Hero's Trail: Revisiting the newly renovated Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago

  • Monday, April 04, 2016

A tour in Fort Santiago would not be complete without a visit inside the Rizal Museum.This was my sentiment when we visited Fort Santiago early this month and learned that the museum was closed due to an ongoing renovation.

Later that month, I had a short stopover in Manila and decided to spend my free time in Fort Santiago to check if the museum is finally open to public. For someone who is a history and culture enthusiast like me, I am excited to see the new transformation of the Rizal Museum. Before I entered Fort Santiago I asked the guard at the gate if the Rizal Museum is already open and he said yes, so with great anticipation we hurriedly bought tickets and proceeded with the tour. This time, I was with friends who haven’t been to Fort Santiago so we decided to tour the area first and save the museum visit later.

Fort Santiago was the center of Spanish Empire in the Philippines during the colonial times but to many Filipinos, this is not just an ordinary historical fortress. At the heart of Fort Santiago is the Rizal Museum or popularly known as the Rizal Shrine. Fortified and converted into a museum in the 1950s, the Rizal Shrine presently stands as a memorial to the Philippines most loved national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s heroism. Historical accounts say that it is at the same site where Rizal was incarcerated from November 3 to December 29, 1896 before he was executed in December 30, 1896 during the Spanish rule. Presently the shrine houses Rizal’s memorabilias where visitors can view the exhibits of Rizal’s original manuscripts, books, sculptures, paintings, photos and artworks including his relic.

Last March 21, 2014, the shrine was opened to public after its thorough restoration. I was very eager to see its new look and I must say that it didn’t disappoint. It’s fresh new look and the great ambiance makes you feel like you are in a museum abroad. I particularly like how they made use of bright and pastel colors in the wall and in the exhibits that made it easy on the eyes and how they incorporated soft lighting in some areas to highlight some exhibits and made it look more dramatic. Another commendable addition to the features of the museum is the installation of interactive screen scattered around the museum which makes your visit more realistic.

Let me walk you through the newly opened Rizal Shrine. Your tour will start right beside the brick ruins which the main entrance of this old two-storey museum with a marker Dambana ni Rizal. As you enter you will be greeted with this short write up about the life and works of Jose Rizal plastered on the wall and then by a painting entitled “The Martyrdom of Rizal” by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco that summarizes Rizals martyrdom.

And then there is a timeline display that retells the important details of Rizal’s journey to martyrdom.

Timeline depicting the sequence of events of Rizal’s journey to martyrdom was outlined in this wall presentation in such a fluid manner.
In the adjacent room is the prison cell or the silid piitan exhibit which still looks sober and mournful. It was made even more dramatic by the soft lighting that is more contrasty and gave emphasis on the image of Rizal sitting on a desk. At first I was initially dazed to see an image right across of me when I entered the room only to realize it was Rizal life size replica writing his last poem before his execution. It was like seeing Rizal on his last night. This lines plastered on the wall caught my attention.

The prison cell of Rizal was still sober and melancholic made dramatic with soft and ambient lighting.

“I have always loved my poor country and I’m sure i shall love her until my last moment, should men prove unjust to me. I shall die happy, satisfied with the thought that all I have suffered, my life, my loves, my joys, my everything, I have sacrificed for the love of her.”

Aside from Silid Piitan, other rooms on the first level are the Silid Paglilitis that depicts the actual set-up during the trial of Jose Rizal and plastered on the walls are the writings on the arguments during the trial;

the Silid Kabayanihan that contains the actual remnants of Rizal’s life including the hat and overcoats he wore; the glass urn that contains his vertebrae with a bullet still embedded in the bone; and a reproduction of his memorable final masterpiece and farewell poem entitled “Mi Ultimo Adios” which he hid inside an oil lamp.

On the second level of the museum, you will find the Silid audio visual that shows a film about the life and works of Rizal.

The Silid Pamana room that display Rizal’s writings, manuscripts, and other memorabilia. It contains the first edition Rizals two novels entitled “Noli Me Tangere”and “El Filibusterismo” displayed in glass casings. It also shows the sculptures, paintings and sketches Rizal has done in his lifetime. Also found here are his collections of preserved animals, plants and shells during his exile in Dapitan and some species were even named after him.

Here are also some pieces which I find interesting like Rizal's sculptures enclosed in glass casing- these I must say is something which I am not aware of that our national hero can do and the details in his sculptures are very impressive. There is also his original set of surgical instruments which looks pretty much the same of the instruments we have today, I wonder how much it cost to have one set during his time. hehehe Rizal's calling card or "tarheta" and his writing set and seal also caught my attention knowing how that these were his most important and powerful weapon in fighting for freedom and effecting change. 

Near the end of your tour, you will see a collection of Rizal's studio portraits showing the evolution of his looks plastered on the wall. You will also find an interactive puzzle trivia games about Rizal’s life so you can test here how much you’ve learned from your tour. Hehehe and of course, since we are in a selfie generation you can take your selfie with the famous Ilustrados of Spain namely Jose Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and Mariano Ponce. And you might want to wear those hat and coat provided for you to complete the Illustrado look.

The tour in the Rizal Shrine can be finished in half a day but it has a lot of artifacts displayed that has comprehensive descriptions and write-ups that at certain point you might feel a history overload. But this tour will not only be a visual treat, it will also open your mind to those things that were not real to you during your school days when you only get to read about Rizal in textbooks. It’s basically a different experience when you’re actually seeing the real thing, walking through the actual halls and feeling the emotions when these important events happened. After the tour, i felt a sense of pride and i know you will also. So feel proud fellow Filipino, be very proud that we have such treasure in our midst. 

Thank you for dropping by! I hope you enjoyed your time here. Please feel free to share, drop a comment and share your thoughts about your experiences in Rizal museum. And if you like, please stop by my instagram @archieoffduty and find more travel ideas for your future travels. I would really appreciate it. Thanks! ;-)>

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