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Looking Back
The search for Plaridel’s remains

By Ambeth Ocampo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:43:00 07/30/2008

Filed Under: history, Personalities, Monuments & Heritage Sites, Human Interest

Most of us who visit historical shrines today do not realize that the hero being memorialized is usually buried nearby. Emilio Aguinaldo and Baldomero Aguinaldo are buried outside their homes in Cavite. Jose Rizal may not be in the Calamba, Fort Santiago or Dapitan shrines, but he lies under the monument in Rizal Park. Apolinario Mabini is buried in the site of his birthplace in Talaga, Batangas, as with Marcelo H. del Pilar who now rests in Plaridel, Bulacan.

Some heroes like Mabini and Rizal were transferred (the better term is ?translated?) from the original burial ground to the present site. Mabini was moved from the North Cemetery to Batangas, while Rizal was moved from Paco to the Rizal home in Binondo, until he found his final resting place in Rizal Park. Juan Luna?s ashes were said to have rested in a pail under the bed of his son Andres until these were transferred to a niche in the crypt of San Agustin Church in Intramuros.

Andres Bonifacio has yet to be found in the Maragondon range.

Over the years, I have read many accounts of exhumation, translation and authentication of the remains of our heroes. These make for morbid but fascinating reading, especially when it comes to such details as the distinguishing features, like a tooth with gold filling for Gregorio del Pilar, and a chipped piece of backbone that family lore claims was where the bullet hit and killed Rizal.

Last Sunday, I was in Bacong, Negros Oriental, to unveil a historical marker on a statue of Pantaleon Villegas, a.k.a. ?Leon Kilat.? Bacong Mayor Lenin Alveola told me the hero of the Revolution was under the monument, and to prove his point he knocked on one side of the base to show me it was hollow. Here, he said, lie the remains of our hero.

I recently received by e-mail some notes pertaining to the translation of M.H. del Pilar?s remains, written by his 90-year-old granddaughter, lawyer Benita del Pilar Marasigan. I met Attorney Bening years ago and I am glad she is taking the trouble to write what she remembers. She narrated how Norberto Romualdez left the Philippines to attend the 7th Universal Postal Convention but returned with Plaridel?s remains in 1920. While traveling, Romualdez was informed that Sergio Osmeña wanted him to try to locate the remains of the hero who died in Barcelona on July 4, 1896. The detective work as detailed by Attorney Bening reads:

?Fortunately, Romualdez had a good and resourceful ?Man Friday? in Barcelona in the person of Joaquin Pellicena y Camacho, a Spanish journalist and chief of the Philippine section of La Casa de America in that city, who facilitated his contacts with the proper Spanish authorities. According to information furnished by Wenceslao Retana in Madrid, Del Pilar died in Barcelona on 4 July 1896 at 1:15 o?clock in the morning, and was buried the following day.

?Del Pilar?s remains were in a tomb whose title was owned by Doña Teresa Casas de Battle. With Pellicena, Romualdez went to Hospital de la Sta. Cruz (Hospital Civil) in Barcelona where they obtained a certification from Jose Boson y Font of the Comisaria de Entrados to the effect that Del Pilar died a natural death at 1:15 a.m. on 4 July 1896, after receiving the Last Sacraments, and was buried in the Cementerio del Sub-Oeste (Southwest Cemetery). From the hospital they got the following data: ?Entered the hospital on 20 June 1896, Del Pilar gave as his address No. 30-1.0 San Pablo Street, Barcelona. He was taken to the surgeon?s sala (probably for an operation). He occupied bed No. 11 in ward Sto. Tomas. This information is contained in Registry No. 2041 of the Registry Book for the year 1896.

?Romualdez and Pellicena then proceeded to the Ayuntamiento where they got definite data on Del Pilar?s grave number and section in the cemetery. By special arrangement with the funeral parlor Sociedad Union de Empresarios de Pompas Funebres, the body was exhumed and placed in an urn. In the presence of Pellicena, Angel Valera, representing the American consulate in Barcelona, and officials of the funeral parlor, the urn was soldered and sealed. Then the father chaplain of the cemetery said a Mass for the deceased.?

Romualdez returned to Manila with the remains of Plaridel, which were taken on board free, compliments of the ship and Tabacalera. This detail I do wonder about, because the urn would surely fit in Romualdez?s luggage. I presume Plaridel even in death was provided with a cabin.

Plaridel arrived in the afternoon of Dec. 3, 1920. The crowd was notified of the arrival by the sound of three long whistles from the ice plant in what is now known as Plaza Lawton. On hand to meet the urn were Marciana del Pilar and his two daughters Anita and Sofia, government officials, Masons, and the curious uziseros of the time.

Plaridel was given a hero?s welcome and a state funeral. He was buried in the North Cemetery and later transferred to his final resting place in Plaridel, Bulacan.

We often think travel is only for the living. My research on heroes shows that the dead also travel, sometimes through a complicated route to their homes.

* * *

Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu.



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