More on the Rizal Memorial issue
Like the life cycle of most news items, the proposed sale of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum seems to have hushed for now. However, the response of readers to the articles in the Inquirer, including one editorial, has been engaging and the discussion on the aging sports complex will not go quietly into the night.
Ching de las Alas Montinola sent me additional material on the subject, reminding me of her very personal attachment to Rizal Memorial. After all, it was her father, the late Antonio de las Alas who helped spearhead its construction and its renovation after World War II.
“He used to bring us small ones, proud to show us how [Rizal Memorial] was treasured by athletes of yesteryears,” Montinola says, “It’s really not that easy to tear down the memories of a nation.”
The sports complex was the venue of the 1934 Far Eastern Olympics, the forerunner of regional multisports events. It was also the site of the 1954 Asian Games and three editions of the SEA Games.
There is definitely a cultural heritage issue here and that’s why groups concerned with the preservation of sites and other artifacts have also spoken up.
Dr. Fernando Zialcita, professor of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the Ateneo de Manila University, wrote me to explain that the sports complex is on the agenda of the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS).
In fact, the HCS Facebook page has a statement on the issue that emphasizes the heritage of the complex and underscores the need for open spaces in a city. In a recent conversation, Zialcita asked me, “How can we develop athletes like football players, if we don’t have spaces for them?”
It’s clear that even if the need for commercial investments is acknowledged, there is a clamor not to sacrifice history and heritage. Again, we contend that the national training center needs to be moved out of the city but the essence and value of Rizal Memorial should be preserved.
The old Rizal is aching at its bones but its mind remains sharp with Filipino sports triumphs for memories that should last for generations. A museum will sadly not be enough to replace the collective meaning of the sports venues in the complex.