Friday, July 27, 2012

Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Trail: Follow Me To Singapore

by: Mhe-anne L. Ojeda

After completing my visit to 27 sites featured in  Lakbay Jose Rizal @ 150 Heritage Trail and finishing at No.65 last May 28, 2012, I was more eager to retrace our national hero's steps overseas. Good thing, I found myself in Singapore the next day, to take my flight to my dream destination New Zealand and I learned that Dr. Jose Rizal left some imprints in the Lion City. 

It was my fourth  visit to the Lion City (previous visits in 2001, 2009, & 2011) and thought I've been everywhere to claim " I've been there, done that". But honestly, I was taken a back when I read La Escala En Singapur post by my tour guide friend Ron Cruz of Flip N' Travel blog and realized that as a self-proclaimed true blue Kalakbay ni Jose Rizal, I have missed out a lot. 

Chances are, many of you can relate as you have been to Singapore and visited all the touristy places as well but didn't know that our national hero was, like me, visited this old English colony on four different times in 1882, 1887, 1891 and 1896. No worries. Follow Me To Singapore as I checked those places which Dr. Rizal visited. 

Asian Civilization Museum  
I commenced my steps at the Asian Civilization Museum to see the two-sided marker that bears a picture of a painting of Dr. Rizal by Fabian dela Rosa and on the other side a bust bronze relief dubbed as " the Great Malayan" by Philippine national artist Guillermo Tolentino, fabricated by Peter de Guzman. This marker was unveiled in 2005 by the Singapore National Heritage Board to commemorate Dr. Jose Rizal's visits in their country. I didn't see the bronze relief during my visit though as it was being cleaned/upgraded.

Then I retraced Dr. Rizal's first lay - over in Singapore on May 9, 1882 when he arrived on board Salvadora. The next day, our national hero went around town by carriage and made his observations in his diary captured in this blog post 2nd day in Singapore (10 May -- Wednesday).

The first that I saw were two beautiful houses of Chinese in European style, surrounded by walls and trees. I made the carriage stop in front of a Chinese building decorated with dragons and paintings. I entered. I was equipped by Goinda with some English words. With these I entered a kind of small garden among columns and pedestals. Numerous beautiful plants and a variety of flowers, planted with symmetry and order; cages at the two extremes; in one of them were pheasants, a kind of turkey, and other birds beside; in the other, spotted deer and peacocks. I came out and got into the carriage to continue my tour. 

My driver, whose name is Nija, he said, pointed out to me an English building, then a French church. There I stopped and went down. To reach it one crosses a beautiful garden, but I found it closed. From there to the Portuguese church; the same, it was closed, but the garden is less beautiful. 

Running, running we reached the gas factory: a building, all new to me. I entered but I saw nothing nor could I get into the interior. After this, a magnificent Chinese temple, which was about to be finished. I entered it: Large and tall pillars painted the color of coffee; three altars with painted idols; in the middle is a genie blowing stones over a dragon; paintings, sculptures, and good bas-reliefs. In the patio is a little tower of live rock which is charming. 

Afterward, through many streets and shops of fish, fruits, and a thousand enigmatic things. After having seen two beautiful markets, the like of which cannot be found in Manila, I saw the magnificent house of the American consul with the flag aloft. I visited also a large school for Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Englishmen. It is a magnificent building and there are many students. The palace of the Rajah of Siam is also notable and has a small iron elephant and whatnot on the pedestal placed in front of the building. 

My carriage crossed a beautiful hanging bridge and we reached a lively place. Beautiful European buildings, shops, show-windows, etc. It is the Escolta of the town. The banks and a Japanese curio bazaar are located there. In all the houses there are fountains with faucets. In a certain way this is more advanced than the Philippines. 

I told the driver to take me to the Messageries Maritimes, but as he could not understand me, I had to return to the inn and ask the majordomo how to say in English Messageries and he taught me a cabalistic phrase which I repeated to the driver who understood it as if it were his brother. He went then running and from there I returned to the inn, telling the driver to come back at three. 

An hour later, we took luncheon and then I took the carriage in the company of Goinda, the young Indian, who taught me how to shop. Following that, I went to the Botanical Garden, seeing on the way the Armenian cemetery. The entire road is beautiful, shaded by trees; beautiful bridges, and charming houses. 

I reached (10 minutes) the garden located on a hill, as the majority of the constructions in Singapore are. Its cleanliness and orderliness are admirable; numerous plants with their labels beside them, well tended by Malays. One climbs up through a clean path with canals on the sides until one reaches a poorly inhabited cage, for it had only one cockatoo, one parrot, and other little birds. I found beside it a Chinese woman with an English boy. I continued walking, admiring those trees which charmed me and I entered a kind of storehouse with numerous varieties of parasitic and air plants, most beautiful and rare. I met there a Malay who could not understand me. I went out looking for mammals, for I believed there were some and I found only a kind of cage-storehouse where I saw in different compartments two superb peacocks, an eagle, two marabous, turkeys and Guinea hens, blue birds similar to the hoopoe in plumage, wild pigeons, cockatoos, and other birds whose names I didn't know. I met another Malay, and as he could not understand me, I drew a cow and showed it to him and he replied: Tadar. Tired of looking for it, I approached an Englishman who was playing with his dog. I greeted him and asked him for the zoological garden. He replied that there was none. I went away then, looked for a coach, and went back. 

I met on my way several English girls, some of whom were quite pretty, many coaches, and strollers. I stopped to watch the ball game and then told my driver, remembering what Mr. Buil taught me, steamer, meaning I wished to be taken to a boat. He understood me and we left. 

It was my intention to transfer my luggage to the Djemnah but they told me in the Salvadora that it was impossible, because of certain regulations of the English. 

I returned to the inn fretting and gave the driver two duros for my whole trip that day. It must be noted that yesterday for one trip alone, I paid $1.20 (2.50). 

After a while they called us to supper and I had the luck to sit beside a drunk Englishman. He was talking in French so that we conversed. He was drunk like a toper and he repeated to me the same phrases. At last, we understood each other. He hardly ceased talking until the end of the supper when I had the chance to sneak away and to leave him alone. After a short walk, I went up to my room to write. 

On May 11, 1882 at 2pm, Rizal boarded the boat Djemnah  to continue his trip to Spain.

Dr. Rizal's subsequent Visits to Singapore  were in 1887, 1891 and 1896.

"He found the city less attractive in 1887 and noted in 1891 how much it had changed.  On this visit he discussed Philippine affairs with a local Filipino lawyer whom he subsequently sent copies of his books to sell in Singapore.

In 1896 Filipino friends in Singapore urged Rizal to save himself by remaining there and abandoning his trip to Cuba, but he trusted Spanish guarantees of safe passage and resolved to proceed. On his fateful, final voyage home almost two months later he was kept shackled in his cabin at each stop to prevent escape attempts. While his ship was docked in Singapore, supporters, including former newspaper publisher Charles Burton Buckley, unsuccessfully attempted to secure his release at the Supreme Court.

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