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!