Not many people would realize it, but Rizal Park is one of Manila’s best examples of how much the city has changed in the span of just over a century.
Originally, and this was up to the end of the Spanish colonial era, Manila’s bayshore was only up to what is now the gutter of the northbound lane of Roxas Boulevard. So Luneta back then was really near the shore of Manila Bay, not to mention there was no Roxas Boulevard yet.
Manila’s expansion would begin during the American colonial period as reclamation work in the 1900’s extended farther Manila’s land area as part of Burnham’s Manila plan, thus expanding the significance of Luneta. I guess it was appropriate that they named this expanded part of the park as “New Luneta.”
Most of New Luneta is actually an open green space which is/was known as Burnham Field, after the aforementioned architect, its centerpiece being a tree planted by Pope Paul VI when he visited Manila in 1970 (Pope Paul VI being the first Catholic pope to visit the country) and a monument dedicated to the country’s first Catholic saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz.
One can find some visual art on display, particularly the murals and some interesting sculpture, counting as well the twin figures of the country’s famous horned beasts: the kalabaw and the tamaraw.
But one prominent landmark, though overlooked at times, in this part of Rizal Park would be this little marker which bears the signage “KM 0.” Located just right infront of Rizal Park. this structure marks the beginning point of the measurement of travel distances to the different parts of Metro Manila and Luzon Island as a whole.
It’s interesting to note that original Kilometer 0 was located in Intramuros, right in front of the Manila Cathedral till it was relocated to its present site sometime in the 20th century. A symbolic shift if you can call that which reflected the changing sociopolitical landscape that affected the country as a whole, as it tried to veer away from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the country.
Up next: final part of the Rizal Park series, as we talk about the evolution of what we now know as the Quirino Grandstand
© The Urban Roamer