Lakbay Rizal – Metro Manila: Rizal Park
The Rizal Park, formerly known as Bagumbayan and then Luneta, started merely as a clearing that overlooked Manila bay back in 1820. It was then developed into a park in the years that followed. It is now one of the Philippines’ main tourist attractions and a popular public plaza where people from different walks of life can find some form of respite from the urban jungles of Metro Manila.
Although the park already underwent several facelifts, controversial revisions and various modern improvements through the years, the Rizal Monument remains to be its most prominent landmark. It was designed by Richard Kissling, a Swiss national. The finished structure was then inaugurated on December 30, 1913.
Enshrined in this beautiful monument are the remains of Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. There are guards that constantly look after Rizal’s tomb. Only dignitaries could approach the monument in certain special occasions. But during the sesquicentennial of Rizal’s birth last year, the cordons were removed so that the public could pay their respects, which is a privilege that may never be granted again anytime soon.
Aside from the Rizal Monument, there are two more sites that are also included in the Lakbay Rizal @150 trail. One of these is the Rizal Fountain which is located at the Noli Me Tangere garden. Rizal used to drink from this humble fountain when he was at the Wilhemsfeld Village in Heidelberg. This happens to be the place where he wrote the final chapters of the Noli Me Tangere. The fountain was sent to the Philippines on December 30, 1964 as gift by the German people.
The Execution Site of Rizal has life-sized sculptures that depict his execution on the morning of December 30, 1896. His death then ignited a revolution that overthrew more than 300 years of Spanish occupation in the Philippines.
Rizal, however was not the only famous personality executed at Bagumbayan. In 1872, Fr. Mariano Gomez, Fr. Jose Burgos and Fr. Jacinto Zamora were also executed by garrote on charges of subversion. The Filipino priests’ deaths left a profound effect on Rizal who was only 11 years old at that time. It is no wonder why Rizal dedicated the El Filibusterismo, his second novel, to their memory.
There are other interesting landmarks at the Rizal Park. One of this is the Kilometer Zero marker right across the Rizal Monument. This is the reference point for all distances in Luzon.
Indeed, a trip to the Rizal Park, which is an overlooked tourist destination in Manila would cost you far less compared to an afternoon spent at a shopping mall. You not only get to burn some calories by walking around but also learn important historical tidbits along the way.
The stamps for the Rizal Park sites of the Lakbay Rizal @150 could be obtained at the National Parks Development Committee. The office is near the Rizal fountain. Look for Mr. Freddie Ebos. The nearest train stop is the United Nations of the LRT-1 line. Other options in getting there are provided here.