Already immortalized in the hearts and minds of Winnipeg’s Filipino community, Dr. José Rizal will soon be immortalized in stone.
The Order of the Knights of Rizal, Winnipeg Chapter is working towards building a park dedicated to the national hero of the Philippines.
Dr. José Rizal Park, to be located at Khalsa Street and Sewa Crescent, will include benches, tables, walkways, trees and plants, a shelter and a boulder monument to Rizal. The proposed park will be located near Dr. José Rizal Way, a strip of Keewatin Street that was renamed in 2008.
Rizal, a Filipino writer and revolutionary, was executed on Dec. 30, 1896, a move that created much opposition to Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines. Spain’s control of the country ended in 1898.
"He’s recognized as our national hero because of the way he brought about or motivated the Filipino people to seek freedom from colonization," said Dr. Tom Colina, a member of the Order of the Knights of Rizal and co-owner of Pearl Family Dental Centre and Ellice Dental Group.
The boulder monument at Dr. José Rizal Park will include an engraving of a Rizal quote. It reads:
"I die without seeing dawn’s light shining on my country… You, who will see it, welcome it for me… Don’t forget those who fell during the nighttime."
"It’s from his book, Noli Me Tángere," Colina said. "It’s a novel in which he explores social justice and injustice. It’s the catalyst.The content and the ideas and the ideals that are contained in this book are the things that pushed the Filipino people to yearn for liberty."
To make Dr. José Rizal Park a reality, Colina and the Knights of Rizal have received money from individuals, corporations and the City of Winnipeg, with councillors Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) and Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan) both being big supporters of the project.
"It’s definitely going to be a meeting place, where (Filipino people) can contemplate and reflect on their national hero," Sharma said. "Also, it’s a great location, as we do have a large Filipino community residing in that area."
"There’s a huge Indo-Canadian community there, and a huge Filipino community," Pagtakhan said. "Both cultures get to know Dr. José Rizal and they get to meet each other. It’s a good thing all around."
According to Colina, Rizal was a big proponent of higher education and one of the Knights of Rizal’s main activities is its youth recognition awards, a university scholarship program for Filipino students. Colina said Dr. José Rizal Park is very much about the younger generation of Filipino people.
"We like to remember Rizal and memorialize Rizal, and make the young generation, the ones that were born in Canada that may not have an idea on who Rizal was, have an awareness of at least who he is," Colina said.
"I’m hoping that the younger generations will have some ideas about what it is to be a Filipino. That’s why we do this."
Sharma said the park will hopefully be completed by summer 2014.