Noy, Binay, Erap lead flag-raising rites for Rizal Day
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino led the 119th anniversary of the martyrdom of the country’s national hero Dr. Jose Rizal in Manila’s Rizal Park yesterday.

Aquino attended the event with Vice President Jejomar Binay, who stood beside him months after resigning from the Cabinet.

Aquino’s sixth and last attendance at the Rizal Day rites as president was highlighted by the fly-by of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ air assets, which the military said should ignite a sense of pride among Filipinos.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada arrived in Rizal Park first, followed by Binay and then the President. The three officials raised the flag at 8 a.m. simultaneous with other flag-raising ceremonies nationwide. At the last note of the national anthem, two FA-50 jet fighters flew overhead while two military helicopters rained confetti on the crowd.

Aquino then led the wreath-laying ceremony and watched the fly-by of 10 Cessna Trainer T41, 15 Stelio Frati (SF) 260FH, three combat utility helicopters and five Augusta Westland (AW) 109 helicopters of the Philippine Air Force; and three AW 109 helicopters of the Philippine Navy.

In his message, Aquino said the national hero served as a catalyst for change and independence and his works remain relevant to this day.

“May we all be inspired by Dr. Jose Rizal’s courage and intelligence; his sense of duty; hunger for knowledge; passion for reform; and undying love of country,” the President said.

Aquino and Binay, a presidential candidate from the opposition, were civil to each other and shook hands before the flag-raising ceremony but they did not talk.

The administration’s standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II also came but kept a low profile by staying in one corner of the park.

Administration vice presidential candidate and Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, for her part, issued a statement calling on Filipinos to continue Rizal’s fight against corruption and oppression.

Robredo said she joins the country in commemorating the heroism and sacrifice of Rizal.

“As present heroes, we can continue the fight started by Dr. Rizal, not against foreign invaders, but against poverty, corruption and injustice,” Robredo said.

“We must show courage to eradicate our society of these oppressive acts,” she added.

The President also met some of Rizal’s descendants present during the event. Rebecca Reyes-Virata, a great grand niece of Rizal, thanked Aquino and the rest of the nation for honoring their “Lolo Pepe,” a moniker for the hero.

Rizal was shot at Bagumbayan (now Luneta or Rizal Park) in Manila by a firing squad after being accused of political conspiracy, sedition and rebellion against the Spanish government in the Philippines.  

Virata said they are still touched by the ways Rizal was remembered for his martyrdom, which she described as “painful” for their family.

“He promised his parents that he would take care of them and before he died… he apologized to them… ‘I will not be able to fulfill my promise to take care of you. But we have given to the nation’,” Virata said.

“We hope the country will really rise up, especially as we choose our new leader. Let us pray that we will be able to choose someone who is true and can propel us to the top,” she added.

With the coming elections, Virata said the voters must choose someone with integrity, goodness of heart and fear of God. “Character is very important, the country is put first above all else,” she said.

Virata also encouraged Filipinos, especially the young people, to read the works of Rizal and follow his example. She said this would give them hope and teach them leadership. 

For the women, she recommended Rizal’s “Sa Mga Kababaihan ng Malolos” for inspiration.

For his part, a great-grandnephew of Rizal, Isaac Reyes, said he was frustrated by the Torre de Manila, a condominium project of the DMCI Project Developers Inc. constructed behind the monument of the national hero.

“It’s a national disgrace that the building… is obstructing the view of our national hero,” he said.

Reyes said he would raise awareness against the construction of the condominium building.

A petition has been filed against DMCI-PDI for “photo bombing” the Rizal Monument before the Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the case. The developer insists they did not violate any laws in constructing the building that turned out to be right behind the monument of the national hero. – With Paolo Romero

ACIRC AQUINO AQUINO AND BINAY ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES AUGUSTA WESTLAND CAMARINES SUR REP CESSNA TRAINER DR. JOSE RIZAL RIZAL RIZAL PARK VIRATA
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