Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Rizal Monument, A Suggestion

The Rizal Monument is a grenade throw from the Rizal Diorama. I’ve driven by the monument dozens of times and I’ve always wanted to check it out from up close, unfortunately, that still hasn’t happened.

I was disappointed with the Rizal Shrine for a couple of reasons. First thing, I wasn’t happy with the people barricades. The steeple shaped memorial with it’s blunt top is not that imposing to begin with, but it seems even smaller because the fencing keeps the viewer so far away from it. I’m not certain why this is done – perhaps to protect it? If so, why are the guards there?

The Filipino marines guarding the spire were my other source of dissatisfaction. As I walked around the sides of the monument trying futilely to get closer to it, I paused to speak to four young local college students, three teenage boys and one young lady. They were resting in some shade along the wide sidewalk

I greeted them: “Hi guys. How long have you been watching?”

“About 45 minutes,” one of the boys answered.

“Do you know if they are going to have a ceremony to change the guards?” I queried.

One of the guys spoke up: “No, they just change them. Those are marines, so they are tough!” As he spoke, I realized he was gay. The homosexuals over here make it quite clear what their sexual proclivity is.

“That’s cool. I was hoping there was going to be a ceremony to watch when its time for replacement guards. We have a monument like this in the States that is guarded by special army troops 24 hours a day, and they have a spectacular changing of the guard ceremony every half hour or so. Are you sure they don’t have anything like that here?”

The homosexual fellow, evidently the group spokesman, said cutely, “Filipino marines don’t need to change. They are so tough that they can stand there for hours.”

“Yeah, when I was a marine I remember having to stand for hours in the sun in Southern California; it’s even harder than running in the sun.” Once I told them that they stopped being clever and we had a nice conservation as we stood in the shade and looked toward the faraway monument. But that was it – no plaque to read, no ceremonial changing of the guard, nothing. Plus the guards didn't march or move at all, they just stood at parade rest. After a minute or so, there was no reason to look anymore.

I have some suggestions for anyone who might be able to implement them. First, let people get closer to the monument. The way it stands now, it’s a “drive by” monument, because you can see it just as well from your car as you can walking up to it. I hate to make an American comparison, because it makes me sound arrogant, but I will anyway. One of our most sacred U.S. places is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the nearby JFK burial crypt located in Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River, high on a hill overlooking Washington D.C. Thousands of visitors a year visit these sites, and it is a moving and memorable experience to do so. Why? Because you can walk right up to them; you aren’t kept so far away that you feel detached. All good memorial sites should make you feel this way.

And if the people of the Philippines really want to capitalize from the aspects of both tourism and nationalism, have your Rizal Monument Guards take a lesson from the “Old Guard,” the U.S. unit that guards the “The Tomb.” As a “marine” I grudgingly give these “soldiers” huge respect for their professionalism and dedication. When you watch them march, ramrod straight, back and forth in front of the “unknowns,” you can’t help but to be struck by their commitment. You realize that these fellows aren’t just guarding precious remains inside that pure white sarcophagus, but they are demonstrating the fidelity and professionalism of all Americans in uniform. When their fellow citizens see THEM, it brings on a realization that the country is secure and well protected.

I hope someday the Philippines will see fit to do something similar with their revered monument to their greatest citizen, Jose Rizal. By doing so, they will not only be showing the wonderful spirit that already exists in this nation, but they will increase it one hundred fold. They should take their current standard and seek to surpass it. My suggestion is to make the Rizal Shrine something that will make all Filipinos WANT to see it, to make them proud WHEN they see it, and to make it an experience that they will tell their children about. As it stands now, the shrine is taken for granted; it’s just a spire of sculpted rock that people hardly glance at as they drive up Roxas Boulevard. I know that it can be a whole lot more.


Ed said...

Seems kind of odd that you are fenced off so far away. I've heard that there was a stainless steel shaft on top of the monument in your picture but that it was eventually dismantled due to public opinion.

Nick Ballesteros said...

Come to think of it, I have never actually been near to the monument myself. It's like something you only get to see from afar.