Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rizal's Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain at Luneta

I just came back from a wonderful trip to Manila where I visited Rizal Park in Luneta to see the celebrated Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain; now refurbished, repainted, and looking spanking new.  Read on.

My own ignorance.

The Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain
Why was I never aware of this Drinking Fountain till I visited Wilhelmsfeld, Germany in 2011?  Why have I not been taught in school and through readings about this Relic in Rizal Park?   I pride myself in being a Rizalist yet I have neither known nor read any article about this Fountain.  Have you?
Had this Rizal Relic ever gained an inch of print anywhere? 

Shame! This blog is the answer to that  stinging reproach.

Pamela,  Predy, Rizal Park Tourist Police, Penelope V. Flores

I observed the spiffy Philippine Army’s Special unit dressed in revolutionary rayadillo uniform changing guards at the Rizal Monument. Impressive! 

I met a Tourist Police park employee and said; 

“I came all the way from San Francisco, California to see a special place in Rizal Park. Where’s the Rizal living Monument?”
Park emp.:  Patay na po siya. (He’s already dead.) 
Me:   Well, isn’t there a drinking fountain which Rizal used?
Park emp.: Oh, yes, over there on that side, po. France donated it.
Me.  No, Wilhelmsfeld, Germany gave it.
Park emp.: Well, OK, po. It’s a replica.
Me.  Sorry, it’s the original fountain, a living monument. 

Note: Even Rizal Park employees seem unaware of Rizal’s Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain within their own premises.

Ida Flores, at the Rizal Drinking Fountain, Rizal Park, Luneta , April 2012.
The Rizal Fountain is backed by a sloping retaining wall.  It must have simulated the Vicarage's brick wall. However, the original drinking fountain in Wilhlemsfeld had green bowers and creeping ground foliage around it.  This one is surrounded by concrete!
This is the drinking fountain at Pastor Karl Ullmer's Vicarage where Rizal  lived (1886), Wilhelmsfeld, Germany.

It was donated by the Wilhelmsfeld Village to the Filipino people on 30 December, 1964, Luneta.  I like the clean imprints of the medieval fountain design. 

The fountain is of natural reddish sandstone, but the Rizal Park officials painted the fountain burnt sienna and the wall behind it, brown umber.  Thus the wall and fountain almost blend together from a distance.  
The local farmers quenched their thirst from this very fountain as they came home from work.  So did their cows. I would like to imagine that José Rizal must have sat on this very rim.

 Rizal must have admired the idea of a pine cone finial, so pleasing to his artistic eye, that topped the fountain base.

Penélope, that fountain had dried up during WWII. It was just sitting as a decoration on the vicarage garden when it was donated to the Philippines at the 1964 Rizal Centennial.
The fountain has 1826 inscribed on its side.  That means it was 60 years old when Rizal used it in 1886.  This fountain is the only authentic relic in Rizal Park.  It's not a memorial as the other monuments are in Rizal Park.  It's a living monument.  It's the real fountain where our national hero drank from, where his fingerprints were embedded in it's water spout, where his fingers traced the scalloped designs and floral patterns by its base, and where his spiritual aura still lingers.

Go there and find time to relish Dr. José Rizal's presence.  

Get thee to this living monument when you visit the Rizal Monument next time.  It is about 500 yards south from the monument itself.  Get off at Roxas Boulevard in front of the familiar Rizal Monument.  Walk straight up to Rizal's statue, then turn right and follow the path.  It is defined by several concrete platforms.  Almost nobody knows about it.  

It's about time we raise our consciousness about this Rizal living legacy: the Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain.  

Where is Wilhelmsfeld, and why is it important among Rizal scholars?  
Wilhelmsfeld is about 13 kilometers from the university town of Heidelberg.  Rizal came to Heidelberg  University to study ophthalmology and to gain clinical experience in using the new eye medical instrument:  the ophthalmoscope first used  in Heidelberg. He studied under Professor Dr. Otto Becker.  The clinic where he trained now has a Rizal historical marker.  His apartments at Heidelberg University also carry historical markers. 

Rizal perfected his German language skills here.  He had a unique way of studying a language.  He read Schiller's play:  William Tell and then  translated the whole 68 pages in Tagalog. Talk about focus and sheer persistence!

Page 5 of Rizal's translation in Tagalog of Schiller's William Tell

Important to note is that Rizal finished the last chapters of Noli me Tangere at the vicarage in Wilhelmsfeld. This village is officially called "Noli Village".  It has a Rizal Park, a Rizal Street and the village council and local Knights of Rizal chapter celebrate 30 December, every year.  

Well, only in Wilhelmsfeld!