In solemn rites Sunday morning, President Aquino laid a wreath at the monument of Jose P. Rizal, capping the 116th anniversary of the national hero’s martyrdom and the centennial of the transfer of his remains from Binondo to Luneta Park.
The President said the double celebration challenged Filipinos “to forge unity in the face of differences.”
“This year, we’re marking the 100th year of the interment of our national hero’s remains at the Rizal Park where Filipinos can freely honor his important contribution to the shaping of our country,” the President said in a statement posted on the government website.
“For his memory’s sake, we continue to respond to the challenge of the times: How to weave unity in spite of differences? How to inflame concern for others and flag? We hope that we will be more determined in paddling toward the same direction to achieve the full potential of our national language,” he added.
Also Sunday, the country commemorated the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the national language by President Manuel L. Quezon.
Quezon proclaimed Dec. 30 National Language Day as “the fulfillment of the cherished aspiration of Rizal.”
As “Bayan Ko” played, the President, Dr. Maria Serena Diokno of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and Armed Forces Chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa walked toward the monument as two soldiers in gray ceremonial uniform carried the wreath.
Standing erect and facing the monument, the President saluted as cannons fired a 21-gun salute, an honor reserved only for heads of state.
Rizal’s descendants, Amelia Garcia Yulo, Victor Reyes, Malou Villaroman, Marlene Lopez Jacinto and Gemma Cruz-Araneta, among others, stood close by.
Shortly after, a funeral dirge was played.
Minutes earlier at around
7 a.m., as a large crowd gathered at Rizal Park, the President hoisted the flag on the Independence flagpole in front of the monument.
At that hour, flags were simultaneously raised at Rizal shrines across the country.
Besides Diokno and Dellosa, joining the President at the ceremonies were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, supreme commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal Reghis Romero II and grand master of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines Santiago Gabionza Jr.
Sunday’s commemoration of Rizal Day was doubly significant because it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the transfer of Rizal’s remains from the house of his sister Narcisa in Binondo to the Luneta Park, where they were interred in a chamber in the base of the monument on Dec. 30, 1912.
The Knights of Rizal and the National Historical Commission of the Philippines reenacted the funeral march from Narcisa’s house in Binondo to the Luneta Park, with a motorized caisson carrying an urn containing a piece of bone from the hero’s spine leaving the Binondo house at 4 a.m.
After his execution on Dec. 30, 1896, Rizal’s remains were clandestinely buried in Paco Cemetery. After exhumation in 1898, the remains were kept by the Rizal family until Dec. 30, 1912, when these were interred in the foundations of the monument to the hero at the Luneta Park.
During the reenactment of the funeral procession, 12 Knights of Rizal dressed in a copy of their 1912 uniform escorted the caisson. At the head of the funeral march were Rizal’s descendants led by Araneta, great-granddaughter of Maria Rizal and vice chair of Manila Historical and Heritage Commission.
“This reenactment is important, so that we may remember the lessons from our heroes and understand the significance of their sacrifices for our country, lest we forget,” Araneta said.
The funeral party linked up with delegations at Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz and marched to Jones Bridge then turned right to Magallanes Drive to be joined by another host of participants in Intramuros.
Participants assembled in Intramuros carried lit candles and solemnly sang “Pilipinas Kong Mahal.”
The procession proceeded to Bonifacio Drive and was followed by more participants at the Manila Hotel.
After the procession arrived at the Luneta Park at around 5:30 a.m., Romero and Gabionza laid the urn inside the base of Rizal’s monument.
Later, in an interview with the Inquirer, Marlene Lopez Jacinto, a great-granddaughter of Rizal’s brother Paciano, said: “Every time we think about what [Rizal] went through, there’s still a sense of sadness. Then you realize, what did it amount to? What did he sacrifice for? Where is our country now?”
“With our faith, we always have to have a sense of hope and love and understanding of his sacrifice. I think we should be more reflective on our history, on what our national hero did,” she said.
“Jose Rizal was an utmost example of a Filipino. We are proud of him, not only of his love for country, but also of his genius. And if we have that in us, we can reflect how we can imitate him in our own way,” she said.
Another descendant from Rizal’s sister Saturnina, Victor Reyes, said, “We can all be heroes in our own little ways, like serving our countrymen, loving our family and following the law.”
Rizal bust in Asean Garden
A bust of Rizal was later unveiled at the Asean Garden in Intramuros to mark the 45th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Relatives of Rizal and representatives from the 10 Asean countries attended the ceremony led by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.
“Our presence here today attests to our deep admiration and strong sense of history relative to the valued place of Rizal in the evolution of the Filipino nation,” Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio said in a speech during the ceremony.
“Rizal remains an inspiration to all of us in the region and in the world. In his aspirations in attaining reform and freedom through peaceful means, he became Asia’s first contemporary nonviolent advocate of nationalism. His devotion and loyalty to his beloved country has underscored the importance of national identity and the value of the rights of the individual,” she said.
Jose Capistrano Jr., head of the Intramuros Administration, said it was significant to install a bust of Rizal in the Asean Garden, which was built years ago to honor the founding fathers of the regional group.
Vietnam has installed a bust of its former leader Ho Chi Minh and Laos has plans to follow suit, Capistrano said.
“Our unity springs from understanding one another. We are able to do this through a language that mirrors the heritage of our history and our collective aspirations as one country,” President Aquino said in a statement.
“This day, three generations have passed since President Manuel L. Quezon promoted our national language. After a long discourse and a complicated process, the basis for the birth of Filipino has been set: our national language. To this day, we continue to strengthen our engagement as Filipinos,” Mr. Aquino said.
Quezon deliberately timed the proclamation of the national language with Rizal Day because he hoped for a country that is free and has its own identity, Mr. Aquino said.
“Rizal’s push for a national language symbolizes our own obligations: engage fairly with others, understand the challenges they’re facing, and lift them up so they could overcome these,” he said.