When You Need to Destroy to Create

According to a new understanding of Filipino history (thanks to Renato Constantino (+) and his revisionist work), our lonely Andres does not get the credit he deserves for whatever independence we seem to have, a reaction triggered albeit by his ignominous ending. Luneta is a tomb for the country’s most hallowed leader, and if Atienza has his way, Rizal might not be alone anymore.But what are tombs, anyway? They sure aren’t final resting places for people. Tombs will get moved every now and then, not because the dead get up and walk, but because the living always create this need for change. Relatives, spouses, distant relations — they all are going to die sooner or later, and people are just going to have to find less space for them just to save them the hassle of traveling on All Souls Day. Tombs are for the living. Tombs represent how we remember and dignify people who matter most to us.

Here is where we come to a head. Bonifacio has no grave. According to legend, he was buried with his brother in the boondocks of what is now Rizal. No one knows where he lies. Instead, we erect a monument in the middle of a roundabout, much like Lord Nelson’s Tower in London, except that our version is surrounded by decrepit and decay.

On the other hand, Rizal’s bones lie ossified underneath that ubiquitous obelisk in Luneta, a mini-Jefferson monument, an insult to our nationalism if there ever was one. Sentries guard his monument twenty four hours a day lest someone (gasp!) defile the monument with declarations of love or piety (like “Mahal ko si Lourna” — which may come either etched or spray painted or both).

If it’s any consolation, both areas are havens for petty thieves, once-glorious areas now swamped with the seediness of a decaying metropolis. Bonifacio’s monument, unfortunately, just seems the worse among the two. It’s guarded day and night by traffic wardens whose unenvious job it is to sort out the mess that is Monumento. It’s a wet market compared to the COD Department Store of Rizal.

I don’t know about you, but that’s definitely not the way to treat national heroes. I wonder why the National Historical Institute (NHI) wants to save such a decrepit non-landmark like Monumento. Is this how we’re supposed to remember Andres Bonifacio? After all, it was he, and not anyone else on our monetary series responsible for the forming of the Katipunan. Although Rizal gave the word Filipino, it was Bonifacio who gave the word meaning because he acted on it.

Once upon a time, the first thing that visitors to Manila saw was the Bonifacio monument. It was a sign that said home to weary Manileños. Today, Manila begins somewhere in Bulacan, and the only thing to welcome you back after your travels is an onerous toll fee. Bonifacio’s monument is one massive joke, and it’s not even funny.

I say, move the damned thing to Luneta and give it a scrubdown. Give it the glory it deserves. Take it away from Caloocan and give Caloocan the development it deserves. Make the Filipino aware of who and what this man, together with Rizal, did for our national consciousness. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get infected with nationalism. That won’t hurt.


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