Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him
The evil that men lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noblr Brutus
Hath told you that Caesar was ambitious :
If it were so, it was a grevious fault
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under the leave of Brutus and the rest —
For Brutus is an honourable man :
So are they all honourable men —
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral
Mark Anthony , Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
So spoke Mark Anthony and what turned out to be one of more famous lines written by the Bard. The speech stirred that at the end the Brutus, Cassius and company: All honourable men fled Rome and would one by one fall to the forces of the Caesarians – Octavian. Lepidus and Mark Anthony. I am reminded of this with the recent and nth debate surrounding the burial of Ferdinand E. Marcos or FM at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. But lets not tackle the pros and cons of the burial. The past few weeks have seen a flood of emotion on this matter and to be honest the time and opportunity to successfully erase the Marcoses was lost when they were allowed to comeback and regain political power and made political alliances with a number personalities from across the present political spectrum. Instead let us look at the Art and Consequences of Necropolitics practiced through the years.
What to do with the remains of powerful men have often been an interesting penultimate chapter in their lives and rarely one which these powerful men have control over. Julius Caesar was burned on a pyre. Shi Huang Di the first emperor of China was covered in jade and buried within a pyramid : Something similarly doe by the Mayan King Pacal who was covered in a toxic coat of Red Cinnabar a non metallic mineral of mercury and sulphur., also buried within a pyramid ,the Temple of Inscriptions. Herod the Great built a magnificent tomb for himself near his palace. The size, grandeur and action accompanying the burial of these leaders were all to ensure the stability of the state and continued rule of their successors.
In our recent times the successors of Lenin,Stalin, Mao Zedong Ho Chi Minh, the Kims, and Hugo Chavez have nearly perfected the preservation of political leaders: political icons. All of them preserved chemically inside air tight glass containers and from time to time cleaned and fixed.. Now we do not know if preservation was their intent for their final repose when they were alive. Only a few like Queen Victoria was the one who planned her funeral from the floral arrangement to her carved sarcophagi or like General Santa Anna who had a state funeral for his amputated leg when he became President of Mexico. were thorough.
The practice though of necropolitics at its apex could be seen in the case of Argentina’s First Lady Eva Peron whose life was also immortalised in Evita. She was the wife and political partner of General Juan Peron. Both ruled over Argentina and in the process built Peronism and the Cult of Evita. She died of cancer during Peron’s reign . Death did not end Evita’s political career; Peron called Dr. Pedro Ara and gave him the task of preserving Evita’s remain. Using glycerin, wax and other elements, Ara preserved Evita’s body complete – organs and all. Macabrely giving a life-like appearance to the corpse. It was supposed to have been placed inside the base of a gigantic monument statue of Evita herself. Only the base was completed because Juan Peron’s government fell to a military coup, exiling General Peron to Spain and disappearance of Evita – an attempt of the putschists to erase Peronism from Argentina. But they failed. Their government eventually fell to another coup and later their leader was killed by an extremist peronist group. During this time Evita was hidden and moved repeatedly. In certain instances its keepers were spooked to find flowers lain beside their charge. Eventually, Evita travelled from Argentina to Italy and to Spain where General Juan Peron and his wife Isabel Peron were living their life as exiles. The story though was not over, Evita played an important role in the return of the Perons to Argentina and to power; As soon as government was returned to civilian rule the Argentinians voted General Peron as President and his wife Isabel Peron as Vice-President. The body of Evita played an important role in the election as a political relic but Evita was still in exile. Ultimately, it was Isabel, who became president after the General died and it was Isabel who brought Evita home lying side by side with the closed casket of the General. Evita was finally laid to rest after another coup ousted Isabel Peron, Evita was buried inside a vault, inside a bunker, inside a mausoleum and sealed.
this is not the first nor the last time that death has been used for a political interest or causes. You do not even have to have a body, a death would suffice.
Marcos also took the scenic route similar to Evita. For years it has been parked in Ilocos Norte waiting for the time it would be lain to rest at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Evita Lament by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice
But will it truly be laid to rest? The Pharaohs and the Mayan Kings have become cultural artefacts. Herod the Great’s tomb was destroyed by the Jews. The Dowager Empress and her tomb were defiled. Oliver Cromwell’s body was hanged and quartered after the Restoration. Even Sanra Anna’s leg was dragged around Mexico after his fall. Even Evita s body showed signs of beating when they recovered it.
What would befall Marcos if and when he is buried outside Ilocos? During the French Revolution the head of Cardinal Richelieu was severed from his body. Hitler when he learned of what the Italian Communist Guerrillas did to Mussolini’s body – hang with his mistress like a piece of meat left at the mercy of angry crowd decided what would be done with his body. He instructed his staff to burn and threw grenades at it so it would not fall into hands of Stalin and the Russians. However, This did not stop Stalin from getting what remained of Hitler and his belongings. Maybe what Hitler did with his body was best. Although, Stalin’s successors when they denounced him and tried to dismantle his cult, removed his body that lay beside Lenin and buried it elsewhere.
If and when it happens it would be interesting to see how Filipino Society would react. Would someone do something deleterious.Remember though in Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere one of the worst sins of Padre Damaso was causing the expulsion of Ibarra’s father into the river. What would happen?
In the end the remains of leader becomes merely a tool to be used by both supporters and enemies nothing romantic and special about it.