Forgotten HEROES

31

Everyday, we see dead people.

But we look away.

Always.

Coming into the week, President Emilio Aguinaldo’s telegram to General Antonio Luna, summoning the fiery Heneral to a meeting in Cabanatuan, surfaced in the Estate of Grace Luna de San Pedro, daughter-in-law of Juan Luna, the artist brother of the general.

The telegram bolstered allegations Aguinaldo may have been responsible for General Luna’s death. Luna was killed by Aguinaldo’s Kawit Brigade when he responded to the late President’s call the day after the telegram’s receipt.

The telegram was dated 4 June 1899. It was the document historians have long waited to see. But it is about to be sold at a floor price of P500,000 in the year-end auction of Leon Gallery.

The letter landing in the hands of private collectors is bad news for government and historians whom the Luna de San Pedro Estate could not trust for its safekeeping.

This as the country is to observe Bonifacio Day on Friday, honoring the great revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, who ironically also died in the hands of Aguinaldo’s men.

But how do we honor such heroes when we tend to look away, even at moments of their names’ mention?

In a personal tour of the North Cemetery earlier this month, researcher, historian and Universidad ng Makati professor Kevin Paul “Ose” Martija, 25, noted both solace and neglect of the resting places of national heroes long forgotten by their people.

Loved is the Bautista-Nakpil pylon which is still paid respect by the scions of both families. It is where Bonifacio’s widow, Gregoria “Aling Oriang” de Jesus, founder and vice president of the women’s chapter of the Katipunan, was laid to rest.

After Bonifacio’s murder, De Jesus remarried to Julio Nakpil, another revolutionary general who also composed the “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan,” the hymn which became the Philippine National Anthem.

Also maintained is the structure for Jose Ma. Basa, a contemporary of National Hero Jose Protacio Rizal. Basa was a reformist who smuggled copies of Rizal’s novels to the Philippines and helped spark the Philippine revolution against Spain.

Hardly honored, however, are those of the Thomasites — the first American teachers who introduced new ideas and a new language later on embraced by the Philippines.

Also that of Pancho Villa, the Filipino international boxing champion who died of complications from a gum disease.

Past Philippine presidents have been buried at the North Cemetery (Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas and Ramon Magsaysay), along with historian Epifanio de los Santos, actor Fernando Poe Jr., poet Jose Corazon de Jesus and other famous names.

But Martija noted more resting places for dead heroes need our second look and respect.
Also at the North Cemetery are the remains of Melchora Aquino, Jose Corazon de Jesus, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Licerio Geronimo, Amado Hernandez, Felix Resurreccion-Hidalgo, Aurora Quezon, Claro M. Recto, Rafael Roces, among others.

Many of these names no longer ring a bell to many of us.

Some of those buried with honors at the Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolución have been exhumed and transferred nearer to their equally-honored loved ones who died long after the great revolution.

Among them was María Agoncillo-Aguinaldo, wife of the first President.

Remaining are those of Generals Anastacio F. Francisco, whose contributions to two Philippine revolutions have been buried in the library piles and of Fernando Canon, Rizal’s childhood friend.

Two famous names are also at the Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolución, both of whom have played big roles in Bonifacio’s execution.

One is that of General Gregorio del Pilar, whose life was recently depicted in a movie praised by critics and its audience and that of General Mariano Noriel, whose life had ended in tragedy due to hubris.

Del Pilar and Noriel were responsible for bringing Bonifacio to a trial by treason, leading to Aguinaldo’s order for his execution.

Del Pilar remained a true Aguinaldo soldier. Then the youngest general in Aguinaldo’s army, he sacrificed his life to allow Aguinaldo to escape and bid time before he was finally captured by Americans.

Noriel eventually became a forgotten figure in Philippine history, totally overshadowed by the Del Pilar’s heroism at Tirad Pass.

The revolution over, Noriel lived a normal life until he was found guilty of murdering a man after a dispute in a Bacoor, Cavite cockpit.

He died by hanging. His place at the Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolución is the only reminder that he once served the country well.

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