New docu on Rizal’s first trip to Europe marks National Hero’s 160th birthday 2
Culture

New docu on Rizal’s first trip to Europe marks National Hero’s 160th birthday

“Rizal lived in a time of barriers created by skin color, religion, political ideologies, and colonialism. Yet he broke through these barriers to affirm his humanity and his genius.”
ANCX Staff | Jun 18 2021

Little known aspects of Dr. Jose Rizal's first trip to Europe are revealed in the new documentary, Finding Rizal in a Time of Barriers. The project began when former senator Loren Legarda toured Heidelberg and the small German town of Wilhelmsfeld in 2019 together with Dr. Fritz Hack Ullmer. Dr Ullmer is the great grandson of Pastor Karl Ullmer who hosted Rizal for three months in Wilhelmsfeld in 1886. The memories of that stay, as well as Rizal's correspondence and memorabilia, have since become part of the Ullmer family's legacy through three generations.

New docu on Rizal’s first trip to Europe marks National Hero’s 160th birthday 3
Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman Loren Legarda with Dr. Fritz Hack Ullmer, the great grandson of Pastor Karl Ullmer who hosted Rizal for three months in Wilhelmsfeld in 1886.

In the middle of production plans, the project came to a halt due to the pandemic. But with the perseverance of the Philippine Embassy in Berlin led by Ambassador Theresa de Vega and the Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany, headed by Consul General Evelyn Austria Garcia, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila and the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda, the documentary took shape and was finished in time for the celebration of our national hero's 160th birthday this month.

Amidst the challenging circumstances, Legarda says she was inspired and uplifted by Rizal’s life. "Rizal lived in a time of barriers created by skin color, religion, political ideologies, and colonialism. Yet he broke through these barriers to affirm his humanity and his genius. His trip to Germany was marked by the completion of the Noli Me Tángere. It was also on that first trip that he wrote the immortal poem, A Las Flores De Heidelberg.”

New docu on Rizal’s first trip to Europe marks National Hero’s 160th birthday 4
"We draw inspiration from Rizal, a Filipino travelling through Europe in the late 19th century who overcame many obstacles,” says Legarda.

Rizal was studying ophthalmology and was also being introduced to the academic circles of Berlin as a culture bearer for scientists and humanists like Blumentritt and Virchow. “His time in Wilhelmsfeld, though short, was marked by the friendship and acceptance of the Ullmer family, who treated him as a friend,” notes Legarda. “It was a challenging time for Rizal, but it was also a joyful and productive one."

For Floy Quintos, the award-winning playwright who gave the creative direction for the project, “the process of completing this documentary was our own way of coming to terms with the barriers that the pandemic had imposed on all of us."

New docu on Rizal’s first trip to Europe marks National Hero’s 160th birthday 5
“His time in Wilhelmsfeld, though short, was marked by the friendship and acceptance of the Ullmer family, who treated him as a friend,” notes Legarda.

Historians Ambeth Ocampo and Dr. Mila Guerrero annotated aspects of this significant journey of Rizal through Germany, giving context and meaning to the facts often regarded as mere trivia. But the documentary also becomes a more personal one through the voice of Dr. Fritz Hack Ullmer, who tenderly recounts the memories passed on to him by his grandfather, Friedrich, who was only fourteen at the time of Rizal's stay in their home.

“Hopefully, this documentary will open our own eyes to the admiration that other countries, like Germany, have for our national hero,” adds Legarda. “There are markers everywhere that trace Rizal's journey, streets, plazas named after him, markers that bear his name. As Filipinos, we should have that same appreciation for Rizal's genius and contributions to world culture.”

New docu on Rizal’s first trip to Europe marks National Hero’s 160th birthday 6
“In this documentary, that first trip of Rizal through Europe shows that while these obstacles were not easy to overcome, he gained knowledge of his own humanity and his limitless possibilities," says Legarda.

Legarda believes this story needs to come home, to be told in Rizal’s motherland. “It is so resonant for all of us whose lives have been changed by the pandemic. We draw inspiration from Rizal, a Filipino travelling through Europe in the late 19th century who overcame many obstacles,” Legarda continues. “In this documentary, that first trip of Rizal through Europe shows that while these obstacles were not easy to overcome, he gained knowledge of his own humanity and his limitless possibilities. He grew—as an intellectual, a scientist and doctor, as a human being in the company of other human beings who gave much value to his personhood and intellect much more. Hopefully, through Rizal’s story, we find the means to overcome the barriers that we face today."

Finding Rizal in a Time of Barriers was conceptualized and envisioned by the 3-term Senator, now Deputy Speaker and Antique Congresswoman in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs-Philippine Embassy in Berlin and Philippine Consulate General in Frankfurt. The documentary will air on the ABS-CBN News Channel on June 19, 2021, Saturday at 7:00pm (Manila time) with a simultaneous livestream on the ABS-CBN News YouTube channel and the Facebook Pages of the Department of Foreign Affairs, National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Office of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda. It will have a replay on June 20, Sunday at 4:00pm (Manila time) on ANC.