2016-11-08

(Originally published on The Crusader Publication’s Mid-term broadsheet published September, 2016)

Ferdinand Marcos has come back to haunt us two decades after his death, as a corpse instead of his ghostly spirit, through an ensuing debate on whether or not he should be permitted to receive the honor of having his final resting place be 6-feet-under the lot of the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The conundrum has the Filipino citizens bolting to take up the corners of two opposing sides: against versus in favor of the late dictator’s burial at the said grounds. The issue isn’t as black and white as it initially seems since there is more to it than the mere act of burying a dead man’s body. Thus, to approach a topic as sensitive as this, it is only right to dig up and examine the root cause of the discord, which is whether Marcos deserves to have a place in the national pantheon, the same site considered as the resting ground for the men and women this nation upholds as heroes. This opens up the topic – importantly so – on what makes one a hero. From this point onward, let’s assume that Marcos’ burial at the Libingan is both legal and constitutional, which it is.

Easily enough, a hero is more than one who has the flashy cape and the tights-first-then-underwear-second outfit. To be loose, a hero is an idolized figure in society that we commend due to their honorable actions, a champion for a good cause. A person who has become a catalyst for change in the progress of our nation, like Jose Rizal. Or the calculative brute that stepped up to the challenge to lead his soldiers to fight in the bloody battlefield, like Antonio Luna. Looking at our history, our definition of a hero is a person who has fought tooth and nail to take back our freedom from the tyrants and oppressors. Ironically, Ferdinand Marcos, a dictator who has monopolized freedom, is currently considered for a hero’s burial. But it is the 20th century and a hero is not solely found in the face of a war nor at the tipping point of a revolution. Admittedly, heroes can also embody a person who has subtly helped our country in a myriad of ways from gaining for the country economical footing to empowerment of the citizens in their Filipino identities.

Despite the various angles where one can be considered a hero, there are limitations that make us question at what cost. People think Marcos deserves the honor due to his titles as president and general, but he has committed grievous offenses that resulted to him being ousted and his title as a general, along with his war medals and decorations, is questionable on the grounds on whether it was legitimately bequeathed to him – the doubt due to his name being missing from important papers which include General Douglas McArthur’s “List of Recipients and Awards and Decorations Issued Between Dec. 7, 1941 through June 30, 1945”. The titles and positions may make it fair for him to be buried in the national pantheon but to turn a blind eye to the atrocious acts that he has done during his term despite the projects implemented and infrastructure built is unwise.

Burying Marcos in Libingan ng mga Bayani is to inevitably recognize him as a part of the beloved patriots of the Philippines and may also insensitively disregard, for martial law victims and their loved ones, the agonies that the victims had endured during the martial law period.

After exhausting the very definition of the essence of a hero there comes a point wherein we must ask ourselves of our priorities. Do we put Marcos’s said “achievements”, titles, and positions as heavier, lighter or of equal weight compared to the atrocities that he has committed against the Filipino people? Only after questioning and picking apart the conundrum that has suddenly sprung upon us will we arrive at a conclusion that will irreversibly and properly bury the hatchet that this nation has carried around like dead weight for the past decades. Do we really bury him the way we buried the likes of Carlos P. Romulo?

It’s baffling how this question even exists.