AN EMPTY TOMB. I recall our family’s annual sojourn to Heart of Mary Villa in Malabon to visit the Sisters of Good Shepherd and the orphanage on mid-December. Once there, my parents would unload huge boxes of goodies from the van and spend the entire day talking with the nuns while me and my sister would run around the convent’s garden. By evening, my father would bring us to Ever Emporium in Caloocan to watch mechanical puppets present a colorful and animated Christmas musical up on the mall’s façade.
I have fun memories of our family sitting on Bermuda grass that covers the park across the mall, behind an empty tomb to Andres Bonifacio popularly called the Monumento.
ADVENTURE AT TROPICAL HUT. The monument stands on a rotunda at the northern end of EDSA. I remember as a child that the monument was surrounded by huge hand-painted movie billboards that we no longer see today. On our recent visit, the old-fashioned movie billboards were replaced by tarpaulin endorsing the latest products.
Our adventure to see the Monumento up close began at a nearby fast food joint. To cross from Rizal Avenue to the park was a struggle because of the non-stop flow of vehicles around the rotunda. A kind MMDA officer assisted us to cross the street and then, from a makeshift tent the park’s caretaker swung open the small gate for us.
TOLENTINO’S PHILOSOPHY. Inaugurated on November 30, 1933, the Monumento demonstrates Guillermo Tolentino’s philosophy that a monument must be factual and symbolical.
Illustrating his philosophy, the artist placed the sculpture on an octagonal base whose eight sides represent the eight Philippine provinces that first rose to revolt against Spain in the Revolution of 1896. The base ascends three steps suggesting the three centuries of Spanish rule.
FILIPINO TEMPER. Historian Ambeth Ocampo explains that the reflecting pool on opposite sides of the monument serves as a reminder of the Filipino temper according to Jose Rizal in El Filibusterismo as mild and can be drunk but it dilutes wine and beer, extinguishes fire; heated it becomes steam, and ruffed it is the ocean; once it destroyed mankind and made the earth tremble to its foundation.
The 45-foot granite obelisk is crowned by a figure of the Winged Victory that could be a contribution of Italian sculptor Francesco Monti. The main sculpture shows 23 figures cast in bronze with a defiant Andres Bonifacio as central figure wearing a barong tagalog while holding a gun and a sangbartolome. Behind him is Emilio Jacinto. They are surrounded by figures that narrate episodes of the Revolution and allegorical characters that expresses nationalistic fervor in the struggle for freedom from colonial rule.
ALLEGORICAL CHARACTERS. Moving to one side are characters from the novel Noli Me Tangere represented by Pilosopong Tasyo holding on one hand a lifeless Sisa while his other hand is stretching out a clench fist. Next to it is a Katipunan initiation rite where katipuneros sign their oaths of allegiance in blood. There is a commemorative plaque with words written in Katipunan alphabet.
Opposite of the main group are martyred priest Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora showing one lifeless, another in waiting and one in the throes of death. Collectively known as GOMBURZA, the execution of the three priests ignited Asia’s first revolution against colonial rule.
EPILOGUE. Andres Bonifacio was born on the feast day of San Andres Apostol. Traditionally, birthdays of saints and local heroes are not declared as holiday. Usually it is their death anniversary that is celebrated as in the case of Jose Rizal on December 30 and Ninoy Aquino on August 21. Andres Bonifacio is an exception.
Why do we celebrate Bonifacio’s birthday instead of the day he gave his life for his country? Until Bonifacio’s bones are unearthed, the Monumento remains an empty tomb.
30 November 2015
Feast of San Andres Apostol
Andres Bonifacio Day