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! 

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.


How to celebrate the rites and blessings of Epiphany

Epiphany is one of the Chuch’s major and spectacular feasts. It occurs on January 6th, the final day of the 12 days of Christmas (in some locations it is transferred to the Sunday between January 2 – 8). In some places it is also called Twelfth night or Three Kings Day. This is the day the Church commemorates the Magi arriving to give homage to the newborn King of Kings with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolic of all the Gentile nations coming into the Kingdom of God. In many places around the world, this was the traditional day of gift-giving in celebration of Christmas.

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There is a long-standing Epiphany tradition of marking churches, homes, schools, and other buildings with a special ‘holy formula’ over the entryway using chalk that has been blessed for this purpose on Epiphany. This formula includes the current year along with the initials C, M, and B in the order shown below.
20 + C + M + B + 18 
The C, M, and B are placed in between the numbers of the current year, with crosses in between each symbol. The three letters have two significations: the invocation Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house), as well as the first initial of the names of the three Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.

Click here for the rest of the article (by Gretchen Filz). Happy Three Kings!

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 they are. 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 do 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.

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.


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! 😊

Writing prolificity

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Image: FUCCHA.

“Write only when there is something you know; and not before; and not much later.”
—Ernest Hemingway—

Last month, US film company Universal Studios announced the title of the sequel to Jurassic World, that science-fiction adventure film which earned more than a billion dollars two years ago. Titled Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, it will be the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park film series, all of which were based on two best-selling novels by the late Michael Crichton (1942—2008): Jurassic Park, published in 1990, and; The Lost World, published in 1995.

Crichton was a very prolific writer. He had published 25 novels and 4 non-fiction books in his lifetime, not even counting several short stories that saw print in various magazines. So prolific was he that there were even times that he was able to publish two or three novels in the course of only a year. And even after his death, three more novels of his saw print. The guy was a virtual writing machine.

One other prolific writer from the US, also a novelist, was Stephen King, arguably more well-known than Crichton because many of his horror novels were adapted into films that played well in the box office. King, who is turning 70 in a few months, appears to be more prolific than Crichton; he has published 57 novels, 5 non-fiction, and several other publications (short stories, novellas, etc.).

Skeptics who have not yet read both Crichton and King might think that, with the rate that they publish books through the years, their works might had been hurried, thus robbing them of quality storytelling. But fans of both Crichton and King (myself included) will immediately tell them that it is far from the truth. Both novelists have crafted into each of their books the kind of entertainment that will glue readers to their seats for a prolonged period of time. Even in fast-paced scenes, readers will not sense any hurriedness in their writing. Each sequence, every subplot, is carefully crafted and well thought out. That’s how damn good these writers are. There is an apt adjective to describe their books: page-turners.

For sure, a lot of writers from the US are page-turners like Crichton and King no matter what genre they’re using. Many of their names are familiar to us (Judith Arnold, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, etc.) even though we have not yet read any of their works because they have become homegrown, always marketed as best-selling authors, which is always the case anyway. Back in college, I remember one brief chat that I had with one of our instructors about these amazing US writers. While our country has its fair share of excellent writers in English, how come almost none of them are best-sellers? Why couldn’t we produce such page-turners? His reply had stupefied me for years: those US authors absolutely do nothing anymore but write. And because they can afford to give 100% of their time towards writing, it is always expected that they can churn out some of today’s best stories and write-ups. On producing excellent writing, King has this to say:

“Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.”

But here in our country, the Filipino writer is forever burdened with other tasks other than reading and writing. In his book The House of True Desire: Essays on Life and Literature, National Artist Cirilo Bautista perfectly describes the dilemma faced by his fellow writers:

“…the Filipino writers cannot live by writing alone, no matter how masterful they may be.”

“My magnum opus, The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus… took me thirty years… The enterprise begot another odd aspect by the fact that I stood to gain nothing monetary by its realization; indeed, it depressed me by its fruitfulness and drove me to misanthropy by its selfish demand on my attention.”

Most of our best writers today are those who use English. Young Filipino writers are always encouraged to hone their writing craft in this language. Even the English Division of the Palanca Awards is the most sought-after contest in the country’s biggest literary award-giving body. But up to now, even after more than a century of English education, the only writer we have ever produced to be of the same caliber as Crichton or King is Nick Joaquín, and only him. It’s because the Filipino writer is poor. His writings, if of any merit, will only give him fame, trophies, but not money which is needed to sustain him. Like Bautista, the Filipino writer is always faced with the dreaded reality that no matter how he strives to make his craft the best it could ever be, he couldn’t because his freedom is limited. The harsh reality of making both ends meet weighs more than art, thus jeopardizing the quality of their works. They could have done more, but employment is a necessity in order for him to physically survive. Crichton and King (and to some extent, Joaquín) didn’t have to worry about monetary problems; they were always assured of huge sums of money. That is why they have more time to focus on the creative writing process.

But the foregoing accounts may have not always been the case. In the last century, we have had prolific writers (and researchers) who have poured their everything into their works despite the absence of any promising monetary award. They may not have had published as much as Crichton or King or Joaquín, but the circumstances they were in will astound any aspiring writer today who are also faced with the dilemma of focusing solely on their craft for the sake of quality. Take for instance former diplomat León Mª Guerrero III who was able to translate Rizal’s memoirs and novels despite his political and legal chores. And then there was the daunting task of writing Rizal’s biography even as he was fulfilling his duties as ambassador to the Court of Saint James’s in London (that biography of his ended up first prize in the Rizal Biography Contest of the José Rizal National Centennial Commission in 1961). Years before Guerrero entered the scene, another nationalist, Teodoro M. Kalaw, wrote essays every single day for the newspaper La Vanguardia. He also wrote several books on history and politics despite his schedule as director of the National Museum and as a public servant. Dr. Domingo Abella was both surgeon and historian. Máximo Solivén was writing profound and up-to-date political commentaries in his column at The Philippine Star while serving as its publisher, making him a writer-businessman. So was Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsín, Jr. who was able to helm those biting editorials that we now sorely miss in his defunct Today newspaper while serving as board of director for big companies, one of which was San Miguel Corporation (he rarely writes nowadays as he’s too busy with his tweeting engagements).

However, it should be noted that Guerrero, Kalaw, Abella, Solivén, Locsín, and a few others like them had the wherewithal to accomplish their tasks. They could afford to delegate mundane chores (cooking food, washing clothes, payment of bills, etc.) to other people so that they could go about with their writing/researching assignments without any hassle, unlike in the case of many writers and researchers today. Including myself. With five kids to raise (no nannies!) and a job that requires a rotating graveyard shift, it’s virtually impossible for me to focus on what I’ve always wanted to do: read, write, repeat.

Speaking of my kids, I remember one meeting that I had with novelist Joe Bert Lazarte in some monotonous fast food near his place in Bacoor, Cavite more than a decade ago. He was then helping me out to secure an employment with the company he was working for at the time. I can still clearly remember how he told me that when he had heard about the news of my unplanned marriage years before, he felt disstressfully sorry for me. There was, of course, no derision from his part. He was just aware of the travails of being a writer and a family man at the same time, and his being distressed was simply a show of concern. If I’m not mistaken, I only had one child back then. Now I have five. Just imagine (disclaimer: in no way am I blaming my family for my shortfalls in being a writer).

I also remember one brief chat that I had with poet Radney Ranario many years ago. Chancing upon him as he was exiting one of his classes, he mentioned to me that he was thinking of going on a hiatus from his teaching job to focus on his poetry, even if just for a while. With a frown on his face, he complained that his teaching job, even if it has something to do with literature, was also draining his creative juices.

The likes of Crichton, King, and many other US authors never had to go through such challenges. But Lazarte, Ranario, myself, and a host of other Filipino writers had to struggle monetarily just for our dreamy heads to keep afloat in this sea of unreality.

For my part, I’m trying my very best to follow at least part of King’s advise just to stay alive, to keep me sane, by reading during traffic jams on my way to the office and by blogging every day. That is why if you have noticed, I have been blogging every single day since the inception of this blog last June 24. Ideally, a blogger really has to post daily since a blog is considered as an online journal. But due to daunting challenges that I face (working as a wage slave by night, as a consultant for two local government units by day, and as a dad in between), I might not be able to keep this up. Most probably after this blogpost, I’d be able to blog only during weekends. Or during my free time. Or perhaps only if I feel the urge to write about something that I know (“and not before; and not much later”).

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, talent and discipline are the true accomplices of a prolific writer no matter what the challenges. Don’t give up on your dreams. The Filipino writer simply has to rally on no matter what the odds.

And those odds are not forever. This I believe.

Suicide run

In the middle of last year, I bid adieu to writing for a variety of reasons. Grudgingly, I shut down my blogs Alas Filipinas and Filipino eScribbles and decided to just face my fate: that I’d forever be another faceless wage slave this side of the planet. There was no escaping my dreadful situation, I thought. I can never have the conveniences a writer should have (solitude, natural light, comfortable seating, etc.). And I am always faced with the reality of sacrifice: that I am an unprivileged family man, and my family should come first before anything else. My dreams therefore should go out the window because it is not possible to serve two masters at once.

I thought that, at the very least, my life would go back to normal, that I’d begin to think and act just like everybody else, that I might be able to garner more friends compared to the number of fingers on both hands, that I might even become a productive employee at last, haha. But in only a few weeks after that hurtful decision, I immediately went back to writing. As I took solace in the verses of José García Villa, Manuel Bernabé, and other Filipino writers in both Spanish and English, I realized that, despite my problems with both reading and writing, I still couldn’t gravitate away from books. And the itch to write was still there. I devoured as much time as possible amusing myself with tomes and tomes of lore and non-fiction. I also dug up old verses of mine kept in various old bags stashed underneath our family-sized bed; I thought that it was the right time to reread, review, and edit them all up, which was what I did. And while I was doing that, I started writing new verses both in English and Spanish. I also experimented with Tagálog (using the original orthograpny). Eventually, I started posting some of them on my social media accounts. They didn’t become big hits, of course. But at least, they somehow managed to ease up the itch and kept me sane.

Also, when I gave up on writing/blogging, I was still under contract with our city government to produce at least two local history books. That was something I couldn’t free myself from. Luckily, I was able to write one which got published and launched early this year, the biography of Abelardo “Captain Remo” Remoquillo, a World War II hero from our place. It was a dream come true, something that I thought would never happen anymore. Quite ironic for someone who publicly gave up writing (the second book’s still in the works, another story altogether).

No, Captain Remo’s biography didn’t catapult me to published greatness, but it was still a dream come true nonetheless. Publish or perish, critics always say to writers. To my mind, that book was my ticket away from becoming a spurned genius. And somehow, it inspired me to publish some more!

As the months piled up, so did ideas from books and news, both fake and true. The war between Yellowtards and Dutertards became more appealing (and appalling) than the war against drugs. ISIS was on the move and has even reached our shores. An imbecile who was voted to Congress sought to change our country’s name. So during these tumultuous times, I kept my silence. I rarely visited my social media blogs and stayed away from online wars. But the ideas kept piling up. They have welled up inside my head so bad that it almost became unbearable to even sleep. I became more and more restless, especially during days when I’m trapped for hours inside a bus in EDSA. As I have written before, my tired mind felt like an empty glass pitcher that’s been gradually filling up with water, then placed inside a freezer until it froze and expanded, breaking the pitcher in the process.

Should I write again?

During one lunch hosted by eminent Filipinista scholar Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera for my family at the Casino Español de Manila early this year, my wife Yeyette told him of my troubles. Upon further analysis, Señor Gómez said that I must have suffered from a nervous breakdown, only that I didn’t know it! My golly. He confessed that when he was my age, he suffered the same thing, and it took him two years to recover. Two years! His advise to me was non-medical but spiritual: to pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostle’s Creed, all in threes every day. That is what he did, and it worked.

Last summer at Villa Escudero, Gemma Cruz Araneta (who doesn’t know her?), my youngest daughter’s godmother, warned me of the dangers a writer could face once he stops writing. She said it is no different from a pianist who doesn’t practice that much and then suddenly goes back to playing the piano again. With disastrous results. It’s that bad.

Little by little, I realized that what I really gave up on was blogging. But I haven’t really given up on writing (as evidenced by those poetic pieces that I post on social media from time to time as well as my first book). Because it’s something that I just couldn’t. No matter how good or bad I am on it, in spite of my fear of mediocrity, it’s something that I couldn’t part myself from.

I just had to go back. The soonest. I had no plans of becoming like that apocryphal pianist.

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When I thought of going back to blogging, I was struggling with the decision if I should revive my two blogs. I already said goodbye to them. And it was definite. But in the end, I decided to just create a new one.

EL FILIPINISMO will be a combination of ALAS FILIPINAS and FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. They will be written in both Spanish and English. My blogposts, however, will not be bilingual, meaning that there will be no Spanish translations of my English texts and vice versa because I find it too tedious and time-consuming. There will be times that I will write only in English, and there will be times when I will write only in Spanish. Or both. But English will certainly dominate this blog because it is in this language that I was trained to write. Admittedly, I write comfortably in it, and I immediately point a blaming finger towards our educational system which has trained me and my generation and the ones who came before us. But enough of that for a while. Although English blogposts have more chances of getting the spotlight on this blog, the importance of Spanish as a Filipino language will always be highlighted and emphasized.

This banner, created by history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz, features the fabled “Cruz de Tunasán” streaked with sampaguita flower buds. As we all know, the sampaguita is our country’s national flower. On the other hand, the Cross of Tunasán, deemed miraculous during the Spanish times, was mentioned by José Rizal in his novel “Noli Me Tangere”. Both cross and flower are also symbols of my family’s adoptive hometown of San Pedro Tunasán in La Laguna province. The name of the blog is also peppered with tiny “tags” or keywords which deal with subjects that I will write about the most on this site.

There might also be a chance for Tagálog to make it here. But be forewarned: I write my Tagálog correctly, i.e., they will be written in the original orthography. So haters (of the UP nationalist mold) beware.

There was also the thought of buying my own domain. But I shrugged it off. Two years ago, my other blog LA FAMILIA VIAJERA which is now handled by my wife suffered a little online accident. Travel blogger Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral also experienced the same fiasco earlier that year. When he shared his troubles regarding having one’s own domain, he made me and my wife think twice about buying one for our family travel blog. And that is why EL FILIPINISMO is on free hosting (thank you, WordPress). Berniemack was right. This is all about the simplicity of blogging. Why buy a domain when we can blog our hearts out for free? Less the hassle, less the headache. The most important thing is that I am able to write down my thoughts and ideas, and then share them online.

Other than that, I am reminded of a time when me and history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz of With One’s Past visited travel blogger Glenn Martínez at his stylish home in San Mateo, Rizal. Despite his blog Traveler On Foot‘s popularity, Glenn refuses to buy a domain for it because it will have the tendency of becoming “commercialized”. This is not to say that I’m totally shutting my doors to having my own domain. I’ll just cross the proverbial bridge when I get there. The most important thing for now is to write.

But what difference then is writing from blogging? One could still write even without blogging. But then, I will no longer have an audience (publish or perish, remember?). I guess it is safe to say that all writers are “pretentious”, but not in a bad way. Because a writer too is an artist. And like all artists from other artistic fields, a writer should also have an outlet in order to impart his views. Nobody writes for himself. That’s preposterous. A writer and his reader are inseparable. One cannot exist without the other.

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Definitely my biggest challenge right now is my complex regional pain syndrome, the major reason why I had to stop blogging last year. I had physical therapy to get rid of it, but to no avail. Surgery is the only possible solution, something which I couldn’t afford to have at the moment. Surprisingly, my wife and a few friends (including Captain Remo’s nonagenarian brother Vicente) discouraged me to go under the knife because it might debilitate me for good instead of healing me. I am in constant pain, even as I write this. Under my physical circumstances, going back to writing is a bad idea, especially since I am still employed in a private company. Other than that, we are still financially disabled, and I am on a rickety, malware-infested laptop that’s been suffering from the dreaded Blue Screen of Death for several months now. But a writer’s got to to do what a writer’s got to do. There is no more turning back. I feel that I have a mission to accomplish, and I will do it. I’ve wasted so much time already. So consider this blogging/writing endeavor of mine to be my suicide run.

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When I shut down my blogs last year, comments and messages from concerned friends immediately poured in. All of them, of course, were saddened, and they made it known to me in one way or another. And during the dismal months between then and now, I always received encouragement from others that I should and can go back to writing. I think this is the perfect time to thank each and every one of them, and what better way than to mention their names: mi comadre Gemma (“Tienes el don. No lo desprecies,” me dijo); Imus City Councilor Raymond Argüelles who revived my interest in historical research and gave me another chance to prove myself that I’m good at it by recruiting me as one of his city’s history researchers; my brother for life Arnaldo who was the one who created the snazzy banner for this new blog of mine; Aris Catáquiz who, when I met him during the thanksgiving Mass for his mother’s electoral victory early last year, personally expressed his dismay when I closed down FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (I didn’t even know that he was reading it!); Atty. Ceferino Benedicto, Jr. who pleaded that we keep in touch the moment he learned that I stopped blogging; John Christian Canda, a history buff who never gave up on me even though I gave up on myself. Señor Gómez who never doubted that I would go back to writing; Poli Laurito (he’s an FB friend for years but I’ve yet to meet him; he pleaded that I don’t bring down my blogs so that people would still be able to access them); Glenn, who never fails to give me words of encouragement whenever I’m down; Ate Che Paderes-Dones who offered to bake me a cake just to cheer me up (I still have to pay her a visit, though); my mother-in-law Teresa Atienza-Perey who is always there for my family through thick and thin; mi compadre José Perdigón who was deeply saddened when I declared my intention to stop writing; Roberto Rico (Gracias por creer siempre en mi); and my spiritual brother Michael Wolf (Guillermo Lobo).

Finally, there’s my wife and kids who put up with me throughout my eccentricities and mood changes. They gave me everything that I needed, from coffee to a good massage, in order for me to write comfortably. Whether I become famous or not, it doesn’t trouble me anymore. Having a wonderful family steeped in Christianity is more than a family man could ever ask for. That is accomplishment enough. ¡Gracias y os amo mucho!

Finally, this blog is not about me. While I might write about daily experiences and personal thoughts from time to time, this blog will deal mainly with the struggle to uphold the Filipino National Identity. Because I beieve that this identity, which is based on our shared Hispanic past that is strongly rooted to the Spanish language and the Catholic faith, will be the source of both social and spiritual salvation of our people.

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

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