The Czech-Philippine relations while formally established in 1973 through the creation of embassies in their respective capitals go a long way back. The people-to-people bond between the two nation-states has been flourishing for a long, long time and now it serves as among the foundations of their current bilateral ties. Evidence of this was the formidable friendship between Czech scholar Ferdinand Blumentritt and Philippine hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
Professor Blumentritt was born on Sept. 10, 1853 in Prague, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was a master teacher in Litoměřice when he and Rizal started their correspondence. Bounded by their mutual enthusiasm and interest in the Philippines, Blumentritt and Rizal’s friendship developed into that of brothers. He served as a confidant to Rizal and they collaborated on some works, including Rizal’s annotations of Morga’s Sucesos where Blumentritt wrote a prologue.
The Czech professor was also a steadfast advocate of Philippine freedom. He was active in voicing out his support for the Philippine independence through his articles and also contributed to Philippine literature through his works such as the Diccionario Mitológico De Filipinas.
In celebration of the 168th birth anniversary of Ferdinand Blumentritt, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in partnership with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), National Parks and Development Committee (NPDC), Philippines Navy (PN), and the Philippines National Police (PNP) held a wreath-laying ceremony at Noli Me Tangere Garden, Rizal Park where his bust is located.
The deputy head of mission, Dalibor Mička, represented the Czech Embassy and honored the contribution of Blumentritt in the early Czech-Philippines relations. He also shared the plan of the embassy to unveil a commemorative plaque remembering the friendship of Blumentritt and Rizal. “While this work is still in progress, we are glad that we could pay our tributes today and remember the birth of the Czech scholar who also contributed immensely to the Philippines through his extensive work about the Philippines history and culture,” he said.
The event was hosted by the NHCP in cooperation with Captain Junjie Tabuada, PN (MNSA) who served as the military host; Reina B. Jara, chief administrative officer of the National Parks Development Committee; Carminda R. Arevalo, OIC executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines; and Gina C. Batuhan, chief, Historic Sites, and Education Division of the NHCP.
Evidence of the flourishing Czech-Philippine relations was the formidable friendship between Czech scholar Ferdinand Blumentritt and Philippine hero Dr. Jose Rizal.
This is only one of the current initiatives that the Czech Republic and the Philippines have about the long-standing friendship of these prominent figures. In 2015, the Embassy of the Philippines in Prague launched the Rizal-Blumentritt Heritage Trail in the city of Litoměřice in North Bohemia, Czech Republic. The embassy commissioned local artist Karel Mačas to draw the 10-point of interests in the heritage trail.
Apart from this, the Embassy of the Czech Republic has also been supportive of the initiatives of the NHCP to commemorate Rizal’s life. In June 2021, Czech Ambassador Jana Šedivá joined the 160th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal held in Calamba, Laguna. During the celebration, Ambassador Šedivá was gifted with a portrait of Rizal and Blumentritt made by Janina Sanico out of natural watercolor paints. This portrait is now housed at the ambassador’s office, which continuously serve as a reminder of the long-standing friendship between the two nations.
The relationship of Rizal and Blumentritt that started through correspondences continue to grow. Founded on shared respect for liberal values, the people-to-people ties of these two figures is evident to this day in the flourishing Czech-Philippine relations, which have also expanded in other areas of mutual interests.