Rizal: The Original Nomadic Pinoy

This man needs no introduction. His life, his ideals, his accomplishments, even his death, they're all something that's been ingrained in the minds of Filipinos. He's a national hero and the ultimate Pinoy 'Renaissance man'. But as a travel blogger, what got me really envious of him is that José Rizal is not only a well-traveled man, he saw the world in those days when airplanes and cars and the Internet were still a pigment of someone's imagination. Not to mention, he was fluent in many languages, a talent I could only I wish I have.

Between 1882-1896, Rizal sailed from one continent to another. Just a month shy before turning 21, Rizal traveled by boat to Marseilles (France) on his way to Spain - a long, adventurous journey that took six weeks and two boat transfers. He had quick stops in Singapore, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Suez Canal/Port Said (Egypt) and Naples (Italy). He stayed for five years in Europe while pursuing a degree in Medicine, visiting Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Bohemia (Czech Republic). His first novel Noli Me Tangere was eventually published in Berlin.

In August 1887, he returned to Manila after stop-overs in Port Said, Ceylon, Singapore and Saigon (Vietnam). He left the country again only six months later - a really itchy traveler, isn't he? - this time bound for Hong Kong where he stayed for two weeks. He also found time to visit Macau with some friends. From Hong Kong, he sailed in February 1888 to Yokohama (Japan). He went on to Tokyo where his keen sense of discovery and learning was put to test. After all, this guy always wanted to learn something new.

Some six weeks later, he left Japan on a boat bound for San Francisco, U.S.A., a trans-Pacific journey that took  two weeks. Since the boat he was on was packed with Chinese passengers, they were put on a 6-day quarantine -  a move which really bothered him as it showed racial prejudice in another country. Nevertheless, he showed them that Asians can afford luxury - he stayed at the original Palace Hotel (which was gutted by fire in the 1906 earthquake and has since been luxuriously rebuilt).

Rizal spent only 10 days in the U.S. but what he did was something I haven't yet done - that is, travel by train from coast to coast. He took the overland journey through Sacramento, Reno, Ogden, Denver, Farmington, Salt Lake City, Provo, Chicago until his train reached Albany -  New York's capital. From there, the train took the scenic route along the Hudson River to Manhattan. Not exactly  feeling  like a budget traveler, Rizal stayed at the posh Fifth Avenue Hotel (which closed in 1908, demolished and on its site stands now an office building called the Toy Center Building).

From New York, Rizal boarded a boat for Liverpool (England), a trans-Atlantic crossing that took nine days. He traveled on to London and Paris shuffling back and forth between these two cities while doing intensive research work. He also revisited Barcelona and Madrid to meet with fellow Pinoys and later on visited Brussels (Belgium). It was in Ghent, Belgium where his second novel El Filibusterismo was first published.

In October 1891, Rizal was bound for Asia. He boarded a boat in Marseille, stopping by in Alexandria, Port Said, Aden (Yemen), Colombo, Saigon before reaching Hong Kong where he stayed, practiced medicine and got reunited with his family. While in Hong Kong, he sailed all the way down to northern Borneo in the hope of establishing a Filipino colony - a move that was opposed by the Spanish Governor General in Manila.

Rizal was homeward-bound to the Philippines, arriving in Manila from Hong Kong on June 26, 1892 - or four years since he left the country for the second time. But after being banished to Dapitan for four years, he left the country yet again in September 1896 bound for Cuba to render medical services.  However, he was arrested enroute, imprisoned briefly in Barcelona before being escorted back to Manila as a prisoner on November 13,1896 - sadly, his last homecoming. As every Filipino knows by heart, he was executed by Spanish soldiers on December 30, 1896.

In those old days when overseas travel was akin to an expedition, José Rizal showed he was a trail blazer for the rest of us Pinoys who love traveling. His journeys make him possibly the first Pinoy ever to have circumnavigated the globe. And as a prolific diarist, he could have been the first Pinoy travel blogger if only there was Internet then.

Happy 150th birthday idol!


  1. Wow, I never knew that he was a world traveler, and a rich one too!

  2. I know Rizal was a traveler and you made it unquestionably so with your account. Thanks! Do you suppose you can dig up info why he was very successful with women?

  3. Anonymous9:37:00 AM

    wow! nice post on rizal! :) i envy him too. he must've been an uber wealthy illustrado back in the days for him to afford such luxury! and i'm sure he would've been a blogger too! :)

  4. Anonymous10:13:00 AM

    bertN, intriguing question there. I'm waiting for nomadic pinoy's answer. meantime, my own theory: Rizal's intelligence reflected on his personality and demeanor - important traits that most women fall for. Now, am trying hard to develop both, ha ha! - Phil

  5. My father is named after him because they share the same birthday. I absolutely agree that he's he original nomadic Pinoy. :)

  6. Jeruen,
    I'm surprised you didn't know - his books were a required reading in high school so I got to read about his life as well.

    Interesting question. I was tempted to include his love life but you're right, he had quite a way with women. The answer is similar to Phil's - Rizal was a multi-faceted man, very smart, eloquent in many languages and was adept in mixing with various circles of society. Indeed his personality was already striking. He wasn't just "pa-porma", he had substance!

    Considering that he was born to a wealthy family and having gone to good schools, he naturally developed good tastes, including fancy digs!

    I wish Rizal's intelligence would rub off on all of us hehehe! Imagine the kind of influence this would generate...

    oh, happy birthday to your dad - make that a double celebration for him with a happy Father's Day!

  7. mali pala sinabi kong celebrations are ongoing all across the country---all accross the world dapat as Rizal is well know not just in the Philippines but all over the world. :D

  8. cant agree more! he's the man!
    and yes, surely he'll have a travel blog too! ^_^

  9. I love your concluding paragraph, it made me think about the possible name of his blog and his pen name.

    JPRizal is my idol, too! U

    I've noticed in the second photo- the Penguin Classics. I actually bought Noli Me Tangere by Penguin from a famous bookstore here in Australia. Like his name, that is how immortal Rizal's novels are!

  10. I remember back in college on how much I love studying rizal life..In every pages I read I feel like I was traveling:)

    And with the intriguing question why he was very successful with women? hmmmmmm..for sure nomadic Pinoy can provide as a good answer:)

    Great post!

  11. If you happen to be in San Francisco, go to the Palace Hotel and you'll see a plaque outside the hotel (corner of New Montgomery and Market St) commemorating his stay at the Palace.

  12. pusang kalye,
    Sa dami ba namang Pinoy all over the world. Not to mention, there are plenty of foreigners who know Rizal!

    kung nagkataon, panalo sya palagi dahil ang galing nyang magsulat :)

    I took that photo during the recent Phil. Independence Day parade in NYC - I'm well aware that Penguin Classics finally published his book. Am thinking of buying the book as well!

    thanks! I did answer Bert's question as above but then that was just based on how I see the man through reading his biographies.

    I'll keep that in mind on my next SFO trip. In the meantime, I did see a photo of the plaque via Google search!

  13. reading this post brought back memories when i was in feu studying rizal as a subject. i didn't know what got into me me then that i got a grade of 1.25 (highest 5, no! 1.0 hehe!) perhaps i was really fascinated with his life and yes, his travels but everything i learned was forgotten. thank you for giving a brief refresher via this post.

    you never fail to be impressive, dennis. now you got history overload with rizal. nice, nice!

  14. is indeed a certified nomad. ang astig kasi lately i was also reading the greatest islam traveller. like rizal he has explored those countries.

  15. You are so spot on about Rizal. This is one of the best written posts I've read so far. Bravo!

  16. Ah, I only got to see your reply now, but, actually I didn't graduate in high school in the Philippines, due to the fact that Dad is a diplomat. I did Grade 1 in Honolulu, Grades 2-6 and 1st Yr/Grade 7 in Manila, Grade 8-11 in Japan, and Grade 12 in Guam. Thus, I did 12 years of elementary and secondary school total before I entered college in UP Diliman.

    Thus, I didn't get to read Noli and El Fili during high school. I did however borrow those two books and skimmed them before taking the required PI 100 in UP, but it turned out that my professor was a tibak (activist, you know that, right?) and instead of teaching us about Rizal, he taught us about Communism.

    Fun times.

  17. Jeruen,
    Even if I didn't go to UP, I'm well aware of tibaks in the classrooms (no wonder such strong militancy among students there).

    Your academic life has been, well, nomadic hahaha! It must be a challenge to adapt to differing environments even at a young age.

    At least, you still got the chance to go over Rizal's books even in college!

  18. Rizal was really a great man and traveler was wondering who from our time can be compared to him?


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