Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Filipina Mother: La Madre Filipina

Postcard views: The obelisk-monument of Rizal in Luneta

Rizal Park - my old playground. Me and my cousins used to and still hang out in the hallowed grounds of this park; literally playing above what was once a ground dotted with the dried blood of both hero and traitor, criminal and martyr. Imagine if the people knew that where they are doing cuddly things that people once died on their spot! 

In any way the park is famous for being the spot where one of the country's national heroes, the great Jose Rizal, was executed for writing materials that exposed the cruel system of the spanish regime and the abuses of Catholic priests that were well-known among Filipinos fighting for the cause. It was also in this place once called Bagumbayan where the three priests who called for reforms were killed by a garrote in public. Entertainment, then, was how they saw public executions in the days when malls where a far-off idea.

But beyond the picturesque and typical postcard view of the statue of the obelisk where Rizal is the star and where Emilio Aguinaldo once requested a similar spot, beyond the squat obelisk of the GomBurZa and the fountains and the couples there is one particular star that has been barely noticed and has been one of those statues that has travelled from one place to another in different periods of time.

A dramatic pose in stone: La Madre Filipina
Just beside the Rizal monument is the statue known as La Madre Filipina

Representing the Filipina mother which in turn represents the Filipino nation, the statue once stood at the foot of the Jones Bridge (formerly the Bridge of Spain) along with three other majestic statues that stood atop columns filled with grandiose designs. During those days of carts and simple cars the bridge was, in every way, majestic. 

Before: The Jones Bridge before the war
But, just like a plot line in one cartoon "It all changed when..." well, you probably know the rest. The bridge was bombed, turning the once graceful "Queen Bridge" into nothing more than a pile of dust and rubble. The statues, however, survived the harrowing ordeal... unlike most heritage structures that were either bombed or burned by the Japanese Imperial Army or the Americans who were then at war with each other.

A sculpture by Martinez. It is a copy of the sculpture to the left of La Madre Filipina in the old Jones Bridge picture.

Made by Ramon Martinez, the man behind the statues that graced structures built during the american regime; such as the Grito De Balintawak monument (1911) that was unveiled in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the start of the revolution waged by Andres Bonifacion and the rest of the Filipinos. Most of his sculptures had great detail, such as this small scale sculpture of one of the Jones Bridge monuments that once stood on the corners of the bridge done by Martinez himself. 

The sculptures, save for one that was either missing or destroyed by the war, were moved to different locations. La Madre Filipina was moved to her present site in Rizal Park while the other two were moved to the present Court of Appeals building (topic for a future post) in Maria Orosa Street in Ermita, thus ending their glory days as guardians of the queen bridge which, as I would always dream about, is something that needs to be re-built to its former glory.

The sculpture as of today

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