Monuments, memorials, and memories

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

This week, on February 23, 1918, Act No. 2760 was passed by the Philippine Legislature, aimed at building a national monument for Andres Bonifacio. Former members of the Katipunan, the revolutionary movement Bonifacio founded, lobbied for its creation with Guillermo Masangkay, a friend of Bonifacio’s, spearheading the move. The Bonifacio monument features a 45-foot high structure topped by a winged figure of victory and was created by national artist Guillermo Tolentino.

This historical tidbit has become relevant to me since I am currently in Melbourne, Australia, and was able to visit the Shrine of Remembrance days ago. The shrine has a national, state, and cultural significance in Australia and its purpose is to be a memorial to honor the service and sacrifice of all Australians in war, peacemaking, and peacekeeping. Naturally, the history displayed was very interesting and extremely meaningful, especially in light of many ongoing conflicts and wars in the world today.

The shrine engages more than one million people annually in their commemorative and education programs. Their staff conduct more than 200 commemorative ceremonies yearly, including major ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day services, and develop and deliver quality education and learning programs to students and communities across Victoria. One very important realization I made while touring the Shrine of Remembrance was the simple but obvious fact that the people of Melbourne did not scrimp on the cost to build the shrine.

While I believe our national budget can best serve the people through social services and infrastructure, if only our public officials did not spend so much time wasting our taxes on senseless inquiries and intrigues and in lining their pockets with taxpayer’s money, we would have been able to also set aside bigger budgets for historical and cultural activities and buildings. So many old structures and precious archival documents over the last 100 years have been lost or destroyed because our government is too cheap and corrupt to care for these priceless treasures. I still believe that more funds should go to helping the poor and providing assistance to improve the Filipino people’s lives, but we must also set aside funding to make sure the next generations will remember our past and learn from it, as well as preserve our cultural heritage for posterity.

While working for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, I had started taking photos of various Rizal monuments all over the country. I even have photos of Rizal monuments in Japan and Singapore, and hope to visit others like in China and Germany. Unlike Bonifacio, Rizal is a special case as the act to create his monument was enacted in 1901, and later more and more local ordinances were passed to also create Rizal monuments and memorials in every town and city. I remember several monuments with very beautiful materials and design, such as that of Daanbantayan, Cebu. The municipality of Bantayan’s Rizal monument is also very beautiful, in fact the most beautiful in Cebu I have seen so far. Two other town monuments hold special meaning to me. The first one is in Argao. It was created in 1932 and has a marker listing the first batch of Argawanons elected as town officials after World War II.

I am extremely proud of this monument since my great-grandfather, Isidro C. Lucero, was one of the municipal councilors elected right after the war. The second monument close to my heart is Moalboal’s. This has an even more significant connection to my family’s history as the one that stands today was designed and constructed by Santiago Vano Uy, the husband of Sofia Sales, the fraternal twin of my great-grandfather. These two memorials are constant reminders to me that even regular families can have a significant connection to a town’s history. And they also constantly remind me of how much we learn from and remember of our family’s or nation’s past simply through these precious memorials and monuments.

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