Bantayog

A Short Story

— Filipino; n., monument


The bus crawls forward for the first time in fifteen minutes and abruptly stops. I can hear the irritated murmurs of the passengers and the cries of the children resonate through the stale and dry air. I can hear the driver talking to the conductor, they make no complaints — this is everyday life for them. It’s always a screeching halt from the expressways and highways to the traffic of Manila — I’d probably go insane if I lived here.

The driver turns off the engine and laughs with the conductor.I pop the last of the mints I bought for the trip into my mouth, stare out the window, and settle my gaze on Andres Bonifacio’s monument. Andres, who devoted his whole life for the independence and good of the nation. Andres, who fanned the flames of the revolution which birthed the Filipino nation. Andres, who was murdered by his own countrymen. Andres the revolutionary; Andres, the Supremo.

My thoughts drone on after a while and I think of hero after hero in the Nation’s Pantheon. Jacinto, Rizal, Mabini, Luna — is it too much to mention all their names? I continue to stare at Bonifacio’s monument and wonder what he would think of the nation he endeavored to see. A reality stolen from him when those last swings of the bolo snuffed out his life. A reality stolen from his Katipuneros by the ilustrado who could not believe fully in Bonifacio’s vision. Those who could not love the nation passionately enough and were willing to sell the Inang Bayan to foreigners, to despots, to dictators.

“What do you think of us now, Andres?” I mouth and sigh.

“You stare out and watch this Nation every day from your monument, what do you think? What do you think of our leaders? Of the people who sold and raped the Nation? Tell me, Andres, I’m dying to know.” I think to myself.

The engine roars to life and we crawl forward a few more inches. Nobody’s wondering why the traffic is so awful — we all know the story, we all know about Manila’s traffic. There are people shouting curses at each other on the road, vendors going from car to car selling their wares, beggars tapping on car windows; this is the Philippines — Pearl of the Orient.

Is this what Rizal wanted? Is this what the Katipunan wanted? God damn us all. But I suppose we’re all damned already and God had nothing to do with it. We damned ourselves, we damned ourselves into our fate. We damned ourselves into repeating history over and over again.

“But you would’ve been proud in 1986, Andres, you and all your brothers in arms and all the Pantheon of Heroes. It was all so promising, we could have completed your revolution, Andres — we really could have. But now, ay punyeta, now we are where we are. We could have really done it, though. But we didn’t.”

I finish the mint and take a deep breath, keeping my thoughts on Bonifacio and the heroes. I wish monuments could speak, just so we know what they think of the nation they fought and died so bravely for — but are we willing, are we brave enough, to listen to what they have to say?

But I think that what they’ve said is enough. Endless reiterations of lessons we Filipinos refuse to learn. But I’m begging that the Filipino is not condemned to eternal recurrence — 1896 was proof of this and so was 1986, we can do better. I look away and try to position myself more comfortably.

I put on my earphones and try to drown out the noise from the road and the bus to no avail — I could still hear it all. The bus inches forward again and stops. My gaze settles on the monument once more for lack of better things to stare at.

“Where are you now, Andres? Where are your successors? Where are the men and women who will defend this nation within and without, tooth and nail to the death?”

Tell me, Andres Bonifacio — Supremo ng Katipunan , Padre de la Revolucion Filipina—, I’m dying to know.