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Tag Archives: American Occupation of the Philippines

Visiting our Lady of Assumption and del Pilar’s turf (Bulacán, Bulacán)

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Every August, the town of Bulacán commemorates two very important events: the feast day of its patron, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción on the 15th (which is today!), and; the birth anniversary of the anti-friar Propagandista Movement, Marcelo H. del Pilar. Stark contrast: two events with contrasting ideologies commemorated on the same month.

A handsome ancestral house along Calle Real.

Monument of General Gregorio del Pilar. Not many Filipinos know that Goyo was a nephew of Marcelo H. del Pilar.

Cupang Bridge. Cupang was the small barrio where Marcelo del Pilar was born. It is now a part of Barrio Maysantol.

Walking along Calle Real towards the Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine.

When me and Yeyette visited the town of Bulacán a few weeks back (07/25/2011), we had Lola Bening in mind. It was to fulfill a promise that we will visit her grandfather’s shrine soon. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out that the Marcelo H. del Pilar shrine is closed on Mondays (just like when we visited the Apolinario Mabini Shrine. Guess we’ll have to visit again.

In front of the Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine. Unfortunately, the shrine is closed.

The municipality of Bulacán —sharing the name of the Tagalog-speaking province where it is located— is one of the provincial towns that is very near Metro Manila. It can be reached, in fact, in just an hour from the City of Manila via the Municipality of Obando — but only if traffic is cooperative. When we went there, however, we rode a bus that passed through world-class North Luzón Expressway since we’re not accustomed to trips north of Manila (the Southerners that we are). We dropped off at Bigaá (now Balagtás) then rode a jeepney going straight to Bulacán.

According to sources, the town’s name was derived from the Tagalog word bulac which means “cotton” which apparently used to grow abundantly in the area. But Bulacán today does not cultivate cotton; farming, fishing, garments, and food processing are its major industries today. What I am still unsure of is whether this town was named after the province, or if the province was named after the town. But surely, Bulacán is one of the country’s oldest; it was founded by the Augustinian Order in 1572, just a year after the country was founded by the Spaniards. In fact, its church, Nuestra Señora De La Asunción, is the province’s oldest. But the stone structure and convent was built in 1762, the same year when the British invaded Manila. From there, the invaders went to as far as Bulacán and burned the church. Fray Gaspar Folgar had the church repaired in 1812. But it was damaged again by the deadly Corpus Christi earthquake of 1863. Another earthquake in 1869 tilted the belfry, but Fray Marcos Hernández renovated it in 1877. Restoration work was done by Fray Patricio Martín in 1885; it was completed by Fray Domingo de la Prieta in 1889.

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. Notice that the whole façade is standing on a plinth.

The upper part of the square pillars are designed with bricks in chevron pattern.

A slight renovation to strengthen the structure. The church is well taken cared of. Kudos!

The church's original flooring, exposed via an excavation, can be viewed on the right side of the church's main entrance.

The church's original floor, excavated but protected by glass.

The image of Our Lady of Assumption (Nuestra Señora de la Asunción).

My wife has become freakish for ancient bricks (the red-colored ones slightly covered by a modern finish).

Yeyette beside an old Santíssima Trinidad wooden cross at the church's garden.

Romanesque design of corbeled arches underneath the raking cornice. The upper part of the square pillar is designed

Bulaqueño goodies!

Afterwards, it’s lunchtime at Sizzling World!

People say that Sizzling World is quite popular here.

Some celebrities who have visited Sizzling World (this outlet and in other branches).

True, the food is good!

After lunch, we immediately resumed our walkathon.

The church's bell tower at the background.

Mag pan de sal muna tayo.

Casa Delgado

After our lunch and some pan de sal, we walked a few more streets to look for more ancestral houses. Thankfully, we chanced upon this beautiful architectural gem…

Yeyette inquiring about the unoccupied house from bystanders.

It was obvious from the outside that the house is already abandoned. But we had to make sure. Yeyette asked around for confirmation. The house actually was “semi-abandoned”. Nobody lives there anymore but it is still owned by one Jack Rodrigo who just lives a few paces from the house. After receiving directions, we set for his house.

He’s a gentleman who appears to be in his late 40s. Yeyette introduced ourselves and told him that we’re bahay na bató aficionados, and that we just want to take photos of the house’s interiors. The kind sir, however, prohibited us from going inside the house due to “paranormal” reasons.

In the past, Mr. Rodrigo said that he allowed his ancestral house to be photographed from within. Some movie companies have also rented it. In fact, scenes from the classic Pancho Magalona film Luis Látigo were shot inside that house. However, he started receiving reports that people who go inside the house to take pictures and film movies have noticed strange things happening to them. Bad luck and other unfortunate incidents followed them home. Some of them got sick. The more unfortunate ones were even possessed (assumedly by evil spirits).

It sent shivers up my wife’s spine; I took it all in stride. But when Mr. Rodrigo mentioned that he reported these strange occurences to the local priest, I have to admit that it got into me somehow. If the Church is involved, then this has got to be serious and not just mere “tacután” talk from people who are fans of urban legends and creepy stories. Mr. Rodrigo himself has not gone inside that house —the very house where he grew up— since his college years.

He said that the house had been blessed once or twice, but nothing happened. The hauntings continued, especially when the house is disturbed by tourists. I asked Mr. Rodrigo for the name of the house (Filipino houses usually bear the last name of the family who owns it). The name is Casa Delgado, the family on his mother’s side.

The name Delgado rang a bell. I asked him if it was the home of Francisco Delgado, and he confirmed it.

“Yes, it is the ancestral house of former Senator Francisco Delgado, my great grandfather. The house was built in 1886. Senator Delgado was also a cousin of former Philippine Ambassador to the Vatican,” informed Mr. Rodrigo.

Senator? Cousin? Something was wrong….

“I’m also related to another senator…”

“Yes, I think I know,” I butted in, remembering his surname. “Senator Francisco ‘Soc’ Rodrigo.” Wifey was impressed. She then proceeded to tell Mr. Rodrigo that I’m a historian. I should have corrected her: I’m no historian, just a history buff. I got no PhDs or MAs.

In the end, Mr. Rodrigo allowed us to go through the gate to take pictures of his great grandfather’s ancestral house.

An old carroza for the santos.

1886, the year when this house was built.

Since we were not allowed to go inside, I just took a photo of the interiors from the window beside the main entrance. My camera caught nothing eerie.

The grass around the house was very high, and snakes abound. The place is impassable without the proper tools to ward of the grass and the snakes.

Talk about creepy...

A stone post above Casa Delgado's ancient walls.

*******

On our way home, I kept on thinking about that conversation we had with Mr. Rodrigo. There was something amiss. Francisco Delgado? Senator?

I did some research online and in my library. And then it hit me.

The Delgado I had in mind was not Francisco Delgado, after all. It was José Mª Delgado. I got both persons all mixed-up in my mind. Francisco Delgado y Afán was a Resident Commissioner 2 to the 74th United States Congress during the American Occupation of the Philippines from 1935 to 1937. He was a Freemason. On the other hand, his cousin, José Mª Delgado, was a soldier of God: he was the first Filipino to be appointed ambassador to the Vatican. The Freemason senator is from Bulacán town; the Christian cousin is from Malolos.

Cousins with different ideologies: one Freemason, the other, Christian. Another stark contrast.

Is the late senator’s affiliation with Freemasonry the reason why his house remains uninviting and unsafe to mortals?

*******

The people we talked with were hospitable, and even invited us back for the town fiesta. To bad we couldn’t be there today. Anyways, happy fiesta, Bulacán!

Philippine elections: a failure even from the very beginning

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The controversial convention at Barrio Tejeros. Many historians acknowledge that the first election in Philippine history was held here.

Significantly, our country’s first president, Emilio Aguinaldo, was not elected by the Filipino people. He was elected by his Katipunan comrades and fellow Freemasons in Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabón (now General Mariano Trías), Cavite, a controversial historical event which is now known as the Tejeros Convention. That first election was exercised not to choose a leader to lead a nation but to lead the rebellion against Spain because during that time, the revolucionarios were divided into two factions: the Mágdalo, led by Aguinaldo and his cousin Baldomero Aguinaldo, and; the Magdiwang, led by Mariano Álvarez.

To pacify and unite the warring factions, which already have their own respective local governments in most of Cavite and other neighboring provinces (those that they captured from the Spanish government), Álvarez invited Katipunan supremo Andrés Bonifacio to mediate in a convention that was supposed to discuss military matters against Spain. But in the end, an election was held to decide who should lead the rebellion once and for all. This happened on 22 March 1897.

The closed-door election among these high-ranking Katipuneros/Freemasons resulted in the presidency of Mágdalo’s Emilio Aguinaldo (who was absent during that time). The convention chose Magdiwang’s Mariano Trías as Aguinaldo’s Vice-President. Meanwhile, Bonifacio was chosen as the Director of the Interior.

Alas, a certain Daniel Tirona questioned the results of the election. He argued that a lawyer should rightfully hold the position of Director of the Interior, even going as far as suggesting another person for the post. Naturally, this insulted Bonifacio. If not for intervening hands, Bonifacio would have shot Tirona. The angry supremo subsequently nullified the result of the proceedings before walking out from it, declaring that he is still the undisputed leader of the Katipunan from which both factions originated. This of course didn’t sit well with the other officials. The rest, as they always say, is history (Bonifacio’s orchestrated trial and execution, the proclamation of a premature independence, the US invasion, etc.).

According to eminent historian Ambeth Ocampo, however, the Bonifacio-Tirona tussle was not enough reason for the Katipunan Supremo to walk out of the proceedings just like that. As per Ocampo’s investigation, one major reason for the walkout was electoral fraud.

Yep, then as now.

Aguinaldo’s cohorts were supposed to be the first “sons of democracy” in this country, but they proved not to be worthy. Understandably, though, the situation back then didn’t allow suffrage a clean chance. For one, the first election was not even national — it was strictly Masonic. Secondly, the first “politicians” –most of whom were Freemasons– were still being taught the rudiments of republicanism and the ideals of democracy — the scourge of a monarchical form of government which have secured the archipelago for hundreds of years. Thirdly, the Philippines was not only at war with Spain but was also wary of the US military presence (particularly the fleets which arrived in Manila Bay) brought about by the Spanish-American war. But still, the process was tainted with irregularities, a sickening legacy which we still carry on even in this age of automated elections — the new system, sadly, still has the stigma of distasteful imperfections (“birth pains” or no “birth pains”) because a number of Precinct Count Optical Scan machines bogged down; and just when things seemed to flow out smoothly, sh!t happens!.

However, during the American interlude, the right of suffrage as we know it today was born. Technically, the first election that took place was a municipal one; it happened in Baliuag, Bulacán on 6 May 1899 under the auspices of American military Governor General Arthur MacArthur of which not much is known. But the first national elections in which the whole country was involved were held on 30 July 1907. The Filipinos elected the members of the first Philippine Assembly, the legislative body during the first few years of the US’ illegal reign in the country. Eighty one delegates to the National Assembly were elected while non-Christian provinces and districts having their own special governments were represented by appointees of then Civil Governor James Francis Smith.

Curiously, the newly elected assembleymen were no different from Noynoy Aquino who, as of this writing, is leading in the canvassing of votes in the recently concluded 2010 Philippine National Elections: most were generally young (between 31 and 40 years of age), well-educated, and filthy rich. Around 20 had a stint in the Spanish colonial government, and more than 50 were officials of the ill-fated Malolos government.

Then as now, the elite ruled the legislature. Worse, one of the first bills that these pro-American pigs passed was an increase in their per diem salary! And some even attempted to pass a bill exempting their properties from taxation!

Their apologists may claim that they were still inexperienced when it comes to democratic governance, that a republican form of government is not for personal aggrandizement nor profit. But the abovementioned political immaturity metamorphosed into a much higher form of (subtle) notoriety today. Take this one for instance: don’t you find it insanely immoral to impose Value Added Tax on food, a very basic commodity? If you don’t, I guess I am but a talkative, cynic, and unprincipled ignoramus doltishly questioning as to why the poor are always hungry. And then we have the C-5 road extension and the NBN-ZTE scandals, political dynasties, lawmakers lashing out unparliamentary language against each other, and the like. And such @$$hole-like behavior provokes some of their colleagues to become mentally out of control.

This is the true historical picture of our Philippine electoral system. Conclusion: we have not learned much from our past mistakes. No wonder Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville quipped that “in a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

You allowed yourselves to be fooled by emotions brought about by last year’s unprecedented events. You allowed yourselves to be fooled by ABS-CBN. You thus allowed yourselves to vote for a color that has been long dead and proven ineffective. You, therefore, deserve the consequences. You will get the government you deserve.

Democracy –the warmachine of the US WASPs, and a clever disguise for mob rule– is but a sham. And history proves it every time.

Day of Valor

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Today we commemorate the Day of Valor, formerly called Bataán Day, to remind us of the heroism of our soldiers there (together with American forces) against the Japanese invaders during World War II.

Bataán, the last province to surrender to Japanese aggression in the Pacific, was a bloody witness to that country’s victory over our shores. Major General Edward P. King, Jr., seeing the futility of putting up a gallant stand against the Japanese, was forced to surrender more than 76,000 of what is left under his command after three months of fighting the invaders. Of this number, almost 12,000 were American soldiers, thus making this the largest American military force in history to surrender to an enemy.

What followed next after the surrender was the brutal Bataán Death March, wherein the prisoners were forced to walk from Mariveles, Bataán to Capas, Tarlac under harsh conditions that would’ve made both Freddie Krueger and Jason Voorhees weep.

More or less 20,000 men died from the Bataán Death March.

We owe our freedom and our dignity to these great heroes of World War II. But may we not have wars anymore. Nowadays, wars are reserved only for the stupidest of men.

Day of Valor or not, the heroes of Bataán shall never ever be forgotten that easily.

Señor EDSA

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Perhaps the most prominent highway in modern Philippine History is EDSA.

A portion of EDSA.

Formerly known as Highway 54, it was constructed during the American Occupation of the country. This 23.8-kilometer circumferential road runs through five cities (Pásay, Macati, Mandaluyong, Quezon, and Caloocan) and actually stands on what was then a very long coastline hundreds of years before the place was occupied by humans (that is why workers in construction sites along the area usually find seashells during a dig).

EDSA became famous throughout the world during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s not because of its length nor its notorious traffic. It is because this highway was the site of the bloodless 1986 coup which toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his cohorts from Malacañang Palace.

It is sad to note that only a few Filipinos today know that this highway was named after the initials of an illustrious Filipino writer and historian who lived during the Spanish and American era. His name is Epifanio De los SAntos, and his birthday falls today.

No festivities along the highway named after him?

Anyway, below is a brief biographical sketch of this “gentleman from the old school” written by Renato J. Mendoza (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Institute).

Epifanio de los Santos (1871-1928).

EPIFANIO DE LOS SANTOS
(1871-1928)

Historian and man of letters, Epifanio de los Santos was born in Malabón, Rizal (the lakeside province once known as Morong –Pepe–), on April 7, 1871, to Escolástico de los Santos and Antonina Cristóbal.

When he was seven years old, he studied under a certain Maestro José Flores. He finished his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila; and his Licentiate in Law from the University of Santo Tomás in 1898.

A brilliant student, Don Panyong’s versatility covered such different endeavors as painting, music, history, literature, law, politics, and others. In his diverse studies, he became acquainted with Germans, French, and Greek literatures, not to mention English and Spanish.

Aside from his achievements in literature, he occupied the following government positions: provincial secretary of Nueva Écija; governor, fiscal of Malolos for 10 years; director of the Philippine Library.

Don Panyong spent most of his time in extensive researches and historical studies which resulted in the formation of one of the most comprehensive Filipiniana collections of his time. He died in Manila on April 18, 1928, of cerebral attack.

Señor de los Santos was also regarded by his peers (notably Cecilio Apóstol, a famous Filipino poet in the Spanish language) as one of the best Spanish-language writers during his time. Some of his notable works are Algo de Prosa (1909), Literatura Tagala (1911), El Teatro Tagalo (1911), Nuestra Literatura (1913), El Proceso del Dr. Jose Rizal (1914), and Folklore Musical de Filipinas (1920). He also wrote the biographies of notable Filipinos in history such as José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Rafaél del Pan, and Francisco Balagtás.

Speaking of Balagtás, de los Santos 1916 translation of the former’s 19th-century Tagalog epic Florante at Laura is now considered a classic in Philippine Literature.

A video of pre-WWII Manila

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Here’s another lovely video of pre-war Manila. Take note how lovely Avenida Escolta (in Santa Cruz, Manila) used to be. That place was then the equivalent of today’s Macati Business District. And the tranvía made it more distinct, giving it a “San Francisco, California” feel. Although the video was recorded during the American period, traces of our Hispanic past was very and strongly visible.

Manila’s Castilian Memoirs (1930s)

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Below is a video uploaded by The Travel Film Archive in YouTube. It features a splendid prewar Manila (during the 1930s) in all its Castilian glory. And it’s ironic to note that Manila, as well as many parts of the Philippines, remained “Castilian” (or to be more appropriate, “Filhispanic”) despite the American interlude.

A few years later, Manila will be wiped out by bloodthirsty Japs and Yankees. The Pearl of the Orient was the second most devastated city after Warsaw, Poland in Europe.

The video was created by American William M. Pizor.

Ikon, Friar and Conquistador

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Ladies and gents, I proudly present to you Ikon, Friar and Conquistador, one of my favorite essays from the country’s best English-language writer, the late great Nicomedes “Nick” Joaquín (National Artist for Literature and a good friend of Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera). If I’m not mistaken, this essay was written and published during the 1960s. It was recently included in CULTURE AND HISTORY, a collection of Nick’s essays published by Anvil Publishing, Inc. (2004). Ikon, Friar and Conquistador explains most of what we have been fighting for all these years…

IKON, FRIAR AND CONQUISTADOR
Nick Joaquín

The Filipino is most Christian when he doubts that he is, just as the saintly are those who know they are not. A saint thinks himself the blackest of sinners; the moment he thought himself a saint he would cease to be saintly. What a Christian culture creates is a self that’s forever examining, questioning, doubting, denying and confessing itself. The paradox of the Christian is that he must achieve selflessness through maximum self-consciousness. There must be a self before it can be denied. The will must be strong that has to be curbed.

The Christian Filipino is self-conscious, is intensely, tormentedly aware of himself in a way that, say, the Igorot and the Moro are not — and may the statement give no offense, since its point is not that the Christian Filipino is better but, rather, that he sees himself as worse. He winces when he hears his country described as “the only Christian nation in the Far East.” He looks around him and sees only greed, graft, vileness and violence, and he sneers: Is this Christianity? He questions the value of religious instruction for his children; he deplores the folk pieties of the ignorant; he concludes in despair that the Faith is a foreign irrelevance that hasn’t touched his people. Some may see in such attitudes a decline of Christianity. Others may hail them as a triumph of the Faith, for the Christian affirmation is not, after all, Thank God, I am not like this Publican here but O Lord, I am not worthy.

If the Christian religion were to disappear, from the land, we would still remain Christian, not necessarily by being good but even in the way we are not good: that is, in the quirks and qualities of our character. The Faith has so formed us that even those of us who have left it still speak and write within its frame of reference, still think in terms of its culture, and still carry the consciousness of a will and a conscience at war that so agonizes the Christian. For good or evil, our conversion to Christianity is the event in our history.

We might be happier if we had remained within the tribal obedience (as the highlanders of the North and the Muslims of the South have done to this day) but we ourselves deny this when we argue that, even without Spain and the Faith, we would sooner or later have emerged from tribalism. The Conversion shattered for us the Magian cave of Tribe, from which we emerged Faustians, still infant Faustians it may be, but already evolving the infinite I within, which we call soul, and the infinite we without, which we call nation. Lapu-lapu was a patriot in the old reasonable sense, defending a local habitation he could personally encompass. But the nationalist is a madder chap. He worships and will defend a mystical extent of space that ultimately has no boundaries.

It would take some explaining to make a Badjáo see how he is bound to defend the waters of faraway Bolinao, or to make an Ilongot understand that Pagadían is also his homeland. These things can be taught in school, but they come by instinct to those born to the culture. The Christian Filipino who has never seen either Bolinao or Pagadían, who may not know even where they are and couldn’t care less, will still, without question, go and die in their defense, as he would die for his own home, because they, too, are his own land. He will even, in defense of the homeland, fight outside the homeland, as Filipinos have fought in the Solomons and the Marianas, because the nationalism he carries in his blood is boundless. This seems starkly clear to us, but it’s mysticism gone mad to a tribesman, whose loyalties coincide with the boundaries of his tribe. If he fights beyond, he fights as an ally, but not for a nation.

When we argue that, left to ourselves, we would, nevertheless, have evolved a confederation of tribes that in time would have become a nation, the testimony of 400 years is against us. In the last 400 years, the Philippine tribes that were left to themselves have never even approached the idea of union. The highlanders of the North, for instance, did not fuse into one nation in the mountains vis-à-vis the Christians in the lowlands. Nor did the Cagayán Valley become the empire of the confederated Ilongot tribes, whom we find, instead, to this day, still at war among themselves. And in Mindanáo, even Islam, a potent unifier, failed to unite the tribes that turned Muslim, though the Spanish campaigns against them should have made confederation inevitable. The Greeks, whose tribal city-states were similar to ours, and who suffered from an equally disjunctive localism, almost became a nation when forced to unite against the might of the Persian Empire. But the Moros stuck to the private small-scale raid. We try to ennoble those raids today as efforts on the part of our Muslim brothers to liberate us from Spanish rule, though the evidence is that, then as now, the raids were purely for slave and booty, and were thus resisted by the folk supposed to be rescued; but how glorious if there had really been a countercrusade from a Mindanáo organized under one leadership to liberate the land, and sending a mighty fleet northward for a new Battle of Lepanto! But the native aversion to the large effort made such a dream impossible, and the Moros, instead of confederating, have merely split smaller, until we hear of tribes that must have begun as one shredding into as many as 33 sultanates within a single province.

This should tell us that a will to unite and a sense of nation do not evolve inevitably, “sooner or later,” not even when spurred by the force of circumstances. Considering the 400-year failure in this matter of the tribes left to themselves, and considering also the local diversity of tongues and cults, the unification of the rest of the country must seem nothing less than a miracle, and that achievement the basic fact of our history, since any historian would regard the epoch during which that labor was undertaken as our most crucial moment, when the Conversion made us this people and this nation. But we find ourselves being told today that those years of conversion and unification —the 300 years of Spain in the Philippines— are not our history, are of no import to us, are irrelevant and can be omitted from a true history of the Philippines, with the example cited, to prove the point, of the omission by certain Spanish historians of the Moorish period from their histories of Spain. But this example, instead of proving the point, disproves it.

Despite 800 years of the Moros, Spain did not become a Muslim nation but rather emerged from the occupation more fiercely Catholic than before, and can therefore be justified in ignoring the Moorish period as irrelevant since it wrought no radical reformation of Spanish culture. But let us assume that Spain did become Muslim because of the Moros — Muslim in faith, Muslim in culture: would a modern Spanish Muslim historian dare ignore as irrelevant the event in his history that made his nation the unique thing it is — the only Muslim nation in Christian Europe? Would he dare call the Moorish occupation, however hated it may have been, irrelevant to the development of his Muslim people? Or would he not rather say that the invasion was the starting point of his Muslim people’s history and the Christian years that preceded it the irrelevance?

Or to cite a closer example: If a historian finally emerged among the Philippine Moros, would he dare say that the coming of Islam to the Philippines was of no import and the conversion of his folk to the Crescent an irrelevance in the history of his tribe?

If we had emerged from the 300 years of Spain not Christian in faith nor Christian in culture we could dismiss those 300 years as an irrelevant interruption of our history. But since it was those years that shaped what we are today, it’s as impossible for us to reject them as for a tree to cut off its roots. This is the vital difference between the Spanish era and the American interlude. The latter was, like the British and the Japanese occupations, an interruption, which we now seek to annul, because we know that’s possible, having realized it’s not mainstream, as we used to think. But even the nimblest of historical wizards may find it hard to skip Spain and the Conversion and still tell a coherent Philippine history, since he would have, at one moment, a welter of warring pagan tribes and, in the very next moment, a people calling itself Filipino and fighting for its nationhood under the banners of the Cross, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Constitution of Cádiz.

What happened in between is too vital to skip, as vital as the forces —religious, cultural, political— that made it happen, and which may be represented by the three figures that loom on the stage of conversion: the Santo Niño, Fray Andrés de Urdaneta and Don Miguel de Legazpi. When we started to take off as a nation, after ages of static tribalism, we had for propulsion the triple thrust of Ikon, Friar and Conquistador.

The Santo Niño icon of Cebú.

The Santo Niño makes so perfect a symbol of Philippine Christianity because it came with Magellan, became a pagan idol, was reestablished by Legazpi, and has become so native that native legends annul its European origin by declaring it to have arisen in this land. The process was already in motion even in the days of Rajah Tupas. Within 44 years after its arrival, the Ikon had become so accepted no one remembered it any longer as having come from outside. The Cebuanos sent to Legazpi to ransom the image, offering any amount of gold for it, declared that it had been with them for ages and had been their god from time immemorial.

One legend has it falling from the sky; another has it rising from the sea; but both sea and sky are Philippine. The legend that recounts how futile were the efforts to hack it to pieces may be mythic shorthand for the vain war waged against it by native priestesses during its 44 years as the last and greatest of our pagan gods. The translation into Christian worship of the rituals with which it was worshipped as a pagan god, and which survive to this day, is the first and still the best example of folk Catholicism, a fusion of the Christian and the pagan that reveals how the Church triumphed in the Philippines: by assimilating and preserving (as it did in ancient Rome and heathen Europe) whatever of the old cults it could Christianize, so that not only the Pit Senyor of the Santo Niño but similar pagan rites like the tatarín of Manila, the turumba of Páquil, and the ati-atihan of Aclán have survived under the auspices of the Church. It’s ironic, therefore, that those who look back with such reverence to our pre-Hispanic culture should be the loudiest sneerers at Christianity in the Philippines as being mere folk Catholicism, or superstition. They mourn for being lost what they attack for surviving. When they decry the town fiesta they are decrying the old pagan harvest festival, which, as may be observed in the highlands of the North, also entailed open doors, loaded tables and a lot of conspicuous consumption.

That Christianity in the Philippines, like the Santo Niño, adapted itself to paganism, to reach our pagan minds, should cause no surprise, since history shows that the Faith becomes primitive again with every primitive people. It carried all Greek learning within it when it reached Europe, but in Europe, during the Dark Ages, it became a magical nature religion. To the Gauls of the time of Clovis, Christ was not the highly metaphysical Greek Logos but simply a great witch doctor, who proved the potency of his magic by rising from the grave. Centuries has to pass before Christian Europe could produce an Aquinas, a Francis, a Teresa. The Faith respects the human process; and even as Christ himself began as a baby, so every Christian nation begins in spiritual babyhood, with naïve faith. The Philippines, too, had to undergo, is still undergoing, this spiritual childhood, because human processes are gradual, and we cannot, in the wink of an eye, shed all the previous pagan ages. So, the Santo Niño was willing to become a pagan god for us. Yet we hear the charge that violence was done to the Filipinos when a faith alien to his culture was thrust upon him.

Rizal lamented that his people were converted to a religion they did not understand. It’s absolutely sure that the early native converts understood the Faith no more deeply than did the Gauls or Goths of Europe; but if the same argument had succeeded in stopping the introduction into Europe of an alien Oriental religion the world would not have had Chartres or Giotto or Chaucer of Michelangelo. We complain that our forefathers suffered in assimilating forms of culture not native to them. Absolutely. Learning is not an easy process, as our proverbs (“Burning one’s eyebrows”) warn. But if man had limited himself to what was easy because familiar, he would still be in the caves. It’s the accepting of the challenge of the new, the unknown, the alien, the mysterious, that has unlocked wilderness, ocean, the atom and outer space. None of these things came easy; why should Christianity?

We sneer that the Filipino is no more virtuous today than 400 years ago, and that the Faith has had, not only no moral, but no social effect on us. But even the gradual evolution of the Faith in the Philippines has been in the nature of a revolution. The Filipino woman of today, for instance, is not quite the same as the women that Pigafetta and the other early explorers described. And even the modern Filipina who asserts that her pagan ancestress was actually nobler, because uninhibited, would balk at restoring the old uninhibited practices, like getting a daughter deflowered at puberty or making her little boy wear a nail through his phallus. The Filipina may still try to keep men under the saya, but not in such literal sexual subjugation as symbolized by the fettered phallus.

That there was a revolution can be seen by comparing our Christian and pagan arts. When the Club Filipino organized such a comparative exhibit of our pagan and Christian arts in juxtaposition, one could see at a glance how the static forms of paganism —stolid, squatting, expressionless figures— were succeeded, in Christian times, by forms in dynamic motion: gesturing hands, advancing feet, upturned heads, vivacious faces and whirling draperies. The most startling juxtaposition of forms was of the Pregnant Woman, an immemorial Philippine motif that evolved, with the Conversion, into the Pregnant Virgin. But glancing from the pagan to the Christian version, one was amazed to see how forms so similar could be so different. What one saw was not evolution but revolution, the static becoming ecstatic. For the pagan Pregnant Woman —stolid, squatting, expressionless— seems rooted to the ground, earthbound; while the upright Pregnant Virgin, so graceful though so gravid, and leaning impulsively forward, as though about to run a race or take off for the sky, seems the very epitome of the liberated spirit. The testimony of yesterday’s art refutes today’s reading of history. Our folk art records a transfiguration as remarkable as that moment in Greek art when classic serenity, disturbed, became Byzantine rapture.

In this, the Philippine folk artist is not a solitary witness, for our reception of the Faith was indeed not uniformly naïve. Within a century after Magellan, an authentic mystical movement had already appeared in Manila, contemporary with and of the same spirit as the metaphysical movement in 17th-century Europe. The lives of these natives anchorites and contemplatives who founded the beaterios, organized the Third Orders and formed the confraternities, indicate how deep and swift the impact of the Faith was. Yet no study has been made of this movement as a whole, fascinating and significant though it is, because we scorn our own history. The history of the beaterios is surely not the history “of Spain in the Philippines” but of the the Filipino as Christian; and it reveals the revolution being wrought in his country, in his society, in his character.

The testimony offered by folk artist and folk mystic should cause second thoughts among those who assert that the Conversion was no event in our history. It was —and is (for it’s still in progress)— an event not only in our history but in our very souls; and when we confront it we confront the friar, who started the act that’s still transforming us. But the friar also played an earthier role in our history than as missionary, and could just as well be portrayed with wheel and seedling as with cross. Economically he was our culture hero.

The Augustinian friar Andrés de Urdaneta.

Urdaneta makes so perfect a symbol of the friar in the Philippines because he could just as well be depicted raising the Compass as the Cross. To the Conversion, as to Legazpi, he was Chief Pilot; and he was Renaissance Man in all his awesome vitality: sailor, soldier, explorer, adventurer, and yet combining with the man of action the man of thought, otherworldly and God-haunted, afflicted with his epoch’s ‘fever of the marrow’ and suddenly abandoning the world, like so many adventurers of his time (Charles V, John Donne), to vanish into the cloister and there start still another adventure, another exploration, this time in the realms of the spirit. Summoned from the cloister by his king, he willingly set out on a final expedition, though already in his 60s, and guided Legazpi’s armada to the Philippines, where he built the first church, enthroned the Santo Niño, baptized his first converts, was the colony’s first spiritual head. Then he performed a final feat: discovered a safe return route across the Pacific to Mexico, after which he vanished again into the cloister, where he died in obscurity, a man whose voracity for experience the whole world could not satiate, and who therefore yearned beyond. Plus Ultra!

Only heroic ages can produce a clergy in the grand style, not dainty curates, but warrior-priests like Urdaneta, men of the world and of their time, though transcending both. But the challenge of the Philippines, of the Orient, was picked up by a host of such mystic men of action. The Franciscan Pedro Bautista came to the Philippines during the Conquista, built the first church in San Francisco del Monte, ranged Southern Luzón, then dashed off to new frontiers in Japan, where he was martyred; is now honored on the altar as a saint. The Dominican Francisco de Capillas explored the wilds of Cagayán, evangelized the North, built and baptized, then went off to dare the perils of China, is now honored on the altar as a martyr. Of such steel were the athletes that evangelized the Philippines.

Into our soil, the friar poured his blessings. He shaped our economy by what he put in; and our history to this day, and our daily lives, are determined by the crops that he brought in: tobacco, maize, cotton, coffee, cocoa, naranja, guava, melon, sincamás, achuete, avocado, pineapple, chile, peanut, squash, cabbage, tomato, industrial sugar, and so on, and so forth, ad infinitum. We hear of convent yards that were veritable plant nurseries, where imported seed was tried out, nurtured, bred, crossbred, developed, and then given out for general culture.

The revolution here can be appreciated if we imagine that most typical of Philippine scenes: a carabao pulling a plow. We think this “immemorial,” but it isn’t. The pre-Hispanic carabao was a meat, now a work, animal. Tilling, planting, gathering then were all done by hand, which necessarily limited what a farmer could produce. The friar brought wheel and plow here and he turned the carabao into a draft animal, to pull the plow, to pull the cart. This lifted a mountain of labor off the farmer’s back and expanded his ability to produce.

If this had happened in an earlier age, myth would have turned the friar into a generic culture hero depicted, like Ceres, with a crown of vine leaves, seedlings in hand, and enthroned on crop sheaves. Thus the Greeks developed a generic figure, Dionysus, for the culture hero (probably from Asia) who brought them the culture of the grape. Thus the American Indian developed a cult to the god who introduced corn and tobacco to his land. Thus might we have had a culture hero called Parecura, a nature god that came out of the sea to bring us corn and roses, beans and spices; who gave us the wheel and the plow, the horse and the cow, the goose and the turkey; who built dams to check our rivers and canals to irrigate our fields; who flung roads through jungle and mountain and bridges across rivers; and who fixed on paper the turmoil of our tongues and scripts. For Parecura was not only a god of agriculture; he was also, like Apollo, a god of art, music and learning. He trained our wood carvers and painters, taught us architecture, developed our singers and musicians, gave us books on our flora and chronicles of our land, showed us how to dress food and how to tailor clothes, and gathered us together, made us one, with the magic sound of his bell.

The marvel here is that this is not myth but history, our history, though we now insist it’s only the “history of Spain in the Philippines.” But was our entrance into wheel culture an event in Spanish or in Philippine history? Was the introduction of corn and tobacco, of horse and cow, an event in Spanish or in Philippine culture? Was the rise of the native baroque church and house (which are neither Spanish nor Mexican) an event in Spanish or in Philippine society? Was the romanization of our script and the introduction of printing an event in Spanish or in Philippine letters? Was the native santero and event in Spanish or in Philippine art? And was our learning of the guisado an event in Spanish or in Philippine life?

We contend that we would have gotten or learned all these things anyway, eventually, sooner or later, even without Spain and the friar; and we point proudly to the international contacts we had even before Magellan. But what’s so noteworthy about those contacts is how little they did for us. We hear of ships from Siam or China or Java or Arabia sailing to Cebú to trade, but we don’t hear of ships from Cebú, or even from Manila, going to Siam or China or Java or Arabia to trade. This international trade we boast of was so one-sided it can hardly be called trade, since our role in it was purely passive: the folk to whom the trade happened, to whom the traders came, and from whom the payment exacted were slaves or the right to work local mines. Not until the Galleons was our country to play an active role in trade, on a global scale, for Manila became the point of exchange between East and West.

All these cultures we were in contact with were already wheel cultures, but none of them seems to have had the charity to introduce us to the wheel. We had to wait for the friar to do that. They were already building in brick and stone; did any of them care to instruct as in the art? Was a Javanese-style or a Siamese-style temple ever built in the Philippines to serve as model? Not untli the friar came and discovered the possibilities of our adobe did we develop an architecture of our own. We are age-old neighbors of the spice islands, yet never had a spice culture of our own until the friar tried to give us one. The Chinese, we have always had with us. They killed our pottery with their porcelain; did they at least have the goodness to teach us their ceramic secrets? They have always been famed for their cooking, did they teach us how to dress food? They sold us silks and other fabrics; did they ever teach us how to make them? The Arabs were then, vis-à-vis Europe, in the position of Russia today vis-à-vis America – that is, the rival culture. Yet what of Arab culture, aside from its faith, ever actually reached us? The Arabs had great armies and navies then. We say we were in contact with them; but we were still fighting with bow and arrow — with bows of poor tensile strength and arrows unshafted with feathers. Couldn’t the Arabs have trained us in their style of warfare? Or they could at least have brought us the horse, for which they were famous. Did they? Only in the present day has the mother realm of our South deigned to establish cultural interchange with our Muslims.

All the things that the Javanese and Chinese and Siamese and Arabs could have brought us, could have taught us, we had to wait for Spain and the friar to bring us, to teach us. If we had relied on the Javanese, Chinese, Siamese or Arabs to help us advance, we might still be — as indeed the highlanders of the North and even the Moros of the South still are — in a prewheel, prestone, pretrade and prebook culture.

Moreover, Spain’s economic legacy was as nearly disinterested as any act in this selfish world can be. We cannot say that sugar was developed here because Spain needed a sugar bowl, or that tobacco was introduced here to give the Carmens of Seville employment, or that the copra and hemp industries were established to feed the mills of Madrid and Barcelona. In the nearly four centuries under Spain, we never had what might be called a colonial economy, tied to the factories and markets of the mother country. When we broke away from Spain we did so with no fear of economic upheaval, because we were economically independent of her. But in the next years this independent economy was to become a colonial economy, so tied to the markets and factories of the United States that, even today, several decades after political independence, we are still, economically, an American dependency, and tremble to think of the upheavals that separation would cause.

The funny thing is that the Americans introduced into this country not a single crop that may be said to have transformed our economy and affected our history, like the crops that Spain brought. Nor was the existing economy developed save to serve the interests of the American market. During the war, the Japanese here ostentatiously planted Virginia tobacco, asking us, with a leer, why the Americans never developed a Virginia tobacco culture in the Philippines. It was then that a prewar vaunt —“More progress in 50 years under America than in 300 under Spain”— became so hollow as to make one wonder how it could ever have been believed. For we are, today, still vexedly trying to undo the effects and solve the problems caused by that “progress” made under America; but on what Spain brought and planted here depend our lives, trade, culture, progress and history for all time to come. The wheel brought here is in permanent revolution, is dynamo.

The friar planted crop after crop with no thought of how this might be to the benefit or detriment of the mother country on the other side of the world. He was not thinking of the mother country, he was thinking of “this republic,” as he loved to call the Philippines. “Esta corte” and “Esta república” resound repeatedly from his pages. He was —consciously or not— creating the idea of an independent realm. And everything he did increased that independence. Those crops he planted created economic independence. His revolt against the authority of his superiors in Spain resulted in independent friar provinces for the Philippines. His propagation of the dialects instead of Spanish — whatever his reasons for disobeying royal orders in this matter — bred an independent Philippine Christian culture that’s not merely a mirror culture of the Spanish or the Mexican. He organized our dialects into grammars; opened up and mapped our lands; and pulled us out of the mists of folklore into the ear of written history. The churches, roads, bridges, dams and irrigation systems he built, we are still using today. From any viewpoint, his is one of the great civilizing labors in the history of mankind.

But the friar as culture hero shared the fate of Dionysus, who was destroyed by the same folk that hailed him for his gift. Like Dionysus, the friar was, in the end, torn to pieces by the women. They were his first foes when he first came; but in subduing them, he succumbed to them, and perished. But culture heroes all have a tragic end — Prometheus, the bringer of fire culture, chained forever and forever devoured; Noah, the inventor of wine culture, castrated; and Osiris, the introducer of agriculture, rent limb from limb and scattered. Like these, Parecura suffered a mythic doom — which is, most improperly, a stealing of the show, since his role in the Conquista was, properly, that of Sancho Panza (the practical one, the realist) alongside the Conquistador’s egregious Quixote.

Which brings us to the last and most poignant figure in our trinity.

El adelantado y gran conquistador, Señor Don Miguel López de Legazpi.

Legazpi makes so perfect a symbol of the Conquistador in the Philippine because, when he came here, he was over 50 years old and a grandfather. Quixote, too, was an old man when, the Age of Chivalry long past, he rode forth on knight-errantry; but Quixote in India is an even older man, and even farther away from when knighthood was in flower. Quixote in India is a gaunt, grave, grizzled grampa riding forth to conquer the Orient. He took Cebú, he took Manila, he extended the empire up to the Ilocos, and he died poor. But in less than a decade he had established a base, a springboard, for Oriental operations.

Quixote, however, was too old to conquer Cathay and the Indies, and died of his mad dream. But for a moment the dream flickered with wild brilliance and it seemed that the Conquistador, who had welded the Americas into one empire, would repeat his feat in the Orient and bring under his flag and the Cross all the region from the Himalayas to the Antipodes. For a moment, greatness of realm seemed the destiny of the Philippines, potential heart of an Asian empire.

In those alarums and excursions, which we bewail for the blood and labor they cost us, the prize at stake was our own magnitude; for if the Conquistador had succeeded, the Philippines might have extended from Indo-China to Australia. Even up to the middle of the 17th century, it seemed certain that the Philippines would at least include Formosa, the Moluccas and Borneo. Restored to his throne with the help of Spanish arms, the sultan of Borneo had sworn fealty to Spain in the person of Philippine Governor-General Francisco de Sande. The Moluccas were conquered in the early 1600s, Formosa in the 1620s. Our geography was still fluid, still in formation.

The Dutch wars (through the first 50 years of the 17th century) posed another big If. Was the Philippines to become Spanish or Dutch domain? Would Philippine culture have a Catholic or a Calvinist accent? Or, the Dutch being no gospeleers, were we, with the Spaniards kicked out, to continue, under the Dutch, the interrupted process of our Islamization?

Such questions show how these wars, which, we huffily say now, were no concern of ours and therefore not our history, were actually decisive in history, since they determined our fortunes and even the shape of our land. But for the Moro wars, which stopped the Conquistador in Mindanáo, Borneo might have been definitely annexed — and we would have had a deeper South, plus oil and ore. But for the Dutch wars, which nailed the Conquistador to the Philippines, Formosa and the Moluccas might not have been lost — and we would today enjoy larger boundaries, plus granaries of rice and spice. But for the 50-year resistance of the Philippines at all today: we would be a province, under another name, of Indonesia.

On the positive side, the battles of the Conquistador had, for us, one tremendous and profound result: the formation of a native elite in close alliance with and practically the peers of the Spaniards. Imperilled by Dutch and English from without, and by Moro and Chinese from within, the Spaniards in the Philippines had to turn to some section of the population for help and support, and they got both from two tribes, the Tagalog and Pampango, but at the price of yielding part of their power and authority to the principales of these tribes. For the Tagalog and Pampango barons, or principalía, the Dutch wars were Runnymede. The Conquistador got the men, timber, provisions and ships he needed; the Tagalog and Pampango barons got, in return, municipal power and government, military authority, more and more of the old communal lands, prestige and privilege, and a liberal education. They could rise to captain and colonel, or maestre de campo, in the army; could be placed in charge of a garrison in the Moluccas; traveled from Borneo to Formosa to Acapulco and got a taste of the great world; and in their collaboration with the Conquistador, in dealing with him as his equals, developed a sense of destiny as a chosen people, as the ruling class. They were addressed as dons.

It’s significant that what used to be our greatest local feast, La Naval de Manila, which celebrated the termination of and Philippine victory in the Dutch wars, was most fervently observed by the Tagalogs and the Pampangos. (It’s still the main fiesta of Ángeles.) the feast had a double meaning for those two tribes. On the one hand, they celebrated the power and privilege they gained because of the Dutch wars. On the other hand, they celebrated the continuance of their ally, the Spaniard, in the land and the consequent continuation of their own power and privilege, which had created a grand style in them, the lordliness they have become noted for. The feast of La Naval encloses the first sprouting of native nationalism; the dynamo was already turning mass into energy, matter into spirit. (The rise of the Tagalog and Pampango principalía in the 17th century coincides, not so incidentally, with the native mystical movement in the same region.) One of the most staggering moments in Philippine history is that day in 1662, when, after a Chinese uprising, the Spanish government, in a symbolic act, turned over the walls of Manila to the Pampango armies, under the leadership of Don Francisco Laxamana, maestre de campo.

Throughout his sojourn in the land, the Conquistador held the Philippines only at the will of the Tagalog and Pampango barons, who exploited their position. Whenever the country was in peril and the seat of government had to be moved from Tagalog domain, the alternative capital was, significantly, always on Pampango soil: Bacolor, as during the British invasion, or Arayat, as Governor-General Basco proposed 30 years later. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Philippines was actually controlled by a triumvirate: the native-born Spaniard, the Tagalog and the Pampango. As long as the first had the other two with him, all the rest of the country could rise in revolt: the government stood firm. But when the Tagalog and the Pampango abandoned the Spaniard, as in 1896, the Spaniard could have all the rest of the country behind him to no avail.

When the Revolution broke out, it was precisely in that region —the Tagalog and Pampango provinces— that had, through three centuries, formed the elite of the land, that had acted as coruler, and that had developed a sense of destiny. (Old folks in Bulacán refer to the revolutionary days as “ang panahóng Tagalog.”) And the reason for the Revolution was the breakdown of the old triumvirate and the reversion of the Creole-Tagalog-Pampango “republic” into a colony in the modern sense, the mishap that marked the final phase of Spain in the Philippines. For the almost 400 years that we lump into one era, the “Spanish era,” were actually three distinct eras.

The first one, roughly the last 35 years of the 16th century, was the era of conquest and conversion.

The second, from the 17th century to around the beginning of the 19th century, was the era of a commonwealth quite independent of its alleged European metropolis, being ruled vicariously, at one remove, by the government in Mexico, which was also too far away to exert pressure.

The third, through the 19th century, was the era of a colony in the classic pejorative sense, controlled directly and oppressively by the mother country; and therefore also the era of the revolt against that status as colony.

A study of the second era, which forms the bulk or our history, clears up a lot of mysteries. Why, after almost four centuries of Spain, is the Philippines so little Spanish? And how could the Spaniards here disregard so flagrantly such royal orders as the teaching of Spanish to the natives? The great distance from Spain was merely an excuse, not the reason. What one finds is a departure from the Spanish policy in America, where a ruthless Hispanicization was pushed. But in the Philippines both friar and conquistador seemed intent on creating, not a New Spain, but an independent Indian Christian culture. In this, they were influenced, in one way or another, by the Laws of the Indies, a product of the American experience. Philip II would not even allow the term conquista to be used here, lest the word justify the use of force against the native or be an insult to his feelings. Certainly, the Spaniard in the Philippines showed more respect for the native cultures than he did in, say, the Caribees — a respect that explains the survival of our old cults, dialects, place-names, and barangays.

In the second place, the Spaniards who came here, came here to stay; and their sons, already born here, knew of no other mother country, could only pay lip homage to Spain, and would, in fact, later show as vehement a hatred of the Peninsular as any Propagandist. This attitude was displayed even by the friars of this epoch, who, though not native-born, had also come to stay, and therefore shared the Creole’s antagonism to the governors-general, as transients and reminders of outside authority. So, there was a stressing of “this court” and “this republic”; a declaration of independence from the old friar provinces in Spain; cruel inquisitions of the governors at the end of their terms; and, among the Creoles, the establishment of the alliance with the Tagalog and Pampango leaders. Though still subsidized by the silver of the Americas, the Philippines was developing economic and political independence; and might have become, if this state of affairs had continued, a more or less sovereign commonwealth with a viceroy of its own, appointed directly from Madrid, but merely a figurehead in a government controlled by Creole, Tagalog and Pampango.

That this was in the offing is indicated by the increasing use of the term Filipino. We hear of an archbishop called a Filipino, of delegates to the Cortes styling themselves Filipinos, of a Manila Cathedral priest fighting for the Filipinization of the clergy — which was what secularization really meant. We reject the claim to being Filipinos of the archbishop and the delegates, but dare not reject the martyred priest, though Burgos was a Creole like them. But if Burgos was a Filipino, then the Creoles who regarded themselves, not as Spaniards, but as Filipinos, had a right to the name. The delegates to the Cortes were indeed proclaiming a new idea to the world: the existence of something called a Filipino. And once the idea had been proclaimed, the Creoles could no longer keep it to themselves. Within a generation, their age-old allies, the Tagalog and the Pampango, were appropriating it for themselves.

The vexed debate over what is a Filipino crashes against two extremes: one, that the idea has existed from time immemorial (as the Cebuanos came to believe they had had the Santo Niño from time immemorial), and two, that the idea sprang full-grown with Rizal, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. But no idea, alas, ever springs full-grown in this world of process. Every idea is like man himself, whose origin we trace through near-man, protoman, ape-man, and missing link. Similarly, the Creole archbishop, the Creole delegates, Burgos and Rizal, the Propagandistas and the Revolucionarios, were all equally stages in the evolution of the Filipino.

During the first half of the 19th century, Mexico and the rest of Spanish America broke away from Spain; this, plus the opening of the Suez Canal, doomed the comparative independence of the Creole-Tagalog-Pampango “republic” in the Philippines. Madrid took over direct control of the islands, and to them were diverted the bureaucrats, officers, friars and other parasites that had hitherto been dumped on America. The Creole in the Philippines found himself being elbowed aside by the Peninsular. For the first time, the Philippine colony found itself being actually used as a colony. The reaction was instantaneous: the revolt of Fathers Peláez and Burgos in the Church, the revolt of Novales in the army. The first would set up a “Filipino” clergy, to oust the Peninsular friars; the second would set up a “Filipino” empire, to oust the Peninsular officers who were taking over the posts held for centuries by Creole, Tagalog and Pampango. These latter two, on the other hand, also elbowed aside by the Peninsular, now found the Creole of no more use and abandoned him. The Tagalog and Pampango principalía was now ready for its own revolt, and the Conquistador lay on his deathbed.

While possessed by a sense of destiny, the Tagalog and Pampango rose to greatness and captained a nation — but they have been rather confused of late.

It’s not yet, however, time for the oration by the graveside. Ikon, Friar and Conquistador were but the Sacrament of Baptism. The Filipino has yet to advance to the next stage, the Sacrament of Confirmation, when, having come of age, one makes a conscious act of faith and receives the Holy Ghost. Is that what we are doing on this fourth centenary of our converstion?

Whatever our qualms, may the cry today be: Plus Ultra!

The Filipino is still in progress; the dynamo still throbs.

Spread the love! Malate love! PT. 7 (Malate, Manila)

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DOWNTOWN MALATE Our Malate Valentine’s Day love stroll continues. =)

Roxas Boulevard was named after the fourth President of the Philippines, Manuel Roxas.

I punk'd Roxas Boulevard!!!

1322 Golden Empire Tower

1322 -- one of the highest buildings in Manila.

A thing of beauty -- is a lifeless urban tree? Joke. I'm just rhyming here.

A street mom teaching her street kid to wave at the camera.

Calle Alas? Not. It's Calle Salas, named after a Spanish newspaper editor in Manila by the name of Romero Salas. Before the 1930s, this street used to be known as Calle Divisoria.

Calle Marcelo H. del Pilar, named after the famed Filipino writer and propagandist from Bulacán. He almost became the national hero when the 1901 Philippine Commission was looking for one. But they unanimously chose José Rizal mainly because of the latter's dramatic death (compared to del Pilar's natural death due to tuberculosis).

Malate bars -- dead by morning.

Calle Santa Mónica was named after San Agustín's mother. It was said that she stormed heaven with her prayers for the conversion of her then sinful son.

This looks ancient!

Deeper into the heart of Malate.

Malate Adriático Grand Residences

Robinson's Place Manila is situated between the districts of Malate and Ermita. But technically, it's already within the jurisdiction of Ermita.

Calle Adriático was named after the hispanist, Macario Adriático. He was a Mindoreño representative to the First Philippine Assembly. Calle Adriático was then known as Calle Dakota. Up to now, old Manila folk --and many a jeepney driver-- still refer to this street as Dakota. This long street is shared by Malate and Ermita.

Robinson's Place Manila facing the lively (and deliciously lovely) district of Malate.

My lovely wife Yeyette posing in front of Robinson's greenery.

Calle Pedro Gil was named after a journalist-turned-politician during the American occupation of the Philippines. He later became an ambassador to Argentina. Calle Pedro Gil was once known as Calle Herrán (some people still refer to it as such) in honor of the Spanish naval captain José de la Herrán who defended Manila Bay against the American invaders in the now famous (and one-sided) Battle of Manila Bay.

Spread the Malate love!

Eurotel's behind the branches and leaves.

Along Calle Orosa are a couple of postwar houses.

Calle María Y. Orosa (once known as Calle Florida) was named after the famous Filipina home economist who invented the “clay oven”. She fought against the Japanese and was killed in battle.

Calle Julio Nákpil is a street named in honor of the musician-patriot from Quiapò who fought under Andrés Bonifacio. He later married Bonifacio's widow, Gregoria de Jesús.

Calle Guerrero (formerly known as Georgia Street) is from Luis Mª Guerrero of the illustrious Familia Guerrero of nearby Ermita district. He was a famous pediatrician during his time.

In this video, we interview a homeless man who sleeps on the streets of Malate. He said the money given to him as a relocation fee by the people who took over his former home was stolen by a certain “Chairman López”.

This arátiles tree serves as shade for the homeless man we interviewed. Little did we know that we're about to meet more homeless people (to be concluded tomorrow)...

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The Thomasites, before and after

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THE THOMASITES, BEFORE AND AFTER
Guillermo Gómez Rivera

They were called thus not due to St. Thomas of Aquinas but because they came in a cattle cargo vessel called the “S/S Thomas”.

And they came to teach English as part of the “policy of attraction” after the 1898 República de Filipinas was blown up to smithereens by a superior invading military force.

It was obvious that the main content of the so-called policy of attraction was to compulsorily impose English as the only medium of instruction. Benevolent assimilation was to be advanced by “education in English”. If no working knowledge of English was acquired by the native Filipinos, education was unilaterally deemed not to have taken place among them. Without English, a Filipino is deemed illiterate even if he can correctly write and speak in Tagalog or any of his major native languages.

Indeed, before the benevolent Thomasites did come, native children had for their English teachers the McKinley soldiers that claimed to educate “them Injuns with the crank and the kragg”. This claim dovetailed the Mckinleyan motto “to Christianize, to educate, and to uplift” the Filipino.

But were the Filipinos of the 1900s who were already drinking real potable water; who knew what cheap electricity and silk was; who called friends by note, postcard, phone and telegram, and who grandly celebrated Christmas and Lent, really asking the Thomasites to “educate” them in the English language?

An American linguist of the time, Mary I. Bresnahan, answered that question in the following manner:

“In any case, it continues to be speculative if the Filipino’s purported desire to learn English was genuine or not. Documents tell us about Filipinos trembling with fear inside their huts built on stilts as they expected the intrusion of the cruel Americans reputed to be blood thirsty giants bent on killing even the most trusting among them. Unsure about the real motives of the invaders, the Filipinos did what they thought would please the Americans the most. And that was to learn their language, — English.” (see “The Americanization of the Philippines, The Imposition of English during the 1898-1901 Period” by Alfonso L García Martínez, Law College of Puerto Rico, Vol. 43, pages 237 to 270, May 1982).

To change this general perception, the so-called Thomasites came and were accepted.

Even a secondary Spanish school like Colegio de San Juan de Letrán wrote a textbook to teach the English language as early as 1902. This was a help to the beleaguered Thomasites. The book was entitled Mañga Onang Turô sa Uicang Inglés written by Tagalog Professor P. Ulpiano Herrero and Spanish Dominican P. Francisco García. (Imprenta UST, Manila, 1902). In this book of 482 pages English language lessons were effectively explained in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages.

But the pro-English language efforts of the Thomasites appeared nil. Too much was expected of them by the American authorities themselves.

By 1916, their hard work was criticized in a report prepared by Henry Ford to President Woodrow Wilson. Wrote Mr. Ford:

“There is, however, another aspect in this case which should be considered. This aspect became evident to me as I traveled through the islands, using ordinary transportation and mixing with all classes of people under all conditions. Although, as based on the school statistics, it is said that more Filipinos speak English than any other language, no one can be in agreement with this declaration if they base their assessment on what they hear on the testimony of their hearing… Spanish is everywhere the language of business and social intercourse… in order for anyone to obtain prompt service from anyone, Spanish turns out to be more useful than English… and outside of Manila it is almost indispensable. The Americans who travel around all the islands customarily use it.” (The Ford Report of 1916. Chapter 3. The Use of English, pp. 365-366.)

What had appeared to be a big deception was the earlier report of Director of Instruction David P. Barrows which said:

“It is to be noted that with the increased study and use of English, there has been an increased study of Spanish. I think it is a fact that many more people in these islands have a knowledge of Spanish now than they did when the American Occupation occurred” (The 1908 School Report, p. 96).”

“Spanish continues to be the most prominent and important language spoken in political, journalistic and commercial circles. English has, therefore, active rivals as the language of trade and instruction. It is equally probable that the adult population has lost interest in learning English. I believe it is a fact that many more people now know the Spanish language than when the Americans sailed for these islands and their occupation took place… The customary prerequisite for dispatchers is for them to know English and Spanish. Through the great upsurge in numbers and circulation of newspapers and publications, there is much more reading matter in Spanish than before… (Op. Sit. p.9)

But the Thomasites plodded onward. Upon their shoulders was thrown what was thought of as the great task to make Filipinos speak English. This thought was, however, not shared by Filipino educators born out of the Katipunan and the Primera República’s Universidad Literaria like Dr. Leon María Guerrero and Don Enrique Mendiola, co-founders of the Liceo de Manila, Librada Avelino, founder of the Centro Escolar de Señoritas, Mariano Jocson, founder of the Colegio de Manila, Las Maestras Avanceña and Don Manuel Locsín, founders of the Instituto de Molo, Iloilo, Doña Florentina Tan Villanueva, foundress of the Escuela de Cebú, and Gran Maestra Rosa Sevilla de Alvero founder of the Instituto de Mujeres.

These native educators were for the use of Spanish and Tagalog, with Visayan and Ilocano, as media of national education. They viewed English as “a language of economic conquest”. (See: The Life of Librada Avelino, Bilingual edition in Spanish and English, by Francisco Varona and Pedro de la Llana, Vera & Sons, Publishing Co., 1935, Manila, p.241).

The Thomasites were not only hampered in their task by native resistance, albeit passive. They were also made to know, outright, that English would never become the language of the Filipino masses because it is not written as it is spoken in the same manner that the native languages are done. The century-old Tagalog phrase “mahirap ispiliñgin” (difficult to spell) attests to this reality. Mr. Henry Ford himself refers to this fact when he wrote in his mentioned report the following:

“The use of Spanish as an official language has been extended to January 1, 1920. Its general use seems to be spreading. Natives acquiring it learn it as a living speech. Everywhere they hear it spoken by leading people of the community and their ears are trained to its pronunciation. On the other hand, they (the natives) are practically without phonic standards in acquiring English and the result is that they learn it as a book language rather than as a living speech. “(P.368, Historical Bulletin. Ford Report on the Philippine Situation).

The italicized part is true up to the present time. More so when many children, out of economic hardship brought about by a balooning foreign debt and the increased price of gasoline, electricity and potable water, can not attend primary and secondary schooling. That must be why English is fast becoming a minority language in these islands today. The government and the private schools do not have enough money to pay teachers a truly living wage. And the English speaking elite, as well as the politicians, find themselves forced to campaign in Tagalog, or Filipino, for votes. In other words, the Filipino language ecology has started to self-destruct with the de-emphasis of Spanish, the link between English and Tagalog, Bisayà and Ilocano.

But the Thomasites could not then go on with their task to teach English. The Philippines was not a Tabula Rasa with regard to language. There already was an existing Philippine language ecology with Spanish as its nucleus. The aim to therefore replace Spanish with English as the first step to also replace Tagalog (the actual basis of Filipino or Pilipino) along with Ilocano, Cebuano, and Hiligaynón, could not take off with success. And this was the case because the imposition of English was actually going against an existing language ecology that would later get back at even the English language, as it is now starting to happen.

But the early legislative Commissions that ruled the Islands were there to really impose English no matter the cost. And to do so, some draconian measures were inevitably, albeit tyrannically, implemented to help the Thomasites go about their linguistic task. The same Ford Report gives us a glimpse of these measures that came in the form of hard laws.

“Act No. 190 of the Commission (then the legislature) provided that English must become the official language of all courts and their records after January 1, 1906… Act No. 1427 extended the time to January 1, 1911… Act No. 1946 again extended the time to January 1, 1913.” (Op. cit. p. 368).

In short, it was the American WASP regime that started the idea about a language, whether English, Spanish or Tagalog, that must be taught by force of law in order to sink it in upon the psyche of the Filipino. This precedent glaringly belies the much later argument that “the compulsory teaching of Spanish by legislation would not succeed because of its obligatory nature”.

But before January 1, 1913 came, Executive Order No. 44, issued on August 8, 1912, had to allow Spanish to continue as an official language out of sheer necessity. In view of this situation Henry Ford, sounding almost exasperated, concluded that:

“The practical impossibility of substituting Spanish for English in court proceedings and in municipal government was such that even if English was imposed as the Official Language on January 1, 1913, Spanish would still continue in use.” (Op. Cit. p. 369)

Another law was enacted by the Filipino dominated National Assembly on February 11, 1913 further extending the use of Spanish up to 1920. Of this law, Henry Ford reported:

“There is no present prospect that Spanish can be superseded any more readily in 1920 than heretofore. And from all appearances, its place as an official language is securely established.” (Op. Cit. pp. 368-369).

By 1925 a so-called “Monroe Commission” came to the islands to assess the educational system started in English by the Thomasites. With regard the advance of English, this commission concluded:

“Upon leaving school, more than 99% of Filipinos will not speak English in their homes. Possibly, only 10% to 15% of the next generation will be able to use this language in their occupations. In fact, it will only be the government employees, and the professionals, who might make use of English.”

Upon the publication of this result, Modesto Reyes, a Filipino writer in Spanish, publisher and editor of the Rizalist newspaper-magazine ISAGANI, commented that “with the same funding and efforts spent, with the same system and other modern means of instruction now employed in the obligatory instruction of English, if Spanish were instead taught to Filipinos, the proportion of modernly educated Filipinos would have been greater than the number produced with English as the medium of education. Now, because of this failure with English, we have no other just and natural alternative but to adopt Tagalog as the national and the official language.”

And Modesto Reyes bravely added: “In our humble opinion, the Philippines already had a national and official language in Spanish when it formed part of Spain. And we adopted Spanish as our own language because we were in fact Spanish citizens. But came the Americans and without first turning us into American citizens, they just went on forcing us to adopt their language through an educational system paid for by our own tax money.” ISAGANI, P.24, Year 1, No. 5, June 1925.)

The shelling and bombing of Manila in World War Two, as provoked by the landing of the American liberation forces, killed many Filipinos. Among them was a big number of Spanish speakers and writers. And the entry of the liberating American forces suddenly made English a necessary tool of communication for grateful Filipinos who came to adore the G.I. Joe with his chocolates and his pampams.

But right after the grant of the July 4, 1946 independence from the U.S.A. the Soto, Magalona, and Cuenco laws were unanimously approved by a still largely Spanish-speaking legislature. Spanish was made a regular subject of the collegiate curricula. Because the older Spanish-speaking generations of Filipinos were still alive, this language continued, in the words of Henry Ford, “as a living language”.

It is because of this that the old U.S, WASP view of Spanish as a threat to English in the Philippines was resurrected. A black propaganda about Spanish being “a dead and irrelevant language” was launched. Parents and students were brainwashed to believe that having Spanish as a 12 unit course was an economic burden. (It was previously with 24 units because the other 12 were for the study of Filipino writings in this language).

With the 1987 Cory Constitution in place, the supposed Spanish threat to the advance of English was at last eliminated from both the official and the educational spheres. Article XIV, Section 7, Paragraph 7 of the Cory 1987 constitution provides that “Spanish and Arabic shall be taught on an optional and voluntary basis”. But while CHED refuses to organize a 12-unit foreign language course for the college curricula, neither Spanish nor Arabic, nor any other foreign language can become a regular subject in the tertiary curricula of this country. But the President of the Republic can remedy the deliberate violation of this constitutional provision by executively ordering CHED and DECS to organize unit accredited foreign language courses.

But will she?

After one hundred years since the Thomasites landed all that was achieved is the replacement of Spanish as the country’s official language. Aside from this we have the almost secret policy to force into phonetic Tagalog the unphonetic base of English, as pointed out by Henry Ford. This is now being done by ramming the entire English alphabet into Tagalog and into almost all the other major native languages by a DECS circular without any clear objection from the Commission on Filipino.

What could be tragic and funny is that this deliberate alphabetical cross-breeding is resulting into a pidgin called Taglish that may just further deteriorate the common use of English as it definitely and officially damages what used to be standard Tagalog or Filipino.

But the Filipino is said to be profitably entering the global village, albeit as a derided DH and as an entertainer, with English, or Taglish. This slave-like situation of Filipino migrant workers demeans all the previous efforts of the Thomasites. Filipinos today are being “educated” with compulsory English by the tyranny of the Jones law of 1916, the country’s foreign debt and the present Philippine Constitution, just to end up as virtual slaves and prostitutes in other countries that neither have English as their language.

Is this why the teaching of another international languages like Spanish is deliberately being withheld by the U.S. WASP dominated Philippine government of today?.

Is this why a foreign language course, with credits in units in the college curricula, can not be included by the now controversial Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) so that either Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic may be placed within the reach of today’s Filipino student?

Is language tyranny a part of the legacy of the Thomasites?

(originally published in eManila.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialism vs Communism

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

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

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

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

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

Hukbalahap

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

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

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

Rectifying errors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current analysis

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

To reiterate: his reestablishment is a total failure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then and now

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

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

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

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

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

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