“And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.”
— Ada Louise Huxtable, 1963
It was just last December when my Facebook feed was flooded with posts about the plan to convert the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) into a commercial center. Most, if not all of those who shared and posted the story mentioned that it’s foolish and that we don’t need another mall to clog up the streets of the metro. With the help of social media, an online petition started with the aim of saving the RMSC and asking the local government and other authorities to renovate and improve it instead. Last March 27, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has declared the RMSC a “national historical landmark” saving the site from the planned renovation of the structure into a commercial spot. Under the National Cultural Heritage Act, it states that cultural properties cannot be destroyed and demolished.
Built in 1934, the structure has witnessed World War 2, a Beatles concert and several international competitions. It has housed and trained athletes of hundreds of different events, eventually producing the greats — the Filipino Olympians. Even in my lifetime, I have competed, trained and watched competitions in the stadium.
I feel ashamed that my country, my fellow Filipinos would even consider destroying such cultural and sports landmark. For the Filipino athletes and sports enthusiasts that has been in the complex, it doesn’t only function as a training ground or a competition venue but it also serves as a symbol of what Philippine Sports used to be, what it is and what it could be.
In a parallel universe
Even if there were plans to relocate the sports facility to Clark, I believe that it wouldn’t be the same since RMSC holds a sentimental value to athletes, coaches and other staff who live, work and even study in the metro. I’m not trying to be too pessimistic, but knowing the history of how our officials were so unconcerned about these issues (seeing how the Jai Alai building along Taft Avenue became a mall), it still is possible for RMSC to be demolished and turned into a shopping center. If and when that happens, it could rally up the people and give birth to a better and more compelling law with regard to preserving our national historical properties. This would also prevent future high-rise buildings or hotels from being a photobomb or a nuisance to historical sights. It would be like how the demolition of the Pennsylvania Station in New York became one of the key events that led into the passing of the Landmarks Law.
An alternate route
Since the NHCP has declared the RMSC a “national historical landmark,” we still have yet to see the improvements that will be made in the facility. If only the Razon group would be interested in investing for the development of a better sports complex, it could be a steppingstone to creating better programs for Philippine Sports. We could only imagine what a world-class facility can do not only to our athletes but also to our nation. It will motivate our athletes to train and be the best they can be. It will offer them a practice ground, a home, and a place of solace. Such facility would also allow us to host international tournaments that could inspire a lot more people to become athletes, which I believe has the potential to make our society a better place.