A trip to the North Cemetery last Monday eventually brought me to the final resting place of Asia’s first world boxing champion.
After paying my respects to several loved ones buried there, I attempted to look for the tomb of someone who cared for me when I was a child.
It’s been a long while since my last visit.
Perhaps, the last was about a decade ago, not during this time of the year.
Before that particular visit, all I could remember was the time she was laid to rest there in the late-1970s.
So, I tried looking for the exact spot where my grand aunt was buried and I wound up utterly disappointed.
I was sure that I had the right directions but I failed to see the tomb of my grand aunt that I knew was just along the road.
Since I had to work, I didn’t bother to ask the main office about it thinking that another one had taken over the spot.
Still, I drove to see my old man and told him about my trip to the North Cemetery to look for my grand aunt’s tomb.
“I also tried looking for it last year but I could not locate it,” my pop said.
Oh man, I told myself.
Given how things work here, I am convinced that her grave has been replaced by a new one, her bones stuffed inside a sack alongside the remains of others and just left to whittle away.
Anyway, since I was already in the area, I took a short drive to the grave of Pancho Villa, which was located on the cemetery’s main street.
Many years ago, I stumbled into Villa’s burial spot and wondered if any relatives had come to pay their respects.
“A long, long time ago, there were visitors but that’s not the case anymore,” said one caretaker and longtime resident of the cemetery.
More than a week before All Saints’ Day, Villa’s tomb appeared tidy and neat.
And in a few days, flowers will adorn his tomb courtesy of the City of Manila.
After a week or two, the flowers and the leaves will start falling off and they will either stay on the pavement and get blown away or decompose because of the elements such as the rain and dust.
Villa, Francisco Guilledo in real life, was world flyweight champion during the 1920s.
He was the toast of boxing, having fought all over the United States with New York City as his playground.
After losing the title, Villa had to be rushed to the hospital owing to a tooth infection, a malady he was suffering from while fighting.
A few days later, Villa was dead at age 23 due to blood poisoning.
His remains were brought to the Philippines and interred at the North Cemetery.
Villa’s exploits were not ignored by the International Boxing Hall of Fame when it enshrined him in 1994, a year after Flash Elorde, another Filipino great, was inducted.
Unlike my grand aunt’s tomb, Villa’s won’t be desecrated.