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Aquino leads unveiling of tallest Rizal statue

The tallest statue in the world of Dr. Jose Rizal was unveiled Sunday in his hometown in Laguna province in commemoration of the Philippine national hero’s 150th birth anniversary. President Benigno Aquino III led the unveiling of the new 22-foot monument on a 6.7-hectare property in front of the Calamba City Hall complex. It was Calamba City mayor Joaquin Chipeco who ordered that the height of the monument be raised to 22 feet (6.9 meters) from 16 feet after finding out that Nueva Vizcaya has an 18-foot Rizal statue. Chipeco said the number “22" also symbolized the number of languages Rizal spoke during his lifetime. The statue stands on 2.4-meter pedestal which is on a 4.1-meter stepped base. The base has 15 steps, each one symbolizing 10 decades. It was created by Jonas Roces, who started working on it last December. Chipeco had the statue built because Rizal’s hometown does not have any monument of him. In contrast, Rizal’s monuments tower at the Avenida de las Islas Filipinas in Madrid in Spain, at the Rizal Park in Fujian in China, at the Rizal Park in Wilhelmsfeld in Germany, and in Nueva Vizcaya. Rizal’s statue in Madrid was inaugurated during his 100th death anniversary in 1996. The one in Fujian province was erected in Jinjang City, where Rizal’s great-great grandfather Don Domingo Lamco came from. The statue in Wilhelmsfeld in Heidelberg was a reminder that Rizal underwent training at an eye clinic there. The 16-meter statue in Bayombong in Nueva Vizcaya was erected by Jordanian born Mahmoud Asfour, a former bank official in the Middle East, who was so grateful to a Filipino truck driver who saved him when his truck got bogged down in the desert 30 years ago. The new Rizal monument in Calamba City is envisioned as the new tourist and historical landmark in the province.

Aquino on Rizal Before Aquino unveiled the statue, he was presented with five commemorative tokens: a certificate of restoration of the Noli Me Tangere by German ambassador to the Philippines Christian Ludwig Weber Lorssch; the e-Rizal tablet from Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon Ejercito; a Rizal at 150 Commemorative Medal from Central Bank Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr.; a Rizal at 150 Commemorative Stamp from Post Master General Antonio De Guzman; and a Book on the Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal by Tulay Foundation chairman Manuel Chua. Earlier, Aquino led a flag-raising ceremony at Rizal’s ancestral home compound, laid a wreath at the foot of a bronze sculpture of Rizal as a boy, and toured the ancestral home with Rizal’s descendants. Aquino, in his speech at the unveiling of the new Rizal statue, called on Filipinos to emulate Rizal’s heroism. He said Rizal was born to a rich family but his family later on faced hardships in the hands the Spanish priests and officials. Aquino said the national hero chose to correct the injustices to his motherland instead of just keeping quiet and using his wealth to live a peaceful life. He said the dilemmas that Rizal faced in his time were not far from the choices that Filipinos face today. Aquino said improving the lives of poor Filipinos is what drives him to get up every morning and complete the job of running a country – not the accolades and applause. “Nagtatrabaho po tayo upang wala nang Pilipino ang kailangan pang magbuwis ng buhay para sa kapakanan ng mga susunod sa kanya," he said. Protests, arrests Aquino’s visit to Calamba was marred by protests from militant groups who asked for more agrarian reform. The group lined up on a side of the road where the President’s convoy passed on the way to the Calamba City Hall. While Aquino was delivering his speech, four militants started shouting slogans. He continued with his speech as members of the Presidential Security Group ushered the protesters away from the venue. A radio report said a man was arrested in the area after he was found in possession of a fan knife, but this was denied by PSG commander Col. Ramon Mateo Dizon. Kabataan-Southern Luzon said eight persons, including five UP-Los Baños students, were detained after holding a lightning rally in Calamba City. It said the eight were detained and filed with charges of grave scandal. Each one is reportedly required to post a P6,000 bail. Members of Bayan-Southern Tagalog reportedly held a condemnation rally at the gates of the Calamba City Hall. The militant groups identified the persons as Mikel Mozo (Anakbayan UPLB), Cathy Gigantone (Gabriela Youth UPLB), Bhen Aguihon (League of Filipino Students-UPLB), Ynik Ante (University Student Council-UPLB), Ruffa Solano (National Union of Students of the Philippines-ST) and two members of Anakpawis and a non-affiliated individual. — KBK, GMA News