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Sunday, May 6, 2007

Two Pilgrimages

In which one spouse visits a historical
site, and the other hits a mega-mall

Once again, hot as hell, not a fit day out for man nor beast. But I had a mission, and would not be dissuaded.

The effigy stands in the space where
Dr. Rizal was incarcerated; the steps
indicate the path to the execution ground.

I have come to admire "The Great Malay," Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines' greatest national hero. I am slowly reading his works; I have read one print biography and one online, and several biographical articles; and I have walked the route from his place of incarceration to his place of execution, where the Spanish authorities--on charges of insurrection--took his life on the morning of December 30, 1896. He is fascinating, multi-talented and multi-faceted. An unchallenged national hero for over a century, and yet riddled with ambiguities. There are even messianic sects, such as the Rizalistas, who believe he will come again to save the Philippines in her hour of greatest need.

"borrowed" from here

Anyway, in my research I had learned that the monument in what is now Rizal Park, near his execution site, was not his original resting place. In fact, the Spaniards had spirited his body away and buried it in secret to prevent a cult of martyr-worship. But friends of the family discovered the location: formerly a cemetery, these days known as Paco Park. They paid a worker to mark the grave with Dr. Jose Protasio Rizal's initials in reverse, as seen above. (There's an interesting account of a "local" man helping some Spanish researchers locate the park here and here.)

The Paco area adjoins Malate, so we set off on foot. Soon, however, my companions declared "this is ridiculous" and we hailed a cab. (I didn't argue with them.)

Curved walls

St. Pancratius Chapel

The park itself is beautiful, atmospheric. The curved walls encrusted with old crypts give an odd, comforting feeling; and the round Chapel of St. Pancratius is like the jewel in the lotus.

The modern memorial

The (alleged) former site of Dr. Rizal's burial is well-marked. After just hanging around and soaking up atmosphere for a while, we headed back to the pensionne to pick up our bags. Having done James' "yang" it was time to do Lila's "yin" (Adam doesn't count, since it wasn't his honeymoon): We headed for the largest mall in the country, and the 7th-largest in the world: SM Mall of Asia.

Lila had remembered seeing a veg restaurant there, but we couldn't find it. We did, however, find a Mexicali, and sat down with Lila's old friend Beng to eat our last meal in the Philippines. After we ate, the "kids" went off shopping while the old man sat and read; then it was off to the airport and the flight to Hong Kong, where, as mentioned above, we registered for those Frequent Flyer cards and noted the Burger King in the arrival hall.

But the festivities STILL weren't over...

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip here.

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