Three days from now, it'll be December 30, the 120th anniversary of the death of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines' national hero. It's also a regular holiday, meaning that employees who work on that day are compensated extra for their work.
At the same time, holidays are also a chance to relax, unwind, and recharge for the New Year. If you're still heady from the Christmas break, and you feel like honoring Rizal's memory, find out more about "Lolo Pepe" by visiting one of the monuments below.
The First Jose Rizal Monument
Location: Daet, Camarines Norte
As its name suggests, this Rizal Monument is the first of its kind in the Philippines. Designed by members of the Philippine Revolutionary Army, and funded by the people of Camarines Norte, the Unang Bantayog ni Jose Rizal is easily distinguishable by its white, three-tiered facade, with yellow stars on all sides of the topmost "pyramid," and a tiny sun topping the monument like a star on a Christmas tree.
The monument was built exactly two years after Rizal's death on December 30, 1898, when General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the date a national holiday. (Incidentally, it was also six months after Aguinaldo officially declared Philippine independence.) Aside from the features already mentioned above, the monument also has the publication dates of Rizal's two famous novels — Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo — inscribed on its base.
The Rizal Monument of Tacloban
Location: Tacloban, Leyte
Two years before Typhoon Haiyan struck Tacloban, the UP Vargas Museum opened a Rizal-themed exhibit in the town, which included — among others — a black-and-white life-sized statue of the hero standing on a red pillar. The exhibit also paid homage to Rizal through works by contemporary artists, historical documents, films, and more.
Not much is known about this particular monument, however. If you want to know more about the monument and the story behind it, contact the Vargas Museum here.
The Rizal Monument of Villasis
Location: Villasis, Pangasinan
In the sleepy town of Villasis, Pangasinan lies yet another Rizal monument, this one right beside the Villasis Town Park. Like the monument in Tacloban, there's not much info on this one, except that it depicts the hero in a black-and-white outfit standing on a base that almost looks like a toothpaste cap.
Plaza Rizal in Jolo
Location: Jolo, Sulu
Unfortunately, due to security issues, it's not safe to travel to Jolo for the time being. Still, it's worth noting that the town's Rizal Plaza pays tribute to the Philippine national hero as well.
Situated right in the middle of the plaza, the monument depicts Rizal in his usual dignified, forward-looking pose, standing on top of a white-sky blue pillar. Below him are two Katipuneros (Philippine revolutionaries during the end of the Spanish era), probably conversing about how best to overthrow the colonizers once and for all.
Rizal Shrine of Dapitan
Location: City of Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte
After returning from Spain in 1892, Rizal founded a movement called La Liga Filipina, which advocated for government reforms through peaceful means. Unfortunately, this came at the heels of the publication of Rizal's novel El Filibusterismo, which the authorities considered seditious, and so he was exiled to Dapitan.
During his exile, he purchased the lot on which Rizal Shrine now stands, where he made use of his considerable knowledge to teach the locals sustainable ways to make a living. In gratitude for his efforts, the locals decided to keep the lot the way he left it, and it eventually became a thriving tourist destination.
At Dapitan's Rizal Shrine, you can see the houses where he lived, the schools he put up, and even a rock where he wrote poems called Mi Retiro (A Mi Madre) and Himno a Talisay. You can also see a white, life-sized statue of Rizal, nature trails, and other places where the hero walked once upon a time.
Rizal Monument in Luneta Park
Location: Luneta Park, City of Manila
Of course, the most famous Rizal monument is the one at Luneta Park. Flanked by landmarks such as the Museum of Natural History, the Manila Doctors Hospital, and the Quirino Grandstand (near the Manila Ocean Park), Rizal/Luneta Park isn't too hard to find. In fact, you can ride the LRT1, get off at the U.N. Ave. Station, and you're there!
One reason behind the monument's fame is that it stands on the exact same spot where Rizal himself was executed. The other reason is that it's a popular place to have a picnic or leisurely stroll with your family — as long as you remember to bring umbrellas, food, and mosquito repellents!
Indeed, as long as these monuments stand and continue to be built, Rizal's memory will live on in Filipinos for a long time. Rizal might not have lived to see the kind of freedom his countrymen enjoy today, but he surely rests in peace knowing how he contributed to that freedom.