By: Albert Vincent F. Barretto
Former President Manuel Luis Molina Quezon will forever remain in the hearts of the Dapitanons not only for his efforts to achieve Philippine independence from foreigners, but also for preserving the memory of the place of exile of Jose Rizal in Dapitan.
In the late 1920s, then-Senate President Quezon visited Dapitan, Zamboanga. During his visit, he was often accompanied by then Governor of Zamboanga Province, Jose Dalman Aseniero, a Dapitanon who was elected from 1925 to 1928. Jose Aseniero was a student of Jose Rizal, whom he called Maestro, in Dapitan from 1894 to 1896. He also witnessed the execution of his Maestro in Bagumbayan on 30 December 1896. According to Jose Aseniero’s grandson, Dr. George Aseniero, “(Quezon) visited Dapitan during my grandfather’s governorship of Zamboanga Province. He wanted the homestead [of Rizal] and other structures reconstructed as being of the highest historical value”.
Quezon was the Senate President in 1932 when Act No. 3915, or “An Act Providing for the Establishment of National Parks, Declaring such Parks as Game Refuges, and for other Purposes,” was enacted. It is stated in Section 1 of Act No. 3915 that a criterion for designating a place as a National Park is that it must have a historical value:
Section 1. Upon recommendation of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Governor-General shall, by proclamation, reserve and withdraw from settlement, occupancy or disposal under the laws of the Philippine Islands any portion of the public domain which, because of its panoramic, historical, scientific or aesthetic value, should be dedicated and set apart as a national park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the Philippine Islands.
Also mentioned in Section 4b of Act No. 3915 is the preservation and renovation of the historic environment within the park:
(b) For the granting of licenses for the cutting of timber or other forest products subject to the provisions of Act Numbered Thirty-six hundred and seventy-four in cases where the cutting of such timber and other forest product is deemed necessary in order to control the attacks of insects or diseases or otherwise conserve and enhance the beauty of the scenery, or to improve the surroundings of the natural or historic objects within the said parks
One must note the provision contained in Act No. 3915 dominating the sections concerning the ecological value and protection of the areas to be designated as a National Park outnumbering the word “historical” which was mentioned only three times. Although no mention is made of what served as the basis for the legislators to set the criteria and the term “historical,” it is interesting to think that one of the possible bases of the legislators in declaring a site as a National Park is the place of exile of Rizal in Dapitan.
Quezon was sworn in as President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1935. On 3 September 1940, he signed Proclamation 616, also known as “Establishing Rizal National Park for the Enjoyment of the People of the Philippines was declared the Parcel of Land Situated in the Municipality of Dapitan, Province of Zamboanga, Island of Mindanao.” The main reason for declaring the ten-hectare Rizal National Park is its historical value as the place of exile of our national hero, further securing its protection and future development. Proclamation 616 also mentions the delimitations and the land area of the Rizal National Park as stated in the following:
Beginning at point marked 1 on Bureau of Forestry Map No. N. P. 30. N. 19° W., 1,380 meters from the municipality of Dapitan, Zamboanga, an anilao tree, 35 cm. in diam., marked F. Z. 225/233, identical to corner 1. block III. alienable and disposable Zamboanga project No. L; thence following coastline in a general westerly direction, 320 meters to corner 2, a wharf, marked 620/38, a pathway of Rizal Park on coastline; thence N. 23° E., 115 meters to corner 3, a bogo tree, 10 cm. in diam., marked 62 of the tank of Rizal Park; thence N. 7° W., 90 meter to corner 4, a bogo tree, 40 cm. in diam., marked 620, 31, about 5 meters from a nangka tree; thence N. 80° E., 85 meters to corner 5, a point at the bank of a creek; thence N. 52° E., 60 meters to corner 6, a point on cutline; thence N. 46° E., 160 meters to corner 7, a point on cutline; thence N. 46° E., 180 meters to corner 8, a dead yakal tree, 45 cm. in diam., marked 60/55, on cutline; thence S. 20° W., 125 meters to corner 9, an alupag tree, 15 cm. in diam., marked 620/56 near a big rock; and thence S. 3° W., 305 meters to the point of beginning.
Corner 1 was marked with official marking hatchet No. B. F. 318.
Containing an area of approximately 10 hectares.
The aforementioned delimitations of Rizal National Park also show the practice of the surveyors during that time in using the natural landmarks, such as trees, creeks, and rocks, as well as some manmade structures, as their markers. Most of the natural landmarks are gone due to natural circumstances, while some manmade structures were destroyed or modified.
Seawall, which was modified into a pathway, after the reclamation of the seaside area of Rizal Shrine
File photo of water tank that is no longer extant.
Creek which serves as an outlet of water coming from Rizal’s dam
Big rock, also known as Mi Retiro Rock or Lover’s Rock
Fortunately, there are two existing markers: (1) the creek, which is the only water outlet of Rizal National Park, and (2) the big rock, also known as the “Mi Retiro Rock.” Present surveyors of the Rizal National Park use concrete markers as a more efficient and reliable way of surveying the park.
Although the Rizal National Park is the smallest national park in terms of land area among all those declared by Quezon, its historical value is enough to match the vast National Parks, such as Biak-na-Bato National Park with 2,117 hectares.
Its declaration as a National Park was the beginning of Quezon’s collaboration with Aseniero, who wanted to physically portray Rizal’s life in Dapitan by placing replicas of Rizal’s houses in the National Park. An article in the Lands Journal November-December 1952 issue reads:
It is to be recalled that when the late President Quezon paid his last visit to the park, he was determined to improve it and immediately gave instruction to the Director of Public Works to do so. Upon hint to the late Jose Aseniero, one of the students of Rizal and a former governor of Zamboanga, who was in company with him then at the park, to have the replica of the old house made there was not even a trace of any habitation left in park, the latter and his son, worked together to produce the plan that ultimately was followed to the details.
Quezon did not live to see the construction of the replicas of Rizal’s houses due to the outbreak of World War II and his subsequent demise in 1944. It was in the 1960s when replicas of Rizal’s houses were successfully built and installed with historical markers by the government. Rizal National Park was later elevated as Jose Rizal Shrine in 1973. It is now the Museo ni Jose Rizal – Dapitan under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The forest area of Rizal National Park was further expanded and renamed as Jose Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape in 2000 with a current size of 439 hectares, which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The Museo ni Jose Rizal – Dapitan and the Jose Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape are not just places of interest. They are home to the memory of our hero, part of our natural resources, and the jewel of Dapitan City. These places Quezon’s homage to Rizal, proof of his love and respect for the hero. Quezon is one in likeness of Rizal; both men yearned for our freedom. By naming a street in Dapitan after Quezon, the Dapitanons further entrenched his memory in their hearts.
Lands Journal November-December 1952 issue
ACT NO. 3915: https://laws.chanrobles.com/acts/7_acts.php?id=322
(retrieved 18 Aug 2021)
Proclamation No. 223, s. 1937: https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1937/11/16/proclamation-no-223-s-1937/ (retrieved 18 Aug 2021)
Proclamation No. 616, s. 1940: https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1940/09/03/proclamation-no-616-s-1940/ (retrieved 18 Aug 2021)
Presidential Decree No. 105, s. 1973: https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/1973/01/24/presidential-decree-no-105-s-1973/ (retrieved 18 Aug 2021)
Proclamation No. 279, s. 2000: https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2000/04/23/proclamation-no-279-s-2000/ (retrieved 18 Aug 2021)