Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Circuiting Manila: Passing Luneta Park

* the infamous motorized ‘pedicabs’ which, having features very close now to tricycles, plunged into an issue which would possibly require each ‘cab’ to be registered to the LTO

* the Central United Methodist Church; first protestant church in the country; the first chapel was inaugurated in 1901, replaced with a modern structure in 1906, and turned into a cathedral by 1932; World War II came and destroyed it but was later rebuilt in 1949; name evolutions: Central Methodist Episcopal Church, Central Methodist Church, and finally, Central United Methodist Church

To simply realize that Manila is a city with a rich history of its own dating even earlier than the Spanish period is enough to make a tour of it a fulfilling one. Despite the dominating modernity that gradually dictates the feature of this city, history lurks literally on its every corner, lying in wait to be discovered by those who have the heart and interest to do so.

My Manila visits (which I shall attempt to share here) are by no means thorough, as I only been able to do so during those instances that I had to do some errands in the city. But I am glad to be able to cover some of the most interesting places to me.

* the Rizal Monument with its guards that never fail to amuse me

Perhaps one of the focal points of the city is the Luneta Park, where the great monument for Jose Rizal is found, together with some of the structures and places that are of historical interest.
Then called Bagumbayan, Luneta Park is lies side-by-side with Intramuros, and has been the execution grounds during the Spanish times. When the Americans came, the grounds together with the seaside that they face have been the place for target practicing by the American troops.

This may be no longer new but the Rizal Monument does not really stand on the place where Rizal was actually executed. If you face the monument, you can find the execution place on your left. There is a recreation I think for the execution through lights and sounds, although I did not pursue it as times in Manila has always been strictly hectic. The sculpture that deck the Rizal Monument is called ‘Motto Stella’ which was the second place winner for the contest put up precisely to have a ‘design’ of some sort on the monument. I apologize for not being able to recall the reasons for installing the second prize winner. My notes for it are probably buried in my pile of notes and documents.

* the GOMBURZA execution site; this one can already be called an obelisk I think

On the other hand, the first time – that is, with full awareness of what I was visiting – I went to the execution place of the GOMBURZA (which stands for the names of the three martyred priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora) I could not help but linger to the place and thought of the brutal execution that happened on that very spot. That might have irked my sister whom I asked to accompany me in my earlier Manila visit, who seems to have this default view that I tend to do crazy things.

They were implicated after what is now called the Cavite Mutiny (La Algarada Caviteña), which happened on January 20, 1872, had been curbed. Perhaps in light of the then brewing controversy (or rumor) of overthrowing the Spanish rule, they were the first ones to be arrested and accused as the principal agitators of the mutiny, and of the anti-Spanish crusades in general. The arrest might have been closer to Padre Jose Burgos who was known to be very active and vocal in the condemnation of the inequalities which were experienced by the Filipino priests in the administration of the parishes – a part, as it may seemed to some, of the general thrust of the Spaniards to further subdue the Filipinos. They were executed on February 17, 1872 through the use of a garrote which I believe was painful for the condemned and for those who watched the execution. I have read somewhere that Paciano Rizal have witnessed the execution of the three priests.


The notoriety of the Luneta Park for death is given more emphasis by the recent Quirino Grandstand (or Luneta Park) Hostage Drama which resulted to the death of some Hong Kong nationals and of the police hostage taker. We were around the area at that time (as we have just come out of the Philippine National Library and were headed towards Museong Pambata) and were already aware of the event. I felt like going to the place but nevertheless decided against it. The decision was wise enough as I learned later that a child bystander – a part most likely of the crowd that is called ‘mga usisero’t usisera’ – suffered a gunshot wound.

[How to go to Luneta: from ‘LRT’ (actually the Gil Puyat LRT Station) which is the hub anyway of traveling buses from Metro Manila to nearby provinces, you can simply ride the LRT and drop off at United Nations Avenue Station. From that, a short walk would bring you to Luneta.]

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