What’s the Significance of Old Madrid’s 1853-Built Hotel Inglés? 
By Roberto M. Bernardo, PhD
The Hotel Inglés in Madrid, Spain / Dining facilities today
“What’s the significance to Filipinos and Spaniards of old Madrid’s 1853-built Hotel Inglés? So do I interpret the haunting question my ambassador-brother put to me in Spain during a wonderful and awesome visit in September, 2007. A day later he and his equally highly esteemed wife led us (me, wife, her cousins Mariflor and Mimi) through historic old Madrid’s narrow cobbled streets around Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol. We were in search of key places frequented or identified with the Philippine National Hero during his long stay there (but stopping for “vino, tapas, churros”).  The hero’s long stay included years of writing and lobbying for basic freedoms, under more-and-more Church-State separation, for liberalizing Spain too but particularly for its rear-guard fortress of oppressive theocracy, under the so-called friars in the late 19th century in its Asian colony, the Philippines.
I suspected that my brother’s question also meant to tease me in case I failed this test of my Rizal expertise, which I had acquired at great cost very late in life resulting in pieces to newspaper editors, pamphlets, a couple of books and Internet writing. Without success so far, I ever supported a paradigm-breaking view of the so-called un-retracting, Euro-recognized scientist as a world-significant martyr for human rights within a regime of Church-State separation. After some pretending of my possible ignorance of the question I answered to my brother’s satisfaction. Ironically, my reply came from a leading proponent of the still reigning retraction-respecting paradigm, whose 2005 book I had just reviewed in detail on the Internet. I refer to the formidable priest-scholar, Dr. Javier del Pedro.  Here, let me share it with you readers, for its rare depth, completeness, and eloquence. This concerns what happened on June 25, 1884 at the Hotel Inglés (which our search party found, of course).  In his dramatic account:
The banquet held there was, ostensibly, to celebrate Philippine painters Luna and Hidalgo, their triumph in winning top prizes at a competition. Emphasized de Pedro: “Spanish friends, sympathizers… some liberal journalists… (and) the cream of Spanish progressivism – Rafael M. Labra, Segismundo Moret, Manual Azcarraga, besides Morayta – were there.” Rizal, who had been starving for the usual lack of funds, seized that rare opportunity to go far beyond a mere toast (“brindis”) to Luna and Hidalgo. He linked a scene to the oppression of “brute force… prejudice, fanaticism.” The two painters’ developed excellence and genius he linked to his “thesis of the joyful fruits of enlightened liberty”, under progressive Church-State separation. Then he identified and singled out the most powerfully entrenched enemy of such libertarian material progress. It was not democratically reforming Spain itself but their shared common enemy: oppressive theocracy of the traditionalist politicized clergy and their instrumentalities. He referred to them in his speech as “blind dwarfs… corrupted and corrupting” from its union with the Throne and its powers of governance, especially in education, its aquired wealth, etc.
A polemical masterpiece it was, Fr. De Pedro could not help noticing it, though he condemned its excessive anti-clericalism and anti-Catholicism. “The message was crystal clear… Rizal in union with all the liberals of the world… declared war on the friars… a total war.” He exclaimed: “Brilliant and full of nerve,” and the barely twenty-three-year-old activist thereby became undisputed leader of the Philippine reform-seekers in Spain. The Noli Me Tangere, three years later, implemented this earlier declaration of war at the Hotel Inglés. For, a “frontal attack on the religious establishment” was, “the main purpose of the novel.” Naturally, he grants, it led eventually to persecutions, suspicions, arrest, and a frame-up with the death-dealing charge of rebellion. Expectedly, he does not stress the strong religious motives behind all these. (My evidence-based work does.) [But he does stress, “For Pi y Margall, Morayta… a long list of Spanish liberals, Rizal was a Spaniard… a (kindred) liberal spirit…”] 
Human-rights Hero and Pride then of both countries, shall we say? From the accumulation of events that first took place publicly with fellow Spanish progressives at the Hotel Inglés on June 25, 1884? I say so in my works, against conventional wisdom. A clear confirmation seems to be the huge, special monument to him (and his December 30, 1896 poem , the first such monuments to point to that crucial correct date). It must have broken size-limitations when built a decade-ago for such public honors in the new space-scarce Madrid. For, it stands toweringly at the corner of a large park at the very intersection of Avenida Filipinas and Calle Santander.
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador to Spain, for asking that quite original and far-reaching Hotel Inglés question concerning its historic significance to Filipinos and Spaniards. May many more ask too -- like him and me! And may it so induce people to look for still generally unknown, ignored, if not suppressed deep answers about this unique, world-significant hero, Rizal. He declared: “In the history of nations there are names… that become a pact, a symbol of peace, and a bond of love between two nations. Luna and Hidalgo’s belong to these… to Spain and the Philippines.” His too, it turned out, by far, more than any others, as the Spaniards Retana and Unamuno concluded as early as 1907 in their famous enduring work of rehabilitation , in roughly similar terms.
 First appearing in The Philippine Star (Sunday, November 18, 2007) and used by permission of the author.
 "Vino" refers to wine. "Tapas" is an aperitif-type foods (such as a small plate of fried sliced squid, stuffed olives, caviar, etc. usually served before the main course). "Churros" is made from flour, shaped into a grooved stick and fried for dipping into its accompanying cup of thick chocolate. Many Spanish like to socialize traveling from one bar-restaurant to another for sips of vino, tapas, or later at night / morning, for churros (which is also served at breakfast).
 de Pedro, Javier, Rizal, through a glass darkly: a spiritual biography (Pasig City: University of Asia and the Pacific, 2005) ISBN: 9718527745.
 The Hotel Inglés is found at C / Echegaray 8, 28014 Madrid, Spain. Telephone: 34-914-296-55.
 This sentence was added in 2008 by the author.
 Rizal’s last untitled poem, now generally entitled Mi ultimo adios.
 The reference is to the first important biography of Rizal in Spanish by Wenceslao Retana, Vida y Escritos del Jose Rizal (Madrid: Libreria General de Victoriano Suarez, 1907) and the preface in that work by the Spanish philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, who would refer to Rizal as “the Tagalog Christ.”