So much has been written about the national hero and his life here in Madrid. For many Rizal enthusiasts, our numero uno patriot’s habit of writing down almost every detail of his life makes it easier to imagine how he spent his days here in Madrid. But what was really going on in his mind? Rizal listed down every peseta spent and even drawn or sketched the items, places and persons he liked. Like some bloggers would? Except that these days, memory catchers do not require drawing skills. Back then, Rizal’s penchant to record (and to share, via his letters) compelled him to sketch to amply describe the things he wrote about.




Rizal’s First Madrid Nest in Calle Amor de Dios, 13-15 (Sept 1882-May 1883)


Rizal studied Medicine here, which later became Colegio de Medicos in Madrid.



Having just arrived in Madrid , how did he find his first residence in Calle Amor de Dios 13-15? Out of his comfort zone, far from his family and friends, unaccustomed to Spanish ways and practices. When he walks home from school, did anyone ask him how his day went? Though he lives very near his school, did he go out for long walks to enjoy the solitude, even the desolation? Was he overwhelmed by the grandeur of Spanish monuments and buildings, enchanted by the sophistication of the theatre, confused by the flashy (and heavily adorned) costumes of men engaging in violent bullfights or simply disoriented by the four seasons, late meals and very late nights?




Rizal took painting lessons here in Escuela de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Calle Alcala, a main road in Madrid. Now a museum of fine arts.




Madrid-based Filipino historian and Rizal enthusiast Jaime Marco led me to many of our hero’s favorite haunts. He does this con gusto and with much sincerity. You can almost “touch” Jaime’s passion as he rattles off historical trivia about his favorite Filipino. Neither did Jaime fail to remind me during our walks that we are likely stepping on the same cobblestoned paths, touching the same old city walls or banisters, dining in the same corner of a favorite restaurante cum hangout, looking at the exact painting which inspired Lolo Pepe to write his Noli Me Tangere. Now, this last one is a highlight for me. I made so many visits to the Prado Museum but not once bothered to check out Corregio’s “Noli Me Tangere” showing a Biblical illustration of the resurrected Jesus subtly restraining Mary Magdalene from touching Him before He sees His Father. Jaime said the Corregio painting has always hung in that same spot. Ergo, we were viewing the painting exactly where Rizal stood and drew inspiration! Viewing this painting provokes one to mull over what went on in our national hero’s mind.




Prado Museum. This Museo any visitor should never miss.


Correggio’s NOLI ME TANGERE is a Biblical illustration of Jesus restraining Mary Magdalene from touching Him before He ascends to His Father.



Who knows? But Jaime made me stand there to dig deep into my sentiments. I told him I was actually drawn more to Magdalene….. sensing her conflict, touched by her submission and quiet acceptance of something she failed to understand then. Her self-restraint is evident. Self-restraint bordering on agony. Jaime pokes your inner core as much as he gave this much thought. My amateur (but honest layman’s) opinion may fail his standards, but I can imagine Lolo Pepe being moved by that painting. How I’d love to know what prompted Rizal to write Noli after seeing this Corregio masterpiece! This time, he never committed his “inspiration” to writing. No clues. No letters alluding to his feelings over this obramaestra. No hints. But I’m sure he made many walks around the ciudad digesting this newfound inspiration, perhaps even outlining his thoughts while meandering around the streets and alleys of madrid. Quo pasa, Pepe?




Rizal’s Madrid. Then as in Now. Some things — and monuments — never change.


Teatro Infante Isabel. Same facade. Same seats! Imagine sitting in the same seat as Rizal when he watched the opera then.



Having exhausted himself, Rizal would likely not go home yet after those “meditative” walks. Maybe he’d visit some of his friends: Paterno, Viola, Luna, Lopez Jaena, Del Pilar. If he had enough money, I bet he dropped in at the nearby Teatro Infanta Isabel. Perhaps with some friends. The same friends with whom he’d have a drink at the Viva Madrid or Los Gabrielles, a few steps and a turn off the corner from his apartment. Did he eat heartily? Did he drink rioja, cerveza or sidra? Did he find the paella too moist? How was your day, Pepe?




Viva Madrid and its lovely interiors and glazed ceramic tiles. A favorite hangout of many Filipino patriots. A marker is installed here, thanks to Jaime marco et al.


Did Rizal enjoy the blackest, inkiest, most delicioso Paella Negra here with extra servings of salsa alioli? Viva Madrid and its lovely interiors.



Jaime pointed out that Rizal’s financial woes left him moving through many Madrid apartments. He is not as rich as Viola or Paterno with his golden spoon on his breast pocket, but Rizal’s wit and intellect combine for a most engaging personality and presence sought by many. That photo where Rizal clowned around dressed like an Egyptian scribe to pose for Luna’s Death of Cleopatra is a gem. Rizal without his overcoat, laughing his way through that sitting for another genius and another favorite Filipino, Juan Luna. I wonder if they were sober when they did that pose. Did they have a good round of drinks at Los Gabrielles, a few steps from Viva madrid and his apartment in Calle Fernandez y Gonzales, 8? Que tal, Pepe?




The humorous side of Jose Rizal, posing as a scribe in Luna’s rendition of Death of Cleopatra. Such “clowns”!


Hotel Ingles….. Venue of the banquet celebrating Luna and hidalgo’s victories in the art department. Where Rizal mentioned “Genius has no country”….



In that Hotel Ingles banquet celebrating Luna and Hidalgo’s victories, Rizal’s toast turned out to be a long speech peppered with bravado and nationalistic fervor. It is claimed Rizal has not had a meal that day and promptly got a bit intoxicated, if not uninhibited, to give that fiery speech. What was in his mind? Did that speech stir those patriotic fibers in the hearts of the Filipino expats then? Where was Rizal going with that message? Quo vadis, Pepe?




Rioja, cerveza o sidra?


Calle Atocha, 43, where the newspaper La Solidaridad was published to give voice to the Filipino community in Spain.



After that speech, did the Madrid-based Filipinos “regroup” for a tertulla or perhaps organize a La Solidaridad meeting the same night? Or did they simply walk their separate ways, fascinated with Madrid’s quaint alleys, passing many apartments with laundry out to dry on balconies, eager to reach their homes or apartments to think through that moment of awakening. I read and re-read that part of the celebratory toast to Hidalgo and Luna and each time, feel my emotions stirring as I read the lines…….


“Luna and Hidalgo are as much Spanish glories as they are Filipino. Just as they were born in the Philippines, they could have been born in Spain, because genius has no country, genius blossoms everywhere, genius is like the light, the air, it is the heritage of all”
—— Jose Rizal.



Typical street scene in madrid, circa 2013. 😉


Madrid Then and Now.


Quo Vadis, Pinoys?