Residents and officials are on hand to unveil Dr. Jose P. Rizal Square in the Chinatown area
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 20, 2011
Civic and political leaders of Filipino ancestry unveiled a sign declaring a tiny patch of Chinatown "Dr. Jose P. Rizal Square" on Sunday to honor the Philippines national hero who was born 150 years ago.
Homeless people paused to watch the ceremony and city buses lumbered past as state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz told the gathering that Rizal's writings and actions as a Filipino patriot who inspired revolution through nonviolence will help inspire modern-day Filipinos to take a more prominent role in Hawaii society.
In the latest data from the U.S. Census, Filipinos in Hawaii who identified themselves by only one ethnicity grew 15.7 percent from 2000 — to 197,497 people. Among people who self-identified by one or more ethnicities, Filipinos in Hawaii grew 24.1 percent — to 564,323 people.
As a member of the City Council last year, Dela Cruz helped shepherd a Council resolution renaming a sliver of College Walk near Beretania and River streets in Rizal's honor.
"This is very timely," Dela Cruz (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea), said Sunday. "We have to take leadership positions so we can contribute to the success of our community. And Jose Rizal is a good role model for us. It reminds people that we have to have high integrity, that we have to work for the good of everyone else."
Rizal became a medical doctor and earned other advanced degrees in Europe, where he also learned to speak several languages. Through his writings in the late 1800s, Rizal pushed back against Spanish control of the Philippines through nonviolence.
Rizal's death by a Spanish firing squad in 1896 at the age of 35 helped spur the Philippine revolution.
The sign unveiled Sunday declaring a portion of College Walk "Dr. Jose P. Rizal Square" stood near a life-size statue of the 4-foot 11-inch Rizal that debuted in 1983.
"He was a role model," said Raymund Liongson, commander of the Knights of Rizal Hawaii chapter. "He was a renaissance man, martyr and hero."
Outgoing City Council Chairman Nestor Garcia called Rizal "the George Washington in the Philippines."
At the end of Sunday's sign unveiling, Liongson, Dela Cruz, Garcia, Philippines Consul General Leoncio Cardenas and others draped lei around the neck of Rizal's statue.
"It's the birth of Rizal Square," Liongson declared.
Later Sunday night, the Knights of Rizal Hawaii chapter — which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year — presented its first Jose P. Rizal Award for Peace at the Hale Koa Hotel to Belinda Aquino, former director of the University of Hawaii's Center for Philippine Studies.
The Knights of Rizal plan to present the award annually.