Historical Context and Legal Basis of Rizal Day and Other Memorials in Honor of Jose Rizal

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Historical Context and Legal Basis of Rizal Day and Other Memorials in honor of Jose Rizal For over a century now, the nation has never failed to observe the anniversary of the martyrdom our great national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. This year, the President will lead the simultaneous raising of Philippine flag at half-mast and wreath offering at the monument of Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park in Manila, Calamba, Laguna and in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte on December 30, 2010. The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Rizal: Haligi ng Bayan”.   Although frequently at the center of controversies and criticism of the public, the government must be given credits for its efforts in ensuring that the memory of Rizal stays in our hearts through the issuance of legislative acts, decrees and other proclamations honoring him.   Two years after the execution of Rizal in Bagumbayan, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo issued on Dec. 20, 1898 a decree designating Dec. 30 as the anniversary of Jose Rizal's death and also as "a national day of mourning" for Rizal and other victims of the Spanish government throughout its three centuries of oppressive rule. He made a directive that all national flags shall be hoisted at half-mast from 12 noon on Dec. 29 and all offices of the government shall be closed the whole day on December 30 as a sign of mourning. On December 30, 1898, Filipinos celebrated Rizal Day for the first time and chose Club Filipino in Manila to be the venue.  The Americans, to win the sympathy of the Filipinos, and to convince them that they were pro-Filipinos more than the Spaniards, gave Rizal official recognition. This was to make them conform to the new government. Rizal acquired the official title of title of Philippine National Hero in 1901 under the country’s first American civil governor, William Howard Taft.  On the recommendation of Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, the Taft Commission renamed the district of Morong into the Province of Rizal through Act 137 on June 11, 1901. This was one of the first official steps taken by the Taft Commission to honor Rizal. Since then, Jose Rizal came to be known as the National Hero.   It was also during the American times that Rizal’s death anniversary was made an official holiday. On February 1, 1902, the Philippine Commission enacted Act. No. 345 which set December 30 of each year as Rizal Day, and made it one of the ten official holidays of the Philippines. As the nationalist spirit of the Filipinos was at the highest point during that time, they were able to convince the government to erect a monument for Rizal. Thus, Act No. 243 was enacted on September 28, 1901 granting the right to use public land upon the Luneta in the City of Manila upon which to erect a statue of Jose Rizal.   So important was the observation of Rizal Day that President Quirino approved on June 9, 1948 Republic Act No. 229 which prohibits cockfighting, horse racing and jai-alai every 30th of December of each year, in order to have proper observance of Rizal Day.   To give ample time to prepare for the birth centenary of Jose Rizal in 1961, the Rizal National Centennial Commission was created by Executive Order No. 52, issued by Pres. Ramon Magsaysay on August 10, 1954 to undertake the construction of a National Cultural Shrine and other memorials to be dedicated to Jose Rizal. JRNCC became Rizal Presidential Committee on 1 July 1962 after President Diosdado Macapagal issued Executive Order No. 14.   Jose Rizal's vast role in the attainment of the nation's freedom led to the issuance of Republic Act 1425 on June 12, 1956. Commonly known as the Rizal Act, it was sponsored by Senator Claro M. Recto. It requires the curricula of private and public schools, colleges and universities courses to include the life, works and writings of Jose Rizal, particularly his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in order to educate the students about the concept of nationalism.  A few days before the celebration of the birth centenary...
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