By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his respects to National Hero Jose Rizal in Rizal Park Tuesday afternoon.
The wreath-laying ceremony in Rizal Park was the first official function in Xi’s itinerary after arriving in Manila for his two-day historic state visit to the country. He was joined by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
Xi was assisted by Estrada as laid a wreath at the Rizal monument where he stayed a few minutes before leaving for Malacañang to meet President Duterte.
Earlier, Xi said Filipinos and Chinese have a lot of “proud names” to remember when it comes to their shared history, and one of them was Rizal.
“The ancestors of José Rizal, national hero and founding father of the Philippines, came from Jinjiang of China’s Fujian Province,” Xi, who also once served as the province’s governor, said.
While there was no official record as to the number of Rizal monuments in the Philippines, there are at least 10 existing statues overseas honoring him overseas, including those in California, New Jersey, and Washington in the United States; in Mexico; Peru; Czech Republic; Italy; Singapore; and in China.
Rizal was the 22nd generation descendant of the first generation Ke family, whose roots could be traced to Shang Guo village in Jinjiang. Rizal’s great-great grandfather was Domingo Lameo, or Ke Yi Nan in Chinese, who immigrated to the Philippines.
‘Key to the City’
Meanwhile, Estrada bestowed to Xi the symbolic ‘Key to the City’ to welcome him in the Philippines’ capital.
In an interview, the local chief executive said Xi wanted Manila, where the oldest Chinatown in the world is located, to have closer ties with them.
“He likes Manila and he hopes we’ll have a closer tie with each other,” Estrada said.
“Of course, we are too willing, much willing! We need you (China) more than you need us. Di ba? Mayaman sila e! (Isn’t it? They’re rich!),” he added.
Will Manila and Beijing become sister cities? Estrada said there is “possibility” especially that he might be flying to China by the end of the month upon the invitation of the mayor of the said country’s capital city. (with reports from Ria Fernandez)