As promised in my last week's Luneta post, I returned to the park on Saturday afternoon to see the Rizal Diorama. The Rizal Diorama is the actual location of his execution on December 30, 1896. It is located on the north side of the Rizal monument, in a small enclosed section of the park.
The area is protected by a stone wall, a moat with a stone bridge. The small bridge leads to a black marble wall where Rizal's poem "Mi Ultimo Adios" is engraved.
The poem, "Mi Ultimo Adios" (My Last Farewell), was written by Rizal on the eve of his execution as many believed. The poem was actually untitled, undated and unsigned when Rizal's sisters found the folded paper hidden in a small alcohol stove. On the afternoon of December 29, 1896, a day before his execution, Rizal was visited by his mother, sisters and two nephews. When the family was about to leave, Rizal told his sister Trinidad, in English (the Spanish guards didn't understand English), that there was something in the small alcohol stove. The Rizals reproduced copies of the 14 five-line stanzas and sent them to friends in the country and abroad. The poem was published in the first issue of La Independencia in 1898 entitled "Ultimo Adios", thus Rizal's poem became popularly known as "Ultimo Adios" or "Mi Ultimo Adios".
Before and after Rizal, many innocent Filipinos have been executed in this area of Bagumbayan (the old name of Luneta) by the Spanish colonizers. Falsely accused of masterminding the Cavite rebellion, the 3 priests, Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were garroted here in 1872. In 1897, 13 Filipinos were also executed in Bagumbayan---casualties of Spanish pressure against the revolutionary Katipunan, an anti-Spanish revolutionary society. Many unsung heroes died in Bagumbayan--patriots from Bicol, Capiz and other parts of the country were brought to Manila and executed in Bagumbayan. The Spanish version of the "Killing Fields".
Larger-than-life dioramas show Rizal's final days in captivity and his death at the hands of his countrymen. The Spanish authorities used Filipino, not Spanish, soldiers for his firing squad. I was awed by the size of these bronze statues--they're about 8-10 feet tall. It costs about 22 cents to see this diorama; about a dollar to see the light-and-sound presentation at 7 pm. I wanted to see the light-and-sound presentation but the gate-keeper said that there were only 6 of us who wanted to see it, they needed at least 15 people.:(
I have read some articles that Rizal's last act of defiance was to face away from his Filipino firing squad. That is a bit incorrect because his statue here is supposed to represent him spinning away from the firing squad in a last effort to die looking up to the sky, instead of breathing his last facing down.
Some historians wrote that Rizal's last request was to be shot facing his executioners, but the Spaniards refused, citing a Spanish law that seditionists are to be shot in the back. Legend has it that as bullets hit his back, with superhuman effort, Rizal spun himself so he could die facing the sky.
I sat on the concrete stool and contemplated at the horrible scene...I almost cried. I regret that I never paid much attention to my Rizal classes in school. His books "Noli Me Tangere" and "El Filibusterismo" are obligatory for high school students in the Philippines, and truth be told, I only read those books because I needed to. I think it's about time I reacquaint myself with the works of Rizal.
The Rizal monument viewed from the stone bridge
P.S. Across the Rizal monument, at the Quirino grandstand grounds, a hostage crisis involving a dismissed police officer and a bus with more than 20 tourists from Hong Kong happened today. The hostage crisis ended after a 10-hour negotiations, the police assaulted the bus, and the hostage-taker killed by a sniper's bullet earlier this evening. At least 7 wounded hostages were brought to the hospital. Aside from the 9 hostages released earlier today, there are no news on others survivors. A sad day, indeed.