Carvajal: Patria and the trees

Break Point

THAT’S Patria de Cebu and the acacia trees in the highway to Carcar City. Both are heritage objects, Patria a testament to the faith of the Student Catholic Action (SCA) youth who helped build it and the acacia trees, gnarled and aging reminders of an oppressive colonial past.

Yet the acacia trees were spared the ax, thanks to a Jesuit priest who romanced the trees, by telling people it’s a sin to cut them. (Where, I wonder, did he learn his theology?) The last I looked, this priest got muted support from the Archdiocese and a not-so-muted one from members of the latter’s Cultural Commission, some of whom have yet to resign over the Patria controversy.

It should be noted here that still standing with the old heritage trees inside the highway are one young acacia tree, one tamarind tree and two or three mahogany trees that our American colonial masters could not possibly have planted and, therefore have no heritage value whatsoever.

But back to the heritage trees, if they are still there because trees are valuable to life on earth, wouldn’t a thousand or more trees planted elsewhere be of more value and of less danger to life?

If indeed these trees are left to menace motorists because of their heritage value, my question is why do we want to be reminded by these trees of an inglorious oppressive past life under American colonial masters? Didn’t we change the name of a heritage boulevard from Dewey to Roxas?

Patria de Cebu, on the other hand, is a not so majestic building that stands in mute but loud testimony to the faith of members of Student Catholic Action. I once worked out of Patria as SCA Spiritual Director and had occasion to admire the dedication of the young to the cause of spreading their Catholic faith.

Unfortunately, this heritage building seems to have to go. Unfortunately, the memory of American domination is more worthy of preservation than the memory of dedicated young students defending and spreading their faith. I hope the National Commission on Culture and the Arts intervenes and preserves Patria’s heritage that is a million times more valuable than that of acacia trees.

It’s not like we lack the architectural creativity and engineering skill to incorporate a restored, strengthened and refurbished Patria into the commercial plans of the Archdiocese. Against my better judgment, I would like to think this is not about money but simply about pride of archdiocesan administrators who think they should have the last say.

That is just very sad that acacia trees, reminders of a grim colonial past, should command more respect and more awe than Patria de Cebu, a battered yet proud symbol of the indomitable spirit of yesterday’s Student Catholic Action.


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