Rizal Park in Rosemeadow, New South Wales, Australia

Satellite image of Rizal Park in Rosemeadow, New South Wales, Australia.

Today is the 157th birthday of Dr. José Rizal and in his honor, I am featuring Rizal Park in Rosemeadow, which is a suburb of Sydney, Australia under the jurisdiction of the City of Campbelltown. On October 26, 2012, no less than President Benigno Aquino III led the unveiling of a 5-meter-tall statue of José Rizal (one of the biggest Rizal statues in the world) created by renowned sculptor Ed Castrillo to become the centerpiece of Rizal Park. Along with the statue, a historical marker by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines was also unveiled. The president was joined by the mayor of Campbelltown, Sue Dobson, and the Premier of New South Wales, Barry O’Farrell. A video featuring highlights of the event is shown below.

The park itself dates back to the 1980s when the Philippine–Australian Friendship Association (PAFA) lobbied for a park to be named after the the national hero in 1987. On June 2, 1988, a reserved area was named Rizal Park as a result although the park remained undeveloped for quite some time. In 2006, the local Filipino community initiated efforts to redevelop the park and the Rizal Park Movement of Campbelltown (RPMC) was born. Groundbreaking activities started in 2008 and continued until 2012 culminating with the installation of the statue as the final phase of the project.

If you want to learn more, then this extensive account by Evelyn Zaragoza of the park’s history and the installation and unveiling of the statue is very informative. The park’s official web page also contains several more photos of the park and its facilities though the page is not quite informative.

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Posted on
June 19, 2018
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Angeles Church

Satellite image of the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles, Pampanga.

Happy 120th anniversary of the Philippine Declaration of Independence! To celebrate this historic day, I will be featuring the Holy Rosary Parish Church, also known as Angeles Church, in Angeles, Pampanga. Why a church? Well, this particular church was where Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo celebrated the first anniversary of the said declaration of independence. On June 12, 1899, thousands of Filipinos celebrated Mass at this church and afterwards, Aguinaldo gave a speech to commemorate the occasion. It should be recalled that the First Philippine Republic, which was established in January 1899 in Malolos, Bulacan, was then in the midst of the Philippine–American War against the American forces. Manila and Malolos had been captured by the United States earlier that year and so Aguinaldo and his forces were forced northwards and found themselves in Angeles by June 1899.

Facade of the Holy Rosary Parish Church from across the street. © Carmelo Bayarcal (CC)

Eight years ago to this day, I blogged about the nearby Pamintuan Mansion, and said that that was where Aguinaldo celebrated the first anniversary. Angeleños used to commemorate the occasion by reenacting Aguinaldo giving a speech from the mansion’s balcony and waving the Philippine flag as can be seen in this photograph. However, based on recent historical research, it turned out that this was completely incorrect. As mentioned in an Inquirer news article from last year, a local historian discovered that Angeles Church was the actual site of the celebration, not the Pamintuan Mansion.

This wrong narrative even tripped up the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, who was forced to remove two historical markers installed at the mansion that contained this incorrect history. (See this photograph of the English marker that stated: “Here, celebrated the first anniversary of Philippine independence, June 12, 1899.”) The NHCP then unveiled a replacement marker (see this photo) containing the correct information last year, and at the same time also unveiled a pair of historical markers, one in Tagalog and the other in Kapampangan—the first and so far only NHCP historical marker in this local language—at Angeles Church that highlights the unique place of that place of worship in the country’s history.

Angeles Church, fondly called Pisamban Maragul (Kapampangan for “big church”) by the local citizens, is also historic for other reasons. Constructed from 1877 to 1896, the church and its twin towers were used by Filipinos as a watchtower against advancing American troops in 1899. Afterwards, the Americans repurposed the church and its convent as a field office and hospital from 1900 to 1902. During World War II, the Japanese also occupied the building and used it as a garage for their military vehicles.

As always, if you want to read up a bit more on the church’s history, you should visit the Wikipedia article.

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Posted on
June 12, 2018
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Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

Satellite image of the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery in Nagcarlan, Laguna.

Arguably the most popular attraction in the town of Nagcarlan, Laguna is the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery (Wikipedia). Touted as the country’s only underground cemetery, this octagonal-shaped tourist attraction was constructed by the Fransciscans in 1845 to serve as the town’s cemetery. Due to its cultural importance, it was declared as a National Historical Landmark.

View of the cemetery grounds from the central pathway looking towards the entrance arch. © Ramon FVelasquez (CC)

Despite its name, the cemetery does actually have above-ground niches as can be seen in this photo. The only underground portion is the crypt beneath the cemetery’s chapel which was reserved for Spanish friars and prominent town citizens (see this photo). The crypt contains 36 niches arranged on four walls. Aside from these, there are an additional 240 wall niches divided into two groups of 120 on either side of the chapel. The oldest tomb dates to 1886 and the latest in 1982 shortly after the site was declared a National Historical Landmark and no more further burials were allowed. Subsequently, burials are now done at the Nagcarlan municipal cemetery located about 1 kilometer to the north.

Aside from being a place to inter the dearly departed, the cemetery also figured in Philippine history as a meeting place for the Filipino revolutionaries in 1896 and as a hideout for guerrillas during World War II. This, together with the cemetery’s unique features and architectural elements, were the reason why it was designated a historical landmark.

If you want to visit the cemetery, it is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m and admission is free of charge. While the cemetery is still owned by the Catholic Church, it is currently managed as a museum by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Please visit the NHCP’s web page for the cemetery to learn more.

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Posted on
June 9, 2018
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Fort Drum

Satellite image of Fort Drum (El Fraile Island) in Manila Bay.

Most people know about the historic island of Corregidor found at the mouth of Manila Bay. But did you know that Corregidor is just one (albeit very major) part of the American-built defense system in Manila Bay? Other islands that were fortified include Caballo Island which was the site of Fort Hughes and the tiny El Fraile Island that is now completely covered and built as Fort Drum, nicknamed “America’s concrete battleship”, which we are now featuring on this blog.

Starboard view of the American battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) passing between Corregidor in the background and Fort Drum as she entered Manila Bay. Photo by Paul Soutar (PD)

Before Fort Drum was built, El Fraile Island was just a really small rock (see this photo) found at the mouth of Manila Bay south of Corregidor and near the Ternate, Cavite coastline. The Spanish authorities installed some defensive guns on the island and they saw some action during the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish–American War. During the American rule in 1909, the island was leveled and then built up as a battleship-shaped steel-reinforced concrete sea fort with twin 14-inch turret guns, named Batteries Marshall and Wilson. The fort was then named Fort Drum after Brigadier General Richard C. Drum.

Fort Drum was heavily used during World War II and fell into Japanese hands on May 6, 1942 after Corregidor fell. The island was then retaken by the Americans on April 13, 1945 by pouring a gasoline-diesel mixture into the vents of the fort and igniting it, annihilating the remaining Japanese soldiers inside. Unfortunately, this effectively destroyed the fort and it has remained abandoned to this day. The only major change was when the Philippine Coast Guard installed an automated light on the fort’s deck to help guide ships navigating into Manila Bay.

If you want to learn more about the fascinating history of this “concrete battleship”, head on over to the Wikipedia article, or watch this short video on YouTube. If you prefer, this I-Witness documentary by GMA would also prove enlightening.

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Posted on
June 6, 2018
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Shrine of the National Flag

Satellite image of the Shrine of the National Flag in Imus, Cavite

Today, May 28, is the National Flag Day and it is the day that everybody in the Philippines is encouraged to display the flag of the Philippines until June 12, the anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence. The reason why May 28 is the National Flag Day is because that is the date when the Battle of Alapan took place in Imus, Cavite in 1898, That battle was the first military victory of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo after his exile in Hong Kong and that was the first time that the Philippine flag was first unfurled making today the 120th anniversary of that historic event.

Ground-level photo of the Philippine flag and the Battle of Alapan memorial at the shrine. © Ervin Malicdem, 2014. (CC BY‑SA 4.0)

To commemorate this battle and the flag, the government inaugurated in 2014 the Shrine of the National Flag in Imus, Cavite near the general area where the battle took place. The Shrine, also known as the Imus Heritage Park, is basically a big open area where a flagpole stands in the middle of a triangular base. This site is one of the places where the Philippine flag is supposed to be hoisted 24/7 as mandated by the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines or R.A. 8491. Near the flagpole is a small memorial dedicated to the Battle of Alapan with a historical marker installed by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

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Posted on
May 28, 2018
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Rizal Monument in Madrid, Spain

Satellite image of the Rizal Monument in Madrid, Spain

Did you know that the famous Rizal Monument found in Rizal Park in Manila has replicas outside the Philippines? One of them is located in Fujian, China, where Rizal’s Chinese ancestors hailed from. The other can be found in the northern part of Madrid, Spain along Avenida de las Islas Filipinas.

Close-up of the statue of José Rizal at his monument in Madrid, Spain. Ⓒ Eugene Alvin Villar

I was fortunate to be able to go to Madrid, Spain for a work-related trip last year and I definitely made it a point to visit this historic site. The monument, which appears to be an almost exact replica of the one in Manila, was inaugurated on December 5, 1996 to commemorate the 100th year of Rizal’s death and also as part of the celebrations leading up to the centennial of Philippine independence from Spain in 1998. Along with the monument, Rizal’s poem Mi último adiós is also erected on concrete pedestals on both sides of the monument with the Spanish version to the left and the Tagalog version (“Huling Paalam”) to the right.

I am embarrassed to admit that while I’ve visited the Rizal Monument in Madrid, I have yet to actually visit up close the original monument in Manila, which was originally titled Motto Stella, despite having passed by it numerous times while driving along Roxas Boulevard. But I hope to do so later this year because I am involved with a project to map the historical markers of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in Wikidata and Rizal Park and its surroundings definitely has a lot of these markers.

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Posted on
May 25, 2018
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National Museum of Natural History

Satellite image of the National Museum of Natural History at Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila

Today, May 18, is International Museum Day and to celebrate it, the National Museum of the Philippines officially opened the Natural Museum of Natural History (Wikipedia). This culminates the renovation project that was first conceptualized in 2013 to convert the then Department of Tourism Building into the current museum. The renovation had actually been finished last year and some people got to have a sneak preview of the museum’s interiors in October 2017 during the National Museums and Galleries Month.

The Tree of Life beneath the dome of the Shell Philippines Centennial Courtyard. Ⓒ Fung Yu

The centerpiece of the renovation is the enclosing of the building’s central courtyard, now named the Shell Philippines Centennial Courtyard, with a dome and the construction of the “Tree of Life” sculpture, which doubles as an elevator that gives access to the fifth floor.

The building itself was originally opened in 1940 as the Agriculture and Commerce Building and featured a neoclassical architecture that followed the original Burnham Plan for Manila. The structure was badly damaged during World War II and was eventually rebuilt and became the head office of the Department of Tourism. When the winning plan for the renovation of the building into a museum was announced, I initially thought that the modern dome did not look good against the building’s classical style. Well, I must say that the design has grown on me and I am looking forward to visiting the museum soon.

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Posted on
May 18, 2018
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SM City Jinjiang

Satellite image of SM City Jinjian in Jinjiang, Quanzhou, Fujian, China

I first featured SM City Xiamen, the first SM mall outside the Philippines, way back in 2007. I guess it’s now time to feature the second such SM mall and this is SM City Jinjiang (SM泉州晋江, Wikipedia), located in Jinjiang, Quanzhou in the Fujian province of China.

Facade of SM City Jinjiang as seen from the nearby highway. Alvin

The mall opened a little over 9 years ago on November 26, 2005, and it has a retail floor area of more than 170,000 m² spanning 5 floors. Among the major retailers found in SM City Jinjiang are Wal-Mart, Toys ‘R Us, Watsons, Calvin Klein, Swarovski, Mango, H&M, Guess, and fast food outlets like McDonald’s, KFC, and Burger King.

One popular observation about SM City Xiamen is that its interior resembles SM Megamall. Well, for SM City Jinjiang, the usual observation it that its exterior resembles the old SM City North Edsa, before the construction of the Sky Garden. Nevertheless, the Xiamen and Jinjiang SM Cities still retain the unimaginative boxy architecture that SM is famous for.

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Posted on
January 17, 2015
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Sunken Church of Bajaoen

Satellite image of the sunken church of Bajaoen in Lake Mapanuepe, San Marcelino, Zambales

I was fascinated when I first learned about the sunken church in Lake Reschen in Italy which was submerged along with many other houses and buildings when a hydroelectric dam was created in the 1940s. What remains above the water is the church steeple which provides a haunting yet picturesque sight and is quite popular among tourists.

A view of the church steeple half sunk in Lake Mapanuepe. Chyng Reyes

It’s no surprise that I was even more fascinated to learn that we have something similar here in the Philippines: the sunken church of Bajaoen in Mapanuepe Lake in San Marcelino, Zambales. Though the Bajaoen church’s modern architecture does not quite match the visual impression of the church in Lake Reschen, the sight of a sunken steeple in a lake in Zambales is still impressive.

Mapanuepe Lake was formed in the aftermath of the cataclysmic 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Lahar flows along the Marella River on the volcano’s southwest slopes blocked the confluence with the Mapanuepe River. This resulted into a natural dam that flooded the Mapanuepe River basin. Among the villages that were submerged were Aglao, Buhawen, and Pili. Only the church steeple of Bajaoen Church remained out of the water. (I suspect that “Bajaoen” is another name for “Buhawen”.) Fortunately, the flooding was gradual so the residents were able to resettle along the shores of the new lake.

While most people prefer to go hiking towards the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo, I think a visit to Mapanuepe Lake and its sunken church would prove to be equally as exciting for adventure seekers, especially since it is not as well-known as the popular Pinatubo crater trek. While scuba diving to explore the submerged villages might seem exciting, I think this is inadvisable due to the poor water quality of the lake because of nearby mining operations.

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Posted on
January 10, 2015
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Milestone: 300 Sights in Vista Pinas

Mosaic of the thumbnail pictures of the third 100 sights in Vista Pinas.

With that previous article about the Leyte Landing Memorial, I have now featured 300 sights in Vista Pinas. It took me a five-year journey to reach this next milestone starting with the 201st sight Heritage of Cebu Monument which I featured back in 2009. I first reached the 100-sight milestone back in September 2007 and the 200-sight milestone in April 2009. Goes to show that blogging is hard work especially if this isn’t your full-time job!

Following are some of my favorite sights in these last 100 sights in no particular order. I like these sights because finding or researching about them was quite satisfying, or they look interesting on a satellite image, or they highlight something to be proud of about the Philippines.

Here’s to the next 300 sights in Vista Pinas! (And I hope to blog more often than lately.)

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Posted on
January 2, 2015
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