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. Rizal Park's history began in the early 1800s during the Spanish rule. While Manila's social and business activities were confined within Intramuros, a small area just south of the walls was cleared to prevent sneak attacks from the patriotic natives. The area was shaped like a small moon (lunette) and thus was named Luneta. The Park was also called Bagumbayan (English: New Town) in Spanish colonial era, and later known as Luneta. Luneta has been the site of some of the most significant moments in Philippine history . Among them are the execution of Dr. José Rizal 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 Declaration of Philippine Independence from American rule on June 4, 1946; and the political rallies of Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino in 1986.

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, known as "Kabalyeros de Rizal" (lit. Knights of Rizal). 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 (text by Robert Paulino)Fact|date=February 2007The 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.

wiss 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.

Art professor Robert Paulino points out that, given their ubiquity (in every town plaza of the country), statues of Rizal are a good field of study. Such a study would yield important insights into the wide variety of ways in which the national hero is portrayed across the nation. One can see how the various communities all over the Philippine embody an idealized national image like Rizal.

Monuments to Rizal began to rise soon after the hero’s death. The first known marker was set up in Daet as early as 1898. This particular one did not even have a figure of Rizal being in a shape, which Daet resident Fernando Amorsolo described as something like a haystack. At about the same period, images of Rizal began to proliferate in magazines and newspapers. Very likely, the monuments to the hero being created by local artists all over the islands were based on these artists' re-creations.

Laguna was chosen as the site of this article’s informal survey of Rizal’s monuments, being the hero’s home province. Even in such a delimited space, an incredible variety was encountered. Most monuments had the hero in his overcoat. The image possibly stems from that photo of Rizal with his friends in Europe. One cannot but muse why this becoated figure of Rizal came to be so favored. It is perhaps an indication that Rizal is seen as a national figure who is also an international figure. Does part of this esteem stem from the perception that he had adventured into other lands, and that he had experienced foreign climes? Or, perhaps, it was because all of Rizal's photos show him wearing an overcoat.

Interestingly, Rizal’s own hometown has the distinction of being one of the few places known to portray the hero in a Barong. This monument is of a more recent vintage. The older pre-war monuments in other parts of Laguna are more elaborate and extravagant. A good example is the one in Nagcarlan.

In the Nagcarlan monument, Rizal is attended to by a whole retinue of figures. At the base of the pylon on which he stands are feminine figures representing virtues like "industry" and "artistry". These figures are in turn surrounded by statues of merlions and maidens holding up torches. One impression which emerges from all of this is that Rizal is being associated with the virtues mentioned above. The hero’s presence becomes a kind of endorsement for these virtues.

In two Laguna towns, Alaminos and Magdalena, Rizal’s figure is embraced by a woman, very likely representative of “Inang Bayan.” She is dressed in the costume of the period (circa 1920s). This time, the insinuation of a woman in familiar attire may be a mechanism to make Rizal less distant, less foreign. One of course can only guess at the intentions of the sculptor and of patrons who commissioned the piece.

The names of the people who put up the monument usually appear in commemorative plaques prominently displayed on the site. Absent are the names of the people who actually made the statues and structures. Research is evidently needed in this area.

In the case of at least one Laguna town – Paete, the creators are identified. In fact, it appears that the sculptors were not commissioned by some committee. They made the monument as a personal homage to the hero as one of them had actually been Rizal’s protégé.

Attractions and Landmarks

The park in modern times has become a local spot for families to have picnics on Sundays and holidays and a major tourist attraction of Manila. It has a small man-made lake with a replica of the Philippine archipelago in the middle. The park has recreational value as well, as bands, orchestras and other sorts of entertainment are provided for free in its open-air auditorium, aptly called "Concert at the Park".

Other attractions of Rizal Park include the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, the Department of Tourism main office, the National Museum of the Filipino People, The National Library of the Philippines, the Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion, the Planetarium, the monument of the Philippines's first hero, Lapu-Lapu, a fountain area, a children's lagoon, a chess plaza, a light and sound presentation on the last days of Jose Rizal,a large open stone model of the Philippine islands, and the Quirino Grandstand.

The big flagpole in front of the Rizal monument is Kilometre Zero or "km 0". It is the starting point for all measurements in distances in the Philippines. For example, the city of Baguio in the north is about 330 km from the city of Manila; specifically, Rizal Park.

Events in History

*February 17, 1872- Execution of Gomburza, an acronym for Fathers Mariano Gómez, José Apolonio Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora--three Filipino priests who were executed by Spanish colonial authorities on trumped-up charges of subversion arising from the 1872 Cavite mutiny.

*December 30, 1896- Jose Rizal's execution (see above).

*July 4, 1946- Official ceremonies proclaiming a fully-independent Republic of the Philippines were held on this site. The highlights of the event were the simultaneous lowering of the American Flag and raising of the Philippine flag to the tune of both nations' national anthems.

*January 15, 1995- A Mass was held here by Pope John Paul II for the World Youth Day, with a crowd of 5 million, the biggest yet of all foreign papal Masses.

*27 November 2005- Rizal Park was the venue of the opening ceremony for the 2005 Southeast Asian Games at the Quirino Grandstand. It was held at an open-air park instead of a stadium, a historic first for a Southeast Asian games' opening ceremony. It was again used on December 5, 2005 for the games' closing ceremony.


The Japanese government issued 'invasion money' to occupied territories in the Pacific area of operations during World War II (1943), one of which was the Philippines. Out of 3 series, the second was issued in 1, 5, 10, and 100 Peso only. All have the Rizal monument vignette.

The Amazing Race 5 also featured this monument on Leg 12 as Route Marker.

External links

* [http://www.nationalparks.ph National Parks Development Committee]
* [http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=rizal+park&m=tags&s=int Photos from Flickr]
* [http://www.maniladailyphoto.com/?s=luneta Photos of Luneta]

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