Balarilà ng Wikang Pambansâ (PDF)

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of writer and lexicographer Lope K. Santos (1879–1963) whose birthday falls today, I share to you his most (in)famous work, the Balarilà ng Wikang Pambansâ (Grammar of the National Language), not really to promote it (I, for one, am against it) but to stimulate research and comparison with the 32-letter Abecedario Filipino that I have been using and promoting all these years, so that Filipinos in general and Tagálogs in particular will see how the Tagálog language was butchered in the name of misled nationalism. For good or for worse, Santos was one of the determinants of our orthographical fate. Click on the image below to download the 1939 book’s PDF version.*

* You will be able to open the above using your Gmail account. The book’s digitization is a joint project last year of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.


El Filipinismo has just reached a modest milestone, having breached 100 followers (it now has 101 to be exact). It also has 7,449 email subscribers as well as 465,153 views as of this writing. I think these are not bad numbers considering the fact that blogging has already been eclipsed by vlogging, and that only few people read nowadays. Also, this blog started only last 24 June 2017, and I didn’t blog at all since Christmas of December 2017 until the 24th of June the following year —a lull of six months— due to my lung problems. So technically, while this blog is already three years and three months old (I launched it on 24 June 2017, the 446th founding anniversary of our country), it has been active only for two years and nine months. So from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank my very few readers (and bashers) who have been supporting me all this time, especially those who stuck it out with me since my Filipino eScribbles and Alas Filipinas days. ¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra! 😇

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It’s Daváo, not Davao

Haven’t you noticed yet? The gerrymandered province of Daváo (Daváo del Norte, Daváo del Sur, Daváo Occidental, Daváo Oriental, Daváo de Oro, and Ciudad de Daváo) has been in the news lately due to several and almost weekly earthquakes that have been hitting the area. Not a few people think that those tremors are a message sent from Above to chastise and warn President Duterte for his blasphemies (he was a long-time politician in Daváo City where he had served in various positions).

This odd news about Daváo reminds me not of anything else but on how most Filipinos mispronounce its name. So I think it’s timely to share now a lesser-known trivia about how the name is correctly pronounced.

The correct pronunciation is DAVÁO (dɑˈbaʊ), not DAVAO (ˈdɑvaʊ), in the same manner that other place names in MINDANÁO that also end in AO are pronounced: LANÁO DEL NORTE, LANÁO DEL SUR, MAGUINDANÁO, SURIGÁO DEL NORTE (which includes ISLA SIARGÁO), and SURIGÁO DEL SUR.

Notice, too, the diacritical mark above the final A of each place name. This means that the stress falls on the last syllable. Finally, there is no v sound (v as in the English word victory) in Filipino names and languages. So in sum: the last three letters of DAVÁO are pronounced phonetically as ˈbaʊ, not ˌvaʊ.

Actor Ricky Daváo should be made aware of this mispronunciation of his last name.

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The end of history

Among our national heroes, Rizal is the most documented for the main reason that he left us countless writings. Aside from his literary output (Noli Me Tángere, various poems) and political pieces (La Solidaridad), he also left behind mountains of correspondence with family members and friends. Because he painstakingly put on record bits and pieces of his life, from diaries to expense accounts, it was easy to put together how he lived, how he thought, and how he felt. Rizal was a historian’s dream come true.

Image: Research Digest.

In this day and age of Internet technology, it is easy to conclude that historical research has been made much easier, especially for disadvantaged researchers. Digitization of many ancient books and documents have been made readily available to the public by generous institutions such as libraries, universities, and other organizations dedicated to scholarship. Traveling to such places is almost deemed unnecessary. The advent of emails and other messaging and communication apps and platforms such as Messenger and Zoom have been used extensively by scholars for close collaboration with colleagues as well as information dissemination to the public. The ongoing pandemic has also compelled museums to hold digital exhibitions of prized artifcacts, paintings, and other historic items. There are even online tutorials on how to read paleography (ancient writing systems).

Thanks to technology, we can now unearth and decode the past in a much easier manner compared to previous methodologies. But we should not forget about the future. Decades of researching about the past have been exhausted to the point that there is almost nothing to discover anymore, just written opinions about them to ponder on. So now, we are at a level where we seem to have neglected in “preparing ourselves” for future historians. Since history is built on written records, how can future historians (or biographers, in particular) be able to examine the lives of people who serve as agents of change and circumstance?

While there are video documentaries and periodicals that have been recording events on a daily basis, these are not enough. Events (with the exception, of course, of natural calamities) are but the cause of people’s thoughts and actions. We understand the objectives of the Liga Filipina through Rizal’s letters. The memoirs of Fr. Fernando García, once a prisoner of Aguinaldo, give researchers another look at the rebellion against Spain and the revolution against the US invaders. The Marcos diaries provide us an in-depth look at his dictatorship. Antonio Abad‘s 1965 letter to Mexican journalist Pablo Lislo exposed the sad, sad fate of the Spanish language in Filipinas from the perspective of one who is at the lonely center of its preservation.

Today, memoirs and diaries have morphed into blogs and vlogs. But much of letter writing —the crux of an individual’s innermost thoughts and feelings that are shared with another individual— are locked in emails and other messaging services and are always in danger of being deleted. Or worse, when the individual dies, he takes with him his passwords, thus bringing with him his emails to the grave (unless the recipient of his letters will share his correspondence later on, which is unlikely). Not even bloggers are safe because their blogs are always at the mercy of blog-publishing services. I remember my friend, the late travel blogger Karl Ace whose popular Turista Trails blog disappeared shortly after his death.

Could our generation very well be at the tail end of history?

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Mozarabic Rite wedding

Today my wife Yeyette and I celebrate 21 years of our union. On this date we also celebrate our 7th church wedding anniversary that was officiated by Fr. Jojo Zerrudo using the ancient Mozarabic Rite of Toledo. It was also the first time in several decades that a traditional Catholic wedding was officiated in our adoptive province of La Laguna1.

On the occasion of this special day —which, coincidentally, is also the eve of the 13th anniversary of when Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum (the motu propio which provided greater access to the Latin Mass) was made effective throughout the whole Catholic Church—, I share to all of you this feature article (published a month after the wedding) written by Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Maricar Cinco who covered the event.

Earlier this year, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Inspite of this, we are still praying that we will celebrate more wedding anniversaries in the coming years. ¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

Marrying in ancientsacred Catholic rites

– 2013-10-17 –
Maricar Cinco
San Pedro, La Laguna

THE BRIDE, wearing the traditional baro’t saya and a long veil topped with a tiara of sampaguita flowers, arrived in a horse-drawn carriage at the San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church in San Pedro town in La Laguna.

The groom, who sported a black suit that matched his bowler hat and cane, waited for her at the church’s doorstep.

Without the usual wedding frivolities, they exchanged vows, —in Spanish— in the Mozarabic Rite of Toledo held on their 14th anniversary as a couple.

The ancient Catholic wedding lasted for an hour and only then were the newlyweds allowed to enter the church.

No pompous entourage or large crowd of well-wishers greeted the couple as they walked down the aisle, side by side with the priest for the Tridentine Mass, which lasted for another hour.

The Tridentine Mass, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, is the traditional Latin Mass held in a few Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines. At least in the southern Luzón region, “the last time it was held here was in 1956,” according to the groom, José Mario “Pepe” Alas who claims himself to be a traditionalist Catholic.


It was no surprise for someone like Alas, a 34-year-old native of Lucena City in Quezon2, to marry in traditional rites.

For years, he has been studying Philippine History and acquainted himself with the Spanish culture and language. He was commissioned to write a coffee table book about La Laguna and the biography of this town’s alcaldesa (female mayor), Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz, who with her husband and former Mayor Calixto3, stood as the couple’s padrino and madrina (wedding sponsors).4

Little did Alas know that his fascination with history would transform his beliefs. “We are a Catholic creation and whether we like it or not, we are not who we are now without the Spanish friars,” said a confessed former atheist.

His transformation to the Catholic faith happened in 2003, when his wife, Jennifer, 37, was pregnant with their second child. Young and jobless, the couple had wanted an abortion.

“We were already decided, but that night, I thought: if God was real as they say, He’d give me a sign and stop us,” Alas recalled. “In the middle of our sleep, my wife suddenly woke me up. She was crying, telling me she changed her mind. She wanted to keep the baby even if we had to beg for alms,” he said.


Alas’ faith deepened as his interest in Church history broadened. He studied the old church practices that were long banished by the Second Vatican Council.

Many priests believed it’s bawal (taboo), I don’t know why, but it was already Pope (now Pope Emeritus) Benedict XVI himself who said it was not when he issued the Summorum Pontificum (SP),” said priest Mitchell Joe Zerrudo, who officiated the wedding.

Zerrudo, 45, was referring to the 2007 controversial apostolic letter that allowed the restoration of the pre-Vatican II rites, including the Tridentine.

He said the wedding of the Alas couple was timely as it was held a day before the Church celebrated the anniversary of the SP’s enforcement on September 14.

“He (Benedict) really wanted the new rite to be enriched by the old rite,” Zerrudo said.

As for Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis, “(he is) respectful and said he would not touch the decree of Benedict although their tastes are different.

Heritage, faith

Zerrudo, a diocesan priest at the Holy Family Parish in Quezon City, is one of the four priests who regularly officiate the Tridentine Mass in Metro Manila, and the very few in the Visayas and Mindanáo.

He may be the only Filipino priest at present who solemnizes a Toledo wedding.

Since 2007, Zerrudo noted “a steady increase” in the number of people, even the younger generations, attending the Latin Mass, popularly known for the priest facing the altar.

‘Ordo Missae’

“Its difference (from the Novus Ordo Missae or the New Order of Mass) is basically the language and the direction the priest faces. But the parts of the Mass the same,” he said.

In his parish, the Gospel during the Tridentine is read both in Latin and in English for people to understand, Zerrudo said.

He said he did not mind being branded as “old-fashioned”.

“This is heritage that we should preserve. What’s sacred before remains sacred now,” he said.

But it should not only be about the “nostalgia” that the Tridentine brings but its “solemnity, devotion, and silence,” Zerrudo pointed out.

“Admittedly, it seemed we’ve lost that sacredness. (The Mass) is about worshipping God and that’s what we sometimes tend to forget,” he said.

Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol, 13 de septiembre de 2013.

1 The original and complete name “La Laguna” is used throughout this blogpost. I also used diacritical marks wherever possible.
2 I am actually a native of Parañaque and Las Piñas where I spent much of my childhood Lucena was just my place of birth.
3 The biography was for Mayor Calixto Catáquiz (still unpublished).
4 The other pair of sponsors was historian and scholar Guillermo Gómez and my aunt, Josefina Láus-Alas.

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Blumentritt: the first Filipinologist


Ferdinand Blumentritt was an Austrian scholar and author of several articles and books about our country, Filipinas, particularly its ethnography. While many Filipinos are familiar with his surname mainly because of LRT-1’s station and street in Santa Cruz, Manila, Blumentritt is best-known among historians and the studentry as Rizal’s best friend, although much of their friendship existed via snail mail. In fact, they met only once and only for a few days.

Born on 10 September 1853 (he was eight years older than our national hero) in Prague (now the Czech Republic), Blumentritt studied geography and history at the Karls-Universität (University of Prague). He then became a secondary school master in Litoměřice (Leitmeritz). Blumentritt later on became fascinated with Filipinas, filling his library with Filipiniana material and becoming an authority on scholarly subjects pertaining to our country. He himself had published books and academic articles on topics pertaining to Filipinas such as the Chinese immigrants, the archipelago of Joló, our country’s early relations with Japan, the Jesuit missions in eastern Mindanáo (he was, after all, a devout Catholic), the indigenous groups of Mindoro (collectively known as Mañgyán or Mañguián), the Negritos of Pampanga, and many other ethnolinguistic groups.

Rizal first heard about Blumentritt while in Heidelberg, fascinated with the fact that a European scholar was studying the Tagalog language. He then sought for his address and sent him a book on arithmetic authored by Rufino Baltazar Hernández, a fellow Lagunense. Blumentritt returned the favor and sent Rizal two books. Thus commenced the bulky correspondence and eventual friendship between the two.

To those who are wondering why a 19th-century Austrian scholar like Blumentritt was obsessed with a country that he had never visited, Rizal had this to say:

We have heard a very good friend of his say that, since his great-grandmother was a Latin American, the voyages of Columbus were his favorite reading as a boy; from Columbus’s, he went on, so to speak, to Magellan’s, where the islands of Filipinas vividly struck his imagination. Others believe that the study of Spanish history let (to his interest in Filipinas).

Whatever the reason, suffice it for us to know that he lovingly and conscientiously interests himself in a country to which he speaks the bitter truth but from which, on the other hand, he does not conceal those facts which are pleasant, a quality that is so rare that it should be much appreciated.

It is worth noting that Rizal and Blumentritt first saw each other at the train station in Leitmeritz. A few days before that, Rizal wrote to his Austrian friend that he, together with Máximo Viola, would be arriving there on 13 May 1887, but advised him not to fetch them. Rizal would rather call on him an hour after arrival. But Blumentritt was perhaps too excited to at last meet his “pen pal” in the flesh. Rizal and Viola found him there at the train station in Leitmeritz. Perhaps it is really fitting that the LRT train station in Santa Cruz, Manila was named after him, as a testament to that train meeting with our country’s foremost national hero in faraway Europe.

Rizal and Viola stayed with Blumentritt for only four days.


Rizal biographer León María Guerrero referred to Blumentritt as our country’s first historian of the 19th century. I would like to add another feather in his cap by calling him as the first Filipinologist. It is hoped that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and other related institutions would be able to make available online his important works, as these will certainly help us understand much about how foreigners viewed our country in the past.

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To The Virgin Mary (English translation of a Marian poem by Rizal)

In commemoration of the feast day of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, I would like to share this lesser-known poem by José Rizal, the most illustrious of all the Filipino national heroes. A devout Marian in his youth, Rizal wrote this poem in late 1876 while still a student at the Municipal Ateneo (now the Ateneo de Manila University) in Intramuros. He was then 15 years old when he wrote this divine sonnet!

The English version below is by the late translator Alfredo S. Veloso. Click here to read the original in Spanish.

José Rizal

Dear Mary, sweet peace, priceless consolation
Of afflicted mortals! Thou art the font
Whence flows the current of succour,
That unceasingly fertilizes our soil.

From thy throne, from the sky above
Piously hear my mournful plaint!
And shelter with thine refulgent mantle
My voice that rises fast in flight

Thou art my mother, gentle Mary;
My life, my fortitude thou shall be;
In this fierce sea thou shall be my guide.

If depravity pursues me with ferocity,
If death harasses me in the agony,
Help me, my sorrow dissipate!

This is the oldest known image of the Virgin Mary as she holds her divine Child Jesus. It is located within the Catacombs of Priscilla dating back to the 2nd century.

“The Spanish language exits”

The following  1931 newspaper clipping, probably an editorial, is from La Voz Española, a Spanish-language newspaper that was published during the U.S. occupation of Filipinas. It was shared a few years ago on Facebook by a certain Alex Umali. This article is a confirmation that the U.S. invaders indeed exerted effort to erase the Spanish language in our country. The English translation that follows is mine.


The Spanish Language Exits

The U.S. lords and masters, although few, have done their best to erase even the last traces of the Spanish tradition. Their fight against the Castilian language, if not crowned by a total victory, gave English very considerable partial triumphs. There is no Filipino of any mental rank who does not speak and still write the language of Shakespeare, and there are already many who remember badly the Spanish language. It is understandable. Filipinas is dependent toward the United States. Coexistence is forced. And that coexistence is contrary to the fortitude of the Spanish influence. In the long run, reality will always be more than sentimental impulses. It does not ignore that after the exit, old hatreds were extinguished because Filipinos and Spaniards did not live together in vain for several centuries. It is also undeniable that the disillusion took forms of remorse and that today’s severity recalls with nostalgia the gentleness of yesterday.

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The story behind the assassination of Fernando Manuel Bustamante

A few years ago, in Palacio de Malacañán‘s official Facebook page, the below post was published:

#todayinhistory — On August 9, 1717, Fernando Bustamante y Rueda assumed his post as the Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines. He stirred trouble with the religious orders and also with the archbishop, which lead to his assassination by mob.

I just find it irritatingly odd that instead of commemorating the reforms and projects of the Bustamante administration since today is the anniversary of his installation as Gobernador-General de las Islas Filipinas, Malacañán’s Facebook handlers found time to instead harp on the governor-general’s assassination. Shouldn’t they have, instead, posted the above info on the anniversary of his death which falls every 11th of October (1719)? Because it’s more timely that way. And is the assassination the only thing our historians remember about Bustamante? Furthermore, how much do we even know about his character?

The said Facebook post (which is no longer available) garnered several shares when it was first published, not to mention eliciting another round of those now classic “frailocracy at its finest” and “Padre Dámaso” comments. Open-minded people will then start to wonder if the said post was meant to make people not really to remember but to  “keep on hating”. And when you ask these anti-Catholic bashers (deplorably, many of them are Catholics themselves) what’s the real score behind the assassination, they will not be able to provide a decent answer.

So what’s the real story behind this infamous scene in our history? Let us now hear it from historian extraordinaire, Nick Joaquín:

What’s often cited against the 18th century are grisly happenings like the killing of Governor Fernando Manuel Bustamante — happenings that seem to indicate a priest-ridden society still groping about in the Dark Ages.

Bustamante was a reform governor (1717-1719) with good intentions but a violent temper. He used the militia to terrorize the public. He filled the jails to overflowing but his prisoners were not all government crooks he had caught; some were people who merely disagreed with him. When he jailed the archbishop of Manila, it provoked a demo.

Angry mobs marched to the palace waving banners and crucifixes and yelling: ‘Church, religion, and king!’ They were met on the palace stairway by Bustamante, who wielded a gun in one hand, a sword in the other. ‘Death to the tyrant!’ shouted his visitors, rushing up the stairs. The governor plunged his sword into the first body to approach him and then could not pull out the sword fast enough to drive back those who were surrounding him. He was cut down with dagger and spear. A son of his who came to his rescue was likewise stabbed to death.

The mob then stormed Fort Santiago and released the imprisoned archbishop. The prelate would assume the governorship, as interim head of state. He decreed a pension of a thousand pesos for the family of Bustamante but the widow rejected it.


Me, Juanito, and Krystal (photo taken on 30 October 2012 by my wife Yeyette) at the foot of the massive “El Asesinato del Gobernador Bustamante y su Hijo” at the National Museum. This oil on canvas was completed in 1853 by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo.

Out-of-school Nick had poured over first source materials and had made researches in various libraries and archives. He had spent so much of his time in such places more than any schooled historian that I know of. And since Spanish was his language, it was easy for him to decipher the “encrypted stories” about our country’s oft-misunderstood past. That is why the PhDs and the MAs of the world fear and respect him. And that is why I trust him more about the Bustamante story more than anyone else’s version of it, most of which are twisted anyway.

To continue, the cause of Bustamante’s assassination was not exactly done out of religious sentiments. In a time when there were still no senators nor congressmen, when the political climate was still different, it was actually the Church who served as the “opposition” against a form of governmental setup that had all the potentials of turning into a dictatorship. Although violent and bloody, the demo against Bustamante was our country’s first dealings with democracy.

The happening is ugly but what caused it can be equated with the system of checks and balances, a beautiful feature of democracy. Because of the distance of Manila from Madrid, the Spanish kings were persuaded to grant their Philippine royal governors almost absolute powers. In effect, the executive was also the legislative and the judiciary. He headed army and navy. And he was answerable only to the king.

Against this potentate, the only checks and balances were provided by the Church, principally the friars, who served as the opposition. The opposition was sometimes “holy”, as in the friars’ campaign against the abuses of the encomenderos, and sometimes “unholy”, as in this killing of Bustamante — though we should remember that, before the fatal demo, the governor had called out and sicked his vigilantes in public.

So much slur has been thrown at those hated Spanish friars. Bashers don’t even think that if such events did not happen, who would have stopped potentially abusive government leaders? To wit: it was the opposition (friars) who acted against the majority (encomenderos) on the continued implementation of the corrupted encomienda system. And how come I don’t see anyone praising the friars for this? Why the double standard?

Anyway, good ‘ol Nick concluded Bustamante’s assassination story with this…

…the point here is not interference between Church and State, but the natural feud between government and opposition. It’s like the clash between King Henry II of England and Archbishop Becket, with the difference that in the Philippine case it was the King Henry who got slain.

Just a piece of advice: read widely and think critically to avoid bashing benightedly.

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My close encounters with Manila’s “Dirty Harry”

I voted for Mayor Lim when he ran for president back in 1998. In fact, he was just seated right in front of me. I was then 18 years old, my first time to vote. I chose him because, aside from being coaxed by my maternal grandmother (they were friends and neighbors in Tondo), I was drawn to his philosophy that a crime-free country would be followed by a good economy. His tough stance against crime earned him the monicker “Dirty Harry” during his early years as Mayor of Manila.

“The law applies to all. Otherwise, none at all”. It was his campaign slogan. I even bought his biography written by none other than my favorite writer, Nick Joaquín. It was my first Joaquín book.


Nick Joaquín’s biography of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

The experience of voting for the first time, and in the same room with none other than the presidentiable that I was rooting for, was an unpleasant one. All the excitement that should’ve been there was robbed from me because there were dozens of reporters pushing each other around us. A cameraman even rudely stepped on my desk –and on my ballot– just to get a good shot of the candidate (my ballot had a shoe mark when I slid it inside the ballot box — perhaps portents of things to come).

The next and last time that I met him was during the summer of 2002 when I was an intern at DZMM. He used to have a radio program there. When I was introduced to him, he shook my hand tightly and gave me one of the warmest smiles I had ever seen. I forgot to tell him about that first voting experience.

Requiescat in pace.