Tandang Sora looked ‘like Dawn Zulueta’By Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Of the many praises heaped posthumously on the iconic Tandang Sora, here’s one more compliment that could surely make heads turn.
The woman dubbed as the Mother of the Philippine Revolution was, in her youth, a stunner “like Dawn Zulueta,” the model-actress, according to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, on whose orders the heroine’s remains would be exhumed Thursday and transferred Friday to a new shrine on the occasion of her 200th birth anniversary.
Bautista, himself a former actor, made the remark Wednesday at a press conference on the bicentennial, drawing approving smiles from a crowd that included representatives of Tandang Sora’s descendants and of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
84 years old
Tandang Sora is the reverential moniker of Melchora Aquino, who was born on Jan. 6, 1812. She was 84 years old when the revolution against the Spanish colonial rule broke out in 1896.
Despite her advanced age, she became a supporter of the underground Katipunan movement, doing her share in the uprising by feeding and nursing wounded freedom fighters. Later arrested, jailed, and interrogated by Spanish authorities, she refused to reveal information about the Katipunan.
She was deported to Guam where she spent six years in exile, and then repatriated by the American colonial government in 1903. She died on March 2, 1919, at the age of 107.
“She looked like Dawn Zulueta when she was in her 20s,” Bautista on Wednesday said of the woman whose aged face had appeared on five-centavo coins and earlier on peso bills.
Present at the press conference was a representative of Tandang Sora’s descendants, Efren Figeroa. According to him, he and at least 246 relatives make up a group called “The Grandchildren of Melchora Aquino.”
Peter Uckung, the publication and research chief of the NHCP, added that Tandang Sora was indeed “marikit” (pretty) even in her 80s when she secured her place in history books.
According to former National Historical Commission Chairman and Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Ambeth Ocampo, Melchora Aquino “is believed to have been a beauty in her youth, because she often played the role of Reyna Elena in many a May-time Santacruzan. This undocumented bit of information was the basis for the premenopausal Tandang Sora being made an image model for sanitary napkins in the late 1990s.”
Bautista’s remark may thus need more solid proof, but it afforded a light moment in an otherwise solemn undertaking: The exhumation of Tandang Sora’s bones took place at Himlayang Pilipino memorial park, also in Quezon City, where she had been buried for the last 42 years. She was earlier interred at a mausoleum for Filipino revolutionary veterans at Manila North Cemetery.
The mayor announced that the heroine’s remains would be transferred to Banlat village, Quezon City, where she was born. (Banlat was still considered part of neighboring Caloocan, then part of Rizal province, in 1812.) A new shrine in Banlat would serve “as her final resting place, where she belongs,” Bautista said.
Bautista further explained that the city government was planning to put up more museums under a tourism master plan, starting with the new and bigger Tandang Sora shrine.
The city government has purchased a 2,800-square-meter lot in Banlat for the shrine, according to the head of the parks and development office, Zaldy de la Rosa.
City Hall had also spent P3.2 million for the design and construction of a 3.5-m high bronze monument depicting Aquino surrounded by three wounded Katipuneros, De la Rosa disclosed
The exhumed remains would be kept in a granite crypt just under the monument, he added. The shrine will also feature a six-panel mural depicting Tandang Sora’s life and heroism.
“With the shrine, Tandang Sora will not only be a street (named in her honor) for the young generation, but a heroine they could emulate,” Bautista added.
Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte said Tandang Sora would be given state honors and her remains would be placed on a horse-drawn carriage and escorted by honor guards en route to City Hall, where it would stay for an overnight vigil.
According to a schedule released by City Hall, President Benigno Aquino III is expected to attend Friday’s reburial rites, which also includes a Mass, a 21-gun salute, and a ceremonial turnover of the Philippine flag to Tandang Sora’s descendants. With a report from Inquirer Research