DAPITAN CITY, Zamboanga del Norte–This city celebrated the country’s 120th Independence Day with a clean-up drive at the Sta. Cruz beach, where more than a century ago, National Hero Jose Rizal arrived to begin his exile.
The place where Rizal landed in Sta. Cruz beach here is now popularly known as the “Punto de Disembarko”.
After the flag-raising ceremony and a short program at 7 a.m. Tuesday, hundreds of local residents, officials and employees of local and national government offices, the academe, as well as non-government organizations trooped to this city’s 4-km. beach to collect garbage.
“This is the first time that we celebrate Independence Day with the cleaning up of our beach, as (Dapitan) Mayor (Rosalina) Jalosjos wanted us to shift from traditional activities to community service,” City Administrator Wilberth Magallanes told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Magallanes called the beach clean-up the template for all incoming activities that commemorate important events, saying civic action is preferable to “traditional parades and lengthy programs.”
He expressed hope that with community service, the people — particularly government workers — would reinvigorate their love and sense of duty to the city.
After all, he said, this was what Rizal taught Dapitanons while in exile — “service, duty and sense of dedication.”
Earlier, George Aseniero, grandson of Jose Aseniero — one of Rizal’s students here — told PNA that his grandfather had profound respect for his “maestro”, who instilled in his students the importance of civic duties.
“It was because of Rizal that my grandfather got a deep sense of dedication and service to our country. He had immense sense of duty that he did not see it as a career, or something to aspire for. He sees service to country as something that all of us must do,” Aseniero said.
Jose Aseniero eventually served the government under the Americans, rising from the ranks until he was elected as governor of Zamboanga in 1929.
In her speech, Jalosjos asked Dapitanons to examine themselves if they are really free after 120 years of independence. She lamented that until now, “we are still at war.”
“We are battling for freedom from each other’s viciousness,” the mayor said, referring to the kind of politics that polarizes people.
Jalosjos said taming political viciousness “does not need bloody battles.”
“What we need is respect for each other and courage to accept change,” she added. Gualberto Laput/PNA-northboundasia.com