Having been elevated into prominence as Manila’s (as well as the country’s) definitive landmark by the American colonial era, it comes as no surprise that Rizal Park a favored spot for parades, athletic events, and special events like the famed Manila Carnival. These events used to be held at what was known as Wallace Field, located east of the Rizal Monument, approximately where the Binhi sculpture & the Heidelberg Fountain are now located.
Fast-forward to the year 1946. A year had passed since Manila suffered from utmost destruction brought about the by the war, more particularly during the Battle for Manila. As a a nation was trying to get its feet up from war, it was also gearing for eventual independence from the United States as was agreed upon almost 11 years past as part of the Tydings-McDuffie Law. There was one problem: the original intended venue for the ceremony was the Legislative Building, and it was still being reconstructed at the time, not to mention it being too small to hold an anticipated large crowd who would like to witness this historic event.
The decision was made to hold it in Rizal Park, but this time it would no longer be held on Wallace Field but on the open space directly fronting the Rizal Monument, which would be the spot where the carabao sculptures and other artwork now stand in its place. Juan Arellano, the architect behind the Metropolitan Theater and the Post Office Building, would design the so-called Independence Grandstand in neo-Classical style. In addition, a tall flagpole was erected between the monument and the grandstand which was to hoist the Philippine flag to symbolize the country’s sovereignty.
The independence celebrations occurred on the July 4, 1946 (surprisingly/not surprisingly, the same day that the United States celebrates its Declaration of Independence) as the festivities were documented on this video uploaded online:
For some reason, the original Independence Grandstand was demolished sometime after, but plans were made for a new grandstand. This time though, this were to be located right across the green open space, to be situated near the Manila Bay breakwater. Its architect Federico Ilustre (who also happens to be the same architect behind the Quezon Memorial Shrine) designed it in a way that made it reminiscent of the old Independence Grandstand, albeit in a more simple fashion by not adding the figures at the top. It was inaugurated just in time for the oathtaking of Pres. Elpidio Quirino in 1949, making him the first among the Philippine presidents who took their oath/made their inaugural address in the grandstand. This grandstand was officially named the Quirino Grandstand after he died in 1956.
Quirino Grandstand was originally designed to hold only a small number of spectators but over the years and succeeding presidential inaugurations saw it expand to the current 10,000 or so seating capacity it now enjoys, (counting the bleachers) though not much used often in non-presidential inauguration events, save for Independence day parades, some concerts, or other events like religious meets or races.
Sadly, Quirino Grandstand has also become synonymous with what is considered to be one of the most tragic hostage crises in the country’s history with the death of the hostage-taker and his 8 hostages who were all Chinese tourists in the country on August 23, 2010. A result of figurative unnecessary grandstanding, not to mention the poor handling by the authorities of the situation that resulted in tragedy.
Whatever grandiose or morose the Quirino Grandstand has been known for over the years, it still remains a landmark of a city whose story is as colorful, glorious, and tragic as the grandstand she hosts.
Acknowledgements to the former show on the ABS-CBN News Channel called “The Explainer” which detailed the history of the Quirino Grandstand. You can view the episode here.
© The Urban Roamer