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Intramuros Administration responds to “graffiti art”

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I am reposting here the reply of Atty. Marco Antonio Luisito V. Sardillo III, Intramuros Administration administrator, to my Facebook complaint concerning the existence of a graffit mural art within the historic Hispanic walls of Intramuros which people like me find out of place (and my response to it is right below):

Mr. Alas, allow me to begin my “explanation” by setting out the factual context within which I hope my “explanation” is received. First, I assumed office in August 5, 2013. The graffiti wall that you are referring to was a project that took place long before I assumed office. (In fact, if you google, you will see that this has been written about before, eg: http://www.rappler.com/…/arts…/35516-legal-graffiti-wall) Second, I believe that some/most of the explanation that you are seeking has already been supplied by Carlos, when you posted a link to your article in the Heritage Conservation Society FB page. As I mentioned, I was not around at the time, and so, this project was not something that I could have “disallowed.”

I do not have the expertise and neither am I qualified to engage in a debate on whether graffiti constitutes art; thus, anything I say about graffitis would be but a mere comment and not an “informed” opinion. As such, I am not inclined to pass judgment or chime in, as my thoughts will not add value to that “debate” (that you alluded to).

That being said, I do believe that, as we chart the path towards the “orderly restoration and development of Intramuros,” we should be able to accommodate a more inclusive appreciation of what it means to be “Filipino” — and in that process, expand and enrich our notion of it. Indeed, Intramuros, by law, should be a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. I should emphasize that it is a monument “to” and not a monument “of.” What this means is that Intramuros’ “orderly restoration and development” should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on photographs — or what others have referred to as a “disneyfication.” Intramuros, too, is about what the Filipinos have made of it, and what it has become as a result of that enriching process. This ongoing process should be able to tolerate a difference in opinion, even as we are continuing to understand and unpack the meaning and value of “Intramuros.” (Case in point: I have been in conversations with “experts” where the only apparent consensus is that they can’t come to an agreement about what we really mean about the “past.”) [N.B. Under existing laws, it is Fort Santiago that has been declared as "hallowed" ground, and not all of Intramuros. Even then, there is no specifically mandated or required form of respect or reverence. After all, respect or reverence is, essentially, an internal movement.]

As a final note, and here my personal thoughts would indicate my general inclination towards that graffiti project. Do I personally find it disrespectful of Intramuros? Personally, I don’t. The fact that that project exists on the fence of a vacant lot indicates to me that its context is not premised on permanence. As a “public policy” issue, I also recognize that (1) there is a tension between “graffiti” as art and its street cred and (2) I appreciate that having a “graffiti wall”–particularly, on a temporarily designated fence–provides a venue for expression, and a disincentive for vandalism (that could occur elsewhere). That fence can just as easily be torn down–or the graffiti be painted over or whitewashed. In the greater scheme of things, within the context of the fence of a vacant lot, personally, I can tolerate (and, on some level, even appreciate) the effort made towards transforming bare concrete–and inciting thought and debate.

If the Intramuros Administration allows the proliferation of graffiti and other similar “art” within the Walled City, then our dear Old Manila would be relegated to the status of just another EDSA and the like.

Thank you so much for taking time to reply, sir, and for stating your honest-to-goodness stand regarding this matter. I do not desire to prolong this especially since our friend Carlos regards it as a “non-issue” (if a famous celebrity activist declares it as such, then poor anonymous me cannot do anything much about it). Besides, I have already made and proven my point that graffiti, no matter how cool it looks or how much you glorify it, is not Filipino art. No art appreciation nor rocket science needed to discern it.

Anyway, I would like to clarify a few things. One of them is your remark that Intramuros is a monument “to” and not a monument “of” our country’s Hispanic past, and that the Intramuros today “should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on (old) photographs”. But sir, I wasn’t even thinking of old photographs when I first saw that graffit on Twitter. I simply deemed it correct that it shouldn’t be there. You know, I may agree with you to some extent that we can no longer bring back the Intramuros of old (if that is what you mean by “mere snapshot”). With huge buildings such as those of the Manila Bulletin, Bank of the Philippine Islands, and The Bayleaf Intramuros (gasp!) towering over the original edifices, squatter settlements such as the one fronting the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (irony of ironies), as well as several fastfoods and other commercial establishments firmly scattered throughout the Walled City, there is this huge impossibility of ever bringing back the original Manila of our nostalgia. But my point is simply this: what little we can do to conserve what Intramuros is all about —a monument OF our country’s Hispanic past, as you said— then that is what we must do.

That graffiti art simply does not fit the above statement.

And that is why, even though it is painted on private property, I am still against it. And speaking of private property, we should even avoid using that argument. So with all due respect, dear sir, I discourage you from even saying it. Remember that it is always used as an excuse by people without any regard to heritage for them to tear down or sell their privately owned ancestral houses (case in point: the fabled Alberto Mansion in Biñán, La Laguna).

Now, just like the debate on whether graffiti constitutes art or not, there is, too, an ongoing debate on what really is a Filipino (again, not who but what) which was aggravated more when renowned historian Teorodo Agoncillo, in his book History of the Filipino People, stated that “it is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is“, confusing many students in the process. That is why today, we have different versions of our national identity: some claim that it dates far back before the Spanish advent; some say that it is based on our Hispanic past; some say that it is an amalgam of both our Hispanic heritage and US pop culture; still others say that our identity was fully formed only after 1872 or 1898 (or even 1986). The reason why I share this to you is that, in view of the ongoing identity crisis, it is highly unlikely that we can “expand and enrich” our notion of it.

To be honest —and you will certainly find this biased— I belong to that minority who believes that our national identity was formed from our Hispanic past, the very same era which created that walled enclave that you have sworn to protect as per the IA’s mandate.

And with all due respect to your personal opinions, they really do not matter here. What matters is what the IA’s national mandate to Intramuros is, and not what its officials personally think of what should or should not constitute the Walled City. Personally, I also find graffiti art cool. But as I have already mentioned, it is simply out of place. Un-Filipino. We don’t need to use it as a “disincentive for vandalism”. What we need is stringent measures to prevent it.

Be that as it may, I would still like to thank you for your humbleness to respond to a “non-issue” (unlike current NCCA chairman Felipe M. de León, Jr. who simply walked away with his tail between his legs, completely ignoring my grievance). I am sure that you and I have genuine concern for Intramuros. The only problem is that both of us do not possess the same eye on how to approach it. I see Intramuros as our country’s “heart and soul” (the state of Intramuros is a reflection of our country). I bet you see it differently.

He dicho.

My Filipiniana wedding! (part 3)

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¡Mi familia maravillosa!

Exactly a year ago today, our dreams finally came true — a wedding that was 14 years in the making!

Our wedding rings on my wife’s Filipiniana bouquet composed of sampaguita, gumamela, ylang-ylang, pandacaqui, camia, and champaca flowers. The bouquet was designed by renowned florist Serge Igonia, a native San Pedrense.

Right after our wedding at the San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna.

If there is one most important thing that we learned on that beautiful Friday the 13th wedding, it is this: the weddings of today are focused on the couples, but traditional weddings are focused on the wedding itself, that it is a covenant between God and the newly weds, thus emphasizing that a wedding is not merely a ritualistic union but a holy sacrament. A wedding is not your usual earthly event.

But wedding receptions? Oh, yeah! That’s the newly wed couple’s preferable moment to shine! :D

Jardín de San Pedro is located along Calle Luna, just a stone’s throw away from the church.

Yeyette and I agreed to have our wedding reception held at our adoptive hometown, and at a place just near the church so as not to tire our guests. Jardín de San Pedro was the obvious choice. Aside from being very near the church, we really dig its name because it’s very Filipino. We have already been to the place when Krystal’s elementary graduation rites were held in 2012. I immediately had a liking for it because of the natural ambiance and the “Filipino feel” of the place. And yes, as its name connotes, it is really filled with sampaguita flowering plants. It is unmistakably a clear nod to San Pedro Tunasán’s title as the country’s sampaguita capital. That first visit to Jardín de San Pedro provided a positive impression upon me which further spurred my dreams of pursuing that belated wedding which I have been planning on my mind for years.

When we first consulted the Legaspi Family, the owners of the venue, the menu offering they showed to us were not to our liking because not Filipino. All meals were “International” (pot roast beef with gravy, caesar salad, penne bolognese, etc.) and “Chinese” (shrimp with quail eggs, crispy canton noodles with crab meat sauce, corn and kani soup, etc.). The packages were completely out of sync to our Mozarabic Rite wedding. But we’re glad that the Legaspis could think out of the box. Although unavailable, they opted to customize their wedding packages for us! So on our next meeting, we were delighted to see an updated menu of theirs which since then included a buffet that is completely Filipino.

We also planned on other stuff: the decors, the sound system, and everything else. We requested the theme to be as Filipino as possible. What I had in mind was not to have the usual wedding reception which people today are accustomed to. I had in mind of reviving, at least for a day, the nearly forgotten “<em>tertulia filipina</em>”.

Tertulia literally means a social gathering. But in the Filipino sense, it was not just a social gathering where people eat and discuss. At a time when there was still no television, radio, or Internet, Filipinos celebrated arts and culture during such gatherings. In a tertulia filipina, there is much poetry reading, music, and dancing. So again, as in our church wedding where the focus was on our union as a covenant, I decided to put the focus on the event itself instead of us bride and groom. The event was the “<em>bida</em>”, not exactly us. We took the opportunity to introduce to our friends and relatives how “partying” was like during the Spanish and early US period.

We are Filipinos. We’re not US citizens. We’re not Chinese. Neither are Japanese, Indians. etc. So why celebrate with that kind of theme?

A revival of cultural pieties is what we did. And we hope we got the message through.

And yes, we had no wedding planners. I planned all this (Yeyette and our dear college friend Michael Lim had a small role, hehe!). Who knows? I could be your next wedding planner — so long the theme is Filipiniana. :D

Sampaguita buds all over the tables. We’re not called the sampaguita capital for nothing. :-)

Our modest two-layered wedding cake crowned with santán flowers.

Classic sorbetes to welcome our guests. It was a bestseller!

My mother-in-law checking out the vintage decorations.

Our dear college buddy, Michael Vincent U. Lim, hosted our tertulia filipina wedding reception.

Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz graciously welcomes our guests, most of whom are from out of town.

With the wedding sponsors. L-R: Former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, the groom, the bride, Señor Guillermo Gómez, and Señora Josefina Láus de Alas

My best buddy Arnaldo Arnáiz delivering his heartwarming brindis.

L-R: Former Mayor Calex and his wife, incumbent Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz, the groom, the bride, and Señor Gómez.

Musical prodigy Satcheil Amamangpang and young church historian Jesson Allerite perform several Filipino folk songs in Spanish. They were also part of the four-man choir during our wedding.

L-R: my sister Jennifer Alas, my dad Josefino Alas, my cousin Cuya Ángelo Joseph Carcallas, my maternal grandmother Norma Soriano, my daughter Krystal, my cousin Paolo Raphael Balicao, my cousin Jam Alas, Jennifer’s fiancé Chock de Guzmán, and dad’s cousin Uncle Joel Évora.

L-R: Yeyette’s sister Kathleen Diezon, my father-in-law Jaime Perey, Tita V-Beth Atienza, my mother-in-law Teresa Perey, Tita V-Beth’s friend Liez de León, and Kathleen’s daughter Krishna. The two gentlemen behind my mother-in-law are Yeyette’s stylists.

Jardín de San Pedro customized a Filipino meal upon our request. The package included: menudo, pancít cantón guisado, oven baked chicken lemon grass, rellenong bañgús, Jardín de San Pedro beef steak Tagalog, steamed rice, leche flan, buco pandán, and sago & gulaman.

Poet-musician Joms Púnay delivers his Tagalog verses “Sa Bus” and Bituín“.

Flamenco dancer and indie actress Jameela Pérez reads her Spanish poem “En Mis Ojos Hasta Que Me Levanto“.

Pinay Poet Imee Rabang delivers her English poem “Every Night”.

Veteran flamenco dancers Kenneth Gaerlán and Valerie Devulder wow the audience with their moves.

My cousin Josh Alas (right) and his instructor Leo Laher (left) performing Johann Pachelbel’s famous “Canon in D major”.

Joms backs up the violinists with his guitar strums.

Joms Púnay on guitars, Roxanne Guivencán on vocals, and Bernard Cadawas on the cajón. This nameless band from Paeté performed several acoustic performances, among them the Chavacano hit song “¿Por que?.”

Dancing with my wonderful bride to this tune!

Kenneth and Jam in a powerful performance!

You get to hear my cousin Jam over at Magic 89.9, but she doesn’t sing there like what she did here! And it’s damn high-pitched I thought I’d never get to use my ears again afterwards! On this photo, me and her brother Josh troll her without her knowledge!

Yeyette’s friend Arlene Umali serenaded us with her a cappella rendition of “Gaano Co Icáo Camahál”, one of our favorite Tagalog love songs.

Closing remarks, acknowledgments, and a bit of long overdue drama. :-)

¡Gracias, gracias, muchísimas gracias!

1) Please CLICK HERE to view all of our photos!
2) Please CLICK HERE to read part 2.
3) Please CLICK HERE to read part 1.

¡Enaltecer la familia para la gloria más alta de Dios!

Finding Nick Joaquín through podcasting

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Podcasting‘s not my thing. But if it’s about Nick Joaquín, then I’m in.

A tête-à-tête between FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and WITH ONE’S PAST last August 31st about Nick Joaquín’s significance to Filipino History. We usually spend hours talking about history and related topics. But the difference this time around is that we had it recorded.

At least twice a month, or whenever we could, Arnaldo and I will podcast many of our informal “cuentuhan tuncól sa casaysayan” for our niche audience. For our first outing, we thought of discussing about our favorite historian, 1976 National Artist for Literature, Nicomedes “Nick” Joaquín y Márquez, and his significance to Filipino History.

But why do a podcast?

Arnaldo has been an avid listener to podcasts and is familiar with people who are known for it (like Joe Rogan, for instance). He was the one who broached the idea to me. However, it is more precise to say that it was his wife Mhaan who spurred him to pursue it. You see, Arnaldo has been lecturing weird stuff to his wife; I’ve been doing the same thing to my family, too. That weird stuff I’m referring to, of course, is Filipino History (I refuse to call it Philippine; more on that in a future blogpost… podcast). Weird, because I’m sure that many of our friends and family members find us peculiar whenever we talk about the past — national heroes, the return of the Spanish language in our country, vintage photographs, ancestral houses, old names of streets, etc. To many people, such topics are confined only in history books (or perhaps restricted only for aging scholars whose backs have become crooked due to years of study). Anyway, this podcasting project about Filipino History was technically —and perhaps inadvertently— an idea of Arnaldo’s wife. According to Arnaldo, Mhaan chided him once that instead of giving out unsolicited “lectures” to her, most of which remain unrecorded or unblogged, why not put them all in a podcast? She may not have been serious when she said that, but it was a light-bulb moment for With One’s Cookbook.

And why not? We both think it’s a wonderful idea because it’s going to capture a lot of stuff that we couldn’t write much about. And our ideas just might reach another online audience that prefers to listen than to read. Admittedly, though, I still have my reservations because I’m not that much of a talker. When it comes to discussing history and related subjects with like-minded people, I prefer to listen, ask questions, then write. Arnaldo, Señor Gómez, and JMG know about this (I am talkative about the subject only to my wife and kids, hehe!). I’m a slow thinker, too. My mind tends to process thoughts quite longer before I am able to speak them out, and in a cluttered manner at that. Furthermore, my spoken voice is hoarse, raspy, unpalatable to the ear (a usual problem for good looking men :D ). And according to Eugenio Ynión, Jr., the ever respectable multibillionaire CEO of Yngen General Holdings, I sound like a faggot (yes, he’s the same saintly gentlemen who threatened to kill me last summer).

But the most important thing about this podcasting activity of ours (which could probably be the very first podcast in the country to focus on Filipino History) is that we are able to record many important facts that we fail to jot down in our respective blogs, and then broadcast it later on. You see, we cannot submit 100% of our time to what we are doing online. The two of us are not well-heeled scribblers of the past; we need to survive, too. As such, mundane tasks take away much of our energy to think and to write, and that is a major factor (or should I say a big blow) as to why we irregularly update our blogs. Especially in my case. I’ve been living like a vampire for almost a decade and have five kids to raise with my wife. So it’s not an easy lifestyle for a struggling pundit like me.

Whenever Arnaldo drops by at our place, or whenever we meet up with Señor Gómez (and very rarely with JMG), hours seem like minutes as we discuss the day away with many aspects of all things Filipino, and how this affects our national identity. We never tire talking to one another. It’s just disappointing that, after a wonderful and intellectually productive day spent with these dear scholarly friends, I couldn’t seem to have the energy to write the important things that we have talked about. And so the ideas start piling up, becoming a burden to the mind as it becomes difficult on which topic should be written first. I’m pretty sure Arnaldo feels the same way. So yes, podcasting our off-the-cuff discussions should do the trick.

As mentioned earlier, our podcast will consist of our usual informal discussions. Parang nagcucuentuhan lang talagá camí. So please don’t expect it to sound like a radio talk show. It isn’t. For this first episode of ours, however, I did notice that we sounded a bit stiff because we were conscious that we’re recording our chat. We’ll try to do better the next time around.

So, without further ado, here’s to Nick. :-)

Incidentally, it’s going to be Nick’s 97th birthday this coming Monday, September 15th.

Stay tuned for upcoming episodes. For episode 2, we will feature another Filipinista, well-known travel blogger Glenn Martínez of Traveler On Foot. In fact, we have already interviewed him last Sunday. We will also be “guesting” more interesting people to make our podcasts more lively, more interesting, and to expand more knowledge about what we are really advocating about — not Filipino History per se but the recovery of our true Filipino National Identity.

And yeah, pardon me for my faggot-like voice on the podcast (Kapitan Jun Ynión‘s words, not mine). I’ll take some salabát next time. I might even sing a song or two.

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 on your Twitter account. And worse, your friend IA retweeted it! But first, what is wrong with this picture that has been 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 historic 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 latrined walls and dank alleys near rowdy neighborhoods). But no, it was done 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 about 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. My golly, is graffiti even Hispanic? Is graffitti even Filipino? 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 — of royal political power. Its walls laid 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.

If you can find time criticizing the Rizal Monument’s photobombing problems, please do the same by cleaning your own background. And if you have no more regard for national aesthetics, at least do show an ounce of respect for national history.

Love,

Pepe

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!

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