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The three naked men in Rizal statue in Catbalogan

WHILE walking along the Mother Mary Joseph Hall at Miriam College last week, Dr. Victoria Apuan took me by the arm and brought me to her office. “I will show you something you’ll be very interested in," said the professor whom I fondly call Ma’am Vicky. “I have photos in my computer of the Rizal monument in Catbalogan City, Samar. It has three naked men. Very unique," she told me, smiling in an enticing way.
The unique Rizal monument stands in front of the Catbalogan city hall in Samar. Photo by Ador Leanda Hurtado
Indeed, the pictures were very interesting. In front of the Catbalogan City Hall, there’s a small park with a bust of Jose Rizal, his two novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo serving as the base. Holding up the books with the bust are three muscular men who are all naked except for a leaf that covers their private parts, just like the U.P. Oblation. Ma’am Vicky, who chairs the Social Science and Gerontology departments of Miriam College, first saw the unusual Rizal monument last March. She had gone to the mayor’s office for a courtesy call together with a group of consultants helping Samar province develop its tourism industry. She found it unique, and so she started to inquire about the sculpture and its artist. The sculptor is Miguel Alcazar, a native of Catbalogan. He studied at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, and he made the Rizal monument in 1959, before his family migrated to the United States. He died in New York in October 1980. Last April, when Ma’am Vicky went back to Samar, she was able to interview Stella Alcazar, the 88-year old wife of Miguel Alcazar who was then on vacation in the Philippines. When asked about the naked men, Mrs. Alcazar said it was her husband’s “practice of artistic license. He wanted to depart from the traditional Rizal monuments and to adapt to modern times."
Mrs. Alcazar said the three men represent the main regional groupings of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The models for the three men were Miguel Alcazar himself and his friends. The unique Rizal bust inspired Ma’am Vicky to write a paper entitled “The Rizal Monument in Catbalogan, Samar: A Semiotic Interpretation." She will be presenting the paper at the “Rizal in the 21st Century" conference on June 22 to 24 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, where she obtained her Ph.D. in Philippine Studies. The conference is sponsored by UP’s College of Arts and Letters, Asian Center, and College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.
Dr. Victoria Apuan is presenting a paper about the Rizal monument in Catbalogan at the "Rizal in the 21st Century" conference in UP Diliman on June 22-24. Photo by J.I.E. Teodoro
Ma’am Vicky explains her topic as follows: “Semiotics is concerned with how meaning is created and conveyed in texts and, in particular, in narratives (or stories). Because nothing has meaning in itself, the relationships that exist among signs are crucial. Texts can be viewed as being similar so speech and as implying grammars or languages that make the texts meaningful. Codes and conventions make the signs in a narrative understandable and also shape the actions." In the case of the Rizal monument, it is a non-literary text but it can also be read as a text in semiotics, which is the study of signs. So what is her “reading" of the Rizal monument in Catbalogan? “The two novels become the base of Rizal’s bust. These novels are the inspiration for social change. The three naked men are carrying the books and the bust—it simply shows that ours is a continuing burden to reform the social system, to pave the way for a better life for Filipinos." And what about the naked men? “Naked in the sense that we are all equal," Ma’am Vicky added. Knowing that she is a feminist, I asked Ma’am Vicky if she is not bothered that there are only men in the sculpture. Ma’am Vicky laughed. “Of course if I had my own way, I would rather that there were women there," she answered. “But it cannot be denied that this unique Rizal monument in Catbalogan can be a tourist attraction." Indeed, it’s more interesting than Rizal statues wearing an overcoat. – YA/HS, GMA News J.I.E. TEODORO is an assistant professor of Filipino at Miriam College. He has won several Palanca awards for his works and a National Book Award for creative nonfiction from the Manila Critics Circle and the National Book Development Board. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from De La Salle University-Manila, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Literature.