Class suspension, heroes, and Amari

Our last week’s visit here in Rizal Park helped prevent my incipient frustration with the late class suspension today, because it meant that I would have time to go back to the Trece Mártires de Bagumbayan marker that bears another masonic inscription on it. Perhaps I’d even see some more hidden things of historical significance in the area.

The rain was heavy last night. My daughter slept early, while my wife and I watched the news expecting the announcement of class cancelations at the graduate level, but there were no such announcements. There was an orange rainfall warning hoisted over Metro Manila, but that was only up to high school. I read and shared some posts on Facebook before going to sleep.

My first period class starts at seven o’clock every Saturday. I left the house early to arrive an hour ahead of time, a trick I learned from Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher who said he always arrives early so that the people who will arrive late or just a little bit late will feel guilty and not ask stupid annoying questions. I doubt if this applies to students, however. Zizek even cited Lacan in one of his interviews: “My fiancée was never late for our appointments, because, the time she is late, she is no longer my fiancée.”

We started the class on time. A few minutes later, my classmate, Amari, showed me a post from the Facebook Page of the City Mayor declaring that all classes, at all levels, were cancelled from 8 o’clock onwards due to the possibility of rain and flooding over the next couple of hours. I found this bizarre because the sky was clear, but better late than sorry.

Amari approached me before we left the room. She asked if I wanted to go with her to Buscalan; the village of the world-renowned traditional Filipino tattoo artist and recently named National Living Treasure, Apo Whang Od. I was interested in her invitation—in the same way I’d love to court her if I was single, but c’est la vie. When I heard about Apo Whang Od, I started to dream of her engraving my skin with a piece of our country’s intangible heritage.

So, I told Amari that I would get back to her on that.

We parted ways right after that conversation and exited the university gate. I went directly to the Japanese-façade garden where the Trece Mártires marker sat. Two guards were already manning the place. I logged into the record book and went inside. There were a lot of fallen leaves, probably because of last night’s rain, which had also brought strong winds.

I looked to the right, right across the pond, and saw the marker. I walked to it and, as I crossed the small bridge (possibly built for aesthetic purposes only) a clap of thunder sounded overhead. I looked up and saw the sky growing darker with the promise of heavy rain. The rainfall advisory might be true, after all.

I found nothing of additional interest on the obvious face of the marker, so I went to one side to read the inscription under the masonic logo: “The equality of men, their common capacity to share in the secrets of the ordered creation which masonry’s legendary founders discovered in the work of the Supreme Architect of the World as well as the freedom to live our lives as right reason and good laws dictates—this principles fired the imaginations of our heroes sustained their long struggle and lifted their hearts even as they fell. Most Worshipful Enrique L. Locsin, Centennial Grand Master.”

This made me think once more about what role the Masons really played in the Philippine Revolution. I circled the marker and learned from the other writings that 10 of the 13 martyrs listed in our history were Masons.

Moreover, the marker was raised was in memory of “The 13 (who) paid the highest price possible for the freedom and independence of their country having perished for so great a cause. They deserve to live on in the hearts of their grateful countrymen.”

Before I left the place, I asked one of the guards at the gate if there were other gardens where important historical items could be seen. She pointed to the area beside the Rizal Monument, one enclosed by a rather thick copse of trees. There, she said, stood a fountain where Rizal used to drink. I thanked her and stepped out.

The gate to this tree-filled area was guarded by a big statue of a fierce Datu Lapu-Lapu, I envied that stone datu’s physique. This reminded me of an article I read and shared last night, one that said Lapu-Lapu had actually been an old man when he and his soldiers defeated Ferdinand Magellan. That article also said it was not Lapu-Lapu himself who killed the leader of the conquistadores, because such a feat was made impossible by the venerable datu’s age and poor health. I’ll have to do more research on the matters that article raised soon. When my daughter reads that, and I am sure she will, she is sure to ask her mom to help her learn more about this guy whose statue was right in front of me.

I walked to the area pointed out to me by the guard. At first, I was doubtful about the place because all I could see were trees. There were also a lot of people lying around on large pieces of cardboard and using bags for pillows. The area was cordoned off with yellow nylon rope that hung just few inches above the ground, so I hopped over that low cordon. The guard was right: there was something in here—a fountain.

According to the marker, this Rizal Fountain used to be “in the house of Pastor Karl Ullmer in Wilhelmsfeld, Germany where Jose Rizal lived when he was completing the last few chapter of the novel Noli Me Tangere, 1886.” (and) “It was given by the German government to the Philippines as a symbol of the historical relationship between the two countries.”

I photographed the fountain. There were other plates with writings on them behind the fountain, but they failed to catch my interest. I was about to take a selfie with the fountain when I saw a map across me. I’d just walked across Europe without realizing it. I walked and looked around to see if there were other things that I missed, and there was, another map behind the barriers surrounding the fountain.

When I was about to go, I found a statue of a guy with a mustache along the path, on the right side. I was about look more closely at it when I heard a whistle from afar. A guard was pointing at me and gesturing for me to go to him. So I did and, as I approached, he asked me what I was doing there. I said I was just taking photos. He told me the public was not allowed to go into the area he’d stopped me from entering, explaining that the nylon rope was supposed to make that clear. I told him about the other guard who’d pointed the place out to me. He ignored my argument and asked me to leave. How sad is it that the public isn’t allowed to see a piece of their own history, one so generously donated by the people of Germany? Very, I’ll say.

The buses were parked along Taft Avenue, so I needed to walk a bit. While passing in front of the National Museum of Natural History, a muscled Lapu-Lapu greeted me once more, his kampilan held in two ham-fisted hands. I paused, looked at the statue, and noticed that this Lapu-Lapu bore no tattoos, which were an important part of the warrior culture during Lapu-Lapu’s time. Strange.

I remembered of Amari’s invitation, so I called my wife. It was time to find out just how deeply rooted in our culture tattoos were—after all, we had also been called Pintados (tattooed/painted ones) and our archipelago the Islas de los Pintados (Islands of the Tattooed/Painted Ones). But that’s another story for another article.



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