Dr. José Rizal’s 4th floor apartments, Madrid, 1882.
31, July 2010, Saturday
My instructor, Erin Murphy, an American, is a Florence resident for the past 20 years.
Beginning Monday, my classes will be held in her studio. It’s on the 4th floor of an old Firenze building. Knowing that the first floor is ground zero and does not count, that means I will have to go to 5 flights of stairs to the fourth floor.
What has this got to do with my Blog on Rizal? Why? Because José Rizal’s apartments in Madrid were always on the 4th piso, (that’s our 5th floor) or 3rd piso (that’s our equivalent 4th floor). (See my next series of blogs on Rizal’s residence in Madrid).
To Erin’s Art Studio: I go through the huge wooden creaking facade door. Then a short vestibule with granite and marble stone floor introduces me to the first flight of stairs. I counted 10 steps to the first landing as it turns to another 10 steps into the first floor. Whew! That was 20 hard narbled steps just to reach the first floor.
Finally, 20–80– and leading to almost nowhere in sight, we finally reach Erin’s studio. It is beautiful out there. From the windows I could see the variegated tile roofs of the neighboring buildings, and the shadow of Brunellschi’s Duomo. It’s so near it seems I could reach out to it, while from afar, and in the distance, cypress trees outline the sky.
From the attic, there’s a dangling Manila hemp rope attached to hooks on the side wall. This very narrow wooden steps lead to the rooftop, and then an open portico with potted plans reveal a fantastic view of the whole city of Firenze and the distant hills .
There overlooking this wonderful scene, for the next week of my art lessons, I will learn how to draw and paint the landscape. Expect me to paint the mildewed clay tile roofs below if I run out of subjects.
Back to Rizal.
Rizal’s apartment in Madrid had always been on the 4th or 3rd floors. You and I are thinking the Filipino/American idea of naming floors with ground floor as first. The reality is, in all of Europe, our first floor is called the Ground floor. Their First floor is our Second floor.
Rizal who lived on the 4th floor had to negotiate at least 80 or more steps daily to go up, another 80 to go down. He would go up another 80 + steps for the breakfast morning’s end back to his quarters, go down to eat lunch, then go up 80 steps to study, and go down to eat dinner, and finally up 80 steps to retire for the day. But he is rewarded every day of access to the rooftop and an awesome view of the whole city of Madrid spread out before him, with several cathedral spires punctuating the sky.
That was his daily grind. There were no cooking facilities in his apartment. Now we know what Filipino students in Madrid had to go through on their daily existence living in a foreign country away from home where in the home country, the highest floor of apartments and residences are only the ground floor and the first floor.
Rizal moved every so often, and always his quarters were up on the 3rd floor (our 4th). I took pictures of the facade of where he lived, but we can just imagine the stairs he had to negotiate with no elevators. However, having climbed Erin’s studio up on the 4th floor, I now know exactly how he felt and where he got his feeling of soreness of the joints.
Rizal was a student at the Faculty of Philophy and Letters at the University of Madrid and later at the San Carlos Medical School in Madrid.
Tags: Jose Rizal