By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(October 1995)

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T WAS A FRIEND from Mount Banahaw who first told me about the condition of the Rizal Monument at the Rizal Park in Manila at night. I saw him about a week ago and he told me the monument was in complete darkness a few nights before, and that he was told by people who were frequently there that this had been the case for more than a week. I saw it for myself last night. There was not even a low-watt bulb trained at what I consider to be The Rizal Monument among all monuments to this hero everywhere else (his bones are interred there)..

Nearby, there were two trees that fully glowed with hundreds of small bulbs, but the central monument and final resting place of Jose Rizal, one of only two officially recognized national heroes of this country (the other one is Andres Bonifacio), was completely in darkness. The giant Philippine flag that stood high on a tall pole to one side of this monument was also in the dark; I could not even be sure it was flying at the time I passed by. I asked a balut vendor who was walking a little ahead of me, and he confirmed: the Rizal monument had been in darkness for about two weeks by his rough estimate.

There could be a lot of possible reasons for this state of affairs in this major national shrine at the heart of Manila. And I do intend to find out what really is the reason for this. What immediately comes to mind is the possibility that the entity responsible for the upkeep of this park had not been able to pay its electric bills. But then, the park's walkways are lighted. Is monument itself out of the priorities for lighting?

This is ironic. Here we are keeping the principal monument of one of our national heroes -- in fact many call him the national hero -- in the dark while another country, Malaysia, pays him tribute with an international conference that had our President as guest speaker!

What makes this more ironic is that there are serious plans to erect what is to be called the "Centennial Tower" in the same park, at an estimated cost of $200 million (that's two hundred million dollars, or ten times what the United States paid Spain to buy our entire country, people and all, 97 years ago!). That tower would dwarf the Rizal Monument, and consign it to second-fiddle importance in the national park named after the hero. There have been feeble attempts to link the tower to the monument, claiming to even "raise Rizal" to higher levels and claiming also to fulfill Rizal's vision as expressed in the essay, "The Philippines, A Century Hence."

I studied that essay closely when I prepared my own response to it ("The Philippines, A Century Thence, an open Letter to Rizal," published in 1990), and I don't recall a distinct passage that would validly relate to the centennial tower plan. Because of this, I would readily support the signature campaign launched by the artists making up the groups Art for Earth's Sake and Ugnayang-Sining ng Sentyenaryo '96 behind the urgent appeal for government to "Spare Rizal Park, the only major open space left in the City of Manila! Build your towers elsewhere! Protect the Environment!"

And, while we debate the prudence of sinking the equivalent of P5,200,000,000 (that starts with the words, five billion!) to erect that tower, let us find the money to bring back nighttime lighting for the Rizal Monument. Rizal gave us not only heroic blood but much light in the wisdom of his thoughts. Let us not keep his monument in eerie darkness much longer.

Or is it a deliberate move to "keep him in the dark" about schemes that would use his name in vain?

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)



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