Don't rename Luna Mencias Street
The grandchildren of Dr Bonifacio Lopez Mencias, who never got a chance to meet him, are closing ranks so he will not be forgotten.
We, his Filipino American descendants, are rallying with our Manila-based family to keep our ancestor's name on the street where his clan has lived for over 80 years.
The Pangasinan-born Dr Mencias lived and died for his country. A graduate of Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the epidemiologist became dean of the College of Medicine of the University of Santo Tomas, where he inspired and became first editor in chief of the nation's first Journal of Medicine.
Lolo Boni was Medical Inspector of the Council on Hygiene and president of the Manila Medical Society. He could have opened a private practice, but he chose to minister to the poor and disenfranchised – those who needed his help the most.
Dauntlessly he attended to injured guerrillas, his compatriots battling the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II.
That mission to save lives led to his capture by the invaders. He was never seen nor heard from again. His children later learned that he was executed – beheaded – for abetting the underground resistance.
For his ultimate sacrifice, grateful town authorities attached his name to that of General Antonio Luna on the street where he built his home for his nurse-wife Barbara Sacro and raised their 6 children.
But the honor is threatened by efforts to rename the national road by the family of another departed resident, former congressman Rufino D. Antonio.
The move has united our clan in 4 countries to appeal before the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the mayors and council members of San Juan and Mandaluyong – thetwo cities traversed by Luna Mencias, to preserve the street name and the legacy of the heroes it honors.
"At the start, my motivation was merely pride, that the name of the street where I live honors my greatgrandfather," said Mariel Asiddao, 28, granddaughter of Dr Mencias' second daughter Pilar M. Kierulf, now a resident of Glendora, California.
Asiddao began asking her mother, my cousin Marian Kierulf-Asiddao, about their elder and realized they had a greater task ahead because of his brief but patriotic life.
Daughter and mother sought out siblings and cousins in Manila, Northern and Southern California, Chicago, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Antwerp, Belgium, for information. We were stunned by what our collective effort unearthed.
"In my short research, I found out details of a man’s life that awe-inspired me – I could not believe that his accomplishments exceed what we alI knew," said my niece Mariel.
She added, "I realized it was up to me and my family to defend his memory. Lolo may not hold a prominent place in history books, but in this corner of the city where he bought the land and built his home and brought up his family, he enjoys well-deserved recognition."
The Asiddaos embarked on a campaign to illuminate city officials on their ancestor's gift to Philippine history.
"This appeal is to ensure that he and his great deeds are not to be forgotten," said Mariel, a marketing executive at an IT and consumer electronics multinational company while pursuing her MBA in UP Diliman.
She produced flyers heralding our Lolo's accomplishments, which she distributed at the February 24 hearing of the San Juan City Tourism and Cultural Affairs Committee.
Mariel also discovered a similar case in Lucena last year, where local officials had renamed part of a street originally named after the city's first Catholic priest, Fr Mariano Granja, after Felix Y. Manalo, founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). The INC has a church on the street in contention.
A resident protested the renaming and brought the matter before the commission.
In a letter to Council Member Benito Brizuela, head of Lucena's committee on tourism and cultural affairs and main proponent of the renaming, NHCP chief Maria Serena Diokno objected to the change.
Such renaming "would tend to disrupt the continuity of the street name,” Diokno said in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Besides noting the impracticality of the change, Diokno questioned the propriety of renaming part of a street that "has been sanctified by usage and therefore has attained a degree of historical association and importance in the community."
In the case of Luna Mencias, we hope that the NHCP will adhere to its responsibility to conserve and preserve the country's historical legacies by objecting to the renaming of the entire street that begins at P. Guevara Street in San Juan City and ends at Shaw Boulevard.
Since the early 1930s, 9 families have continuously resided in our compound, including my aunt Margarita Mencias Castaneda, one of the two surviving daughters of Dr Mencias.
"Our father's name was attached to that of revolutionary hero Antonio Luna as testimony of how our neighborhood had recognized his important contribution to our community, country and history," my Tita Nening said in her letter to authorities. "Changing this street's name erases his legacy of hard word, perseverance, love of country, and achievement."
Castaneda's eldest son, Bernardino M. Castaneda Jr, is a kagawad or member of the barangay council. Like our grandfather, he has chosen a life in public service. Many of his siblings and cousins also chose the same path as their patriarch in the fields of medicine, education, journalism, and humanitarianism. One of them received the 2006 Philippine Presidential Award for Overseas Filipino Organizations and Individuals for service to Filipinos in the United States.
"We, heirs of an unsung hero who spared nothing to fulfill his Hippocratic Oath, appeal to your good judgment to retain the street name Luna Mencias," my aunt Pilar M. Kierulf of Glendora, California, urged in her letter.
"While we can understand the Antonio family's wish to honor their ancestor, we appeal to you to prevent them from doing so at the expense of the memory and legacy of our grandfather who died so that others may live," we said in a joint letter to the NHCP head, San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez, and Mandaluyong Mayor Benjamin C. Abalos, Jr, Councilors and the Addition Hills Barangay Captain.
We emphasize: "Our grandfather never met us but he lives in us. Some of us have transplanted ourselves in other countries, but we remain rooted in our home country, the heart of which is Luna Mencias." – Rappler.com
Philippine News executive editor Cherie M Querol Moreno is the daughter of Rosario Mencias Querol, the eldest among Dr Bonifacio Mencias' 6 children.