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Monthly Archives: December 2009

2009 Filipino Of The Year — The Filipino People!

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In just a few hours, 2009 will end. A new year shall arrive. And I thought what better way to end 2009 than by honoring the country’s most respected individual or group, particularly those who made headlines, gained prominence, and brought honors for the motherland. I believe it’s also a good idea to do this every year. So allow me to make it a tradition, my humble way of honoring annually the best that this country has to offer.

The award for the 2009 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR goes to none other than — THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!

2009 Filipino of the Year Award goes to the whole Filipino nation! Take a bow, paisanos!

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS have many candidates for this humble award.

First off on top of the list is our 1986 EDSA heroine, the late President María Corazón S. Cojuangco vda. de Aquino, popularly known as Cory Aquino, who passed away last August 1. Her imminent death due to colon cancer brought back the so-called “Cory Magic” (the phenomenon which toppled the Marcos dictatorship) to the Filipinos and paved the way for the sudden and unexpected rise of her quiescent son, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Noynoy took advantage of this Cory Magic and ran for the presidency. Right now, he is on top of the surveys for the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections.

We also have Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiáo, champion athlete, number one pound-for-pound boxer, and a political wannabe. His recent victory over Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto last 14 November 2009 eventually made him the first boxer in history to win seven world titles in seven different weight divisions, prompting famous and legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum to declare that “Pacquiáo is the greatest boxer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all, including Ali, Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.” Even boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is terrified to square it off against Pacman. But all this stardom might disadvantage him once he rejoins the dirty world of politics next year.

Efren Gerónimo Peñaflorida, Jr. is another breakthrough. The founder of Dynamic Teen Company won recognition last November 22 when he was named as the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year for his commendable “pushcart classroom” (he calls it Kariton Klasrum) aimed at educating poor children and to keep them away from the corruption of the streets.

Of course, YouTube sensation Charmaine Clarice “Charice” Pempengco shouldn’t be left out. The petite singing sensation from San Pedro, La Laguna earned the admiration of millions of people who saw her astounding vocal exhibitions on the internet. More importantly, she gained fame in the US, the entertainment capital of the world, via The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show (even Oprah was teary-eyed). Many singing legends in the US took notice of her talent, particularly Celine Dion (they even sang together in a New York City concert!). There were also reports claiming that Charice would have been included in Michael Jackson’s This Is It series of concerts had it not for the King of Pop’s untimely demise.

The abovementioned Filipinos have brought honor and pride to the Filipino race. It is of course worthy to honor each and every one of them as this year’s Filipino of the Year.

However, I just couldn’t ignore the Filipino people as a whole.

Yes, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS would like to declare the whole Filipino Nation as this year’s winner of the 2009 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR Award. And this is because of the immense outpouring of support that they gave to their fellow Filipinos who were victimized by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

It was during these troubling moments when the Filipino Nation’s sense of intestinal fortitude –not to mention unity– was tested yet again. Metro Manila was crippled by massive and destructive flash floods never before seen in its history. Seventy five percent of the nation’s capital –including surrounding provinces– was inundated by floodwaters, displacing thousands of families and killing scores of unsuspecting people. Typhoon Ondoy’s backlash continued weeks and even months after the killer floods. But the Filipinos’ unique spirit of bayanihan reigned supreme. Everybody –regardless of social standing, religious belief, race, or political inclinations– helped out in the tragedy by donating food, clothing, money for temporary shelter, basic necessities, etc. Political rivalries were ignored for the sake of the victims. The rich showed that not all of them are stingy and greedy. Even celebrities were seen wallowing in the floodwaters to assist those who were stuck in the water. Individual and private donors were always visible in evacuation centers. Every one made their share.

It is times like these which makes me feel so damn proud to be a Filipino!!!

To the Filipino Nation, take a bow. You are God’s precious race!

See you again next year for FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES‘ and ALAS FILIPINAS‘ choice for 2010 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR!

May everybody have an exciting New Year’s Eve!

A Rizalian Challenge

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“Kaniya-kaniyang Rizal…”

–Cris Villanueva in Bayaning Third World

Today, the Philippines, as always, celebrates its national hero’s 113th martyrdom. As always, renowned politicians, attention-hungry statesmen, and a wild caboodle of TV-familiar faces who are in control of government and business are all over public plazas frothing out “nationalistic” fervor in relation to Rizal’s life, works, and influence. This will continue on and on and on, a vicious and aching cycle for a nation attuned to the vices of modern technology.

Nowadays, who cares about Rizal? Who reads him? I mean, who really reads him? Would an avid Rizalian be able to share his heroism towards the masses who would rather pay more attention to bring food to their homes at least twice a day? Ambeth Ocampo does, but mostly towards students who are affluent enough to be able to enroll in posh schools like La Salle or the Ateneo.

But here lies the question: why is there a need to study Rizal? For the simple reason that he is the key towards identifying the Filipino national identity. Not that he was the first Filipino (in a way, he was, in the romantic context of León Mª Guerrero), but whenever there is a mention of Philippine history, this Calambeño will easily come into mind. Besides, Rizal did have something to do with national identity; he lived in that identity which was later lost when we were invaded in 1898 and which, up to now, our generation is still looking for (or is it?)

Rizal, as well as his contemporaries, but especially him, knew where he stood. National identity was never a dilemma nor a mystery for him. Nor was it a mystery for the rest of the Ilustrados and majority of Filipinos. Knowledge of national identity is power. And with this, Rizal and the rest of the Ilustrados had knowledge of this power; the only problem was some of them didn’t know how to use it.

The scenario today is twice as frightening: we don’t know our true national identity, thus we are powerless.

Since Rizal, among other venerated people of the past, is the most conspicuous and most widely known throughout the islands, it is but wise to use him as the key to opening that treasure chest of knowledge of our national identity that has been long searched for and debated.

But there is yet another problem: Which Rizal should we use?

This realization behind the mystery of Rizal was raised upon watching the last scenes of Mike de León’s film biopic Bayaning Third World (winner of the Gawad Urian Awards 2000).

At the end of the movie, Cris Villanueva’s character, which was dumbfounded behind the controversies surrounding Rizal’s retraction, couldn’t help but mention “Kaniya-kaniyang Rizal” (each has his own version of Rizal). This was a result of his and Ricky Daváo’s character’s frustration over their unresolved search for the truth behind Rizal’s retraction from Masonry.

Did he or did he not retract?

Standing on top of the heap of all this controversy was a Vincentian from the San Carlos Seminary, Jesús Mª Cavanna, C.M.

Several decades ago, he published a massive tome: Rizal’s Unfading Glory (a Documentary History of the Conversion of Dr. José Rizal, 1956). Cavanna’s brilliant defense that Rizal did return to the Catholic Church seemed up to now unbeatable. In the book, through the strengthening of the “Rizal did retract” postulation, Cavanna virtually stripped Rizal’s novels and vitriolic essays off every trace of heroism. Indeed, what is so heroic behind irresponsible calumnies against an institution which technically created a nation? But the gist of the book is that Rizal’s heroism may be found in the retraction itself — he fought for what he thought was evil, unjust. He aligned himself against forbidden secret societies, read books that were included in the Index of Forbidden Books. All this he did for love of country. The retraction he did for love of God.

In view of the foregoing, the truth behind Rizal’s retraction is terribly crucial: if he didn’t retract, that only goes to show that everything he wrote against the Catholic Church, no matter how baseless and Satiric, were true. That would have given Christianity in the country a gaping hole. That could only mean that Dan Brown is right about the Church after all. On the other hand, if Rizal did retract, what’s all this talk of Rizalian heroism during his birth and death anniversaries?

No matter how strong Fr. Cavanna’s evidence is, skeptics remain. Thus, it is up to the historian in general and to the Rizalian scholar in particular to finish this discussion once and for all. We may never know where Bonifacio was exactly buried. We may never know where the first cry of revolt was made. We may not even know the real reason behind Gomburza’s execution. But with Rizal, perhaps the most self-documented Filipino hero of all time, everything to know about him is all set on the table; all we need to do is to have a discerning eye, a conscious mind, a relaxed judgment of facts.

Not to mention a huge amount of patience and time.

In order to know Rizal, we should follow and faithfully observe his life. One step at a time. In order to know Rizal, we have to get into his mind.

To the historian and Rizalian scholar lies the brunt of responsibility. He must think and feel like Rizal. He must follow his every movement — from his childhood days in Calambâ to his misadventures in Biñán. From his poetic youth in Manila to his sojourn in Singapore and elsewhere. From his cold lonely nights in Europe to his peaceful days in Dapitan. From his final moments in Fort Santiago to Eternity.

He must think like Rizal. He should literally read all the books Rizal read, page by page, word for word. After reading, the Rizalian should learn how to daydream like Rizal, and how the latter felt after reading the triumphs of his literary heroes. Was it a feeling of triumph, of wild ambition, of a realization?

He should feel like Rizal: meditate on the heartaches and the pains of a broken heart, from Batangas all the way to Europe. He should discover how Rizal felt when he secretly left his parents on his way to the Old World.

He should be able to answer why Rizal hated the very institution which nurtured his hunger for knowledge, and quenched his thirst for the sciences. Why did he rebel against those who supported his desire to make love with the arts and letters?

The Rizalian should know the hidden fears, excitement, and awe that Rizal must have felt upon entering the Lodge door. If the need arises, the Rizalian, if religious, should make a pact with God before entering the Lodge just as to know more about the evolution of this Renaissance Man from Calambâ. Within the Lodge lies so many answers behind the evolution of Rizal’s rebellious character later on in his life.

The Rizalian must learn how to talk to God, for that was how Rizal was: deeply spiritual man despite his Masonic degrees. And in this spiritual puzzle, the Rizalian must be able to delve in order to solve it.

He must undergo a lot of challenges. He must undergo a transformation. He must become José Rizal. Because Rizal was never human. First and foremost, he was a man, sent by God to challenge our iniquities in these direst of times.

All this the Rizalian must face — if he wishes to finally decipher Rizal and his religious conversions. Only an end to this retraction hullaballoo will finally get rid of the rust that has encrusted our “key” which can open the age-old chest hiding our national identity…

For each Filipino cannot have his own version of Rizal, nor he be allowed to have his own fancy of the national hero…

We should only have one Pepe Rizal.

*******

This is a repost (with minor edits) from an article which I wrote for Skirmisher last 19 June 2008.

Disappointment over my unofficial hometown

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Fulfilling what I wrote yesterday, I went around San Pedro, La Laguna, tagging along mi única hija Krystal. It was also a baptism of fire of sorts for our new camera (although we already used it on Christmas Day). I’ll blog about it when I feel OK already (I’m so exhausted with all that walking under the afternoon sun!); hopefully tomorrow. I still haven’t mastered how to use the camera correctly, nor have I accustomed myself with its special features. That’s why I won’t be surprised if the pictures don’t come out OK.

I’ve been around San Pedro numerous times already. We’ve been living here for the past five years. We moved here last 10 November 2004, on the very day of the 2004 Philippine National Elections (that’s when FPJ won in the voting but got lost in the counting). Yeyette was then heavy with child (three days later, she gave birth to Momay, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima). A female cousin of mine who was married to a San Pedrense helped us in finding a place to stay. Those were struggling times for us. Indeed, getting married at a very inopportune time will not do a person any good, especially in this age of economic crises.

When we first moved here, I was really excited. I’ve been an urban kid for years. That’s why rural life always revs up the sentient patterns of my behavior toward society. Summer vacations in Unisan, Quezon during my childhood made it even more nostalgic.

In short, I’m sick of urban life.

But as soon as I stepped inside the world of San Pedro, La Laguna back in 2004, I was immediately disappointed. I was expecting some farmlands, tranquility, more of nature, more rustic imagery, more bahay na bató. But upon entrance (from Muntinlupà City), what greeted me was a vandalized bridge and welcome arch, a garbage-filled estero, Sogo Hotel, smoke fumes from numerous tricycles, boorish traffic, and a motley assemblage of unaesthetic establishments reminiscent of Quiapò, Manila. It was an exuberance of poor municipal planning.

San Pedro, La Laguna is reputedly the “Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines”. But I saw no Sampaguita. Beerhouses, however, were not wanting. And should I even mention the garbage?! And that poor thing called a river…!

But it’s the Christmas season. I shouldn’t be writing about horrible things. I’m just disappointed. It appears that the “curse” of cityhood has encroached rural territories.

San Pedro’s deterioration is not the local government’s fault alone. The people are to be blamed as well. The first thing that you notice in a place is its cleanliness (or filthiness, whichever comes first). With San Pedro, you’ll immediately run into filth. It’s funny how its people continuously complain of the government’s inaction against garbage when they themselves litter everywhere as if there’s no tomorrow.

And lastly, where are the cultural sites? The province of La Laguna is supposed to be a tourist destination. The last time I checked, San Pedro is still in La Laguna.

This afternoon, Krystal and I took pictures of San Pedro’s major sites. But it’s still disappointing. There’s really nothing much to see in San Pedro. No offense to our family friend, San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, but I used to kid around that San Pedro is the “ugliest place in La Laguna province”. I know it sounds rude. But it appears to be true. And I say that not really to insult but out of helpless disappointment.

Mayor Calex has a lot of work to do if his reelection bid becomes successful in the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections. His vision 2020 for San Pedro is astounding, almost too good to be true. In his still unpublished biography, A Date With Destiny
(One More Challenge!): The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Catáquiz
(which Arnaldo and I are still working on), San Pedro writer Sonny Ordoña has this to share:

“Mayor Catáquiz is a visionary,” says Sonny Ordoña, the town’s resident historian and the municipal hall’s consultant for cultural affairs. “Once he asked me for a unique nickname for the town. Since we have a couple of shrines here, particularly the miraculous Santo Sepulcro Shrine in Landayan, I suggested to him, ‘well, why not dub it as a Shrine City?’ His eyes beamed with the idea. The next thing you know, he’s telling everyone that he’s planning to create a 30-storey high bronze statue of Jesus Christ! He wants it installed up in the mountains of San Pedro!”

Also mentioned in this still unpublished biography:

Another pet project of his is quite ambitious: to redevelop idle parts of San Pedro into an economic zone — a trading convergence zone for products coming in from Southern and Northern Luzón!

“Through this economic zone, traders and farmers from Southern Tagalog, and even the whole of Southern Philippines, will be able to sell and showcase their native produce and other items in San Pedro. At the same time, Filipino businessmen from the North will be able to do the same. Thus, this setup will definitely make San Pedro a crucial business zone, making its nickname as the Gateway to Calabarzon truly worthy!”

I’m not sure if Mayor Calex is still interested in having his biography published. We haven’t seen nor talked to each other for about a month or so. The book’s 99.99% done. Gemma Cruz Araneta has even reviewed it already. And Arnaldo is now busy with other historical projects. Furthermore, we’ll be moving out of this town next year. For good. If Mayor Calex isn’t interested anymore, we’ll just charge it to experience.

Anyway, with the way things are going around in San Pedro –my “unofficial” hometown– it looks as if Mayor Calex still has a long way to go with regard to his noble Vision 2020 plans.

Pero cahit anó pa man, napamahál na rin sa aming familia ang pueblo na itó. Five years is five years. We’ve had many good memories in this town named after Saint Peter the Apostle.

Por la intercesión del San Pedro Apóstol, que el Señor Dios le bendiga a este pueblo.

*******

Happy birthday, Mayor Catáquiz!

A digital camera this Christmas — my latest toy!

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At long last, I can now fulfill my travels and blogging with much photography ease… and splendor!

My wife recently purchased a digital camera –our first digital camera, wouldja believe that?!– as a Christmas gift for the whole family. It’s a silver-colored Sony Cyber-Shot® Digital Camera W220 with a 12.1 megapixel resolution coupled to a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar branded 4x optical zoom lens! At last, I won’t have to rely on my wife’s ageing Motorola RAZR V3i clamshell mobile camera phone which she bought more than three years ago. Since 2007, I’ve been using her Motorola cellphone in taking pictures and recording videos for ALAS FILIPINAS, SKIRMISHER, and for my social networking accounts: YouTube, Friendster, and more recently, the phenomenon known as Facebook. The quality of the photos aren’t that good. Understandable, since RAZR V3i is just a cellphone (with just 1.23 megapixels). Through the years, however, the quality deteriorated mainly because of overuse (and perhaps mishandling every now and then). Nowadays, the phone always has a motion blur (this can be observed in many of my photos in Facebook). And for a photographer, you really can’t rely on such a device.

We do have another camera, but it’s a classic one which requires film — definitely a no-no for a traveling blogger/historian. I can’t always have the films developed and the pictures scanned. That’s too cumbersome.

Our Sony Cyber-Shot® may not be as expensive nor as “techie” as what other people have. But it doesn’t really matter. As long as it has all the features that I need, then that is enough. Now, ALAS FILIPINAS and this website will have more focus, more vibrant colors, and more quality. And less of me, hehe!

Tomorrow, if conditions will permit me, I’ll resume my traveling to expose our true Filipino Identity which is extant in old Philippine towns. I’ll start where I currently live — San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna.

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES gets a facelift: preparing for 2010!

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I just need a change, hehehe!

Below is how this website used to look like (click on the small box to enlarge):

WordPress is simply amazing!

Off with the old (Ambiru), on with the new (K2-lite) this coming 2010! =)

*******

Happy 15th birthday to my dear sister Jessica! May you have more happy birthdays to come! And stay as youthful and as beautiful as your Kuya Pepe, hehehe!

Jessica S. Alas

Errors still unrectified: a brief historical outline of the Philippine Left (with commentaries)

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“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” –Karl Marx–

Today marks the 41st founding anniversary of the reestablished Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of José María Sison, a leftist writer and former university professor who is now on self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

On 26 December 1968, Sison, together with other leaders of the Philippine left, convened in a rural area in Pangasinán province to integrate the principles of Marxism-Leninism to that of Mao Tse-Tung’s, creating the said political party in the process. The following year, the CPP launched its armed wing: the New People’s Army (NPA). The landscape of our country’s progressive political thought — not excluding security and order — has never been the same since.

Sison’s CPP actually traces its origins from the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP, or CPP in English) of Crisanto Evangelista. PKP was organized on 26 August 1930, but was officially proclaimed on 7 November of the same year (at the height of the American Occupation). The two dates, August 26 and November 7, are significant to Filipino Communists: August 26 of that year was actually the 34th anniversary of the Katipunan’s Cry of Pugad Lawin (Nick Joaquín contends that it happened on 23 August 1896 in Balintawak — I believe him); 7 November 1930 was the 13th anniversary of the Russian Revolution (October 25 in the old Russian calendar). Wrote Novo Ecijano Alfredo Saulo in his groundbreaking book Communism in the Philippines: An Introduction (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1990):

The Philippine Revolution was a nationalist revolution, the first in Asia, while the Russian Revolution was a communist-led working class revolution, the first in the history of mankind.

In trying to bridge the two revolutions, the CPP would seem to emphasize both the nationalist and proletarian character of its revolutionary struggle.

It is significant to note that the party was organized in the Templo del Trabajo (literally Temple of Labor), doubtless the most important gathering place for labor elements in the city in the early thirties. It was proclaimed at Plaza Moriones, Tondo, the heartland of Manila’s working-class district.

PKP, on the other hand, claims to carry on the “unfinished struggle” of the Filipino masses led by Andrés Bonifacio, erroneously designated with the title “The Great Plebeian”. For one, Bonifacio may not have been rich, but he was not from the lowliest of economic classes: he used to work as a business agent in a British firm — what’s proletarian about that? And besides, he joined Freemasonry in 1892 (Taliba Lodge No. 165). Despite claims of espousing the ideals of liberté, égalité, et fraternité, the world’s oldest (and mysterious) fraternal group usually recruit well-off members of the community –at least in the Philippines during Spanish times. Bonifacio couldn’t have been a Mason if he was purely plebeian. And one more thing: the Philippine Revolution of 1896 were the brains of the elite, not of the masses alone, as carelessly claimed by the late historian Teodoro Agoncillo.

But these historical divulgations are to be tackled in the future.

Speaking of the elite, the PKP wouldn’t have survived the prying eyes of Imperialist US if not for the help of an ilustrado by the name of Isabelo de los Reyes, the direct founder of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. He was then serving a prison sentence in Spain for his ties with the Philippine Revolution. During his incarceration, he was able to meet Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, the infamous anarchist and free-thinker who had a hand in the sacking and burning of about 400 Spanish Catholic churches (Saulo wrote that de los Reyes got the idea of founding the Iglesia Filipina Independiente from him although it is unlikely due to his anarchist background). Upon de los Reyes’ return to the Philippines in July 1901, he brought with him the first batch of socialist literature to have ever reached the archipelago.

Socialism vs Communism

Saulo brilliantly observed that de los Reyes’ “socialist literature must have had such a tremendous impact on local labor circles…”

…that hardly two years later (circa 1903) Lope K. Santos, a young journalist and labor leader, started the publication of Banaag at Sikat (‘Ray and Sunrise’) his social novel, in the daily newspaper Muling Pagsilang (‘The Rebirth’) which he also edited.

Published in book form in 1906, Banaag at Sikat was the first literary work by a Filipino to expound the principles of socialism in the Philippines. This novel antedated by almost a generation the birth in 1932 of the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) founded by Pedro Abad Santos.

Legendary revolutionist Luis Taruc used to be the right-hand man of Abad Santos who is the brother of the 5th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court José Abad Santos. Although Taruc, who died a few years ago, claimed that Abad Santos’ SPP was founded in 1932, others contend that the socialist organization was founded in 1929 or 1933. A few years later, some of SPP’s members who had communist leanings supported then Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon’s social justice program, a move which is frowned upon by many communists who believed that the left should not in anyway “support” the capitalist/imperialist establishment. Meanwhile, more trade unions have been organized following the organization of both the PKP/CPP and SPP (but there were already trade unions which preceded both militant groups such as the Unión de Impresores de Filipinas which was founded in 1906). Labor strikes were rampant (notable was the one which happened in Fábrica, Negros Occidental — about 15,000 walked out from the Insular Lumber Mills company). The Great Depression happening in the US was being felt in the archipelago, much like what had happened in the recent US financial crisis.

Both PKP and SPP, of course, had various differences, particularly in ideology. The PKP is strictly communist: they advocate a social structure in which societal classes must be abolished and that private property should be publicly owned. And like most communist groups, the PKP believed that only a proletarian revolution will help them achieve their goals. Abad Santos’ SPP is, of course, rallying for socialism. But the difference between both progressive ideologies are a bit blurry especially since both groups share the same objectives: a classless society. Many social scientists say that socialism allows some free market economy –a familiar feature in capitalist societies– to exist. An individual is also allotted resources depending on their needs. Unfortunately for communists, especially those who look down to socialists, socialism is in fact based in the theories of Karl Marx, the oft-mentioned German philosopher who laid the foundations of modern communist thought through his famous pamphlet Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (commonly known in English as The Communist Manifesto) and his extensive book Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Capital). Bolshevik Leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin finally concluded that socialism is actually a transitional stage between capitalism and communism (this brought forth the popular Marxist-Leninist school of communism).

Hukbalahap

Japanese aggression during World War II compelled both PKP and SPP to submit themselves to an “unholy alliance” to secure a more effective and meaningful struggle against the enemy. However, many of their leaders, including Abad Santos and Evangelista, were arrested by the dreaded Japanese kempetai. It was a disastrous blow to the Philippine left, but it launched its “Second Front” under the leadership of Dr. Vicente Lava. Eleven days before the dramatic fall of Bataán, the PKP launched the now legendary breed of Filipino guerilleros called the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon, commonly known as the Hukbalahap, on 29 March 1942.

After the war, Hukbalahap members fought the government, especially when Manuel Roxas was being groomed by Imperialist US to become the first president of the “independent” Republic of the Philippines. The Huks didn’t trust him, for he was a Japanese collaborator. This disturbing fact was divulged by no less than General Douglas MacArthur’s contact with the Philippine underground movement against the Japanese: Commander Charles Parsons. This was mentioned in the book Cross-Currents in the Philippines (Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, 1946) by Bernard Seeman and Laurence Salisbury: “Roxas didn’t collaborate actively. He was really a passive collaborator,” said Parsons. But dirty politics and a vile US economic policy toward war-shamed Japan made Roxas the US’ main man in the Philippines. And so the hatred between him and the Hukbalahap members commenced.

It can be said that the Hukbalahap is the precursor to today’s NPA.

Rectifying errors

It has been over three decades, but the communist movement hasn’t had any stronghold in local Philippine political philosophy.

Several setbacks forced a beleaguered PKP to go underground, and then later on to join Philippine politics, albeit apathetically. Several blunders in its central committee resulted into petty bickerings, malcontents, and other dissidents. One of them was a young nationalist by the name of José María Sison who was a big fan of Filipinist Senator Claro M. Recto.

Sison was a very belligerent young member of the PKP, which was then led by the Lava brothers (Sison later on sarcastically called the group the “Lava clique”. His virulent ideology always placed him on the party’s critical side. Highly disenchanted with the party’s seeming failures, he prepared a treatise which took him two years to write: Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party. In the said document, Sison, using the nom de guerre Amado Guerrero which means “beloved warrior”, criticized the political blunders made by the PKP throughout its history and struggle for political existence. Sison/Guerrero assiduously enumerated the errors he thought were committed by the party. He also took time to inject Mao Tse-Tung’s political theories into his faction which he called the “reestablished” PKP, renaming it in English as the the Communist Party of the Philippines, Marxist-Leninist/Mao Tse-tung Thought, or simply as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP):

The main ideological weakness of all previous leaderships of the Communist Party of the Philippines has been subjectivism, appearing in the form of dogmatism and empiricism, and resulting in Right and “Left” opportunist lines. The Philippines, being a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country, has a large petty bourgeoisie which serves as the historical and social basis for subjectivism. Since the Party exists in this kind of society, it is liable to reflect subjectivist trends from without and from within if it is not alert and careful in its Marxist-Leninist ideological building which is the first requirement in Party building.

The Party could be penetrated by a considerable number of Party members of petty-bourgeois orientation (middle peasants, intellectuals, handicraftsmen and other petty producers) who fail to remould their world outlook and methods of thinking in accordance with Marxism-Leninism and who fail to integrate revolutionary practice with dialectical materialism and historical materialism.

Although the first Party members were mainly from the working class represented by Comrade Crisanto Evangelista, the Party leadership erroneously put much reliance on open, legal, parliamentary and urban political activity which resulted in the paralyzation of the Communist Party of the Philippines once it was outlawed by the US imperialists and their running dogs. A revolutionary and thoroughgoing proletarian world outlook would have made the Party recognize the dialectics of the whole Philippine situation and would have enabled it to adopt the correct methods of legal and illegal struggle.

Sison, upon reestablishing (some say it was somewhat a “schismatic” move) the Communist Party of the Philippines 41 years ago today, went on with a barrage of angry accusations of political carelessness against the old PKP. He also played the role of a psychological observer to the leaders of the PKP, saying that there was an “overconcentration on urban political work because of the subjectivist and opportunist desire to compete or collaborate with bourgeois parties and groups” and that “subjectivism of the dogmatist type prevailed during the first two years of the José Lava leadership and the first five years of the Jesús Lava leadership”.

Right opportunism and “Left” opportunism have been committed in the history of the Communist Party of the Philippines. These political errors have emanated from the subjectivist world outlook. They have restricted the building of a Marxist-Leninist party that is firmly and closely linked with the masses on a national scale, that has a correct style of work and conducts criticism and self-criticism, that implements a programme of agrarian revolution and that makes use of the national united front to broaden its influence and support in its struggle against US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

The urban, parliamentary and open character of the Communist Party of the Philippines during the early months of its existence in 1930 and 1931 was mainly responsible for the political disaster and difficulties that it soon suffered. During this early period, the Party leadership was given to the use of “Left” language in public against the entire bourgeoisie, and illegal work was not effectively carried out together with legal work.

The Party did not arouse and mobilize the peasantry as the main force of the revolution. Even when the principal leaders of the Party and its mass organizations were banished to different provinces, they were not conscious of the significance of planting the seeds of the new democratic revolution in the countryside. The idea of the national united front was not also immediately taken up and adopted. Even the urban petty bourgeoisie was not given serious attention as a class ally and as a source of cadres.

Current analysis

Sison also cited some military and organizational errors which he sought to rectify in the reestablished CPP. But looking at the CPP today, it seemed that the reestablishment which he did also ended up in failure. There is no more need to engage Sison in an ideological debate, nor to imitate his wont for flowery words. The very fact that he lives comfortably in Utrecht while his comrades here suffer a pitiful plight in various malaria-infested Philippine mountains and in garbage-laden urban jungles demonstrates the juvenile adventurism which he viciously hurled against the PKP.

To reiterate: his reestablishment is a total failure.

My wife has an uncle who used to be an NPA member in their hometown of Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental. I’ve engaged this uncle in numerous conversations about his past life with the left. But he knew nothing about the ideology. We also had an elderly household helper who also joined the NPA in the mountains, all because of agrarian unrest. But her knowledge about what the movement is all about is zero.

I’ve also heard stories of NPA members who are as young as 15 years old! What do these kids know about capitalism, right opportunism, the deeper roots of agrarian unrest, León Trotsky, and other leftist terminologies and thought?

In Unisan, Quezon, my auntie’s sari-sari store, as well as other business establishments, were regularly visited by communist cadres to demand “revolutionary taxes”. Nonpayment would mean further harassment and scare tactics. Big businesses in rural areas bear much of the brunt of communist rage. Their establishments are either bombed or burned or looted.

When I was in elementary school, me, my brother, and some cousins were on a bicycle stroll outside the población of Unisan (we were on summer vacation). We were visiting a nearby hillside forest outside town. Little did we know that the whole town was in panic mode because of a skirmish between the NPA and local police. Virtually all the houses closed down their doors and windows in broad daylight. The whole town went silent after the firefight. Our family members were desperately looking for us in fright. My mom even claimed to have seen NPA members escaping the town.

When we got back, the action was over. The NPA were gone. Two policemen were killed. And our butts received generous amounts of spanking for something that we didn’t understand and wasn’t our fault.

Later on, I learned that the two policemen who were killed by the NPA in cold blood were former communists who returned to the government. That is why it is difficult for me not to believe the political purgings and mass killings that were hurled against Sison et al.

When the CPP-NPA was declared as a terrorist organization by the US and Philippine governments, they cried foul. But what do they call the recent activities of their group in far-flung provinces?

Even my friend, San Pedro, La Laguna Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, dreads going home to his father’s hometown of Unisan, Quezon for fear of being visited by money-hungry NPAs who might ask him for revolutionary taxes, whatever that meant.

I used to be a member of the progressive movement, that’s why it saddens me to occasionally hear bad news about the left whose main goal is to eradicate poverty –and ultimately, evil itself– once and for all. I even had the privilege of joining an underground meeting with members of the Sosyalistang Partido ng Manggagawa (SPP) led by its leader, Sonny Melencio, many years ago somewhere in Quezon City (I was then a passive member of its youth wing, the Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan). One of my comrades, Danilo Balao (an Ybanag) even confided to me that Melencio also helped Sison in drafting Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party. But realizing that the psychosocial elements inherent in the movement are no different to those found in organized religion (continuously fragmenting and splitting), I gave up hope on hope itself, eventually becoming a cynical atheist prone to suicide.

I am confident that I wasn’t alone in this kind of disenchantment. Even Sison himself felt the same way. But he reestablished the group; I desisted.

The recent US financial crisis didn’t lead to capitalism’s self-destruction, as predicted even by Marx himself. Or is it because there was inaction? Or too much dependency on economic theorems?

Then and now

Years later after that, I was able to watch a televised interview of Sison in Utrecht. He may be faraway from the dangers of local politics, but he’s not really living a life of luxury (this was before his group was declared as a terrorist group). Politically speaking, he’s free to move, free to write down his thoughts. He was all smiles in the interview. It appears that he has given up hope when, in parting, he said that even if he wouldn’t be able to witness the fruits of his labor, others will continue it for him. Isn’t this line of thinking in a way be considered as adventurism itself? It seems that age has mellowed down a once angry and dissident Amado Guerrero. Or perhaps disenchantment from members –and a stubborn government pursuit of NPA members)– forced too much inactivity from him and from his comrades. The controversial yet harmless ballroom dance that he had with actress Ara Mina a few years ago signalled the end, wittingly or unwittingly, of his militancy’s self-armistice. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism has just died right then and there.

The late journalist Máximo Solivén was right when he mentioned that communism is virtually utopia, paradise on earth. It is something that has always fascinated the youth who is prone to militancy and adventurism, thus paving the way to ideological pride and stubborness of spirit. Those who never outgrew this kind of youthful character ended up as lonely

I live in a capitalist environment. The fabric of this society is woven with evil threads. But I choose to live my life to the fullest. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have succumbed to the perils and temptations of materialism. I have never –and will never– become one of this reality’s seamsters.

“Our main problem in this country is the problem of social justice,” wrote the late historian-priest, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J. Sadly, Sison wasn’t able to address that glaring problem despite rectifying errors here and there.

Communism isn’t the answer, after all. Or perhaps it isn’t just that…

Merry Christmas everyone!!!

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A Very Merry Christmas To Y’all!!!

Three pre-Christmas tragedies

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Sadly, three tragedies hit the Philippines moments before Christmas day…

1.) Mayón Volcano has been terrorizing natives of Albay PHIVOLCS scientists for months. Thousands of families have already been evacuated from their homes to protect them from the volcano’s impending wrath. Now, PHIVOLCS declared that it’s only a matter of days –or even hours– before the World’s Most Perfect Cone displays its fiery power.

2.) Yesterday, more than 1,000 families from both cities of Pásay and Macati lost their homes from a monstrous flame. The blaze started at around 10 A.M. in a house on Bonifacio Street in Barangay Bangkal, Macati City, after its owner left an open stove unattended. This means that countless residents from the two mentioned cities might end up experiencing Christmas Eve without comfortable roofs above them.

3.) And just this morning, around 2:30 A.M., at least three people were killed and at least 24 others were still reportedly missing after a passenger ferry smashed into a fishing boat off the coast of Maragondón, Cavite.

Heartbreaking news indeed.

The year 2009 is overwhelmed with disasters, natural or manmade. The most memorable were the back-to-back typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng which wreaked havoc in Metro Manila and much of Luzón. As the year is about to end, Filipinos are hoping for brighter days ahead.

True, there is no such thing as a perfect day. There is no perfect month. And each year, it’s impossible for tragedy not to strike. Be that as it may, Filipinos are already strengthened by the very tragedies that have smothered them. The Filipino race is a resilient and sturdy race. No amount of tragedy will ever bring us down.

Christmas cheer shall continue no matter what.

Mayón’s big blast is feared any time now as Christmas nears

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Alert Level 5 is looming for Mayón Volcano:

“Parameters are high until now and the intensifying activity might force us to raise the alert level to its highest level but it would happen only when Mayón shoots a straight ash column containing pyroclastic materials and molten, burning rocks as big as houses or buses from its crater, accompanied by intense rumbling and jittering of the ground felt as far as this city,” said resident volcanologist Eduardo Laguerta. Inquirer.net

Literally speaking, it’s going to be one “bright and shiny” Christmas that no Bicolano would ever want to have.

Ready to rumble...

May everybody around Mayón Volcano be safe this Christmas Season…

Lawyer says Senator Santiago is mentally unfit to join next year’s elections

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Lawyer Nombraan Pangcoga is seeking to disqualify Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago from joining the 2010 Philippine National Elections on accusations of insanity:

“Senator…Santiago is of unsound mind. She appears to be suffering from a severe mental disorder,” he wrote in an eight-page petition. He added that the feisty senator’s “insanity” is characterized by “delusion of grandeur, flight of ideas, mood swings, penchant for lying, and paranoia.”

But isn’t that old news already? And besides, based on Pangcoga’s accusations, more than half of members of congress suffer from the same mental problems. So what’s the fuss is all about, anyway?

Giving Ben Tisoy his due honor.

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