Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Rizal Relic in Luneta's Rizal Park

Did you know that right in Luneta, near the Rizal Monument, there's a drinking fountain donated by the people of Wilhelmsfeld, Germany to the Filipino people?   It was used by our national hero, Dr. José Rizal in 1886 when he lived in their small village near Heidelberg.


Recently, I created a very short video about my latest trip to Rizal Park, Luneta, Manila describing this much forgotten Rizal relic titled The Wilhelmsfeld, Germany drinking fountain used by Rizal. I posted it on Facebook.

One cannot believe the deluge of comments I received from Facebook viewers (from around the world including the Philippines, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Middle East, Canada and several states in the US) wanting to know more about this Unknown Rizal Relic.  Earlier, I also created a four-page Newsletter titled Rizal's Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain in Luneta, Manila. My good friend, Sir Rainer J. Weber, Commander of the Knights of Rizal, Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg chapter, requested me to transform that Newsletter into a blog where interested followers could just visit.

So here goes.

You've Never Heard of It, but There's A Living Rizal Relic in Luneta!

Restored in 2011 in time for the Rizal Sesquicentennial

The drinking fountain was installed at Rizal Park in 1964, cleaned and repaired in 1994, and refurbished and painted in 2011.

It's running dry and is non-functional. 

To the teachers of Rizal courses: "Be sure to include this material in your lesson plans."

Totally in the Dark

Why was I never aware of this Rizal's Drinking Fountain till I visited Wilhelmsfeld, Germany in 2011?  Why have I not been taught, throughout my schooling days and throughout my Rizal reading assignments, about the presence of this important historical "Relic" at Rizal Park?   

I pride myself in being a Rizalist yet I have neither known nor read any article about this Fountain.  Have you?  (I'm addressing you, my dear readers and blog followers.) 

Had this Rizal Relic ever gained an inch of print anywhere? Shame! This blog is an attempt to answer this stinging reproach.

A Living Monument

Friday, 27 April  2012.
Rizal Park, Luneta, Manila, Philippines

I arrived from San Francisco on a  PAL direct flight  and checked in at  Manila Hotel.  From there I walked over a block away to Luneta and observed the spiffy Philippine Army’s Special unit in revolutionary rayadillo uniform changing guards at the Rizal Monument. Very Impressive! I met a service park employee and talked to him.

“I came all the way from San Francisco, California to see a special place in Rizal Park. Where’s the Rizal living Monument?”

Park employee:  Patay na po siya. (He’s dead.) 

Me:   Well, isn’t there a drinking fountain where Rizal used?

Park emp.: Oh, yes, over there on that side, po. France donated it.

Me.  Not exactly. Wilhelmsfeld, Germany donated it.

Park emp.: Well, OK, po. It’s a replica.

Me.  Sorry, it’s the original fountain, a living monument."

Note: The Rizal Park 's Tourist Police seems unaware of Rizal’s Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain within their own premises.

A Rizal Park In Wilhelmsfeld, Germany

Wilhelmsfeld is officially Germany’s “Noli Village”   where there’s a Rizal Street and a Rizal Park.  An  expressive-looking freestanding bronze statue larger than life graces a pedestal surrounded by a pool of dancing waters.  This is the only hero’s statue that I know of where one can pose beside it.

 D. José Rizal's statue standing  at ground level.  Wilhelmsfeld Rizal Park.

In this vicarage house,  Rizal finished the last remaining chapters of his novel Noli me Tangere. The simple three floor level vicarage has a Rizal historical marker and a Rizal street sign. The village council and Knights of Rizal chapter celebrate Rizal Day, December 30th  and Rizal's birthday, June 19th yearly.

In Wilhelmsfeld, as a tool for perfecting his German language skills, Rizal read Schiller’s William Tell and started translating it in Tagalog. He finished translating the full play six months later when he moved to Leipzig. 

He created a comic strip in German for Friedrich, Pastor Ullmer’s 13 year-old son. This comic strip is historian Dr. Ambeth Ocampo's favorite Rizaliana.

Rizal learned religious tolerance in Wilhelmsfeld by joining the regular weekly discussions in theology with Pastor Ullmer, the protestant vicar, and the pastor's friend, Father H. Bardoff,  the Catholic priest of the nearby town.

A Historic and Spiritual Experience 

At Luneta’s Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines, one can see great and inspiring memorial statues.  The exception is this fountain. It’s not a memorial. It’s an actual relic.  Only in this fountain can one feel Rizal’s personal aura. Just imagine--he drank from this very spout. He touched this sandstone pillar. With his fingers, he traced the intricate designs inscribed on its sides. He wondered at its symbolism. He noted the date: 1826 and appreciated its old history. He admired the top finial pine cone.  

He actually sat on the trough’s rim and quenched his thirst from this very fountain. 

Wow, Rizal must have cupped his hands to drink fresh spring water at this very spot.
I was eager to see this drinking fountain that Rizal used while he was in Wilhelmsfeld.  Rizal was studying at Heidelberg University doing clinical opthalmology practice with Heidelberg University's Professor Dr. Otto Becker.  During one of  his walks on Philosophenweg, he met Pastor Karl Ullmer of Wilhelmsfeld, a village 13 kilometers away, and found a friend and a landlord.  Moving out of Heidelberg and settling in the village, Rizal would walk that distance (3 hours trek) though the Odenwald forest. When he arrived home exhausted, the most welcoming sight as he entered the vicarage gate was this drinking fountain.  

Don’t miss this historic moment. Get thee to this unique and significant Rizal Park relic in Luneta and savor a monumental and spiritual experience!

How the Fountain Found its Way to Luneta

Penélope with Sir Rainer J. Weber

An Interview with Sir Rainer J. Weber,  Chapter Commander, Knights of Rizal (KCR), Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg.  (06-09-2011). 

PVF: Was the drinking fountain a pump... a Philippine rural “poso”?

RJW: No, it wasn’t pumped. It was running water from a nearby well that flowed into the sandstone fountain inside the Pastor’s garden wall for his family to drink and use. It had a lost trough outside the wall for the locals, farmers, and their cattle to use. It had been out of service for many years because the wooden hose system had decayed over time. Since WWII, it had run dry. When a new vicarage entry gate was built, it was moved into the garden with no function except as a decoration.

PVF: Whose idea was it to give it to the Philippines?
Gene Cabrera was a Philippine  artist/ journalist who visited Wilhelmsfeld, 1963.

RJW: It was my father’s guest, the Philippine artist Gene Cabrera who came to visit in October 1963. He eyed the  drinking fountain and realized its historical significance. (See Cabrera's sketch.)

My father, Pastor Gottlob Weber, took on the idea further and convinced the higher Church authorities, who owned the item, to donate it to the Filipino people.  In September 1964, the fountain was shipped off to Manila via Philippine Air Lines. Voluntary contributions poured in. 
Pastor Gottlob Weber and Filipino guests, Wilhelmsfeld,1963.

On December 30th 1964, the fountain was formally handed over to the Filipino people by H. E. von Stechow, the German Ambassador.  Attending were the Ambassador's wife, Minister for Cultural Affairs  Pura Castrence, Mr. Gene Cabrera, Mrs. Mendez and her husband Foreign Secretary Mauro Mendez.

PVF:  How long did the project take?

RJW: It was all a matter of 14 months from the conceptual planning to the Luneta installation.

PVF:  How did your father, Pastor Weber, get involved in all these?

The empty spot where the fountain originally stood inside the vicar's garden, Wilhelmsfeld, Germany.
RJW:  Since Dr. Paz Mendez conducted her Rizal research in Wilhelmsfeld, my father read a lot about Rizal and his works and fell in love with him. Soon many officials and Philippine dignitaries came visiting the vicarage. My dad received them all. He even kept a signature guest book. Of course, when he was invited as a special guest to the Rizal Centennial in 1961, he was all fired up. So when the fountain issue came up he was full of enthusiasm and initiated the project heartily. Neither the Philippine Government nor Mrs. Mendez of the Philippine Historical Commission initiated it.

PVF: He was an extraordinary Rizalist, and so are you as I find us united in spirit with Rizal’s legacy.

RJW: Yes. Thanks.


Penélope V. Flores 

Walking 500 yards off to the right of the Rizal Monument, I noted the attractive path leading southward to the Rizal Fountain area.  The slightly raised graduated geometric cement platforms give the fountain good visibility. I also like the sloping angles of the background wall. It contributes a solid strong structural dimension to the fountain. It has clean lines. The surrounding crowning trees provide cool shade and help muffle Roxas Boulevard’s street sounds.
The fountain is painted brown umber and  the background wall in burnt sienna.  In my humble opinion, the fountain and the retaining wall have no color separation. From a distance the whole set blurs into one.
I expected an old natural red sandstone fountain, but it was smoothed over with paint that shouted “Look at me, I’m brand new!” Didn’t Rizal actually drink from here in 1886 when the fountain was already 60 years old? (Note the date on the fountain’s side: 1826.) I referred to the 1963 drawing and picture. That fountain definitely had character.  It was naturally ensconced within a bowery garden whereas now, in the renovated site it stands in a garden of concrete.  Inadvertently, I think the 2011 restored fountain suffers a misrepresentation image. 

Anyway, I’m happy. I had seen the Rizal relic. There it is in its full glory. 
I gathered my relatives and friends and gave the fountain’s historical story and then requested them to pass it on. 

The plaque acknowledges the contribution of Wilhelmsfeld to  Rizal Park.
We need to let people know about this true Rizal living artifact. It should not be kept hidden in a veil of ignorance and remain undisclosed for so long.  
It’s encouraging that President Benigno Aquino III gave his National Rizal Day Address on Rizal’s Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain site on 30 Dec. 2011.  Kudos to him since it gained a few inches of print in the news.  However, Isn't it a shame that even the leading Philippine newspapers mis-identified the fountain as coming from Heidelberg when the correct information should have been Wilhelmsfeld!  

It's like saying the Rizal Monument is located at Pasig, not at Manila.

Sad to say, Philippine journalists and newspaper reporters have so little information about this important Rizal Relic.

Here is my humble message to teachers everywhere, Knights of Rizal Chapters, educational institutions, government and private agencies: 

"As an initial outreach initiative, let’s use this venue: Rizal's Wilhelmsfeld Drinking Fountain, to create and promote our Rizal events and community activities. It’s about time we elevate the public’s consciousness.   Maraming Salamat pô."

Excerpts from Chapter 7, Noli me Tángere.  

As you read Rizal’s Noli me Tángere’s Idyll in an Azotea, be aware that he was describing the pastoral scene from his Wilhelmsfeld experience and point of view.

Maria Clara asked Crisostomo Ibarra if he ever thought of her during his sojourn in foreign lands.  Ibarra replied:  

“How could I forget you...always, in Germany in the late afternoon when I roamed through the thick forests peopled with the fantastic creations of her poets and the mysterious legends of her past generations, I recalled your name, and when the villagers, returning from the fields in the distance would sing their popular songs, to me they seemed to harmonize with my inner voices singing for you…” Rizal.  2006. Noli me Tángere,  Lacson-Locsin (trans.)  Q.C.: Ateneo Press, p 45.  

Rizal roamed through the thick forest of the Odenwald while walking from Heidelberg through the valley on to Wilhelmsfeld. From Rizal’s window at the vicarage, he could hear the farmers’ rippling, lusty singing voices returning home from the fields. They would stop in front of Rizal’s house where their cattle would drink from the running water trough.

When I visited the village in 2011, I admired, from a local friendly and welcoming restaurant  “Talblick", the panoramic view of the valley and of the Odenwald forest that Rizal loved.

Penélope’s interpretation of Rizal’s Odenwald forest trek. Oil on canvas. 13 x 18 inches.