Rest in peace, Tita Sylvia

One tragedy after the other. And it comes in a time when the whole world is burning with anxiety and fear… ūüėě

It is with great sadness and pain to announce that my auntie, Sylvia Santos-Pineda, the direct great-granddaughter of Marcelo H. del Pilar, passed away early this morning at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center. She was 72.

Tita Sylvia¬†was one of the first who responded when news about my wife’s cancer broke out. In fact, she was one of those who contributed the most (I am actually disobeying her now because she didn’t want to be acknowledged about this [Matthew 6:4]; but she had to be, she deserved it). And this at a time when she was in great physical pain (she was suffering from an autoimmune illness). Sending financial aid to my cancer-stricken wife in spite of her health was probably one of her last acts of charity.

She was one of my beacons of hope.

I even imagine that she must have somehow, in deep prayer, offered her life to save my wife’s. She was a very prayerful person, much like her late mother, Lola Bening, her uncle Vicente (Fr. Vicente Marasigan, S.J.), and her auntie Josefina (Mother Mary Aurora). A very esteemed Catholic family in sharp contrast to their Masonic ancestor.

How could I even attend her wake? Metro Manila is in total lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. And even if there is no lockdown, I wouldn’t be able to visit her because of my weakened lungs; I am highly susceptible to the virus. So harrowing.

Please pray for the eternal repose of her kind soul. She has shown my family great love.

One of her last messages to me.

“I shall return”

TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY: 20 March 1942 ‚ÄĒ 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: Sim√≥n 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 ‚ÄúDugout Doug‚ÄĚ was all drama when he said ‚ÄúI shall return‚ÄĚ, 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.

COVID-19 pandemic: a test for humanity

This is nothing like we’ve ever seen before.

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Map of infected countries as of 15 March 2020.

Metro Manila is currently on a one-month lockdown in a desperate attempt to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this has disrupted the lives of millions of Filipinos who live and work within and without the national capital region. The economy, in particular, is well on its way to a state of doldrums.

Supply chains have been disrupted: logistics and supplies will either have to bear the horrible traffic near checkpoints or will be forced to look for alternate routes. That will, in turn, disrupt schedules. In big business, time is always of the essence. And speaking of business, profits are spiraling down due to low turnout of consumers. Worse, workers’ pay is adversely affected. Conversely, if there is panic buying because of the lockdown, there will be panic among workers since they will soon have no more money to buy for food and other basic commodities.

While it is true that nobody is safe from being infected, that both rich and poor are prone to the disease, the poor are the most vulnerable to its economic consequences. This is, therefore, the perfect time for the wealthiest sectors of society to share what they have to the needy. This is the perfect time to showcase their much-revered corporate social responsibility. May they forego EBITDAs and revenues for the meantime; they have enjoyed the fat of the land for decades anyway, and now society is living on the edge. But it shouldn’t be just them. If a household has extra food, hand them down to the nearest neighbor who doesn’t. Magbigayan tayo ng alcohol at papel higi√©nico (toilet paper) imb√©s na maquip√°g-agau√°n. Mag-abutan tayo ng ulam, gaya ng sina√ļnang panah√≥n. Ibal√≠c natin ang diu√° ng bayanihan at hind√ģ ang paguiguing macasarili. We’re all in this together.

If I heard him right, Fr. Jojo Zerrudo in his homily during yesterday’s online Holy Mass said that pandemics are of demonic origin. But we can also regard it as a test for humanity’s charity. “The best and the worst in us come out in times of distress,” a friend of mine said. Let us then give humanity a good name.

And while we’re at it: later, at 5:00 PM, let us take a moment to show support for our health workers who risk their lives to battle the spread of COVID-19. Let us go to our balconies, windows, or rooftops (if possible) and applaud them as loud as we can (share this and use the hashtag #FrontlinersPH for more details). Spain and Italy already did this. Why shouldn’t we? Our exhausted doctors, nurses, and other health workers need a boost in these troubling times. Let us send them a message of appreciation. Appreciation is help enough.

Keep safe, everyone. And may God bless us all.

Update on my wife’s cancer situation

Buenos días, amigos y parientes.

Yeyette’s breast cancer surgery was successful. Thanks be to God. ūüėá

I am now making an accounting of all the financial help we received for my wife Yeyette‘s hospitalization (I will post it only on my Facebook account, not here on my blog). Hope to finish it today. Also, her severed right breast is undergoing lab tests to find out if the cancer cells have totally been eliminated from her system, and to determine if she would still need chemotherapy or not. We will receive the result within a week. So yes, this is not yet over. Fervent prayers are still needed for her full recovery. May she no longer go through that torturous procedure.



La imagen puede contener: una persona, de pie, gafas de sol, sombrero y primer plano

Selfie with the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the ground floor of ManilaMed on our way home last night. This hospital is the most Catholic health institution I have ever visited. The building’s penthouse has a neat-looking chapel and even has an office for the clergy. My eldest son M√≥may took this photo. He came in handy during my wife’s confinement.

La imagen puede contener: 3 personas, personas de pie

We made it home before the lockdown! No social distancing here! ¬°Gracias a Dios!

I have also received feedback about my Facebook post last Friday in which I shared a photograph of my wife’s severed breast tissue. When I did that, I was in a daze, filled with frantic confusion, wonderment, and joy (because the surgery was successful) mixed with sleeplessness and exhaustion. I also had in mind Rizal’s vertebra and Aguinaldo’s appendix (you know, for posterity and stuff, hehe). But looking back, I didn‚Äôt realize that what I did was offensive and elicited disgust among some people. My profuse apologies.

I would also like to apologize to the many people whose offer of help and assistance were not heeded. Please know that you were not ignored. While there may be many solutions to her breast cancer, we can afford to choose only one. I had to respect my wife’s decision no matter how stubborn it may seem to some. Nevertheless, I am truly grateful for your show of concern and eagerness to help out.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to those who were not able to provide financial assistance (due to unavoidable circumstances) but still took time to pray for my wife’s recovery.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank each and every one of you who prayed for my wife and showed their incredible generosity. I really felt like Captain America in Avengers: Endgame’s now-famous portals scene. I thought I was all alone. I didn’t know that all of you were there right behind me, ready to fight with me. ¬°Gracias, gracias, much√≠simas gracias!

Yeyette will reach out to all of you soon. Just give her time.

Keep safe from COVID-19


Pepe Alas

A desperate call for help

I already did this before. Now I’m compelled to do it again… ūüė≥

Dear friends. Jennifer “Yeyette” Perey de Alas, my dear wife of 21 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage 2. Initially, it was thought that her cancer was only on its first stage. But after undergoing a very painful biopsy, it was found out that it is already on its second stage.

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In order for the cancer cells to stop spreading, she needs to undergo mastectomy on her right breast on or before mid-April. The whole procedure will cost us more than ‚āĪ300,000 (including post check-ups, medications, and possible chemotherapy sessions which we hope will no longer be necessary).

Getting a second opinion is not an option at the moment as the biopsy alone already cost us close to ‚āĪ30,000.

As a disclosure (and clarification to doubting Thomases): close friends and some family members are aware of my salary and how astounded they are with it. However, please note that I am the only one employed. Yeyette has since stopped working after giving birth to Jun√≠fera Clarita in 2014; she also almost lost her life during the whole process. And with five kids to feed and to send to school, that salary of mine, to be honest, is barely enough. My economic status, therefore, is no different to most Filipino workers today. ūüėĒ

So here I am now, shamefacedly pulling at your heartstrings, to do one of the things that I truly hate the most: publicly asking for financial assistance. But I’m doing this to save my wife’s life.

All I’m asking is just a minimum donation of ‚āĪ200. I believe that it would be more of a drag for many people if I ask for more. I currently have 788 Facebook friends. I was thinking that if each of them would donate the same amount, I would garner ‚āĪ157,600. Still not enough (and I’m sure not all of my Facebook friends will heed my call). So I asked my kids who have Facebook accounts to do the same scheme. Yeyette has already asked her relatives in Mindoro to do the same (Facebook already deleted her account for reasons unclear to us).

Should you wish to help us, you may send your donation to my bank account:

Bank of the Philippine Islands account number: 9829-0918-41
Account name: José Mario S. Alas
BPI branch: Ortigas Emerald (Unit 101 G/F Jollibee Plaza Condominium, F. Ortigas Jr. Road, Brgy. San Antonio, Ortigas Center, P√°sig City 1605)
Swift code: BOPIPHMM

You may also dial/text 09613501787 if you want to know more details about Yeyette’s dilemma.

I understand that many people are very cautious when it comes to letting go of money these days as they are already fed up with corruption and various scams. Trust me: I am as cynical as you are when it comes to random individuals asking for monetary assistance online. But God knows this is not a scam. And I am vouching for whatever reputation I may have as an online Filipino historian. Tarnishing that reputation, no matter how small, is not even one of the last things I’d want to do even at gunpoint. Having said that, if you wish to see any accounting of the funds that we might be able to collect, feel free to ask me. I’d be glad and very willing to share it to you.

Also, after sending your donation, please show me the receipt via Messenger or my email address ( so that I would know from whom the money had come from.

To collate more than ‚āĪ300,000 in a month’s time is not a walk in the park for people like us. And we are working against time. Please don’t let my writings, social media engagements, or my knowledge of Filipino History and the Spanish language fool you: I really am as poor as a rat, always filled with secret glee whenever there’s free pizza around at the office. And the seven of us live in a cramped apartment that looks more like a topsy-turvy children’s toys warehouse than a normal-looking home. Truly, life had become extremely difficult ever since Yeyette was forced to stop working six years ago.

With all the personal misfortunes that had bedeviled me through the years, from being a battered child to a trying hard, mediocre writer chained by the system to a dejected, inutile son whose estranged parents are currently embroiled in a court case against each other, it comes as no surprise why I feel that I am always on the brink of heeding what the French call as “l’appel du vide“. This in spite of my daily Rosaries (been reading too much assorted philosophies, I guess). But hey, enough about me. This is not supposed to be about me. The only reason I’m sharing this now is to inform people what a positive-thinking person my wife is. Because I am her complete opposite. That is my character, and I’m just being brutally honest. I think that is why our children adore her more. She cries a lot, especially when pushed to the limit, but she always remains hopeful. She trusts in the kindness of people. And she is made of sterner stuff, not the type of person who easily surrenders. That is why she is the strongest person I have ever met. My family cannot afford to lose her. She is the pillar, the heart of our home. Not me.

If she’s gone, that is the end of my family as we all know it.

That could even be the end of me.

The origin of “Juan de la Cruz”

The name Juan de la Cruz has been part and parcel of Filipino culture and even national identity. Almost every day, we hear and read this name in the media whenever the latter reports or opines about the travails and foibles of the ordinary Filipino. Even the rock band that pioneered what came to be known as Pinoy Rock was named after this famous appellation. If the Northern Americans have Uncle Sam or John Doe to represent them, the Filipinos have Juan de la Cruz.

But did you know that Juan de la Cruz was of Scottish origin?

Juan de la Cruz was coined by Robert McCulloch-Dick, the editor and publisher of The Philippines Free Press magazine which he founded in 1908. McCulloch-Dick was born on 22 January 1873 in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the age of 19, he emigrated to the United States of América where he did odd jobs and entered into other ventures. It was in the US where he became a journalist. When word came out that English-speaking newsmen were needed in Filipinas (its US conquerors had already renamed the archipelago as The Philippine Islands), he immediately procured a ticket and quickly set sail for Manila.

Upon his arrival, McCulloch-Dick found employment as a reporter with the Cablenews-American, one of the pioneer US-owned newspapers in the country. In 1902, he transferred to the then US-owned The Manila Times as a court reporter. A keen observer, McCulloch-Dick noticed the frequency with which the name Juan de la Cruz appeared on police blotters, court dockets, and baptismal certificates. It was during his stint at the Manila Times when he began using that name as the “Filipino everyman” in his reportage. Later on, after establishing his own magazine (The Philippines Free Press), he began writing small verses about Juan de la Cruz. The character was often depicted narrating petty crimes committed by the locals.

Juan de la Cruz is associated with the image of a na√Įve-looking man wearing a salac√≥t, a camisa de chino, native trousers, and slippers. Jorge Pineda, a resident cartoonist of The Philippines Free Press, first drew the image of Juan in 1912. To this day, media people continue referring to the Filipino everyman as Juan de la Cruz.

Mi Patria

Este bello poema patri√≥tico, escrito por el Pr√≠ncipe de los Poetas Filipinos en espa√Īol, Fernando M¬™ Guerrero (1873-1929) de Ermita, Manila, fue publicado en la primera edici√≥n del peri√≥dico revolucionario La Independencia¬†el 3 de septiembre de 1898. Guerrero, que tambi√©n fue el Poeta de la Revoluci√≥n Filipina contra los invasores yanqu√≠s, era uno de los escritores del dicho peri√≥dico que fue editado por el famoso General Antonio Luna. Mi Patria¬†es considerado como uno de los mejores poemas de Guerrero. Sus versos exaltan la belleza f√≠sica y espiritual de Filipinas.
Fernando Mª Guerrero

I     Filipinas es un nido
formado de hermosas flores;
es un idilio de amores
sobre un mar embravecido;
es el delirio querido
que mi cerebro obsesiona;
es la imp√°vida matrona
que, heredera de titanes,
tiene por solio volcanes
y centellas por corona.

II     Filipinas es la maga
cuyos or√°culos santos
calman los lloros y espantos
del corazón que naufraga;
es vino cordial que embriaga
con su ardor la fantasía;
es hechizo que extasía,
y es, en fin, eterna palma
que un henchido de calma
con sus lágrimas rocía.

III     Mi tierra es noble y hermosa,
porque es su asiento el Oriente;
tiene estrellas en su frente
y en sus labios miel de rosa.
Cuando sonríe amorosa
la aurora le da sus rayos;
mas si padece desmayos
porque la hieren abrojos
brotan tristes de sus ojos
los crep√ļsculos malayos.

IV     Frente a lujosa floresta
donde un río se destaca,
recostada en una hamaca
duerme el sopor de la siesta.
Las auras forman su orquesta,
un palio azul la sombrea,
y cuando la noche ondea
su obscuro y tupido manto,
hirviente arrullo de llanto
por sus mejillas serpea.

V     Mi tierra es hada divina
que a mil caprichos se entrega:
suspira, retoza y juega
bajo la onda cristalina:
rompe el tul de la neblina
que arropa selvas de ca√Īas,
y al trepar a las monta√Īas
rojas al sol de la tarde,
bendice la lumbre que arde
en las pajizas caba√Īas.

VI     Mi tierra noble y bendita
no cría en sus bosques fieras,
sino palomas ligeras
y flores de sampaguita.
Quien sus rincones visita
halla sombra hospitalaria:
¡aquí se abraza hasta al paria,
porque mi encantado suelo
es un pedazo de cielo
puesto en la mar solitaria!

VII     Aquí son las alboradas
una ignición de rubíes;
aquí son nuestras huríes
tan tiernas y apasionadas
que funden con sus miradas
hasta las almas de hielo,
que dan, en un beso, el cielo
y que, con la fe de un ni√Īo,
f√≠an a nuestro cari√Īo
su corazón, sin recelo.

VIII     ¡Oh, tierra de mis amores,
santa madre de mi vida,
que vertiste, en mi alma herida
el aroma de tus flores!
Llora, si tienes dolores,
si sue√Īas ser grande, espera;
pero te juro que fuera
para mí suerte afrentosa
ver nacidas en mi fosa
hierbas de savia extranjera.