The place does not matter: cypress laurel, lily white,
Scaffold, open field, conflict or martyrdom’s site,
It is the same if asked by home and Country.
—excerpt from Mi Ultimo Adios
Among Filipino values, “pagtanaw ng utang na loob” is one of the most cherished. More than a sense of gratitude, it is an act rooted to the humane inner self. The Rizal National Monument in Rizal Park is perhaps the most recognizable and photographed monument in the Philippines. It is the nation’s foremost memorial to a linguist, novelist, doctor, scholar, poet and artist. A concrete act of “pagtanaw ng utang na loob” to a Filipino who offered his life in martyrdom to free his country from the bonds of Spanish colonialism.
On September 28, 1901, Philippine Commission Act 243 was passed, allowing the use of public land at the Luneta in the City of Manila to erect a monument to Jose Rizal. It would serve as the final resting place for the hero’s body.
An international art competition was launched and held from 1905 to 1907 to design Rizal’s monument. Many well-known sculptors from around the world participated and sent their entries, which included a scale model and a sketch of the monument and a site development plan. Among the 40 models at the public exhibition at the Ayuntamiento’s Marble Hall (formerly known as the Casa Consistorial), six were chosen by the committee headed by then Gov. James Smith. These are: Motto Stella, Al Martir de Bagumbayan, Noli Me Tangere Para Rizal, 1906, Victoria, F.F. and Maria Clara.
The prize-winning entry was entry 21, Al Martir de Bagumbayan by Italian sculptor Carlos Nicoli while entry 9, Motto Stella by Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling was given the second prize. Cash prizes of P5,000 and P2,000 were awarded respectively.
Nicoli’s entry was one of the first designs entered in the competition. The design was rectangular in shape with elegant details. Lions and...