Filipinas, España: more than friendship

Today, June 30, we celebrate the annual “Día de la Amistad Hispano-Filipina” or Philippine–Spanish Friendship Day. Former Senator Edgardo Angara, a Hispanista, sponsored the bill which later on became known as Republic Act No. 9187 (An Act Declaring June 30 of the Year as Philippine–Spanish Friendship Day) which was approved on 5 February 2003. As stated in section 1 of the said law, the aim of the celebration is to “strengthen the relationship between the Philippines and countries with which it has shared history, values and traditions.” In this case, Spain —the country that, as observed by National Artist Nick Joaquín, gave Filipinos “the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy,”— was a good choice especially since it is that country alone that “did give birth to us — as a nation, as an historical people”.

Continued Joaquín: “This geographical unit of numberless islands called the Philippines — this mystical unit of numberless tongues, bloods and cultures called a Filipino — was begotten of Spain, is a Spanish creation.”

June 30 was chosen since it was a historic event that put that friendship to a test. On that day, then President Emilio Aguinaldo commended the few remaining Spanish soldiers who were holed up for almost a year inside the Iglesia de San Luis Obispo in Baler, Tayabas (now a part of the province of Aurora which used to be a territory of Tayabas) for their loyalty and gallantry in battle. After their defeat, instead of arresting or even executing them, Aguinaldo sent them home. They were accorded safe passage to Manila en route to their return voyage to Spain. To mark this memorable event in our history, Angara thought of a national holiday to give honor to the act of benevolence which has paved the way in bridging better relations between Filipinas and the former mother country.

But I respectfully question the use of the term “friendship” because Filipinas and España were more than friends. They are in fact blood relations by virtue of history, faith, and cultural dissemination of which our country benefited from, not the other way around. Spain never became wealthy at our expense. And throughout Filipino Literature, Spain has been immortalized and personified as our mother. As already shown earlier, no less than Joaquín, the greatest writer and Filipino thinker our country has ever produced, expounded on this subject. “For three and a half centuries we lay within the womb of Spain”, wrote Joaquín.

In his narrative poem Filipinas a España, Manuel Bernabé (1890—1960), a well-known littérateur, academician, Premio Zóbel awardee (he won the prize twice: in 1924 and 1926), and politician from Parañaque (former Mayor Florencio M. Bernabé Jr. is a descendant of his), described the motherly bond that Spain had with our country:

¡La dulce Hija, postrándose de hinojos,
dice a la Madre, a tiempo que sus ojos
leve cendal de lágrimas empaña:
—Dios ha impuesto el término del plazo,
y ya es la hora de romper el lazo
que nos unió tres siglos, Madre España!

The sweet daughter (“La dulce Hija“) referred to in this poem is Filipinas; the mother is already conspicuously addressed. Although the poem may have started on a sour note (“ya es la hora de romper el lazo que nos unió tres siglos” refers to the Tagálog rebellion of 1896), Bernabé extolled the deep love between mother and child —Spain and Filipinas— through the centuries, and even longed for that love to return: “En el curso del tiempo desenvuelto, / tú, España, volverás. ¿Qué amor no ha vuelto / presa en la red del propio bien perdido?” Bernabé ended his masterpiece by giving eternal praise to Mother Spain: “¡Gloria a la Madre España en Filipinas! / ¡Loor eterno a ti! Tú, no me olvides.”

Jesús Balmori (1887—1948), famous for his poetic jousts with Bernabé and for his prize-winning poems, including a Premio Zóbel in 1926 in which he was tied with his rival, described an even deeper bond between Mother Spain and her daughter Filipinas in his poem Canto A España: “¡Oh, España! ¡Porque en tu alma nos enlazas, / que te troven su amor todas las razas!

In an effort to rally the campaign for independence from the US imperialists, Rafaél Palma (1874—1939), the fourth President of the University of the Philippines, one of José Rizal’s early biographers, and elder brother of poet José Palma (the one who wrote the immortal poem Filipinas which eventually became the lyrics of our national anthem) wrote an essay that was published in 1900 which underlined the profound influence Spain had in our country in spite of the glaring presence of US troops all over the archipelago. In that essay entitled El Alma De España, Palma went as far as to say that Spain’s blood has been transfused into our veins. We merely took away from her queenly cape so as to metaphorically use for a merry banquet to celebrate of our freedom:

Se nos ha trasvasado en las venas la sangre de aquella España decadente que nosotros despojamos aquí con un supremo de esfuerzo de ira, de su ancho manto de reina para tendernos sobre él a disfrutar del anchorozado festín de la libertad.

Realizing the debt of gratitude that we have towards Spain, the great Fernando Mª Guerrero (1873—1929), “el Príncipe de la poesía lírica filipina” (Prince of Filipino lyric poetry), wrote a laudatory poem entitled A Hispania.

¡Oh, noble Hispania! Este día
es para ti mi canción,
canción que viene de lejos
como eco de antiguo amor,
temblorosa, palpitante
y olorosa a tradición…

Guerrero’s daughters, themselves accomplished poets, also personified Spain as our mother. Like their illustrious father, Evangelina Guerrero de Zacarías (1904—1949) also wrote a laudatory poem to Spain entitled A España (“veinte naciones bravas, en concierto armonioso, / con los brazos del alma tus playas buscarán”) while her sister Nilda Guerrero de Barranco wrote ¡España, Madre Mía! (“Noble España, madre mía Desde estos mis patrias lares brindo a tu santa hidalguía la oración de mis altares.“).

In A España, Emeterio Barcelón y Barceló-Soriano (1897—1978), another internationally acclaimed poet in the Hispanic world, described Filipinas as a confused daughter who taught that she was enslaved by her own mother. But upon departure, Mother Spain made it known to her daughter Filipinas that she was leaving everything behind for her:

La hija se emancipó; sintióse esclava
de su madre que, al irse, le decía:
“Ahí te dejo entera el alma mía”
Y su habla y religión aquí dejaba.


When it comes to Rizal, our country’s most acclaimed national hero, there is a different take on how our country was referred to. In the first stanza of José Rizal’s famous A La Juventud Filipina, the word patria alluded to is Filipinas, not Spain:

¡Alza tu tersa frente,
juventud filipina, en este día!
¡Luce resplandeciente
tu rica gallardía,
bella esperanza de la patria mía!

It should be noted that during Rizal’s time, the concept of patria meant two things: the patria chica and the patria grande. The patria grande immediately refers to Mother Spain. On the other hand, the patria chica denotes one’s locality: this may refer to the barrio, province, or region of one’s birth. For example: the Basques, the Valencians, the Catalans, etc. all considered their respective provinces/regions as their patria chica. The Mexicans, Peruvians, Filipinos, etc. all considered their respective overseas provinces as their patria chica. But for all of them, there was only one patria grande — Spain.

How then do we know that the patria in this poem referred to Filipinas and not Spain? The answer is in the final line of the fourth stanza:

Ve que en la ardiente zona
do moraron las sombras, el hispano
esplendente corona,
con pía y sabia mano,
ofrece al hijo de este suelo indiano.

“Suelo indiano“, or native soil, is self-explanatory. Nevertheless, the fourth line of the same stanza refers to the Spanish friars, those indomitable warriors of Spain, who were in charge not only of the Filipinos’ spiritual matters but also took care of their education and well-being. The “pía y sabia mano” (pious and learned hand) refers to the Spanish friars. And to those with an ear for history, it is easy to catch Rizal’s allusion to the escuelas pías, our country’s first public schools (it is not true that the US introduced public schooling to our shores). One such escuela pía, located within the walled city of Intramuros, even became the forerunner of the Ateneo Municipal, the hero’s alma mater which is now known as the Ateneo de Manila University.

While Rizal’s patria in this poem may point solely to his patria chica, i.e., Filipinas, it should be noted that his patria grande was not left out. In the final stanza of A La Juventud Filipina, Rizal used a common nickname for Spain, particularly its monarchy, during those days — Potente which means powerful. Here Spain was described as sincerely desiring the happiness  and comfort of Filipinas:

¡Día, día felice,
Filipinas gentil, para tu suelo!
Al Potente bendice,
que con amante anhelo
la ventura te envía y el consuelo.

And in his homage to Juan Luna and Félix Resurrección Hidalgo for having won international recognition for their paintings, Rizal called Spain point blank as our mother:

“Si la madre enseña al hijo su idioma para comprender sus alegrías, sus necesidades o dolores, España, como madre, enseña también a Filipinas…”

If one is to argue that all of the mentioned poets were from the past, we have from the modern era, poetess Marra PL. Lanot, dispelling such qualms in her pining poem España:

Quiero conocer el otro país
de nuestros héroes como Rizal y Luna,
la Mamá del pasado,
la Reina de Filipinas
que nunca nos abandonó.

Even our bards in Tagálog were aware of Spain’s status as our mother country, as evidenced by poet Hermenegildo Flores’s Ang Hibic ng Filipinas sa Inang España (Filipinas’ Lament to Mother Spain). In this poem, Filipinas was speaking as an oppressed daughter, complaining and appealing to Mother Spain to get rid of those whom the poet, being a propagandista, believed were the cause of his patria chica’s deprivations: the friars.

España y Filipinas by Juan Luna (oil on canvas, 1886). Even in the visual arts, the deep regard that our forefathers had for Spain as a mother was not wanting.

I could go on and on with several other Filipino greats who all paid their respects to Mother Spain in spite of the Tagálog rebellion of 1896. But the point is this: whatever the results of that rebellion, we have to get rid of this warped view that Spain, or España, was merely a former colonizer, and that España is now just a friend. We were never colonized. Before the Spaniards arrived, there was no Filipinas yet. It was they who made us into becoming the three-stars-and-a-sun-loving people that we are today (Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo wouldn’t have been united if not for the Spanish advent). Between España and Filipinas lies a much more deeper bond than international relations, something that is beyond friendship. As has been clearly sung by our time-honored artists (“the antenna of the race”, said Ezra Pound), España is our Mother, not just a friend. Ella es sangre de nuestra sangre y carne de nuestra carne.

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Hispanofobia peninsular

Hace pocos meses, un joven español se llama Johnny Barnreuther hizo un drama por pedir disculpas a los filipinos por supuestos crímenes que su país hizo al nuestro. En su Facebook, escribió:

NUNCA PENSE EN HACER HISTORIA ASI! Me entere que los Españoles conquistamos y reinamos en las Filipinas por mas de 330 años. Robamos, abusamos y asesinamos. Países como Japón y E.E.U.U. mandaron a sus líderes para pedir perdón por lo que ellos hicieron a este precioso país, pero España nunca mandó a un líder para pedir perdón. Así que reuní a algunos líderes regionales en el mismo punto donde las filipinas se independizaron de España hace mas de 100 años. Entonces pedí perdón como Español por lo que nuestro país hizo a las Filipinas enfrente de la primera casa blanca!!! SANIDAD DE LAS NACIONES!!!

Dice una afirmación salvaje que Japón y  EE.UU. han pedido perdón. Con el caso de Japón, podemos confirmar que su gobierno se ha disculpado con nosotros. De hecho, el gobierno japonés se ha disculpado numerosas veces por sus crímenes de guerra contra Filipinas. Pero EE.UU., ¿cuándo y dónde?

community project output format

¿Se disculparán Johnny Barnreuther y sus cohortes por profanar la bandera filipina? Observen que la bandera filipina ha tocado el suelo. Según la sección 22 de la Ley de República 8491 (1998), “la bandera nacional nunca tocará nada debajo de ella, tal como la base del poste, TIERRA u otro objeto.”  También en la sección 39 (b), está prohibido “bajar la Bandera Nacional a cualquier persona u objeto por medio de un cumplido o un saludo.”Finalmente, también en la sección 39 (d, 2), está prohibido mostrar la Bandera Nacional HORIZONTALMENTE (énfasis mío). ¿Quién entre ellos pagará por sus teatralidades? Foto: Valory Immel.

De todos modos, Barnreuther afirma en una generalización hilarante que su pueblo “robó, abusó, y asesinó” sin entrar en detalles. ¿Sabía él que Madre España, su país qué también era nuestra “patria grande”, era el ímpetu en la creación de Filipinas (por otra parte era la “patria chica”)? Me gustaría pensar que él, un español que no lleva un nombre español, no sabe de las historias vinculadas entre su patria y la nuestra. Y los regalos que hemos recibido de España son numerosos: nuestra cocina, nuestra ropa, herramientas culturales (tales como libros, instrumentos musicales, etc.), nuestro estilo de vida, y sobre todo nuestra fe.

Y debido a nuestro pasado hispano, Barnreuther, que parece ser un pastor cristiano, ya no tiene que preocuparse de cómo presentar a nuestro señor y salvardor Jesucristo a los filipinos porque los frailes españoles del pasado ya lo hicieron por él y por sus tipos.

Pero entonces, me di cuenta de que él pertenece a un culto. Parece haber un sutil ataque anticatólico en sus disculpas (tales son las formas de todos los cultos contra el Catolicismo) que no son mas que arte dramatismo. Es porque la llegada a nuestras costas de La Madre Patria y de la Iglesia Católica fue un esfuerzo unido. Pues, por el contrario, deberíamos ser nosotros los filipinos quienes debemos disculparnos con España por habernos rebelado contra ella de una manera masónica.

Sí, España tenía sus imperfecciones, pero nunca cometió un crimen contra los filipinos. Por esta teatralidad, Barnreuther ha hecho un gran perjuicio a su país y a sus antepasados.

¿Un español atacando el legado de su propio país? Qué irónicamente bobo.

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Documental “El Idioma Español en Filipinas”


El economista e historiador Benito Legarda Jr. (foto: Casa de América).

La Asociación Cultural Galeón de Manila ha producido un documental de TV titulado “El Idioma Español en Filipinas“, escrito y dirigido por Javier Ruescas. El video recorre la historia y situación presente del español en Filipinas mediante unas entrevistas a filipinos de habla española residentes en Manila, cuyos testimonios representan la parte central del documento, enmarcados en la historia de las islas, que fueron administradas por España desde el siglo XVI hasta finales del XIX. Las entrevistas se rodaron en la Biblioteca de la Academia Filipina de la Lengua (situada en el Casino Español de Manila) en octubre del año 2011. Unos meses más tarde, en marzo de 2012, se grabaron imágenes de recurso en los barrios manilenses de Quiapo, San Miguel e Intramuros.

El documental es una obra de interés sociológico, histórico y lingüístico por analizar la situación actual del español filipino, una versión poco conocida de nuestro idioma, la de un país asiático de carácter hispánico, donde sin embargo el castellano ya no es oficial. La obra se estrenó el 13 de marzo de 2013 en el Instituto Cervantes de Madrid, y desde entonces se ha proyectado en distintos foros (ver abajo). También está previsto que se emita en una cadena de televisión española.

Próxima proyección:

Fecha: viernes, 30 de junio de 2017
Hora: 19.45h
Lugar: Pequeño Cine Estudio
Dirección: calle Magallanes, 1 (Madrid)

ENTREVISTAS (en orden de aparición)
Gemma Cruz de Araneta
Mª Rosario “Charito” Araneta
Guillermo Gómez Rivera
Macario Ofilada
Trinidad San José Reyes
Benito Legarda
Isabel Guevara
Alberto Guevara
Teresita Tambunting de Liboro
José Mario “Pepe” Alas
Eduardo Ziálcita
Teresita U. Quirino
Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil
Mª Rocío “Chuchie” Atienza de Vega
Mary Anne Almonte
José Mª Bonifacio Escoda
Georgina Padilla y Zóbel
Maggie de la Riva
Manuel Morató

Dirigido por Javier Ruescas Baztán
Producido por la Asociación Cultural Galeón de Manila

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El Filipinismo: una breve explicación

¡Hola! ¡Un gran saludo a los lectores de ALAS FILIPINAS! Ya estoy de vuelta. Ha sido un largo tiempo.

A los que no lo saben todavía: a mediados del año pasado cerré mi blog (bitácora) ALAS FILIPINAS (y también FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, mi blog en inglés) por una variedad de razones, principalmente por razones de salud y financieras. Pero en sóla unas semanas después de esa dolorosa decisión mía inmediatamente volví a la escritura por escribir versos de vez en cuando así como breves comentarios en mis cuentas de redes sociales. No podía permanecer lejos de los libros y la escritura, no importa cuánto me esfuerce. Así que aquí estoy otra vez. Aún siento muchísimo dolor por mi síndrome de dolor regional complejo pero ya no importa. Me estoy acostumbrando a ello y siento que estaría más enfermo si no continúo escribiendo.

Con muchas circunstancias difíciles que me persiguen (empleo nocturno, proyectos históricos y culturales con dos gobiernos locales, deudas financieras, etc.), uno podría decir que no estoy listo para escribir. Como Stephen Strange en la película “Doctor Strange“, fue lanzado a una lucha que sólo él puede conquistar aunque todavía no estaba listo.

—Nadie está listo. —La Anciana le dijo—. No podemos escoger nuestro tiempo. La muerte es lo que da sentido a la vida, para saber que tus días están contados. Tu tiempo es corto.

Siento que he perdido tanto tiempo y tengo una misión que cumplir, eso lo sé. Así que aquí estoy otra vez, aunque no estoy listo.

Como dicen, que será será.

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Imagen: Ava Bea-Dy.


Bueno, como ya he explicado en un blogpost (artículo) anterior, pero en inglés, mi nuevo blog EL FILIPINISMO será una combinación de las facetas de mis bitácoras anteriores (ahora se conocen como “Bitácoras Clásicas“). Mis blogposts se escribirán en español e inglés. Pero este blog no será bilingüe. Que quiero decir es que no habrá traducciones en español de mis textos en inglés y viceversa porque me parece demasiado tedioso hacer traducciones y llevará mucho de mi tiempo. Habrá momentos en que escribiré sólo en inglés, y habrá momentos en los que escribiré sólo en español, o ambos (como se puede ver en mi primer blogpost). También podría haber días que escribiré en tagalo. Pero el inglés ciertamente dominará este blog porque, aparte del triste hecho de que muchos filipinos hoy entienden mejor el inglés que el español, me entrenaron para escribir en el idioma de los invasores imperialistas desde mi niñez… ¡el español no es parte de nuestro currículo! Y esa sería una de mis defensas, en realidad una defensa que he estado apoyando desde mis años universitarios.

Es cierto que escribo cómodamente en inglés, pero inmediatamente apunto un dedo culpable hacia nuestro sistema educativo que ha entrenado a mí y a las generaciones que vinieron antes que nosotros. ¡Ni siquiera podía escribir cómodamente en tagalo! Pero basta de eso por un tiempo. Aunque los artículos en inglés tendrán más posibilidades de ser destacados en este blog, la importancia del español como lengua filipina siempre será resaltada y enfatizada.

Pero ¿por qué EL FILIPINISMO? ¿Qué significa eso?

En Wikipedia, esa terminología se define de esta manera:

El Filipinismo es la tendencia y, en su sentido más específico, el campo disciplinar, principalmente de carácter humanístico, que tiene como objeto de estudio todo aspecto en general relevante relacionado con el archipiélago filipino, y, en su característico y particularizado sentido, la cultura, las lenguas y las literaturas de este archipiélago asiático, Filipinas, vinculado asimismo al mundo occidental.

Este blog contará con todos los aspectos de lo filipino —su cultura, su historia, su comportamiento, sus debilidades e idiosincrasias, etc.— con la esperanza de hacer que el pueblo filipino, quien está muy sajonizado hoy en día, sepa que tiene una identidad nacional digna que está profundamente arraigada en nuestro pasado hispano, y eso incluye su lengua y su fe, y que estamos incluidos en la hermandad internacional de los pueblos de habla hispana. Soy de la creencia que nuestra identidad nacional es la fuente de la salvación social y espiritual de nuestra patria filipina.

Entonces ayúdeme Dios.

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My Tagálog identity ends where my Filipino identity begins

I know one local historian in Batangas who takes pride in everything Batangueño. Nothing wrong with it. The error begins whenever he starts to brag that Batangueños are the bravest in Filipinas, that they had the most sophisticated lifestyle during the early days of our country, that they contributed the most to Filipino history and culture, etc. Similarly, a Visayan FB friend proudly declared on his wall that “we are Visayans first, then second Filipinos.”

This is no longer patriotism. Neither is it nationalism. This is REGIONALISM at its finest.

I am a Tagálog. That is my racial stock. But I am always beaming with pride whenever I say that “I am a Filipino first, then a Tagálog second”. It’s because our NATIONAL IDENTITY transcends all barriers of race across the archipelago. To be proud of your race firstly only generates regionalism which then leads to animosity towards other races/regions.

My roots are from Tayabas. I grew up in Metro Manila. Now I live with my family in La Laguna. Yet my loyalty and affinity do not belong strictly to any of these places. In fact, my family and I feel excited to travel to other parts of the archipelago and mingle with other Filipinos from different races and experience and feel with them how they live their Filipino lives. I am a Tagálog but I take pride in the pili nuts and Mayón Volcano of the Bicolanos. I am a Tagálog but I take pride in the guitarras and the Fiesta Señor of the Cebuanos. I am a Tagálog but I take pride in the elegant ancestral houses of the Ilocanos in Vigan (and how I love their pinacbét!).

The durián of Daváo, the tarsier of the Bojolanos, the binasúan folk dance of the Pangasinenses, all of which are non-Tagálog articles. But I consider them mine, and I am MIGHTY PROUD of them all, because I am a Filipino.

That is what our national identity is all about, that is its purpose: it binds the fragility of racial tensions that we had (and still have). That is why when I visited non-Tagalog places such as San Fernando, Pampanga, Calivo, Aclán (a couple of dimwits in public office changed the spelling to Kalibo, Aklan), or Lake Sebú, Cotabato del Sur, I still felt at home. Not once did I feel alien. Because I have this burning love for each and every place that has become part of the Filipino cosmos. And this burning love inspires me to visit each place (hopefully I would be able to do so —and with my family— before I exit this sorrowful world).

My love for San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna (my adoptive hometown) is the same love that I feel towards Isabela, Basilan although I have never been there. It’s the same kind of love that I have towards Parañaque (the place where I grew up) and Unisan, Tayabas (my roots). I pride myself of Cebuano and Negrense achievements even if I’m not Visayan. I can even call Bulacán Province as my home even if I have no filial connection to it. My heart bled when Daváo City was bombed and Batanes was ravaged by a recent typhoon. This is because I am a Filipino. Had I limited myself to being a Tagálog, I wouldn’t have cared much for other parts of Filipinas. That is why I do not support regionalism. Too much of it leads to divisiveness.

This nationalistic ardor also compels me to defend places that are in danger of invasion. if a foreign aggressor, for instance, invades, say, Sámar or Bícol, I’d gladly volunteer, if need be, and be willing to die for these places. Because Sámar and Bícol are also MINE even though I am a Tagálog, even though I have never been there. Because I am a Filipino firstly. My being a Tagálog comes last.

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

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Suicide run

In the middle of last year, I bid adieu to writing for a variety of reasons. Grudgingly, I shut down my blogs Alas Filipinas and Filipino eScribbles and decided to just face my fate: that I’d forever be another faceless wage slave this side of the planet. There was no escaping my dreadful situation, I thought. I can never have the conveniences a writer should have (solitude, natural light, comfortable seating, etc.). And I am always faced with the reality of sacrifice: that I am an unprivileged family man, and my family should come first before anything else. My dreams therefore should go out the window because it is not possible to serve two masters at once.

I thought that, at the very least, my life would go back to normal, that I’d begin to think and act just like everybody else, that I might be able to garner more friends compared to the number of fingers on both hands, that I might even become a productive employee at last, haha. But in only a few weeks after that hurtful decision, I immediately went back to writing. As I took solace in the verses of José García Villa, Manuel Bernabé, and other Filipino writers in both Spanish and English, I realized that, despite my problems with both reading and writing, I still couldn’t gravitate away from books. And the itch to write was still there. I devoured as much time as possible amusing myself with tomes and tomes of lore and non-fiction. I also dug up old verses of mine kept in various old bags stashed underneath our family-sized bed; I thought that it was the right time to reread, review, and edit them all up, which was what I did. And while I was doing that, I started writing new verses both in English and Spanish. I also experimented with Tagálog (using the original orthograpny). Eventually, I started posting some of them on my social media accounts. They didn’t become big hits, of course. But at least, they somehow managed to ease up the itch and kept me sane.

Also, when I gave up on writing/blogging, I was still under contract with our city government to produce at least two local history books. That was something I couldn’t free myself from. Luckily, I was able to write one which got published and launched early this year, the biography of Abelardo “Captain Remo” Remoquillo, a World War II hero from our place. It was a dream come true, something that I thought would never happen anymore. Quite ironic for someone who publicly gave up writing (the second book’s still in the works, another story altogether).

No, Captain Remo’s biography didn’t catapult me to published greatness, but it was still a dream come true nonetheless. Publish or perish, critics always say to writers. To my mind, that book was my ticket away from becoming a spurned genius. And somehow, it inspired me to publish some more!

As the months piled up, so did ideas from books and news, both fake and true. The war between Yellowtards and Dutertards became more appealing (and appalling) than the war against drugs. ISIS was on the move and has even reached our shores. An imbecile who was voted to Congress sought to change our country’s name. So during these tumultuous times, I kept my silence. I rarely visited my social media blogs and stayed away from online wars. But the ideas kept piling up. They have welled up inside my head so bad that it almost became unbearable to even sleep. I became more and more restless, especially during days when I’m trapped for hours inside a bus in EDSA. As I have written before, my tired mind felt like an empty glass pitcher that’s been gradually filling up with water, then placed inside a freezer until it froze and expanded, breaking the pitcher in the process.

Should I write again?

During one lunch hosted by eminent Filipinista scholar Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera for my family at the Casino Español de Manila early this year, my wife Yeyette told him of my troubles. Upon further analysis, Señor Gómez said that I must have suffered from a nervous breakdown, only that I didn’t know it! My golly. He confessed that when he was my age, he suffered the same thing, and it took him two years to recover. Two years! His advise to me was non-medical but spiritual: to pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostle’s Creed, all in threes every day. That is what he did, and it worked.

Last summer at Villa Escudero, Gemma Cruz Araneta (who doesn’t know her?), my youngest daughter’s godmother, warned me of the dangers a writer could face once he stops writing. She said it is no different from a pianist who doesn’t practice that much and then suddenly goes back to playing the piano again. With disastrous results. It’s that bad.

Little by little, I realized that what I really gave up on was blogging. But I haven’t really given up on writing (as evidenced by those poetic pieces that I post on social media from time to time as well as my first book). Because it’s something that I just couldn’t. No matter how good or bad I am on it, in spite of my fear of mediocrity, it’s something that I couldn’t part myself from.

I just had to go back. The soonest. I had no plans of becoming like that apocryphal pianist.

* * * * * * *

When I thought of going back to blogging, I was struggling with the decision if I should revive my two blogs. I already said goodbye to them. And it was definite. But in the end, I decided to just create a new one.

EL FILIPINISMO will be a combination of ALAS FILIPINAS and FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. They will be written in both Spanish and English. My blogposts, however, will not be bilingual, meaning that there will be no Spanish translations of my English texts and vice versa because I find it too tedious and time-consuming. There will be times that I will write only in English, and there will be times when I will write only in Spanish. Or both. But English will certainly dominate this blog because it is in this language that I was trained to write. Admittedly, I write comfortably in it, and I immediately point a blaming finger towards our educational system which has trained me and my generation and the ones who came before us. But enough of that for a while. Although English blogposts have more chances of getting the spotlight on this blog, the importance of Spanish as a Filipino language will always be highlighted and emphasized.

This banner, created by history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz, features the fabled “Cruz de Tunasán” streaked with sampaguita flower buds. As we all know, the sampaguita is our country’s national flower. On the other hand, the Cross of Tunasán, deemed miraculous during the Spanish times, was mentioned by José Rizal in his novel “Noli Me Tangere”. Both cross and flower are also symbols of my family’s adoptive hometown of San Pedro Tunasán in La Laguna province. The name of the blog is also peppered with tiny “tags” or keywords which deal with subjects that I will write about the most on this site.

There might also be a chance for Tagálog to make it here. But be forewarned: I write my Tagálog correctly, i.e., they will be written in the original orthography. So haters (of the UP nationalist mold) beware.

There was also the thought of buying my own domain. But I shrugged it off. Two years ago, my other blog LA FAMILIA VIAJERA which is now handled by my wife suffered a little online accident. Travel blogger Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral also experienced the same fiasco earlier that year. When he shared his troubles regarding having one’s own domain, he made me and my wife think twice about buying one for our family travel blog. And that is why EL FILIPINISMO is on free hosting (thank you, WordPress). Berniemack was right. This is all about the simplicity of blogging. Why buy a domain when we can blog our hearts out for free? Less the hassle, less the headache. The most important thing is that I am able to write down my thoughts and ideas, and then share them online.

Other than that, I am reminded of a time when me and history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz of With One’s Past visited travel blogger Glenn Martínez at his stylish home in San Mateo, Rizal. Despite his blog Traveler On Foot‘s popularity, Glenn refuses to buy a domain for it because it will have the tendency of becoming “commercialized”. This is not to say that I’m totally shutting my doors to having my own domain. I’ll just cross the proverbial bridge when I get there. The most important thing for now is to write.

But what difference then is writing from blogging? One could still write even without blogging. But then, I will no longer have an audience (publish or perish, remember?). I guess it is safe to say that all writers are “pretentious”, but not in a bad way. Because a writer too is an artist. And like all artists from other artistic fields, a writer should also have an outlet in order to impart his views. Nobody writes for himself. That’s preposterous. A writer and his reader are inseparable. One cannot exist without the other.

* * * * * * *

Definitely my biggest challenge right now is my complex regional pain syndrome, the major reason why I had to stop blogging last year. I had physical therapy to get rid of it, but to no avail. Surgery is the only possible solution, something which I couldn’t afford to have at the moment. Surprisingly, my wife and a few friends (including Captain Remo’s nonagenarian brother Vicente) discouraged me to go under the knife because it might debilitate me for good instead of healing me. I am in constant pain, even as I write this. Under my physical circumstances, going back to writing is a bad idea, especially since I am still employed in a private company. Other than that, we are still financially disabled, and I am on a rickety, malware-infested laptop that’s been suffering from the dreaded Blue Screen of Death for several months now. But a writer’s got to to do what a writer’s got to do. There is no more turning back. I feel that I have a mission to accomplish, and I will do it. I’ve wasted so much time already. So consider this blogging/writing endeavor of mine to be my suicide run.

* * * * * * *

When I shut down my blogs last year, comments and messages from concerned friends immediately poured in. All of them, of course, were saddened, and they made it known to me in one way or another. And during the dismal months between then and now, I always received encouragement from others that I should and can go back to writing. I think this is the perfect time to thank each and every one of them, and what better way than to mention their names: mi comadre Gemma (“Tienes el don. No lo desprecies,” me dijo); Imus City Councilor Raymond Argüelles who revived my interest in historical research and gave me another chance to prove myself that I’m good at it by recruiting me as one of his city’s history researchers; my brother for life Arnaldo who was the one who created the snazzy banner for this new blog of mine; Aris Catáquiz who, when I met him during the thanksgiving Mass for his mother’s electoral victory early last year, personally expressed his dismay when I closed down FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (I didn’t even know that he was reading it!); Atty. Ceferino Benedicto, Jr. who pleaded that we keep in touch the moment he learned that I stopped blogging; John Christian Canda, a history buff who never gave up on me even though I gave up on myself. Señor Gómez who never doubted that I would go back to writing; Poli Laurito (he’s an FB friend for years but I’ve yet to meet him; he pleaded that I don’t bring down my blogs so that people would still be able to access them); Glenn, who never fails to give me words of encouragement whenever I’m down; Ate Che Paderes-Dones who offered to bake me a cake just to cheer me up (I still have to pay her a visit, though); my mother-in-law Teresa Atienza-Perey who is always there for my family through thick and thin; mi compadre José Perdigón who was deeply saddened when I declared my intention to stop writing; Roberto Rico (Gracias por creer siempre en mi); and my spiritual brother Michael Wolf (Guillermo Lobo).

Finally, there’s my wife and kids who put up with me throughout my eccentricities and mood changes. They gave me everything that I needed, from coffee to a good massage, in order for me to write comfortably. Whether I become famous or not, it doesn’t trouble me anymore. Having a wonderful family steeped in Christianity is more than a family man could ever ask for. That is accomplishment enough. ¡Gracias y os amo mucho!

Finally, this blog is not about me. While I might write about daily experiences and personal thoughts from time to time, this blog will deal mainly with the struggle to uphold the Filipino National Identity. Because I beieve that this identity, which is based on our shared Hispanic past that is strongly rooted to the Spanish language and the Catholic faith, will be the source of both social and spiritual salvation of our people.

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

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24 June 1571: the birth of the “Filipino State”

Today, we commemorate the birth of the Filipino State. El estado filipino. The birth of our country. The birth of our national being. El nacimiento del ser filipino.

Manila was founded as a capital city on 24 June 1571 at the heart of what is now known as the Walled City of Intramuros, “la Manila de nuestros amores”. It should only follow that its declaration as a capital city 446 years ago implies that a state, a country —albeit under a much larger empire— was already in existence, has been readied, was in full swing.

446 years ago today, Miguel López de Legazpi established Manila as the capital city of Filipinas at this exact site. Legazpi became its first governor-general, in effect our country’s first national leader.

Filipinas was not born in 1872 nor in 1898. Filipinas was already in existence for more than 300 years. If only Manila could speak, she would have screamed this historical fact from the top of her lungs.

To Filipinas, la patria de mis amores, a grand salutation to your 446th founding anniversary!

(Pepe Alas)

dos palabras
de vigor
son emblemas
de platino
obras maestras
de fulgor.

en mi suelo,
Cruz y espada —
una mezcla
de nativo
e hispanista

Han cosido
las isletas
un collar,
y el colgante:
el enorme
la laguna
como el mar.

Y en el centro
de esta estrella
otra isleta
de puñal,
la piadosa
y Materna

¡Custodiar y difundir
y también enaltecer
esta lengua muy divina
cuya faena es proteger!

Preservar la identidad:
la cultura, nuestra fe,
¡elementos que alimentan
nuestro ser hispanidad!

dos palabras
de honor
son emblemas
de platino
¡obras maestras
de amor!

Derechos de reproducción © 2017
José Mario Alas
San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna
Todos los derechos reservados.

¡Feliz 446° cumpleaños a mi patria adorada, Filipinas! Y que el espíritu de San Juan Bautista cuya fiesta también se celebra en este día bautice el pueblo filipino para que experimenten un nuevo despertar.

And yes, I’m back. Y sí, estoy de vueltaFor good. Definitivamente.

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

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