MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo led the wreath-laying ceremony at the Luneta Park on Sunday morning to commemorate the 122nd death anniversary of the country's national hero Jose Rizal.
Hundreds of people from various groups like the Knights of Rizal attended the annual gathering to remember and honor Rizal's martyrdom.
During the ceremony, the Philippine flag got partly ripped while it was being raised. When the national anthem stopped playing, authorities replaced it with a new one.
Robredo did not give any speech but said in a statement that Rizal should remind Filipinos "that true freedom always goes hand in hand with kindness and integrity."
"In these times when ruthless practicality is foisted on us as virtue, and when respect for individual dignity is maligned as weakness, Rizal stands as a reminder that true freedom always goes hand in hand with kindness and integrity," she said.
The Vice President, now an opposition leader, also cited this passage from Rizal's novel El Filibusterismo: “Hate never produces anything but monsters and crime criminals! Love alone realizes wonderful works, virtue alone can save! No, if our country has ever to be free, it will not be through vice and crime, it will not be so by corrupting its sons, deceiving some and bribing others, no! Redemption presupposes virtue, virtue sacrifice, and sacrifice love!”
She concluded by saying: "Ultimately, WE must be the change we wish to see. This Rizal Day, may we take this reminder from our national hero to heart. And may we find in ourselves the courage and serenity to work for his vision of a Philippines free from hate, division, and tyranny, and where the dignity of every Filipino is upheld."
Filipinos annually commemorate Rizal's death with wreath-laying ceremonies in various places in the country.
Rizal was shot by a firing squad before the break of dawn in Luneta on December 30, 1896, for writing articles and literature that inspired the revolutionary movement against Spanish colonizers.
In a statement on Saturday, Malacañang urged Filipinos to assert the country's national dignity to immortalize the lessons and legacy of Rizal.
"Jose Rizal’s martyrdom should propel us to rise to the challenge of the times and unchain ourselves from our stupor of indifference and race to the finish line of genuine change and prosperity," it said. --reports from Ernie Manio and Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News