In this season of heroes, 19 names were added to those immortalized at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. It is important to distinguish the open and well-attended ceremony on Nov. 30 that marked the addition of their names to the Wall of Remembrance from the sneak ritual on Nov. 18 that was the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. In the former, the ceremony was announced down to the details—the names of those to be memorialized, the highlights of their committed lives, the date and time of the program—along with an invitation to the public to come and take part in the honoring. The latter was a clandestine affair, hush-hush and exclusionary, as though the mourners were convinced it was something to be ashamed of.
The 19 were honored on the day marked for remembering revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio, and their names etched on black granite recall lives lived in the struggle to restore and preserve freedom and democracy: Inquirer editor in chief Letty Jimenez Magsanoc and fellow journalists Antonio L. Zumel and Lourdes Estella-Simbulan; Marciano Anastacio Jr., Eduardo Q. Aquino, Fortunato Camus, Hernando Cortez, Edgardo Dojillo, Ricardo P. Filio and Joel O. Jose—all, except one, killed in their prime during the martial law years 1972-1986, according to the Inquirer’s Ma. Ceres P. Doyo; lawyer and former Senate president Jovito R. Salonga; Simplicio Villados of the labor sector; retired soldier Danilo Vizmanos; professional Manuel G. Dorotan; activist and woman leader Ma. Margarita F. Gomez; theater and film director Benjamin H. Cervantes; and, representing the great work of the Church, Bishop Julio L. Labayen, Romulo Peralta and Jose T. Tangente.
The speakers at the ceremony formally announcing the inclusion of the 19’s names in the Bantayog—bringing to 287 the names engraved on the Wall—talked of the urgency of vigilance in light of the current troubling developments. Former senator Wigberto Tañada, head of the Bantayog Foundation and a son of Bantayog hero Lorenzo Tañada, said: “The message we want to convey is that we need to spread the truth about history, because if not, this will keep on happening. We saw what happened this month, the one who had committed a sin against our nation was buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.”
Former senator Rene Saguisag, a nephew of Salonga and a veteran of the parliament of the streets, said there was “greater importance” in remembering the “real heroes.” He added: “What I fear is if someone suggests to list Marcos [on the Wall of Remembrance], the Supreme Court will again say there is no law against it. Don’t we have common sense anymore? We all want forgiveness and reconciliation, but the right thing must be done the right way at the right time.”
In his response on behalf of the families, comrades and friends of the honored 19, UP professor Roland Simbulan observed: “Martial law brought out the worst in the Filipino that inflicted great suffering, cowardice, and fear as we would never forget. But it also brought out the best in us…” He continued: “[The 19’s] spirit will never die, even more so in contemporary conditions which show ominous signs of resurgent fascism. Their memory holds a steady course in all seasons, and we now know that there are many millions of kindred souls who will be the keepers of the flame.”
With millennials showing by their actions that they have taken up the torch of resistance, the website Bantayog.org now plays a critical role in the continuing education of young people. The website holds voluminous information on the lives of the 287 Bantayog heroes—their circumstances, the context of their contributions, the examples to be noted and followed by the youth suddenly made passionate and committed, at a time when memory is under siege. In the shadow of a false hero’s burial (a sneak attack, so to speak, on the bitterly won democratic space), and against the bright light cast by the lives of real heroes, new Filipino heroes are being born.
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