MALACANANG, December 31, 2003
(BULLETIN) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday led the nationwide flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremonies commemorating the 107th year of Dr. Jose Rizal's martyrdom at the Rizal Park, Manila.

The President was accorded full military honors upon her arrival at the park. She trooped the line escorted by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Narciso Abaya.

Mrs. Arroyo then led the 7 a.m. nationwide simultaneous raising of the flag that was later lowered at half-mast.

Assisting her at the wreath-laying were Abaya, National Historical Institute (NHI) Executive Director Ludovico Badoy, and Manila Mayor Jose Atienza Jr.

Seconds later, three successive volleys of seven rifle shots boomed as an Air Force helicopter dropped flower petals at the monument site.

Rizal, the country's national hero, was executed on Dec. 30, 1896, in Luneta, fueling the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers.

This year's commemoration has the theme "Diwang Rizal: Gabay sa Matatag na Bansa."

Among those present at the rites were Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Public Works Secretary Florante Soriquez, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., the AFP flag officers, and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

The President then walked to the Kanlungan ng Sining center where she led the ribbon cutting to open an exhibit of Rizal-inspired paintings.

Assisting the President were Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) President Fidel Sarmiento, National Historical Institute (NHI) Chairman Ambeth Ocampo, National Parks Development Committee Director Jaime Recio, and Tourism Undersecretary Evelyn Pantig.

The exhibits included the winning entries in the 56th National Art Competition sponsored by the Art Association of the Philippines.

The President then joined the Cabinet officials, members of the Diplomatic Corps, and the officers of the national organizing committee for the 2003 Rizal Day celebrations in a breakfast at the NHI grounds.

Tribute to Rizal

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday led thousands of people, including students and teachers such as National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario in paying tribute to the 107th martyrdom of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

Mrs. Arroyo arrived before 7 a.m. at the Rizal Park in Manila. Then she was given arrival honors, afterwhich she laid a wreath on the Rizal Shrine.

After 30 minutes, Mrs. Arroyo left without making a speech, unlike in the previous years.

Almario, on the other hand, said in his Rizal Day lecture at Fort Santiago in Intramuros that Rizal subjects should be taught properly. These include Philippine Institute 100, Noli Me Tangere, and El Filibusterismo.

He noted that students are only made to read the synopsis of the great novels. "They must appreciate it to get to know more about Rizal's works. Also, many of the translations of the novels are not that good," lamented Almario, who is also the dean of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman College of Arts and Letters. (Joel C. Atencio)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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