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It is widely known that Jose Rizal is a prolific writer and revolutionary.The same goes for him being a polyglot–able to converse in 22 languages–and of course, being regarded as a Philippine national hero.I asked Lucien if Rizal’s written works were in any way influenced by his tour of Europe prior to returning to Manila.
And Karl Ullmer, a Protestant pastor from a small town near Heidelberg called Wilhelmsfeld, made sure that the Filipino revolutionary got his fill of European life and sensibilities to further stoke the fire in his belly.
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.
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.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.“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.Apart from the daily deep dives, there was also a rumor that he found inspiration in one of the pastor’s kids, and their relationship might have gone a tad beyond the bounds of friendship. She was so close to his heart as he was close to hers.” Given that loving household, Rizal had to learn the language to know more about the country, and the good pastor had no qualms helping him in that regard.“Rizal was very willing to join Etta in watering the garden for over half an hour when the sun was rising,” Fritz mentioned. But instead of easing him into the German vernacular, Pastor Ullmer–perhaps out of respect for Rizal’s intellect–opted to lodge him in a bind in the way calculus jars the minds of students.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.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.