Penelope V. Flores Lost Her Heart in Heidelberg

Penelope V. Flores and Sir Rainer J. Weber in front of the Protestant vicarage in Wilhelmsfeld, where Rizal had stayed for a few months in 1886 as a guest of Pastor Karl Ullmer and where he finished writing his Noli Me Tangere. (Photo courtesy of Sir Rainer J. Weber)

Penelope V. Flores and Sir Rainer J. Weber in front of the Protestant vicarage in Wilhelmsfeld, where Rizal had stayed for a few months in 1886 as a guest of Pastor Karl Ullmer and where he finished writing his Noli Me Tangere. (Photo courtesy of Sir Rainer J. Weber)

Though almost in her mid-eighties, Penelope V. Flores, professor emerita of the San Francisco State University, artist, author and Rizal researcher, has “lost her heart in Heidelberg” (as the famous German song goes). Professor Flores has returned to Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld in Germany three times within the last few years.

Her first trip in 2011 took her to Wilhelmsfeld and Heidelberg; in 2012, she also visited Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin and did a boat cruise on the Rhine. On all these trips she followed the footsteps of the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, who studied ophthalmology at Heidelberg University in 1886 and had also stayed in Wilhelmsfeld for a few months.

Flores is the grand-niece of Dr. Maximo Viola, a friend and sponsor of Jose Rizal. Viola financed the publication of Rizal’s great autobiographical novel Noli Me Tangere in Berlin in 1887 and made it possible that he and Rizal could travel through Europe for a few weeks.

This year, after a short stay in Wilhelmsfeld and Heidelberg, Flores traveled through Southern Germany and Switzerland, where Rizal and Viola had been in 1887 before Rizal returned to the Philippines. There his novel was, however, immediately censored and forbidden by the Spanish colonial authorities because of its ”rebellious” content.


Flores is the grand-niece of Dr. Maximo Viola, a friend and sponsor of Jose Rizal.

Despite her age, Flores is extraordinarily and enviably fit, both physically and mentally. Her enthusiasm, thirst for knowledge and energy is exemplary. She is always on her way with laptop, camera, notebook and drawing pad in order to collect materials and [record her] impressions of the last three years, which she wants to use for her oncoming book on Rizal’s and Viola’s common travels.

In early April 2014, she traveled via Stuttgart, Schaffhausen with its impressive Rhine fall, to Bern and Geneva, Switzerland where memorial markers for Jose Rizal can be seen. Flores was particularly interested in central Switzerland, the country of the Swiss national hero Wilhelm Tell, because Rizal had translated Friedrich Schiller’s famous freedom drama “Wilhelm Tell” from German into Tagalog in 1886/87. Rizal had been very impressed by Schiller’s drama, and he saw the fight of the Swiss people for freedom as a model for his own nation.


Sir Rainer J. Weber is Knight Grand Officer of Rizal and former Chapter Commander of the Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg Chapter of the Knights of Rizal. He accompanied Flores on her trips. Also with them was Sir Lucien Spittael from Belgium, also a Grand Officer of the Knights of Rizal. Both are experts on the life and works of Jose Rizal.


About the Knights of Rizal

by Penelope V. Flores

The law in which the Order of the Knights was created is embedded in the Philippine Republic Act 646.  Its stated aim is:

  1. To develop the most perfect union among the Filipinos in revering the memory of Dr. Jose Rizal,
  2. To promote among the associated knights the spirit of patriotism and Rizalian chivalry,
  3. To study and spread the teachings of Dr. Jose Rizal and keep ever alive his consecrated memory and to make effective his exemplary and exalted principles, and
  4. To organize the annual festivities in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal.

There are many international chapters of the KOR worldwide. Germany has several active chapters. The one in Heidelberg-Wilhelmsfeld, Germany, was headed for many years by Sir. Rainer J. Weber. He is now enjoying his retirement and had handed over the chapter baton to the younger generation of Knights of Rizal.