LIMA, PERU – On her last day in Peru, President Arroyo honored a hero and prayed before a saint. After the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Mrs. Arroyo unveiled a bust of the Philippineâ€™s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, at the center of the newly-renamed Rizal Park in La Molina district.
This public park in Peru was the first to be named after a national hero of a foreign country and the first to have a monument in his honor.
Made of bronze, the bust was designed by a Czech sculptor and donated by a German tourism consultant who is married to a Filipina.
The Philippine honorary consulate in Peru worked hard to put up this new landmark that is now a source of pride for the small Filipino community in Peru.
â€œNakadagdag siguro sa identity natin as a Filipino to have this. I think we are more identified now and weâ€™re very proud that our Filipino culture is still alive here in Lima,â€ said Lucia Subaldo who has been working at a research center in Lima for the last seven years.
â€œWeâ€™ve been preparing for this visit and weâ€™re proud and very happy that the president can visit us here in Peru,â€ added Subaldo.
For this president, no foreign trip is complete without a church visit. Mrs. Arroyo went to the shrine and church of Sta. Rosa de Lima, Limaâ€™s first Catholic saint who was declared patron saint of the Americas, Peru and the Philippines.
A Filipino priest, Monsignor Allen Aganon, celebrated a special mass for Mrs. Arroyo and her delegation. Filipino priests, nuns and other religious workers in Peru also attended.
Data from the Philippineâ€™s foreign affairs department said Filipinos in Peru used to be mostly religious workers. The Philippines and Peru are predominantly Catholic, a common legacy of their Spanish colonial past.
President Arroyo ended her visit in Peru with the special mass, then it was on to the airport for her flight back home, perhaps a less stressful one this time. — Ging Reyes, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau chief