A Rizal Statue Wearing a Real Barong and Other Surprising Stories of Local Monuments

They raised eyebrows and caused a monumental uproar.


(SPOT.ph) We all know about the Rizal Monument and even the Oblation in UP Diliman, but have you ever stopped to think about other monuments or statues in the Philippines? A lot of them are filled with very rich history, while some are actually more controversial than others. Next time you walk past one of them, take a closer look and remember these fascinating stories of these not-so-ordinary pillars of people, places, and history.




The Rizal Monument in Luneta, Manila

What made it controversial: A plan to extend the height of the monument was aborted in 1962.


In 1962, a remodeling project was hatched by the new Presidential Rizal Committee to update the Rizal Monument on Wallace Field in Luneta, designed by Swiss sculptor, Richard Kissling. The project objective was to harmonize the proportion of the old monument with the dimensions of the proposed construction of a National Library, National Museum, and a National Theater in the area—all part of an envisioned National Cultural Center of the Philippines. The blueprint called for increasing the height of the obelisk behind the Rizal statue to 30 meters. It was noted that similar landmark obelisks like the Place de Concorde in France and that of the St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome are over 40 meters, and are beautifully proportioned. But the ambitious plan was abandoned due to lack of funds. Instead, the Cultural Center of the Philippines was built in 1966, leaving Luneta’s Rizal—the most photographed monument in the Philippinesuntouched.




The "Mundo" of Quiapo, Manila

What made it unusual: It is an enormous 30-foot figure of the Virgen del Carmen seated on a globe borne by seven men.


For over 80 years, the gigantic figure of Our Lady of Mount Carmel stood on the grounds of the fabulous 1892 Quiapo mansion of lawyer and art connoisseur, Don Jose Mariano de los Reyes Ocampo. The residence featured an unusual three-storey pagoda filled with Eastern imageries. But the image of the Virgin holding the Child Jesus jutting from the garden borne by seven human figures (representing the seven continents) had the most imposing presence. By the bearers’ feet are prayers inscribed in several languages.



The giant statue, fancifully called “Mundo,” was sculpted by the Graciano Nepomuceno and Anastacio Caedo. When parts of the Ocampo compound were sold, the statue was inherited by Don Jose's daughter Trinidad who reminded the small community by saying “Huwag galawin ang Mundo.” After all, the image was considered miraculous. And so the “Mundo” stood,  surviving the ravages of time, a fire, and the encroachment of tenement houses. When Trinidad died in 2006, her daughter Rina Caniza inherited the statue who donated it to the Mount Carmel Church in Quezon City. In Caniza’s personal “Move the World” project, the massive statue was excavated using heavy machinery and equipment, and transported to the church in 2017, where the “Mundo” is now appropriately enshrined.




A monument to Dr. Isaac Eustaquio's sanitation and hygiene program in Marikina City

What made it unusual: The monument shows the doctor washing a child’s bottom using a tabo


Dr. Isaac Eustaquio (1888 to 1969), the first Filipino to graduate from Harvard with a Public Health degree, was known to have worked tirelessly to improve the health and sanitation of his town, Marikina, and its residents. The doctor promoted modern ways to improve personal hygiene through the use of proper toilet habits. This was visually translated in the 16-foot statue that was made in 2000 to extoll Dr. Eustaquio’s achievements. It shows a doctor washing the bottom of a boy standing on a toilet bowl, using a traditional tabo or a tin can. The statue, which stands on the Palengke ng Bayan grounds, has elicited a lot of reactions from people and passersby who have seen the statue—many find it in bad taste, while some regard it with plain amusement. Still, others wonder if Dr. Eustaquio—who also happened to be an accomplished painter—would have approved of the way he was artistically represented.




The Statues of the Arroyo Fountain, Iloilo

What made them controversial: The semi-nude statues caused a neighborhood scandal in 1929.


The Arroyo Fountain in front of the Provincial Government Building in Iloilo was put up in 1928, during the term of governor Mariano Arroyo. Its unique features are the four near-naked female figures surrounding a central column. When it was unveiled, lovers of art quickly expressed their hearty appreciation for the new fountain. One group, however—the Women’s Association of Iloilo—expressed their disapproval, convinced that the sense of womanhood everywhere has been insulted by the frank display of feminine anatomy in a public place. They were also of the opinion that the semi-nude figures were bound to lead the youth morally astray. The women’s group thus filed a protest and volunteered to shoulder the expenses in “dressing up” the naked ladies. The cast figures had to be replaced by new ones—wearing tunics and skirts reaching to their toes, their bosoms fully covered—at a cost of P1,500.




The Rizal Monument of Catbalogan, Samar

What made it unusual: Three butt-naked men are shown carrying the bust of the national hero. 


In the city hall park of Catbalogan stands an unusual stone tribute to Rizal, a cynosure of curious attention through the years. It shows the bust of the hero atop his books, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which are in turn, supported by three nude males with their backs (and behinds) towards the viewers, standing on a columnar base. This work of sculptor Miguel Alcazar has often been whispered about as having kitschy, homoerotic undertones, but Catbalogan residents regard the tableau as a national treasure.



It is said that the trio represents Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao and their nudity was inspired by the Oblation statue of the University of the Philippines, where the late Alcazar graduated from. The models for the trio included Alcazar himself and his two doctor-friends, Drs. Cinco and Villarin. Alcazar, who was active from 1946 to 1972, also made a carved likeness of  President Ronald Reagan that was displayed at the White House. He died in New York City in 1980.




The Hilario Camino Moncado Statue in Marawi City

What made it unusual: Throughout the day, the statue always faced the sun.


Hilario Camino Moncado has always had a colorful and interesting life. Born poor in barrio Pondol, Balamba, Cebu, he worked in Hawaii, and before long, he organized the Filipino Federation of America and returned to the Philippines in 1933, where he developed a cult following. The flamboyant leader (he was elected Cebu’s delegate to the Constitutional Convention) founded colonies of his vegetarian followers called “Moncadistas” in various places like Cebu, Agusan, Davao—and the most famous, in Dansalan (now Marawi City).


Many monuments rose on the grounds of Moncado's ostentatious garden overlooking Lanao Lake—including his own. Moncado is shown wearing a toga and holding a book, standing on a perch that was equipped with a mechanical device hidden from view. This contraption enabled his statue to revolve, facing the sun at all times—thus inspiring awe and reverence to the self-styled “five-star general” who died in 1956. The sun-facing Moncado statue was in operation until 1960. An earthquake and the subsequent ravages of time subsequently led to the destruction and decay of the Moncado colony.




The Rizal Monument of Lupao in Nueva Ecija

What made it unusual: The Rizal figure has a revolving base allowing the figure to have a 360-degree “view” of the town.


Like a watchful sentinel, the statue of Jose Rizal commissioned by Mayor Alfredo Briones stands on the municipal plaza of Lupao town. It was designed with a revolving base so that the hero’s statue could be turned around to face any direction. Thus, the Rizal Monument was used to deter the commission of petty crimes. When the eastern side of the town was plagued with a rash of thieveries, Mayor Briones turned the monument to face eastern Lupao. This was taken as a challenge to the residents there, over their failure to stop the vandalism, so they kept a stricter watch at night and managed to apprehend the teen vandals. In time, just by looking at the direction where Rizal was facing, people can tell which neighborhood was in trouble. If all is well in Lupao, the Rizal monument faces the municipal hall.




The Lapu-Lapu Statue of Opon, Cebu

What made it controversial: The statue was associated with the deaths of two councilors.


The white-washed statue of the first Filipino to fight Spain stands in the town plaza of Opon. A local superstition centers around it. Some time ago, the statue held a bow and arrow that was aimed at the town hall. Two mayors died and the statue was soon being talked about as a harbinger of death. The bow and arrow were thus replaced with a lance, planted firmly on the ground, and pointing to the sky.




The Rizal in Barong Monument of Central Luzon State University, Muñoz City, Nueva Ecija

What made it unusual: The stone statue of Rizal wears a real barong Tagalog.


At the school grounds of the Central Luzon State University in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija stands a unique monument of the national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. The 15-foot monument with Rizal as the central figure was erected in 1952 through the contributions of graduating laboratory high school students of Central Luzon State College. The usual depiction of Rizal shows him wearing a heavy, black Western overcoat. The Rizal statue in Central Luzon State College (CLU), however, proudly wears a barong, as a symbol of the students’ great nationalism and in appreciation of Rizal’s heroism.



It may be claimed that there are three other Rizal monument in barongtwo in Calamba and another in Mandaue City, Cebu. But the 15-foot Rizal statue at the CLSU is uniquely dressed, as it is clad in a barong of real fabric. The Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission acknowledged the uniqueness of CLSU’s Rizal in Barong monument by including it in the commemorative pictorial album to mark Rizal’s birthday centennial in 1961.




The Kamikaze Monument of Mabalacat, Pampanga

What made it controversial: It allegedly glorified the Japanese enemies of war.


As World War II drew to a close with an imminent American victory, Vice Admiral Takajiro Ohnisi arrived in Mabalacat on October 19, 1944 to plan an organized suicide attack composed of "zero aircraft fighters." Thus, the Kamikaze suicide mission was launched, resulting in the deaths of over 5,000 Japanese pilots. On October 24, 2004, a life-size fiberglass gold statue of an unnamed Kamikaze pilot was unveiled at the Japanese War Memorial, eliciting cries of outrage that drew national attention. Concerned individuals, from National Artist Alejandro Roces and Gemma Cruz-Araneta, and members of the Heritage Conservation Society and the National Historic Institute, think otherwise.


Col. Rafael Estrada, 87, chairman of the veterans group Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor says, “The site is where the Kamikazes were born. That is a historical fact. I have no problem with that, but to mark it with a full-size statue of a Kamikaze pilot, is in my opinion, not right.” Dr. Benito Legarda Jr. of the National Historic Institute, calls it a “monument to servility” as “the purpose of the Kamikaze was precisely to prolong the war.” Local tourism official Guy Hilbero, the proponent of the controversial project, maintains that the statue “is not a memorial glorifying the Kamikaze pilots” but its aim is to promote peace “using the lessons of war.”




"Uplift," The Female Oblation at the University of the Philippines-Diliman

What made it controversial: It has striking similarities with a Dutch sculpture which led to accusations of plagiarism.


In 2017, when artist Ferdinand Cacnio unveiled his sculpted “Uplift” creation that was heralded as the female counterpart of the UP Oblation built in 1939, a social media user pointed to the striking similarities of the woman in bronze suspended in mid-air, supported only by her flowing hair with the work of Dutch artist Elisabet Stienstra entitled "The Virgins of Apeldoorn." The Dutch sculpture, installed in 2001, shows a trio of female statues, one of whom is shown in a lying position,  arms outstretched and floating.



Despite cries of plagiarism in social media, Cacnio maintained that "Uplift” was his original work and that he has never seen the Dutch sculpture nor has he been to the Netherlands. Cacnio states that the “Uplift” is about “enlightenment and uplifting oneself” and about “aspiring for honor and excellence.” The much-talked-about sculpture was a donation of UP Batch 1985, of which he is a member.

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