Visiting Pepe in Luneta

By FATIMAH P. IMAM – It would be unthinkable for a student who immensely enjoyed relearning about Jose Rizal in college to spend a month in Manila without visiting Luneta. And so on an extremely windy Sunday, we paid a visit to the exact spot where our national hero was executed into martyrdom more than a hundred years ago. Getting to Luneta, we took an MRT ride to Taft and a following LRT ride to UN Ave. From there we hopped into a cab to get us to Rizal Park.

I knew it was going to be a promising Sunday because we were lucky enough to have a friendly manong on the wheel. As far as I could remember we were yet to encounter an un-crabby driver ever since we arrived in Manila.

Manong was kind enough to drive us around the park area at a leisurely pace. It wasn’t surprising for Manong to attempt at being tour guide as well.

Historic Manila sites

As we were nearing Luneta, we were able to set our sights on the equally historical Quirino Grandstand. Known as the Independence Grandstand before former President Elpidio Quirino’s death, it has been the site of a number of significant events in our country’s history.

The Quirino Grandstand is the traditional oath-taking venue of the presidents of the Philippines. It also stood as the spot of the Philippine Centennial Celebration.

We were dropped off a few yards away from the Rizal monument. The park still remains a Sunday lounging spot frequented by families and people loafing around on the day of rest.

Tourists, alone and in groups, were busy documenting their own excursions to one of the Philippines’ most historical sites. I even spotted a European-looking man who decided to go about the park barefoot.

Learning about Rizal

When I took up a subject on Rizal, our teacher didn’t take us on a field trip to Dapitan. Field trips to Rizal’s place of exile in 1892 are common in syllabi of Rizal subjects in universities in Iligan, with Zamboanga only a bus ride away.

I felt very lucky, therefore, to have had the opportunity to see the bronze statue of Rizal, standing in all its heroic glory, perpetually guarded by a pair of his kabalyeros.

As early as in elementary education, Filipino children are already introduced to the values one encounters in learning about Rizal. Love of family, love of the environment, and love of country are basic and definitely vital principles children of any nation and generation need to learn to become citizens who contribute to the betterment of their motherland.

Rizal’s final resting place

As I stood there before his monument, it dawned on me that I was on Rizal’s actual mausoleum. It brought to my mind Rizal’s supposed instructions as to his burial, as I read in an essay by historian Ambeth Ocampo. Rizal had preferred to be buried in Paang Bundok but was buried where he was shot instead.

He specified that there were to be no death anniversaries, and yet every December 31st Filipinos commemorate the day he lost his life. Filipinos love Rizal so much as to actually disobey him.

Through Rizal, many of his countrymen in his time found that they had a voice and an identity.

If given the chance, I would definitely take up Rizal again, with or without the field trip.






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