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When Rizal Left New York for London

From May 13-16, 1888, Dr. Jose P. Rizal stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It was one of the best hotels in New York City at the time and the building is now the location of the International Pencil Factory located at the Madison Park (incidentally where the Filipino Independence Day festival is held every year.)

On May 16th, Jose Rizal gathered enough funds for a trip to London onboard the luxurious liner CITY OF ROME. The Statue of Liberty was only 2 years old when the ship departed the New York harbor.  

“There is a certain 'poetic justice' in the fact that the ship that Rizal traveled on was also the same ship that carried defeated Spanish troops back to Spain.”

The Barrow Shipbuilding Co. built the second largest steamer in 1881. She was a 8415 gross ton vessel - length 560.2ft beam 52.3ft, clipper stem, three funnels, four masts, iron construction, single screw and a speed of 16 knots. There was accommodation for 271-1st, 250-2nd and 810-3rd class passengers. In September 1898 she was used to repatriate 1690 Spanish troops from Portsmouth, USA to Santander, Spain after the Spanish - American war. She was considered by many to be the most beautiful steamer ever built.

There is a certain 'poetic justice' in the fact that the ship that Rizal traveled on was also the same ship that carried defeated Spanish troops back to Spain. I think that Rizal would have appreciated that. (noted by Ian Rogers, Hong Kong, China.) 

Another irony was that Rizal might have boarded the ship again in September 1898, because he was accepted as a volunteer physician to work with the Spanish army in Cuba. Instead he was brought back to Manila in 1896 for his trial. He was sentenced to death by firing squad on Dec 30.

May 24, 1888 -- Arrived in Liverpool
He enjoyed himself aboard the CITY of ROME, then the second largest ship making the transatlantic crossing, by showing off his prowess with the yo-yo. He landed at Liverpool on the 24th of May 1888 and went on to London, where he eventually settled down at No.37 Chalcot, Crescent, part of what the English call a terrace or row of adjoining houses in a quiet street off Regent's Park, as a lodger with the Beckett family.

He wrote to Bluementritt (from London)
I live here with an English family who esteem me. I don't believe that its esteem is due to the two pounds weekly. That would be humiliating for your friend Rizal and would be ill-considered. At times when I receive news from Spain, it seems to me that I ought to hate all Europeans, but then I believe I shall go to Austria to live there if I cannot live in the Philippines, because Austria has no colonies and for being an Austrian he who has done so much for my country and loves her greatly.

It is interesting to note that Maria Clara who we associate our woman and Rizal's early sweetheart was Leonor Rivera who broke his heart when she married an English engineer who was working on the first Filipino railway. Rizal in his early letters to his friend Bluementritt wrote from Manila, "The first hammer-blow in the railway has fallen on me!"

He had political explanation; "I do not blame her for preferring Englishman is a free man and I am not."

Rizal to his family, 13th June 1888 (from London)
I am not in a bad place. I have two rooms, a bedroom, small and cozy, and another room where I can study, write and receive visitors. The family is made up of man and wife, four daughters and two sons; the daughters are called Gertrude (Tottie), Blance (Sissie), Flory and Grace. The first two are young ladies and have their sweethearts, Tottie sings rather well; Sissie accompanies her on the piano. One of the two sons is employed; the other signs in a church choir. Board and lodging cost me at least $45. Everything is more expensive in England than in other parts of Europe.

He was very fun of Tottie according to other books written, but I was able to get this info from the 1881 UK census.  I was excited so I will post it here just to say that the girls of Rizal were real.

Here is the BECKETT family in 1881 (7 years earlier)
Dwelling: 37 Chalcot Cres
Census Place: St Pancras, London, Middlesex, England
Source: FHL Film 1341040 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 0183 Folio 15 Page 23


He stayed in an affluent place in London and that was probably the reason that there are no jokers among us who could connect him to the most vicious crime of the century that started few days after he arrived. The killing stopped after he left for continental Europe in the beginning of 1889. Jack the Ripper's victims were found in the East End, the poor gut section of London badly cut with precision that could only attributed to some one who has medical training. Eyewitnesses claim that Jack wore a dark overcoat, but again JR had a small frame that his shadow would stand short. It was the first known serial killer that remained unsolved.

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Please email me if you have additional information. Nestor Palugod Enriquez



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