Dr Jose Rizal is the Philippine national hero. He was an opthalmologist by profession. Although he wasn’t directly involved with the actual rebellion against the Spanish colonial goverment, he was a member of the Filipino propaganda movement. He wrote Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, two novels which are credited to have inspired the rebellion against Spain.
Rizal was well-traveled and well-educated. He studied in Madrid, in Paris, and in Heidelberg in Germany. He was a polyglot and a polymath. I remember my early years in school, from Grades 1 to 3, we studied Jose Rizal’s life. We learned about his parents, Francisco and Teodora, his siblings, Paciano, and his nine sisters, Saturnina, Trinidad, Maria, Lucia, Josefa, Concepcion, Narcisa, Soledad and Olympia. One of the stories from our little Jose Rizal books that I distinctly remember was an anecdote about how devastated Rizal felt when his little sister Concha (Concepcion) died when she was only three years old.
When I moved to England, one of my friends told me about a blue plaque that bore Jose Rizal’s name. The Blue Plaque scheme is run by the English Heritage, honouring the notable men and women of the world who lived in London by placing a blue plaque on the houses or buildings which they lived in or worked in whilst they were in London. I didn’t know about this. I knew that Jose Rizal had memorials in other countries, but I didn’t know about the blue plaque in London.
It was something I had to find. I was Filipino and proud of my country. I get all choked up seeing the Philippine flag flying and ruffling in the wind whilst hanging outside the Philippine Embassy on Suffolk Place! I found out that Jose Rizal lived in the very posh area of Primrose Hill! After getting the exact address, I did the only thing a proud Filipino would do, find the actual plaque! I dragged Alan with me as I tried to find 37 Chalcot Crescent. Before we found Rizal’s plaque, we discovered that the house he lived in was just around the corner from Sylvia Plath’s old house!
I didn’t want to do the cheesy thing of posing right next to the blue plaque but, oh my goodness, was I so proud to see the words “Dr Jose Rizal, 1861 – 1896, writer and national hero of the Philippines, lived here.” He apparently lived here in 1888 as a lodger. His rent was £2! I’m sure that wasn’t exactly cheap then!
I only wish I’d seen this with my parents when we were traipsing around Camden, after our visit to the Jewish Museum. I’m sure they would have beamed with pride, too, that this young, talented man from the Philippines, who lodged at 37 Chalcot Crescent, was recognised by English Heritage as a person of note.