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! 

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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.

Remembering Stan Lee and his “Soapbox”

The Punisher is my favorite character from Stan Lee’s astonishing Marvel Comics universe. I remember those days when I scrimped on my allowance, saving every coin to buy copies of various Punisher titles that used to come out per month.

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Those were the 90s, a time when physical simplicity and digital complexity were at the crossroads. During those happy days, when sociability was not yet confined to an android, Stan Lee maintained a column in each Marvel comic book. Titled “Stan’s Soapbox”, he gave us fans a glimpse of the ins and outs of Marvel Comics’ exciting plans for the future as well as other happenings in connection to Marvel’s creative crew that had a cult following of their own (the tandem of Chuck Dixon and John Romita Jr. was my favorite). At a time when social media was still a fevered dream, Stan Lee and his happy caboodle were our go-to-guys regarding all sorts of geekery. But from time to time, Stan Lee used his column as a platform to air his views about almost anything, some of which were controversial, nevertheless just.

Even through print, he engaged fans as if he was your friendly neighborhood grandfather that you could tell your problems to. Whenever I read him, I tried to imagine the kind of voice that he might had; years later, when he started appearing in cameos for various Marvel films, I was astonished to find out that the way I had imagined his voice would be came out quite accurately! And his grandfatherly voice as well as his gentle features perfectly fit the way he wrote: jolly and lively. There was many a time when I looked forward to his soapbox with as much excitement as I had towards the pulse-pounding storylines contained in The Punisher titles. His column also introduced me to the wider Marvel Universe, beyond the blood and bullets of The Punisher.

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Marvel trading card released in 1990 by Impel Marketing, Inc. This particular card was my first introduction to who Stan Lee was.

And do I really have to describe his language, his style of writing? The adjectives preceding some of Marvel’s iconic titles (AMAZING Spider-Man, UNCANNY X-Men, INCREDIBLE Hulk) may well be regarded as apposite laurels to his astounding talent and infinite well of imagination. His column, even though meant simply to inform readers about the goings-on in Marvel’s “House of Ideas”, is written in beautifully sculpted language. It is always an exalting experience for me whenever I read it. For a non-native English speaker, it was a challenge skimming through Stan Lee’s vast array of colorful vocabulary. It was simply impossible not to have a dictionary at hand when tackling his soapbox. But it was to my advantage: little did I know that it was to be my “training ground” as I was able to ace my English composition and grammar lessons at school.

Photograb from Anthony Oliveira.

Whenever Stan Lee wrote, he soared not like his caped heroes but like Shakespeare and Byron exposed to (red alert: Marvel jargon up ahead!) Terrigen Mists.

If you opine that my English is noteworthy, don’t. I am not an exceptional scribbler; whatever worth that I have as a writer, I simply got from years of reading Stan Lee. And yes, he was a major factor as to why I have come to love reading and writing. The best part of this all is that Stan Lee and Marvel Comics inadvertently led me to the world of English Literature.

Photograb from The Geeksverse.

I am so devastated at his passing. I’ve always thought he’d reach up to a hundred. He will be dearly missed.

Excelsior to infinity and beyond! ‘Nuff said…

Nubes

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Nubes encima de nuestro apartamento, cerca de la Laguna de Bay (14/09/2010).

La ciencia nos enseña que el propósito de los nubes son para contener la lluvia y envolver la tierra del calor extremo del sol. Es verdad. Pero hay otro propósito…

Tenemos los nubes entre nosotros para placer los ojos cansados de la humanidad, cansados debido a muchas tribulaciones, inundaciones, y presiones que esta realidad codiciosa nos inflige. Al mirar a estas raras blancuras en el cielo (por supuesto, es necesario usar gafas de sol cuando hace sol), se puede encontrar un tipo de comodidad que tal vez sólo una poesía pueda exponer en detalle. Es como una visión breve de la vida eterna.

Estos nubes de todos los tipos, de mechones juguetones, algodones gigantescos, como mecanismos de un sueño, complacen no sólo los ojos sino la mente agotada. Es triste que mucha gente toma los nubes un poco a la ligera.

La naturaleza no es sólo para sustentar la vida sino para animarla.