Before August became known lately as the month of the Aquinos, (being the month when Benigno Aquino Jr., and his wife Corazon, the former president died) this month has been identified mainly as the month of the first president of the US-sponsored Commonwealth government, the“father of the Philippine national language”, and the “father of Quezon City” Manuel Quezon whose birth and death fall on the same month. (being born on the 1st and died on the 19th) As such, it is but fitting that we dedicate this entry to this feisty character and his contribution to the urban landscape we know today.
For all the things, good or ill, that have been said about Manuel Luis Quezon, (1878-1944) there can be no denying he was bold enough to envision some grand things for the country, especially as it was preparing for its independence from American rule. One of those visions that he had in mind was a “national capitol” for a nation preparing for her “debut”, so to speak. A national capitol for the Philippines just like Washington, D.C. for the United States and New Delhi for India. So in October 12, 1939, the envisioned capitol city of the Philippines was established, a city we now know today as Quezon City. At the heart of this new city is the national capitol complex divided in 4 quadrants; the centerpiece being the Capitol or Congress building in the middle of an elliptical road.
World War II and the destruction it brought to the metropolis, not to mention the death of the newborn capitol city’s founder during that period, dashed the hopes for those grand plans. The plan for a national capitol got scuttled in the process, (by itself a story better told another day) leaving the barren elliptical field without a landmark. Until the government decided to dedicate this field instead as a memorial to the man whose vision made Quezon City possible, with a shrine instead of the planned capitol to be its landmark.
A contest was soon held for the design of the planned Quezon Memorial Shrine that was to rise in the elliptical field. The prize was eventually given to the design of Filipino architect Federico Ilustre, which incorporated contemporary design with some classical and symbolic inspirations.
Although the planning of the memorial began way back after the war in 1945, it would take more than 30 years before the vision of the Quezon memorial was finally realized due to long-winding issues with funding and materials. (its planners had to important Carrara marble from Italy) So in 1979, on the occasion of the 101st birth anniversary of Manuel Quezon, his remains that lied before at the North Cemetery in Manila were transferred to the memorial, encased in a dark-colored sarcophagus. illuminated by the light shining through the circular window at its top.
The monument is formed in the shape of a triangular prism (just like the packaging of a Toblerone chocolate) formed by 3 pylons, inspired by the triangle found in our Philippine flag and its symbolism for the country’s 3 island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Even its height is symbolic as its 66 meter (217 ft.) height represented the 66 years Quezon had lived in this earth.
On top of each pylon is a figure of a grieving angel holding a wreath made out of sampaguita, the country’s national flower. These sculptures are actually works made by that Italian sculptor who often gets featured in the Urban Roamer’s Journals: Francesco Monti. If you notice the wings of these angels, they seem to have some Art Deco-ish flavor, reminiscent of Monti’s works at the Metropolitan Theater.
Surrounding the base of the shrine are various bas relief works depicting various events in Philippine history, as well as those of Quezon’s life. For some reason, they are not arranged in chronological order as they should be arranged.
Apart from Manuel Quezon’s tomb, the tomb of his wife Aurora (who died in an ambush in 1949) also lies in the shrine since 2005. There is also a museum dedicated to Manuel Quezon found in the shrine, one of the few example of presidential museums here in the country.
To be continued…
© the Urban Roamer