Ferdinand Schneider Blumentritt (September 1, 1853 - September 20, 1913) was a professor and a secondary school principal in Litoměřice (Leitmeritz), then part of Austria-Hungary. During his time, he was considered one of the foremost experts on the Philippines, although he never visited the islands. He known for having been one of the closest friends of Philippine national hero José Rizal.
Background and education
Ferdinand Schneider Blumentritt was born on September 10, 1853 in Prague, a part of Austro Hungarian Empire, and now known as the capital of Czech Republic. He was the son of a daughter of imperial accountant in Vienna named Amalia Schneider and a revenue official named Ferdinand Blumentritt Sr.
Blumentritt was a teacher, lecturer, director in Litoměřice (Lietmeritz) and a prolific author on articles and books on Philippines and its ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture. During his time, he was considered one of the foremost experts on the Philippines, although he never visited the islands. He was known for having been one of the closest friends of Philippine national hero José Rizal.
During his education, he graduated his secondary education at Karl’s University in Prague where he obtained a degree in history and geography. When Blumentritt was 24 years old, he moved in Litoměřice (Lietmeritz), Bohemia where he teach technical secondary schools and serve as a director for ten years (1900 - 1910). Bohemia at that time was a part of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, but nowadays Bohemia is part of the Czech Republic.
Ferdinand Blumentritt married Rosa Müller and had three children named Fritz, Dolores, and Konrad. He died in Leitmeritz on September 20, 1913.
Friendship with Rizal
Blumentritt even at a young age, shows a eager curiosity in Spanish culture and the Spanish colonial world, that is why his schoolmates called him "the Spaniard."
From Blumentritt's aunt, he started to learn the Spanish Language and he wrote his first article about the Philippines in 1879. The article was entitled Die Chinesen auf den Philippines -(The Chinese in the Philippines) . Then another famous work was published in Petermann's Mittheilungen in 1882 and it was entitled Versuch einer Ethnographie der Philippinen (An Attempt of an Ethnography of the Philippines). In this book, he included maps of the Philippines made by Ferdinand Blumentritt in which he corrected some mistakes.
With his great interest in the Philippines, he devoted his time in studying the Filipino culture and language while he was still a professor. He was known to be the chief expert in Tagalog language. According to a letter of Friedrich Blumentritt (son Ferdinand), their family Philippine collection consisted of a library of more than 800 titles, a 17 400 notes and sources referring to the scientific work of Blumentritt, 1721 scientific and political letters from Blumentritt's friends, more than 100 manuscripts, 123 letters from Rizal to Blumentritt and more than 100 old maps.
In July 13 1886, Jose Rizal wrote his first letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt from Heidelberg and sent him a book of arithmetic written in Tagalog. And with this, a gracious communication and friendship between the two men started. They usually addressed one another as "Mein Bruder" (My brother).
In one of his letters, Blumentritt addressed to Rizal "A thousand thanks for your excellent book ... to begin with, accept my heartfelt congratulation for your beautiful moral novel, which appeals to me in an extraordinary manner. As we German's say, you put all your heart into the writing of your book and for this reason, your book speaks to the heart ..." and he added, "If you continue in this manner, then for your people, you can become one of the great men, who will exert a decisive influence upon the development of their spiritual life."
After the publication of Noli Me Tangere, May 13 – 17, 1887, Rizal traveled to Leitmeritz with Maximo S. Viola who was entertained for several days by the Blumentritt family. This was the first and last time Rizal and Blumentritt would meet in person. However, they continued to write each other regularly up until Rizal's death in 1896.
Blumentritt translated Rizal's Noli me Tangere into German since he worked at Berlin Printing Press. After asking Rizal, he immediately translated Noli Me Tangere, but unfortunately no copy of the said German translation had been found. Blumentritt also served as one of the liberator of Noli Me Tangere when he heard that with the interventions of the friars, Noli Me Tangere would be officially banned in the Philippines. He prepared his defense and started attacking the detractors who stated malicious and false statements about Noli Me Tangere. He published almost 30 pages of strong variety of arguments and controversies published in Iberica printing press of Francisco Fossas in Barcelona entitled Noli me tangere of Rizal - as judged by Professor F. Blumentritt. Rizal introduced Blumentritt as a man who believed in the fight of Filipinos for education.
Even in conflicts, Rizal and Blumentritt never lost their common sense. Blumentritt reminded him about the story of Archimedes, he quoted "The peninsular oxen are now trembling too because they discovered in the Noli me tangere and the Solidaridad (the newspaper of the Filipinos in exile in Madrid), that the Indios are not only their equals, but that the latters' sons are noble, more intelligent, more educated, more learned than their academicians ..."
With all the controversies received by his book, Noli Me Tangere, Rizal was displeased with the negative issues and controversial arguments blown against his book. Blumentritt on the other hand, explained the side of Rizal on why he wrote his novel Noli Me Tangere. According to him, Rizal wanted to denounce the abuse of power, dejected handling of political prisoners, the ruthless and unkind treatment and the intensive act of behavior, especially in terms of punishment of the power hungry friars.
Blumentritt kept helping Rizal to cover up with controversies just a real friend, a brother and a person with human values and concern for Filipinos had no hesitation to represent and state his political views of Rizal and his writing. "The financial interests of certain Spanish circles are threatened by the novel,"said Blumentritt. He elucidates the detestation and rant and rave of the group which moved to put an end not only to the book but to the author as well just like what happened to Rizal and his novel, Noli Me Tangere.
"If I should express my opinion about the Noli me tangere, then I would frankly admit that I consider it the greatest literary work ever written by a Filipino, or about the Philippines at all. And I am happy to know that I am not the only one who is of this view. Furthermore, I am stating that there is no book in Philippine literature in which love of country has been expressed as fervently. It is written with the life blood of a patriot, who harbors no hatred whatsoever for Spain, rather, just a justified repugnance for anyone who abuses, egoistically and scandalously, the power granted him by the state or the church. That majority of those whom Rizal judged in his book are Spaniards must be ascribed to the condition that all government offices, the best parishes and the majority of the church positions are occupied by Spaniards. No one with a common sense can insist that Rizal conceals this fact, thus making himself an accomplice to the crime." Acclaimed by Blumentritt.
On the day before his execution, along with his farewells to his parents and siblings, Rizal wrote his final letter to Blumentritt, who allegedly wept upon receiving it, the last letter from Fort Santiago on 29 December 1896 .
- Alphabetisches Register der Reifeprüfungsvorschriften. (Leitmeritz, 1909)
- Alphabetisches Verzeichnis der gebräuchlichsten Aquarellfarben. (Leitmeritz, 1910)
- America and the Philippines. 1900.
- Die Chinesen auf den Philippinen. Leitmeritz, 1879
- Diccionario mitologico de Filipinas. (Madrid, 1895)
- Einige Manuskripte aus dem 17. und 18. Jahrhundert. Leitmeritz, 1904
- Einiges über Juan Valera. (Leitmeritz, 1894)
- El noli me tangere de Rizal. (Barcelona, 1889)
- Die Erdbeben des Juli 1880 auf den Philippinen.
- Die Goldfundstellen auf den Philippinen und ihre Ausbeutung.
- Holländische Angriffe auf die Philippinen im 16., 17., und 18. Jahrhundert. (Leitmeritz, 1880)
- Das Kaiserbild. (Leitmeritz, 1899)
- J.C.Labhart-Lutz. Ein Nachruf. (Leitmeritz, 1889)
- Die Philippinen. Eine übersichtliche Darstellung der ethnographischen und historischpolitischen Verhältnisse des Archipels. (Hamburg, 1900)
- Die Sprachgebiete Europas am Ausgange des Mittelalters, verglichen mit den Zuständen der Gegenwart. (Prague, 1883)
- Strömungen und Gezeiten an der Küste von Mindanao.
- Der "Tratado Anonimo" über den Aufstand der Cumuneros gegen König Carl V. (Leitmeritz, 1878)
- Versuch einer Ethnographie der Philippinen. (Gotha, 1882)
- Vocabular einzelner Ausdrücke und Redensarten, welche dem Spanischen der philippinischen Inseln eigenthümlich sind. (Leitmeritz, 1882-1885)