Heroes come to life
New Intramuros attraction lets you meet and greet Rizal, Bonifacio, etc.By Jeannette I. Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It will be like a theme park where the “rides” come in the form of short plays and tableaus depicting key events in Philippine history, and where costumed street performers assume the persona of national heroes and heroines.
Proponents of the “Heroes Square” educational tour in the historic Intramuros enclave of Manila believe this approach is perfect for children with short attention spans and for adults who want a more interactive refresher on the lives of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and other great Filipino patriots.
A partnership between the Intramuros Administration and the Heroes Square Heritage Corp., the project would allow participants to meet, greet and even talk to the historical characters they would encounter in the different theatrical presentations set at various sites within the Walled City.
It kicked off on Saturday at Fort Santiago’s Rizal Shrine with a 40-minute musical drama titled “Mi Ultimo Adios,” about the last hours of Dr. Rizal before his execution under the Spanish colonial regime in 1896. The title was from the immortal poem he wrote in his cell within the fort.
Yesterday’s performance served as a preview for the regular shows, which will start in August and will involve more outdoor activities, where historical characters from the Spanish, American and Japanese periods will be seen walking among the visitors.
“Our stories are very powerful,” said Jonathan Balsamo, a history major tapped by the project as a tour coordinator. “With historical characters walking and interacting with visitors, a connection is instantly formed.”
The tour was the collective brainchild of teachers and artists who came together two years ago to find a creative, entertaining but still accurate way of presenting Philippine history, he said.
In a matter of minutes, for example, visitors can enjoy a short play and then later encounter the character “Inang Bayan” (Motherland), a Katipunero freedom fighter or even a “comfort woman” from the Japanese occupation, Balsamo said.
He said at least 20 descendants of Rizal had been asked to participate in the tour to give it a more “personal touch.” Visitors are free to ask them questions about the family history.
Gracing yesterday’s launch was Amelia Garcia-Yulo, a great granddaughter of Rizal’s sister Narcisa, who was optimistic that the tour would help the youth keep in touch with their past. “They do not know history anymore as well as they should,” she said.
At the “Ultimo Adios” performance, a group of sixth graders from Bagong Silangan Elementary School in Quezon City were given an inside view into the tragedy that gripped the Rizal family.
The play, written by Anton Juan and Oliver Quintana, with music by Gary Granada, sought to humanize the iconic Rizal through scenes of his last sorrowful moments with mother Teodora Alonzo and his beloved Josephine Bracken.
An actor playing Rizal’s Jesuit teacher Francisco de Paula Sanchez served as the narrator, at times giving away snippets of trivia or breaking into song.
Erick de Paz, who played Rizal, said the role made him proud as an actor and that seeing the visitors’ reactions was extremely rewarding.
Elsewhere in the fort, Rizal’s life as a child was retold with a more comedic touch in a play set at the old Ateneo Municipal de Manila in Intramuros. Another station showed the establishment of the underground Katipunan society.
Intramuros Administration chief Jose Capistrano said the tour should offer something new to Fort Santiago visitors. Field trip participants will no longer just associate the historical site with lunch breaks or picnics, he said.
“Students, for example, will have something else to look forward to in their field trips here,” Capistrano told the Inquirer.
The regular tours for public school students will officially kick off in the second week of August, with performances scheduled three times a week.