Libingan and bayani
The neat rows of white crosses at the Libingan ng mga Bayani at Fort Bonifacio stir memories of past wars and fallen heroes. The long and expansive lines of individual graves, rolling on manicured grass like unending list of long gone important people in our history, stretches toward the horizon to provide stark contrast to the concrete jungle of the city.
The cemetery evokes patriotic feelings such as love of country and willingness to die for a cause. It reminds us of our bloody struggle to gain freedom and independence. And here comes a water company that wants to call it Libingan ng mga Bayani Sewage System Facility.
The cemetery is hallowed ground. Or, it used to be.
Executives of Manila Water Co. Inc. look at the graves, and you can almost hear one of them say with cold logic: This is good site for sewage.
He hurls a question at nobody in particular: Do you want memories, or do you want clean surroundings?
Good question. Did Manila Water ask the families of our heroes? Nobody remembers.
Manila Water opened a treatment facility for septic wastes inside the cemetery in the same manner that they offered structures in a park. They announced that the sewage system would serve households and establishments in Makati, Taguig, Pateros and nearby areas. “All pipes and other facilities are underground to ensure the health and safety of people. On top of the sewage system, we will build a recreation area,” said Jeric Sevilla, the company spokesman.
The name of their septic waste project and recreation area is: Libingan ng mga Bayani Sewage Treatment Facility.
Manila Water may consider it a noble idea to place the pipes and other facilities underground, but maybe they forgot they laid those pipes inside a cemetery.
Our heroes must be turning in their graves. They made the supreme sacrifice for freedom and independence. Now, we are imposing on them another sacrifice for clean surroundings.
If we acquiesce to the project, we agree to mislead a grateful nation that celebrates heroism in elaborate memorials every year. When families lay flowers on the graves and recite tearful prayers to loved ones, they maybe unaware that they are offering to ugly sewage pipes underground.
The Metro Manila Development Authority bristles at the idea of Manila Water violating the graves of our heroes. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino exploded with anger when told of Manila Water’s plans during a meeting of the MMDA’s Regional Development Council for the National Capital Region. “Let us not desecrate our heroes and our veterans,” Tolentino said.
Will Manila Water scrap their project as a result of Tolentino’s outburst? Not really.
Tolentino merely demanded that Manila Water changed the name of the project to something more respectable. It sounds simple, but we know it’s not easy because there is nothing respectable about sewage mixed with remains of heroes.
Instead of sewage, maybe they should call it sewer. Heroes come from various professions. Not all heroes are soldiers, or high-ranking officials. Many are plain folks in ordinary line of work such as cooks and some of them could be sewers.
Well ….We know that changing the name sewage to sewer would not change the reality of what it is.
In a modern world, sewers are pipelines that connect buildings to underground trunk mains, which transport sewage to treatment facilities. Vertical pipes, or manholes, connect the mains to the surface.
Once the project is completed our heroes would be lying next to the manholes, which are used as access to the sewer pipes and as a means to vent gases. When you visit the graves and you smell something different, it’s not what you think it is because it’s not them. The smell comes from the sewers.
As a result of Tolentino’s objection, Manila Water said it is amenable to changing the name of the project. What would it be if they couldn’t call it sewage or sewer?
If they find it hard to change the name, will they consider transferring the project? The easier option is to keep sewage and remove Libingan ng mga Bayani because they are not compatible.
Or, they can retain Libingan but never Bayani. And they should call it as it is: Libingan ng Sewage System Facility.*