The Friars of Rizal’s “El Filibusterismo”

A few days ago, my daughter Krystal asked me if I have Renato Constantino’s controversial “Veneration Without Understanding” and Gregorio Zaide’s ubiquitous “José Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero”. She needed them for a school assignment under the subject “Rizal’s Life and Works”, a consequence of the late Senator Claro M. Recto’s Republic Act No. 1425*, otherwise known as the Rizal Law. This plea for assistance reminded me of an essay of hers when she was still in Grade 10, or three years ago. She was assigned by her religion teacher to write an essay comparing the friars of El Filibusterismo to the friars of today. My daughter, unfortunately, is a non-writer and doesn’t share the same passion that I have for our country’s history. So she asked me for help. But since I’m busy with other matters, I just gave her relevant reading materials for reference (while chiding her on the side that it’s her assignment, not mine). And as a guide, I cautioned her that it is not just to compare fictional characters to real people.

On the day that she was to pass her essay, I asked for it so that I could review it, but she left immediately. She didn’t want me to read it out of shame, haha.

But she forgot to delete her work from our laptop. So here it is, haha. She wowed me upon reading it. I decided to share it on my Facebook account; I originally published it here.  I am posting her essay again via this blog, again without her knowledge, haha.

Through the years, I have been lecturing my children about the important components of a true Filipino. So even though they are not as passionate as I am towards the study (and reevaluation) of Filipino History, I am still happy that they still carry on with them the spirit of our authentic national identity. That, I believe, is victory enough.



Jewel Krystal Rose Alas

10 – Prophet Jeremiah


It is already well-known that the friars in the Philippines during Spanish times were cruel and tyrannical. This image of a bad Spanish friar is best portrayed in the novels of national hero José Rizal, particularly in his El Filibusterismo. But is this image of bad Spanish friars in Rizal’s El Filibusterismo factual?

During the foundation of our country, the friars are the ones who gave us blessings, particularly when it comes to urbanization. They taught us our mannerisms, how to speak, talk, and eat. The friars were the ones who gave us food that we still eat up to this very day. They also taught us how to be cultured and be morally urbanized (gracious manners). In other words, they were the ones who created the Filipino as they were capable of spreading the Christian faith in our country. Aside from religious activities they did for the natives as teachers of the Faith, they were also farmers, architects, writers, scientists, doctors, etc. The friars also had authority in the administration of the colony.

The friars of Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo who were depicted to show negative traits are only fictional characters. But why would Rizal imagine the friars back then as cruel? It is because he was a Freemason at the time that he was still working on the novels. Freemasons are anti-Catholics which explains why Rizal wrote negatively about the friars. Fortunately, before he was executed, he reconverted to Catholicism.

Unlike those friars in his novels, we all know how they are being respected the right way today. We see them every Sunday inside the church as they teach us the Word of God. But the fictional friars of El Filibusterismo are very much different compared to the friars today. But let’s say that we really have to compare them, we could find some similarities, but not everything. For example, some friars or priests today sometimes handle the Holy Mass in a wrong manner. We know about that priest who rode a hoverboard while singing a gospel song. Others I heard have seduced young teens and other horrible deeds. But these are isolated cases and are condemned, of course, by the Catholic Church. And let us remember this: our country will not be what it is today, a bastion of Christianity, without the friars who taught us the Catholic FAITH.

*The full name of the law is “An Act to Include in the Curricula of All Public and Private Schools, Colleges and Universities Courses On the Life, Works and Writings of José Rizal, Particularly His Novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Authorizing the Printing and Distribution Thereof, and for Other Purposes.” Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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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Why is Rizal a hero to you?

What’s your favorite Rizal poem? Chances are, you won’t be able to name one save for, of course, the usual stuff they taught us in school: the very last one he wrote. Do you even know how many poems he wrote? Are you even aware how exquisitely beautiful his verses are, and what are the usual themes of his poetry?

(as expected, I hear crickets chirping)


You see, Rizal was first and foremost a POET, a passionate bard who masterfully versified his profound love for Filipinas. He began his writing career as a poet and ended it as a poet. He is not all about the Noli and the Fili. He is not all about the Propaganda Movement. It is most unfortunate that he can no longer be understood by today’s generation when, at the turn of the 20th century, our forebears were cut off from his culture by a new language —THIS language I’m using right now— imposed by a nation experimenting with imperialism. When Rizal and his contemporaries were already soaring like Cervantes and Clarín, those hapless Filipinos who came after them had to learn anew the ABCs of another culture. So now we read him through bastardized and oftentimes annoying English translations. Unfortunately, we never soared like Shakespeare and Tennyson using the English language.


There was one, however, who came close: Nick Joaquín. But he was on a league of his own: his first language was Spanish, and many attribute his mastery of English, aside from his being an indefatigable bookworm, to his proficiency of his mother tongue (English and Spanish are cognates). It can even be argued that his translation of Rizal’s valedictory poem was more superior than the original. Perhaps among all Rizal translators, it was only Nick who was able to capture the imagination and depth of the national hero as well as the spirit of the Filipino.


But since we have been linguistically cut off from that faraway culture, our REAL culture, not all of us can be Nick anymore. Not all of us can be Rizal anymore.


Why is Rizal a hero to you?


Rizal is a hero not because of his defiance to authority. He is a hero because of his deep love of country, a burning love that can only be understood by reading his verses (NOT his novels) in the language in which he wrote them. This is something that all patriotic Filipinos should think about every time Rizal Day falls, so that its celebration will not be rendered futile.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC)

It is sad to note that the essence of Rizal’s heroism today has degenerated into mere hero worship and opportunistic commercialism. There is nothing wrong in honoring Rizal, but it is best that we thoroughly understand what his heroism really is all about. Understanding him is the best way of honoring his memory.

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El lanzamiento suave de la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina

¡Hoy es un día maravilloso! Por fin, la página web Sociedad Hispano-Filipina ha sido lanzada el día de hoy por el joven hispanista Jemuel Pilápil.


Jemuel ha estado trabajando en esta página web durante los últimos meses. El lanzamiento de hoy es sólo un lanzamiento suave ya que hay varias pestañas y enlaces/secciones que necesitan ser desarrollados. Pero hace semanas le sugerí que la lanzara justo a tiempo para el Día de la Hispanidad de este año. Y para este lanzamiento suave de hoy también contribuí con un artículo sobre la que se puede leer aquí.

la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina es una creación por Jemuel, un estudiante autodidacta de la lengua castellana (nunca se matriculó en ningún instituto de idiomas), y comenzó el año pasado como un grupo de Facebook. Los primeros miembros de la sociedad son de su círculo de amigos que también son amantes del idioma español, y sigue creciendo la membresía. Pero ¿de qué se trata el grupo? Aquí están los objetivos y los deberes jurados:

  • Divulgar, difundir, promover, y mantener lo vivo el idioma español.
  • Animar a los filipinos que aprendan español.
  • Crear oportunidades para practicar y disfrutar el idioma como por ejemplo viajes, reuniones, lecturas, deportes, conferencias, o cualquier actividad interesante.
  • Celebrar la existencia de la cultura hispana en Filipinas.
  • Vincular a todos los grupos hispanohablantes.

Debe recordarse que hace muchos años, tres compañeros míos (Señores Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Arnaldo Arnáiz, y José Miguel García) y yo planeamos lanzar una página web similar (pero con una gama mucho más amplia de alcance que incluye una “propaganda” para contrarrestar la leyenda negra) pero nada se materializó. Carecíamos de fondos, tiempo y los conocimientos técnicos tan necesarios. Es por eso que estoy muy feliz de que Jemuel la haya hecho por nosotros. Sin duda, Jemuel Pilápil es el “Isagani de El Filibusterismo hecho carne”. Con su Sociedad Hispano-Filipina, el idioma español tiene un futuro muy promisorio en Filipinas.

Enrique Zóbel, el renombrado filántropo, fundador del Premio Zóbel, y miembro del famoso Clan Zóbel de Ayala, dijo una vez esta memorable frase: “No quiero que el español muera en Filipinas”. Con la apariencia de la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina en el ciberespacio, la tecnología más utilizada hoy en día, tal muerte nunca sucederá, y más especialmente, siempre y cuando que tengamos la Madre de la Hispanidad como nuestra guía y patrona.


Nuestra Señora del Pilar es la Madre de la Hispanidad. Esta es su imagen en la Catedral de Imus en la Provincia de Cavite.

¡Feliz Día de la Hispanidad! ¡Viva la Virgen del Pilar! ¡Felicitaciones a la Sociedad Hispano-Filipina! ¡Celebremos esta victoria con cervezas y rosarios!

Even established historians make mistakes

That Batangueño historian I alluded to in a previous blogpost used to be my FB friend. We parted ways when I criticized his favorite historian, a fellow Batangueño of his, for failing to define what a Filipino is, something that really gets into my nerves. For if one can chronicle the history of his people, how is it that he could not even define their national identiy?

I was expecting a scholarly response to elicit debate not so much as to show him that I know more than him but to obtain his perspective. Because that is how knowledge is developed: a synthesis of logical elements from both sides of the fence will emerge to form a new thesis (logicians call this the dialectical method). For all we know, his favorite historian’s difficulty in defining what a Filipino is could be the answer to our country’s problems. But to my surprise and disappointment, he went on a diatribe, prompting me to unfriend him. When he found out that I removed him from my friends’ list, he sent me an enraged private message filled with personal attacks. My golly, I thought. And to think that this guy prides himself as a scholar.

There is nothing wrong with idolizing one’s favorite person, especially if that person has a profound influence on his career. We all have our own idols. But I have observed that many historians today treat their mentors as if they’re demigods who are free from fault. However, once their demigods have been proven to be false idols, they still cling to them steadfastly. That should not be the case. The people we idolize, no matter how accomplished they are, are humans too. We praise their achievements and calumny their follies.

Not too long ago, as I was rereading Gregorio F. Zaide’s José Rizal: Life, Works, and Writings of a Genius, Writer, Scientist, and National Hero (Centennial Edition), I spotted a glaring error. In citing an entry from Rizal’s journal during the national hero’s trip to the United States in 1888, Zaide concluded that the waterfall the hero was referring to was Pagsanján Falls when it was clear on the entry that the waterfall in question was located in Los Baños. Below is Rizal’s journal entry, translated by Encarnación Alzona from the original Spanish, which was cited —and “corrected”— by Zaide (emphasis mine):

Saturday, May 12. A good Wagner Car — we were proceeding in a fine day… and we shall soon see Niagara Falls… It is not so beautiful nor so fine as the falls at Los Baños (sic Pagsanján — Z.); but much bigger, more imposing…

As we can see here, Zaide corrected what seemed to be an error from Rizal’s part when in fact Rizal was being precise. What made Zaide conclude that the unnamed waterfall in Los Baños was Pagsanján is beyond me. Rizal clearly indicated in his diary that it was in Los Baños. He did not even mention Pagsanján at all. Being a Pagsanjeño, Zaide was probably unfamiliar that Los Baños has a waterfall that was popular during Rizal’s time. Me and my family have even visited it twice.

I am referring to the slender cascades of Dampalít.

Related image

While Rizal may have not named Dampalít in that journal entry of his, one should take into account that it was the nearest waterfall to his hometown of Calambâ. For sure, he must have had visited it a lot of times. And while he did not mention it by name during his US trip, he did mention it in his second novel, El Filibusterismo:

Así es como S.E…. ordenó la inmediata vuelta a Los Baños… Los baños en el Dampalít (Daán pa liít)… ofrecían más atractivos…

In Soledad Lacson-Locsín‘s English translation of the said novel, she offers an explanatory note:

Dampalít: A spring, which with the water coming from seven falls or talón in the locality, formed a river bed with crystal-clear water, to which many went to bathe.

Rizal had a penchant of inserting places that he had visited in his novels. In addition, it should be noted that during Rizal’s time, Pagsanján Falls was almost unknown. The most famous waterfall back then was Botocan Falls in Majayjay, and it was even cited by no less than Juan Álvarez Guerra and John Foreman, personages that Filipino historians should know very well. If Rizal had indeed been to Pagsanján Falls, there is no doubt that he would have written about the experience considering that the arduous trip towards the falls and shooting the rapids afterwards were an exhilarating experience.

This Zaide error may be a minor one, but the message I’m trying to convey is this: even established historians make mistakes.

When I discovered the long-lost foundation date of La Laguna Province in 2012, I was met with both praise and criticism. The criticism was due largely in part to my credentials: I have no formal training in historical research. Humorously, a group of local historians from Batangas —obviously the type of people who have nothing to do with La Laguna’s history— were the most vocal online. I told them that I am open to peer review. If established historians can make mistakes, so can ordinary people like me. Finally, I challenged my detractors that if they really think that the foundation date of my adoptive home province was erroneous, all they had to do was to write a formal antithesis to refute it. All in the spirit of scholarly debate. Should they succeed, then so be it. Congratulations. But so far —and it has been almost five years— none has dared to do so.

Even if a historian has all the primary sources at his disposal, or no matter how many TV appearances he has done, his findings or declarations are all deemed useless if he lacks the necessary reasoning or even field experience to justify them. And then of course there is also the issue of carelessness, as already demonstrated by this blogpost. In the end, it appears that the final arbiter of historical conclusions is logic, not primary sources alone.