A visit to Pompeii and Herculaneum
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2017 - 4:00pm

NAPLES, Italy: We’re on the final stages of our Mediterranean vacation on board the cruise liner the Royal Princess, where we have been writing a travelogue about this trip. But since we will be returning home by week’s end, call it timely that my re-entry to writing articles on our domestic issues start with the 45th observance of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines.

Indeed, 45 years ago today, the Philippines was plunged into an era of political darkness, when then President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared martial rule all over the country. That singular act by a legitimately sitting Philippine President (which incidentally was allowed by the 1935 Constitution) turned the country from the only democratic country in Asia into the world of dictatorship which was the vogue in the ’70s.

Of course in hindsight you can blame the four decades old Communist insurgency, where the lags of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Chairman Jose Maria “Joma” Sison literally forced the hand of Pres. Marcos. Back in those days, when the Vietnam War was also on its final phase, the so-called “Domino Effect” phenomenon was in everyone’s mind. Political thinkers of that time thought and believed that the Philippines would be the next domino to fall, after America lost the Vietnam War.

So when Pres. Marcos declared Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972, it was without any doubt had the blessing of the Americans. After all the Philippines played host to two of America’s most important military bases outside the United States mainland… Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Base. This is why despite the human rights violations of the Marcos military Martial Law lasted for a long 14 years, until the EDSA Revolution of 1986. The rest as they say is history.

Forty-five years later, the Aquino family, which has turned into a political cult although they were the principal beneficiaries of the EDSA Revolution, always spread the specter of darkness that Martial Law brought into the country. This is why when Pres. Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao last May 23, the Yellow cultist warned of the same things that would happen to the country just like what happened 45 years ago. Fortunately, Duterte declared Martial Law did not have the kind of military that prevailed during the Marcos years.

Being out of touch on events back home, let me just say that things have really changed under the Duterte administration. People are less scared of Martial Law and I know well enough from my friends living in Mindanao that they are happy that Martial Law has been declared because of the numerous armed insurgents roaming the fastness of Mindanao. At this point, we can only hope that peace would finally reign in Mindanao so that the people living there would reap the benefits of peace.

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It was our first time in Naples a.k.a. Neapolis or Napoli where the Royal Princess stayed for six hours. This was our final stop in this 11-day Mediterranean cruise on board the Royal Princess where we began in Barcelona last Sept. 9, then sailed to Marseilles, Livorno, Katakolon, Mykonos, Santorini, Kotor, Montenegro, Naples then to Rome through the port of Civitavecchia. Naples as you probably know is known for the Pizza Margarita and sits on the foot of Mt. Vesuvius, which last erupted in 1944.

Naples is also where you will find the famous Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed in 79 AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and destroyed this huge Roman city. The eruption was dated on Aug. 24, 79AD because it was witnessed by Pliny the Younger, the son of historian Pliny the Elder. Pompeii was buried in six meters of ash. Pompeii was discovered during the Bourbon Rulers and continued in 1860. Because Pompeii is a huge city, we could only see around 10 percent of its ruins. But walking on its stone streets gives you an idea of what life was during the Ancient Roman times. Of course you could see Mt. Vesuvius from every corner of Pompeii.

Pompeii is so famous, tourists were elbowing around every nook and cranny of its ruined homes and edifices and theaters But we could not stay long in Pompeii due to lack of time and we still had to go to another buried Roman settlement called Herculaneum. Between Pompeii and Herculaneum, I found Herculaneum was easier to visit. It was discovered much later after Pompeii was discovered. For lack of time, we could not see those bodies frozen in time in Pompeii as they were moved to their archaeological museum.

But in Herculaneum, we saw frescoes’ s that still adorned the walls of homes and because it was buried by ash fall, most of their homes and buildings remained intact. But the most dramatic sight were the skeletons in their pier area, where citizens of Herculaneum fleeing the volcanic eruption died from the poison gases of Mt. Vesuvius. They are very well preserved there.

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com.


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