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Category Archives: Identidad Filipina

Graffiti art in Intramuros?

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Dear National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Intramuros Administration (IA),

Good day!

How are you? I hope you’re doing fine. First of all, I would like to applaud the both of you for all your past and present efforts in championing Filipino culture, heritage, and the arts within and outside the Walled City…

Aw, the heck with formalities! Enough with the niceties! You two actually disappoint me!

Let me first direct my attention to you, NCCA. Several days ago, you did a commendable act when you condemned DMCI’s Torre De Manila for desecrating the visual skyline of the Rizal Monument. Hurrah. Kudos. Party balloons. But now, take a look at this photo:

I assume that you’re the one who took it because you tweeted about it. “Street art in ” was your proud declaration in your Twitter account. And worse, your friend IA retweeted it! But first, what is wrong with this picture which is the source of my displeasure? Because this graffiti which you call “street art” is not even national. It is associated with hip hop culture which originated from the toughies of South Bronx in New York. Furthermore, graffiti’s status as an art form is still questionable. So is that what you are promoting now? Secondly, why did you allow a questionable subculture art form within the walls of Intramuros? I would have just let it pass without comment had this kind of graffiti been painted elsewhere (face it: one usually encounters graffiti art in vandalized walls and dank alleys near rowdy neighborhoods). But no, not within Intramuros!

To the people who make up the IA, may I remind you your reason for being. And that’s Presidential Decree No. 1616. It goes a little something like this:

The Administration shall be responsible for the orderly restoration and development of Intramuros as a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. As such, it shall ensure that the general appearance of Intramuros shall conform to Philippine-Spanish architecture of the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century.

Before you go smart-alecky on me, don’t even start that graffiti is not architecture. But hey, this is not just about architecture anymore but the Walled City’s general appearance which you guys swore to protect and conserve. And of all people, you should know what general appearance I am talking about. And while I may not be against graffiti so long as it is on its proper place (preferably in an MMDA-sponsored “Metro Pogi” colony), it has no place within the historically hallowed walls of Intramuros.

My friends, it was in Intramuros where  the Filipino State was established on 24 June 1571. For centuries, it was the seat of political power. It was witness to a thousand traditional processions and events which both devout and heathen now consider as legendary. Intramuros was where many of our patriots and great thinkers were educated. Intramuros was our country’s little Europe, the medieval city of the Far East, the citadel of baroque and gothic architecture, of carromatas and genteel people, of cobbled roads and revolution, of gas light and romanticism, of gallantry and Filipino Identity.

My friends, in Intramuros were trained our first real painters.

Show a little respect, please.

Pilipinas vs Filipinas (in defense of the KWF)

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Hi folks!

It’s been four years since the last time you heard of our unified voice. It was a huge hit because our collective take on the state of Filipino History disturbed and ruffled a few feathers, proving our effectiveness in annoying people, hehehe! It even alarmed a former cabinet member of a former president (no kidding), prompting her to send a cautionary email. So we thought of “volting in” once again, this time to defend National Artist Virgilio Almario’s stand on what should really be the name of our country.

Should it be FILIPINAS or PILIPINAS/PHILIPPINES?

Almario is currently the chairman of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (Commission on the Filipino Language), the official regulating body of the national language which is based on Tagalog. I have attacked this institution on numerous occasions in various online forums and even wrote a scathing commentary about it on this very blog due to its apparent cluelessness on what should really be our country’s national tongue. But me and my friends think that it’s high time to defend it, not on the national language issue (incidentally, the country is now celebrating Buwan ng Wika or Language Month) but on the controversial decision of its chief executive to restore the original name of our country which is FILIPINAS.

For over a year, a huge majority of local netizens have continuously bashed Almario and the KWF over their decision to push for the return of our country’s original name. I have read several blogs, websites, online news, and social media commentaries heavily criticizing and even making fun of the issue. And judging by these people’s comments, I notice that most of them are even unaware of the real reason why the KWF has been insisting on the name Filipinas. Hilariously, many of these bashers even find the name Filipinas “too gay” compared to Pilipinas (obviously, these kids didn’t even bother to read the whole story but instead relied on headlines and images). And I have yet to find a blog/website that supports KWF’s patriotic decision to stand firm on what is historically correct. But I am saddened to realize that there are really only a handful of Filipino netizens who are sensible towards our country’s history.

If you have time, please read what we have to say about this controversial issue in our respective blogs:

1) Juan Luis García in VIAJAR EN FILIPINAS.
2) José Miguel García in PATRIA.
3) Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera in FILHISPÁNICO.
4) Arnaldo Arnáiz in WITH ONE’S PAST.
5) And me in ALAS FILIPINAS.

We do not wish to wage war against those who are “anti-Filipinas“. All we ask is for you to listen. Read carefully what we have to say before you even decide on letting prejudice consume you.

Remember what your idol José Rizal wrote during his final moments on Spaceship Earth…

Mi patria idolatrada, dolor de mis dolores,
Querida Filipinas, oye el postrer adiós.
Ahí te dejo todo, mis padres, mis amores.
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores,
Donde la fe no mata, donde el que reina es Dios.

Have a nice day!

Of statesmen and politicians

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We are suffering from a drought of statesmen and a flood of politicians. It’s like a diet full of calories with almost no nutrition. Statesmen are like vegetables. Many people don’t like them, but they’re good for you. Politicians are like too much ice cream. Yummy. I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.
—Mike North—

Several scandals and controversies in national politics have withered away public trust and confidence on our so-called public servants. From the Rolex 12 controversy of the 1970s up to the recent Pork Barrel Scam, the image of the present-day Filipino politician has been mired down. And so stuck in the rut is this image that it has become easy not to distinguish anymore the difference between a political imbroglio and the latest celebrity sex scandal. Social media stewards are always on the lookout not only for the latest confession from some pregnant starlet but also for an interesting below-the-belt altercation between two senators.

It has come to a point that we no longer differentiate an erring celebrity from a grandstanding politician. Both have become entertainers, and they do succeed in entertaining us. It’s that bad. Yet we don’t find this repulsive anymore because such news puts a smirk on our faces. It’s that worse.

Public servants, most especially our supposedly esteemed senators, are now regarded as smartly dressed comedians grandstanding behind podiums. Gone are the days when the august halls of the Senate were just that — august, venerable. filled with grandeur and eloquence. They deliver speeches (most of which were in Spanish) in a manner as if they were the treasured epic poetry of a generation. From the peanut gallery of the Senate, debates (most of which, again, were in Spanish) were highly anticipated by an audience who were eager to listen not only to the sense of the arguments but also to the artistic eloquence of the debaters. Each and every senator displayed the highest respect for each other and for their individual selves. Although some of them do not agree on each other regarding various national issues, they do not in any way regarded each other as enemies even if their respective political parties were warring against each other.

Simply put, they were not just politicians. Even “public servant” is too hackneyed a term to apply to them. These gentlemen of the old school were statesmen. And of the highest order.

Many are in agreement that a statesman is usually a politician, a diplomat, or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career at the national or international level. But there is a vast difference between a politician and a statesman. Various people, from movie stars to boxers to obscure money launderers, can be elected into public office, turning into bona fide government officials in the process. But not all politicians can be statesmen. While being a politician can be learned through experience, people management, and even cunning*, being a statesman is something that is more of a responsibility. Of course, being an elected official entails having responsibilities to his constituents, but as often is the case nowadays, a politician is tied to the goals and objectives of his party while a statesman is tied to the state, whether half the state dislikes him or not.

But what does it take to be a statesman? Brilliance and clarity of mind, a cultured environment, lofty ideals for the state. And most importantly: CHARACTER. And while both politician and statesman can claim to have a genuine concern for the people, only the latter can rouse his people into action against social apathy by injecting into them the same fiery passion, the same patriotism, that he has in his noble heart. Statesmen are not just sagacious thinkers but also masters of the oratory. It can be argued that being a masterful public speaker is an imperative element of a statesman because projecting elegance is also a political necessity. And it really was during the days when our country was not bereft of “philosopher kings”.

Yes, our history is replete with statesmen. Names of legendary luminaries such as Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Tañada, Cipriano Primicias, Manuel Briones, Eulogio A. Rodríguez, Sr., Mariano Jesús Cuenco, Lorenzo Sumúlong (an uncle of former President Cory Aquino), Enrique Magalona (a fierce defender of the Spanish language; grandfather of FrancisM), Rogelio de la Rosa, Quintín Paredes, José P. Laurel, Gil Púyat, Francisco Rodrigo, and a host of others still continue to echo grandiose trumpets celebrating the grandeur and glory of Filipinas from a not so distant past. And even when they iniquitably stumble down from time to time, as is the wont of all human beings, the prestige that was built by their statesmanship easily displaces any discomposure, like a torrential rain washing a soiled window pane. And no matter what political principles and beliefs they brandish, whether it was popular or not, the public never dared deride them. They were like ancient priests that commanded both fear and respect (but with the latter, of course, superseding the former). Indeed, theirs was an epoch filled with conviction, with respect, with honor.

Great statesmen of a bygone era. Senators Cipriano Primicias vs Quintín Paredes debating in Spanish (circa 1951). Photo taken from the book “Senator Cipriano Primicias: Great Statesman, Most Outstanding Parliamentarian”.

We can liken statesmanship to a “Super Soldier Serum“. But instead of soldiers, it will produce the compleat politician. Politicians are elected. They are made, not born. But statesmen are not just born nor made but bred. A rare species they are nowadays because we no longer breed such people. But statesmanship is part and parcel of the Filipino politician’s identity. Have we completely forgotten how our forefathers at a very young age were trained into statesmanship? Filipino nationalist and statesman Salvador Araneta offers us a glimpse of how young Filipino children were prepared to be silver-tongued orators:

During one of my birthdays as a very young child, my parents organized a banquet where we were treated as grown-ups. A formal dining table for sixteen was set up for my cousin José Tuason and his cousins Tony Prieto and Ben Legarda, for our neighbors and friends, the Paternos, the Valdeses and Roceses, for my eldest brother José and me. After the banquet, a few of us gave prepared speeches, with one acting as the toastmaster. As honoree and celebrant, I stood up to make the final speech on that occasion.

Today, a children’s party for the Filipino child is entrusted to fastfood party hosts and clowns.

And what kind of government leaders do we have now? Instead of passing and upholding laws, they bicker at each other, they walk out if they cannot take the heat anymore, some dance while others prefer to sing. Some even curse on national television. Worse, even neophyte government officials already have the gall to issue death threats! Todays privilege speeches were meant to either accuse colleagues or defend one’s self from them. And in worse case scenarios, such speeches are filled with unparliamentary language.

Alas, the clownish comportment of today’s politician has killed statesmanship and parliamentarianism. And not only that, it has left a rift among themselves. In the aftermath of the aborted impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada, Francisco “Kit” Tátad (an unappreciated statesman if I may add) ruefully observed in his book “A Nation On Fire”:

Meantime, the tradition of civility that had previously characterized all relationships in the Senate now disappeared. At the lounge where majority and minority used to sit together, even after the sharpest clashes on the floor, senators now sat in two opposing camps, separated by an invisible wall that may not be breached by camaraderie or fellowship. On the eighty- first anniversary of the Senate, only 12 of the 24 members joined Mrs. Arroyo and a few former senators at the Senate President’s dinner. And the few who were there ate dinner together without breaking the ice between and the few who were there ate dinner together without breaking the ice between and among seatmates.

The decline of civility among senators is matched only by their increasing lack of regard for the Senate as an institution. Seniority rule, which is honored in every parliament, has been jettisoned without a hearing, and neophytes, who have yet to learn the ropes, have been given senior posts. Against all rules of parliamentary decorum, senators now smoke freely during committee hearings, and consume their victuals inside the hall during plenary sessions. Those with floor duties also tend to their handheld phones more than they listen to the deliberations and often lose track of what is happening on the floor.

Arguably, the last such statesman that we had was former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel. During the relaunching of his biography last year, journalist Teddyboy Locsín, Jr. aptly said that when his uncle Doy passed away, “that old world of honor passed away with him”.

You may regard me as a hopeless romantic, because despite my frustrations on modern Filipino society, I still believe that we can bring back that old world.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

*What I meant here is the skill to wield political reality to one’s advantage. Once this skill has been utilized effectively, then political power will fall into one’s hands easily. The only question now is if the person who gains political power is worthy of such power. Such are the risks of electing a government official.

How I bungled my first TV interview (FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES’ 5th anniversary special)

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Last night aired my first TV guesting in ABS-CBN News Channel’s Shop Talk (hosted by Ría Tanjuatco-Trillo). The episode was about building a powerful brand for one’s products, business, or ideas even (as in my case, maybe). I felt I was miscast because I was the only non-entrepreneur who was there, and one of them is even a renowned marketing guru. Besides, the program itself is all about entrepreneurship, financial talk, and the like.

The last time I remember talking about money in front of a mirror, the mirror shattered into pieces, and my wallet animated itself and mockingly hurled a shard of glass right to my face.

Anyway, I was invited on account of my being a historian (don’t forget the “oh joy” part) and my death-defyingly spiritual blog FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (now on its fifth year!). The day before the interview was taped on June 13, I was already informed of the topic. I thought the interview was going to be a breeze upon learning that five of us were to be interviewed and not just me, so I did not prepare that much. In fact, I even enjoyed my night shift on the eve of the interview instead of taking a leave. So when my big day arrived, I felt like a clueless zombie, knees jerking helplessly while trying to endure the bitter cold of ABS-CBN Studio 6.

Ría and her guests before the taping. Right to left: the Filipino eScribbler, Steffi Santana, Neil Felipp San Pedro, Amor Maclang and her friend. Not in photo is Kish Javier of Kartwheel Creations. For the complete photo album, click here.

Me and my wife weren’t able to watch the airing last night, no thanks to Typhoon Glenda and Meralco’s unholy alliance. But to be honest, I’m really not that excited to see myself on Cable TV. There’s no sourgraping here because I feel that I’ve made a complete fool out of myself talking about Lapu-Lapu and Padre Dámaso, haha. And I can still remember how Ría asked me on what advice I could give to aspiring historians; I think I responded with “one should be focused” or something. A big LOL to that. Because I should have said “one has to be as awesome as Pepe Alas”, or something to that effect (as I’ve said before, I do not have that spontaneity in me). Yeah. Excuses, excuses.

But as what many people have already experienced before me, there was that irritating feeling of regret of not having accomplished or said what should have really been accomplished or said after being given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That episode was all about “branding”, but I feel that I wasn’t able to contribute much to that topic on how I really branded myself as an online historian.

The fact of the matter is, and after giving much thought about the episode’s topic regarding branding, I am not a historian per se (I’m sure many bigshot historians who saw last night’s episode would have ignobly snorted at me). Well, yeah, I do write about Philippine History most of the time, but I write about it not purely out of being a history buff but with the sole purpose, intention, or advocacy of bringing back to the fore our authentic national identity — La Identidad Filipina.

That, I think, is my “brand” as an online historian. Something I failed to tell Ría and her audience. Something that I regret now. But I have to thank her and her staff for inadvertently helping me figure out my brand.

Yours truly with ANC Shop Talk’s Ms. Ría Tanjuatco-Trillo.

 

I’ll be posting a video of that interview once it is already available. Until then, I’ll continue my pursuit of happiness at 35¡Hasta la vista!

First and foremost, I am a Filipino

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Months ago, a Visayan Facebook friend of mine wrote on his wall, saying “we are Visayans, first, then second Filipinos”.

My response to his perspective: I am a Tagalog. That is my racial stock. But I am always beaming with pride whenever I say that “I am a Filipino first, then a Tagalog second”. It is because our NATIONAL IDENTITY transcends all barriers of race across the archipelago. To be proud of your race firstly only generates regionalism which then leads to animosity towards other races/regions.

That is what our national identity is all about, that is its purpose: it binds the fragility of racial tensions that we had (and still have). That is why when I visited non-Tagalog places such as San Fernando, Pampanga, Calivo, Aclán (a couple of dimwits in public office changed the spelling to Kalibo, Aklan), or Lake Sebú, Cotabato del Sur, I still felt at home. Not once did I feel alien. Because I have this burning love for each and every place that has become part of the Filipino cosmos. And this burning love inspires me to visit each place (hopefully I would be able to do so —and with my family— before I exit this sorrowful world).

Filipino army officers, circa 1899.


This nationalistic ardor also compels me to defend places that are in danger of invasion. If a foreign aggressor, for instance, invades, say, Sámar or Bícol, I’d gladly volunteer, if need be, and be willing to die for these places. Because Sámar and Bícol are also MINE even though I am a Tagalog, even though I have never been there. Because I am a Filipino firstly. My being a Tagalog comes last.

Life is one big adventure. Supposedly.

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“I am not like them. I am divine. I was meant to work with my intellect, not with my hand. I sweat aesthetically, but since they do not see, they think I am a sloth.”

—National Artist for Literature José García Villa (1908–1997) on being an employee—

I envy our forefathers so much. So much. Many of them were renaissance men, classy people. People of culture, people of the arts, people of sophistication. They had so much time on their hands honing their talents, immersing themselves in the sweetness of ambrosia — crowning each other with laurel leaves after witty poetic jousts, mesmerizing crowds’ minds with unforgettable oratories, blurring the lines (that is to say, tints) between real-life colors and man-made hues on canvass, creating the grandest of monuments out of formlessness, and filling the air with heavenly music coupled with dazzling footwork and graciousness of body movements. Not surprisingly, most of these visual and aural delights are now immortal and highly celebrated to this very day.

But all that was an era of a bygone golden age when focus was more on society building rather than private enterprise. Today is rather different: all of us are being sent to diploma-mill schools not really to hone our talents but simply to become wage slaves in the future. And as wage slaves, we bargain not just for hourly rates but also for our personal time. Of course, much of our time goes to the powers that be. And usually, whatever talents we all have that are of no use to them are placed on the back burner.

I see little difference between chattel slavery and corporate employment. If you observe it closely, it’s all the same. There were just “improvements” to the system. Back then, slaves were fed with pieces of grub while we corporate folks receive hourly rates. Slaves were whipped to move wheels and axles for hours on end; corporate kids are not whipped to use computers but are being monitored by watchful workforce managers and/or productivity measuring clocks for eight hours. Slaves were given a few days rest not for their sake but for them to be recharged just enough to able to handle those wicked machines of production once more; we urban yuppies are accorded days off and a couple of vacation (and sick leaves) as a temporary respite. Slaves were utilized regardless of age or until all strength have been sapped out from their bodies; corporate kids can wait until retirement age before such thing ever happens, but at an old age still (usually 65). I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture by now.

You may point out that working conditions have improved since the Industrial Revolution. I might agree. Nevertheless, the underlying factor is all the same: we are still at the mercy of economic exploitation. If you don’t work, you don’t get to live life the way you want it to be. Or better still, you don’t get to use your talents the way you (or God) intended them to be utilized. Your talents are corporate property. They use you for their gain and not exactly for your personal benefit. They give you personality development trainings intended not exactly for you but to make you more efficient in production for them to be able to reap higher profits in the end. It’s really all about them and their bank accounts and stocks. They would simply fool you with “Best Employee of the Year” awards and those hilarious Six Sigma belts just to keep you under their control. Employee-corporate relationship is binded by money. There’s no love here.

As they always say, there’s a light at the end of every tunnel (photo from La Familia Viajera).

This has been my mindset ever since I joined the labor force. I’ve been very cautious all my life because of this, that’s why I didn’t get along that well with my past supervisors/managers and colleagues. It’s really difficult for someone with a Commie background mingling with people stricken with sheep mentality in a capitalist environment. And my heart and mind are somewhere else. If some people think that I write rather well, I believe that I would have perfected this craft even more had I been given much time to polish it. But I didn’t get to have that privilege. Heck, neither could my kids. And so for years, I’ve been complaining to my wife, to close friends, and to God about this dilemma of mine, what I consider as “my personal cross”: being a corporate slave. Because all I ever wanted to do was to focus on what I know is my talent, or to reciprocate what our cultural-minded forefathers did a long time ago.

To put it more bluntly, all I ever wanted to do was to read, research, and write, to put forward my advocacy to the fullest, and to be just with my family and travel with them till our final days on this wretched realm. With beautiful people like Janet Nápoles around, I don’t really think this is asking for too much… is it?

“I really don’t ask for much. Just a chance to have my wife and children go through life with the least physical pain. That isn’t much to ask, is it? But in this bloody country, when a millionaire has a cold he goes right away to a fancy clinic in New York. And me, I can’t even afford to have my head examined. Hell, there’s justification in the old class struggle — I don’t care what you call it, but does a rich man have more right to live simply because he has more money?”

F Sionil José (through Godo in “The Pretenders”)—

Several hours ago, I think my patience may have reached the end of the rope. I did something stupid (albeit somewhat satisfying) during my shift earlier: I just freaked out, made a mess of my office work, complained to my supervisor that employment is not my life, that I’m fed up and giving up, and then I promptly gave her my resignation paper, to which she immediately accepted. It was good news for her of course. I’ve been a headache there ever since, not just to her but to my colleagues as well. But it wasn’t the first time such thing had happened. My previous jobs were a train wreck too. All my life as a corporate slave, I’ve never fared well. I just went to work without any intention at all of climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. I’m just after the money to support my Bohemian aspirations. And each time I sit in my cubicle, I stare at my computer rather blankly, with much stoic frustration. My mind is somewhere else because my heart is somewhere else. So more often than not, I always get into trouble with the people around me.

And so now with my resignation paper in the hands of corporate ladder climbers, I think I am into more trouble than what I initially thought of had I just opted to continue going with the flaccid flow (which I couldn’t do so anymore). Good friend Traveler On Foot tried to talk me out of it and advised me to just distress for awhile. Travel on my own, he says. It might help me decide calmly. His advice just might work. But seriously, I don’t think that will help me in the long term.

As of this writing, my wife still doesn’t know about my resignation. I do not know how to open this up to her, especially in her delicate condition. And that’s what I’m really worried about first and foremost. For sure, concerned relatives will do the classic facepalm when they learn of this rather puerile move of mine. I am debt-ridden. I don’t have any fallback at all. I also do not expect any help from them (as if they would, considering the brashness of my decision). And contrary to popular belief, my family’s not made of money. And with this somewhat inciendiary blogpost out in the open for everyone to laugh at and mock, I don’t think any company would have the faith of even hiring me anymore.

I’m not getting any younger. I have lost so much precious time being a milking cow when I should be reading books instead (I couldn’t even finish the Fifty Shades trilogy yet, hehe). So I will follow my heart. I MUST follow my heart. There is more to life than corporate slavery.

But how do I do it?

And so my adventure begins.

124th birth anniversary of Claro M. Recto

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On the occasion of his 124th birth anniversary, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES would like to pay tribute to one of the greatest Filipino thinkers of modern times, the late senator Claro M. Recto. Here is a brief biographical sketch of the Tayabeño nationalist written by Antonino V. Mico (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines).

CLARO M. RECTO
(1890-1960)

Senator Claro M. Recto is known as a statesman, a constitutionalist, a jurist, internationalist, parliamentarian, poet, scholar, linguist, patriot, and nationalist. He was born on February 8, 1890, in Tiáong, Tayabas (now Quezon), the son of Claro Recto, Sr., and Micaéla Mayo, of Lipâ, Batangas. He obtained his elementary education in Lipâ and in his home town.

As a young man, he was endowed with a marvelous mind, an active imagination, a venturesome spirit, and a firm determination to stick to his personal convictions. At 19, he was already a holder of the Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila; and at 24, he obtained his Master of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomás. In 1914, he was admitted to the Philippine bar and was licensed to practice law as a profession.

Recto’s political career began in 1916, when he served as legal adviser to the Philippine Senate. In 1919, he was elected representative from Batangas and served as House minority floor leader until 1925. In 1924, he went to the United States as member of the Parliamentary Independence Mission. He was admitted to the bar in the United States in 1924.

Upon his return to the Philippines, he founded the Demócrata Party, which served as a political thorn to the leadership of Manuel L. Quezon, when the latter was head of the Nacionalista Party and President of the Senate. He was elected senator for the first time in 1931 as a Demócrata and served as minority floor leader for three years.  In 1934, he became majority floor leader and President pro tempore of the Senate. He resigned his Senate seat when President Roosevelt appointed him Associate Justice in the Supreme Court in place of Justice Thomas Street, who retired. He left the Supreme Court in 1941 as a Nacionalista and again in 1953 as guest candidate of the Liberal Party. He ran as an independent Nacionalista candidate for President of the Philippines in the national elections of 1957, but lost.

Considered one of his immortal achievements in public life was his presidency of the Constitutional Convention, which drafted the Philippine Constitution, the first requirement towards the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth regime.

Recto was a brilliant poet, satirist, and author. He wrote such law books as The Law of Belligerent OccupationValidity of Payments During Enemy OccupationThree Years of Enemy Occupation, several one-act plays in Spanish, and a collection of poems. He was a recipient of the Zóbel Prize for literature and an honored member of the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.

The then President Carlos P. García appointed Recto Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on the goodwill and cultural mission to Europe and South America in August, 1960. He was also appointed delegate to the 9th conference of the World Parliament Association in Venice in September, 1960, and was elected vice-president.

While giving a news conference in Rome, Recto suffered a heart attack from which he never recovered. He died in October 2, 1960.

Regarding his death, not a few historians believe that the great poet-turned-politician did not merely suffer from a heart attack. There’s this one interesting account from Raymond Bonner’s 1987 book Waltzing With A Dictator (pp. 41-42) that I’d like to share:

Transplanting democracy meant going after (Ramón) Magsaysay’s domestic political opponents, the most effective of whom was Senator Claro M. Recto, as unrelenting in his opposition to American foreign policy in the region as Magsaysay was slavish in following it. Recto, who was proud of his complete collection of Foreign Affairs, considered himself not anti-American but pro-Philippine. He criticized the bases agreement on the grounds, correctly, that the U.S. agreements under NATO and with other countries were far more favorable to the host country than was the U.S. arrangement in the Philippines. In Spain, the Spanish flag flew over the bases; in the Philippines, it was the American flag. When Washington claimed that the United States owned the lands on which the bases were situated, Recto prepared memorandums setting out the Philippine position that the United States had only leasehold rights, an argument eventually accepted by the United States. Recto was the “spearhead and brains of the national reawakening”.

The CIA set about to destroy Recto, who had been a principal drafter of the 1935 Constitution. It planted stories that he was a Communist Chinese agent who had been infiltrated into the Philippine Senate. To derail Recto’s electoral ambitions, the agency prepared packages of condoms, which it labeled “Courtesy of Claro M. Recto — The People’s Friend”. The condoms all had pinprick-size holes in them at the most inappropriate place. The agency went further. The CIA station chief, General Ralph B. Lovett, and the American Ambassador, Admiral Spruance, discussed assassinating Recto, going so far as to prepare a substance for poisoning him, an assassination plot that has not been publicly discussed before.

Recto wasn’t assassinated, the idea abandoned “for pragmatic consideration rather than moral scruples” (and with Lovett later suggesting that the bottle containing the poison was tossed into Manila Bay). He died of natural causes at the age of seventy.

It is hinted on this book that Recto was “assassinated” in Rome. Also, there have been persistent rumors that Recto did suffer a heart attack, but his medication was not given to him immediately which led to his very untimely death. Rumors they all may be, but there is a saying in Tagalog: “capág may usoc, may apóy” (when there’s smoke, there’s fire). Also, it is interesting to note that the place where he passed away was just a stopover. Recto was really on his way to Spain, the land of his mother tongue which is Spanish. He had never been there all his life, thus the excitement throbbing within his nationalistic spirit. He had already prepared a speech in Spanish, “Por los Fueros de una Herencia“, of which he was to deliver there upon arrival. But because of his demise, it remained unspoken.

The CIA knew that Recto delivering that speech in Spain would have proven catastrophic to their neocolonialistic ventures which were then in its early stages, as the Philippines was granted a phony independence 15 years earlier. That is why it was imperative for Recto to perish before he reached Spain.

One could just imagine what nationalistic and nostalgic fervor Recto would have sparked in Mother Spain had he delivered his speech there. Spain, who was robbed of her islands in the Pacific and the Americas in 1898, would have rekindled “righteous anger” into delivering, perhaps, the final blows of that war that should have ended justly and nobly. What fireworks his speech would have set upon the citizens of our Patria Grande! “Sayang” is all I could utter. Sayang…

Feliz cumpleaños, Don Claro. Tendré una botella de Cerveza Negra en su honor.

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