Calamba, Laguna…This year going back to school I had a course which focused on the life of a national hero of the Philippines, Dr. Jose Rizal. As I studied his life and his work it felt bland,with just words and pictures on a computer screen. I resolved to actually visit the place where Rizal was born and lived. Researching the routes and the transportation necessary my partner got more excited about the idea, as she had never been to that part of our country. I had actually been to Jose Rizal’s house before on a school trip, back when I was in elementary school. Now, being much older, I expected to actually appreciate the place. Memories brought me back to my tiny, school boy shoes; back in the time when i was carefree and just pure energy.
Friday morning around 10 a.m. we grabbed a quick brunch before jumping on the designated provincial bus that had ‘SM CALAMBA’ handwritten on a big piece of board. The bus only had a handful of people because everyone was still at work. (Perfect time to travel). My partner sat on the window seat as she wanted to see everything while we went to Laguna.
We spent a good 20 /30 minutes trying to get out of the city traffic. Once on the highway after all the toll booths, the trip was a straight shot to Laguna. And as our scenery sped past, the buildings started to transition from glass and cement to blending with the color green. The trees became towers covering the side of the road, growing from small skinny trees to overgrown trees with branches climbing over the fences.
Arriving in the city of Calamba after an hour and thirty minutes of travel, we had the SM Calamba mall as our landmark. so that we only had to walk or ride a tricycle to get to the museum. As the sun was at its highest an umbrella was a really good idea. Most Filipinos don’t like to be roasted by the sun as we like to keep the light complexion of our skin. LOL There was a very pleasant breeze while we walked, however, the breeze wasn’t enough to help with the scorching heat of the sun. We did took a quick break and both got drinks to quench our thirst and to get cover from the heat. A horde of tricycles was outside the convenience store. They all wanted us to ride their machines but we selected the only female rider. Telling her we were going to the Rizal Shrine (Plaza for them) she was excited as she knew for a fact that we were tourists. As she pedaled we watched people go on with their lives. We took a few turns and our driver laughed as she forgot she had passengers and was going on her way home. She informed us about places , told us about the old look of the town and how much has changed. It was really nice to have a person go out of her way to be so kind and welcoming.
At the corner of J.P Rizal and F. Mercado St stood the House of Jose Rizal. It stood alone with no other buildings alongside. At the entrance. I was expecting a fee to be paid for the museum We were greeted by a smiling guard that showed us to a computer that had a quick sign up process and that was it. No payment or anything. They do have a small donation box when you actually enter the museum. Entering you are welcomed by a poster with a quote about Jose Rizal himself written by one of the people who supported him in his life work. It says:
”You are the spark whose light came from the heavens, slain by evil. You blazed ever more; shattered completely by the fate of cruelty, you were made ever more complete; you are the model they tried to cast aside, yet became even greater and without peer.” -Simon A. Mercado
As you walk through the museum its age shows. The walls are covered with facts about Calamba Laguna and how it was in the time of Jose Rizal’s life. Along the path you will see a glass with a silhouette of Rizal. One of my favourite parts in the museum was the actual writings of Rizal. It’s very inspiring to read the words written in times of trial and to feel the emotion captured so perfectly. One phrase caught my eye, fully :
“…love of country is never effaced once it has penetrated the heart.”
Once you pass all the text and paintings on the ground floor you climb the wide staircase that brings you to the main rooms in the house. Inside you will notice that the roof is higher than the usual roofs in houses today. Original furniture is placed in the rooms with ropes to stop people from sitting and touching. It was pretty surreal to see such old antiques still in such perfect condition. It was already noon as we roamed the second floor of the museum taking pictures and reading all the information about each room. We did not even notice the heat as the breeze was perfect and cool. The old windows in the house were perfectly placed to allow air to flow easily. This was better than any books or presentation from school. Learning history on site, is so much fun. Places like this are where the memories of the past are felt right there and then.
The feeling of pure love was felt when I saw a painting showing a young Rizal sitting next to his mom as she taught him the alphabet. And another of Rizal all grown up with his doctorate and all his knowledge, as he examines his mother who was sick. The cycle of parent caring for her young and the child growing to care for his mother.
Exiting the house itself we went to a different building that included more memorabilia and other pictures and even some of Rizal’s clothes. This part of the museum focused more on Rizal’s travels to avoid being taken captive by the Spanish. Reading the stories, poems and part of letters that Rizal wrote it felt a little bit like reading a blog, a place where i’ve never been but feel so close and real. Part of the gallery was the 100th year celebration of his life, where his face is put in other pieces of coins. Jose Rizal has his face engraved to all 1 peso coins.
As we stepped outside there were trees that covered the ground from of the heat of the sun. And as we walked around the grounds a few stones had words painted on it, written by Rizal. Also a statue of the national hero as a young child with his dog. Taking pictures of the place was to easy, as the house stood majestically above everything else. Walking back through the entrance I couldn’t help myself buy a few things. There was a very small store with pens and books and a few souvenirs. I bought a small notebook a pen with a feather. It was cheap and all the money goes to the museum. I hope more people visit and donate or buy things to show appreciation for such important things to remember.
This trip was made more of an impact than I thought it would. In my mind it was going to be an educational trip to give me an edge in my studies. However being at the museum and looking at the poems, drawings and photos of Jose Rizal it triggered a pool of memory in a refreshed sense. Call it nostalgia, but when you feel that heaviness in your heart and everything else around you seems to stop. You come into focus on that specific moment in your life. That’s what I felt.