Rizalistas reenact hero’s last steps from Fort Santiago to Bagumbayan
In all their Filipiniana finery and old-fashioned “sapatillas,” men and women dedicated to living by Jose Rizal’s nationalist principles and teachings on Friday walked a kilometer from Fort Santiago to the Rizal Park in Manila to reenact his martyrdom 115 years ago.
It was one of the the biggest gatherings of Rizalistas in the country. Some 400 people, aged 13 to 80, took part in the annual tradition of commemorating the national hero’s ultimate sacrifice.
Members of the Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKR) and its affiliates, the Kababaihang Rizalista Inc. (KRI), the Maria Clara ni Rizal and the Kabataang Pangarap ni Rizal (Kapariz), retraced the national hero’s final walk from his prison cell in Fort Santiago to Bagumbayan (now Rizal Park) where he was executed by firing squad.
A member of the OKR supreme council posed as Jose Rizal, while two of his fellow members were dressed as priests Estanislao March and Jose Villaclara. Another member represented Lt. Taviel de Andrade.
From the prison cell in the centuries-old fortress, the marchers followed the footsteps of Rizal’s death walk, marked in bronze embedded along the paved paths from Fort Santiago to Luneta. Some of the bronze footsteps were missing.
While it was the commemoration of a sad part of the country’s history, it was a festive reunion for Rizalistas and their tribute to the national hero.
“This retracing of the last footsteps of Dr. Jose Rizal is to remind us of his last moments before his execution. Even though these moments were very crucial, he was jolly despite the fact that he was going to be executed,” said Melanie Cecilia Lapore, a KRI member.
Lapore said Rizal “symbolizes bravery and resignation to his fate to sacrifice his life for his country and countrymen.”
Senior members of the Rizalista organizations, some of them using canes, led the march. For them, it was waking up before dawn and participating in the kilometer-long walk once every year on Rizal Day.
Lapore said the elderly Rizalistas were assisted midway by the younger Kapariz members, most of whom hailed from as far as the provinces of Bohol and Davao and the Ilocos region.
Apart from the Kapariz members, the 20 finalists from different colleges and universities around the country for the Jose Rizal Model Students of the Philippines search joined the marchers.
The participation of the younger generation was a good sign for the older Rizalistas, most of whom were teachers and professionals. “These young people are getting involved and they are achievers with the highest honors. Rizal is an inspiration to and an ideal role model for them,” Lapore said.
The KRI complements the Kapariz in education, which the national hero described as “the most powerful avenue to liberate ourselves,” said Lapore.
“The women have a role in our quest for liberation. Before it was from colonization, now it is from corruption and poverty,” she said.
She added, “I feel like we have the responsibility to provide guidance to a child. From this we have a say in how the country ultimately ends up.”
Rizal’s last footsteps give a strong message that we all should embrace, she said. “He greeted his last morning with so much energy and light-heartedness. He had no bitterness at all for his sacrifice for country and for his compatriots which should be the kind of attitude we must have in giving our all to the country,” Lapore said.
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