THE CAPITOL ROTUNDA. As I stared over a cup of freshly brewed coffee on the kitchen counter, I began to crave for Pinoy breakfast. It being a nice day, we thought of having brunch in a park that is closer by. From San Mateo, we went to Quezon City. When approaching the Elliptical Road from Commonwealth Ave., three-column marble towers dominate the skyline. This is the Quezon Memorial Shrine.
The shrine is within the Quezon City Circle. In 1941, this 25-hectare rotunda was intended to be the site of the House of Congress. With the War, the death of President Manuel Quezon, and the new site to house the Legislature, the area was turned into a park and a fitting memorial to the Commonwealth President and the city’s founder.
A SHRINE TO PRESIDENT QUEZON. It was President Sergio Osmeña who initiated a nationwide contest for architects and artists to submit a design for a monument and resting place for President Manuel Quezon. The contest was won by Federico Ilustre who designed one of the most beautiful monuments in the country.
The monument has nationalistic and Masonic symbols. The wide staircase beginning from the base to the tip of the towers measure 66 meters represents Quezon’s age when he died. In Masonic traditions, a stairway is featured in first degree Masonic initiation ceremony to symbolize Jacob’s dream of a ladder leading upward to heaven. A stairway represents lessons learned in life. Columns are prominently featured in Masonic architecture. A group of three columns implies perfection. The three winged-angels symbolize the country’s major island groups, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The towers stands on a triangle base with bas-relief on the sides depicting historic events. In the Masonry, the triangle has been a traditional emblem for God as popularly represented as the All seeing eye. In 1933, Quezon wrote a handwritten retraction from the Masonry after he reached the 33rd Degree.
QUEZON MEMORIAL MUSEUM. After a hefty brunch at Circles Cafe, we walked passed the taho vendors and the fitness buffs doing zumba towards the Quezon Memorial Shrine. A door at the base of the monument opens to a narrow corridor that leads to a museum.
In an extensive arrangement and display are artifacts and memorabilia that narrates the life and political career of President Quezon.
LIFE OF QUEZON. The walkway leading to the first gallery has an enlarged photo of a young Quezon as a comandante in Aguinaldo’s army during the Filipino-American War. Don Manuel Quezon became a household name in the 1930s when he became Senate President and later when he won the presidency of the Commonwealth.
As Commonwealth President, Quezon and his family were the first Filipino residents of Malacanang Palace. One of the galleries shows the arrangement of the original furniture in Quezon’s office.
COMMONWEALTH ERA. We spent a lot of time in the hall filled with artifacts from the Commonwealth Era. There is huge contraption that was used to stamp the seal of the Commonwealth on documents. There is also a gold-gilded ceremonial chest where the original copy of the 1935 Constitution was kept.
President Quezon was an undisputed leader that dominated this historic timeline called the Commonwealth Era where the US established a ten-year transition period before granting the country an autonomous government that is run by Filipinos. It was an era marked by Filipinos ‘feeling secure under the mantle of the United State.’ What Nick Joaquin coined as Peacetime was abruptly ended by World War II.
QUEZON’S SARCOPHAGUS. President Quezon fled to the US during the Japanese Occupation and spent his last days bedridden. He died on August 1, 1944 from complications of tuberculosis. In 1979, the remains of President Quezon were interred in the national shrine.
Our tour of the Quezon Memorial Shrine ended at a narrow doorway that leads to the central podium of the monument where a stairway rises to the President’s sarcophagus.
– 17 September 2016
The day when Manuel Quezon won
the Commonwealth President post in 1935