Shutting down press freedom

My wife and I for a brief period were once Kapamilya. That was in 2002. She, being a fan of local celebrities and Star Cinema romcoms, enjoyed her stay there. But not me. I hated being there especially whenever I encounter celebrities suffering from star complex, i.e., each celebrity, because of fame, thinks that the center of the world revolves around him/her (star complex should be regarded as a mental illness, but that’s for another topic). With the exception, perhaps, of Carlos Agassi (where is he now?) and the late comedian Bentong, every single ABS-CBN talent, from its biggest names of 2002 down to its most forgettable starlets, comported himself/herself as if he/she were royalty, especially off cam. But that’s just my observation.

I first read about ABS-CBN’s history under the López Group when I was still in my early 20s. At that young age, I couldn’t stop equating the word greed to the said media conglomerate simply because it was owned by the greedy López clan of Iloílo (I remember those fountains of champagne flowing freely during family parties at a time when many poor Filipinos were going hungry). And weren’t they the same family that owned Meralco, the electric power distribution company that charges one of the most exorbitant electric fees in Southeast Asia? That is why I rejoiced when I read about the persecution of the Lópezes and the shutting down of ABS-CBN during the Martial Law years. To my mind, if there was anything good that came out of that era, that was it.

Aside from the irritable star complex behavior of its talents, I have my personal issues with ABS-CBN: they twisted Pope Francisco’s messages back in 2015 just to sell merchandise (and to suit their gay agenda) as well as putting tomfoolery and lasciviousness to the fore (I’m referring to Vice Ganda) in exchange for high ratings.

KBP says ABS-CBN franchise renewal is for 'best interest of public'

Photo: Rappler.

But with this latest news of ABS-CBN’s second closure, I cannot rejoice. Having gone public in 1992, ABS-CBN is no longer a family enterprise. And with its charity arm (ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation) still active at this very moment in helping out with relief operations brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, it is unwise to call them as greedy as the Lópezes of yore, and doubly unwise to shut them down now.

And then I think of their TV shows and films. Despite its ubiquitous news programs and updates, the company is known more for entertainment. I’ve seen a couple during my nightly commute to the office (inside buses with TVs) and whenever my wife insists that I bring her to the cinema. In fairness, they have been churning out quality productions. Admittedly, these productions can go toe-to-toe with foreign rivals especially when it comes to cinematography, storytelling, and yes, acting (the titles, though, are a drab). With the economic troubles that have been besetting our country for so long, it is hard to blame our countrymen if they have become so attached to such shows that, in one way or another, mirror their personal lives. How would the masses react if it was Malacañang who pulled the trigger on nine-lifer Ricardo Dalísay?

I may understand the attempt to shut down Rappler because of its alleged links to foreign investors, but shutting down ABS-CBN just to satiate bloated presidential vindictiveness is way too much. Personal vendetta will certainly put ABS-CBN’s thousands of employees in peril because of the shutdown. Not a good move when millions of Filipinos have lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

As stated in the beginning, I am no ABS-CBN fan. But they had to be defended. As trite as this may sound, it is the right thing to do. ABS-CBN may have committed political sins. But what media outfit didn’t? Love it or hate it, ABS-CBN has become a vanguard of press freedom. If the government can harass the country’s largest entertainment and media conglomerate, what more the fledgling ones? If I do not join the call to defend press freedom this time, I have no right to call myself a writer. I am sure Nick Joaquín himself would have been angered with the recent developments that are hounding “Asia’s most admired media company”.

Enough with your ego, Mr. President. Focus on the COVID-19 issue instead.

#NoToABSCBNShutDown

 

What you should know about Graciano López Jaena

If one is to read Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere in the original Spanish, he would be surprised how the country’s foremost national hero described the infamous Padre Dámaso:

Sin embargo de que sus cabellos empezaban á encanecer, parecía conservarse bien su robusta naturaleza. Sus correctas facciones, su mirada poco tranquilizadora, sus anchas quijadas y hercúleas formas le daban el aspecto de un patricio romano disfrazado, y, sin quererlo, os acordaréis de uno de aquellos tres monjes de que habla Heine en sus Dioses en el destierro…

(My translation: “But while his hair was beginning to gray, his robust nature seemed to be well preserved. His correct features, his quite reassuring look, his wide jaws and herculean forms, gave him the appearance of a Roman patrician in disguise, and, unwittingly, you will remember one of those three monks that Heine speaks of in his ‘Gods in Exile’…”)

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In case you don’t know how Roman patricians looked like (image: Brewminate).

 

So where did popular culture get the idea that the poor Franciscan was a balding, bloated, pot-bellied friar?

Many history buffs agree that today’s visual image of Padre Dámaso was culled from an (insane) story written by an eighteen-year-old Ilongo by the name of Graciano López Jaena who, early in his career as an aspiring político in Madrid, once declared that he was a Spaniard more than a Filipino (no wonder he was wont to prominently feature his mother’s last name; the Spanish way of writing one’s full name is to end it always with the maternal surname).

López Jaena, whose birth anniversary is commemorated today (birthdate: 18 December 1856) in his hometown of Jaro, Iloílo and elsewhere where he is still highly esteemed, wrote a story titled “Fray Botod” which in his native Hiligaynón literally means a big-bellied friar. This is how he described his story’s “protagonist”:

Baja estatura; cara abogatada en forma de disco cual luna llena. Pómulos atomatados. Gruesos labios y pronunciados; ojos chiquititos, picarescos y gatunos; nariz grande, abermellado,* de alas anchas y desplegadas, por eso olfatea á distancia como un perdiguero. Cabello amaizado, corona tabo** con cerquillo. Frente deprimida y arrugada marcanda ceño sombrío y adusto. Abdomen; sobre todo, su abdomen llama la atención por su mostruoso desarrollo, es más promontorio que abdomen, porque termina en punta cerca ombligo; la región pelviana y la pectoral coinciden en el mismo plano perpendicular determinado una curvatura central de la columna vertebral. Añádase á todo esto, un cuello corto sobre donde descansa aquella original fisonomía y tenéis acabado el retrato de cuerpo entero.

(My translation: “Of short stature with a flattened, disc-shaped face like that of a full moon. Stuck cheekbones. Thick and pronounced lips. Tiny eyes, picaresque and feline. Large nose, reddish,* with wide and unfolded wings: that is why from a distance he sniffs like a gun dog. Rich hair whose tabo-shaped** crown has bangs. Depressed and wrinkled forehead marks a gloomy and grim frown. And the abdomen —his abdomen, above all— attracts attention because of its showy development, it is more promontory than the rest because it ends at a point near the navel. The pelvic and pectoral region coincide in the same perpendicular plane with a central curvature of the spine. Add to all this is a short neck on which that original physiognomy rests, and you will have his full-length portrait.”)

*Abermellado is not even Spanish. It is Galician, a language spoken in northwestern Spain. It is a mystery as to how López Jaena got hold of that word. Perhaps at an early age he was already a Hispanophile?
**Tabo is a filipinismo, meaning that it is a Filipino word that has been incorporated into the Spanish language. A tabo pertains to the ubiquitous water dipper.

Take note, he was only eighteen when he wrote this hilarious caricature of a Spanish friar. He was virtually a kid. And his Spanish, although rich in imagery, cannot even be considered literary gold.

One wonders as to how López Jaena was influenced by anticlericalism at such young an age (he joined Freemasonry at a much later time in his life, when he was already 26), but it can be gleaned that opposition to religious authority was already in ferment during his youth. Many (Hispanophobic!) historians will readily point out that this belligerent attitude toward the “repressive” Spanish friars was the starting point of his heroism. Debatable, of course.

Now going back to his political plans… what do you make of this declaration of his to Rizal, in a letter dated 15 October 1891?

Ciertamente, si quiero ser diputado en España, es para satisfacer ambiciones personales, nada más; no tengo la pretensión de dar por mi investidura de diputado, derechos ni libertades á Filípínas, ella tíene que conquístarlos con su sangre, lo mismo que su independencia.

(My translation: “Certainly, if I want to become a deputy in Spain, it is to satisfy personal ambitions, nothing more. For my investiture as deputy, I do not intend to give rights or liberties to Filipinas. She has to conquer them with her blood, as well as her independence.”)

His colleagues, most prominently José Alejandrino among them, described his lifestyle in Spain as rather Bohemian: he was a strange fellow who loved to give impromptu speeches just for the heck of it (many of the things he said were just figments of his fertile imagination), who would rather spend more time in cafés just to while away time rather than write articles with his fellow propagandistas (they literally had to bribe him with spending money just to write). He, too, was perhaps the original “dugyót” (which means a slovenly person) as he rarely took a bath, who preferred eating sardines with his bare hands, then wiping his oily fingers on his seldomly washed clothes.

Curiously enough, Jaena rhymes with the English word hyena which is a carnivore known for its filthy and mangy behavior as a scavenger. Just a thought. 😂

There’s your hero, the one and only Graciano López Hyena! So aside from greeting him a happy birthday today, you might as well thank him too for fighting for your liberty.***

***An example of a sarcastic remark. Anyway, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Hoy en la Historia de Filipinas: proclamación de la soberanía estadounidense sobre Filipinas

HOY EN LA HISTORIA DE FILIPINAS: 4 de enero de 1899 — El General Elwell S. Otis, el segundo Gobernador Militar estadounidense de Filipinas, proclama en nombre del Presidente William McKinley la soberanía de Estados Unidos sobre el archipiélago filipino.

Antes de esto, el 21 de diciembre de 1898, el Presidente McKinley ya emitió su infame Proclamación de Asimilación Benévola. Pero el General Otis demoró la publicación de su proclamación hasta el 4 de enero de 1899, y luego publicó una versión editada para no transmitir a los filipinos los significados de los términos “soberanía”, “protección”, y “derecho de cesación”, que estaban presentes en la versión íntegra.

El General Otis también envió una copia inalterada de la proclamación al General Marcus Miller en la Ciudad de Iloílo quien, sin saber que una versión alterada había sido enviada a Emilio Aguinaldo (entonces presidente del gobierno revolucionario filipino), le pasó una copia a un funcionario filipino allí. La versión inalterada finalmente llegó a Aguinaldo.

Office of the Military Governor
of the Philippine Islands
Manila, P.I.
4 January 1899

To the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands.

The instructions issued by his Excellency the President of the United States relative to the administration of the Philippine Islands have been transmitted to me on December twenty-eight of last year 1898 through the Secretary of War. Through these instructions I have been ordered to publicly announce, and I proclaimed to the inhabitants of these islands that in the war with Spain, the United States Army came here in order to destroy the power of that nation and to grant the benefits of peace and freedom to each individual Filipino; that we are here as friends of the Filipinos, to protect them in their homes, in their occupations and their individual religious freedom, that every person who materially assist or honorably cooperate with the United States government in order to effectively achieve those wholesome plans, will receive the recompense of her support and protection.

The President of the United States has admitted that the municipal laws of this country, as far as they respect the rights of the individual and the rights for property and the repression of guilt, will be considered still in vigor so long as they can be applied to a free people, and they must be administered by the ordinary courts of justice, presided by the representatives of the people and by those persons who are in complete accord with it in their desire for good government; that the functions and duties related to civil and municipal administration shall reside and shall be exercised by these functionaries who like to accept the assistance of the United States, elected, as far as it is workable, from among the inhabitants of the islands; that in the meantime that the management of public property and revenue and the use of public transport shall be carried out under direction of the military authorities until such time that it can be substituted by civilian administrators, all properties owned by individual persons or corporations shall be respected and duly protected, whenever property owned by individual person is to be used for military purposes, its value shall be paid in money; if monetary payment is not possible at the moment, corresponding receipts shall be issued and they shall be liquidated and satisfaction shall be made whenever there are available funds. The ports of the Philippines shall be open to commerce, of all foreign countries and the goods and merchandise, the entry of which is not prohibited by the military authorities for special reasons, shall be admitted by means of payment of dues and tariffs in vigor at the time of its importation. The President ends his instructions with the following words:

And lastly the Administration’s supreme and true aspiration must be to gain the trust, respect and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines, and as much as possible, they should be given a complete guarantee of individual rights, and of freedom which is the patrimony of a free people. They should show in act, that the mission of the United States is one of beneficent assimilation which will see to it that arbitrary power is substituted by an indulgent government of justice and reason.

In complying with this sublime Mission and at the same time maintaining the temporal administration of matters, the strong arm of the authorities shall be prepared to repress disorder and to overcome all obstacles that may come across the way of a good and stable government over the inhabitants of the Philippine islands.

Judging from the text of the foregoing instructions of the President, I believe that the intention of the United States government is to provide general direction about certain matters, and to appoint the representatives that now form the directorship composed of Filipinos in order for them to occupy position of responsibility and confidence properly reserved for civilians, and it is my duty to appoint to those positions Filipinos who might deserve the approval of higher authorities in Washington. I likewise believe that it is the intention of the United States to recruit from among the Filipino military forces from the islands whenever possible and those who are in harmony with a free and well-constituted government, and it is my desire to inaugurate this kind of policy. Similarly, I am convinced that the United States government intends to try to establish a most liberal government over these islands, wherein the people itself will have all possible representation with regard to the maintenance of law and that it will be susceptible to development in the area of increasing the representation, to granting of greater powers to a government which is free and independent, similar to this which are being enjoyed by the ore favored provinces of the world.

It will be my constant effort, that of cooperating with the Filipino people, so that they might be able to look after the welfare of their country, and I beg your complete confidence and support.

E. S. OTIS

Major General of the volunteers of
the United States Military Governor

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Imagen: Full Circle.

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NHCP asserts its authority against Alimodian Mayor

Finally, we have good tidings in favor of built heritage conservation (a rarity nowadays)! 😃

Two months ago, news broke out that Mayor Geefre Alonsabe of Alimodian, Iloílo Province was planning to desecrate their centuries-old town plaza by constructing a ₱4.6-million multipurpose building which will take up about ¼ of the area. This, of course, didn’t sit well with the townsfolk, heritage advocates, and even concerned netizens, not to mention that the planned structure is a violation of Republic Act No. 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. But the mayor was stubborn, claiming that the plaza is not even half a century old, and that majority of Alimodianons are backing him up on the planned building.

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How Mayor Alonsabe’s multipurpose building would have eaten up considerable space of his town’s plaza had its construction pushed through (image: Raymond Deza).

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) stepped in to enforce the said heritage law to protect Alimodian’s town plaza from being disrespected by its own mayor, thus putting a halt to the construction of the building. Mayor Alonsabe made a formal appeal early last month. On September 20, the NHCP finally released its decision regarding the matter…

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Copy of NCHP letter furnished by Nereo Cajilig Luján, chief of Iloílo Provincial Government’s Public Information and Community Affairs Office.

 

The NHCP decision, signed by its chairman, Dr. René Escalante, proved to be a major blow to the mayor and this project’s contractors, but it is a huge victory nonetheless for Alimodian’s heritage and history. It is even a much bigger victory for our country’s struggle in conserving its built heritage considering the alarming fact that we have been losing several heritage structures to both greedy and apathetic people through the years: the Manila Jai Alai Building in Ermita, the Alberto Mansion in Biñán, the Michel Apartments in Malate, and the list just goes on and on. I haven’t even mentioned the countless ancestral houses or bahay na bató all over the country that have been lost to wear and tear and total neglect.

And even as I write this, several more heritage structures such as El Hogar Filipino in Binondo,  the Puente de Barit in Laoag, and Life Theater in Quiapò just to name a few are in grave danger of disappearing to give way to “progress”. And while some structures were saved from the wrecking ball, others were not as fortunate as they still suffered the shame of defacement (remember the sorry state of the Church of Calumpit when it was turned into a “wedding cake”?). And whatever happened to the people behind the demolition and/or defacement of our few remaining historic structures? They remain free from the penalties of R.A. 10066. That could be one major reason as to why the said law is still being flagrantly violated. That is why this recent move from the NHCP is a cause for celebration as this could be the impetus that tired heritage advocates have been waiting for. At last, R.A. 10066 is now showing some teeth!

Protecting a town plaza, no matter how cumbersome looking it may be to the general populace, is not a derisory activity. Same thing goes to protesting the planned demolition of a rickety looking bridge over a polluted river, or an old toppled-down jailhouse in the midst of a slum. Remember: built heritage is another facet of our national identity. It tells a locality’s story. These cultural treasures are remnants of a once glorious past that even today’s progress could never equal.

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Ople on the Spanish language

Having been founded in 1922, the Premio Zóbel is considered as the country’s oldest literary award open to all Filipino writers in the Spanish language. Among those who had won the prestigious prize were poet Manuel Bernabé (1924), diplomat León Mª Guerrero III (1963), and renaissance man Guillermo Gómez Rivera (1975). But in the late 1960s to the early 1970s, it was put to a halt because the number of participants dwindled. In 1974, the Zóbel de Ayala clan changed the rules of the contest so that anyone in Filipinas who promoted the preservation of the Spanish language could become an awardee. Nineteen years later, in 1993, Senator Blas Ople, a non-Spanish speaker, became a consequence of that 1974 decision.

Image result for premio zobel ople

“80 Años del Premio Zóbel”, a compendium of Premio Zóbel’s history, was published in 2000. The book’s author, Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes, was herself an awardee in 1998.

This is not to say that the choosing of the then neophyte senator was nothing short of a scandalous matter among Filipino writers in the Spanish language. He received the award “por sus relevantes méritos en pro de la cultura hispano-filipina” (for his relevant merits in favor of the Spanish language). One such merit was the following essay that he wrote in his column “Windows” which used to appear in Panorama magazine (a supplement of Manila Bulletin’s Sunday issue). The essay was published on 30 August 1992, a year before he was awarded a Premio Zóbel medal.

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Blas Ople (1927–2003).

Our Spanish past lingers in Iloílo with subtle charm
Blas Ople

Having sat down from the rigors of an obligatory speech on current issues, I thought I would sip my coffee in peace, mentally braced for an evening of pleasant boredom.

This was Iloílo City, and the Lions clubs from all over Panay and some from Negros Occidental had filled the vast hall of the Hotel del Río by the river, for the 42nd anniversary of the Iloílo City Host Lions Club. Then magically, the grace and charm of our Spanish past rose before our eyes.

Dancers in full Spanish costumes, platoon-size formations, materialized on the floor. They called on a vast repertory, not just one, two, or three, but many numbers, turning an otherwise banal dinner into a bewitching hour redolent of history. It was only in Iloílo, I thought, that simple housewives, many of them now grandmothers, could be formed into flamenco dancers of such charm, on demand (I was told later they rehearsed for a month for this show).

I gathered that Iloílo and nearby Bacólod are just about the last places where sizable remnants of an elderly Spanish-speaking generation may be found, though this, too, is slowly fading away. But the rhythms of Spain will probably long outlive the Castilian speech in these parts, judging from the authentic passion of those movements we watched that night.

Compared with these, the rigodón de honor danced by the elite in Tagálog cities and towns has to be judged a pale initiation.

Few Filipinos are of course shedding a tear on the waning of our Spanish past, except as this has been subsumed in native speech and customs. The memories of those early centuries still rankle.

This is the revenge of Rizal and del Pilar, whose works have molded, through generations, our impressions of the era of Spain in the Philippines. But when recently, all the countries of the Iberian world met in México, as though eager to repossess their common heritage from their Spanish past, I felt a certain pain to realize that the Philippines alone was not present, for the reason that we have disinvited ourselves.

I should reveal this now. In the Constitutional Commission of 1986, I fought until the end to have Spanish retained in the new Constitution as an official language, together with Filipino and English. I wanted at least an explicit recognition of Spanish as such a language until the wealth of historical material in our archives, most of this in Spanish, can be fully translated into English or Filipino.

But the real reason was that I wanted to preserve our last formal links with the Iberian world, which includes most of the countries in Latin Américas with a population of about 400 million. I remember Claro M. Recto’s sentimental journey to Spain, which was aborted by a heart attack in Rome. If we lost that final strand of solidarity with the Spanish-speaking world, we, too, would never get to Spain.

It was as though both sides had agreed on a policy of mutual forgetfulness.

The “radicals” in the Con-Com strongly advised me not to press the provision on Spanish, because this would have the effect of reopening other controversial issues in the draft charter. It could delay the framing of the Constitution beyond an acceptable deadline.

My worst fears have been realized. We have expelled ourselves from the Iberian community of nations. The rift is final, and will never be healed.

But I felt the charms of our Spanish past will linger longest in places like Iloílo, and during that enchanted evening, I was glad for the opportunity to savor them. We may have left the Iberian world of our free choice, but the hold of Spain will never really cease in the Filipino heart.

To those who are unfamiliar with the issue, it was former President Corazón Aquino’s Constitutional Commission of 1986 (the one mentioned by Senator Ople in his column) that decided the fate of the Spanish language in Filipinas. It should be remembered that Spanish had been our country’s official language beginning 24 June 1571. It may had been unceremoniously booted out from the 1973 Constitution by pro-Tagálog politicians during the 1971 Philippine Constitutional Convention under Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency, but the former strongman, realizing its worth, issued Presidential Decree No. 155 two months after the 1973 Constitution was ratified. Believe it or not, this forgotten Marcos decree recognized Spanish (alongside the English language) as one of Filipinas’s official languages. It thus absolves his 1973 Constitution of any culpability when one wishes to point an accusing finger at the “killer” of the Spanish language in our country.

All index fingers will of course lead to the present constitution, the progenitor of the Constitutional Commission of 1986. No wonder Ople was devastated: he was its member, he fought for the Spanish language’s preservation in the present constitution, yet he was blocked by those radicals from doing so (they were probably those whom Hispanistas and non-Tagálogs today derisively call as “Tagalistas“). That is why, out of disillusionment (or anger?), he wrote that painful statement that we Filipinos have expelled ourselves from the Spanish-speaking community of nations.

But that was 1992. It’s 2018 now, and attitudes toward the Spanish language and our country’s past under Spain for that matter have drastically changed. The enlightened Filipino youth of today will surely disagree with the late Senator’s statement that the rift done by the present constitution’s non-inclusion of Spanish was final, and that it will never be healed. Already, we have several groups in social media, particularly in Facebook, that advocate the return of the Spanish language to Filipino mainstream society such as the SPANISH language should be back in the PHILIPPINES!Oficialización del Español en Filipinas (this one has more than eleven thousand members!), and Defensores de la Lengua Española en Filipinas. Outside of Facebook are blogs that extol the virtues and blessings of our country’s Spanish past: we can cite With One’s PastHecho Ayer, and the Hispanic Indio just to name a few. Then there is Jemuel Pilápil who organized the Sociedad Hispano-Filipina together with other Hispanists to safeguard and promote the language, thus inspiring me to label him as the new Isagani (watch out for his group’s website to be launched very soon!). The presence of Instituto Cervantes de Manila with its monthly cultural events is a great boost in the efforts to “reintroduce” the Spanish language and culture to our country. Not too long ago, renowned Spanish-speaking Filipinos launched a documentary citing the importance of the Spanish language as part of our national identity and heritage. Even our country’s premiere historian today, Ambeth Ocampo, already revealed himself as far removed from the usual anti-Spain mold of historians by producing very impartial write-ups about our country’s Hispanic past. Says Ocampo in one of his writings:

The concept of Filipino began not with pre-Hispanic indios but with Spain. Individuals known as Filipinos cannot be traced beyond 1521 when Magellan sailed into the Philippine archipelago. Filipino was mainly a geographic term to begin with, and the notion of Filipinas, a place, a nation, cannot be pushed beyond the first Spanish settlement established by Miguel López de Legazpi in 1565.

I could go on and on, but the point is clear: the rift done by Tita Cory’s flawed constitution is not final. Ople’s fight for the Spanish language’s rightful place in the Filipino cosmos didn’t go for naught. We are healing!

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The town plaza of Alimodian, Iloílo is in grave danger

Last week, I was explaining to my son Mómay the importance of the Spanish language to us Filipinos by using this latest irritating news from Alimodian, Iloílo…

Alimodian mayor tells NHCP town plaza not a historical site

Published 

By Tara Yap

Iloílo City— Mayor Geefre Alonsabe of Alimodian town challenged members of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to reconsider their decision questioning the municipal government’s decision to build a multi-purpose project in the town plaza because the site is a heritage property.

The plaza of Alimodian town in Iloilo province is the controversial site for the construction of a multi-purpose hall.  The plaza has been declared as an Important Cultural Property. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The plaza of Alimodian town in Iloílo province is the controversial site for the construction of a multi-purpose hall. The plaza has been declared as an Important Cultural Property. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“I challenge them. They should come and check,” Alonsabe said.

The NHCP earlier advised the municipal government of Alimodian to find a different site for the multi-purpose building and not build it inside the town’s plaza, which has been declared as an Important Cultural Property (ICP). The commission’s decision came after a group wrote to NHCP chairman René Escalante that the project site is within the town plaza, which they consider to be part of their heritage.

Due to the complaint, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Iloilo 4th District Engineering Office) temporarily halted the project to coordinate with NHCP and other agencies.

Despite being told to find another local, Alonsabe is firm that majority of Alimodian residents want the multi-purpose hall to be constructed within the plaza. He also reiterated the General Welfare clause of the Local Government Code. “We need a covered court for our activities. This will benefit our people,” Alonsabe said.

Alimodian official are not fully aware of how the plaza is an ICP. “On behalf of the LGU, we do not have papers declaring the plaza as heritage property,” Alonsabe said.

Alonsabe added that the marker of the then National Historical Institute (NHI) does not indicate the ICP status. Alonsabe also reiterated that the current plaza is not 50 years old.

Mayor Alonsabe wants to construct a multi-purpose hall right within the town plaza. If he does that, the town plaza will be transformed beyond recognition. There might not even be a town plaza anymore. Thankfully, the NHCP is blocking the project because the plaza is a heritage property. But the mayor insists that it isn’t, even saying that the plaza is not yet 50 years old!

To students of history, it is common knowledge that all Spanish-era towns (then called poblaciones) include plazas. Whenever a parish church was built during that era, it was almost unthinkable not to construct a plaza right in front of it.

We then consulted an old book, the “Diccionario Geográfico, Estadístico, Histórico de las Islas Filipinas” (Volume 1), published in 1850 by Fr. Manuel Buzeta and Fr. Felipe Bravo, to check if Alimodian is a Spanish-era town. On pages 287 to 288, we found what we’re looking for…

Alimodian was founded in 1784 with only 1,602 houses. Its church, dedicated to Santo Tomás de Villanueva, was under the diocese of Cebú. Aside from the church, the town already had a convent, a public cemetery, a court (of justice), and even a jailhouse. In short, it was already a completely functioning town.

Could you just imagine a completely functioning town during those days without a plaza?

It’s pure tomfoolery on the part of Mayor Alonsabe to say that the plaza is not even 50 years old in order to justify his dimwitted plan of setting up his multi-purpose grotesquerie within a heritage site. But then again, he might make another excuse saying that he doesn’t know Spanish, that’s why he’s ignorant of his own town’s history.

What a shame. Because of the Spanish language, my 14-year-old son and I now know more about Alimodian’s history compared to its own mayor. And since we now know its historical background, we have come to appreciate it as well. And to think that we haven’t even been to that beautiful historic town of his that he wishes to desecrate in the name of… what?… contracts?

Sin vergüenza.

Mærsk Line took over where the galleon trade had left off

Three days ago (July 12), shipping giant Mærsk Line commemorated its 90th year in the business. On that date 90 years ago, its first vessel made a historic voyage that was to become the first of many. And our country, Filipinas, was part of its first ever route!

It all began when LEISE MÆRSK, the first diesel motor vessel to enter the Mærsk fleet, sailed from Baltimore, Maryland on 12 July 1928 and made stops for more cargo in New York, New York and Savannah, Georgia. It then passed through the Panamá Canal and made a port of call in San Pedro, Los Ángeles. LEISE MÆRSK arrived in Yokohama, Japan on 10 September and continued to Kobe and Moji before calling Manila and Iloílo in late September.

 

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LEISE MÆRSK was the first ship to be used on the USA-Asia route when the company started operations in 1928. It was sunk while sailing under the British flag in November 1940, at the onset of World War II.

 

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Mærsk Line’s first route: from Baltimore, Maryland, USA to Iloílo City, Iloílo Province, Filipinas.

Today, Mærsk Line has become the largest container shipping company in the world, unequaled by none, and with many shipping brands under its helm, some of which do regular business in our country (MCC, Safmarine, etc.), thus providing thousands of jobs for Filipinos and even opening up international business opportunities for both exporters and importers.

In world history, the route and extent of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (1565—1815) was considered by historians as the first “global village” in the sense that it reduced the world market into a mere village, i.e., any product can be sold almost anywhere. Today, Mærsk Line has taken over the reins of that fabled galleon trade, connecting virtually all seven continents of the world (yes, the polar regions included) with its varied trade routes.

Happy 90th anniversary to Mærsk Line, the crown jewel of A.P. Møller–Mærsk A/S!

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#MaerskLineat90 #90thAnniversary