At the northern end of Edsa stands the monument of Andres Bonifacio—perhaps the greatest work of Guillermo E. Tolentino, National Artist for Sculpture. Those who take the effort to view the monument today lament that its location in often traffic-choked rotonda is surrounded by billboards and business establishments, including an “end-station” of the LRT. All these conspire to dwarf the once-grand proportions of the monument. The rotonda was formerly known as Grace Park, a reference to its being a church land administered temporally by “His Grace,” the Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila. Today the place is simply known as “Monumento.”
Toward the end of the Marcos years, there was a plan to transfer the Monumento to a more suitable location. One brilliant but ignored proposed site was between the bronze carabaos across the street from the Rizal Monument. Personally, I felt it appropriate to position our two national heroes literally face to face so they could contemplate the people and nation for whom they laid their lives for. Unfortunately, in this arrangement the Tolentino monument would outshine the simpler Rizal monument designed by the Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling. Another problem was, Rizal would be stuck with only the view of the famous Manila Bay sunset while Bonifacio would enjoy the sunrise from the east, as well as a commanding view of the stillborn Torre de Manila.
The cornerstone of the Bonifacio monument was laid by Aurora Aragon Quezon at 5.45 p.m. on Nov. 30, 1929, and the completed monument was inaugurated with much fanfare in the afternoon of Nov. 30, 1933, highlighted with speeches from Quintin Paredes, speaker of the House of Representatives, and Frank Murphy, governor general of the Philippines. Manuel Luis Quezon contributed a speech from the United States by radio. A moment of silence followed Speaker Paredes’ speech, prompted by a bugle call executed by a veteran of the Philippine Revolution, Three seconds after this, the chair of the inauguration committee announced the unveiling of the monument, which was followed immediately by a gun salute from the Philippine Constabulary.
The unveiling was led by three students drawn from major women’s schools to represent the three principal islands of the Philippines: Luzon (Philippine Women’s College), the Visayas (Instituto de Mujeres); and Mindanao (Centro Escolar de Señoritas). A pity that the names of these three ladies were not in the inaugural program, unlike those of the other eight who represented the provinces placed under martial law by the Spaniards after the outbreak of the revolution in 1896.
Each young lady was escorted to her left by a member of the House, and to her right by a veteran of the revolution. For brevity I have omitted the names of the politicians, leaving only the names of the beautiful ladies and the historic veterans as follows: Manila (Pacita Roxas-Gen. Pantaleon Garcia); Bulacan (Amada de Leon-Gen. Mariano Llanera); Pampanga (Corazon Hizon y Paras-Gen. Jose Alejandrino); Nueva Ecija (Loreto C. Lucero-Gen. Juan Cailles); Tarlac (Pura Cabrera-Gen. Mariano Riego de Dios); Laguna (Manuela Kabigting-Gen. Servillano Aquino); Cavite (Rubi San Agustin-Gen. Esteban de la Rama); Batangas (Nora-Diokno-Gen. Ludovico Arejola). After the monument was unveiled the national anthems of the Philippines and the United States were played.
I am curious about the designs for the Bonifacio monument submitted in the national competition that closed on July 15, 1930. Who were the artists eliminated in the first round on Aug. 27, 1930? They did Valor, Fuerza y Triunfo, K.K.K, El Heroe Plebeyo, Amarillo, Pro Patria Mori, and Los Ocho Rayos de Nuestra Bandera. The finalists considered on Aug. 28, 1930 were Lakandula, Al Fundador del K, Del Sufrimiento Popular Nace el Heroe, Pugad Lawin, The People, Credo, and Batang Elias. The screening committee, chaired by Andres Luna de San Pedro with Vicente Francisco and Tomas Mapua as members, awarded the P3,000-first prize to Batang Elias (Tolentino), and the P2,000-second prize to Pugad Lawin “because his work is the most original under the tenets of modern art.” Would our world have been better if the modern design was chosen over the classical one?
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