Rizal Park


Rizal Park is situated in the heart of the city of Manila, Philippines. It is at the northern end of Roxas Boulevard, overlooking Manila Bay. It was called Bagumbayan (English: New Town) in Spanish colonial era, and later known as Luneta. The park was the site of Jose Rizal’s execution on December 30, 1896, whose martyred death made him a hero of the Philippine Revolution. It was officially renamed Rizal Park in tribute to him. The monument also serves as the point of origin or Kilometre Zero to all other cities in the Philippines.

The site is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by ceremonial soldiers. His poem, “Mi Ultimo Adios” (“My Last Farewell”) is inscribed on the memorial plaque.

The name “Luneta” is synonymous to the word lunette; the park was said to have the shape of a half moon in Spanish times and situated next to a Spanish fort serving as a buffer during rebellions by the locals.

Monumentalizing Rizal

The bronze and granite Rizal monument has long been considered among the most famous sculptural landmarks in the country. It is almost protocol for visiting dignitaries to lay a wreath at the monument. Located at the Luneta is not merely the statue of the national hero, but also the mausoleum that houses his remains. Both statue and mausoleum are located near the very spot where Rizal was executed.

On 28 September of that same year, the Philippine Assembly approved Act No. 243, “granting the right to use public land upon the Luneta in the city of Manila” where a monument shall be erected to Jose Rizal.” As conceived by the Act, the monument would not merely consist of a statue, but also a mausoleum to house Rizal’s remains.

A Committee on the Rizal Mausoleum consisting of Poblete, Paciano Rizal (the hero’s brother), Juan Tuason, Teodoro R. Yangco, Mariano Limjap, Dr. Maximo Paterno, Ramon Genato, Tomas G. del Rosario and Dr. Ariston Bautista was created. The members were tasked, among others, with raising funds through popular subscriptions.

The estimated cost of the monument was P100,000. By January 1905, that goal had been oversubscribed. When the campaign closed in August 1912, the amount collected had reached P135,195.61

More than twelve years after the Philippine Assembly approved Act No. 243, the shrine was finally unveiled on December 30, 1913 during Rizal’s 17th death anniversary.

Swiss sculptor

The Rizal Monument in Luneta was not the work of a Filipino but a Swiss sculptor named Richard Kissling. Furthermore, Kissling was only the second placer in the international art competition held between 1905 – 1907 for the monument design.

The first-prize winner was Professor Carlos Nicoli of Carrara, Italy. His scaled plaster model titled “Al Martir de Bagumbayan” (To the Martyr of Bagumbayan) bested 40 other accepted entries. Among his plans were the use of marble from Italy (in contrast to the unpolished granite now at Luneta) and the incorporation of more elaborate figurative elements.

Many accounts explained that the contract was awarded to Dr. Richard Kissling of Zurich, Switzerland for his “Motto Stella” (Guiding Star) because of Nicoli’s inability to post the required performance bond of P20,000 for the duration of the monument’s construction. Some sources say that Nicoli failed to show up at the designated date for the signing of the job contract. Another narrative declared, “parenthetically, the contract was awarded to Richard Kissling because his quotation was lower that that of Prof. Nicoli’s.” A complaint was reportedly filed by Nicoli through the courts of justice.

Some of the local press lambasted Kissling’s model. It was satirized in a cartoon and labeled vulgar y tosco, meaning “lousy.” The constituents of the Jury of Awards – all Americans and none of whom were artists, architects nor engineers –were also questioned. (Then Governor James F. Smith headed the jury.)

There were plans for the famous Filipino painter Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo to inspect and modify the design. However, the latter was ultimately left “as it is” since the bronze of the statues had already been cast in Switzerland.

During Rizal’s (birth) centenary year in 1961, a controversial stainless steel shaft/pylon was superimposed over the granite obelisk. This increased the height of the structure from 12.7 meters to 30. 5 meters.

The said remodeling undertaken by the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission (JRNCC) was widely criticized. It drew derisive remarks of it being “carnivalistic,” “nightmarish,” “commercialized,” “pseudo modern,” “hodgepodge of classic and Hollywood modern,” “fintailed monstrosity,” and “like a futuristic rocket ship about to take off for interstellar space,” to cite some.

Many found the gleaming modernistic steel shaft incompatible with the somber granite base. Moreover, the latter seemed to dwarf the much smaller Rizal figure. Others simply dislike the idea of tampering with a popular and traditional image which was already immortalized in stamps, paper currency, books and souvenirs, among others.

The designer of the remodeling was Juan F. Nakpil – later to become the country’s first National Artist for Architecture. He quoted former Secretary of Education and JRNCC chair Manuel Lim as the one who “envisioned it as a part of obelisk that will jut out to serve as a convenient guide for incoming boats and ships and for the people lost in their way around the city.”

The P145,000 shaft was eventually removed two years later under the request of Secretary of Education Alejandro Roces and Director of Public Libraries Carlos Quirino. It was dismantled during the Holy Week “reportedly to prevent any court injunction from restraining them as government offices were closed during holidays.

Until a few years ago, the pylon stood on Roxas Boulevard to mark the Pasay-Parañaque boundary. Its present whereabouts are uncertain.

Photos by joshbausel via flickr

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LUNETA : A destination, not a landmark

Source: Manila Bulletin | Author: Mary Anne R. Conde

Click here for larger view.

Perhaps one of the most enduring (and endearing) memories we have of childhood is that one lazy afternoon we spent at Rizal Park with our families.

Who does not remember a time when we ran barefoot or flew kites on the wide grassy area in front of the Quirino grandstand, stared curiously at the stoic guards at the Rizal monument, had a picnic with our parents in the one of the park’s gardens, or watched in awe as the sinking sun of Manila Bay set the sky on fire?

Even today, Rizal Park – or Luneta as it is known to many – has not lost its appeal, particularly to people who need a respite from their fast-paced lifestyles.

The park’s popularity could be due to its being the only green spot in the city. It is one of the last places in Manila where you could have fresh air and a tranquil ambience.

Most importantly, the park is important because of its historical value: It is the execution site and final resting place of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

If you find yourself with a free day at your disposal, and the malls don’t exactly appeal to you as a place where you could relax, or the provinces seem too far away, I suggest a walking tour of Rizal Park. Aside from the numerous historical and natural attractions, you get to burn calories at the same time!

However, since the Park is so vast and there are many things to see, I suggest more than just a single visit to appreciate all that Luneta has to offer. During my own walking tour, I was only able to visit just some of the attractions which I feel truly represent the place.

What’s in a name?

In the early 19th century, during the Spanish rule, Intramuros was the social and economic hub of Manila. That was where city’s elite class resided. To further reinforce the stronghold, an area just south of the walls was cleared to prevent sneak attacks from restless natives. The area had the shape of a small moon or “lunette,” hence its name Luneta.

In 1913, the park was renamed as a dedication to Dr. Jose Rizal.


The Eastern section

Perhaps the best place to start the walking tour is at the park’s eastern section, beginning at Taft Avenue. From there you could work your way down to the middle section, then all the way to Quirino Grandstand and finally, end the journey at Manila Bay.

Since the park is so wide, the walk could take the whole afternoon. I advise you to keep to a leisurely pace and enjoy the sights along the way.

The first things that would greet you as you enter the park are the Halamanang Pilipino (Philippine Garden), a relief map of the Philippines and the Children’s Playground.

Sampaguitas, jasmines, dama de noche and other flowers and plants which thrive in the Philippines are the main attractions at the Halamanang Pilipino. Across the garden is a colorful, scaled topographical representation of the country set afloat in a lagoon. (This is best seen when you are riding in the Light Rail Transit.)

At the other end is the Children’s Playground which has a variety of swings, giant slides, and see-saws presented in interesting shapes. A portion of the playground that I particularly enjoyed as a child was the one with the volcanoes and stone dinosaurs. (Its concept came first, way beyond Jurassic Park).

Walking down the park takes you to the Skating Rink. Standing on opposite sides of that area is the Department of Tourism and the National Museum. The twin buildings are rendered in classical Greek-architecture and are favorite spots for picture taking.

Just past the buildings and the Bisig marker, is Maria Orosa which separates the eastern and central portions of the park.

Before crossing the street, you might want to check out the Orchidarium, a mini park focused on orchids but with other attractions typical in a garden.

Central section

After reaching the central section, the first attraction on you right would be the Japanese Garden, which is a gift of the Japanese government to Manila and has a tranquil atmosphere perfect for meditation.

In the middle of the park is the Central Lagoon, which has dancing fountains that can soar up to 80 feet high. Around the lagoon is the Gallery of Heroes or Heroes Promenade. This pays tribute to national heroes such as Marcelo H. del Pilar, Apolinario Mabini, and Sultan Kudarat.

Nearby is the Open Air auditorium where free concerts and plays are held. Next to it is the Chess Plaza, built in 1976 in commemoration of the chess match between grandmasters Garri Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.

After that is the Chinese Garden with its lagoon, pavilion and exotic carps – all gifts from the Filipino-Chinese community. The pavilion is especially to be noted because of its intricate architecture. The atmosphere there is peaceful and the silence is music to your ears. You could almost imagine being in a garden in Ancient China.

Next to the garden is the Mi Ultimo Adios or Rizal’s last farewell engraved in marble. During the day, you pay a R10 entrance fee to this area. In the evening the fee is R50 and includes a light and sound show. The show is held every Wednesday to Sunday at 7-7:30 p.m. for the Tagalog version and 8-8:30 p.m. for the English version.

There are several life-sized bronze statues depicting scenes of Rizal’s life. The most impressive is the tableau that captures Rizal’s death by firing squad. At the foot of the statue is a steel tablet marking the exact spot where the hero died on Dec. 30 1896.

The central and western portions of the park are separated by another major thoroughfare, Roxas Boulevard.

Just before crossing, you will first encounter the Rizal Monument, which is the centerpiece of the whole park. The monument was designed by Dr. Richard Kissling of Zurich, Switzerland and contains the remains of Rizal. During national holidays, wreaths are laid in his honor. All day two guards stand at attention at the monument.

Another interesting feature of this area is the 31-meter flagpole with the only Philippine Flag allowed to fly at all times, regardless of weather. The pole is considered as kilometer zero or the point of reference for land travel throughout the island of Luzon. It was also the site of the Declaration of Independence from American rule on July 4, 1946.

Western section

When you get to the western section, you will be greeted by the wide lawn of Quirino Grandstand. As a child I remember rolling or chasing my cousins barefoot on the grass. We also had our family picnics there, even during the evenings when we could also stargaze.

At the end of Rizal Park is Quirino Grandstand, which is the site of many official state functions such as Independence Day rites and Presidential Inaugurations.

There also are two historic structures on either side of the western section: the Manila Hotel on the right and the Army Navy Club on the left.

The Army Navy Club, established by the Americans in 1898, was frequented by personalities such as Admiral Dewey and General MacArthur. It was used as an evacuation center until it was bombed and burned. Reconstruction was completed in 1950. Today it is managed by the Philippine Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, the Manila Hotel is one of the finest luxury hotels in the Orient. Years ago, it was the second home of General MacArthur and his family.

And finally, to cap off your walking tour, enjoy the cool sea breeze at the Breakwater or edge of Manila Bay. You could spend the rest of the afternoon perched on the low, red-brick wall and stare into the endless expanse of sea and sky.

In the late afternoon you could ride one of the motorboats docked there. For P40 you could get at a 45-minute ride going to the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. You could get a ride shortly before dusk and get a front row seat to the spectacular sunset, which Manila Bay is known for.

Where to eat

I’m sure that all the walking you do to reach the far end of the park is bound to make you hungry. If you decide to eat out, there are a number of restaurants near the grandstand. These range from food stalls to fine dine establishments. I recommend the Sea Food Wharf which has a wide variety of food preparations from fresh, exotic seafood to all-time favorites. The prices are fair (around P100/order, good for two people) and the taste is well-worth the trip.

But, of course, another option is to bring your own food and dine al fresco in the gardens or picnic grounds.






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