A resting place for heroes: Libingan Ng Mga Bayani

It is that time of the year once again to remember all things and frightening. For this year, the Urban Roamer headed down south in that wide and bitterly contested Fort Bonifacio area to visit one of the most prominent burial places in the metropolis and the country as a whole. Yes, today we visit the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani, ibingwhich literally means the burial ground of heroes.

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Heroes Memorial Gate at the entrance to the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani, which has a metal sculpture at its center and a viewdeck which bears images from the country’s history, especially military history

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Its origins can be traced back in May 1947, when the Republic Memorial Cemetery was established in what was then known as Fort McKinley to serve as a final resting place that would honor the men and women who have served the country well, particularly the ones who have served during World War II as well as those in the military service. Then in 1954, President Ramon Magsaysay renamed the cemetery to the name we know today as the “Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.” It was further expanded in area and given more prominence in 1967 by President Ferdinand Marcos as it was elevated to become a national shrine for the country’s heroes, whether they served in military or not.

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Being a national shrine cemetery, the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani is decreed to have burial grounds reserved for prominent government officials, especially former presidents, vice presidents, cabinet officials, jurists, legislators, defense secretaries, national artists, and national scientists. To date, there are 2 presidents buried here: Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal, among many other prominent individuals that lie in these grounds.

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tomb of President Carlos P. Garcia

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tomb of President Diosdado Macapagal, as well as his wife Eva

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urn containing the remains of Vice President Salvador Laurel

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tomb of former Presidential Commission on Good Government chair Haydee Yorac

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(courtesy of CorregidorIsland.com)

(courtesy of CorregidorIsland.com)

Of course, being a military cemetery first and foremost, much of the space here is allocated for former military personnel and war veterans, like former chiefs of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, recipients of the Medal of Valor, veterans of World War II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars. But perhaps the most prominent tomb here is happens to be the main structure here, found the middle of the complex. In this part lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a simple marble tomb surrounded by 3 pillars (representing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao) and a flag in front of it in perpetual half-mast.

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plot for former chiefs of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

One thing to note here though is the sharp contrast among the tombs here, especially in comparing the more ornate tombs of more prominent personalities, some of them bearing proudly the achievements of the person buried there, to the simple white crosses that mark those of lesser prominence, especially those of national artists and scientists. Well this being not a proper venue for discussing social issues in depth, I’ll just leave it at that and will let you guys take it from here.

Nevertheless, death they say is the great equalizer. We can perhaps take comfort with the words inscribed at the opposite sides of the main entrance which is said to be uttered by Gen. Douglas MacArthur: “I do not know the dignity of his life, but I do know the glory of his death.” Regardless of their stature, or how well they are remembered, in the eyes of a grateful nation, they are all heroes in some way who deserve a heroes’ burial in these grounds.

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Another thing I must add here is that Libingan Ng Mga Bayani itself is a serene place, not just because it is a cemetery. It is actually one of the few green havens we have right now where one can see lots of open space, fresh air, and natural shade courtesy of the trees here, with only the sound of airplanes passing by in close distance to distract the quietness there from time to time. At this day and age when the city is running out of green spaces for it to breathe from congestion and pollution, the Libingan is a welcome sight that is worth a visit.

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Acknowledgements as well to the Presidential Museum & Library, (where one can find a more comprehensive list of the prominent personalities buried in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani) as well as CorregidorIsland.com

© The Urban Roamer

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