Heritage Advocates Call to Save Rizal Memorial Sports Complex

Heritage advocate groups like Advocates for Heritage Preservation (AHP) Pamanlahi/Dakilang Pamana ng Lahi, sports heroes, sports veterans and cause-oriented groups trooped to the historic Rizal Memorial Sports Complex to voice their opposition to the destruction and selling of another historic and heritage sites within Manila.

Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
Advocates for Heritage Preservation members

Rizal Memorial Sports Complex History

Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, is a national sports complex of the country located on Pablo Ocampo St. (formerly Vito Cruz St.) It was named after the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal .The whole complex is currently managed by the Philippine Sports Commission, while the property is owned by the Manila City government.

Mr. Antonio delas Alas was acknowledge as the man responsible for the planning an construction of the Rizal Memorial Stadium, the planning was a early as 1921 but the commission ceased its function in 1927. The stadium finally had their groundbreaking rites in 1932.

Rizal Memorial Stadium
Rizal Memorial Stadium facade

The complex consisted of a soccer field, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, several tennis courts, a baseball and track field and a covered arena for basketball. It was formerly known as Manila Carnival Grounds, originally built for tennis and was called the Rizal Memorial Tennis Stadium,

De La Salle University and Rizal Memorial Sports Complex -Photo: DLSU archives
De La Salle University and Rizal Memorial Sports Complex -Photo: DLSU archives

The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was built to host the Far Eastern Games which the country hosted from 16–20 May 1934, a precusor to the Asian Games. The building was built in an art deco architecture which was prevalent during its time, It was designed by Architect Juan Arellano . It was destroyed during closing months of the second world war, where Japanese troops made their last stands on bleachers and killed hundreds of civilians within the sports complex. The stadium was reconstructed in 1953 for use in the 2nd Asian Games  hosted by the country in 1954.

On 4 July 1966, the Rizal Memorial Stadium hosted two sold out concerts of the Beatles held in Manila and was one of only two cities in Asia they have ever played in. The combined attendance was 80,000 with the evening concert registering 50,000 paying audience. It was one of the largest crowd ever to attend the Beatles concert.

The complex also hosted several sporting events and South East Asian Games in 1981, 1991 and some games of 2005 .  The complex was renovated in 2011.

Heritage or Commercial Greed

Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
Aling Margarita Billones was selling softdrinks , biscuits and candies at the Rizal Memorial Complex since the early 1970’s

Aling Margarita Billones is a 90-year-old vendor, She is a living testament of the glory days of the sports stadium,  She saw several iconic sports heroes and a basketball fan. The teary- eyed great grandmother could not hide her disappointment over the gradual transformation of the memorial stadium into another mall or leisure center.

Mr. Chino Trinidad and Mr. Freddie Webb

Mr. Chino Trinidad interviewed Mr. Freddie Webb (former basketball player, olympian 1972 and coach, sportscaster and former senator)  who opposes the sale and destruction of the sports stadium.

Mr. Monsour del Rosario is seeking the help of Congress to stop the sale of Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila to a private land developer last week.

Rizal Memorial Sports Complex
Mr. Chino Trinidad interviewed Mrs. Ching Montinola and Ms. Menchu de las Alas Concepcion

Mrs. Ching delas Alas-Montinola and Menchu de las Alas-Concepcion were the descendant of Mr. Antonio delas Alas.  Don Antonio delas Alas is credited for introducing the game of table tennis into the country, and was instrumental in the planning and construction of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex which was inaugurated in 1934.

Transfer and Re-Adaptive Transformation 

Razon group noted that the PSC had been considering to transfer the RMSC to a different location, possibly Clark, in order to build the Philippine Olympic Village. This new sports complex is envisioned to be a larger and more modern sports complex complete with training facilities for national athletes as well as facilities to host large sports meets. This is expected to happen when funding for the relocation is complete.

It was revealed that Razon group said that for the longest time, Rizal Memorial Sports Complex had not undergone any structural and facilities improvements or upgrading, rendering it “virtually unsuitable and unsafe not only for training athletes, but especially for holding not only local but also international games.”

The plan is to built a leisure area with enough green space and retaining the walls of the stadium and a sports museum within the proposed site.

Rence Chan

writer and contributor

social media writer, food lover, heritage advocate, philatelist , deltiologist , numismatist , notaphilist , toy collector, key chain collector, bibliophile , orchid fancier , plant lover , environmental advocate, freshwater aquarium fish hobbyist, tour consultant, memorabilia and art connoisseur.