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Pride of a nation: 13 facts about Manila’s Rizal Monument

The Rizal Monument in Manila’s Rizal Park is almost certainly the most photographed site in the Philippines and the focus of huge national pride.

It honours the man who is considered to be the father of the nation, Dr José Rizal.

Most people who visit Manila will stop to take a selfie in front of the monument, but perhaps won’t discover more about the history of the iconic site.

Here are 13 quick facts about the Rizal Monument:

1. It was planned and constructed during the American colonial period. Approval for the project was signed off by US President Theodore Roosevelt on September 28, 1901. The monument was completed in 1913, 17 year’s after Rizal’s execution.

2. The design of the monument was put out to an international competition, with a cash prize of 5,000 pesos. Although the winner was Carlos Nicoli of Italy, the contract was awarded to runner-up Richard Kissling of Switzerland. Nobody knows how this decision came about.

3. The official name of Kissling’s design is Motto Stella (Guiding Star).

4. There is also no official explanation of the meaning of the monument’s details. The book being held by Rizal almost certainly represents his novels Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The obelisk is considered to be a nod towards Rizal’s involvement in Freemasonry while the three stars are said to stand for Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The figures at the back of the monument, such as leaves and a pot, are said to symbolise the country’s natural resources. The consensus is that the figures beside Rizal — a mother rearing her child and two young boys reading — signify family and education.

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5. Rizal’s mortal remains are interred in the base of the monument. In the years between his death and the dedication of the monument, his body had been buried, without a coffin, in a secret grave in Paco Cemetery.

6. The monument is kept under continuous guard by the Philippine Marine Corps’ Marine Security and Escort Group. These guards are often referred to as the Kabalyeros de Rizal (Knights of Rizal).

7. The exact location where Rizal was executed is about 100 meters north-northwest of the monument. The spot is marked by life-size statues depicting his execution by firing squad.

8. The monument is just one of 118 public memorials to the national hero across the Philippines.

9. There is also an exact replica of the monument in the Spanish capital Madrid, at the junction of Avenida de Las Islas Filipinas and Calle Santander.

10. Aside from the replica in Madrid, there are also monuments honouring Rizal in Wilhelmsfeld (Germany), Jinjiang (China), Cherry Hill Township (New Jersey), San Diego (California), Seattle (Washington), Mexico City (Mexico), Lima ( Peru), Litomerice (Czech Republic), Sydney (Australia) and Singapore.

11. Rizal Park was called Luneta Park before the memorial was installed. At 58 hectares, it is considerably larger than Vatican City at 44 hectares.

12. The flagpole next to the memorial is the largest in the Philippines. The ‘Independence Flagpole” is 150ft tall.

13. The monument is quite literally the centre of the nation. Nearby is a small marble plinth marked “KM 0”. This is the point from which all distances to other cities and provinces are measured.

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