|RIZAL FAN. Patricia Mae Quemquem, 14, joins thousands in honoring Rizal Sunday at Luneta Park in Manila.
MANILA, Philippines – The reenactment of the march to inter the urn containing the remains of national hero Jose Rizal in Luneta Park drew up to 7,000 spectators and participants Sunday morning, organizers said.
The Order of the Knights of Rizal, which spearheaded preparations for the 116th anniversary of the burying of Rizal’s remains at the foot of his monument in the park in Manila, said there were about 7,000 government employees, students and civic organizations who either watched or participated in the march to Luneta and in the wreath-laying ceremony there.
The members of the Order themselves were in their 1920s-inspired uniform and marched alongside a flower-adorned caisson carrying a replica of the urn. They accompanied Rizal's descendants, Gemma Cruz-Araneta and Victor Reyes.
Reyes told the media that everyone has a chance to show he can be like Rizal, his great grandfather as he is the grandson of Saturnina – Rizal’s older sister. “Lahat tayo magpakabayani… ‘Di natin kailangan mamatay para maging bayani,” he said.
The assembly started 4 a.m. in Binondo at the Basilica Minor of San Lorenzo Ruiz, near San Fernando Street where Rizal’s family once lived. March then started by 5 a.m. toward the old “Ayuntamiento”, near where the Palacio del Gobernador now stands.
The caisson was preceded by a marching band and escorted by uniformed personnel of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. By the time the caisson was at the Manila Hotel, the tail of the procession was at the Anda Circle of Intramuros.
The funeral re-enactment march ended in Luneta, where the urn was symbolically placed at the foot of the Rizal monument by Knights of Rizal Supreme Commander Reghis Romero and the Masonic Lodge of the Philippines Grand Master Santiago Gavionza, as did their organizations' officials during the original 1912 interment.
President Benigno Aquino III arrived at exactly 7 a.m., the same time that Rizal arrived at Luneta for his execution in 1896. The formal wreath-laying ceremony then commenced.
A 21-gun-salute -- three volleys of seven gunshots – were rendered Rizal after a big wreath of yellow flowers were laid down at the foot of his monument. The salute is reserved for heads of states and those accorded state funerals. Every year, such a salute is made during Rizal Day, history enthusiasts on site said.
While many of the thousands who came were adults, there were also very young students who said they went to the march for the chance to honor Rizal.
Fourteen-year old Patricia Mae Quemquem of the Bangkal High School was the only one from her school, and was accompanied by her fellow Girl Scouts and their teacher-advisers from Makati.
She said she woke up 4 a.m. to attend the event.
Quemquem said that of the many values of Rizal taught in school, she remembered best how he sacrificed for the country.
“Huwag natin siya (Rizal) talikuran. Once a year lang ang celebration (of Rizal martyrdom). Importante na bisitahin natin,” Quemquem said.
She also said his writings helped shape the way the Philippines is, and the country owes its existence to the hero.