It all began last year on 13 September 2007 when the City of Manila, led by Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, simultaneously commemorated the 100th death anniversary of General Macario Sakay and the 104th birthday of Amado V. Hernandez , two Filipino patriots, natives of Tondo. General Macario Sakay was born on Calle Tabora but no one knows where his house once stood so Mayor Lim had no choice but to hold a dual event at the Plaza Amado V. Hernandez, a rotunda of black granite slabs in front of the Santo Niño Church of Tondo.
“Sword & Pen” was the elegantly significant title devised by Mrs. Carmen G. Nakpil, chairperson of the Manila Historical & Heritage Commission (MHHC) The “sword” was General Macario Sakay who fought two imperial powers, Spain and the United States of America, as a katipunero of “balangay Dapitan” and later as a soldier of the Revolutionary Army of the First Republic. He was captured by the Americans in 1902 , was later granted amnesty only to take up arms even more ferociously and establish the Republika ng Katagalugan in the mountainous hinterlands of Rizal and Laguna. The “pen” was Amado V. Hernandez, labor leader and nationalist, activist poet and writer , who was posthumously honored with the National Artist Award f or literature.
“Next year, ”Mayor Lim declared after extolling the long-haired General’s love for country, “… there will be a monument to Macario Sakay at that plaza.” He was pointing at Plaza Morga, a narrow oval shaped plot, a stone’s throw away from where we were. Indomitable revolutionaries like Gen. Macario Sakay, were a menace to the rapid “pacification” of the Philippines so the American colonial government passed the “Ley de Bandolerismo” which branded as bandoleros, tulisanes, ladrones and common criminals Filipinos who vehemently refused to pledge allegiance to the USA and continued fighting for independence. That is why there is no monument to General Macario Sakay. After he was betrayed in 1906, by Dominador Gomez, the general was imprisoned in Old Bilibid, hanged with other revolutionary fighters in 1907 and his body unceremoniously dumped in a common grave. To this day many Filipinos believe he was a dangerous outlaw and not a patriot.
Soon after the “Sword & Pen” , during a “tertulia”, a monthly gathering at the Museo ng Maynila (re-opened by Mayor Lim in 2007) historians, teachers, principals, students, barangay captains and kagawads and an assortment of history buffs and culture vulture, tackled the touchy topic of historical rectification and the vindication of our maligned and forgotten heroes. Should we rectify historical errors and vindicate our denigrated heroes? By all means, was the consensus at that monthly tertulia which showed that Mayor Lim’s monument project was very well received.
The implementation depended on a lot of other offices and city departments, not just on the MHHC , the Museo or the Manila Tourism and .Cultural Affairs Bureau. It is vital to network with the barangay where Plaza Morga is located and its neighboring units. Mayor Lim never fails to remind the department heads of the city government that inter-office cooperation should be cultivated for good and effective governance.
Macario Sakay vindicated, (2)
The Manila Barangay Bureau, headed by Mr. Roland Lim, had to be deeply involved every step of the way to assure that barangay folk will feel they have a stake in Mayor Alfredo S. Lim’s Macario Sakay monument project. Without the cooperation of barangay captains, kagawads and tanods it would be almost impossible to guarantee peace and order in the plaza and protection against vandals and malevolent elements who might try to deface the hero’s statue.
The City Engineers Office, led by Eng. Amado Andres, focused on the infrastructure. “Clinging vine” lamp posts of the past were replaced with others of a more appropriate design (still much too gaudy for my taste). The pedestal was a monolith, the standard 5x5x7 feet , and samples of marble and granite slabs were submitted for approval. Engineer E. Manimbo of the Parks Development and Beautification Office was enjoined not to even attempt to trim the one and only acacia that dominates Plaza Morga, lest he suffer the fate of Intramuros Administrator Bambi Harper.
Mrs. Monina Santiago, industrious OIC of the Museo ng Maynila, unearthed books about Macario Sakay and other “bandoleros” in the personal library of Atty Sioson, member of the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission (MHHC). Monumental and unequaled research work s of Antonio Abad, Orlino Ochosa and Luis Dery were sent of Mrs. Nakpil who wrote an edifying one- page article on Macario Sakay for the “Philippine Star.” For his part, historian Dr. Jaime Veneracion discussed Sakay and his times during my radio program “Krus na Daan” and to our surprise a lot of people called to ask for more information and congratulate us for rectifying history.
“Patnubay” Award for scuplture, Mr. Benjamin Mendoza , was commissioned to make the monument. He first presented clay model plus three drawings which were submitted to Mayor Lim . Meticulous with historical details, Mr. Mendoza asked for photos of Sakay’s weapons and not finding pictures clear enough to show details, I ventured to ask (Ret) General Manuel Yan, Jr. for technical advise. An aficionado of military history, Gen. Yan said that by the time Sakay was fighting the Americans guerrilla - style the saber was no longer in use so he should be shown carrying a pistol or revolver, to which Mayor Lim agreed
I visited Macario Sakay at Mr. Mendoza atelier on Matimtiman street at the Teachers’ Village . It was touching to see the statue of the “bandolero” take form, projecting such indomitable force and passion. The small clay model was much too mestizo- looking, but the big statue was turning out to be a more faithful representation of Sakay who had a small native nose. I told the sculptor that Mrs. Nakpil never fails to point out that the hair should be well-groomed, Sakay was after all a barber. With a master’s touch Mr. Mendoza made Sakay’s mane fly in the air, exactly how Mrs. Nakpil described it in her poignant article.
A week before the actual unveiling, the weather was most uncooperative; it rained torrents; streets were flooded knee- deep, many of us were stranded in City Hall. I was afraid the pedestal would be washed away in the downpour and that the statue of Macario Sakay, reclined under a makeshift canvas tent for final pouring and finishing touches, would end up splattered on the cobbles of Plaza Morga. The thought of having to cancel the unveiling of the first ever statue of Macario Sakay after such elaborate and painstaking preparations, was most depressing indeed.
By some miracle, the storm suddenly left with no other tropical convergence threatening our “area of responsibility” ; so on that Saturday morning, the 13th of September, a sun like the one embroidered on Macario Sakay’s red flag cast brilliant rays on the Mayor of Manila, his Tondo constituents, the navy and army men in full regalia, the police, teachers, students , bureaucrats, historians, vendors, workers, “Los Bandoleros” of UP, long-haired like Sakay, and all those curious souls who gathered at Plaza Morga to honor Macario Sakay and finally vindicate his name on the 101th anniversary of his cruel but glorious martyrdom.