Castrillo’s monument against Marcos tyranny
When the renowned Filipino sculptor Eduardo Castrillo passed away last week at 73, news reports about him included the enumeration of many of his bigger-than-life metal monuments—historical, sociopolitical, religious—that are familiar to the public. Among these are the People Power Monument on Edsa, the Bonifacio Monument near Manila City Hall, and the Rajah Sulayman Monument in Malate. Some are in the provinces.
But there was no mention of the one at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani compound in Quezon City, where heroes and martyrs who fought against tyranny during the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship are memorialized.
Soaring to the sky, this 45-foot bronze monument by Castrillo depicts a mother trying, with one hand, to raise from the ground a fallen son, while her other hand is raised to the heavens in defiance. It is a piece of work that rends the heart and pierces the soul—a timeless reminder that freedom is not free, that freedom comes at a price.
If you were one of those who experienced the excesses of the Marcos regime and the cruelty that defined it, if you lost loved ones—family members, friends, colleagues and comrades—during that despicable era, you would shudder at the memory when you look up and lay your eyes on Castrillo’s work. Yes, upon gazing at it you would, not only because of the painful events it brings back but also because of the stark poetry in the agony it depicts, the beauty in the defiant stance of a mother who must bear an unspeakable loss.
Truly Castrillo was able to capture the roiling mix of anger, pain and defiance. It is the reverse of his “Pieta” as far as the bereaved mother is concerned. She looks up instead of looks down. She does not sob but screams. She does not cradle her dead son but seems to be pulling him along. Because she moves. She is Inang Bayan, the motherland.
At the foot of the monument is a stanza (in Spanish, English and Filipino) from “Mi Ultimo Adios” of Jose Rizal: “I die just when I see the dawn break/ Through the gloom of night, to herald the day:/ And if color is lacking my blood thou shall take,/ Pour’d out at need for thy dear sake,/ To dye with its crimson the waking ray.”
The Bantayog complex now includes a P16-million building which houses a small auditorium, library, archives and museum. The 1.5-hectare property was donated by the administration of President Corazon Aquino, through Land Bank of the Philippines, the year after the Marcos dictatorship was toppled and Corazon Aquino was swept to the presidency in 1986.
I wish I had interviewed Castrillo long ago to ask him how he came to depict the defiant mother and her fallen son in that way, what inspired him, what he knew about the persons for whom his piece of art in bronze would be dedicated. How long did it take him to finish the work? What were his thoughts and feelings when he saw his creation being hoisted up to its pedestal? Did he often come around for quiet moments to find inspiration from the heroes and martyrs?
What I learned just now is that the Bantayog monument was commissioned by a donor for a seven-digit price. I do not want to mention a name because the donor might want to remain unknown. I do not know him at all.
A short distance from the monument to the heroes and martyrs is a black granite wall of remembrance where the first 65 names were etched in 1992. Many names have been added every year since then, bringing to 268 the names on the wall as of 2015. The biographies of these heroes and martyrs are posted on the Bantayog website (www.bantayog.org).
All of them were opposed to the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and considered freedom advocates. The way they lived and died varied, but they had heroic streaks that made them worthy to be included in the list of names on the Wall of Remembrance.
The monument, the commemorative wall and other structures at the Bantayog complex are dedicated to the nation’s modern-day martyrs and heroes who fought against all odds to help restore freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.
According to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, its “Never Again, Never Forget Project” is “a response to recent attempts by certain groups to rewrite Philippine history, to confuse the young generation about the truths of the Marcos dictatorship, to erase its horrors, abuses and deceptions, and to have it remembered as a ‘golden era’ in the Philippines.”
Bantayog plans to expand its information activities that would include publishing biographies, dissemination of informative materials, film showings, roving exhibitions and museum tours.
It hopes to spread lessons from the martial law era and recently tackled “issues related to it included in the national debate during the 2016 electoral campaign.” It hopes to counter the “historical deception and mass forgetting of the sins of the dictatorship” so that “Philippine politics and the writing and learning of Philippine history will be the better for it.”
The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation is chaired by Alfonso T. Yuchengco. Former Senate president Jovito R. Salonga was chair emeritus until his death early this year. May Rodriguez is the executive director. The complex is at the corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue, just behind Centris Mall. Castrillo’s creation is a good starting point for visitors on a historical trek. Before going to the museum, visitors should head for the Wall of Remembrance and search for names of next of kin, friends, colleagues, comrades—the known and little-known—who fell in the night and also those who did not die in battle but continued the struggle until the breaking of the dawn.
Like many of his bronze creations that reach out to the sky, may Castrillo’s spirit reach out and soar to the heavens.
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