The mere mention of Calamba connotes images of Jose Rizal, the National Hero of the Philippines.
Rizal was born on June 19, 1861 to Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonzo in Calamba, Laguna. The original ancestral house of Rizal's family was destroyed during the World War II but a replica house designed by architect Juan Nakpil was restored by Executive Order No. 145 of President Elpidio Quirino and was inaugurated in 1950. The Rizal house is also called the Rizal Shrine and now serves as a museum of Rizal's childhood memorabilia.
Rizal Shrine is a typical bahay na bato, the conventional house of upper class Filipinos during the Spanish colonial era. The lower portion of the house is built of stone and bricks while the upper part consists of hard wood. The house has sliding windows made out of capiz shells to draw in fresh air. The outside wall is painted in green (originally white) and the roof is made of red tiles.
At the ground floor is a stable for horses and carriages while a wishing well is located at the back of the house. The upper floor is dedicated to the living room, dining area, bathroom and library. Rizal Shrine showcases vintage beds, lamps, furniture, kitchenware, paintings, paraphernalia and laminated excerpts of Jose Rizal’s works.
The ancestral house has a wide lawn where Rizal and his siblings used to play. A replica of the nipa shack and a statue of the young Rizal and his dog by Dudley Diaz are located in the manicured garden. There’s also a separate building that houses a sculpture of Rizal, photos of monuments dedicated to the national hero and a shop that sells souvenir items. As of my last visit here, Rizal Shrine is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 8 a.m. to 1 2 noon and 1-5 p.m. Admission fee is free but donations are welcome. When visiting Rizal Shrine, a good old man sporting a typical Rizal hairdo and outfit may approach you for photos and you can just donate any amount.
A few meters away from Rizal Shrine is a maroon giant clay pot embed with Calamba’s map. It is said to be the World’s Largest Clay pot. Calamba was said to be coined from the word kalan (clay stove) and banga (jar). An addition to Calamba’s pride is the world’s tallest Jose Rizal statue, created by Jonas Roces, proudly standing The Plaza or Calamba Rizal Park. It was inaugurated during Rizal’s 150th birthday and. The bronze monument has a symbolic height of 22 feet representing the number of languages spoken by the national hero while the 15 steps stairway to reach the base of the statue symbolizes 15 decades since Rizal’s birth.
The old church of St. John the Baptist Parish where Jose Rizal was baptized in June 22, 1861 was declared as National Historic Landmark. The transcript of Rizal’s existing baptismal record is displayed on the wall of the entrance and the baptismal font used for Rizal’s christening is displayed on the church. It can be reached by foot from Rizal Shrine.
How to get there via public transportation:
Ride a bus bound to Sta.Cruz and get off at crossing Calamba (after SM Calamba). Ride a jeep with Calamba poblacion signboard and ask the driver to drop you near Rizal's house.
Gael Hilotin is backpacking around the Philippines. She blogs at The Pinay Solo Backpacker.