Contestation of space @ Libingan ng mga Bayani

Let’s step outside the claustrophobic circles of pros and cons in order to gain a more objective view of the issue.

First, the debate arises from what urbanists call contestation of space which is further complicated by absence of national guidelines as to it’s utilization: Who owns the Libingan? Who should get buried in that plot? Who shouldn’t? Who is a ‘hero’? Who defines ‘hero’?

In structuring definitions for each, let us recall that these days ‘hero’ has taken a more fluid meaning. Here, the OFWs are the new heroes. They keep a country with no industrial base thriving and afloat. Among Catholics it is believed that many more unknown and unproclaimed saints and martyrs remain without the burial they deserved. Further, in the purview of resurrection and death as true freedom, it matters not how or where the physical body is buried; what matters is how the individual lived because what thrives after the body’s death is the soul. The quality of life lived on earth determines the soul’s enjoyment of peace in the after life. In fact, the more battered the body “for the sake of God” the more glorious the soul after death (a belief that has given rise to fanaticism), which is to say it’s how one gets to be hero.

My point? The contestation over who gets buried at the Libingan is not anymore the concern of the dead i.e. Marcos but a projection by those who are left behind, of their earthly sense of right and wrong, good and bad, justice and injustice. How these people come to terms with these brings me to the second point.

Timing. This contestation is happening at a time of renewed national peace building efforts post EDSA. Former President Cory galvanized the nation under the banners of reconciliation and pagkakaisa (unity). Administrations after her supported similar campaigns. Also, the Catholic Church here regularly dedicated the country to Mary and we know her qualities. That’s when the conflict starts. We cannot give what we don’t have or are not willing to cultivate in ourselves. Such as what? you ask.

Peace, it’s implications for us as individuals and a people, is what we haven’t yet resolved in and among ourselves. It has been, what, decades since Marcos’ death yet plenty of us left behind haven’t moved on. We’re stuck with our anger and hatred. We’re paralyzed by our continued inability to forgive. We continue to be fascinated with and at the same time loathe a corpse that has long disintegrated and returned as earth.

In addition, many Filipinos believe in the karmic notion that an unresolved issue will manifest itself again and again through time until it’s finally resolved. And just as someone who harbors hatred and vengeance destroys not only him/herself but others around him/her as well so it is with the people who’ve been hurt relative to the former President.

The only way out is through the cleansing pain of letting go. Finding in themselves the courage to forgive (yet ever conscious of the lessons), they’ll free themselves and everybody else to move on. This will be their gift to the rest of the Filipino nation.

Peace is God. Peace is what’s waiting at the other side of hatred. Peace is God’s relief and promise outside of our self imposed desert. The choice is ours.

That choice dictates the next steps- dialogue, negotiation, mutual agreement. The facilitator could jumpstart the process by bringing the sides together, with the same professionalism accorded to the Reds and Rebels. If the Communists and the MILF would, the pro Marcos and anti Marcos should.

In the final analysis, Marcos’ burial – what we decide to be a fair and just closure – is a step further toward burying once and for all factionalism, in-fighting, and the like that continue to splinter the Filipino nation (like it’s 7100 islands so are it’s hatreds), preventing it from attaining it’s full potential.

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