and long-distance friendship between Jose and Ferdinand Blumentritt began. Rizal wrote a letter in German and sent it with a bilingual (Spanish and Tagalog) book ‘Aritmiteca’ to Blumentritt who was interested in studying Jose’s native language.
Jose traveled next to Leipzig and attended some lectures at its university. Having reached Dresden afterward, he met and befriended Dr. Adolph B. Meyer, the Director of the Anthropological and Ethnological Museum. Also a Filipinologist, Meyer showed Rizal some interesting things taken from tombs in the Philippines.
In November 1886, he went to Berlin and further enhanced his skills and knowledge in ophthalmology. In that famous city, not only did he learn other languages but also became member of various scientific communities and befriended many famed intellectuals at the time. On February 21, 1887, he finished his first novel and it came off the press a month later.
Grand Europe Tour
With his friend Maximo Viola who loaned him some amount to cover for the printing of the ‘Noli’, Rizal traveled to various places in Europe. Through Paciano’s remittance, Jose had paid Viola and decided to further explore some places in Europe before returning to the Philippines. They went first to see Potsdam, a city southwest of Berlin which became the site of the Potsdam Conference (1945) at which the leaders of powerful nations deliberated upon the postwar administration of Germany.
On May 11, 1887, they left Berlin for Dresden and witnessed the regional floral exposition there. Wanting to visit Blumentritt, they went to Leitmeritz, Bohemia passing through Teschen (Decin, Czechoslovakia). Professor Blumentritt warmly received them at Leitmeritz railroad station. The professor identified them through the pencil sketch which Rizal had previously made of himself and sent to his European friend. Blumentritt acted as their tour guide, introducing them to his family and to famous European scientists like Dr. Carlos Czepelak and Prof. Robert Klutschak.
On May 16, the two Filipinos left Leitmeritz for Prague where they saw the tomb of the famous astronomer Copernicus. They stopped at Brunn on their way to Vienna. They met the famed Austrian novelist Norfenfals in Vienna, and Rizal was interviewed by Mr. Alder, a newspaper correspondent. To see the sights of the Danube River, they left Vienna on a boat where they saw passengers using paper napkins. From Lintz, they had a short stay in Salzburg. Reaching Munich, they tasted the local beer advertised as Germany’s finest. In Nuremberg, they saw the infamous torture machines used in the so-called Catholic Inquisition. Afterward, they went to Ulm and climbed Germany’s tallest cathedral there. They also went to Sttutgart, Baden, and then Rheinfall where they saw Europe’s most beautiful waterfall.
In Switzerland, they toured Schaffhausen, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne before staying in Geneva. Rizal’s 15-day stay in Geneva was generally enjoyable except when he learned about the exhibition of some Igorots in Madrid, side by side some animals and plants. Not only did the primitive Igorots in ‘bahag’ become objects of ridicule and laughter, one of them (a woman) also died of pneumonia.
On June 19, 1887, Rizal treated Viola for it was his 26th birthday. Four days after, they parted ways—Viola went back to Barcelona while Rizal proceeded to Italy. In Italy, Rizal went to see Turin, Milan, Venice, and Florence. In Rome, he paid a visit to the historical places like the Amphitheatre and the Roman Forum. On June 29, he had seen the glorious edifices, like the St. Peter’s Church, in the Vatican City. Literally and figuratively speaking, Rizal did go places. As a co-professor commented, “Nag-gala talaga ang lolo mo!”
First homecoming
Despite being warned by friends and loved ones, Jose was adamant in his decision to return to his native land. From a French port Marseilles, he boarded on July 3 the steamer ‘Djemnah’ which sailed to the East through the Suez Canal and reached Saigon on the 30th of the month. He then took the steamer ‘Haiphong’ and reached Manila near midnight of August 5.
After meeting some friends in Manila, he returned to Calamba on August 8. Restoring his mother’s eyesight, he began to be dubbed as “German doctor” or “Doctor Uliman” (from the word ‘Aleman’ which means German) and made a lot of money because people from different places flocked him for a better vision. Because of his enemies’ allegation that ‘Noli’ contained subversive ideas, Rizal was summoned by the Governor General Emilio Terrero. Seeing no problem in the book, Terrero nonetheless assigned to Rizal a body guard, Don Jose Taviel de Andrade, to protect the ‘balikbayan’ from his adversaries.
In December 1887, the Calamba folks asked Rizal’s assistance in collecting information as regards Dominican hacienda management. It was in compliance to the order of the government to investigate the way friar estates were run. So Rizal had reported, among others, that the Dominican Order had arbitrarily increased the land rent and charged the tenants for nonexistent agricultural services. The enraged friars pressured the governor general to ‘advise’ the author of the ‘Noli’ to leave the country. (In other words, “napuno na talaga sa kanya ang nga pari”)
Second Travel Abroad
What Rizal failed to accomplish in his six-month stay in the country was visiting his girlfriend Leonor Rivera in Pangasinan. His father strongly opposed the idea, sensing that the visit would put Leonor’s family in jeopardy.
On February 3, 1888, Rizal sailed to Hongkong onboard ‘Zafiro’ and just stayed inside the ship during its short stop at Amoy. He stayed at Victoria Hotel in Hongkong (not in Sta. Mesa) and visited the nearby city Macao for two days along with a friend, Jose Maria Basa. Among other things, Rizal experienced in Hong Kong the noisy firecracker-laden Chinese New Year and the marathon lauriat party characterized by numerous dishes being served. (The ‘lauriat’ combo meal in ‘Chowking’ originated from this Chinese party.)
From Hong Kong, he reached Yokohama, Japan on February 28 and proceeded to Tokyo the next day. He lived in the Spanish legation in Tokyo upon the invitation of its secretary, Juan Perez Caballero. In March 1888, he heard a Tokyo band nicely playing a European music and was astonished to find out after the gig that some of its members were Filipinos (Zaide & Zaide, p. 130). We can surmise from this that even during Rizal’s time, some Filipinos were already entertainers in Japan (‘Japayuki’ or ‘Japayuko’).
But if there were a person who was truly entertained at the time, it was Rizal himself who was amused by the Japanese girl who used to pass by the legation everyday. The 23-year old Seiko Usui whom he fondly called ‘O-Sei-San’became his tour guide and sweetheart rolled into one.
Sail to the West
Because he loved his mission more than O-Sei-San, he boarded the ‘Belgic’ on April 13, 1888. In the vessel, he had befriended Tetcho Suehiro, a Japanese novelist and human rights fighter who was also forced by his government to leave his country. The ship arrived in San Francisco on April 28. For a week, they were however quarantined, allegedly because of the cholera outbreak in the Far East. In reality, some politicians were just questioning the arrival of the Chinese coolies in the ship who would displace white laborers in railroad construction projects. 

On May 6, he went to Oakland. Onboard a train, he took his evening meal at Sacramento and woke up at Reno, Nevada. He had visited also the states of Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, and finally reached New York on May 13. On Bedloe Island, he had seen the Statue of Liberty symbolizing freedom and democracy. Inconsistently, Rizal observed that there was racial inequality in the land and real freedom was only for the whites. But if Rizal were alive today, he would be surprised that the Americans have already allowed a black guy to become their president for two terms.
In Great Britain
On May 16, 1888 on the ship ‘City of Rome’ Rizal sailed for Liverpool and arrived on May 24. A day after, he reached London and stayed briefly at Dr. Antonio Ma. Regidor's home. He then boarded at the Beckett family where he fell in love with Gertrude, the oldest daughter of his landlord.
In June 1888, Rizal made friends with Dr. Reinhold Rost and his family. Expert in Malayan language, Rost had in his house a good Filipiniana library. Our national hero was described by Rost as “a pearl of a man” (‘una perla de hombre’).
In London, Rizal manually copied and annotated Morga’s ‘Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas’, a rare book available in the British Museum. He also became the honorary president ofthe patriotic society Asociacion La Solidaridad (Solidaridad Association) and wrote articles for the ‘La Solidaridad’. In his 10-month stay in London, he had short visits in Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona. In Spain, he met Marcelo H. del Pilar for the first time.
In France
Leaving London for good, he went to Paris in March 1889. He shortly lived in the house of a friend, Valentin Ventura before transferring in a little room where e had as roommates two Filipinos, one of which was Jose Albert, a student from Manila. In Paris, Rizal frequented the Bibliotheque Nationale, working on his annotation of the ‘Sucesos’.
He spent his spare hours in the houses of friends like Juan Luna and his wife Paz Pardo de Tavera. Rizal witnessed the Universal Exposition of Paris, having as its greatest attraction the Eiffel Tower.He formed the ‘Kidlat Club’, a temporary social club which brought together Filipinos witnessing the exposition. He also organized the ‘Indios Bravos’, an association which envisioned Filipinos being recognized for being admirable in many fields, and the mysterious Redencion de los Malayos (Redemption of the Malays) which aimed to propagate useful knowledge. In Paris, Rizal also finished and published his annotation of the ‘Sucesos.’
In Belgium
After celebrating the Yuletide season in Paris in 1889, Rizal shortly visited London for the last time. With Jose Albert, Rizal left Paris for Brussels on January 28, 1890. The two stayed in a boarding house administered by the Jacoby sisters (Suzanne and Marie) where Rizal met and had a transitory affair with Petite, the niece of his landladies.
In Belgium, Rizal busied himself with writing the ‘Fili’ and contributing for La Solidaridad using the pen names Dimas Alang and Laong Laan. When he heard the news that the Calamba agrarian trouble was getting worse, Rizal decided to go home. But Paciano told him through a letter that they lost the court case against the Dominicans in the Philippines and they intended to bring the case to Madrid.  This prompted Jose to go to Madrid instead to look for a lawyer and influential people who would defend the Calamba tenants.
In Madrid
Rizal traveled to Madrid in August 1890. Along with his lawyer, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, he tried to seek justice for his family but could not find anyone who could help him.  
          Rizal encountered many adversities and tribulations in Madrid. He heard that his family was forced to leave their land in Calamba and some family members were even deported to far places. One day, Rizal challenged his friend Antonio Luna to a duel when he (Luna), being unsuccessful in seeking Nellie Boustead’s love, gave negative comments on the lady. Rizal also dared to a duel Wenceslao Retana of the anti-Filipino newspaper ‘La Epoca’ who wrote that Rizal’s family did not pay their land rent. Both duels were fortunately aborted—Luna became Rizal’s good friend again and Retana even became rizal’s first non-Filipino biographer.
In Madrid, Rizal also heard the news of Leonor Rivera's marriage with an Englishman Henry Kipping who was the choice of Leonor’s mother. As if ‘misfortunes’ were not enough, there emerged the Del Pilar-Rizal rivalry for leadership in the Asociacion Hispano Filipino. The supposedly healthy election for a leader (‘Responsible’) produced divisive unpleasant split among the Filipinos in Madrid (the Rizalistas vs. the Pilaristas). Rizal thus decided to leave Madrid, lest his presence results in more serious faction among Filipinos in Madrid.  
In Biarritz, Paris, and Brussels
Rizal proceeded to take a more than a month vacation in Biarritz, a tourist town in southwestern France noted for its mild climate and sand beaches. Arriving there in February 1891, Rizal was welcomed as a family guest in the house of the Bousteds, especially by Nellie whom he had a serious (but failed) romantic relationship.
            In Biarritz, he continued to worked on his ‘El Fili’ and completed its manuscript on March 29, the eve of his departure for Paris. Valentin Ventura hosted his short stay in Paris, and the Jacobies, especially Petite Suzanne, cordially welcomed his arrival in Brussels in April 1891. In Brussels, Rizal revised and prepared for printing his second novel until the end of May. By June 1891, he was already looking for a printing firm to print the ‘El Filibusterismo.’
In Ghent
Rizal went to Ghent in July 1891 because the cost of printing in the place was cheaper. He lived in a low-cost boarding house where he had as roommate Jose Alejandro, an engineering student in the University of Ghent. Tightening their belts, they rented a room exclusive of breakfast. They bought a box of biscuit, counted the contents, and computed for their daily ration for a month. In just 15 days, Alejandro had eaten up all his shares whereas Rizal frugally limited himself to his daily allocation.
            The publisher F. Meyer-Van Loo Press, No. 66 Viaanderen Street agreed to print the ‘El Fili’ on installment basis. Despite pawning all his jewels and living tightfistedly, Rizal run out of funds and the printing had to be suspended on August 6. But through Valentin Ventura’s ‘salvific’ act, the ‘El Filibusterismo’ came off the press on September 18, 1891. Two weeks after, he visited Paris for the last time to bid goodbye to his friends and compatriots.
In Hong Kong and Sandakan
In October 1891, Rizal left Europe for Hong Kong onboard the ship ‘Melbourne’ on which he began writing his third (but unfinished) novel. He arrived in Hong Kong on November 20 and resided at No. 5 D’ Aguilar Street, No. 2 Rednaxela Terrace. (In case you did not notice, ‘Rednaxela’ is ‘Alexander’ spelled reversely).
            Having escaped the friars’ persecution, Don Francisco, Paciano, and Silvestre Ubaldo (Jose’s brother-in-law) also arrived in Hong Kong. Shortly after, Doña Teodora and children Lucia, Josefa, and Trinidad also came, and the Rizal family had a sort of family reunion in the Yuletide season of 1891.
           In Hong Kong, Jose opened a medical clinic. A Portuguese friend, Dr. Lorenzo P. Marques helped him to have plentiful patrons of various nationalities. His successful operation on his mother’s left eye allowed her to read again.
In March 1892, he went to Sandakan (East Malaysia) aboard ‘Menon’ to negotiate with British authorities concerning the founding of a Filipino colony in North Borneo (now called Sabah). On March 21, Rizal asked Governor General Eulogio Despujol through a letter to allow the landless Filipinos, especially the deported Calamba tenants, to establish themselves in North Borneo. Rizal was back in Hon Kong in April, 1892.
Second homecoming
Wanting to confer with Despujol concerning his North Borneo colonization project, Rizal left Hong Kong on June 21, 1892 along with his sister Lucia. Without his knowledge, the Spanish consul in Hong Kong sent a cablegram to Despujol stating figuratively that “the rat is in the trap”. A secret case against Rizal was thus filed in Manila for anti-religious and anti-patriotic public campaign.
            Rizal and his sister arrived in Manila at 12:00 noon of June 26, 1892. At 7 pm, he was able to confer in Malacañan with Despujol who agreed to pardon his father and told him to return on June 29. He then visited sisters and friends in Manila.
            On June 27, he took a train and visited his friends in Central Luzon. He had a stopover at the Bautista mansion in Malolos, Bulacan and spent the night in the house of Evaristo Puno in Tarlac, Tarlac, about 30 kilometers away from the residence of Leonor Rivera-Kipping in Camiling. He also went to San Fernando and Bacolor, Pampanga and returned to Manila on June 28, at 5 pm. On June 29, 30, and July 3, he had other interviews with Despujol. The colonization project was rejected though Rizal’s request to lift the exile of his sisters was granted.
            On the evening of July 3, Rizal spearheaded the meeting in the house of Doroteo Ongjunco on Ylaya Street, Tondo, Manila of  at least 20 Filipinos, including Andres Bonifacio and Apolinario Mabini. Rizal explained the aims of the civic association ‘La Liga Filipina’. Officers were then elected, having Ambrosio Salvador as the president, thereby officially establishing the league.
            Just three days after though, Rizal was arrested during his interview with the governor general. Despujol showed him anti-friar leaflets ‘Pobres Frailes’ (Poor Friars) allegedly discovered in his sister Lucia’s pillow cases. Imprisoned in Fort Santiago for almost ten days, Rizal was brought at 12:30 am on July 14 to the steamer ‘Cebu’. Passing through Mindoro and Panay, the vessel docked at Dapitan in Zamboanga del Norte on the evening of July 17. True, Dapitan is a scenic place with fine beaches, perhaps a soothing place for a ‘balik-bayan’ like Rizal. But Jose was not there as a tourist or a vacationer—he was an exile. The ship captain Delgras handed him over to the local Spanish commandant, Ricardo Carnicero and that signaled the start of Rizal’s life as a deportee in Dapitan. (© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog)
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Jensen DG. Mañebog, the contributor, is a book author and professorial lecturer in the graduate school of a state university in Metro Manila. His unique book on Rizal comprehensively tackles, among others, the respective life of Rizal’s parents, siblings, co-heroes, and girlfriends. (e-mail:
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TAGS: Jose Rizal, The Collaboration between Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, History, Philippine Studies, Filipino Heroes; Jose Rizal, The Adventurous Voyager, History, Philippine Studies, Filipino Heroes; Jose Rizal: The Adventurous Voyager


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