Bagatsing: Historian owns idea to make Rizal face Torre de Manila
In an abrupt about-face, a Manila congressman claimed that he was not the brains behind the proposal to make the Rizal Monument in Luneta face the City of Manila and the Torre de Manila, instead of the Manila Bay.
Manila fifth district Rep. Amado Bagatsing said he was only airing the sentiment of a history professor from the University of Santo Tomas, who approached him, citing research from history books, saying that the national hero’s monument should me made to face Manila.
“This professor and historian of UST, Robert Paul Jurado, wrote me to call my attention to this matter,” Bagatsing said in a press conference Monday. “He said that amid the Torre de Manila issue, it is also the right time to revisit and ask why Rizal faces the sea, and to rectify this.”
Bagatsing said that in Jurado’s letter, the professor cited the works of historians and Rizal researchers such as Gregorio Zaide and Austin Coates, stating that the guards told Rizal that he was a traitor so he would have to face the sea as he was shot. Rizal had wished to face his executioners as he was shot.
“As a Filipino, and as the congressman whose area includes the Rizal Park, it hurts to think that we think that Rizal is a traitor because his back is still turned away from his people and his nation,” Bagatsing said.
However, the Order of the Knights of Rizal (KOR), which was created to honor and uphold the ideals of Jose Rizal, and which has sought the demolition of the Torre de Manila condominium for marring the background of the Rizal Monument, denied that this was the reason why the monument was designed to face the sea.
“We respect the opinion of the honorable congressman. This is not the first time that such things have been suggested, but our opinion is that Rizal’s monument should not be moved. The location and the orientation of the monument facing the sea is part of its historical and cultural value,” Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua, a historian and the spokesman of KOR, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.
Sought for comment, Chua explained that the monument, erected in 1913 in the park known then as Luneta, was really built as intended to face the Manila Bay.
“The monument faces the Manila Bay because it is meant to be the entrance to the Rizal Park. It is the gateway meant to provide a majestic view at the entrance and to welcome visitors as well,” Chua said. “Would you want the monument welcoming you to the park to have its back facing you when you enter?”
He added that as such, the monument has been facing the sea for over 100 years now. “Many presidents and dignitaries have laid wreaths on the monument in that default position. It’s location is now part of history. To change it now would be a very big issue,” Chua said.
Finally, the monument’s position takes on a higher significance when presidents of the Philippines are sworn into office in the Quirino Grandstand, according to Chua.
“Manolo Quezon once said that when presidents are sworn into office in the grandstand, they face three things: the people, the Philippine flag, and Rizal’s monument. This symbolism will fade once the orientation of the monument is changed,” he said.
Chua noted that moving the monument would not solve the problem of photobombers.
“If the monument is modified to face the other way around, it will still have photobombers, namely the trucks that pass by Roxas Boulevard, the Quirino Grandstand, and the hotel behind it. In addition, the monument will be against the light in the afternoon, when people like to take pictures of the monument,” he said.
Chua said that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) could veto the proposals as its predecessor did in the case of the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan, when the government suggested transferring it to Tala, Caloocan, when the Light Rail Transit was being built. The then National Historical Institute junked the proposal, which meant the LRT had to skirt the monument and just pass by its side.
Bagatsing said that he “informed” the NHCP of Jurado’s letter, writing them to clarify on the matter. “If the NHCP agrees, then we need to do something to rectify the situation, but if they disagree, then I rest my case.”
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