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.

La imagen puede contener: una persona, sentada e interior

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!

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Willie Revillamé as historian

This blogpost will surely raise some eyebrows especially among my historian friends and readers, but I have to admit that I’m a closet fan of Willie Revillamé as both TV host-comedian and philanthropist since his MTB and Wowowee days in ABS-CBN. His way with the masa (Filipino commoners) always strikes a chord in the right keys, and it’s really entertaining. I don’t want to sound like an apologist for his brand of humor (there was many a time when it got him into trouble), but it really works as he speaks the language of the streets. Through his current TV show Wowowin (actually a continuation of his gift-giving days in Wowowee and its later replacements), we get to see how such people comport and communicate among themselves on live TV. More importantly, we get to see the true face of the Filipino masses struggling every day just to survive this cruel, capitalistic world as they relate to him their true-to-life stories.

Willie’s fame, however, took a bit of a backslide when Wowowee was given the ax more than a decade ago following a highly publicized falling-out with ABS-CBN management. The show underwent a couple of iterations later on in rival stations TV5 and GMA, but all of them never got to equal the popularity of the original.

Recently, however, observers (including myself) noticed a spike in Wowowin’s TV ratings and digital media interest because of Herlene Nicole Budol, one of the show’s newest co-hosts whose claim to fame was when her videos as a Wowowin contestant became viral in both Facebook and YouTube in just a few days. That alone earned her a spot in Willie’s show early last month. Nicknamed “Hipon” (local slang for a girl with an attractive body and… well, just that 😂), the slim but statuesque 20-year-old Herlene captivated the hearts of audiences because of her bubbly, non-showbiz behavior.

Despite her sexy figure, pretty face (yes, she is pretty even if she herself doesn’t believe so), and street-smarts personality (she hails from a squatter’s area somewhere in Añgono, Rizal), there is a tinge of innocence in her that fans find so adorable. Countless TV viewers and netizens have been captivated with the show mainly because of her.

Herlene got me hooked with the show in the same manner that I got hooked with the AlDub Phenomenon a few years ago. But since I don’t watch TV anymore, I just rely on the show’s digital media team to upload highlights from each episode. I am not ashamed to say that I watch her videos almost every day as she relieves me of stress.

Yesterday’s episode really sparked my interest because in one of the show’s segments, Willie from out of the blue discussed my favorite topic: Filipino History!

Never mind if he mentioned some inaccuracies — for one, he said that EDSA’s original name was Highway 54 when in fact it used to be called Avenida 19 de Junio, named after José Rizal’s date of birth. What’s important here is that he is trying to spark interest among the masses to learn (or relearn) Filipino History, and not just to go to his show to win cash. And did anyone notice here how he acknowledged that the King of Spain during the arrival of Fernando de Magallanes to our shores was not King Felipe II but his father, Emperor Carlos V? That alone is already admirable because it’s a common misconception among millions of Filipinos that King Felipe II was the Spanish monarch when Magallanes arrived here. Strangely enough, Willie got it right. That piece of information coming from someone who is not a bookish person and is also one of the masses is something praiseworthy indeed.

And yes, there was no Hispanophobia from his brief recounting of history.

¡Mabuhay ca, Profesor Wil!

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.
La imagen puede contener: una persona, primer plano
Stop studying him as a propagandist. It is high time that you all look at him as the poet that he really was.

Mi Último Adiós (recital de poesía)

Unos días antes el Día del Libro 2019 (27 de abril), el Instituto Cervantes de Manila anunció en sus redes sociales que producirá un recital del famoso poema “Mi Último Adiós” de José Rizal. Invitó a filipinos hispanohablantes y estudiantes del idioma a participar. El recital fue grabado el mismo día dentro de la Biblioteca Miguel Hernández del instituto, y fue dirigido por el actor Pepe Gros. Se le dio una estrofa del poema a cada participante que luego recitó frente a la cámara, pero sólo se mostró una línea en el resultado final para dar cabida a más participantes. Krystal aparece en la sexta pantalla, y yo en la novena. El vídeo fue lanzado el miércoles pasado. ¡Feliz viendo!

Why is Rizal a hero to you?

What’s your favorite Rizal poem? Chances are, you won’t be able to name one save for, of course, the usual stuff they taught us in school: the very last one he wrote. Do you even know how many poems he wrote? Are you even aware how exquisitely beautiful his verses are, and what are the usual themes of his poetry?

(as expected, I hear crickets chirping)

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You see, Rizal was first and foremost a POET, a passionate bard who masterfully versified his profound love for Filipinas. He began his writing career as a poet and ended it as a poet. He is not all about the Noli and the Fili. He is not all about the Propaganda Movement. It is most unfortunate that he can no longer be understood by today’s generation when, at the turn of the 20th century, our forebears were cut off from his culture by a new language —THIS language I’m using right now— imposed by a nation experimenting with imperialism. When Rizal and his contemporaries were already soaring like Cervantes and Clarín, those hapless Filipinos who came after them had to learn anew the ABCs of another culture. So now we read him through bastardized and oftentimes annoying English translations. Unfortunately, we never soared like Shakespeare and Tennyson using the English language.

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There was one, however, who came close: Nick Joaquín. But he was on a league of his own: his first language was Spanish, and many attribute his mastery of English, aside from his being an indefatigable bookworm, to his proficiency of his mother tongue (English and Spanish are cognates). It can even be argued that his translation of Rizal’s valedictory poem was more superior than the original. Perhaps among all Rizal translators, it was only Nick who was able to capture the imagination and depth of the national hero as well as the spirit of the Filipino.

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But since we have been linguistically cut off from that faraway culture, our REAL culture, not all of us can be Nick anymore. Not all of us can be Rizal anymore.

Why is Rizal a hero to you?

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Rizal is a hero not because of his defiance to authority. He is a hero because of his deep love of country, a burning love that can only be understood by reading his verses (NOT his novels) in the language in which he wrote them. This is something that all patriotic Filipinos should think about every time Rizal Day falls, so that its celebration will not be rendered futile.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC)

It is sad to note that the essence of Rizal’s heroism today has degenerated into mere hero worship and opportunistic commercialism. There is nothing wrong in honoring Rizal, but it is best that we thoroughly understand what his heroism really is all about. Understanding him is the best way of honoring his memory.

Joaquín’s translation of Rizal’s “Mi Último Adiós

A few years ago, Señor Gómez and I were discussing the last poem that Rizal wrote, as well as its several translations. When we got to the part about Nick Joaquín’s translation, I could never forget his words: Joaquín’s English version of “Mi Último Adiós” is one instance wherein the translation is far more superior compared  to the original. I never gave it much thought until then. So off I went to review both poems later on. I also compared Joaquín’s version to other well-known English translations (Charles Derbyshire, Encarnación Alzona, etc.). I could say that Joaquín’s has more depth and mystery. But since I’m not exactly a fully bloomed poet in Spanish, it’s hard to tell if I could agree on Señor Gómez’s observation.

People who read this now will argue that it’s really just a matter of opinion. However, it should be noted that Señor Gómez is a poet in four languages: Spanish, English, Tagálog, and Hiligaynón. Furthermore, it is no secret that he tends to be more leaning towards the Spanish language compared to English. Nevertheless, a website dedicated to José Rizal and his works seems to agree with him: “In many translated Rizal works, one writer stands out: Nick Joaquín”.

Without further ado, here is Joaquín’s English rendering of Mi Último Adiós…

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Joaquín’s translation of “Mi Último Adiós” is included in this book.

JOSÉ RIZAL’S VALEDICTORY POEM

Land that I love: farewell: O land the sun loves:
Pearl of the sea of the Orient: Eden lost to your brood!
Gaily go I to present you this hapless hopeless life:
Were it more brilliant: had it more freshness, more bloom:
Still for you would I give it: would give it for your good!

In barricades embattled, fighting in delirium,
Others give you their lives without doubts, without gloom.
The site nought matters: cypress, laurel or lily:
Gibbet or open field: combat or cruel martyrdom
Are equal if demanded by country and home.

I am to die when I see the heavens go vivid,
announcing the day at last behind the dead night.
If you need colorcolor to stain that dawn with,
Let spill my blood: scatter it in good hour:
And drench in its gold one beam of the newborn light.

My dream when a lad, when scarcely adolescent:
My dreams when a young man, now with vigor inflamed:
Were to behold you one day: Jewel of eastern waters:
Griefless the dusky eyes: lofty the upright brow:
Unclouded, unfurrowed, unblemished and unashamed!

Enchantment of my life: my ardent avid obsession:
To your health! Cries the soul, so soon to take the last leap:
To your health! O lovely: how lovely: to fall that you may rise!
To perish that you may live! To die beneath your skies!
And upon your enchanted ground the eternities to sleep!

Should you find some day somewhere on my gravemound, fluttering
Among tall grasses, a flower of simple fame:
Caress it with your lips and you kiss my soul:
I shall feel on my face across the cold tombstone:
Of your tenderness, the breath; of your breath, the flame.

Suffer the moon to keep watch, tranquil and suave, over me:
Suffer the dawn its flying lights to release:
Suffer the wind to lament in murmurous and grave manner:
And should a bird drift down and alight on my cross,
Suffer the bird to intone its canticle of peace.

Suffer the rains to dissolve in the fiery sunlight
And purified reascending heavenward bear my cause:
Suffer a friend to grieve I perished so soon:
And on fine evenings, when prays in my memory,
Pray alsoO my land!that in God I repose.

Pray for all who have fallen befriended by not fate:
For all who braved the bearing of torments all bearing past:
To our poor mothers piteously breathing in bitterness:
For widows and orphans: for those in tortured captivity
And yourself: pray to behold your redemption at last.

And when in dark night shrouded obscurely the graveyard lies
And only, only the dead keep vigil the night through:
Keep holy the place: keep holy the mystery.
Strains, perhaps, you will hearof zither, or of psalter:
It is IO land I love!it is I, singing to you!

And when my grave is wholly unremembered
And unlocated (no cross upon it, no stone there plain):
Let the site be wracked by the plow and cracked by the spade
And let my ashes, before they vanish to nothing,
As dust be formed a part of your carpet again.

Nothing then will it matter to place me in oblivion!
Across your air, your space, your valleys shall pass my wraith!
A pure chord, strong and resonant, shall I be in your ears:
Fragrance, light and color: whispers, lyric and sigh:
Constantly repeating the essence of my faith!

Land that I idolized: prime sorrow among my sorrows:
Beloved Filipinas, hear me the farewell word:
I bequeath you everythingmy family, my affections:
I go where no slaves arenor butchers: nor oppressors:
Where faith cannot kill: where God’s the sovereign lord!

Farewell, my parents, my brothersfragments of my soul:
Friends of old and playmates in childhood’s vanished house:
Offer thanks that I rest from the restless day!
Farewell, sweet foreignermy darling, my delight!
Creatures I love, farewell! To die is to repose.