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Category Archives: Spanish Language

Travel with us to La Laguna Province!

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In early in 2012, I was invited to write a coffee table book for La Laguna Province. It was one of former Governor E.R. Ejército’s priority projects for the province’s culture and tourism sector. It took me more than a year to finish it, having had many sleepless moments (taking forty winks usually inside a provincial bus) because I had to juggle wage slavery, household responsibilities, and painstaking research and travel in between. I even developed varicose veins on both of my hands and forearms due to overtyping (and it pains me every single day up to this very moment). Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, the book project did not come into fruition. I am not even informed of its status anymore.

On the bright side, I was able to tour the whole province and got to meet many important people there and even got to befriend some of them. Probably the best part of that experience was that I was able to discover the province’s long-lost foundation date without even trying (and without being given proper recognition, haha). But still, my dream of becoming a published writer remains unfulfilled. And worse, all that hardwork I poured for what could have been my very first book was all for naught.

Or so I thought.

At the Rizal Shrine in Calambâ.

Several days ago, my good ol’ buddy Arnaldo broached to me this idea of his about us becoming tour guides. Actually, he already suggested the idea to me months ago. I flatly declined, telling him that I’m just a blogger, that the only people I can tour without my knees shaking out of nervousness are my family. But Arnaldo’s the resilient type of guy. He was finally able to convince me by saying that I’m no different from him, that he’s just a blogger too. And he added that the edge that we have over other tourist guides is our background in Filipino History. We’re not just history buffs but citizen historians (gracias por introducirme a esta terminología, Señor José Perdigón). While some tourist guides are doing what they’re doing for the sake of, perhaps, fame or money (or both), we intend this venture to be an extension of our respective blogs’ advocacy: to raise awareness on the true being of our national identity by providing a correct interpretation of our country’s history.

A scenic farm in Victoria.

We had “quinulób na itic“, salted eggs, and rice during a lunch stopover at “Itlog Ni Kuya” in Victoria. This town (once a part of Pila) is known as the “Duck Raising Center of Filipinas”.

Of course we have to admit the fact that earning millions of bucks from this tourism venture every month is enticing. And because of the exposure we’d be getting, Arnaldo and I will certainly receive lucrative offers from Star Cinema, Viva Films, ABS-CBN, GMA, and all those media giants to become their contract stars. But that’s beside our true objective and is only secondary. Believe it or not. Anyway, you will fully believe this more once you learn how much we will be charging our guests (it’s guaranteed to be a bargain)!

Ang Bayang Pinagpalà.

At first, the idea was to provide a tour within the Metro Manila area. But I cautioned Arnaldo that Metro Manila has been toured to death and is somewhat crowded with tour guides already (Carlos Celdrán, Ivan Man Dy, and Bryan Ocampo to name a few). They may not be as good-looking as the two of us, but still, the metropolis playground’s already filled. So why not do it somewhere near the National Capital Region? And then it hit me: why not La Laguna, a place which I am very familiar with? Arnaldo himself, being a resident of nearby Muntinlupa City, has also traveled extensively in La Laguna and has blogged many of its towns and cities numerous times. Besides, we are not aware of any regular tour guides covering the province. And more importantly, so many Filipinos have yet to know and experience the charming beauty of La Laguna’s rustic scenery, history, culture, and heritage. Many people know the province usually because of its hot springs (“¡Tara ná sa Pansol!“), Enchanted Kingdom, and being the birthplace of José Rizal, a reality which I find unfair and a bit demeaning because La Laguna has a lot more to offer other than hot spring resorts, national shrines, or carnivals.

The “Puerta Real” (or “Arco Real”) in Pagsanján has been standing on this road since 1878.

My interest with this tourism project grew each time Arnaldo drops by at our place to discuss about it. Even my wife Yeyette has high hopes for it. The two of them are damn sure that this will work out. But I really don’t know. Not that I’m a pessimist (actually, I am), but whenever I remember my failures as a writer, I feel so frustrated. Good thing that their positive attitude is contagious.

That’s why I’m now blogging about it. :-) Really, I think it is worth a try!

Completed in 1600, the church of Saint Sebastian the Martyr in Lumbán town proper is the first stone church in the whole province. Lumbán was also the “matriz de todos pueblos” or the mother town of all Franciscan-founded communities in the area.

So, when I was fully convinced to accept this project, Arnaldo trusted me with the liberty to choose which towns we should tour since I was more familiar with the place. It wasn’t that easy — I guarantee you that each and every town in La Laguna has something interesting to explore (yes, there are also noteworthy sights to see even in urban San Pedro Tunasán or in obscure Rizal!). But we had to face the fact that it is not possible to tour the whole province within a day or two. And we needed to tour guests for only a day. So after much thought and deliberation, I told him that we should do “two packages”. Package A would be a lakeshore tour, or those towns located right beside Laguna de Bay. Package B would be a mountain tour, or those towns located upwards Monte Banajao. In order for the tour to push through, we should have a minimum of 15 guests. Arnaldo said that he will take care of the logistics (particularly the vehicle) and much of the talking, hehe! Because I’m more of a listener than a speaker. However, in the event that we will have Spanish-speaking guests, then I will have to take over.

For now, our focus is on Package A. And the tentative itinerary for it is:

Calambâ —> Pila —> Pagsanján —> Lumbán —> Paeté —> Páquil.

As can be seen from the photos on this blogpost, me, my daughter Krystal, and Arnaldo already made an ocular  inspection of these places last November 2.

Paeté’s “Living Legend” Dr. Nilo Valdecantos of Kape Kesada teaches my daughter how to grind expensive Kopi Luwak beans into fine powder. Yes, we had the rare chance of savoring the most expensive coffee in the world for free! Thanks for this, Doc Nilo! You’re the best!

The Church of Saint Peter of Alcántara in Páquil. Both Arnaldo and I concur that this is the most handsome church in the whole province of La Laguna. And I bet many will agree with us! Probably even that dog behind me! This will be our tour’s final stop.

“Everything happens for a reason”, Arnaldo reassured me, saying that all the sacrifice that I did for that shelved La Laguna book project really had to happen. Because it was bound to open a new door for us, after all.

I hope he’s right. Hágase la voluntad de Dios.  :-)

Click here to view all photos of our La Laguna road trip last November 2! And for more details of our tour, you may contact us here for the meantime!

¡Viajemos a La Laguna!

Podcasting with Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera

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For “episode 3″ of my podcasting venture with Arnaldo Arnáiz (his idea, actually), we featured our friend and mentor, the veritable and venerable Filipino scholar, Señor Guillermo Gómez y Rivera. On this episode, we talked about the importance of the Spanish language in Filipinas.

The sound quality for episodes 1 and 2 were poor. But for episode 3, there was significant improvement, thanks to Arnaldo’s new recording gadgets. The only thing here which didn’t improve was my voice. :D

Without further ado, here’s our September 20th podcast with the renaissance man himself, Señor Gómez (WARNING: Be prepared to be blown away with TONS of historical info).

TOF Home

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Art connoisseur Glenn Martínez calls his comfy San Mateo abode as “TOF Home”. TOF of course are the initials of his well-known travel blog Traveler On Foot. Having been blogging about his travels all over the country with his son Joaquín since 2008, he can be considered as one of the pioneer travel bloggers in the country. But his online travel journal is different from the rest of the pack. For one, he endears his readers to have a patriotic attachment towards the places that he visits by revealing, and putting emphasis on, their historical and cultural side. Simply put, he is a Filipino travel blogger. Secondly, he refuses to “commercialize” his blog (despite its popularity, he has never bought his own domain name yet), making his advocacy more admirable.

Me and fellow blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz first met Glenn in 2008 during an Ambeth Ocampo lecture in Macati (or just a few months after he started TOF). The three of us have been communicating ever since. A couple of years ago, tragedy struck his first home in San Mateo when Typhoon Ondoy inundated it, destroying not just his belongings but his precious collection of Filipiniana, many of which were already out of print!

I would have died if it happened to me.

But Glenn rose back like a phoenix. Just last month, he invited me and Arnaldo to have lunch at his new home. We were astounded by what we saw — his new home has become a virtual art gallery!

Works of internationally acclaimed Paeteño painter Dominic Rubio.

A collection of miniature baskets on top of an antique marble-topped mesita (foreground), accumulated from various towns which Glenn and his son Joaquín had visited

More paintings and miniature wood sculptures will greet visitors by the stairs going to the third floor.

A sketch by Celso Pepito.

Father and son.

A collection of Ambeth Ocampo‘s highly informative books.

More Filipiniana volumes adorn this antique estante.

Glenn has transferred to a then bland-looking three-story house —this time farther from the Mariquina River— which he has since styled into an artist’s haven. He has decorated the interiors, from first floor to third, with various art pieces by renowned painters and sculptors he had met during his travels, purchased miniature items, handicrafts, and other interesting trinkets from various indigenous cultures he had visited, and salvaged parts of old ancestral houses and churches which were otherwise considered as junk. His taste in Filipino art was surprisingly something new, an enthusiasm developed by his travels and the friendships he had made with many artists through the years. He has become so immersed in the local art scene that he could even lecture me about the inanities of differentiating “low art” and “high art”, whatever that means (now you understand the “art connoisseur” tag at the beginning of this blogpost).

Glenn’s bedroom, at left, is on the second floor. At right bottom is part of the stairway which leads to the third floor where most of his art collection and books are located.

Joaquín’s bedroom, also at the second floor, has four framed graffiti by Rai Cruz.

Antique dining table (foreground) and sala furniture pieces at the background. A calado from an old ancestral house in Pila, La Laguna hangs above.

Potteries and baskets from various parts of the country displayed safely inside this nostalgic armario.

“You have to live by what you write” is what Glenn told us during that afternoon visit, hence helping us understand why his home, a modern-looking house from the outside, looks and feels so nostalgic, so homely, so familiar, so Filipino. The place is complemented by Glenn’s effusively positive outlook towards life. I remember how he gave me some old-fashioned encouragement during one time when I was having another fit of depression. And with genuine concern, he even gave me advice on how my family should travel. And then there’s his smart boy Joaquín, a very fortunate chap who is being showered not only with paternal love but also with the lovely culture that has shaped our national identity. Joaquín is even keen on learning Spanish, the language of our forefathers! TOF Home also has its doors open to all of Glenn’s artist friends because he wants to consider them as a “family extension” of sorts for his son Joaquín, one of the country’s youngest travelers.

Visiting TOF Home inspired me to do some major makeover on my own home. I’ve been dreaming of owning my own bahay na bató for my family, but I have to accept the reality that it might never happen anymore. But having experienced Glenn’s house made me realize that it is still possible to Filipinize one’s home even if it is not an ancestral house.

That evening, the four of us attended Mass at the nearby parish of Our Lady of Aranzazu.

Enfrente de la Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, San Mateo, Provincia de Morong. Izquierda a derecha: Glenn Martínez, Arnaldo Arnáiz, y yo. Al frente es Joaquín, único hijo de Glenn.

And here’s our podcast (“episode 2″) with Glenn Martínez, the one and only Traveler On Foot, last September 7 at his Filipino home in San Mateo, Morong.

Pardon us for the sound quality; birth pains of rookies, y’know. The podcast with Glenn took more than an hour, but Arnaldo had to cut it to around 30 minutes because much of our conversation was garbled. Fortunately, Arnaldo recently purchased some new equipment. That’s why for “episode 3″ of our podcast with Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera (I’ll blog about it very soon), the sound quality finally came out A-OK. We’ll do much better next time.

For more photos of TOF Home, click here. You may also want to buy this month’s issue of Real Living magazine wherein the said publication features Glenn’s rustically modern home.

¡Hasta luego!

¡Agradecemos a todos los que nos ayudaron!

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Aunque soy cristiano, tengo una tendencia a ser pesimista. Pero los acontecimientos recientes han restaurado completamente mi fe en la humanidad.

Tantas personas respondieron a mi petición de ayuda la semana pasada, y algunos de ellos ni siquiera hemos conocido aún en persona. Es la hora para mostrar mi humilde gratitud.

 

Yeyette en el hospital, un día después de su parto e histerectomía. Las flores son de mi hermana Jennifer.

 
Más de una docena de personas, de una u otra forma, nos ayudaron durante este episodio más difícil de nuestras vidas. De parte de mi mujer Jennifer “Yeyette” Perey de Alas, me gustaría dar mi agradecimiento especial a estos ángeles: mis hermanas Jennifer y Jessica, mi suegra Teresa Atienza de Perey y su paisana Jene Alfaro, mi suegro Jaime Perey, la Familia Catáquiz de San Pedro Tunasán (la srᵃ alcaldesa Lourdes Catáquiz, su marido Don Calixto Catáquiz, su hijo Aris Catáquiz, y su sobrino León Buenavista), mi tío Ramón Alas, el gran filipinista Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Antonio Marques Sans (salimos del hospital principalmente a causa de él), Shee-Ann Meneses, Diego Pastor Zambrano, José-Rodaniel Cruz, Luis María Cardaba Prada, nuestra vecina Flor Junio de Pérez (por cuidar de nuestros otros niños durante nuestra estancia en el hospital), Ronald Yu, Sylvia Santos de Pineda (bisnieta de Marcelo H. del Pilar), Jennalyn Carmona y Jingky Sumañga (respectivamente del departamento de facturación y una enfermera de St. Clare’s Medical Center), y mi mejor amigo Arnaldo Arnáiz.
 
Gracias también a los médicos que trabajaron arduamente para salvar la vida de Yeyette: la ginecóloga obstetra Drᵃ Catherine Pujol de Azores y su cirujano marido Dr. Rouel Azores, el anestesiólogo Dr. Gerald Vita, y otra ginecóloga obstetra Drᵃ Orpha Montillano de Corrado.
 

Junífera Clarita en el cuarto del bebé del hospital.

 
Y por supuesto, mil gracias también a todos los innumerables y valiosos amigos y parientes nuestros que oraron por la seguridad y recuperación de mi mujer y nuestra nueva bebé, Junífera Clarita. ¡Muchas gracias a todos ustedes! Gracias por el apoyo y el aliento espiritual y moral. Yeyette ahora disfruta de su segunda vida en la Tierra con nuestros cinco hijos hermosos. Somos muy afortunados de tener a todos ustedes en nuestras vidas.
 

¡Hogar, dulce hogar!

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

Del Superior Govierno: our country’s first newspaper

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Today marks the 213th anniversary of Del Superior Govierno, our country’s first newspaper. Making its debut on 8 August 1811, or 218 years after printing was introduced here by the Spanish friars, it was intended for local Spaniards to satisfy their need for the latest develpments in Spain and the rest of Europe.

 

 

Del Govierno Superior was edited by Mariano Fernández del Folgueras, a two-time governor-general of Filipinas (he’s the same man who gave English traders permission to establish the first commercial houses here). The newspaper came out during a time when Spain was in tumult — the mother country was then ruled by a French monarch, Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte, the elder brother of the more famous Napoléon Bonaparte. The French invasion of Spain, however, had little to no impact at all in our insular affairs. Nevertheless, the happenings in the peninsula explains as to why throughout Del Govierno Superior‘s brief stint (it came out with only 15 issues over a six month period), much of its content was about the events surrounding the costly Napoleonic Wars.

In addition, Del Govierno Superior was also our country’s  first newspaper to show in its layout the name, date, and place of its publication. And despite its brief existence, it paved the way for more newspapers, albeit belatedly, to appear in later years such as La Esperanza (1846), La Estrella (1847), Diario de Manila (1848), and a host of others. All the newspapers that followed soon expanded to a much wider readership, not just to the Spaniards. There were also “specialty newspapers” which catered to a specific audience (for instance, the Revista Mercantil de Filipinas was a weekly newspaper founded in 1892 and was dedicated solely to financial, agricultural, and commercial interests).

I just wonder why this newspaper was not included in Wenceslao Retana’s El Periodismo Filipino (1811-1894). In the said book, Retana made a list of all known newspapers in Filipinas throughout Spain’s rule. But instead of Del Govierno Superior, he cited La Estrella as our country’s first real daily.

Of course there’s no need to mention that our first dailies were all written in the sonorous language of Miguel de Cervantes and José Rizal. And that’s the odd thing about it. We are commemorating today the inception of our country’s first ever newspaper, a newspaper that was written in the Spanish language, in a milieu dominated by English-language newspapers and Taglish tabloids.

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

As an aside, it is sad to note that there are no more Spanish-language newspapers in our country. The last such newspaper was the weekly Nueva Era which ceased publication in 2008. I am proud to say that I was a part of that newspaper, having worked there as assistant to its editor-in-chief on a part-time basis (nothing big; I just swept floors and made coffee). Aside from Nueva Era, the now defunct Manila Chronicle used to have a Spanish section on its Sunday edition called Crónica de Manila (edited by former Instituto Cervantes de Manila Director José Rodríguez y Rodríguez and the late statesman Raúl Manglapus). But it didn’t last long; eventually, the newspaper itself folded up sometime during the last decade.

Critics will be quick to say that, of course, there are no more Spanish-speaking communities for such newspapers to cater to. However, keen observers will immediately point out that, bit by bit, the language of our forefathers is making a comeback, thanks in part to BPOs that pay above par salaries to those who are fluent in the language.  It should also be remembered that a couple of years ago (3 July 2006), the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines created Resolution No. 2006-028 which urged the national government to support and promote the teaching of the Spanish language in all public and private universities and colleges throughout the country. Then a year later (17 December 2007), the Department of Education issued Memorandum No. 490, s. 2007 which encouraged secondary schools to offer basic and advanced Spanish subjecs in the 3rd and 4th year levels respectively, as an elective.

And then there’s social media (and my other blog, hehe). Speaking of which, the Internet may already be sounding the death knell for print journalism in our country and elsewhere, regardless of language usage, especially since all major dailies today have their own websites. Even known columnists have their own blogs. Some are also predicting that the impending death of print journalism will happen in the next couple of years. But that’s another story altogether.

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.

Rizal wrote a patriotic letter to Blumentritt on his 26th birthday

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I wonder: if the Sandiganbayan did not issue a hold departure order against Senator Jinggoy Estrada, would the latter have left the country to escape allegations of his involvement in the telenovela that is the PDAF scandal?

Meanwhile, another co-accused, Senator Ramón “Bong” Revilla, Jr., openly declared that he will not leave the country and will squarely face the charges against him.

Both senators, despite their ordeal, are still determined to pursue their political plans in the next national election on 2016. As always, “public service” is their mantra, nay, excuse for doing so. But in fairness to them, their decision to stay put in the country rather than escape means that there is indeed an intention for them to clear their names, that they could be, perhaps (and just perhaps), innocent of the charges filed against them. We are then reminded of an incident not too long ago of a former senator, Pánfilo “Ping” Lacsón, who sneaked out of the country rather than face the charges against him in connection to the grisly murder of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito 14 years ago. Rather than fight it out tooth and nail, he opted for the safe way out: by flying out of the country (his ordeal later on inspired a film). On the other hand, it is difficult to blame the former Director-General of the Philippine National Police (who once declared that he hated politics and politicians) for he was up against a formidable wall: the Arroyo Administration.

These three lawmakers’ varying decisions on how to deal with high-profile court cases now remind us of how our national hero, whose birthdate falls today, comported himself in times of crisis. We all know how José Rizal got himself into trouble when he joined Freemasonry and started attacking the friars through his writings, particularly his novels and essays. During his first trip to Europe, the Calambeño wrote and published there his first novel, Noli Me Tangere. It was published in early 1886, and one of the first copies was sent to his Austro-Hungarian BFF, Ferdinand Blumentritt. Copies were subsequently sent to Filipinas.

Rizal and Blumentritt met only once, but they had been sending each other tons of letters for many years since 1886 (the last of this snail-mail correspondence was written from Rizal’s Fort Santiago cell on the eve of his execution); in an age when there was still no Internet and electricity, we can say that the two formed part of an earlier generation of social media users. Even though they were miles apart, they had formed a kindred bond, like that of brothers. So when Blumentritt finished reading Rizal’s first novel, alarm struck his heart for he realized the potential danger caused by his dear Filipino friend’s pen. He advised Rizal to just stay in Madrid for good and from there continue his Propaganda activities.

Rizal responded to Blumentritt. In a letter dated 19 June 1887, the patriot wrote:

Su consejo de quedarme en Madrid y escribir allá es muy benévolo; pero no puedo ni debo aceptarlo. No puedo soportar la vida en Madrid; allá todos somos “vox clamantis en deserto”; mis parientes quieren verme y yo quiero verlos también; en ninguna parte la vida me es tan agradable como en mi patria, al lado de mi familia. Todavía no estoy europeizado como dicen los filipinos de Madrid; siempre quiero volver al país de mis aborígenes. “La cabra siempre tira al monte”, me dijeron.

(MY TRANSLATION: Your advice for me to stay in Madrid and write from there is very kind of you, but I cannot even accept it. Life is difficult in Madrid. All of us there are but “vox clamantis in deserto”.* My relatives preferred seeing me and I feel the same way. In no place is life as nice as the one in my country, with my family right by my side. I’m still not Europeanized, as Filipinos say in Madrid. I always want to return to my native country. As they say, “the goat always goes to the mountain”.**)

Did you know? Rizal wrote in excellent German. A few years ago, I purchased volume 5 of the Epistolario Rizalino, composed of two parts, from eminent historian Benito Legarda, Jr. This letter of Pepe Rizal to his German-speaking penpal, Ferdinand Blumentritt, was written on the day the former turned 26, and it appears in the Epistolario’s first part.

The letter, originally in German, was written from Geneva, Switzerland. It was a long one and covered other topics. But the above lines stood out from the rest of the letter’s content as having more heart. It illumined our national hero’s affection not only for his country but for his family as well. We are accustomed to hear about Rizal the Patriot but rarely about Rizal the Family Guy. Of course, his courage speaks volumes here, something to be marveled at (a decade later, however, at the outbreak of the Tagalog rebellion, Rizal was singing a different tune: there was no more swagger left in him when he set sail to Cuba, but that’s another story and matter).

Rizal did not even remind Blumentritt in that letter that it was his birthday; anyway, birthdays were not celebrated back then as they are celebrated today (perhaps that fact could be another interesting topic for a future blogpost).

May this letter serve as an inspiration to our so-called public servants: country and family first, before the Self. And yes, conviction… but in the right place.

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

* “A voice crying out in the wilderness”, a reference to John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3, Mark 1:3, John 1:23).
** A Spanish proverb which means a person’s fondness or attachment to one’s native land.

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