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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Why is Rizal a hero to you?

What’s your favorite Rizal poem? Chances are, you won’t be able to name one save for, of course, the usual stuff they taught us in school: the very last one he wrote. Do you even know how many poems he wrote? Are you even aware how exquisitely beautiful his verses are, and what are the usual themes of his poetry?

(as expected, I hear crickets chirping)

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You see, Rizal was first and foremost a POET, a passionate bard who masterfully versified his profound love for Filipinas. He began his writing career as a poet and ended it as a poet. He is not all about the Noli and the Fili. He is not all about the Propaganda Movement. It is most unfortunate that he can no longer be understood by today’s generation when, at the turn of the 20th century, our forebears were cut off from his culture by a new language —THIS language I’m using right now— imposed by a nation experimenting with imperialism. When Rizal and his contemporaries were already soaring like Cervantes and Clarín, those hapless Filipinos who came after them had to learn anew the ABCs of another culture. So now we read him through bastardized and oftentimes annoying English translations. Unfortunately, we never soared like Shakespeare and Tennyson using the English language.

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There was one, however, who came close: Nick Joaquín. But he was on a league of his own: his first language was Spanish, and many attribute his mastery of English, aside from his being an indefatigable bookworm, to his proficiency of his mother tongue (English and Spanish are cognates). It can even be argued that his translation of Rizal’s valedictory poem was more superior than the original. Perhaps among all Rizal translators, it was only Nick who was able to capture the imagination and depth of the national hero as well as the spirit of the Filipino.

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But since we have been linguistically cut off from that faraway culture, our REAL culture, not all of us can be Nick anymore. Not all of us can be Rizal anymore.

Why is Rizal a hero to you?

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Rizal is a hero not because of his defiance to authority. He is a hero because of his deep love of country, a burning love that can only be understood by reading his verses (NOT his novels) in the language in which he wrote them. This is something that all patriotic Filipinos should think about every time Rizal Day falls, so that its celebration will not be rendered futile.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC)

It is sad to note that the essence of Rizal’s heroism today has degenerated into mere hero worship and opportunistic commercialism. There is nothing wrong in honoring Rizal, but it is best that we thoroughly understand what his heroism really is all about. Understanding him is the best way of honoring his memory.

Sobre las luchas de la vida

Vivimos en un mundo que no es perfecto y que nunca puede ser perfeccionado. No importa lo difícil que lo intentemos, no importa cuál sistema de gobierno nos gobierne, el sufrimiento continuará. Pero eso no significa que debemos dejar de hacer nuestra parte. Recuerda que el premio del esfuerzo es el esfuerzo, y es cómo luchamos contra el mal. Tenemos que trabajar por la vida más allá del sufrimiento y de la muerte. Eso es lo que más importa.