Fame or family?

From time to time, I look at my list of Facebook friends and it impresses me. In that list are many renowned people. Not just renowned but even famous in their respective field/career. Some are distinguished writers, bloggers, athletes, musicians, celebrities, entrepreneurs, public servants, scholars, etc.

I have to be honest: many times, I feel jealous of them. In a world filled with ambition, I couldn’t help but feel so inadequate whenever I’m with accomplished people, whenever I see them rise to the top each moment as I sit here in this balmy apartment unit of ours, contemplating on when will the moment arrive that I could finally make my friends and family members proud of me.

Why do all of us, in varying degrees, want to become famous or popular? Probably to make us feel that we really exist, so that we will not be belittled in a world filled with injustice and inequality. Or maybe to savor the fruits of self-worth. Or to find a spot in a world that is oftentimes obsessed with dignity. Or to avoid being devoured by rankism.

The only talent I have (or I think I have) is writing, blogging in particular. I try to create my own voice, but it always gets drowned out by louder and better ones. And I fear that I could no longer accomplish much from what I am passionate about especially since I now have five children to take care of; we have no household help, and my wife has long retired from employment to fully take care of our growing brood. Writing and scholarly research is never an easy task. It requires full attention and concentration, and one’s surroundings should be conducive to scholarly work — I do not have that kind of convenience, and it irritates me to no end. To complicate things, I’ve been suffering from physical pain for years already (regional complex pain syndrome), not to mention that I’m always being bothered with this burdensome and unceasing “calling” to protect and defend a once glorious past that is now being calumnied by ignorant ingrates.

And to add to my frustrations, I am still a clock-punching nightly wage slave.

Nevertheless, whenever I see my family together, inside this ramshackle place that we have learned to love, all my vexations subside. Suddenly, I realize that I have accomplished what (sadly and surprisingly) few people today have attained: a loving family that I can call my own, a loving family centered in Christ. We may not be a perfect family, but we are a family intact in spite of all the tribulations brought about by increasing utilitarianism and Miley Cyrus.

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Well, I guess there’s no need for me to be covetous of other people, after all.

¡Enaltecer la familia para la gloria más alta de Dios! 

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From excited foreword to grateful afterthought

A couple of years back, I excitedly announced in my now defunct Spanish blog that I was chosen to write for a coffee table book about the history of La Laguna Province. After almost two years of sleepless nights writing and doing field research, incurring trouble at the office because of several absences and tardiness, and capped by a press release on my accidental discovery of the province’s foundation date as well as defending it from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ “board of academic censors”, nothing came out of the said project. The publisher and I had a falling out while the provincial governor who was supposed to fund the project was  unceremoniously booted out from politics. That book was supposed to be my big break to become a well-known writer-historian. But it seems that bad luck is an unwanted twin of mine. Whenever my dreams are within arm’s reach, they start slipping right from my hands and crash down to the floor like fine chandelier.

When publication was nearing, I had my mentor, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, write the book’s foreword. I couldn’t think of nor imagine anyone else to write one for me. He is, after all, the epitome of an authentic Renaissance Man: a journalist, historian, poet, playwright, fictionist, linguist, folklorist, cartoonist, recording artist, and Spanish language teacher as well as instructor of Spanish dances (considered as the only “maestro de flamenco” of Filipinas). Few people may know this, but he is also a polyglot: aside from his mastery of Spanish, Hiligaynón, Quinaráy-a, English, and Tagálog, he also has a working knowledge of Chabacano Zamboangueño, Cavitén (Chabacano Caviteño), French, Hokkien, Cebuano, and Portuguese. In spite of his personal problems and health issues, he still manages to continue the difficult fight for the recognition of our true national identity. A great man like Don Guimò only comes once every one hundred years. That is why I call him as the GREATEST FILIPINO alive today.

La imagen puede contener: Pepe Alas y Guillermo Gómez Rivera, personas sonriendo, selfie

Unfortunately, my coffee table book will no longer see the light of day. So I thought of just publishing here Don Guimo’s foreword for that book. I am not a decorated writer nor historian, but his words for me are worth all the medals of the world.

     Having known José Mario “Pepe” Alas since his college student days at Adamson University, we never expected him to be capable of writing a history book with such serene impartiality and with the taught discipline of a seasoned historian. And more so the complex history of La Laguna, a province that means so much to the development of this country. We always thought that only a Nick Joaquín would be able to do that considering the uniqueness and the vastness of the latter’s accumulated knowledge and profound understanding of Philippine history, the Spanish language, the Filipino national identity, and the Filipino culture that encompasses all these intellectual disciplines.

     But Pepe has somehow been able to acquire the necessary conocimientos which is more than knowledge, to grasp and reproduce what is Filipino. He did take for granted, as is the case of many Filipino college students, his Spanish language subjects at Adamson University, but after he graduated and was faced with the challenges of survival, he accepted the casual job of a typist and was given the assignment to type a whole book in Spanish on the history of the Primera República de Filipinas, a thick compilation of documents, with their respective comments, by Spanish language academician, novelist, historian, and professor, Antonio M. Abad from Barili, Cebú.

     Although we know that this is not the only book in Spanish that he was forced to read, because he had to type it, Pepe must have had read some other books in Spanish on what is Filipino aside from those available in English. To our surprise, Pepe could speak to us in Spanish about Philippine History after going through this old Abad book and the other books, works, and literary pieces in this language that were found in our library.

    As an old teacher of the Spanish language, we know that the student, to acquire this language, needs to master four basic skills: the skill to read it, the skill to understand it, the skill to write in it, and, later, the final skill to speak it. And Pepe Alas from Parañaque City had sufficiently mastered the four enumerated skills. To top it all, he also mastered to a high degree the literary, historical, and cultural content of Spanish in the Philippines which, as a culmination, has formed his firm conviction as a Filipino, free from the current maladies of a colonial mentality vis-à-vis the present colonial master lording it over our country.  In short, Pepe is no longer a stranger in his own country which is expectedly miseducated, therefore ignorant of its true culture and true history. Pepe has freed himself from these maladies and anomalies of the mind and soul, and, because of this newfound freedom of his mind and his soul, he now loves his country in a much deeper way than most other Filipinos of his generation ever did or do.

     As he advanced in the field of employment, he settled in San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna, with his wife and children and immediately identified himself as a native born lagunense interested in the history and prosperity of his adoptive province. From there, he realized that he had a new world to know and write about which is La Laguna. His research on the history of his adoptive province led him to discover the real founding date of La Laguna. He went through all the old and pertinent Spanish documents with great ease and discovered that La Laguna started as a Spanish encomienda under conquistador Martín de Goití in the sixteenth century.

     What is funny, if not something to be highly indignant about, is that the government office that supposedly works on the history of this country flatly denied and rejected this discovery because of an old U.S. WASP induced prejudice against the Spanish encomienda. Some employees in that government office on history had this prejudice against the encomienda because of the falsities taught to them in their history classes by an Americanized history teacher that never learned to see through the 1900 American sectarian propaganda against what is Spanish and Filipino in these islands. These de-Filipinized elements wrongly labeled an encomienda as a system of slavery and oppression when it is in the encomienda that our native Indio forefathers learned not only the predominant religion of Filipinos today but also learned a more advanced system of agriculture, a sophisticated cuisine, basic arts and trade, and all that a people needed to later form a pueblo and a municipio as we know them today.

     But the La Laguna Provincial Board, being open minded, quickly saw that this Alas discovery was logical and, therefore, correct. It eventually approved and recognized the date of the founding of La Laguna as a Spanish encomienda to be also the beginning of the legal entity that is this province today. An Inquirer article called Pepe an achiever who, as a young historian, discovered what others blindly ignored for so long. Kudos to the provincial governor and the La Laguna Provincial Board!

     Reading Pepe’s general history of La Laguna is a pleasure. The language is easy and all that is historical data are neatly interwoven to give an accurate picture of how La Laguna developed and how its people progressed through the years in spite of the vicissitudes that would disturb such advances. Credit is given to whosoever deserves it. As an historian, Pepe will never say, like Teodoro A. Agoncillo says on his “History of the Filipino People”, that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is”.  Pepe gives us the sensation that he exactly knows what is Filipino and that it is neither difficult nor impossible to define what it is. Because of his mastery of Spanish, Pepe Alas agrees with Teodoro M. Kálaw’s definition of what is Filipino, a definition that is, evidently, not “politically correct” nowadays, but which is accurate anyway you put it. Wrote Kálaw, and we quote him in his own language to avoid any mistranslation:

“Cuando se discute la capacidad de una raza para la autosuficiencia, todos los elementos y factores que intervinieron en su cultura, todas las generaciones anteriores, se someten a prueba. Y entrelazadas en esa exégesis está la obra de España y la obra de Filipinas indígena, dos civilizaciones que han venido uniéndose en una misma civilización que llamamos filipina sobre este suelo por casi cuatro siglos para luego constituir una vibrante nacionalidad, la que dio espíritu a la revolución y a la primera República de Filipinas.”

     La Laguna is, indeed, one of the oldest provinces of the Philippines because many of its original families have branched out to other places in this country. As a mere example and modesty aside—, this writer’s family, on both the paternal and maternal sides, traces its roots to La Laguna. Gómez comes from a 17th-century Spanish alférez from Pagsanján, Francisco Gómez, who married a Tagala named María Dimaculañgan, while Rivera traces its roots to nearby Pila. Upon a recent visit to the parish church of Pagsanján, this writer saw, from a list of donors, individuals that carried both surnames: Gómez and Rivera. There is always that inclination to come to Pagsanján and upon viewing the old and majestic arch at the beginning of what was Pagsanján’s Calle Real, a sensation of having been there becomes overpowering.  And then, there is the now almost abandoned Gómez mansion near the river while it is also at the rear of the old Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the advocation of the Virgin Mary that merited the Pontifical titles of “Emperatriz de las Américas, Reina de México, y Patrona de Filipinas”. Aside from the famous Pagsanján Falls, the arch, the old bahay na bató houses, and the parish church are also tourist attractions.

     The attraction of La Laguna in general is great, and tourism is not a new phenomenon for Pagsanján. There is this bilingual sing-song of long ago that attests to what we say:

Muy bienvenidos
Sean ustedes
A nuestro pueblo
De Pagsanján.
Aquí tenemos
La maravilla
De veinte saltos
En un bancal.
Sobresaltante
Pero seguro
Es el paseo
En un raudal;
Porque las bancas
Son de arbol duro
Y los banqueros
De mucha sal.

–o–

Maganda nawâ
Ang ‘yong pagdayo
Dito sa amin
Sa Pagsanján;
Magarang arco,
Magandang bahay
Gawá sa tabla
At sa bató.
Ñgunit ang tunay
Na pañghalina
Ng bayan natin
Ay ang talón
Casama’ng daloy
Ng mananañgcang
Sanáy sa tulin
At sa tinô.

     La Laguna, as a center of Filipino culture, as expressed in song, dance, ritual, poetry, cuisine, and hospitality, is bound to advance. More so with the new crop of leaders it presently has to steer this vision onward.

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Que será, será

I was with Mayor Calixto Catáquiz yesterday. Well, he’s no longer mayor here in our place (his wife is), but we still call him Mayor. Anyway, that’s how it is here in Filipinas: you address ex-politicians by their former designations.

I showed to him the final chapter that I added for his biography. He assigned it to me last April, but I only got to finish it yesterday. It was only four pages. For a span of four months, I only got to write four pages! That’s how horrible my state of mind has become. I’ve been battling a lot of personal issues lately, both health and mental. I’m always vocal on my regional pain complex syndrome, but not on my depression-induced writer’s block. Depression, I think, has become too stale a word these past few years. So many people on social media have been confessing that they are suffering from depression that I suspect many of them are only fishing for sympathy.

Anyway, enough about me. Going back to the biography (hey, that rhymes!). It’s been more than 10 years since I started it with Arnold — my golly, more than a decade, and it’s not yet even finished! Even Arnold gave up on it already and left the whole project to my sole care (he has since been holed up in Singapore, together with his family). Why the horrible delay? Aside from the above-mentioned personal troubles, one contributor to the delay is that each time I’m done with the biography, Mayor Calex wanted to add more to his personal timeline. Understandable. A politician’s life, after all, is dynamic, even after his career is over. And his is no ordinary career as he was not spared from controversy. Other than that, my abnormal schedule (coupled with an inhumane daily commute) doesn’t permit me to live the full life of a writer-researcher, thus adding up to my depressive state.

Anyways, yesterday I received good news from him. We were in one of his vans, and he was on his way to one of his meetings (he is still active after retirement, acting in behalf of his wife). It was there where he scrutinized what I wrote for him. After reading the additional chapter, I saw that he was very pleased with it. In fact, I think it was the happiest that I saw him with regard to his biography (I guess the four-month delay paid off well). He then told me that he wishes to see his biography published by next year. Finally.

We then proceeded to nearby Biñán to visit a car repair shop. He wished to show me something: two vintage cars that he had bought from friends. The first one he showed me was a 1957 Chevrolet, bought about a decade ago, and for a bargain: ₱100,000. The parts had to be purchased in the US since there are no service centers here for the said model.

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Mayor Calex, second from left, checking the progress of his vintage Chevy that was bought from a friend.

The second one he showed me was a 1969 Ford Mustang, also bought a couple of years ago. The original owner was actually former Parañaque Mayor Pablo Olivárez (he was the mayor when I was still a skinny little runt living in the said city). This car cost him only ₱10,000 since the last owner had to migrate to the US and was raring to dispose of it the soonest.

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1969 Ford Mustang.

The original cost of these cars, of course, was equivalent to that of a fully-furnished house big enough for a family such as mine. While the value of a car immediately goes down once it leaves the car shop, these two vintage cars should still be pricey enough because of their prestige. One might say that Mayor Calex really got lucky with the price that he had to pay for these two, and he will readily agree to such observation.

Nevertheless, these cars are already costing him aplenty during the rehabilitation process since the spare parts had to be purchased from the US. But he’s a well-heeled fellow, anyway, even before politics invaded his privacy (he never intended to run for public office, but hey, I’m going ahead of his unpublished biography). Collecting vintage cars has been his hobby. His first car was a 1968 AMC Javelin, a gift from his parents. Although it was a gift, the Javelin wasn’t exactly fully paid when it was given to him. Straight out of graduation, young Calex had to work in one of his parents’ business firms so that he could continue paying for the car’s monthly amortization; he had to shell out ₱5,000 from his ₱10,000-per-month salary. This event proved that young Calex was already being trained by his parents to be self-sufficient, to be able to fend for himself, and to be able to prove that whatever he gets in life, he must prove himself worthy of it.

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My wife Yeyette posing in front of Mayor Calex’s prized Javelin. The car still runs to this day and is used only during special occasions. This photo was taken six years ago.

All that training that he got from his parents was all worth it because he can now afford all the vintage cars that he wants, especially now that he’s retired from politics. He told me that he wants to make it his hobby from now on. It’s what he has always wanted to do in the first place, politics just kept him away from it. He confided that he had to maintain a hobby to keep his mind off all kinds of stress, especially at his age (he’s turning 71 this December). And he’s diabetic, too.

Going back to the van after checking those two cars, we then started talking about health problems, and how stress factored in them. I relayed to him that one of the main reasons why I contracted pneumonia and tuberculosis more than a year ago was because of stress (coupled with lack of sleep and missed meals). Too much stress weakens the immune system. And when that happens, you know what comes next: the bugs will start attacking you.

He then told me that he’d been to Unisan recently (his late father and my father are from there) to attend the wake of the wife of that town’s former mayor who had died of cirrhosis of the liver (the ex-mayor is his friend and political ally; ironically, that same ex-mayor is my dad’s rival). The wife was also diabetic, said Mayor Calex. He was a bit puzzled as to why Unisan’s former first lady succumbed to a disease that is often attributed to too much liquor. She didn’t even have any vice, he wondered. I surmised that maybe it was a complication of diabetes.

But despite all that talk about health and death, I’m still not exactly your health-conscious type of guy. When I was a teener back in Parañaque, a childhood friend of mine had a nonagenarian grandmother who smoked several sticks of Philip Morris daily. She’s been like that since her younger years, according to my friend. An office mate has a family member who is health conscious, a semi-vegetarian who recently suffered a stroke. Another childhood friend who was athletic and well-built died a few years ago while playing basketball. Just last month, the vocalist of my former band (yes, I was once a rock star) died in his sleep. I’m even older than him. Too bad he wasn’t able to reach his 40s.

I’m sure you’ve heard so many uncanny stories like the ones mentioned above.

We could even go to the next level beyond health. There are many people who are so conscious about safety and well-being, but not me. I remember a wealthy neighbor of my auntie, also in Parañaque. That neighbor has a huge house with very high walls that are fenced up with barbed wires. Even the gates are electrified. The house had several security guards. I used to think that they are willingly ready to wage war anytime against the whole neighborhood. But one day, the neighborhood received shocking news that the house was robbed. When the police arrived at the scene, they found all the guards and maids tied up like Christmas presents; luckily for them, they weren’t butchered (looking back, I was wondering what kind of treasure that supposedly heavily secured house had to hide). Aside from security issues are safety concerns. For example, there are instances of pedestrians who had been very mindful and extra careful in crossing roads but still end up as victims of hit-and-runs.

This is not to say that I’m promoting recklessness, or that I am reckless myself, but it is what it is: if shit’s gonna pounce at you, no matter how careful you’ve been, there’s nothing much you can do. That is why I no longer mind my wife who never tires in warning me to always look behind my back. She is always worried that one day, a hired goon by either Eugenio Ynión Jr. or his insane brother Rommel might successfully put a bullet in my head. But worrying will only stress me out. There’s a saying in Tagálog for this: “Capág horas mo na, horas mo na“. If your time’s up, then that’s it. I’d rather have fate or providence dictate the course of whatever actions or decisions I choose. Let those two be my own Chevy and Mustang. Que será, será.

I don’t wish to end this blogpost on a morbid note. Mayor Calex told me that he plans to launch his biography next year. If possible, this coming March. And he wants to coincide it with the launching of his revitalized vintage cars.

Our time has come. This will be it.

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.

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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!

Tagbong

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Underneath this lush bamboo grove in Tagbong, forest and pastureland of my wife’s family, is my favorite reading and relaxation nook in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental. Here I can spend hours of reading and contemplation, with nothing but the gentle breeze caressing my skin to reassure me, the melodic gurgling of the nearby river to appease me, and the chirping of mountain birds and cicadas to accompany my blissful solitude. The soft creaking of bamboo canes above my tired soul reminds me that I, too, am blessed. May mankind preserve this paradise for a long time. Happy Earth Day!

La imagen puede contener: árbol, césped, planta, exterior, naturaleza y agua

Debajo de este exuberante huerto de bambú en Tagbong, bosquecillo y agostadero de la familia de mi esposa, es mi rincón favorito de lectura y relajación en Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental. Aquí puedo pasar horas de lectura y contemplación, con nada más que la suave brisa que acaricia mi piel para tranquilizarme, el gorgoteo melódico del río cercano para apaciguarme, y el canto de los pájaros de la montaña y las cigarras para acompañar a mi soledad feliz. El suave crujido de las cañas de bambú sobre mi alma cansada me recuerda que yo también soy bendecido. Que la humanidad conserve este paraíso durante mucho tiempo. ¡Feliz Día de la Tierra!

A call for prayers. Un llamado para las oraciones.

My dear readers. Please pray for me. After being released from a long hospitalization last year, I noticed that my passion for reading and writing has dissipated. It now reached a point where I couldn’t even finish a page or two in just one sitting (before: I could finish a book or two within a day, and there existed a delight to scribble verses). I’ve been carrying a pen and notebook wherever I go, but I don’t even have the heart to use them. My uncomfortable circumstances (debts, chronic pain, court case between my parents, working at night for more than a decade, etc.) add up to this wretchedness of mind. And it’s getting worse. Anyway, I am fully aware that I am not as talented nor as well-known as many other Filipino writers, but writing is the only thing I know I’m good at. If I don’t write, I will die. But I believe in prayers; they have worked wonders. So my dear readers, this Holy Week, please pray for me. Thank you.
Mis queridos lectores. Por favor, oren por mí. Después de ser dado de alta de una larga hospitalización el año pasado, noté que se había disipado mi pasión por la lectura y la escritura. Ahora llegó a un punto en el que ni siquiera podía terminar una página o dos en una sóla sesión (antes: podía terminar un libro o dos en el transcurso de un día, y existía un deleite garabatear versos). He estado llevando un bolígrafo y un cuaderno donde quiera que vaya pero ni siquiera el corazón para usarlos. Y mis circunstancias incómodas (deudas, dolor crónico, caso judicial entre mis padres, trabajando de noche por más de una década, etc.) se suman a esta desdicha mental. Siento que se está poniendo peor. De todos modos, soy plenamente consciente de que no soy tan talentoso ni tan conocido como muchos otros escritores filipinos, pero escribir es lo único que sé en lo que soy bueno. Si no escribo, moriré. Pero creo en oraciones; han hecho maravillas. Así que mis queridos lectores, esta Semana Santa, por favor oren por mí. Gracias.

No hay nada que me detenga

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Déjame empezar de nuevo.

Cuando comencé este blog a mediados de 2017, planeaba producir al menos un artículo por semana. El plan fracasó cuando la tuberculosis y la neumonía devastaron mis pulmones en diciembre de ese año. Estuve en una pausa de seis meses haciendo cosas banales. No escribí, ni siquiera en papel. Leí algunos libros, pero con moderación.

Cuando regresé a mediados del año pasado, noté que mi habilidad habitual para escribir ya no estaba allí. Se sentía más como una lata que una pasión. Debo admitir que mi dolorosa condición contribuyó a ese letargo. Y creo que trabajar en el turno de noche durante casi dos décadas ya ha afectado a la mente y al cuerpo. Y también está nuestra ridícula condición financiera, las deudas acumuladas, el hambre y el dolor de cabeza… tuve que lidiar todo esto.

El mes pasado fue un susto. Tuve un mal caso de toser, y me aterrorizó ver —aunque en silencio— que había sangre en mi esputo. Pensé que mis viejas nemesas respiratorias estaban de vuelta. Me estaba preparando para otra hospitalización. Afortunadamente, un grupo de oración en Facebook me salvó. Los hallazgos de los rayos X no encontraron nada grave y todo lo que tuve fue bronquitis. Sí, creo en el poder de la oración y los milagros.

Ahora mi última lucha es el trastorno por déficit de atención: he tenido problemas para terminar un libro. Esto ha estado ocurriendo durante el año pasado más o menos. Esto no puede ser, una mala combinación de bloque del escritor y bloque del lector.

Todavía no estoy listo para volver a actualizar esta bitácora. Mi síndrome de dolor está empeorando cada día. Puedo sentirlo. Pero si no ahora, entonces ¿cuándo? Mi pasión no debe ser detenida. Ahora no. Jamás.

Déjame empezar de nuevo.