Saturday, July 23, 2011

US Summer 2011: Retracing Rizal's Steps in California!

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

I want to be a true blue 'Kalakbay ni Gat. Jose Rizal' by retracing his travels and adventures here and abroad. So, when I received my Rizal Passport at the occasion of Dr. Rizal's 150th birth anniversary, I never leave home without it (eventhough my destination is not one of the 27 sites featured). I carry the Rizal Passport wherever I go (just like what I do with my real passport), hoping to chance upon anything related to our national hero in the places I visit.

This was the same expectation I had when I went to the United States of America this summer. I know that Dr. Rizal has been to the U.S as it was indicated in the Rizal Passport. But which States and places, I don't have the vaguest idea.

Prior to the trip, I read Dr.Rizal's impression about the US when he said "I visited the largest cities of America with their big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions. Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects".

Having been to the US a number of times (with at least 28 States visited), it becomes more difficult to narrow the list as almost all of the fifty (50) US States have big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions . Luckily I stumbled upon the Philippines Tripod Diary of Dr.Jose Rizal in the United States recently where I learned more details about his US travel as well as his impressions and experiences. Reading from the diary, I realized that I have actually retraced the trail of our national hero in the United States as the States and places he has been during his month-long voyage were the same places I visited during my month-long US Summer 2011 vacation!

Today, I write about the beginning of Dr.Rizal's sailing West commencing from Japan,arriving in San Francisco and continuing to Oakland and Sacramento,All in California. (The rest of his voyage passing along the American Southwest States of Nevada, Utah and Colorado and ending in New York will be the subject of another post).

For juxtaposition,here are some similar and contrasting facts of our identical travels in America:
Length of Travel: A little more than a month (Rizal - 13 April- 16 May 1888 /Mhe-anne- 29 June - 3 August 2011)
Point of Departure: Japan (Yokohama for Dr. Rizal, Tokyo for me)
Point of Arrival: San Francisco and New York
Type of Travel: Sea Voyage versus Air Travel
Mode of Transport: The Belgic versus Continental Airlines

1. JAPAN. On 13 April 1888, Dr. Rizal boarded an English steamer named The Belgic from Yokohama, Japan. He has been in Japan for more than a month and fell in love with the beauty of the country and a young woman named Seiko Usui (or O-Sei-San). His heart was heavy leaving as seeing the girl he loved is very uncertain.

In my case, I was more than happy to take my flight via Continental Airlines after a lay over of about three (3) hours in Tokyo. Unlike Rizal, I was looking forward to leave and excited to finally reach New Jersey to see my loving prince! We haven't seen each other for awhile and was so happy he got me tickets from Manila-Seoul-Tokyo-San Francisco-Las Vegas-New Jersey a a gift for our fourth anniversary as sweethearts.

2. SAN FRANCISCO. After two (2) weeks of voyage across the Pacific Ocean, the steamer arrived in San Francisco on April 28 (1888). The passengers were quarantined for a week which according to Dr. Rizal was done "in spite of the clearance given by the American Consul, of not having had a single case of illness aboard, and of the telegram of the governor of Hong Kong declaring that port free from epidemic"". Dr. Rizal was disturbed that the quarantine is a clear act of discrimination against the Asian passengers,more than a health issue.

On my part,the flight was 12-hours on an Economy Plus seat with 3 meals served. The immigration officer was friendly and after a quick check,he stamped a six-month entry on my passport.There was a huge line at the counter when I arrive, mostly Asian looking, who are either visiting or immigrating to the US.

3. PALACE HOTEL. As soon as the quarantine ended (May 4, 1888), Dr. Rizal checked in at the luxurious Palace Hotel located in Stockton Street, San Francisco. In commemoration of his stay in San Francisco, a marker was installed at the lobby of the Palace Hotel in 1951.

I haven't stayed yet at the Palace Hotel which is presently known as the Sheraton Palace Hotel not only because of the cost but because my BFF Dearie provides me a place to stay always when I'm in San Francisco.But I have seen this historic hotel a number of times in its location in the New Montgomery Street just a few blocks away from Union Square. Had I known that this is where Dr. Rizal stayed I would have taken some pictures of both the hotel and the marker installed between the Market and New Montgomery Streets.

4. GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE,FISHERMANS' WHARF AND MARKET STREET. In the diary, Dr. Rizal visited the Golden Gate, walked around the Market Street and China Town. All these sights are included in my must-see, must-do in San Francisco.The only difference is that I usually take the the Cable Car instead of walking.

5. OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA. The steamer left San Francisco on May 6, 1888 and sailed to Oakland and boarded a train (possibly a Southern Pacific Railroad train) that was loaded up on a train ferry at Port Costa. (I read that the only known train ferry service that transported trains from Port Costa to Benicia back in 1888 was the 424 feet long Solano train ferry in service from 1879 to 1930).

6. SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA. Dr. Rizal bought a 75-cent dinner at Sacramento, California and slept at the train coach. I did dine and slept in Sacramento courtesy of my host. For my experiences there please read Eureka! Sacramento, California .

(Sources: WikiPilipinas Jose Rizal Travels and Adventures

(This is part of the 5-week US Summer Vacation series, which took place from June 30, 2011 to August 3,2011 particularly in California)

1.Four Countries In One Day

2. Enjoying Cable Cars in San Francisco

3. Enjoying Union Square and Downtown San Francisco

4. Commuting Easy With Panoramic Views

5. Mad About Museum in Sacramento California

6.Museums Trekking in Sacramento,California

7. Catching Gold Fever In Coloma,California

8. Psyched With Mormon Battalion In Coloma,California

9. Eureka! Sacramento, California

10. Highway 49 Summer Adventures

11. At Home In Daly City, California

12. Fourth of July Double Beachy Celebration

13.Attending Court Hearing In Hayward,California

14.Discovering VTA and Exploring Downtown San Jose,California

15. Smelling the Roses and More in Santa Clara,California

16. Getting Freebies While Dining in San Jose,California

17.Historic Tour In and Around San Jose, California

18. Wedding Reception During Vacation


  1. very interesting read.. gusto ko din puntahan yang mga yan tita Meh-anne :))

  2. hey thanks Ivan for checking this post.I was surprised that I had actually stepped in the places our national hero stepped in the US,clearly I don't research before the trip and just realized when I write the experience.So I'm sure your feet will take you to these sights!

  3. Wow Ate Mhe-Anne! You're stalking - este - really following the footsteps of our hero. Good on yah :)

  4. Gay dear, I like the sound of "stalking" better haha! Now I am appreciating my travels more if not blazing the trail like you are very good at - mine is following a hero's footsteps kinda -though not intended at first.


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