History in stone

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Saturday, June 7, 2014


Parks can be all green with open spaces and flowers and trees. It can also contain tidbits of history of a place like Plaza Independencia, whose monuments are worthwhile perusing, as we celebrate our country’s independence.

Fort San Pedro itself, located within the plaza, reminds us of our Spanish colonial history, which has several other reminders within the complex. There’s the monument by the entrance of the plaza to the Order of Augustinian Recollects, which tells us that this congregation, which runs the University of San Jose-Recoletos, has been with us since 1606. Then there’s the statue of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi who was responsible for the beginning of our Spanish colonialization.

At the back of Fort San Pedro, or what passes for the base of the triangular fort, is a statue of Pigaffeta who chronicled the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan. The dedication to the monument reads: “Patrician of Vicenza, Italy, and Knight of Malta, chronicler of the Magellan expedition that first circumnavigated the globe from 1519 to 1522. He fought in Mactan and was one of 22 survivors that returned to Spain. This tribute was erected by the Philippine Italian Association. 1980.” There were five ships in Magellan’s expedition and 270 men; only 22 men survived, sailing in the ship Victoria. The other ships were the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion and Santiago.

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Across the street from Fort San Pedro are more recent monuments. There is one to Andres Bonifacio, done by Juan Sahid Imao, which was unveiled in December 2013 to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of this revolutionary hero, on whose birthday, Nov. 30, we celebrate National Heroes Day. Near it is the Veterans Monument, done in 1981, dedicated to all those brave men who fought for the country in the second world war.

Facing M. J. Cuenco Ave. is the statue of President Ramon Magsasay, the country’s most popular president, who died in Cebu in a plane crash in Mt. Manunggal on March 17,1957. The statue was erected in 1997, 40 years after his death.

Of more recent historical concerns is a marker that says: “This marker is a testimony to the courage of Cebuano martyrs whose lives were sacrifices in the fight against Martial Law, that those who live will always remember to guard the freedom they fought so hard to reclaim.”

There’s another marker, perhaps a bit incongruous in that it honors also the enemy dead in a place called Independencia, but what it says resonates in this war-jittery present. It is called the Filipino Japanese Memorial and it says:

“This memorial is dedicated to the Filipino and Japanese dead during the last war. This has taught us a lesson that no gains have been achieved by victories in war. On the other hand, peace has brought about love and brotherhood among people of this earth.

It is therefore our hope that there shall be no more wars in the future to come upon us and that peace will reign on this earth.”

This is a short “tour” of the monuments in Plaza Independencia. When you visit the place, don’t just enjoy the fresh air and open space, the beautiful scenery, and the cool shade under age-old trees: give time to imbibe bits of the country’s history.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 08, 2014.

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