Thursday, October 11, 2012

Re-Conceptualizing Rizal's Germany


Let's begin  re-contextualizing Rizal's visit to Germany.  

Rizal had an acute sense of comparative and international or global education among the countries in Europe.  He finished his medical degree in Spain. He then specialized in Ophthalmology with Professor, Dr Louis de Wecker in France. Now in Germany, he went straight to the ancient university town of Heidelberg  (it was celebrating it's 500th founding anniversary in 1886 when he arrived).  Rizal  studied with Professor Dr. Otto Becker. He found Heidelberg student life from a different perspective of self-governance from those of student life in Madrid.  (see penelopevflores.blogspot. com  on Heidelberg.

Finally here in Germany he had  found an alternative view of Europe.

Dr. José Rizal  found out that it was much cheaper to live a frugal lifestyle in Germany than anywhere else he had been.  Always, he was counting his Deutschmark! His stipend from Paciano had been reccurringly late.  Paciano complains that the price of sugar had gone down and he was waiting for a favorable price before he sells them.  

Rizal stayed in cheap lodgings but well heated and welcoming.  Rizal found Berlin a fascinating city.  The Berlin that Rizal knew was blown into bits by the Allies in World War II. Fortunately the historical buildings had been faithfully restored.  
In Spain, he was always in the company of his "paisanos" or  countrymen.  Here in Germany, he had no "kababayan"  in sight.  That means, he really had to be ensconced within the life and culture of the Germanic people. This means also that he will have to understand the wide diversity of the country, noting the militaristic aura of the Prussians in the north, and the delightful pastural existence of the peasant farmers in the south. This means too, that he will perfect his German skills to the extent that my current German friends now tell me, Rizal wrote beautiful and correct German, no mistakes and most importantly, he used High German script.  What  a great accomplishment, indeed.

The Knights of Rizal, Berlin Chapter, knew I was arriving with a heavy and cumbersome agenda: 
  • a)  to see the Rizal historical markers, 
  • b) to find the Ethnological and Anthropological Society building site where Rizal presented his paper on Tagalog Versification, which gained him admission to the renowned scholarly society,  
  • c) to admire the same sites Rizal noted in his diary and journals, and
  • d) meet with the Filipino-German community.

Sir Choy Arnaldo notified the different chapters in Germany and France of my whereabouts.  Thanks,  Sir Gerhard Müller and Lady Lulu! They were in my hotel to brief me about the plan.  

The PLAN: Gerhard was to take me around to ALL Rizal sites, make sure I am on time for my appointments and for me to feel the aura and atmosphere of Berlin.   What a Great Treat!

Sir Gerhard was virtually my designated personal "baby sitter."  He led me across the U Bahn transfers, the S Bahn interconnections, and led me up and down miles and miles of cobble stone walks. What a Great Walker!  Well, it so happened that tomorrow, Berlin is  hosting the International Marathon Race and all streets are being prepared for the morrow.  

It was a good thing we walked through a lane of chestnut trees and picked up horse chestnuts from the ground to keep in my pocket as an antidote to my aging arthritis (a German wife's tale).

Rizal's apartment house on 71 Jägerstrasse still sits on the corner of Glinkastrasse, and can be approached through Mauer (wall in German) Strasse.  It is likely the old ancient Roman wall went along this way.  The historical marker competes with a fluttering huge banner sign that covers half the wall and front window that shouts:  "Office space for rent!"  I thought it diminished  the importance of the Rizal site, and endowed it with a forlorn spirit. 

I took a long view of the distance from here to the Charity Hospital where Rizal worked. His friend, Dr. Virchow's son was a physician here.  The Hospital was a long walk.  Did Rizal take a tram?  No, he was scrimping, remember?  He walked a fair 3 kilometers üdistance to and from work one way.

Rizal met with his friend Maximo Viola (my ancestor)  here in Berlin.   It was on Anhalter Strasse, Berlin that the Noli me Tangere was printed.  The two  scouted around for the cheapest printing press-- cost:  300 pesetas for 2,000 copies.  Luckily, the more progressive burgers of Berlin at that time employed a battery of penniless widows and orphans and hired them to run a printing press.  

Sir Gerhard pointed out to me the press.  The original site was destroyed. He said, "Look beyond those blue factory walls.  It is the new printing press,  not the original.  This happens often when one expect sthe site to be there to relive the moment, only to be awakened by contemporary times and find it located somewhere else and re-configured." 

I accomplished my objectives within my stay in Berlin.  My heartfelt thanks to Lulu and Gerhard Meüller. We met with the Cultural Officer, Milagros A. Kropp of the Philippine Consulate.  Unfortunately, the Berlin Rizaliana Library had been moved to a different room and I had no chance to view its collections.  

Sir Rainer Weber and Sir Celso Lacuna gave me a list of places Rizal noted in his journal.  I can say I have noted them.  Of course, not all, but the ones I'm interested in.  I insisted to Sir Gerhard that we had to see the Ethnographical and Anthropological Society Building where Rizal gave his scholarly paper on "The Art of Tagalog Versification" written in German!

The building facade is in Charlottesburg  district past the Humboldt University campus.   

Now, I play a little tour guide to Lulu and Gerhard.  See that University Platz over there?  On one side is a statue of Wilhelm Humboldt, the  founder of the famous University in Berlin.  But take a look at the statue of his younger brother, Alexander, on the other side of the Platz.  Alexander was a great geographer/cartographer.  He was the first one to develope the Isometric map.  It showed levels of elevation on a plane surface map to give it a 3rd dimension.  And fittingly, he used the Philippines to illustrate this new concept.  

Later,  Gerhard gave me some religion.  We attended a Mass at Holy Spirit  Church, (Heilig Geist Kirche) where  Lulu is a choir member, and where the parish priest (Filipino), Father Simon Boiser, SVD,  has a  99% Filipino congregation--  so active, vibrant, and compelling.  At the after mass dinner socials, I was introduced to a German ethnomusicologist who has a rich collection of native Philippine musical instruments.  Hans Brandeis's private collection is something I should see next time.  

I was so blessed to meet an 89 year old gentleman:  Heinz Eller, (KOR).  He was sprite and flirty with the fresh young girls hovering over him, pushing his wheelchair.  The Philippine Consul Mr. Mardomel Melicor posed a picture with me, but my camera battery blanked out, so my shot is blurry. He apologized for not meeting with me on my visit to the Consulate because he'll be on the road early to Hamburg.

 At the end of the service, an over-enthusiastic altar helper blew out the candles and accidentally set the altar cloth on fire!  

What a fitting welcome experience for me in Berlin....a spurt of Blazing Fire!

A little superstitious, I take it that this element of Fire augers well for my October Rizal Trip.


Don't go away.  There is a promise of more Rizal Reconceptualization as we travel to Potsdam and Sanssouci, Dresden and Munich. I promise to take you to a Munich Oktober fest, and later, I'll take you with me to the Bavarian fairy tale castles that float in the mist of the Alm mountain ranges (the Alm  not the Alps is in my itinerary.)

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