President unveils 22-foot statue of the national hero in Calamba City
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna, Philippines — Under an overcast sky and amid a drizzle, President Benigno Aquino III unveiled the towering brass iron monument of Dr. Jose Rizal, on Sunday, and stressed how the national hero lived his life following the ‘straight path.’
“Sa sunud-sunod na pagharap niya sa sangan-daan, mula sa pagka-binatang pinagkaitan ng ilang karalangan, hanggang sa bayaning tinawag na mag-alay ng buhay para sa bayan, hindi naligaw si Rizal mula sa tuwid na daan (Faced with so many crossroads, from the time he was a young man deprived of honor until he became the hero who gave up his life for his Motherland, Rizal never strayed from the straight path),” Aquino said in his speech during the 150th Rizal birth anniversary held in the hero’s hometown here on Sunday.
Tracing back history, Aquino said Rizal had his own “crossroads,” when his family suffered the abuses of the Spaniards.
“He could have just turned a blind eye to what was happening around him, or used the education he earned from the universities in Manila and in other countries to make himself rich and find himself a beautiful wife,” Aquino said of Rizal, who like him was a bachelor.
Speaking rhetorically, Aquino added: “maaari s’yang magpatangay na lamang sa agos ng baluktot na sistema at kahit pa alam n’yang mali ay, makipag-plastikan na lang sa mga prayle tuwing may handaan.” (He could have just gone along with an unjust system even if he knew it was wrong and dined and wined with friars.)
Aquino has been trumpeting the “tuwid na daan (straight path)” from the time he campaigned for the presidency.
Aquino had brushes with the Catholic Church in his first year of office over the controversial reproductive health bill, which he insisted would promote responsible parenthood.
Arriving 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, Aquino first visited the Rizal shrine at around 7:45 a.m. and offered a wreath to the statue of the young Jose Rizal. He immediately proceeded to the new Rizal monument, in front of the city hall, for the unveiling of the country’s tallest Rizal monument at 22 feet, assisted by local officials.
Also present at the activity were the National Historical Commission chair, Dr. Ma. Serena Diokno, Laguna Gov. Jeorge Ejercito, and Calamba City Mayor Joaquin Chipeco.
Ejercito and Laguna provincial Board Member Neil Nocon presented to Aquino the e-Rizal tablet, which the provincial government would soon launch as a pilot project in some universities in Laguna.
“(Aquino) told the governor (Ejercito) that he will look into (the possibility of adopting the e-Rizal tablet in schools nationwide). He said it was like an iPad,” Nocon said.
Aquino was given a unit of the e-Rizal tablet, initially loaded with an electronic copy of the book “Lolo Jose,” said Nocon.
Talking to a crowd composed of Filipiniana and barong-clad government officials, civic groups, and students, estimated by the police to have reached 3,000, Aquino encouraged the audience to emulate the national hero.
“Not everyone is called to offer his life for his country, but for most of us, heroism is gauged in the crossroads we face every day,” he said.
He said this could be done by simply obeying the laws, such as traffic rules or paying the taxes; showing respect for others; and performing one’s sworn duties in the government.
He also encouraged the public to see the original manuscript of Rizal’s El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere, which were opened for public viewing from Sunday until Monday.
Aquino mentioned some of his administration’s plans and programs, such as holding the Autonomous Region in Muslin Mindanao (ARMM) elections simultaneous with the national elections in 2013 and increasing the funds for education, health, and the conditional cash transfer program.
“I already emphasized this several times: that it is not the applause nor the recognition that drives me to getting up each day to serve my bosses,” he said. Aquino earlier already referred to his constituents as his “boss.”
Meanwhile, seven youth activists were arrested after sneaking through the back and made their way to the sidelines of the program area for a lightning rally. The activists called for the increase in the national budget for education, saying there have been no changes under the Aquino government. Their protest, however, did not disrupt the rites led by the President, who was at the middle of delivering his speech.
The protesters were immediately apprehended by members of the Presidential Security Group and were detained at the city police station on charges of alarm and scandal.
Police identified them as Bhen Aguihon, Ynik Ante, Ruffa Solano, Catherine Gigagonte, and Mikel Mozo of the Kabataan Partylist-University of the Philippines in Los Baños; and Jeofrey Barreto and Rodel Badayos of Anakbayan Partylist.
Another group of 150 farmers from Canlubang Coalition also staged a rally near the unveiling site, calling for the inclusion of the 7,100-hectare land in Barangay Canlubang, here, in the agrarian reform program
The farmers, however, were able to come near the city hall and were not allowed to go near the ceremony site until after the program was over, and President Aquino had left.
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