The other day, June 19th, was the 150th birthday anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. In the last six months, I had suspected that Calamba City was up to something in celebration of this year’s birth anniversary of the national hero. One hundred fifty years is something to celebrate about, I think.
In connection with Rizal’s birthday, there’s this bill filed by Congressman Timmy Chipeco of the Second District of Laguna making June 19th a national holiday. This bill, I’m informed, is “languishing” in Congress. No congressional action, which is not really staggeringly surprising given the record of Congress through the years.
Until this year, the death anniversary of Rizal, December 30th, has always been celebrated as national holiday. But his birthday, which by any measure should be the more important date than his death, has always been celebrated only in Calamba initially and then later in Laguna in the ;ast decade or so. Such has always led to soul searching among Filipinos who know their history with the fundamental question, “why is it that Filipinos prefer to celebrate Rizal’s death rather than his birth?”
Well, this year President Aquino proclaimed June 19th a national holiday. Such proclamation, however, is good only for this year. Suppose there’ll be no proclamation next year? We’ll have to return to June 19 as an ordinary day in our national life. When Congressman Chipeco’s bill gets approved and becomes a law, then June 19th becomes a permanent National Holiday for the Philippines. That’ll be a fitting tribute to Rizal, who probably has been turning in his grave disturbed by where our country is heading today.
The new Rizal monument, constructed at the new Rizal Park across from the new City Hall of Calamba, is a 22-feet structure. No one is saying how much the total cost is, but it’s well over the one-million peso mark. In fact, it could be more than 10M given that the statue itself is made of bronze. The bronze statue is mounted on a pedestal 15 flight of stairs high. What are the significances of these figures?
The fifteen steps of the stairs, are supposed to symbolize the fact that President Aquino, who was present in the other day’s inauguration of the Rizal Monument, is the 15th President of the Philippines. The 22 feet, which is the entire height of the monument was supposed to symbolize the 22 languages and dialects that Rizal spoke in.
Originally, the monument was supposed to be 18 feet in all, but when City Mayor Jun Chipeco learned that there’s a Rizal monument in Nueva Ecija that’s 18 feet tall, he decided to increase the height to 22 feet, which just happened to be the number of languages and dialects Rizal spoke in.
Anyway, the Rizal Monument in Calamba City is now the tallest Rizal monument anywhere in the world. Indeed, the structure is imposing. Most of the people I happened to have asked regarding their opinion about the new Rizal Monument said they’re happy with it. Seems Mayor Chipeco struck a goldmine of a public relations event right there, too. It’s beginning to be a tourist attraction just a couple of days after it was inaugurated on June 19th 2011.