CALAMBA TO BARCELONA -- 1 MAY to 16 JUNE 1882

THREE LETTERS HOME

Suez Canal, 7 June [1882]

My dear Parents,

The last letter I wrote you was at Aden before disembarking. This will inform you about the rest.

I went down at Aden, which, as I have told you perhaps, is a town of little importance by itself, but it is important to the steamers that take on coal there. The town is composed of numerous hillocks and rocks, all bare and arid, without even a plant, on which stand some lonely and gloomy houses, white indeed, but with a funereal aspect. The ground, like its sun, is hot and hard; the wind, loaded with burning sand, disturbs now and then the quietness of its well-made but deserted streets. At intervals and as if forcing itself to enliven those places, can be seen camels walking majestically and rhythmically, tall and big, forming a contrast to the humble asses some of which are very short, like a hog, of abrupt and somewhat hasty pace. Everywhere is death, neither a root nor a leaf. Only man perhaps in order to give a proof of his power, lives there where plants cannot; but, alas, it's only to give a spectacle of his poverty and degradation, compelled as he is to contend with the granite for his existence. But English power is worthy of its name and it opens there two beautiful tunnels one of which is as long as the distance from Capitana Danday's house until that of my brother-in-law Mariano, and the other is one half less. These bore through live rock and when one is in the middle of the first one finds himself in complete darkness. If by any chance one sees a space of ground as large as a dish in which a little grass grows, it is a phenomenon that attracts everybody's attention. Within the town proper can be seen some limp and rickety trees of which the tallest is not more than three varas. Besides the tunnels there are other things that call the attention of the travelers and they are the cisterns or reservoirs. These are some large cavities, whitened with stucco, formed by the mountain and a wall which, with the rock, form a receptacle. Imagine some five dams with the wall that, instead of being of stone like what we have there, is of very hard granite, there being a granite mountain here, but all whitened, with stone railings and very well made stairs of granite also. Beside this, instead of abaca plants as we have there, there are tiny plants whose leaves can be counted and some signs that prohibit the picking of a flower or leaves. Instead of water and its beautiful and boisterous falls, there's nothing but complete aridity, not even a drop of water, and the hottest sun. At one place there is a well of about one hundred varas deep whose bottom cannot be seen and from where five Negroes get water which takes two minutes to come up to the surface.

In the shops are found skins of lion, tiger, panther, and leopard, ostrich eggs and feathers, and some children whose occupation is to fan the travelers.

From Aden, town of great divers and swimmers who pick up small coins thrown into the water, we headed for Suez through the Red Sea. On the first day it was so terribly hot that many fainted, even a waiter of the ship. In the following days it was fairly cool and the sailing was good. We saw Mount Sinai, Egypt, etc. We also met many ships. On the 2nd June we arrived at Suez.

A little steamer came alongside and placed us under quarantine for 24 hours. We were embarrassed. It was because of the Dutch on board who came from Java. On 3 June the Turkish physician came up to inspect the ship and the sick and to fumigate and disinfect us.

The physician informed us of the revolt in Egypt led by Arabi Bey, Minister of...who imprisoned the Khedive in his palace. It seems that there is a coup de main. Like the entire army he is a partisan of the minister. I conversed with him in French and I learned that he was educated in Paris where he studied medicine; he had been in London and traveled through Italy and Germany. He held advanced ideas and when he was satisfied with my replies he responded by saying, "Bravo!" He asked me how Japan was, believing I was Japanese. Finally we left Suez and entered the Canal, not without having been visited first by the peddlers of Suez selling figs, dates, and other things, like postcards, rosaries, etc.

The Canal, opened in the middle of that desert of sand and stone, is 85 kilometers long and probably some 80 varas wide. A boat that was grounded in the middle obstructed our way and we stopped three days -- three days of ennui and grumbling. At last this morning we went on and I believe we shall arrive at Port Said. Probably we shall not reach Marseille until the 15th.

I'm in very good health and the intense cold which we have had since we arrived at Suez five days ago has made me stout. I'm so stout that I'm bursting. I do nothing else but stroll continually because one cannot remain seated for a long time.

I'm going to give you a so so description of the Canal. It is not straight throughout its length; it has curves but small ones; sometimes it flows into a lake where it is believed Moses passed, and again enters the desert. It crosses three lakes in its course. On both banks, which are all yellow and white, where it is a real jewel to find grass, are erected some telegraph stations placed at intervals. We have seen a young beggar running on the sand and following the ship in order to pick up a cracker that may be thrown him or not. A traveler on a camel and two magnificent Arabian horses. One of these, mounted by a customs officer, attracted the attention of everybody. Here I have tasted cherries, apricots, and green almonds. We have seen the curious spectacle of a mirage which is the reflection on the desert of seas and islands that do not exist at all.

I hope to receive a letter from you before the end of this month at Barcelona. I repeat I'm in good health and wish you to be the same.

Foreigners in whose colonies the colonials are very much oppressed do not want to believe that I'm an Indio; others that I'm Japanese. It is hard to make them believe the truth.

Bless your son who will never forget you.

Rizal

P.S.

You may tell my brothers as well as my brothers-in-law that I would be glad to receive a letter from them.

Regards to all, like my friends and acquaintances there and may they excuse me for not writing them now, but when I shall be at Barcelona they would get tired of me I've a desire to speak Tagalog. It has been one month that I have not spoken one word. I'm familiarizing myself with French.



Barcelona, 23 June 1882

My dear Parents and Brothers,

I have the pleasure to write you today, the eve of the town feast there, a memorable day for me, although it is not the day of the departure of the mail boat. My last letter, dated in the Canal, must have informed you of the incidents of my trip; it remains for me then to relate what happened after that. We arrived at this important city, Port Said, that partakes much of Africa and Europe; commercial, gay, and quite beautiful, but, on the other hand, dirty and corrupt. There is a café-musical where an orchestra, an excellent one, according to those who know, plays the national songs of the different European countries, like the Marseillaise, God Save the Queen, and others. Its population is most heterogeneous: Europeans, Turks, Greeks, Egyptians, and Negroes. Variety of fruits: the date above all; elegant stores with signs in French, Italian, Greek, and others and dirty and dark booths adorn its animated streets. We were here for about three hours. It must be noted that we didn't find even... (illegible)

At the beginning, the sailing was good, we passed opposite Greece, the Island of Candia; on the 10th, with good weather, we sighted the coast of Italy; the first town we saw was...(illegible) with a very beautiful beach which at the time a train was crossing. Thence the sailing was very pleasant on account of the beauty of the Italian coasts, thickly populated and well cultivated, presenting a picturesque aspect, full of life and poetry, that resembled a Belen1 on account of its many houses and little trees. On the same afternoon of the 10th we passed through the Strait of Messina with a sea so smooth that we didn't notice a single wave. We saw the volcanoes Stromboli and Etna and other islands. Sicily and Naples, even if we have not yet passed them, appeared before our eyes bathed in the beautiful rays of the afternoon sun. The following day, at dawn, Napoli (Naples) appeared to us, a gigantic city which lays asleep beside Vesuvius, a volcano that seems to be guarding this wonderful city. Its extent from Posilipo (mountain) until the other extreme, all populated, would be the same as from the town of Calamba until beyond Los Baños. Elegant edifices, like that of the Royal Palace, the Castle of Santelmo or St. Telmo, numerous hotels, the Tower of Massaniello, and the lugubrious State prison. We were not allowed more than one hour to go ashore which I spent visiting Napoli at the risk of being left behind. Those of us who went ashore were four and accompanied by a cicerone we went around the city. It was the first European city I passed through. From pleasure to pleasure, from surprise to surprise, in an elegant coach, guided by a cicerone who spoke French, I went through those streets, carefully paved with large, black, flat paving stones, and crossed by streetcars. Statues, fountains, monuments, arches erected here and there, very tall houses, stores and show-windows glittering for the lavish use of gilt and crystal, attract the attention of the traveler above all if he comes from the colonies. A throng that speaks a melodious language come and goes continually, elegant ladies and gentlemen walk through the streets. At the street corners are announcements or notices to the Freemasonry of the whole world concerning the death of Garibaldi2. I went to the telegraph station with various orders and afterwards in twenty minutes we went around the city, the Posilipo, various churches vyingly full of statues, squares with antique marble statues or copies of them, like those of Apollo, Faunus, Orestes, equestrian statues, the Fountain of the Four Seasons, represented by four superb lions, a museum of antiquities from Herculaneum and Pompeii.

How sorry I am not to be able to stop to see it, study it, examine it more closely and a little more carefully. Almost one moment more and the boat would leave me behind. But all this magnificent panorama cost me much because coachman and cicerone cheated me, charging me four times more than the agreed price. On the boat I found many peddlers of lava from Vesuvius made into elegant lockets and other jewels, views of Naples, and on the water alongside the boat were two divers or swimmers who, less aristocratic than the Negroes of Aden, were satisfied with fishing out small copper coins thrown far away into the water. When I compared these two good Italian lads with the Negroes of Aden with kinky hair, I couldn't help but indulge in serious reflections.

Also in a boat came two Italian women and two men, the women with guitars and bandores and the men with violins, to play for us, singing in sweet and melodious voice several opera selections and the Addio a Napoli. They received with an open umbrella all kinds of money thrown to them by the passengers.

Four or five minutes after my arrival we left Napoli, and I became the butt of the questions of my fellow passengers who repented for not having gone ashore. Here we learned through the newspapers about the occurrences in Alexandria and Cairo -- the massacre of Europeans that took place when we were in the Canal. In my previous letter I must have told you something about my conversation with a physician, a partisan of Arabi Pasha, probably in the know of what was then being plotted. But the gentleman didn't let anything leak out and in the Canal we were calm and peaceful.

From Napoli we sailed almost the whole day within sight of Italy, but the mistral blew and gave us good jolts. The following day, the 12th, we passed near Corsica, native land of Napoleon. Its coasts were less populated, more mountainous and wild; they have much to envy the Italian coasts with regard to land development.

In the evening, and after enough strutting and with a cold that compelled me to accept the shawl of Mrs. Salazar despite my frock-coat and vest, we saw the lighthouse of Marseille. By this time the sun set at about 7:00, and as the twilight was very long, it was still daylight by 8:30. Thus, the coasts of France, which since five o'clock were vaguely outlined in the distance, would have appeared to us more beautiful had it not been for the wavering light of dusk. In the evening then, at about 10 or 11 o'clock, we dropped anchor, because it was forbidden to enter. Before us, among several islands, stood the celebrated Castle of If. A city viewed at night with beacons of different colors and electric lights that seemed to wander from one place to another seemed to me a monster with a thousand restless and distrustful eyes. We deferred then for the next day our curiosity. I was condemned to see cities at sunrise which surprise a traveler who sees a pleasant thing suddenly and not gradually. It is needless to give you a description of Marseille because all that I can say about very big ships, forest of masts, poles, and chimneys, boats, buildings, churches, etc. -- all will be pale and cold, colder than the cold we felt then.

I was on deck with my frock-coat and gloves on waiting eagerly for the permit to go down. Here farewells, meetings, tears, instructions in French everywhere, boatmen, porters who salute you very politely and offer you their services. Wicked money! At last my turn came to bid goodbye those who had become my new friends and acquaintances, foreigners and Spaniards, who gave me their cards and pictures. And followed by a boatman I went ashore to the customhouse. French politeness is evident even among the customs officers who begged for “Pardon” before searching me with all possible consideration. Taking a coach (coupé) I went to the Grand Hotel Noailles located on Rue Cannebiere. This is one of the best hotels, if not the best, in Marseille, with all the comforts, carpeted marble staircase, hydraulic elevators for going up and down all the floors without having to lift one foot, servants attired in dress coat with white necktie, clean and elegant, carpeted rooms with dressing-tables, velvet chairs with spring, electric bells, imperial bedsteads; in short, excellent service. I had one of these rooms for four francs a day without board. But it must be noted that here even the candle is paid for separately. On account of the excessive cold that penetrated everywhere I had to keep my room, which is full of embroidered curtains and carpeted, always closed. I was in Marseille two days and a half, but I got bored staying in my room alone, accustomed as I was to many people. Many of the passengers were lodged in the hotel. I strolled through those wide and clean streets, paved like those in Manila and full of people, attracting the attention of everybody who called me Chinese, Japanese, American, etc., but no one called me Filipino! Poor country, no one has heard of you!

This is the most elegant city that I have seen and it is cultured and rich with respect to its houses. The majority of these are decorated with statues, caryatids, bunches of flowers, sphinxes, busts, etc., etc., large, admirable for their richness in crystal and marble elegantly combined. The fact is nobody looked out the window on account of the cold; I was about the only one who stepped out on the balcony. The stores have their glass doors closed so that the cold may not get in, and at first I didn't enter them believing that it was prohibited to do so. Almost all the articles displayed to the public have their prices beside them; and it must be noted that everything is cheap.

But many people moved about; there were vendors of fruits, newspapers, and flowers; there were booths where oysters, mussels, and shrimps were sold. The sidewalks of the Rue Cannebiere are as wide as an ordinary street and I was much struck that one enters a place with very elegant signs in gilt and crystal, the like of which cannot be found in Manila, and finds himself in a passable café.

I saw the gallery of paintings where there were excellent pictures and statues, the zoological garden with its lions, bears, panthers, elephants, and a carabao. I was not able to see many animals because that was a very big place and I got tired. There was a department for monkeys from all parts of the world. There were some that resembled human beings, extending their hands to you as if asking about your health. The museum of natural history didn't escape my curiosity.

I saw also the Panorama which is a circular building. You go inside and you see dead soldiers beside a cannon, and they seem to be sculpture, and you come to a place where you see on all sides a real siege with cavalry, with soldiers surrendering their arms, skirmishes, etc. Everything there is an illusion. You think such a horse is moving, that the dead man is kicking, that the smoke of the fire is rising, that the howitzer is striking the snow of the distant mountain, far horizons, the snow, the chief who is shouting, so that we got into a discussion as to whether all of these were paintings or sculpture. Being there without looking through a cosmorama you feel as if you are in the battlefield itself. The whole place is a continuous field and the rogues even offer you binoculars in order to see better.

I left Marseille by express train on the afternoon of the 15th, because all the trains that go from Marseille to Barcelona are express. The ticket is very cheap -- 12 pesos and 3 pesetas, first class. You travel at full speed of from five to six leagues2 per hour. By boat the trip costs almost as much and it's more uncomfortable. We were going at such speed that when we met trains running in the opposite direction, it was physically impossible to look at it because it would turn your head around. That was infernal, it seemed like lightning, a monster, a shooting star. We went through tunnels, or rather mountains, one of which was very long that at the speed we were going I believed we made it in more than five minutes. At one stop I was much frightened: A stop of 30 minutes was announced. I went down for some necessity and after five minutes, I saw the train pulling out, taking along my luggage with my money in it. I ran after it; I didn't overtake it. Fortunately, a gendarme informed me that it would return soon and that it would only change tracks. After that I didn't go down again. The towns and countrysides that we pass by are precious: Every inch of land is well cultivated and used for vineyards, olive trees, and planted to wheat and barley. France is thickly populated for along the way there were houses almost without interruption until the Spanish boundary. We passed by the following towns and cities: Pas-de-Gamur, Regisal, Saint Chamas, Miramas, Tarascon, Le Cailar, Aimargues, Porllan, Montpellier, Cette, Narbonne, Perpignan, Cerbere. We spent the night in France; at dawn we arrived at the Spanish frontier town, Port Bou. There we had to change trains. Before that we were searched at the customhouse by the Spanish carabineers. Missing were the courtesy and polish of the French, but on the other hand we had a delicious breakfast in a beautiful and pleasant room. Here can be seen posters in Spanish and French. It seems that one is in Manila for one sees Spanish or Castilian phrases and one hears Spanish spoken. From here in another train we came to Barcelona passing also through two or five tunnels, one of which was quite long. Much work has been put into it and according to the Commander of the Navy, this Spanish line that goes to France is the best. Although the country is perfectly cultivated, it is less populated than France. At the frontier we saw a frontier-lad. He was wearing a costume half French and half Spanish, a clergyman's cap, Catalan fiber sandals. That symbolism was funny, graphic, and significant. The towns we passed were Port Bou, Llansá, Vilajuiga, Perelada, Figueras, Vilamalla, Tonya, San Miguel, San Jordi, Flassá, Bordils, Celrá, Gerona, Fornells, Riudellots, Caldas, Sils, Tordera, Blanes, Malgrat, Calella, Arenys, Caldetas, Mataró, Premiá, Masnou, Mongat, Badalona. It was about 12:00 when we arrived at Barcelona. My first impression of Barcelona was very unpleasant. After having seen Napoli and Marseille I found this city poor and vulgar. Its streets were dirty, its houses of poor architecture, in short I saw everything in an unfavorable light with the exception of the women who seemed to me more beautiful than the women of Marseille. I was very much disappointed especially when we arrived at the hotel where the service and accommodation were so poor that my companion Mr. Buil, chief of the telegraph office, said: "To come from Hotel Noailles and then drop into this!" I was very sad above all when I looked for the persons to whom I was recommended and I couldn't find them. I was not able to see a single countryman, and on account of the large expenses I had had in my trip and the many cheatings I suffered, only 12 pesos remained to me. At last I found the Jesuit fathers who received me well and showed me an inexpensive and Christian house where I got board and room for 21 pesos a month. When I reached the hotel my companion, having received a telegram, had left hurriedly, carrying my coat in which I kept my passport, my gloves, and I don't know what else, and in exchange he left me many of his things. I learned that he had been informed of something serious when I saw the telegram on the table. Then I too left the hotel hurriedly, and in less than an hour my little money was further reduced by the dishonest hotel keeper, the coachman, and the porter who overcharged me. I moved to the house indicated to me by the Jesuit fathers and when the people there learned how much I had spent and paid the rogues, they exclaimed: "You have been terribly cheated. In fact they had taken advantage of your being a tyro!" Only seven pesos remained to me. As I looked at the house to which I had moved -- modest, humid, dark, and poorly ventilated -- located on San Severo Street, a dirty and old alley; as I looked at the brick floor of my room, the straw chairs, the hard and not so tidy bed, not a mirror, an old and broken wash-basin placed on a stand made of four pieces of iron, I, accustomed to luxury and comfort, at least for the last forty days, became intensely dispirited and sad and more than ever with deep sorrow I remembered our house which is a thousand times more decent than that. Then a thousand sad thoughts invaded my mind upon finding myself in that world hitherto unknown to me, without friends, without relatives, especially when the landlord came (for until then I had met only the landlady, a good and gentle woman) who was rough, coarse, ugly in appearance, when I saw priests come out from all the rooms and heard everywhere the harsh Catalan language. Supper consisted of nothing more than a dish of vegetables and another of fish. I called the attention of the priests, the only guests of that house, and I observed that underneath that rough exterior a good disposition was hidden. Little by little those clouds were dissipated and they treated me with more consideration, especially a priest who had come from Cuba. Ah! I forgot to say that, having learned at the Jesuit College that Cuesta was boarding in the same house, I hurriedly went there to see my countryman, but I couldn't talk with him because he had left for Manresa. I stayed then at that house to await him and also for reasons of economy. The following day, provided with a map of the city, I began walking through the streets of that labyrinth to look for my countrymen. Some were still sleeping. I went to the hospital to wait for them there and after waiting a long time, I was shown the house of a countryman. I found Cabangis and since then I have had better days. Successively I found the others who received me very well, who found for me more decent and cheaper houses. I met Cuesta who returned from Manresa. In short, since then until the present I like Barcelona and I'm getting to like it more and more. At present I occupy a room on the third floor of a building on Sitjes Street, number 3, together with Cabangis and other good students who are refined and courteous. I'm well served by a landlady, whose name is Doña Silvestra, who always says to me: "Don Pepe, do you want something? Have you already an appetite?" and so on. I have somewhat written at length about certain things in order to portray to you the impressions and situation of a tyro. Now I know Barcelona a little and it seems to me large and pretty and I remember Marseille and Napoli (Naples) as a glittering and vanished dream. I'm beginning to discover in this city gems and riches; pretty and elegant houses of varied architecture, Arabic and Greco-Roman. I'm getting used to it and I regard it with pleasure. The Jesuit fathers lent me money in case I should lack some and something happen to me. I have gone through their College and I'm making a study of various things to apply them there when I return. I've visited a porcelain factory which I liked very much and I intend to visit another of glass, clay, etc. Here are found many things which are applicable there.

When some of you want to write me, which I hope you'll do every mail boat, address me thus:
Mr. José Rizal
No. 3, Floor 3, Sitjes Street
Barcelona.

If you could send me by registered mail through the next mail boat my birth certificate and a statement that I have my parents and family there, I would be much obliged.

I don't know if you have received my letters; I've written you at Singapore, Point Galle, Aden, Suez, and this time at Barcelona. I expect by next mail letters addressed to Father Ramon Vilalta.

Every moment I'm thinking of what you would be doing at this time; I'm behind you eight hours, so that generally you are sleeping when I'm awake. I trust that you are all in good health like me who is putting on weight.

I'm sending the most affectionate regards to all of you and to all our relatives, and when you write me, tell me even about nephews and friends. Give my regards to the parish priest and to Captain Juan as well as to the others.

And bless your son who wishes only your happiness.

José Rizal.


1Belén is the Tagalog and Spanish name for Bethlehem. The Tagalogs also call Belén the reproduction of Christ's birthplace that Christian Filipinos put up in their homes at Christmas time; that is, crèche.

2Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), Italian patriot, who labored for and secured the unification of Italy.

3A measure of distance varying for different times and countries from 3.9 to 7.4 kilometers.



Barcelona, 29 June [1882]

Today, probably the feast on the beach,1 I close my letters with regret for not having received even one letter from you by the two mails which arrived from there.

I believe that it would be better if there is a commercial firm here which would give me money at the beginning of every month. This can be done by means of a money order of a firm there. The family of Cabangis of Tondo which my brother knows...

(The rest of this letter is missing.)

1Feast in a barrio of Kalamba whose patron saint is St. Peter and St. Paul, 29 June.

2 Comments:

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