Rizal Park is a landmark in the heart of Manila. Situated at the north end of Roxas Boulevard are the monument and the remains of the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. The park is a fifty-hectare open space where you have the National Museum and the Department of Tourism in Taft Avenue at one end, and the Quirino Grandstand by Manila Bay at the other end. In between are the highest flagpole in the country, the Kilometer Zero marker, a musical fountain, and a terrain model of the Philippines in a man-made lake, as well as small gardens and pavilions.
Colloquially known as Luneta, the park brings so much history and culture. This was an esplanade for the Spanish society when they ruled in the 19th century, and then for the Filipinos since declaring independence from Spain in 1898 and from the United States in 1946. A kalesa (a horse-drawn carriage) that used to be the main mode of transport can be hired for a joyride today. Local and foreign artists perform at the Concert at the Park for free every Sunday afternoon.
Along the path are busts of other Filipino heroes who displayed brave acts of patriotism in their time. And you will not miss Lapu-Lapu, the first national hero of the Philippines. A gift from Korea to the Philippines, his giant statue stands alone by the lake.
Apart from having a firing squad shoot Rizal from behind after marching from prison in Intramuros, countless events have been held here. Executions. Prayer vigils. Ceremonies. Parades. Mass rallies. Oath taking. And wreath laying.
On 30 December 1996, I paid Rizal a visit for his centennial. I stood across his memorial and watched the re-enactment of his assassination at sunrise. Two hovering military choppers dropped rose petals over Luneta. Proud to be a part of the Filipino crowd, I hope to be back here again for the 150th celebration…or maybe sooner for another photo walk.