THICK AND THIN: Jose Rizal’s beautiful Luneta monument PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:33

After listening to local historian and museum curator, Ms. Icelle Borja-Estrada, on TV last week regarding Dr. Jose Rizal’s beautiful monument in Zamboanga City and Luneta, I was constrained to review my historical materials regarding the controversial monument erected at Luneta.

With the passage of Act No.243 by the Philippine Assembly on September 28, 1901 which granted the “right to use public land upon the Luneta in the City of Manila” where a monument shall be erected for Jose Rizal, a Committee on Rizal Mausoleum was subsequently formed and tasked to supervise the project. It was composed of Poblete, Paciano Rizal, Juan Tuason, Teodoro Yangco, Mariano Limjap, Dr. Maximo Peterno, Ramon Genato, Tomas del Rosario, and Dr. Ariston Bautista.

The monument would consist not only of a statue but also of a mausoleum which was to house Rizal’s remains.

The committee launched a two-year international design competition for the period 1905-1907 to get the best design for the monument. Eventually, two designs were chosen: the scaled plaster model entry of Professor Carlos Nicoli of carrara, Italy, entitled “Al Martir de Bagumbayan” (To The Martyr of Bagumbayan) which bested 40 entries. However, the contract for the construction of the monument was given to the entry of Dr. Richard Kissling of Zurich, Switzerland, entitled “Motto Estralla” (Guiding Star).

Nicoli went to the court of justice and challenged the award of the construction to Kissling on the grounds that not only did he failed to to post the required performance bond of P20,000 for the duration of the construction of the monument but also failed to show up on the designated date for the signing of the job contract. The only justification for the awarding of the contract to Kissling was that his quotation, P100,000, was lower than that of Nicoli’s P200,000.

Local newspapers lambasted Kissling’s model, describing it as “vulgar y tosco” (vulgar and lousy). Even the jury on awards, headed by then American Gov. James Smith, was questioned because none of the American members thereof was an artist, an architect, or an engineer. Then there were plans that the famous Filipino painter, Felix Resurrection Hidalgo, would inspect and modify the model. But in the end, the design was left as it was because the bronze of the statues had already been cast in Switzerland.

In January 1905, the Committee on Rizal Monument conducted a fund-raising campaign, oversubscribed it and in August 1912, the total amount collected reached P135,195.61.

Finally, on December 30, 1913 during the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of Rizal’s death, the shrine was unveiled—12 years after the approval of the Philippine Act No. 243.

In 1961, during Rizal’s birth centenary year, the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission, contracted Juan Nakpil to remodel the controversial stainless steel shaft/pylon as this was superimposed over the granite obelisk.

Beneath the majestic monument is the urn containing the national hero’s bones which was first dugged up in Paco Cemetery, then brought to his family’s residence in Elcano Street, Binondo, then transferred to the Masonic Temple on Ilaya Street in Tondo, Manila then finally to its present location.
THANKS: To Worshipful Brother Celso B. Hilbero, PM for his notes.
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CONGRATULATIONS to Chief Supt. Mario B. Yanga on his well-deserved promotion! --ROSLAN BAHA