An interesting patch of green along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA for short) is the Bernardo Park, located west side of EDSA between Kamuning Road and Ermin Garcia Avenue. The Bernardo Park is named after Ponciano A. Bernardo (1905-1949), the 2nd mayor of Quezon City. Bernardo started as an engineer, who trained at the University of the Philippines, and met the then senator Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944), when he served as the provincial engineer of Tayabas, Quezon’s home province. When Quezon became the president of the Philippines, he appointed Bernardo as the vice-mayor and district engineer of the newly established Quezon City, with Tomás Eduardo Morató Bernabéu (1887-1965) as the mayor. After World War II (1939-1945), President Sergio Suico Osmeña Sr. (1878-1961) appointed Bernardo as mayor of Quezon City.
Bernardo was never able to complete his term, as he was killed in an ambush by the Communist Hukbalhap, while accompanying former first lady, Doña Aurora Antonia Molina Aragón Quezón (1888-1949), on their way to Quezon’s hometown of Baler, to inaugurate a hospital dedicated to the former president. The assassination happened on April 28, 1949; with Doña Aurora’s daughter María Aurora and son-in-law Felipe Buencamino III, Major General Rafael Jalandoni, Col. Primitivo San Agustin, Lt. Col. Antonio San Agustin, Lt. Diosdado Lazam, Corporal Quirino Almarines, Corporal Brigido Almarines, Juan Molina, and Pedro Payumo also killed in the attack. Mayor Bernardo was buried at the Manila North Cemetery.
The Bernardo Park once occupied a larger area, as it was the site of the second Quezon City Hall, which is now the site of the Ramon Magsaysay High School (est. 1953), on the hill overlooking the park.
The first Quezon City Hall was built in during the term of Mayor Morato, and located near the corner of the Marikina-Infanta Highway (now Aurora Boulevard) and the North–South Circumferential Road (now EDSA), which is now the Cubao Elementary School (est. 1946). Construction of the new city hall started in 1947, along with the Bernardo Park, while Mayor Bernardo held office inside the Manila Police Department Precinct Number, along Kamuning Road.
The Bernardo Park, and the second Quezon City Hall, was inaugurated in February 1948, as the first public park of Quezon City, and was designed by Luciano V. Aquino.
In the same year, Arch. Aquino completed the Welcome Rotonda, at the border of Manila and Quezon City, which was to be the first monument of Quezon City, as a city welcoming visitors to the new capital of the Philippines. In 1995, the monument was renamed as the Mabuhay Rotonda, under the term of Mayor Ismael Austria Mathay Jr. (1932-2013).
The park is divided into a north and south side, connected with a foot bridge over Lagarian Creek (Lagari: To Saw), which bisects the park in two. The creek is a tributary of the 118 kilometer San Juan River, and is maintained by the non-government organization, the Lagarian Creek Environmental Association Inc. (LACREA, est. 1996).
The north side of Bernardo Park is used as playground for the neighboring children, a picnic area for students and lovers, and a waiting area for visitors to the nearby Quezon City Jail. With its entrance at K 3rd Road, the Quezon City Jail was first a temporary holding facility that was built in 1935, to decongest the Manila City Jail, while the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, was under construction. The present penitentiary was constructed in 1953, with a 91,444 square meters area for the capacity for 800 inmates. However, there are little more than 4,000 inmates incarcerated in the jail. And in 2018, to decongest the prison, a new Quezon City Jail started construction along Payatas Road, in Barangay Bagong Silangan, and it is slated to be opened in 2020.
Quezon City Jail is fronted by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Kamuning Police Station 10 of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD). The QCPD was established in 1939, as the local police force of the newly established Quezon City.
And in 1960s, the then QCPD Precinct 4 moved into its current home of the Doña Aurora Quezon Memorial Hall along Highway 54 (now EDSA), which was constructed in 1949. The Doña Aurora Hall was first designated as the Quezon City Hall Annex, to accommodate the growing tasks that were required to administer to the needs of the city. The annex was designed by the civil engineers, Apolonio Adriano (1922-2011) and Pantaleón Tabora, and built by the Guerrero Construction Company, Inc.
In 1968, the international non-political service organization, the Lions Clubs International (LCI, est. in the Philippines in 1949), constructed its Quezon City chapter building behind the Quezon City Jail entrance, and donated its first floor to the Quezon City Main Public Library on the same year. Previously, the Quezon City Public Library was located at the old city hall site, along Aurora Boulevard and EDSA, since 1948. In 1972, the Quezon City Main Public Library moved its operations to the current city hall complex in the Diliman District, and the old library was relegated to a satellite facility and named the Quezon City Library and Information Center Cubao Branch. And in 2017, the Quezon City Main Public Library was given a new building, also at the current city hall compound.
Before the Lions Club constructed its building, the Junior Chamber International (JCI or Jaycees, est. in the Philippines in 1947) built its own building facing Highway 54, in 1961. The Jaycees is a non-profit international non-governmental organization, open to young people between 18 and 40 years old, and the Quezon City chapter of the Jaycees is named the Capitol Jaycees, in relation that Quezon City was then the capital city of the Philippines.
The Bernardo Park has several sports facilities on its north-side, including a covered basketball, court and a swimming pool; which was built in 1990. Both facilities are maintained by the Quezon City Youth and Sports Development Office.
During its inauguration, the Bernardo Park also had a skating rink, a miniature lagoon and a zoo. The mini zoo’s Philippine Brown Deer (Rusa marianna) were donate Lorenzo Martinez Tañada Sr. (1898-1992).
The south-side of Bernardo Park is also used by the neighboring residents, as well as the firefighters Bureau of Fire Protection National Capital Region Regional Office, whose office occupied part of the site where the old city hall used to stand. The fire station beside the second City Hall was erected in 1952, during the term of Mayor Ignacio Santos Diaz. The firefighters regularly used the park for emergency training and PT (physical training).
In 2015, a monument to Mayor Bernardo was erected at the south side of the park, which was sculpted by Peter Tiamzon de Guzman (born 1962) a graduate of the University of the Philippines, College of Fine Arts. De Guzman has represented the Philippines in various exhibitions, grants and symposiums on art abroad; including the 1984 3rd Sculpture Symposium and organizers Meeting (ASEAN) and the Universitas Sebelas Maret (1988) in Jakarta, Indonesia. De Guzman was honored the Thirteen Artists Award by the CCP (1988) and Outstanding Marikenyo in Visual Arts (2011).
The statue of Mayor Bernardo in the park is not the 1st monument to him. The first public sculptures to the mayor are located at the Ponciano Bernardo Elementary School (est. 1951) at the Ponciano Bernardo High School (est. 1967) along the nearby Justice Pedro Tiangco Tuazon Boulevard (P. Tuazon Boulevard for short). The statue was commissioned by the surviving family of Mayor Bernardo, and created by National Artist for sculpture Napoleón Abueva. The Ponciano Bernardo Elementary School was first opened as the Cubao Elementary School Annex and the Ponciano Bernardo High School started as the Ramon Magsaysay High School Annex, before being renamed after the former mayor.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Although the Bernardo Park may look rundown, due to the neglect of city officials, as well as local residents and visitors; the park is a reminder of the modernization of Quezon City under Mayor Bernardo, who was tasked to develop the city after the devastation of World War II.