Aquino unveils world’s tallest Rizal statue in Calamba
SAN PEDRO, Laguna—The home province of Jose Rizal will mark his 150th birthday today (Sunday) with a series of commemorative activities that will include the unveiling of a 22-foot bronze statue—said to be the tallest cast of the national hero anywhere in the world—in Calamba, his birthplace.
The hero’s bronze likeness stands on a tiled concrete pedestal mounted on a platform surrounded on all sides by flights of stairs.
15th President, 22 steps
“If measured from the concrete base, the whole monument stands four stories high,” said Peter Capitan, the city information officer, who read some significance into the fact that you have to take 15 steps to reach the foot of the statue.
He noted that President Benigno Aquino III, who is expected to unveil the monument on Sunday, is the country’s 15th President.
Capitan also noted the significance of the 22-foot measurements of the statue. He said it was only at the end of the project that its proponents learned the significance of the number 22 to Rizal. He said this was the number of languages and dialects that the national hero knew.
“It was as if Dr. Jose Rizal himself was behind the construction of his monument,” he said.
Construction of the statue started late last year with the cost already running into the “millions,” according to Capitan.
The site of the new Rizal monument is a 6.9-hectare government property right across the city hall in Calamba’s Real village.
The statue, started in December 2010, was designed and executed by sculptor Jonas Roces, 35, of Marikina.
According to Capitan, the artist who was given the original commission fell ill at the start of the project and they were referred to the young Roces.
“I think he mentioned this was the first [statue] he made of this height,” Capitan said.
Roces, who comes from a family of sculptors, had only sculpted medium-sized ones before, among them those of Mr. Aquino’s parents, martyred opposition leader Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon Aquino.
“We saw him work hard under the heat and until late in the evening for this project. He turned quite dark while on this job,” Capitan said.
“Every time I saw him [Roces] looking at his art, I would notice he was teary-eyed,” Capitan said.
He said the original plan was to build a 16-foot monument only. But when Calamba Mayor Joaquin Chipeco heard about an 18-foot-tall Rizal statue in Nueva Ecija, he decided to increase the height to 22 feet.
“It was really the mayor’s vision to build the tallest Rizal statue during his term,” Capitan said, adding that it was only coincidence that Chipeco thought of the number 22.
Roces and his assistants, about a dozen people, were not discouraged and immediately made the adjustments to the statue in February.
Before the unveiling ceremonies, Mr. Aquino will preside at flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies and deliver a Rizal Day speech at the Rizal Shrine, the old Rizal family home, near the city plaza.
The shrine is a 10-minute car ride from the new monument.
“We are expecting a bigger program this year. We will have the longest and most-participated civic-military parade around Calamba in the afternoon,” said Capitan.
He said 22 floats are expected from several police and Army units, civic groups and other Laguna towns that have signed up to join the parade, with around 5,000 people expected to join. Free concerts are scheduled for the evening.
The provincial government kicked off the Rizal Day festivities with a program at the provincial capitol grounds in Sta. Cruz last Friday.
According to Governor Jeorge E. R. Ejercito, the flag-raising and wreath-laying centered on two Rizal monuments in the grounds of the capitol which the Ejercito family had donated last December for the hero’s 114th death anniversary.
A statue of Paciano Rizal, the hero’s older brother, was also unveiled last Friday at the Laguna provincial police headquarters in Sta. Cruz, in recognition of Paciano’s contributions to the Philippine Revolution.
Rizal and I
Ejercito said the eRizal Tablet project, in which 1,500 units of tablet computer devices will be distributed initially to students of Laguna College in July, will be formally presented to Mr. Aquino during the Rizal Day rites.
In Biñan, the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development (UACCD)-Youth Performance Council, a local artists’ group, was to stage a one-and-a-half-hour original vignette “Si Rizal at Ako” (Rizal and I) at the city plaza at 8 p.m. last night, the eve of the Rizal Day celebrations.
“It is a montage of Rizal’s writings and songs attributed to him. It basically answers the question of who is Rizal for us at present times,” said stage director BJ Borja.
Borja said the stage presentation also features the controversies in the Alberto House, the ancestral home in Biñan of Rizal’s mother, Teodora Alonso.
The city government and the UACCD have opposed the dismantling of the heritage home which has been sold to a developer who plans to transfer the house to a private heritage resort in Bataan.
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