The first ever Rizal Park in Switzerland was inaugurated in the city of Wassen in canton Uri on 29th August 2014.
The Rizal bust, which was donated by the Philippine National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), was unveiled by Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Leslie J. Baja and Canton Uri Landammann (President) Dr. Heidi Z’graggen, and attended by officials of canton Uri and the city of Wassen, Swiss and Filipinos living in Uri and nearby cantons, as well as officials of the Philippine Embassy in Berne. A number of Swiss locals whose great grandfathers worked in the Reiswald quarry where the granite that form the base and obelisk of the Rizal monument in Luneta came from witnessed the ceremony with tears in their eyes.
Uri President Dr. Heidi Z’graggen, in her speech, emphasized the rather extraordinary connection between Rizal and Swiss legendary hero William Tell, and between Manila and Wassen. “I hope that this connection will serve as a strong foundation for our cultural dialogue,” Dr. Z’graggen added.
In his speech, Ambassador Leslie Baja said, “the Philippine is extremely grateful to the people of the Canton of Uri and to the Municipality of Wassen for agreeing to the establishment of this Memorial site. It was a pleasant surprise that Rizal is known in this part of Uri.”
“Incidentally, the legendary Swiss hero William Tell, who was also from canton Uri, in Altdorf, became an inspiration for Rizal’s ideological philosophies, so much so that he even translated into Tagalog the novel William Tell,” added Ambassador Baja.
The establishment of a Rizal park in Wassen was initially broached by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) in commemoration of the 100th anniversary last year of the Rizal Monument in Luneta. The monument was sculpted by Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling in Wassen. The city was home to Rieswald quarry where the Gotthard granite used for the obelisk and shaft of the Rizal monument that now stands proud in Rizal Park in Manila came from. The monument was even briefly exhibited in Wassen before it was shipped to the Philippines in 1912.
Apart from the unveiling of the Rizal monument, the Philippine and Swiss colours were also permanently installed on the mountain top that is now the resting place of the Rizal bust. The area forms part of the famous Gotthard “hiking trail” frequented by Swiss locals and foreign visitors alike. END