Burial of an emperor | Inquirer Opinion

Burial of an emperor

/ 12:10 AM August 15, 2016

BREAKING NEWS. Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Canieso, PMA Class of 1956 and former commanding general of the Philippine Army, passed away at 4:20 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. Affectionately referred to as “Pilipino” by close colleagues and admirers, he embodied the finest qualities of the Filipino soldier in a lifetime of service to the nation.

Full military honors and a final resting place on the gentle slopes of the Libingan ng mga Bayani, just a short distance from Army headquarters, await him, drawing down the curtains on a career that began more than 60 years ago with the long, grey line at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City.


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Napoleon Bonaparte was a military general who rose to become the first emperor of France, crowning himself in ceremonies presided over by Pope Pius VII at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1804.


Napoleon, after whom numerous young Filipinos have been named, was born in August 1769 in Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica in the Mediterranean under French rule. Although small in stature (according to the French, he was 5 feet, 2 inches, but the English put him at 5 feet, 6 inches), he had a towering influence in world affairs that few men in history possessed.

After graduating from the elite Ecole Militaire in Paris, finishing No. 42 out of 58 in the class, he rose rapidly through the ranks; at age 27, he assumed command of the Army of Italy (actually, a French command). A string of victories in the Italian campaign revealed the military genius in him, and soon he began to dabble in politics, ending up as “First Consul” in a triumvirate, wielding vast executive powers in government.

As first consul, Napoleon proceeded to reorganize France, setting up institutions that would continue for many, many years. A Civil Code (Code Napoleon), a set of laws covering property, colonial affairs, the family and individual rights, was established. He initiated reforms in government financing, establishing the Bank of France; and in the field of education, he created the University of France, and a centralized system of education that exists to the present time.

To weaken the royalists who opposed him, he entered into a concordat with the Catholic Church, recognizing Catholicism as the religion of the majority of Frenchmen. As first consul, he nominated the bishops, while the pope handled the spiritual investitures.

On the battlefield, he continued to score one victory after another, and at Austerlitz (in modern-day Czech Republic) he defeated a vastly superior Russian and Austrian force in what has long been considered as Napoleon’s most brilliant victory. At the Philippine Military Academy, Napoleon’s battles are taken up by the cadets studying the History of Military Art.

As his power grew, he began to ignore warnings and advice, saying, “I reign only through the fear I inspire. If I renounced this system, I could be dethroned before long.” He became impatient of objections or opposition and with this, physical deterioration took place.

Then, disaster struck. A severe economic crisis resulted in widespread unemployment, increasingly heavy taxes, famine breaking out and the masses growing tired of forced conscriptions for the army. With all these difficulties, he pressed on with foreign adventures, invading Russia with a Grand Army or 600,000. By the end of the Russian campaign, only 10,000 would survive with over a million casualties on both sides. Adolf Hitler would suffer the same fate more than 100 years later.


The end was near. In April 1814, Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba. As he passed through southern France on the way to Elba, “screaming women converged on his carriage, calling him the butcher of their husbands and sons, and making ready to tear him to pieces while he cowered in terror behind his Grand Marshal of the Palace. In places where demonstrations were particularly violent, he disguised himself by putting on an Austrian, Prussian or Russian uniform.”

After a hundred days at Elba, he escaped and returned to France but was defeated by an Anglo-Prussian force at Waterloo. He gave himself up to the English and was transported to the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.

He died on May 5, 1821, at the age of 51.

Almost 20 years after his death, the reigning monarch, King Louis Philippe, no Bonapartist but under political pressure, ordered his body taken back to France and “on a chilly December day, Napoleon’s coffin, drawn by sixteen horses, passed under the Arc de Triomphe, built to commemorate his victories, and down the Champ Élysées . . .  an immense mass of people lined the avenue in silence. But as the coffin passed, preceded by the veterans of the Imperial Guard, the old shout could be heard again for the first time in a quarter century: ‘Vive l’Empereur!’”

His remains were laid to rest in the chapel of the Invalides, honoring his last wish that “my ashes shall rest on the banks of the Seine, in the midst of the French people that I have loved so well.”

In his book “The Age of Napoleon,” author J. Christopher Herold writes that “Paris has not a single thoroughfare or public square named after the emperor. . .  the only monument to his imperial splendor is his tomb. The symbolism, undoubtedly, is deliberate—part tribute, part rejection.”

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May I offer a few thoughts on the Marcos burial issue.

His burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani will not bring about the desired closure on a subject that has continued to divide the nation. In fact, it will serve as a constant reminder for many of our people of their sufferings during the martial law years. The site at the Libingan ng mga Bayani could serve as a “lightning rod,” attracting all kinds of vandalism that may result in public disturbances and possibly ending in violence.

A burial in Ilocos Norte, where President Marcos is loved and revered, would be most appropriate. There he would rest in peace among the people he loved most and who in turn loved him fiercely up to the very end.

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TAGS: burial, emperor, general, marcos, Napoleon, opinion, Rodolfo Canieso
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