ALTHOUGH formally established in 1973 through the creation of embassies in their respective capitals, relations between the Czech Republic and the Philippines actually go a long way back.
People-to-people ties between the two nations were already flourishing, and serve as a foundation of their current bilateral ties. Evidence of such is the formidable friendship of Czech professor Ferdinand Blumentritt and Dr. Jose Rizal.
Blumentritt was born in Prague on September 10, 1853, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was a master teacher in Litoměřice when he and Rizal started corresponding. Bounded by their mutual enthusiasm and interest in the Philippines, their friendship developed into like that of brothers. The Czech served as a confidante to the Filipino, as they collaborated on a number of literary works, including the latter’s annotations of Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, where the professor wrote a prologue.
He was also a steadfast advocate of Philippine freedom, active in voicing out his support for the country’s independence through articles, and also contributed to local literature through his works such as the Diccionario Mitológico De Filipinas.
In celebration of the 168th birth anniversary of Blumentritt, the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Manila, in partnership with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), Philippine Navy, as well as the Philippine National Police, held a wreath-laying ceremony in Noli Me Tangere Garden, Rizal Park where his bust is located.
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.
“This will serve as a reminder of the long-standing relationship between the Czech Republic and the Philippines,” Mička said. “While this work is still in progress, we are glad…to pay our tributes today, and remember the birth of the Czech scholar who also contributed immensely to the Philippines through his extensive work about [its] history and culture.”
The planned memorial is one of the current initiatives the Czech Republic and the Philippines have in-store that will mark the long-standing friendship between the two 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. The embassy commissioned local artist Karel Mačas to draw the 10-points of interests in the heritage trail.
Apart from such, the Embassy of the Czech Republic has also been supportive to the initiatives of the NHCP in commemorating Rizal’s life. In June 2021 Ambassador Jana Šedivá joined the 160th natal anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal in Calamba, Laguna. During the celebration, she was gifted with a portrait of the Philippine hero and Blumentritt, which was made by Janina Sanico out of natural watercolor paints. The portrait is now housed at the ambassador’s office, which continuously serves as a reminder of the amity between the two nations.
The bonds between Rizal and Blumentritt that started through correspondences continue to grow. Founded on shared respect for liberal values, the ties that continually bind them is evident to this day in the flourishing Czech-Philippine relations, which has also expanded in diverse areas of mutual interests.