We don’t really observe Armistice Day here but since I was on holiday, my friend Chuck and I visited Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery for the Heroes), where my paternal grandfather, a soldier, was buried.
It was only right, I thought, because I wasn’t able to visit him last Nov 1. Okay, so he was in the second war instead of the first and he survived the Bataan Death March in 1942 (commemorated every year on April 9 in the Philippines), but I thought he deserved a tribute of sorts today, too. He’s my hero, after all.
On the way to his grave, we also passed by the tombs of the unknown soldiers, for whom this holiday is kept in France, Britain, and other parts of the world.
Armistice Day also reminds me of MCMXIV by Philip Larkin, which was recited in The History Boys:
Those long uneven lines
Standing as patiently
As if they were stretched outside
The Oval or Villa Park,
The crowns of hats, the sun
On moustached archaic faces
Grinning as if it were all
An August Bank Holiday lark;
And the shut shops, the bleached
Established names on the sunblinds,
The farthings and sovereigns,
And dark-clothed children at play
Called after kings and queens,
The tin advertisements
For cocoa and twist, and the pubs
Wide open all day;
And the countryside not caring
The place-names all hazed over
With flowering grasses, and fields
Shadowing Domesday lines
Under wheat’s restless silence;
The differently-dressed servants
With tiny rooms in huge houses,
The dust behind limousines;
Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word–the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.
I don’t know if there’s a poem by a French poet that expresses the same sentiment about war, so I thought this might suffice in the meantime.
It was a meaningful day, all in all, even if we ended up pigging out afterward.