From “Nuestra Patria” to “Bayan Ko”

DID YOU KNOW? The popular protest song “Bayan Ko” (My Native Land) was originally written in Spanish. Titled “Nuestra Patria“, the lyrics were written by Gen. José Alejandrino (the former propagandista from Pampanga who later in his life fought against the US WASP invaders) with music by Constancio de Guzmán. It was written as a protest song (specifically for a modern rendition of a satirical Spanish-era zarzuela) against the US WASP invaders who grabbed the country from the Spanish Empire and, later on, from the República de Malolos. It was translated to Tagálog by poet José Corazón de Jesús and has since become a popular political protest song.

NUESTRA PATRIA

The Tagálog version gained further popularity during Martial Law. It has since been considered by many as the country’s second national anthem. Last year, the original version in Spanish (piano performance) was made available in YouTube by fonsucu (Fonso Velázquez).

 

Fame or family?

From time to time, I look at my list of Facebook friends and it impresses me. In that list are many renowned people. Not just renowned but even famous in their respective field/career. Some are distinguished writers, bloggers, athletes, musicians, celebrities, entrepreneurs, public servants, scholars, etc.

I have to be honest: many times, I feel jealous of them. In a world filled with ambition, I couldn’t help but feel so inadequate whenever I’m with accomplished people, whenever I see them rise to the top each moment as I sit here in this balmy apartment unit of ours, contemplating on when will the moment arrive that I could finally make my friends and family members proud of me.

Why do all of us, in varying degrees, want to become famous or popular? Probably to make us feel that we really exist, so that we will not be belittled in a world filled with injustice and inequality. Or maybe to savor the fruits of self-worth. Or to find a spot in a world that is oftentimes obsessed with dignity. Or to avoid being devoured by rankism.

The only talent I have (or I think I have) is writing, blogging in particular. I try to create my own voice, but it always gets drowned out by louder and better ones. And I fear that I could no longer accomplish much from what I am passionate about especially since I now have five children to take care of; we have no household help, and my wife has long retired from employment to fully take care of our growing brood. Writing and scholarly research is never an easy task. It requires full attention and concentration, and one’s surroundings should be conducive to scholarly work — I do not have that kind of convenience, and it irritates me to no end. To complicate things, I’ve been suffering from physical pain for years already (regional complex pain syndrome), not to mention that I’m always being bothered with this burdensome and unceasing “calling” to protect and defend a once glorious past that is now being calumnied by ignorant ingrates.

And to add to my frustrations, I am still a clock-punching nightly wage slave.

Nevertheless, whenever I see my family together, inside this ramshackle place that we have learned to love, all my vexations subside. Suddenly, I realize that I have accomplished what (sadly and surprisingly) few people today have attained: a loving family that I can call my own, a loving family centered in Christ. We may not be a perfect family, but we are a family intact in spite of all the tribulations brought about by increasing utilitarianism and Miley Cyrus.

HAPPINESS

Well, I guess there’s no need for me to be covetous of other people, after all.

¡Enaltecer la familia para la gloria más alta de Dios! 

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For sale: Rizal’s Unfading Glory

Hello everyone. I am selling this super rare and highly controversial book titled RIZAL’S UNFADING GLORY: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF THE CONVERSION OF DR. JOSÉ RIZAL by Fr. Jesús María Cavanna (1961). This is a must-have for all Rizalist historians especially those who are interested in the Rizal Retraction issue. This book contains several photographs of documented evidence as well as interviews proving once and for all that Rizal really retracted from Freemasonry. It is already out of print, but I still have several copies. I am selling each copy for only ₱1,100.00. For more details, please send a message to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Hurry! This offer is good while supplies last. 😇

 

RIZAL'S UNFADING GLORY

Pardon my copy of this book; I just got this from a visiting flea market at school when I was in college. Rest assured that the copies I sell do not look like this,

From excited foreword to grateful afterthought

A couple of years back, I excitedly announced in my now defunct Spanish blog that I was chosen to write for a coffee table book about the history of La Laguna Province. After almost two years of sleepless nights writing and doing field research, promoting it on social media, incurring trouble at the office because of several absences and tardiness, and capped by a press release on my accidental discovery of the province’s foundation date as well as defending it from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ “board of academic censors”, nothing came out of the said project. The publisher and I had a falling out while the provincial governor who was supposed to fund the project was  unceremoniously booted out from politics. That book was supposed to be my big break to become a well-known writer-historian. But it seems that bad luck is an unwanted twin of mine. Whenever my dreams are within arm’s reach, they start slipping right from my hands and crash down to the floor like fine chandelier.

When publication was nearing, I had my mentor, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, write the book’s foreword. I couldn’t think of nor imagine anyone else to write one for me. He is, after all, the epitome of an authentic Renaissance Man: a journalist, historian, poet, playwright, fictionist, linguist, folklorist, cartoonist, recording artist, and Spanish language teacher as well as instructor of Spanish dances (considered as the only “maestro de flamenco” of Filipinas). Few people may know this, but he is also a polyglot: aside from his mastery of Spanish, Hiligaynón, Quinaráy-a, English, and Tagálog, he also has a working knowledge of Chabacano Zamboangueño, Cavitén (Chabacano Caviteño), French, Hokkien, Cebuano, and Portuguese. In spite of his personal problems and health issues, he still manages to continue the difficult fight for the recognition of our true national identity. A great man like Don Guimò only comes once every one hundred years. That is why I call him as the GREATEST FILIPINO alive today.

HAPPINESS

Unfortunately, my coffee table book will no longer see the light of day. So I thought of just publishing here Don Guimo’s foreword for that book. I am not a decorated writer nor historian, but his words for me are worth all the medals of the world.

     Having known José Mario “Pepe” Alas since his college student days at Adamson University, we never expected him to be capable of writing a history book with such serene impartiality and with the taught discipline of a seasoned historian. And more so the complex history of La Laguna, a province that means so much to the development of this country. We always thought that only a Nick Joaquín would be able to do that considering the uniqueness and the vastness of the latter’s accumulated knowledge and profound understanding of Philippine history, the Spanish language, the Filipino national identity, and the Filipino culture that encompasses all these intellectual disciplines.

     But Pepe has somehow been able to acquire the necessary conocimientos which is more than knowledge, to grasp and reproduce what is Filipino. He did take for granted, as is the case of many Filipino college students, his Spanish language subjects at Adamson University, but after he graduated and was faced with the challenges of survival, he accepted the casual job of a typist and was given the assignment to type a whole book in Spanish on the history of the Primera República de Filipinas, a thick compilation of documents, with their respective comments, by Spanish language academician, novelist, historian, and professor, Antonio M. Abad from Barili, Cebú.

     Although we know that this is not the only book in Spanish that he was forced to read, because he had to type it, Pepe must have had read some other books in Spanish on what is Filipino aside from those available in English. To our surprise, Pepe could speak to us in Spanish about Philippine History after going through this old Abad book and the other books, works, and literary pieces in this language that were found in our library.

    As an old teacher of the Spanish language, we know that the student, to acquire this language, needs to master four basic skills: the skill to read it, the skill to understand it, the skill to write in it, and, later, the final skill to speak it. And Pepe Alas from Parañaque City had sufficiently mastered the four enumerated skills. To top it all, he also mastered to a high degree the literary, historical, and cultural content of Spanish in the Philippines which, as a culmination, has formed his firm conviction as a Filipino, free from the current maladies of a colonial mentality vis-à-vis the present colonial master lording it over our country.  In short, Pepe is no longer a stranger in his own country which is expectedly miseducated, therefore ignorant of its true culture and true history. Pepe has freed himself from these maladies and anomalies of the mind and soul, and, because of this newfound freedom of his mind and his soul, he now loves his country in a much deeper way than most other Filipinos of his generation ever did or do.

     As he advanced in the field of employment, he settled in San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna, with his wife and children and immediately identified himself as a native born lagunense interested in the history and prosperity of his adoptive province. From there, he realized that he had a new world to know and write about which is La Laguna. His research on the history of his adoptive province led him to discover the real founding date of La Laguna. He went through all the old and pertinent Spanish documents with great ease and discovered that La Laguna started as a Spanish encomienda under conquistador Martín de Goití in the sixteenth century.

     What is funny, if not something to be highly indignant about, is that the government office that supposedly works on the history of this country flatly denied and rejected this discovery because of an old U.S. WASP induced prejudice against the Spanish encomienda. Some employees in that government office on history had this prejudice against the encomienda because of the falsities taught to them in their history classes by an Americanized history teacher that never learned to see through the 1900 American sectarian propaganda against what is Spanish and Filipino in these islands. These de-Filipinized elements wrongly labeled an encomienda as a system of slavery and oppression when it is in the encomienda that our native Indio forefathers learned not only the predominant religion of Filipinos today but also learned a more advanced system of agriculture, a sophisticated cuisine, basic arts and trade, and all that a people needed to later form a pueblo and a municipio as we know them today.

     But the La Laguna Provincial Board, being open minded, quickly saw that this Alas discovery was logical and, therefore, correct. It eventually approved and recognized the date of the founding of La Laguna as a Spanish encomienda to be also the beginning of the legal entity that is this province today. An Inquirer article called Pepe an achiever who, as a young historian, discovered what others blindly ignored for so long. Kudos to the provincial governor and the La Laguna Provincial Board!

     Reading Pepe’s general history of La Laguna is a pleasure. The language is easy and all that is historical data are neatly interwoven to give an accurate picture of how La Laguna developed and how its people progressed through the years in spite of the vicissitudes that would disturb such advances. Credit is given to whosoever deserves it. As an historian, Pepe will never say, like Teodoro A. Agoncillo says on his “History of the Filipino People”, that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is”.  Pepe gives us the sensation that he exactly knows what is Filipino and that it is neither difficult nor impossible to define what it is. Because of his mastery of Spanish, Pepe Alas agrees with Teodoro M. Kálaw’s definition of what is Filipino, a definition that is, evidently, not “politically correct” nowadays, but which is accurate anyway you put it. Wrote Kálaw, and we quote him in his own language to avoid any mistranslation:

“Cuando se discute la capacidad de una raza para la autosuficiencia, todos los elementos y factores que intervinieron en su cultura, todas las generaciones anteriores, se someten a prueba. Y entrelazadas en esa exégesis está la obra de España y la obra de Filipinas indígena, dos civilizaciones que han venido uniéndose en una misma civilización que llamamos filipina sobre este suelo por casi cuatro siglos para luego constituir una vibrante nacionalidad, la que dio espíritu a la revolución y a la primera República de Filipinas.”

     La Laguna is, indeed, one of the oldest provinces of the Philippines because many of its original families have branched out to other places in this country. As a mere example and modesty aside—, this writer’s family, on both the paternal and maternal sides, traces its roots to La Laguna. Gómez comes from a 17th-century Spanish alférez from Pagsanján, Francisco Gómez, who married a Tagala named María Dimaculañgan, while Rivera traces its roots to nearby Pila. Upon a recent visit to the parish church of Pagsanján, this writer saw, from a list of donors, individuals that carried both surnames: Gómez and Rivera. There is always that inclination to come to Pagsanján and upon viewing the old and majestic arch at the beginning of what was Pagsanján’s Calle Real, a sensation of having been there becomes overpowering.  And then, there is the now almost abandoned Gómez mansion near the river while it is also at the rear of the old Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the advocation of the Virgin Mary that merited the Pontifical titles of “Emperatriz de las Américas, Reina de México, y Patrona de Filipinas”. Aside from the famous Pagsanján Falls, the arch, the old bahay na bató houses, and the parish church are also tourist attractions.

     The attraction of La Laguna in general is great, and tourism is not a new phenomenon for Pagsanján. There is this bilingual sing-song of long ago that attests to what we say:

Muy bienvenidos
Sean ustedes
A nuestro pueblo
De Pagsanján.
Aquí tenemos
La maravilla
De veinte saltos
En un bancal.
Sobresaltante
Pero seguro
Es el paseo
En un raudal;
Porque las bancas
Son de arbol duro
Y los banqueros
De mucha sal.

–o–

Maganda nawâ
Ang ‘yong pagdayo
Dito sa amin
Sa Pagsanján;
Magarang arco,
Magandang bahay
Gawá sa tabla
At sa bató.
Ñgunit ang tunay
Na pañghalina
Ng bayan natin
Ay ang talón
Casama’ng daloy
Ng mananañgcang
Sanáy sa tulin
At sa tinô.

     La Laguna, as a center of Filipino culture, as expressed in song, dance, ritual, poetry, cuisine, and hospitality, is bound to advance. More so with the new crop of leaders it presently has to steer this vision onward.

 

 

CNN Philippines Quiz Night: The Philippine History edition

Good news to all history buffs! CNN Philippines has just come up with a wonderful quiz bee for all aficionados of Filipino History — the CNN Philippines Quiz Night: The Philippine History edition. They also have a hashtag for it: #CNNPHQuiz. Click on the image below for more details.

HISTORY QUIZ

Aside from the fact that this quiz bee perfectly fits History Month, it is also a good avenue to further popularize interest on Filipino History. Good luck to all!

The day Princess Sarah burned Miss Minchin

Esto fue ese día famoso en que la Princesa Sarah Crewe dejó atrás a la Señorita María Minchin con su excelente español. 😂

I saw this video clip making the rounds in Facebook lately: an angry Miss Minchin got burned upon discovering that Princess Sarah was a native Spanish-speaker. The rather humorous video clip is from that famous 1995 Filipino family-drama movie Sarah… Ang Munting Prinsesa (Sarah… The Little Princess) which starred Camille Prats in the titular role (she was 10 years old at the time). The movie itself was adapted from the 1985 Japanese cartoon series Princess Sarah which was then a huge hit at ABS-CBN during the 1990s. The said cartoon’s high ratings prompted the media giant to make a movie out of it through its film outfit Star Cinema.

In the video clip, Miss Minchin, portrayed by the ever-effective Jean García, got miffed when she noticed that Princess Sarah was the only student in her Spanish language class who was not taking up notes. The little princess tried to explain that she already knew the language, but to no avail. Miss Minchin started scolding her. Enter Señor Francisco, portrayed by the late Tony Carreón, a Spanish language teacher who then inquired what the commotion was all about. That was when he found out that the protagonist was half Spanish after all.

Click on the screen grab below to watch the video clip.

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This scene was a departure from the cartoon series because in the latter, the students  were learning French instead of Spanish (I should know because I was a follower of the cartoons at that time, so feel free to laugh 😂). I don’t know whose idea it was to change the language setting, but it was a good move considering that this is a Filipino film anyway. French is too foreign compared to Spanish. Besides, the late Tony Carreón himself was a native Spanish speaker. Another one of the actors in this movie, my famous friend Jaime Fábregas, is also a native Spanish speaker. I could just imagine how they gave pointers to Camille Prats on how to speak the language. Also, I do remember a former office mate of mine (Tina Jocson, another native Spanish speaker) telling me that she personally knew Camille’s grandparents (father’s side if I remember correctly). The grandparents themselves were also native Spanish speakers. So I imagine that perhaps Camille knew a smattering of the language.

You might notice how I kept using the adjective “native”. Let me continue reminding the very few readers of this blog that Spanish is a Filipino language. It is not a foreign language. Many Filipinos such as Carreón, Fábregas, and Mommy Tina grew up speaking it as their cradle language. That is why local movie scenes like this really put a smile on my face (with apologies to Thanos).

Enjoy the rest of the day! ¡Un buen día a todos!

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Hoy en la Historia de Filipinas: Manila se convierte en una ciudad chárter

HOY EN LA HISTORIA FILIPINA — 7 de agosto de 1901: la ciudad de Manila fue incorporada en virtud de la Ley 183 de la Comisión Filipina (Philippine Commission) que fue aprobada el 31 de julio de 1901. El General de Brigada George W. Davis, el último capitán preboste (provost marshal) de Manila, redactó la Carta. La Carta de Manila trabajó a fondo en su plan general de legislación por el cual la Ciudad de Washington, D.C. era entonces gobernada.

La imagen puede contener: texto

Debe recordarse que hasta mediados del siglo XIX, Manila formó parte de la antigua Provincia de Tondo. Esta provincia incluía casi todo lo que es ahora Rizal (y las ciudades actuales de Metro Manila). En 1859, se emitió un decreto que establecía un gobierno civil para la Provincia de Manila. Con este decreto, lo que formalmente fue Tondo se convirtió en la provincia de Manila. Además, el decreto afirmaba que el gobernador civil también era corregidor (alcalde mayor) de la ciudad.

Today in Philippine History, August 7, 1901,  Manila became a chartered city

 

Debunking the historical claim

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. -Carl Jung-

It comes but as an unconscionable delight to a person (who has no more good argument to extract from his wonderful comprehension of events) who disagrees with another individual to attack the latter’s credibility, especially when the former is already overwhelmed by offenses from his foe. Some instances of common diatribes: “You are a nobody; how dare you say such things!” “Do you even have a Master’s degree to lay such claims?” “Have you won awards to make yourself known as an iconoclast?” “We would rather resort to scholars and other published greats than waste our time weighing the merits of your blog!”

The foregoing examples are, indeed, a barrage of poor reasoning. In a world that is wanting of intellectual arguments, hitting on a person’s scholarship —or lack of it— should never be highlighted by an applause nor should be sided upon. Yes, it is true that a case usually wins by an overwhelming quantity of physical evidence and even witnesses. But isn’t it that hard data is prescribed and narrowed down by critical thinking and other related realms of impartial thought? Hard data alone should not be considered as sola scriptura. That is why we humans are so fortunate to be gifted with common sense to discern things that should be or should not be.

On the other hand, those supposedly credible persons who spread falsities and inaccuracies —if not lies— take all the credit. Take this reasoning, for instance, from renowned historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1912-1985):

Teodoro A. Agoncillo (photo: Ambeth R. Ocampo).

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is. All that can be done is to pick out some traits common to the average Filipinos and to separate those that are obviously Spanish or American. The common traits are probably Malay and characterize the Filipinos as a people. (History of the Filipino People, eighth edition, pp 5-6, Garotech Publishing, 1990)

It should be noted that Agoncillo is highly regarded as one of the top bananas in the field of Filipino historiography. A product of the University of the Philippines Manila, he wrote Filipino History from a rather “puristic” nationalist point of view with leftist undertones. He served as a linguistic assistant at the Institute of National Language and also taught at the Far Eastern University and the Manuel L. Quezon University. His seminal book, Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, was both highly acclaimed and criticized. He also taught at his alma mater and even got to chair its Department of History during the 1960s. Perhaps one of the biggest achievements of his scholarly career was when former President Diosdado Macapagal made him a member of the National Historical Institute in 1963. Aside from history, he is also an acclaimed essayist and poet in his native Tagálog language (he hails from Lemery, Batangas).

For all his sterling qualities as a scholar, his statement about what a Filipino is, in my humble opinion, debunks his worth as a historian. How could such a crème de la crème of scholarship find it difficult to define what a Filipino is? The Spaniards know who they are. So do the British. Ask any Japanese to define their national identity and you might end up listening to them for hours. But here in Filipinas, a supposedly topnotch historian leads the nation in claiming difficulty in defining our national identity. And so he resorts to the inner physiognomy of a Filipino, going so far as to claim that our identity is of Malay origin!

Although we Filipinos are renowned for our hospitality, piety, industriousness, etc., these are traits that are not unique to us alone. It is too selfish and proud for a nation to monopolize such traits. And to simply put it, that is not the proper way to define our national identity. It is not just through a distinction of traits that a national identity should be defined; rather, it should be strongly viewed through a shared common history and affinity of blood and tongues and culture and faith and cuisine and song and literature and visual arts and dance and craftsmanship and even architecture. Indeed, various criteria should be applied.

To say that our national identity has been elusive through the years because of colonial trauma is nothing but hogwash and useless rhetoric. Ours is just a simple case of being unable to handle the truth. Our national identity never left us. It has been with us all this time; we just don’t want to recognize it in the same manner that Agoncillo couldn’t.

We do not have to seek nor build our own identity. It’s already here, ready to strike us in the face. What needs to be done is to simply identify it. It is already with us, within us. We just need to tap it. And make it known among ourselves. So to say that we do not have our own identity is tantamount to declaring that we have no country, that we are not a nation.

Or that perhaps we really are a nation of fools? I believe no nation would want to be referred to as such.

Since Agoncillo has been hailed by many as one of the best Filipino historians of all time, how come he was not able to determine that the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571? I just find it hard to believe that he, a virtual legend in our country’s historiography, didn’t know that the Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language. In 1599, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members, and that they incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected King Philip II as their natural sovereign. How come Agoncillo didn’t seem to be cognizant of this fact if he is such a first-rate historian — or is he? In writing his History of the Filipino People, did he conveniently omit the fact that the first true Filipinos were the creoles or insulares, and that the indios (or natives such as the Tagálog, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilongo, etc.) who “aped” them genuinely assimilated themselves into the Hispanic sphere which was then called Filipino in this side of the world?

From a reliable source, I heard stories about how Agoncillo pronounced the disputed Code of Calantiáo as ‘Kalanshaw’ (kɑlʌnʃaʊ) in his UP classes. Worse, the ‘Bay’ (bʌˈɛ) in ‘Laguna de Bay’ for him was pronounced the American/English way: ‘bay’ (beɪ). This only proves that this “Batangueño great” had no idea that Laguna de Bay was named after the town of Bay in La Laguna province, just a few kilometers from his province. This should be a cause of concern and disturbance among those who admire him and —heaven forbid— aspire to be like him. And he’s a decorated scholar at that.

Here is another “riveting” case of pompous rhetoric from another scholarly giant, National Scientist Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (1926-2013).

 

Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (photo: UP Manila Twitter account).

 

According to Dr. Córpuz, the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan nğ mg̃á Anak nğ Bayan, popularly known as the Katipunan, was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation” (The Roots of the Filipino Nation, Vol. II, p. 223, Aklahi Foundation, 1989).

There is something wrong, if not irritable, with this assertion of his. How could the Katipunan embody the Christian Filipino nation when the group was essentially anti-Christian, thus anti-Filipino? As a renowned historian, shouldn’t he had been aware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives? Didn’t he know that Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church? There has been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter. If he was as astute as many people think he was, Dr. Córpuz should have traced the origins of the Katipunan to Freemasonry. Katipuan Supremo Andrés Bonifacio joined the Taliba Lodge (No. 165) and from there imbibed radical and anti-friar ideas. He also joined Rizal’s La Liga Filipina which was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making.

After the failure of La Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, it appeared that the campaign for peaceful reforms have hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who had been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in Filipinas. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan (yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who was the main engine of the Katipunan’s establishment).

What happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros‘ way.

Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation?

Indeed, hard data is not enough to support historical ideas and claims. Logic and a clear-cut understanding of things, as well as a keen observation of our surroundings and time, should quantify these data in order to come up with definite conclusions and concise pictures of what really happened in our country’s past. When faced with confusing historical documents, impartial critical thinking is the key to decipher their messages.

In comparison to the above statement, diplomas, awards, and other regalia are nothing but toilet paper and scrap metal.

Originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, with minor edits. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Que será, será

I was with Mayor Calixto Catáquiz yesterday. Well, he’s no longer mayor here in our place (his wife is), but we still call him Mayor. Anyway, that’s how it is here in Filipinas: you address ex-politicians by their former designations.

I showed to him the final chapter that I added for his biography. He assigned it to me last April, but I only got to finish it yesterday. It was only four pages. For a span of four months, I only got to write four pages! That’s how horrible my state of mind has become. I’ve been battling a lot of personal issues lately, both health and mental. I’m always vocal on my regional pain complex syndrome, but not on my depression-induced writer’s block. Depression, I think, has become too stale a word these past few years. So many people on social media have been confessing that they are suffering from depression that I suspect many of them are only fishing for sympathy.

Anyway, enough about me. Going back to the biography (hey, that rhymes!). It’s been more than 10 years since I started it with Arnold — my golly, more than a decade, and it’s not yet even finished! Even Arnold gave up on it already and left the whole project to my sole care (he has since been holed up in Singapore, together with his family). Why the horrible delay? Aside from the above-mentioned personal troubles, one contributor to the delay is that each time I’m done with the biography, Mayor Calex wanted to add more to his personal timeline. Understandable. A politician’s life, after all, is dynamic, even after his career is over. And his is no ordinary career as he was not spared from controversy. Other than that, my abnormal schedule (coupled with an inhumane daily commute) doesn’t permit me to live the full life of a writer-researcher, thus adding up to my depressive state.

Anyways, yesterday I received good news from him. We were in one of his vans, and he was on his way to one of his meetings (he is still active after retirement, acting in behalf of his wife). It was there where he scrutinized what I wrote for him. After reading the additional chapter, I saw that he was very pleased with it. In fact, I think it was the happiest that I saw him with regard to his biography (I guess the four-month delay paid off well). He then told me that he wishes to see his biography published by next year. Finally.

We then proceeded to nearby Biñán to visit a car repair shop. He wished to show me something: two vintage cars that he had bought from friends. The first one he showed me was a 1957 Chevrolet, bought about a decade ago, and for a bargain: ₱100,000. The parts had to be purchased in the US since there are no service centers here for the said model.

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Mayor Calex, second from left, checking the progress of his vintage Chevy that was bought from a friend.

The second one he showed me was a 1969 Ford Mustang, also bought a couple of years ago. The original owner was actually former Parañaque Mayor Pablo Olivárez (he was the mayor when I was still a skinny little runt living in the said city). This car cost him only ₱10,000 since the last owner had to migrate to the US and was raring to dispose of it the soonest.

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1969 Ford Mustang.

 

The original cost of these cars, of course, was equivalent to that of a fully-furnished house big enough for a family such as mine. While the value of a car immediately goes down once it leaves the car shop, these two vintage cars should still be pricey enough because of their prestige. One might say that Mayor Calex really got lucky with the price that he had to pay for these two, and he will readily agree to such observation.

Nevertheless, these cars are already costing him aplenty during the rehabilitation process since the spare parts had to be purchased from the US. But he’s a well-heeled fellow, anyway, even before politics invaded his privacy (he never intended to run for public office, but hey, I’m going ahead of his unpublished biography). Collecting vintage cars has been his hobby. His first car was a 1968 AMC Javelin, a gift from his parents. Although it was a gift, the Javelin wasn’t exactly fully paid when it was given to him. Straight out of graduation, young Calex had to work in one of his parents’ business firms so that he could continue paying for the car’s monthly amortization; he had to shell out ₱5,000 from his ₱10,000-per-month salary. This event proved that young Calex was already being trained by his parents to be self-sufficient, to be able to fend for himself, and to be able to prove that whatever he gets in life, he must prove himself worthy of it.

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My wife Yeyette posing in front of Mayor Calex’s prized Javelin. The car still runs to this day and is used only during special occasions. This photo was taken six years ago.

 

All that training that he got from his parents was all worth it because he can now afford all the vintage cars that he wants, especially now that he’s retired from politics. He told me that he wants to make it his hobby from now on. It’s what he has always wanted to do in the first place, politics just kept him away from it. He confided that he had to maintain a hobby to keep his mind off all kinds of stress, especially at his age (he’s turning 71 this December). And he’s diabetic, too.

Going back to the van after checking those two cars, we then started talking about health problems, and how stress factored in them. I relayed to him that one of the main reasons why I contracted pneumonia and tuberculosis more than a year ago was because of stress (coupled with lack of sleep and missed meals). Too much stress weakens the immune system. And when that happens, you know what comes next: the bugs will start attacking you.

He then told me that he’d been to Unisan recently (his late father and my father are from there) to attend the wake of the wife of that town’s former mayor who had died of cirrhosis of the liver (the ex-mayor is his friend and political ally; ironically, that same ex-mayor is my dad’s rival). The wife was also diabetic, said Mayor Calex. He was a bit puzzled as to why Unisan’s former first lady succumbed to a disease that is often attributed to too much liquor. She didn’t even have any vice, he wondered. I surmised that maybe it was a complication of diabetes.

But despite all that talk about health and death, I’m still not exactly your health-conscious type of guy. When I was a teener back in Parañaque, a childhood friend of mine had a nonagenarian grandmother who smoked several sticks of Philip Morris daily. She’s been like that since her younger years, according to my friend. An office mate has a family member who is health conscious, a semi-vegetarian who recently suffered a stroke. Another childhood friend who was athletic and well-built died a few years ago while playing basketball. Just last month, the vocalist of my former band (yes, I was once a rock star) died in his sleep. I’m even older than him. Too bad he wasn’t able to reach his 40s.

I’m sure you’ve heard so many uncanny stories like the ones mentioned above.

We could even go to the next level beyond health. There are many people who are so conscious about safety and well-being, but not me. I remember a wealthy neighbor of my auntie, also in Parañaque. That neighbor has a huge house with very high walls that are fenced up with barbed wires. Even the gates are electrified. The house had several security guards. I used to think that they are willingly ready to wage war anytime against the whole neighborhood. But one day, the neighborhood received shocking news that the house was robbed. When the police arrived at the scene, they found all the guards and maids tied up like Christmas presents; luckily for them, they weren’t butchered (looking back, I was wondering what kind of treasure that supposedly heavily secured house had to hide). Aside from security issues are safety concerns. For example, there are instances of pedestrians who had been very mindful and extra careful in crossing roads but still end up as victims of hit-and-runs.

This is not to say that I’m promoting recklessness, or that I am reckless myself, but it is what it is: if shit’s gonna pounce at you, no matter how careful you’ve been, there’s nothing much you can do. That is why I no longer mind my wife who never tires in warning me to always look behind my back. She is always worried that one day, a hired goon by either Eugenio Ynión Jr. or his insane brother Rommel might successfully put a bullet in my head. But worrying will only stress me out. There’s a saying in Tagálog for this: “Capág horas mo na, horas mo na“. If your time’s up, then that’s it. I’d rather have fate or providence dictate the course of whatever actions or decisions I choose. Let those two be my own Chevy and Mustang. Que será, será.

I don’t wish to end this blogpost on a morbid note. Mayor Calex told me that he plans to launch his biography next year. If possible, this coming March. And he wants to coincide it with the launching of his revitalized vintage cars.

Our time has come. This will be it.

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Of devotions and desecrations

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The modernized façade of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje during my family‘s visit there five years ago.

As a young boy who lived in Biñán for a time, José Rizal frequented the church of Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage) —then just a chapel/visita during his day— instead of the much nearer parish church of San Isidro Labrador at the población (town proper). This puzzled me years ago because during his brief stay in Biñán, he lived at the house of his Mercado relatives at the “sector de mestizos” (now known as Calle Jacobo González) which was just a few steps away from the parish church. But why did he choose to bypass the nearby parish church and opted to walk for about a kilometer or two just to reach the said chapel to attend Mass or to offer his personal prayers?

After much musing, a realization struck me.

Doña Teodora, Rizal’s mother, was a devotee of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in faraway Antipolo. During childbirth, it was said that she had suffered so much because of baby Rizal’s unusually large head. For a safe delivery, she pledged her son to the Virgin of Antipolo, vowing to one day bring him in a pilgrimage to that mountain shrine to the north. It would take seven years for that pledge to be fulfilled: Don Francisco, Rizal’s father, was the one who took the young José to the Virgin of Antipolo as thanksgiving for that safe delivery (Rizal would later write a least-known poem titled A la Virgen de Antipolo in honor of Our Lady of Peace).

Shortly afterwards, Rizal, against his will, was sent to Biñán for schooling. He didn’t want to go to Biñán as he didn’t want to be separated from his dear mother. But he didn’t make the decisions.

Could it be that a homesick Rizal was imitating her mother’s devotion to Our Lady of Peace? My friend Arnaldo Arnáiz also concluded the same when we traveled there many years ago. Rizal, who was very close to his mother, was barely an adolescent when he was sent to Biñán. Traveling all the way to that faraway chapel bearing the title of his mother’s patroness must have been solace for him, a place to heal his homesickness. We could imagine the deep devotion of young Rizal to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Biñán replicating his mother’s deep devotion to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo.

It is quite unfortunate, therefore, that in spite of the years Filipino students have spent studying Rizal’s life and works, his Catholic devotion is always left out. Focus is given more on his belligerent writings and political activities. Had our educational system paid more attention to teaching Filipinos about Rizal the Poet —for he was essentially a poet from crib to grave— none of the following stupidity would have happened…

This travesty occurred just recently, right inside the very sanctum that a young Rizal had come to love. While this is not the first time that sacristans were caught disrespecting the altar, it is starting to become frequent as time goes by. Worse, most of these sacristans you see in the photo are minors. Many of them are of the same age as Rizal.

I can’t help but think of Pepe Rizal, kneeling fervently in front of that altar, with tears streaming from his eyes, praying for the day that he’d be able to go home to the loving arms and caresses of his mother. And then I see those misguided sacristans on the photo, desecrating the very altar to which Rizal’s young eyes had laid upon.

“The altar is not a backdrop or a background,” says Seminarians’ Musings (the Facebook page that released the above photo), “but an echo of Calvary, nor are your vestments fashion statements, but they are garbs of servants.”

To reiterate: these sacristans are minors, as young as when Rizal used to frequent the same church. Neither sense of history nor sense of spirituality, these kids. But we could only blame Fr. Raúl C. Matienzo for their impudence and ignorance.

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