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Airdrie City council endorses Filipino public art donation

Nose Creek Regional Park could soon house Alberta's first monument of the Philippines’ national hero.

Nose Creek Regional Park could soon house Alberta's first monument to a Filipino national hero.

At a regular meeting Oct. 19, Airdrie City council was presented with a request by the Philippine Consulate General in Calgary to receive a donated bust of Dr. José Rizal – an icon who played an integral role in the country’s fight for independence from Spain in the late 19th century. The monument would be located in Nose Creek Regional Park.

According to Zaldy Patron, Philippine Consulate General in Calgary, Rizal is a national hero in the Philippines. Although the Spanish colonial government sentenced Rizal to death by firing squad in 1896 at the age of 35, his efforts leading up to his execution helped inspire the country toward independence after 300 years of Spanish rule.

“He’s considered among the greatest of Filipino heroes,” Patron said. “He was a renaissance, and ahead of his time.”

Famous for writing two novels, Rizal accomplished much in his short life, Patron said. Rizal was a polyglot who spoke 22 languages and a polymath who worked as an ophthalmologist, journalist, farmer, historian and artist, among other occupations.

In addition to his many talents, Rizal was also an outspoken critic of Spain’s colonial rule over the Philippines and his writings helped inspire his countrymen to fight for independence.

Monuments of Rizal can be found throughout the world in Spain, Germany, China, the United States and many other countries, Patron said. In Canada, busts of Rizal are located in Toronto and Markham Ont., Montreal, Que. and Winnipeg, Man.

“If we can make this project happen, this would be the first in Alberta,” Patron said. “Why Airdrie? Well, Airdrie has a growing Filipino community and we have, in your city, two Filipino associations – the Filipino Airdrie Association and the [Airdrie Filipino Women's League].”

Airdrie's proximity to Calgary, which boasts a population of roughly 75,000 Filipinos, is another reason a bust of Rizal would make sense in the city, Patron said. With no existing monuments to Rizal anywhere else in Alberta, Patron said Filipinos in Calgary and even some from as far away as Edmonton would likely travel to Airdrie to see the bust.

“We think that if this project is going to be realized, it would be a tourist attraction for the 175,000 Filipinos in Alberta and those coming from other provinces who might want to visit Alberta,” he said. “We can make a promotion or campaign for Filipino communities to have their pictures taken with this Rizal monument.”

Patron also noted a strong Filipino presence in Airdrie – according to census data from 2016, more than 1,500 Filipinos call the city home. He added Nose Creek Regional Park already hosts various Filipino events throughout the year, such as festivities for Philippine Independence Day and Filipino Heritage Month in June.

Patron’s presentation touched on the overall budget for the engineering, design, installation, landscaping and sculpting of the bust, which would cost between $12,000 and $18,000 and measure approximately three feet by two feet. According to Patron, the Philippine Consulate General in Calgary and the Filipino Association of Airdrie would pay and fundraise for the bust and its installation, while the City of Airdrie would be responsible for its maintenance.

After Patron’s presentation, community developer Michael McAllister highlighted the City of Airdrie’s public art policy. He said the policy for accepting an art donation includes initial screening, site selection considerations, budgeting, a presentation to the Community Services Advisory Board and other acceptance procedures.

Council seemed overwhelmingly in support of the donation. Coun. Tina Petrow noted Patron's presentation was very educational, and a bust of Rizal with an accompanying plaque highlighting his accomplishments would teach Airdronians about a critical piece of Filipino history.

Coun. Candice Kolson added the donation would be a welcome addition to Nose Creek Regional Park.

“It struck me as something our city could really embrace,” she said. “It could really be a focal point and help us grow on what we already have there. We have our LGBTQ pathway, we have our totems and I think this would be an excellent addition to that.”

Coun. Darrel Belyk moved to direct administration to work with the Philippine Consulate General in Calgary to begin the City’s public art process. The motion passed unanimously.

According to Patron, the bust could be installed next year and unveiled as early as August 2021.

Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19