‘Bahay kubo,’ superstructures and dictators
Millions of people visit historical and biblical superstructures in many countries every year, contributing to these countries’ tourism industry. People are either unaware of or don’t really care about the history of these sites—glorious or inglorious. These superstructures nourish the imagination, and people just find pleasure being there. How and why they were built are questions answered only after the question of who built them is posed.
The fact is that most of these superstructures were built in blood by dictators with giant ego and conceit, either “for the glory of God” or “for the glory of man,” but most often for the tyrannical builder’s self-glorification. Today they are treasured and exhibited because of the economic windfall they bring, never mind who built them, why and how.
Man’s thirst for power and knowledge is unquenchable and very often afflicts the mind and destroys the soul. But never mind the abstruse for now; the known ego is always bigger compared to one’s social eminence and very often just as deadly, but nevertheless rewarding. Biblical accounts tell us that Noah’s descendants were so full of conceit that they wanted to equal God and, to prove their knowledge and power, tried to build the “Tower of Babel to reach heaven.” They realized too late that God also gets angry, and they were punished because of their “aim and action.” God “confused their tongues”—and that is why different languages on Earth were born.
That disciplinary action was horrible. Look at what it brought, among others: the birth of “Taglish” or “Enggalog,” a bastard language now evolving in this country. We know the Tower of Babel did not reach heaven; the Trump Tower in Makati is higher.
For the glory of man the march of civilization on the bumpy road of time and space has witnessed many samples of human—or, rather, inhuman—display of knowledge and power, with ego and conceit always present. The cruel tyrants of ancient Egypt—the pharaohs—built the pyramids through thousands of slaves who died while building them. Today these superstructures are Egypt’s pride, visited by millions of tourists every year, thanks to Khufu and the dictators after him.
The Great Wall of China is another example of a structure built in blood by merciless rulers, and also because of a horrid history. Millions of tourists visit it as if to say brutality and barbarity pay.
There are other superstructures—and ruins—in the world built by tyrants and still unknown builders, but today, ironically enough, they are treasured by the descendants of their victims and visited and enjoyed by the curious for the mysterious and sadistic. Arguably, the history of these places enriches the cultural and historical awareness of many people: in Asia, the Great Wall and the tomb of China’s first emperor, with the terracotta warriors, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Borobudur in Indonesia; in Europe, the Colosseum and Forum in Italy, Stonehenge in England, Eiffel Tower in France; in the Middle East, Petra in Jordan, Baalbek in Lebanon, the Parthenon in Greece; in South America, Machu Picchu in Peru, Tikal in Mayan Guatemala, Chichen Itza and the Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan in Mexico; and many others.
In the midst of the gruesome “for the glory of God and man,” we are glad there is also “for the glory of love.” Let’s take you to the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. This is “Europe’s love letter to Moorish culture, a place where fountains trickle, leaves rustle and ancient spirits mysteriously linger… a beautiful site with gardens and flowers…” enough to make Jack fall in love again. And then there’s the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, built in the 1600s as “a testament to undying love… by Emperor Shah Jahan to his deceased wife.” And who can forget President Ferdinand Marcos’ testament to his undying love for his wife Imelda, not in white marble like the Taj Mahal but in expensive imported steel: the longest bridge in the Philippines, the San Juanico Bridge that finally linked “Imelda’s Leyte and Samar” with Mindanao (today “Rody Duterte’s Mindanao”). Never mind the abstruse, let’s not forget love and romance.
In any endeavor, this country will not be outdone. If they have the Great Wall of China, we have the neglected and decaying Walls of Intramuros. If they have the pyramids, we have pyramiding scams. If they have the Roman Colosseum and Forum, we have the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, not for the glory of the Romans (Filipinos) but for the glory of money!
Superstructures built for the glory of love is more divine. My mother once told me that my father built her a “superstructure” when they got married: a bahay kubo (nipa hut) immortalized in a song, surrounded by a garden of vegetables: singkamas at talong, sigarilyas at mani, sitaw, bataw, patani. It is now retitled “Gulay”—nutritious when eaten and later “blissfully eliminated.” That’s very Filipino, isn’t it? But where are the tourists?
Eddie Ilarde (PO Box 107 Makati City) is a former senator, freelance writer, and independent radio-TV host and producer. He is the founding chair of the Golden Eagles Society for Senior Citizens and founding president of the Maharlika Movement.
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