Header Ads Widget

Heritage group opposes Rizal Memorial conversion

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--A group of heritage advocates expressed their dismay at a proposed conversion of the Rizal Memorial Coliseum to a mall.

On Saturday, Dakilang Pamana ng Lahi (PAMANLAHI), an NGO calling for continuous preservation of national heritage sites, called for the cancellation of the said conversion in the form of a walkthrough of the entire Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

"We are objecting to the possible demolition of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex into a mall. We feel because of our sense of heritage and history that this particular building must be left on its own," said Lino Atienza, the secretary general of PAMANLAHI.

A report by Rodel Clapano of the Philippine Star on Nov. 23 quoted Mayor Joseph Estrada baring the plan to convert the said arena, the former homecourt of the Manila Metrostars in the MBA and a host to many PBA, NCAA, and UAAP games during their primitive years as well, to a mall.

But for Atienza, it could just be the tip of the iceberg.

"If they start with one part of the Rizal Memorial Complex, they can include another and so on because they just created a precedent. Even if it's the basketball area, the baseball area or the other areas of the entire complex, why take it away? The young people who practice here--yung mga batang natututong maging atleta--can't afford to go to parallel places like the Clark field. What for?" he further lamented.

Atienza, however, clarified that he is not against another move to make the said proposed sports area in Angeles, which will likely be used as a venue for the 2019 SEA Games, the new training ground for athletes.

"We don't have any objection to that, but please leave this building alone," he further said.

Also, Atienza said that the entire 10.4-hectare sports complex has some non-sports uses as well, especially when tragedy strikes.

"Not too many people know that the Rizal Memorial can be used as a disaster evacuation and relief center. This is a big field where helicopters can land, ambulances can be parked, and some people can be housed at the moment. It's also a 'lung center' for oxygen in Metro Manila," he continued.

Among historic non-sports events that took place inside Rizal Memorial are a speech by Former President Manuel Quezon and the concert of legendary British rock act "The Beatles".

On why the group decided to go on a so-called "heritage walk" as its means of protest, Atienza reasoned, "We made this heritage walk to let people know that there is a resisting group, a group of people protesting against the potential demolition of this space in Manila. This is a heritage site with a heritage structure. Napakaraming international games ang ginawa dito. We had our Olympians, champions, sportsmen, and athletes who call this home. So we choose to fight this out. You can restore or make adaptive reuse of this place but not demolish the complex or part of it to get another mall here."

He also hopes that the family of former Pasay City mayor Vito Cruz, who gave the parcel of land for the Manila City government to build the said sports complex in time for the 1935 edition of the Far Eastern Championship Games, the predecessor to the Asian Games, will air its stand on the proposed conversion, which business tycoon Enrique Razon, the one spearheading the plan, clarified in a statement on Dec. 6 as just a redevelopment of the said complex.

"We are also looking for Vito Cruz's family, who donated the site, and if they object to the potential demolition of the Rizal Memorial, then they can stop the [Manila] City [government]. Usually, bids of donation have a colatilla that if you change the purpose for which the building was donated, then the original donor may get it back," Atienza continued.

Following Cruz's death, the main road to the sports complex, which also serves as the boundary between Manila and Pasay, was aptly named after him before it was renamed in 1989 after former Manila congressman Pablo Ocampo.

Atienza, meanwhile, also said that they also await the answer of Estrada to their call.

"We sent him a letter before Christmas, and I know some people have talked to him. But we don't have the answer so far from them," Atienza bared.

While waiting, Atienza bared that more protests will be expected as the new year rolls along.

"This is only the beginning. We're getting some more members and friends to join us. Dahan-dahan lang, because we're still trying to educate people the value of heritage and living up to history," he further said.

In conclusion, Atienza pleaded, "We appeal to Mayor Estrada and other businesses na patawarin niyo ito. Huwag naman ito, please."

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno