Grandson of Rizal’s Dapitan student: Let’s restore historic water system

Gualberto Laput

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Grandson of Rizal’s Dapitan student: Let’s restore historic water system
The grandson of one of Rizal's former students says there is work to be done to restore the water system and brick-making facility the national hero built in this city

DAPITAN CITY, Philippines – As Dapitan honors Dr Jose Rizal with a newly-renovated shrine, one of the descendants of his former students says some of the national hero’s more important legacies in the city have been neglected.

The P40-million facelift of the Rizal Shrine in this city will be complete Sunday, June 19, as the country observes our national hero’s 155th birthday.

The facelift includes a modernized museum and the bronze sculptures of Rizal with Katipunan’s Pio Valenzuela, and another of Rizal and Josephine Bracken.

The launching of the renovated Rizal Shrine will be attended by Education Sectetary Armin Luistro and top officials of the National Historical Institute.

Since the turn of the century a lot of money has been spent to honor Rizal, but George Aseniero, grandson of one of Rizal’s former students here, said “we didn’t do anything to the more important things that Rizal was able to do in Dapitan,” referring to Rizal’s water system and the brick-making facility.

“It’s tremendous work, it was great engineering, and it responds to a society’s basic need, which is water – and now we seemed to have lost it,” he said.

ADVOCACY. George Aseniero, grandson of one of Rizal's former students in Dapitan, says there is a lot of work to be done to restore Rizal's water system and brick-making facility in the city. Photo by Gualberto Laput

Locals believe that the dam built near Rizal’s house at the Shrine is the water system. “But it is just a sub-water station that Rizal made from the main water system,” Aseniero said. “He made the sub-water station for his house, and he made the water system for Dapitan.”

He explained that Rizal found a big source of water called “Linaw” at the mountain near his property in Talisay, Dapitan. He then built a pipeline made of bricks from “Linaw” down two kilometers to what is now known as Barangay Sinonoc.

The statues of Pio Valenzuela and Jose Rizal at the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan. Photo by Gualberto Laput

“The pipes had bores, like the one on a gun barrel, to increase the speed of water and the end of the pipeline was a fountain sculptured into a head of a lion with water flowing from its mouth. Perhaps Rizal tried to copy a similar fountain in Heidelberg, Germany,” Aseniero said.

He added that the brick pipes were made at his brick-making facility, where remnants of his huge brick kiln could still be found in Barangay Maria Cristina that is on the opposite side of Dapitan. Thousands of brick pipes were loaded on bancas and transported through Liboran River up to Barangay Sinonoc.

“Sad to know that the brick kiln has been destroyed by treasure hunters, and the remnants are now used to shelter pigs while houses are now erected on the area where the pipeline fountain was located. It’s pathetic that nobody made an effort to preserve it,” Aseniero lamented.

He added that he has been urging the past 5 mayors of Dapitan under 4 presidents, “but nothing has been done.”

Discouraged with the government, Aseniero said he is planning to raise funds on his own to relocate Rizal’s water pipeline and brick making facility, and at least have it ready for restoration.

George Aseniero standing beside Rizal's old bed, which the national hero left to the Asenieros. Photo by Gualberto Laput

Aseniero said his grandfather must have successfully handed down to his father, Francisco Aseniero, and eventually to him the ideals of Rizal. He is now doing his best to give justice to the memories of a man he considers an “immortal hero.”

“You know, Rizal left his bed to our family and he brought my grandfather along with his 3 other Dapitanon students to Manila,” Aseniero said. “The idea was for them to pursue education, but all their plans were overtaken by events.”

Aseniero said that his grandfather witnessed the execution of Rizal, and together with Josephine Bracken and Rizal’s sister Trinidad, they discovered an untitled poem inside the lamp that the national hero left at his cell before he faced the firing squad.

That poem is now what we know as Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.” –

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