by Evelyn de Asis Natividad, Ph.D
He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination. Jose Rizal
The Dr. Jose Rizal Monument was the brain child of the late Sir Roberto Roque and Lady Herminia Roque of the Order of the Knights of Rizal, Malaya Chapter. Conceived in 1994, the initial plan was to purchase a bronze statue at $65,000. A letter was sent to Quintin Pastrana, Deputy Director of the Philippine Centennial Commission for the acquisition of the statue in 1997. A bust of Dr. Jose Rizal, intended for Chicago donated by the Philippine Historical Society was instead taken to Cleveland in 1998.
A statue was commissioned by Antonio Mondejar for the celebration of the Philippine Centennial in 1998. One of the statues allotted for Chicago, Illinois was an initiative of Sir Max Basco. On August 4, 1998, a meeting called by Sir Bert Roque and Chairman of the Philippine Centennial, Sir Max Basco with Sir Cornelio Natividad formed the committee to handle the installation of the monument. Sir Ely Natividad was appointed to Chair the Dr. Jose Rizal Monument Project. With the help of Consul General Emelinda Pineda the statue was transported to Chicago and stored at the Chicago Logistic Warehouse.
Finding a home for the Rizal monument needed support from our alderman and the Chicago Park District. In 1999 a series of meetings took place between the above-named Filipino proponents of the monument and first with Alderman Schulter on January 6th, second with Chicago Park District Director of External Affairs, Dr. Gwendolyn Laroche and Alderman Schulter on January 13th and in February through March.
After establishing the identity of Dr. Jose Rizal and the significance of his presence in Chicago, the Park District approved the project and proceeded to choose the site. Out of the three choices given them, the Montrose and Lawrence site was Sir Ely, Lady Evelyn Natividad and Sir Max Basco’s unanimous choice.
A Steering Committee to complete the Rizal Monument project was formed on February 26, 1999 comprised of the following: Sir Cornelio ‘Ely’ Natividad, Chairman; Consul General Emelinda Pineda, Honorary Chairperson; Sir Bert Roque, Sir Max Basco, Alderman Gene Schulter, 47th Ward Chicago, Lady Evelyn de Asis Natividad, Sir Van Gallardo, Sir Felix Gonzales and Sir Phil Nayan.
A fundraising kick-off, chaired by Lady Norma Manankil was held in March 1999, where 100 donors from the Filipino American community donated $1,000,00 each. The ground breaking, chaired by Lady Thelma Tupaz Fuentes was held on March 16, 1999. Dr. Evelyn Natividad worked on the permit to install the monument which came within two days of filing on June 16, 1999.
On June 19,1999 the Filipino American community witnessed the historic installation of the Dr. Jose Rizal Monument on Lawrence and Montrose. The granite pedestal bore inscriptions approved by the National Historical Institute in the Philippines. A marker bearing all the names of 100 donors was installed at the Margate Field House in Margate Park. The Philippine Consulate General, the Philippine Centennial Committee led by Dr. Max Basco, the Philippine American Cultural Foundation led by the late Mayor Juventino Fajardo, the Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago, the Filipino Veterans, Ladies of Rizal, Knights of Rizal, and other FIl-Am organizations participated in the event. A $20,000 endowment fund held by PACF has been used for 17 years for the maintenance of the monument including the re patina in 2011.
Yearly floral offerings are being held on June 19 and December 30 during which time,Lady Jelly Carandang donates the wreaths. A widely recognized kin of Rizal, Dr. Ramon Lopez also honors the hero with wreaths on special occasions. The Philippine American Cultural Foundation, Dr. Jose Rizal Memorial Foundation, NAFFAA Region 3 West , NAFFAA Illinois,The Philippine Consulate, Phil.Normal Alumni Assoc. Fil-Am TV Show, and the Knights of Rizal have been consistently participating in the floral offerings. Sir Ely Natividad and wife Lady Evelyn Natividad have religiously helped in its maintenance and the changing of the flags twice a year.
Mounting Dr. Jose Rizal’s monument wasn’t an easy task. It took the concerted effort, commitment, perseverance and money of a number of our community leaders and civic-minded people and the sympathetic and reasonable ears of our local mainstream officials to get it done. We should be proud of what we’ve done together. Today, however, our national hero’s monument is in dire need of volunteers and financial support to help with its upkeep. Let’s preserve and keep it looking nice to ensure its continued presence in his strategic spot. It’s the only monument of an Asian hero in this great city. It is our generation’s legacy to the next many generations that they may never forget their roots and their heritage.
Editors’ Note: A book on The Making of the Monument detailing people, places and dates is in the works. This story has been condensed for the sake of time and space.