A NEW YEAR'S gift from the People's Republic of China to the Philippines "is a great symbol of the 1,000-year-old friendship between our two nations," House Speaker Jose de Venecia remarked during the inauguration of the Rizal Park on Jan. 23 in the Siongque village of Jinjiang City, Fujian province in China.De Venecia, who headed the Philippine delegation, further said that, "This Rizal Park in China helps elevate the status of our Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal as a hero for the whole Asian region."The Rizal statue is enshrined in a 5-hectare park built and named in his honor. And the monument made of the world-famous Jinjiang granite stones, stands at 18.61 meters high, taller than the 12-meter high Rizal statue in Luneta, Manila.
Biggest outside RP
Built along a new 10-lane highway in rural Fujian and envisioned to be the biggest Rizal shrine outside the Philippines, the park will be the site of a massive Rizal museum and library. It is expected to be a must-see among the Filipino-Chinese, 80 percent of whom, like the national hero, can trace their roots to the Fujian province.The national hero is the direct descendant of Chinese trader Cua Yi Lam, who immigrated from Siongque ("Zhang-Guo" in Mandarin Chinese) to the Philippines in the latter part of the 17th century. Church records show that Cua Yi Lam was baptized Domingo Lamco at the age of 35 in Manila in 1697 and that his birthplace was Siongque village in China.ProgenyHe eventually moved from the Parian district of Manila to establish his family and his business in Laguna. He married Inez de la Rosa, daughter of another trader who immigrated from China.To spare his progeny from the Spanish regime's anti-Chinese policies, he changed the family name to Mercado. Domingo's son Francisco had a son named Juan, who in turn had a son whom he also named Francisco.One of Francisco's sons, Jose Rizal Mercado, had to drop the family name when he entered the Ateneo because of his elder brother Paciano's close ties with the martyred Fr. Jose Burgos. Rizal turned out to be poet, novelist, physician, linguist, patriot, martyr and hero. The rest is history.FundingTo return Rizal to his roots, the Jinjiang city government put up 10 million yuan (about 62 million pesos) to fund the Rizal Park while Filipino-Chinese business and civic leaders under the coordination of Tulay Foundation chair Manuel Chua, donated 2 million yuan (about 12.4 million pesos).Filipino-Chinese business and civic leaders, notably Philippine Airlines chair Lucio Tan and Chua, spearheaded the fundraising for the Rizal shrine project.The groundbreaking for the Rizal Park in 2000 was led by then President Joseph Estrada and his Cabinet secretaries.Some 56 Rizal clan members and members of the Knights of Rizal were invited to grace the groundbreaking.Filipino delegationDe Venecia led the wreath-laying ceremony honoring the national hero with Chinese officials Gong Qingkai, Jinjiang city mayor and party secretary, and Xue Zuliang, chair of the People's Congress of Jinjiang City.Also in the Philippine delegation were Consul General Corazon Bajin, Rep. Roque Ablan, National Historical Institute chair Ambeth Ocampo, the Tarlac-based descendants of Rizal's sister Soledad, officers of the Knights of Rizal and Filipino-Chinese leaders and businessmen.Warm welcomeCity officials and schoolchildren welcomed the Philippine delegation with festive buntings and music.After the floral offering at the foot of the newly constructed monument, the delegation walked to the inner village to visit the small one-room house with red-tile roofing that Rizal's great, great grandfather once called home. There the descendants of Soledad Mercado-Quintero lighted joss-sticks and paid homage to their Chinese ancestors.Natividad M. Mendoza, granddaughter of Soledad, brought seven members of her family, including her son Genaro, who is currently mayor of Tarlac City, Nereo C. Mendoza, Virlane Sta. Ana Mendoza, Josefina B. Malvar, Stella Nimfa B. Mendoza, Ana Barbara B. Mendoza, Natividad M. Mendoza, Jose Noel Malvar Mendoza, Amelia Digna Malvar Mendoza and Maria Carolina B. Mendoza.