National Symbols

From the December 16, 2016 issue of the Inquirer:

There is something odd about the conflict between the people who oppose the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani and those who support it, more specifically President Duterte.

Those against claim Marcos is not a hero and so he should not be buried in the Libingan. The President says he is not burying him there as a hero but as a soldier and a former president. In effect, he also admits Marcos is not a hero.

So, if both parties agree that Marcos is not a hero, why are there still many rallies against his burial in the Libingan?

The issue is not about whether Marcos is a hero. The controversy concerns the image of the Libingan.

Among the many things that constitute a nation, symbols are very crucial to its identity and development. National symbols are places, historical events, monuments, and the works of art that galvanize a people’s patriotism, unity and sense of nationhood.

The Libingan is one such national symbol. In the end, the people are really fighting for their identity and history when they oppose the burial, in a place meant for heroes, of a person that both sides accept as a nonhero.

Our national symbols are those things that we Filipinos are proud to show the world and rouse our love for country. What national symbols can we be proud of? We can cite the flag, the Rizal monument, the 1986 People Power Revolution, and our OFWs. We really have very few national symbols.

And yet, by burying Marcos in the Libingan, we lost one national symbol among the few we have. The name Libingan ng mga Bayani has lost its meaning for the nation and for all time. The damage is irreparable.

And so quickly the people have turned their attention to another resting place for heroes: the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. The people need symbols of true heroism.

We are still a young nation, and we have not yet fully acquired a sense of nationhood. The struggle goes on to win our collective battles against lies, injustice, corruption, self-interest, indifference and greed. And as we win more battles, we erect new monuments and national symbols that we can be proud of. May no one take them away from us!

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