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Rock, cement and a monument

“Arguing that the cauldron’s cost can be used to build classrooms instead is disingenuous and is an example of false equivalence where the only commonality is the cost.

Dean Dela Paz



The exact wording of the Filipino haiku is “Kaunting bato, kaunting semento… monumento (A little rock, a little cement… a monument).” We use the haiku in reference to the alleged overprice of the monumental tower and cauldron specially designed by a Filipino national artist as a symbol of our collective pride on display for the world to see and share during the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) we will be hosting.

At this late date as the nation eagerly awaits to show its best and prove that we are worthy to host one of the regions most awaited events, oppositionist and Liberal Party stalwart Franklin Drilon in a series of attacks on Rodrigo Duterte decided the timing right to question the pricing of the SEAG’s central monument.

It isn’t as if the event was still in the planning stage and the central monument still being costed out. The monument to the collective endeavors of the nation to show its pride and hospitality has been commissioned and built. Beyond the rivets and trusses, we’ve imbued the event not simply with typical fanfare but with profound Filipino pride.

The design was by the late great Filipino National Artist Francisco Mañosa whose other magnum opus that honor the distinct Filipino spirit include the Corregidor War Memorial, the Coconut Palace and the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace at EDSA.

When he was designing one of the distinctive landmark skyscrapers in the Ortigas Complex, we had the rare honor to personally interact. It was then that we fell in awe with his architectural genius and philosophy. Arch. Mañosa was deeply proud of being a Filipino and he wanted all Filipinos to feel that same pride through each monumental work he created whether these were shrines, skyscrapers or towers and cauldrons.

It isn’t simply a question of art, often a variable and subjectively differing from person to person depending on a slew of cultural and educational factors. For him it was a question of the Filipino’s pride in himself.

What Arch. Mañosa founded his designs on was a deep Filipino character he hoped would not only shine through whatever brick, mortar and steel he created but one that would instill pride in the Filipino by Filipinos themselves — a rarity so sorely absent among us today as we find it more expedient to curse, criticize and degrade everything if only to claw at others and lift ourselves from the crab bucket we’ve fallen in.

In a Wikipedia entry, his genius as a Filipino National Artist was described by historian Gerard Lico who wrote:
“His architecture is not a mere mechanical mimicry of vernacular architecture, which many would think to be locked in time. He initiated a contemporary mode that uses and revitalizes the knowledge from previous generations, recovering age-old constructive methods and finishing materials, emphasizing their optical and thermal qualities.”

We are not talking about a cauldron on top of a tower. Mañosa’s is about a monument to “previous generations.” “Not locked in time,” it stretches as far back as it does forward.

Allow us to step away from the passion and fundamentally philosophical and esoteric discourse we’ve attempted to frame this issue in and instead dwell on the practical and utilitarian that politicos and critics insist we taint this issue with.

There can be no corruption. All costs are auditable and follow set standards save for Mañosa’s design. Thus, critics employ smart-ass reasoning.

Arguing that the cauldron’s cost can be used to build classrooms instead is disingenuous and is an example of false equivalence where the only commonality is the cost, everything else, including real values are vastly different. Note comparison fallacies where a senator’s pork barrel allocation can also build classrooms. So can money spent for political propaganda build medical clinics.

Likewise with thousands spent for bodyguards, be spent on vaccinating children.

The haiku profoundly exemplifies the concept of false equivalences. A Filipino monument to our achievements that we take pride in is not simply a piece of rock or a slab of cement.

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