Editorial: Teaching remembrance-A A +A
Sunday, November 3, 2013
WHAT is a monument?
The Merriam-Webster Online defines this as a “building, statue, etc. that honors a person or event.”
The Cebu City Government plans to erect two life-sized statues at the Plaza Sugbo to honor two local sons, reported Princess Dawn H. Felicitas last Oct. 25 in Sun.Star Cebu.
The envisioned monuments will honor Don Vicente Rama and Sergio “Serging” Osmeña Jr. Rama is the father of the Cebu City Charter. Osmeña is the city’s first elected mayor.
Mayor Michael Rama’s consistency in promoting local history and heritage is laudable.
His administration initiated in 2012 the “Pinalanggang Sugbuanong Banay (Beloved Cebuano Family)” award. During the Feb. 24, 2012 ceremony commemorating the City’s 75th Charter Day, 75 local families were honored for their contributions to Cebu before 1965.
The “Pinalanggang Sugbuanong Banay” project involved mobile exhibits in colleges and malls in Cebu City. Some of the honored families are prominent and familiar to Cebuanos. But a number distinguished themselves in ways that were even a surprise for their own kin, who were involved in researching, writing and mounting the exhibits.
The project opened the eyes of not just local historians but, more importantly, the public, the generations born after 1965, and tourists.
Creating monuments to honor two men who shaped local and national politics and journalism furthers the same aspiration to instill a shared memory and pride in local history and heritage.
Yet, a statue in Plaza Sugbo will only be as good as a target for bird droppings or scrap thieves if there is no creative and sustained campaign to educate the public, especially the youth, about the significance underlying the erection of the monuments.
Any news consumer today will associate the names of Rama and Osmeña with political bickering and political divisiveness. The Cebu City mayor chose the moral high ground in backing a project that puts on the pedestal Serging, father of former south district congressman Tomas Osmeña, a political nemesis.
Putting up the Rama and Osmeña statues must be complemented by a campaign to reach out to public and private students, residents and tourists. The 2012 local history project involved a partnership of the Cebu City Government, Cebuano Studies Center, local academic institutions and other members of the community.
Tapping civil society again can elevate the project beyond myth-making. How many Cebuanos know Don Vicente as the congressman who authored Commonwealth Act 58 on Oct. 20, 1936, which created the City of Cebu? Who remembers Don Vicente as the pioneering journalist behind “El Precursor,” “Kauswagan” and “Bag-ong Kusog,” as well as the prolific fictionist of short story collections, novels and a drama adaptation of Rizal’s work?
Even among regulars of SM City Cebu, the statue erected at the back of the parking lot of the North Reclamation Area mall still confuses: who is that guy?
“That guy” is the son of President Sergio Osmeña, a former senator and Cebu City’s longest serving mayor. “Serging,” who marked his 96th birth anniversary on Dec. 4, 2012, was admired as a “political strategist” during his term as Cebu City mayor from 1955 to 1971, and as the “capitalist visionary” behind the North Reclamation Area, the first Mactan-Cebu bridge, the transfer of the airport from Lahug to Mactan and the expansion of the Cebu port.
Jolting the memories of Cebuanos disconnected from their past should not be the only objective of creating the monuments to Don Vicente and Serging. Since a monument should also set an “example,” according to the Merriam-Webster Online, the statues of these Cebuano greats should also testify to the creativity of local artists.
The selection of Eduardo Castrillo to undertake the monuments planned for Plaza Sugbo is ironical, if not deluded. Castrillo is often mistaken to be a national artist. He is not a member of the Order of the National Artist of the Philippines (“Orden ng Pambansang Alagad ng Sining”), according to the official website of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
This confusion regarding Castrillo, who has received awards for his works, many of which are monumental in size, may stem from media reports referring to him as a “nationalist artist.”
Artistic preferences and judgments are a matter of perception as well as of standards.
However, bypassing local artists in a project meant to celebrate the Cebuano is a monumental lapse.
For monuments-to-be, the error will be unforgettable and unforgivable.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 04, 2013.