A nation so devoid of heritage is what engulfs me as I was enraged looking at how the original graveyard of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal was treated by modern Filipinos and even by the government who enjoys the freedom Dr. Jose hardly fought and won. His life, his sacrifices were sacrilegiously left in the void annals of history in the modern metropolis. Not even one which evokes pride, his lonesome graveyard is the living testament of how Filipinos treat their national hero, not a tinge of respect accorded. Why did I say so? This is what I saw when I visited the original resting place of Dr. Jose Rizal in Paco cemetery, in what used to be the center of Manila, right after he was killed by the Spaniards in Bagumbayan.
Though his eternal graveyard shifted from the Paco Cemetery to now-present Luneta Park, I hardly cannot believed that this man’s original resting place, the first place his remains were kept is unguarded, with no flowers or eternal flame, just a plain cross and a marker marking the site. As if trying to act like Spaniards ourselves, we failed to preserve its sacred grounds like we are supposed to. We just left it as it was, just an ordinary Paco cemetery where history has been deprived of the supporters of Dr. Jose.
His remains were entered in December 30, 1896 and Paco Cemetery was Dr. Jose Rizal’s resting place for 16 years. This is the same historic place where martyrs of freedom were laid to their final resting place and a bastion of its democratic ideals against Spain, yet Filipinos nowadays, wantonly regarded this sacred place as a minor historical site. Perhaps because the remains of Dr. Jose Rizal were transferred to his present-day monument in Luneta, people have not been so keenly aware of its significance. I have retraced Dr. Jose Rizal’s steps and his first resting place with a broken heart and a spirit so wanting of democratic guidance and idealistic reflection of the kind of society I lived in.
Am I the only one seeing this in the milieu of my own society where the great national hero, according to my own definition, should be accorded his due. As I have seen it in Paco Cemetery, the grave was just a grave, a silent reminder of the man who used to be interred momentarily for 16 years until the Americans in cahoots with Filipino leaders transferred his remains to Luneta. Not the one who questions the intentions of history as it is foolish, I am reflecting what repercussions this have on my own society, our society and our nation.
In afterthought though, I asked myself if my country is a nation of the forgetful righteous, who interprets the sacrifices of Dr. Jose Rizal devoid of a full understanding of his struggles even in death. We have deprived ourselves of the key interesting place to reflect where this nation we called the Philippines started its democratic birth, forever berthed on the struggles of him we so fondly called Jose Rizal. As I have seen it with my own eyes, though the grave was regularly manicured, its lesser due than Luneta Park, tourism or otherwise, just made a mockery of how his intentions were made as an offering to a battered republic and though freedom was handsomely won against the Spaniards, lost yet again in the modernity we so live in today.