Beer and Blumentritt | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Beer and Blumentritt

Beer came to mind during my recent trip to Ceske Budejovice, also known as Budweis, the region that brews authentic Budweiser beer, not the fake American brand. Travelling on the highways I read directional signs to another brewing area called Pilsen that reminded me of the words “Pale Pilsen” on the trademark brown bottles of our homegrown San Miguel beer. The real historical link that binds the Philippines and Czechia, aside from beer, is the friendship between Jose Rizal and Ferdinand Blumentritt, whose trail led to the archives of the Jihoceske museum in Budweis, where 28 boxes of Blumentritt papers were prepared for me to work on in two days. One box contained clippings from the magazine Renacimiento Filipino that reproduced a handwritten autobiography of Blumentritt written for Mariano Ponce in 1908. Although far from complete, the text is not well known so I made a quick translation from the original Spanish that reads:

“I was born in Prague, capital of the province of Bohemia in Austria on September 10, 1863. My father was an official of the Imperial [Hacienda]. In my family there is a tradition that the grandmother of my father was a descendant of the Governor-General of the Philippines Alcazar. An aunt of my father was the widow of a criollo from Peru who died in the combat of Ayacucho on the side of the loyal troops. This aunt returned to Prague and in her house I received that impression that directed my life to the affection for the colonial world of Spain. When I had reached reading age, my favorites were comprised of books by historians and travellers to Latin America and the Far East. In school, my classmates called me El Español. [The Spaniard].

“I must add that my mother, Amalia Schneider, was the daughter of an Imperial Treasurer, Andres Schneider. That my grandfather was very fond of reading travel accounts of South America; in a manner that my affection for those countries already existed in my veins, as they say in a Bohemian proverb. In order to read these books in the original languages I learned: Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, English and Italian while I was young and without a teacher. When the Emperor Maximilian established his throne in Mexico, I applied for admission in the Escuela Militar de Chapultepec near Mexico. While I obtained permission to do so, the North Americans impeded the entry of Austrian military volunteers to Mexico so my admission was not effected.

“Of all those countries and peoples, what inspired me the most was the interest in the country and people of the Philippines, and when I was named Professor of Geography and History in the Ateneo de Leitmeritz (then Municipal, now Imperial), I dedicated with special predilection the study of the Philippine Archipelago. In my studies was born the affection for the Filipinos, the interest with which formed part of their political aspirations. Despite my affection for the country I never inspired separatist nor anti-Spanish sentiment, I hit hard at the Spaniards and the friars residing in the Philippines. Their stubbornness and blindness, their insults did not hinder me from sustaining the defense of the rights of the Filipinos in front of the whole world.


“I was visited [here, in Leitmeritz] by: T. H. Pardo de Tavera, Jose Rizal, Maximo Viola, Eduardo P. Casal, Mariano Abella, Ariston Bautista, Fernando Canon, Felipe Agoncillo and Juan Luna; I also maintained close relations with: Mariano Ponce, Marcelo del Pilar, Eduardo de Lete, [Graciano] Lopez Jaena, Tomas Arejola, Isabelo de los Reyes, Pedro Serrano [Laktaw], Antonio Ma. Regidor Jurado, Jose Basa, Jose Alejandrino and other patriotic Filipinos.

“In the columns of La Solidaridad I defended the interests of the Filipinos following the conclusion of peace [resulting from the Spanish-American War] I advocated, in German and Austrian newspapers, the recognition of the independence of the Philippines, because in my opinion the islands had all the rights for independence and its inhabitants had all the capacity to sustain their independence. I was always against the revolutions and civil wars that destroy but do not construct. In my opinion it is possible to attain a compromise between the initiatives and aspirations of the Philippines and America: to proclaim the independence of the Philippines under a US protectorate. It is my only wish, before I die, to see the Philippines free and independent. “
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TAGS: Ferdinand Blumentritt

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