When Taal Lake was not yet a lake

That the towns of Taal and Lemery are starting to display volcanic fissures due to the recent phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano last January 12 should not be surprising had their people known their violent geological history.

Before the mid-18th century, Taal Lake was technically not a lake because it was connected to Balayán Bay via a wide channel (encircled in red). Subsequent eruptions buried this channel, creating what is now a large part of the Municipality of Lemery (named after José Nicolás Francisco Pablo Lemery, the Governor-General who ruled the country at the time of Rizal’s birth). One old Spanish newspaper (the name escapes me at the moment) even reported that a huge chunk of a mountain called Malaquíng Bintî —otherwise known as Binintiang Malaki, that picturesque little cone that we all know from postcards— was flung all the way to where Lemery is now situated due to a violent eruption. That closed the channel, blocking the waterway. Thus Taal Lake was born. That cataclysmic event also trapped several sea animals, including bull sharks, inside the lake. When the lake’s salinity subsided due to years of rainfall, these sea creatures learned to adapt to it instead of dying out (unfortunately, the bull sharks did not survive the notorious #BobongPinoy mentality; they were totally wiped out sometime in the 1930s). Today, what is perhaps a remnant of that ancient channel is now the Pansipit River which divides Lemery from the heritage town of Taal. Both towns, especially Lemery, sit on fragile grounds.

And even as we speak, it appears that the volcano is again trying to take away that last, small outlet that connects its lake to the sea.

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This map is from the famous 1734 Murillo Velarde map, the so-called “Mother of Filipino maps”.

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Rizal’s retraction (full original text)

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Me declaro católico y en esta Religión en que nací y me eduqué quiero vivir y morir.

Me retracto de todo corazón de cuanto en mis palabras, escritos, impresos y conducta ha habido contrario a mi cualidad de hijo de la Iglesia Católica. Creo y profeso cuanto ella enseña y me someto a cuanto ella manda. Abomino de la Masonería, como enemiga que es de la Iglesia, y como Sociedad prohibida por la Iglesia. Puede el Prelado Diocesano, como Autoridad Superior Eclesiástica hacer pública esta manifastación espontánea mía para reparar el escándalo que mis actos hayan podido causar y para que Dios y los hombers me perdonen.

Manila 29 de diciembre de 1896.

José Rizal


I declare myself a catholic and in this Religion in which I was born and educated I wish to live and die.

I retract with all my heart whatever in my words, writings, publications and conduct has been contrary to my character as son of the Catholic Church. I believe and I confess whatever she teaches and I submit to whatever she demands. I abominate Masonry, as the enemy which is of the Church, and as a Society prohibited by the Church. The Diocesan Prelate may, as the Superior Ecclesiastical Authority, make public this spontaneous manifestation of mine in order to repair the scandal which my acts may have caused and so that God and people may pardon me.

Manila 29 of December of 1896

–José Rizal–

Rizal’s retraction was signed shortly before his execution. Many years later, his handwriting and signature on it were examined and confirmed to be legitimate by handwriting experts at the National Bureau of Investigation. End of debate.

* E * L * F * I * L * I * P * I * N * I * S * M * O *

Estoy seguro de que ya estás perdonado, tocayo. No es fácil mostrar la humildad de uno. Pues, tu humildad profunda en reconocer tus errores ya es suficiente para que celebremos tu gloria imperecedera. Descansa en paz eterna.

–José Alas–

Vintage photo of Rizal’s ancestral house

This “Then and Now” photo of Rizal’s ancestral house has been circulating lately in social media.

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

The topmost photo is false. It is not Rizal’s house, for two reasons. First: if it was indeed Rizal’s house, how come that the huge church of San Juan Bautista is not visible beside it? Instead of a church, a different structure stands. Second reason: I have a photograph of the original house (since the one which stands today is just a reconstruction), and it’s in my copy of Rafael Palma’s 1949 “Biografía de Rizal“, one of the national hero’s earlier biographies. Here it is…

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Photographed straight from the book by my wife Yeyette.

Just sharing this so that Filipino netizens will not be duped by #FakeHistory.

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’…”)

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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!

Hoy en la Historia de Filipinas: la llegada de Camilo de Polavieja como nuevo gobernador general

HOY EN LA HISTORIA DE FILIPINAS: 13 de diciembre de 1896 — Camilo de Polavieja llegó a Manila como nuevo gobernador general de Filipinas y sucesor de Ramón Blanco. Era el gobernador general cuando José Rizal fue ejecutado.

La imagen puede contener: una persona, de pie

Camilo García de Polavieja y del Castillo-Negrete (1838–1914), marqués de Polavieja (imagen: EcuRed).

Polavieja vino con el General José de Lachambre y con tropas adicionales así como suministros militares. Lachambre, el subcomandante de las fuerzas españolas, salió al campo inmediatamente contra los rebeldes filipinos en Cavite (liderados por el General Emilio Aguinaldo quien un año después se convirtió en presidente de la primera República de Filipinas); hizo el Cuartel de Santo Domingo en Santa Rosa, La Laguna como su cuartel general.

El tumultuoso término de Polavieja fue breve — renunció debido a dolencias físicas y rogó a la Monarquía Española que nombrara un sucesor. Se embarcó para España el 15 de abril de 1897. Lachambre asumió temporalmente el cargo de gobernador durante una semana (15 a 23 de abril) mientras esperaba la llegada de Primo de Rivera, el sucesor de Blanco. Fue la segunda vez que Rivera se convirtió en gobernador general de Filipinas.

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El Embarque (Himno a la Flota de Magallanes)

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(Himno a la Flota de Magallanes)

–José Rizal–

          En bello día
Cuando radiante
Febo en Levante
Feliz brilló,
En Barrameda
Con gran contento
El movimiento
Doquier reinó.

          Es que en las playas
Las carabelas
Hinchan las velas
Y a partir van;
Y un mundo ignoto,
Nobles guerreros
Con sus aceros

          Y todo es júbilo,
Todo alegría
Y bizarría
En la ciudad;
Doquier resuenan
Roncos rumores
De los tambores
Con majestad.

          Mil y mil salvas
Hace a las naves
Con ecos graves
Ronco cañón;
Y a los soldados
El pueblo hispano
Saluda ufano
Con affección.

          ¡Adiós!, les dice,
Hijos amados,
Bravos soldados
Del patrio hogar;
Ceñid de glorias
A nuestra España,
En la campaña
De ignoto mar.

          Mientras se alejan
Al suave aliento
De fresco viento
Con emoción;
Todos bendicen
Con vos piadosa
Tan gloriosa
Heróica acción.

          Saluda el pueblo
Por ves postrera
A la bandera
De Magallán,
Que lleva el rumbo
Al océano
Do ruge insano
El huracán.

5 de diciembre de 1875.

(Hymn to Magellan’s Fleet)

–José Rizal–

          On fair day
When radiant
Phoebus in the East
Happily shone,
In Barrameda
With great contentment
Reigned everywhere.

           ‘This because on the shores
The caravels
Swell their sails
And shall depart;
And an unknown world
Noble warriors
With their steel
Shall conquer.

          And all is jubilation,
All happiness
And gallantry
In the city;
Everywhere reverberate
Hoarse sounds
Of the drums
With majesty.

          Thousands and thousands of salvos
Greet vessels
With echoes grave,
Of hoarse cannon,
And to the soldiers
The Spanish people
Render proud salute
With affection.

          Adieu, she tells them,
Beloved sons,
Brave soldiers
Of the native home;
With glories crown
Our Spain,
In the campaign
On sea unknown.

          As they sail away
To the gentle breath
Of the fresh wind
With emotion,
All bless
With pious voice
So glorious
Heroic action.

          The people salute
For the last time,
The flag
Of Magellan,
That is enroute
To the ocean
Where rages insane
The hurricane.

(English translation by Alfredo S. Veloso)

Inauguration of the historic Alberto Mansion

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The much-awaited opening of the Historic Alberto Mansion is on Friday! Guest of honor and speaker is H.E., Vice President Leni Robredo. Everyone is invited to attend and witness the culmination of a 10-year battle for our local heritage.
Bryan Jason Borja
(Head of the Biñan City Culture, History, Arts, and Tourism Office)

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