El Filipinismo Facebook page

 

PEPE ALAS

EL FILIPINISMO now has a Facebook page! You may like/follow it by clicking on the image above, or right here.

This Facebook page, however, is not new. Actually, it is the old Facebook page of my defunct blog FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. I just renamed it for possible monetization (I don’t think Facebook monetizes personal accounts such as mine). I thought of overhauling my social media presence especially since I’ve been receiving a lot of requests from friends and officemates to set up a vlog (more on that in a future blogpost). Humorously, my wife already beat me to it as she had just launched her own vlog last night (please subscribe to her channel; it’s her diversion from her cancer). Her first vlog is raw, unedited, especially since we are not that tech-savvy when it comes to video editing. But we’ll get into that one day. Hopefully.

My other Facebook page, Alas Filipinas, an offshoot of my Spanish-language blog which I also shut down in 2016, is still up. But I only use it whenever sharing Spanish-language content and whenever I feel the urge/need to write in Spanish here in EL FILIPINISMO.

You may also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Fátima as well as the sixteenth birthday of my eldest son Mómay (who could very well turn out to be our video editor). ¡Feliz día!

Biography of Nick Joaquín (1917-2004)

The following brief biographical essay of 1976 National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín written by Resil Mojares (who himself became a National Artist for Literature in 2018) is the best delineation of my favorite writer that I’ve encountered so far. I first read it years ago in some printed material (can’t remember if it was from a book or a magazine), then saw it again years later on the Ramón Magsaysay Award Foundation website (Nick was conferred that award in 1996 for his journalism and creative writing). I reblogged it on my erstwhile blog FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, and I’m glad that I did because the biographical sketch no longer appears on the said website. I am now reblogging it here since I no longer use FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (WordPress might decide to delete it due to inactivity). And it’s Nick’s birth anniversary today. Happy #NickJoaquínWeek!

 

BIOGRAPHY OF NICK JOAQUÍN
Resil B. Mojares

He was the greatest Filipino writer of his generation. Over six decades and a half, he produced a body of work unmatched in richness and range by any of his contemporaries. Living a life wholly devoted to the craft of conjuring a world through words, he was the writer’s writer. In the passion with which he embraced his country’s manifold being, he was his people’s writer as well.

Nick Joaquín was born in the old district of Pacò in Manila, Philippines, on September 15, 1917, the feast day of Saint Nicomedes, a protomartyr of Rome, after whom he took his baptismal name. He was born to a home deeply Catholic, educated, and prosperous. His father, Leocadio Joaquín, was a person of some prominence. Leocadio was a procurador (attorney) in the Court of First Instance of La Laguna, where he met and married his first wife, at the time of the Philippine Revolution. He shortly joined the insurrection, had the rank of colonel, and was wounded in action. When the hostilities ceased and the country came under American rule, he built a successful practice in law. Around 1906, after the death of his first wife, he married Salomé Márquez, Nick’s mother. A friend of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Leocadio was a popular lawyer in Manila and the Southern Tagalog provinces. He was unsuccessful however when he made a bid for a seat in the Philippine Assembly representing Laguna.

Nick Joaquín’s mother was a pretty, well-read woman of her time who had studied in a teacher-training institute during the Spanish period. Though still in her teens when the United States took possession of the Philippines, she was among the first to be trained by the Americans in English, a language she taught in a Manila public school before she left teaching after her marriage.

Leocadio and Salomé built a genteel, privileged home where Spanish was spoken, the family went to church regularly, had outings in the family’s huge European car (one of the first Renaults in the city), and the children were tutored in Spanish and piano. Salomé (“who sings beautiful melodies and writes with an exquisite hand,” recalls a family member) encouraged in her children an interest in the arts. There were ten children in the family, eight boys and two girls, with Nick as the fifth child. The Joaquín home on Herrán Street in Pacò was a large section of a two-story residential-commercial building —the first such building in Pacò— that Leocadio had built and from which the family drew a handsome income from rentals. In this home the young Nick had “an extremely happy childhood.”

Leocadio Joaquín, however, lost the family fortune in an investment in a pioneering oil exploration project somewhere in the Visayas in the late 1920s. The family had to move out of Herrán to a rented house in Pásay. Leocadio’s death not long after, when Nick was only around twelve years old, was a turning point in the life of the family.

Reticent about his private life, Nick Joaquín revealed little about his father. In the manner of fathers of his time, Leocadio must have been a presence both distant and dominant. He was already an accomplished man when Nick was born. One has a glimpse of him in the character of the proud Doctor Chávez in Joaquín’s short story “After the Picnic,” the father who lives by a strict patriarchal code and yet is all at once remote, vulnerable, and sympathetic. In an early poem, Joaquín vaguely alluded to what in his father was somehow beyond reach (“the patriot life and the failed politician buried with the first wife”). Yet he mourned the void his father’s death left: “One froze at the graveside in December’s cold, / childhood stashed with the bier. Oh, afterwards / was no time to be young, until one was old.”

The young Joaquín dropped out of school. He had attended Pacò Elementary School and had three years of secondary education in Mapa High School but was too intellectually restless to be confined in a classroom. Among other changes, he was unable to pursue the religious vocation that his strictly Catholic family had envisioned to be his future. Joaquín himself confessed that he always had the vocation for the religious life and would have entered a seminary if it were not for his father’s death.

After he left school, Joaquín worked as a mozo (boy apprentice) in a bakery in Pásay and then as a printer’s devil in the composing department of the Tribune, of the TVT (Tribune-Vanguardia-Taliba) publishing company, which had its offices on F. Torres Street in Manila’s Santa Cruz district. This got him started on what would be a lifelong association with the world of print.

Through this time he pursued a passion for reading. Sarah K. Joaquín, Nick’s sister-in-law, recounts that in his teens Nick had a “rabid and insane love for books.” He would hold a book with one hand and read while polishing with a coconut husk the floor with his feet. He would walk down a street, on an errand to buy the family’s meal, with a dinner pail in one hand and an open book in the other.

Both his parents had encouraged his interest in books. When he was around ten, his father got him a borrower’s card at the National Library (then in the basement of the Legislative Building in Luneta) and there he discovered Bambi and Heidi and the novels of Stevenson, Dumas, and Dickens (David Copperfield was his great favorite). He explored his father’s library and the bookstores of Carriedo in downtown Manila. He was voracious, reading practically everything that caught his fancy, from the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Vachel Lindsay to the stories of Anton Chekhov, to the novels of Dostoyevsky, D. H. Lawrence, and Willa Cather. He read American magazines (Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Magazine) and discovered the fiction of Booth Tarkington, Somerset Maugham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway.

Joaquín’s choice of early readings was not exceptional. Joaquín and other writers of his generation who were schooled in the American era discovered Dostoyevsky and Hemingway before they did such Tagalog writers as Lope K. Santos and Rosauro Almario. Yet, it can be said that Joaquín never really lost his sense of where he was. He read Manila’s English-language newspapers and magazines for what Filipinos themselves were writing. (He had read the José Rizal novels in the Charles Derbyshire translation before he was thirteen, Joaquín said.) He always had a strong sense of place, a virtue that was to become a hallmark of his body of work. “When I started writing in the late 1930s,” he would recall many years later, “I was aware enough of my milieu to know that it was missing from our writing in English. The Manila I had been born into and had grown up in had yet to appear in our English fiction, although that fiction was mostly written in Manila and about Manila.”

His first short story dealt with the vaudeville of Manila, “The Sorrows of Vaudeville,” and was published in Sunday Tribune Magazine in 1937. (The editors changed its title to “Behind Tinsel and Grease.”) Earlier, in 1934, he published his first poem in English, a piece about Don Quixote. The story is told that when this poem appeared in the Tribune, Serafín Lanot, the Tribune’s poetry editor, liked the poem very much and went to congratulate the poet when he came to collect his fee, but the shy and elusive Joaquín ran away.

Very early, Joaquín was set on crafting his own voice. Writing in 1985 on his early years as a writer, he said that it appeared to him in the 1930s that both an American language and an American education had distanced Filipino writers in English from their immediate surroundings. “These young writers could only see what the American language saw.” It was “modern” to snub anything that wore the name of tradition and, for the boys and girls who trooped to the American-instituted schools, Philippine history began with Commodore Dewey and the Battle of Manila Bay. “The result was a fiction so strictly contemporary that both the authors and their characters seemed to be, as I put it once, ‘without grandfathers.’” He recalled: “I realize now that what impelled me to start writing was a desire to bring in the perspective, to bring in the grandfathers, to manifest roots.”

This was Nick Joaquín recalling in 1985 what it was like in the 1930s. Back then, the young Joaquín was just beginning to find his way into a literary life. He was gaining notice as a promising writer, publishing between 1934 and 1941 a few stories and over a dozen poems in the Herald Mid-Week Magazine and the Sunday Tribune Magazine. The literary scene was vibrant in the Commonwealth years, as writers and critics debated the role and direction of Philippine writing and formed feuding groups such as the Philippine Writers League and the Veronicans. Joaquín stood at the periphery of this scene. He probably had little time to be too reflective. He was already trying to fend for himself while quite young. He was also growing into a world that was marching toward the cataclysm of a world war.

The period of the Japanese occupation was a difficult time for the Joaquíns who, at this time, had moved from Pásay to a house on Arlegui Street in the historic San Miguel district of Manila, where Malacañang Palace is located. Like other residents in the enemy-occupied city, Joaquín scavenged for work to help support the family. The Japanese had closed down the Tribune and other publications at the onset of the occupation. Joaquín worked as a port stevedore, factory watchman, rig driver, road worker, and buy-and-sell salesman. Seeing corpses on the street, working for a wage in rice, demeaned by fear and poverty, Joaquín detested the war. He later said in an interview that the experience of the war so drained both his body and spirit that when it was over, he was filled with the desire to leave the country and go somewhere far. He dreamed of pursuing a religious vocation by going to a monastery in Spain or somewhere in Europe, “somewhere where you could clean up.”

Through the war years, he continued writing when and where he could. He finished “The Woman Who Felt Like Lazarus,” a story about an aging vaudeville star, and the essay “La Naval de Manila.” Both appeared in the wartime English-language journal Philippine Review in 1943. A monthly published by the Manila Sinbun-sya and edited by Vicente Albano Pacis and Francisco Icasiano, the Review also published Joaquín’s story “It Was Later Than We Thought” (1943) and his translation of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios (1944). Readers were beginning to take notice. He cultivated a persona inaccessible and mysterious. When he was asked to fill up a biographical form for the Review, he simply wrote down: “25 years old, salesman.”

“La Naval de Manila” tells of a Manila religious celebration built on the tradition that the Blessed Virgin had miraculously intervened in the Spanish victory over a Dutch invasion fleet in 1646. Already it sets forth a major theme Joaquín would develop in the years ahead: that the Filipino nation was formed in the matrix of Spanish colonialism and that it was important for Filipinos to appreciate their Spanish past. He wrote: “The content of our national destiny is ours to create, but the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy, Spain created for us.” The article triggered an angry response in a subsequent issue of the Review from Federico Mañgahas, then a leading intellectual, who testily inquired why the Review was “building up” this young writer who would have readers believe that precolonial Philippine society was just a primeval “drift of totem-and-taboo tribes” and that Catholic saints can be the country’s unifying national symbols. Joaquín declined to reply but he had raised an issue that would continue to be debated after the war.

After the Americans liberated Manila in February–April 1945, Joaquín worked as a stage manager for his sister-in-law’s acting troupe and dreamed of getting away. In the meantime, he continued writing and publishing. He obviously did not sleepwalk through the years of the war but was writing out stories in his head. In heady years right after the war, he published in rapid succession such stories as “Summer Solstice,” “May Day Eve,” and “Guardia de Honor.” These stories have become Nick Joaquín’s signature stories and classics in Philippine writing in English.

The opportunity to leave the country came in 1947 when he was accepted as a novice at Saint Albert’s College, a Dominican monastery in Hong Kong. The story is told that the Dominicans in Manila were so impressed by his “La Naval de Manila” that they offered him a scholarship to Saint Albert’s and had the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomás award him an honorary Associate in Arts certificate so he would qualify. His stay at Saint Albert’s schooled him in Latin and the classics. He enjoyed the pleasant diversions of the scenic port city and the occasional company of his brother Porfirio (Ping) who was in Hong Kong on a stint as a jazz musician. It seemed, however, that he was too restless for life in a monastery. He stayed less than two years and returned to Manila.

Back in the Philippines in 1950, he joined the country’s leading magazine, Philippines Free Press, working as a proofreader, copywriter, and then member of the staff. At this time, Free Press was so widely circulated across the country and so dominant a medium for political reportage and creative writing, it was called “the Bible of the Filipinos.” Practically all middle-class homes in the country had a copy of the magazine.

Joaquín’s Free Press years established him as a leading public figure in Philippine letters. In its pages appeared the stories and essays that made him known to a wide national audience. The publication of Prose and Poems (1952), a collection of short stories, poems, a novella, and a play, cemented his reputation as an original voice in Philippine literature. He mined a lode of local experience that no one had quite dealt with in the way he did. He summoned ancient rites and legends, evoked a Filipino Christianity at once mystical and profane, and dramatized generational conflicts in a modern society that had not quite come to terms with its past. His was a vision that ranged through a large expanse of history in an English so full-bodied and a style sensuous and sure.

In 1955, his first play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes, was premiered on stage at the Aurora Gardens in Intramuros, Manila, by the Barangay Theater Guild. He had written the play sometime around 1950 upon the urgings of Sarah Joaquín, who was active in Manila’s theater circles. Though it had been published in Weekly Women’s Magazine and Prose and Poems in 1952 and had been aired on radio, the play was not staged until 1955. It proved to be an immense success. It was made into an English-language movie by the highly respected Filipino filmmaker Lamberto V. Avellana in 1965, translated into Tagalog, adapted in other forms, and staged hundreds of times. No Filipino play in English has been as popular.

Using the flashback device of a narrator who recalls the sad fate of a prewar family as he stands in the ruins of postwar Manila, the play sets itself not only in the divide of war but that of past and present in Philippine society. Tracing the disintegration of an old and proud family in the transition from past to present, Nick Joaquín explored what had been abiding themes in his writing across the years.

He did not see the premiere of the play since, in 1955, Joaquín left the country on a Rockefeller Foundation creative writing fellowship. The prestigious award took him to Spain, the United States, and (with a Eugene F. Saxton Fellowship from the publishers of Harper’s Magazine) Mexico. In this sojourn, which lasted more than two years, he worked on his first novel, The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961), a short and early version of which had appeared in Prose and Poems. The Woman Who Had Two Navels is a many-layered and less-than-perfect novel that teases out universal antinomies of truth and falsehood, illusion and reality, past and present, and locates them in the context of the Filipino search for identity. Though Joaquín had been criticized for a romantic “nostalgia for the past,” this novel and his other works, including Portrait, showed that he looked at the past always with the consciousness of the need for engaging the present world in its own terms.

Joaquín enjoyed his travels. He traveled all over Spain, lived in Madrid and Mallorca, visited France, stayed a year in Manhattan, went on an American cross-country trip on a Greyhound bus, crossed the border to Laredo, and had fun exploring Mexico. Spain and Mexico fascinated him (“my kind of country,” he says). He would, in the years that followed, take trips to Cuba, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Australia. Yet he was clearly in his element in his homeland and in Manila, the city that has been his imagination’s favorite haunt.

From the time he rejoined Free Press in 1957 until he left it in 1970 (during which time he rose to be the magazine’s literary editor and associate editor), Joaquin was as prominent in his persona as Quijano de Manila (a pseudonym he adopted for his journalistic writings when he joined the Free Press in 1950) as he was the creative artist Nick Joaquín. He churned out an average of fifty feature articles a year during this period. He wrote with eloquence and verve on the most democratic range of subjects, from the arts and popular culture to history and current politics. He was a widely read chronicler of the times, original and provocative in his insights and energetic and compassionate in his embrace of local realities.

One of his contemporaries remarked: “Nick Joaquín the journalist has brought to the craft the sensibility and style of the literary artist, the perceptions of an astute student of the Filipino psyche, and the integrity and idealism of the man of conscience, and the result has been a class of journalism that is dramatic, insightful, memorable, and eminently readable.”

He raised journalistic reportage to an art form. In his crime stories—for example, “The House on Zapote Street” (1961) and “The Boy Who Wanted to Become Society’” (1961)—he deployed his narrative skills in producing gripping psychological thrillers rich in scene, incident, and character. More important, he turned what would otherwise be ordinary crime reports (e.g., a crime of passion in an unremarkable Makati suburban home or the poor boy who gets caught up in a teenage gang war) into priceless vignettes of Philippine social history.

As Free Press literary editor, he virtually presided over the country’s literary scene. Free Press was the standard in Philippine writing in English because of its wide circulation and Joaquín’s editorship. Its weekly publication of short stories and poems was avidly followed. Joaquin was generous in encouraging young writers and exerted an influence on writers not only in English but in the Philippine languages. In a Filipino generation that had seen outstanding fictionists (N. V. M. González, F. Sionil José, and others), he was fondly spoken of as primus inter pares.

Since he joined the Free Press, he had been a full-time writer. The only other “job” he took was an appointment to the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures, from 1961 to 1972, under both presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos. He took the post because, in large part, he loved the movies and practically did no cutting or banning of films, believing in the intelligence and good sense of moviegoers. He described this stint: “I was non-censoring.”

Philippine society was going through a period of deepening social crisis. The high hopes engendered during the popular rule of Ramón Magsaysay began to dissipate after Magsaysay’s death in 1957, as corruption, factional politics, and economic crisis buffeted the administrations of presidents Carlos García, Diosdado Macapagal, and Ferdinand Marcos. The Vietnam War politicized the Filipino intelligentsia, the economy floundered, a new Communist Party was established in 1969, and a new wave of militant nationalism swept through such institutions as universities and the media.

In the highly charged days leading up to the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972, Joaquin maintained his independence as an autonomous voice in Philippine media. He wrote articles that were current, stayed close to the events, and were deeply fired by liberal sentiments. In a time polarized by ideological conflict, he continued to speak in his own voice and not in those of others. This independence had always been a signal virtue of his writing career.

In the 1930s, when he started writing, he was already a writer apart. At a time when the United States was viewed as “the very measure of all goodness,” and “history” and “civilization” in the Philippines seemed to have begun with the advent of America, Joaquin invoked a deeper past. At a time when to be contemporary was to be “secular,” Joaquín evoked the country’s Christian tradition. At a time when “proletarian literature” was the “correct” line for young writers to follow, Joaquín was the skeptic who felt it was one more instance of local literary hierarchs’ “parroting the Americans, among whom ‘proletarian’ was then the latest buzzword.” He wrote: “I can see now that my start as a writer was a swimming against the current, a going against the grain.”

He had always been a writer engaged but apart. Part of the explanation resided in his character. Engaged in a public profession, with a very public name, he was a very private person. His reclusive character was formed early. In a rare, affectionate piece his sister-in-law Sarah Joaquín wrote about him in Philippine Review in 1943, she spoke of the young Nick as a modest and unassuming young man who was ill at ease with public praise and shied away from being interviewed or photographed (“he hadn’t had any taken for fifteen years”). Even then he lived his days according to certain well-loved rites. He loved going out on long walks (“a tall, thin fellow, a little slouched, walking in Intramuros, almost always hurriedly”), simply dressed, shoes worn out from a great deal of walking (which helped him cogitate), observing the street life of the city, making the rounds of churches. “He is the most religious fellow I know,” Sarah wrote. “Except when his work interferes, he receives Holy Communion everyday.” He was generous with friends and devoted to the family with whom, even in his teens, he shared what little money he earned.

A person of habit, he scribbled about himself many decades ago:

I have no hobbies, no degrees; belong to no party, club, or association;
and I like long walks; any kind of guinataan; Dickens and Booth Tarking-
ton; the old Garbo pictures; anything with Fred Astaire… the
 Opus Dei

according to the Dominican rite… Jimmy Durante and Cole Porter tunes…
the Marx brothers; the 
Brothers Karamazov; Carmen Miranda; Paul’s
Epistles and Mark’s; Piedmont cigarettes… my mother’s cooking…
playing tres-siete; praying the Rosary and the Officium Parvum… I don’t
like fish, sports, and having to dress up.

Though he cut the image of one gregarious with his loud, booming voice; his love for San Miguel beer (a product that turned him into an icon for Filipino beer drinkers); and his joy in belting out Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra songs in intimate gatherings in his favorite Manila cafés, he stuck close to the company of a few friends and hated making formal appearances in public. He grudgingly gave interviews and revealed such scant detail about his personal life that there are many gaps and contradictions in his published biographies. He was not above making mischief on unwitting interviewers by inventing stories about himself. He refused to give the exact date of his birth (May 4 and September 15 in 1917 have been cited) because, he said, he hated having people come around to celebrate his birthday.

He had zealously carved out private space in his home where he wrote reams in longhand or on a typewriter. Though he gave strangers the impression of someone careless and even dissolute, Joaquín was a very disciplined writer. He woke up early to read the newspapers, took breakfast, and, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, retired to his library on the second floor of his house where no one was allowed to disturb him. In his clean and spare study, with books on shelves lining the walls and, in the center, a chair and a table with a manual typewriter, Nick did his work. From 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., he took a siesta and, often, his second bath of the day, and then from around 4:00 p.m. onward, he was out of the house to go to the editorial office or explore his favorite haunts in Manila.

The turbulent days of political activism, as the 1960s came to a close, did not leave this very private person unaffected. In 1970, he joined a labor union organized by the workers of Free Press and agreed to be its president. This was the first union to be organized in the sixty-two-year-old publishing company that was widely regarded as a beacon of libertarian ideas. Organized at a time when Manila was seething with civil unrest, the appearance of the union sparked a bitter fight in the company. When management cracked down on the union, Joaquín resigned. With Free Press editor-writers Gregorio C. Brillantes and José F. Lacaba, artist Danilo Dalena, and close to thirty personnel of the administrative and printing departments, Joaquín launched the weekly Asia-Philippines Leader in 1971 and served as its editor-in-chief. In the pages of the magazine he wrote a regular column, “This Week’s Jottings,” where he continued his trenchant commentaries on the Philippine scene.

Martial law closed down Philippine media, including Free Press and Asia-Philippines Leader. The Marcos government subsequently allowed the publication of a few favored periodicals controlled by the Marcoses and their cronies. Joaquín refused to contribute. Among many intellectuals, silence became a form of protest. Joaquín’s irrepressible pen, however, could not be stilled. “I was never silent during martial law,” Joaquín declared in an interview in 1980. “I’ve never been silent.” He continued to write, worked independently, and contributed to both the underground and aboveground alternative press, the small newspapers and news sheets that came to be referred to as the “mosquito press” during the martial-law period.

Ironically, there was probably no other time when there was as much publishing of Joaquín writings as in the 1970s. These publications showcased his boundless creativity and versatility. In 1977, the National Book Store started issuing popular compilations of his Free Press human-interest features and crime stories (Reportage on LoversReportage on Crime) as well as articles on local icons of popular culture (Nora Aunor and Other ProfilesRonnie Poe and Other SilhouettesAmalia Fuentes and Other EtchingsDoveglion and Other CameosGloria Díaz and Other DelineationsJoseph Estrada and Other Sketches). Such was his readership that, between 1979 and 1983, more collections of his journalistic articles were issued: Reportage on the MarcosesReportage on PoliticsLanguage of the Street and Other Essays, and Manila: Sin City and Other Chronicles. A selection of his speeches and articles appeared in Discourses of the Devil’s Advocate and Other Controversies (1983). It is not disingenuous to say that such burst of publishing may have been fueled by a certain nostalgia for the colorful, rough-and-tumble years before martial law imposed an order of repression and dull conformism.

Mr. & Ms. Publishing published Nick Joaquín’s Almanac for Manileños (1979), a coffee-table book that turns the form of the old almanac into “a weather chart, a sanctoral, a zodiac guide, and a mini-encyclopedia on the world of the Manileño.” Almanac is a romp for a writer whose knowledge of the country’s capital city —from churches to brothels, politicians and criminals, fashions high and low, past and present— has not been matched by anyone. In 1978–1979, the same publisher also commissioned Joaquin’s children’s stories and modernized fairy tales and put them out as independent titles as well as in an anthology, Pop Stories for Groovy Kids. Some of these stories also appeared in a volume entitled Joaquinesquerie: Myth á la Mod (1983). He had been asked to write just one story in the beginning, but he so enjoyed doing it that more followed (“it’s like eating peanuts”). That this writer of metaphysical thrillers also had a deft hand writing for young readers is shown in his essays on Manila for young Manileños, Manila, My Manila (1990), and his retelling of the biography of José Rizal, Rizal in Saga: A Life for Student Fans (1996).

He translated Spanish works into English, something he had done intermittently for years. His most important in this field was The Complete Poems and Plays of José Rizal (1976). Nick also returned to theater. He adapted the stories “Three Generations” and “Summer Solstice” as the plays Fathers and Sons (1977) and Tatarín (1978), respectively. In 1976, he wrote The Beatas, the story of a seventeenth-century Filipino beguinage, a religious community of lay women, repressed by a male-dominated, colonial order. The subversive message of the play, in the particular context of martial rule, lent itself to a staging in Tagalog translation in the highly political campus of the University of the Philippines in 1978. These plays later appeared in the volume, Tropical Baroque: Four Manileño Theatricals, published in Manila in 1979 and in Australia in 1982.

In 1972, the University of Queensland Press in Australia published a new edition of his fiction under the title, Tropical Gothic. An important feature of this edition was the inclusion of three novellas that originally appeared in Free Press, “Cándido’s Apocalypse,” “Doña Jerónima,” and “The Order of Melkizedek.” These novellas are powerful, historically resonant narratives that probably best represent the inventiveness and depth of Joaquín as fictionist. They are among the most outstanding pieces of Philippine fiction that have been written.

He went back to writing poetry, something he had not done since 1965. El Camino Real and Other Rimes appeared in 1983 and Collected Verse, the author’s choice of thirty-three poems, was published in 1987. Ranging from light verse to long narrative pieces, these poems —robust, confident, expansive, elegant— are markers in the development of Philippine poetry. They demonstrate, says the poet-critic Gémino H. Abad, a level of achievement in which the Filipino is no longer writing in English but has indeed “wrought from English, having as it were colonized that language.”

That the Filipino writer wrote in English was a virtue that seemed self-evident when Joaquin started his career in the 1930s. English was the language of government, the schools, and the leading publications. It was, for young Filipinos, the language of modernity and the future. In the late 1960s, however, the use of the English language in such fields as education, literature, and publishing came under serious question as a Marxist-inspired nationalism sought to establish a radical, popular basis for the national culture. Those who wrote in English either switched languages or felt called upon to defend their use of a foreign tongue. Arguing out of his favorite thesis that the Filipino is enriched by his creative appropriation of new technologies, Joaquin extolled the fresh values of temper and sensibility that English had brought into the national literature. As for his own writings, Joaquin’s response to the issue was more blunt: “Whether it is in Tagalog or English, because I am Filipino, every single line I write is in Filipino.” In a more jocular vein, he had written about how the local milieu was irrevocably present in his works: “I tell my readers that the best compliment they can pay me is to say that they smell adobo and lechón when they read me. I was smelling adobo and lechon when I wrote me.”

In 1976, Nick Joaquín was named National Artist of the Philippines in the field of literature, the highest recognition given by the state for an artist in the country. Conferred in Manila on March 27, 1976, the award praised his works as “beacons in the racial landscape” and the author for his “rare excellence and significant contribution to literature.”

Joaquín had reservations about accepting an award conceived by the Marcos government as part of First Lady Imelda Marcos’s high-profile program of arts promotion in the country, but he decided to accept it on the advice of family and friends. He also felt the award would give him leverage to ask Malacañang Palace to release from prison José F. Lacaba, a close friend of his and one of the country’s best writers, who was imprisoned for his involvement in the anti-Marcos resistance. Lacaba was released in 1976.

Joaquín kept his distance from power, studiously resisting invitations to attend state functions in Malacañang Palace. At a ceremony on Mount Makiling, Laguna, attended by Mrs. Marcos, who had built on the fabled mountain site a National Arts Center, Joaquín delivered a speech in which he provocatively spoke of freedom and the artist. He was never again invited to address formal cultural occasions for the rest of the Marcos regime. He was too unpredictable to suit the pious pretensions of the martial-law government.

The fact that government had conferred on him the honor of National Artist did not prevent him from criticizing government. In 1982, he put himself at the forefront of a public demonstration to protest government’s closure of the oppositionist newspaper We Forum and the arrest and detention of its publisher and editors. The newspaper had just published a series of articles exposing Ferdinand Marcos’s fake war medals.

The street appearance was not characteristic of the man. It was in the field of writing that he engaged power. Joaquin was the provocateur who delighted in debunking what was politically and intellectually fashionable. One such “fashion” was the interest in the “ethnic” and “indigenous” during the Marcos era. A legitimate expression of post-Vietnam Filipino nationalism, the return to the “native” was appropriated by state nationalism during the martial-law period. In the attempt to clothe with legitimacy Marcos’s “experiment” in Philippine-style democracy (and authoritarianism) and blunt both the insurgent opposition to his rule and Western criticism of human-rights violations, the Marcos government appealed to “nationalism” based on an indigenous and Asian heritage. In the intellectual field, this found expression in many intersecting ways: the glorification of barangay democracy; the promotion of Tagalog as the national language and the downgrading of English writing; the “Filipinization” of scholarly disciplines; the romancing of the 1971 discovery of the allegedly Stone-Age Tasadays; and the state-sponsored Tadhanà project started in 1975, in which a group of Filipino historians wrote a “new history” of the Philippines under the name of Ferdinand Marcos.

Addressing this trend, Nick Joaquín wrote articles attacking nativism and the glorification of the indigenous and the ethnic. Describing the Filipino as a “work in progress” whose national identity is the dynamic product of the various cultural influences in his history (in particular, he stresses, the Spanish-Christian experience), he debunked the idea of a “pure” native culture and lamented the denigration of Western influence. A vigorous polemicist, he taunted the “new” nationalists with statements such as “Asia, before 1521, was conspicuous by its absence in Philippine culture” or “Those who want Philippine culture to be what it was 400 years ago are afflicted with the Dorian Gray illusion: the illusion that innocence can be frozen or that a personality can be kept from showing the effects on it of time, space, nature, society, the outside world.”

The terrain had changed but Joaquín was fighting a battle he had started to wage as early as the 1930s. Then he was reacting to an intellectual establishment that, infatuated with America, wanted to wean itself from the past much too quickly. Now he was responding to leaders and intellectuals who, desiring to break away from the West, were invoking a golden past he felt was not there. In the years of the Japanese occupation, he was writing against the grain when he wrote the seminal essay “La Naval de Manila.” Then he was responding (whether deliberately or not) to the trend, encouraged by the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” for Filipinos to return to their “Asian” and “Malayan” roots. Now, in the 1970s, he was interrogating the scapegoating of the West and the romancing of “Asianness.”

Polemical rather than academic, he simplified the terms of the debate, drew dividing lines much too sharply, and couched arguments in hyperbolic terms. He was impatient with the either/or rhetoric of indigenists and nationalists. “Why isn’t it enough to be just Filipino?” Quoting James Joyce, he declared of his own work: “This country and this people shaped me; I shall express myself as I am.” He was, as always, the writer apart but passionately engaged.

In A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History (1977) and Culture and History: Occasional Notes on the Process of Philippine Becoming (1988), he showed himself an insightful historian and vigorous cultural critic. Addressing a general public rather than specialists, he said that it was his aim to “open up fresh viewpoints on the national process” by asking “those pesky questions which, though they seem so obvious, have somehow never been asked about our history and culture.”

In Question of Heroes, a series of articles on Filipino heroes that first appeared in the Free Press in the 1960s, he demystified the heroes associated with the birth of the nation in the late nineteenth century. He humanized them, thickened their lives with sharp and telling detail, and situated them in the living context of their times. The result was not just a critical reevaluation of historical figures but a coherent picture of a nation in formation. Culture and History offered a more varied fare of fifteen essays that developed Joaquin’s ideas on what he called “the process of Filipino becoming.” Underlying these ideas was an evolutionary and optimistic confidence in the Filipino capacity to invent himself out of the constraints and opportunities of his historical experience. Attacking the syndrome of shame over the colonial past and guilt over being “neither East nor West,” Joaquín celebrated hybridity. Attacking nativism and other forms of exclusionism, he said (quoting Oswald Spengler), “Historic is that which is, or has been, effective,” and he gloried in what the Filipino has and will become.

There are conceptual gaps in Joaquín’s view of Philippine history. He tended to be too dismissive of precolonial culture (even as it figured in his own fiction), overstressed the transformative role of technology, and was perhaps too apologetic of the Spanish and Christian influence in Philippine culture. There was no denying, however, the intelligent passion with which he embraced his people’s culture and history. Few in his time played as effective a role in the public discourse on the national culture.

The shaking loose of the structure of the martial-law regime after the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, and the eventual collapse of the regime in the “People Power Revolution” of 1986, saw Nick Joaquín right in the public stream as the country’s premier chronicler of current history. A book that he started writing before martial law was declared in 1972, The Aquinos of Tarlac: An Essay on History as Three Generations, appeared in 1983. His chronicle of the People Power Revolution, The Quartet of the Tiger Moon, was published in 1986.

Twenty-two years after The Woman Who Had Two Navels, Joaquín came out with his second novel, Cave and Shadows (1983). He jokingly remarked at its appearance: “Now, I’ll be known as the man who has two novels.” Fervid and dense, Cave and Shadows was Joaquín’s “objective correlative” to the Crisis of ’72. Set in Manila in the steamy month of August 1972, just before the declaration of martial law, the novel weaves a plot around the discovery of a woman’s naked body in a cave in the suburbs of Manila. The search for answers to the mystery of the woman’s death becomes a metaphysical thriller in which past and present collide and reality is unhinged as a social order breaks down in division and revolution.

A deep fount of creative energy, Joaquín was a much sought-after biographer. From 1979 to 2000, he authored more than a dozen book-length biographies of prominent Filipinos, from artists and educators to business people and politicians. These include the biographies of diplomat Carlos Rómulo, senators Manuel Manahan and Salvador Laurel, technocrat Rafaél Salas, businessmen Jaime Ongpín and D. M. Guevara, artist Leonor Orosa Goquingco, educator Nicanor Reyes, civic leader Estefania Aldaba-Lim, and Jaime Cardinal Sin. He also wrote local and institutional histories—such as San Miguel de Manila: Memoirs of a Regal Parish (1990) and Hers, This Grove: The Story of Philippine Women’s University (1996)—and authored or edited diverse other volumes.

He was criticized for “writing too much,” producing commissioned biographies of uneven quality, and forsaking creative writing for journalism. While his Aquinos of Tarlac was a masterful interweaving of the life of a family and that of a nation, May Langit Din Ang Mahirap (1998), his biography of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, seemed like a hurried, paste-up job. While his talent could be quite profligate, there was no mistaking the genuineness of his appetite for local life and drive to convert this to memorable form.

Nick Joaquín’s stature in his country is demonstrated by the numerous prizes he received for his literary and journalistic writings. His contributions to Philippine culture were acknowledged by the City of Manila with an Araw ng Maynila Award (1963), a Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award (1964), and a Diwa ng Lahi Award (1979). The national government conferred on him its highest cultural honors, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1961) and the title of National Artist of the Philippines (1976).

In 1996, he received the Ramón Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the highest honor for a writer in Asia. The citation honored him for “exploring the mysteries of the Filipino body and soul in sixty inspired years as a writer.” Accepting the award on August 31, 1996, Joaquin did not look back on past achievements but relished the moment, saying that indeed the good wine has been reserved for last and “the best is yet to be.” This from a man who was about to turn eighty when he received the award.

In his 1996 Ramón Magsaysay Award lecture, Joaquín addressed what, he said, had troubled his critics as his “Jekyll/Hyde” personality as journalist and litterateur. He had never been the hothouse artist, he declared, and had always felt there was no subject not worthy of his attention. The practice of journalism nourished his populist sympathies. “Journalism trained me never, never to feel superior to whatever I was reporting, and always, always to respect an assignment, whether it was a basketball game, or a political campaign, or a fashion show, or a murder case, or a movie-star interview.” Journalism exercised his powers of storytelling. “Good reportage is telling it as it is but at the same time telling it new, telling it surprising, telling it significant.”

Though he largely played his life and career “by ear,” Joaquín relished how he had moved in the right directions. On the one hand, he could trace himself back to the times when Plato and Cervantes or the Arabian Nights and the Letters of Saint Paul were all “literature” and there were no fine distinctions as to which mode of writing was belle and not belle enough. On the other hand, he had foreshadowed current trends that had broken down the generic boundaries of fiction and nonfiction or “journalism” and “literature.”

With the mischievous glee of one who enjoyed what he was doing, he said that such Joaquín reportage as “House on Zapote Street” and “The Boy Who Wanted to Become ‘Society’” antedated the American “New Journalism” that writers such as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal made famous. Moreover, the fiction that he wrote—from “May Day Eve” and “The Mass of St. Sylvester” to “Doña Jerónima” and “Cándido’s Apocalypse”—bodied forth “magic realism” long before the Latin American novelists made it fashionable.

While Nick Joaquín wrote in English, was published abroad, and had some of his works translated into foreign languages, he did not quite receive the high attention he deserved outside the Philippines. This was something probably of no great moment to Joaquín himself. He was firmly rooted in place and in active dialogue with his Filipino audience. This speaking to and about his people had always framed his writing life. Though he spoke from a specific location—writing in English out of Manila (he had not lived for any significant amount of time outside the capital)—his voice carried far among Filipinos.

In the Philippines, Nick Joaquín was a keeper of tradition and a maker of memory. He grew up in what he called an “Age of Innocence” in Philippine history, an era when Filipinos, seduced by the promise of America and modernity, distanced themselves from their Spanish colonial past and slipped into a kind of amnesia. He saw—having grown up in a home where his father told stories about the revolution and his mother encouraged a love for Spanish poetry—that it was his calling “to bring in the perspective, to bring in the grandfathers, to manifest roots.” In his writings, he traced a landscape haunted by the past—pagan rites in the shadows of the Christian church, legends of a woman in the cave, strange prophets roaming the countryside, grandfathers who seem like ghosts who have strayed into the present. He conjured a society stranded in the present and not quite whole because it had not come to terms with its past.

The problem of identity was central in Joaquín’s works. In an impressive body of literary, historical, and journalistic writings, Joaquín was a significant participant in the public discourse on “Filipino identity.” What marked the positions he took was his refusal of easy orthodoxies. An outsider to government, the political parties, and the universities, he kept his space to be an independent thinker on the issues confronting the nation. From the 1930s to until his death, he was consistent in his role as the critic of what passed for the politically “correct” of the day. In this manner, he opened up spaces for the Filipino to imagine himself in novel ways and act on this basis.

Nick Joaquín lived through eight decades of Philippine history and witnessed the slow, uneven, and often violent transformation of the nation—the American idyll of the prewar years, the violence and degradation of an enemy occupation, the Communist insurgency and the hard choices it confronted the Filipino with, the dark years of martial rule, the waxing and waning of hopes for a better nation. It is history that tempts many with despair. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Nick Joaquín, the writer, was that his was always the voice of a deep, inclusive, and compassionate optimism in the Filipino.

He had always—as Joaquín himself would say, quoting one of his favorite literary lines—raged, raged against the dying of the light. This was true not only of what he had written but how he had lived his life. When many of his contemporaries had long faded into the background, Joaquín continued to speak of his craft with the verve of a young writer. Well into his eighties, with close to sixty book titles to his name, he was working on more. He also continued to practice journalism. He wrote the regular columns “Small Beer” and “Jottings” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Sunday Inquirer Magazine from 1988 to 1990; served as editor of Philippine Graphic magazine and publisher of its sister publication, Mirror Weekly, in 1990; and continued to contribute to various publications until his final days. When asked once if he ever intended to retire, Joaquín was said to have responded, with typical mischief, “I’m not retiring and I’m not resigned.”

NICK Joaquín lived in the city and country of his affections and continued to write until his death in April 2004 at the age of eighty-six.

Sa loób ng Maynilà (Intramuros)

“In October, a breath of the north stirs Manila, blowing summer’s dust and doves from the tile roofs, freshening the moss of old walls, as the city festoons itself with arches and paper lanterns for its great votive feast to the Virgin. Women hurrying into their finery upstairs, bewhiskered men tapping impatient canes downstairs, children teeming in the doorways, coachmen holding eager ponies in the gay streets, glance up anxiously, fearing the wind’s chill: would it rain this year? (But the eyes that, long ago, had gazed up anxiously, invoking the Virgin, had feared a grimmer rain—of fire and metal; for pirate craft crowded the horizon.) The bells begin to peal again and sound like silver coins showering in the fine air; at the rumor of drums and trumpets as bands march smartly down the cobblestones, a pang of childhood happiness smites every heart. October in Manila! But the emotion, so special to one’s childhood, seems no longer purely one’s own; seems to have traveled ahead, deep into time, since one first felt its pang; growing ever more poignant, more complex—a child’s rhyme swelling epical; a clan treasure one bequeaths at the very moment of inheritance, having added one’s gem to it. And time creates unexpected destinations, history raises figs from thistles: yesterday’s pirates become today’s roast pork and paper lanterns, a tapping of impatient canes, a clamor of trumpets…”

–NICK JOAQUÍN, (Guardia de Honor)–

¡Manila de mis amores!

Exactly 10 years ago today, my wife and I did an unconventional visita iglesia within the historic walls of Intramuros, “the original Manila”. Unconventional because more than half of those churches are gone, and the visita iglesia was done in October. Seven were the original churches of the Walled City. But only two are left; one just got reconstructed but will serve only as an ecclesiastical museum.

I revisited those churches again last October 20, a Sunday. Of course I’m a frequent visitor to Intramuros but during those ten years that my wife and I did that rather odd visita iglesia, I didn’t have time to revisit the old sites of those long-gone churches. There were several changes already: new street signs with information cards, cleaners streets, more tourists, etc. Unlike a decade before, the weather that Sunday was hot, as if it was summer (climate change?). I brought along with me again my copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s highly informative Intramuros (published in 1988), edited by the late great National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquín.

Nick was a true-blooded Manileño born and bred. He had witnessed so much about the final living years of Spanish Intramuros. In fact, it was part of his childhood and growing up years. Most of Nick’s works are a fine testament of how the Filipinos, particularly the Manileños within and without the Walled City, lived and breathed their every day Intramuros lives. And if I only had my way, I will revive everything that used to be in the original capital city. Because that’s simply the way it should be. Period. No amount of restoration will bring back Intramuros’ old glory as long as squatters are allowed to live within the Walled City, as long as Dick Gordon’s shameful and hispanophobic Light and Sound Museum continues to exist, and as long as the four of the original seven churches aren’t brought back by the Intramuros Administration, the local Catholic Church, and the national government in general. In the words of Nick, “Intramuros was a collective high altar formed by its churches.”

“And from childhood no amount of familiarity could dull for me the mysterious wondrousness of Intramuros as the very vitals, the hid heart, the secret soul of my city. Every going into it was a penetration — and in there, for a Manileño, it was always like coming home. He was back to his original, essential, eternal island. He was back to roots. Sa loob ng Maynila.”

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Entering the original Manila through Puerta Victoria.

Seven were the churches of Intramuros. Let’s re-enact the itinerary. Entering through Victoria Gate and going up Solana, you reached San Francisco, which was a double church, for beside the main one (its creamy pillared façade rose five stories high) was the V.O.T., the chapel of the Franciscan third order, where was venerated a crowned St. Louis robed in ermine.

1. THE SAN FRANCISCO CHURCH AND CONVENT & CHAPEL OF THE FRANCISCAN VENERABLE THIRD ORDER

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Iglesia de San Francisco de Asís y Capilla de la Venerable Orden Tercera (source: The Urban Roamer).

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St. Rita’s Chapel inside the Mapúa University now stands on the very site where the Chapel of the Franciscan Venerable Third Order used to be.

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Mapúa University (formerly known as Mapúa Institute of Technology) now occupies the site of the Chapel of the Franciscan Venerable Third Order and the San Francisco Church and Convent.

At the end of Solana was Santo Domingo, magnificently gothic and rose-colored, with a side portal opening out to the Plaza de Santo Tomás.

2. SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH AND CONVENT

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Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán (source: Nostalgia Filipinas).

 

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The Bank of the Philippine Islands now occupies the former site of Santo Domingo Church. The new church is now in Quezon City.

Crossing this plaza and passing the university, you came upon the Cathedral, which had wide porches instead of a patio, iron-grille balustrades and, just inside the entrance, a small bronze statue of a seated St. Peter whose toes had been worn smooth by the kisses of the faithful.

3. MINOR BASILICA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION (THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRAL OF MANILA)

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Basílica Menor y Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción (source: Salvador Pérez).

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The Manila Cathedral is actually a Roman Catholic Minor Basilica, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Manila. As such, it is the mother of all Filipino churches. The throne of the Archbishop of Manila is inside this centuries-old holy edifice.

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The cathedral’s tympanum has a Latin inscription dedicated to the Virgin Mary: “Tibi cordi tuo immaculato concredimus nos ac consecramus“. It means “We consecrate to your immaculate heart and entrust to you for safekeeping”.

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Past the Cathedral, a left turn at Calle Arzobispo brought you to San Ignacio, wedged between the Ateneo and the episcopal palace; very high iron grilling enclosing the narrow court that formed a portico to this red-brick church, also known as Jesuitas.

4. SAN IGNACIO CHURCH

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Iglesia de San Ignacio de Loyola (source: Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon).

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The recently reconstructed Church of San Ignacio de Loyola is now an ecclesiastical museum known as Museo de Intramuros. The last time I was here (2013, with my family), this church was still in ruins, but preparations for the construction were already taking place.

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The reconstructed church / museum now houses ecclesiastical masterpieces such as paintings and images as well as other church antiquaries from across the archipelago.

At the end of Arzobispo was San Agustín, with its double convent: the main monastery beside the church and the separate business quarters (or procuration) adjoining the Ateneo.

5. SAN AGUSTÍN CHURCH AND CONVENT

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Iglesia de San Agustín de Hipona (source: John Tewell).

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San Agustín Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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This church is a very popular wedding venue.

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San Agustín de Hipona.

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Majestic!

Going down Calle General Luna and turning left at Calle Escuela, you found yourself at the Recollects’ Iglesia de San Nicolás, least visible of the Intramuros shrines, and with a cobbled patio in front and along one side.

6. SAN NICOLÁS DE TOLENTINO CHURCH AND CONVENT

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Iglesia de San Nicolás de Tolentino (source: Nostalgia Filipinas).

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Manila Bulletin now stands on the ground where the San Nicolás de Tolentino Church and Convent once reigned supreme.

Turning right on Recoletos and doubling back on General Luna, you reached Lourdes Church, or Capuchinos, youngest of the Walled City’s temples. with a painting of the Virgin on its façade.

7. LOURDES CHURCH AND CONVENT

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Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes (source: Apostles Filipino Catholic Community).

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Silahis Arts and Crafts and the Ilustrado Restaurant, both located in Amanecer Compoun, now occupy the former site of the Lourdes Church and Convent. The new church is now in Quezon City.

“What alone survives of the old churches, San Agustín, looks extremely lonely without the busy company it had enjoyed for ages sa loob ng Maynila. And San Agustín has practically given up the public celebration of its old fiestas. St. Rita is no longer borne in procession on a float of Maytime roses; and the Virgin of Consolation no longer rides her silver carroza through the streets of Intramuros on the second Sunday of September — a cult commemorated in Fernando Zóbel’s Carroza. To repeat, Intramuros was the conjunto, of all its traditional temples; without its other colleagues, even the Cathedral and San Agustín are merely crown jewels without a crown. “Maybe a revival of piety (using the term in its Latin sense) will in the future inspire the return to Intramuros of all its former churches, chapels, convents and beaterios. Only then will Intramuros be really “restored” — when again it has a San Francisco with its Tuesdays of St. Anthony; a Santa Clara with its unseen choir of vestals; a Lourdes with its Saturday girl crowds; a Santa Isabel with its shrine of the Santo Cristo; a Recoletos with its Friday pilgrims and December feria de Santa Lucía; a San Ignacio with its fashionable confessionals; an Ateneo and a Santo Tomás back on original ground; a Santa Catalina and Beaterio and Santa Rosa come home again; a San Agustín resuming its public ceremonials; a Cathedral restoring the votive function of St. Andrew the Apostle as patron of the Noble and Ever Loyal; and a Santo Domingo again celebrating La Naval de Manila in old Manila. “Only then will Manileños again have a high altar round which they can gather as a coherent community — sa loob ng Maynila.”
–NICK JOAQUÍN–

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Debunking the historical claim

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. -Carl Jung-

It comes but as an unconscionable delight to a person (who has no more good argument to extract from his wonderful comprehension of events) who disagrees with another individual to attack the latter’s credibility, especially when the former is already overwhelmed by offenses from his foe. Some instances of common diatribes: “You are a nobody; how dare you say such things!” “Do you even have a Master’s degree to lay such claims?” “Have you won awards to make yourself known as an iconoclast?” “We would rather resort to scholars and other published greats than waste our time weighing the merits of your blog!”

The foregoing examples are, indeed, a barrage of poor reasoning. In a world that is wanting of intellectual arguments, hitting on a person’s scholarship —or lack of it— should never be highlighted by an applause nor should be sided upon. Yes, it is true that a case usually wins by an overwhelming quantity of physical evidence and even witnesses. But isn’t it that hard data is prescribed and narrowed down by critical thinking and other related realms of impartial thought? Hard data alone should not be considered as sola scriptura. That is why we humans are so fortunate to be gifted with common sense to discern things that should be or should not be.

On the other hand, those supposedly credible persons who spread falsities and inaccuracies —if not lies— take all the credit. Take this reasoning, for instance, from renowned historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1912-1985):

Teodoro A. Agoncillo (photo: Ambeth R. Ocampo).

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is. All that can be done is to pick out some traits common to the average Filipinos and to separate those that are obviously Spanish or American. The common traits are probably Malay and characterize the Filipinos as a people. (History of the Filipino People, eighth edition, pp 5-6, Garotech Publishing, 1990)

It should be noted that Agoncillo is highly regarded as one of the top bananas in the field of Filipino historiography. A product of the University of the Philippines Manila, he wrote Filipino History from a rather “puristic” nationalist point of view with leftist undertones. He served as a linguistic assistant at the Institute of National Language and also taught at the Far Eastern University and the Manuel L. Quezon University. His seminal book, Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, was both highly acclaimed and criticized. He also taught at his alma mater and even got to chair its Department of History during the 1960s. Perhaps one of the biggest achievements of his scholarly career was when former President Diosdado Macapagal made him a member of the National Historical Institute in 1963. Aside from history, he is also an acclaimed essayist and poet in his native Tagálog language (he hails from Lemery, Batangas).

For all his sterling qualities as a scholar, his statement about what a Filipino is, in my humble opinion, debunks his worth as a historian. How could such a crème de la crème of scholarship find it difficult to define what a Filipino is? The Spaniards know who they are. So do the British. Ask any Japanese to define their national identity and you might end up listening to them for hours. But here in Filipinas, a supposedly topnotch historian leads the nation in claiming difficulty in defining our national identity. And so he resorts to the inner physiognomy of a Filipino, going so far as to claim that our identity is of Malay origin!

Although we Filipinos are renowned for our hospitality, piety, industriousness, etc., these are traits that are not unique to us alone. It is too selfish and proud for a nation to monopolize such traits. And to simply put it, that is not the proper way to define our national identity. It is not just through a distinction of traits that a national identity should be defined; rather, it should be strongly viewed through a shared common history and affinity of blood and tongues and culture and faith and cuisine and song and literature and visual arts and dance and craftsmanship and even architecture. Indeed, various criteria should be applied.

To say that our national identity has been elusive through the years because of colonial trauma is nothing but hogwash and useless rhetoric. Ours is just a simple case of being unable to handle the truth. Our national identity never left us. It has been with us all this time; we just don’t want to recognize it in the same manner that Agoncillo couldn’t.

We do not have to seek nor build our own identity. It’s already here, ready to strike us in the face. What needs to be done is to simply identify it. It is already with us, within us. We just need to tap it. And make it known among ourselves. So to say that we do not have our own identity is tantamount to declaring that we have no country, that we are not a nation.

Or that perhaps we really are a nation of fools? I believe no nation would want to be referred to as such.

Since Agoncillo has been hailed by many as one of the best Filipino historians of all time, how come he was not able to determine that the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571? I just find it hard to believe that he, a virtual legend in our country’s historiography, didn’t know that the Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language. In 1599, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members, and that they incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected King Philip II as their natural sovereign. How come Agoncillo didn’t seem to be cognizant of this fact if he is such a first-rate historian — or is he? In writing his History of the Filipino People, did he conveniently omit the fact that the first true Filipinos were the creoles or insulares, and that the indios (or natives such as the Tagálog, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilongo, etc.) who “aped” them genuinely assimilated themselves into the Hispanic sphere which was then called Filipino in this side of the world?

From a reliable source, I heard stories about how Agoncillo pronounced the disputed Code of Calantiáo as ‘Kalanshaw’ (kɑlʌnʃaʊ) in his UP classes. Worse, the ‘Bay’ (bʌˈɛ) in ‘Laguna de Bay’ for him was pronounced the American/English way: ‘bay’ (beɪ). This only proves that this “Batangueño great” had no idea that Laguna de Bay was named after the town of Bay in La Laguna province, just a few kilometers from his province. This should be a cause of concern and disturbance among those who admire him and —heaven forbid— aspire to be like him. And he’s a decorated scholar at that.

Here is another “riveting” case of pompous rhetoric from another scholarly giant, National Scientist Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (1926-2013).

 

Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (photo: UP Manila Twitter account).

 

According to Dr. Córpuz, the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan nğ mg̃á Anak nğ Bayan, popularly known as the Katipunan, was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation” (The Roots of the Filipino Nation, Vol. II, p. 223, Aklahi Foundation, 1989).

There is something wrong, if not irritable, with this assertion of his. How could the Katipunan embody the Christian Filipino nation when the group was essentially anti-Christian, thus anti-Filipino? As a renowned historian, shouldn’t he had been aware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives? Didn’t he know that Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church? There has been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter. If he was as astute as many people think he was, Dr. Córpuz should have traced the origins of the Katipunan to Freemasonry. Katipuan Supremo Andrés Bonifacio joined the Taliba Lodge (No. 165) and from there imbibed radical and anti-friar ideas. He also joined Rizal’s La Liga Filipina which was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making.

After the failure of La Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, it appeared that the campaign for peaceful reforms have hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who had been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in Filipinas. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan (yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who was the main engine of the Katipunan’s establishment).

What happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros‘ way.

Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation?

Indeed, hard data is not enough to support historical ideas and claims. Logic and a clear-cut understanding of things, as well as a keen observation of our surroundings and time, should quantify these data in order to come up with definite conclusions and concise pictures of what really happened in our country’s past. When faced with confusing historical documents, impartial critical thinking is the key to decipher their messages.

In comparison to the above statement, diplomas, awards, and other regalia are nothing but toilet paper and scrap metal.

Originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, with minor edits. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Father’s Day today?

They say it’s Father’s Day today. I say, “no way”.

For us Filipinos, the real Father’s Day (Día del Padre) should be commemorated every March 19th. Our forefathers knew this. It was the US neocolonialist pigs who subtly imposed the modern-day commemoration of Father’s Day every 3rd Sunday of June for commercial purposes: to sell greeting cards, items that fathers’ love (such as tools, electronics, and other similar gadgets), special promos in restaurants, discounts in resorts, and the like. In short, today’s celebration of Father’s Day (and Mother’s Day) is BASED ON PROFITEERING whereas the real Filipino celebration of Father’s Day is SPIRITUAL (feast of Saint Joseph, the adoptive father of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the patron saint of fathers).

The Father’s Day that Filipinos celebrate today has its origins from the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Spokane, Washington. Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of a US Civil War veteran, was inspired by a sermon from Anna Jarvis who was promoting Mother’s Day the year before, in 1909. Dodd then thought of a noble idea to honor fathers as well. And she was doubly inspired because her dad was a single parent who raised six children on his own. She then suggested to a pastor in the YMCA to organize a Father’s Day celebration that will complement Jarvis’s Mother’s Day. Dodd initially suggested to hold the very first Father’s Day celebration on June 5, on her father’s birthday. However, YMCA pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, so it was decided that they celebrate Father’s Day two Sundays later: on June 19, 1910. That date was the third Sunday of the month. Since then, it has become a tradition to hold Father’s Day every third Sunday of June.

Unlike Jarvis’s Mother’s Day, Dodd’s concept did not become a huge hit on its first few years. She even stopped promoting it to pursue further studies in Chicago, Illinois during the 1920s. A decade later, she returned to Spokane and revived Father’s Day, with the motive of raising awareness at a national level. Interestingly, she received help from trade groups who were thinking of other opportunities: profit. These trade groups had interests in the manufacturing of ties, tobacco pipes, and other typical items that would be of interest for fathers. Hungry for profit, they worked hard in order to make Father’s Day the “Second Christmas’ for all the men’s gift-oriented industries” (See Leigh Eric Schmidt’s CONSUMER RITES The Buying and Selling of American Holidays. NJ, USA: Princeton University Press, 1995, pp. 256-292).

Both Jarvis and Dodd’s objectives were simple and noble: to honor parents. But their noble vision was buried by commercialization which still pervades to this very day. All in the name of US imperialism. So why do we Filipinos have to identify ourselves with something that is not ours, that is not us?

I am a Filipino. Soy filipino. Not a little brown Kanô.

Originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, with minor edits.

Spanish pop songs in Filipinas

After a stressful night shift, I hailed a video-on-board bus on my way home. Not my choice. All air-conditioned buses in EDSA have television sets, and I hate it. Most of the time they’re too loud. Many times have I asked drivers and conductors to tone down the volume, or to just turn them off completely. Nobody really cares about what TV programs or films video-on-board buses play. Whether they shut down their TVs or not, we commuters don’t care (bus owners, take heed). We take buses just to get home safely and comfortably. Especially in the case of us weary employees who usually sleep on the way home.

This morning, I was fortunate to have hailed my favorite bus liner whose seats are reclinable and whose TV sets aren’t usually played out loud compared to its rivals. I usually doze off on my way home, so I prefer this bus liner. The TV was tuned in to ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda when I got inside. The morning show’s guest was popular actress and singer Vina Morales. I didn’t care about the program. I just needed to sleep throughout the horrible morning traffic. After reclining my seat to give my aching back a much needed rest, I felt my consciousness fleeting.

I could already hear Vina Morales singing. Live. Thank goodness the volume wasn’t that loud, so no need for me to complain. But as I was nearing the world of sweet sleep, I noticed that Vina’s song sounded like Latin Pop although the lyrics were in Tagálog. Suddenly, I heard her blurt out “Eres Mío” and a bunch of other Spanish phrases. That woke me up completely, of course.

I was able to catch the rest of her performance. I was impressed considering the fact that Vina Morales is not a Spanish-speaker. But with her mestiza looks, she could easily pass for a Spanish half-breed. Or even a fair-skinned Latin American.

Upon arriving home, I immediately surfed the net to check out that Spanish song of hers. I was a bit disappointed to find out that the song wasn’t new. In fact, it was released two years ago as part of her 30th anniversary album. It appears that the song didn’t receive much fanfare considering that it was the first time I ever heard of it.

This song reminded me of Josh Santana, another Filipino music artist who recorded Spanish songs many years ago. I even remember having written something about him. Sadly, he didn’t become as popular as many other recording artists that we have today. He has since disappeared from the music scene to become a full-time doctor.

But even before Vina and Josh hit the music scene, there was already Pilita Corrales, “Asia’s Queen of Songs”. She has been a recording artist since the 1950s and has in fact recorded more than a hundred songs in four languages in which she is fluent: Cebuano, Tagálog, English, and Spanish. One of the Spanish songs she recorded was a Filipino folk song called Cariñosa whose accompanying dance form is considered as one of our country’s national dances.

During colonial times, many of our folk songs were in Spanish. Even folk songs that we thought we knew to have been eternally in Tagálog started out with Spanish lyrics (there’s Paru-Parong Bukid, for instance)!

If we are to make the Spanish language popular in our country once more as it once was, pop songs are a perfect avenue. We just need more musicians, songwriters, and music producers to patronize and market them. Because they really are marketable abroad, especially since there are more than 20 Spanish-speaking countries that are ready to listen to such songs.

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Ultranationalism: what does it really mean?

It has been observed that the term ultranationalism has become a pejorative description for nationalists who display an extreme fervor to or advocacy of the interests of their country. Those who claim to be “citizens of the world” are the ones who are quick to calumny nationalists, often accusing them of being this so-called ultranationalism.

But what, really, does ultranationalism connote? Legendary nationalist Claro M. Recto had this to say:

It is evident that our brand of nationalism is different from that of our accusers. We have no desire and we have never attempted to deny the national self-interest of other peoples in their own countries. We merely want to defend our own, in our own territory. We are nationalists but we can live in harmony with other nationalists, because all nationalisms can work out a plan for coexistence which will not detract from the sovereignty of any one nation. Those who are bent on carrying their nationalisms beyond their national frontiers in order to overrun other nationalisms have ceased to be true nationalists and have become ultra-nationalists, which is another word for imperialists. Ultra is a Latin word which means beyond in space, as in the terms plus ultra and non plus ultra. An ultra-nationalist, therefore, is one who wants to be first not only in his own country, but also in other countries to which he is a foreigner; that is, an imperialist.

We would rather take the meaning of ultranationalism from a master of words and an expert in etymology (many critics in literature regard him as our Filipino version of Miguel de Cervantes) than from those with shallow understanding of the true import of nationalism. Nevertheless, we have to admit that there really are nationalists who do show an extreme kind of nationalism to the point that they have disregarded or neglected the interests of other countries. But such people are a minority and do not really represent the lofty ideals of nationalism. The kind of nationalism they adhere to can be classified as bigoted or chauvinistic. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters the most is placing ultranationalism in its proper etymological perspective, that ultranationalism is imperialism after all. Period.

And speaking of bigotry or chauvinism, there are actually no “ultranationalists” (to borrow from anti-nationalists’ twisted definition of the term) in Filipinas. What we have are regionalists who claim that their province or region or town/city or ethnicity is better than the rest. Take this photo, for instance:

PEPE ALAS

Photo taken at the border of Tagaytay, Cavite and Nasugbú, Batangas last 13 September 2011.

“Welcome to the Province of the Brave”, says this welcome arch, signifying that travelers are about to enter the Province of Batangas. Aside from the “warm welcome”, what does the message really want to imply? That Batangas is the only province of the brave? And what does that say of the other provinces? You see, there are many ways to promote provincial or regional pride without overdoing it or putting others down. Regionalism is not only anti-nationalist but anti-Filipino as well. We have to remember (and treasure) that the concept of the Filipino is what united our once divided and warring ethnolinguistic groups.

Other than the parochial message, this arch is a total waste of tax payer’s money. As if the arch behind it is not enough (they could’ve just added the name Batangas with that of Nasugbú).

Originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

The amistad between Nick Joaquín and Guillermo Gómez Rivera

This newspaper clipping was published on 16 May 1992. It appeared in the now defunct Newsday and was written by Jorge Seurat (pen name of priest-poet Fr. Gilbert Luis R. Centina III). The column explains the least-known friendship as well as the converse similarity between writers Guillermo Gómez (whose birthday falls today) and National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín.

PEPE ALAS

 

The great Nick Joaquín, proclaimed “National Artist” during the glorious years of Ferdinand Marcos, has turned seventy-five. Three-fourths of a century. And as he ages into immortality and mythology, the English language appears to be on the way out in the Philippines. Overpopulation, lack of funds, and diploma mills are seeing to that.

This is so, because English has not taken root as Spanish did take root. And if the English language has a Filipino writer like Nick Joaquín, it is because Nick Joaquín’s real language is Spanish. By Hispanizing English, he has succeeded in Filipinizing it. And lo, in the very Filipino works of Nick Joaquín, English has become Filipino! After 92 neocolonial years of deception and bitterness, we only have this writer who can be considered significant in what we may call “Philippines Literature.”

But Nick Joaquín had to will this Filipinization of English. Rizal and Recto did not have to Filipinize Spanish through their writings. Spanish was already the Filipino Language when they wrote in it without having to choose it from English or “Filipino.”

Nick Joaquín,s merit according to his ardent follower, Don Guillermo Gómez Rivera, is his having been able to pour into English a good part of the essential message of what has been Filipino since 1571. No other writer in English has done this.

Gómez Rivera, a generation or two younger than Nick Joaquín, is the Nick Joaquín of contemporary Filipino literature in Spanish. Were Gómez Rivera to write in English as he does in Spanish, he would sound almost, if not exactly, like Nick Joaquín. If Nick Joaquín is a continuation of Claro M. Recto, who wrote in Spanish in local English letters, Gómez Rivera is the continuation of Nick Joaquín back in the same language of Rizal and Recto.

This is so because both Nick Joaquín and Guillermo Gómez Rivera actually belong to the same Filipino tradition even if they don’t write in the same language. Of course, if Nick Joaquín were to write in Spanish, he would in turn sound almost, if not exactly, like Guillermo Gómez Rivera. Don Lorenzo Marasigan’s portrait for his two daughters, Cándida and Paula, has become alive, both artistically and literally. The young man, Anchise, is Guillermo Gómez Rivera, and the old man is Nick Joaquín, and the burning city that both are leaving behind is our country, ravaged and ruined in almost every sense of the word by this despicable galungóng-brained “democracy” that would condemn our people with the Bataán Nuclear Plant. And, possibly, vacuum of power after frustrating so brazenly the national elections without our people really knowing about it until after a few months, or years, later.

And Guillermo Gómez Rivera wrote a poem in homage of Nick Joaquín after the latter had dedicated to him a copy of his play, Portrait, in book form, saying in Spanish, “A Guillermo Gómez Rivera, el nuevo Colón de la música filipina…” this was so, because Gómez Rivera, after recording his third long-playing of Filipino songs, in their original Spanish versions, asked Nick Joaquín to listen to them. Nick Joaquín obliged and enjoyed listening to Gómez Rivera’s singing of “El collar de Sampaguita” with Bert Buena’s rondalla. He went to Gómez Rivera’s office library, that of Solidaridad Filipino-Hispana, Inc., at the third floor of the Citadel Bldg. on Bonifacio Street, way back in 1969. Since then, Gómez Rivera has held Nick Joaquín in utmost reverence and, as a member of the Academia Filipina, he has suggested to the Fundación del Premio Zóbel, to adjudicate, one of these years, the said prize to Nick Joaquín.

The poem titled “Nick Joaquín prismático,” is worth transcribing and translating here:

Traductor de la historial por toda una / generación perdida en inglés./ Maestro / que enseña la verdad: / —luz opurtuna / para los que no tienen / ni alma ni estro

(“History’s translator / for entire generations / lost in the English language. / A teacher who teaches / the truth, that pertinent light / needed by those / who misplaced / their soul / and their poetry of life.”)

Pues,  el candor y el arte. / La sapiencia de toda una cultura: / —la cultura que es la de Filipinas— es la ciencia; / es la gloria; / es toda la emvoltura / de este gran hombre prismático — trazluz / del madero / que alzamos hoy en cruz.

(“Because candor, art / and the knowledge / of an entire culture / which is Filipino / is the science, the glory, and the whole shroud / of this great and prismatic man / who stands / as the background light / for the planks of wood / we’d now lift into a cross.”)

Ese es  / Don Nicolás Joaquín, / flamante / fragua de este país / de sordociegos, / tabla de salvación / del ignorante / que perdió sus estribos / y sus pliegos.

(“That man is / Nick Joaquín, / the burning torch, / over this country of deaf-mutes… / He is the phalanx / of redemption / for those that ignore / what is truly Filpino / because they have lost / their documents / and the running board / upon which they could have stood.”).

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Don Guimò!

First published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, with slight edits.

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.

El Filipinismo: una breve explicación

¡Hola! ¡Un gran saludo a los lectores de ALAS FILIPINAS! Ya estoy de vuelta. Ha sido un largo tiempo.

A los que no lo saben todavía: a mediados del año pasado cerré mi blog (bitácora) ALAS FILIPINAS (y también FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, mi blog en inglés) por una variedad de razones, principalmente por razones de salud y financieras. Pero en sóla unas semanas después de esa dolorosa decisión mía inmediatamente volví a la escritura por escribir versos de vez en cuando así como breves comentarios en mis cuentas de redes sociales. No podía permanecer lejos de los libros y la escritura, no importa cuánto me esfuerce. Así que aquí estoy otra vez. Aún siento muchísimo dolor por mi síndrome de dolor regional complejo pero ya no importa. Me estoy acostumbrando a ello y siento que estaría más enfermo si no continúo escribiendo.

Con muchas circunstancias difíciles que me persiguen (empleo nocturno, proyectos históricos y culturales con dos gobiernos locales, deudas financieras, etc.), uno podría decir que no estoy listo para escribir. Como Stephen Strange en la película “Doctor Strange“, fue lanzado a una lucha que sólo él puede conquistar aunque todavía no estaba listo.

—Nadie está listo. —La Anciana le dijo—. No podemos escoger nuestro tiempo. La muerte es lo que da sentido a la vida, para saber que tus días están contados. Tu tiempo es corto.

Siento que he perdido tanto tiempo y tengo una misión que cumplir, eso lo sé. Así que aquí estoy otra vez, aunque no estoy listo.

Como dicen, que será será.

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Imagen: Ava Bea-Dy.

 

Bueno, como ya he explicado en un blogpost (artículo) anterior, pero en inglés, mi nuevo blog EL FILIPINISMO será una combinación de las facetas de mis bitácoras anteriores (ahora se conocen como “Bitácoras Clásicas“). Mis blogposts se escribirán en español e inglés. Pero este blog no será bilingüe. Que quiero decir es que no habrá traducciones en español de mis textos en inglés y viceversa porque me parece demasiado tedioso hacer traducciones y llevará mucho de mi tiempo. Habrá momentos en que escribiré sólo en inglés, y habrá momentos en los que escribiré sólo en español, o ambos (como se puede ver en mi primer blogpost). También podría haber días que escribiré en tagalo. Pero el inglés ciertamente dominará este blog porque, aparte del triste hecho de que muchos filipinos hoy entienden mejor el inglés que el español, me entrenaron para escribir en el idioma de los invasores imperialistas desde mi niñez… ¡el español no es parte de nuestro currículo! Y esa sería una de mis defensas, en realidad una defensa que he estado apoyando desde mis años universitarios.

Es cierto que escribo cómodamente en inglés, pero inmediatamente apunto un dedo culpable hacia nuestro sistema educativo que ha entrenado a mí y a las generaciones que vinieron antes que nosotros. ¡Ni siquiera podía escribir cómodamente en tagalo! Pero basta de eso por un tiempo. Aunque los artículos en inglés tendrán más posibilidades de ser destacados en este blog, la importancia del español como lengua filipina siempre será resaltada y enfatizada.

Pero ¿por qué EL FILIPINISMO? ¿Qué significa eso?

En Wikipedia, esa terminología se define de esta manera:

El Filipinismo es la tendencia y, en su sentido más específico, el campo disciplinar, principalmente de carácter humanístico, que tiene como objeto de estudio todo aspecto en general relevante relacionado con el archipiélago filipino, y, en su característico y particularizado sentido, la cultura, las lenguas y las literaturas de este archipiélago asiático, Filipinas, vinculado asimismo al mundo occidental.

Este blog contará con todos los aspectos de lo filipino —su cultura, su historia, su comportamiento, sus debilidades e idiosincrasias, etc.— con la esperanza de hacer que el pueblo filipino, quien está muy sajonizado hoy en día, sepa que tiene una identidad nacional digna que está profundamente arraigada en nuestro pasado hispano, y eso incluye su lengua y su fe, y que estamos incluidos en la hermandad internacional de los pueblos de habla hispana. Soy de la creencia que nuestra identidad nacional es la fuente de la salvación social y espiritual de nuestra patria filipina.

Entonces ayúdeme Dios.

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