Juan Luna’s Spoliarium is a vivid depiction of carnage and slaughter done in a systematic way where gladiators fought and killed for the royalty’s entertainment. Ancient Roman society had imbibed it as a way of life, even making way through the public’s consciousness that it had become acceptable back then.
We chose the painting to set the theme for a roster of individuals who had lived and sacrificed during a dark period of our history.
“The painting shows a tragic event, definitely. But it also shows a deeper meaning, especially for the Filipinos during the time of the Spanish colonization. According to art experts, the fallen gladiators who are being dragged are the Filipino people, while the men dragging them into the darkness are representative of the Spanish rule. The woman crouched on the right side of the painting is believed to be the Mother Country or the Inang Bayan who weeps for her Philippines. The blood thirsty crowd to the left is a representation of the social cancer of that time. (http://arthistory.knoji.com/the-spoliarium-1/)
Fast forward to martial rule in the 70s, we would see another carnage when a dictatorship rose to power and waged war upon its own children. For how else can we explain the horrid brutality that resulted to deaths, torture and forcible disappearance that were systematically wrought upon these individuals in their youth?
Yet 40 years after martial law, we get to see a new ‘social cancer’ : the truth about a cruel regime being dragged and hidden into the darkness so that it may be lost in the oblivion of forgetfulness.
It has been 26 years since our EDSA Uprising overthrew the Marcos dictatorship. We claim this freedom and democracy borne from lives and sacrifices of known and unknown men and women who have become our heroes and martyrs.
It is from this yet unseen monument in the not-so-distant past that some so-called honorable men and women from various parts of our country get to stand and elected in the august halls of Congress that has held its 15th congress this year .
Yet, how do the leaders regard the Martial Law heroes and martyrs? For one, the lost lives are trampled upon and regarded with indifference; others try to push it back to historical amnesia.
The new senator from Ilocos, the son of the same dictator who imposed these atrocities against the Filipino people, even has the gall to comment that the martial law survivors ” just want money”. We have been treated like beggars at the banquet of the powerful and the mighty.
We and the Filipino people shall not forget. We shall always remember these heroes and martyrs in our stories. We shall tell our children of today about a time and place when young men and women of great courage dared to fight and to sacrifice their lives to overthrow a dictatorship.
And this is the beginning of our stories. And we shall have more, hundreds and thousands more.