MANILA –- For the last time during his term, Pres. Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday led the nation in commemorating the 119th death anniversary and martyrdom of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Upon his arrival at 8 a.m. at the Rizal Park in Manila, the President received military honors and later joined by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and other government officials in raising the national flag.

After the flag-raising rite, the two newly acquired supersonic FA-50 lead-in fighter jets of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) conducted a high-speed pass.

Pres. Aquino also led the wreath-laying ceremony at the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal, his last before stepping down as country’s 15th President in June 30 next year.

After the ceremonies, the President joined the public in watching a five-minute fly-by of the PAF’s air assets that include 15 Marchetti SF 260 light military trainers, 10 Cessna T-41 Mescalero pilot training aircraft, eight Agusta Westland AW-109E attack helicopters and three Bell 412 utility helicopters.

The PAF’s new supersonic FA-50 fighter jets conducted another high-speed pass while the President was greeting the audience.

In his Rizal Day message, Pres. Aquino called on the Filipino people to become heroes in their own way and reaffirm their commitment to the righteous path agenda that he champions for the common good.

“May we all be inspired by Dr. Jose Rizal’s courage and intelligence, his sense of duty, hunger for knowledge, passion for reform, and undying love of country,” the President said in his message released on Tuesday.

“Let us all be heroes in our own way, and reaffirm our commitment to the Daang Matuwid. Only by traversing this road towards fairness and progress can we translate our dreams into tangible realities for our people,” he added.

Pres. Aquino reminded the people about Rizal’s hard work and his sacrifices that contributed to the building of the nation and the kind of country that it is today.

He said the country celebrates Rizal Day every year to reflect on Rizal’s sacrifice to free the Philippines from the shackles of abuse and inequality during the colonial years under Spain.

He said that through Rizal’s writings and deeds, the country’s forefathers became a braver, more united citizenry, “both capable and determined to win the liberties we now enjoy”.

“Dr. Jose Rizal worked hard to pursue our independence, serving as a catalyst for change; his works remain relevant to this day, a reminder of a past when freedom seemed beyond our reach,” the President said.

“Let us remember him on this occasion, along with other heroes who shared their strength and vision to make the Philippines the nation it is today,” he added.

December 30 has been declared by the government as a regular holiday throughout the country in observance of Rizal Day. Jelly F. Musico/PNA/