As a child, Christmas season means going to Heart of Mary Villa in Malabon for our family’s annual outreach activity. By evening, my father would bring us to Ever Emporium in Caloocan City to watch mechanical puppets present a colorful and animated Christmas musical up on the mall’s façade.
For a good view, we would sit on bermuda grass that covers Grace Park not minding behind us is the towering sculpture popularly known as the Monumento –an imposing monument to Andres Bonifacio created by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino.
Adventure Started at Tropical Hut
In our recent visit to Monumento, the monument is still surrounded by flashy movie billboards and commercial establishments. However, we noticed some things have changed. Aside from learning that the annual Christmas show has seized a long time ago, Grace Park is now enclosed by an iron fence which makes it less inviting for the public to see Tolentino’s masterpiece up close.
Our adventure began at a nearby fast food joint. It was quite an effort for us to cross the street from the sidewalk to the park because of the continuous flow of vehicles encircling the rotunda. Upon our approach, we thought of scaling the fence since we can not find the entrance to the park. A resident caretaker came out from a makeshift tent and opened the park’s gate.
Inaugurated on the 70th birth anniversary of Bonifacio (November 30, 1933), the Monumento demonstrates Tolentino’s philosophy that a monument should be factual and symbolical. Illustrating his philosophy, the artist placed the sculpture on an octagonal base whose eight sides represent the eight Philippine provinces that first rose to revolt against Spain in 1896. The base ascends three steps suggesting the three centuries of Spanish rule.
Historian Ambeth Ocampo in his essay Song Without Words explains that the reflecting pool on opposite sides of the monument serves as a reminder of the Filipino temper according to Jose Rizal in El Filibusterismo as “mild and can be drunk but it dilutes wine and beer, extinguishes fire; heated it becomes steam, and ruffed it is the ocean; once it destroyed mankind and made the earth tremble to its foundation.”
Images of the 1896 Revolution
Below the 45-foot granite obelisk crowned by a figure of the Winged Victory, Tolentino arranged all bronze figures around it with Andres Bonifacio –hero of the Philippine revolution of 1896 as central figure. Behind him is his youngest general, Emilio Jacinto. They are surrounded by a standard bearer of the Katipunan flag and katipuneros in battle mode.
Moving to one side is a tableau of a Filipino family with the man holding his dead wife while his other hand is stretching out a clench fist. Next to it is a Katipunan initiation rite where katipuneros sign their oaths of allegiance in blood.
Tribute to GOMBURZA
Opposite of the main group are martyred priest Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora showing one lifeless, another in waiting and one in the throes of death. Collectively known as GOMBURZA, the execution of the three priests ignited Asia’s first revolution against colonial rule. Another group of figure shows torture scenes and death.
Happy Independence Day! June 12, 2009