The History Behind Rizal Park

Rizal Park

Rizal Park is more than just a sprawling urban oasis in the heart of Manila. It’s a testament to the rich and complex history of the Philippines. Named after the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal, the park has witnessed important moments in the nation’s struggle for independence. To fully understand the landmark’s cultural significance, let’s delve into Rizal Park’s history below.  

A Brief History of Rizal Park

Rizal Park currently stands as one of the largest urban parks in Asia and is a popular leisure spot for locals and travelers alike. But behind this iconic monument is the significant story of how a hero sacrificed his for his country. So let’s explore Rizal Park’s history below:

Dr. Jose P. Rizal

Dr. Jose Rizal was an accomplished physician, intellectual, and patriot. He was born on June 19, 1861, in Calamba, Laguna, to a wealthy family. He studied medicine and philosophy in Europe and became an advocate for political reforms and social justice in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. He wrote two novels, “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo,” that exposed the injustices of Spanish rule and sparked the flame for Filipino nationalism.

When he returned to the Philippines in 1892, Rizal was exiled to Dapitan by the Spanish authorities due to his radical works. In 1896, he was arrested because he was accused of being involved in the Philippine revolution against Spanish colonial rule.


The Execution

After his arrest, Rizal was imprisoned at Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila. He was held in solitary confinement and subjected to interrogation and trial by the Spanish military court. Despite the lack of concrete evidence and a fair trial, Rizal was convicted and sentenced to death by a firing squad on December 30, 1896. The execution was held at what’s currently known as Rizal Park.

The death of Jose Rizal became a pivotal point in Philippine history because it sparked outrage and a sense of nationalism among Filipinos. Which led to the Philippine Revolution and the eventual declaration of the country’s independence from Spanish colonial rule in 1898.   

Rizal Monument

Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling designed a bronze sculpture to commemorate Jose Rizal. It was unveiled on December 30, 1913, to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the hero’s execution. The statue features a bronze sculpture of Rizal standing on a granite pedestal, with his left hand holding a book. Inscribed on the memorial’s plaque is Rizal’s poem “Mi Ultimo Adios,” which he wrote before his execution.

The statue is also surrounded by a beautiful memorial park and gardens, which include an obelisk and a reflecting pool. These provide a tranquil environment for visitors to pay their respects to Rizal’s life and legacy.


Paseo de la Luneta

Before the monument, the park was known as Paseo de la Luneta. The Spanish built it in 1820 as a plaza with promenades, lawns, a fountain, and a bandstand where Manila’s elite would socialize. By 1823-1827, the plaza became an execution ground, where 158 patriots were executed by Spanish army firing squads. Aside from Jose Rizal, Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora (collectively known as Gomburza) were famously killed on the site in 1872.

Park Attractions

At present, the Rizal Monument is surrounded by an array of attractions that visitors can explore. If you want to soak in Rizal Park’s history, head out to the Gallery of Heroes, where you’ll see 14 large bronze statues of prominent Filipino heroes and martyrs, such as Andres Bonifacio, Lapu-Lapu, and Gabriela Silang. You can also find the Martyrdom of Rizal Diorama, which depicts the final moments of the hero’s execution.

If you want to explore the beautifully landscaped gardens of the park, you can walk around its Chinese and Japanese Gardens. They’re inspired by the cultures’ architectural designs and feature pagodas, bridges, and sculptures. There’s also a children’s playground and chess plaza where your kids can play and enjoy. Rizal Park also hosts various concerts and cultural performances featuring local and international artists throughout the year.

Visitor Information

If you plan on visiting Rizal Park soon, its gates are open from 5 am to 9 pm daily. The great thing about the destination is admission is free, making it accessible for everyone to explore its rich cultural heritage. Although there may be a minimal fee to enter the Chinese and Japanese gardens, so it’s best to bring extra cash if you want to stop over.

Since the park is mostly open air, the best time to visit is the early morning hours. The atmosphere provides a serene ambiance, and there’s less crowd. But you can also visit during the late afternoon so you can catch the sunset over Manila Bay.

See also: Top 5 Historical Churches in the Philippines that Stand the Test of Time

Closing Thoughts

Rizal Park’s history makes it a cherished national landmark and a symbol of Filipino heritage and identity. It invites visitors to reflect on the past, celebrate the present, and inspire future generations to uphold the ideals and values of freedom, justice, and equality that Dr. Jose Rizal and other Filipino national heroes fought and sacrificed for. The attractions and activities of the park aim to celebrate the cultural heritage, natural beauty, and national pride of the Philippines. So, if you haven’t had the chance to visit Rizal Park yet, make sure to drop by to experience its charm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you want to know more about the history behind Rizal Park, here are answers to frequently asked questions:

What is Rizal Park’s old name?

Rizal Park is also known as Luneta Park, derived from the French word “Lunette” because its fort resembles a crescent.

When did Luneta Park open?

Luneta Park had a long and significant history before it became a national park on December 19, 1955. In addition to the Rizal monument, there are beautifully manicured gardens and statues of other notable Filipino heroes.

What is the meaning of the Rizal Park monument?

The Rizal Park monument is a tribute to Jose Rizal’s life and legacy and serves as a symbol of Filipino nationalism and identity.

Related: Best Historic Hotels to Stay in the Philippines

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