The Libingan ng mga Bayani is not, as it name suggests, literally a heroes’ cemetery. Soldiers, policemen, and former Philippine presidents can be buried there, apparently on the tenuous presumption that by having worn a police or military uniform, or being elected to the Philippine presidency, an individual becomes a hero — meaning an exemplar of humanity, and worthy of emulation for, presumably, having risen above the limits of personal, familial and class interests in behalf of country and people.
Most dictionaries define heroes and heroism in less socially redeeming terms. A hero, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” or “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.”
“Cemetery of Heroes” is the English translation of “Libingan ng Mga Bayani,” where burying the remains of the late Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. has been resisted for years by most of the victims of the fascist dictatorship he erected on the ruins of the Republic in 1972.
That has not always been the Cemetery’s name. Established as the Philippine equivalent of the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila where the remains of United States military personnel killed during World War II are buried, it was created in 1947 as the Republic Memorial Cemetery, and given its current name only in 1954, during the administration of then President Ramon Magsaysay — who is himself not buried there.
He’s been dead for 22 years, having died in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 28, 1989 at the age of 72, but Ferdinand Marcos haunts us still.
The most recent manifestation of the ghost of atrocities past came in the form of his children’s pushing a resolution in the House of Representatives, with former Marcos acolyte Congressman Salvador Escudero as pointman, asking the Aquino III administration to allow the burial of the Marcos corpse in Manila’s Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery).