Chapter 04: Europe



Rizal's sketches of the pasengers

Rizal's sketches of Singapore

May 5, 1882. José Rizal, a refugee, not yet twenty-one years old, was far out in the China Sea before any, save his closest friends, realized that he had escaped. He changed his ship at Singapore, embarking on a French mail steamer. He plunged into an attempt to learn French with indefatigable zeal, speaking Latin and Spanish and gesticulating and drawing pictures to make himself understood to the delight of the passengers and crew. (01) The sketchbook he carried with him is full of all sorts of drawings of persons and scenes which he made on the ship, with that remarkable gift which he had revealed from his earliest childhood.

When he reached Barcelona, Spain, he for the first time came into contact with Filipinos who were plotting revolution, for Barcelona was, as it still is, a rendezvous for radicals and revolutionaries. Not one of the desperate plans he heard appealed to him as having any hope of success. He had a definite mind, set in favor of education and against revolution, at this period and during all his life. Barcelona left him more sure than ever that, as he had written six years before, education must give his country light before she could hope for more freedom.

The first longed-for letter from his brother Paciano made him go into hiding where nobody could see his tearful eyes as he read:

"When the telegram was received in Calamba telling us of your departure, our parents were distracted, but especially our old father, who became silent, staying in his room, and wept, and refused to be consoled by his family, the priest, or anybody else. I had to go down to Manila to find out by what means you had succeeded in making the journey, to satisfy him, and on my return I assured him that your way was paid by some of your friends in Manila, expecting that this would make him more content, but in spite of everything, I saw that he remained disconsolate. Seeing this and fearing that his silence might develop into an illness, I told him the whole story, but to him alone, asking him to keep the secret, which he promised to do; then he seemed to become a little content and returned to his usual activities. . . . As for your other friends, acquaintances, and strangers in the community, for many days you were the theme of their conversation; they conjectured and prophesied, but nobody guessed the truth. . . .

"It is rumored here that you will finish your course in medicine in Barcelona and not in Madrid; as I see it, the principal purpose of your going was not to perfect yourself in this profession, but in other things of greater value to you, or to which you are more inclined. This is why I believe you should go on to Madrid, the center of all the provinces. . . . it is better for you to be there with your countrymen, who will be able to advise you while you are not yet in the current of things. . . ." (02)

He proceeded to Madrid, where he matriculated in the University, selecting for his studies, medicine, literature, and philosophy. Outside the University also he studied art and modern languages.

He joined the Masonic Order, where he found warm friends, including many Spaniards who were indignant at the oppression of the Philippines and chafing for a chance to help her. For there were two Spains, as there are today [Note: Labauch researched Rizal's life in the late 1920's and published this biography in mid 1930's. In 1936, the year of publication of this biography, the Spanish Civil War began, a precursor of the Second World War, between Republican {anti-monarchy} and loyalist forces. It was funded, in part, through Fascist Germany and Italy for the Loyalists and the Communist Soviet Union for the Republican forces.], and the liberal Spaniards demanded reforms and justice in the Philippines.

Illustrados (Rizal is the 2nd [standing] row,

the 5th from the right

A bank draft sent from Pasiano to Rizal

Rizal was popular at the Filipino Club, but he was prevented from engaging in many social affairs because of his crowded program. In a year or two, as his money dwindled, he had to save in every way possible. His father was afraid to send money directly, for he was a tenant on land owned by the Dominican Friars, who hated José and might persecute the father on his account. The old man sent what money he could through his cousin Antonio Rivera, Leonor's father, but this grew less and less, for the hard times and the persecution which he dreaded soon came upon the Calamba household. Even with what Paciano and Mr. Rivera could add, it was only by the strictest economy that José could live. "There came a time when he reduced his daily expenses for food to thirty-five centavos. On June 24, 1884, the day on which he won a prize in a competition in Greek, he did not eat at all, because he lacked money. He used second-hand clothes which he bought from a pawnshop." The next day he wrote in his diary: "I am hungry and I have nothing to eat and no money." (03) Poverty and hunger do not make one happy.

Then came reports about his sweetheart that made him want to take a boat and go home. Almost the next mail after he left Manila, Leonor's brother wrote (June 30, 1882): "My sister Leonor, from the time she went to Pangasinan until now, is despondent from having been separated from a cousin who is so good. . . . she is like one mourning for the dead. . . ." and another friend the same year wrote that Leonor could not sleep and was becoming thin because she could not forget her love. (04)

Olimpia Rizal Trinidad Rizal Narcisa Rizal

Every letter from Calamba, full of the tender trifles that pull at the heartstrings, added to his pain. Paciano told him of the fiesta in Calamba-- and, how the table was weighted down with food! Lucia had a new bouncing baby. The whole family had a reunion when the baby was baptized -- it was named "José" after its uncle! The spirited pony, which José had owned, was getting fat and ungovernable for want of exercise. Bulging letters came containing messages from all the family, from mother, Narcisa, Maria, Josefa, Trinidad, Sofia Lopez, Olimpia. Josefa sent her far-off brother a cunning Bulacan handkerchief, a pair of prettily beaded slippers, and some guava jelly. His mother wrote him again and again not to forget his prayers, not to fail in his duties as a Christian. "Sometimes," she told him, "science is a thing that leads us to perdition." She had not only prayed for him but had made vows. . . . "I will tell you how many blessings -- they were all grandchildren! In two years Olimpia had had a baby, Lucia, two, and Neneng (Narcisa), two! "I sent your uncle (Antonio Rivera) twenty-five pesos to send you for a Christmas present."

How he longed to go back to her! But he must continue studying medicine until he could restore her sight. So he fought down his longing to return, although, as Retana wrote, "Homesickness invaded his spirit every hour-- he was so many leagues from those he loved!" In the first and most acute stages of his longing for home his mother wrote asking him to write poetry, and he poured into the answer all the melancholy of his aching soul. It was published October 7, 1882.


They ask me to play on a lyre
That long has been still and decayed,
But never a note have I played,
Nor can I the Muse re-inspire.
She chats without reason or fire
Until she has tortured my brain.
She chuckles to jeer at my pain;
She has mocked me the while I lamented.
In my soul, lonely, sad, and tormented,
Neither pleasure nor sorrow remain.

There once was a time, it is true--
A time that, alas, has departed.
When friends who were generous-hearted,
Applauded the verse I could do.
Of those happy days but a few
Obscured recollections yet stay,
As after some high holiday,
Still linger mysterious sounds;
Or, after the concert resounds,
The after tones whisper away.

For I am a plant immature,
Torn out of the Orient where
The perfumes sleep on the air
And life is a dream to allure.
Ah, memories ever endure,
My Country, of songs taught to me
By warbling birds from the tree,
The waterfall's silvery roar,
And out on the far-reaching shore,
The moan of the sounding sea.

While yet I was merely a child
I knew how to smile at your sun,
And inside my breast had begun,
Like volcanic fires to burn wild,
The desire that the verses complied
By a poet's keen vigorous mind,
Might cry to the swift moving wind;
"Speed away, and sing to proclaim
To the furthermost zones, of Her fame.
In earth and in heaven enshrined!"

I left Her, my Motherland home,
A tree stripped of leaves and turned dry.
Now gone are the carols that I
Once sang, e'er I started to roam
And churned the vast ocean's white foam,
To escape from my dread destiny:
Too foolish as yet to foresee
That instead of the good which I sought,
I should plow from the ocean waves naught
But a specter of death haunting me.

For all of my dream laden hours,
Love, eagerness, castles in air,
Beneath the blue skies I left there
In that faraway region of flowers.
Ah, do not appeal to my powers
To sing about love, for, like lead,
My heart is weighed down, and in dread
I roam through this waste without peace;
The pangs in my soul never cease,
And all inspiration is dead.


     Piden que pulse la lira
há tiempo callada y rota.
¡Si ya no arranco una nota
ni mi musa ya me inspira!
balbuce fria y delira
si la tortura mi mente;
cuando ríe, solo miente,
como miente su lamento
Y es que en mi triste aislamiento
mi alma ni goza ni siente.

     Hubo un tiempo, si, y es verdad;
pero ya aquel tiempo huyó
en que vate me llamó
la indulgencia ó la amistad.
Ahora, de aquella edad
el recuerdo apenas resta,
como quedan de una fiesta
los misteriosos sonidos,
que retienen los oidos
del bullicio de la orquesta.

     Soy planta apenas crecida
arrancada del Oriente,
donde es perfume el ambiente,
donde es un sueño la vida;
Patría que jamás se olvida
Enseñáronme á cantar
las aves, con su trinar,
con su rumor, las cascadas;
y en sus playas dilatadas,
los murmurios de la mar.

     Mientras en la infancia mía
pude á su sol senreir,
dentro de mi pecho hervir
volcán de fuego sentía;
vate fuí, porque podia
con mis versos, con mi aliento,
decir al rápido viento:
<< Vuela; su fama pregona,
Cuéntala de zona á zona,
de la tierra al firmamento! >>

     La dejé. . . . Mis patrios lares,
¡Arbol deshojado y seco!
ya no repiten el eco
de mis pasados cantares.
yo crucé los vastos mares
ansiando cambiar de suerte,
y mi locura no advierte
que, en vez del bien que buscaba,
conmigo la mar surcaba
el espectro de la muerte. . .

     Toda mi hermosa ilusión,
amor, entusiasmo, anhelo,
allá quedan bajo el cielo
de tan florida region.
No pidáis al corazón
cantos de amor, que está yerto;
porque en medio del desierto
donde discurro sin calma,
¡siento que agoniza mi alma
y mi numen está muerto!

Madrid, 1882 Laong Laan

Central University of Madrid (Period Picture)

The only balm he found for homesickness was hard work. He never failed in his classes, though in Madrid he carried two courses simultaneously. In Medicine he received "fair" in two subjects, "good" in four, and "excellent" in two. In his course in Philosophy and Letters he received "good" in one (History of Spain), "very good" in one, "excellent" in four, "excellent with prize" in one (Greek and Latin Literature), and "excellent with free scholarship" in two (Spanish Literature and the Arabic language). (05)

He was able to carry with ease a heavy schedule of studies in Madrid because he had divided the day in the same methodical manner he had employed in the Philippines: enough time for healthful exercise, but nearly the whole day devoted to study or to outside reading, and not a minute wasted.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Eugene Sue Ferdinand Blumentritt

Among the many books which he read, two made an especially deep impression upon him, for they gave him one answer to the question he was forever asking: How could he meet his Country's need? The first book was Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which had been such a potent factor in arousing American sentiment against slavery before Lincoln finally issued the emancipation proclamation. The other book, which affected Rizal even more deeply, was Eugene Sue's The Wandering Jew. He says that it aroused in him so much sympathy for the unfortunates that he was willing to risk everything to help them. (06) Rizal talked to the members of the Filipino Club in Madrid about these books, and offered to cooperate with other Filipinos in preparing a book about the Philippines which would do for his country what Uncle Tom's Cabin had done for America. The club members either opposed the idea or trifled with it, so Rizal determined to try it alone. An Austrian-Spanish ethnologist, Dr. Fernando Blumentritt, who had become his fast friend, did more to encourage him to write such a book than any other man.

After each day's work, Rizal spent his evenings writing the beginnings of his first book. All the while, as if he had not enough work already, he had been studying Italian and French.

He received his Licentiate in Medicine in 1885, (07) but had no money to pay for his Doctor's degree. He had to wait three more years before his brother could send him enough money to become "Dr. Rizal". But he was at last José Rizal, A.B., Ph.M., L.C.M., and twenty-four years old. Bighearted, unselfish Paciano, proud of his brother, toiled and saved unselfishly but could gain at most only one or two pesos a day. (08)

A request had come from the Philippines for José to write a song to celebrate the raising of Lipa, Batangas, into a villa. He sent them the following poem, which arrived after the celebration had passed: (09)



¡     Por la patria en la Guerra,
por la patria en la paz,
velará el Filipino,
vivirá y morirá

     Ya el Oriente de luz se colora,
¡Sus! Al campo, la tierra á labrar,
que el trabajo del hombre sostiene
á la patria, familia y hogar.
Dura puede mostrarse la tierra;
implacables, los rayos del sol. . .
¡Por la partria, la esposa y los hijos
todo fácil será á nuestro amor!



      Animosos partid al trabajo
que la esposa el hogar vela fiel,
inculcando el amor á los hijos
por la patria, virtud y saber.
Cuando traiga la noche el descanso,
la ventura os aguarda al entrar;
y si el hado es adverso, la esposa
la tarea sabrá continuar.



       ¡Salve! ¡Salve! ¡Loor la Trabajo,
de la partia riqueza y vigor!
Por él yergue la frente serena,
es su sangre, su vida y su ardor.
Si algún joven pregona su afecto,
el trabajo su fé probará;
¡solo el hombre que lucha y se afana,
sostener á su prole sabrá!



     Enseñadnos las duras faenas;
vuestra huellas queremos seguir,
que mañana , al llamarnos la patria,
vuestra empresa podamos concluir.
Y dirá los ancianos al vernos:
-- ¡De sus padres, mirad, dignos son!
Á los muertos no honra incienso
como un hijo de Gloria y honor. . .


Chorus --
For our country in war
For our country in peace
The Filipino will be ready,
While he lives and when he dies.


As soon as the East is tinted with light
Forth to the fields to plow the loam!
Since it is work that sustains the man,
The motherland, family and the home.
Hard though the soil may prove to be,
Implacable the sun above,
For motherland, our wives and babes,
'Twill be easy with our love.


Courageously set out to work;
Your home is safe with a faithful wife
Implanting in her children, love
For wisdom, land, and virtuous life.
When nightfall brings us to our rest,
May smiling fortune guard our door;
But if cruel fate should harm her man,
The wife would toil on as before.


Hail! Hail! Give praise to work!
The country's vigor and her wealth;
For work lift up your brow serene
It is your blood, your life, your health.
If any youth protests his love
His work shall prove if he be good.
That man alone who strives and toils
Can find the way to feed his brood.


Teach us then the hardest tasks
For down Thy trails we turn our feet
That when our country calls tomorrow
Thy purposes we may complete,
And may our elders say, who see us,
See! How worthy of their sires!
No incense can exalt our dead ones
Like a brave son who aspires!

Dr. Louis de Wecker

Clinic of Dr. Louis de Wecker

José now went to Paris to study ophthalmology. Dr. Louis de Wecker of Paris, "the leading authority among the oculists of France", found Rizal such a competent student and admired him so much, that he took him as his clinical assistant. This was exactly what Rizal most desired, for he was getting the best preparation in Europe to extract the cataracts from his mother's eyes.

Home of Pastor Karl Ullmer

The following year he went to Germany and attended lecture courses in the famous old University of Heidelberg. He lived with Pastor [Dr. Karl] Ullmer, a Lutheran minister, with whom he took delightful walks nearly every afternoon, learning much about German religious ideas. (10) The ancient city of Heidelberg is one of the scenic attractions of Europe, charmingly situated at the junction of the Neckar and the noble Rhine. Rizal has left us a tenderly beautiful poem which he wrote on that magic spot.


     ¡Id á mi Patria, id extranjeras flores
sembradas del viajero en el camino,
y bajo su azul cielo,
que guarda mis amores,
contad del peregrino
la fe que alienta por su patrio suelo!

     Id y decíd: decíd que cuando el alba
vuestro cáliz abrió por vez primera,
cabe el Neckar helado,
le vísteis silencioso á vuestro lado
pensando en su constante primavera.

     Decíd que cuando el alba,
que roba vuestro aroma,
cantos de amor jugando os susurraba,
él también murmuraba
cantos de amor en su natal idioma. . .

     Que cuando el sol la cumbre
del Koënigsthul en la mañana dora,
y con su tibia lumbre
anima el valle, el bosque y la espesura,
el Saluda ese sol, aún en su aurora,
al que en su patria en el zenith fulgura.

     Y contad aquel dia
cuando os cogía al borde del sendero,
entre las ruinas del feudal Castillo
orilla al Neckar ó en la selva umbría. . .

     Llevad, llevad, ¡oh flores!
amor á mis amores
paz á mi pais y á su fecunda tierra,
salud á dulces seres
fé á sus hombres; virtud á sus mujeres,
que el paternal, sagrado hogar encierra. . .

     Cuando toquéis la playa,
el beso que os imprimo
depositadlo en alas de la brisa,
porque con ella vaya,
y bese cuanto adoro, amo y estimo.

     Mas, ¡ay! Llegaréis, flores,
conservaréis, quizás, vuestros colores;
pero lejos del patrio, heróico suelo,
á quien debéis la vida
perderéis los olores;
que aroma es alma, y no abandona el cielo
cuya luz viera en su nacer, ni olvida. (11)


Go to my country, go foreign flowers,
Planted by the traveler on his way,
And there beneath that sky of blue
That over my beloved towers,
Speak for this traveler to say
What faith in his homeland he breathes to you.

Go and say.... Say that when the dawn
First brew your calyx open there
Beside the River Necker chill,
You saw him standing by you, very still,
Reflecting on the primrose flush you wear.

Say that when the morning light
Her toll of perfume from you wrung,
While playfully she whispered, "How I love you!"
He too murmured here above you
Tender love songs in his native tongue.

That when the rising sun the height
Of Koenigsthul in early morn first spies,
And with its tepid light
Is pouring life in valley, wood, and grove,
He greets the sun as it begins to rise,
Which in his native land is blazing straight above.

And tell them of that day he staid
And plucked you from the border of the path,
Amid the ruins of the feudal castle,
By the River Neckar, and in the sylvan shade,

Tell them what he told you
As tenderly he took
Your pliant leaves and pressed them in a book,
Where now its well-worn pages close enfold you.

Carry, carry, flowers of Rhine,
Love to every love of mine,
Peace to my country and her fertile loam,
Virtue to her women, courage to her men,
Salute those darling ones again,
Who formed the sacred circle of our home.

And when you reach that shore,
Each kiss I press upon you now,
Deposit on the pinions of the wind,
And those I love and honor and adore
Will feel my kisses carried to their brow.

Ah, flowers, you may fare through,
Conserving still, perhaps, your native hue;
Yet, far from Fatherland, heroic loam
To which you owe your life,
The perfume will be gone from you;
For aroma is your soul; it cannot roam
Beyond the skies which saw it born, nor e'er forget.

Heidelberg Castle Ruins University of Heidelberg

He remained in Heidelberg three months, long enough to complete his short course. On August 8, 1886, he wrote in his diary this pathetic memorandum:

"Within two days I shall leave this happy place and start out anew in quest of the unknown in distant places. Always I travel about and wander alone, breaking the friendships which I have just formed, separating from so many people whom I suppose I shall not see again, to go from city of city, from country to country, without love nor fortune, placing confidence in fate. . . Ah, now I long for my distant country, now I recall my home, and now I am thinking of rest. I have wandered through so many countries, have seen so many customs, have met so many persons, that I have almost preserved neither ideas nor ideals; I have seen nothing more than the appearance of good and evil. I have loved, I have choked the paintings of my heart, and I have conquered. If this life continues my heart will begin to die."


Friedrich Ratzel

He transferred to the University of Leipzig to study psychology and history. Here he became a friend of Professor Friedrich Ratzel, one of the historians who helped change the methods of historical research. Ratzel, after the death of Rizal, wrote a long glowing tribute to the brilliant Filipino, for his scholarship and character. (12) "Rizal has accumulated the wisdom of three continents, and has acquired that vast scientific horizon which he needed in order to know the true condition of his country and to plan for her intellectual development."

Rudolf Virchow

Wilhelm Joest

Rizal continued to write Noli Me Tangere with the passion of a great inspiration. At the end of the school term he traveled to Berlin. As was his custom, he at once sought the friendship of eminent scholars, and found them democratic and responsive to his friendly approach. Men of science as a rule are somewhat retiring and unassuming, but extremely eager to help any young person who thinks deeply and seriously. Doctor [Feodor - rly] Jagor, who had written the Travels in the Philippines For a sample chapter, click here, became Rizal's warm friend. Doctor Rudolf Virchow and Dr. W. [Wilhelm - rly] Joest found Rizal's deep and brilliant mind delightful and made him a member of the Berlin Anthropological Society, of which Dr. Virchow was President.

The book which Rizal was writing -- he named it Noli Me Tangere -- was finished in Berlin on February 22, 1887. Perhaps he deliberately chose Washington's Birthday for this event. The Filipinos might well commemorate February 22, as the birthday of Noli Me Tangere, (link) for it was that book that made José Rizal the inevitable leader of the Filipinos, and started him on the road to martyrdom and immortality.

But on that day in Berlin, Rizal felt as desperate as Washington had felt at Valley Forge. He had no money to publish his book. Vainly he was struggling to save money by eating only one meal a day, largely bread and coffee, which cost him but a few centavos. When later he told his old friend Fernando Canon about the dark period, he said:

"I did not believe that Noli Me Tangere would ever be published. I was in Berlin, heartbroken, weakened, and discouraged from hunger and deprivation. I was on the point of throwing my work into the fire as a thing accursed and fit only to die; . . . ." (13)

"Man's extremity," says an ancient proverb, "is God's opportunity." Evidently God did not want this book to die. A telegram came from Dr. Maximo Viola, a rich young Filipino whom Rizal had known in Madrid, saying he was on his way to visit Berlin.

"It revived me," said Rizal. "It gave me new hope. I went to the station to receive him and spoke to him about my work. He said he might be able to help me. I reflected and then decided to shorten the book, and eliminated whole chapters. . . . but these will have a place in the continuation. . . . I plan to publish seven volumes about Philippine conditions."

Maximo Viola

Thanks to the providential help of Maximo Viola, Noli Me Tangere appeared a few weeks later. One of the first copies was sent to Dr. Blumentritt. In the accompanying letter, Rizal said:

"I have not wept over our misfortunes, but rather laughed at them. No one would want to read a book full of tears. . . . The incidents which I have related are all true and have actually occurred. I can prove this statement. . . ."

Bound copies were boxed and sent to some friends in Barcelona and Madrid. These friends employed a clever ruse for getting them into the Philippines disguised as merchandise.

Ferdinand Blumentritt Blumentritt home Adolph Meyer

Then big-hearted Dr. Maximo Viola took the eager author off for a jaunt on foot through lovely sections of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Hiking was popular in Europe then as it is today. Rizal's spirit began to soar again and from his pen poured the poem In the Mountains, which unhappily cannot be found. The two friends visited Dresden, where Rizal was already known and admired by Dr. Adolph B. Meyer and other scientists. Our many sided Filipino genius was, among other things, an outstanding student in zoology and ethnology. Viola and Rizal went on to Austria and visited the greathearted ethnologist Dr. Fernando Blumentritt in his home in Leitmeritz, Bohemia. Blumentritt and Rizal loved each other like father and son. Dr. Blumentritt afterward wrote a glowing tribute to the scientific achievements of Rizal, calling him the most important man, not only of his own country, but also of the Malay race. (14)

After a visit to Vienna, Rome, and a few other cities of Italy, Dr. Rizal took a ship from Marseilles and started home on July 5, 1887, at last ready to operate upon the cataracts in his mother's eyes.
(01) Austin Craig. Rizal's Life and Minor Writings. Manila: Philippine Education Co., Inc., 1927. pp. 71-73.
(02) Epistolario Rizalino. 5 vols. Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1930-1938, vol. 1, p. 19.
(03) Wenceslao E. Retana, Vida y Escritos del Dr. José Rizal. Madrid: Libreria General de Victoriano Suarez, 1907, p. 90; Retana, El Filibusterismo X.
(04) Epistolario Rizalino, op. cit. vol. 1, pp. 23, 69.
(05) Charles E. Russell and Eugilio B. Rodgriguez. The Hero of the Philippines. New York: Century Company, 1923, p. 87.
(06) Craig, op. cit., pp. 80-81.
(07) Russell and Rodriguez, op. cit., p. 87
(08) Epistolario Rizal, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 149.
(09) 1885 from Madrid, just after receiving his licentiate in medicine according to Professor Jaime C. de Veyra.
(10) Letter of Rizal dated June 8, 1888 from London, to Pastor Ullmer. Dia Filipino, December, 1918.
(11) Signed: Laong Laan (like his other writings of that period) April 22, 1866.
(12) Dia Filipino, December 30, 1913.
(13) Russell and Rodriguez: op. cit., p. 139.
(14) Ferdinand Blumentritt, "Views of Dr. Rizal, the Filipino Scholar, Upon Race Differences," trans., R. L. Packard, Popular Science Monthly, July, 1902, vol. 6 [No Issue Number given], pp. 222-229

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The Life and of Dr. José Rizal
Dr. Robert L. Yoder