Confessing the Katipunan

Deponatur sacerdos qui peccata penitentis publicare præsumit.

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, commonly known as the Sacrament of Confession, is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church and is very much a part of the Filipino Christian’s way of life. Through it, Christians are able to confess their sins to a priest in order to obtain absolution (forgiveness) for sins committed against God and fellowman. Being absolved allows the Christian to be reconciled to the greater Catholic community.

We are not about to engage on the necessity, benefits, and Biblical veracity of the Sacrament of Confession. Rather, this blogpost seeks to clarify the involvement of the alleged violation of the Seal of the Confessional to an important event in Filipino History at the turn of the 20th century: the discovery of the Katipunan.

Today, history reminds us how government authorities discovered in the afternoon of 19 August 1896 the existence of the underground rebel group Katipunan (officially known as the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng̃ mg̃á Anak ng̃ Bayan or the “Supreme and Honorable Society of the Children of the Nation”) which was, for years, already plotting the downfall of the Spanish regime. Conventional history tells us that the existence of the Katipunan was divulged as a result of a petty quarrel between two of its members, Teodoro Patiño and Apolonio de la Cruz. It is said that the two had a misunderstanding regarding wages (both were employees of the Diario de Manila), and that de la Cruz also blamed Patiño for the loss of some printing supplies. As an act of vengeance, Patiño angrily revealed the secrets of the Katipunan to his sister Honoria who was a nun at an orphanage in Mandaluyong (it was not explained to us the rationale of how Patiño’s quarrel with de la Cruz prompted him to reveal the existence of the Katipunan to his sister).

Honoria, being a nun, naturally grew shocked and upset upon finding out that his brother was part of a rebel group related to the Freemasons, the ancient enemy of the Catholic Church. Sor Teresa de Jesús, the mother portress of the orphanage, saw Honoria distraught, prompting the former to interrogate the latter. Honoria told everything she heard from her brother. Later in the evening, Sor Teresa called Patiño and advised him to tell everything he knew about the Katipunan to Fray Mariano Gil, the Augustinian curate of Tondo. Father Gil, in turn, alerted the authorities who then unleashed a crackdown on suspected members after incriminating evidence was found. The unexpected discovery of the Katipunan compelled its leader, Andrés Bonifacio, to publicly declare an uprising days later. The rest, as they say, is history.

Through the years, Filipino students have been taught that the Katipunan was discovered as a result of Fr. Gil’s violation of the seal of the confessional. The poor friar has been painted as a villain since. And this event in our history has become a favorite target of Filipino anti-Catholics and other Hispanophobes.

But is it true that Fr. Mariano Gil violated the seal of the confessional?

In many textbooks, it is written that the Augustinian parish priest of Tondo indeed violated the secrecy of confession. Take one instance, for example (taken from Rex Bookstore’s The Filipino Moving Onward and My Country and My People for Grade 5 students):

Upon the advice of the Mother Portress of the orphanage, Teodoro Patiño made a confession to Fr. Mariano Gil…

But if we are to consult standard history books written by big names such as Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, we will see that they did not even mention the word “confession” nor did they allude to the sacrament. And in Gregorio Zaide’s first book, Documentary History of the Katipunan Discovery: A Critico-historical Study of the Betrayal of the K.K.K. New Revelations, the controversy regarding the alleged breaching of the seal of confession was tackled, but it seemed to center more on breaking the then prevailing myth that a woman confessed the existence of the Katipunan to Fr. Gil (the “traitor” was then believed to be either Juana de Guzmán [Patiño’s wife] or Honoria).

It is not known to many, however, that this controversy was already put to rest many years ago, at least by Concepción Escalada, Honoria’s daughter. According to Zaide, Concepción revealed that she heard her mother deny that Teodoro gave the information inside the confessional. Her uncle Teodoro simply told the Katipunan plot to her mother Honoria in the presence of Sor Teresa.

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Fr. Mariano Gil had been receiving death threats from the dreaded Katipunan.

Nevertheless, Zaide’s account of Honoria’s revelation was doubted by Agoncillo. Even to this day, many historians are divided on the issue. So for the sake of argument… what if Patiño really did confess, and Fr. Gil did divulge the details of his confession to the authorities?

In order to resolve this once and for all, try putting yourselves in Fr. Mariano Gil’s shoes: pretend that you are a priest. Then one day, a tearful penitent visits you for a confession. You are surprised because you know her as a prominent public servant. She is a Catholic, but a Bangsamoro sympathizer and collaborator. During the confession, she also gives you details of an impending attack by her Bangsamoro separatist friends on the capital city. As a priest, you are not allowed to divulge her other sins of having knowledge about bombs being detonated in major cities all over the archipelago through the years. You can only advice her to do the right thing: that is, to surrender to the authorities for having been an accomplice. But regarding her other confession, that of a major attack on the capital city in which many innocent lives are certainly at stake… as a citizen, what are you going to do about it?

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New findings on the first Mass in Filipinas

For many years, including the time when Filipinas was still under Mother Spain, Filipinos have been taught that the first Mass in our country happened in Limasaua, Leyte (now Limasawa, Southern Leyte). As a backgrounder: Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magallanes (popularly known by his Anglicized name Ferdinand Magellan) ordered a Mass to be celebrated on the small island of Limasawa on 31 March 1521. It was officiated by Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, OSA, the only priest of the Magallanes expedition. This event marked the birth of Christianity in Filipinas.

However, just a few years ago, a group of people started to contest this widely accepted historical record, saying that the first Mass really occurred in Butúan, Agusan (del Norte).

Vicente Calibo de Jesús, a media and communications practitioner, is one of the most vocal proponents of the cause to recognize Butúan as the site of our country’s first Mass. He has launched numerous petitions online to have his claim recognized. On his Facebook account, he has cited documents and even geomorphological arguments to back up his claim. Sometime during the last decade, when the country’s foremost historian Ambeth Ocampo was still in charge over the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (then known as the National Historical Institute), a committee headed by economist and historian Benito Legarda, Jr. was organized to re-examine the matter. However, in one public forum, Calibo de Jesús failed to attend.

“Since Mr. De Jesús refused to participate in the forum, why does he now contest the outcome?” Ocampo said.

After much deliberation, the NHCP/NHI then issued a resolution on 15 June 2009 affirming that the first Mass was indeed celebrated in Limasawa, Southern Leyte on 31 March 1521.

Ocampo retired from public service two years later but continued publishing history books and articles as well as giving popular lectures. The local Catholic Church quietly accepted the findings. Calibo de Jesús, on the other hand, continued his online attacks. But the controversy was almost forgotten.

Fast forward to last week, on the 5th of August. Jun P. Alvizo, a proponent of the Filipinas Quincentenario project, posted on his Facebook account digitized photos (see below) that were taken from the pages of the Anales Eclesiásticos de Philipinas1574-1602, asserting that Calibo de Jesús could be right after all.

Butúan’s assertion as the true site of the first Mass in the Philippines is not a fabricated claim or one without a substantive evidence. The truth on this episode, of the first circumnavigation of the world, has long been muddled by many historians when Limasawa in Leyte was proclaimed as the real site of the first Mass in our islands that was officiated by Father Pedro de Valderrama on 31 March 1521 (an Easter Sunday). Adding dubiety, the many investigations on this matter, conducted by panels constituted by the National HIstorical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), resolved in favor of Limasawa, obliterating the very truth where the first Mass in the Philippines was really celebrated.

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According to Alviza, these documents were obtained by the Filipinas Quincentenario from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Manila, and that even the late Jaime Cardinal Sin was knowledgeable about them.

Aside from these new findings, there were, in fact, old books dating back to the Spanish times that either questioned or contradicted the already accepted location of the first Mass in Filipinas. These are the “Episodios Históricos de Filipinas” by Felipe María de Govantes (Manila: Imprenta de Valdezco, 1881, pp. 21-22) and the “Boletín de la Real Sociedad Geográfica” (Madrid: Real Sociedad Geográfica, 1897, vol. 39, pp. 135-136) to name a few. There was even one book, the “Historia de Mindanao y Joló” (Madrid: Viuda de M. Minuesa de los Ríos, 1897, pp. 661), in which the author, Francisco Combés, specifically mentioned that it was precisely in Butúan and in no other place where the first Mass in Filipinas was celebrated.

Allí fué precisamente, y no en otro punto, donde se celebró la primera misa, dicha en tierra, del Archipiélago Filipino.

It is unclear, though, as to how Combés et al. were cognizant of the exact site since all their books were published three centuries after the event. However, there could be one clincher: Antonio Pigafetta himself, the lone Italian chronicler of the Magallanes expedition who was also witness to the first Mass. In his account of the expedition titled “Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo” (Report on the First Voyage Around the World) published in 1536, Pigafetta actually mentioned Butúan four times. The account of the Mass is found in chapter two of his book.

Be that as it may, with the discovery of these old church records, could those “iconoclasts” have finally won their fight for historical accuracy, that the first Mass was indeed held at Butúan and not Limasawa? Or will this prompt the NHCP to organize another investigation?

The Battle of Tirad Pass: myth and reality

Goyo Ang Batang Heneral poster.jpg

In less than a month, Director Jerrold Tarog‘s “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” will premiere in major cinemas all over the country. It is a sequel to the 2015 sleeper hit “Heneral Luna” (also helmed by Tarog) which chronicled the life of temperamental General Antonio Luna. This time around, General Gregorio del Pilar will take center stage as actor Paulo Avelino portrays the so-called “Hero of Tirad Pass”.

Textbook Filipino History teaches us that only 60 Filipino soldiers defended the pass against 300 US troops who were out to capture “runaway president” Emilio Aguinaldo. Naturally, since they were outnumbered, the Filipinos lost. But according to historians, Goyo died a romantic hero’s death since he was the last Filipino standing. It was said that he fought the US invaders until his last breath.

In the language of Millennials, Goyo was a true LODI who had a different kind of WERPA. Biro niyó, ualá na siyáng cacampí, lumalaban pa rin. PETMALU😂

But is this account of the boy general’s death accurate?

There was an eyewitness account to what had really happened to the “Boy General” during the first few moments of the battle, and it appears in the diary of Telesforo Carrasco, one of Goyo‘s men. Here it is, translated from the original Spanish by none other than National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquín…

…we saw the Americans climbing up, only fifteen meters away, whereupon the soldiers started firing again. The general could not see the enemy because of the cogon grass and he ordered a halt to the firing. At that moment I was handling him a carbine and warning him that the Americans were directing their fire at him and that he should crouch down because his life was in danger — and at that moment he was hit by a bullet in the neck that caused instant death. I myself was also hit by a bullet in the hat that caused me no damage. On seeing that the general was dead, the soldiers jumped up as if to flee but I aimed the carbine at them saying I would blow the brains off the skull of the first to run, whereupon the body of the general was being removed to the next trench…

It is safe to assume that Carrasco’s eyewitness account of Goyo’s death is believable because Carrasco never intended to have his diary published in the first place. And he had no beef with the young general. Carrasco, although a Spaniard, was loyal to his Filipino allies, to the president, and to our country. He was not a writer. He must have kept a diary just to keep his mind busy, to fight boredom, during those lonely days of trekking and hiding from their pursuers. It was his children who had his diary published after his death. They commissioned Nick Joaquín to translate it into English.

Judging from Carrasco’s account, the boy general died not because of romanticized heroics. He died because of careless curiosity.

Now I’m interested as to how the movie will portray the Battle of Tirad Pass. Did Tarog stick to del Pilar’s dramatized death that was taught to Filipino students for decades? Or did he even consult Carrasco’s diary as reference? We’ll see on September 5th.

 

 

 

History Month 2018

August is History Month!

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Proclamation No. 339, s. 2012

MALACAÑÁN PALACE

MANILA

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

PROCLAMATION NO. 339

DECLARING THE MONTH OF AUGUST OF EVERY YEAR AS HISTORY MONTH, THEREBY TRANSFERRING THE OBSERVANCE OF HISTORY WEEK FROM 15 TO 21 SEPTEMBER TO THE MONTH OF AUGUST

WHEREAS, History Week is observed from 15 to 21 September of every year by virtue of Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974);

WHEREAS, there is a need to transfer the observance of History Week from 15 to 21 September to the whole month of August and rename the occasion as “History Month” to emphasize the most significant turning points in Philippine history;

WHEREAS, major events in the nation’s history occurred in the month of August which concludes with National Heroes Day on 30 August; and

WHEREAS, a week of observance is not enough to undertake various activities given the richness and diversity of our nation’s history.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO, III, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare the month of August of every year as “History Month.”

Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974) is hereby repealed.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

DONE, in the City of Manila, this 16th day of February, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve.

(Sgd.) BENIGNO S. AQUINO III

By the President

(SGD.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary

(SGD.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary

Duterte and Rizal

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I noticed how many local Facebook groups and pages, as well as anti-Catholic individuals, are taking advantage of President  Rodrigo Duterte’s childish tirades against the Catholic Church (including God Himself) by using a dead writer as an attack dog to support their disgust of anything that has to do with Catholic priests. I’m referring to Dr. José Rizal. Several memes about our national hero’s anti-friar attacks have been spreading around like wildfire, feeding the liberal happiness of those who loathe the “Bride of Christ”. I’ve even read comments from some die-hard Duterte fans who compared the president to the national hero.

May I remind everyone that using Rizal’s works to back-up the president’s severe lack of breeding are totally useless. Rizal already retracted his anti-Catholic ideas hours before he was to face eternity. To those who do not believe the retraction, I invite you to go to the library and read Fr. Jesús Mª Cavanna’s 682-page-thick “Rizal’s Unfading Glory: A Documentary History of the Conversion of Dr. José Rizal” (4th edition). As the title suggests, the book (my friend Gimo Gómez, son of historian Guillermo Gómez Rivera, nicknames it as “The Blue Book” because of its blue-colored cover) is documented. Heavily. With several photos of evidence. And with testimonies from credible witnesses, including some from Rizal’s family members. Even the National Bureau of Investigation got involved. Therefore, to say beforehand that this book is biased because it was written by a friar is as childish as our president’s crybaby attempts to ridicule an institution that has survived calumnies and persecution for the past two thousand years.

Fr. Cavanna wrote the book as an investigator and as a scholar, not as a priest. Once you’ve read through the book’s entirety, then that’s the only real time that you can argue about Rizal’s stand towards the Catholic Church.

Until then, feel free to shut up.

First published here.

Defining the Filipino National Identity without all the nationalist melodramatics

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Immediately after the “basktebrawl” that ensued between Gilas Pilipinas and Boomers last Last July 3, well-known sports broadcaster Chino Trinidad took to Facebook to express his dismay and embarrassment over the matter. Netizens were divided on the issue, but it seemed that many (including this blogger) defended the violent anger displayed by Gilas Pilipinas against their roughhousing opponents. Trinidad’s outspoken opinions didn’t sit well with many basketball fans, even prompting some to question his patriotism.

PEPE ALAS

In a seeming response to the insults received, Trinidad posted a question that is close to my heart.

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All the comments he received were subjective. Naturally, for not many Filipinos are aware of what a Filipino really is. While it may be easy to define who a Filipino is, it is not the same as defining what is a Filipino. So since the Filipino National Identity is my core advocacy, I couldn’t resist not to reply.

Dear Chino. It is easy to define WHO is a Filipino. Anyone can do it by pointing out to one’s citizenship, or via jus soli or jus sanguinis. Even foreigners like Robert Downey, Jr. can become Filipinos if they wish to do so (via naturalization). Still others can wax melodramatic by claiming that they have the heart and soul of a Filipino (I know many of this kind, Fil-foreign celebrities and emotionally charged historians alike). But defining WHAT a Filipino is? That’s the tricky part, especially for the historically uninitiated, for this area requires a bit of “historical science”. Let me explain briefly…

The Filipino National Identity is the product of the so-called “Estado Filipino” or the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571. This Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language. Towards the end of the 16th century, the previously existing native ethnolinguistic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members. They incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected King Felipe II of Spain, popularly known as King Philip II, as their natural sovereign. This election was verified during a synod-plebiscite held also during that time frame.

From that time on, and after forming part of the 1571 Filipino State, our pre-Hispanic —I’d rather call it pre-Filipino— ancestors also accepted Spanish as their official and national language with their respective native languages as auxiliary official languages. Thus, the previously autonomous ethnolinguistic states that existed before the 1599 synod-plebiscite were respectively the ones that belonged to the Tagálogs, Ilocanos, Capampañgans, Bicolanos, Visayans, Mindanáo Lúmads, etc. not excluding the Moro Sultanates of Joló and Maguindanáo. Aside from these indigenous or native ethnolinguistic states, the pre-Filipino Chinese of Mayi-in-ila Kung shing-fu or Maynilad, or what is now known as Manila, likewise joined the Filipino State when they accepted the King of Spain as their natural sovereign. More so, because they knew that they would become the chief benefactors of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade that would in turn last for 250 years.

Hence, all of the above mentioned people became, ethnographically and politically, Filipinos as well as Spanish subjects when they freely accepted the Spanish King (Rey Felipe II) as their natural sovereign in 1599, resided in Filipinas to do business, and paid taxes to His Majesty’s Manila government which became the capital of the Capitanía General de Filipinas, the basis of today’s Republic of the Philippines. It is because of this historical event that the Spanish language has become an inseparable part of every Filipino’s individual, collective, and national identity.

It is no wonder why former senator Claro M. Recto, one of our country’s greatest nationalists, declared that: “Without Spanish, the inventory of our national patrimony as a people will be destroyed, if not taken away from us since Spanish is part of our flesh and blood as Filipinos.”

The first to call themselves Filipinos, however, were those Spaniards who were born in our country (my generation remembers them as insulares). These Filipinos proudly referred to themselves as Hijos del País (Sons of the Country or Mg̃a Anác ng Bayan). But there was a power struggle between them and the Spaniards who were from Spain (peninsulares). The ethnolinguistic natives, particularly the most Hispanized of them all (the Tagálogs and the Capampañgans) sided with the people they grew up with: the insulares/Filipinos. In time, these Hispanized ethnolinguistic natives, including the Christianized Chinese, began calling themselves as Filipinos as well. And they had all the right to do so, because they spoke Spanish, they were baptized as Catholics, and they had been sharing the gifts of Western culture with their native-born Spanish brethren.

In sum, our Filipino National Identity is deeply rooted in our Spanish past, as do our country’s name (Filipinas/Pilipinas/Philippines), and how we call ourselves (Filipinos).

This information that I share to you about the origins of the Filipino Identity is just an introduction, and I tried to summarize it as briefly as I could. It is expected that many will disagree with this origin of the Filipino Identity, of course, and I can even be easily tagged as a colonial minded individual or “maca-Castilà”. But I have learned to understand such labels, especially since all of us have all grown up to the kind of history that was spoonfed to us by a chauvinistic kind of nationalistic education, that only the “nativist view” of the Filipino is the best and the most patriotic (I am not afraid to point a blaming finger at UP Dilimáns influential History Department and its exclusivist “pantayong pananaw” view of history).

But then, I think it is high time that we use our intellect instead of our emotions when it comes to a fair appraisal of Filipino History. And more importantly, knowing WHO and WHAT we really are based on our national identity as decreed by history will give us the much-needed DIGNITY and even COURAGE to help us move forward during these perilous times.