I wasn’t meaning to write about our national hero and join the PTB Blog Carnival , thinking I needed to clear my backlogs first. But as it turned out, a couple of friends from TravelBlog visited the Philippines and had an extra day to spend in Manila. Thought I’d give them the drill:  Spanish-Philippines in the morning,  Chinatown-Philippines for lunch, and Hollywood (American)  cum “Urban/Modern” Philippines late afternoon till early evening.  The “Philippines-Philippines” episode can wait till they get their walking feet to Bicol starting with an off-chance,  late-in-the-season Butanding Interaction in Donsol, Sorsogon.

I enjoy meeting new friends.  Jan and Polona are from Slovenia and belong to my other “community” at TravelBlog. Young, full of energy, and eager to know the Philippines .  And I was just as eager to introduce our country, our culture to them. So we began the morning with a tour of Fort Santiago and a drive-through Intramuros.  The latter deserves another leisurely afternoon.

Fort Santiago

There are heaps of good write-ups on Fort Santiago.  And blogs matched with stunning photography of this “walled city”.  I brought my rusty Point & Shoot Camera just so I can take souvenir shots with my young Slovenian friends.   My young Slovenians surprisingly did their homework and knew enough about our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and about his last days in Fort Santiago.  No need for any history lessons.  These travelers, as opposed to tourists, know their stuff.   It was I who was sufficiently surprised.  Inside the Rizal Shrine ,  they took their time reading “Mi Ultimo Adios”.   I must confess I never went past the “Adios Patria Adorada, Region del Sol Quirida”  stuff.  😦

Amazingly, there was a translation of Mi Ultimo Adios in other languages.  Jan and Polona painstakingly read through some, especially the one translated in Czech.   Even as translated,  they were quite impressed with the many talents of our national hero.  Having visited many other countries,  they were pleased to find that our own is a man of peace.  And not another military chief or warrior who liberated the country from oppressors.  This gave another perspective of allowing one’s self to be impressed about the power of the pen.   How a philosophy, an ideology can move people . How it can enlighten and liberate an entire race to think on its own.   Of his many talents,  Dr. Jose Rizal certainly used the power of the pen to give life to common sentiments heretofore repressed.

There are times when I feel sentimental and wax poetic.  Moments when I find myself reading and taking pleasure in reading poems.   No favorite poets for me.  I read whatever takes my fancy.   But “Mi Ultimo Adios” ?  I never gave it a chance.  I do not know why.  Perhaps because it was part of the school curriculum and I associated it with the obligatory history lessons.   Thanks to Jan and Polona, I rediscovered the beauty, the wisdom and the rhythmic beat of Rizal’s patriotism in this farewell poem.

“I die when I see the sky has unfurled its colors 
And at last after a cloak of darkness announces the day; 
If you need scarlet to tint your dawn, 
Shed my blood, pour it as the moment comes, 
And may it be gilded by a reflection of the heaven’s newly-born light.”

Shame on me.  To have someone from a foreign land teach me a lesson on appreciation of one’s own.   This stanza was nearly “alien” to me. As I said,  I hardly went beyond the “Adios Patria Adorada” line.  Yet Rizal’s passion and patriotism resonated with these lines of poetic candor.

“If upon my grave one day you see appear, 
Amidst the dense grass, a simple humble flower, 
Place it near your lips and my soul you’ll kiss, 
And on my brow may I feel, under the cold tomb, 
The gentle blow of your tenderness, the warmth of your breath.”

Lovely. Simply lovely.  He may be a doctor of medicine. A hero.  A painter.  A sculptor. An engineer.   And more.  But in my book, he is  a poet par excellance.

This is my entry to the PTB Blog Carnival celebrating Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s 150th birthday with the theme “Rizal and Travel”, hosted by Ivan Henares .