Life is supposed to be made easier with modern technology. Searching for directions is a breeze with Global Positioning System (GPS) and Google Maps. What we discovered when we went searching for the Tandang Sora Shrine, right in the middle of our own backyard in Quezon City, is that locating this shrine is not a piece of cake.
Imagine how difficult it would have been for the Spaniards to look for the real Tandang Sora back in the days. Well, the search may have been difficult, but the Spaniards eventually did find Melchora Aquino, fondly called Tandang Sora by the Katipuneros and the succeeding Filipino generation.
She was captured on 29 ugust 1896 at Pasong Putik, Novaliches, jailed in Bilibid without consideration of her gender and age and made to suffer to divulge secrets of the Katipunan. With the spirit of nationalism, strength and palabra de honor in her heart, she refused to squeal. She was deported by the Spanish authorities to Guam, back when it was still a colony of Spain. When the United States of America won in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines and Guam were among the colonies ceded by Spain in favor of US under the 1898 Treaty of Paris.
Melchora Aquino returned to the Philippines from her exile in Guam on 26 February 1903. She was 91 years old. She died on 2 March 1919 at the ripe age of 107. I’m lucky if I live half her age. But what’s amazing is not only Tandang Sora’s age. It’s what she did with the sunset years of her life.
When Andres Bonifacio led the tearing of cedulas by the supporters of the revolution on 23 August 1896, openly declaring hostilities against Spain and known as Sigaw ng Pugadlawin (Cry of Pugadlawin, or, some say, the Cry of Balintawak), Tandang Sora and her son, Juan Ramos, were present. Born on 6 January 1812, Tandang Sora was already 84-years-old when the revolution broke out.
The house of Tandang Sora served as the secret hiding and meeting place of Andres Bonifacio and the Katipuneros. It’s also the place where she provided food and medicine to the revolutionaries.
If there’s a poster child for solo parents, that would be Melchora Aquino. Born of poor parents, she married a cabeza de barrio or barrio chief, Fulgencio Ramos, and bore six children. Fugencio died when the youngest child was seven.
Tandang Sora’s family tree, also found in the shrine, reveals that of the six children, only Juan, Juana and Saturnina bore children of their own. The other three children of Tandang Sora, Simon, Estefania and Romualdo, didn’t have children.
Tandang Sora was born in Banlat, the site of the Tandang Sora Shrine. Banlat used to be part of the City of Caloocan, but became part of Quezon City. The construction of the shrine was unded by the Quezon City government, just in time for the 200-year birth anniversary of Melchora Aquino in 2012.
Tandang Sora died where she was born, in Banlat. She was buried at the Cementerio del Norte sa Mausoleo de los Veteranos de la Revolucion, but her remains were later transferred to the Himlayang Pilipino Memorial Park.
The second marker placed by the National Historical Commission in 2012 reveals that the remains of Melchora Aquino was transferred here from Himlayang Pilipino to commemorate the 200th year anniversary of her birth, 6 January 2012. It also indicates that this location is declared a National Shrine by virtue of NHCP Board Resolution No. 4, 24 January 2012.
In Tandang Sora’s honor, UPLB named one of the 11 gumamela that it bred for the Hisbiscus Hybrid Centenial Series as “Gumamela Tandang Sora” (hibiscus Rosa-sinensis)
There was a time when she was honored by gracing the 100-peso paper bill, but now replaced by Manuel Roxas. She later became the face of the 5-cent coin, but removed in the new design (with the hole).
As the days pass by after the 200th anniversary, the honors and memories of Tandang Sora will fade. The structures at the shrine will fall victim to the toll of time and the weather. The markers and directions to the shrine will slowly vanish from the place. When that happens, and we hope we shall never forget, we have our photographs and memories to cling to. We shall remember.