A Monument of a Filipino, for the Filipinos
Last October 23, 2021, the first Dr. Jose Rizal monument in Alberta and Western Canada was unveiled at Nose Creek Regional Park in Airdrie. This was a project of the Philippine Consulate General Calgary (PCGC) in partnership with the Airdrie City Council, the Filipino Airdrie Association, and the Rizal Monument Project Team. Despite the rainy and cold weather, the PCGC estimated 400 attendees from different parts of Alberta for the unveiling.
Consul General Zaldy Patron remarked that the monument is the PCGC's "humble way of honouring the Philippine national hero, paying tribute to the hard-working Filipinos in Alberta, and promoting Philippine heritage and culture". It is the consulate's biggest cultural diplomacy project to date. The Rizal monument is situated near the Gwacheon Park Totem Poles and will help showcase the cultural diversity present in the community, according to Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown. "The monument represents diversity, inclusiveness, and showcases Airdrie welcoming all people to our community," he said. "The Dr. Jose Rizal Monument celebrates our collaborative efforts as a community and is a gift for future generations."
Now part of the City of Airdrie's public art collection, the Rizal Monument is a three-foot cast bronze bust of Dr. Jose Rizal mounted on a seven-foot pedestal covered with granite, on a 36' x 38' area, that includes commemorative plaques acknowledging the supporters of the project.
Commissioned to create the bust was renowned Filipino multi-media artist Toym Imao -- Abdulmari Jr. de Leon Imao, and son of internationally acclaimed artist Abdulmari Imao Sr., National Artist for Sculpture 2006. He was nicknamed Toym when his father won a Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award in 1968. Toym's art career spans more than 30 years, with works in Vietnam, Canada, USA and Europe, aside from the Philippines. He is a sculptor, writer, set and production designer, and a filmmaker. Often commissioned to create historical monuments and shrines, his public artworks include: the Tandang Sora National Shrine in Quezon City; the Andres Bonifacio National Shrine in Maragondon, Cavite; the President Corazon A. Aquino Monument in Roxas Boulevard, Manila; the Honorio Lopez statue in Tondo; the Cordillera Freedom Monument in Baguio; and the Chapel of the Magnificat, Marist School, Marikina. Aside from the Dr. Jose Rizal statue in Airdrie, Alberta, he was the creator of Rizal statues in Carson City, California, in Montreal, Quebec, in Toronto and in Markham, Ontario.
There are now five monuments dedicated to Dr. Jose Rizal in Canada, i.e. Airdrie, Montreal, Toronto, Markham and Winnipeg. The Markham monument was unveiled in 2019, in the Luneta Gardens located at the Boxgrove Community Park. Created by self-taught artist, Rizalist, and Markham resident Mogi Mogado, the cold cast bronze monument is six feet tall and installed on a seven-foot granite pedestal. The monument is across the road where Rizal Avenue in Markham begins. Mogado remarks, "The statue too is perfectly positioned with Rizal directly looking east at the sunrise... recalling his words in Noli Me Tangere - 'I die without seeing the dawn of my native land' ...you who are left behind remember those who have fallen during the night."
In Montreal, the waist-length bronze bust without arms, was presented to the Ville de Montreal by the Philippine government in celebration of the centenary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence. One of 24 busts of Rizal cast by Toym Imao, which were offered to various cities around the world, it stands on a granite pedestal in Parc Mackenzie-King, with a pathway of granite flagstones leading to it. On the pedestal are engravings in French, English and
Filipino, on the role of Dr. Jose Rizal in the Philippine revolution. The monument in Toronto is also a waist-length bronze but without arms situated at Earl Bales Park. The Rizal Monument in Winnipeg, Manitoba was unveiled on August 24, 2020, hosted by the Knights of Rizal Winnipeg Chapter. The life-size statue is installed in the Waterford Green Common right on Dr. Jose Rizal Way, and created by Order of Manitoba recipient and nationally renowned artist Peter Sawatzky. In addition to monuments, the City of Brampton has renamed a park in Sarno Road, to Dr. Jose P. Rizal Park.
Dr. Jose Rizal is a patriot of the Philippine nationalist movement. A man of extreme intelligence, he was a polyglot - fluent in 22 languages, i.e. Hebrew, Filipino, Ilokano, Bisayan, Subanon, Chinese, Latin, Spanish, Greek, English, French, German, Arabic, Malay, Sanskrit, Dutch, Japanese, Catalan, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish and Russian. He was also a certified polymath, a person of great learning in several fields of study. Rizal was a journalist, playwright, ophthalmologist, farmer, historian, painter, novelist, engineer and educator. He also had varying degrees of expertise in economics, ethnology, sociology, anthropology, architecture, cartography, martial arts, dramatics, fencing and pistol shooting. He was also a sculptor, working with wood, plaster, terracotta, wax and clay.
* This article was published in the November 2021 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.
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