Sunday, August 15, 2010

More on Penelope's visit to Litomérice, Czech Republic, July 2010

I found this article written by Alan Levy. He describes the Rizal monument in Litomerice better than I did.

"Three busts in one block."

"What Litomerice celebrates in a ceremony every June is not the late Jose Rizal's early martryrdom -- which incited a full-scale rebellion against Spanish rule -- but four of the best days of his life. Three busts of him stand within a square-block's radius of the town's spiffed-up, arcaded central square. (See box.)"

"Born in the Philippine town of Calamba (since 1974, officially "twinned" with Litomerice as "sister towns"), Rizal had been in Europe since May 1882, studying medicine and philosophy in Madrid and ophthalmology in Paris and Heidelberg. (He was a licensed eye doctor.) In Germany, he had finished writing and just published -- in Spanish -- his first novel, Noli Me Tangere (Don't Touch Me). Now he and Maximo Viola -- a Filipino physician who'd funded publication of Rizal's novel -- embarked on a farewell trip across central Europe together before Rizal would sail east from Marseilles that summer."

"Blumentritt, a Prague-born and -educated German-speaker not quite eight years Rizal's senior, had settled in Leitmeritz upon graduation from Charles University, where he'd studied Spanish colonialism, to take up an appointment to teach history and geography in the town's Technical Secondary School (of which he later became director). He married a local girl, Rosa Muller, and they had two sons and a daughter to whom they gave a Spanish name, Dolores; at home, she was called Loleng, the Tagalog, or Philippine language, version."

"Math in Tagalog
Rizal, who'd been campaigning to introduce Philippine studies into European universities, had heard that Blumentritt was learning Tagalog. While still in Heidelberg, Rizal sent Blumentritt an arithmetic book written in Tagalog and Spanish by a Filipino scholar. Blumentritt responded enthusiastically, and thus began what Rizal's biographer, Austin Coates, has called "the most remarkable -- and the most voluminous -- correspondence in Philippine letters, which went on almost uninterruptedly until terminated by death."

"In an 1886 exchange of letters, Rizal rebuked the staunchly Catholic Blumentritt for his research reliance on Spanish authors and monks. (The latter are the villains of Noli Me Tangere.)"

"Blumentritt sent Rizal some etchings of his family. Rizal, who also was an artist, sent back a self-portrait. Blumentritt wrote to Rizal: "I look forward with even greater impatience than before to the moment when I should come to know you personally."

The town's stunning main square, now called Mirove namesti (Peace Square) is dominated by a tower shaped like a chalice. The Gothic building beneath it houses Mayor Jiri Landa's office, in the vestibule of which stands a bust of Rizal. In the tourist office on the ground floor, you can obtain an excellent 60-page paperback in English, Jose Rizal, Ferdinand Blumentritt and the Philippines in the New Age (1998) by Jindrich Tomas, the town archivist. At Mirove nam. 12, another bust is built into the facade of the elegant Hotel Salva Guarda, which was the mayor's office at the time of Rizal's visit. From a park behind the Salva Guarda, a third bust of Rizal looks out across the town to its majestic St. Stephen's Cathedral."

"Across Mirove namesti from the Salva Guarda is the Hotel Rak, where Rizal and Viola stayed. A short walk past the Rak along Novobranska brings you to Na Valech 2, where Blumentritt died in 1913. Across busy Na Valech is the school where Blumentritt spent his career."

"The Blumentritt home Rizal visited in 1887 was at Lange Gasse (now Dlouha) 29. That building was destroyed May 9, 1945 -- a day after World War II ended in Europe -- by Soviet bombers clearing a route for the belated entry into Prague of Red Army tanks."

A bus leaves Prague's Florenc terminal at 9 a.m. daily and takes 65 minutes. There is a fast return bus at 6:35 p.m. from Litomerice that takes one hour to Prague's Nadrazi Holesovice. Fare each way: 56 Kc ($1.40)"

"That occasion came May 13, 1887, when Rizal and Viola stepped off a train in Leitmeritz. The whole Blumentritt family was there to welcome them and escort them to their billets at the Hotel Rak on the main square. "

"Beer and a butterfly
It wasn't a historic weekend -- or even a newsworthy one: just one friend sharing his life with another. After a visit to the Blumentritt home, they strolled the slopes of the hilly town, inhaling the scent of its May flowers and blossoming fruit trees, while conversing mostly in German. They visited the bishop's residence, where Rizal particularly admired a Czech Bible from the 15th century, and the mayor's office, where Rizal and Viola signed the city chronicle's guest book. They drank in a town pub, where Viola pronounced its beer the best in Bohemia, and ate Austro-Czech food, for Rizal had mentioned in a letter that he didn't like north German cuisine. Blumentritt also took his guests to a meeting of the Tourists' Club. Their farewell dinner was in an inn beneath tall trees that Rizal admired on the Shooter's Isle (now Strelecky ostrov) in the Elbe."

"As the train to Prague pulled out on May 16, Blumentritt stood silent, his eyes blurred with tears, while his daughter Dolores ran along the platform "like a butterfly," Rizal recalled. On May 19 from Brno, Rizal wrote a prescient thank-you to Blumentritt:

"Shall this magnificent farewell to Europe be perhaps the omen of a terrible reception in the Philippines?" But, Rizal concluded, he would always remember that "you are not alone, Rizal. There is a little corner of Bohemia [where] there are good, noble souls and friends who appreciate you. Think of them."

"And he told Blumentritt: "I am in my heart a Leitmeritzan just as you consider yourself a Filipino in sentiment."

"When Rizal reached Manila in August 1887, his novel had preceded him and he was indeed notorious. After he published a fiery sequel, El filibusterismo (The Subversive, 1891), he was arrested as a revolutionary agitator and banished to Dapitan on Mindanao island. In November 1896, he was put on trial and condemned to death for instigating an insurrection and founding revolutionary societies."

"On Dec. 29, 1896, from his cell in Fort Santiago, Rizal penned his last letter to Blumentritt: "My dear brother: When you receive this letter, I am already dead. Tomorrow at 7 o'clock I shall be shot. I am, however, innocent of the crime of rebellion. Farewell, my best, my dearest friend, and never think ill of me."