NHCP asserts its authority against Alimodian Mayor

Finally, we have good tidings in favor of built heritage conservation (a rarity nowadays)!¬†ūüėÉ

Two months ago, news broke out that Mayor Geefre Alonsabe of Alimodian, Ilo√≠lo Province was planning to desecrate their centuries-old town plaza by constructing a ‚āĪ4.6-million multipurpose building which will take up about ¬ľ of the area. This, of course, didn’t sit well with the townsfolk, heritage advocates, and even concerned netizens, not to mention that the planned structure is a violation of Republic Act No. 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. But the mayor was stubborn, claiming that the plaza is not even half a century old, and that majority of Alimodianons are backing him up on the planned building.

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How Mayor Alonsabe’s multipurpose building would have eaten up considerable space of his town’s plaza had its construction pushed through (image: Raymond Deza).

The¬†National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) stepped in to enforce the said heritage law to protect Alimodian’s town plaza from being disrespected by its own mayor, thus putting a halt to the construction of the building. Mayor Alonsabe made a formal appeal early last month. On September 20, the NHCP finally released its decision regarding the matter…

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Copy of NCHP letter furnished by¬†Nereo Cajilig Luj√°n, chief of Ilo√≠lo Provincial Government’s Public Information and Community Affairs Office.

The NHCP decision, signed by its chairman, Dr. Ren√© Escalante, proved to be a major blow to the mayor and this project’s contractors, but it is a huge victory nonetheless for Alimodian’s heritage and history. It is even a much bigger victory for our country’s struggle in conserving its built heritage considering the alarming fact that we have been losing several heritage structures to both greedy and apathetic people through the years: the¬†Manila Jai Alai¬†Building¬†in Ermita,¬†the Alberto Mansion in Bi√Ī√°n, the Michel Apartments¬†in Malate, and the list just goes on and on. I haven’t even mentioned the countless ancestral houses or¬†bahay na bat√≥¬†all over the country that have been lost to wear and tear and total neglect.

And even as I write this, several more heritage structures such as¬†El Hogar Filipino¬†in Binondo,¬† the Puente de Barit in Laoag, and Life Theater¬†in Quiap√≤ just to name a few are in grave danger of disappearing to give way to “progress”. And while some structures were saved from the wrecking ball, others were not as fortunate as they still suffered the shame of defacement (remember the¬†sorry state of the¬†Church of Calumpit when it was turned into a “wedding cake”?). And whatever happened to the people behind the demolition and/or defacement of our few remaining historic structures? They remain free from the penalties of R.A.¬†10066. That could be one major reason as to why the said law is still being flagrantly violated. That is why this recent move from the NHCP is a cause for celebration as this could be the impetus that tired heritage advocates have been waiting for. At last, R.A. 10066 is now showing some teeth!

Protecting a town plaza, no matter how cumbersome looking it may be to the general populace, is not a derisory activity. Same thing goes to protesting the planned demolition of a rickety looking bridge over a polluted river, or an old toppled-down jailhouse in the midst of a slum. Remember: built heritage is another facet of our national identity. It tells a locality’s story. These cultural treasures are remnants of a once glorious past that even today’s progress could never equal.

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Marcelo H. del Pilar, a broken dad till the end‚Ķ

Today is the birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the bulaque√Īo native written by Carmencita H. Acosta from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today‚Äôs National Historical Commission of the Philippines (recently known as the National Historical Institute).

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My wife Yeyette in front of Marcelo H. del Pilar’s monument in Plaza Plaridel (Remedios Circle), Malate, Manila. This monument used to be in front of nearby Manila Zoo. Fellow C√≠rculo Hispano-Filipino member and my¬†comadre,¬†Gemma Cruz Araneta (a descendant of Jos√© Rizal’s sister Mar√≠a) suggested the transfer of this monument to this site while she was the president of the Heritage Conservation Society.¬† The transfer was done last 2009 under the guidance of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim (this photo was taken on 24 August 2010).

MARCELO H. DEL PILAR
(1850-1896)

‚ÄúThe most intelligent leader, the real soul of the separatists‚Ķ‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒ these were the words used by Governor General Ram√≥n Blanco, chief executive of the Philippine colony, in describing Marcelo H. del Pilar. A master polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, del Pilar was the most feared by the Spanish colonial authorities.

Del Pilar was born in Bulacán, Bulacán on August 30, 1850, the youngest of ten children of Julián H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitán. His father had held thrice the post of gobernadorcillo in their home town. Del Pilar studied at the Colegio de San José in Manila and at the University of Santo Tomás; at the age of thirty he finished the course in law. He devoted more time to writing than in the practice of his profession because in the former he saw a better opportunity to be of service to his oppressed country. His oldest brother, Father Toribio H. del Pilar, a Catholic priest, had been deported along with other Filipino patriots to Guam in 1872 following the Cavite Mutiny.

He founded the Diariong Tagalog in 1882, the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where he publicly denounced Spanish maladministration of the Philippines. His attacks were mostly directed against the friars whom he considered to be mainly responsible for the oppression of the Filipinos.

In 1885, he urged the cabezas de barangay of Malolos to resist the government order giving the friars blanket authority to revise the tax lists. He instigated the gobernadorcillo of Malolos, Manuel Crisóstomo, to denounce in 1887 the town curate who violated government prohibition against the exposure of corpses in the churches. In the same year, he denounced the curate of Binondo for consigning Filipinos to poor seats in the church while assigning the good ones to Spanish half-castes.

On March 1, 1888, the populace of Manila staged a public demonstration against the friars. Led by the lawyer Doroteo Cort√©s, the demonstrators presented to the civil governor of Manila a manifesto entitled ‚Äú¬°Viva Espa√Īa! ¬°Viva la Reina! ¬°Viva el Ej√©rcito! ¬°Fuera los Frailes!‚Äú. This document, which had been signed by eight hundred persons, was written by Marcelo H. del Pilar. It enumerated the abuses of the friars, petitioned for the deportation of the archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Pedro Payo, and urged the expulsion of the friars.

It was because of his having written this anti-friar document that del Pilar was forced to exile himself from the Philippines in order to escape arrest and possible execution by the colonial authorities.

‚ÄúI have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,‚ÄĚ del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain.¬†La Soberan√≠a Monacal en Filipinas(Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. The others included¬†Sag√≥t ng Espa√Īa sa Hib√≠c ng Filipinas¬†(Spain‚Äôs Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines),¬†Caiigat Cay√≥¬†(Be Like the Eel) ‚ÄĒ del Pilar‚Äôs defense of Rizal against a friar pamphlet entitled¬†Caii√Īgat Cay√≥¬†denouncing the¬†Noli Me Tangere.

Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers, the purpose of which was to agitate for reforms from Spain.

In Madrid, del Pilar edited for five years¬†La Solidaridad, the newspaper founded by Graciano L√≥pez Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy. His fiery and convincing editorials earned from him the respect and admiration of his own Spanish enemies. ‚ÄúPlaridel‚ÄĚ became well-known as his¬†nom de plume.

In November, 1895,¬†La Solidaridad¬†was forced to close its offices for lack of funds. Del Pilar himself was by then a much emaciated man, suffering from malnutrition and overwork. He was finally convinced that Spain would never grant concessions to the Philippines and that the well-being of his beloved country could be achieved only by means of bloodshed ‚ÄĒ revolution.

Weakened by tuberculosis and feeling that his days were numbered, he decided to return to the Philippines to rally his countrymen for the libertarian struggle.

But as he was about to leave Barcelona, death overtook him on July 4, 1896.

His passing was deeply mourned by the Filipinos for in him they had their staunchest champion and most fearless defender. His death marked the passing of an era ‚Äďthe era of the Reform Movement‚Äď because scarcely two months after his death, the Philippine Revolution was launched.

I am not really a big fan of Marcelo H. del Pilar, especially when I learned that he was a high-ranking Mason. Besides, I believe that what he fought for would not equate to heroism. He was, to put it more bluntly, another American-invented hero. The American government, during their colonization of Filipinas, virtually influenced the Filipino puppet government to recognize ‚Äúheroes‚ÄĚ who fought against Spain.

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But a closer observation on Marcelo‚Äôs life will reveal that, like Rizal and other Filipino ‚Äúheroes‚ÄĚ of his generation, he never fought against Spain. They fought against the Church, the sworn enemy of their fraternity (Freemasonry).

What really captivated me about Marcelo is his heartbreaking fatherhood. Since I am a father of five, I can empathize with his sorrowful plight.

A few years ago, when Yeyette and I had only one child (Krystal), and we were still living in a decrepit bodega somewhere in Las Pi√Īas, I happened to stumble upon Fr. Fidel Villaroel‚Äôs (eminent historian and former archivist of the University of Santo Tom√°s) monograph on del Pilar ‚ÄĒ Marcelo H. del Pilar: His Religious Conversions. It was so timely because during that time, I had just gone through my own religious conversion, having returned to the Catholic fold after a few years of being an atheist and agnostic.

In the said treatise by Fr. Villaroel, I learned of del Pilar’s anguish over being separated from his two daughters, Sofía and Anita. Due to his radical activities as an anti-friar, as can be gleaned in Acosta’s biographical sketch above, del Pilar escaped deportation. He left the country on 28 October 1888, escaping to Hong Kong before moving to Spain. He never saw his little kids and his wife ever again.

Sofía was just nine years old at the time of his escape; Anita, one year and four months. Father Villaroel couldn’t have written this painful separation better:

Month after month, day after day, for eight endless years, the thought of returning to his dear ones was del Pilar‚Äôs permanent obsession, dream, hope, and pain. Of all the sufferings he had to go through, this was the only one that made the ‚Äúwarrior‚ÄĚ shed tears like a boy, and put his soul in a trance of madness and insanity. His 104 surviving letters to the family attest to this painful situation‚Ķ

‚ĶHe felt and expressed nostalgia for home as soon as he arrived in Barcelona in May 1889, when he wrote to his wife: ‚ÄúIt will not be long before we see each other again.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúMy return‚ÄĚ is the topic of every letter. Why then did he not return? Two things stood in the way: money for the fare, and the hope of seeing a bill passed in the Spanish Cortes suppressing summary deportations like the one hanging on del Pilar‚Äôs head. ‚ÄúWe are now working on that bill.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúWait for me, I am going, soon I will embrace my little daughters, I dream with the return.‚ÄĚ How sweet, how repetitious and monotonous, how long the delay, but how difficult, almost impossible!

Here are some of those heartbreaking letters, translated by Fr. Villaroel into English from the Spanish and Tag√°log originals, of Marcelo to his wife (and second cousin) Marciana ‚ÄúChanay‚ÄĚ del Pilar and Sof√≠a:

In 1890: I want to return this year in November (letter of February 4); Day and night I dream about Sofía (February 18), I will return next February or March (December 10).

In 1891: It will not be long before I carry Anita on my shoulders (January 22); Sofía, you will always pray that we will see each other soon (August 31).

In 1892: If it were not for lack of the money I need for the voyage, I would be there already (February 3); I am already too restless (March 2); I feel already too impatient because I am not able to return (April 14); This year will not pass before we see each other (May 11); Be good, Sof√≠a, every night you will pray one Our Father, asking for our early reunion (September 14;¬†it is interesting to note that del Pilar advised her daughter to pray the Our Father despite his being a high-ranking Mason ‚ÄďPepe‚Äď); Don‚Äôt worry if, when I return, I will be exiled to another part of the Archipelago (November 9).

In 1893: Who knows if I will close my eyes without seeing Anita (January 18)!; My heart is shattered every time I have news that my wife and daughters are suffering; hence, my anxiety to return and fulfill my duty to care for those bits of my life (May 24); I always dream that I have Anita on my lap and Sof√≠a by her side; that I kiss them by turns and that both tell me: ‚ÄėRemain with us, pap√°, and don‚Äôt return to Madrid‚Äô. I awake soaked in tears, and at this very moment that I write this, I cannot contain the tears that drop from my eyes (August 3); It is already five years that we don‚Äôt see each other (December 21).

In 1894: Tell them (Sof√≠a and Anita) to implore the grace of Our Lord so that their parents may guide them along the right path (February 15); Every day I prepare myself to return there. Thanks that the children are well. Tears begin to fall from my eyes every time I think of their¬†orfandad¬†(bereavement). But I just try to cure my sadness by invoking God, while I pray: ‚ÄėThy will be done on earth as it is in heaven‚Äô I am the most unfortunate father because my daughters are the most unfortunate among all daughters‚Ķ I cannot write more, because tears are flowing from my eyes aplenty (July 18); We shall meet soon (December 5)

I have to admit, reading these letters never fail to move me to tears because I, too, have experienced the same orfandad and the longingness for a father. It is because I have never lived with my dad for a long time since he was always overseas. When we were young, he only stayed with us for a couple of weeks or a few months. And my dad was a very silent man.

His work overseas, of course, was for our own benefit. But the price was depressing: we’ve been detached from each other forever. Whenever he comes home to us, my dad was like a total stranger to me. Especially now that I have my own family and I rarely see him nowadays. No, we are not in bad terms (although I know that he still resents the fact that I married at a very early age). But we are simply not close to each other because of those years of separation and lack of communication. I do not know him, and he doesn’t know me. We do not know each other personally. But I know for a fact that my dad loved us dearly, and that he experienced the same anguish experienced by del Pilar. I’ve read some of dad’s letters to mom, and in those letters he expressed the same desire to come home with us and stay permanently. But nothing like that happened (and now, my parents are no longer together).

The same thing with del Pilar. After all those patriotic talk and nationalistic activities, nothing happened. His sacrifice of being separated from his family was, sadly, all for naught…

When he died a Christian death in Barcelona (yes, he also retracted from Masonry shortly before he passed away), he was buried in the Cementerio del Oeste/Cementerio Nuevo where his remains stayed for the next twenty-four years. Paradoxically, a renowned Christian member of the Filipino magistrate, Justice Daniel Romuáldez, made all the necessary procedures of exhuming the body of del Pilar, one of the highest-ranking Masons of the Propaganda Movement. His remains finally arrived on 3 December 1920. He was welcomed by members of Masonic lodges (perhaps unaware of del Pilar’s conversion, or they simply refused to believe it), government officials, and his family of course.

Sof√≠a by then was already 41; and del Pilar‚Äôs little Anita was no longer little ‚ÄĒ she was already 33.

Anita was very much traumatized by that fateful separation. Bitter up to the end, she still could not accept the fact that her father chose the country, ang bayan, before family. An interesting (and another heartbreaking) anecdote is shared by Anita’s son, Father Vicente Marasigan, S.J., regarding her mother’s wounded emotions:

[My] first flashback recalls April 1942. Radio listeners in Manila had just been stunned by the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor. There was an emotional scene between my father, my mother, and myself. My mother was objecting to something my father wanted to do¬†‚Äėpara sa kabutihan ng bayan‚Äô. My mother answered,¬†‚ÄėLagi na lang bang para sa kabutihan ng bayan?‚Äô¬†[‚ÄėIs it always for the good of the country?‚Äô] And she choked in fits of hysterical sobbing. All her childhood years have been spent in emotional starvation due to the absence of¬†‚ÄėLolo‚Äô¬†[Grandfather] Marcelo, far away in Barcelona sacrificing his family¬†para sa kabutihan ng bayan.

‚ÄúThe second flashback is rather dim in memory. I was then two years old, in December 1920. I think I was on board a ship that had just docked at the [Manila] pier, carrying the remains of¬†Lolo¬†Marcelo. All our relatives from Bulac√°n were present for the festive occasion. Some aunt or grandaunt was telling me how proud and happy I must be. I did not understand what it meant to feel proud, but I knew I was unhappy because I felt that my mother was unhappy. In the presence of that casket of bones, how could she forget the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her father¬†‚Äėpara sa kabutihan ng bayan‚Äô¬†[for the good of the country]?

History is not just about dead dates, historical markers, and bronze statues of heroes. It has its share of eventful dramas and personal heartbreaks. And this is one heartbreak that I will never allow my children to experience.

To all the fathers who read this: cherish each and every moment that you have with your children.

This blogpost was¬†originally published in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES¬†exactly eight years ago today; reblogged here with minor edits. Later on, this blogpost won me the friendship of del Pilar’s descendants and found out that I’m actually related to them by affinity.

The town plaza of Alimodian, Ilo√≠lo is in grave danger

Last week, I was explaining to my son M√≥may the importance of the Spanish language to us Filipinos by using this latest irritating news from Alimodian, Ilo√≠lo…

Alimodian mayor tells NHCP town plaza not a historical site

Published 

By Tara Yap

Ilo√≠lo City‚ÄĒ Mayor Geefre Alonsabe of Alimodian town challenged members of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to reconsider their decision questioning the municipal government‚Äôs decision to build a multi-purpose project in the town plaza because the site is a heritage property.

The plaza of Alimodian town in Iloilo province is the controversial site for the construction of a multi-purpose hall.  The plaza has been declared as an Important Cultural Property. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

The plaza of Alimodian town in Iloílo province is the controversial site for the construction of a multi-purpose hall. The plaza has been declared as an Important Cultural Property. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

‚ÄúI challenge them. They should come and check,‚ÄĚ Alonsabe said.

The NHCP earlier advised the municipal government of Alimodian to find a different site for the multi-purpose building and not build it inside the town’s plaza, which has been declared as an Important Cultural Property (ICP). The commission’s decision came after a group wrote to NHCP chairman René Escalante that the project site is within the town plaza, which they consider to be part of their heritage.

Due to the complaint, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Iloilo 4th District Engineering Office) temporarily halted the project to coordinate with NHCP and other agencies.

Despite being told to find another local, Alonsabe is firm that majority of Alimodian residents want the multi-purpose hall to be constructed within the plaza. He also reiterated the General Welfare clause of the Local Government Code. ‚ÄúWe need a covered court for our activities. This will benefit our people,‚ÄĚ Alonsabe said.

Alimodian official are not fully aware of how the plaza is an ICP. ‚ÄúOn behalf of the LGU, we do not have papers declaring the plaza as heritage property,‚ÄĚ Alonsabe said.

Alonsabe added that the marker of the then National Historical Institute (NHI) does not indicate the ICP status. Alonsabe also reiterated that the current plaza is not 50 years old.

Mayor Alonsabe wants to construct a multi-purpose hall right within the town plaza. If he does that, the town plaza will be transformed beyond recognition. There might not even be a town plaza anymore. Thankfully, the NHCP is blocking the project because the plaza is a heritage property. But the mayor insists that it isn’t, even saying that the plaza is not yet 50 years old!

To students of history, it is common knowledge that all Spanish-era towns (then called poblaciones) include plazas. Whenever a parish church was built during that era, it was almost unthinkable not to construct a plaza right in front of it.

We then consulted an old book, the “Diccionario Geogr√°fico, Estad√≠stico, Hist√≥rico de las Islas Filipinas” (Volume 1), published in 1850 by Fr. Manuel Buzeta and Fr. Felipe Bravo, to check if Alimodian is a Spanish-era town. On pages 287 to 288, we found what we’re looking for…

Alimodian was founded in 1784 with only 1,602 houses. Its church, dedicated to Santo Tom√°s de Villanueva, was under the diocese of Ceb√ļ. Aside from the church, the town already had a convent, a public cemetery, a court (of justice), and even a jailhouse. In short, it was already a completely functioning town.

Could you just imagine a completely functioning town during those days without a plaza?

It’s pure tomfoolery on the part of Mayor Alonsabe to say that the plaza is not even 50 years old in order to justify his dimwitted plan of setting up his multi-purpose grotesquerie within a heritage site. But then again, he might make another excuse saying that he doesn’t know Spanish, that’s why he’s ignorant of his own town’s history.

What a shame. Because of the Spanish language, my 14-year-old son and I now know more about Alimodian’s history compared to its own mayor. And since we now know its historical background, we have come to appreciate it as well. And to think that we haven’t even been to that beautiful historic town of his that he wishes to desecrate in the name of… what?… contracts?

Sin verg√ľenza.

New findings on the first Mass in Filipinas

For many years, including the time when Filipinas was still under Mother Spain, Filipinos have been taught that the first Mass in our country happened in Limasaua, Leyte (now Limasawa, Southern Leyte). As a backgrounder: Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magallanes (popularly known by his Anglicized name Ferdinand Magellan) ordered a Mass to be celebrated on the small island of Limasawa on 31 March 1521. It was officiated by Fr. Pedro de Valderrama, OSA, the only priest of the Magallanes expedition. This event marked the birth of Christianity in Filipinas.

However, just a few years ago, a group of people started to contest this widely accepted historical record, saying that the first Mass really occurred in But√ļan, Agusan¬†(del Norte).

Vicente Calibo de Jes√ļs, a media and communications practitioner, is one of the most vocal proponents of the cause to recognize But√ļan as the site of our country’s first Mass. He has launched numerous petitions online to have his claim recognized. On his Facebook account, he has cited documents and even geomorphological arguments to back up his claim. Sometime during the last decade, when the country’s foremost historian Ambeth Ocampo was still in charge over the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (then known as the National Historical Institute), a committee headed by economist and historian Benito Legarda, Jr. was organized to re-examine the matter. However, in one public forum, Calibo de Jes√ļs failed to attend.

‚ÄúSince Mr. De Jes√ļs refused to participate in the forum, why does he now contest the outcome?‚ÄĚ Ocampo said.

After much deliberation, the NHCP/NHI then issued a resolution on 15 June 2009 affirming that the first Mass was indeed celebrated in Limasawa, Southern Leyte on 31 March 1521.

Ocampo retired from public service two years later but continued publishing history books and articles as well as giving popular lectures. The local Catholic Church quietly accepted the findings. Calibo de Jes√ļs, on the other hand, continued his online attacks. But the controversy was almost forgotten.

Fast forward to last week, on the 5th of August. Jun P. Alvizo, a proponent of the¬†Filipinas Quincentenario project, posted on his Facebook account¬†digitized photos (see below) that were taken from the pages of the¬†Anales Eclesi√°sticos de Philipinas,¬†1574-1602, asserting that Calibo de Jes√ļs could be right after all.

But√ļan’s assertion as the true site of the first Mass in the Philippines is not a fabricated claim or one without a substantive evidence. The truth on this episode, of the first circumnavigation of the world, has long been muddled by many historians when Limasawa in Leyte was proclaimed as the real site of the first Mass in our islands that was officiated by Father Pedro de Valderrama on 31 March 1521 (an Easter Sunday). Adding dubiety, the many investigations on this matter, conducted by panels constituted by the National HIstorical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), resolved in favor of Limasawa, obliterating the very truth where the first Mass in the Philippines was really celebrated.

No hay texto alternativo automático disponible.

No hay texto alternativo automático disponible.

According to Alviza, these documents were obtained by the Filipinas Quincentenario from the Archives of the Archdiocese of Manila, and that even the late Jaime Cardinal Sin was knowledgeable about them.

Aside from these new findings, there were, in fact, old books dating back to the Spanish times that either questioned or contradicted the already accepted location of the first Mass in Filipinas. These are the “Episodios Hist√≥ricos de Filipinas” by Felipe Mar√≠a de Govantes¬†(Manila: Imprenta de Valdezco, 1881, pp. 21-22) and the¬†“Bolet√≠n de la Real Sociedad Geogr√°fica” (Madrid: Real Sociedad Geogr√°fica, 1897, vol. 39, pp. 135-136) to name a few. There was even one book, the “Historia de Mindanao y Jol√≥” (Madrid: Viuda de M. Minuesa de los R√≠os, 1897, pp. 661), in which the author,¬†Francisco Comb√©s, specifically mentioned that it was precisely in But√ļan and in no other place where the first Mass in Filipinas was celebrated.

Allí fué precisamente, y no en otro punto, donde se celebró la primera misa, dicha en tierra, del Archipiélago Filipino.

It is unclear, though, as to how Comb√©s et al. were cognizant of the exact site since all their books were published three centuries after the event. However, there could be one clincher: Antonio Pigafetta himself, the lone Italian chronicler of the Magallanes expedition who was also witness to the first Mass. In his account of the expedition titled “Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo” (Report on the First Voyage Around the World) published in 1536, Pigafetta actually mentioned But√ļan four times. The account of the Mass is found in chapter two of his book.

Be that as it may, with the discovery of these old church records, could those “iconoclasts” have finally won their fight for historical accuracy, that the first Mass was indeed held at But√ļan and not Limasawa? Or will this prompt the NHCP to organize another investigation?

History Month 2018

August is History Month!

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Proclamation No. 339, s. 2012

MALACA√Ď√ĀN¬†PALACE

MANILA

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES

PROCLAMATION NO. 339

DECLARING THE MONTH OF AUGUST OF EVERY YEAR AS HISTORY MONTH, THEREBY TRANSFERRING THE OBSERVANCE OF HISTORY WEEK FROM 15 TO 21 SEPTEMBER TO THE MONTH OF AUGUST

WHEREAS, History Week is observed from 15 to 21 September of every year by virtue of Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974);

WHEREAS,¬†there is a need to transfer the observance of History Week from 15 to 21 September to the whole month of August and rename the occasion as ‚ÄúHistory Month‚ÄĚ to emphasize the most significant turning points in Philippine history;

WHEREAS, major events in the nation’s history occurred in the month of August which concludes with National Heroes Day on 30 August; and

WHEREAS, a week of observance is not enough to undertake various activities given the richness and diversity of our nation’s history.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO, III,¬†President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare the month of August of every year as¬†‚ÄúHistory Month.‚ÄĚ

Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974) is hereby repealed.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

DONE, in the City of Manila, this 16th day of February, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve.

(Sgd.) BENIGNO S. AQUINO III

By the President

(SGD.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary

(SGD.) PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.

Executive Secretary

The Battle of Alap√°n

La imagen puede contener: noche, pantalla e interior

Premiere of Alen de la Cruz’s “Bago Ang Kalayaan” at the Imus Sports Complex (photo: MAYOR Emmanuel MALIKSI Facebook page).

The only thing that warmed up the air-conditioned stadium that windy evening of July 7¬†in Imus was the cordial smiles of its smartly dressed crowd. Frocked in Filipiniana attire, the guests were huddled to their seats by courteous ushers who themselves were dressed to the nines. Near the entrance, a¬†four-piece orchestra filled the already festive air with classic Filipino favorites. Beside them were dioramas and artistic sketches of the Katipunan, the seditious group that ignited our country’s eventual breakup with Spain in 1898.

All corners of the stadium were covered with black drapes to keep the entire stadium as dark as possible. At the farthest end of the stadium, the focal point of the seated audience was a wide screen. The entire Imus Sports Complex was virtually converted into a gigantic movie theater as a culmination of the city’s week-long cityhood anniversary. They were all anticipating their local government’s “labor of love” ‚ÄĒ¬†the premiere of a docudrama recounting Imus’s celebrated Battle of Alap√°n.

“Today, I just want to say that this project has been a long-awaited dream of yours truly,” City Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi beamed proudly during the brief press conference preceding the film showing. The young city magistrate has been planning for this for a long time. The fifth cityhood celebration of his beloved city was the perfect event to turn that dream into reality.

Before independence

Ask anyone where our flag was first unfurled and waved, and he will give you an immediate answer: in Kawit (Cauit), Cavite. That is the standard reply.

Unless the person you ask is an Imuse√Īo.

To the natives of Imus, what is common knowledge to us is for them fable. Imus is not called the “Flag Capital of the Philippines” for nothing, for it was there where our national flag was first unfurled and waved. Mayor Manny’s film project sought to fight the fable. And to non-Imuse√Īo visitors who attended the film showing, the press conference gave light as to why the city bears the flag capital tag. It was there, particularly in Barrio Alap√°n, where the flag was first waved, but as a war ensign.

Imus in revolutionary history was a foretelling of the climax that was the Declaration of Independence. The docudrama, titled “Bago ang Kalayaan: Imuse√Īo sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas“, sought to retell the importance of Imus and its place in Filipino History. Produced by the City Government of Imus and¬†Infinidad Entertainment, the docudrama, helmed by fledgling director Alen de la Cruz, paid tribute to the city’s local heroes (Jos√© Tagle, Licerio Topacio, Hip√≥lito Saquilayan, etc.) who participated in the rebellion against Spain as well as to introduce the Battle of Alap√°n to a much wider audience.

PEPE ALAS

Image: City Government of Imus.

It is not widely known that, two weeks before Emilio Aguinaldo’s declaration of independence from Spain on 12 June 1898 in Cauit, the Filipino flag was first waved, in fact had its baptism of fire, in Imus. It was first used rather fortuitously in a grassy field just outside the poblaci√≥n.¬†This site was part of the sylvan barrio¬†of Alap√°n. Historian Alfredo Saulo described Alap√°n as forested, but the name itself, an old Tag√°log word which means a place where cows feed on grass, aptly describes how the barrio looked like at the time of the battle: it was then grazing grounds for cattle.

As the story goes, the flag, freshly arrived from Hong Kong, was in the hands of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army when it clashed with Spanish troops stationed at Imus on 28 May 1898. The battle lasted from late morning to mid-afternoon. Armed only with¬†bamboo cannons and Mauser rifles, the Filipino troops engaged the Spanish army in a close-range fight. The flag was used as a war ensign, thus earning its literal baptism of fire even before it was unfurled in Cauit. After an intense five-hour battle, close to 300 Spanish soldiers surrendered and were taken as prisoners of war to Cavite Nuevo (now Cavite City).

But is this claim accurate? Was the flag really unfurled or even used as a war ensign during the Battle of Alap√°n?

Image result for fuerzas expedicionarias del norte de luzon

The first Filipino flag is conserved by the Emilio Aguinaldo Foundation in Baguio, Benguet (photo: Philippine Daily Inquirer).

Wave of contention

No less than our country’s eminent historian, Ambeth Ocampo, acknowledges this as fact. “It was first used in the Battle of Alap√°n in May 1898,” wrote Ocampo about the flag in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column “Looking Back“. Even before that, former President Diosdado Macapagal in 1965 issued Proclamation No. 374 where it is stated that “our flag was first raised and received its baptism of fire and victory in the battle of Alap√°n, Imus, Cavite, on May 28, 1898”. That proclamation has since declared May 28 to be our country’s Flag Day.

In 2008, the city government of Imus celebrated its very first Wagayway Festival (Flag-Waving Festival) to commemorate the first time that the Filipino flag was unfurled during the Battle of Alapán.

The problem is that this was contested by Augusto V. de Viana, former chief history researcher at the National Historical Institute, now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. “One of the historical errors being perpetuated in history textbooks and commemorative rites is the place where the Philippine flag was first displayed,” wrote de Viana in an article for the Manila Times many years ago. “One signboard in Cavite claims that the national standard was first raised in Alap√°n, Imus, Cavite, on May 28, 1898.”

De Viana said that in Exhibit No. 71, Vol. 1 of the Philippine Insurgent Records, Aguinaldo himself revealed that the first unfurling and waving of the flag happened in¬†Cavite Nuevo. Aguinaldo said that right after the battle, as the prisoners were being brought to Cavite Nuevo, they were met by an “immense multitude, with cheers of delirious joy and great hurrahs”. This prompted him to unfurl the flag for the first time, to reciprocate the euphoria of victory. He made no mention that he did the same during the Battle of Alap√°n. Even the old historical marker at the site of the battle is also clear on this¬†‚ÄĒ the flag was first unfurled in Cavite Nuevo:

However, in Saulo’s biography of the first president, he cited John R. M. Taylor’s¬†The Philippine Insurrection against the United States (P√°say City: Eugenio L√≥pez Foundation, 1971) as his source that indeed the flag was a major participant in the battle:

The flag that Aguinaldo personally brought home from Hong Kong lent color to the Battle of Alap√°n, a forested barrio of Kawit (sic), on May 28. It was unfurled to commemorate the victory of the Filipino forces over 270 officers and men of the Spanish Marine Corps in a five-hour firefight.

In writing the above, Saulo used Vol. 3, Exhibit 2 (pp. 7-8) of Taylor’s Philippine Insurrection as his source. But he failed to make it clear where exactly the flag was unfurled, even if just to fend off criticisms of vagueness. Further research is needed to compare the contents of Exhibit No. 71, Vol. 1 of the Philippine Insurgent Records against¬†Vol. 3, Exhibit 2 of¬†Taylor’s Philippine Insurrection.

Until then, this leaves us with which flag fable should be unfurled and fought, to be finally forgotten.

Culture complex

The belief that the Filipino flag was first raised in Imus has been enshrined in the hearts and minds of the Imuse√Īo for years, so much that it has become an inseparable part of the local identity. The entire floor of the city plaza, for instance, is painted with a huge symbol of the waving flag which can be perceived perfectly from the air. At the exact site where the battle of Alap√°n had been waged stands a 90-foot pole where one of the largest Filipino flags is waving mightily against the rural breeze. Citywide festivities compel Imuse√Īos to display flags in front of their homes.

So fervent is this Imuse√Īo zeal towards the national emblem that, minutes before Bago Ang Kalayaan was to be shown, everybody immediately stood up when the national flag appeared on the screen. With their right hands upon their breasts, they patiently waited for the national anthem to blurt out from the speakers. About a minute later, everybody was chuckling back to their seats. It turned out that what was being shown at that¬†moment was just a short video for the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines.

Pretending to be from Imus, I joked aloud to my wife: “This is how we¬†Imuse√Īos show our love and respect for the flag!”¬†That the mere sight of it compels Imuse√Īos to stand in salute.

Most, if not all, municipalities and cities in our country bear distinct nicknames that reflect their unique identities and histories. Usually, such nicknames are rooted on a particular place’s prominent environmental features (Puerto Princesa: The Eco-Tourism Capital of the Philippines), economic renown (Macati: The Financial Capital of the Philippines), cottage industry (San Pedro Tunasan: Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines), successful tourism branding (Bacolod: The City of Smiles), and so on and so forth. It appears that the¬† so-called search for national identity has permeated each and every unit of local government. Each city, every municipality, even barrios and sitios, wanted to showcase its own uniqueness, not for the sheer desire of becoming famous but simply to let the world know that it exists, that it has an exceptional story to tell, that it is not just another place that one passes by or mentions dispassionately. Because a dispassionate reception from outsiders makes its people all the more passionate ‚ÄĒto the point of zealousness‚ÄĒ to burst out from the flames of existence itself, that it is its own being, as if distinct from the very country that cradles it.

Is this zeal, borne out of that national identity crisis, a curse or a blessing to our local government units?

One man’s hero is another man’s villain

De la Cruz’s docudrama itself is reflective of that zeal. Imus, clamoring for its own identity, that it is as historic as Cauit and Manila and Malolos, showcases its local heroes who participated in and contributed to the flowering of the uprising against Spain. The Battle of Alap√°n is its climax; its denouement, that the raising of the flag in Cauit was all but anti-climactic. But even before all the action had unfolded in de la Cruz’s dramatic structure, the documentary’s exposition itself was “anti-expository” in the sense that it made a simplistic approach to what had caused the Katipunan revolt.

At the start of the story, we see actors portraying Spanish soldiers and Filipino peasants, the former physically mistreating the latter. This clearly sets the tone of the whole narrative: the waving (no pun intended) of the¬†leyenda negra.¬†To a non-historian viewer, this brings him back to classroom and textbook fodder that has proselytized the execrable black legend for decades.¬†The expository didn’t expose anything new that would have raised the standard of quality historical documentaries. Although Bago Ang Kalayaan introduces something generally novel, that of the first unfurling of the flag, it would have been developed further had the story strayed away from emotional appeals and have instead given much justice to the Katipunan’s raison d’√™tre: that its predecessors ‚ÄĒfrom Luis Rodr√≠guez Varela and his Hijos del Pa√≠s all the way¬†to Marcelo del Pilar’s propaganda movement‚ÄĒ have lost all hope on the reforms that they were trying to push. After all, the Katipunan, for all its faults and good intentions, was born out of a lingering disappointment on Spanish political policies over the islands. To show that a Spanish soldier beating up a Filipino peasant in a docudrama was too simplistic a cause for the Katipunan’s founding and is far from being political (not that such a thing ever happened, but if it ever did, it would had been isolated at best and would still not had been a major cause for revolt). While the polo y servicios and the¬†bandala¬†‚ÄĒboth of which were not entirely malevolent‚ÄĒ were mentioned, they were not enough to justify the dispiriting opening scenes of Bago Ang Kalayaan. Indeed, there is much to be unraveled about the Katipunan, how and why it came to be. But since de la Cruz is no historian, we only have her film’s scriptwriter to blame.

During the Spanish times, we have to consider the fact ‚ÄĒand I am speaking from a legal standpoint‚ÄĒ¬†that the Katipunan, the wheel upon which Aguinaldo’s revolution against Spain (and later on, against Uncle Sam) rode on, was a criminal organization. It doesn’t matter if they are considered as heroes and patriots today, and whether or not their motives were noble. But if we are to deal with historical events, we have to keep our minds in tune to the semantics of the age in which those events had occurred, and not how present society would have received them. If we consider the Katipunan purely as heroes and the Spanish colonial government purely as villains, what keeps us from saying that the Islamic extremists in Mindan√°o are not heroes? Aren’t they fighting for their Bangsamoro that we Christians “stole” from them?

Love of country should not stand on a pedestal of hatred built from a loathing of an oft-misunderstood past.