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29 December 2010 48 Comments

“When I thought that I was leaving my family behind, tears welled in my eyes. I felt I was drowning. The horse was nimble; my driver Macario, silent and so was I. What thoughts! What sad reflections!”

~Jose Rizal (May 2, 1882)

OKAY! That was a bit heavy, and I don’t want to celebrate his life with a melodramatic note. So, let’s shift to the lighter side…

Jose Rizal is my personal super hero. I grew up reading his accounts, browsing the coffee table in National Bookstore and silently admiring his body of work while the rest of the world watches teenage mutant ninja turtles. I know the name of his dog, his patron saint, his childhood artworks, the names of his girlfriends and his favorite part of fried chicken. I played the lead role portraying him on stage in Bagumbayan 1898 (1996) and as the young Rizal in Pepe (1998); Simoun in Augusta (2001) and the most recent one as Don Tiburcio in Senor Senora (2005). I even joined a Rizal Trivia Quiz Bee back in college, and won second place on national level.

Call me rizalista, dork, history geek or whatever you want, but if I am going to choose between Wolverine, Zsa Zsa Zaturnah, Pacman and Jose Rizal, I’d still go for Pepe, MY Pepe! (I know what just ran in to your mind, perv!) And this is not about being nationalistic and whatnot, the guy is just friggin awesome! Period!

I feel that we have a lot in common, I noticed that we share the same love in art, music, science, culture and travel. At some point I actually believed that I am his reincarnation. <cricket chirping>

STOP LAUGHING! I’m serious! <cricket chirping>

OK, Since I am in Singapore (The first foreign country he set foot), I decided to revisit his translated diary–”Enroute to Barcelona“, and to try recreating his itinerary during his stopover in the city.

I have a big problem though: The landmarks were described briefly and the exact names weren’t mentioned in the diary. So I had to summon my inner Dan Brown.

Equipped with a PDF copy of his diary, a GPS, and an iPhone for Googling, I Started my investigation exactly where the Salvadora docked at the exact time on that morning of May 9, 1882. Rizal rented a carriage to ferry his luggage to De la Paz Hotel, so in the absence of a horse-drawn coach, I took the Trishaw.

Mayo Ocho Mil Ochocientos Ochenta Y Dos…

The sea is now as calm as yesterday. We see nothing but a distant mountain on the northwest. The sea has a beautiful green color and with the foam which the ship makes, I’m reminded vaguely of my childhood…

We can now discern clearly several islands. The lighthouse looks to us like a lyrical flame. Later, still clearer, it resembles somewhat San Nicolás only it stands on some rocks.

rizal in sg_03fliptravels_01.com

We see more clearly vessels, houses, vegetation, highways, chimneys — all that an active city has. The port pilot came later. We stop. A crowd of Indians, Malays, and Englishmen flocked to the boat, offering in a language that they alone can understand carriages, changing gold for silver etc., etc. One changed my fifteen pesos gold for silver and three pesetas. At last I disembark and hire a carriage to take me to La Paz Hotel.

I’m in my room which overlooks a patio adjoining the Hotel Europa. I hear English spoken everywhere. I’ll remember everything I have seen since this afternoon.

rizal in sg_49fliptravels.com

When I got down the boat and proceeded to the carriage, the Indian driver said to me “Nam, nam,” asking for a plaque on which was written a number that he had handed me. It was his. At last I gave it to him and we left.

Two large coal warehouses, but large ones, stand at the landing; then, well-built streets; plants on the sides…

rizal in sg_01fliptravels.com

…Chinese-style houses; crowds of Indians of Herculean figures; Chinese; a few Europeans; and very, very few Chinese women…

rizal in sg_04fliptravels_01.com

Shops everywhere with advertisements in English and Chinese; most lively men. The carriages resemble the tres por ciento drawn by one horse. Some of these are large and some are very small. I have not yet seen pretty houses like those in the Philippines. We pass before the Malabar temple, the Muslim, and the Chinese.

rizal in sg_53fliptravels.com

We saw the police headquarters, and returning to the hotel, I saw the Protestant church in Gothic style.

jose rizal in singapore

Afterward I got down at the Hotel de la Paz where my driver charged me one duro as fare. They accompanied me upstairs and a Chinese took me to my room. The Chinese has a charming and honest-looking countenance, rare among the Chinese in my country.

An Englishman, who knew a little Spanish, received me kindly and argued with the driver to whom I had given only half a duro. A crowd of these Indians besieged me, offering me a million things.

I didn’t buy anything except a comb and a cane for two pesetas..

rizal in sg_01fliptravels_02.com

I have forgotten to say that on our arrival many Malayan children came in bancas (canoes), saying to us “A la mer, a la mer, aller,” so that we would throw them coins. Astonishing are their skill and agility; they are like fishes. For two cents (cuartos) they jump into the water and pick them up.

rizal in sg_06fliptravels.com

I went down to the inn and I found the majordomo, a sort of Lala-Ary who speaks Spanish, English, French, Malayan, and German, and he explained to me several things.

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I went to the Protestant church and I saw there a holy-water basin and a child carried by a lady and several Englishmen. There was a minister. I saw also many ladies who were seated. I sat down also and read the Bible a little. The good thing in there was the many punkahs which served as fans for the faithful. There was a holy image. I went out later and took a walk.

Almost everybody rides except the poor Chinese. I saw the court where many Englishmen were playing ball; a magnificent carriage drawn by two beautiful, big, black horses, with two English drivers and inside the Maharajah of Lahore — an old stout man, respectable-looking and garbed in European style but wearing a sort of apron. I have seen a Chinese woman with the smallest feet; but I didn’t see either Indian women or Malayan. I asked about them and I was told they stayed at home.


Tomorrow I’ll visit the town.

May 10, 1882

After the bath and the luncheon, I hired a carriage for a day and I went around the town. The first that I saw were two beautiful houses of Chinese in European style, surrounded by walls and trees.

rizal in sg_56fliptravels.com

I made the carriage stop in front of a Chinese building decorated with dragons and paintings. I entered. I was equipped by Goinda with some English words. With these I entered a kind of small garden among columns and pedestals. Numerous beautiful plants and a variety of flowers, planted with symmetry and order; cages at the two extremes; in one of them were pheasants, a kind of turkey, and other birds beside; in the other, spotted deer and peacocks. I came out and got into the carriage to continue my tour.

My driver, whose name is Nija, he said, pointed out to me an English building…

rizal in sg_73fliptravels.com

…then a French church. There I stopped and went down. To reach it one crosses a beautiful garden, but I found it closed.

rizal in sg_79fliptravels.com

…From there to the Portuguese church; the same, it was closed, but the garden is less beautiful.

rizal in sg_81fliptravels.com

Running, running we reached the gas factory: a building, all new to me. I entered but I saw nothing nor could I get into the interior. After this, a magnificent Chinese temple, which was about to be finished. I entered it: Large and tall pillars painted the color of coffee; three altars with painted idols; in the middle is a genie blowing stones over a dragon; paintings, sculptures, and good bas-reliefs. In the patio is a little tower of live rock which is charming.

rizal in sg_87fliptravels.com

Afterward, through many streets and shops of fish, fruits, and a thousand enigmatic things. After having seen two beautiful markets, the like of which cannot be found in Manila.

rizal in sg_83fliptravels.com

I saw the magnificent house of the American consul with the flag aloft. I visited also a large school for Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Englishmen. It is a magnificent building and there are many students.

rizal in sg_01fliptravels_03.com

The palace of the Rajah of Siam is also notable and has a small iron elephant and whatnot on the pedestal placed in front of the building.

rizal in sg_45fliptravels.com

My carriage crossed a beautiful hanging bridge and we reached a lively place. Beautiful European buildings, shops, show-windows, etc. It is the Escolta of the town.

rizal in sg_19fliptravels.com

The banks and a Japanese curio bazaar are located there. In all the houses there are fountains with faucets. In a certain way this is more advanced than the Philippines.

I told the driver to take me to the Messageries Maritimes, but as he could not understand me, I had to return to the inn and ask the majordomo how to say in English Messageries and he taught me a cabalistic phrase which I repeated to the driver who understood it as if it were his brother. He went then running and from there I returned to the inn, telling the driver to come back at three.

An hour later, we took luncheon and then I took the carriage in the company of Goinda, the young Indian, who taught me how to shop.

rizal in sg_64fliptravels_01.com

Following that, I went to the Botanical Garden, seeing on the way the Armenian cemetery.

rizal in sg_55fliptravels.com

The entire road is beautiful, shaded by trees; beautiful bridges, and charming houses.

rizal in sg_54fliptravels.com

I reached (10 minutes) the garden located on a hill, as the majority of the constructions in Singapore are. Its cleanliness and orderliness are admirable; numerous plants with their labels beside them, well tended by Malays.

rizal in sg_61fliptravels.com

One climbs up through a clean path with canals on the sides until one reaches a poorly inhabited cage, for it had only one cockatoo, one parrot, and other little birds.

rizal in sg_65fliptravels.com

I found beside it a Chinese woman with an English boy.

rizal in sg_01fliptravels_01.com

I continued walking, admiring those trees which charmed me and I entered a kind of storehouse with numerous varieties of parasitic and air plants, most beautiful and rare. I met there a Malay who could not understand me.

rizal in sg_62fliptravels.com

I went out looking for mammals, for I believed there were some and I found only a kind of cage-storehouse where I saw in different compartments two superb peacocks, an eagle, two marabous, turkeys and Guinea hens, blue birds similar to the hoopoe in plumage, wild pigeons, cockatoos, and other birds whose names I didn’t know. I met another Malay, and as he could not understand me, I drew a cow and showed it to him and he replied: Tadar. Tired of looking for it, I approached an Englishman who was playing with his dog. I greeted him and asked him for the zoological garden. He replied that there was none. I went away then, looked for a coach, and went back.

I met on my way several English girls, some of whom were quite pretty, many coaches, and strollers. I stopped to watch the ball game and then told my driver, remembering what Mr. Buil taught me, steamer, meaning I wished to be taken to a boat. He understood me and we left.

It was my intention to transfer my luggage to the Djemnah but they told me in the Salvadora that it was impossible, because of certain regulations of the English. I returned to the inn fretting and gave the driver two duros for my whole trip that day. It must be noted that yesterday for one trip alone, I paid $1.20 (2.50)…

~Excerpts from Jose Rizal’s translated diary (Calamba to Barcelona, May 1 to June 16 1882), published in Unitas, Manila, October-December 1953, pp. 854-872.

I was dumbfounded, the actual structures and scenes he described in the diary are still there. The churches, the bronze elephant on a pedestal, the hanging bridge, english buildings and the coffee colored pillars of the Chinese temple, are silently hiding in the lush urban jungle of progressive Singapore. I serendipitously stumbled upon them without exerting extra effort to look for it. I had Robert Langdon moments one after another, really.

What gave me goosebumps was not just the 19th century structures, but the presence of the people and characters in his travel journal. The Indian driver, the knickknacks vendors, the English boy and the Malay caretaker in the botanical garden, even that guy who was wearing the bowler hat and white crisp shirt, a familiar fashion that resembles Rizal’s typical day garb during his time. They were like transported from the past to be there for my little project. Was it a cosmic joke? Surreal was an understatement.

I searched the WWW, other than Ambeth Ocampo and Dr. Elizabeth Ong, I couldn’t find any other living person who traced this segment of our hero’s diary. So is it safe to say that I’m the third?

If only Jose Rizal lived in our time today, I know he would definitely be a travel blogger. He would be one helluva internet celebrity for sure. His writings and his strokes in terms of story telling transcends trough time and (cyber)space.

After Singapore, his next stop aboard Steamship Djemnah was Sri Lanka, should I follow his trail?


This is Flip’n Travels’ entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’s Blog Carnival for the month of June with the theme “Rizal and Travel” currently hosted by ivanhenares.com in celebration of Rizal’s sesquicentennial (150th) birth anniversary.


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  • http://journeyingjames.com journeyingjames

    one of the best post i read this 2010! its like im on pepe’s shoes when i was reading it. i was transported to SG. this is indeed a hard work ron. in one word: ASTIG!
    i nominate, “best rizal post” on the net

  • http://wearesolesisters.com Chichi

    I second the motion James. Best Rizal post of all time! Galing Ron and as always your photos just take my breath away. I didn’t know you were a Rizalista at heart, thanks for sharing!

  • flip'n travels

    @james, salamat! hardwork indeed!

    @chichi. wow i’m humbled. nag blush ako kahit hindi ako kaputian, hahaha thanks!

  • http://www.virtualjournals.net Fung Yu

    Great work Ron! A great read indeed. Onward to Sri Lanka… :-)

  • flip'n travels

    @fung yu.. Thank you. I was thingking of doing the whole stretch to barcelona hehehe. In the mean time sri lanka here i come!

  • http://lakad-pilipinas.blogspot.com Christian

    I’d have to disagree with James and Chichi, this is not the best Rizal post of the year, but the Best Travel Post of the year in any category. Period.

    Thank you for letting us in on this sir.

  • flip'n travels

    @christian thank you. This made my day (and my head popped. Hydrocephalus man! Hehehe)

  • http://nomadicexperiences.blogspot.com/ Marky

    A century later and here’s a modern day depiction through your wonderful photographs of what Rizal have witnessed in Singapore and mixing his detailed narration and your present day observation creates a perfect travel entry. Probably a blueprint of any travel blog entry should be.

  • http://www.lakwatsero.com Angel

    wow! one great post! astig! napahanga ak sa post na ito.

    most of the places described by Rizal are still standing, it is either marunong talaga mag alaga ng heritage ang Singapore or hindi dila nabomba ng husto nung WWII ;)

  • flip’n travels

    @angel, actually both! everything is still there, in perfect condition. except for the hotel de la paz and the botanical garden aviary, nilipat sa jurong. pati yung gas factory sa kallang at yung chinese building which is now a restored building for chinese chamber of commerce. … although i never saw the light house, that’s because the island is restricted to civilians! Thanks for dropping by!

  • flip’n travels

    Marky, I internalized and you would really feel Rizal’s excitement during the trip. specially when I saw the coffee colored pillars and the three altars, it is still there! it’s just that Rizal saw it during it’s construction stage!

  • http://www.lechuaphotography.com lechua

    what an interesting way to travel the day, trying to see the city in your hero’s eyes. heh but Marina Sands surely wasnt part of the landscape he wrote of. i happened to just get back from spore myself.

  • flip’n travels

    Lee.. hehehe thanks buddy! yeah marina bay sands wasn’t there hehehe, but i found out from the philatelic museum that the merlion park used to be an extension of the old siloso port, the docking area of the bay during the 19th century.

  • badetski

    wow! thanks for writing this stuff. i also admire Rizal and i’m glad i have stumbled into your blog. good job!

    btw, do you know where i can get a copy of his diary and other writings? i used to have copies of his other writings i.e. letter to girls of malolos and philippines a hundred years later (way back in college) but i lost them. i would really appreciate if you can let me know.

    thanks and keep up the good work!

  • flip’n travels


    I also don’t have hard copies of his writings, except for some that I bought back in the philippines, I believe powerbooks got some of these in the filipiniana section. i will try to look and do a little reseach too. cheers!

  • http://www.lakwatseradeprimera.com lakwatsera de primera

    Wow, Rizal is one heck of a wanderlust indeed, you’re right RV he would be an instant travel blogger celebrity if he lived in our time. But I admire you more for doing this feat, galing!

  • http://www.outonvacation.blogspot.com outonavation

    wow! such a nice piece of travel writing…astig! Truly enjoyable and inspiring read ;)

  • flip’n travels

    thanks very much! we’re glad you enjoyed the read! :D

  • http://jeffofalltrades.blogspot.com/ Jeff

    love the post, ronny!!! nice pics too!
    you’re like a skinnier nancy drew.
    very well executed.

  • http://www.chyngreyes.com Chyng

    Creepy! Specially hearing the story from you perspnally. Nonetheless, this is outstanding! Hands down.

  • http://neldeleon.wordpress.com neldeleon

    Internalization at its finest. This is a very wonderful post. I was glued to it. How you mixed Rizal’s thoughts with your travel photographs is just brilliant. Yes, follow the trail! :)

  • http://fliptravels.com/ flip’n travels

    thanks neldeleon… yes im following, just came back from my sri lankan leg. more posts to come.

  • http://marilil.wordpress.com/ lifeisacelebration

    “Call me rizalista, dork, history geek or whatever you want, but if I am going to choose between Wolverine, Zsa Zsa Zaturnah, Pacman and Jose Rizal, I’d still go for Pepe, MY Pepe! (I know what just ran in to your mind, perv!) And this is not about being nationalistic and whatnot, the guy is just friggin awesome! Period!”

    I’m truly impressed. On to Sri Lanka!

  • http://www.solitarywanderer.com/ Aleah

    I read this before, and I really thought I left a comment. Wala pala? Anyway, I loved this post very much, from your internalizations, to the pictures, to the research that you must have done…. Very good job, Ron!

  • http://livinginabackpack.blogspot.com/ RV Escat

    ikaw na Ron! fits to a T, bagong bayani! cheers tsong!

  • http://livinginabackpack.blogspot.com/ RV Escat

    looking forward to your entry on Rizal in Sri Lanka and what Pepe stuff you have stumbled upon there! the plot thickens…

  • http://travelingnicely.com Nicely

    Looking at your pictures, I feel like going to Singapore now. But I still have to wait for October :) Your post is, indeed, a great one!

  • http://www.pinayonthemove.com/ Grace

    Surreal talaga. You should start a Rizal in Singapore City Tour =) In any case, where can I get a hold of that Diary Ron? I’ve been looking for it on Amazon wala is just on the internet? I’ve been hearing about it and I want to read it.

  • http://fliptravels.com/ flip’n travels

    thanks Aleah, ispired by my idol!

  • http://fliptravels.com/ flip’n travels

    @RV… hehehe thanks. bitin yung sa sri lanka, magtutuos pa ulit kami!

  • http://fliptravels.com/ flip’n travels

    @grace… thanks, the Rizal in singapore city tour? hmmmm…. LOL!
    i think there’s one sa net, kaso di ko sure kung accurate, the the 1960′s translated version used to be in NHI. hindi ko lang alam kung meron pa ngayon.

  • http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/ Jeremy Branham

    What a fascinating post! Honestly I hadn’t heard of Jose Rizal but glad he inspired you. How fun it must have been to dive into the mystery of his journey and try to recreate it!

  • http://www.matheadeanne.blogspot.com melody

    Wow, nicely done! Very interesting! Thanks for posting! I am really Rizal’s fan. ;)

  • http://www.thetravelchica.com The Travel Chica

    What a creative way to explore a place. I say you continue if you are even a little curious about what you might find.

  • http://www.matheadeanne.blogspot.com melody

    thanks for sharing. i am really a fan of Rizal. Keep blogging!!

  • Ma-an

    Oh my Ron! It’s you already!
    *slow clap, slow clap, slow clap*

  • http://adventurousfeet.blogspot.com adventurousfeet

    very good post! this is real rizal trail. kudos :)

  • http://adventureswithben.com adventureswithben

    Been to Singapore a few times, never saw the statue of the people jumping in the river. Very cool.

  • http://www.thekillerfillers.com/ kill3rfill3r

    Awesome post sir. We were in Singapore last week for 4days, san exactly tong mga lugar na to? Sayang di ko kaagad nabasa tong post mo, napuntahan ko rin sana.:(

  • http://fliptravels.com/ flip’n travels

    @kill3rfill3r … thanks, let me know if you will be back. i will be glad to show you around. for free of course.
    @Ben … the sculpture is along the cavenagh bridge behind fullerton hotel. thanks
    @adventurousfeet … thanks much!
    @ma-an … i miss you so much, salamat sa slow clap. wagi!
    @melody … thank you for droppin by
    @stephanie … i am actually planning to trace the diary all the way to its last pages… barcelona!
    @jeremy … thanks man, i guess that’s where i am usually getting my inspiration

  • Beyn Malate

    Hands down to this post indeed. Great work fliptravels!

    It made me feel proud to read excerpts from our national hero’s diary and to set footsteps in the above images… Sayang, kung nabasa ko ito bago o nung time na nandun ako eh malamang mas feel na feel ko ang paglalakbay na yun, with goosebumps pa habang pinapalagay na si Dr. Jose Rizal ang tour guide (in my dreams,asa.hehe!).

    Salamat Ginoong Rizalista. ^_^

  • http://antsybee.blogspot.com/ Ruby Batallones

    Very interesting post! :) This completely erased my impression that Singapore is a huge jungle of consumerism. Looking forward to do the same on my trip.

  • http://boundfortwo.com/ Sky Summer

    Ron, would a day be enough following the trail of Pepe in Singapore? We had plan to visit on weekends and want to escape the tourist traps.

  • http://flipntravels.wordpress.com flipntravels

    Hello SKy Summer, yes one day should be enough! It’s a better idea to see these places on a weekend and they are not far from each other, except the Kallang gas building

  • http://juanknows.wordpress.com/ Juan Knows

    That was an indescribable peek at a beautiful story from the past…the text would appear meaningless had it not been for your pictures…It was like Rizal telling his story and I didn’t have to close my eyes to imagine…You are blessed, man!

  • http://flipntravels.wordpress.com flipntravels

    given the right time (and spare cash) i want to complete the whole diary! Thanks Juan!

  • Trav

    Nice blog and photos!

  • http://flipntravels.wordpress.com flipntravels

    We have enough, thank you :-)