There is today a piece of a concrete wall measuring 3.65 meters by 1.2 meters and weighing 2.8 tons at the Bonifacio Shrine beside the Manila City Hall. It is a part of the old Berlin Wall donated by the German government to the Philippines in 2014, displayed at the National Museum, and finally transferred to the Bonifacio Shrine, where it was unveiled last Monday, October 5, by Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and German Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel.
The piece of concrete is part of the Berlin Wall that used to separate Soviet-controlled East Berlin from West Berlin, which was a part of West Germany but located in the middle of Communist East Germany after the end of World War II.
For years, many Germans living in East Berlin sought to cross the border to freedom in the West, but were held back by bordee guards at the Wall. Refugees initially made their way through Hungary and Czechoslovakia and as the number of refugees mounted, East German officials eased travel restrictions. In November, 1989, refugees were allowed to exit at crossing points between East and West Germany and between East and West Berlin.
East German border troops officially began dismantling the Berlin Wall in June, 1990, continuing until December and were soon joined by people from both east and west. Even foreign visitors, includng some from the Philippines, joined in breaking down the wall and getting souvenirs.
The systematic demolition removed 184 kilometers of wall, 154 kilometers of border fence, 144 kilometers of signal systems, and 87 kilometers of barrier ditches. The fall of the Wall on November 9, 1989, was the first critical step towards German reunification which was concluded less than a year later, on October 3, 1990.
In succeeding years, the German government sent fragments of the wall to various countries as tokens of goodwill. In 2014, on the 25th anniversary of the dismantling of the wall, the German government sent us Fragment 22 of the old wall’s 40 sections. This was what was officially installed and inaugurated last Monday by Mayor Domagoso and German Ambassador Reiffenstuel.
It is a token of Philippine-German friendship. It is also a symbol of unity as part of a wall that used to divide Germany. One other nation – Vietnam – has also regained its unity after years of separation, leaving Korea as the last one to remain divided today.
At the Bonifacio Shrine where it is publicly displayed today, our piece of the old Berlin Wall should also be a symbol of unity for our own country. We may be divided into 7,641 islands, with so many ethnic groups and faiths, supportive of local warring political factions and of rival blocs in the world, but we are one Filipino nation and must ever remain so.