Czach envoy to the philippines delivers rizals mi ultimo adios poem to gathering from memory.

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"THE LAST FAREWELL" translated into Czech by the Czech envoy to the
Philippines Jaroslav Ludva is unveiled. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Czech envoy translates Rizal's poetic masterpiece
"MI Ultimo Adios" ["My Last Farewell"], the timeless poem written by
national hero Jose Rizal while awaiting his execution in 1896, was
unveiled Monday night at Fort Santiago's Rizal Shrine in Intramuros-in

This latest of many versions was penned by self-confessed "shy poet"
and now the Czech Republic's Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav

The gesture was in celebration of what historians now consider as the
immortal friendship between Rizal and his Czech friend Prof. Ferdinand
Blumentritt, then a school principal in the town of Litomerice, in what
is now the Czech Republic.

Blumentritt (1853-1913) is credited with, among other things,
convincing Rizal to overcome his doubts about publishing "Noli Me
Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" -- two books that would stoke the
flames of the Philippine revolt against Spain.

On the eve of his death, Rizal actually wrote two pieces: "Ultimo" and
a last letter to Blumentritt, his Czech "soul mate," Ludva noted.

mark the bond between the two men-Blumentritt never came to the
Philippines but corresponded with Rizal for a long time-the national
hero's native town of Calamba, Laguna, and Litomerice were declared
"sister cities" in 1974.

Litomerice has since built four monuments to Rizal, including a bust in
City Hall, while one street in Manila has been named in honor of

But while Monday's presentation was considered an official gift from
the Czech government, it carried more meaning for Ludva.

"I really fell in love with Jose Rizal," the diplomat told the
Inquirer. "A true ilustrado in those days, the most famous personality
here and beyond this country."

Readings on Rizal

Ludva, who was assigned to Manila in September last year, said he first
thought of a Czech translation of "Ultimo" in January.

Before sitting down to write, he read several books on Rizal --
including two by Czech authors-which centered on the patriot's final
hours as well as his friendship with Blumentritt.

Although he translated the masterpiece from the original Spanish, he
also studied the versions in English and German to further distill the
hero's "message."

One weekend in late January, Ludva decided to send "my wife, my
daughter and my mother-in-law to Mindoro, because I needed to be alone
for 48 hours." he said.

He was home alone writing in his residence in the Forbes Park
subdivision in Makati City, "and within 48 hours I did it," he said.

'Jewel of romantic poetry'

Ludva said it was "very difficult" to do justice to the poem in his
mother tongue since he not only had to find the proper Czech words for
Rizal's "rich Spanish vocabulary ... but I also wanted to capture his
[Rizal's] good sense of rhyme in that language."

The envoy described "Ultimo" as a "jewel of romantic poetry in East

And unless one knew of Rizal's situation when he wrote it, the reader
could not easily sense that these were the musings of a man hours away
from the firing squad, Ludva noted.

"You can feel that he was not [sad]. He was upbeat when the hero wrote
it. Rizal's message to his closest friends and family was: 'Be happy,
life is nice, I will give my life to my country because I want it to
prosper in the future. It is my contribution to the next generation,'"
he said.

"It was a long poem but it's wonderful and I admire him for that. He
was about to be executed yet still he found something deep inside his
soul to give to his countrymen," Ludva added.

Place of honor

An aspiring poet in his youth, Ludva said he considered his translation
of "Ultimo" as his first "published" work in verse.

"Published" was an understatement, since the Czech version was
mounted-on what could be considered a place of honor: right next to the
original Spanish text on a wall of the Rizal Shrine.

"I have written a lot of poems but I was too shy to publish them
because I felt somebody would say it's not right. In those days, I was
so devoted to writing poetry I thought it would be the end of my life
if it was not accepted by the public," Ludva said.

"But now I have decided to return to my roots-and be more daring," he
said. "I think what I did was not only a must for a Czech ambassador.
It was more of a devotion."

From memory

On the night of the unveiling, Ludva apparently thought his two days
translating the Rizal were not enough to honor the hero.

The program indicated he would give the closing remarks. But he went
beyond the usual spiel and surprised everyone by reciting from memory
the original Spanish version of "Ultimo."

He delivered all 14 stanzas -- each consisting of five lines -- to the
applause of the gathering that included fellow diplomats, Philippine
officials and educators, as well as Rizal's descendants.

Visibly moved were the Filipinos in the audience for here was a
foreigner appreciating, and perhaps even surpassing them in mastering a
national literary gem.

The ceremony was graced by Senate President Franklin Drilon, visiting
Czech Senate President Premysl Sobotka and National Commission on
Culture and the Arts chair Ambeth Ocampo.

"Mi Ultimo Adios" has been translated into 70 foreign languages and 57
Philippine dialects.