Celebrating Jose Rizal’s martyrdom
It was December 30, 1896 when Dr. Josè P. Rizal, dressed in a black suit with a white vest, began his march from his cell at Fort Santiago to Bagumbayan, the site of his execution, now known as Luneta. Historical records show that he held a rosary in his right hand. Rizal was tied at the elbows and followed by four armed guards. Filipino troops composed the firing squad designated by Spanish authorities to execute Rizal. Upon firing, he turned around to face his executioners.
On December 29, 2023, the 127th Anniversary of his martyrdom, this scene was reenacted on stage by the Knights of Rizal, New York Chapter, directed by Sir Nonong Aquino. The role of Josè Rizal was played by Juan Mariano Cueva Magdaraog, who was subsequently knighted in formal ceremonies. The role of Capitan was played by Sir Consul Ricarte Abejuella III. Nostalgic music, “Adios Patria Adorada,” played as Rizal was shot.
The program, created by Sir Romulo Aromin, focused on Josè Rizal as an Artist: Iterations in American Art, in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General of New York, co-hosted by Chapter Commander Cayetano Paderanga and Lady Elizabeth Cueva, secretary of The Ladies for Rizal, New York Chapter. The Ladies for Rizal is an auxiliary organization that fosters camaraderie among its members and propagates the teachings of Dr. Josè Rizal.
The yearend commemoration has been part of an annual tradition for the past 32 years since the New York Chapter was established by Sir Roger Alama in 1992.
Chartered as a public corporation under Republic Act No. 646 on June 14, 1951, the Order of Knights of Rizal has mushroomed into several chapters around the world. The New York Chapter has 120 members. There are other chapters in Long Island, Queens and the Metropolitan Chapter, all dedicated to following the ideals and virtues of our national hero.
A special part of the program highlighted the achievements of Filipino Americans in the New York area who excelled in the field of arts, including opera singer Sir Rogelio Peñaverde Jr., photographer Carlos Esguerra, singer Joy Tamayo and painter Sir Cesar Delos Santos III. A brief discussion on the role and challenges encountered by Filipinos while breaking the mainstream performing arts in New York was moderated by actress Lady Lorli Villanueva.
New York-based non-profit Eagle Eye Charities Inc., through its founder Carol Tanjutco, Inquirer.net USA correspondent, presented the winning entries of the Jose Rizal National Portraiture competition held in Manila. The top winning entry by Evan Respeto was used during the wreath-laying ceremony. The second winning portrait rendered by Artemio Anga is offered for installation at Sentro Rizal in New York, where it can be viewed by Philippine Center visitors.
Philippine Consul General of New York Senen Mangalile said, “While Dr. Jose P. Rizal is predominantly celebrated as a national hero, it is crucial to recognize the profound impact he had as an artist. His creative expressions ranging from poetry to visual arts, served as powerful instruments for social change and cultural awakening.” He also thanked the Eagle Eye Charities and its founder for installing the winning portrait of Dr. Josè P. Rizal at Sentro Rizal “to propagate his ideals and ideas, and to convey the timelessness of his message.”