Marcelo H. del Pilar, a broken dad till the end…

Today is the birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the bulaqueño native written by Carmencita H. Acosta from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines (recently known as the National Historical Institute).

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My wife Yeyette in front of Marcelo H. del Pilar’s monument in Plaza Plaridel (Remedios Circle), Malate, Manila. This monument used to be in front of nearby Manila Zoo. Fellow Círculo Hispano-Filipino member and my comadre, Gemma Cruz Araneta (a descendant of José Rizal’s sister María) suggested the transfer of this monument to this site while she was the president of the Heritage Conservation Society.  The transfer was done last 2009 under the guidance of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim (this photo was taken on 24 August 2010).

MARCELO H. DEL PILAR
(1850-1896)

“The most intelligent leader, the real soul of the separatists…” — these were the words used by Governor General Ramón Blanco, chief executive of the Philippine colony, in describing Marcelo H. del Pilar. A master polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, del Pilar was the most feared by the Spanish colonial authorities.

Del Pilar was born in Bulacán, Bulacán on August 30, 1850, the youngest of ten children of Julián H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitán. His father had held thrice the post of gobernadorcillo in their home town. Del Pilar studied at the Colegio de San José in Manila and at the University of Santo Tomás; at the age of thirty he finished the course in law. He devoted more time to writing than in the practice of his profession because in the former he saw a better opportunity to be of service to his oppressed country. His oldest brother, Father Toribio H. del Pilar, a Catholic priest, had been deported along with other Filipino patriots to Guam in 1872 following the Cavite Mutiny.

He founded the Diariong Tagalog in 1882, the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where he publicly denounced Spanish maladministration of the Philippines. His attacks were mostly directed against the friars whom he considered to be mainly responsible for the oppression of the Filipinos.

In 1885, he urged the cabezas de barangay of Malolos to resist the government order giving the friars blanket authority to revise the tax lists. He instigated the gobernadorcillo of Malolos, Manuel Crisóstomo, to denounce in 1887 the town curate who violated government prohibition against the exposure of corpses in the churches. In the same year, he denounced the curate of Binondo for consigning Filipinos to poor seats in the church while assigning the good ones to Spanish half-castes.

On March 1, 1888, the populace of Manila staged a public demonstration against the friars. Led by the lawyer Doroteo Cortés, the demonstrators presented to the civil governor of Manila a manifesto entitled “¡Viva España! ¡Viva la Reina! ¡Viva el Ejército! ¡Fuera los Frailes!“. This document, which had been signed by eight hundred persons, was written by Marcelo H. del Pilar. It enumerated the abuses of the friars, petitioned for the deportation of the archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Pedro Payo, and urged the expulsion of the friars.

It was because of his having written this anti-friar document that del Pilar was forced to exile himself from the Philippines in order to escape arrest and possible execution by the colonial authorities.

“I have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,” del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain. La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas(Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. The others included Sagót ng España sa Hibíc ng Filipinas (Spain’s Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines), Caiigat Cayó (Be Like the Eel) — del Pilar’s defense of Rizal against a friar pamphlet entitled Caiiñgat Cayó denouncing the Noli Me Tangere.

Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers, the purpose of which was to agitate for reforms from Spain.

In Madrid, del Pilar edited for five years La Solidaridad, the newspaper founded by Graciano López Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy. His fiery and convincing editorials earned from him the respect and admiration of his own Spanish enemies. “Plaridel” became well-known as his nom de plume.

In November, 1895, La Solidaridad was forced to close its offices for lack of funds. Del Pilar himself was by then a much emaciated man, suffering from malnutrition and overwork. He was finally convinced that Spain would never grant concessions to the Philippines and that the well-being of his beloved country could be achieved only by means of bloodshed — revolution.

Weakened by tuberculosis and feeling that his days were numbered, he decided to return to the Philippines to rally his countrymen for the libertarian struggle.

But as he was about to leave Barcelona, death overtook him on July 4, 1896.

His passing was deeply mourned by the Filipinos for in him they had their staunchest champion and most fearless defender. His death marked the passing of an era –the era of the Reform Movement– because scarcely two months after his death, the Philippine Revolution was launched.

I am not really a big fan of Marcelo H. del Pilar, especially when I learned that he was a high-ranking Mason. Besides, I believe that what he fought for would not equate to heroism. He was, to put it more bluntly, another American-invented hero. The American government, during their colonization of Filipinas, virtually influenced the Filipino puppet government to recognize “heroes” who fought against Spain.

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But a closer observation on Marcelo’s life will reveal that, like Rizal and other Filipino “heroes” of his generation, he never fought against Spain. They fought against the Church, the sworn enemy of their fraternity (Freemasonry).

What really captivated me about Marcelo is his heartbreaking fatherhood. Since I am a father of five, I can empathize with his sorrowful plight.

A few years ago, when Yeyette and I had only one child (Krystal), and we were still living in a decrepit bodega somewhere in Las Piñas, I happened to stumble upon Fr. Fidel Villaroel’s (eminent historian and former archivist of the University of Santo Tomás) monograph on del Pilar — Marcelo H. del Pilar: His Religious Conversions. It was so timely because during that time, I had just gone through my own religious conversion, having returned to the Catholic fold after a few years of being an atheist and agnostic.

In the said treatise by Fr. Villaroel, I learned of del Pilar’s anguish over being separated from his two daughters, Sofía and Anita. Due to his radical activities as an anti-friar, as can be gleaned in Acosta’s biographical sketch above, del Pilar escaped deportation. He left the country on 28 October 1888, escaping to Hong Kong before moving to Spain. He never saw his little kids and his wife ever again.

Sofía was just nine years old at the time of his escape; Anita, one year and four months. Father Villaroel couldn’t have written this painful separation better:

Month after month, day after day, for eight endless years, the thought of returning to his dear ones was del Pilar’s permanent obsession, dream, hope, and pain. Of all the sufferings he had to go through, this was the only one that made the “warrior” shed tears like a boy, and put his soul in a trance of madness and insanity. His 104 surviving letters to the family attest to this painful situation…

…He felt and expressed nostalgia for home as soon as he arrived in Barcelona in May 1889, when he wrote to his wife: “It will not be long before we see each other again.” “My return” is the topic of every letter. Why then did he not return? Two things stood in the way: money for the fare, and the hope of seeing a bill passed in the Spanish Cortes suppressing summary deportations like the one hanging on del Pilar’s head. “We are now working on that bill.” “Wait for me, I am going, soon I will embrace my little daughters, I dream with the return.” How sweet, how repetitious and monotonous, how long the delay, but how difficult, almost impossible!

Here are some of those heartbreaking letters, translated by Fr. Villaroel into English from the Spanish and Tagálog originals, of Marcelo to his wife (and second cousin) Marciana “Chanay” del Pilar and Sofía:

In 1890: I want to return this year in November (letter of February 4); Day and night I dream about Sofía (February 18), I will return next February or March (December 10).

In 1891: It will not be long before I carry Anita on my shoulders (January 22); Sofía, you will always pray that we will see each other soon (August 31).

In 1892: If it were not for lack of the money I need for the voyage, I would be there already (February 3); I am already too restless (March 2); I feel already too impatient because I am not able to return (April 14); This year will not pass before we see each other (May 11); Be good, Sofía, every night you will pray one Our Father, asking for our early reunion (September 14; it is interesting to note that del Pilar advised her daughter to pray the Our Father despite his being a high-ranking Mason –Pepe–); Don’t worry if, when I return, I will be exiled to another part of the Archipelago (November 9).

In 1893: Who knows if I will close my eyes without seeing Anita (January 18)!; My heart is shattered every time I have news that my wife and daughters are suffering; hence, my anxiety to return and fulfill my duty to care for those bits of my life (May 24); I always dream that I have Anita on my lap and Sofía by her side; that I kiss them by turns and that both tell me: ‘Remain with us, papá, and don’t return to Madrid’. I awake soaked in tears, and at this very moment that I write this, I cannot contain the tears that drop from my eyes (August 3); It is already five years that we don’t see each other (December 21).

In 1894: Tell them (Sofía and Anita) to implore the grace of Our Lord so that their parents may guide them along the right path (February 15); Every day I prepare myself to return there. Thanks that the children are well. Tears begin to fall from my eyes every time I think of their orfandad (bereavement). But I just try to cure my sadness by invoking God, while I pray: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I am the most unfortunate father because my daughters are the most unfortunate among all daughters… I cannot write more, because tears are flowing from my eyes aplenty (July 18); We shall meet soon (December 5)

I have to admit, reading these letters never fail to move me to tears because I, too, have experienced the same orfandad and the longingness for a father. It is because I have never lived with my dad for a long time since he was always overseas. When we were young, he only stayed with us for a couple of weeks or a few months. And my dad was a very silent man.

His work overseas, of course, was for our own benefit. But the price was depressing: we’ve been detached from each other forever. Whenever he comes home to us, my dad was like a total stranger to me. Especially now that I have my own family and I rarely see him nowadays. No, we are not in bad terms (although I know that he still resents the fact that I married at a very early age). But we are simply not close to each other because of those years of separation and lack of communication. I do not know him, and he doesn’t know me. We do not know each other personally. But I know for a fact that my dad loved us dearly, and that he experienced the same anguish experienced by del Pilar. I’ve read some of dad’s letters to mom, and in those letters he expressed the same desire to come home with us and stay permanently. But nothing like that happened (and now, my parents are no longer together).

The same thing with del Pilar. After all those patriotic talk and nationalistic activities, nothing happened. His sacrifice of being separated from his family was, sadly, all for naught…

When he died a Christian death in Barcelona (yes, he also retracted from Masonry shortly before he passed away), he was buried in the Cementerio del Oeste/Cementerio Nuevo where his remains stayed for the next twenty-four years. Paradoxically, a renowned Christian member of the Filipino magistrate, Justice Daniel Romuáldez, made all the necessary procedures of exhuming the body of del Pilar, one of the highest-ranking Masons of the Propaganda Movement. His remains finally arrived on 3 December 1920. He was welcomed by members of Masonic lodges (perhaps unaware of del Pilar’s conversion, or they simply refused to believe it), government officials, and his family of course.

Sofía by then was already 41; and del Pilar’s little Anita was no longer little — she was already 33.

Anita was very much traumatized by that fateful separation. Bitter up to the end, she still could not accept the fact that her father chose the country, ang bayan, before family. An interesting (and another heartbreaking) anecdote is shared by Anita’s son, Father Vicente Marasigan, S.J., regarding her mother’s wounded emotions:

[My] first flashback recalls April 1942. Radio listeners in Manila had just been stunned by the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor. There was an emotional scene between my father, my mother, and myself. My mother was objecting to something my father wanted to do ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’. My mother answered, ‘Lagi na lang bang para sa kabutihan ng bayan?’ [‘Is it always for the good of the country?’] And she choked in fits of hysterical sobbing. All her childhood years have been spent in emotional starvation due to the absence of ‘Lolo’ [Grandfather] Marcelo, far away in Barcelona sacrificing his family para sa kabutihan ng bayan.

“The second flashback is rather dim in memory. I was then two years old, in December 1920. I think I was on board a ship that had just docked at the [Manila] pier, carrying the remains of Lolo Marcelo. All our relatives from Bulacán were present for the festive occasion. Some aunt or grandaunt was telling me how proud and happy I must be. I did not understand what it meant to feel proud, but I knew I was unhappy because I felt that my mother was unhappy. In the presence of that casket of bones, how could she forget the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her father ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’ [for the good of the country]?

History is not just about dead dates, historical markers, and bronze statues of heroes. It has its share of eventful dramas and personal heartbreaks. And this is one heartbreak that I will never allow my children to experience.

To all the fathers who read this: cherish each and every moment that you have with your children.

This blogpost was originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES exactly eight years ago today; reblogged here with minor edits. Later on, this blogpost won me the friendship of del Pilar’s descendants and found out that I’m actually related to them by affinity.
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Where have our heroes taken us?

All writers seek fame, or at the very least, a certain level of attention from a niche audience. Those who deny this are downright liars. For what writer wouldn’t wish for his works to be read? That’s the purpose of writing something in the first place, in order for it to be read.

I might never become a well-known writer anymore for various reasons (or excuses): I’m a full-time, night shift employee; I have a severe case of complex regional pain syndrome, thus debilitating my thought processes, and; I procrastinate too much. My circumstances at home are not what one might consider as conducive for a writer, let alone researching. Then there’s this cute little thing called the Internet taking much of my time. But why shouldn’t I use it? After a stressful night’s work and a horrible commute to and from the office, I’m left with less energy to even lift a book. I’d rather watch Momoland’s mind-boggling choreography just to relax my mood (yes, I am a frustrated dancer, no kidding), or check for updates regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or look for some annoying celebrity to bash on Twitter.

Having been exposed to too much Internet usage through the years, I also noticed that my attention span has gotten short. While researchers are still divided on the issue, I can tell from experience and self-observation that it has really contributed to my reading and writing woes. There were times that whenever I read a book, I couldn’t finish a page without doing something else on the side. And while browsing through pages, my mind compels me to look for links to click whenever I encounter unfamiliar words or terms, or to even scroll down further to hasten my reading, looking for just the juicy parts. It’s gotten that bad.

You might say that at least, I can still blog. Well, yeah, but not as prolific and as capable as I used to when I was still blogging in ALAS FILIPINAS or FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. So if the skies have dimmed my chances of becoming a writer, what more of becoming a well-known historian? At any rate, whether or not my above-mentioned reasons (excuses!) hamper my researching and writing, I still find it impossible for me to become recognized as a historian, no matter how hard my wife tries to market me as a “young historian” (what the hey, I’m nearing forty, and there are many other historians younger than me who are now rivaling the great Ambeth Ocampo in terms of prominence).

I don’t want to sound like I’m self-pitying or anything like that, but it’s true. I cannot become a recognized historian for three major reasons. Number one, I’m not a good public speaker. Number two, I do not belong to the academe (I’m not a history teacher, just a corporate slave). And lastly, my views on Filipino History are raging against the flow. Like mad, I should add.

If you notice, many popular historians today deliver speeches and give out lectures, seminars, and interviews (that’s why I call them celebrity historians, haha). While I may have done the same a few times in the past, I didn’t sound as good nor as convincing as them. As I always say, I’m more of a scribbler than a talker. Whenever I receive invites to do speaking engagements, there is always hesitancy from my part. It’s either I find it hard to say no, or my excited wife successfully prods me to accept them. Then there’s the second part: I am not a history professor. Many people online have mistaken me for one, and I find it very flattering, of course. But I am a mere slave to my corporate boss, always cowering down whenever I receive bad grades at work (and I always do, maybe because my heart and mind are somewhere else — treading the cobbled streets of 19th-century Intramuros, haha 😔).

But even if I could talk like a mesmerizing statesman and teach history in a famed university, I still find it highly unlikely that I’d become a well-known and respected historian. As I have mentioned earlier, I go against the flow. I’m not saying that many other historians before me didn’t. Many of them up to now still disagree with each other. But my views regarding popularly accepted history are so unpopular that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines might as well send me to jail. 😂

I don’t consider Andrés Bonifacio and his KKK cohorts as heroes; I brand them as terrorists. I don’t consider Ninoy Aquino, Jr. as a martyr; I brand him as a traitorous opportunist. I don’t consider Juan Luna as a patriot; I consider him only as the greatest painter in our country’s history; I don’t consider Marcelo H. del Pilar as the “Father of True Filipino Masonry”; I’d rather call him as a True Filipino Penitent. I don’t consider the Silang couple of Ilocos as heroes; to my eyes, they were traitors. I don’t consider Lapu-Lapu as the “first Filipino hero”; I brand him as a delicious fish served in Magallanes Square Hotel.

Poor Pedro Paterno has been painted as a villain to the point that we have become convinced to ignore his contributions to scholarship and literature which I believe are still important (El Problema Político de Filipinas; Nínay [the first Filipino novel]; La Antigua Civilización Tagala; etc.).

I refer to my country as Filipinas whether in English or in Spanish; Philippines and Pilipinas are aberrations created by misled/twisted nationalists schooled in an English-only educational system (that’s why I use “Filipino History” instead of “Philippine History”). Unlike many Filipinos, I do not disrespect my national identity by calling myself as Pinoy or even Pilipino. I abhor Taglish. I still use the original orthography whenever I write in Tagálog. And the only national language that I still recognize —as recognized by most national heroes that we enshrine today— is the Spanish language.

I do not and cannot accept that the three centuries of Spanish colonization were generally oppressive and cruel in light of clear documentation to the contrary. I couldn’t for the life of me even call it “colonization”. The polo y servicios were boon, not bane. And the uprising that occurred during the late 1890s was not a revolution but a rebellion.

Today, we again celebrate National Heroes Day to remember the heroism of our forefathers who fought against foreign oppression. But what foreign oppression comes to mind whenever we are called to remember the sacrifices of our patriots? In the introduction to the first book that I wrote (the biography of World War II hero Abelardo “Captain Remo” Remoquillo), I took the opportunity to rant about this.

Perhaps due to either rote memorization or desensitization, or both, Filipino students have somehow become accustomed to the idea that all of our National Heroes existed in the same era. This is understandable because whenever we speak of our country’s past, it would almost always be about our three centuries under the Spanish Empire. But then, there’s always this sinking feeling that most of our heroes existed only during the Spanish Occupation. For instance, the bulk of our National Heroes comes from that bygone era: José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Emilio Aguinaldo, etc. Only to an interested few will the realization sink in that some of those heroes who we thought were from the Spanish era were in fact more active during our country’s war against the United States of América than they were against the Spaniards. These were Apolinario Mabini, Antonio Luna, and Miguel Malvar to name a few.

But when it comes to the three-year Japanese regime, we could hardly remember names. There’s Josefa Llanes Escoda, José Abad Santos, and Vicente Lim, but they ring a bell only because their faces and names are plastered in one thousand-peso notes. Outside of currency, do we even know what kind of heroism did they display during those fearsome years under the Land of the Rising Sun?

All this doesn’t mean that I refuse to accept historical facts. Of course I do. I simply refuse to accept opinions. Facts and opinions are different from each other. I accept hard data presented by historical research, but not opinions formed by them, especially opinions formed by an English-only education with an agenda that has little to zero understanding of our country’s Spanish past. Take the Katipunan rebellion of 1896, for instance. When government forces discovered the existence of the Katipunan in late 1896, what happened next were bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the rebels’ way. Did ordinary civilians welcome the “revolution” participated in mostly by Tagálogs? No they didn’t. For most Filipinos living far from where the action was, life went on. While it is a fact that there were Katipunero recruits from all over the country, the truth was that there was no national sentiment that supported the Katipunan rebellion against Spain. Civil society was against it.

It should be noted in the preceding paragraph that the Katipunan was discovered by government authorities. Keep in mind that it was an underground organization. Simply put, the Katipunan was an ILLEGAL ASSOCIATION no matter how hard a Pantayong Pananaw zealot will try to picture it with dainty colors of patriotism and love of country. Such zealots might argue that the Katipunan had lofty ideals of freedom and nationhood, thus excusing it from illegalities. But so does the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf who try to picture themselves as the patriots and martyrs of (their fantasy land called) Bangsamoro. Should we consider them heroes too?

Mimicking the Katipunan’s belligerence towards lawful society, Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV and his Magdalo group did the same thing twice in the past against the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Should we, therefore, erect monuments to Trillanes as well and consider his rebellious friends as the new Katipuneros? After all, they rebelled against the Arroyo government to fight corruption and injustice, didn’t they?

The New People’s Army has been waging a “revolution” for decades. If they win, Bonifacio will surely displace Rizal as our country’s leading national hero. That’s why most of the time, I’m tempted to believe in that cynical saying that history is written by the victors.

One man’s hero is another man’s villain, so the saying goes (hello, Apo Marcos!). So after reading this, I entreat you, dear reader, to reflect the significance of today’s celebration. It’s a holiday, anyway. Ualáng pasoc, cayá maraming horas para mag-isíp-isíp. Having said that…

Why are we so obsessed with national heroes? It seems to me that we are the only country in the world with a surfeit of patriots. And we keep on looking for more. Our government has enshrined such heroes as models that we should look up to and emulate. And yet we are still one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Where have our heroes taken us? Or better yet: what has our idolatry for these heroes done for our country?

Oh, and one more thing: Rizal retracted and there’s really NOTHING you can do about it.

Concepción the dying kitten

The roads of San Pedro Tunasán were still wet from the previous night’s heavy rainfall when I arrived early in the morning from my night shift. In fact, I arrived an hour too early for the 9:30 AM Mass, and my stomach was already rumbling with hunger. I haven’t eaten anything since my shift, but I still had sixty pesos left. I was contemplating on whether or not I should spend it for “dinner” (night shifters’ equivalent for breakfast) or just pass away the time at the old town plaza fronting the church. I may have a thin frame, but my appetite is Asgardian. So imagine the struggle that I had to go through by attempting not to eat before Mass. I was thinking of imitating what our Filipino forefathers did during the Spanish times: they had to fast after midnight before taking the morning Eucharist. Afterwards was the only time they were able to eat.

I had another option left: continue reading William Pomeroy’s The Forest at the town plaza. However, I was drawn by the speaker phones coming from the church. Fr. Paul Búgay was officiating an early morning Mass for the students of Liceo de San Pedro in celebration of today’s feast day, the Immaculate Conception. I even saw my son Jefe among the young faithful.

But that Mass was far from over, in fact had just started. So I was compelled to wait somewhere else for the next Mass. At the second floor of the parish hall building was a Marian exhibit featuring images that represented some of the most famous titles of the Virgin Mary. I stayed there for a few minutes, then went out for a walk at the old town plaza which I have not visited for months.

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A view of the old town plaza of San Pedro Tunasán taken from the belfry of San Pedro Apóstol Church many years ago (Photo: Filipino eScribbles).

Our city is currently holding its annual Paskuhan sa San Pedro, a nightly presentation of reverie in celebration of Christmas month. That’s why the town plaza looked festive. The thought that my first book was launched here a few months ago, albeit a simple ceremony, still dazes me up to now.

There was no place to read. All the benches were wet because of last night’s rain. So I turned my back from the stage and started to troop back to the church. But there on the wet concrete floor, between the plaza’s unappealing monolith and sampaguita bushes, lay a dead kitten, its black and white fur matted.

Or so I thought; I saw it shiver a bit.

Were my eyes playing tricks on me? I was feeling a bit weak and lightheaded due to lack of sleep and hunger, so I wasn’t really sure if it was dead or not. Only one way to make sure: just go check it out. But I had to fight off man’s natural disgust of being near a dead animal. And as I came nearer, I noticed no stench. And lo, the little furball shivered again!

I imitated a purr (I was quite good at it years ago) just to elicit some response from it, just to make sure that it was really alive. Its wobbly head responded, and it looked at me with very weak-looking and half-opened eyes.

It was still alive!

The poor thing surely bore the brunt of the previous night’s downpour. Now it was dying! I looked around me, looking for help as I was helpless in helping the poor kitten. There were a couple of street sweepers around cleaning up the plaza for tonight’s Paskuhan. One elderly sweeper brushed past near me. I pointed towards the kitten for him to see, hoping that he might take pity on it. But he muffled out something gibberish which translated to me as “just leave that li’l tomcat alone to die on its own”.

Bringing it home with me was not an option. There’s no spot in our small apartment unit for the kitten to stay, and my wife is not fond of keeping pets. Then I saw a girl, aged four or five. She looked like an indigent (there are many of them at the plaza). I talked to her and tried to goad her to take the poor kitten home, pleading to her heartstrings that the kitten will die if not attended to. The girl just stood there, gaping at the kitten. Then suddenly I remembered that I have something in my pant’s pocket: Junífera Clarita‘s folded tank top! I’ve been using it for the past few days in lieu of a hankie, just so that I had something to wipe off my sweat (I suffer from hyperhidrosis, thus an ordinary handkerchief is not enough).

Without hesitation, I covered the poor kitten with it, and it shivered all the more when I did so. Darn, I thought. The kitten was really suffering from cold! And it must be as hungry as I was too. I talked to the girl some more. “Why don’t you just take it home and make it your new pet? You will be able to save its life.”

Then she went near the kitten, lifted her small, right foot, and toyed on its head.

OK, that’s enough. Giving it to the indigent girl was not a good option after all. Besides, her mother arrived a few minutes later and I saw her scolding the girl while making unfriendly side glances at me. She probably thought I was some pedophile junkie. Can’t blame her. All moms, whether they be rich or poor, should never allow their little girls on their own out in the streets.

I thought of just leaving the kitten to die. It was dying, anyway. There’s no way I could save it. Besides, I already did my part. I’ve covered it with my baby daughter’s clothing. At least it would die in warmth.

I stood up and started to leave, then gave it one last look…

But I just couldn’t leave it to die! 😞

Suddenly, something came to mind. I do remember having seen a pet store near the back of the church past the road tunnel several times. I wasn’t sure if it was a veterinary clinic or some pet shop because each time I pass by the place I never gave it a hard look.

The kitten was shivering weakly. Time’s running out. I have to save the poor thing. But I didn’t have the heart to carry it. So I sprinted like mad from plaza to store which was several meters away, hoping against hope that somebody there would come with me to the plaza. I never minded the people who were looking at me as I ran. They were probably wondering why in the world was I running so fast. I thought about the 9:30 AM Mass as I was sprinting towards the pet shop. Today is a Holy Day of Obligation for us Catholics. I had to attend Mass instead of attending to a dying kitten. But I’m sure God in His infinite mercy will forgive me if I were just a few minutes late, I thought to my tired self. Besides, I’m doing this to save His forsaken kitten.

When I got to the shop, I was sweating all over. Through its huge mirror, I saw an attendant combing a small, white dog’s fur. And then I saw the shop’s big signage. Its name was like a humorous slap in the face: the shop was a pet parlor, not a veterinary clinic!

This freaking town has no veterinary clinic!

I felt like crying. I sprinted back, hoping against hope that the kitten was still there, that it was still alive, that the little indigent girl with her grumpy mother didn’t come back, that the street sweepers didn’t dispose of it. I took pity at the kitten’s fate. I cursed under my breath at both our fate, then cursed again because I cursed on a Holy Day.

I was almost out of breath when I got back to the plaza. The kitten was still there, but it was no longer shivering. I thought that it already died while I was away. But its weak eyes were still looking at me.

I looked up at the church, the voices of the young faithful blurting out from its thick, beige-painted walls. I covered the kitten much carefully and, after  conquering my hesitation, carried it towards the church. I felt the clothing, already wet in my hands. The kitten started to purr and move about weakly. I couldn’t tell if it was purring or crying. But it was obviously afraid. I saw the claws come out from the paws and took extra caution not to be scratched lest I get infected with potential rabies. I had to cross that part of the road between church and plaza where one is not supposed to cross. But I was desperately in a hurry. And where was I to bring the kitten? To the church. To whom should I bring it? I had no idea. Probably to Fr. Paul? But I have to wait for the Mass to end.

At the north transept, where the entry towards the sacristy was located, I saw a group of altar boys preparing for the 9:30 Mass. Fr. Paul was still officiating the first Mass which I noticed was about to end. I hurriedly went to the boys and, with dying kitten in hand, told them about my predicament. Actually, the kitten’s predicament which became mine as well. Somebody call an ambulance! Somebody call 911! Somebody call somebody! This kitten is in dire need of help! But even the sacristans were unsure of what to do. They looked at each other, murmuring, looking for options.

I softly placed the frightened and weak kitten, still covered with my daughter’s tank top, beside a wall where I deemed it was safe. I went to the parish hall to look for some adult help. I’m not sure who to speak to as I was afraid they might think me as some odd fellow. Because in this cruel world where we live in today, almost nobody cares for homeless animals. Has anyone ever thought of the birds and fireflies during a cruel night storm? How were they faring while you and your furry pets are warmly cozying up taking selfish selfies inside the comfort of your homes?

I was able to speak to some young women from Liceo de San Pedro. Students in shirts and jeans. I didn’t know what activities they were doing at the parish hall building, but what’s on my mind at that very moment was nothing more than to save the kitten before it was too late.

A newly arrived lass had a first aid kit in hand, but was taken aback when she learned that the patient was not human. I was about to suggest to them to feed it because it must certainly be hungry, but the kitten looked just like a few days old. It cannot be fed even bread. And it must already be looking for its mother’s milk. Then like a flash of light, it suddenly occurred to me to buy it some milk to drink.

So that’s why I was hesitant in spending all of my money for my own “dinner”! Thanks be to God!

I rushed to the nearest convenience store. All their milks in tetra packs were ice cold. There’s no way a shivering kitten would be able to drink it. So off I went to other stores. I found one from a 7-Eleven outlet fronting the city jail. After paying for it, I rushed out the store like a burglar pursued. I’m mighty glad that the policemen who were all over the place didn’t take me for a thief.

When I came back, a small crowd of high school kids from Liceo have already gathered with the sacristans who were looking at the kitten, and it gladdened my heart. More people, more chances of saving it. When they saw me with the tetra packed milk, they started looking for a bowl or anything to hold the milk. No bowl could be found. So one of them improvised: a plastic cup was cut down with a pair of scissors to make it look like a bowl.

The milk was poured into the bowl. A young lady from Liceo who was holding the poor kitten drew its mouth near the improvised bowl filled with milk. But the kitten was too weak to even stick out its tongue. And when we removed the kitten from Junífera Clarita’s tank top so that it could feed freely, it weakly crawled towards the cloth — it was still feeling terribly cold and was searching for warmth! So one of the girls took a much bigger and thicker cloth for the kitten. I didn’t know where she got them, but it looked like a yellow- and orange-colored flag.

We then tried to feed it some more, and at last it stuck out its tongue and took a small lap at the milk. It was shivering less and less. At least, it was a good sign that the kitten was recovering. I was able to chat with the kids too, telling them that if not one of them would be able to bring the poor thing home, then at least they could take turns of taking care of it within church premises. I even suggested that we give it a name: Concepción, because she was found and saved on the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. They all started mentioning the name when referring to the kitten.

But Concepción is a girl’s name. What if the kitten was male after all? Then I thought that it didn’t matter, because I suddenly remembered that even males can carry Concepción as their name. Yes, I was thinking of Ate Shawie‘s former lovey-dovey. 🤣

A few minutes later, Fr. Paul appeared from the sacristy and was joking around with the students and sacristans. And then he saw me, all wet with sweat and a total mess.

Buenos días, padre” I said, as I took his hand.

¡Oh, buenas, buenas! ¿Cómo está?” he said, while placing his right palm over my head. Then I told him all about the kitten. Fr. Paul said that it’s a common occurrence in church premises, that kittens are often abandoned by their mothers. He then directed the young teens to just bring the kitten to somebody who’s name I wasn’t able to hear anymore. At least, the kitten will be in safe hands. I hope.

I went back inside the church, the first batch of Mass goers already leaving. Wearily, I went to the historic Cross of Tunasán to say a prayer of thanks. And when the 9:30 AM Mass was about to start, I gaped by the stained glass window to look for the young lady carrying Concepción in her arms. They were gone. I prayed to Our Lady to have mercy on her namesake kitten.

“But what was the meaning of all this cat caper this morning?” I asked myself. Perhaps none. But that’s just me, trying to connect unusual occurrences and find meaning in them most of the time.

Mother cats are notoriously known for abandoning their litter. If you scare it away, it will be the first to run, leaving its kittens behind. Such phenomenon, if you may, has transferred to some human mothers. We are at a time and age when mothers no longer care for their children — just think of the growing number of abortion cases all over the world, or cases of child prostitution, or those who are left to fend for themselves as child laborers. But the Immaculate Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ never abandoned her only begotten Son, even if He was accused of so many things. And even up to His last moments on the cross, she was there.

May she never abandon her faithful children in Christ.

¡Feliz fiesta de Inmaculada Concepción, Santa Patrona de Filipinas!

A new reason for me to love Lucena City

My parents have always known that I have become a self-taught historian over the past few years. But I haven’t heard any comment from them about it. To them, it was nothing short of remarkable. Or so I thought.

Last Friday, November 3, was something special. It was when I was invited by Mr. Vladimir Nieto’s Konseho ng Herencia ng Lucena (Heritage Council of Lucena) to speak in front of a live audience at Pacific Mall regarding some old Spanish documents that I have discovered (from the Portal de Archivos Españoles, a website that will never be utilized nor enjoyed by my contemporary Filipino historians for obvious reasons) proving that the date of establishment of Lucena, Tayabas Province —my place of birth— was neither on 1 June 1882 nor on 20 August 1961 but on that very date of the event itself: November 3. Those documents prove once and for all that Lucena has just turned 138 years old last Friday.

But all that was secondary, at least from a personal perspective. I had one other important thing in mind: to make my parents proud of me, something that, I believe, I have never done to them before. I confess to all of you that I have never been a good son to them, the kind of son that many parents can be proud of. My mom was just thrilled to be there. And I was surprised that my dad appeared at the event. I invited him weeks before, but he did not give a clear confirmation if he would attend. That is why I honestly didn’t expect him to arrive. But he did.

I may not be able to reconcile my parents anymore. But at the very least, both of them were there to support me. They saw for the first time how I function as a historian. And the most amazing part of this was that it all happened in the city where I first breathed, where I had my first taste of sunshine, and where I first cried. And to the best of my memory, it was the first time that they were with me, in the city of my birth. We and all the others who were gathered last Friday at Pacific Mall Lucena celebrated for the first time in history the foundation date of Lucena. It was both a public and personal triumph for me. I couldn’t have asked God for any other “pacific” reunion.

I keep on telling everyone that, while I was born in Lucena City, the place is still a “stranger” to me because I didn’t grow up there. But not anymore. November 3 was a gift from God that I didn’t even ask from Him. He truly works in mysterious ways. 😇

Anyway, I’ll be blogging more about the details behind this event soon. ¡Hasta la vista!

Un poema dedicatorio escrito por Edmundo Farolán

Tuve la sorpresa de mi vida la mañana después de la Fiesta de la Natividad de la Virgen María. Al iniciar sesión en mi Facebook, vi que el Sr. Guillermo Gómez Rivera publicó un poema en mi muro. No tenía título, ¡pero inmediatamente noté que era un poema dedicatorio para mí! A primera vista, uno pensaría que el Sr. Gómez lo escribió para mí, pero no, porque es diferente el estilo poético — fue en verso libre con rimas adecuadas; el Sr. Gómez casi siempre escribe en endecasílabos. Resulta que este poema fue compuesto por uno de sus amigos más queridos y compañero suyo en la Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española: ¡el Sr. D. Edmundo Farolán Romero!

He conocido al Sr. Farolán desde hace mucho tiempo, cuando yo estaba en mis 20 años, pero sólo a través del Internet. Ambos somos miembros del Círculo Hispano-Filipino, un foro en línea (en Yahoo Groups!) que fue fundado por Andreas Herbig, un ingeniero alemán que, de todas las personas, estaba muy alarmado con la disminución de la lengua española en Filipinas (por un tiempo, yo era el miembro más joven de este grupo).

Pero la primera y única vez que lo conocí al Sr. Farolán de carne y hueso fue durante la presentación de su libro Itinerancias (colección de versos suyos) en el Instituto Cervantes de Manila, y eso fue hace una década.

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Izquierda a derecha: un servidor y los Srs. Edmundo Farolán RomeroFernando Ziálcita Nákpil, y Guillermo Gómez Rivera, 22 de mayo de 2007, en el Instituto Cervantes, Ermita, Manila.

Gracias a Facebook, hemos estado en contacto desde entonces. He aprendido a llamarle cariñosamente como «Papá Ed». Incluso tengo una copia de su última novela, El Diario de Frankie Aguinaldo, un cuento llena de patetismos psicodélicos, divagaciones filosóficas de la mente, y soledad poética. Realmente es algo que no se puede dejar de leer especialmente por los «bohemios». De todos modos, sin más preámbulos, les presento orgullosamente la última obra de Papá Ed…

A ti joven
Esperanza de nuestra patria
Con chivos y sombrero tropical
José nombrado por nuestro héroe nacional
Alas cual alas de los Ángeles buenos de Dios
Esperanza de este siglo de Facebook y Blogs
Vienes joven para instalar la nueva internacionalidad
Conectando a todos nuestra identidad
Nuestra hispanofilipinidad
Sangre y hueso según Recto nuestra hispanidad

Esperanza, joven Pepe, de nuestro futuro
En esta edad de computadoras
¡Vuela con tus alas
Para continuar el legado
De nuestros patriotas!

Derechos de reproducción © 2017
Edmundo Farolán Romero
Vancouver, Canadá
Todos los derechos reservados.

Rara vez recibo algo que esté escrito para mí, mucho más un poema compuesto por un escritor reconocido en el mundo filhispánico, así que imagínense lo emocionado que estaba cuando lo leí por primera vez. Y el único otro poema que se escribió para mí era del Sr. Gómez, titulado «Boda Extraordinaria (A Pepe y Yeyette)» pero ese poema era también para mi mujer con motivo de nuestra histórica boda filipiniana que sucedió hace cuatro años. Sea como fuere, ¡ahora tengo dos poemas dedicados a mí que fueron escritos por dos gigantes de la Literatura Filipina que también son los miembros más antiguos de la Academia Filipina y por no hablar de ganadores del Premio Zóbel!

Estos poemas de los Señores Farolán y Gómez siempre me mueven a las lágrimas. Siempre consagraré estos bonitos versos suyos en mi corazón cervantino por el resto de mi vida quijotesca.

What I think of Duterte’s war on drugs

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Millions of my fans must be wondering what I have to say about President Rodrigo Duterte and his controversial war on drugs. Last year, when I suffered from a severe depression and shut down my two world-famous blogs, I read one online comment from a detractor that the main reason why I ended my highly profitable online writing career was that I feared the new presidency.

PEPE ALAS

Also, those millions of fans are still puzzled whether if I’m a “Dutertard” or not. It’s been more than a year since Duterte won as president but I haven’t written anything extensive about him at all.

I think it’s now time for me to break my silence. So just click here and see for yourselves what I really think of President Duterte and his bloody war against drugs.

Enjoy your weekend! 😊

The irony about the Velarde map

Exactly a week ago, Bartolomé Arnáiz, Sr., the father of my best friend Arnaldo, passed away. He would have turned 81 today, on the feast day of his namesake saint. Fate could have waited for at least another week not to take him away, to at least allow him to celebrate one more year, but didn’t allow him anymore. I am astonished at such deaths. I suddenly remember my paternal grandmother who died on the night of her son’s (my father’s) 59th birthday. Since then, I think my father had no reason to be happy whenever he celebrates his birthdays.

I tagged along my wife and our son Jefe who is Arnaldo’s godson to the wake last Sunday night to pay our last respects. And also to see Arnaldo. We rarely see him nowadays because he’s now living with his family in Singapore. The last time we saw him was last Easter Sunday, during the celebration of his son’s first birthday. Of course we didn’t expect to see him as his own lighthearted self. He loved his dad so much, and it must surely be more than awful to be in his shoes right now. In fact, I remember one time that he told me that the distance of employment to his house served as an important factor if he would accept a job or not, just so that he could be near his parents.

The blight in Arnaldo’s eyes was obvious when we saw him. He revealed to me that he felt a strange emptiness now that his father is gone. I can relate, since I adore my grandmother so much who, coincidentally, also died at the same age as his father’s. But if it’s any consolation, at least his father died in his sleep. It was a beautiful death, I commented. No pain, no hospitalization, no hassle. Just like how our favorite historian Nick Joaquín had left this world.

There’s not much catching up to do. Such activity is meant for happy reunions. However, the history buff in Arnaldo will never go away, even in tragedies like this. And so during the funeral, we talked about our favorite topic, and the only topic that we really want to talk about: Filipino History, and its implications to the modern Filipino era. He reminded me of our mutual ally Señor Guillermo Gómez. A few years ago, when his only daughter had died in Bacólod, he immediately booked a flight for the funeral. But while he was there, he still had time to take photos of Bacólod’s ancestral houses and other historic spots. Of course Arnaldo and Señor Gómez were not being disrespectful to their beloved dead. They are simply passionate people who have a noble mission to fulfill: to ennoble the Filipino Identity. For them, time should not go to waste. Every happening, whether joyful or tragic, must be interspersed with advocacy. Because a person with no advocacy at all is worse than a dead person.

One of the interesting topics that we talked about that night was China’s encroachment of Bajo de Masinloc, otherwise known as the Scarborough Shoal. The whole world already knows what had happened to it: it’s a shoal that belongs to our territory (obviously). Superbully China took it from us. Our country’s previous regime then took the case to The Hague because our military’s too puny to stand up to a superbully. We won the case, but the superbully refused to budge. It did not even take the case seriously. And there’s nothing the United Nations can do to stop this superbully from giving us back what really belongs to us.

However, what interests us both is not the decision of The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration to rule against China but the steps which the Filipino contingent did to win the case. One of the things that they did was to use Filipino History as evidence against China. I’m specifically talking about the 1734 Murillo Map, said to be the “Mother of all Filipino Maps”.

The map took its name from the cartographer who made it: Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde y Bravo, a Jesuit priest (1696–1753) from Granada, Spain. Aside from his priestly duties, he was also a writer, having published various books about history and church matters. In 1734, he published in Manila a scientific map of Filipinas which now bears his name and is now called as our country’s “first land title”. The map clearly labels there all the islands that were within the territory of our country, including the disputed Scarborough Shoal which was then known as Bajo de Masinloc.

The Filipino contingent happily brought this treasured map as a weapon against China’s geographic stupidity. Unfortunately, the superbully never even bothered to send a team to face the Filipino contingent at The Hague. While the map was indeed a powerful evidence, it was rendered useless to international bullying.

But the real irony here, as observed by Arnaldo, is this: we Filipinos have been hating our Spanish past so much for the longest time, even going as far as to say that Spain invaded us and enslaved us when the historical truth says that Spain was the kingdom which created us out of a multitude of disunited and independent ethnolinguistic groups whose territories were not clearly defined. And here we are now, running back to her delineated map to seek help. Shouldn’t we not use this map because, in the first place, it was created by a Spanish priest who belonged to that evil empire that enslaved us?

Spain already shaped our territory a long time ago. It was Spain that made Luzón, the islands of the Visayas, and Mindanáo part of what came to be known as the Filipino State, or Las Islas Filipinas. The Velarde map is a living testament of that creation. And yet up to now, we condemn our Spanish past to hell even as we make the Sign of the Cross each and every time that we needed to do it — ironically another ritual that was taught to us by Spain.

Despite his depression, Arnaldo was still astute of mind during our conversation. And he was right. We only have ourselves to blame. Because we let go of what we already have. Spain painstakingly marked our territories in scientific precision and pointed out which island or shoal belongs to us or not. We were much bigger before; we even had Guam, Borneo, and Formosa (Taiwan). Look at us now. We couldn’t even keep what remains of our territory in a stable manner. And now that an empire, which is perhaps far more dangerous than the previous one that truly despoiled us since 1898, is lurking every now and then, we run to maps and rituals whose creators and progenitors we proudly despise. We are such an ungrateful nation. We truly deserve to be bullied by the Chinese.

In your charity, please pray one Our Father and Three Hail Marys for the eternal repose of the soul of Bartolomé Arnáiz y Cañete. This blogpost is dedicated to his memory. Thank you.