A review of Brother Andrew González’s “Language and Nationalism: The Philippine Experience Thus Far”

I am reposting an undated book review written many years ago by the late chemist-historian Pío Andrade Jr. He was a researcher and regular contributor to the Filipino-Chinese weekly magazine “Tuláy” published by Teresita Ang-See in Binondo, Manila. Andrade was the author of the best-selling and controversial book “The Fooling of América: The Untold Story of Carlos P. Rómulo“. In this book review, Andrade countered the claim that Spanish was not widespread in Filipinas during the US colonial period.

A REVIEW OF BROTHER ANDREW’S BOOK: “LANGUAGE AND NATIONALISM: THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE THUS FAR”
Pío Andrade Jr.

Brother Andrew González’s treatise “Language and Nationalism” was praised in the foreword by Cecilio López as “the most exhaustive and up-to-date treatment of the language problem in the Philippines”.

It may have been up-to-date when it was published, but by no means could it be described as exhaustive. One look at the list of references shows the absence of very important sources such as the following:

1.) The Official Census of 1903.
2.) The Ford Report of 1916, which shows that the use of Spanish was more widespread than commonly admitted.
3.) Pío Valenzuela’s History of Philippine Journalism.

There are many big and important facts on the language question that are not mentioned at all in Brother Andrew’s book, such as the fact about Spanish being the language of the Revolution, the role of Spanish in effecting the unity of the various Filipino ethnic groups which made the 1896-1899 Revolution possible, the role of the Chinese Filipinos in disseminating the language of Cervantes all over the country due to the fact that the Philippines was the most thoroughly educated Asian colony in the last decades of the 19th century, and the fact about the much higher circulation of Spanish language dailies than either the Tagálog or English dailies in the 1930s.

Brother Andrew González, FSC, uncritically accepted the figure of 2.8% as the percentage of Filipinos who can speak and write in Spanish at the turn of the century given by Cavada Méndez y Vigo’s book. This book was printed in 1870, just seven years after the establishment of the Philippine Public school system in 1863 by Spain.

Surely by 1900, more than 2.8% of the Filipinos were speaking and writing in Spanish and there was incontrovertible proof behind this assertion.

Don Carlos Palanca’s Memorandum to the Schurman Commission listed eight Spanish-speaking provinces in the islands in addition to the 9 Tagalog-speaking provinces which, according to him, are also Spanish-speaking. To this total of 17 Spanish-speaking provinces, Don Carlos added that there were only five other provinces where “only a little Spanish is spoken”. Don Carlos Palanca was the gobernadorcillo of Binondo and the head of the Gremio de Mestizos (Chinese Christians were the ones referred to as mestizos since the Spanish half-breed was called criollo).

William Howard Taft’s 1901 statement after his tour of the Philippines clearly says that Spanish was more widespread than Tagalog.

This fact about Spanish being even more widespread than Tagalog in the entire archipelago is further attested to by the well-documented fact that American soldiers during the Fil-American war had to speak bamboo Spanish to all Filipinos —not bamboo Tagalog— in order to be understood without any interpreter. There is still that other fact about the early occupational government of the American Military in the Philippines having to publish in Spanish, not in Tagalog, all its official communications in order to be understood by the Filipino people. An English translation was appended whenever necessary for the consumption of the Americans themselves.

This official use of Spanish by the Americans themselves went on up to 1910 when they started to issue communications in English but still followed by a corresponding Spanish translation of the same. In view of this fact, if a Filipino national language needed to be established other than English, the correct choice should have been Spanish, not Tagalog.

A big fault of Brother Andrew’s book lies in his uncritical acceptance of Teodoro Agoncillo’s “The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan”. Agoncillo’s history book has already been proven to be heavily distorted by omission of facts, false interpretation of events and documents, and by outright lies. The omission of these other facts was done because the same could not be reconciled with Mr. Agoncillo’s own personal bias in the narration and teaching of Philippine history. An example of Brother Andrew’s fault with regard to his uncritical acceptance of Agoncilo’s distortion of history is the conclusion that the founding members of the KKK (Katipunan) were Filipinos of lowly origin. The founding Supremo of the KKK is Andrés Bonifacio and it is not so that he is of lowly origin. Bonifacio was definitely not a poor man when he got into the Katipunan.

Nor were the other Katiputan charter members. Agoncillo also failed to mention that the Philippine economy was booming during that decade and that Bonifacio, unlike most other Filipinos, approved of the torture of a captive friar.

The years 1900 to the Commonwealth period (1935-1941) were not well researched by Brother and Doctor Andrew González. Thus, the language issue affecting the Filipinos then was not well discussed. Had Brother Andrew researched more on the language issue of that period, he would have found out that as late as the 1930s, Spanish dailies outcirculated either the Tagalog or English language dailies.

He would have found out also that the use of Spanish during the following decade of 1940 was bound to even get stronger had it not been for the devastating 1943-1945 war.

The strength of Spanish is evidenced by the majority of cinema films shown between 1900 and 1940. These films, even if made in Holywood, were in Spanish subtitles and talkies. And several of the Philippine produced full-length films had all-Spanish talkies.

Another important fact not found in Brother Andrew’s book is the role of the Spanish language in assimilating and integrating the Chinese emigrants into mainstream Filipino society. The 100,000 Chinese in the Philippines at the turn of the century spoke Spanish in varying degrees of proficiency. The Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce since its establishment in 1904 wrote its minutes in Spanish until 1924. When they ceased using Spanish in their official meetings and minutes, they reverted to Chinese, not English. Today, strange as it may seem, the last bastion of whatever Spanish language is left are the Chinese Filipinos, and not those of Spanish descent except the Padilla-Zóbel family that maintains the annual Premio Zóbel.

Finally, Brother and Doctor Andrew González treated very superficially the question of nationalism and language. There should have been more discussions on the point that adopting a foreign tongue, or using foreign words, are not per se against nationalism. If nationalism is love for one’s country and foreign words and language can best help literacy and communication, it is nationalistic doing so.

Neither did Brother and Doctor Andrew González realize that nationalism in the question of language can be destructive as has been the case in the Philippines. Doing away with Spanish orthography and the cartilla, the educational authorities did away with a very inexpensive and very effective method for teaching reading skills to the young. Exterminating Spanish in the schools made the Filipinos today estranged to their Hispanic past and made Filipinos prey to nationalist historians who misled several generations of Filipinos in the sense that Spain had done the Philippines very little good when the contrary is true.

What is the prime purpose of language? Is it not to make us understand one another better? Yet, Brother and Doctor Andrew González’s book gives the impressions that showing nationalism is the prime purpose of language.

To be fair to Brother Andrew González, we want to think that he is a victim of too many distortions found in Philippine History including the history of language among Filipinos. Thus, the remark of Cecilio López in his introduction to Brother Andrew’s book “Language and Nationalism”, that it is “the most exhaustive and up-to-date treatment of the language problem in the Philippines”, is only true in the sense that the very few books on the same subject are mostly superficial.

Perhaps it will be correct for us to recall a Spanish saying that says: En el país de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey.

DEFENSORES DE LA IDENTIDAD FILIPINA. History blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz (left) and the late chemist-historian Pío Andrade Jr. (right). Behind Arnaldo is eminent historian Fr. José Arcilla, S.J. (photo taken on 26 June 2009 at the Instituto Cervantes de Manila‘s former site in Ermita, Manila).

A funny encounter with F. Sionil José

Several days ago, historian Guillermo Gómez Rivera informed me that he received an email from Mr. César Quinagan of Solidaridad bookshop who was inquiring about his latest book, “The Filipino State and Other Essays“. Solidaridad was interested in distributing them. Unfortunately, since Señor Gómez has been wheelchair-bound for the past few years, he couldn’t attend to this matter himself anymore. I gladly volunteered to meet up with Mr. Quinagan, if only to help Señor Gómez.

La imagen puede contener: Andreas Herbig, texto

This book of historical essays is now available on Amazon. It will soon be on the shelves of Solidaridad.

But then, at the back of my mind, I had to be cautious in visiting the famous Ermita-based bookshop because of a scathing blogpost that I wrote against the owner last year. Before that, I was friends with F. Sionil José on Facebook. No, I have never met him in person. It just so happened that I found out that he has an FB account years ago. Since he was a close friend of my favorite writer Nick Joaquín, I just thought of clicking on “Add Friend” and was lucky enough to be accepted. That blogpost I wrote earned for me an unfriending. 🤣 But it was to be expected, of course.

Close friends know that I appreciate F. Sionil José’s fiction but not his opinions on Filipino History and other matters. That is why I developed a disliking of him, even if he’s the best friend of Nick. Besides, the two have been known to be at loggerheads against each other. How many times have we been told about the famous story on how Frankie and Nick debated about our country’s Spanish past? Nick would usually say that if not for the Spaniards, Frankie would have been an Igorot. Frankie would then claim in interviews that Nick would always fall silent whenever he replied with this:

“Don’t forget the Spaniards killed Rizal.”

* * * * * * *

Last November 16, a Saturday, I attended an art-history lecture at the National Museum of the Philippines which was curated by my famous comadre Gemma Cruz-Araneta (a great grandniece of Rizal, if I may add). I brought with me a few copies of Señor Gómez’s book to be delivered to Mr. Quinagan afterwards. I tagged my family along (except for my two eldest, Krystal and Mómay, who were already busy with other things).

La imagen puede contener: 4 personas, incluido Jennifer Perey-Alas, personas sonriendo, personas sentadas

Juanito, Yeyette, Gemma, and Clarita after the lecture (photo: Jefe).

La imagen puede contener: 3 personas, personas sonriendo, personas de pie

Thankfully, Jefe, Juanito, and Junífera Clarita are inclined toward the arts. They always enjoy their stay at the National Museum.

After the museum event, Yeyette decided that we just walk all the way to Calle Padre Faura where the National Artist’s bookshop was located. The move surprised me a bit, but it delighted me as well because I really prefer walking through the streets of historic Manila. It was also an opportune time to familiarize our three younger kids to the Manila of our college days (Yeyette and I were classmates in Adamson University, and we used to ramble around the place) as well as to observe some of the newsmaking makeovers that Mayor Isko Moreno did since taking over City Hall last June.

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

Just passing by our alma mater‘s iconic walkway along Taft Avenue. 😊

We didn’t know what happened, but after several minutes of walking along the (surprisingly clean) sidewalk of Taft Avenue, we suddenly found ourselves facing the vehicular traffic of Quirino Avenue… we missed Padre Faura by several blocks! The new establishments must have disoriented us, or perhaps we have not been to that part of Manila for a long time (besides, I was busy doing Facebook live during our urban jungle trek, hehe). We had to cross Taft and walk all the way back to Faura. It was already dark by that time.

After trudging back, we turned left to Calle Remedios to avoid Taft’s polluted air, then turned right to a quieter Calle Pilar Hidalgo Lim. Yeyette was very annoyed at my miscalculation, so I kept my distance from her by walking several steps ahead. Junífera Clarita got tired with all the walking, so I had to carry her (but she kept on talking and talking and talking). That is why I was soaking wet when we finally reached F. Sionil José’s famous little bookshop. Unfortunately, the sign on the glass door says it was already closed. I didn’t know that they close at six in the evening, and it was almost seven when we got there (I’ve passed by the place numerous times but have never bothered to go inside because of my dislike of the owner). However, we could see a female cashier who was still at her desk, busy with her android. My wife tapped on the door to see if we could still continue our meeting. The young lady was not smiling but she still opened the door for us.

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Solidaridad at night.

Yeyette told her of our agenda, but she informed us that César had already left; we missed him by about an hour. However, she took two copies of the book and gave me a calling card. During this brief exchange, a man in his thirties appeared from behind the shelves. I assumed, perhaps, that he was César, but he didn’t look the type who manages a bookshop although he was wearing what seemed to me a guayabera. He grabbed one copy from the lady, went past the shelves, then watched him ascend a stairway at the farthest end of the store.

I asked the unsmiling lady if I had to sign anything before we leave, but she said to just contact César on Monday (so that’s it, guayabera dude was not César). Yeyette then engaged her in small talk. I took that opportunity to rummage around the shelves while shooing away Juanito and Junífera Clarita who were already all over the place.

Moments later, Mr. Guayabera went back to us with some unexpected news: “Aquiát dao po cayó sa taás, causapin dao cayó ni Manong.

Of course I knew who that Manong was. I felt a surge of apprehension, half wanting to leave and meet F. Sionil José at the same time. Really, I was only after César Quinagan, not him. But then, I thought of Señor Gómez’s book. Months before all this, I went to National Bookstore’s main office to inquire about the possibility of them distributing The Filipino State and Señor’s other book, “Quis Ut Deus,” a novel in Spanish. They made me wait for almost a month, only to inform me that they were not interested! Their explanation that Spanish books will not sell was understandable, but to say that they’re not focused on selling books about historical essays at the moment puzzles me up to now. So this, perhaps, was my last chance to have at least The Filipino State to be distributed by a major bookstore. Whether or not I didn’t want to go face to face with the 2001 National Artist for Literature, I really had to.

The problem was my shirt was really wet. I hurriedly went to Yeyette, who by then was fixated with her android, to ask for an extra shirt (I always have an extra with me because I perspire easily due to hyperhydrosis, another bane from childhood). While changing clothes at an enclosed corner near the stairs, my mind was struggling whether or not to tell Manong Frankie my real name. He’s in his nineties, I thought. Perhaps he has forgotten that blogpost of mine? I was trying to assure myself that I was not really that well-known of a troll, that I’m just another unknown basher of his.

After changing in a rush, I hurriedly reached for the stairs. I didn’t want to make Manong Frankie wait; I heard that he is such a character. When I was all set, I saw that Junífera Clarita, my annoying five-year-old baby girl who kept on talking and talking and talking, was already at the stairs! My golly, there was no more time to bid her to stay at the ground floor, lest she made a scene. I whispered to her, while trudging the wooden stairs, to just stay put and behave.

Manong Frankie, wearing his trademark beret, was seated on a wooden bench at the top of the stairs. Far to his right was another elderly lady behind a desk; I immediately recognized her as the wife, Manang Teresita José. The upper floor was not as well lighted compared to the ground floor, but the light coming from Manang Teresita’s desk made it bearable. The upper floor was actually a mezzanine, so the light coming from the first floor also contributed to the lighting.

After the greetings, I was not able to shake his hand because Junífera Clarita was all over the place again. Before I could even scold her, Manong Frankie immediately interrogated me as he bade me sit down in front of him.

“Are you the author of this book?” he said in his booming voice.

“No, sir! I’m just, uh, … an assistant. The author’s assistant,” I said, groping for the right words.

“I see. But do you also write?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied. “Actually, I already have a book under my name. But it’s nothing big, really. It’s a project by our local government, a biography about our city’s local hero. That is why it cannot be sold in bookstores.” I was of course referring to “Captain Remo: The Young Hero“, a book which catapulted me to fame in our apartment building.

We then discussed a few things about the consignment of the book, and of course its author. “You know, I find Guillermo a very radical writer! How is he now?” he asked while holding a copy of The Filipino State. I suddenly remembered that they both know each other personally. I described to him his fellow writer’s condition, then he boasted that at 94, he could still walk around. “I’m turning 95 next month!” I feigned surprise. “I’m older than him by several years and yet I can still walk around. How old is he now?”

I suddenly forgot Señor Gómez’s age, so I just told him his year of birth: 1936. Because I’m bad at math. Humorously, Manong Frankie still made me count. “O, 1936. ¿Eh ‘di ilang taon na iyón?“

My golly. I saw Jefe behind him taking photos of the room. I called out to him. “Jefe, 1936 si Señor. So how old is he now?” I asked while counting nervously with my fingers. I turned my head back to the National Artist. “See? I’m bad at math,” I chuckled. I was irritated at myself as to why at that moment I totally forgot Señor Gómez’s age. And doubly irritating was that Jefe couldn’t do the math too. De tal palo, tal astillo. 😆

La imagen puede contener: una persona, sentada, interior y texto

I didn’t know that my son Jefe was taking pictures of my impromptu meeting with a living legend.

 

The small talk ventured to other topics: his life, his writings, and my most favorite topic of all — his best friend Nick Joaquín. And when I told him how much I idolized his friend, it made him all the more joyous.

He then repeated the oft-told story of how he beat Nick in arguments. “He tells me that if not for the Spaniards, I would have remained an Igorot. Ang sagót co namán, eh di más mabuti pa ñgâ, ¡hahaha!” I faked a laughter. “Whenever he loses in a discussion, he takes his handkerchief from his pocket and waves them at me as a sign of surrender!”

I’m familiar with the story, but that is very contrary to Nick’s biography written by his late nephew Antonio “Tony” Joaquín. According to the biography, Nick would blow his nose and shove the snot-filled handkerchief to his Frankie friend. 😆 This funny scene was also discussed in Sari Dalena’s documentary “Dahling Nick”. I almost raised the issue to him, but I thought better.

“There was never a week when he was not here,” he declared proudly. I was waiting for him to tell me that Nick used to sit on the same stool that I was using. I would have embraced it right there and then. But he never did. “Nung namatáy si Nick, napaiyác talagá acó, eh.” I told him that I already saw Dalena’s documentary where a footage of him crying while delivering his eulogy at the Cultural Center of the Philippines was shown. That scene made me tear up, too.

“Actually, sir, I almost met Nick twice.” I saw a shimmer in his almost half-closed eyes, rendered as such due to more than nine decades on earth. “Señor Gómez was to introduce me to him many years ago, but on both occasions they didn’t materialize.” I noticed that both husband and wife were listening intently, so I continued. “And then a few years after that, I found out on the Internet that Nick already died. I was at the office when I read about the sad news. I then left my office cubicle, went to some isolated corner, then cried my heart out.”

Upon hearing that I’m an office worker, he suddenly changed the topic by asking me where I work. I told him that I’m a technical support representative at Mærsk (Manang chimed in that she knows the company), and that I’ve been working the night shift for fifteen years already. I sensed a hint of pity on Manong’s countenance upon hearing my predicament. For a fleeting moment, I remember his writings on social justice, about the toils and challenges of Filipinos belonging to the lower rungs of society. One unforgettable line that really struck a chord in me was from an impoverished character of his from his most famous novel, “The Pretenders”…

I really don’t ask for much. Just a chance to have my wife and children go through life with the least physical pain. That isn’t much to ask, is it? But in this bloody country, when a millionaire has a cold he goes right away to a fancy clinic in New York. And me, I can’t even afford to have my head examined. Hell, there’s justification in the old class struggle — I don’t care what you call it, but does a rich man have more right to live simply because he has more money?

I could relate to this very much. It seems that Sionil José, himself a victim of social injustice, has a soft spot for people like me, people with dreams but had to become wage slaves just so that they could keep their heads (and dreams) above water.

“Where is your office?” he said. I told him that it’s in Pásig, and that I live in faraway San Pedro Tunasán. Daily commuting to and from the office takes up more or less five hours of my life. “What?!” both husband and wife gasped in horror upon hearing this. I’m sure I heard one of them whisper “Dios co“.

“But at least,” I said, trying to reassure them, “I am still able to read a book during the commute, hehe”. The concerned look on Manong’s face was genuine. For sure, a man like him knows that a writer shouldn’t experience the kind of life that I’m enduring. I also shared to them something personal: that I couldn’t read or write well anymore the way I used to, that my attention span has gotten short, that I couldn’t finish a chapter in a book in one sitting, and I attribute all these ills to my night toils.

“I think you should go see a psychiatrist,” Manang said from her desk. I didn’t know if I should laugh or comment back. I just muttered “a psychiatrist” while looking at her with wondering eyes. Her husband then called my attention to another topic.

We talked about many other things: the Spanish language situation in the country (he was delighted to hear that I teach my kids the language and expressed his sadness that it did not become widespread in our country), his celebrated arguments with his friend Nick, and a host of other subjects. But I couldn’t stay the whole night. Manong looked at his wristwatch and politely told me that he and his wife had an appointment. So that’s why both were dressed up. “We are going social climbing!” We all laughed.

Before leaving, I asked if I could have a photo op with him. He was very accommodating. Jefe was already gone, so I rushed downstairs for the cellphone camera. She didn’t want to go up as she was busy with her phone (“kids” these days). I had to ask my son Jefe to take our photo. I rushed back up. Juanito and Junífera Clarita were still all over the mezzanine. My golly! Manong Frankie was just gazing at them while telling something to his wife. Upon seeing me, he then asked me about my kids, my family, and other personal stuff. Before our conversation could turn another half hour, I heard Yeyette finally climbing up the stairs. Seeing Manong Frankie, she tactlessly said: “O, ¿ayos na cayó?” She was aware of last year’s online vitriol that I had with the fictionist, but she didn’t know that I did not tell anything to him that it was I who wrote all that, haha!

The jolly and candid person that she is, Yeyette proceeded on greeting the esteemed couple, asked for their age, showed surprise when she got the answer, then asked for tips on what diet we should take for longevity, much to my embarrassment (no wonder why Junífera Clarita kept on talking and talking and talking: she got it from her Mamá). She didn’t have any idea of Manong Frankie’s literary worth, so I told the latter to excuse her for her forthrightness of character because she doesn’t read books. Manong was laughing heartily. My wife really amused him.

We then had the obligatory picture taking. I was asking for only one, but my wife had wanted more. Goodness gracious…

La imagen puede contener: 5 personas, incluidos Pepe Alas y Jennifer Perey-Alas, personas sonriendo, personas sentadas y calzado

Me, Junífera Clarita, F. Sionil José, Juanito, and Yeyette. Photo by Jefe.

La imagen puede contener: 2 personas, incluido Jennifer Perey-Alas, personas sonriendo, primer plano

Manong Frankie and Yeyette.

La imagen puede contener: 2 personas, incluido Jennifer Perey-Alas, interior

Manang Teresita and Yeyette.

As I shook his hand, I said to him: “I may not have met Nick in person, but I feel that I have already met him through you.” He looked very, very pleased.

 * * * * * * *

It was hard for me to contain my amusement and excitement as we went downstairs. There I was, planning only to see Solidaridad’s manager, but I ended up chatting with the owner himself who also happens to be one of the country’s greatest literary figures alive today (and a dear friend of my favorite writer). As we were about to leave, the corner of my eye caught a glimpse of “Mass”, the last of Manong Frankie’s five-part Rosales novels. I have an embarrassing confession to make: I have not yet completed my collection of Manong Frankie’s famous Rosales saga until that night. I already have in my possession for years the first four novels (Po-on; Tree; My Brother, My Executioner, and; The Pretenders), but Mass was the only book missing. Whenever I chanced upon it in bookstores, I always didn’t have money. Now was the perfect time, I thought. What better way to cap off my collection than to buy the book from where it was originally published and sold! And perfectly still: I will have it signed by the author himself!

After the unplanned purchase, I excitedly ran upstairs for an autograph, but I saw that the José couple were already descending, assisted by Mr. Guayabera. I just waited for them at the book store’s lobby. They were trudging slowly due to old age.

At Ms. Unsmiling Girl’s desk, F. Sionil José wrote a message on my purchase. It was there when he finally asked for my name.

I froze.

La imagen puede contener: Pepe Alas, sonriendo, sentada y texto

Photo: Yeyette Alas.

“What is your name?” he repeated.

“Ummm… Pepe.”

“Pepe?” He was waiting for me to tell him my last name.

“Umm… Pepe… Alas?”

¿Ha?

“Pepe Alas, sir.”

¿Anó?” he said, drawing his right ear to my face.

“You have to speak loudly,” called his wife who was already at the door, looking amused. “He is already hard of hearing”. But I was very close to him. Besides, we didn’t have that aural problem upstairs, even if we were about a meter or two apart from each other. He was able to hear me well during that tête-à-tête.

“It’s Alas, sir. A-L-A-S.”

“Alas?” he asked, almost frowning.

“Yes, sir.” He gazed at me for several seconds. I could have sworn he recognized the name (“Aha! It’s that bastard, trying-hard, sonuvabitch of a blogger who was hoping to go viral at my expense!”). But he proceeded to sign the book, anyway. I must have seen a scowl on his face, but I could be mistaken. He didn’t say anything to me after signing the book. He had another cheerful talk with my wife before we all said our goodbyes (Yeyette later told me that Manong was just inquiring if we are teaching our kids Spanish, she said yes, and it delighted him). They were going somewhere else, to social climb, as what he had told me upstairs.

As my family marched towards Taft, F. Sionil José, with bastón in hand, was still sending us off with a gaze.

* * * * * * *

I read the book immediately upon arriving home. I was amused to learn that the protagonist’s name was also a Pepe. Pepe Samson.

Had I known about this before, I would have told Manong Frankie that Samson was my last name.

La imagen puede contener: bebida

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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!

La imagen puede contener: texto

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.

 

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. 😞

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.

La imagen puede contener: texto

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! 

To Hispanize is to Filipinize: the Indio is the enemy of the Filipino (part 2)

“Spanish friars mercilessly flogged Filipinos!”

This modern concept of the Indio being flogged by a Spanish friar under the hot tropical sun is what keeps the motor of hispanophobia running. There is no more need to expound what an indio means; simply put, indio is a Spanish word for “native”. The so-called “insulares” or Spaniards who were born in Filipinas were the first Filipinos. Through time, however, Hispanization further blurred this. Indios/natives who were Christianized, who started learning and talking in Spanish, and who imbibed the culture from the West began referring to themselves not as indios but Filipinos as well. And this posed not a problem to the insular. As a matter of fact, the insular never considered themselves as “Spaniards” in the strictest sense of the word. They, as well as the Hispanized indios, simply referred to themselves as FILIPINOS. Filipinas is where they were born and where they grew up (patria chica).

To continue, those indios —whether they belonged to the Tagálog race, Ilocano race, Bicolano race, etc.— who were Hispanized in effect lost their “indio” identity (but not completely, of course) when they assimilated themselves to an influx of cultural dissemination coming from the West. There is nothing wrong with this. During those days, it was perfectly normal, as the influx of a foreign culture had no hint of any personal profit and even promoted cultural osmosis in the local scene (contrary to popular belief, Spain NEVER became rich when they founded and colonized our archipelago).

Anyway, because of cultural dissemination, the Hispanized Tagálog ceased to become Tagálog: he became Filipino. The Hispanized Ilocano ceased to become Ilocano: he became Filipino. The Hispanized Bicolano ceased to become Bicolano: he became Filipino. In other words, the term Filipino is not a race but a concept (there is no such thing as a Filipino race because our country is composed of several races). But this concept put a premium over our collective identities, giving us a patriotic “swagger” to refer to ourselves under one homogeneous identity: EL FILIPINO.

To Hispanize, therefore, is to Filipinize. And to put it more bluntly, our “Spanishness” is what makes us Filipino, not our “indio” identity (which is merely a substrate). If we take away our indio identity in us, our Hispanic identity will still continue to flourish. But if we take away our Spanishness, we will go back to becoming savages, and go back to the mountains as “cimarrones“.

Take for example Cali Pulaco, popularly known today as “Lapu-lapu”. This fellow, an indio ruler from Mactán, virtually resisted change. His neighbor, Rajáh Humabon, did not. Humabon accepted change, was baptized into the Christian faith, and received a Christian name: Carlos (named after then Spanish King Carlos I). Remember that culture is not static, should never be static. His men accepted the Santo Niño (and the icon’s culture) as part of their own. Those who were baptized with him died as Christians; Lapu-lapu and his people died as heathens.

And even up to now, Cebuanos celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño with frenzied fervor. Because the Santo Niño has become part of them as Cebuanos, and part of us as Filipinos.

During the Spanish times, there were many other ethnic groups who resisted change — the Ifugáos up north, the Aetas of the mountains, the Mañguianes of Mindoro, the Muslims of the south, etc. And because they resisted change, they missed the opportunity to become “one of us”. Technically, they are not Filipinos. They are Filipinos only by citizenship, most especially if we view them from a socio-historico-cultural perspective. Look at them now: no disrespect, but they look pathetic and backward because they resisted change. The mountain tribes of the Cordilleras still wage against one another. The Aetas continue to be forest dwellers. The Muslims still raid and kidnap Christians for a ransom and to have their turfs seceded from Filipinas. Etc. etc. etc. Because, then as now, their culture remains static. They still remain as INDIO as ever before.

Let us accept the fact that our Spanish past is what made us Filipinos in the first place. it is this identity which removed us from the backwardness of a static culture that refused to accept change. Let us accept that we are Filipinos because we are Christians (Catholic), we use cubiertos whenever we eat, we STILL SPEAK Spanish (uno, dos, tres, lunesmartes, miércoles, enero, febrero, marzo, silla, mesa, ventana, polo, pantalón, camisa, etc. etc. etc.), we eat adobo and pochero, we have Spanish names, we practice and value “amor propio“, “delicadeza“, “palabra de honor“, our town fiestas are the most festive and lavish in the whole world, we enjoy the “tiangues” of Divisoria, etc.

No soy indio. Porque soy filipino.

Read part 1 here.

 * E * L * F * I * L * I * P * I * N * I * S * M * O *

This blogpost is dedicated to Saint James the Greater, patron saint of Madre España, whose feast day falls today. ¡Viva Santiago Matamoros!

Image

 

2019 for the win!

At the start of every year we always ask ourselves, “what’s in store for me this year?” I’m sure many of you asked poor 2019 about it when it has not even lasted a full day yet. But didn’t it even occur to you that it is us who create our own destiny? A year is not like a box filled with all of life’s goodies. A year is not a sentient being. We should not liken life to a calendar year. While life may be a box filled with chocolates, a year is an empty box. And we have an obligation to fill it up. Therefore, it is good ‘ol 2019 who should ask us instead:

“What are you gonna fill me up with?”

A year is just a number. But with our own perseverance and faith in God, we have the capability to make it come alive. Don’t falter whenever you encounter bad-tasting chocolates; that is part of life which Forrest Gump’s mom failed to tell him. Just spit it out and move on. As we say in Spanish: así es la vida.

So let us make 2019 a meaningful one. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! And may God bless and guide us all!