Just hypocrisy talking

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Burying Ferdinand Marcos in the National Heroes Cemetery will not make him a hero in the same manner that burying him in some crypt under St. Peter's Basilica will not make him a saint. In fact, burying Marcos in Hollywood will not make him a star either. So I do not care where his family manages to eventually bury him with finality. It will not change the personal perceptions people have of him, pro or con.

To me, there is no impediment to Marcos being buried at the Libingan. But I am no legal expert. Besides, the matter is now with the Supreme Court so it is best to leave the final decision to its better judgment. For while the high court is not infallible, and is in fact incapable, like everybody else, of defining a matter as subjective as heroism, it is a far more acceptable and credible authority than a noisy minority dictating on the majority what should or should not be for the country.

Wherever the body of Marcos ends up is of no moment to me. Not having suffered under martial law when the dictator was still alive, I am not about to make my life miserable now that he is dead. But I do pity those who agonize and belabor the point because wherever Marcos ends up is not going to make life any better or worse than it already is for most Filipinos.

There are, of course, those who say where we bury Marcos says a lot about who we are as a people. Oh yeah? Are they saying they still do not know who we are? Where have they been all this time? Are they admitting that even in death, it is still Marcos who dictates how we appreciate our own worth? What a supreme irony that would be if that is the case.

That is why I truly find it amusing to see people splitting hairs about Marcos and heroism and all that crap when the fact is, the Philippines is a country that is not really big on its heroes or even its history. And I can almost picture the national hero Jose Rizal turn in his grave when the people for whom he  gave his life talk of heroes and heroism but are never able to match talk with a matching walk.

Many monuments to Rizal find better use as places to sun dry laundry or tie up goats and fighting cocks than as memorials worthy of a hero's honor and respect. The best commercial product application of Rizal's memory is a match. Youngsters who try to do something good are discouraged and dissuaded by peers for being like Rizal. And on Rizal Day, except for obligatory rites, most Filipinos flock to malls, beaches or wherever to have a good time with nary a thought why it is a holiday.

A documentary I saw years ago featured the final resting place of another hero, Andres Bonifacio. It was overgrown with grass, bushes and other manifestations of neglect and forgetfulness. And ask any young person today if he or she can name 10 other Filipino national heroes aside from Rizal and Bonifacio without having to Google them and I bet you cannot find 10 of them from a hundred respondents.

In most other countries, museums that tell a lot about their people are a big deal. In the Philippines, there is no such big deal about museums. What credible museums there are, are run by private entities and not by government. And except for students obliged to visit in relation to their studies, most visitors are foreign tourists more interested in who we are than us in ourselves. And yet some have the gall to consider themselves experts in character and its expression in heroism.

The desire and the ability to put up museums and other places that make an account of us as a people - who we are, how we live, what we aspire - are the best indicators of our character and help define our capacity for heroism and the ability to see it on others. But if all that we can show to account for ourselves is talk, then most likely that is just hypocrisy talking.

Life is full of opportunities for small but real acts of goodness. And I believe that before we can even pretend to engage in higher discussions about real heroism, which I think is what underscores all this angry debate about where and how to bury Marcos or not, maybe we should all try to put our puny feet on the ground first and consider if we are truly worthy of engaging in such a debate.

Nobody can judge fitness for hero burial if in life one misses these small opportunities for personal heroism, like giving up something for one who needs it more, or not considering a calamity relief drive as an opportunity to dispose of old unwanted things even victims cannot use. And nobody is fit to tell a hero from a heel if he does not see that the worthless change he gives a beggar cannot even buy candy to perchance calm the pangs of his hunger.

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