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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Luneta a silent witness 127 years since Rizal’s death

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Today, the Philippines marks the 127th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, an advocate of reform but not revolution, who was shot by a firing squad for sedition, conspiracy, and rebellion.

Center of the celebration is the 58-hectare bayside Rizal Park, where President Marcos will lay a wreath at the 12.7-meter granite monument erected from 1908 to 1913, where the hero’s remains are after being transferred from the Paco Cemetery in Manila.

The area was formerly called “Luneta” – from the French word Lunette – which means a crescent-shaped fort, the site of “La Calzada,” the social hub of Manila’s elite, and was also used by the Spaniards as an execution ground for rebels and activist Rizal.

On Sept 28, 1901, the United States Philippine Commission approved Act 243, which would erect a monument in Luneta to commemorate Rizal, the Filipino patriot, writer and poet who was only 35 when shot to death as the Philippine sunrise crept over the then Bagumbayan field.

This is the spot where Rizal was executed at 7:03 in the morning, after his pulse rate was checked by Dr. Felipe Ruiz Castillo, who declared it was normal.

Two hours earlier, Rizal married the misty-eyed Hong Kong-born Josephine Bracken, whose parents were Irish, who was gifted by Rizal with the classic Thomas á Kempis book “Imitations of Christ” in which he inscribed, “To my dear and unhappy wife, Josephine, December 30th, 1896, Jose Rizal.”

They embraced for the last time before he was walked to Bagumbayan.

His poem “Mi Ultimo Adios” in original Spanish, is inscribed there, with English translation by Encarnacion Alzona and Isidro Escare Abeto, and Tagalog version by Andres Bonifacio titled “Pahimakas ni Dr. Jose Rizal.”

Rizal’s martyrdom fueled the revolution led, historians say, by the young general Emilio Aguinaldo and Bonifacio.

The group Katipunan, founded by Bonifacio, was unprepared militarily to take on Spain when it began to revolt in response to the Spanish execution of key leaders and priests.

Katipunan split into factions, one of which was led by Aguinaldo who, some historians say, ultimately executed Bonifacio and took over the revolution.

On Dec. 20, 1898, then-President Aguinaldo issued a decree declaring Dec 30 a day of national mourning for Rizal and other patriots, who died during the 377-year Spanish rule that began in 1521.

Over 125 years later, President Marcos, in his speech during the commemorative program, is expected to urge 114 million Filipinos to continue to embody Rizal’s virtues of excellence, patriotism, and perseverance when he leads the commemoration at Rizal Park.

The President will offer a wreath at the Rizal Monument joined by National Historical Commission of the Philippines Chairman Emmanuel Franco Calairo and AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner, Jr.

The program in Manila will coincide with simultaneous programs at the Rizal Shrine in Calamba City, Laguna, and Rizal Shrine in Dapitan City, officials said.

With the theme “Rizal: Pundasyon ng Kahapon, Isinasabuhay Ngayon,” the annual commemoration of Rizal’s martyrdom serves as an opportunity for the Filipino nation “to reflect on the values that his heroism exemplified for our people and how these may serve as a foundation for our future,” a Palace statement said.

Apart from the morning commemorative program, the NHCP and the Philippine Information Agency will also hold the ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of partnerships to promote Philippine history nationwide.

“Monkey and the Turtle” storybooks based off Rizal’s works will also be distributed to children participating in the programs in Manila, Calamba, and Dapitan.

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