City of Carson immortalizes Rizal; Congen Aragon to lead unveiling rites
by David Casuco
LOS ANGELES, Aug 19 (Mabuhay) — There are monuments, grand and imposing ones; and then there is the Rizal Memorial Monument in the City of Carson.
After a decade of losing, winning, and trying the Filipino-American community in Los Angeles finally heaved a collective sigh of relief Monday when community leader Chito Mandap announced that it’s all systems go for the September 29 unveiling of the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Monument at the International Sculpture Garden in Carson, a city located 17 miles south of downtown L.A.
Mandap, chairman of the Dr. Jose P. Rizal Memorial Monument (JPRMM) movement, reported to the community how the seven-foot bronze statue was done; the size and make, the donations and the expenses it entailed, and everything there is to know about funds disbursements and miscellaneous little elseís. Mandap also disclosed that it was Sculpture Deleon Imao, a TOYM Awardee, who created the statue. The project total cost is pegged at $60,000.
Above all, Mandap underscored the significance of the project. He told the Pinoy Watchdog that what he hopes is for the monument to serve as a representation of unity among Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles. “I thought it could be a common denominator for community unity; a galvanizing factor for all of us,” said Mandap.
Mandap expressed his gratitude to the pillars and supporters of the project for helping him pull off this big task despite the great odds. ìAs a community leader, I realized that critics will always hound me for whatever I do or not do.î But the support, he said, was great and that is why everything ended up well as planned.
Incidentally, the Sept. 29 event will be one of the very last official acts of Congen Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon, whose tour of duty expires on Sept. 30. The well-admired and hardworking Congen Aragon had worked closely with the JPRMM and the over 20 community groups that actively supported the project. So, as a gesture of gratitude, the community decided that Congen Aragon must lead the monument unveiling ceremony.
“I am happy that I will still be around for the historic event … but what is really important is that we have the Rizal monument finally in place,” said Congen Aragon. “This is a very, very worthy project.”
During the unveiling rites, a stainless steel time capsule will be buried at the foot of the monument. Inside the capsule are mementos from the L.A. FilAms of this generation that will turn out as historical vignettes twenty years later when the capsule will finally be opened.
Oftentimes referred to as the Great Malay or the Universal Man, Dr. Rizal had been memorialized with monuments in eight countries all over the world. He is said to have influenced his contemporaries Mahatma Ghandi and Sun Yat Sen. Monuments of the Philippines national hero can be found in South Wales, Australia; Madrid, Spain; Wilhemsfeld, Germany; Jinjiang, Fujian, China; Reform Avenue, Mexico City; Lima, Peru; Litomerice, Czech Republic; Singapore; and United States. In the U.S., Rizal monuments stand in San Diego, California; Cherry Hill, Township, New Jersey; and Seattle, Washington.
The Carson landmark is the 12th Rizal monument outside of the Philippines. Carson is home to a sizeable number of Filipino expats. Of the 25% Asian-American population of the city, 20% count as Filipino Americans.
Three-term Councilmember Elito Macapagal Santarina was visibly elated during the press briefing saying his excitement on the Rizal monument unveiling in Carson is so great that “there is nothing to be left in the imagination of excitement. I am really glad that this community effort has come to its final fruition.” He congratulated the FilAm community “for supporting and trusting Mandap at ang minamahal na Congen Aragon.”
Carson Mayor Jim Dear, for his part, conveyed a message of love and unity. He said that the Rizal monument shows the acceptance of Filipino culture into mainstream America. “It is going to show the acceptance of Filipino culture; enriching and making the American culture stronger and more interesting. My message to you is a message of love, compassion, and unity for the Filipino and American people.”
Noted FilAm lawyer Roman Mosqueda sees the Carson monument as the crowning glory of a great community effort. “This calls for a celebration. Finally, we have this statue of Rizal in Carson which we had been planning for years. We should take pride in honoring him because he is our greatest hero – it (monument) symbolizes freedom.”
(David Casuco writes sports, travel, and spirituality for Mabuhay News Service. He obtained a Journalism degree at the University of Santo Tomas, and pursued expanded theological studies at the Angelus Bible Institute in Los Angeles). (MNS)