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One night after a really long day, I finally pressed my head against my pillow but decided not to put off the lights. As I lay there resting my pulsating feet and my slightly beaten back, I caught sight of my late father’s photograph atop my desk. As I looked at his photo, I could hardly believe that our Father called him to eternal rest seven months ago. He looked so alive. It felt like I could pick up the phone and ring him at Pateros, my hometown. Yet, the longer I stared I realized that I could not feel my father through this photo. I cannot dialogue with him or hold him close to me.
Nevertheless, I was amazed at the wonder of photography. How wonderful that a tiny instrument can capture a particular moment in our lives. But just as a photo captures one brief, shining moment, that photo alone is not worth very much. What gives it value is the memory that is triggered in our souls and ingrained in our hearts. What gives it value are the stories the living can tell by looking at it. That one photo did stir so many thoughts and feelings within me. But it would mean nothing if my heart had not kept any pictures of its own. The pictures in my mind have all the “real” colors, and there, everything is alive.
What would we do without our memories? Life will be dull, certainly! Yet, in the balance of things, our memories fail us sometimes, but even that serves a good purpose. It helps us forget some of the not-so-pleasant events in our lives. It is easy to forget an event in the past if nothing in our present reminds us of the past. As soon as we see that familiar chair, that figurine, that doll, that marker, that photo, our minds start working; in fact, how we sometimes wish that the pictures in our minds could pop out, and then we have an instant replay of the actual beautiful event we so choose.
We are physical people. We want things and need things to remind us about the intangible realities of our lives. Jesus knew that. That is why on the night before He died, He took bread and wine, tangible things to leave us a legacy, a remembrance not just of Himself physically but of His great love for us.
When we do not want to forget an important event, we try to find ways to capture the moment and immortalize it. Most battles have their commemorative markers.
Heroes have their sculpted busts or statues. It is a pity that most of the time, we can only relive in our minds something in our past that was so alive by using symbols that are hard, cold, and in many ways so lifeless. On the other hand, many people – who, in their efforts to try and keep the memory of their departed loved ones alive – have established foundations in their honor. Some have planted a tree by the graveyard as a more living symbol of a loved one’s memory. Whatever it is, everyone wants a good thing to last.
Soon after the EDSA revolt of 1986, many EDSA protagonists wanted to immortalize the event by building a monument to honor the EDSA heroes. Many of us believe the EDSA revolution in 1986 needs to be retold through the ages. We must remember EDSA. We must challenge people to live by the EDSA spirit and never give up on thanking God for that gift of February 1986. What better way than to build a monument? Strikingly, the first monument to be built was the shrine at the corner of Ortigas and EDSA; It is called the Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace. With great faith and conviction, many claim that the “victory” at EDSA was made possible through Our Lady’s intercession.
People lined the streets, clasping rosaries in their hands. Our Lady’s various images stood at the frontlines. It is significant that when this monument was conceptualized to immortalize this significant time in our history, the structure was not just an architectural wonder of glass, mortar, and stone. It may have all the physical attributes of a conventional monument, but there lies a big difference. This structure enshrines not just the memory of an event that happened ten years ago. It enshrines the many lives of those who come here to receive social services like free medical and dental services, free counseling, and free training for livelihood. Here stands not just an ordinary, lifeless monument. It is not just a pretty picture. Yes, it is an edifice. But this edifice is necessary to contain the many people who come here to breathe, feel, and live the EDSA spirit. It is a spirit of cooperation. A spirit that moves people together to work toward a common goal for good. It is a spirit that builds and not destroys. It is not an ordinary monument that reminds us of a battle fought with sophisticated armaments and bloodshed. It is a monument with real people fighting with their prayers and labors of love to keep a brother alive and well, body and soul.
The EDSA Shrine is the significant monument that enshrines many little monuments: the “common tao”-the ordinary people hurdling the seemingly ordinary little battles of everyday living. Here also is the home of the Living God. The God who chose tangible symbols to represent His eternal sacrifice, a sacrament, and offering made possible everyday. The God who listens to the cries of His afflicted people. He is the God who provides each one with the perfect weapon to fight every type of injustice and cruelty: His Son, Jesus, in the sacrament and in the flesh.
Jesus Our Light