Robinsons Galleria South and mall culture

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Yesterday was my first time to witness the grand opening of a major mall, Robinsons MallsRobinsons Galleria South, the 52nd Robinsons Mall and only the third in its flagship Galleria brand (the other two being Robinsons Galleria Ortigas and Robinsons Galleria Cebú). I’m not exactly a fan of such establishments but I thought of checking out the event because it’s just a stone’s throw away from our place here in San Pedro Tunasán (other than the fact that I’m chronicling our city’s history). Besides, it’s not every day that one gets to witness how a major mall opens to the public for the very first time.

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The four-level Robinsons Galleria South sits on a 3.8-hectare property which was once owned by a popular soft drinks manufacturer. Robinsons Land Corporation, the parent company behind Robinsons Malls, had been planning to put up an ordinary mall on the site. But former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, in a meeting with officials of Robinsons back in 2012, insisted that the corporation should instead put up a bigger Galleria brand owing to the fact that San Pedro is a dormitory area for thousands of workers in southern Metro Manila and northern La Laguna. In fact, many nearby malls such as SM Center Muntinlupà, Ayala Malls South Park, Festival Alabang, and SM City Santa Rosa are patronized by throngs of San Pedrense residents on a daily basis.

(As an aside, it was on that same 2012 meeting where Mayor Calex last saw Jesse Robredo, former Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, for the last time [They were once colleagues in the Mayors League of the Philippines]. Robredo was also wooing Robinsons for a mall to be setup in his home city. He died in a plane crash a few days after that meeting, but his efforts brought forth Robinsons Place Naga which opened five years later).

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As per observers, the above-mentioned malls, plus many others nearby, are in danger of losing profitability because of this new major player. And according to the grapevine, SM Center Muntinlupà, the smallest of them as well as the nearest to Robinsons Galleria South, might end up becoming a mere warehouse for SM. But if these hugely popular malls are to be adversely affected, what more the smaller establishments all around them? For sure, they will be displaced as consumers would rather troop to malls where there are hundreds of smaller establishments to choose from in an air-conditioned setting. This is what many economists and other concerned sectors have been complaining about with regard to the proliferation of malls. Nevertheless, it will then be the responsibility of stakeholders involved (particularly the local government units) on how to protect the smaller players from economic marginalization. It will also, of course, test the resiliency of these smaller entrepreneurs. After all, in a capitalist economy, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Mátira ang matibay.

I remember years ago what a former officemate of mine, a resident of San Pedro for many years, told me about the day when the first Jollibee outlet appeared at the población (town proper). This happened sometime in the late 90s. It was like a huge event for months on end especially since San Pedrenses were still of rural folk demeanor. It was then when people started to realize that their town was starting to progress. Actually, fast food giants such as Jollibee are almost always the measuring stick of a municipality’s economic robustness.

I have interviewed a lot of seniors in our city. Through those interviews, I was able to picture how San Pedro Tunasán —now called the City of San Pedro— looked like in the past. Despite its proximity to Metro Manila, it was a bucolic Lagunense town, no different from my wife’s hometown. It used to be surrounded with farm lands and sampaguita plantations. Its coasts by the lake teemed with ducks, quails, and vegetable plantations.

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Laguna de Bay and the mountains of Rizal Province as seen from the topmost floor of the newly opened Galleria South.

Today, all these appealing rural features are almost wiped out by modernization. However, this phenomenon is happening not only in San Pedro but in almost all rural areas where there are cities nearby. Malls have a lot to do with all these changes. Whether they are good or bad is still up for debate. What cannot be denied is that it also changed behavioral patterns in once rural societies. For instance, they have taken people away from parks and plazas. Even museum visits have been left in peril.

Through the years, malls have evolved from being mere shopping centers into something bigger, with far-reaching consequences to the Filipino social psyche. Today, one can virtually do almost anything in a mall other than shopping and eating. A myriad of activities could be done here like watching a concert or a flick, paying one’s bills, booking flights, working out, holding a family reunion or celebrating birthdays (in fact, we are going to celebrate my eldest daughter’s 19th birthday there today), playing electronic games, a rendezvous for a casual breakup, and even attending Mass (Robinsons Galleria South has a chapel at the fourth floor dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta). Some have even built their own parks and museums. Other bolder ventures have malls with condominiums and office spaces (such as call centers) attached to them. Due to their massive number of patrons, terrorists have since targeted malls (don’t wonder anymore why security has become super tight). And quite recently, not a few broken souls have chosen malls as a place to take their own lives. Love them or hate them, malls have become a crucial part of the Filipino way of life.

 

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Has anyone written a scholarly article yet regarding the social and even cultural impact that malls have towards Filipinos?

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The indio is the enemy of the Filipino

After my recent health troubles (tuberculosis, complex regional pain syndrome, sleeping problems, and probable depression), I began to notice that they have enervated my passion for reading which, in turn, affected whatever agreeable writing habits that I had in the past. But one thing that keeps me away from not being idle is the fight against the so-called Leyenda Negra or the Black Legend. It annoys me so much that even in my most painful moments, I really had to get up from bed to read and write and bash those that needed online bashing.

In his book “The Colonial Period in Latin American History” (University of California, 1958), Charles Gibson, a distinguished ethnohistorian from New York, astutely defined leyenda negra as “the accumulated tradition of propaganda and Hispanophobia according to which the Spanish Empire is regarded as cruel, bigoted, exploitative, and self-righteous in excess of reality”. He continued that the (contemporary) teacher is confronted with the serious problem of dealing with it since students are already predisposed towards it. Although he did not mention the reason for that predisposition, it is obvious that it has been so for the past several decades after the fall of Catholic Spain as an empire. The usual theme of teaching history with regard to the Spanish conquests is this: Spain invaded weaker cultures, subjugated them, and exploited them for the benefit of the Crown. Therefore, the teacher “runs the danger of pronouncing an unconvincing apologia” when it comes to discussions about the subject.

“The difficulty lies in the fact that Spaniards were cruel, bigoted, exploitative, and self-righteous, though not consistently and not in any simple way,” Gibson continued. “The subject has been over-argued, so that any factual statement concerning it likewise appears argumentative, and it may be that a direct attack upon the ‘legendary’ exaggerations will prove less successful than an indirect approach that relates the Spanish achievement simply and affirmatively”.

The teaching of our country’s Spanish past, for example, has been this simplistic: we were “invaded” by Spain and enslaved for more than three hundred years. The abuse produced several rebellions which eventually led to a national revolution. That revolution ended when its leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, was exiled to Hong Kong until, at long last, the mighty but “benevolent” United States of América saved us from three centuries of Spanish tyranny.

Classic leyenda negra at its finest.

Time and again, I have always stated the contrary. We were never invaded. We were created. We were never colonized in the sense that we were exploited. We were reared, fashioned, molded. For three hundred years, our national identity took shape into something that is no longer indigenous but simply Filipino, an amalgam of East and West. Three attributes make up a Filipino:

1) Hispanic culture, with Malayo-Polynesian elements as a substrate.
2) The Spanish language.
3) Christianity (Roman Catholic Religion).

Without any of these three attributes, a Filipino will only be a half-baked Filipino, a Filipino merely by citizenship. Nothing more. Nothing less. But Hispanophobic historians and ultranationalists will contend that the true Filipino is the pre-Hispanic Filipino, or what they proudly call as the indio. This, however, is erroneous and anachronistic because the term Filipino in itself, together with all its ethnographic and linguistic connotations and implications, is basically Spanish. The word Filipino itself is Spanish. The Filipino cannot be indio because he is not aboriginal. Simply put, the concept of the Filipino before the Spanish arrival did not exist. Before the Spanish conquest of the archipelago which we now call the Republic of the Philippines, those aboriginal or ethnolinguistic groups such as the Tagálogs, Bicolanos, Capampañgans, Bisayas, etc. were all disunited. Each considered their respective group as a separate entity, virtually a separate nation, from all the others. Each has its own culture, set of beliefs, traditions, cuisine, etc. Then the Spaniards arrived, conquered them (or to be more precise, they were invited to be placed under Spanish rule via a 1599 synod-plebiscite held in Manila), then united them into one compact, homogeneous group. The Spaniards united the archipelago into one. From there came into being the three major island groups that we have enshrined as stars in our national flag.

Those above-mentioned tribes (the politically correct would rather use the term “ethnolinguistic groups”), together with the Chinese immigrants who accepted Catholicism and imbibed Spanish culture and language, became part of that national identity which in time evolved into the Filipino that is celebrated in song, poetry, and nostalgia. José Rizal the Tagálog, Graciano López Jaena the Ilongo, Tomás Pinpín the Chinese, Antonio Abad the Cebuano, Marcelino Crisólogo the Ilocano, and all the other great thinkers and writers of that glorious epoch —not excluding our forefathers, of course— all belonged to that same Filipino cosmos. Even creoles such as Luis Rodríguez Varela were not marginalized from this cultural assimilation.

Those who did not take part in all this —the Ifugaos, the Aetas, the Mañguianes, the Dumágats, the Islamized Lúmads that came to be known as the Moros, and all the other unbaptized tribes— have become trapped in time. They have ceased to become Filipinos (from a socio-historico-cultural viewpoint). But that is another story.

In sum, our more than 7,000 islands technically became a Filipino State under Spain. How then is this “divide and conquer”, a favorite mantra of those hispanophobic historians and ultranationalists, when it is obvious that the Spanish motive was to “assimilate and unify”?

But holding steadfast to their propaganda, these same Hispanophobes will always think of clever ways to prove their point such as the use of a Spanish friar to forward their agenda. A dose of one’s own medicine, as they say in English. For example, a favorite source for their anti-Spanish sentiment is the book “Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias” (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies) written by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish Dominican friar. But this book and its consequences have to be analyzed with more circumspection than rash judgment.

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Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, O.P. (11 November 1484 – 18 July 1566).

Born in Sevilla in 1484, Fr. de las Casas was once a participant in the violent conquests (and even slavery) of various indigenous tribes, but he had a change of heart later on in life. He became a Protector de Indios (Protector of Indians or natives) and was tasked to advise governors-general with regard to issues concerning the conquered natives, to speak their cases in court, and to send reports back to Spain.  In the said book (published in 1552), he chronicled the abuses and atrocities committed by Spanish conquistadores and encomenderos against the indigenous that they have conquered throughout the Américas (North, Central, and South). His persistent criticisms and complaints against abusive officials resulted in the groundbreaking Leyes y ordenanzas nuevamente hechas por su Majestad para la gobernación de las Indias y buen tratamiento y conservación de los Indios (New laws of the Indies for the good treatment and preservation of the Indians) which guaranteed and further strengthened the protection and rights of the governed indios.

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New laws of the Indies for the good treatment and preservation of the Indians.

Yes, the Spanish conquistadores in the Américas were harsh and cruel. Not all were, of course, but this has been the widely accepted general perception that cannot and should not be denied in the light of the fight for historical truth. Nevertheless, attitudes when it came to conquest changed with Fr. de las Casas and his pro-indio activism. As a result, the succeeding conquistadores, particularly those who arrived in our archipelago, were no longer of the same vile breed as those who had wreaked havoc in the Américas. The indios here were treated differently compared to the poor indios from across the Pacific.

Freemasons which included Rizal were among the first proponents of the black legend in Filipinas. That is why it should no longer puzzle Hispanists as to why Rizal proudly called himself and his friends Indios Bravos. Exposure to liberal ideas in Europe, many of which were anticlerical, influenced his anticolonial nationalism. Remember that the friars were virtually the first teachers of Filipinos when it came to almost everything cultural, not just spiritual. Catholicism and the Spanish government in Filipinas can be looked upon as two sides of the same coin (it is interesting to note that both Freemasonry and the black legend both originated in England).

That is why this indio mentality that we have been carrying all these years is the enemy of the Filipino. Whenever we wield it to spite our Spanish past, we are only spiting ourselves. Whenever we continue glorifying this pre-Hispanic identity that never was, we are only attacking ourselves, not Spain (who truly cared for her subjects) nor her conquistadores and friars. Whenever we call ourselves “indios bravos” in the name of nationalism, we are only making ourselves look like fools. Our national identity is Filipino, not indio. We have ceased to become indio when we became Filipino.

The heroic Fr. Bartolomé de Las Casas, protector of the indians, died in Madrid exactly 453 years ago today, on my 40th birthday. Let us remember him in our prayers.

As for me, life begins… 😇

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

Una lengua robada: el español en Filipinas

¿Se le puede arrebatar un idioma a un pueblo? Desgraciadamente, la respuesta es sí. Mire y averigue…

 

Realización y montaje: Antonio Rodríguez Navarro
Guión: Guillermo Gómez Rivera

Debunking historical hatred

I came across this ugly Facebook discussion last year.

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The clueless but hateful FB user in this screenshot besmirched our country’s Spanish past, a wondrous period in our country’s history that I have sworn to defend since I was a teenager. So here is my response to his accusations (which, in fact, is what millions of Filipinos also have in their equally clueless minds):

1) “polo y servicios” —> This actually benefited the natives more than the Spanish authorities. Aside from churches, the purpose was for public works such as roads and bridges that were meant for the natives themselves. Many of these are even still being used today. Unknown fact: those who were recruited to render polo y servicios were given a daily wage.
2) “land-grabbing” —> The Spaniards were the ones who brought here the concept of land titles in the first place. Pre-Filipino natives didn’t really own land. Most, if not all, didn’t have a permanent settlement. They moved from place to place, from forest to forest, especially when the land didn’t wield much for them anymore.
3) “demonization of local languages” —> On the contrary, the friars studied the local languages and even wrote grammar books to preserve them. There were even prayer books in the native languages.
4) “creating classes between them and us (peninsulares, insulares, indios)” —> These were for taxation purposes. Such classification still exists today: those who have higher salaries are taxed the most compared to those who earn lesser, such as the ordinary rank and file. Essentially, nothing really different then as now.
5) “guardia civil” —> They were the PNP of those days, a peace-keeping force against “tulisanes” (bandits) and other lawbreakers. Note: members of the guardias civiles were indios, not Spaniards.

Lastly, don’t treat José Rizal’s novels as if they’re history books. They aren’t. They’re fiction, written by a very young Freemason who was a huge fan of French satire.

Suggestion: if you really want to argue about Filipino History, learn Spanish and read original Spanish texts. Don’t rely on textbook history. 🙂

Rizal the poet

When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize his deep love of country.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize the deep impact nature had on his creativity.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize his deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize how pedagogic he was as he was romantic.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize that Spain indeed had conquered Mindanáo, that it is not for the Moros.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize that he was both a Nationalist Spaniard and a Patriotic Filipino.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize his high hopes for the youth.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize how exactly he felt whenever he was inspired or heartbroken.
When you study Rizal as a poet, you will realize that his first verse was a verse of love, and that his final one was still that of love.
Dr. José Rizal was not all about his novels. When you look at him as a poet, you will realize that he was one of the greatest WRITERS of the Spanish language, truly one of the all-time Filipino greats.
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Stop studying him as a propagandist. It is high time that you all look at him as the poet that he really was.

Father’s Day today?

They say it’s Father’s Day today. I say, “no way”.

For us Filipinos, the real Father’s Day (Día del Padre) should be commemorated every March 19th. Our forefathers knew this. It was the US neocolonialist pigs who subtly imposed the modern-day commemoration of Father’s Day every 3rd Sunday of June for commercial purposes: to sell greeting cards, items that fathers’ love (such as tools, electronics, and other similar gadgets), special promos in restaurants, discounts in resorts, and the like. In short, today’s celebration of Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day) is BASED ON PROFITEERING whereas the real Filipino celebration of Father’s Day is SPIRITUAL (feast of Saint Joseph, the adoptive father of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the patron saint of fathers).

The Father’s Day that Filipinos celebrate today has its origins from the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Spokane, Washington. Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of a US Civil War veteran, was inspired by a sermon from Anna Jarvis who was promoting Mother’s Day the year before, in 1909. Dodd then thought of a noble idea to honor fathers as well. And she was doubly inspired because her dad was a single parent who raised six children on his own. She then suggested to a pastor in the YMCA to organize a Father’s Day celebration that will complement Jarvis’s Mother’s Day. Dodd initially suggested to hold the very first Father’s Day celebration on June 5, on her father’s birthday. However, YMCA pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, so it was decided that they celebrate Father’s Day two Sundays later: on June 19, 1910. That date was the third Sunday of the month. Since then, it has become a tradition to hold Father’s Day every third Sunday of June.

Unlike Jarvis’s Mother’s Day, Dodd’s concept did not become a huge hit on its first few years. She even stopped promoting it to pursue further studies in Chicago, Illinois during the 1920s. A decade later, she returned to Spokane and revived Father’s Day, with the motive of raising awareness at a national level. Interestingly, she received help from trade groups who were thinking of other opportunities: profit. These trade groups had interests in the manufacturing of ties, tobacco pipes, and other typical items that would be of interest for fathers. Hungry for profit, they worked hard in order to make Father’s Day the “Second Christmas’ for all the men’s gift-oriented industries” (See Leigh Eric Schmidt’s CONSUMER RITES The Buying and Selling of American Holidays. NJ, USA: Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 256-292).

Both Jarvis and Dodd’s objectives were simple and noble: to honor parents. But their noble vision was buried by commercialization which still pervades to this very day. All in the name of US imperialism. So why do we Filipinos have to identify ourselves with something that is not ours, that is not us?

I am a Filipino. Soy filipino. Not a little brown Kanô.

Originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, with minor edits.

Twisting the Spanish conquest

In his Inquirer column today, lawyer Joel Butuyan wrote:

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Actually, a friend of mine (Rommel López of the Knights of Columbus) alerted me to this doltishness of a declaration, prompting me to tap a deceased non-lawyer, in fact a high school dropout, to teach this “well-learned” columnist-lawyer a lesson in history. So in my Facebook account, I shared the following:

Joel Butuyan (seasoned INC lawyer) vs Nick Joaquín (Catholic high school dropout). Take your pick.

BUTUYAN: The Spanish conquest obliterated almost everything that is Asian in our people, except the color of our skin.

JOAQUÍN: This is recognized even by those who deny it, as when they assert that 1521 marked a deviation from what might have been our true history; or when they fume that we were Christianized at the cost of our “Asian” soul; or when they argue that if the Philippines had only been completely converted to Islam by the 16th century, not all the arms of the West could have turned us into “Filipinos”. Now that is absolutely true; and the argument can be extended with the observation that only, by the 16th century, the Philippines were already Buddhist, or Taoist, or Hindu, or Confucian, or Shintoist, the West would have conquered us in vain, because, being already formed by the media of the great civilizations of the East, we would be in little danger of deviating from that Asian form. What a different kind of Christian, for instance, we might have been if we had been evangelized, not by Spaniards, but by the Nestorian Christians of Asia; and what a truly “Asian” art we might have had if our first teachers in painting had been the Japanese and not the Europeans. But the office of the historian is not to relate what might have happened but to inquire why it did not — and in this case the answer is one we have been so shyly refusing to face as fact, though it stares us in the face, that it may be for the best to have it stated bluntly at last:
If it be true indeed that we were Westernized at the cost of our Asian soul, then the blame must fall, not on the West, but on Asia…
…We say we were Christianized to our cultural disaster. Do we ever ask why we were not Buddhicized, or Taoicized, or Hinduicized, or Confucianized, or Shintocized, or Islamicized, to our cultural salvation? The reason cannot have been doctrinal timidity, for the great East Asian religions produced missionaries every bit as aggressive as any Paul of Tarsus.

The foregoing rebuttal is from the late National Artist’s famous essay “Culture and History”.

By the way, the lawyer boasted that history is one of his leisure indulgences, and that writing about olden times gives him a welcome break from the toxic chore of writing about law and politics. He also boasted that one of his prized possessions as an amateur history buff is the 55-volume “Blair and Robertson”, a most sought-after compendium among students of history.

In comparison, when Nick was alive, he never declared the same: he didn’t tell anyone that history was one of his “leisure indulgences”. Neither did he boast of all the history books that he had read just to show how profound his thinking was when it comes to knowledge of history. He simply let his knowledge (with a logic to die for) do the talking. 😉

So now we have a lesson not just in history but also a lesson in humility. So yes, dear reader, take your pick.