Jose Rizal’s escapades across the world are well documented both in history books and in monuments not just here at home but in the countries he visited. Plaques commemorating his trips can be found in different corners of the world, from Hong Kong to the United States. As we celebrate his 158th birth anniversary, we thought of putting together an itinerary for Rizal fans who would like to trace our National Hero’s steps, specifically when he was in Madrid where he spent quite a good deal of his younger years.
Rizal came to Spain determined to champion reforms in his homeland. On the 25th of June in 1884, he made that mission clear. At the Hotel Ingles, while at a banquet for Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo (the two won awards for their works of art, the “Spolarium” and “Virgenes Cristianas,” respectively), Rizal gave a toast to his friends and their success, their messages of freedom—and to Mother Spain and her promises of reformation for her provinces.
Like any good European cosmopolite, Rizal enjoyed dining and wining. Viva Madrid was his dining destination of choice, and he regularly visited here along with another notable figure in Philippine independence—the journalist Graciano Lopez Jaena, a “man of the world and of wine.” A marker just outside Viva Madrid commemorates Rizal and his companions, who met here to discuss the reformations and civil liberties they wanted to bring to the Philippines.
Ateneo de Madrid
Unlike its counterparts in the Philippines, the Ateneo de Madrid was not a place of formal education. Rather, it was a place of high culture, where sophisticated, well-educated men gathered under one roof. Rizal was a member and frequent visitor. It is where he enjoyed plays, recitals and book launches. He studied English here as well.
Parque del Buen Retiro
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Madrid, like many European cities, is known for its parks. Perhaps the most famous, and certainly a favorite of Rizal according to many writings about him, is the Parque del Buen Retiro. So in love was Rizal with Retiro park that he referred to the place of his eventual exile in Dapitan as “Mi Retiro.” The Prado Museum is right by the park and features a painting by Antonio Allegu Llamado Carriego called “Noli me Tangere”—a possible source of inspiration for Rizal’s novel.
The Rizal Monument
The monument can be found where the Avenida de las Islas Filipinas meets Calle Santander. It was built in the year 1996, a great many years after Rizal’s death, and after Spain moved on from its long-seated dislike for Rizal’s supposed betrayal of the Spanish motherland. Today the monument stands not just as a testament to a hero of the Philippines, but a symbol of the best that mankind has to offer.
There are many different places in Madrid for the Rizal fan to explore for themselves. There’s Calle Amor de Dios No. 13-15, if you’re interested to know where Rizal first stayed in this city. There’s also Calle Atocha No. 43, if you’re wondering where La Solidaridad was first penned and published. There are these places and many more, but if you’re short on time and don’t know where to begin, you can start with these five destinations for your walking tour of Rizal’s life through contemporary Spain.