Dr. Jose Rizal: Liberty in New York City

The Statue of Liberty in the Hudson River greeted our Navy ship to New York City fifty years ago.  My eyes eagerly scanned the New York skyline as I was waiting for the Liberty Call announcement.  The panoramic view from the water was incredible, I would swap it to a view of the water as I stepped ashore, Liberty Call, Liberty Call…..
Manhattan Island is a liberty paradise for any sailor. In just few hours, I would be staring at the bottom of my beer glass, feeling refreshed, a common experience for sailors after few days at sea.  A few more glasses were enough to rewind my memory back to another time in the same zone.  “Bottoms up” easily put me in the mode for taking more liberty of my past life.
Over a century ago in the spring of 1888, Lady Liberty first stood on the harbor, joining the Brooklyn Bridge as an icon of New York.  I met Dr Jose Rizal on my liberty tour in Mid-Manhattan.  Other icons I encountered include the first equestrian George Washington monument historic in Union Square in 1856 and another statue located in Greenwich Village.  These were part of the landscape near Madison Square Park where Rizal lived.
Rizal said: “Was in New York; big town, but there everything is new. I visited some memorials to Washington, the great man who, I think, has no equal in this century.”
I was surprised to hear his admiration to the revolutionary George Washington rather than Jefferson. Rizal would distance himself from violent revolutions. Rizal has many gifts however; he supplemented his numerous writings with almost instamatic sketches of the places he visited. At the time, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and became the longest suspension bridge in the world.  The architecture remains a marvelous sight in East cityscape. Charles Adams Platt, a prominent NY etcher, painted the Bridge in 1888, but I have been looking for the copy of the rough sketches by Jose Rizal.  It took me years, and I finally found a copy of his sketch.
I sober up as I saw the Gothic twin towers and steel suspension cable. I drove over this bridge many times as I lived in Brooklyn  later in my life. It is the same as it was when Rizal left in New York onboard the City of Rome, the Titanic ocean steamer of the 1880s.
The portrait is worth thousands of words without language to understand or speak. “The City of Rome” is said to be the second largest ship in the world. On board the ship they published a periodical at the end of the voyage. “There I became acquainted with many people, and as I carried a yo-yo with me, the Europeans and Americans were astonished to see how I could use it as a weapon of offense. . . I was able to speak to all of them and understand them in their own languages.”

He has many gifts, and I was fortunate to have his company on my Cinderella Liberty excursion in the Big Apple. There will be more port of calls, let me share it with you.

1 Response to “Dr. Jose Rizal: Liberty in New York City”

  1. 1 ben brazal March 18, 2017 at 4:50 am

    nice to revisit the time and places when the very eyes of one of the greatest minds of the Filipinos(may be of the world, too) gazed upon them , fortunately, today some of them are still available to me to see as a Filpino living in NY for more than 25 years. have strong feeling, had his life not been cut short by evil religious and civil Spaniard authorities in the late 1800, Rizal would be the first president of an independent Philippines, and would have lived a riped old age in his 80’s based on my calculation of the lifespan of his siblings and parents . feeling goose pimples each time i walk the streets like Madison he traversed and i behold the same objects like Brooklyn Bridge, Rizal sketched above, and i speak the same language he spoke during his time in New York. my imagination flies unfettered to its highest pride when i think that i belong to that nation Rizal so loved and died for. Mabuhay tayong mga Pilipino!

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