If I had the superhuman strength of Superman, I would crush that distasteful building that now distracts the once impressive backdrop of the Rizal monument in Luneta Park. During the break of the ASEAN Summit, I had the chance to visit Luneta Park expecting to see the famous landmark as I had remembered it from my childhood. Luneta Park, also called Rizal Park, is located along Roxas Boulevard, next to the old-walled city of Intramuros in Manila. The park is among the largest urban parks in Asia with its 58-hectare gardens.
Its crowning landmark is the Rizal Monument. The Rizal Monument, done by a Swiss sculptor named Richard Kissling, commemorates our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. The monument stands 13 meters high and features a standing bronze sculpture of our hero against an obelisk with a stone base that holds his remains. The monument is approximately 100 meters from the exact spot where Rizal was executed. The monument is guarded 24 hours/7 days a week by the Philippine Marine Corps, and the changing of the guards has become an awaited event by locales and tourists alike. Many years ago, I remember gazing at the monument against a pristine skyline.
Today, a huge unimpressive residential condominium building called “Torre de Manila” literally towers at the back of the monument. It has been criticized by many Filipinos as an “eyesore” and an unsightly obstruction of the skyline of the declared heritage site. One may argue that the erection of the building cannot be helped and that progress cannot take a back seat to historic nostalgia. I think no amount of modernization or progress should trample upon revered icons or hallmarks of history, especially if they contribute to our national heritage and pride.
If only the local government of Manila had exercised more foresight, the Rizal monument would have stood undisturbed, gallant and distinguished, for generations to come.