I am so elated! I have just been appointed as moderator of the Facebook group PHILIPPINE HISTORY 101 : Nostalgia. It is one of the largest and fastest growing FB groups today in terms of membership and engagement. I just finished an introductory message on the group, and I thought of sharing it here on my blog.

La imagen puede contener: texto

Good evening everyone!

I am happy to announce that I have just been appointed by Ms. Carmen Floirendo as moderator of PHILIPPINE HISTORY 101 : Nostalgia, one of the largest and fastest Facebook groups today in terms of membership (and engagement) that deals with our country’s HISTORY.

I emphasized the word HISTORY here so that all members will realize the theme of this group: our country’s history, of course. While there is still no description nor set of rules yet for this group (and that is what I plan to work on in the coming weeks with Ms. Floirendo), it doesn’t take rocket science to realize that the name PHILIPPINE HISTORY 101 : Nostalgia should only tackle posts related to our country’s history, particularly those that invoke nostalgia. But general Filipino History topics are welcome.

Having said that, I would like to reiterate to all members to comply with this group’s theme as implied by the name. So please Please PLEASE stop publishing non-history related posts. We will not give warnings anymore, especially since there are thousands of you here. If we see a violator, he/she will be kicked out from the group immediately. With just Ms. Floirendo and myself, it is virtually impossible for the two of us to monitor all of your activities. That is why we need your compliance and cooperation. We are all adults here. You already know what is right or wrong.

Please do not consider this message as some sort of “dictatorship”. All we want is strict compliance to protect the integrity of this group. If you feel that Ms. Floirendo or myself are abusing our powers, feel free to criticize us in a respectful manner. And having mentioned that, may we all respect each and everyone here.

Remember: we are all here to promote our country’s beautiful past. Let us all learn from each other.

Lastly, I would like to thank the mother of PHILIPPINE HISTORY 101 : Nostalgia, Ms. Carmen Floirendo, for giving me this rare opportunity to moderate it with her. It is truly an honor!

Best regards,

José Mario “Pepe” Alas

Join the group now by clicking here!

What was Facebook thinking?!

No hay ninguna descripción de la foto disponible.

This artsy-fartsy image is not mine. It’s from Time. Who am I to judge them if they rhyme? 😂

Whenever I login to Facebook, it always asks me “What’s on your mind?”, bidding me to write a post about anything that comes to mind, let loose repressed feelings that I might want to share, boast of any accomplishments, flaunt happy photos, anything, a post that my FB friends can either like, comment upon, or totally ignore upon reading (maybe even scoff at it or laugh about it behind my back). This FB feature further solidifies the fact that, even online, we are still social creatures, that even if we have not seen each other for a long time, we are, somehow, still connected, still friends, still family members.

But what is it, really, that I wanted to point out?

NOTHING. Facebook was just asking me “What’s on your mind?” So there.


Want to ace English? Then learn Spanish

I found this textual meme in the Facebook group Oficialización del Español en Filipinas (Officialization of the Spanish Language in Filipinas). It compares the various inflections of the English verb do to that of its Spanish counterpart hacer. As you can see, the verb forms in English are not as numerously expressive compared to their Spanish versions.
La imagen puede contener: texto
This is just one example why learning English is a piece of cake among native Spanish speakers. Picture this…
José Rizal, a native Spanish speaker, taught himself English. And he aced it.
Manuel L. Quezon, a native Spanish speaker, learned English in only about three weeks. He learned it on a steamship while traveling to the United States for the first time.
Claro M. Recto, a native Spanish speaker, mastered English in only three months.
The first Filipino short-story in the English language was written by a native Spanish speaker, Paz Márquez de Benítez of Lucena, Tayabas (where I was also born). That story, “Dead Stars”, was composed during the early years of US occupation. And when you read her story, its masterful language will make you stop and think how today’s Filipino fiction in English pales in comparison to hers. And to think that we’ve been learning English for more than a century while the English of Benítez’s era was still quite young.
José García Villa, our first National Artist in Literature who is also considered as one of the finest (if not indeed the finest) our country has ever produced when it comes to poetry, was another native Spanish speaker. He was highly acclaimed by critics not just here but also those in the United States.
And of course, there’s the one and only Nick Joaquín, the greatest Filipino writer in the English language, hands down. And, you guessed it, he was also a native Spanish speaker. A fact not known to many.
Why is this so? Because Spanish and English are both cognates. They have so many words that are similar or even identical. In layman’s terms, Spanish and English are “cousins”.
It is no wonder why our grandparents and great grandparents who received good education during the US occupation of our country spoke and wrote better English than us. And that is also why most of our literary greats in the English language (Joaquín, Villa, N.V.M. González, Trinidad Tarrosa, Paz M. Latorena, etc.) usually come from that epoch when Spanish was still the language.
Had we allowed the teaching of the Spanish language to continue in our curriculum, and had our government supported its usage, we would all be writing and speaking English much better than our North Américan invaders.

The day Princess Sarah burned Miss Minchin

Esto fue ese día famoso en que la Princesa Sarah Crewe dejó atrás a la Señorita María Minchin con su excelente español. 😂

I saw this video clip making the rounds in Facebook lately: an angry Miss Minchin got burned upon discovering that Princess Sarah was a native Spanish-speaker. The rather humorous video clip is from that famous 1995 Filipino family-drama movie Sarah… Ang Munting Prinsesa (Sarah… The Little Princess) which starred Camille Prats in the titular role (she was 10 years old at the time). The movie itself was adapted from the 1985 Japanese cartoon series Princess Sarah which was then a huge hit at ABS-CBN during the 1990s. The said cartoon’s high ratings prompted the media giant to make a movie out of it through its film outfit Star Cinema.

In the video clip, Miss Minchin, portrayed by the ever-effective Jean García, got miffed when she noticed that Princess Sarah was the only student in her Spanish language class who was not taking up notes. The little princess tried to explain that she already knew the language, but to no avail. Miss Minchin started scolding her. Enter Señor Francisco, portrayed by the late Tony Carreón, a Spanish language teacher who then inquired what the commotion was all about. That was when he found out that the protagonist was half Spanish after all.

Click on the screen grab below to watch the video clip.

La imagen puede contener: 2 personas, personas de pie, de traje e interior

This scene was a departure from the cartoon series because in the latter, the students  were learning French instead of Spanish (I should know because I was a follower of the cartoons at that time, so feel free to laugh 😂). I don’t know whose idea it was to change the language setting, but it was a good move considering that this is a Filipino film anyway. French is too foreign compared to Spanish. Besides, the late Tony Carreón himself was a native Spanish speaker. Another one of the actors in this movie, my famous friend Jaime Fábregas, is also a native Spanish speaker. I could just imagine how they gave pointers to Camille Prats on how to speak the language. Also, I do remember a former office mate of mine (Tina Jocson, another native Spanish speaker) telling me that she personally knew Camille’s grandparents (father’s side if I remember correctly). The grandparents themselves were also native Spanish speakers. So I imagine that perhaps Camille knew a smattering of the language.

You might notice how I kept using the adjective “native”. Let me continue reminding the very few readers of this blog that Spanish is a Filipino language. It is not a foreign language. Many Filipinos such as Carreón, Fábregas, and Mommy Tina grew up speaking it as their cradle language. That is why local movie scenes like this really put a smile on my face (with apologies to Thanos).

Enjoy the rest of the day! ¡Un buen día a todos!

Debunking historical hatred

I came across this ugly Facebook discussion last year.

La imagen puede contener: texto

The clueless but hateful FB user in this screenshot besmirched our country’s Spanish past, a wondrous period in our country’s history that I have sworn to defend since I was a teenager. So here is my response to his accusations (which, in fact, is what millions of Filipinos also have in their equally clueless minds):

1) “polo y servicios” —> This actually benefited the natives more than the Spanish authorities. Aside from churches, the purpose was for public works such as roads and bridges that were meant for the natives themselves. Many of these are even still being used today. Unknown fact: those who were recruited to render polo y servicios were given a daily wage.
2) “land-grabbing” —> The Spaniards were the ones who brought here the concept of land titles in the first place. Pre-Filipino natives didn’t really own land. Most, if not all, didn’t have a permanent settlement. They moved from place to place, from forest to forest, especially when the land didn’t wield much for them anymore.
3) “demonization of local languages” —> On the contrary, the friars studied the local languages and even wrote grammar books to preserve them. There were even prayer books in the native languages.
4) “creating classes between them and us (peninsulares, insulares, indios)” —> These were for taxation purposes. Such classification still exists today: those who have higher salaries are taxed the most compared to those who earn lesser, such as the ordinary rank and file. Essentially, nothing really different then as now.
5) “guardia civil” —> They were the PNP of those days, a peace-keeping force against “tulisanes” (bandits) and other dangerous lawbreakers. Note: members of the guardias civiles were indios, not Spaniards.

Lastly, don’t treat José Rizal’s novels as if they’re history books. They aren’t. They’re fiction, written by a very young Freemason who was a huge fan of French satire.

Suggestion: if you really want to argue about Filipino History, learn Spanish and read original Spanish texts. Don’t rely on textbook history. 🙂

Twisting the Spanish conquest

In his Inquirer column today, lawyer Joel Butuyan wrote:

La imagen puede contener: una persona, sonriendo, texto

Actually, a friend of mine (Rommel López of the Knights of Columbus) alerted me to this doltishness of a declaration, prompting me to tap a deceased non-lawyer, in fact a high school dropout, to teach this “well-learned” columnist-lawyer a lesson in history. So in my Facebook account, I shared the following:

Joel Butuyan (seasoned INC lawyer) vs Nick Joaquín (Catholic high school dropout). Take your pick.

BUTUYAN: The Spanish conquest obliterated almost everything that is Asian in our people, except the color of our skin.

JOAQUÍN: This is recognized even by those who deny it, as when they assert that 1521 marked a deviation from what might have been our true history; or when they fume that we were Christianized at the cost of our “Asian” soul; or when they argue that if the Philippines had only been completely converted to Islam by the 16th century, not all the arms of the West could have turned us into “Filipinos”. Now that is absolutely true; and the argument can be extended with the observation that only, by the 16th century, the Philippines were already Buddhist, or Taoist, or Hindu, or Confucian, or Shintoist, the West would have conquered us in vain, because, being already formed by the media of the great civilizations of the East, we would be in little danger of deviating from that Asian form. What a different kind of Christian, for instance, we might have been if we had been evangelized, not by Spaniards, but by the Nestorian Christians of Asia; and what a truly “Asian” art we might have had if our first teachers in painting had been the Japanese and not the Europeans. But the office of the historian is not to relate what might have happened but to inquire why it did not — and in this case the answer is one we have been so shyly refusing to face as fact, though it stares us in the face, that it may be for the best to have it stated bluntly at last:
If it be true indeed that we were Westernized at the cost of our Asian soul, then the blame must fall, not on the West, but on Asia…
…We say we were Christianized to our cultural disaster. Do we ever ask why we were not Buddhicized, or Taoicized, or Hinduicized, or Confucianized, or Shintocized, or Islamicized, to our cultural salvation? The reason cannot have been doctrinal timidity, for the great East Asian religions produced missionaries every bit as aggressive as any Paul of Tarsus.

The foregoing rebuttal is from the late National Artist’s famous essay “Culture and History”.

By the way, the lawyer boasted that history is one of his leisure indulgences, and that writing about olden times gives him a welcome break from the toxic chore of writing about law and politics. He also boasted that one of his prized possessions as an amateur history buff is the 55-volume “Blair and Robertson”, a most sought-after compendium among students of history.

In comparison, when Nick was alive, he never declared the same: he didn’t tell anyone that history was one of his “leisure indulgences”. Neither did he boast of all the history books that he had read just to show how profound his thinking was when it comes to knowledge of history. He simply let his knowledge (with a logic to die for) do the talking. 😉

So now we have a lesson not just in history but also a lesson in humility. So yes, dear reader, take your pick.

Facebook outage: a perfect time to reflect

How soon is soon?

Facebook (together with its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp) has been experiencing technical problems for the past several hours. Nobody knows for sure the exact reason for the outage, but it’s been trending on Twitter worldwide (makes me wonder if rival Blue Bird is enjoying the moment).


While Facebook has experienced several outages in the past, this downtime, I think, is the worst. I first noticed it a few minutes past midnight (Manila time) because of the Twitter trends. I tried logging in, but couldn’t. Now it’s almost lunchtime as of this writing, but there’s no news yet on when things would go back to normal. And there’s no specific update from Facebook; the site only says that they “will be back soon”. It’s a wild guess if they’re doing some sort of maintenance, or if their site has really been compromised. To my observation, this is the longest outage in the history of the world’s most famous social networking service company.

I am particularly concerned with the countless photos and videos I’ve uploaded there through the years. If things go out of hand (hopefully not), then those images are gone for good. Too bad I haven’t kept any back up. But I’m sure I’m not the only one. Photo albums are fast becoming obsolete. Even CDs for that matter. All photos that are shot and videos that are recorded are immediately uploaded and shared to various online platforms, with Facebook and YouTube in the lead. In today’s digital reality, where everything has to be higher, further, faster (with apologies to Carol Danvers), what’s the need for photo albums and CDs?

And then there’s instant messaging, particularly Facebook Messenger. Not too long ago, emails have rivaled snail mail. Today, Facebook Messenger and other similar messaging apps provided the death blow to conventional postal delivery. While some post offices still exist, they are there mainly because of the actions of heritage activist groups who fight not only for the conservation of built heritage but also for love of nostalgia.

Online platforms, or the Internet for that matter, have become a boon for many. It has made life easier, comfortable, and even entertaining. It has connected people and businesses in a way that has never been imagined a century ago. We might even say that it has become an integral part of our daily lives to the point that we can no longer live without Internet connection (I could just imagine how stressed out many people are today because of this #FacebookDown problem). But while all this can be considered a blessing, it has become a curse to some. Including myself.

I guess I have to confess this now: I’ve been suffering from Internet addiction disorder for several months already. No psychiatrist has confirmed this to me, but I’ve been doing some research on my own. The symptoms are there: lack of sleep (on top of years of working the night shift), complex regional pain syndrome, and compulsive Internet use to the point that I could no longer enjoy a book like I used to. I couldn’t even finish reading online articles. Halfway through an article, I click on another link. Upon going home, I’d rather watch an online video rather than read or write. My attention span has become short. There is always the impulse to go online.

I do understand that there is still an inconsistent definition of the said disorder mainly because many people today really had to be online due to various legitimate reasons: business, communication exchange, etc. But I am my own mind and body. I know when there’s something wrong with me or not.

I know what’s wrong with me, but I have yet to find a cure for it. So far, the only thing I could think of is a ten-letter word that begins with a D and ends with an E, something Filipinos are notorious for having the lack of it.

Today’s Facebook outage is a good time to reflect on how we use and abuse our Internet connectivity. May we all experience an outage of Internet impulsiveness within ourselves from time to time.