The Philippines in the Heart of Spain
Somewhere in the world, there is still a Philippines under the sovereignty of Spain—but it’s not what you think. In the heart of Madrid lies Islas Filipinas (Philippine Islands), one of Metro de Madrid’s 302 stations. Under line seven of the metro, Islas Filipinas is located in the Chamberí district, between Canal and Guzman el Bueno stations, and just under Cea Bermúdez street—and Avenida de Filipinas.
Spanish for Philippine avenue, this little slice of Madrid pays homage to the Philippines, Spain’s former colony located thousands of miles away. Opened in 1999, Islas Filipinas station marks the entrance to what is called Little Luneta, where a replica of the Rizal Monument can be found. If you take a west exit from Islas Filipinas and walk north-east along Avenida de Filipinas, you’ll find Rizal looking back at you from his place in Parque de Santadar. Thankfully, no building photobombers are in the way of any photo ops at this Rizal Monument.
The irony of the situation isn’t lost on us. Rizal, who died standing up to Spanish oppressors, is memorialized in the country he fought so hard against. And his legacy was so impactful that even his former enemies found him worthy of a monument in what was once the heart of the Spanish colonial empire.
But the monument was not built without struggle. In 1961 during Rizal’s birth centennial, countries around the world honored the Philippine national hero with monuments of their own. In Heidelberg, Germany, which Rizal features in his poem “To the flowers of Heidelberg,” sits a modest statue of the late hero. On Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City stands another replica of Rizal Monument. But Spain refused to give Rizal’s legacy another statue for in the ‘60s, he was still very much considered a rebel and traitor. It wouldn’t be until 1996 that the monument would be built and placed in Spain's busy metro.
There is plenty more to see in what can be called Rizal’s Madrid. Aside from the Rizal Monument, you can also visit Las Cortes Espanolas, where Rizal lobbied for Philippine rights; Calle Atocha 43, where Rizal published “La Solidaridad;” Hotel Ingles, where Rizal gave a stirring speech for the Filipino youth; and even Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where Rizal, Juan Luna, and Felix Hidalgo studied Fine Arts.
For expats, OFWs, and third culture Filipino kids, Madrid houses plenty of connections to the motherland for those nostalgic for home. And Islas Filipinas is a good place to start.