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Stories behind Hong Kong street names: Rednaxela Terrace and its famous resident

Street in Mid-Levels was named after its original owner but the name was mysteriously written backwards; it is best known as the address of Jose Rizal, the Philippine revolutionary hero and polymath

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 July, 2016, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 July, 2016, 12:29pm

If you find the name of Rednaxela Terrace in lower Mid-Levels slightly peculiar, you’re not the only one. The terrace is actually named after the original owner, a Mr Alexander, but it was transcribed backwards.

(We cannot find out whether it was a mistake by a street sign painter or the clerk who registered the name. But given it’s the only street sign in Hong Kong spelled backwards, the person responsible was probably fired very soon.)

While Alexander was its original owner, the terrace is famous for another reason: it was where Philippine revolutionary hero Jose Rizal briefly lived. Like several other revolutionaries, such as Sun Yat-sen and Ho Chi Minh, Rizal found Hong Kong a safe haven for political activism.

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He called No.2 Rednaxela Terrace home from December 1891 to June 1892. During his brief time there, he operated an ophthalmology clinic on D’Aguilar Street, Central.

Rizal was born in a wealthy and well-educated family in Calamba, in the province of Laguna in the Philippines. Young Rizal then spent 10 years in Europe, attending various universities including the Universidad Central de Madrid and University of Paris. He was known as a man of many talents, simultaneously a doctor, a novelist and a scholar.

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It was also during his time in Europe that he published his first book, Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not). The novel exposed the dark side of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines and was banned in the country. It also put Rizal on the Spanish government’s list of troublemakers, which forced him to leave Europe and head for Asia instead. That was when he came to Hong Kong.

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Within months he had left, headed back to the Philippines, where he founded La Liga Filipina, a political movement calling for peaceful reform.

Rizal was executed by the Spanish at the young age of 35 when he was on his way to Cuba, an act which set off the revolution that, 18 months later, in 1898, freed the Philippines from 300 years of Spanish colonial rule.

Though Hong Kong does not have a national holiday to commemorate Rizal, there is a marker, placed in 2004 on the intersection of Rednaxela Terrace and Shelley Street. As the then Philippine consul general Corazon Belmonte-Jover said, the installation in Hong Kong of a third historical marker was a fitting tribute to the memory of a Philippine national hero, and to the part Hong Kong played in Philippine history.