Saturday, October 17, 2009

Not-So-Forgotten Rizal Park

Rizal Park or Luneta is so famous amongst Filipinos that there's an expression widely used which goes, "parang naglalakad lang sa Luneta", literally translated "just like strolling in Luneta". The expression simply describes a person who walks slowly, without any care if the person behind him needs to rush past. Like a tourist sightseeing.

I wonder, how many Filipinos have used this expression but haven't actually been to Luneta? And when I say been, I mean sitting on a bench or the grass to read a book, having picnic with friends, or taking the kids to the playground. If not for a compulsory school field trip, perhaps less people would have the chance to go.

For some, spending a day in Luneta is unglamorous. Since the birth of posh malls, it seems the park was left only for the masses. This is actually based from my personal observation. Apologies to those who think otherwise. This post's objective, is to re-introduce the park to my fellow Filipinos.

It was a Saturday, my fiance and I accompanied my sister to run an errand within the area. I told her we might as well hang around the park. She has never been to Luneta and was excited to check it out.

We started with The Statue Of The Sentinel Of Freedom, a 30-foot monument that stands on a 10-foot pedestal at Teodoro F. Valencia Circle (formerly Agrifina Circle). It is a bronze statue of Lapu-Lapu, the first-ever recognized Filipino hero. A gift from the Korea Freedom League to Filipinos, it was made by sculptor Juan Sajid L. Imao.

Just behind it is the Relief Map of The Philippines, a replica of our archipelago in the middle of a man-made lake. It is best seen from a bird's eye view which you can get if you take the LRT from Central Terminal to United Nations or vice versa. It was a project of President Marcos executed by The National Parks Development Development Committee. Sculptor, Jose M. Mendoza. Nearby is the children's playground.

The Department of Tourism is about a 200-meter walk from the relief map. It's a charming building (of Greek architecture) painted a happy lemon yellow, the same as Manila City Hall. We shortly interrupted a couple's pre-nuptial pictorial for the photo above.

The clouds turned gray all of a sudden, and we walked briskly towards Rizal's monument, hoping it doesn't rain soon. But we stopped every so often to let our eyes wanders off the different sights. The afternoon swarm of park visitors were busy with their respective activities: playing arnis, practicing dance numbers or cheering routines, picnicking, and of course post-lunch siestas. We passed by the entrances to the Chinese and Japanese Garden, the Orchidarium, food kiosks housed in replicas of a traditional nipa hut, and made a brief stop at the open-air auditorium where we watched a band and marjorettes perform for free. Have you seen the show 'Concert At The Park' on T.V.? That's where the performances are held.

On both sides of the man-made pond behind Rizal's monument, are the busts of national heroes. We were reading up on the information on each bust when it started drizzling. We took refuge underneath a group of trees, and snacked on dirty ice cream in buns. We were standing right beside the Light and Sound Complex, in front of us the Gomburza marker, where the three priests were executed by strangulation.

When the rain subsided, we continued walking finally to the monument. Rizal was not executed on the spot where the monument is situated, there is a marker about fifty meters away where he was actually martyred.

In front of the Rizal Monument is a 31-meter flagpole which serves as Kilometer Zero, the starting point from which distances are measured in our country.

We were not able to cover the whole area, and that means we should come back for another visit very soon.

"Wag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan" (literally, don't be a foreigner in your motherland) - don't treat it as a cliche, instead, use it as a motto. Let us not put Rizal's heroism into waste.


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