Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Supremo: The Maragondon Trip (Part 1)

History repeats itself 

There are many things that look ugly in our past; nothing is perfect. With all the shadows lurking in it and the schemes and bloodshed. Such is our past, the pages of history drip with blood and gore. Last 10th of May, out of respect for a man so misunderstood and so ignored by our people, the hero called Andres "Maypagasa" Bonifacio, and rode a bus from my Bacoor home to Maragondon; a place terribly uncharted for me and is the site of the trial and execution of Bonifacio.

Mini busses always ply this small route that travels between the two cities, separated by long highways and mountains. With the small number of these busses, I had to wait for a long to ride a bus and to let it be filled with an adequate number of passengers. SM City Bacoor, as I would learn later on, was one of the boarding areas of those air-conditioned busses.

Years ago or rather decades ago, when there were no mini busses and barkers wearing campaign vests with names of politicians, people would either walk on forested roads or ride horses and caribous. I thought about the journey Bonifacio took from his quarters in what was once the suburbs of Manila, that fateful trail that led him to his death. I wonder, what did go on his mind when he walked/rode from there to the city I'm headed for?

In 1897, he was called to settle the dispute of the Magdiwangs and the Magdalos. Both were factions of one group led by the Supremo. But the results of that meeting that sealed his fate was disastrous, a stain that would forever echo down the pages of history. In Naik, in the friar estate house, Bonifacio nulled the results of the elections due to the parties not complying with the rules he himself have set and of the rampant cheating then; with ballots filled up before the elections.

I missed my bus stop, I walked from the welcome arc of Ternate to the Municipality of Maragondon, the streets filled with names and pictures of smiling people wishing for a seat to govern the people. I wonder, did the people of 1897 do the same for that Naik election? Did promises of power and bribes mar then as now the elections of that time? Alas, the whispers of the past are muted slowly.

Maragondon, with its sunny heat and cool winds, led me to the trial hose of Bonifacio; a place away from the city square. 

The house where Bonifacio was court martialed

The doors were open, so I peeked inside, the bronze lion-head knocker stared at me as I did so. The room, dark with wood and metal windows, had flowers from officials and exhibits that explained the life of Bonifacio. I climbed up, with no one interrupting me or any curator leading me. I relished the idea that decades ago he himself climbed these steps and that I am seeing the place where he once stood... this testament to the injustice of our society that reigns up to now. 

The wooden planks, new from how it looked in contrast with the log posts, shone bright with the sun. I peeked at each room, looked at the art and listened to visitors (a couple and their kid) talk and take pictures. The sound of the kids below banging and jumping above a campaign car unison filled the hallow halls of the shrine. The curator, who was sitting in one office, talked to me about how Oriang (the wife of Bonifacio) searched the mountains of Maragondon for her beloved for a month. 

I pitied her, then, seeing her sculpted in a scene of the trial as she listened to her husband being condemned for crimes he did not commit. The curator himself believed that, according to a folk tale, Oriang looked for Bonifacio with a companion. Our talks, of me and the curator, led to him giving me flyers of the Historical Commission and to join their contests and him telling me of how Bonifacio is very much dismissed by most people. I left, taking pics of the house and the politician's car with the kids flashing an FU sign, smiling as if they knew fully well the history of the house they played in.

From there, I walked to the city square and on to the church. Aged by the centuries, it has withstood the fiercest of storms and faced the most interesting stories and intrigues of the citizens of its land. The church was a sentinel, closed as it faced the heat of the sun and faced the old-house and tree-lined roads of the town. 

A National Heritage, the church has undergone a terrible lot of renovations; including the plastering of its bell tower.

The afternoon being hours away, I just loathed the plaster and took pictures of the outside as the heat beat down on me. The whole town had this province feel that most parts of the province has fought to maintain from the jaws of industrialization. Moving on, the door is one of the most admired feature of the wonderful church. 

Beside the church, as in most churches throughout the archipelago, a school owned and managed by the parish stands. It also has this old world charm that is so fragile and so important and yet so frequently destroyed by people I could never understand.

A meal after, I journeyed to the Bonifacio shrine in the mountains. 

And on my way, as unexpected as it is, I found a working well beside the road: with water and plants inside it. Asking around for the directions going to the shrine was not that difficult, what was more tiring was hearing how everyone says that it is too far and that I should ride a motorcycle. I refused the all, knowing by heart that the motorcycle fares are much too high for the average traveler. 

All the asking and walking lead me to this

A long hanging bridge that spanned the whole river! It creaked and swayed as I walked, fueling my fears of it snapping and falling to the waiting river. I even encountered people crossing it, making the whole trip a difficult and dizzying one.

Amid the asking, the hot trails and the nature noises I found my way upwards; to homes and streets that led up the mountains. The roads were cemented, making it more an easy trip to the shrine. I asked almost every one for directions, showing them an invitation with the picture of the monument on the mountain. One person, a woman who sold me a bottle of softdrinks, pointed me to a mountain trail that led to it; it is what they called a shortcut.

The dusty roads, with all its markings, was impassable to cars. A pleasant walk, the trees and the bamboo shoots make it an ideal nature walk for the earth-lover. It was terribly silent, with no one around and with the solitude of Mount Nagpatong acting as my companion. A sweaty distance away was a clearing, with a hut beside it and an old man walking, his bag slung on his back and with dogs following him.

Showing him the invitation, he led me there, telling me that he was the caretaker of the area and that no one was visiting the shrine; the very reason he decided to go home. Pity, I thought, no one even visited where the city remembers the death of him who once rallied the masses to revolt. It was near from there, with an entrance fee of twenty pesos: an act of pity on the cow-shit filled road...

And the Bamboo gates that locked a portion of the trail, which we can quickly just pull out. The guide told me about how little the number of people were visiting the shrine lately, and from the neglect of the roads that lead to it I could clearly see that even the locals don't give much ado over this place.

Metal gates, which he quickly unlocked, closed the last part of the road that led to the shrine. It had two features: The marker-monument and the reception area.

The latter is more neglected than the monument. Mostly unused, there were function halls and offices inside the reception building that faced the monument.

The guide left me to walk there. The monument, known but not that visited, had this massive marble walls and bronze sculptures of the revolution, the life of Bonifacio and his fateful demise in the very mountains that we walked that formed the words BAYANI (Hero) and KKK, which is the shortened version of the society that he and his companions founded.

He stands, his brother dead at his feet, defiant...

Which is in every way contradictory to the stories; the other ones -- with him lying in a hammock before he was brutally killed.

Beyond that, the halls fronting the monument had pools for public use: unused and dirty.

It was a pity the facilities are neglected.

As I left the shrine, among all things, I saw this fire tree. It must be symbolic... but I saw it as a symbol of the men that shed their blood for the nation; the blood that trickled out of Bonifacio's stab wounds years ago on this very mountain.

End of Part One of Supremo: The Maragondon Trip


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