Whether Cagayanos admit it or not, the Rizal Park of Tuguegarao City is in a very bad shape. No thanks to the vandals and other criminal elements who have used it at one time or another as a stop-over for their nefarious activities in the past.
The lot where it now stands was first dedicated by Governor Honorio Lasam to the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal on August 17, 1918 where it complemented another historical building at its side, the old residence of the gobernadorcillo during the Spanish regime.
Leon Avila who witnessed the development of the area in the 1970s claimed that prior to its massive development during the incumbency of Governor Teresa Dupaya from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s, it has always been an obscure lot highlighted only by a monument of the hero.
When Dupaya, a teacher by profession and who was called the ‘Dancing Governor of the Philippines” by Panorama magazine , took the reign of provincial governance in the late 1960s, she introduced aggressive improvements in the area.
“It became one of the attractions of the province then. It has since graced various Cagayan tourism promotions flyers and brochures, magazines, and newspapers,” Avila noted in 2010.
Drumbeaters of the Dupaya administration claimed it was the first replica of the original Rizal Park or Luneta in Manila in the entire Northern Luzon area. It features a beautifully landscaped garden, a ‘dancing fountain,’ and a grass-carpeted lawn where Cagayanos loved to spend their evenings.
It short, it was a tourist attraction by itself and like the Luneta of Manila, locals and visitors could not resist the lure of photo opportunities whenever possible.
However, as early as the mid-1990s when the park was no longer a priority project of the Cagayan Ppovincial government, it started to deteriorate.
Dim-lighted and with no assigned security, the lawless elements made the park their base and meeting ground. The park's sullied reputation drove residents to shun the area.
Soon, even the plants wilted and died; and other simple amenities were destroyed. Its fountain, once the pride of the park, has become an eyesore. In short, the Rizal Park of Tuguegarao was slowly dying.
To the Rescue
Only last week, a group of student-leaders from the Cagayan State University took it upon themselves to do something for the park, inspired by other movements for a cause elsewhere in the country.
Leo Romano, a legal management student of the College of Business Entrepreneurship and Accountancy , councilor of the student organization , at the same time project leader of the "Move Cagayan: For A Change, Run For Rizal Park” said that as a resident of Tuguegarao, he saw the deplorable condition of the park, once the playground of his parents.
“We were supposed to join the "Run for Ilog Pasig" last year where we were supposed to run too, but Pasig is too far from us. My friends just came up with an idea that we can also run for a cause here in Tuguegarao,” he said.
Immediately, the group unanimously decided to make the park their rallying point. At first, it was a simple run for the student organization of his college. When they broached the idea to the university administration, its president decided to make it a university undertaking.
Thus, the “Move Cagayan: For a Change, Run for Rizal Park" project was born with Romano as the leader.
The students plan to raise an initial P50,000 to finance a new dancing fountain in its original location with Romano’s sister, an architectural student of another university in Tuguegarao, creating the new design.
Being apolitical, the students merely informed the provincial government of their desire to help reconstruct the structure and didn’t bother officials for donations.
“We want to help build a structure from our own sweat without government interventions,” Romano said.
When young professionals in the province learned of such undertaking, they started to throw their support and started registering for the three- kilometer run which will start from the Cagayan stadium to the Rizal Park in Barangay Centro 10.
The students said it will be the start of their dream of restoring the old glory and prestige that was Rizal Park. This early, they already identified other areas within the park which need immediate repair and reconstruction.
“We hope other universities will join us. Regardless of where we study, the fact that we are doing something for our society should be the link that will bind us,” Romano said.
The student-organizers are neck deep into their preparation all for the sake of a forsaken local park. (TCB/BSY/PIA)