Today marks the 149th birth anniversary of one of the most colorful personalities in Philippine history, not to mention one of the most renowned Filipino military geniuses, the “Heneral” himself, Antonio Luna.
And this year’s commemoration of his birth comes at an interesting time, right at the heels of the unprecedented success of the film “Heneral Luna,” the biographical film based on his life. Thanks in large part to the film, more and more people are becoming more aware of this man, his legacy, and his life’s tragedy.
Thus, today the Urban Roamer pays tribute to this man on his natal day, in an urban roaming way that we often do here, as we look at a couple of places here that bears a connection to his life and legacy.
THE GENERAL’S BIRTHPLACE
Antonio Luna and his family (which includes his famous painter brother Juan) may have their roots in the Ilocos Region, but as far as his birth and formative years is concerned, he was a Manileño through and through. This was because 5 years before he was born, his parents decided to move to Manila where they can do business right at the center of commerce in the country.
The Lunas would settle at a house along Calle Urbiztondo, right in the bustling suburbs of Binondo and San Nicolas just across the Walled City. And on October 29, 1866, the Luna household welcomed the birth of a new family member, a baby boy they named Antonio.
The house managed to survive a revolution and a world war and is still standing today amidst the modern warehouses and tall buildings that surround it in modern San Nicolas. Unfortunately, it does not serve as a museum for Antonio Luna, save for a historical marker in place. It is reportedly a private property and is being used as yet another warehouse.
Kinda unfortunate that there is no proper place one can visit to know more about Antonio Luna to take advantage of the interest in the man the movie “Heneral Luna” has generated. One can only hope next year, in time for the general’s 150th birth anniversary, something proper like an Antonio Luna museum in that house would be opened for people to better appreciate his sacrifices for the country.
FROM A CALLE REAL TO A CALLE “HENERAL”
Now we shall be crossing the Pasig River and go inside the Walled City to check out a particular street there. It is actually one of the most prominent streets in Intramuros as it serves to connect much of the Walled City to Ermita, particularly the area of what is now Rizal Park and Padre Burgos Street which leads to Liwasang Bonifacio and the South Port Area on each end.
During the Spanish colonial era, this street was known as the Calle Real de Palacio because of its proximity to where the old Palacio del Gobernador was located, the official residence and office of the Spanish Governor General of the Philippines. It was also called “real” because this street was the old designated street where the official processions that the Governor General would participate in would pass through. It lost its designation though by 1764 as it was decided to have those official processions made at another street instead, the one connecting the puertas (gates) of Santa Lucia in the west and Parian in the east which was named as Calle Real, a name the street has retained up to this day.
When the Americans took over by the dawn of the 20th century, Calle Real de Palacio was expanded as part of the Burnham Plan proposed by Daniel Burnham in 1905. The road was further extended in a southeast route, albeit interrupted when it reaches Rizal Park, all the way up to what is now Pedro Gil Street in Paco, near the Paco Market to connect the old Intramuros district to the then new and bustling districts of Ermita and Paco.
Also, the street was given a new name by 1913: General Luna Street, in honor of Antonio Luna. Which is somewhat ironic since he never figured as a historic personage in this part of the city, not having been able to launch an attack at Intramuros in the first place. Then again, you just take what you can get, so to speak.
I was reminded of the recent proclamation rally of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s candidacy for vice president was held in an events venue in Intramuros. It was actually an interesting choice of location considering the venue was alongside General Luna Street and Marcos having the same Ilocano lineage as Luna.
By the way, do not that point as an indication that I am pro-Marcos or anything. I just thought it was an interesting and smart (one may say cunning) move Bongbong Marcos made, which no doubt was also on the heels of the success of the film Heneral Luna.
Anyway, happy birthday, Heneral! May your legacy and your ideals manage to remain in the hearts and minds of Filipinos at this point in our history and beyond.
Para sa bayan.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!