On May 13, 1877, Dr. Jose Rizal and his friend Dr. Maximo Viola (my ancestor) arrived by train. The friends were met by Dr. Ferdinand Blumentritt and his family. Earlier, Dr, Blumentritt and Dr. José Rizal had started a very scholarly correspondence (on Philippine ethnography) which with every return of the maIl (around 10 days) the correspondence became more and more communicative. In other words, it was no longer just a correspondence between scholars, but a meeting of the minds of two disparate individuals in terms of geography but so similar in sentiment. In time, they found their metier and exchanged their own philosophies: of life, of teaching, of religion, of the colonizers and of the oppressed.
It will be good for the Filipino American reader to get the two volumes (1992, National Historical Institute, Manila) on José Rizal and his complete correspondence with Dr. Ferdinaand Blumentritt.
Last week, (19 July 2010) I traveled with my good friend from Prague, Miloslav (Mila for short) Smida to visit posthumously with the famed director of the Litomerérice Gynmasium or Realeschule (equivalent to our Secondary, College-bound). With the disintegration of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire, Lietmeritz became part of Czechoslovakia and was given a Czech name.
Litomérice is one hour's drive north from Prague. It has maintained a slower pace of life. The old tower's imagined arms still is about to engulf every newcomer in a warm embrace. The square's fountain in the middle still spouts clear water from its source: the pristine lake nearby. Thanks for the smaller car versions, the parked vehicles seem not so intrusive around the fountain. The arcades around the square still sport the ancient balustrades above and walking architaves below for pedestrian.
The very friendly town officials told us to go to the other side to the square, (East) and turn left. There is a small garden and inside another small garden wall, we found a shady lane with a bust of Blumentritt. I recognized his bespectacled face extruding from the high wall. It was the likeness of the sketch Dr. Rizal made of him during his visit in 1887. Viewing the green grounds, a plaque described this beloved citizen who developed a deep and great friendship with the National Hero of the Philippines. It said: "Here established the connection between Czech Republic and the Republic of the Philippines through the friendship of Dr. Ferdinand Blumentriit and Dr.José Rizal." A quote from one of Rizal's letters followed in Czech inscription.
Back in the center of town, on the other side of the square, we passed through a little street that led to the statue of an important Czech hero, Macha. On the left of the statue, we took three steps down and there we were: right on Rizal Park. It's a a slim tongue of green, a miniature park, very serene, peaceful, and tranquil.
A bust of Rizal lorded it over the scene. It is a beautiful handsome piece, sculpted no doubt by a renowned Filipino sculptor, a Caedo prehaps, but I have to check my sources to verify this.
I turned to Mila: "They (the Litomerice Commission), knew what they were doing. This place recalls Rizal's Dapitan domicle duirng his exile--- verdant green, tranquil, peaceful and reflective, which he called Mi Retiro" .
Mila replied pointedly: "Well then, let's create a tour prospectus for Filipinos who are traveling to Prague to make sure that they visit this historic piece of important Philippine History."
"I agree. There's more to just going to see the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague, which is the regular itinerary of the many Filipinos I know who travel to Prague." (For all of you out there planning to travel to Prague at any time in the future, please allow me and Mila to get your itinerary planned for this historic event.)
Last week, upon reading my blog on Rizal, the writer and literary critic Allen Gaborro exclaimed, "Who would expect a Rizal Park in the middle of a small ancient town square in an obscure town of the Czech Republic?"
Back at the town square tourist booth, we returned to buy some postcards. I found one that showed the square in 1840. Close enough for me.
Among the goods, postcards, and maps was a monograph of the "Last Farewell" by Dr. Jose Rizal translated in Czech. The glossy cover had a lovely bust image of Dr.l Jose Rizal. This is the bust found inside the Mayor's office. Truth be told, this cover monograph is better a thousand -fold than the images of any Rizal bust found in the Philippines. I'm sure of that.
I bought a copy for 48 Krowns. I wish I had purchased more.