Foundation date of Lucena City: when was it, really?

Although I’ve known about it for sometime, it was only two years ago when I started to seriously explore the Portal de Archivos Españoles (PARES) or the Spanish Archives website, an online project of Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports whose aim is to disseminate the former empire’s historical documentation heritage in which our country is a part of. I randomly searched for digitized archival documents of various towns, especially those that have become a part of my life. And since I was born in Lucena, it is no longer a question for me to explore PARES in search of anything interesting that might come up from my place of birth.

Surprisingly, there was (I used surprisingly here because there are still many towns whose archival history has not yet been uploaded on the website). With the right key words, I stumbled upon a 65-page bundle of documents titled Sobre erección en pueblo civil independiente de su matriz Tayabas en el nombre de “Lucena” which roughly translates to the history of how today’s Lucena City was established as an independent civil town from its mother town Tayabas.

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As a former member of the Quezon Province Heritage Council (QPHC), I thought it best to notify the other members regarding the find. This I did by uploading the digitized documents to my Facebook wall, then tagging the other members whom I personally know so that they would be able to access them. They did acknowledge the find, but it was lukewarm. Back then, it appeared that the digitized documents were of no importance to them. This all happened in late 2016.

But a few months later, or early in 2017, Vladimir Nieto, another member of the QPHC who is also president of the Konseho ng Herencia ng Lucena (KHL) or Lucena Heritage Council, discovered those documents that I uploaded through mutual friends. We started communicating. Little did I know that there was some controversy going on regarding the foundation date of my place of birth.

Lucena City has been celebrating its foundation date every August 20th. The observance is glaringly incorrect because that date serves as Lucena’s cityhood (it became one in 1961). Others contend that the city’s true foundation date is 1 June 1882 without any strong basis. But through some old books, KHL already had an idea that the city’s true foundation date is 3 November 1879. The only problem is that they still had to find the archival documents to prove their claim.

After months of online communication with the KHL, the latter decided to hold a modest program on 3 November 2017, on the exact same date when Lucena was founded as a town. I was invited to deliver a speech at Pacific Mall to explain the importance of these digitized documents that I discovered from PARES. During my speech (attended by students, educators, heritage advocates, local media, and government officials of Lucena), I reminded everyone that, although a modest affair, that day was a historic one because we were commemorating for the first time the city’s true foundation date. And we have the documents to prove it. The only question that still remains is this: when will the city government of Lucena accept and recognize this historical fact?

This is the second time that this serendipity game happened between me and Filipino History. The first time was in 2012 when I was commissioned to research and write on the history of La Laguna Province. The discovery of the date was somehow accidental while I was nonchalantly browsing through my collection of rare Filipiniana, hoping to find early events that might have any mention of the province. I wasn’t even looking for the province’s foundation date. But I stumbled upon it (sadly, the project has since been aborted).

Going back to Lucena’s foundation date. The documents that I have uploaded on Facebook were just 15 pages. But those were incomplete. As mentioned earlier, the digitized bundle comprises 65 pages. I was supposed to translate everything from Spanish to English to present our case to the Provincial Government of Tayabas (renamed Quezon in 1946, a move that I resent) and even promised to blog about it the soonest. Unfortunately, my health was already failing during that time, ultimately leading to tuberculosis and pneumonia a month later. After being released from the hospital, I spent the next couple of months regaining my health back. It’s just now that I’m slowly getting the hang of it, and given a small luxury of time to write about this event. I cannot let it pass right now especially since today is the anniversary of Lucena’s foundation.

Yes, I do confirm that the correct foundation date for Lucena City is 3 November 1879, not 1 June 1882, and certainly not 20 August 1961. It’s high time that the Provincial Government of Tayabas correct this. So without further ado, I present for the first time —and with profuse thanks to PARES’s gracious efforts— the complete digitized documents establishing the facts behind the creation of the town of Lucena as a separate and independent town. Click here to view them.

¡Feliz fiesta a mi ciudad de nacimiento! 😇 ¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!




The origin of the word “undás

Each time All Saints’ Day draws near, we usually hear the word “undás” to pertain to it. Many people are puzzled as to the meaning of the term. Some who are well-versed in etymology say that it was derived from the Spanish word “honrar” meaning “to honor”, and it is associated to All Saints’ Day because we honor our dearly departed dead during this event.

But how did honrar become undás?


I Precursori Di Cristo Con Tutti I Santi Ed I Martiri Del Paradiso (The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs), tempera on poplar wood by Fra Angelico.

When you conjugate the word honrar to the first person in present tense, it becomes “honras” (you honor). Filipinos back then tend to mispronounce many Spanish words, and through time, such words have evolved: “pared” became “pader“, “jabón” became “sabón“, “cebollas” became “sibuyas“, etc. In linguistics, this phenomenon is called sound change.

In some parts of Southern Luzón such as Batangas, Tayabas (now Quezon), and Mindoro Island, undás is pronounced as “undrás” (with an “r”). As you can now see, honras and undrás sound the same (by the way, the letter “h” has no sound in Spanish).

Now let’s go back to the Spanish word honrar. It is said that the use of the term undrás to pertain to the triduum of All Hallows’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls Day (November 2) came first before it further got corrupted to undás through time. But we could even go back further and trace its roots to the Spanish term “honras fúnebres” which means “funeral honors”. This should close any doubt that undás or undrás originated from honras.

Hoy en la Historia de Filipinas: el nacimiento de Antonio Luna

Hoy conmemoramos el aniversario de nacimiento de Antonio Luna, general del ejército filipino en la Guerra Filipino-Estadounidense (1899-1904). También fue farmacéutico, científico, escritor, y fundador de la primera academia militar de Filipinas (se puede considerar como el precursor del Philippine Military Academy). Ya que hoy es su cumpleaños, considero apropiado y oportuno volver a publicar una biografía suya en español que apareció en el libro de texto Biographies of Filipino Heroes (Textbook for Spanish 4 N) por Josefina O. Ignacio que solía ser profesora de español en el Philippine College of Commerce, ahora conocido como el Polytechnic University of the Philippines. El dicho libro de texto fue publicado y distribuido por Webster School & Office Supplies en Manila en 1976. Ya no está en uso en ninguna escuela hoy, así que pensé en rescatarlo de olvido (empecé con esta tarea con el cumpleaños de Apolinario Mabini hace tres meses). El título del libro está en inglés pero el contenido está en español.

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El Famoso Batallador
29 de octubre de 1866 — 5 de junio de 1899


El General Antonio Luna nació en Manila en una casa de la calle de Urbiztondo No. 8431, el día 29 de octubre en 1868. Antonio Luna era el menor de los siete hijos de Joaquín Luna de San Pedro y Laureana Novicio, hermano de Juan Luna, el Laureado Pintor.

A la edad de seis años, empezó aprender las primeras letras del Maestro Intong. Ingresó en el Ateneo de Manila. A medida que iba avanzando en sus estudios demostraba su profunda afición a la literatura y la química. Presentaba indicios literarios escribiendo preciosas poesías y entres ellas un álbum de sentidos versos dedicados a varias colegialas de la Concordia y que se titula “Las Estrellas del Cielo”.

Era el estudiante mas asiduo y visitaba más frecuente de la biblioteca y del laboratorio. Terminó su bacillerato en el Ateneo el 1880-1881.

Su inclinación a los estudios de química se manifestó más como vocación. Estudiaba la farmacía en la Universidad de Santo Tomás, a la edad de 19 años.


Aunque por sus travesuras se lastimaba, nunca lloraba ni se quejaba. En 1885 por invitación de su hermano, el pintor Juan Luna, pasó a España para continuar el estudio de la farmacia, licenciandose en este ramo de saber en la Universidad Central de Madrid en 1890. El doctor Antonio Luna volvió a Filipinas como comisionado por el gobierno de España para hacer estudio bacteriológicos de las enfermedades contagiosas.


Ya en Filipinas Antonio Luna fué designado en diciembre de 1895 como químico del laboratorio municipal de la ciudad de Manila. Luna, activo patriótico y llena de pundonor, hizo trabajos de mucho méritas comprobados en documentos oficiales. Al estallar la revolución con el grupo separatista, de Andrés Bonifacio, pues era tan sólo reformista. Fue sospechado filibustero y a consecuencia de esta sospecha fue detenido y enviado a España en febrero de 1897, como desterrado política. Más tarde fué puesto en libertad Luna pasó a España a Gantes, a Bélgica y a Alemania donde perfeccionó sus conocimientos militaristas. Volvió a Filipinas el 2 de junio del año 1898 el tiempo que se proclamaba en Cavite la separación política de Filipinas del gobierno con grado de General de Brigada.

Lo primero que hizo Luna era crear una academia militar para instruir y preparar convenientemente a la oficialidad del ejército. Después de asistir en varios hechos de armas con activación brilliante fué ascendido a General de Brigada.

Luna se opusó a la rendición a los americanos y se hizo enemigo de varios miembros del gabinete como Paterno, Buencamino, y otros puestos que Luna consideraba como señal de cobardía la proposición de Aguinaldo y de algunos miembros del gabinete de tener paz con los americanos.

El 7 de junio 1899 durante el apogeo de la guerra filipino americana Luna con su edecán Francisco Román fueron a Cabanatúan, Nueva Écija para conferenciar con Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo no estaba y mientras bajaba la escalera del convento de Cabanatúan un soldado de las guardias llamaba Pedro Castilla le fusiló cayendose Luna y Román muerto el 7 de junio de 1899.

El General Español Antonio de los Ríos decía de él, “Su derramada sangre ha borrado la breve historia militar de Filipinas”. Como escritor Juan Villamor decía esto: “Él pertenece a la categoría de un apóstol, un ferviente propagandista con la capacidad y virtudes de su raza”.

De su periódico “La Independencia” el mismo Villamor tenía esto que decir “Era una poderosa luz eléctrica en una oscura noche, iluminado la confusión a fin de mitigar, los ultrajes de una armada revolución deseosa la libertad para el beneficio de la humanidad y de la cultura.

Su nombre de pluma era Tagailog. Sus obras El Siglo Médico, La Farmacia Española en Filipinas y La Ilustración Filipina.

Spanish in our history

I stumbled upon this interesting video by Paul who manages YouTube’s Langfocus regarding the brief history of the Spanish language. In just a little over eight minutes, he was able to explain its origins, how it spread out to different parts of the globe, commented on the Spanish-Castellano controversy, and even mentioned the countries that still use it as an official language.

At the 1:13 mark, however, Paul mentioned something hurtful (at least to me). “It also used to be an official language of the Philippines but it is not anymore”, he said.


But it’s true, anyway. Spanish was our country’s official language beginning 24 June 1571 but was unceremoniously booted out from the 1987 Constitution, the main reason being that there are only few Filipinos who speak it. While arguments about this reason continue to this day, particularly in various Facebook groups and pages concerning the Spanish language in Filipinas, it cannot be denied that the non-inclusion of the Spanish language in our present constitution is an act of gross disrespect towards our country’s history. In the words of the late Senator Blas Ople, we have “disinvited ourselves” from the Hispanic world when the framers of our present constitution removed Spanish. Just ponder over the following instances…

The proclamation of our independence was read out in Spanish. Our first constitution, the Constitución de Malolos, was written entirely in Spanish. The deliberations of our first congress, the Congreso de Malolos, were in Spanish. The official decrees and correspondences of our first president (Emilio Aguinaldo) and first prime minister (Apolinario Mabini) were in Spanish. Our newspapers which fought against Spain and the United States were in Spanish. Our poets (Claro M. Recto, Cecilio Apóstol, Jesús Balmori, Fernando Mª Guerrero, etc.) who decried US colonization wrote their anti-imperialist verses only in Spanish. THE ORIGINAL LYRICS OF OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM WERE IN SPANISH! The name of our country, Filipinas (and this does not exclude its variations Pilipinas and Philippines), is Spanish! Even our last names and our native cuisine are in Spanish!

Millions of ancient papers documenting our country’s history that are stored in our national archives are in Spanish, still unread, still waiting to be deciphered. That is why this language is an important part of our history and culture. And even in the realm of economics, Spanish is crucial nowadays. Multinational companies pay bigger salaries to Filipinos who can speak the language compared to those who use only English. That is why Spanish should not be made an optional subject in schools. It should be mandatory.

Finally, we have our national hero, José Rizal, who wrote his final love letter to all of us using the Spanish language. Yet here we are now, taking that love letter for granted by reading it only through translations.

Fellow Filipinos, think about it.

Señor Gómez appears in Inquirer 990 Television

Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, multilingual author, historian, poet, educator, Spanish dance choreographer, and linguistic scholar, made a guest appearance yesterday in Inquirer 990 Television’s “Everyday Goodwill” hosted by María Teresa Cancio (owner of Goodwill Bookstore) and journalist Ricky Brozas where he discussed the language problem in Filipinas. He also peppered the discussion with tidbits about the real score behind our country’s history under Spain. Click on the screengrab below to watch the interview.


Inquirer 990 Television is a free-to-air television news channel owned by Trans-Radio Broadcasting Corporation, a subsidiary of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It is the television counterpart of DZIQ 990.

El lanzamiento suave de la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina

¡Hoy es un día maravilloso! Por fin, la página web Sociedad Hispano-Filipina ha sido lanzada el día de hoy por el joven hispanista Jemuel Pilápil.


Jemuel ha estado trabajando en esta página web durante los últimos meses. El lanzamiento de hoy es sólo un lanzamiento suave ya que hay varias pestañas y enlaces/secciones que necesitan ser desarrollados. Pero hace semanas le sugerí que la lanzara justo a tiempo para el Día de la Hispanidad de este año. Y para este lanzamiento suave de hoy también contribuí con un artículo sobre la que se puede leer aquí.

la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina es una creación por Jemuel, un estudiante autodidacta de la lengua castellana (nunca se matriculó en ningún instituto de idiomas), y comenzó el año pasado como un grupo de Facebook. Los primeros miembros de la sociedad son de su círculo de amigos que también son amantes del idioma español, y sigue creciendo la membresía. Pero ¿de qué se trata el grupo? Aquí están los objetivos y los deberes jurados:

  • Divulgar, difundir, promover, y mantener lo vivo el idioma español.
  • Animar a los filipinos que aprendan español.
  • Crear oportunidades para practicar y disfrutar el idioma como por ejemplo viajes, reuniones, lecturas, deportes, conferencias, o cualquier actividad interesante.
  • Celebrar la existencia de la cultura hispana en Filipinas.
  • Vincular a todos los grupos hispanohablantes.

Debe recordarse que hace muchos años, tres compañeros míos (Señores Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Arnaldo Arnáiz, y José Miguel García) y yo planeamos lanzar una página web similar (pero con una gama mucho más amplia de alcance que incluye una “propaganda” para contrarrestar la leyenda negra) pero nada se materializó. Carecíamos de fondos, tiempo y los conocimientos técnicos tan necesarios. Es por eso que estoy muy feliz de que Jemuel la haya hecho por nosotros. Sin duda, Jemuel Pilápil es el “Isagani de El Filibusterismo hecho carne”. Con su Sociedad Hispano-Filipina, el idioma español tiene un futuro muy promisorio en Filipinas.

Enrique Zóbel, el renombrado filántropo, fundador del Premio Zóbel, y miembro del famoso Clan Zóbel de Ayala, dijo una vez esta memorable frase: “No quiero que el español muera en Filipinas”. Con la apariencia de la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina en el ciberespacio, la tecnología más utilizada hoy en día, tal muerte nunca sucederá, y más especialmente, siempre y cuando que tengamos la Madre de la Hispanidad como nuestra guía y patrona.


Nuestra Señora del Pilar es la Madre de la Hispanidad. Esta es su imagen en la Catedral de Imus en la Provincia de Cavite.

¡Feliz Día de la Hispanidad! ¡Viva la Virgen del Pilar! ¡Felicitaciones a la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina! ¡Celebremos esta victoria con cervezas y rosarios!

Spanish pop songs in Filipinas

After a stressful night shift, I hailed a video-on-board bus on my way home. Not my choice. All air-conditioned buses in EDSA have television sets, and I hate it. Most of the time they’re too loud. Many times have I asked drivers and conductors to tone down the volume, or to just turn them off completely. Nobody really cares about what TV programs or films video-on-board buses play. Whether they shut down their TVs or not, we commuters don’t care (bus owners, take heed). We take buses just to get home safely and comfortably. Especially in the case of us weary employees who usually sleep on the way home.

This morning, I was fortunate to have hailed my favorite bus liner whose seats are reclinable and whose TV sets aren’t usually played out loud compared to its rivals. I usually doze off on my way home, so I prefer this bus liner. The TV was tuned in to ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda when I got inside. The morning show’s guest was popular actress and singer Vina Morales. I didn’t care about the program. I just needed to sleep throughout the horrible morning traffic. After reclining my seat to give my aching back a much needed rest, I felt my consciousness fleeting.

I could already hear Vina Morales singing. Live. Thank goodness the volume wasn’t that loud, so no need for me to complain. But as I was nearing the world of sweet sleep, I noticed that Vina’s song sounded like Latin Pop although the lyrics were in Tagálog. Suddenly, I heard her blurt out “Eres Mío” and a bunch of other Spanish phrases. That woke me up completely, of course.

I was able to catch the rest of her performance. I was impressed considering the fact that Vina Morales is not a Spanish-speaker. But with her mestiza looks, she could easily pass for a Spanish half-breed. Or even a fair-skinned Latin American.

Upon arriving home, I immediately surfed the net to check out that Spanish song of hers. I was a bit disappointed to find out that the song wasn’t new. In fact, it was released two years ago as part of her 30th anniversary album. It appears that the song didn’t receive much fanfare considering that it was the first time I ever heard of it.

This song reminded me of Josh Santana, another Filipino music artist who recorded Spanish songs many years ago. I even remember having written something about him. Sadly, he didn’t become as popular as many other recording artists that we have today. He has since disappeared from the music scene to become a full-time doctor.

But even before Vina and Josh hit the music scene, there was already Pilita Corrales, “Asia’s Queen of Songs”. She has been a recording artist since the 1950s and has in fact recorded more than a hundred songs in four languages in which she is fluent: Cebuano, Tagálog, English, and Spanish. One of the Spanish songs she recorded was a Filipino folk song called Cariñosa whose accompanying dance form is considered as one of our country’s national dances.

During colonial times, many of our folk songs were in Spanish. Even folk songs that we thought we knew to have been eternally in Tagálog started out with Spanish lyrics (there’s Paru-Parong Bukid, for instance)!

If we are to make the Spanish language popular in our country once more as it once was, pop songs are a perfect avenue. We just need more musicians, songwriters, and music producers to patronize and market them. Because they really are marketable abroad, especially since there are more than 20 Spanish-speaking countries that are ready to listen to such songs.