(Luna’s monument at Plaza Lucero. Photo by Armand Galang)
CABANATUAN CITY- Amid scorching heat, Eric Amarile went alone with a piece of white candle to Plaza Lucero, in front of the St. Nicholas of Tolentine Cathedral, where the body of slain Gen. Antonio Luna was buried and his statue erected, to off er him respect and prayer on his 120th death anniversary shortly before 12 noon Wednesday.
An assistant election officer from San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, Amarile said lighting a candle for Luna’s death anniversary was one dream come true for him. If not killed, brutally by the men of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Luna must have shaped the country better, Amarile believes.
“Siguro nagkaroon ng pagbabago sa course ng history natin at sa aking pagtingin ay isa siya talaga sa pinakamatapang at isa sa mga disiplinadong heneral noong panahon ng digmaan,” Amarile who finished political science from Catanduanes State University said.
“Ako’y namanata sa aking sarili na kapag ako’y nagawi dito sa death place (of Luna) ay magtitirik po ako ng kandila,” he said.
Often seen neglected by observers, Luna’s statue and tomb placed in a fenced portion of Plaza Lucero, have been inviting enthusiastic groups of people mostly students, according to Ricardo Domingo, 43, who has been working as park attendant in the place for the last 11 years.
On Wednesday (June 5) morning, a group of Freemasons held a brief program in the place, said Domingo, even as the Knights of Columbus also sent word it would celebrate, as it traditionally does, by offering wreath to Luna, he said.
Domingo is being requested to prepare the place for scheduled activity there.
But one of the most notable visitors at the tomb, he said, is an off spring of the general named Bryan Luna from Isabela who would come every 30th of October, days before All Saints Day, he said.
He noted the influx of visitors from Metro Manila after a movie on Luna’s life broke box-office records. Years of witnessing enthusiasts led him to personally study, though not formally, the hero’s life.
“Katulad niya si Bonifacio dahil parehas na silang dalawa ang nagsabi na ang Pilipinas ay para sa mga Pilipino lang,” Domingo shared.
A marker installed by the National Historical Institute (NHI) at a wall of the Diocese of Cabanatuan Chancery along Del Pilar Street here, states: “On the plaza in front of this building formerly the presidential headquarters of the First Philippine Republic, General Antonio Luna and his aide Colonel Francisco Roman were assassinated in the afternoon of 5 June 1899 by the members of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s Presidential Guard.”
Historians said Luna was 33 years old when killed by the guards.
He arrived with two aides de camp and a mounted escort of twelve men in the presidential headquarters upon notice for a council meeting. He dismounted and dismissed his escorts then proceeded alone to the rectory. On mounting the stairs, he was told by a junior officer that Aguinaldo had left.
Feeling slighted, Luna expressed himself very strongly and prepared for his departure, according to historical accounts.
As Luna turned to leave the room, a sergeant sprang from behind the door where he had been concealed and attacked him from behind, inflicting severe wounds with a bolo.
Luna who had managed to reached the plaza crawling had 44 wounds but was finished off there with a volley by the guards.
Luna, according to historians, fell at the first discharge, but did not die before he wounded a number of assailants.
Meanwhile, his death anniversary, almost uneventful, has resurrected calls for the improvement of Plaza Lucero which some people see as desecrated being used as a parking space for churchgoers and people who do business in the city center.
Engr. Lauro Pangilinan, head of the city engineering office, said the local government has drawn a development plan for the plaza and is expected to bid come July.