R.I.P., Rest in Pieces: Mnemonic Transnationality, Travel, and Translation of the Marcos Burial in the Heroes' Cemetery

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On 18 November 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the interment of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani or Heroes’ Cemetery. This essay interrogates the discrepancy between two mnemonic signifiers that lay claim to patriotism and nationhood: the Libingan and Marcos’ body. Close reading the burial process via the frameworks of memory, ideology, cultural studies, and translation studies allows a focus, not only on the cemetery as a site but also on the mnemonic discursive interventions of the Marcos family. As hegemonic memory agents fueled by money, myth, and exilic privileges linked to the USA, the Marcoses exploit the political translated body of the patriarch. As such, dictatorial exile is partly divested of its admonishing power. While the translation (as mobility and “survival”) of the corpse attempts to absorb the heroic signification of the cemetery, in turn, the honorable signification of the lieu de mémoire is also discursively challenged. Hence, while Marcos now rests among the heroes, most of his desaparecidos still want entombment. Notions of the nation are also therefore challenged. The paper thus demonstrates how a “fixed” mnemonic signifier, such as a cemetery exemplifying patriotism, can be modified through “memory entrepreneurs.” Understanding memory-as-process, and not only memory-as-site, allows us to discern the hegemonic meaning-making in memory politics by revealing the means and not only the ends. This perspective questions the malleability of space and takes us towards the horizon of what Ricœur calls a “just allotment of memory.”