The Sacred Burial Ground
The sacred burial ground is in all those places where our true heroes – the freedom fighters...
Numbers: 3,240. 35,000. 70,000. 3,240 people tortured and killed.
35,000 people tortured – in the most barbaric ways: burned, electrocuted in the genitals, raped in the most unspeakable ways, beaten to a pulp. Broken spirits.
70,000 arbitrarily imprisoned. No warrants of arrests. Just names in the “order of battle;” how brave they were, those soldiers who “fought” against unarmed civilians.
Most of those “numbers” were the youth of the motherland. Our nation almost being deprived of a generation of courageous, principled, artistic, humanistic, and thinking citizens. Almost… but not totally.
Many decided to fight back – the youth of the motherland who first fought in the streets decided to fight in the the mountains. Many will die in the line of fire. And many others, more than a decade later, will suffer the same tragic fate as the martial victims in the hands of their comrades – the worst tragedy of all.
And then there were the “Desaparecidos.” They who “disappeared” by the hundreds. Abducted with fates “unknown,” then till now.
Most of the parents kept on waiting for their children until the day they died. The orphans, whose parents were among the victims of martial law, had to find the courage to “live” on their own. Because even as others took care of them, these orphans were all alone in their individual struggle to come to terms for being “abandoned” and to find meaning in their lives. Brokenness. Hopeless. Hopeful.
The dictator and his family – including the children grown of age and knowingly took part in the pillage of the country – fled 14 years after declaring martial law. The dictator died three years after escaping in disgrace with his family.
And now the new president-elect said he will bury the dictator in the burial ground of heroes. For healing he said. To erase “one hatred” he said. Good intention, bad outcome. Fourteen million will rejoice. More than that will be insulted and outraged because the family of the dictator has not atoned for the sins of the father, not even to offer a simple yet sincere apology for the sins of the past. Never mind the billions that they took because it is almost impossible to recover, since even a simple statement of apology – which costs nothing – is not even grudgingly given.
And I? It doesn’t matter said my soul. That “sacred ground” has been partly tainted long ago. There are bodies there who committed the self-same atrocities during martial law. And there are a number of “crooks-in-uniform” and crooked politicians who got buried there during and after martial law years.
The sacred burial ground is in all those places where our true heroes – the freedom fighters, the good soldiers and policemen, the fire fighters, the teachers protecting the ballot boxes of those turbulent years, the courageous farmers and fisherfolks, the laborers, students and professors, priests and nuns, mothers and fathers, the youth, and the countless nameless who genuinely served and fought for our county – fell and died.
The streets of protests, the rice fields, the forests, the mountains, the sea, the river, the common cemeteries where the heroes fell and were buried or left behind: those are our heroes’ sacred grounds.
So go ahead and bury him among both the crooked minority and the true heroes. God knows who is who anyway. The family knows that the sins of the father – without atonement – will always haunt them wherever they bury him.
Do not despair nor cry aloud as they bury the dictator in that burial place. The heroes have left that place long ago and went to where heroes go; and the crooks and the tyrants will go where they will be welcomed by their fellows.
And us? Let us always remember our heroes – both those known and the nameless, before, during, and after the martial law years. For it is also in their valiant deeds that our nation can find its salvation.
Let us exert all effort to make the next generation understand that only in accepting the historical truth – of villainous and heroic deeds – shall our country be truly free, even if the truths are too painful to bear. And those among us who do will also earn the right to have his final resting place be considered as a sacred burial ground.
About the author
Emmanuel F. Silan, PhD
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