To the Hispanophobic Filipino historian

Just recently, Rappler published an opinion piece by historian Jorge Mojarro (also a Spanish language teacher at the Instituto Cervantes de Manila) regarding the Elcano And Magellan controversy. In the said article, Mojarro wrote:

Philippine schoolbooks of history seem to be written not to understand the past nor to stimulate critical thinking, but to feed the students with tones of blind patriotism. If young Filipinos were learning properly the history of their nation, they would have not gotten so angry on social media with the new Spanish cartoon entitled Elcano & Magellan: The First Voyage Around the World, especially considering that nobody has seen it yet.

He was right on target. The culprit, indeed, is the current educational system that has already been structured to destroy the image of our country’s Spanish past to young students. At an early age, Filipinos have already been taught that we were invaded by Spain, that we were enslaved, that we were forced to become Christians, that the Spanish friars maligned us, that they have kept us ignorant, etc. etc. etc.

This is a form of brainwashing. Such allegations are not even substantiated by historical documents. But who exactly is to blame?

Our second guest blogger, Fr. Michell Joe “Jojo” Zerrudo (parish priest at the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Quezon City and current Catechetical Director and Exorcist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cubáo) points out to the culprits: the Filipino pseudo-historians behind those schoolbooks that Mojarro was referring to. The following posts were taken from Fr. Jojo’s Facebook.

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Fr. Jojo may not be a historian. But he has what many Filipino historians today do not have: a piercing I.Q.

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To Hispanize is to Filipinize: the Indio is the enemy of the Filipino (part 2)

“Spanish friars mercilessly flogged Filipinos!”

This modern concept of the Indio being flogged by a Spanish friar under the hot tropical sun is what keeps the motor of hispanophobia running. There is no more need to expound what an indio means; simply put, indio is a Spanish word for “native”. The so-called “insulares” or Spaniards who were born in Filipinas were the first Filipinos. Through time, however, Hispanization further blurred this. Indios/natives who were Christianized, who started learning and talking in Spanish, and who imbibed the culture from the West began referring to themselves not as indios but Filipinos as well. And this posed not a problem to the insular. As a matter of fact, the insular never considered themselves as “Spaniards” in the strictest sense of the word. They, as well as the Hispanized indios, simply referred to themselves as FILIPINOS. Filipinas is where they were born and where they grew up (patria chica).

To continue, those indios —whether they belonged to the Tagálog race, Ilocano race, Bicolano race, etc.— who were Hispanized in effect lost their “indio” identity (but not completely, of course) when they assimilated themselves to an influx of cultural dissemination coming from the West. There is nothing wrong with this. During those days, it was perfectly normal, as the influx of a foreign culture had no hint of any personal profit and even promoted cultural osmosis in the local scene (contrary to popular belief, Spain NEVER became rich when they founded and colonized our archipelago).

Anyway, because of cultural dissemination, the Hispanized Tagálog ceased to become Tagálog: he became Filipino. The Hispanized Ilocano ceased to become Ilocano: he became Filipino. The Hispanized Bicolano ceased to become Bicolano: he became Filipino. In other words, the term Filipino is not a race but a concept (there is no such thing as a Filipino race because our country is composed of several races). But this concept put a premium over our collective identities, giving us a patriotic “swagger” to refer to ourselves under one homogeneous identity: EL FILIPINO.

To Hispanize, therefore, is to Filipinize. And to put it more bluntly, our “Spanishness” is what makes us Filipino, not our “indio” identity (which is merely a substrate). If we take away our indio identity in us, our Hispanic identity will still continue to flourish. But if we take away our Spanishness, we will go back to becoming savages, and go back to the mountains as “cimarrones“.

Take for example Cali Pulaco, popularly known today as “Lapu-lapu”. This fellow, an indio ruler from Mactán, virtually resisted change. His neighbor, Rajáh Humabon, did not. Humabon accepted change, was baptized into the Christian faith, and received a Christian name: Carlos (named after then Spanish King Carlos I). Remember that culture is not static, should never be static. His men accepted the Santo Niño (and the icon’s culture) as part of their own. Those who were baptized with him died as Christians; Lapu-lapu and his people died as heathens.

And even up to now, Cebuanos celebrate the feast of the Santo Niño with frenzied fervor. Because the Santo Niño has become part of them as Cebuanos, and part of us as Filipinos.

During the Spanish times, there were many other ethnic groups who resisted change — the Ifugáos up north, the Aetas of the mountains, the Mañguianes of Mindoro, the Muslims of the south, etc. And because they resisted change, they missed the opportunity to become “one of us”. Technically, they are not Filipinos. They are Filipinos only by citizenship, most especially if we view them from a socio-historico-cultural perspective. Look at them now: no disrespect, but they look pathetic and backward because they resisted change. The mountain tribes of the Cordilleras still wage against one another. The Aetas continue to be forest dwellers. The Muslims still raid and kidnap Christians for a ransom and to have their turfs seceded from Filipinas. Etc. etc. etc. Because, then as now, their culture remains static. They still remain as INDIO as ever before.

Let us accept the fact that our Spanish past is what made us Filipinos in the first place. it is this identity which removed us from the backwardness of a static culture that refused to accept change. Let us accept that we are Filipinos because we are Christians (Catholic), we use cubiertos whenever we eat, we STILL SPEAK Spanish (uno, dos, tres, lunesmartes, miércoles, enero, febrero, marzo, silla, mesa, ventana, polo, pantalón, camisa, etc. etc. etc.), we eat adobo and pochero, we have Spanish names, we practice and value “amor propio“, “delicadeza“, “palabra de honor“, our town fiestas are the most festive and lavish in the whole world, we enjoy the “tiangues” of Divisoria, etc.

No soy indio. Porque soy filipino.

Read part 1 here.

 * E * L * F * I * L * I * P * I * N * I * S * M * O *

This blogpost is dedicated to Saint James the Greater, patron saint of Madre España, whose feast day falls today. ¡Viva Santiago Matamoros!

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The indio is the enemy of the Filipino

After my recent health troubles (tuberculosis, complex regional pain syndrome, sleeping problems, and probable depression), I began to notice that they have enervated my passion for reading which, in turn, affected whatever agreeable writing habits that I had in the past. But one thing that keeps me away from not being idle is the fight against the so-called Leyenda Negra or the Black Legend. It annoys me so much that even in my most painful moments, I really had to get up from bed to read and write and bash those that needed online bashing.

In his book “The Colonial Period in Latin American History” (University of California, 1958), Charles Gibson, a distinguished ethnohistorian from New York, astutely defined leyenda negra as “the accumulated tradition of propaganda and Hispanophobia according to which the Spanish Empire is regarded as cruel, bigoted, exploitative, and self-righteous in excess of reality”. He continued that the (contemporary) teacher is confronted with the serious problem of dealing with it since students are already predisposed towards it. Although he did not mention the reason for that predisposition, it is obvious that it has been so for the past several decades after the fall of Catholic Spain as an empire. The usual theme of teaching history with regard to the Spanish conquests is this: Spain invaded weaker cultures, subjugated them, and exploited them for the benefit of the Crown. Therefore, the teacher “runs the danger of pronouncing an unconvincing apologia” when it comes to discussions about the subject.

“The difficulty lies in the fact that Spaniards were cruel, bigoted, exploitative, and self-righteous, though not consistently and not in any simple way,” Gibson continued. “The subject has been over-argued, so that any factual statement concerning it likewise appears argumentative, and it may be that a direct attack upon the ‘legendary’ exaggerations will prove less successful than an indirect approach that relates the Spanish achievement simply and affirmatively”.

The teaching of our country’s Spanish past, for example, has been this simplistic: we were “invaded” by Spain and enslaved for more than three hundred years. The abuse produced several rebellions which eventually led to a national revolution. That revolution ended when its leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, was exiled to Hong Kong until, at long last, the mighty but “benevolent” United States of América saved us from three centuries of Spanish tyranny.

Classic leyenda negra at its finest.

Time and again, I have always stated the contrary. We were never invaded. We were created. We were never colonized in the sense that we were exploited. We were reared, fashioned, molded. For three hundred years, our national identity took shape into something that is no longer indigenous but simply Filipino, an amalgam of East and West. Three attributes make up a Filipino:

1) Hispanic culture, with Malayo-Polynesian elements as a substrate.
2) The Spanish language.
3) Christianity (Roman Catholic Religion).

Without any of these three attributes, a Filipino will only be a half-baked Filipino, a Filipino merely by citizenship. Nothing more. Nothing less. But Hispanophobic historians and ultranationalists will contend that the true Filipino is the pre-Hispanic Filipino, or what they proudly call as the indio. This, however, is erroneous and anachronistic because the term Filipino in itself, together with all its ethnographic and linguistic connotations and implications, is basically Spanish. The word Filipino itself is Spanish. The Filipino cannot be indio because he is not aboriginal. Simply put, the concept of the Filipino before the Spanish arrival did not exist. Before the Spanish conquest of the archipelago which we now call the Republic of the Philippines, those aboriginal or ethnolinguistic groups such as the Tagálogs, Bicolanos, Capampañgans, Bisayas, etc. were all disunited. Each considered their respective group as a separate entity, virtually a separate nation, from all the others. Each has its own culture, set of beliefs, traditions, cuisine, etc. Then the Spaniards arrived, conquered them (or to be more precise, they were invited to be placed under Spanish rule via a 1599 synod-plebiscite held in Manila), then united them into one compact, homogeneous group. The Spaniards united the archipelago into one. From there came into being the three major island groups that we have enshrined as stars in our national flag.

Those above-mentioned tribes (the politically correct would rather use the term “ethnolinguistic groups”), together with the Chinese immigrants who accepted Catholicism and imbibed Spanish culture and language, became part of that national identity which in time evolved into the Filipino that is celebrated in song, poetry, and nostalgia. José Rizal the Tagálog, Graciano López Jaena the Ilongo, Tomás Pinpín the Chinese, Antonio Abad the Cebuano, Marcelino Crisólogo the Ilocano, and all the other great thinkers and writers of that glorious epoch —not excluding our forefathers, of course— all belonged to that same Filipino cosmos. Even creoles such as Luis Rodríguez Varela were not marginalized from this cultural assimilation.

Those who did not take part in all this —the Ifugaos, the Aetas, the Mañguianes, the Dumágats, the Islamized Lúmads that came to be known as the Moros, and all the other unbaptized tribes— have become trapped in time. They have ceased to become Filipinos (from a socio-historico-cultural viewpoint). But that is another story.

In sum, our more than 7,000 islands technically became a Filipino State under Spain. How then is this “divide and conquer”, a favorite mantra of those hispanophobic historians and ultranationalists, when it is obvious that the Spanish motive was to “assimilate and unify”?

But holding steadfast to their propaganda, these same Hispanophobes will always think of clever ways to prove their point such as the use of a Spanish friar to forward their agenda. A dose of one’s own medicine, as they say in English. For example, a favorite source for their anti-Spanish sentiment is the book “Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias” (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies) written by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, a Spanish Dominican friar. But this book and its consequences have to be analyzed with more circumspection than rash judgment.

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Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, O.P. (11 November 1484 – 18 July 1566).

Born in Sevilla in 1484, Fr. de las Casas was once a participant in the violent conquests (and even slavery) of various indigenous tribes, but he had a change of heart later on in life. He became a Protector de Indios (Protector of Indians or natives) and was tasked to advise governors-general with regard to issues concerning the conquered natives, to speak their cases in court, and to send reports back to Spain.  In the said book (published in 1552), he chronicled the abuses and atrocities committed by Spanish conquistadores and encomenderos against the indigenous that they have conquered throughout the Américas (North, Central, and South). His persistent criticisms and complaints against abusive officials resulted in the groundbreaking Leyes y ordenanzas nuevamente hechas por su Majestad para la gobernación de las Indias y buen tratamiento y conservación de los Indios (New laws of the Indies for the good treatment and preservation of the Indians) which guaranteed and further strengthened the protection and rights of the governed indios.

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New laws of the Indies for the good treatment and preservation of the Indians.

 

Yes, the Spanish conquistadores in the Américas were harsh and cruel. Not all were, of course, but this has been the widely accepted general perception that cannot and should not be denied in the light of the fight for historical truth. Nevertheless, attitudes when it came to conquest changed with Fr. de las Casas and his pro-indio activism. As a result, the succeeding conquistadores, particularly those who arrived in our archipelago, were no longer of the same vile breed as those who had wreaked havoc in the Américas. The indios here were treated differently compared to the poor indios from across the Pacific.

Freemasons which included Rizal were among the first proponents of the black legend in Filipinas. That is why it should no longer puzzle Hispanists as to why Rizal proudly called himself and his friends Indios Bravos. Exposure to liberal ideas in Europe, many of which were anticlerical, influenced his anticolonial nationalism. Remember that the friars were virtually the first teachers of Filipinos when it came to almost everything cultural, not just spiritual. Catholicism and the Spanish government in Filipinas can be looked upon as two sides of the same coin (it is interesting to note that both Freemasonry and the black legend both originated in England).

That is why this indio mentality that we have been carrying all these years is the enemy of the Filipino. Whenever we wield it to spite our Spanish past, we are only spiting ourselves. Whenever we continue glorifying this pre-Hispanic identity that never was, we are only attacking ourselves, not Spain (who truly cared for her subjects) nor her conquistadores and friars. Whenever we call ourselves “indios bravos” in the name of nationalism, we are only making ourselves look like fools. Our national identity is Filipino, not indio. We have ceased to become indio when we became Filipino.

The heroic Fr. Bartolomé de Las Casas, protector of the indians, died in Madrid exactly 453 years ago today, on my 40th birthday. Let us remember him in our prayers.

As for me, life begins… 😇

¡A Dios sea toda la gloria y la honra!

Debunking historical hatred

I came across this ugly Facebook discussion last year.

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

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

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

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

Did the Spaniards treat our native languages as garbage?

Last year, my friend and fellow historian José María Bonifacio Escoda (author of best-selling book Warsaw of Asia: The Rape of Manila) became viral after a Facebook post of his was deemed supposedly as anti-LGBT. He was bashed left and right because of this. But I didn’t know anything about it until last night when another friend posted an online article regarding the controversy on her FB timeline. Browsing through the article and comments, I encountered this:

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And yet he writes in Taglish. Makes you wonder who, really, is treating Tagálog like garbage.

Now this is a brash claim. The Spanish friars preserved our native languages by studying them intently and then writing grammar books about them (“Gramática de la Lengua Tagala”, “Arte de la Lengua Iloca”, “Vocabulario de la lengua Bisaya”, etc.). In fact, the real reason why we are still talking about the Baybayin today is because the Spaniards preserved it for posterity. They were the ones who first wrote about our indigenous syllabary. Furthermore, our local epics such as “Biag ni Lam-ang”, “Ibalón”, and “Hinilawod” were handed down from generation to generation only through oral tradition. But to preserve them in print, the Spanish friars wrote them down using the Spanish-alphabet-inspired Abecedario Filipino.

It was our Spanish conquerors who took all the time and trouble in preserving our native languages. It was not even for their sake. If it is true that they treated our languages as garbage, they would not have done all the scholarly investigation to preserve and conserve them, and even publish precious books about them which we now consider as prized items.

Anyway, going back to this brash claim, never in my over two decades of studying our country’s history, culture, and languages, have I encountered any book, historical document, or any other pertinent scholarly article stating that the Spanish conquistadors treated our language (but which language? we have over 170) as garbage, nor did they enforce the teaching of the Spanish language just to control us. The real reason why the Spanish language was taught to us is to inculcate easily in us Spanish culture and religion. The teaching of Spanish was clearly stated in the Law of the Indies (“Leyes de las Indias“) which governed our country, way before republican constitutions entered the scene. The sad fact remains that that law wasn’t even followed properly because of lack of teachers and because many friars refused to do so (a topic fit for another blogpost).

Hispanophobia and historical ignorance are still alive and well in Filipinas. Sadly.

A close encounter with a Dick

Senator Dick Gordon has become relevant again these past few days. Not because of the Blue Ribbon Committee which he chairs but because he has revived yet again his deep-seated mania of adding a ninth ray to the sun in the Filipino flag. You may read Ambeth Ocampo’s latest column about this matter for more details.

After hearing all this latest news about Gordon’s ninth-ray obsession, I was reminded of a Facebook post which I wrote two years ago. It was about my first and only encounter with him during the 2013 La Laguna Festival. I’m sharing it now on this blog (with slight edits)…

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One balmy evening a few years ago, I was inattentively listening to Dick Gordon delivering a candid speech to a huge and festive crowd at the capitol grounds of Santa Cruz in La Laguna Province. I couldn’t remember exactly what he was talking about. What I do remember is that his presence there was irrelevant. Anyway, I was concerned with something else — my stomach was rumbling. I was having a bout of sudden diarrhea, and I hate doing the deed in some public restroom. But I couldn’t help it anymore.

I was at the left side of the stage by the stairs, my eyes surreptitiously scouring the huge grounds for a portalet, but saw none. I suddenly remember that there’s a restroom at the nearby DECS building (I wonder now if the old balete tree is still there). So off I went.

As I was slowly trudging the steps on my way to that building, Dick was already talking about rampant corruption in Filipino culture. Pointing the microphone to the audience, he asked who was to blame for all this corruption that we have in our society.

After a few seconds of playing with the crowd, he answered his own question. What he said was something unholy to my ears.

My diarrhea suddenly forgot that it had to embarrass me.

I had to look at him onstage. With a sick smile on his face, Dick was pointing his accusing finger towards our country’s Spanish past. I don’t remember his exact words, but he either said “Kastilà” or “Spaniards”. Whatever. What he said made my blood boil, especially since, after doing some reassessment of Filipino History through the years, I’ve discovered the reverse. But here comes this politician to a supposedly fun event, corrupting the minds of Lagunenses for whatever goddamned purpose he may had without even using pertinent data or sources.

But then again, why should he even cite sources? He attended a provincial fiesta anyway. It’s not a class lecture or any of that sort. But that’s EXACTLY the point! Why should he even talk about Filipino History —TWISTED Filipino History to be precise— during such an event? His speech was supposedly to animate the crowd, to greet them a happy fiesta, to make himself look cool even if he really wasn’t.

I stopped dead on my tracks, hesitated for a few moments, then went back to the stairs. I had to confront this buffoon. It’s now or never.

After several boring minutes of grandstanding, the hosts finally took the mic away from him. Dick Boredom was then on his way out, but it took him quite some time to get off the stage because so many people were greeting him, shaking his hands, patting him on the back, doing selfies and stuff. His personal goons couldn’t do much to steer away the crowd who wanted a piece of the Dick. He was a rock star that night.

But not to me. He was just another rock. An insignificant pebble. A troglodyte, actually (note: Jessica Zafra doesn’t own that word). He had to be given a Stone Cold Stunner if only to wake him up from his hispanophobic delights. But of course, I couldn’t do that. The diarrhea was at it again, especially when I saw his face getting closer to me.

I saw people near me shaking his hand. It gave me an idea. When the Dick was already standing right in front of me, still with a big smile plastered all over his face, I grabbed his empty right hand which was still looking for another hand to shake it. Since the music onstage was blurting out loud, almost as loud as the irritating sounds from within my bowels, I inched my face close to his ear:

“Get your facts straight, sir. The Spaniards did not teach us corruption. It was the Americans. Thank you”.

The plan was to immediately bolt for the DECS restroom. But he did not let go of my hand. He gripped it hard before I could leave, then tugged it towards him. Angrily, he whispered back: “It’s not the Americans, it’s the Spaniards!”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed that a goon or two of his noticed that their boss was getting upset. Before any untoward commotion happened, I shook off my hand from his grip in order to free myself. I didn’t say a word anymore, just a smirk on my face. I left him scowling towards me as I was walking away towards the old balete tree.

That was simply my purpose — to ruin his rock star night for disrespecting our forefathers who worked hard in order for us to have towns and provinces and Cross and cuisine and roads and bridges and cattle and agriculture and industry and arts and “palabra de honor” and culture and history and name for our country that we still use and apply to our daily lives. Somehow, I succeeded.

And yes, I did scream “success!” when I got out of the DECS building. 🤣

But seriously, Dick, is hispanophobia a standard in all of your speeches? With a surname such as yours, I think I understand why.

To end this blogpost, let me leave you with the opening sentence taken from that Ocampo article I mentioned earlier. Because I find that opening as a perfect ending…

“Dick Gordon is so often starved for attention that the public is well-advised to ignore his antics.”