“I shall return”

TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY: 20 March 1942 — An escaping General Douglas MacArthur who arrived at Terowie, South Australia makes his famous speech regarding the fall of Filipinas to the Imperial Japanese Army in which he says: “I came through and I shall return”. That declaration has become one of the most iconic lines from World War II and in all of World History.

On a personal note, this speech reminds me not of MacArthur but of another historical figure who is almost forgotten in our country’s history: Simón de Anda, the irrepressible Spanish Basque Governor-General of Filipinas from 1770 to 1776.

De Anda was then an oidor or member judge of the Audiencia Real (Spain’s appellate court in its colonies/overseas provinces) when the British, on account of the Seven Years’ War, invaded Filipinas in 1762. While many high-ranking government officials, including then interim governor-general and Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Río, already surrendered to the invaders, de Anda and his followers refused to do so. Instead, he established a new Spanish base in Bacolor, Pampanga and from there launched the country’s first-ever guerrilla resistance against the British. He thus proved to be a big thorn on the side of the British until the latter left the archipelago two years later.

During those tumultuous two years under the British, de Anda made no promises and neither did he leave Filipinas. He stuck it out with Filipinos through thick and thin and gave the enemy an armed resistance that they more than deserved. But “Dugout Doug” was all drama when he said “I shall return”, leaving the Filipinos to fend for themselves against the Japs. And when he did return, it was a disaster: the death of Intramuros, the heart and soul of the country.

Captain Remo (75th death anniversary)

La imagen puede contener: una persona

Abelardo Remoquillo (1922-1945), known among his peers, war enemies, and admirers as “Captain Remo”, was a young guerrillero from San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna (simply known today as the City of San Pedro, Laguna) who fought against the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. He is known only as a local hero. But I contend that he be declared a national hero. Why? At a very young age, he joined the Hunters ROTC guerrillas not to defend his hometown but to help defend his country. He fought against the invaders from different fronts of Southern Luzón and even participated in the famous Raid at Los Baños.

He died not in San Pedro Tunasán but in faraway Bay, La Laguna while attacking a Japanese garrison.

When he joined the Hunters ROTC, that is when his being a San Pedrense ended, and the exact moment when he completed his being a Filipino, a Filipino warrior to be exact.

Today, we commemorate the 75th death anniversary of his heroic death.

Copies of my bilingual biography* of Captain Remo are still available at the San Pedro City Hall. For inquiries, please contact the San Pedro Tourism, Culture, and Arts Office.

*The Tagálog translation is by Linda Sietereales. Her dear friend, famous novelist Lualhati Bautista, has a blurb for the book. This book is a project of the San Pedro City Historical Council headed by Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz.

Dead Stars: very briefly

Today is the birth anniversary of Paz Márquez de Benítez (3 March 1894 – 10 November 1983), a fellow Tayabeña. She hails from Lucena City, Tayabas Province where I was born. With Spanish being her first language coupled with a storytelling craftsmanship ahead of her time, she deftly produced what Nick Joaquín (National Artist for Literature) aptly described as a literary gem from the U.S. occupation period: “Dead Stars”. Published in 1925, it is considered as the first Filipino modern English-language short story. It is one of my favorite short stories of all time. While Dead Stars is said to be an allegory to U.S. imperialism, it is still essentially a love story. Its denouement will leave a shock of emotion, a void in the chest, an emptiness of the heart which one has never experienced before. It is one of those tales you wish you have never read but will keep on rereading.

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

The Magallanes-Vizcaya connection

One hundred eighty-one years ago today (29 December 1838), Luis Lardizábal y Montoya, a native of Vizcaya, España, was appointed Governor-General of the Capitanía General de Filipinas, the forerunner of today’s Filipinas or Republic of the Philippines. He immediately set to work.

Immediately the following year, Lardizábal sought to strengthen the military. He ordered the increase of a section of grenadiers (soldiers specialized for the throwing of grenades and sometimes assault operations) in addition to two existing ones. He gave some provisions on the residency registration and contributions (taxes, probably) of the Chinese. And realizing the excellent quality of Filipino tobaccos and at the same time their defective manufacturing, measures were taken to prevent counterfeit products as well as its accreditation. It was also during his term when a weekly newspaper titled “Precios Corrientes de Manila” (Manila Current Prices) was published.

Among history conscious Novo Vizcaínos of the Cagayán Valley (Region II), Lardizábal is remembered as the one who established their province of Nueva Vizcaya. In English, the province’s name simply means New Vizcaya. For sure, Lardizábal had wanted to honor his home province in faraway Spain. But it is not generally known that it was also he who requested from the supreme Spanish government in Madrid to have a monument erected at Opón Island (now known as Mactán) to commemorate the discovery of our archipelago by Fernando de Magallanes, an event leading to the establishment of the “Estado Filipino” of the Filipino State many years later, on 24 June 1571.

When Lardizábal made the request, I wonder if he by then already knew that the carrack Victoria, the first ship to successfully circumnavigate the world (and the lone survivor of the five-ship Magallanes expedition), was built in his home province. According to historian Danilo Gerona, Victoria, originally named Santa María, was built in a shipyard in Ondarroa, Vizcaya.

But with the prevailing Hispanophobia in this country, I also wonder: does the National Quincentennial Committee even know about this? Or do they even care? 🤔

La imagen puede contener: cielo, árbol, planta y exterior

A 1915 photograph of the Magallanes monument which I found at eBay. It’s currently priced at $29.99 or more than ₱1,500.

Benevolent Assimilation?

TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY: 21 December 1898 — After successfully invading Filipinas and wresting our islands from Madre España, the United States of América was all set to become a world power. Then US President William McKinley issued his “Benevolent Assimilation” proclamation.

The destruction of the Spanish fleet in the harbor of Manila by the United States naval squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Dewey, followed by the reduction of the city and the surrender of the Spanish forces, practically effected the conquest of the Philippine Islands and the suspension of the Spanish sovereignty therein. With the signature of the treaty of peace between the United States and Spain by their respective plenipotentiaries at Paris on the 10th instant, and as a result of the victories of American arms, the future control, disposition, and government of the Philippine Islands are ceded to the United States. In the fulfillment of the rights of sovereignity thus acquired and the responsible obligations of government thus assumed, the actual occupation and administration of the entire group of the Philippine Islands becomes immediately necessary, and the military government heretofore maintained by the United States in the city, harbor, and bay of Manila is to be extended with all possible despatch to the whole of the ceded territory.

In performing this duty, the military commander of the United States is enjoined to make known to the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands that in succeeding to the sovereignity of Spain, in severing the former political relations, and in establishing a new political power, the authority of the United States is to be exerted for the securing of the persons and property of the people of the islands and for the confirmation of all their private rights and relations. It will be the duty of the commander of the forces of occupation to announce and proclaim in the most public manner that we come, not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employments, and in their personal and religious rights. All persons who, either by active aid or by honest submission, co-operate with the Government of the United States to give effect to these beneficent purposes will receive the reward of its support and protection. All others will be brought within the lawful rule we have assumed, with firmness if need be, but without severity, so far as possible. Within the absolute domain of military authority, which necessarily is and must remain supreme in the ceded territory until the legislation of the United States shall otherwise provide, the municipal laws of the territory in respect to private rights and property and the repression of crime are to be considered as continuing in force, and to be administered by the ordinary tribunals, so far as practicable. The operations of civil and municipal government are to be performed by such officers as may accept the supremacy of the United States by taking the oath of allegiance, or by officers chosen, as far as practicable, from the inhabitants of the islands. While the control of all the public property and the revenues of the state passes with the cession, and while the use and management of all public means of transportation are necessarily reserved to the authority of the United States, private property, whether belonging to individuals or corporations, is to be respected except for cause duly established. The taxes and duties heretofore payable by the inhabitants to the late government become payable to the authorities of the United States unless it be seen fit to substitute for them other reasonable rates or modes of contribution to the expenses of government, whether general or local. If private property be taken for military use, it shall be paid for when possible in cash, at a fair valuation, and when payment in cash is not practicable, receipts are to be given. All ports and places in the Philippine Islands in the actual possession of the land and naval forces of the United States will be opened to the commerce of all friendly nations. All goods and wares not prohibited for military reasons by due announcement of the military authority will be admitted upon payment of such duties and other charges as shall be in force at the time of their importation. Finally, it should be the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule. In the fulfillment of this high mission, supporting the temperate administration of affairs for the greatest good of the governed, there must be sedulously maintained the strong arm of authority, to repress disturbance and to overcome all obstacles to the bestowal of the blessings of good and stable government upon the people of the Philippine Islands under the free flag of the United States.

–President William McKinley–

How touching. But each time I hear the words “benevolent assimilation”, this editorial cartoon always comes to mind…

“Kill Everyone Over Ten” –General Jacob H. Smith–

The cartoon above was published in the New York Journal on 5 May 1902. It depicted the massacre of the people of Balangiga, Sámar Oriental (Eastern Sámar). Children over ten years old were not spared.

I remember one WASP apologist claiming that although there was indeed an order to carry out the massacre, it was not complied with. But whether or not it wasn’t, the fact still remains that there really was an order from the higher-ups.

But that is just Balanguiga. Elsewhere, we read Tomás Mascardo, a Caviteño general who fought against the US invaders, as he described how the benevolent assimilationists carried out their admirable tasks toward Filipinos.

En Manila y provincias, regía con todo su rigor la ley marcial. Se registraban torturas, que eran inconcebibles en un ejército civilizado.

EL TORMENTO DEL AGUA: era de dos clases. Una consistía en maniatar a la persona a quien se trataba de someter al suplicio, después de lo cual se la colocaba horizontalmente boca arriba. Una vez en esta posición, se le introducía un hierro cilíndrico entre las mandíbulas, forzándole así a tener la boca desmesuradamente abierta. Después se vertía gran cantidad de agua por la laringe y fosas nasales hasta matar de asfixia al infeliz paciente u obligarle a hacer cualquier declaración que cuando menos justificara la detención de que había sido objeto.

La otra clase se practicaba de la siguiente manera: fijábase una polea sencilla en un arco levantado sobre un pozo de agua. Se suspendía de ella al atormentado con los pies hacia arrib y se le bajaba rápidamente hasta sumergirlo en el agua durante un tiempo más o menos prolongado según la resistencia del paciente, pasado lo cual se le hacía subir de nuevo para sumergirlo otra vez hasta conseguir los resultados arriba dichos.

EL TORMENTO DE AZOTES: consistía en golpear al presunto culpable con el cañón y la culata del fusil en la cavidad torácica, en el abdómen y en todas las partes más sensibles del cuerpo. Si esto no bastaba para obligarle a admitir la acusación contra él formulada, se le sujetaba a una columna y se le comenzaba a azotar con bejucos espinosos hasta rasgarle las carnes y ver completamente despedazados aquellas, matándole de hermorragia en medio de dolores infernales.

EL TORMENTO DEL SOL: consistía en dedicar ducrante el día a trabajos forzados al supuesto reo en la plaza del cuartel americano, sufriendo, con la cabeza descubierta, los calcinantes y mortales rayos del sol tropical, sin darle una gota de agua ni aun después de las comidas.

Below is my translation.

Martial Law governed Manila and the provinces in all its rigor. The tortures that were recorded were inconceivable in a civilized army.

WATER TORTURE: It was of two kinds. One was to tie the hands of the person who was to be tortured, after which he is placed flat on his back. Once in this position, a cylindrical iron was inserted between his jaws, thus forcing him to have his mouth wide open. A large amount of water was then poured through the larynx and nostrils until the poor recipient either drowned to death or is forced to make any statement that would at least justify the detention he had been subjected to.

The other kind is practiced as follows: a single pulley was fixed on an arc raised over a well. The tormented person was suspended from the arc with his feet up and quickly lowered to submerge him into the water for a more or less prolonged time, according to the victim’s resistance, after which he was raised again only to be submerged once more until the abovementioned statements are retrieved from him.

FLOGGING: Hitting the suspect with the barrel and the butt of the rifle in the chest, abdomen, and all the most sensitive parts of the body. If this was not enough to force him to admit the accusation made against him, he is held down to a column and lashed with thorny vines until his flesh was ripped and shattered, killing him of blood loss while in the midst of hellish pain.

SUN TORTURE: Subjecting the accused to forced labor during the day in the American barracks square. With his head uncovered, he suffers the scorching and deadly rays of the tropical sun, without even receiving a drop of water after meals.

According to McKinley in 1900, after freeing us from Spain, he received some sort of epiphany: that the responsibilities of empire had been thrust upon the United States by “the hand of almighty God.” After spending sleepless nights in the White House and praying for “light and guidance”, it dawned upon him that “that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s grace do the very best we could do by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.”

Educate Filipinos? We already have the Universidad de Santo Tomás since 1611; McKinley’s empire was not even a country yet during that time — it was still a haven for colonizers.

Uplift and civilize Filipinos? We already had book culture as early as the 16th century. Slavery was abolished. We were exporting rice, coffee, and hemp to other countries. Our artists bested their European counterparts in competitions. We developed tropical baroque architecture which is now being prized even by heritage advocates overseas. We’ve been taught fine and courteous manners that were not just mimicked but even rivaled those of bejeweled ladies and smart gentlemen of Europe. Our ilustrados were already reading Hugo, Voltaire, Diderot, and all those liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment. So what was there to civilize? Our lingua franca was a major European language! As late as the 1960s, Uncle Sam still had to contend with racist prejudices.

Christianize Filipinos? Haven’t we been hearing of Christ Jesus since 1521? And during those centuries that our forebears were joyously celebrating Noche Buena with their loved ones, what Uncle Sam could only boast of were…

…totem poles. One couldn’t even determine if those dull poles were already existing in 1611.

Ouch. 😆✌️

What you should know about Graciano López Jaena

If one is to read Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere in the original Spanish, he would be surprised how the country’s foremost national hero described the infamous Padre Dámaso:

Sin embargo de que sus cabellos empezaban á encanecer, parecía conservarse bien su robusta naturaleza. Sus correctas facciones, su mirada poco tranquilizadora, sus anchas quijadas y hercúleas formas le daban el aspecto de un patricio romano disfrazado, y, sin quererlo, os acordaréis de uno de aquellos tres monjes de que habla Heine en sus Dioses en el destierro…

(My translation: “But while his hair was beginning to gray, his robust nature seemed to be well preserved. His correct features, his quite reassuring look, his wide jaws and herculean forms, gave him the appearance of a Roman patrician in disguise, and, unwittingly, you will remember one of those three monks that Heine speaks of in his ‘Gods in Exile’…”)

La imagen puede contener: una o varias personas

In case you don’t know how Roman patricians looked like (image: Brewminate).

So where did popular culture get the idea that the poor Franciscan was a balding, bloated, pot-bellied friar?

Many history buffs agree that today’s visual image of Padre Dámaso was culled from an (insane) story written by an eighteen-year-old Ilongo by the name of Graciano López Jaena who, early in his career as an aspiring político in Madrid, once declared that he was a Spaniard more than a Filipino (no wonder he was wont to prominently feature his mother’s last name; the Spanish way of writing one’s full name is to end it always with the maternal surname).

López Jaena, whose birth anniversary is commemorated today (birthdate: 18 December 1856) in his hometown of Jaro, Iloílo and elsewhere where he is still highly esteemed, wrote a story titled “Fray Botod” which in his native Hiligaynón literally means a big-bellied friar. This is how he described his story’s “protagonist”:

Baja estatura; cara abogatada en forma de disco cual luna llena. Pómulos atomatados. Gruesos labios y pronunciados; ojos chiquititos, picarescos y gatunos; nariz grande, abermellado,* de alas anchas y desplegadas, por eso olfatea á distancia como un perdiguero. Cabello amaizado, corona tabo** con cerquillo. Frente deprimida y arrugada marcanda ceño sombrío y adusto. Abdomen; sobre todo, su abdomen llama la atención por su mostruoso desarrollo, es más promontorio que abdomen, porque termina en punta cerca ombligo; la región pelviana y la pectoral coinciden en el mismo plano perpendicular determinado una curvatura central de la columna vertebral. Añádase á todo esto, un cuello corto sobre donde descansa aquella original fisonomía y tenéis acabado el retrato de cuerpo entero.

(My translation: “Of short stature with a flattened, disc-shaped face like that of a full moon. Stuck cheekbones. Thick and pronounced lips. Tiny eyes, picaresque and feline. Large nose, reddish,* with wide and unfolded wings: that is why from a distance he sniffs like a gun dog. Rich hair whose tabo-shaped** crown has bangs. Depressed and wrinkled forehead marks a gloomy and grim frown. And the abdomen —his abdomen, above all— attracts attention because of its showy development, it is more promontory than the rest because it ends at a point near the navel. The pelvic and pectoral region coincide in the same perpendicular plane with a central curvature of the spine. Add to all this is a short neck on which that original physiognomy rests, and you will have his full-length portrait.”)

*Abermellado is not even Spanish. It is Galician, a language spoken in northwestern Spain. It is a mystery as to how López Jaena got hold of that word. Perhaps at an early age he was already a Hispanophile?
**Tabo is a filipinismo, meaning that it is a Filipino word that has been incorporated into the Spanish language. A tabo pertains to the ubiquitous water dipper.

Take note, he was only eighteen when he wrote this hilarious caricature of a Spanish friar. He was virtually a kid. And his Spanish, although rich in imagery, cannot even be considered literary gold.

One wonders as to how López Jaena was influenced by anticlericalism at such young an age (he joined Freemasonry at a much later time in his life, when he was already 26), but it can be gleaned that opposition to religious authority was already in ferment during his youth. Many (Hispanophobic!) historians will readily point out that this belligerent attitude toward the “repressive” Spanish friars was the starting point of his heroism. Debatable, of course.

Now going back to his political plans… what do you make of this declaration of his to Rizal, in a letter dated 15 October 1891?

Ciertamente, si quiero ser diputado en España, es para satisfacer ambiciones personales, nada más; no tengo la pretensión de dar por mi investidura de diputado, derechos ni libertades á Filípínas, ella tíene que conquístarlos con su sangre, lo mismo que su independencia.

(My translation: “Certainly, if I want to become a deputy in Spain, it is to satisfy personal ambitions, nothing more. For my investiture as deputy, I do not intend to give rights or liberties to Filipinas. She has to conquer them with her blood, as well as her independence.”)

His colleagues, most prominently José Alejandrino among them, described his lifestyle in Spain as rather Bohemian: he was a strange fellow who loved to give impromptu speeches just for the heck of it (many of the things he said were just figments of his fertile imagination), who would rather spend more time in cafés just to while away time rather than write articles with his fellow propagandistas (they literally had to bribe him with spending money just to write). He, too, was perhaps the original “dugyót” (which means a slovenly person) as he rarely took a bath, who preferred eating sardines with his bare hands, then wiping his oily fingers on his seldomly washed clothes.

Curiously enough, Jaena rhymes with the English word hyena which is a carnivore known for its filthy and mangy behavior as a scavenger. Just a thought. 😂

There’s your hero, the one and only Graciano López Hyena! So aside from greeting him a happy birthday today, you might as well thank him too for fighting for your liberty.***

***An example of a sarcastic remark. Anyway, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

What you don’t know about Emilio Jacinto

PH nhi emilio jacinto.jpg

Today is the birth anniversary of Emilio Jacinto (15 December 1875), the so-called “Brains of the Katipunan”. Historians have written how proficient he was with the Spanish language, but it is not widely known that his native tongue was not Spanish nor even Tagalog but Tondeño, a Spanish patois (or variation of Chavacano) that was spoken in Tondo, Manila. It was his friend, Katipunan Supremo Andrés Bonifacio, who taught him how to read, write, and speak in Tagalog. And since Tondeño was close to the Spanish language, Bonifacio sent him to Spanish-speaking La Laguna to take charge of the establishment of a Katipunan chapter in the said province. It was there where he died and was buried (16 April 1899).