City of Manila

Rizal Park, Part 2: from National Capitol to National Park

As the foundations of Spanish rule in the Philippines began to crumble as a result of the Philippine Revolution, the Americans “defeated” the Spanish forces during the Spanish-American war in 1898, the result of which was the takeover of the United States over the country by yearend.

Despite the fierce resistance of the Filipino forces as the Revolution raged on, the Americans wasted no time in trying to cement their rule over the archipelago, with the virtues, visions, and ideals that America cherished. In the case of Manila, the Americans dreamed of giving the city a makeover from its Spanish heritage into a cosmopolitan American city. To be specific, a cosmopolitan American capital city, a la Washington D.C.

To set this dream into motion, the American colonial government invited over the famed American architect/urban planner named Daniel Burnham in 1905. At that time, Burnham was busy laying out the plans for Chicago and Washington; in the course of his visit, Burnham was inspired by Manila’s environment that he appropriated some of his ideas for the Chicago and Washington plans for his Manila plan.

American architect/urban planner Daniel Burnham

Burnham decided to make the old Bagumbayan Field as the centerpiece, so to speak, of his Manila Plan, transforming it as Manila’s National Mall like that in Washington DC. In this case, the Washington Monument would be a planned Rizal Monument with the National Capitol, AKA the Legislative Building on the opposite side. Surrounding the planned Capitol building would be a number of government buildings that will compliment the look of the Capitol.

taken from the web: the proposed National Mall for Manila, with the planned Capitol building at the center

To give you an idea of what Rizal Park would have been in Burnham’s eyes, have a look of this aerial shot of Rizal Park today…

…and compare it with this recent aerial shot of Washington D.C.’s National Mall

More or less, that’s what Burnham hoped Manila to be like.

Unfortunately funding issues and a shift in priorities, not least of which was the decision by the self-governing Philippine Commonwealth in the 1930’s to move the Capitol complex up north instead to what is now Quezon City, derailed the Capitol dreams planned for the area, which by then has now been called Rizal Park. However glimpses of those plans still remain today with the presence of the former Finance Building, now occupied by the National Museum’s Museum of the Filipino People and the former Agriculture Building, now the offices of the Department of Tourism, as well as the open space between these buildings that was known before as the AgriFina Circle. (named after the 2 aforementioned buildings)

the former Finance Building, now the Museum of the Filipino People of the National Museum
the former Agriculture Building, now office of the Department of Tourism

And with nothing much going on from then until the 1960’s, much of Rizal Park was a virtual wasteland of sorts, being left just bare and undeveloped. Though there were plans that popped up every now and then to “revitalize” the area, many of these plans only involved construction of more buildings as sort of pet projects of those who proposed them. Some criticized these plans as a disgrace to the memory of the person the park was named after, an act of virtual butchery over what’s supposed to be a place of history and pride.

By the early 1960’s, Rizal Park would find itself playing a new role, as it was designated as a National Park by then Pres. Diosdado Macapagal. He and his First Lady Eva Macapagal would be instrumental in reviving the park through the establishment of the National Parks Development Committee in 1963 which would oversee of the development of the country’s national parks: Rizal Park being one of them.

bust of Pres. Diosdado Macapagal, the father of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) along Orosa St., at the park’s southern half

Another consequence was the expansion of the park, which now included the former planned Capitol grounds or then known as the AgriFina complex as Rizal Park’s northern extension.

to be continued…

Acknowledgements to the National Parks Development Committee and for the additional info found on this entry

© The Urban Roamer

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