Not too many Filipinos know it but the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal visited Cebu overnight during his sentimental journey, his last, from his four year exile in Dapitan to Manila in 1896. He was supposed to serve as a surgeon in the Cuban army but five months later, was executed at Bagumbayan, now Luneta.
From Dumaguete aboard the mail steamship EspaÃ±a, he entered the port of Cebu:
La entrada de Cebu es Hermosa…
Rizal wrote in his diary, 2 August 1896, marveling at how beautiful the port was and the adjoining plaza, then Plaza Reyna Cristina, now the Plaza Independencia, which adjoins Fort San Pedro. He commented at the beautiful flowering katuray, dapdap and almendras trees in the streets.
His impression of the port was matched with his impression of the atmosphere of antiquity of the interior, writing, the city is a city of churches. Old houses and buildings dotted the city. The Seminario-Colegio de San Carlos de Cebu was still existing with its old building and adjoining church which used to face the then Plaza Reyna Cristina.
The Catedral de Cebu was undergoing a reconstruction during his visit while the sprawling Archbishop’s Palace, facing the catedral stood grand. The nearby Augustinian monastery, now, the Basilica del Sto. NiÃ±o still stood, unchanged since its building in the 18th century with its beautiful perimeter walls and the Magellan cross kiosk near the sea.
In the morning, he visited the el pueblo antiguo, the old town of San Nicolas aboard a quilis, horse carriage locally known as tartanilla. He really took time to visit this place and saw the home of Don Julio Llorente, his Cebuano benefactor in Spain who bailed him out of a financial predicament while still studying in that country.
In the afternoon, his military custodian took him to the Fort San Pedro, the oldest tri-bastioned fort in the country, for a courtesy call of the military commander in Cebu, General Montero where, for the entire time he was being spoken to, wasn’t offered a seat.
The rest of the day, Jose Rizal was busy attending to his clients who visited the boat where he treated many patients, Filipinos and Chinese alike. The next day, he left for Iloilo and while the boat navigated the Mactan Channel, he said:
This is the island made famous by Magellan…
The trip was his last. Instead of heading to Cuba, as what Governor General Blanco approved, he never left the Philippines and was sentenced to die by gunfire a few months later.
My thanx to Jojo Bersales for leading me to Cebuano Studies Center at the University of San Carlos in Cebu where I found the article of Domingo M. Estabaya where he wrote for The Freeman on 30 December 1972 entitled Rizal’s Sentimental Journey which is the reference for this post.
This is my entry to the 8th Pinoy Travel Bloggers’s Blog Carnival hosted by Ivan Henares in celebration of Rizal’s sesquicentennial (150th) birth anniversary.