By Henry Funtecha – There are lots of ways in which Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines’ foremost national hero, is being honored. His monuments are almost everywhere, and provinces, towns, barangays, streets, parks, schools, banks, and other institutions are named after him.
In Iloilo City, Rizal Street, considered one of the longest and busiest commercial and educational arteries is named after the national hero. It covers the areas from the intersection of Tanza and Ledesma streets up to Corner Zamora-Hughes streets. The Central Market, Terminal Market, and Robinsons Mall lie along this street. It is also where the University of Iloilo and a good number of commercial establishments are located. Agricultural and marine products and goods from the different parts of Iloilo and the rest of Panay are brought to this area, especially to the two public markets to be distributed and retailed.
Rizal Street located at the downtown proper is composed of seven barangays which are adjacent to each other. They are Rizal Ibarra, Rizal Rima, Rizal Pala-Pala Zone I, Rizal Pala-Pala Zone II, Rizal Estanzuela, Maria Clara, and Ortiz. The Rizal monument along Rizal Street is located in front of the University of Iloilo near Gaisano. Not far from it, also along Rizal Street, is the Maria Clara monument, dedicated to the leading lady character in the hero’s controversial novel, Noli Me Tangere.
Then, there is the Rizal monument in all the districts of Iloilo City. In the heart of the downtown area is the Rizal monument in Plaza Libertad. It can be found in the middle of the plaza where the flag of the First Philippine Republic was raised in triumph after the Spanish troops surrendered Iloilo, their last capital in the islands, to the revolucionaries led by Gen. Martin Delgado on December 25, 1898. Plaza Libertad used to be the center of activities of the whole city of Iloilo during its heyday as “Queen City of the South.” It is the place where the Ilonggos of the past leisurely spent afternoon while being entertained by a live band.
Rizal in the Plaza Libertad monument is holding a document with his left hand, while his right is pointing to a certain direction. The concrete pedestal where Rizal stand is occupied with plaques in its four sides. The passage of the plaque in its front view is “Homenaje al Dr. Jose Rizal de la Ciudad de Iloilo, 30 de Deciembre 1917.” The other plaques at the sides have the date of his date and the title of his novel, Noli Me Tangere. The plaque at the back of the monument reveals the committee responsible for the monument and the date of its establishment. This is dated January 28, 1907.
As a tribute to Rizal, Ilonggos gather in Plaza Libertad and hold a program every December 30. The celebration is usually participated in by schools, government agencies and their employees, the private sector, the media, and barangay contingents who, together, release white balloons and doves and take turns in offering flowers at the Rizal monument.
At the far end of Ledesma Street is the Rizal Elementary School (RES). RES celebrates Rizal’s birth anniversary annually every June 19 by offering flowers to the statue of Rizal situated at the school entrance which was installed on November 30, 1989. There is also a short re-enactment of the significant moments in Rizal’s life. RES also remembers and celebrates the death and martyrdom of Rizal every December 30 by having a mass, field demonstrations, games, programs and activities, and flower offering. December 30, in fact, is considered as the Foundation Day of the school. Sometimes, the school administration officials also participate in the annual celebration of the City of Iloilo by joining the commemoration of Rizal’s martyrdom in Plaza Libertad. Also significant is that the face of the hero is printed on the school logo to symbolize RES’ veneration of the heroism and patriotism of Rizal.
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