Cincuenta años en Hollywood

La temporada de tifones junto con las lluvias monzónicas estaban en su apogeo la noche del primer aniversario de la muerte de la legendaria escritora Carmen Guerrero Nákpil, como si los cielos aún estuvieran de luto por su pérdida. Pero incluso las lluvias no pudieron detener el lanzamiento del último libro de su famosa hija: la reina de belleza y se convirtió en historiadora, Gemma Cruz de Araneta.

Gemma ha publicado varios libros, la mayoría de los cuales tratan sobre la historia y la cultura de Filipinas. Este, que se lanzó la noche lluviosa del 30 de julio en un elegante salón de Manila Polo Club en Forbes Park, Ciudad de Macati, no fue diferente. Sin embargo, como su título indica, trata principalmente sobre las aventuras y desventuras del gobierno colonial de los Estados Unidos de América en nuestras islas.

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

El libro titulado “50 Years in Hollywood: The USA Conquers the Philippines” (50 Años en Hollywood: los EE.UU. conquista Filipinas) es una colección de ensayos históricos que Gemma ha escrito a través de años en su columna muy leída Landscape (significa paisaje o panorama) que aparece en el Manila Bulletin, un importante periódico filipino en inglés. Se trata de la transformación de la sociedad y la psique filipina poco después de que los estadounidenses nos invadieron y nos arrebataron del Reino de España y del gobierno revolucionario de Emilio Aguinaldo.

El libro recibe ese título para rendir homenaje a su madre Carmen quien había acuñado la famosa cita que se ha vuelto muy popular entre los historiadores y muchos otros escritores. El completo mensaje es “trescientos años en un convento, y cincuenta en Hollywood”. Era la forma en que Carmen describía, de manera breve pero ingeniosa, la historia de nuestro país bajo España y los EE.UU, respectivamente. En su columna publicada el 27 de junio de este año, Gemma, radiante de orgullo para su estimada madre, tiene esto que declarar:

“Así fue como Carmen Guerrero Nákpil describió la historia de Filipinas en pocas palabras. Esa es su cita más inolvidable, pero lamentablemente la más plagiada, robada, y pirateada.

“Me atrevo a decir que nadie más, ni historiador ni cronista, poeta o ensayista, podría haber ideado una descripción tan condensada pero brillante de nuestra historia. Ni el eminente Teodoro Agoncillo, ni el temible Renato Constantino, ni los pioneros Epifanio de los Santos y Gregorio Zaide, ni ningún otro escritor (ni siquiera Nick Joaquín), periodista, novelista, o historiador, filipino o extranjero, joven o viejo, podría haber pensado en una cláusula tan deliciosamente sardónica que destila la esencia de nuestra historia desafortunada. Luego otorgue crédito cuando sea necesario. Nunca más se debe atribuir ese aforismo inimitable a otra persona que no sea Carmen Guerrero Nakpil.”

(Mi traducción del inglés a español)

En dicho libro, Gemma no ofrece disculpas, justificaciones ni juicios sólidos sobre lo que ocurrió en nuestro país durante esos 50 años fortuitos bajo la colonización de los EE. UU. Pero su reportaje, respaldado por fuentes verdaderas y verificables, es brutalmente franco. Ella es justa en sus escritos pero sigue siendo implacable cuando se trata de eventos que hicieron sufrir a los filipinos. Después de todo, su madre estaba en contra de la toma de nuestro país por parte de los invasores de América del Norte.

Es apropiado que el libro de la hija se haya lanzado en el aniversario de la muerte de la madre.

La imagen puede contener: una o varias personas e interior

El lanzamiento del libro contó con la asistencia de un quién es quién de la alta sociedad filipina incluidos académicos en historia y cultura.

La imagen puede contener: 3 personas, incluido Pepe Alas, personas sonriendo

Con el historiador famoso, Xiao Chua. A pesar de su renombre, lo que es realmente notable de él no es su conocimiento de la Historia de Filipinas (no estoy de acuerdo con muchos de sus puntos de vista) sino su humildad y afabilidad. Fue Xiao quien se acercó a mí, un virtual don nadie, para presentarse, como si necesitara más presentación. Así que no es de extrañar por qué es tan querido tanto por los alumnos de la historia como por los miembros del mundo académico. Para mi observación, Xiao Chua es el próximo Ambeth R. Ocampo.

La imagen puede contener: 2 personas, incluido Pepe Alas, personas sonriendo, personas de pie

Con Tita Ester Azurín, bisnieta de Paciano Rizal, hermano mayor del héroe nacional José Rizal. Ella es una prima tercera de Gemma porque esta última es la bisnieta de María, una de las hermanas de Paciano y José.

La imagen puede contener: 4 personas, incluidos Pepe Alas y Gemma Cruz Araneta, personas sonriendo, personas de pie

Con la estrella de la noche.

Pero basta de muertes. Es hora de celebrar la vida y lo que depara el futuro. 😊

¡Feliz cumpleaños, mi comadre Gemma! 🎂🥂 Que tengas más años felices por venir y que también publiques más libros. Y espero que el próximo libro que publiques esté en la lengua materna de tu madre: la castellana. ¡Un abrazo fuerte!

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Este libro está disponible en los sucursales de Fully Booked, Solidaridad (Ermita, Manila), sucursales de National Book Store, Popular Bookstore (Calle Tomás Morató, Ciudad de Quezon), Ortigas Foundation Library (Ortigas, Ciudad de Pásig), Silahis (Calle Real del Palacio, Intramuros), TriMona Co-op Café (112 Anonas Extension, Sikatuna Village, Ciudad de Quezon), y Tesoro’s en Macati y Manila. Para pedidos internacionales, pueden enviar una consulta por correo electrónico a ggc1898@gmail.com.

 

Señor Gómez: el nuevo director de la Academia Filipina

¡Buenas noticias!

Estoy muy contento de poder informarles que ahora hay un nuevo director de la Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española, un destacado filipino a quien todos conocemos: ¡el mismísimo Señor Don Guillermo Gómez Rivera, gran campeón del idioma español en Filipinas!

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Ayer, dentro de las augustas paredes del histórico Casino Español de Manila en Ermita, Manila, se celebraron elecciones para votar por el nuevo director de la institución estatal más antigua de Filipinas. Los miembros tomaron la abrumadora decisión de instalar al Sr. Gómez como su nuevo director mientras que Lourdes Brillantes, otra distinguida escritora filipina en español, fue elegida como su vicedirectora (el director y vicedirectora que salen fueron Emmanuel Luis Romanillos y Daisy López, respectivamente).

Tanto Gómez como Brillantes son premiados del Premio Zóbel — el primero en 1975 y la última en 1998.

La imagen puede contener: 7 personas, incluidos Guillermo Gómez Rivera y Salvador Malig, personas sonriendo, personas sentadas, mesa e interior

Los miembros de la Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española. Izquierda a derecha: Trinidad Regala, Lourdes Castrillo de Brillantes, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, René Saldania, José Rodríguez Rodríguez (director honorario de la Academia), Salvador Málig, y Emmanuel Luis Romanillos (presidente saliente).

Puede considerarse como un nombramiento tardío, pero aún no es demasiado tarde. Aunque tiene 83 años y está en una silla de ruedas, su mente es más aguda que nunca antes. Con el Sr. Gómez al mando de la Academia, el futuro del idioma español se ve más brillante. Sus planes para el avance del idioma español ganarán más terreno.

¡Enhorabuena al gran filipino de nuestros tiempos!

The image of dawn

La imagen puede contener: cielo, nubes, árbol, crepúsculo, exterior y naturaleza

Photo: PIXNIO.

You wake up to the sound of cocks crowing. You get up to open your cápiz shell windows, sliding each pane with both arms to either side, to welcome a cold, misty morning. Last night’s surviving stars are fading fast in the purplish sky. The sun is barely up, but you can already see its soft, glowing rays from afar, breaking unevenly from right behind those green hills, disturbing the darkness of dawn. The sweet smell of earth and grass, still wet with dew, welcomes your nostrils that were put to sleep by the scent of last night’s camia, ylang-ylang, and other sweet-smelling night flowers from your grandmother’s garden. The nearby brook splashing its waters through rocks and pebbles suddenly becomes audible, its xylpohonic merriment complementing the gradual spreading of light. You shiver with delight as fruit trees from outside the house rustle with the cool morning breeze.
Grandmother, who has just finished her morning Rosary ritual, is already frying garlic rice and beef tapa for breakfast. While waiting for the other family members to wake up, you just stand by your window watching the glowing rays of the morning sun creeping lazily through the greens of the field where your grandfather is already tugging his faithful carabao for the day’s toil as the bells from the town church begin to peal.
A chirp from a nearby tree was followed by another. And then another. All of a sudden, a hundred chirping sounds started to burst from the branches to join the chorus of the breaking dawn.
You just stand there and take it all in. Because you don’t want it to end. You don’t want it to end…
* * * * * * *
This is a classic Filipino morning scene that many of today’s youth sorely miss out. Today, we all wake up to the horrid sound of tricycles and jeepneys, and the infernal buzz of the alarm. 😞

Garbage collectors: today’s unsung heroes

It was a weird morning. As our bus entered La Laguna, the sun was all up and bright. The next minute, it rained so hard as if all heaven had poured out whatever Greg Martín “Gretchen” Diez had been hoarding up in his bladder for well over a month.

The unexpected downpour happened in an instant, at the exact moment that I was alighting from the bus on my way home. Tough luck. My wife and kids forgot to put the umbrella in my backpack.

So there I was, stuck in a narrow sidewalk with very minimal cover from the rain. Good thing I had my mobile phone with me, with a playlist to accompany me in my boredom.

When the rains gradually decreased to a drizzle, I saw them: the ever-familiar yellow truck with its pile of bagged filth and near-robotic collectors handling them, stuck in rain-drenched traffic, but still on the go, picking up garbage bags from stores along the busy national road. I just had to take their photos.

La imagen puede contener: cielo y exterior

La imagen puede contener: cielo y exterior

Even at this godforsaken weather, they are working, unmindful of the cold and rain. What made their situation worse was that they are soaked on top of a pile of muck, grime, dead cats crushed by vehicles, a little excrement here and there, and all the other disgusting things you can think of inside a garbage truck. But a job’s a job.

According to Salary Expert, “an entry level (sic) garbage collector (1-3 years of experience) earns an average salary of ₱131,256. On the other end, a senior level (sic) garbage collector (8+ years of experience) earns an average salary of ₱198,811.” That’s just less than ₱20,000 per month. If you think that kind of salary is barely enough for a single person, what more for a garbage collector with dependents. And since they belong to the lowest tier of capitalist society, we can easily imagine them raising a family of more than three (sickly) children. And because of the type of job that they have, it’s impossible not to think that they aren’t sickly themselves.

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Out of that measly salary, they will have to set aside money for medications for various illnesses contracted from their filthy job — that is, of course, if they don’t ignore them (many of them do because medication is as expensive as food). In case they don’t, then that is an additional burden for them, considering that they had to buy meals for their families, pay for the schooling of their children (it is a myth that public school students need not shell out money to go through schoolhood), pay for rent, and many other expenses. If we middle-class income earners are continuously complaining about rising prices of commodities, oil price hikes, and other cost of living expenses, have you even stopped for a brief moment to think what kind of life these hapless people who collect your daily waste have? Most of them live in dilapidated areas, in shanties standing on land they don’t even own, or along polluted rivers that overflow during heavy rain. And they don’t have job security since many of them are only given “job order” designations by their respective LGU employers.

If you think eating out in Jollibee is already corny, for them feasting on Burger Machine on Christmas Day is an experience.

They have one of the most difficult jobs in the world — who would even want to pick up garbage collecting as a career? Not even them. But due to uncontrollable circumstances in their lives, they had no other choice. Yet our government treats them lowly. If they have the most difficult job in the world, why pay them minimum? In all seriousness, they had to be paid more than double their monthly wage. Or even higher than that. And with more benefits. Without them, our daily routine would be paralyzed.

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La imagen puede contener: coche y exterior

Remember the Great Pacific garbage patch, the North Atlantic garbage patch, and many other humongous marine debris sprouting in many oceans in our planet? They have been in the news lately, and they would have been bigger and disgustingly plentiful if not for these unsung heroes who, rain or shine, regularly pick up your generally unsegregated waste. Yes, unsung heroes, because that’s what they really are. How many of you are even willing to dispose of your own waste just to keep your homes and your neighborhood spic and span?

(We may also add that that they are accidental unsung heroes, for they didn’t want to be garbage collectors in the first place).

That is why it is infuriating to note how our top government officials waste too much time on attention-seeking individuals like Mr. Diez when more sectors of society are in dire need of assistance. Garbage collection and disposal is fast becoming a world epidemic, a plague that is almost rarely discussed nor prioritized as evidenced by those aforementioned growing garbage patches across the seas.

It is high time we honor these unsung heroes and give them the due recognition that they deserve.

Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard that a garbage collector was awarded by their national government?

 

 

No matter what it takes

This is my brief commentary on Senate Bill 2134 being put forward by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

A VOW is a VOW no matter what. If you PROMISED to be true to your spouse in good times and in bad, and you PROMISED to love and honor him/her all the days of your life, to have and to hold, for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts you both, then do it. Honor it. Live up to it. No matter what it takes. You will fall and stumble from time to time, that is expected. But never falter. Holding steadfast to a promise is not only for the benefit of your partner nor for your marriage’s sake but also for yourself. Don’t trifle with a VOW. Because if you do, then all the more easier for you to make feeble all your commitments. What will make you trustworthy in the future?

Senator Hontiveros using argumentum ad passiones to prove her point (photo: The Philippine STAR).

The presidential secret of Magdalena Church

Did you know? The 164-year-old “Iglesia de Santa María Magdalena” in Magdalena, La Laguna is famous for being the favorite filming location of the late, great Fernando Poe Jr. In fact, he made a movie there together with my dad’s cousin, beauty queen Marilou Destreza (you may watch their movie Sanctuario right here). Many other movie outfits also had their period films shot there due to the town’s vintage look. Remember the sleeper hit Heneral Luna? Antonio Luna‘s death scene was filmed there.
La imagen puede contener: cielo y exterior

My wife Yeyette at the entrance to the church. The church door itself is almost two storeys high.

But wait! There’s more! This is also the church where Katipunero rebel Emilio Jacinto sought refuge when he was wounded in battle (his blood stains are even preserved on the spot where he had hid, encased in glass).

But wait! There’s even more! The priest who supervised the final years of this baroque church’s construction was Fr. José Urbina de Esparragosa, a Spanish friar who was said to be the “abuelo” of almost all the original residents of Baler, Tayabas (now part of Aurora Province)! But wait! There’s even a lot more! Did you know that Fr. Urbina was the grandfather of a famous politician?
The politician that I speak of is none other than Manuel L. Quezon. 😉

Want to ace English? Then learn Spanish

I found this textual meme in the Facebook group Oficialización del Español en Filipinas (Officialization of the Spanish Language in Filipinas). It compares the various inflections of the English verb do to that of its Spanish counterpart hacer. As you can see, the verb forms in English are not as numerously expressive compared to their Spanish versions.
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This is just one example why learning English is a piece of cake among native Spanish speakers. Picture this…
José Rizal, a native Spanish speaker, taught himself English. And he aced it.
Manuel L. Quezon, a native Spanish speaker, learned English in only about three weeks. He learned it on a steamship while traveling to the United States for the first time.
Claro M. Recto, a native Spanish speaker, mastered English in only three months.
The first Filipino short-story in the English language was written by a native Spanish speaker, Paz Márquez de Benítez of Lucena, Tayabas (where I was also born). That story, “Dead Stars”, was composed during the early years of US occupation. And when you read her story, its masterful language will make you stop and think how today’s Filipino fiction in English pales in comparison to hers. And to think that we’ve been learning English for more than a century while the English of Benítez’s era was still quite young.
José García Villa, our first National Artist in Literature who is also considered as one of the finest (if not indeed the finest) our country has ever produced when it comes to poetry, was another native Spanish speaker. He was highly acclaimed by critics not just here but also those in the United States.
And of course, there’s the one and only Nick Joaquín, the greatest Filipino writer in the English language, hands down. And, you guessed it, he was also a native Spanish speaker. A fact not known to many.
Why is this so? Because Spanish and English are both cognates. They have so many words that are similar or even identical. In layman’s terms, Spanish and English are “cousins”.
It is no wonder why our grandparents and great grandparents who received good education during the US occupation of our country spoke and wrote better English than us. And that is also why most of our literary greats in the English language (Joaquín, Villa, N.V.M. González, Trinidad Tarrosa, Paz M. Latorena, etc.) usually come from that epoch when Spanish was still the language.
Had we allowed the teaching of the Spanish language to continue in our curriculum, and had our government supported its usage, we would all be writing and speaking English much better than our North Américan invaders.