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RIZAL PARK: MANILA’S ‘CARDIO-PULMONARY RESUSCITATION’ AMIDST HISTORY & CULTURE
Pauline Volpe
(Contributor)

Rizal Park is an urban park located in Manila, Philippines. It is at the northern end of Roxas Boulevard, along Manila Bay. This Park is a historic place, where a lot of important events took place. It is part of Philippine history and culture. But it is also a place to relax and take a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city of Manila, the world’s eleventh largest metropolitan area, with its more than 1.6 million population.

A place which cannot be ignored

A walk around the city of Manila will prove that Rizal Park is a place which cannot be ignored. It reflects the average Filipino’s way of life on a sunny Sunday afternoon. You will enjoy it certainly.

This 54-hectare park will plunge you into Philippine culture and will make you meet its friendly and hospitable people. You will discover their history, and you will be able to understand a little bit more of this people.

Rizal Park is located next to Manila’s Intramuros, the historic walled city. It is one of the biggest park in Southeast Asia, and is regarded as “Manila’s green lung”. Also called Luneta, because of its crescent moon-shape, it has been renamed in 1913 to pay tribute to Dr. Jose Rizal. A medical doctor by profession, Dr. Jose Rizal was a Filipino intellectual, who fought against Spanish colonization and was executed, in what is now Rizal Park, in 1896.

The Park is divided into four phases : Phase 1 (Grandstand area), Phase 2 ( Elevated Portion), Phase 3 (Monument area) and Phase 4 (Lapu-Lapu area).  If you are in Manila, don’t forget to visit this cultural and historic place, and, of course, take a breather!

Rizal Park and its history

During colonial times, all major political, social and business activities in Manila were confined within Intramuros. That is why an area has been cleared in order to prevent attacks from pirates and revolutionaries. This area was called Bagumbayan, which means "new town". It was also called Luneta.

The Rizal Park pays tribute to national heroes, and recounts Philippine history. A lot of historical episodes and significant moments happened here. It is probably the best place to discover and plunge into the historic past of this country.

The most important episodes which took place in Rizal Park include Rizal’s execution on December 30, 1896. It made him a hero of the Philippine Revolution. There was also the Gomburza executions on February 17, 1872. Before Rizal, three Filipino Catholic priests were executed by guillotine: Fathers Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora. They are collectively known as Gomburza.

On July 4, 1946, the Declaration of Philippine Independence from American rule was proclaimed. From this date, Independence Days are celebrated at Rizal Park. It has to be said that in 1961 President Diosdado Macapagal reverted the holiday to June 12, the day of Philippine Independence from Spanish rule. Presidential inaugurations and political rallies are often held at Rizal Park. In 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino drew millions of people each during their respective rallies at the Quirino Grandstand.

On January 15, 1995, Pope John Paul II celebrated the Closing Mass of the World Youth Day at the Quirino Grandstand, which was attended by more than 5 million people. A lot of historical moments took place at Rizal Park, the heart of the city. That is why Rizal Park is the perfect point of reference if you want to know more about Philippine history.

A walk around the Park

Everyone will find his own way to enjoy Rizal Park. Whether you would like a historical lesson, or a cultural immersion in order to discover Philippine treasures, or even just go for a walk and laze in the sun, you would certainly have a good day there. Are you in terested in history? Do you want to know more about it when you visit a city? History lovers, this place is for you!

At both ends of the Park, you will see two main monuments which pay tribute to the two national heroes. In the Eastern section, you could admire the statue of Lapu Lapu, the first Filipino who fought against Spanish Rule. He was the chieftain of Mactan Island (located a few kilometres from Cebu Island in central Philippines) and he killed Ferdinand Magellan, the first man to circumnavigate the world, during the famous Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521.

On the other side at the Central Section, you will see Rizal Monument and Shrine, designed by Dr. Richard Kissling, which is guarded night and day. All around the Park you will come across historical monuments of other Filipino heroes and historic places such as the Gomburza Marker, and La Madre Filipina created by master sculptor Martinez and which is one of the four statues that used to decorate the posts of Jones Bridge in Manila.

The most impressive one is maybe the Rizal’s Light and Sound Complex.First, you will be able to read the famous poem written by Rizal the day before he was executed, “My Last Farewell” in English and its original Spanish version “Mi Ultimo Adios.” Then, you will have a look at the mural depicting Rizal’s boyhood up to his exile to Dapitan on Mindanao island in southern Philippines. The most impressive part is the exact spot where Rizal was executed by firing squad. You will certainly keep shivering while walking among these three-metre statues. Note that if you may have some more questions in mind, the shrine keeper will answer you with kindness and passion.

If you have time, you should go to the Quirino Grandstand. This is the place where all the big gatherings take place. For example, this is the place where Pope John Paul II celebrated the Closing Mass of the World Youth Day in 1995 with more than five million people in attendance. It is also the place where the Presidents of the Philippines traditionally take their Oath of Office and deliver their first Address to the Nation.

For those who would prefer to discover Philippine culture, a lot of things are going to delight you. First of all, just go for a walk around the Park, and watch around you. You will see people – young and old -- walking, playing, resting, and eating. This is part of Philippine culture. Second, you should have a look at the Flagpole, the Flag is the Kilometre Zero, the particular location from which distances are traditionally measured.You will also be able to have a quick glimpse of the 7,107 islands which compose the country, by watching the Relief Map of the Philippines. This is a huge and colorful representation of the country. And you will realize how many islands there are in the Philippines!

If you are a music lover, go listen to some free concerts every Sunday afternoon at the Open Air Auditorium. Take a seat on the terrace and enjoy the songs and the piano music. You will be happy to see several hundred species of native and imported orchids at the Orchidarium, or to be at the astronomical audio-visual shows and static exhibitions of the Planetarium, or else visit the National Museum of the Filipino People.

And if you feel warm, go refresh yourself at the Ocean Park along Manila Bay. You will get to know thousands of fish, see several manta rays swimming over your head, or else, tremble in front of the sharks. And if you want to be closer to the fish, try one of the surprising attractions such as Doctor Fish, the Marine Life Show, the Aquanaut Voyage, or the Glass Bottom Boatride. For sure, the experience will enchant you! At the end of the visit, don’t forget to have a drink at the White Moon Bar, and enjoy the spectacular view of Manila Bay, especially at sunset.

If you prefer art rather marine life, go visit the National Art Gallery, which is dedicated to famous Filipino painters like Juan Luna, Felix Resureccion Hidalgo or Juan Arellano. You will discover the expressions of Philippine spirituality and history, but also the expression of heroism, sacrifice and spirit to claim liberty and independence. And if you are with little children, go visit the Museo Pambata which can answer children’ questions in an entertaining and educational way.

Finally, if you feel famished go and taste local cooking in the canteens located throughout the Park. You could savour grilled brochette, or suckling pig called lechon de leche, a specialty of the country! Whichever way you want to approach the Philippines, you will definitely find it in Rizal Park!

If your only wish is to find a lush green place, in order to relax and take advantage of the sunny afternoon, come laze in the sun on the grass. Around the lagoon or in the shade of the trees, you would probably find your own small corner of paradise, where you would be able to read, to dream, or to spend a good time with your family and your friends. You should as well take the time to talk with the other parkgoers. The Filipinos are always glad to speak about their country and are also curious to know more about you.

Enjoy the dancing fountains of the Central Lagoon and its dazzling aquatic show. Go to the Chess Plaza, where there is always a match in process. Take the little train which brings you around the Park, or why not a horse-drawn carriage! For the lovers who look for peace and quiet, the place to meet is at the Japanese or Chinese gardens. They are the most silent and romantic places of the Park. You will be able to look at the lovers’ names carved on the trees.

To finish your day, you should go contemplate at the red-orange sunset of Manila Bay. A lot of Filipinos just sit down there in order to make the most of this glorious moment. You won’t be disappointed by this unforgettable sight.

Rizal Park does a make-over !

After many years of wanting improvements, the dancing fountains of the Central Lagoon have been renovated in December 2010. This was a nice Christmas gift for the Filipinos who like to celebrate Christmas at Rizal Park. This new fantastic show multiplied by five the visitors compared to the past years. But the renovation goes on! Actually, The National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) wants to preserve this public place, which is essential in the lives of Filipinos for their culture and their history. The NPDC is initially renovating some other places of interest like the Orchidarium, the Chess Plaza and the Chinese Garden as part of its long-term re-development of Rizal Park. Furthermore, the Children’s playground has opened its doors with swings, slides, see-saws, and more amusements... Now the children have also their own corner of paradise at Rizal Park. 

Rizal Park, Manila’s Lung

In this place, you will be able to know more about history, about culture, or just relax and spend a good time with your family and your friends. Sure, you will find there what you look for, and this is a perfect way to spend a sunny day which make you discover its multifaceted attractions. Why not stay a night more next to Rizal Park, book a room at any of the fine accomodations along Roxas Boulevard, the best of which is Manila Hotel -- the Philippines’ oldest premiere five-star hotel. Opened in 1912, Manila Hotel was General Douglas MacArthur’s home and headquarters during the Second World War. The hotel hosted numerous celebrities like authors Ernest Hemingway and James Michener, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and many world leaders who visited the country.

Certainly, you will enjoy your visit to Rizal Park, a breath of fresh air in Manila which can be so stuffy. This is a place that you cannot ignore. It will make you immerse yourself into the Philippine way of life, and discover the legendary Filipinos’ love for life. All these things will make you like The Rizal Park, Manila and its people. It will make you feel their love for life – joie de vivre!

More than being Manila’s lung, the Rizal Park is its heart.

Ed. Rizal Park is managed by the National Parks Development Committee; Museo Pambata by the Manila City Hall; Manila Ocean Park by China Oceanis  Inc; and National Art Gallery, National Museum of the Filipino People and Planetarium by the National Museum.


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