Jose Rizal's first monument revisited
- Bernard Supetran () - December 29, 2008 - 12:00am

DAET, Camarines Norte — While the Filipino nation pays homage to national hero Dr. Jose Rizal on his day of martyrdom, this quaint town of Daet, capital of Camarines Norte, is abuzz with activities around its own Rizal monument.

The 15-foot-tall stone pylon named after the national hero is bereft of intricate design, but is in every way special because it is the first-ever Rizal memorial marker in the country.

Situated in a river park, construction of the memorial began on Dec. 30, 1898 in compliance with a decree of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, president of the revolutionary government, to observe Dec. 30 as a national holiday in the “Free Philippines.”

It was completed in February 1899, shortly after the outbreak of the Filipino-American War, antedating by about 14 years the monument in Luneta, which was inaugurated only in 1912.

By virtue of this act, Camarines Norte became the first province to celebrate Rizal Day.

The monument was built through the financial contributions of the townsfolk of Camarines Norte and the Bicol region, with Lt. Colonels Antonio Sanz and Ildefonso Alegre of the Revolutionary Army leading its construction.

Designed by Sanz, the monument is a three-tiered stone pylon, its square base surmounted by a two-level triangle, the last one tapering off to a point.

The front face contains a black metal slab from the National Historical Commission when it was declared as a historical landmark in 1961.

Inscribed on the square podium are Rizal’s popular novels—Noli Me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, and Morga, a tribute to Antonio de Morga, author of Sucesos de las islas Filipinas in 1609, an important book on the early history of the Spanish colonization.

On both sides of the topmost triangle is an eight-rayed sun, a five-pointed star and the phrase “A Jose Rizal” (To Jose Rizal).

However, unlike other monuments, it does not bear any of his sculptured images.

According to oral accounts, the base contains a time capsule containing the list of contributors to the construction of the monument.

It is also a widely accepted belief that Masons played an important role in putting up the pylon because of its pronounced Masonic elements. Add to this the fact that Aguinaldo and Sanz were Masons.

Masonic historian Reynold Fajardo wrote in the bimonthly periodical Cabletow, “the monument is unquestionably Masonic, the squared base is surmounted by a triangle; on the sides of the triangle is a five-pointed star and the all-seeing eye at the top.”

“The First Rizal Monument is a source of pride, not only for the townsfolk but also for all Bicolanos. It also attests to the people’s reverence for Rizal and his ideals,” says Daet Mayor Tito Sarion.

He said Daet and the Provincial Government of Camarines Norte hold colorful Dec. 30 rites including a street theater reenacting Rizal’s martyrdom, which concludes at the Monument. There’s also a host of special events such as essay-writing and oratorical contests, socio-civic activities and wreath laying.

Sarion said Rizal’s life and ideals inspired Daet’s political leaders and citizenry to declare the municipality as a “character town” in 2002.

In recognition of the landmark’s historic value, the National Historical Institute (NHI) recently declared a national monument by virtue of NHI Resolution No. 12.

“Today, the monument is not only a reminder of the greatness of the Great Malayan, but also the top tourist drawer of Camarines Norte. Failure to visit it when in Daet would be a tragedy of monumental proportions,” he said.

A JOSE RIZAL AGUINALDO AND SANZ CAMARINES NORTE CAMARINES NORTE AND THE BICOL COLONELS ANTONIO SANZ AND ILDEFONSO ALEGRE OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY DAET DAET AND THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF CAMARINES NORTE DAET MAYOR TITO SARION DR. JOSE RIZAL MONUMENT RIZAL
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