Monumental errors, grave mistakes



WE are a people who place so much emphasis on monuments for heroes who we remember in exalted grounds that house their graves.

Yet we have to search deep in our consciousness if such fixation on monuments to edify and graveyards to commemorate them are matched by a deep appreciation of what they have actually done that made them the heroes that they have become.

The debate created by that eyesore that threatened to mar the landscape that served as the backdrop to the
monument of Jose Rizal has only dramatized how fiercely our guardians of culture and history would protect the integrity of our monuments.

And then we have the issue of the Marcos burial in a grave that the anti-Marcos section of our society believes he does not deserve, threatening to disrupt our body politic.

There appears to be so much symbolic power attached to monuments and graves. It can whip up a protest that could even reach the highest court of the land, which ruled to halt the construction of the eyesore but allowed the offending burial to proceed.

But the question is what we do as a people to honor our heroes in ordinary times, when there are no
architectural eyesores and offending burials.

How organic the culture of monuments and graves is to our ways of honoring the fallen and the dead?

Undoubtedly, this is a Western construct that was brought to us by our colonizers, where urban planning became focused on landmarks that bear the imprint of state power not only in halls and palaces that house the kings, but also of those that have to be remembered for their contribution to the process of state-building, the heroes. They are remembered through monuments and in graveyards. Separate and apart from these are the other edifices that embody the power of the Christian God, where images of saints and angels find an exclusive niche. Heroes are found in monuments and in graveyards, but not in cathedrals and churches.

If one examines our indigenous worldviews, one will find that this architectural bifurcation between the secular celebration of heroism and the religious celebration of the divine is not as defined. In fact, heroes become godlike in our indigenous representations. Heroes end up being worshipped and deified, their monuments become revered as icons fit fordemigods and their graveyards become holy ground.

Our heroes are edified in monuments which the Western colonizers have told us are secular representations. Their burial grounds are not in any way sacred, and are in fact considered as mere places for reverence.

This representation has secularized our constructs of heroes, even as deep inside we long to deify them.

Thus, to a legalistic secular culture, a burial place is simply a piece of ground where the mortal remains of a person are reposed. The law allowed a Marcos burial. It does not make him a hero, and it does not make him a saint, even if he is buried in a cemetery whose symbolic power carries with it the attribution as a place reserved for heroes.

On the other hand, the DMCI controversy was resolved in favor of cultural heritage, but not premised on the fact that the monument of Rizal needs the reverence, but was decided on the basis of building codes and urban planning requisites.

The highly charged emotions that have been created by the DMCI controversy and the Marcos burial debate reveals how deep our deistic constructs are in how we deal with the monuments and graves of our heroes.

however, the value that we place on heroism appears to be reduced to forms and rites, and not informed by a deep understanding of what heroism entails. We remain a country in constant search for heroes. We deem those who make sacrifices and leave their families to work abroad as modern-day heroes. Even our boxers, singers and beauty queens are treated as if they are heroes.

We go beyond hero worship and turn our heroes into demi-gods. Rizal is considered a god by a sect in Laguna. Mount Banahaw is said to be sacred not only because of its niche in folk Catholicism, but in the role that it played in the revolution. Corazon Aquinohas been floated by some as one who can be nominated for sainthood.

Joan of Arc is an icon where heroism and the divine meet. Her monument in Paris is in the middle of a busy section of the city but the buildings around it are not seen as eyesores. Her ashes are merely stored in a museum. Yet this does not diminish her being a hero to the French and a saint to the Catholics.

Our metaphors between heroes and saints, between the heroic and the divine, seem to have uncertain boundaries, even as our bases for who becomes a hero remain shaky to a point that we end up focusing on monuments and graves, and lost are their narratives and acts of heroism.


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  1. It is noteworthy that these “monumental errors, grave mistakes” are notably rampant in Manila and Cebu or the most urbanized in the country. A mock burial of FM in a Cebu City environmentally hazardous landfill supposedly was a source of pride for…. These city folks need to go back to their roots to regain their perspective in life. After all, they are still as rustic as the vast majority of Pinoys; their penchant for trendsetting is sadly misconstrued as urbanity. The trend is still in the vast expanse of the rustic countryside. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a
    Country Churchyard” is a constant in everybody’s life then and now:

    “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
    Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:-
    The path of glory leads but to the grave.”

    Notice the colon and hyphen after the “inevitable hour” that resemble our “modern” smiley.

  2. People to people perception about Heroes,their monuments and sacred grounds where they are buried varies. In my personal belief, their purpose is to remind us to strive for high moral values such as of sacrifice for the common good, honest living, cooperation or team work to reach our common goal. We respect them for their contribution to the country’s moral fiber and ethical standard.

    If someone do something to alter the good perception of these heroes, then their monuments or burial ground will lost its meaning or purpose.

  3. Or there might a totally different reason for the recent events.

    It might be that status quo is being threatened, everything is being done to stop it. And the motivators (university instructors), are driving the students into something they don’t even understand, ( for personal gains?). To the ignorant students, it is simply more fun to have their attendance taken at the park, running naked, rather than study “greek” in a dark smelly dump. What wasted life and hard-earned resources from their parents.

    So it might be not about ideas, principles or between right and wrong that is the issue here. It is about who controls the country, it is about unbridled greed.

    Stopping the impending changes at all cost, is the real issue here, there will be more. But this time the outcome might be very different.

  4. Isn’t it odd that there are no rallies to rename Marcos Highways (in Metro Manila and Baguio), Imelda Avenue, and Dona Remedios Trinidad town. These names remind us more of the infamous couple than Marcos’ corpse buried in the LNMB.

  5. The SAF 44 are heroes…why are these DUMB protesters can’t even rally behind them and ask ABNOY how in the shameful world he was not held liable for the acts committed by the officers who took orders from the higher ups of then Aquino administration?

  6. Nothing new and surprising. The bible has this to say,

    Matthew 23:29-33 KJV
    [29] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, [30] And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. [31] Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. [32] Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. [33] Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? …

  7. We even allow foreigners to write our history for us and whom to grant the accolade of being the National Hero or the First Filipino. For example Rizal is a Hollywood-created national hero while Nick Joaquin (Quijano de Manila) (or was it Constantino ?), both Filipinos, argue that the true First Filipino (or THE true National Hero) is Gat Andres Bonifacio. Rizal at best was just a reluctant heo.