Sagisag Kultura TV: Nick Joaquín

The whole world probably knows how much of a big fan I am of Nick Joaquín, National Artist for Literature. His name and works are mentioned in many of my blogposts (including in those blogs that I’ve already shut down). So let’s up the ante a li’l bit more till this world gets so sick of my Joaquinesque fanboying that it would spit me out to another realm in this vast multiverse — hopefully in a realm where “Summer filled the yard with sunflowers / and the hillsides with tiny bitter blackberries”, where everyone happily greets each other “Dahling!”, where Connie Escobar wields a Billiken toward the sky so as to bare her double-naveled midriff, where Maita Gatdula no longer “disdains as shabby and shady / all doings of babyhood”, where Leonardo and Lydia are safe from the bloodcurdling shadows of that fearful house on Zapote Street, where all of us can love the color of green forever, a place where the General did not forsake the Camino Real, where the Walled City and its seven great churches all stand in festive pomp and golden pageantry (still smelling of oranges and roasted almonds), where Paula and Cándida and their father and all their friends carry on with their tertulias, where Doña Jerónima’s laughter can be heard in all caves, where Maytime memories and festive Octobers in Manila are one and the same, where water is San Miguel Beer and all trees bear rosary beads, where kilometric sentences are not an issue…

…and where the La Naval is eternally queen.

If you are not yet familiar with the greatest Filipino writer in the English language (whose first language was Spanish, if I may add), I hope that this highly informative and very laudable documentary produced by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts under its Sagisag Kultura TV project will serve as an introduction of sorts to the quintessential Filipino that was Nick Joaquín. And I pray that on your next visit to a bookstore, you’d bring home a book or two bearing his name. Doing so will make you love your country and its wondrous past even more…

Let me arise and follow that river
back to its source: I would bathe my bones
among the chaste rivulets that quiver
out of the clean primeval stones.

—Nick Joaquín—

 

De tifones y tsunamis

No trabajé mucho durante mi turno de viernes. Mi jefe me hizo asistir a una capacitación sobre comunicación efectiva. Fue muy útil para mí. Obviamente, soy consciente de los rudimentos de la comunicación efectiva porque soy una persona leída (y mi curso universitario fue Comunicación de Masas), pero no todo, y encuentro que la capacitación en el aula es más efectiva para absorber el conocimiento.

Al comienzo de la clase, nuestro entrenador, un orador ejemplar del idioma inglés, hizo que todos y cada uno de nosotros nos presentáramos de una manera muy singular: tuvimos que contarle a la clase nuestras carreras de fantasía. Si bien estaba destinado a ser un rompehielos, el entrenador también buscó averiguar con qué eficacia comunicamos nuestros pensamientos. Los otros en la clase compartían carreras de fantasía mundanas y aburridas. Cuando fue mi turno (fui el último en ser llamado), lo que dije causó sorpresa (como siempre).

<<Yo quería ser un cazador de tormentas>>, dije.

Les expliqué que siempre me han fascinado los tifones, enormes tifones con vientos furiosos. No sé por qué, pero siempre me emociona cada vez que oigo noticias de un tifón venidero. Incluso cuando era niño, los tifones me han estado causando una alegría inexplicable. No quiero, por supuesto, la devastación que trae un tifón. Me encantan sus fuertes vientos, las nubes oscuras y arremolinadas, y la frialdad que trae. Entonces, si alguna vez me hago rico, compraré cámaras y videos a prueba de agua y haré trajes personalizados (como una armadura, pero ligera) para protegerme de escombros voladores. Intentaré acercarme al ojo del tifón tan cerca como sea posible y desde allí sumergirme con pura alegría…

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Foto: AsiaNews.

Volviendo a la realidad, creo que también puedo aplicar lo que aprendí de esa sesión de capacitación en mis ensayos históricos en este blog.

Durante nuestro descanso de quince minutos no tenía nada más que hacer, así que visité a mi equipo que estaba en otro piso. Me sorprendió saber que ya conocían mi artículo anterior en el que los mencioné. Es que un compañero de oficina que también considero un amigo les compartió lo que escribí. No sabía si debería estar eufórico o no porque no tenía la intención de que lo leyeran. No les digo a mis compañeros de oficina que soy escritor aunque ya tienen una idea. Pero, por supuesto, los blogs no pueden mantenerse en secreto a menos que los bloggers (¿blogueros o bloguistas?) usen un seudónimo; yo no.

Después de la capacitación, aún me faltaba una hora para ayudar a mi equipo con nuestro trabajo de oficina: conversar con los clientes; estoy con el equipo de “ayuda en vivo” de nuestra empresa). También me enteré de ellos sobre un tsunami que golpeó Indonesia. Incluso hay un video sobre eso.

Era aterrador pero fascinante de ver. A diferencia de un tifón, no creo que me gustaría experimentar un tsunami porque después de las olas gigantes no habría nada más que experimentar.

En otras noticias, esta entrada es mi centésima para El Filipinismo. ¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

Pepe como esclavo corporativo

Descargo de responsabilidad: Las opiniones del autor expresadas en este artículo no reflejan necesariamente los puntos de vista de su empresa. Se aconseja discreción.

Nunca he sido un buen empleado. No digo que sea un empleado deliberadamente malo. Es sólo que mi historial como empleado eficiente no es admirable. Mi eficiencia como empleado siempre se mete en problemas no porque quisiera sino porque mi corazón no está en eso. Una y otra vez, sigo diciendo que no estoy destinado a ser un esclavo corporativo. Porque soy un artista, jajaja. 😂 😞

No siempre hablo de mi empleo. Debo admitir que estoy avergonzado de ser un empleado, o más exactamente, de ser un esclavo corporativo. Trabajar para las corporaciones no es sólo en contra de mis ideales; trabajar para ganar dinero es simplemente contra todos los ideales nobles. Sí, en mi juventud, yo era un marxista. Ahora que lo he superado, creo que ya no estoy en una posición parcializada para decir que las ideologías marxistas contra el capitalismo aún tener sentido. Al menos, el marxismo es una ideología. ¿El capitalismo? No es.

Esta mañana me sentí agradecido cuando mi jefe me regaló un obsequio simple: una tarjeta de felicitación con una magdalena costosa. Es un simple gesto de agradecimiento porque he mejorado notablemente la calidad total de mi trabajo durante las últimas semanas.

PEPE ALAS

Es que he sido un dolor de cabeza no sólo para él sino también para mis colegas (esa es una de las razones porque tengo muy, muy pocos amigos en la oficina). A lo largo de los años en mi empresa actual, siempre llego tarde al trabajo, siempre estoy ausente, y fue terrible la calidad de mi trabajo. Pero cuando volví al trabajo inmediatamente después de mi hospitalización a principios de este año, el trabajo de mi oficina mejoró drásticamente. Finalmente, después de muchos años.

Creo que el motivo es que reduje mi enfoque en lectura y escritura por el bien de mi salud (tuve muy pocas horas de sueño durante los años anteriores). Ese es el problema: cuando pongo mucha atención a mi pasión (lectura, escritura, e investigación histórica), mi trabajo de oficina se ve afectado de una manera muy negativa. Pero cuando me concentro en mi trabajo de oficina, me convierto en una persona común, al igual que el resto: sólo otro esclavo corporativo que ves todos los días en las calles corriendo contra el tráfico, sólo otro tipo ordinario que trata de llegar a fin de mes. Y lo odio.

Realmente no se puede servir a dos maestros a la vez. Estoy trabajando no sólo para ganar dinero sino para criar a mi familia. Y por supuesto, tengo que seguir siendo un buen y obediente empleado o terminaría en la basura. PERO necesito escribir para vivir y para permanecer cuerdo. Espero que Dios tenga misericordia de mi situación. Porque aunque estoy feliz de que mi trabajo de oficina finalmente esté recibiendo reconocimiento, no estoy contento. Porque Pepe el Esclavo Corporativo no es el verdadero yo.

Soy un escritor, un artista. Ese es el verdadero yo.

 

Imus recuerda sus héroes caídos en su famoso puente

La Batalla de Imus fue la primera batalla principal de la rebelión tagala (más conocida como la revolución filipina) contra el gobierno colonial español en la Provincia de Cavite, Filipinas. Se libró desde el 1 al 3 de septiembre de 1896 en el pueblo de Imus en la dicha provincia, justo después del nefasto ataque de Andrés Bonifacio contra el polvorín de San Juan del Monte en Manila.

La victoria decisiva resultante para los rebeldes en Imus, o los miembros imuseños del Katipunan, alarmó mucho al gobierno español en Filipinas. Después del conflicto, intentaron someter a los rebeldes en la provincia de Cavite con las batallas gemelas en Binacayan y Dalajican en Cavite el Viejo (ahora Kawit) unas semanas después de la Batalla de Imus.

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La espaciosa plaza de Imus se encuentra en el corazón de su vieja Población (centro del pueblo) donde está rodeada por casas ancestrales bellamente conservadas, el ayuntamiento, y la Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Pilar que también es la patrona de España y de la Hispanidad. Una enorma bandera filipina que se iza en un palo de la bandera muy alto ondea orgullosamente en su centro.

Como consultor de la historia para el gobierno local de la Ciudad de Imus, bajo de la oficina de mi amigo, el afable y muy popular Sr. Concejal Raymond “Mon” Argüelles, tuve el privilegio de presenciar las ceremonias austeras celebradas el pasado 3 de septiembre en esa ciudad para conmemorar a los héroes caídos de esa batalla (había fuertes bajas en ambos lados). Lloviznaba cuando llegué a la Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Pilar. La Misa fue oficiada por el Cardenal Luis Antonio Tagle, Arzobispo de Manila y un hijo de Imus. De hecho, un antepasado suyo, José Tagle, era un miembro de alto rango del Katipunan y un participante en la Batalla de Imus.

PEPE ALAS

El Cardenal Tagle celebra una Misa de acción de gracias en la Catedral de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, el asiento de la Diócesis de Imus.

PEPE ALAS

Nuestra Señora del Pilar, la reina de Imus.

Después de la Misa, procedimos al cercano complejo deportivo de la ciudad (Imus Sports Complex) donde los más altos oficiales del lugar, dirigido por su joven alto ejecutivo, el Sr. Alcalde Emmanuel “Manny” Maliksí, pronunciaron discursos interesantes e inspiradores. El Cardenal Tagle pasó para dirigir una breve oración. Incluso tuve una rara foto con él, gracias a la insistencia del Concejal Mon.

PEPE ALAS

Después, todos marchamos hacia el Puente de Isabel II de España que está a menos de medio kilómetro del complejo deportivo. Fue en ese puente donde tuvo lugar el clímax de la Batalla de Imus. Ya no lloviznaba cuando salíamos a caminar.

El puente fue nombrado en honor de Isabel II, reina de España entre 1833 y 1868. Fue el primer puente permanente construido sobre el Río Imus, uno de los ríos más largos de Cavite, cerca de la frontera con la municipalidad de Bacoor (ahora una ciudad). El puente de dos carriles conecta la Calle Salinas en Barrio Palicô, el último barrio de Imus antes de Bacoor, con la Población de Imus. Si no me equivoco, este puente forma parte de la vieja Camino Real que condujo a Intramuros, la antigua ciudad amurallada de Manila que era la capital de la Capitanía General de Filipinas.

El Puente de Isabel II es un puente de doble arco que fue construido en 1856 por los frailes agustinos recoletos encabezados por el hermano lego Matías Carbonell utilizando mampostería de piedra. Fue completado el año siguiente.

PEPE ALAS

El 3 de septiembre de 1896, durante la Batalla de Imus que conmemoramos, el tramo norte de este puente fue desmantelado por los Katipuneros como una táctica ofensiva para combatir a las fuerzas gubernamentales que llegaban desde Manila. Con los rebeldes escondidos detrás de las trincheras, los soldados gubernamentales que marchaban no verían el corte hasta que hayan atravesado parte del tramo, de modo que los atrapen. La táctica fue un éxito que resultó en la victoria de los revolucionarios. Después de la batalla, el tramo roto del puente fue reemplazado temporalmente por una estructura de madera pero luego fue reconstruido durante el período colonial estadounidense.

PEPE ALAS

En frente del monumento que conmemora la Batalla de Imus en el Puente de Isabel II. Izquierda a derecha: Concejal Mon Argüelles, Cynthia Ramírez, Diputado Alex Advíncula (3º distrito de Imus), Alcalde Manny Maliksí, Vicealcalde Arnel Cantimbuhan, Ed Argüelles, Concejal Dennis Lacson, Joshua Guinto (presidente del consejo juvenil), y Concejal Lloyd Jaro. Hagan clic aquí para ver más fotos del evento.

PEPE ALAS

El marcador de mármol lo dice todo: este puente es un legado de Madre España a los imuseños.

Los nativos de Imus son personas muy conscientes de la historia. Su amor por el patrimonio y la historia se refleja en sus casas ancestrales (bahay na bató) muy elegantes y bien conservadas, en la conmemoración de eventos históricos, en sus marcadores históricos, monumentos, banderas filipinas, y en su orgullo como la “capital de la bandera” del país (“Flag Capital of the Philippines“). Incluso el Sr. Alcalde Manny es muy conocedor de la historia de su lugar (dos veces me dijo que Imus tiene la mayor cantidad de marcadores históricos en cualquier lugar de Filipinas).

Mis amigos ya conocen mi posición sobre la rebelión encabezada por el Katipunan: estoy en contra porque soy católico. Para mí, la fe es la primera antes que la patria. Esto no quiere decir que todos los miembros del Katipunan fueron malvados y maniáticos. Con certeza, muchos de ellos lucharon por un ideal que pensaban que eran noble y justo. Pero hoy, no son más que meros jugadores de la historia. En esa breve conmemoración en el Puente de Isabel II de España, estaba seguro de que muchos conmemoraban sólo a los héroes caídos de Imus, es decir, a los Katipuneros que rebelaron contra el gobierno. Pero creo que fui el único participante que pensó en los verdaderos defensores de Imus: el gobierno. Sin embargo, recordé ambos lados y oré por todos ellos. Todos ellos contribuyeron a la que ahora es la Ciudad de Imus, una ciudad que está orgullosa de su historia.

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Hoy es el noveno aniversario del tifón Ondoy

Esta noche estoy de vacaciones. No tenemos nada para celebrar hoy. Sólo necesito descansar, mente y cuerpo. Me acabo de despertar hace unas horas, he sido nocturno por muchos años ya debido a mi trabajo. Ahora que estoy despierto, espero que pueda lograr algo esta noche: escritura, lectura, traducción, cualquier cosa.

Mi esposa acaba de terminar de preparar la cena para todos nosotros. Estamos a punto de comer después de publicar esto. Ha sido así por años: comemos muy tarde. No tenemos criadas, y es difícil moverse con cinco niños, y una de ellos es una bebé.

Hoy es el noveno aniversario del tifón Ondoy (Ketsana). Trajo un mes de la lluvia durante nueve horas lo que causó inundaciones generalizadas en Metro Manila y las provincias cercanas. Más de 400 personas fueron murieron. Que descansen en paz.

La imagen puede contener: 1 persona, exterior

Llovió hace unos minutos, pero fue breve. Y hace mucho calor esta noche. El clima de esta noche no tiene rastros de Ondoy aunque hay otro tifón (Paeng) cerca. Bueno, es hora de comer la cena (afritada). Hasta mañana.

Querido diario…

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Imagen: Yumpu.

No pude escribir. Lo que quiero decir es que no pude publicar un nuevo blogpost (artículo de blog) sobre la historia ni la cultura ni la arte. He estado planeando hacerlo durante los últimos días pero mi síndrome de dolor regional complejo me inhibe, por no hablar de mi horrible horario (trabajo de noche… ¡por más de una década!). Se suponía que debía escribir sobre mi reciente visita a Imus, Cavite (trabajo allí de tiempo parcial como asesor de historia para el gobierno local bajo la oficina del Concejal Raymond Argüelles, un amigo de mis días de la universidad), así como un artículo sobre mis pensamientos sobre la bandera filipina, pero no pude obtener el momento adecuado. Ni siquiera pude terminar mi proyecto de traducción con Manolo Quezon para su The Philippine Diary Project. Pero estaré de permiso mañana. Con suerte, podría lograr algo.

Ayer twiteó (¿es <<twitear>> ya un infinitivo aceptado?) que necesitaba un descanso de la realidad porque sentía que soy inútil y que no podría lograr nada con cualesquiera talentos que tenga. Estoy llegando a los cuarenta pero como escritor no me está sucediendo nada significativo o realmente grande. Por lo menos tengo este blog, jaja.

Mi mujer estuvo ocupada todo el día, tratando de transferir a nuestro hijo más joven a otra escuela debido a la intimidación. No quiero preocuparme por eso. Demasiado mundano. Además, podría enfadarme mucho con el bravucón si yo mismo me ocupo del asunto.

Hace aproximadamente una hora, mi amigo Orion Pérez, un conocido pensador político, me envió sus propuestas sobre cómo mejorar el borrador de PDP-Laban para la Comisión Constitucional. ¡Que honor! Es ampliamente conocido que hay planes para cambiar la forma de gobierno de Filipinas al federalismo. Apoyo la medida especialmente porque existe la posibilidad de que se reconozca el idioma español una vez más, entre muchos otros beneficios al pueblo filipino. Orion me pidió que revisara las políticas de idioma del borrador. Me decepcionó un poco saber que en el borrador mencionado, el idioma español solo puede considerarse como un idioma de herencia. Tenía la esperanza de que presionen para que se convierta en un idioma oficial (o cooficial con el inglés). Pero veamos qué puedo hacer.

A close encounter with a Dick

Senator Dick Gordon has become relevant again these past few days. Not because of the Blue Ribbon Committee which he chairs but because he has revived yet again his deep-seated mania of adding a ninth ray to the sun in the Filipino flag. You may read Ambeth Ocampo’s latest column about this matter for more details.

After hearing all this latest news about Gordon’s ninth-ray obsession, I was reminded of a Facebook post which I wrote two years ago. It was about my first and only encounter with him during the 2013 La Laguna Festival. I’m sharing it now on this blog (with slight edits)…

DICK GORDON

One balmy evening a few years ago, I was inattentively listening to Dick Gordon delivering a candid speech to a huge and festive crowd at the capitol grounds of Santa Cruz in La Laguna Province. I couldn’t remember exactly what he was talking about. What I do remember is that his presence there was irrelevant. Anyway, I was concerned with something else — my stomach was rumbling. I was having a bout of sudden diarrhea, and I hate doing the deed in some public restroom. But I couldn’t help it anymore.

I was at the left side of the stage by the stairs, my eyes surreptitiously scouring the huge grounds for a portalet, but saw none. I suddenly remember that there’s a restroom at the nearby DECS building (I wonder now if the old balete tree is still there). So off I went.

As I was slowly trudging the steps on my way to that building, Dick was already talking about rampant corruption in Filipino culture. Pointing the microphone to the audience, he asked who was to blame for all this corruption that we have in our society.

After a few seconds of playing with the crowd, he answered his own question. What he said was something unholy to my ears.

My diarrhea suddenly forgot that it had to embarrass me.

I had to look at him onstage. With a sick smile on his face, Dick was pointing his accusing finger towards our country’s Spanish past. I don’t remember his exact words, but he either said “Kastilà” or “Spaniards”. Whatever. What he said made my blood boil, especially since, after doing some reassessment of Filipino History through the years, I’ve discovered the reverse. But here comes this politician to a supposedly fun event, corrupting the minds of Lagunenses for whatever goddamned purpose he may had without even using pertinent data or sources.

But then again, why should he even cite sources? He attended a provincial fiesta anyway. It’s not a class lecture or any of that sort. But that’s EXACTLY the point! Why should he even talk about Filipino History —TWISTED Filipino History to be precise— during such an event? His speech was supposedly to animate the crowd, to greet them a happy fiesta, to make himself look cool even if he really wasn’t.

I stopped dead on my tracks, hesitated for a few moments, then went back to the stairs. I had to confront this buffoon. It’s now or never.

After several boring minutes of grandstanding, the hosts finally took the mic away from him. Dick Boredom was then on his way out, but it took him quite some time to get off the stage because so many people were greeting him, shaking his hands, patting him on the back, doing selfies and stuff. His personal goons couldn’t do much to steer away the crowd who wanted a piece of the Dick. He was a rock star that night.

But not to me. He was just another rock. An insignificant pebble. A troglodyte, actually (note: Jessica Zafra doesn’t own that word). He had to be given a Stone Cold Stunner if only to wake him up from his hispanophobic delights. But of course, I couldn’t do that. The diarrhea was at it again, especially when I saw his face getting closer to me.

I saw people near me shaking his hand. It gave me an idea. When the Dick was already standing right in front of me, still with a big smile plastered all over his face, I grabbed his empty right hand which was still looking for another hand to shake it. Since the music onstage was blurting out loud, almost as loud as the irritating sounds from within my bowels, I inched my face close to his ear:

“Get your facts straight, sir. The Spaniards did not teach us corruption. It was the Americans. Thank you”.

The plan was to immediately bolt for the DECS restroom. But he did not let go of my hand. He gripped it hard before I could leave, then tugged it towards him. Angrily, he whispered back: “It’s not the Americans, it’s the Spaniards!”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed that a goon or two of his noticed that their boss was getting upset. Before any untoward commotion happened, I shook off my hand from his grip in order to free myself. I didn’t say a word anymore, just a smirk on my face. I left him scowling towards me as I was walking away towards the old balete tree.

That was simply my purpose — to ruin his rock star night for disrespecting our forefathers who worked hard in order for us to have towns and provinces and Cross and cuisine and roads and bridges and cattle and agriculture and industry and arts and “palabra de honor” and culture and history and name for our country that we still use and apply to our daily lives. Somehow, I succeeded.

And yes, I did scream “success!” when I got out of the DECS building. 🤣

But seriously, Dick, is hispanophobia a standard in all of your speeches? With a surname such as yours, I think I understand why.

To end this blogpost, let me leave you with the opening sentence taken from that Ocampo article I mentioned earlier. Because I find that opening as a perfect ending…

“Dick Gordon is so often starved for attention that the public is well-advised to ignore his antics.”

History is not just about heroes

I noticed that many popular historians today, including various Facebook groups and pages that deal with Filipino History, focus mainly on personalities (José Rizal, Andrés Bonifacio, Gregorio del Pilar, etc.), if not events (Cavite Mutiny, 1896 Tagálog Rebellion, the first at-large national election of 1935, etc.). But history is not limited to people and explosive occurrences. We should also consider the coming of tools as history, as media that changed people’s outlook towards everything else. The bahay na bató, the calendar, book printing, the introduction of new crops, and even the cuchara and tenedor have all contributed to the evolution of what is now the Filipino. May these historians up their game so that their fans would not become mere hero worshipers. Their fans deserve better.

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So what in the world am I talking about? Just go to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy of Nick Joaquín’s iconic Culture and History and find out for yourselves. After a thorough reading of this book, I assure you 100% that you will LOL at many of today’s Filipino historians.

An open letter to F. Sionil José, National Artist for Arrogance

Sometime last month, I saw this letter going the rounds in Facebook.

FDI

To make a long story short, the above letter is from National Artist F. Sionil José, and he’s asking Ramón del Rosario, chairman of the National Museum of the Philippines, to remove the paintings of RENOWNED ARTISTS E. Aguilar Cruz and Andrés Cristóbal Cruz that were being displayed there. His reason? He’s erudite enough to differentiate true art from inability.

Apparently, the letter was leaked online without his knowledge. So a few days later, after his pompous erudition captured the ire of several netizens, Frankie Boy explained himself on his Facebook account.

FSJ1

FSJ2

When I first read Frankie Boy’s letter to Mr. del Rosario, it made my blood boil. You know, I’ve purchased some of his books. I find his Rosales novels entertaining (but forgettable). His take on social justice is praiseworthy. But as an individual, I never had a fondness for him. Because, in spite of his close friendship to fellow National Artist Nick Joaquín (a renowned Hispanista and a true humble spirit), Frankie Boy is a certified hispanófobo, and his views on Filipino History are vehemently contradictory to how I view it based on documentation and cultural evidence (judging from his writings, his are obviously based on textbook material, stuff he learned only from school). I even find it hard to forgive him for lambasting the late chemist-historian Pío Andrade at a historical forum held in Instituto Cervantes de Manila ten years ago. This humiliating scene was witnessed by my friend Arnaldo Arnáiz who told me that old man Frankie Boy angrily walked out from the room when he couldn’t take anymore all the historical truth coming out of Andrade’s mouth regarding the Calamba agrarian dispute in which the Rizal family was a party.

I was hurt and embarrassed for those artists (the two Cruzes) whose works I am not even familiar with. I could relate to being belittled, so I guess maybe that’s where all this anger is coming from. At first I tried to ignore Frankie Boy’s pompous letter, but I couldn’t. It just didn’t feel good seeing a writer his stature and my, how physically big he is, even for his age belittling accomplished writers and painters who are no longer around to defend themselves from his arrogance and yet I do nothing about it. I won’t be able to sleep well, I thought. Other than that, the last words that he wrote on his Facebook post (“the time has not yet come for me to be silent”) prompted me all the more to give him a piece of my mind. So immediately after reading his unapologetic post on his wall, off I went to my wall and posted an open letter to him (see below, with minor edits).

AN OPEN LETTER TO F. Sionil José (NATIONAL ARTIST FOR PERFECTION)

Good day! I hope this post of mine finds you well and good.

First of all, a confession: I’m one of those who shared that “Straight-From-Mount-Olympus” letter of yours (on Twitter; you’re not famous there). Anyway, enough of that. I’m just here to comment on your humble defense of your soon-to-be-legendary letter to the National Museum of the Philippines. So to borrow your own words: “straightforward ito“…

Your best chum, the late, great Nick Joaquín, by far a much BETTER National Artist for Literature than anyone around, living or dead (and I’m 100% sure you won’t contest that), published one of his last books which was about E. Aguilar Cruz titled “ABÉ: A FRANK SKETCH OF E. AGUILAR CRUZ”. Between the two of us, you should know better that Nick would have never wasted his precious time on a subject if it was as paltry as… what’s that poor fellah’s name again? Ben Singkil? If Abé was good enough for a giant like Nick, then he’s good enough for everybody. And even before Nick, our country’s foremost historian today already published a book about Abé’s paintings many years before he became famous enough to correct that glaring syphilitic error that you committed in one of your novels (we all know who that historian is).

Simple lang ang sinasabi co. I won’t go about parading Abé’s achievements. People from the literary and art circles are already mighty aware of them, anyway. Including yourself (you just won’t admit it, c’mon). I’m not a fan of his in the first place. But hey, I’ve been hearing quite a LOT about this “non-entity” since I was a lunchbox-toting kid… a non-entity as a writer, you say?! Yet he was cited in José Garcia Villa‘s annual selections — and Villa is our country’s FIRST National Artist for Literature! Abé also graced the literary pages of the Graphic Magazine quite a number of times and even became the editor of the Sunday Times Magazine. But hey, if you insist of his being a non-entity, then he could probably well be our country’s very first non-existent permanent representative to the UNESCO. So let’s just consider that NHI historical marker in his hometown as a big joke, shall we? Anyway, as I have said at the beginning of this paragraph, I won’t go about parading Abé’s achievements. So, moving forward…

…do we even have to discuss that other Cruz you crucified? Well, I might agree with you that Andrés Cristóbal Cruz was a non-entity as a painter. He was known more for his award-winning writings than for his paintings (by the way, not once did he solicit foreign publishers to have his works translated into other languages just so that he’d be tagged as the most translated Filipino author). However, he was mentored by Abé. Therefore, the National Museum is only emphasizing the latter’s influence on the former. The fact that Andrés’s painting is on exhibit there is to give weight, legitimacy, and RESPECT to Abé’s artistic influence over an award-winning writer who tried his luck in the visual arts.

But what can we non-existing mediocrats do? You have spoken from your laureled throne: “Both have not produced any significant body of work, either paintings or books, of great artistry.” May I just ask where have you been all these years? Did Thanos travel back in time and snap his fingers on top of your regal beret, that’s why you didn’t notice these things going on? Who in blue blazes is Thanos? you might ask. Don’t bother; he’s just another non-entity who could never rival your fictional characters.

Now going back to that letter of yours. Some netizens have commented that we should all be cautious with whatever words we throw at you you since you’re already in the twilight of your mind-boggling existence. “He’s in his 90s. Let him be. Humor him” says one netizen. “Gonna give him a pass, sa katandaan na siguro din says another. But you yourself have said that the time has not yet come for you to be silent. Well, if that’s the case, since you are so willing to talk, then you should be willing to listen. So listen to this…

As far as MANY people are concerned, you are a fantastic novelist (I still love your Rosales novels although a huge chunk of them is as boring as Harold Clavite‘s online existence), a piercing essayist, and a sterling social justice activist (funny that I mentioned the word “justice” on this post). But as a national artist? You, sir, are a non-entity.

Your opinion may be “learned”, but it is still an opinion. And you’re imposing it on all of us. Sorry, Frankie me boyo. I’m still not convinced.

Love lots,

Another non-entity.

PS: If you wish to block me afterwards, forget it. I’m a non-entity troll. So how could you possibly even care about me?

Am I being disrespectful towards F. Sionil José? Well, I’ve been calling him “Frankie Boy” throughout this whole blogpost, so go figure. Let’s not even talk about seniority nor age here. He had this coming a long time ago. He may be a giant in Filipino Literature, but in real life, he’s just a cantankerous old-timer, the type you really want to beat up but couldn’t because of his age. Besides, he said that the time for him to shut up has not yet come. Now that’s a terrifying prospect that I just couldn’t ignore. And more importantly, respect begets respect. Out of all National Artists whose lives and works I’ve read in various books, newspapers, magazines, and websites, he is the only one whom I noticed to be so full of himself (I’m trying to suppress myself from writing plus-size jokes). Don’t get me wrong. I wish him no ill, really. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write about my resentment of him.

Having said that, I should reveal this now: the ONLY reason why F. Sionil José is the most translated among Filipino writers (something he loves to brag about) is because he has solicited foreign translators to have his works translated. As a publisher himself, he has the clout to do so. Siyá ang lumalapit sa canilá. It wasn’t the other way around. His books were not translated because of the quality of their forgettable stories. So being the most translated writer in Filipinas does not equate to being the best. All you need are PR skills.

If he denies what I have just revealed here, then he should throw away the virtue of HONESTY from his writings.

Before I end this online rant, you must be wondering: what prompted Frankie Boy to belittle Abé and Andrés just like that? I have no idea. My suspicion: maybe he had some ugly misunderstanding with the two Cruzes in the past. Or he’s just jealous of them. But let us not dig into that anymore. Whatever squabble he may have had with the two Cruzes (and may they rest in peace), it’s none of our business. What we should marvel at, however, is this cute photo of Frankie Boy attending the opening of an art exhibit three years ago in which the paintings of those two Cruzes he had looked down upon last month were included. Now that’s neurotically classy of him, don’t you think! 😂

DIMASALANG EXHIBIT

Photo taken from The LJC Group website.

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Ople on the Spanish language

Having been founded in 1922, the Premio Zóbel is considered as the country’s oldest literary award open to all Filipino writers in the Spanish language. Among those who had won the prestigious prize were poet Manuel Bernabé (1924), diplomat León Mª Guerrero III (1963), and renaissance man Guillermo Gómez Rivera (1975). But in the late 1960s to the early 1970s, it was put to a halt because the number of participants dwindled. In 1974, the Zóbel de Ayala clan changed the rules of the contest so that anyone in Filipinas who promoted the preservation of the Spanish language could become an awardee. Nineteen years later, in 1993, Senator Blas Ople, a non-Spanish speaker, became a consequence of that 1974 decision.

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“80 Años del Premio Zóbel”, a compendium of Premio Zóbel’s history, was published in 2000. The book’s author, Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes, was herself an awardee in 1998.

This is not to say that the choosing of the then neophyte senator was nothing short of a scandalous matter among Filipino writers in the Spanish language. He received the award “por sus relevantes méritos en pro de la cultura hispano-filipina” (for his relevant merits in favor of the Spanish language). One such merit was the following essay that he wrote in his column “Windows” which used to appear in Panorama magazine (a supplement of Manila Bulletin’s Sunday issue). The essay was published on 30 August 1992, a year before he was awarded a Premio Zóbel medal.

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Blas Ople (1927–2003).

Our Spanish past lingers in Iloílo with subtle charm
Blas Ople

Having sat down from the rigors of an obligatory speech on current issues, I thought I would sip my coffee in peace, mentally braced for an evening of pleasant boredom.

This was Iloílo City, and the Lions clubs from all over Panay and some from Negros Occidental had filled the vast hall of the Hotel del Río by the river, for the 42nd anniversary of the Iloílo City Host Lions Club. Then magically, the grace and charm of our Spanish past rose before our eyes.

Dancers in full Spanish costumes, platoon-size formations, materialized on the floor. They called on a vast repertory, not just one, two, or three, but many numbers, turning an otherwise banal dinner into a bewitching hour redolent of history. It was only in Iloílo, I thought, that simple housewives, many of them now grandmothers, could be formed into flamenco dancers of such charm, on demand (I was told later they rehearsed for a month for this show).

I gathered that Iloílo and nearby Bacólod are just about the last places where sizable remnants of an elderly Spanish-speaking generation may be found, though this, too, is slowly fading away. But the rhythms of Spain will probably long outlive the Castilian speech in these parts, judging from the authentic passion of those movements we watched that night.

Compared with these, the rigodón de honor danced by the elite in Tagálog cities and towns has to be judged a pale initiation.

Few Filipinos are of course shedding a tear on the waning of our Spanish past, except as this has been subsumed in native speech and customs. The memories of those early centuries still rankle.

This is the revenge of Rizal and del Pilar, whose works have molded, through generations, our impressions of the era of Spain in the Philippines. But when recently, all the countries of the Iberian world met in México, as though eager to repossess their common heritage from their Spanish past, I felt a certain pain to realize that the Philippines alone was not present, for the reason that we have disinvited ourselves.

I should reveal this now. In the Constitutional Commission of 1986, I fought until the end to have Spanish retained in the new Constitution as an official language, together with Filipino and English. I wanted at least an explicit recognition of Spanish as such a language until the wealth of historical material in our archives, most of this in Spanish, can be fully translated into English or Filipino.

But the real reason was that I wanted to preserve our last formal links with the Iberian world, which includes most of the countries in Latin Américas with a population of about 400 million. I remember Claro M. Recto’s sentimental journey to Spain, which was aborted by a heart attack in Rome. If we lost that final strand of solidarity with the Spanish-speaking world, we, too, would never get to Spain.

It was as though both sides had agreed on a policy of mutual forgetfulness.

The “radicals” in the Con-Com strongly advised me not to press the provision on Spanish, because this would have the effect of reopening other controversial issues in the draft charter. It could delay the framing of the Constitution beyond an acceptable deadline.

My worst fears have been realized. We have expelled ourselves from the Iberian community of nations. The rift is final, and will never be healed.

But I felt the charms of our Spanish past will linger longest in places like Iloílo, and during that enchanted evening, I was glad for the opportunity to savor them. We may have left the Iberian world of our free choice, but the hold of Spain will never really cease in the Filipino heart.

To those who are unfamiliar with the issue, it was former President Corazón Aquino’s Constitutional Commission of 1986 (the one mentioned by Senator Ople in his column) that decided the fate of the Spanish language in Filipinas. It should be remembered that Spanish had been our country’s official language beginning 24 June 1571. It may had been unceremoniously booted out from the 1973 Constitution by pro-Tagálog politicians during the 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention under Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency, but the former strongman, realizing its worth, issued Presidential Decree No. 155 two months after the 1973 Constitution was ratified. Believe it or not, this forgotten Marcos decree recognized Spanish (alongside the English language) as one of Filipinas’s official languages. It thus absolves his 1973 Constitution of any culpability when one wishes to point an accusing finger at the “killer” of the Spanish language in our country.

All index fingers will of course lead to the present constitution, the progenitor of the Constitutional Commission of 1986. No wonder Ople was devastated: he was its member, he fought for the Spanish language’s preservation in the present constitution, yet he was blocked by those radicals from doing so (they were probably those whom Hispanistas and non-Tagálogs today derisively call as “Tagalistas“). That is why, out of disillusionment (or anger?), he wrote that painful statement that we Filipinos have expelled ourselves from the Spanish-speaking community of nations.

But that was 1992. It’s 2018 now, and attitudes toward the Spanish language and our country’s past under Spain for that matter have drastically changed. The enlightened Filipino youth of today will surely disagree with the late Senator’s statement that the rift done by the present constitution’s non-inclusion of Spanish was final, and that it will never be healed. Already, we have several groups in social media, particularly in Facebook, that advocate the return of the Spanish language to Filipino mainstream society such as the SPANISH language should be back in the PHILIPPINES!Oficialización del Español en Filipinas (this one has more than eleven thousand members!), and Defensores de la Lengua Española en Filipinas. Outside of Facebook are blogs that extol the virtues and blessings of our country’s Spanish past: we can cite With One’s PastHecho Ayer, and the Hispanic Indio just to name a few. Then there is Jemuel Pilápil who organized the Sociedad Hispano-Filipina together with other Hispanists to safeguard and promote the language, thus inspiring me to label him as the new Isagani (watch out for his group’s website to be launched very soon!). The presence of Instituto Cervantes de Manila with its monthly cultural events is a great boost in the efforts to “reintroduce” the Spanish language and culture to our country. Not too long ago, renowned Spanish-speaking Filipinos launched a documentary citing the importance of the Spanish language as part of our national identity and heritage. Even our country’s premiere historian today, Ambeth Ocampo, already revealed himself as far removed from the usual anti-Spain mold of historians by producing very impartial write-ups about our country’s Hispanic past. Says Ocampo in one of his writings:

The concept of Filipino began not with pre-Hispanic indios but with Spain. Individuals known as Filipinos cannot be traced beyond 1521 when Magellan sailed into the Philippine archipelago. Filipino was mainly a geographic term to begin with, and the notion of Filipinas, a place, a nation, cannot be pushed beyond the first Spanish settlement established by Miguel López de Legazpi in 1565.

I could go on and on, but the point is clear: the rift done by Tita Cory’s flawed constitution is not final. Ople’s fight for the Spanish language’s rightful place in the Filipino cosmos didn’t go for naught. We are healing!

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