Revisiting the Homes of Our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal

Last Updated on June 25, 2020 by Lamudi

Last Sunday, June 12, 2022, the Philippines celebrated its 124th year of independence from the Spanish crown. The country has faced many wars and revolutions that created a nation with its own set of conduct, culture, and identity.

Decades before the Philippines gained independence, a bright little boy was born and grew up to become the catalyst for the events that led to the Philippine Revolution. Later, he would be known as the country’s national hero.

To commemorate the 161st birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, let’s retrace his steps by taking a journey through the houses that witnessed pivotal events in his life.

Rizal Ancestral Home

Address: Francisco Mercado St. cor. Jose P. Rizal St., Barangay 5, Poblacion, Calamba, Laguna

photo via the National Historical Commission of the Philippines

The original Rizal ancestral house was where Jose Rizal was born and where he spent most of his childhood with his 10 siblings and his parents, Francisco Engracio Rizal Mercado y Alejandro and Teodora Realonda y Quintos. This Jose Rizal house was subsequently confiscated and owned by the Spanish authorities in 1891. It was reoccupied by Rizal’s older brother, Paciano, during the Philippine Revolution, but was confiscated again by the friars. Years later during World War II, the house was sold, destroyed, and then demolished. The government bought the remains of the house for Php 24,000.

The Jose Rizal house was rebuilt in 1950 under Executive Order no. 145 passed by the late President Elpidio Quirino, with Juan F. Nakpil serving as the chief architect of the house. The reconstructed house still stands in its exact location in Francisco Mercado Street, cor. Jose P. Rizal Street,  Brgy. 5, Poblacion in Calamba, and still dons its original bahay-na-bato facade, capiz-shell windows, and hardwood floors in the second story. 

In this house, the young Rizal learned to read and write, and gained wisdom from his mother’s bedtime stories. This home witnessed the sharpening of the mind of a boy who will change the course of history. Today, the house serves as a repository of Rizal’s childhood and as a museum holding memorabilia that once belonged to him and his family.

Apartments in Madrid, Spain

Addresses: Calle Amor de Dios 13-15; Calle Fernandez y Gonzales 8, 3º-4; Calle Ventura de la Vega; Calle Gran Via, Calle del Barquillo 43, 4º; Calle Pizarro 15; and Calle Cedaceros 11, piso principal

When Rizal first arrived in Madrid in 1882 to study medicine at the Universidad Central de Madrid, he prepared himself to live a grueling life with only a meager allowance of 50 pesos a month, later reduced to 35 pesos, due to the Rizal farms’ bad harvest and the increase of rent imposed by the Dominican friars on the farms his family leased. In order to continue his education and his living in Madrid, Rizal hopped from one apartment to another and lived with friends and other Ilustrados, or the educated Filipino class of the Spanish colonial period. 

In a span of just four years, from 1882 to 1885, Rizal has lived in seven streets in Madrid, namely Calle Amor de Dios 13-15; Calle Fernandez y Gonzalez 8, 3º-4; Calle Ventura de la Vega; Calle Gran Via; Calle del Barquillo 34, 4º; Calle Pizarro 15; and Calle Cedaceros 11, piso principal. The apartments where Rizal stayed still stand in their exact spots in Madrid, Spain. 

Juan Luna’s Studio in Paris, France

Address: 65 Boulevard Arago, 13th arrondissement (district), Paris, France

In 1883, Rizal left for Paris, France for a vacation and briefly stayed with his friend Juan Luna, a renowned painter and fellow Ilustrado who is also a member of the Propagandist Movement. Juan Luna’s art studio and apartment are located in 65 Boulevard Arago in the 13th arrondissement, and is one of the most notable temporary homes Rizal stayed in during his time in France. 

During Rizal’s stay in Luna’s apartment, he posed as a model for a few of Luna’s works, most notably as the character Sikatuna in “The Blood Compact” (El Pacto de Sangre). Rizal also went under the tutelage of Dr. de Wecker for four months in 1885 up to 1886 to master the cataract-surgery techniques he used on his almost-blind mother.

The Wilhelmsfeld Vicarage in Wilhelmsfeld, Germany

Address: Wilhelmsfeld Vicarage, José Rizal Strasse, Wilhelmsfeld

From April to June 1886, Rizal moved into the lovely home of Pastor Karl Ullmer and his family. Rizal met Ullmer during one of his strolls on the slopes of Odenwald in Heidelberg, Germany. In this vicarage, Rizal and Ullmer became close friends. Rizal immersed himself in German culture and mastered the German language during this time.

The Wilhelmsfeld Vicarage was also where Rizal began writing the last few chapters of Noli Me Tangere, with Crisostomo Ibarra telling his adventures in Germany to his sweetheart, Maria Clara, during his return to San Diego.

Berlin Grand Hotel and Rizal’s Jaegertrasse Apartment in Berlin, Germany

Address: Das Centralhotel an der Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, Germany

During the early winter of 1886, he stayed in the Berlin Grand Hotel which is located in the affluent and thriving Friedrichstrasse. Rizal enjoyed the finest suites and services available in the hotel, although he had to vacate his fine suite as he was running out of funds.

Rizal then moved into the third floor of an apartment in Jaegertrasse 71. Impoverished, sick, and suffering from the cold German winter, it was in this apartment that Rizal went on to complete his first novel Noli me Tangere, his most pivotal literary work. It was also in Berlin where Rizal met his friend Maximo Viola, who funded the publishing for Rizal’s first novel.

Rizal’s Jaegertrasse apartment is now a monument that OFWs and tourists from all over Germany visit every year, on his death anniversary.

Rue Philippe Champagne 38 in Brussels, Belgium

On 28 January 1890, Rizal left Paris for Brussels due to the high cost of living in Paris and the merry social life of the city hampering his literary works, particularly his writing of his second novel El Filibusterismo. Rizal lived in a modest boarding house in Rue Philippe Champagne 38 that was managed and owned by sisters Suzanna and Catherina Jacoby.

In this quaint boarding house, Rizal lived with Jose Albert and subsequently with Jose Alejandro. During Rizal’s stay in Brussels, he was mainly focused on writing and revising his two novels, writing letters to family and friends, and writing articles for La Solidaridad, a Spanish newspaper set to express the Propaganda Movement under the pen name Laong Laan and Dimasalang.

No. 2 Rednaxela Terrace in Mid-Levels, Hong Kong

Address: D’ Aguilar St., 5, Central District, Hong Kong

Located in Mid-Levels, Hong Kong, No. 2 Rednaxela Terrace was an apartment occupied by Rizal and his family from 1891 up to 1892. Rizal worked as an eye clinician during this time, and 5 D’Aguilar Street in Central District served as his ophthalmologist clinic. 

Rizal’s stay in Hong Kong was also the period where some of his intimate relationships were defined, namely, with Gertrude Beckett, Nelly Boustead, Segunda Katigbak, Seiko Usui, Segunda Katigbak, Leonora Valenzuela, and his eight-year romantic relationship with distant cousin Leonor Rivera.

Casa Residencia in Dapitan, Zamboanga

Address: Dapitan Bay, Zamboanga del Norte

On Rizal’s return to Manila in 1892, he was implicated for his involvement in the La Liga Filipina and the rebellion that happened in July of the same year, and for the publication of his novels. He was then exiled to Dapitan, Zamboanga where he built a school, a hospital, and a water supply system. Rizal also taught himself the ropes of farming and horticulture. 

During his exile in Dapitan, Rizal kept in touch with his best friend Dr. Ferdinand Blumentritt and his fellow scientists, reiterating his opposition to the uprising that eventually led to the Philippine Revolution.

Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila

With the uprising developing into a full-blown revolution in 1896, Rizal was arrested and imprisoned in Barcelona, Spain for his affiliation with members of the Katipunan. He was eventually sent back to Manila and was imprisoned in Fort Santiago, a citadel in Intramuros, Manila.

During his incarceration, Rizal wrote a manifesto where he refuses the acknowledgment of the revolution, reiterating that education of the Filipinos and their achievement of national identity are essential in gaining freedom. Fort Santiago was also where he reportedly wrote his poem Mi Ultimo Adios a few days before his execution. 

Rizal was tried and found guilty on all charges of sedition, rebellion, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to death by firing squad and was secretly buried in an unmarked crypt in Paco Park Cemetery.

Rizal Shrine

Address: Luneta Park, Roxas Boulevard, Ermita, Manila

On August 17, 1898, Rizal’s remains were exhumed and brought to his mother’s home in Binondo until he was finally laid to rest in Luneta Park, where he is immortalized through a steel and concrete monument. You can also see the replica of his former prison located in the Rizal Shrine and Museum in present-day Fort Santiago.

These houses, apartments, and streets witnessed the birth of a young prodigy and his growth to become one of the most prolific writers in history and the springboard for the revolution that gained the Philippines its independence. This June 19th, 2020, take time to revisit and retrace the life and steps of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Main photo via the National Historical Commission of the Philippines


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