By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- Serenity. That is what Paco Park offers to the tourist who strolls inside the park’s adobe walls built during the Spanish occupation. But before this place was renovated into a park, did you know that it was actually built as a cemetery? Paco Park is a recognized cultural heritage primarily because this was the place where the remains of our national hero -- Dr. Jose Rizal -- were first laid to rest. Later on, Rizal’s remains were transferred to Bagumbayan, or what we call today as “Luneta.” The three martyr priests -- Fr. Mariano Gomez, Fr. Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora -- were the first men buried in Paco cemetery. Ironically, Rizal dedicated El Filibusterismo to the three martyrs and later on the four of them met each other in death in this same area, but not for long. However, even if their remains were already transferred, there are still markers inside the park to commemorate the four heroes. It was only in 1948 by virtue of a legislative act that Paco cemetery was transformed into a park in accordance with the guidelines set for all national parks. There was also a need to transfer all other remains to Manila North Cemetery because of cholera epidemic during that time. "This is a place to reminisce the Spanish era," says Carlito Fajardo, Executive Director of Paco Park. The walls and the structure of the park bring flashbacks of what has happened through the years -- endless toil are etched in every building block of each wall, marked by the sweat and blood of our ancestors under the unjust hands of the Spaniards during that era. “Tranquility -- how peaceful and quiet,” Fajardo adds when asked what Paco Park offers to the public. Who would have known that one can find a place such as this in the heart of a busy city like Manila? I was fascinated with the silence of the place -- for a moment I even forgot I was still inside the city. All you could hear is the humming of birds and -- if you close your eyes -- you would feel like you were sitting near a serenely flowing river. In reality, a fountain in the middle of the park is the source of that sound. This is a perfect venue for those in search of peace of mind, away from stress and pollution. Every Friday, the park holds a concert called "Paco Park Presents" where cultural organizations are the main performers. It may be the Rondalla concert rendering folk music, a chorale group filling the place with their angelic voices or a dance troupe performing the Tinikling and Pandanggo. The presentations, according to Fajardo, are primarily for the enrichment of our culture in the right place in a new age. The park is also open to wedding receptions and the couple may use the chapel to exchange vows. During my stay at the park, I saw Aling Remedios, one of the park’s caretakers, and she shared with me some occurrences in the area which she could not explain in her five years of tending the park. She says that, at times, she would hear someone walking behind her, but upon looking back she would discover the place was empty. On one occasion, a group of students took a photograph of themselves at the park, and it came out with a shadow that filled a portion of the picture. Aling Remedios says these events were creepy but that she did not pay attention to such things and instead focuses on her job. I also interviewed Angela, a tourist visiting the park with her friends. The peace and tranquility of the place were the main reasons why they stayed in the place, despite the knowledge that the park was a former cemetery. When asked about the feeling of sharing serenity with the dead, Angela says: "I do not want to come here at night. It would be scary so I prefer to come here during the day." My short visit to the park gave me a sudden rush of adrenalin, but I was certain it was not because of any paranormal things that might occur while filming the place. It was more because of pride that we managed to preserve our cultural heritage in places such as Paco Park where future generations would get a glimpse of the sacrifices made by our ancestors. Fajardo later mentioned: “As Filipinos, we should know our culture, values and how we became a nation.” My short visit to this place made me feel like a brand new citizen -- someone who is indebted to our ancestors because of enjoying a life built on the sacrifices of our heroes to preserve our freedom. I hope that in time, more and more Filipinos would appreciate a place like this instead of going to malls or bars where they tend to forget where we really come from.
October 2008 Archives
By Anna Valmero Inquirer.net The transience of the live theater makes it special and unique. Watching a two-and-a half hour stage performance of ‘Ibong Adarna’ at the AFP Theater is an invigorating experience to the senses as actors portray live the triumphs and tribulations of each character, bringing flesh and blood to the story. All of us are required to read Francisco Baltazar’s ‘korrido’, as it was one of the required readings in the secondary level. Back then, I thumbed back and forth from one chapter of the book to the glossary and back, to work my way with the archaic Filipino ‘korrido’ verses. As I look back, I wished I had watched this kind of performance then. Luckily, I sat with thousands of high schools to watch the play last October 5. Though I knew how the story would go, I sat expectantly from the start until the show ended. In terms of the technicalities, I would say the performers, stage crew and the director of the play did a good job. While remaining faithful to the material, the play has injected modern elements to appeal to the young audience. Effective tool With over thirty years in the industry, the foundation started as Bulwagang Gantimpala at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. “We focus on the educational role that live theater provides to our audience,” said Tony Espejo, founding president and artistic director of Gantimpala Theater Foundation. “We also emphasize the values inherent in the stories such as love for country, honesty, truth and justice.” Understanding the theater is a good tool to inform, entertain and educate, the Gantimpala Theater Foundation has been producing curriculum-oriented plays to supplement teaching of secondary level literature. “The ‘Ibong Adarna’ play has been performed for over 15 years and has been proven to cater to the young and the old alike,” said play director Roobak Valle, proving the universality of the theater as medium for expression. Valle added that as part of the group’s commitment to honor artistic legacies, the dance sequences in the play pay tribute to the late National Artisr for Dance Ramon Obusan. In this generation hooked up with the Internet and television often for leisure, taking a trip to the theater is a good way for this generation to appreciate these classics that are part of our heritage. Think about transporting back in time to watch things unedited — no reshoots, no line editing, no CGI effects — only performance at its finest. That’s how classic entertainment is.