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Jose Rizal Shrine

 

Calamba is closely associated with the national hero of the Philippines, José Rizal. He was born in this town and his family’s residence is now a museum and shrine. A marker placed in the Calamba church in 1961 indicates that Rizal was baptized by Fr. Rufino Collantes on 22 June 1861 in the church (three days after he was born) and his godfather was Fr. Pedro Casañas

The town is, unmistakably, Rizal country. Upon crossing into the boundary of Calamba (south of Metro Manila), almost every street corner has some form of memorial dedicated to the hero.

The house is equally impossible to miss. Apart from the signs specifically pointing towards its location, the residents are more than willing to herd lost tourists in the right direction.

HISTORY

The town of Calamba was originally part of an estate owned by the Jesuits from 1759 to 1768. It was acquired by a Spaniard in 1803, then by the Dominicans in 1883. Rizal's parents, Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonso, were from the neighboring town of Biñan but opted to settle in Calamba when they got married in 1848. They built the first stone and hardwood house in Calamba which is now known as the Rizal Shrine.
After the Rizals were driven out of Calamba by the Spaniards, the house was sold to a certain Don Isidro -- said to be the brother of the Governor -- for 24,000 Philippine pesos (US$460.679 at PhP52.097=$1) and he had it rented out. But after WWII, it was in ruins. The government purchased the property for PhP27,000 but the house was no longer standing.

What we see now is a reconstruction done by National Artist for Agchitecture Juan Nakpil based on photographs and inputs from remaining family members. The only thing original in the structure is the flooring, which was dug up completely during construction. It was completed and opened to the public by President Elpidio Quirino in 1950.
Calamba's relevance was in the childhood (of Jose Rizal)," said Ma. Luisa Valeza, the shrine's curator. This, she explained, is why the exhibit focuses on the boy Rizal, even though they also have artifacts from the later years of his life.


The decision to focus on Rizal's childhood was made by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts as well as the National Centennial Commission in time for the commemoration of the country's 100 years of independence in 1998.

THE HOUSE

The lower house, made of stone, was where Dona Teodora kept shop – a small general merchandise store. The main entrance is a heavy door made of tanguile, which opens to a staircase. Upon alighting from the steps, One finds one's self in the caida (landing), which served as the family's library. It used to house as many as 1,000 books.

From the caida, one is led to the comedor (dining room) where the family comes together to share a meal. None of the furniture is original. Instead it is filled with replicas or furniture with designs that were prevalent at that time.

The comedor (dining room), Ms. Valeza admitted, received a lot of criticism when it was first opened. Instead of traditional portraits, it was adorned with caricature-like renditions of the family. The works were commissioned to fit in with the Centennial Trail. Since no portraits of the family in Rizal's youth were available, the paintings were made to approximate how they might have looked like when they were younger.

On either side of the comedor are the two bedrooms -- the master's bedroom on the left, which was shared with the boys of the family, and the girls' room on the right. It was at the master's bedroom that the hero was born. The girls' bedroom, on the other hand, still contains a sewing machine used by Rizal's sister, Doña Trining.
On the other side of the caida is the family utility room, which leads to the kitchen. Here, one can find dinnerware owned by another sister, Doña Soledad.

The garden at the back of the house is what nourished the young Rizal's interest in science. To emphasize this, resin sculptures of bugs and butterflies, which he studied as a child, have been placed on the trees. Also in this area is a sculpture of the boy Rizal with his dog dutifully at his heels.

On the left side of the house is where the parents of Rizal are buried. They were originally buried in another site but a decision was made to ring them home to Calamba. Through the help of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina, the remains were transferred to the shrine. The spot has a bearing the names of Rizal's parents, and below them, that of Mr. Lina -- prompting many visitors to ask if Sec. Lina is still alive.

STATE OF DISREPAIR

It was also through the Centennial celebration that a new wing was added, meant to accommodate the increase in visitors expected to arrive for the celebrations. Unfortunately, today the "new wing" is in a worse state of repair than the reconstructed house which is over 50 years old. The roof is badly leaking. Only the middle section of the room can be used. The ceiling boards are prying off the beams from the sides due to the leaks. Ms. Valeza noted that the construction was rushed by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The present management under Ms. Valeza is nearly powerless to make improvements, she said. As it is a marked shrine, everything must first be cleared with the National Historical Institute (NHI) in Manila -- which can take a long time. This includes items like simple repair jobs.

In the new wing are the artifacts used by Rizal in the later stages of his life. It includes articles of clothing such as coats and vests worn by the hero. Also a part of the collection is Triumph Of Death Over Life, a sculpture by Rizal. The most valuable article, however, is a fragment of the coat of Rizal worn during his execution in Luneta in Dec. 30, 1896.

There is much to be learned from Rizal's life. But with the present state of the shrine, there might be very little left to learn from soon.

(Rizal Shrine, Calamba, Laguna. Visiting hours: Tuesdays to Sundays, 8 a.m. to noon, 1-5 p.m. Admission fee: free; Contact: Ma. Luisa Valeza at 0919-5013748.)

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Copyright © 2007 last updated:June 03, 2007
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by: Eugene de Leon
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