From excited foreword to grateful afterthought

A couple of years back, I excitedly announced in my now defunct Spanish blog that I was chosen to write for a coffee table book about the history of La Laguna Province. After almost two years of sleepless nights writing and doing field research, incurring trouble at the office because of several absences and tardiness, and capped by a press release on my accidental discovery of the province’s foundation date as well as defending it from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ “board of academic censors”, nothing came out of the said project. The publisher and I had a falling out while the provincial governor who was supposed to fund the project was  unceremoniously booted out from politics. That book was supposed to be my big break to become a well-known writer-historian. But it seems that bad luck is an unwanted twin of mine. Whenever my dreams are within arm’s reach, they start slipping right from my hands and crash down to the floor like fine chandelier.

When publication was nearing, I had my mentor, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, write the book’s foreword. I couldn’t think of nor imagine anyone else to write one for me. He is, after all, the epitome of an authentic Renaissance Man: a journalist, historian, poet, playwright, fictionist, linguist, folklorist, cartoonist, recording artist, and Spanish language teacher as well as instructor of Spanish dances (considered as the only “maestro de flamenco” of Filipinas). Few people may know this, but he is also a polyglot: aside from his mastery of Spanish, Hiligaynón, Quinaráy-a, English, and Tagálog, he also has a working knowledge of Chabacano Zamboangueño, Cavitén (Chabacano Caviteño), French, Hokkien, Cebuano, and Portuguese. In spite of his personal problems and health issues, he still manages to continue the difficult fight for the recognition of our true national identity. A great man like Don Guimò only comes once every one hundred years. That is why I call him as the GREATEST FILIPINO alive today.

La imagen puede contener: Pepe Alas y Guillermo Gómez Rivera, personas sonriendo, selfie

Unfortunately, my coffee table book will no longer see the light of day. So I thought of just publishing here Don Guimo’s foreword for that book. I am not a decorated writer nor historian, but his words for me are worth all the medals of the world.

     Having known José Mario “Pepe” Alas since his college student days at Adamson University, we never expected him to be capable of writing a history book with such serene impartiality and with the taught discipline of a seasoned historian. And more so the complex history of La Laguna, a province that means so much to the development of this country. We always thought that only a Nick Joaquín would be able to do that considering the uniqueness and the vastness of the latter’s accumulated knowledge and profound understanding of Philippine history, the Spanish language, the Filipino national identity, and the Filipino culture that encompasses all these intellectual disciplines.

     But Pepe has somehow been able to acquire the necessary conocimientos which is more than knowledge, to grasp and reproduce what is Filipino. He did take for granted, as is the case of many Filipino college students, his Spanish language subjects at Adamson University, but after he graduated and was faced with the challenges of survival, he accepted the casual job of a typist and was given the assignment to type a whole book in Spanish on the history of the Primera República de Filipinas, a thick compilation of documents, with their respective comments, by Spanish language academician, novelist, historian, and professor, Antonio M. Abad from Barili, Cebú.

     Although we know that this is not the only book in Spanish that he was forced to read, because he had to type it, Pepe must have had read some other books in Spanish on what is Filipino aside from those available in English. To our surprise, Pepe could speak to us in Spanish about Philippine History after going through this old Abad book and the other books, works, and literary pieces in this language that were found in our library.

    As an old teacher of the Spanish language, we know that the student, to acquire this language, needs to master four basic skills: the skill to read it, the skill to understand it, the skill to write in it, and, later, the final skill to speak it. And Pepe Alas from Parañaque City had sufficiently mastered the four enumerated skills. To top it all, he also mastered to a high degree the literary, historical, and cultural content of Spanish in the Philippines which, as a culmination, has formed his firm conviction as a Filipino, free from the current maladies of a colonial mentality vis-à-vis the present colonial master lording it over our country.  In short, Pepe is no longer a stranger in his own country which is expectedly miseducated, therefore ignorant of its true culture and true history. Pepe has freed himself from these maladies and anomalies of the mind and soul, and, because of this newfound freedom of his mind and his soul, he now loves his country in a much deeper way than most other Filipinos of his generation ever did or do.

     As he advanced in the field of employment, he settled in San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna, with his wife and children and immediately identified himself as a native born lagunense interested in the history and prosperity of his adoptive province. From there, he realized that he had a new world to know and write about which is La Laguna. His research on the history of his adoptive province led him to discover the real founding date of La Laguna. He went through all the old and pertinent Spanish documents with great ease and discovered that La Laguna started as a Spanish encomienda under conquistador Martín de Goití in the sixteenth century.

     What is funny, if not something to be highly indignant about, is that the government office that supposedly works on the history of this country flatly denied and rejected this discovery because of an old U.S. WASP induced prejudice against the Spanish encomienda. Some employees in that government office on history had this prejudice against the encomienda because of the falsities taught to them in their history classes by an Americanized history teacher that never learned to see through the 1900 American sectarian propaganda against what is Spanish and Filipino in these islands. These de-Filipinized elements wrongly labeled an encomienda as a system of slavery and oppression when it is in the encomienda that our native Indio forefathers learned not only the predominant religion of Filipinos today but also learned a more advanced system of agriculture, a sophisticated cuisine, basic arts and trade, and all that a people needed to later form a pueblo and a municipio as we know them today.

     But the La Laguna Provincial Board, being open minded, quickly saw that this Alas discovery was logical and, therefore, correct. It eventually approved and recognized the date of the founding of La Laguna as a Spanish encomienda to be also the beginning of the legal entity that is this province today. An Inquirer article called Pepe an achiever who, as a young historian, discovered what others blindly ignored for so long. Kudos to the provincial governor and the La Laguna Provincial Board!

     Reading Pepe’s general history of La Laguna is a pleasure. The language is easy and all that is historical data are neatly interwoven to give an accurate picture of how La Laguna developed and how its people progressed through the years in spite of the vicissitudes that would disturb such advances. Credit is given to whosoever deserves it. As an historian, Pepe will never say, like Teodoro A. Agoncillo says on his “History of the Filipino People”, that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is”.  Pepe gives us the sensation that he exactly knows what is Filipino and that it is neither difficult nor impossible to define what it is. Because of his mastery of Spanish, Pepe Alas agrees with Teodoro M. Kálaw’s definition of what is Filipino, a definition that is, evidently, not “politically correct” nowadays, but which is accurate anyway you put it. Wrote Kálaw, and we quote him in his own language to avoid any mistranslation:

“Cuando se discute la capacidad de una raza para la autosuficiencia, todos los elementos y factores que intervinieron en su cultura, todas las generaciones anteriores, se someten a prueba. Y entrelazadas en esa exégesis está la obra de España y la obra de Filipinas indígena, dos civilizaciones que han venido uniéndose en una misma civilización que llamamos filipina sobre este suelo por casi cuatro siglos para luego constituir una vibrante nacionalidad, la que dio espíritu a la revolución y a la primera República de Filipinas.”

     La Laguna is, indeed, one of the oldest provinces of the Philippines because many of its original families have branched out to other places in this country. As a mere example and modesty aside—, this writer’s family, on both the paternal and maternal sides, traces its roots to La Laguna. Gómez comes from a 17th-century Spanish alférez from Pagsanján, Francisco Gómez, who married a Tagala named María Dimaculañgan, while Rivera traces its roots to nearby Pila. Upon a recent visit to the parish church of Pagsanján, this writer saw, from a list of donors, individuals that carried both surnames: Gómez and Rivera. There is always that inclination to come to Pagsanján and upon viewing the old and majestic arch at the beginning of what was Pagsanján’s Calle Real, a sensation of having been there becomes overpowering.  And then, there is the now almost abandoned Gómez mansion near the river while it is also at the rear of the old Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, the advocation of the Virgin Mary that merited the Pontifical titles of “Emperatriz de las Américas, Reina de México, y Patrona de Filipinas”. Aside from the famous Pagsanján Falls, the arch, the old bahay na bató houses, and the parish church are also tourist attractions.

     The attraction of La Laguna in general is great, and tourism is not a new phenomenon for Pagsanján. There is this bilingual sing-song of long ago that attests to what we say:

Muy bienvenidos
Sean ustedes
A nuestro pueblo
De Pagsanján.
Aquí tenemos
La maravilla
De veinte saltos
En un bancal.
Sobresaltante
Pero seguro
Es el paseo
En un raudal;
Porque las bancas
Son de arbol duro
Y los banqueros
De mucha sal.

–o–

Maganda nawâ
Ang ‘yong pagdayo
Dito sa amin
Sa Pagsanján;
Magarang arco,
Magandang bahay
Gawá sa tabla
At sa bató.
Ñgunit ang tunay
Na pañghalina
Ng bayan natin
Ay ang talón
Casama’ng daloy
Ng mananañgcang
Sanáy sa tulin
At sa tinô.

     La Laguna, as a center of Filipino culture, as expressed in song, dance, ritual, poetry, cuisine, and hospitality, is bound to advance. More so with the new crop of leaders it presently has to steer this vision onward.

La imagen puede contener: texto

 

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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!

Confessing the Katipunan

Deponatur sacerdos qui peccata penitentis publicare præsumit.

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, commonly known as the Sacrament of Confession, is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church and is very much a part of the Filipino Christian’s way of life. Through it, Christians are able to confess their sins to a priest in order to obtain absolution (forgiveness) for sins committed against God and fellowman. Being absolved allows the Christian to be reconciled to the greater Catholic community.

We are not about to engage on the necessity, benefits, and Biblical veracity of the Sacrament of Confession. Rather, this blogpost seeks to clarify the involvement of the alleged violation of the Seal of the Confessional to an important event in Filipino History at the turn of the 20th century: the discovery of the Katipunan.

Today, history reminds us how government authorities discovered in the afternoon of 19 August 1896 the existence of the underground rebel group Katipunan (officially known as the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng̃ mg̃á Anak ng̃ Bayan or the “Supreme and Honorable Society of the Children of the Nation”) which was, for years, already plotting the downfall of the Spanish regime. Conventional history tells us that the existence of the Katipunan was divulged as a result of a petty quarrel between two of its members, Teodoro Patiño and Apolonio de la Cruz. It is said that the two had a misunderstanding regarding wages (both were employees of the Diario de Manila), and that de la Cruz also blamed Patiño for the loss of some printing supplies. As an act of vengeance, Patiño angrily revealed the secrets of the Katipunan to his sister Honoria who was a nun at an orphanage in Mandaluyong (it was not explained to us the rationale of how Patiño’s quarrel with de la Cruz prompted him to reveal the existence of the Katipunan to his sister).

Honoria, being a nun, naturally grew shocked and upset upon finding out that his brother was part of a rebel group related to the Freemasons, the ancient enemy of the Catholic Church. Sor Teresa de Jesús, the mother portress of the orphanage, saw Honoria distraught, prompting the former to interrogate the latter. Honoria told everything she heard from her brother. Later in the evening, Sor Teresa called Patiño and advised him to tell everything he knew about the Katipunan to Fray Mariano Gil, the Augustinian curate of Tondo. Father Gil, in turn, alerted the authorities who then unleashed a crackdown on suspected members after incriminating evidence was found. The unexpected discovery of the Katipunan compelled its leader, Andrés Bonifacio, to publicly declare an uprising days later. The rest, as they say, is history.

Through the years, Filipino students have been taught that the Katipunan was discovered as a result of Fr. Gil’s violation of the seal of the confessional. The poor friar has been painted as a villain since. And this event in our history has become a favorite target of Filipino anti-Catholics and other Hispanophobes.

But is it true that Fr. Mariano Gil violated the seal of the confessional?

In many textbooks, it is written that the Augustinian parish priest of Tondo indeed violated the secrecy of confession. Take one instance, for example (taken from Rex Bookstore’s The Filipino Moving Onward and My Country and My People for Grade 5 students):

Upon the advice of the Mother Portress of the orphanage, Teodoro Patiño made a confession to Fr. Mariano Gil…

But if we are to consult standard history books written by big names such as Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino, we will see that they did not even mention the word “confession” nor did they allude to the sacrament. And in Gregorio Zaide’s first book, Documentary History of the Katipunan Discovery: A Critico-historical Study of the Betrayal of the K.K.K. New Revelations, the controversy regarding the alleged breaching of the seal of confession was tackled, but it seemed to center more on breaking the then prevailing myth that a woman confessed the existence of the Katipunan to Fr. Gil (the “traitor” was then believed to be either Juana de Guzmán [Patiño’s wife] or Honoria).

It is not known to many, however, that this controversy was already put to rest many years ago, at least by Concepción Escalada, Honoria’s daughter. According to Zaide, Concepción revealed that she heard her mother deny that Teodoro gave the information inside the confessional. Her uncle Teodoro simply told the Katipunan plot to her mother Honoria in the presence of Sor Teresa.

Image result for fr. mariano gil horas mo na

Fr. Mariano Gil had been receiving death threats from the dreaded Katipunan.

Nevertheless, Zaide’s account of Honoria’s revelation was doubted by Agoncillo. Even to this day, many historians are divided on the issue. So for the sake of argument… what if Patiño really did confess, and Fr. Gil did divulge the details of his confession to the authorities?

In order to resolve this once and for all, try putting yourselves in Fr. Mariano Gil’s shoes: pretend that you are a priest. Then one day, a tearful penitent visits you for a confession. You are surprised because you know her as a prominent public servant. She is a Catholic, but a Bangsamoro sympathizer and collaborator. During the confession, she also gives you details of an impending attack by her Bangsamoro separatist friends on the capital city. As a priest, you are not allowed to divulge her other sins of having knowledge about bombs being detonated in major cities all over the archipelago through the years. You can only advice her to do the right thing: that is, to surrender to the authorities for having been an accomplice. But regarding her other confession, that of a major attack on the capital city in which many innocent lives are certainly at stake… as a citizen, what are you going to do about it?