Today in Filipino History: the birth of anniversary of Francisco Balagtás


TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY — 2 April 1788: Francisco Balagtás y de la Cruz, one of the greatest literary laureates in the Tagálog language and author of the famous epic poem “Florante at Laura”, was born in Bigaá, Bulacán. He moved to Orión, Bataan in 1840 and worked as a clerk of court and raised a family. In 1849, he adopted the last name Baltazar in accordance with Governor-General Narciso Clavería’s edict in which natives should adopt standard Spanish surnames instead of native ones. Balagtás died on 20 February 1862.

The “Balagtasan”, the poetic joust or debate in extemporaneous verse (popularized in the Spanish language during the US Occupation era by Jesús Balmori and Manuel Bernabé), was named in his honor.

Below is an excerpt from Florante at Laura which includes his most famous stanza (the one in the middle):


This appears in the Anthology of ASEAN Literatures (Philippine Metrical Romances).


¡O pagsintang lábis nang capangyarihan
Sampóng mag-aamá’i iyóng nasasacláo!
Pag-icáo ang nasoc sa puso ninomán
Hahamaquing lahát, masunód ca lamang.

Being faithful to tradition, I still write in this manner (and with diacritics for correct pronunciation), even in social media. I’m probably the only Filipino who does so. So don’t wonder anymore why my Tagálog looks “weird” to most of you. Balagtás was a heavy influence. 😉

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“I shall return”

TODAY IN FILIPINO HISTORY: 20 March 1942 — An escaping General Douglas MacArthur who arrived at Terowie, South Australia makes his famous speech regarding the fall of Filipinas to the Imperial Japanese Army in which he says: “I came through and I shall return”. That declaration has become one of the most iconic lines from World War II and in all of World History.

On a personal note, this speech reminds me not of MacArthur but of another historical figure who is almost forgotten in our country’s history: Simón de Anda, the irrepressible Spanish Basque Governor-General of Filipinas from 1770 to 1776.

De Anda was then an oidor or member judge of the Audiencia Real (Spain’s appellate court in its colonies/overseas provinces) when the British, on account of the Seven Years’ War, invaded Filipinas in 1762. While many high-ranking government officials, including then interim governor-general and Archbishop Manuel Rojo del Río, already surrendered to the invaders, de Anda and his followers refused to do so. Instead, he established a new Spanish base in Bacolor, Pampanga and from there launched the country’s first-ever guerrilla resistance against the British. He thus proved to be a big thorn on the side of the British until the latter left the archipelago two years later.

During those tumultuous two years under the British, de Anda made no promises and neither did he leave Filipinas. He stuck it out with Filipinos through thick and thin and gave the enemy an armed resistance that they more than deserved. But “Dugout Doug” was all drama when he said “I shall return”, leaving the Filipinos to fend for themselves against the Japs. And when he did return, it was a disaster: the death of Intramuros, the heart and soul of the country.

Fake history spotted!

It has recently come to my attention that a certain Wassily Clavecillas (who, if I’m not mistaken, holds a certain position at the Limbagang Pinpín Museum and Heritage Resort in Abúcay, Bataán) is spreading some fake history item on Facebook regarding an alleged tribute to Lapu-Lapu written by José Rizal.


Below is a blow-up of the alleged Rizalian praise for Lapu-Lapu, in case you have difficulty in reading the above text…


For those who do not understand Spanish, below is the translation (image also provided by Clavecillas):


According to Clavecillas, he got this Rizalian acclamation from Cronología Filipina by Domingo Ponce, a rare book that was published in 1958 (judging from its contents, it seems like a textbook, but I could be wrong). His FB post has been shared and praised by many clueless Filipinos who are not familiar with Rizal’s original works in Spanish.

But was the above text really written by the national hero?

To those who are familiar with Rizal’s body of work, the answer, of course, is no. Rizal wrote not a single word of praise to the Mactán chieftain. In fact, during his time, Lapu-Lapu —or to be more precise, Cali Pulaco— was considered by Filipinos as the antagonist of the Mactán narrative. Remember Carlos Calao’s 17th-century poem?

However, Rizal did compose a poem of praise, but not for Cali Pulaco / Lapu-Lapu. He wrote one for Fernando de Magallanes, aka Ferdinand Magellan. As a matter of fact, today is the anniversary of that poem…

(Himno a la Flota de Magallanes)

–José Rizal–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 de diciembre de 1875.

Rizal wrote this poem of praise when he was only 14 years old, as a student of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila (now Ateneo de Manila University). There was not a hint of rancor  or sarcasm at all. This poem is made up of beautiful verses of pure admiration for Magallanes and his fleet as they sailed away “To the gentle breath / Of the fresh wind / With emotion, / All bless / With pious voice / So glorious / Heroic action” (click here to read the complete English translation).

Moved as I was with its stirring imagery, I recorded my declamation of the said poem in its Spanish original…

Now that we have cleared this issue of false attribution, the next question would be: where did the publishers of Cronología Filipina cull that text? Actually, it is true that Rizal wrote that text which Clavecillas had proudly shared in social media. However, Rizal wrote it without Lapu-Lapu in mind — those words were lifted straight out of his second novel, El Filibusterismo. In fact, they were the words of a disenchanted Isagani.

Whoever the publishers were of Cronología Filipina were either as ignorant as Clavecillas is of Rizalian literature, or they really had an agenda in mind: to spread the so-called Leyenda Negra, the weapon of the Hispanophobe. We are inclined to believe in the latter especially if we are to read the heading on the page that was shared by Clavecillas: ¡LOOR AL HÉROE DE MACTÁN! Praise to the Hero of Mactán! And they even used a sketch of Lapu-Lapu to make it appear as if Rizal was really praising him!

Sad to say, Clavecillas is a perfect example of a messed-up Pinoy who could no longer understand Rizal’s nationalistic thoughts and ideals due to his ignorance of the Spanish language which up to now he erroneously associates with elitism. Nevertheless, we have to thank Clavecillas because, wittingly or unwittingly, he was able to produce evidence on how early books were already using Rizal to brainwash Filipinos into hating their Spanish past.

P.S. I use the words “ignorant” and “ignorance” on this blogpost without meaning to offend.
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Quezon’s Game: not a review

Quezon's Game.jpg

I have a few complaints on Quezon’s Game after having seen it last night with my wife (to celebrate her 43rd natal day):

1) Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar was a bit off to be the setting for Manila. It was too wide open to the elements, too much sky to be seen, with even a mountain for a backdrop. Vigan, Ilocos Sur or Intramuros would have been more believable.
2) There was too much English dialogue between Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña, and between Quezon and his wife Aurora. They spoke more in Spanish, of course.
3) Emilio Aguinaldo never conversed in English with fellow Filipinos. In fact, he had a disdain for it.
4) The rather contemptuous observation of a Jewish-run Hollywood is a recent one.
5) I heard Quezon utter “puñeta” only once.

While it has no overall significance to our country’s general history, Quezon’s Game was still a good period film that offered viewers a glimpse on the behind-the-scenes political maneuverings of a US-sponsored Commonwealth of the Philippines, not to mention another least-known human side to Quezon. Raymond Bagatsing showed us another convincing performance, Audie Gemora was a spitting image of Osmeña, and the white actors playing their white historical counterparts were all laudable in their thespian duties.

Also, Quezon’s Game was the second consecutive movie “game” that made my tears roll: the first was Avengers: Endgame😂