by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna, Photos by ACassandra Molera
“It all started with José Rizal. He is a symbol of freedom. His ideas, his fight for democracy led us to be the First Democratic Republic in Asia.”
This was how Philippine Ambassador to Spain, Carlos C. Salinas described our national hero during the inauguration of the three rooms on the parade ground of the historical Castell de Montjüic in Barcelona, Spain last April 8, 2011.
The City Government of Barcelona, represented by Vice Mayor Ignasi Cardelús i Fontdevilla has dedicated the first three of the eleven rooms to Dr. José Rizal and two other illustrious historical figures of Catalonia–Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia and Lluis Companys.
Rizal, Ferrer i Guàrdia and Companys were imprisoned in Montjuïc Castle and executed by firing squad for defending their principles and their fight for freedom.
“They committed the crime of being free thinkers,” noted Oriol Illa, the Vice Chairman of the Fundació Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia.
Already restored and reformed, these rooms which served as the prison cells of these three heroes and other prisoners sentenced to death will be used by the city’s International Resources Center for Peace for its future courses and peace-related activities.
José Rizal’s room is Sala 17. A plaque bears his portrait, a sample page of El Filibusterismo and the cover of the newspaper La Solidaridad dated 1889.
It was to be remembered that on September 2, 1896, a week after the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution, José Rizal left Manila for Spain. He was to go to Spain first before going to Cuba as a volunteer doctor. But even before he could reach his destination, he was arrested by the Spanish authorities on board, jailed in Montjüic Castle in Barcelona and shipped back to Manila where he spent the last three months of his life in Fort Santiago.
Incidentally, it was here in Barcelona where Rizal wrote his first literary work in Spain, titled “El Amor Patrio” (Love of Country) which appeared in Manila’s daily “Diariong Tagalog “, under the pseudonym, “Laong Laan”.
Sala 17 will join several historical landmarks that the Catalonian government has dedicated to José Rizal. Last year, a plaque was also unveiled in Plaza de Buensuceso commemorating the place where Rizal and his friends used to meet for the La Solidaridad group and publication.
The Castell de Montjüic is now one of the most popular Barcelona tourist attractions visited by hundreds of tourists everyday.
“We Filipinos should be very proud of José Rizal“ said Rizal’s great great grand nephew, Harold Langer Sy-Quia.
He was with his mom, the great great grand niece of our national hero, Noelle Sy-Quia who also graced the inauguration ceremony brimming with pride and joy.
“We are very pleased about it. We have been waiting for this and now it is happening in time for his 150th birthday. This is a great satisfaction to the family.” She declared at the end of the event.
Also present were Consul General Eduardo José de Vega and Filipino community leaders Fr. Avelino Sapida , president of Kalipi (Kapulungan ng mga Lider Pinoy sa Barcelona), Sr. Paulita Astillero, Director of Centro Filipino, among others.