Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is seen with Manila Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna at San Agustin Church as they offer a wreath to the tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi on June 24, 2020. (Photo from Manila Public Information Office via Facebook)

By the SovereignPH.com Staff

MANILA – People in other countries are tearing down statues of oppressors and colonizers but Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso simply did the flipside of it, displeasing a lot of people and netizens in the process.

He honored Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi during the 449th founding day of the nation’s capital Wednesday, June 24 by laying down a wreath and solemnly touching the statue of the Spanish invader as if venerating a saint inside San Agustin Church that day.

It was his first commemoration of “Araw ng Maynila” after Moreno was elected during the midterm elections last year.

It was gathered that one of the wreath-laying activities took place at the Rajah Sulayman Park in Malate, Manila to honor the ruler of Manila when the Spanish invasion occurred in the 16th century.

The other one took place at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Agustin Church in Intramuros, where the remains of Legazpi was interred.

It was here, Interaksyon reported, that Moreno solemnly paid tribute to the conquistador by offering a wreath to de Legaspi’s tomb and touching it reverently for several seconds.

Filipino oppression

However, Moreno’s gesture to honor Legazpi left a bad taste in the mouth to some Filipinos who pointed out that the mayor has venerated one of the figures who led the beginning of Filipino oppression under the centuries-long Spanish rule.

One netizen posted on Twitter saying: “I love you Mayor @IskoMoreno pero sa panahon na may mga protesta about racism and colonialism, tinatapon pa nga sa ilog ang mga ganitong estatwa ng mga mananakop, parang hindi tama ang pagbibigay-pugay kay de Legazpi.”

This was Keb Cuevas, CEO of digital agriculture platform Tagani, who tweeted his sentiment.

On the other hand, lawyer Emil Marañon III, who saw the video clip of Moreno, couldn’t help but comment: “We are a sick nation.”

“While other countries are toppling and destroying monuments of colonists and war criminals, here is Manila Mayor @IskoMoreno honouring Miguel López de Legazpi who led the 1571 invasion of Manila which led to the 333-year colonisation of the Philippines,” the lawyer added.

It may be recalled that anti-racism protesters in the United Kingdom recently threw a statue of a slave trader.

They also defaced the statues of some historical figures who were racist or oppressive to Africans.

The statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into a river after protesters pulled it down and pushed into the docks, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Bristol, Britain, June 7, 2020.

That happened in the middle of the “Black Lives Matter” movement which calls for a stop to racism against people with African heritage that were renewed following the death of George Floyd in the United States.

A sociology instructor, Athena Presto, also said on Twitter that Filipinos do not “owe” any city to their colonizers since the country had “organized settlements” before the arrival of the Spaniards.

“How about the fact that the existence of pre-colonial tribes and governance systems made colonization possible—not the other way around? We owe no city to our colonizers. We already had organized settlements before. Ever heard of Raja Sulayman who ruled Manila in the 1500s?” Presto tweeted.

Historian-blogger Kristoffer Pasion was likewise not amused with the tribute to Legazpi Interaksyon said.

“I’m sorry Mayor Isko. Maling mali ka dito. This is overdoing it. Keep in mind that while colonization shaped our nation-state, its primary objective was exploitation. Just knowing this simple truth would have stopped you from putting a wreath on Legazpi, or venerating his grave,” he wrote in response to the video.

Pasion added in the thread that he has “no qualms” with the mayor visiting the conquistador’s tomb “as acknowledgement to Legazpi’s consequential actions that shaped our history.”

“But putting up a wreath, and touching the stone vault? He overdid it,” he continued.

Legazpi and Manila

According to history books, Legazpi was assigned to colonize the Philippines for the Spanish crown, headed the Spanish invasion in the already-flourishing Manila ruled by Rajah Sulayman and formally took possession of the then-Moslem kingdom on June 24, 1571.

The date became known as the founding date of Manila as a city under the rule of Spain.

Before Legazpi’s arrival, Manila in Sulayman’s reign was already actively trading with foreign merchants. In fact, the territory “was considered to be one of the most important international trade ports during that time,” according to the Presidential Museum and Library. (ia/SPH)