Honoring Samar and Philipine History -- Needed for a Better Philippines sign now

24 November 2006

The Honorable Governor Milagrosa T. Tan
The Honorable Vice-Governor Jesus B. Redaja
The Honorable Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan


The Honorable Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments Ronaldo V. Puno
The Honorable Mayors in the Province of Samar

Dear Sirs and Madams,

We, Samarnons and the people concerned with Samar, have received a copy of the letter by Ms. Rosario Nabong-Cabardo appealing to your good sense to preserve the history of Samar. We share the same belief that people without roots, without a sense of history, are a lost people. And we reiterate the same sentiments as those embodied in her letter, to wit.

Please allow me to raise a matter of serious concern regarding the ongoing rehabilitation of the Obelisk at the Provincial Capitol Grounds.

In 1997, then Governor Jose Rono, after careful deliberations by the Samar Historical Committee, declared August 11 as Samar Day. To commemorate the event, he commissioned artist Juan Sajid Imao to design and construct a monument to "remember the legacy of courage and determination left to us by men who fought for their beliefs and took their stand in the name of freedom."

Thus rose fourteen meters from the Samar capitol grounds - an obelisk - as a concrete celebration of Samar's historic past. The base was wrapped in brass relief depicting heroic episodes in our history that has shaped the ferocious spirit of the Samarnons. Facing East, we have a scene from the famous Balangiga encounter where local revolutionaries suprised and attached the American forces stationed on September 18, 1901 and Americans recognized it as their "worst single defeat" in their entire military operations in the Philippines. Facing North, is a relief of the Sumuroy Rebellion in Palapag in 1649. Facing West, is a scene depicting the arrival of the first Jesuit missionaries in Tinagon on October 15, 1596. And facing South, is Queen Isabella III, carrying a Royal Decree of August 11, 1841 declaring Samar a province.

Thankfully, these scenes remain intact, but alas! the brass plaques in each of the scenes are already nowhere in sight. Also lost are the sculptures at the lower base of the obelisk. The brass sculptures were of early Samarnons who were depicted as tattoos thus earning the name pintados. The plaques and the brass sculptures have been replaced by a grotesque outcropping punctuated by flower vases in every corner. What a sacrilege! This constitutes a defacement of an artwork and a mutilation of a historical landmark! The said monument and its sculptures were executed by the artist Juan Sajid Imao who has recently been recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World and his father Abdulmari Imao is one of the country's National Artist for Sculpture which makes this mutilation a graver offense.

Why was such defacement and mutilation allowed by this august body? What sense of art and sense of history pushed the proponent/s of this project to imagine that he/she or they could replace the art of a renowned artist such as Juan Sajid Imao? His monumental artworks are installed at the Villamor Air Bas, Ateneo de Manila University, in Manila, in Marikina and in many parts of the country. The Province of Samar should even count itself fortunate to have such work of art by an artist of such renown.

Historical landmarks are not subjects to the whims and fancy of elected leaders to place a decor here and there. In fact, such historical landmarks have become part of our heritage and elected leaders are supposed to protect its heritage from any vandalism, mutilation or damage.

Honorable officials of our province - kindly explain to us, your constituents, why was this mutilation allowed? What's the point of this thoughtless audacity? Look at the monument. See what it now evokes. Does it evoke a celebration of the heroism of our ancestors? Does it evoke a sense of pride? It has now become a big flower vase!

I beg you, as guardians of our patrimony and heritage, please stop this shameful act. Restore the monument to its original design and intention! Otherwise, we miss the point of this historical monument! Otherwise, we miss the point of celebrating Samar Day!

I am sincerely hoping for enlightenment and action on this matter.

Signed: Rosario Nabong-Cabardo
Cc: Hon. Ambeth Ocampo, Director, National Historical Institute
Mr. Juan Sajid Imao. Artist

In solidarity with her on this concern, we hereby sign our names and urge you to heed the call of the people to stop the desecration of our history, to stop leading us into a people without roots, and losing ourselves in our own homeland.

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Harriett HarmonBy:
Petition target:
The Government Officials of the Province of Samar and All Officials of the Government of the Philippines


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