FPJ grave a hit among visitors but many other heroes forgotten
MANILA, Philippines – Fernando Poe Jr., an almost president, seemed better off than two men who actually were.
Thousands of Manila North cemetery visitors flocked to his grave to pay their respects to the late actor while simply casting curious glances, as they trudged along Main Avenue, at the burial sites of Presidents Sergio Osmeña and Ramon Magsaysay, who in his time was called the “man of the masses.”
Visitors even walk a long distance from the cemetery main gates along Blumentritt Street just to locate “Da King’s” grave site at the far end of the burial ground, at the corner of 24th and Second Streets.
While most treat the site as a virtual tourist destination, taking pictures in front of Poe’s grave, others silently offer prayers.
For 65-year-old Imelda Santos, of Taguig City, the homage paid to Poe befitted a “true President.”
Santos, clad in a white shirt marked “I heart FPJ,” told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that she has been sleeping on the ground outside the Poes’ mausoleum since Sunday, something that she has practiced annually every observance of the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day since her idol was buried there in 2004.
“I even visit here on his birthday and death anniversary,” she pointed out, adding that she would only drop by to visit Poe’s grave at the Manila North cemetery and light candles to pay her respects to her fallen idol.
“He was truly the President,” Santos told the Inquirer, “Mindanao was his. He was not the only one cheated, the people were cheated.”
Claudio Frasdilla, 45, of Sampaloc, Manila, held the same view and said that dirty politics did in Poe. “He was really the President. He died because he felt miserable over what was taken away from him.”
Hundreds of meters away from the Poes’ mausoleum were the burial sites of Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Sergio Osmeña along Main Avenue near the Manila North Cemetery gates.
Apart from wreaths from President Benigno Aquino III and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, there were two or three from members of their respective clans.
In a crowd of people passing by the two gravesites, one would occasionally hear phrases of, “Oh, that’s Magsaysay,” or “It’s Osmeña,” but nobody stopped to pay their respects.
Other grave sites of prominent personalities that were visibly bare at the Manila North cemetery were those of national artists Amado Hernandez and Honorata “Etang” Dela Rama.
Hernandez was a poet laureate who hailed from Tondo and died in 1970. Dela Rama was the Filipino singer who introduced the “kundiman” to the world and died 10 years ago.
The grave of Francisco Guilledo or better known as Pancho Villa, the first Filipino world flyweight division champion who notched the title at 17 years old, was also wanting of visitors.
A candle vendor near the site said that she has not seen anyone visit the grave site for years. “Mayor Lim would sometimes drop by and put a wreath but other than him, nobody else visits.”
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