By Melito Salazar Jr.
In the last few days leading up to and after All Saints’ Day, November 1 we have been bombarded by feature articles, TV specials, church sermons and social media postings reminding us of those who have gone ahead and the responsibility of those left behind to offer prayers, flowers, and in some religions, food.
Our greatest duty is not to forget them; for if we do, then it would have seemed like their life on earth had been meaningless. We do our best to remember. In the cemeteries are the tombstones with names, dates of birth and death and some endearing phrases–sorely missed, in loving memory, in remembrance of – and brief descriptions of the departed – loving husband, caring mother and a man for all seasons. Those who can afford have mausoleums emblazoning the family names and inside a crucifix and altar with enough spaces for all deceased members of the family and some air-conditioned for the comfort of those who come to pay their respects and pray. I have even seen one with an indoor swimming pool to allow the young ones to past the time. I have yet to see though one with DVDs and monitors playing the photos and life story of the deceased.
Others reach beyond the graves by naming streets and avenues after their important dead; before national heroes were honored, today some minor local official can have the road passing through the family residence named after him. Monuments are erected. I admire the statues along Roxas Boulevard in Manila and along the seawall, none the least because there is that one honoring former Mayor of Manila and my mom’s cousin Arsenio Lacson. His biography, as well as those of other distinguished personalities, had been written. I, together with Ging Madrigal Gonzales and Raffy Rodriguez ,attempted one on Don Vicente Madrigal but our manuscript is dwarfed by the bulk of Carlos Quirino’s work.
Public structures – mostly school buildings bear the names of the distinguished departed. The private sector has followed but many times not even waiting for the honoree to “kick the bucket.” So we witness buildings and rooms bearing the names of the donors or their designated. There is one room in the Rotary Center of District 3780 which bears my name; a gift of my wife Amy. It and similar others pale in comparison to those with huge photos of past district governors and spouses together with minute photos of their presidents. Maybe the larger size is reflective of the amount of their personal contributions. Knowing that when one leaves this world, there is a concrete memorial can be reassuring. Hopefully, it does not hasten one’s departure.
Carlos P. Romulo, as president of the University of the Philippines, in one Arbour Day celebration told us that to be fulfilled we should, “plant a tree, write a book and sire a child.” As remembrance is a fulfilment, many of us, “eskolar ng bayan” followed his advice. Tree planting as a school activity and as a Rotary community service is an annual experience. I have yet to write a book but I have co-authored and edited a few and written numerous columns in this paper and others. I not only have three children but also three grandchildren who I am sure will carry in their memory, my wife and me.
But beyond the marked graves, the roads and highways, the public monuments and buildings, the private structures, what will be the most meaningful of remembrances are those of people whose lives we have touched for the better. The good we have done will remain forever in their hearts. That good will impel them to also do good to others. The chain of goodness that we began as it stretches decades, nay centuries are our best legacy and ensures that we will never be forgotten.