Thursday, October 11, 2012

Re-Conceptualizing Rizal in Munich

Dr. José Rizal was in  Munich, but not on the first week of October which is the big Beer Festival called Oktoberfest!  He missed witnessing this mother of all  beer festivals.  He and his pal Viola went to the local brewery,  the  Löwenbräukeller. They announced that the best beer they had ever tasted so far was produced in this brau (brewery) kellar (cellar).

Luckily, my hotel was just two short blocks from Löwenbräukeller.  I recognized the name and facade as shown in one of Sir Lucien's email attachment to me.

Now, I can savor the atmosphere and ambiance of being able to say, "Ich bin hier mit José Rizal."

Rizal and Viola entered this very same door.  I took pictures of the oldest window.  The waiter showed me the table near that colored leaden glass.   I took a picture of the original building and what it looked like a hundred fifty years ago.  The picture is displayed on the wall.  I took pictures of the beer tap with gleaming brass spouts.  Did Rizal and Viola enjoy the atmosphere here, I wondered. (The pictures are coming, I promise).

It was here in 1886 that Rizal and Viola noted something new and innovative.  They were served beer and given paper napkins!  Viola said the idea was very hygienic.  Rizal agreed and admired the practical nature of German entrepreneurs.  Viola was so sparse in his "Memoirs." Rizal also said very little about the biergarten.  But entering the place, it was cosy and the wooden long tables were just the right one to socialize with the locals. I scanned the tables for any knife etches left by carousers.

Keine.  No knife marks left by Rizal. Keine left by Viola either. Drat it!  I could have sworn they did.

The fest at this place was scheduled at 20.00 hours. I purchased a ticket.  15 EU if I came in at 8.00 pm, but only 8 EU if I came  in at 10:00 pm.  The idea perhaps is to extend the night into a brave drunken brawl.

A large crowd pressed by the entrance door dressed in funny peaked hats, lederhosen britches attached to suspenders, leg warmers instead of socks and armed with a carousing attitude.  Several clowned for my camera. A person by the impossible name of Eamus struggled to clear my path.  Nice guy, tall skinny.  I impatiently exclaimed, "when will they ever open the door?"  Eamus leaned into my ear and said, "Me mother, she tells me --a watched pot never boils."   So, my lesson learned is "Be patient."

The women around me wore black tight frilly tops and green swirly skirts with a skimpy apron.  Their full bosoms were spilling out from their tight drindl tops like the Niagara falls.  These Bavarian girls were the first to invent the "push-up" bras." Several declined my picture shots.

Rizal and Viola missed this rowdy scene at Löwenbräukeller.  I wonder how Rizal would have described this scene in his journal had he participated in the October fest in Munich. Would he have compared it to a Philippine village fiesta with "tuba" drinking farmers, simple dainty girls in sheer  loose kimonas and without the ever present religious processions?


Tomorrow I'll meet with my friends, the Webers, who'll drive me through the "Romantic Road" straight to the fairy tale palace of Neuschwanstein of King Ludwig.

Re-Conceptualizing Rizal and Viola in Potsdam, Sans Souci, Germany

 Rizal's view of German justice is best illustrated in  a story of the Postdam miller and King Frederick II.

On the day of the Berlin International Marathon, (last week-end of September 2012), all the city tour buses were re-directed.  They were forbidden to drive into the city, so they took tourists to Postdam and SansSouci instead.

However I really planned to visit Potsdam in order to follow the footsteps of Dr Jose Rizal traveling with his best friend, Dr. Maximo Viola, in 1886.

Let's not go into the historical significance of the Postdam conference in 1945 when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met at the Cecilienhof Palace to determine the fate of defeated Nazi Germany.

We will instead go straight to the Postdam miller's story.

King Friedrich II of Germany built a magnificent palace in Potsdam and called it Sans Souci,  (French for "without any care." He loved this palace for its sculpted gardens and valuable art pieces and lavish halls.  He spent most of his days in the peace, quiet and comfort of this palace, away from the daily grind of Berlin.

But there was a hitch.  The site where his architects built his palace was adjacent to a charming simple rustic miller and his family with lots of farm animals. The  miller had an old traditional windmill to grind his grains.  It was a natural bucolic scene.

It was interesting at first. Soon, the farm  novelty wore off and the king could no longer stand the noise.  He couldn't sleep. The windmill kept creaking even with the slightest wisp of wind.  The barnyard animals were a nuisance, especially the roosters

So the king offered to buy the adjacent land.  He'll purchase the land and tear down that blasted old windmill, drive  away those mooing, cackling, crowing, frittering, chattering barnyard fools,  including the miller's wife and children.

The miller refused. "Where is it ever been declared that I should leave when I had done nothing?  Nothing at all?"

He insisted on his natural right of domain.

      "You may be the king, " he said, "but I was here first.  In fact you are disturbing my peace and disrupting my normal routine."

Well, the king got furious and imperiously declared;

      "I 'm the KIng.  I can do what I wish.  l can  get you out of my way."

The miller replied, "Well, don't we have the rule of the land,  a set of rules and law?  Let's get the court to decide whether justice prevails equally for  the rich and powerful and the poor simple people of the realm.

And to make the story short, the court heard the case of the King vs the Miller and declared a decision in favor of the Miller.

That windmill still stands over there, near the palace of Sans Souci.  It has gained an international character.  That windmill design is so primitive and of course it captures the Middle Ages' technology.

Rizal related this story in his journal and said, this would never happen in the Philippines where the rich and powerful are always above he law.

Viola wrote this story in his Memoirs, too.

I made a  charcoal sketch of the creaking old windmill.  l  bought a children's book with colored  illustration by a German artist.  I plan to translate this story  in Tagalog for publication in the Island Sentinel, a Mindoro regional newspaper.

Rizal and Viola continued to travel on to Dresden, and Munich.  You'll  next hear from me in Munich.


I took a lot of pictures which I"ll share later.

Post Script.
The bus to Potsdam picked me up on Meineke strasse but returned and left me stranded in another spot about 3 blocks from Meineke Strasse due of the Marathon race detours.  Poor Sir Gerhard! He was waiting for the bus at Meineke,  to take me back to my hotel.  But I was nowhere around.  I saw a police station and asked them to call Gerhard.

It can be said that Sir Gerhard lost his ward (me), and that I was  picked up stranded at the Police Station.

Re-conceptualizing Rizal and Viola in Berlin, 1886.

Reconceptualizing Rizal's Berlin's Experience.

We're now in Berlin.  During Rizal's time, it was the capital city of the powerful Prussian region of Germany.

 However,  let's take a little Rizal history walk.

Rizal arrived in this city in 1886 in the middle of winter.  He looked for the cheapest lodging.  He settled down on the 3rd foor of 71 Jägerstrasse tucked in an out of way area.  To us in the Philippines and US, the 3rd foor level is plain.  One goes up three flights of stairs.  

Nein, nein!  

The first floor is always ground Zero.  Their first floor is our second floor.  So Rizal was going up four flight of stairs to go to his 3rd floor room.

I heard from our the tour guide describing the ritzy apartments along the Unter den Linden, that the lower  the social class, the higher they live on apartment floors. 

Rizal, at this time was so low with funds.  He was only eating once a day with a very meager portions.  In order to fortify himself, he went to the gym nearby and lifted weights.  Well, this regimen soon took a drastic toll.

He began to cough miserably, sweaty, and had high fever in the afternoons. He self-diagnosed himself.  

      "Alas! I have sympoms of Tuberculosis!"

Then he heard a knock on the door.  His best friend from Barcelona days, Dr. Maximo Viola came in.

       "Hola, Chico, Como esta?  Komusta ka na?"

Maximo Viola, like Rizal, recently gained his MD degree. They both agreed to meet in Berlin and travel together through Europe.  

Well, Dr. Viola (my grand uncle) put on his physician's bedside manners.  He examined his sickly patient--- wheezing,  coughing, feverish, nursing a cold and enduring a miserable time.

The result of his medical evaluation was classic--- correct, generous,  diplomatic and expressed in a sort of kind concerned diagnostic way.

       "You don't have TB.  You are in fact suffering from extreme physiological misery (poverty) coupled with physical strain complications (improper hurtful gymnastics)." 

In plain language, Rizal was suffering from  malnutrition, exacerbated by deadbeat exercise.

Then the friends went out to a restaurant to eat a decent meal. 

The word restaurant came from the French language meaning  a restful restorative health repast.


Don't go away.  Tomorrow, my subject is about Rizal and Viola's trip to Postdam and Sans Souci, and the lesson the two friends learned about the German justice system.

I took lots of pictures, but these will come later.  So bear with me.

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.)