Category: jose rizal

jeremy barns on torre de manila

yesterday after the 6th hearing, the supreme court wrapped up oral arguments on GR. No. 213948  Knights of Rizal v. DMCI, Inc., and City of Manila, et al.  NCHP’s diokno and diokno had the last word, with some prompting from cj sereno and justices carpio and leonen in what seemed like a tag-team effort to belittle the rizal monument.  it was therefore a relief, nay, a comfort, to find on facebook, and to be allowed to share, this post by jeremy barns, director of the national museum.

Regarding the Torre de Manila case, I’m so dissatisfied with the questioning by the Supreme Court as to the mandates of the cultural agencies and the significance of the Rizal Monument, both today and in the last weeks…

Too much attention, I feel, has been given to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and its self-protecting position, where we, the National Museum (NM) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), who are depending on the Solicitor-General to represent us in the name of our wider Republic, seemed to be diminished and given little attention, dismissed by some of the justices as irrelevant or, at best, peripheral to the case at hand.

With all due respect to the Supreme Court, much more could have been done to excavate into the deep truth of the matter, which is obvious: our laws interpreting the exigencies and policies of the 1987 Constitution are ambiguous and our institutional arrangements among the cultural agencies a huge and overlapping mess. At least the quagmire that is the City of Manila was given due attention, but still, for all their evident failings, that’s not enough…

And for one justice to say, last week, that only the NHCP, in that justice’s view, has a valid mandate in this matter, and for the NHCP in turn to say, today, that we at the NM had the power to do something but, in their view, did nothing, without the NM having any opportunity to air its side, either directly or through the Solicitor-General, doesn’t seem fair at all…

At bottom, I really, really hated the fact that my colleague at the NHCP and counsel just went along with the disparagement by some of the justices of the Rizal Monument as being contrary to the wishes of Rizal himself, or the work of a Swiss foreigner (who was a distinguished sculptor in Europe in his time, never mind that Richard Kissling was himself a keen admirer of Rizal and that Switzerland was a nation that Rizal, a true internationalist and cosmopolitan, loved dearly) or being inaccurately placed away from where he was shot…

As if any of this matters! Why should this matter to us now when it mattered not at all to our forebears? The decision to build the monument was taken in response by Governor Taft in 1901 to the expressed desire of the Filipino people; and its construction, in terms of style and design and place, was openly taken by a duly constituted national committee of Filipinos, with not an American among them, and was only completed in 1913…

Hardly the hurried project of American imperial propaganda, but of deliberative national fundraising, promotion, competition, fabrication and installation… a model which we could well adopt in the erection of national monuments even now… hardly any of which in recent decades have received popular acclaim, let alone ownership and affection…

(See below for text of Public Act 243, approved on September 28, 1901)

And what this committee, which included Paciano Rizal, achieved, has undoubtedly been consequently sanctified by all the people and all the generations and all our national rituals since 1913. Upon its centennial in 2013, we took a hard look at all this history – yes HISTORY – which the NHCP seems now to belittle, as well as CULTURAL significance, which the NHCP did not even bother to refer to before the Court, before the NM resolved to declare it a National Cultural Treasure…

Gosh, whenever a Rizal monument is erected anywhere around the world it usually imitates the design of his mausoleum-monument at Luneta precisely because it is iconic and culturally valid! Why else would replicas have been allowed to have been erected, with the explicit approval of our National Government, with the endorsement of the NHCP, in countries ranging from Spain to China? Why didn’t the Court ask this of them? Why didn’t they ask all manner of related questions?

I really wanted to raise my hand and jump up on my feet, but of course could not… but I really wish that the procedures of the Court were more akin to a congressional hearing where I might have done so, that I might have been able to give important information to the justices from my perspective as the head of the oldest of all national cultural agencies steeped in this precise mandate, however residual these days since it has all been chopped up and confused by Republic Act No. 10066, of protecting our national cultural properties…

I don’t know about the NHCP but, sitting now in the office in my antique chair made in the late ’40’s for Eduardo Quisumbing and all the intervening directors of the institution until myself to use, I feel so awful about what is happening to our preeminent national monument…

Frankly, I wish the NHCP did not exist with respect to the preservation of monuments or built heritage of any kind, and wish they would once again become a national historical research institute, which is their true competence and rightful focus…

I also wish that the NM would be left alone to develop the museum sector in the Philippines, and that a dedicated agency or Department would be created for these matters…

Indeed, I believe we need a separate agency for heritage protection and preservation and a simplified framework whereby everything is declared as a National Monument, with Grades from 1 to 3 or 4 or 5 or whatever, and that the authority at least should be the NCCA, drawing from the NHCP or NM or whomever, on a purely technical basis. To have National Cultural Treasures and Important Cultural Properties and Heritage Houses and Marked Structures and National Historical Landmarks and National Shrines and National Historical Sites and National Monuments is really too much…

If it’s nationally significant, it’s a National Monument, of whatever appropriate grade… And there should be no leaving it to the LGU for protection if a cultural property is of national significance…. National significance should equal national protection; local significance can be left to merely local protection… This to me is really obvious…

Why relegate a national monument like the Rizal Monument to the protection of the City of Manila when it’s, uh, national? I never got to understand that, given the arguments aired at the Court. There are dozens of local monuments in the City of Manila, but the Rizal Monument? Why should the National Government rely on a dysfunctional LGU for its protection, when the Rizal Monument has been under national jurisdiction since anyone can remember…

The NHCP might of course say that, if we at the NM feel this way, we could have done our own thing and made our own action. That’s never really been our style, as we’ve always tried to engage actively with both the NHCP and NCCA, with the NM director serving as ex-officio commissioner on both their boards…

But well, yes, now, I wish we had, given the lengths to which I feel the NHCP have gone in making its stand, which, when we had discussed this at the NHCP Board, I was never led to expect would come to this end.

And so, the NM, for its part, is willing to say mea culpa, is willing for mandamus to be laid against us in this case if the Supreme Court should so decide, and will be ready to keep the faith, as we feel we must, with all the generations of Filipinos who held fast by the Rizal Monument as one of the preeminent symbols of our national culture, if not our very national identity… a symbol which the very fact of the erection of Torre de Manila, in our view, has desecrated and will continue to irremediably mar for as long as it exists…

ACT NO. 243

An Act granting the right to use public land upon the Luneta in the city of Manila upon which to erect a statue of Jose Rizal, from a fund to be raised by public subscriptions, and prescribing as a condition the method by which such subscription shall be collected and disbursed. By authority of the President of the United States, be it enacted by the United States Philippine Commission, that:

Whereas, it has been proposed that a monument shall be erected to Jose Rizal, the Philippine patriot, writer, and poet, upon the Luneta, in the city of Manila, and that the expense of the construction and erection of such monument shall be defrayed from a fund raised by public subscription; and

Whereas, it is necessary to the execution of this proposal that there should be a grant by constituted authority of the right to erect the monument upon the public land known as the Luneta: Now, therefore,

SECTION 1. The Municipal Board of the city of Manila, with the concurrence of the Advisory Board, is hereby authorized to grant permission to the committee hereafter constituted to erect the monument above mentioned upon any place upon the Luneta which may be agreed upon by the Municipal Board, the Advisory Board, and the committee hereafter constituted, with the approval of the Civil Governor, on condition that the committee in charge of raising the fund and constructing the monument, and the method of raising subscriptions and disbursing the funds, shall be as hereafter provided.

SEC. 2. The committee for raising the funds by subscription for causing the erection of the monument and the expenditure of the funds shall be Pascual Poblete, Paciano Rizal, Juan Tuason, Teodoro R. Yangco, Mariano Limjap, Maximino Paterno, Ramon Genato, Tomas G. del Rosario, Dr. Ariston Bautista.

SEC. 3. The committee shall elect a chairman and a secretary and shall certify its action in this respect to the Insular Auditor and to the Insular Treasurer. Vacancies in the committee occurring by resignation or death shall be filled by the committee, with the approval of the Civil Governor.

SEC. 4. Subscriptions shall be collected by the committee or by agents regularly appointed by the committee, whose authority to collect subscriptions shall be evidence by the possession of receipt books to be prepared and issued by the Insular Treasury to the persons so authorized. It shall be the duty of the person so authorized to give a receipt to the subscriber for the amount collected and to deposit the money collected with the Insular Treasurer at the Intendencia Building upon the day following the collection, where the collection shall be made in Manila, and as soon as practicable when collections are made outside of Manila. The Insular Treasurer shall issue a special receipt for each deposit so made, which receipt shall be invalid without the countersignature of the Insular Auditor. The Insular Auditor shall keep an account of the money thus deposited in the Treasury. The collector shall furnish to the Treasurer a list of the contributors, which list shall be made public, through the press or otherwise, at the close of each week.

SEC. 5. The funds thus collected shall be expended by the committee in any way which will contribute to the object of the subscription, to wit, the erection of a suitable monument, and this may include the regular payment of collection agents upon a percentage or per diem basis, as may seem wise to the committee. The members of the committee shall serve without compensation. The committee shall have power to offer prizes for designs for a suitable monument and to employ competent artists and sculptors to select the most appropriate design. The committee shall have charge of any ceremonies attending the laying of the cornerstone of the monument or its unveiling, subject to the approval of the Civil Governor.

SEC. 6. The funds collected in the Insular Treasury, a report of which shall be made monthly by the join report of the Insular Treasurer and Auditor to the committee, shall be disbursed upon order of the committee, evidence by warrant of the president, countersigned by the secretary of the committee and accompanied by an itemized statement of the purposes for which the money was disbursed. The accounts shall be audited by the Insular Auditor quarterly and a public statement made by the Auditor of the result of his auditing. Should any surplus fund remain after the payment of all the expenses of the erection of the monument, including the payment of the sculptor and incidental expenses, the committee shall have power to devote the surplus to any charitable, educational, or other public purpose which it may deem wise and proper.

SEC. 7. The public good requiring the speedy enactment of this bill, the passage of the same is hereby expedited in accordance with section two of “An Act prescribing the order of procedure by the Commission in the enactment of laws,” passed September twenty-sixth, nineteen hundred.

SEC. 8. This Act shall take effect on its passage.

Enacted, September 28, 1901.

sona, tsona, torre de manila #takeitdown

i’m deep into a book project — so far, purely a labor of love — and all the political drama is just white noise.  i did stop to listen to the president’s sona but went back to work the moment the testimonials started.  i forgot, though, all about the vice president’s tsona and caught only the tail end when he gave special mention to each of the SAF44, of course, and why not, since nakalimutan sila ng presidente — like nakalimutan niya ang FOI — it was good to be reminded, lalo na’t narinig ko si palace spokesman lacierda sa ANC raving about how this wonderful president has a knack for bouncing back even from the worst falls in trust rating, as in mamasapano times, because, look, his trust ratings are up, people have forgotten mamasapano, yey, mamasapano is no longer an issue, or something to that effect.  excuse me, but many of us have long memories actually.  deep in our psyches, everything is factored in, one way or another, and when we want to remember the details, there’s always the web, thank goodness.

but  yesterday’s oral  arguments sa supreme court on the torre de manila case, i could not resist.  the tweets were interesting so we tuned in and caught the last two and a half hours of associate justice francis jardeleza’s interpellation of DMCI counsel vincent lazatin.  it was all most instructive.  i loved jardeleza’s carefully grounded questions and deliberate pace — he refused to be rushed,  or to be distracted.  he made the point that surely DMCI knew the risks of building such a tower in such a zone of no-high-rises behind the rizal monument.  now i wonder if the perfect unobstructed vista of luneta park and manila bay was the main selling point?

and let’s not forget that juicy tidbit about DMCI seeking “presidential intercession” from malacanang’s Presidential Action Center, and apparently getting it, which emboldened the NHCP, it would seem, to issue its own “permit”.

On October 11, 2012, respondent NHCP received a 1st Indorsement dated September 13, 201219 from the Presidential Action Center, referring to respondent NHCP the request of DMCI Consultant Alfredo A. Andrade seeking presidential intercession to facilitate the processing of their application for a certification. Acting on the communications received on the matter, the NHCP Board of Commissioners discussed the Torre de Manila project during its meeting on October 19, 2012.

Thus, in a letter dated November 6, 201221 addressed to DMCI Consultant Alfredo Andrade, respondent NHCP stated that the project site of the Torre de Manila condominium is “outside the boundaries of the Rizal Park and well to the rear (789 meters, according to Mr. Ancheta) of the Rizal Monument; hence it cannot possibly obstruct the front view of the said National Monument.

oral arguments continue on august 11.  the court has asked dr. serena diokno, chair of the NHCP, to be present, or to send her lawyers.  it should be verrry interesting because diokno dares, all by her lonesome, to disagree with solicitor general florin hilbay — the chief legal counsel and constitutionalist of the government —  who has seen fit to assert that

… the Constitutional mandate to conserve, promote, and popularize the nation’s historical and cultural heritage resources includes, in the case of the Rizal Monument, the preservation of its sightlines.


TAKE IT DOWN #torredemanila

TAKE IT DOWN #torredemanila

DMCI’s torre de manila is a hideous sight, an ugly and offensive intrusion on our view of the rizal monument.

So there stands Rizal, a bronze sculpture with an obelisk as his backdrop set on a stone base, the Noli-Fili in his hand and the tableaux at his feet — Inang Bayan nursing her child and the two boys reading. It might as well be the nation’s mission-vision statement concretized in immortal consciousness: Rizal’s dream to build a strong society enlightened in its endeavor to create equal opportunities to a better life through education while always guided by the basic principles of unity and integrity. ~ Amelia H.C. Ylagan

as such — as the nation’s mission-vision statement concretized — the rizal monument deserves to dominate that landscape and skyline.  no one and nothing deserves to be seen in the same frame, least of all a 46-floor tower of distraction that stands more for the joys of capitalism than anything else.

come on, guys, take it down.

it’s the right thing to do, and it will be cathartic for the people, release some of the frustration, if not anger, over accumulated grievances as another administration that promised CHANGE bites the dust.

nothing ever changes around here, really.  except for the faces.  palakasan pa rin.  same old, same old.  read Tense Torre TRO hearing about why, allegedly, chief justice sereno and associate justice carpio voted against the TRO.  read the Erap-Lim word war erupting over Torre  and how the NHCP backed off, flip-flopped on the issue.   shame on them all.

rizal would be livid.

Rizal, the Noli-Fili, and the Torre de Manila

Amelia H.C. Ylagan

Dr. José Protasio Rizal stands haloed by the sun, looking out to the sea in perpetual vigilance for the beloved country, Philippines. Inang Bayan sits trustingly in his shadow, a mother rearing her child — symbolic of family, and social interdependence and cohesiveness. On Rizal’s other side are two boys seeming to be studying their lessons — could it be that they are Basilio and Crispin, sons of the crazed Sisa, the other face of Mother Country as she suffers in Rizal’s incendiary novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo?

Rizal, in the frock coat of the Filipino intelligentsia in the dawn of the 19th century, holds a book, Noli (Part I) and the Fili (Part II), where he exposes the corruption and coercion of the Spanish colonizers. Rizal exhorts Filipinos to waken to a quiet revolution through education, where they can rise to equal heights in accomplishment and the higher rungs of recognition in society. Thus would the natives come to rule themselves and rule the country in equal justice and equal opportunities for all.

And so Basilio and Crispin, young sacristans in Rizal’s Noli, are symbols of hope in the youth and the growth of the intelligentsia in the country. The death of the younger, Crispin, from the violent punishment of the parish priest juxtaposes the desperation of the Filipinos at their situation versus the escape of Basilio and his chances at transcending the obstacles to a better life. In the Fili, Rizal shows Basilio 13 years later as a student of medicine at the Ateneo. It is Basilio’s enlightened advice that convinces his activist classmate Isagani not to massacre by arson the roomful of Spaniards and elite Filipinos in an extreme show of protest against the oppressive regime.

The protagonist Simoun in the Fili is Rizal, as Crisostomo Ibarra is Rizal in the Noli. José Rizal, the dangerous intellectual, the propagandist, was executed by the Spanish authorities on Dec. 30, 1896, at Bagumbayan field, and buried in an unidentified grave at the Paco cemetery where he lay in anonymity throughout the Katipunan’s armed revolutions (which Rizal in his lifetime refused to join), throughout the intervention of the Spanish-American War of 1898 when Spain ceded the Philippine archipelago to the United States under the Treaty of Paris, and even while Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence on June 12, 1898, and his later acceptance of American rule.

On Sept. 28, 1901, the United States Philippine Commission approved Act No. 243 that granted the right to use public land upon the Luneta (former Bagumbayan field) in the city of Manila, where the monument was erected to commemorate the memory of José Rizal, and also house his remains. The shrine was unveiled on Dec. 30, 1913, on Rizal’s 17th death anniversary.

So there stands Rizal, a bronze sculpture with an obelisk as his backdrop set on a stone base, the Noli-Fili in his hand and the tableaux at his feet — Inang Bayan nursing her child and the two boys reading. It might as well be the nation’s mission-vision statement concretized in immortal consciousness: Rizal’s dream to build a strong society enlightened in its endeavor to create equal opportunities to a better life through education while always guided by the basic principles of unity and integrity. The perimeter of the monument, about 100 meters from where Rizal was executed in 1896, is protected by the Philippine Marines in ceremonious daily changing of the guard. Here wreaths are laid on Independence Day and other important occasions by the President and senior government officials, as well as foreign dignitaries in homage to the national hero. Here the common citizens visit, in proud affirmation of national identity and love of country.

The dignity of the Rizal monument had been zealously guarded for the past century until a most serious sin of insensitivity was committed. How did it happen that a monstrous high-rise condominium, the Torre de Manila, was allowed by two successive city mayors to be built directly behind the monument — impinging upon the clear background of the monument, as such construction will now be forever part of the backdrop of the obelisk and José Rizal? Public interest groups, including the Knights of Rizal, filed a protest against the desecration, and the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on June 16 stopping the building’s construction.

But the Torre de Manila is 60 meters beyond Luneta Park’s boundaries, the condominium developer, DM Consunji Incorporated (DMCI) reminds all. They have broken no law against construction on public land. Existing buildings nearest to the monument are 280 meters away while Torre de Manila stands 870 meters away from the monument. The company also said it secured a permit to build 49 levels — a basement level, 46 storeys, and two penthouse levels — in July 2012.

The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board suspended DMCI’s license to sell units in the Torre de Manila after the Court ordered the indefinite suspension of construction work. But 91% or 896 units have already been pre-sold. What is to be done with the buyers? The suspension of construction will negatively affect DMCI Homes, which has so far spent P1.2 billion of the total P2.7-billion project cost. Some 300 of 400 affected workers are now jobless. Let us just plant a forest of trees behind the monument to improve the view at our cost, DMCI offers. Roused nationalists and environmentalists are crying out for the demolition of the building, now on its 40th storey.

But here is the most atrocious offer of a “win-win” solution, discussed last week with the guilt-ridden Manila City Council by Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing: “Turn the national hero’s monument by 180 degrees so that its new background would no longer include the DMCI Homes condo project.” People do not know whether to laugh or cry about this suggestion.

Dr. José Rizal would cry. Are these the Filipinos whom he died for? Is this solution to save the face of the two successive mayors now pointing at each other on who has the greater blame in allowing the monstrous Torre de Manila to be built? Would it be to forgive the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for their insensitivity and a definite lack of passion and commitment to their jobs, that they did not anticipate rules beyond public land use?

The Supreme Court set for July 21 the oral arguments from the petitioners and DMCI. Total demolition of the Torre de Manila will be unlikely, from a practical point of view, but some comment that probably downscaling of the construction to the original seven storeys limit will be acceptable.

Rizal did not turn his back on his vision of a better Motherland. Let his vision live for generations more.