01 January 2012

Luneta Park: One of the best parks in the Philippines

There's a real nice article about Luneta Park in the Inquirer today. It talks about the history of the park and other lesser known facts about it.

As a kid, I used to go there often with my brother to roam around. It is a huge place and always brought me memories of fun and good times. I even remember that then US President George W. Bush and wife paid a visit to the monument to lay a wreath there. Conspiracy theorists take note, Jose Rizal was known to be a freemason. hehe.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the article:

How well do you know Rizal Park?

Here are 30 little-known facts about Rizal Park as culled from interviews with officials of the National Park Development Committee (NPDC), park attendants and guides, frequent visitors, history and architecture hobbyists, old news clippings, and other reports, both print and online.
Vatican City can fit inside Rizal Park. The Vatican has an area of 44 hectares compared with Rizal Park’s 58 hectares.

Valencia Circle, which surrounds the Lapu-Lapu statue, is Metro Manila’s biggest rotunda (defined as a circular road with no road inside). It has a diameter of 42 meters. The circle is named after Teodoro Valencia, the longtime head of the park who initiated and maintained the beautification reforms that put it in top shape.

Rizal Park was neglected for decades, feared and avoided by the public as criminals and prostitutes wandered the place. The NPDC was created in 1963 to clean up and develop the park.

The park’s other popular name, Luneta, was derived from the lunette or crescent-shaped outworks or minor fortifications surrounding Intramuros, the old walled city of Manila.

Another name for the park, Bagumbayan, literally “New Town,” was one of the towns surrounding Intramuros. Bagumbayan was torn down because British invaders mounted cannons on its buildings during the attack on Manila in 1763. A marker lies on the spot where the town’s San Juan Bautista church, which housed the Black Nazarene, used to be. The open area left was known as the Bagumbayan Field, which became the execution ground for criminals.
The Rizal Monument’s real name is “Motto Stella (Guiding Star),” the title of the entry submitted by its sculptor, Richard Kissling of Switzerland. However, Kissling’s obra was only the runner-up. Italian Carlo Nicoli’s entry, titled “Al Martir de Bagumbayan,” won the international design contest for the monument.

There is no single official explanation why the contract was awarded to Kissling. One account said Nicoli had failed to post the required performance bond, or that he had failed to show up at the contract signing. Another said Kissling’s entry was chosen because his quotation was lower than Nicoli’s.
There is also no official explanation of the meaning of the monument’s details. The monument depicts Rizal in overcoat holding a book. The obelisk is usually taken to mean Rizal’s masonic background while the three stars are said to stand for Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The figures at the back of the monument, such as leaves and a pot, are said to symbolize the country’s natural resources.

The consensus is that the figures beside Rizal—a mother rearing her child and two young boys reading—signify family and education, said Federico Edos, NPDC cultural and public affairs division chief.