Dacawi: Wanting of a sense of history-A A +A
By Ramon Dacawi
Saturday, May 19, 2012
GIVEN the numerous markers installed in his native land and abroad in honor our national hero, respected historian Ambeth Ocampo considered hanging one in his home: “Jose Rizal did not stay or visit this place.”
On the proliferation of such tags, Ocampo quoted his fellow historian Teodoro Agoncillo: “Pati yata eskinitang inihian ni Rizal ibig lagyan ng marker (It seems they want to put a marker even in any alley where Rizal peed).”
Places abroad, too, are not wanting of markers that simply instill pride even if you’re wanting of uprightness to deserve to identify yourself to be as Filipino as Rizal was, is and will forever be in history.
That’s how I felt when younger Igorot Joel Aliping guided me to walking a street in San Francisco. We stopped beside a marker on the wall of the Palace Hotel that announced that Dr. Jose Rizal was their guest in May, 1888.
After San Francisco, Dr. Rizal visited London. That sojourn is marked by a blue tag on the wall of a wooden building that looks like an apartment with the number “37” attached. The text on the blue marker tells passersby our national hero resided there. The place is near Green Park where Rizal must have taken morning or afternoon walks.
On the way to their log cabin at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the Shenandoah River, expatriate Igorot couple Edwin and Mia Abeya and I had our fill in Charlestown, Virginia. A marker on the main street tells you it was founded by Charles Washington, the youngest full brother of the first President of the United States.
It tells you that Charlestown was where John Brown was tried and hanged. Not wanting to display my ignorance, I memorized his name and later googled who John Brown was in U.S. history.
Here, we’re wanting of markers to tell visitors, ourselves and our children what our city was, is and will be. What we have, in lieu of tree crowns against the vanishing skyline, are commercial ones that, despite our insistence that we’re unique, remind us that we’re no different from down there – Jollibee, McDonald’s, SM, Smart, Globe.
As I do for the vanishing scent of pine, I pine over the loss of that marker along Naguilian Road. It used to be on the curve across where the billboard of Pure Gold Supermart now stands. Until it was taken away, the old marker told passersby of Baguio’s elevation as the highest city (literally, that is) in the country. Below “5000 feet above sea level” was the clincher: “Coldest Jail in the Philippines”.
In Banaue, Ifugao, I was close to demanding from the owner of a gas station on the steep mountainside why the marker he had installed on the wall vanished. The missing advisory read: “Only dogs may urinate here.” Its removal was truly an affront on and a grievous crime against the Ifugaos’ sense of humor.
The historical markers we have here were defaced or lost, transferred or simply neglected. When the Marcos Highway was dug up for concreting, the white, concrete U.S. Army-66th Infantry marker in honor of those who liberated Baguio at the close of the second world war was also dug up. It was left lying on its side for months before it was reinstalled. A similar marker on the same roadside had been broken and remains un-restored. Perhaps because it’s repair is beyond the scope of Department of Public Works and Highways which, for years now, has been on project rampage destroying roads and then concreting or blacktopping them..
Sadly, some of our city streets were renamed, in utter disregard and ignorance of local history. It’s an act of aberration that then city councilor Edilberto Tenefrancia reminded his colleagues in the local legislature to guard against. The original names of our city streets, he told them, are part of Baguio history, and should not be changed, for whatever insignificant reason or another.
That’s why I look up with deep respect on the late Baguio boy and human rights lawyer Art Galace and his fellow Baguio boy, former Senator Juan Flavier.
Art objected to a move in the city council to rename Jungletown, the community he grew up in, to honor of his father, the late police officer Agustin Galace. Flavier laughed off serious suggestion that the Baguio General Hospital be named after him for his substantial support in its expansion and modernization as the medical center of Northern Luzon.
In a reunion of his batch at the Baguio City High School, Flavier recalled having reminded the proponents that significant places and buildings are named only after people who are dead. The proponents, he said, were insistent, suggesting that BGH be then named in honor of his father.
“And what did my father do for Baguio?,” he asked, telling them his dad was just a worker in the mines.
In lieu of markers, we should have articles and books telling us and our children how great some Baguio boys and girls the likes of Art Galace, Juan Flavier and Dr. Natividad Clavano are.
Dr. Clavano who? Well, she was a mother to thousands of the world’s children. With her legacy of going against the grain and making the BGH the first mother-and-baby friendly hospital in the world, she was, is and will be mother to thousands who are being and will be born. She’s in the same mold as another Baguio girl, CNN Hero of the Year Robin Lim.
I wish appropriate markers will soon be installed on the walls of the Baguio houses where these two Baguio women lived in.
“Dr. Natividad Clavano, Baguio girl and pioneer advocate of breast-feeding, lives here.”
“Robin Lim, midwife and CNN Hero of the Year, lives here.”
Both signs are in the present tense, for both women live in the hearts of those who know and appreciate their timeless legacy. With these markers installed, the two houses will eventually become two of Baguio’s heritage habitats, heightening our sense of history – local and global.
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Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 19, 2012.