As many accounts have implied, Rizal was an expert in blending in seamlessly with people whom he just met, and was even better with the ladies.And so his journey began, a chunk of which was presented to us by Lucien Spittael.Piecing together Rizal’s stay in Europe wasn’t exactly a cakewalk–a fact that the two illustrious speakers can attest to–but the heroic ophthalmologist from Laguna was known to update his travel diary whenever he felt or encountered something he deemed significant, as if travel blogging were already a thing during the late 18th century.Pepe, as he was nicknamed, was also skilled in magnetizing people not only through his writing, but also as a natural charmer.What isn’t discussed all too often, however, is his trip to Europe, particularly his stay in Germany, through which he had forged bonds with people who would help him produce his iconic novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, and garner achievements that added to his already-glowing legacy.Curious about that not-too-often-underscored part of the hero’s life, I attended Inspirien: The Life of Rizal in Germany, a forum that documented Rizal’s exploits in Berlin, Wilhelmsfeld, Barcelona, and other parts of Europe, held at the Enderun Amphitheater.“Rizal had been always talking to Ullmer, and Ullmer told him how people were living in Germany.
Rizal met the amiable pastor on his trip to Wilhelmsfeld during his summer break from work, and stayed with the Ullmers for around three months. Fritz Hack–Karl’s great-grandson–best explained the Filipino’s initial reaction to the Ullmer household.Little did his countrymen know that he had another mission, one that would lead to him to inspire fellow revolutionaries through his writing.But before any secret plan could take place, he had to go to Spain unnoticed–even by his mother.Rizal’s skill in the field vastly improved as a result.He also took the time to meet up with friends: painter Juan Luna and fellow writer and medical student Maximo Viola, who would aid him later in his journey. He worked at the University Eye Clinic under esteemed ophthalmologist Dr.“The Ullmer family practiced a way of life that had appealed to Rizal from the very first moment on.[Rizal], a stranger, almost conveniently felt at home in the midst of the family members who appreciated him with no reservations as an equal.” Having experienced and witnessed racially motivated oppression from the Spaniards in the Philippines, Rizal naturally gravitated towards the kindness of the pastor.He taught the Filipino German by using William Tell, a book that was anything but basic.Rizal eventually learned German, and that opened him up to other spheres of knowledge that the pastor was willing to impart.He was enamored by Barcelona after a not-so-favorable first impression, and took note of the air of liberalism that pervaded the city: a far cry from what the Philippines was experiencing at the hands of its Spanish colonizers.Already a proficient writer at the time, he penned his very first essay in the country, , which was met with raves by Filipino publisher Basilio Teodoro Moran.