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161st birthday anniversary of Plaridel

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prop·a·gan·da /ˌprɒpəˈgændə/ [prop-uh-gan-duh] (noun)
information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

Finally, we have fulfilled a promise to Lola Bening by visiting her grandfather’s shrine in Bulacán. And we did so during a timely event.

Last month, August 30, the town of Bulacán commemorated the 161st natal day of its most celebrated son, Marcelo H. del Pilar, aka Plaridel. For his nationalistic writings mostly published in La Solidaridad and various pamphlets, del Pilar is widely regarded as the Father of Philippine Journalism. Many sectors also add another title to Plaridel’s hallowed name: the Father of Philippine Freemasonry.

For this year, the theme was “Talas ng Panulat at Talino, Inspiración ng mga Filipino” (Sharpness of Pen and Mind, Inspiration of all Filipinos). In a speech given by Bulacán Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, the provincial leader made mention of the media killings and harassment during the past administration (Arroyo’s), noting that while it continues, the power of journalism then as now will always prevail against the forces of evil.

In such speeches celebrating historic milestones of our national heroes, understandably borne out of subtle “mind-conditioning” in schools, there is always an almost unconscious temptation of painting the past in a darker picture, as if the very air that our heroes’ breathed at that time were smothered in smoke deadlier than the smoke fumes we have today from factories and vehicles. That the sharpness of Plaridel’s pen cannot be denied. That his patriotism can even be at par with that of José Rizal’s, or even far greater, more sublime, deeper and more profound.

But it should be understood thoroughly: what did Plaridel really fight for? How did he put to good use the talas of his panulat?

To simply say that Plaridel “fought against Spanish abuses and tyranny” is mere elementary school talk, very shallow, a premise totally unacceptable in scholarly conversations. An unbiased reassessment of the past will clearly show that the Bulaqueño native belonged to the second wave of the “Propaganda Movement” (the first wave included creoles such as Padres Pedro Peláez and José Burgos, Miguel Rodríguez Varela, etc.), a movement strictly anti-clerical not so much that they were anti-Catholics but that the movement, inspired by a wave of revolutions in Europe, particularly France, saw in itself as carrying the cudgels of reform for a modernized/liberalized Filipinas. In the eyes of these intellectuals —”Europeanized” due to their language, Spanish—, the Philippines was very left behind in terms of economy and technology, arts and culture.

On a side note: if the propagandistas were alive today and then noticed at how that “backward culture” they loathed so much produced, ironically, renaissance men such as themselves —an endangered species in our supposedly modernized/liberalized milieu— I’m sure that they would have been laughing at their follies. Del Pilar would have been roaring the loudest out of sheer disappointment and despair: his nationalism cost him years of precious fatherhood.

Since the intellectuals of that time knew that the friars held prestige and influence on government affairs, these hapless men of the cloth became the main target of attack in the propagandistas‘ campaign for societal changes. Del Pilar was among the first to fire a salvo of anti-friar attacks, writing and distributing defamatory pamphlets and organizing rallies among students who have read liberal writings from Europe. On 1 March 1888, del Pilar helped organize the strongest anti-friar rally ever held during that time: the protesters marched to the office of José Centeno, the civil governor of Manila at that time. Their petition? To ask for the expulsion of Manila Archbishop Pedro Payo as well as all the friars in the Philippines. In the words of historian-priest Fr. Fidel Villaroel, “never before had Manila watched such a bold demonstration against the religious institutes and their Archbishop.” Steeped in knowledge of Church laws, the rallyists’ manifesto (strongly believed to be authored by del Pilar) quoted heavily from the Canon Law and the Leyes de Indias to support accusations against the friars: that they were hostile to authority, ambitious, despotic, etc.

This massive anti-friar protest —probably the first in Philippine History— was the main reason for del Pilar’s escape to Spain, for he was afterwards branded as a filibustero and even anti-Spanish. A legal action was subsequently filed against him, prompting the Commissioner Judge of the legal case to deport del Pilar (probably to faraway Marianas or elsewhere). To escape legal persecution, del Pilar opted to leave Manila for Spain on 28 October 1888, leaving his wife and two daughters behind.

He never saw them ever again.

But in Spain he still continued to fight for whatever reforms he had in mind. Still bitter on his apparent loss against the friars in the Philippines, del Pilar joined their ancient enemy, the Freemasons.

In an interview last year, Lola Bening told me that the main reason why her grandfather affiliated himself with Freemasonry was out of convenience. For a reformist during those days, joining Freemasonry was the most logical thing to do. Del Pilar joined Freemasonry not because he hated Christianity (although later on, estranged for too long from the faith of his forefathers and family, he did become a deist). Del Pilar did so because in Spain he saw an “atmosphere of freedom”, the very same atmosphere he had been yearning for for his beloved country.

During Spanish times, the friars were not just influential over the course of government affairs; the friars were also very much a part of every Filipino family. Unlike today, the cura párroco made it a point to literally look after the lives of his flock by visiting their homes every now and then and as much as possible. Strict Christian ideals and discipline were imposed in every home. Probably “choked” by all this for centuries, and seeing that it was no longer the norm in Spain (for the liberals were already winning during that time), del Pilar et al. called it quits and yearned for “more freedom” from a “stifling” religious life.

For the Freemasons, it was a win-win situation to have del Pilar, a very talented writer in both Tagalog and Spanish, join their ranks. For Freemasonry, nothing more can be sweet but to see the Church of Christ, i.e., the Catholic Church, to be laid to waste.

While in Spain, del Pilar rose through the ranks in Freemasonry quite fast (I do not doubt that he could have been a Freemason already while still in the Philippines). In La Solidaridad, a newspaper that is still very unfamiliar and misunderstood today because it is in Spanish, he wrote scathing essays and even more defamatory articles against the friars in the Philippines. He and his allies continued the “pamphleteering” (hence the name “propaganda”). But unprecedented events and in-fighting within the propagandistas, particularly between del Pilar and Rizal, proved to be fatal for the reform movement in Spain. In the end, an embattled and frustrated del Pilar wrote to his brother-in-law, Deodato Arellano, to organize a more radical group in the Philippines to finally overthrow the Spanish government and not just the friars anymore. Arellano took action and formed the underground movement known as the Katipunan, erroneously known to be a brainchild of Andrés Bonifacio. This fact, therefore, makes del Pilar the indirect founder of that group which directed the destiny of the nation. But that’s for another blogpost.

And since the Propaganda Movement was wasted in the end, the Freemasons saw no more use for del Pilar. In the end, they left him on his own to die on a lonely hospital in Barcelona. But the Freemasons abandoning him was fortuitous, for it allowed del Pilar to have silent moments with God. It is always said that only during the last hours of a man’s life does he take into account all the good and bad things that he has done throughout his existence, and to realize the “existential insignificance” of this ethereal life of ours.

He took the Holy Communion shortly before he died, thus reconverting to the faith of his fathers.

Taking note of all this, it is somehow disappointing to see Freemasons during special days held in honor of both del Pilar and Rizal and hear them lay claim to still having a brotherhood with both heroes in spirit. To a logical person, it should not be difficult to accept cold, hard facts: that both del Pilar and Rizal swallowed their pride and died as Christians. There lies their greatest heroism that should be emulated by all Christians and prodigal sons, an action that is sung not only on Earth but as it is in Heaven. If it is not ignorance from the the part of these Freemasons, then it is sheer desperation to continue acknowledging that Rizal and del Pilar are their brothers. To quote Fr. Villaroel, “what is important is to establish the historical facts and arrive at the truth, whether it pleases or not.

Familia del Pilar (left to right): Rev. P. Vicente Marasigan, Leticia Marasigan de Balagtás, Doña Marciana del Pilar (Plaridel's wife), Antonia Marasigan de Gadi, Sofía H. del Pilar (Plaridel's eldest daughter), Marcelo Marasigan (the baby), Anita H. del Pilar de Marasigan (Plaridel's youngest daughter and mother of Lola Bening), Josefina Marasigan (Madre Mª Aurora of the "Order of Pink Sisters"), Benita Marasigan de Santos (Lola Bening).

El Santuario de Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán (Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine). Lola Bening (del Pilar's granddaughter) told me that the original house was torn down. This house is just a replica of the original (much like the case of Calambá's Rizal Shrine). On this very site stood the original. This is where Plaridel was born and where he spent his youth. The whole property was reacquired later on by Lola Bening. It measures 4,027 square meters, but she had no qualms of donating it to the government for the sake of national patrimony. The shrine is now under the custody of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Mrs. Sylvia Santos de Pineda, daughter of Lola Bening and great granddaughter of Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán.

Bulacán Mayor Patrick Meneses, Bulacán Provincial Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Plaridel's great granddaughter Sylvia Santos de Pineda and husband Patricio Pineda, and Bulacán Vice-Governor Daniel Fernández

Click here to view more photos and details of del Pilar’s 161st birthday!

The Filipino eScribbler, Patricio Pineda, Sylvia Santos de Pineda, and Vicente "Bong" Enríquez (manager of Bulacán-based VSE Productions, a private theater ensemble).

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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!

Marcelo H. del Pilar’s letter to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán

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Below is a letter of Marcelo H. del Pilar to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán. It was translated from Spanish into English by del Pilar’s granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos:

Me and del Pilar's granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Barcelona, 13 March 1889

My dearest niece,

The vagaries of life, which Providence in its most inscrutable design has alloted to me, had taken me away from that beautiful land where I have left behind the treasures of my life without even giving me a chance to say goodbye to the people I cherish and appreciate. In this letter to you, I shall try to make amends for my precipitate flight, by sending through you this my humble message to the young women of Bulacán. I feel convinced that you have been chosen, and on you depends the regeneration, the rebirth of our town. For there is no doubt of the strength and scope of a women’s influence on the family. Daughter, sister, wife, or mother — a woman offers the balm of solace that makes endurable the rigors of everyday life. More than that, she is the element that guides men to paths of virtue and courage or to the pitfalls of wrongdoing and cowardice.

In all these countries that I have now visited, I have found eloquent proof that where women are virtuous, vice is timid and dignity predominates in the life of man. But when feminine frivolity reigns, the men are taken up in immorality and the abandonment and disregard of the sacred duties of man is the popular way of life.

It is your duty to God to develop your mind and your reason by education; it is your duty to your fellowmen to share the knowledge that you possess, that they may use it to better their lives. Do not forget, dear niece, that an untutored mind is like a lighthouse without light, useless to guide the sailor to his port.

I shall recommend to you the diligent study of the Spanish language, because knowledge of Spanish will open to you the opportunity of wide reading which in turn solidifies your education. For this reason alone you should, and the other women of Bulacán with you, devote yourselves to the mastery of the Spanish idiom.

Studying Spanish is not a luxury reserved for a few and denied to the indigent and the female. To study it is not a useless activity to be passed up in indifference and carelessly exchanged for a few idle hours of gossip everyday.

You, my dear niece, and your friends who will be the mothers of tomorrow, do not throw away this treasure. Cherish knowledge not only for yourself but that posterity may have received it from you and bless you for this legacy. Surely, for this you may well sacrifice a few hours a day, the few hours you waste so carelessly in “panguingue” and idle gossip.

For this reason, I have written you from across the sea. For this I plead with all my soul — will you not do this out of love for our town of Bulacán, our unhappy town that had cradled our birth, had sheltered our youth and now shares with us the bitter and the sweet of life’s memories? Look not with indifference at my plea for the weal of Bulacán is linked with yours and those of your children. Study, spread the love of learning, uplift yourselves, and you shall yet uplift your town. And I beseech you for the sake of this goal, to learn to work as one in spirit and determination. Forget and set aside petty rivalries that frequently becloud your little groups. Be ready to sacrifice your little prides in the bigger altar of common good and your noble purposes shall have a better chance of survival. Build up, my dear niece, the honor and prestige of Bulacán by spreading the love of learning among your compatriots. For the mind enlightened and elevated is better than a temple of stone; it is a living sanctuary reflecting the magnificence of its Omnipotent Creator.

M.H. DEL PILAR

Marcelo H. del Pilar y Gatmaitán

Click here to read the letter in its original version. =)

Wisdom of the ages: la Señora Doña Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos

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“Anó ang nangyari sa buhay có? Namulubi lang ang familia co. Ualáng nangyari sa mañgá guinauá co…” thus said a dying and remorseful Marcelo H. del Pilar, as relived by his 92-year-old granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Del Pilar died for country and principles. But precious time that was supposed to be for his wife and two young daughters Sofía and Anita went with him to the grave. Despite of it all, Lola Bening was still proud of his Lolo Celo for his patriotism.

Last 5 September, I had the rare opportunity to “speak with history” when a cousin of my dad, Paul Évora III, happened to read the article that I wrote about del Pilar which coincided with the national hero’s 160th birth anniversary. He was the one who arranged my lunch meeting with Lola Bening. And since, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met Uncle Paul all my life (I found him only through this wonderful online creature called Facebook), little did I know that his partner, Corina Unson, is actually the youngest daughter of Lola Bening.

We were welcomed by Uncle Paul and his gracious better half at their homely enclave within the bustling party district of Malate. For me, it was a queer sight to see such a handsome bahay na bató in highly urbanized Manila, still standing proudly and mysteriously behind a youngish narra tree (the house sometimes spooks the wits out of unknowing passersby, Uncle Paul told me).

The Marasigan-del Pilar ancestral house. At the gate are Uncle Paul, Yeyette, and Auntie Corina.

Lola Bening, despite her old age (she was born on 4 April 1918), was still sharp of mind. Very sharp. Like her grandfather, she used to be a writer. In fact, her English translation of her grandfather’s Spanish letter to her Tía Josefa landed a spot in Dr. Celedonio G. Aguilar’s Readings In Philippine Literature (Rex Book Store, Ciudad de Quezon, 1994). Trained as a laywer, she wrote numerous articles but mostly about her favorite subject: Philippine History.

“When I was a student at the University (of Santo Tomás), I befriended the librarian there. Once, I asked her if I could gain access to the archives to read the works of my grandfather, “La Frailocracía Filipina” and “La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas“. I was hoping that I could translate them (from Spanish into English). When I was not allowed access, I spoke with the rector who explained to me that ‘the times have already changed’, that it is really not necessary to read them anymore.” I immediately understood the reason why she was denied access. I explained to her that due to the anti-Catholic content of the two essays, the Catholic university thought it best not to have them exposed to a new generation of Filipinos who no longer deserved a useless war between the religious and secular thought. But I assured her that translations are now available everywhere, including the internet.

If not for her blindness, I am quite certain that Lola Bening would still be writing.

Lola Bening also recounted how her family lost their fortune due to her grandfather’s costly eight-year self-exile in Barcelona, Spain. Whenever they could, the family sent del Pilar money to sustain himself as well as to keep his anti-clerical activities up and running. Although a devout Catholic, Lola Bening seemed not to be ashamed of her grandfather’s stance towards the friars because she believed that what del Pilar did was right and was for the benefit of the masses.

After del Pilar’s death, the family was somehow able to rise from the ashes of poverty due to the hero’s youngest daughter’s marriage to businessman Vicente Marasigan.

“On the day of my mother’s marriage, she was crying the whole time because she never wanted to marry my father,” said Lola Bening. The reason? “It was a planned marriage. And besides, my mother preferred to study than get married.” She then bade us to a sepia photo hanging on the sala wall to examine the countenance of her then young mother who was with her father. The photo was taken shortly before the marriage.

“Take a good look. Notice the sadness in her face. She was crying before that picture was taken,” Lola Bening added.

The downcast countenance of Marcelo del Pilar's youngest daughter.

The wedding rings of Lola Bening's beloved parents, made of pure gold. They were married on 12 March 1912. The date is engraved in Anita's ring (the one with the name of Vicente engraved on it).

Fortunately for the rest of the family, Anita learned to love Vicente in the course of the marriage (Auntie Corina said that she and her siblings used to call them Lola Tâ and Lolo Tê respectively). The marriage produced nine children. As a testament of Anita’s background of grief, their first two children died. But as compensation —and quite ironically for the “Father of Philippine Masonry”— the Marasigan brood grew up to be god-fearing individuals. They were never influenced by their grandfather’s reputation as a high-ranking Mason. In fact, there were two religious among Vicente and Anita’s children: Ateneo de Manila University’s Fr. Vicente Marasigan, S.J., and; Sr. Mother Mary Aurora Marasigan of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (she globally headed the “Pink Sisters” a record four times). Lola Bening herself had her schooling in two Catholic institutions: the University of Santo Tomás (which was then in Intramuros) and Saint Paul University Manila. She eventually took up law, but was never able to practice it fully; she taught law and history at Saint Paul and also served time as a corporate lawyer. However, her husband, the late Justice Arturo B. Santos, took her place in the practice of law and served as judge of the Court of First Instance of Tarlac, Branch II.

Lola Bening proudly said that her father once owned a handsome house along Calle Isaac Peral (now United Nations Avenue in nearby Ermita) which eventually became the model of and setting for Nick Joaquín‘s Portrait Of An Artist As Filipino (even the Marasigan last name Nick adopted into that play’s main characters, but in no way do the fictional Marasigan players reflected the lives of the real ones, said Auntie Corina). They had another house near the Remedios Circle. It was there were Lola Bening spent her earlier years before transferring to their present home (built in 1929) in Calle Miguel Malvar (first known as Tennesse street; renamed Mindoro Street during the Japanese Occupation).

At the height of the controversial snap presidential polls of 1986, Lola Bening was one of the leaders of the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections. During that stint, she was interviewed by a then struggling correspondent who later on became an Emmy-Award-winning journalist: Jim Clancy of CNN International.

During our lunch meeting, I was actually expecting to learn more about del Pilar (the man, not the hero) that I have never read nor heard before. Quite embarassingly, I was told of the anecdote of “Ang Piso Ni Anita“, something quite famous in the academe but was totally unfamiliar to me. However, I learned more about Anita and her pains throughout her life. Throughout her childhood, she was yearning for fatherly love. Lola Bening said that as a child, her mother used to look at photos of her dad, contemplating on how he looked like in person, asking her elders more about how her father’s physical appearance beyond the photos.

As history had taught us, Anita and her Ate Sofía (whom Lola Bening took care of during her final years) never saw their father again when the latter left for Spain in late 1888. All for the love of country. They saw him one last time, though — inside a coffin on a cold December day in 1920 amidst cheers from Masons and government leaders at the Manila pier. Then many years later, just as when Anita had learned what love is with Vicente, the latter was dead set on offering his services to join the struggle against the 14th Imperial Japanese Army. All for the love of country. A dramatic confrontation ensued, as witnessed by Fr. Marasigan (Auntie Corina shared that —fortunately for Anita— Vicente’s love of family prevailed over him).

Anita’s death was perhaps as painful as her depressing moments in life. In 1955, she suffered a stroke and was in comatose for 40 days before Death finally took pity on her.

Anita’s life was a revelation. Something about her story made me love my wife and kids more and more, for they never had to endure the sufferings of a sorrowful wife and fatherless children.

Lola Bening continued sharing her thoughts not only about her grandfather and Philippine history (she even knows the controversial and delicate issue of “Le Fableux Doña Ysidra” but was careful not to mention any name), she was also up to date with current events. A few years ago, at the height of the much-publicized Subic rape case, she advised close friend Fr. James Reuter, S.J. to be cautious in the issue that was then confronting American Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith. And wisely so because the much-beloved Jesuit became spiritual adviser to the accused and their respective families. His task indeed should be more spiritual than mundane. Fr. Reuter thus avoided the controversial political aspects where he would have been up against a much powerful force: the radical feminist groups who were behind Smith’s “victim”.

“In the end, to settle the issue out of court, they (the US government) gave her (Nicole, Smith’s purported rape victim) a US visa which appeared to be what she wanted in the first place,” said Lola Bening, “because, strangely, her relatives got to the US ahead of her!”

She also asked us about what we thought of Noynoy. I wisely decided not to comment since it’s too early into his presidency to do so. But she was an anti-charlatan when it comes to opinion. She was, after all, basing her viewpoints on account of her age and experience throughout the decades. She wisely observed that our country, throughout its sad history, has been led too much by the elite (Auntie Corina kidded her on this comment, pointing out as if she’s in a glass house throwing stones!). She observed how our country’s natural resources have been exploited by outsiders, and how the WASPs have thrown their weight around our national leaders. Classic features of neocolonialism, I commented. To which she replied:

“Maybe it’s time that we recover our identity.”

Indeed it is time.

I would have asked her more about Intramuros and the Spanish language during her heyday. But out of courtesy, I didn’t — the family invited me mainly because of what I wrote about Marcelo H. del Pilar, so it was expected that I ask more about the propagandist. Hopefully, I’d be able to talk to her again to learn more about my beloved Walled City which she saw before the last war destroyed it.

Throughout the end of the visit, Lola Bening exhorted me and Yeyette to visit the 4,027-square-meter Marcelo H. Del Pilar Shrine in Bulacán, Bulacán, the land of which she donated to the government in 1983. She was beaming with pride on how she had helped build the shrine together with the government, and contributed to its many modifications for the sake of national posterity.

As we said our goodbyes while promising her that we will visit her dear grandfather’s shrine very soon, my mind was somehow drifting towards that lonely Barcelona room where a tubercular propagandist, more in pain from being away from his wife and daughters than from his ailment, was quietly weeping while writing letters to his loved ones. And as my mind drifted, I dreamily promised Lola Bening that “we will visit the Mabini Shrine very soon.”

The 92-year-old lady, still sharp of wits, corrected this absent-minded 31-year-old blogger of his unforgivable mistake:

“Del Pilar Shrine! Not Mabini, Pepe!”

Undoubtedly, Lola Bening’s grandfather would have been as alert as her if only he had reached his 90s. But such is the grand design of our history.

Uncle Paul, Auntie Corina, Lola Bening, Yeyette, and del Pilar's mascot.

Marcelo H. del Pilar, a broken dad till the end…

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Today is the 160th birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the bulaqueño native written by Carmencita H. Acosta from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines (recently known as the National Historical Institute).

Yeyette in front of Marcelo H. del Pilar's monument in Plaza Plaridel (Remedios Circle), Malate, Manila. This monument used to be in front of nearby Manila Zoo. Fellow Círculo Hispano-Filipino member and Heritage Conservation Society president Gemma Cruz de Araneta (a descendant of Rizal's sister María) suggested the transfer of this monument to this site. It was done last year under the guidance of Mayor Alfredo Lim.

MARCELO H. DEL PILAR
(1850-1896)

“The most intelligent leader, the real soul of the separatists…” — these were the words used by Governor General Ramón Blanco, chief executive of the Philippine colony, in describing Marcelo H. del Pilar. A master polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, del Pilar was the most feared by the Spanish colonial authorities.

Del Pilar was born in Bulacán, Bulacán on August 30, 1850, the youngest of ten children of Julián H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitán. His father had held thrice the post of gobernadorcillo in their home town. Del Pilar studied at the Colegio de San José in Manila and at the University of Santo Tomás; at the age of thirty he finished the course in law. He devoted more time to writing than in the practice of his profession because in the former he saw a better opportunity to be of service to his oppressed country. His oldest brother, Father Toribio H. del Pilar, a Catholic priest, had been deported along with other Filipino patriots to Guam in 1872 following the Cavite Mutiny.

He founded the Diariong Tagalog in 1882, the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where he publicly denounced Spanish maladministration of the Philippines. His attacks were mostly directed against the friars whom he considered to be mainly responsible for the oppression of the Filipinos.

In 1885, he urged the cabezas de barangay of Malolos to resist the government order giving the friars blanket authority to revise the tax lists. He instigated the gobernadorcillo of Malolos, Manuel Crisóstomo, to denounce in 1887 the town curate who violated government prohibition against the exposure of corpses in the churches. In the same year, he denounced the curate of Binondo for consigning Filipinos to poor seats in the church while assigning the good ones to Spanish half-castes.

On March 1, 1888, the populace of Manila staged a public demonstration against the friars. Led by the lawyer Doroteo Cortés, the demonstrators presented to the civil governor of Manila a manifesto entitled “¡Viva España! ¡Viva la Reina! ¡Viva el Ejército! ¡Fuera los Frailes!“. This document, which had been signed by eight hundred persons, was written by Marcelo H. del Pilar. It enumerated the abuses of the friars, petitioned for the deportation of the archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Pedro Payo, and urged the expulsion of the friars.

It was because of his having written this anti-friar document that del Pilar was forced to exile himself from the Philippines in order to escape arrest and possible execution by the colonial authorities.

“I have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,” del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain. La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas (Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. The others included Sagót ng España sa Hibíc ng Filipinas (Spain’s Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines), Caiigat Cayó (Be Like the Eel) — del Pilar’s defense of Rizal against a friar pamphlet entitled Caiiñgat Cayó denouncing the Noli Me Tangere.

Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers, the purpose of which was to agitate for reforms from Spain.

In Madrid, del Pilar edited for five years La Solidaridad, the newspaper founded by Graciano López Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy. His fiery and convincing editorials earned from him the respect and admiration of his own Spanish enemies. “Plaridel” became well-known as his nom de plume.

In November, 1895, La Solidaridad was forced to close its offices for lack of funds. Del Pilar himself was by then a much emaciated man, suffering from malnutrition and overwork. He was finally convinced that Spain would never grant concessions to the Philippines and that the well-being of his beloved country could be achieved only by means of bloodshed — revolution.

Weakened by tuberculosis and feeling that his days were numbered, he decided to return to the Philippines to rally his countrymen for the libertarian struggle.

But as he was about to leave Barcelona, death overtook him on July 4, 1896.

His passing was deeply mourned by the Filipinos for in him they had their staunchest champion and most fearless defender. His death marked the passing of an era –the era of the Reform Movement– because scarcely two months after his death, the Philippine Revolution was launched.

I am not really a big fan of Marcelo H. del Pilar, especially when I learned that he was a high-ranking Mason. Besides, I believe that what he fought for would not equate to heroism. He was, to put it more bluntly, another American-invented hero. The American government, during their colonization of the Philippines, virtually influenced the Philippine puppet government to recognize “heroes” who fought against Spain.

But a closer observation on Marcelo’s life will reveal that, like Rizal and other Filipino “heroes” of his generation, he never fought against Spain. They fought against the Church, the sworn enemy of their fraternity (Freemasonry).

What really captivated me about Marcelo is his heartbreaking fatherhood. Since I am a father of four, I can empathize with his sorrowful plight.

A few years ago, when Yeyette and I had only one child (Krystal), and we were still living in a decrepit bodega somewhere in Las Piñas, I happened to stumble over Fr. Fidel Villaroel’s (eminent historian and former archivist of the University of Santo Tomás) monograph on del Pilar — Marcelo H. del Pilar: His Religious Conversions. It was so timely because during that time, I had just gone through my own religious conversion, having returned to the Catholic fold after a few years of being an atheist and agnostic.

In the said treatise by Fr. Villaroel, I learned of del Pilar’s anguish over being separated from his two daughters, Sofía and Anita. Due to his radical activities as an anti-friar, as can be gleaned in Acosta’s biographical sketch above, del Pilar escaped deportation. He left the country on 28 October 1888, escaping to Hong Kong before moving to Spain. And he never saw his little kids and his wife ever again.

Sofía was just nine years old at the time of his escape; Anita, one year and four months. Father Villaroel couldn’t have written this painful separation better:

Month after month, day after day, for eight endless years, the thought of returning to his dear ones was del Pilar’s permanent obsession, dream, hope, and pain. Of all the sufferings he had to go through, this was the only one that made the “warrior” shed tears like a boy, and put his soul in a trance of madness and insanity. His 104 surviving letters to the family attest to this painful situation…

…He felt and expressed nostalgia for home as soon as he arrived in Barcelona in May 1889, when he wrote to his wife: “It will not be long before we see each other again.” “My return” is the topic of every letter. Why then did he not return? Two things stood in the way: money for the fare, and the hope of seeing a bill passed in the Spanish Cortes suppressing summary deportations like the one hanging on del Pilar’s head. “We are now working on that bill.” “Wait for me, I am going, soon I will embrace my little daughters, I dream with the return.” How sweet, how repetitious and monotonous, how long the delay, but how difficult, almost impossible!

Here are some of those heartbreaking letters (translated by Fr. Villaroel into English from the Spanish and Tagalog originals) of Marcelo to his wife (and second cousin) Marciana “Chanay” del Pilar and Sofía:

In 1890: I want to return this year in November (letter of February 4); Day and night I dream about Sofía (February 18), I will return next February or March (December 10).

In 1891: It will not be long before I carry Anita on my shoulders (January 22); Sofía, you will always pray that we will see each other soon (August 31).

In 1892: If it were not for lack of the money I need for the voyage, I would be there already (February 3); I am already too restless (March 2); I feel already too impatient because I am not able to return (April 14); This year will not pass before we see each other (May 11); Be good, Sofía, every night you will pray one Our Father, asking for our early reunion (September 14; it is interesting to note that del Pilar advised her daughter to pray the Our Father despite his being a high-ranking Mason –Pepe–); Don’t worry if, when I return, I will be exiled to another part of the Archipelago (November 9).

In 1893: Who knows if I will close my eyes without seeing Anita (January 18)!; My heart is shattered every time I have news that my wife and daughters are suffering; hence, my anxiety to return and fulfill my duty to care for those bits of my life (May 24); I always dream that I have Anita on my lap and Sofía by her side; that I kiss them by turns and that both tell me: ‘Remain with us, papá, and don’t return to Madrid’. I awake soaked in tears, and at this very moment that I write this, I cannot contain the tears that drop from my eyes (August 3); It is already five years that we don’t see each other (December 21).

In 1894: Tell them (Sofía and Anita) to implore the grace of Our Lord so that their parents may guide them along the right path (February 15); Every day I prepare myself to return there. Thanks that the children are well. Tears begin to fall from my eyes every time I think of their orfandad (bereavement). But I just try to cure my sadness by invoking God, while I pray: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I am the most unfortunate father because my daughters are the most unfortunate among all daughters… I cannot write more, because tears are flowing from my eyes aplenty (July 18); We shall meet soon (December 5)

I have to admit, reading these letters never fail to move me to tears because I, too, have experienced the same orfandad and the longingness for a father. It is because I have never lived with my dad for a long time since he was always overseas. When we were young, he only stayed with us for a couple of weeks or a few months. And my dad was a very silent man.

His work overseas, of course, was for our own benefit. But the price was depressing: we’ve been detached from each other forever. Whenever he comes home to us, my dad was like a total stranger to me. Especially now that I have my own family and I rarely see him nowadays. No, we are not in bad terms (although I know that he still resents the fact that I married at a very early age). But we are simply not close to each other because of those years of separation and lack of communication. I do not know him, and he doesn’t know me. We do not know each other personally. But I know for a fact that my dad loved us dearly, and that he experienced the same anguish experienced by del Pilar. I’ve read some of dad’s letters to mom, and in those letters he expressed the same desire to come home with us and stay permanently. But nothing like that happened.

The same thing with del Pilar. After all those patriotic talk and nationalistic activities, nothing happened. His sacrifice of being separated from his family was, sadly, all for naught…

When he died a Christian death in Barcelona (yes, he also retracted from Masonry shortly before he passed away), he was buried in the Cementerio del Oeste/Cementerio Nuevo where his remains stayed for the next twenty-four years. Paradoxically, a renowned Christian member of the Philippine magistrate, Justice Daniel Romuáldez, made all the necessary procedures of exhuming the body of del Pilar, one of the highest-ranking Masons of the Propaganda Movement. His remains finally arrived on 3 December 1920. He was welcomed by members of Masonic lodges (perhaps unaware of del Pilar’s retraction, or they simply refused to believe it), government officials, and his family of course.

Sofía by then was already 41; and del Pilar’s little Anita was no longer little — she was already 33.

Anita was very much traumatized by that fateful separation. Bitter up to the end, she still could not accept the fact that her father chose the country, ang bayan, before family. An interesting (and another heartbreaking) anecdote is shared by Anita’s son, Father Vicente Marasigan, S.J., regarding her mother’s wounded emotions:

[My] first flashback recalls April 1942. Radio listeners in Manila had just been stunned by the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor. There was an emotional scene between my father, my mother, and myself. My mother was objecting to something my father wanted to do ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’. My mother answered, ‘Lagi na lang bang para sa kabutihan ng bayan?’ [‘Is it always for the good of the country?’] And she choked in fits of hysterical sobbing. All her childhood years have been spent in emotional starvation due to the absence of ‘Lolo’ [Grandfather] Marcelo, far away in Barcelona sacrificing his family para sa kabutihan ng bayan.

“The second flashback is rather dim in memory. I was then two years old, in December 1920. I think I was on board a ship that had just docked at the [Manila] pier, carrying the remains of Lolo Marcelo. All our relatives from Bulacán were present for the festive occasion. Some aunt or grandaunt was telling me how proud and happy I must be. I did not understand what it meant to feel proud, but I knew I was unhappy because I felt that my mother was unhappy. In the presence of that casket of bones, how could she forget the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her father ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’ [for the good of the country]?

History is not just about dead dates, historical markers, and bronze statues of heroes. It has its share of eventful dramas and personal heartbreaks. And this is one heartbreak that I will never allow my children to experience.

To all the fathers who read this: cherish each and every moment that you have with your children.

Debunking the historical claim

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Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. -Carl Jung-

It comes but as an unconscionable delight to a person (who has no more good argument to extract from his wonderful comprehension of events) who disagrees with another individual to attack the latter’s credibility, especially when the former is already overwhelmed by offenses from his foe. Some instances of common diatribes: “You are a nobody; how dare you say such things!” “Do you even have a Master’s degree to lay such claims?” “Have you won awards to make yourself known as an iconoclast?” “We would rather resort to scholars and other published greats than waste our time weighing the merits of your blog!”

The foregoing examples are, indeed, a barrage of poor reasoning. In a world that is wanting of intellectual arguments, hitting on a person’s scholarship –or lack of it– should never be highlighted by an applause nor should be sided upon. Yes, it is true that a case usually wins by an overwhelming quantity of physical evidence and even witnesses. But isn’t it that hard data is prescribed and narrowed down by critical thinking and other related realms of impartial thought? Hard data alone should not be considered as sola scriptura. That is why we humans are so fortunate to be gifted with mental faculties to discern things that should be or should not be.

On the other hand, those supposedly credible persons who spread falsities and inaccuracies –if not lies– take all the credit. Take this reasoning, for instance, from renowned historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1912-1985):

Teodoro A. Agoncillo (photo from historian Ambeth R. Ocampo).

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is. All that can be done is to pick out some traits common to the average Filipinos and to separate those that are obviously Spanish or American. The common traits are probably Malay and characterize the Filipinos as a people. (History of the Filipino People, eighth edition, pp 5-6, Garotech Publishing, 1990

It should be noted that Agoncillo is highly regarded as one of the top bananas in the field of Philippine history. A product of the University of the Philippines, he wrote Philippine history from a rather “puristic” nationalist point of view with leftist undertones. He served as a linguistic assistant at the Institute of National Language and also taught at the Far Eastern University and the Manuel L. Quezon University. His seminal book, Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, was both highly acclaimed and criticized. He also taught at his alma mater and even got to chair its Department of History during the 60s. Perhaps one of the biggest achievements of his scholarly career was when former President Diosdado Macapagal made him a member of the National Historical Institute in 1963. Aside from history, he is also an acclaimed essayist and poet in his native Tagalog language (he hails from Lemery, Batangas).

For all his sterling qualities as a scholar, his statement about what a Filipino is debunks his worth as a historian. How could such a crème de la crème of scholarship find it difficult to define what a Filipino is? The Spaniards know who they are. So do the Northern Americans. Ask any Japanese to define their national identity, and you might end up listening to them for hours. But here in the Philippines, a supposedly topnotch historian leads the nation in claiming difficulty in defining our national identity. And so he resorts to the inner physiognomy of a Filipino, going so far as to claim that our identity is of Malay origin!

Although we Filipinos are renowned for our hospitality, piety, industriousness, etc., these are traits that are not unique to us alone. It is too selfish and proud for a nation to monopolize such traits. And to simply put it, that is not the proper way to define our national identity. It is not just through a distinction of traits that a national identity should be defined; rather, it should be strongly viewed through a shared common history and affinity of blood and tongues and culture and faith and cuisine and song and literature and visual arts and dance and craftsmanship and even architecture. Indeed, various criteria should be applied.

To say that our national identity has been elusive through the years because of colonial trauma is nothing but hogwash and useless rhetoric. Ours is just a simple case of being unable to handle the truth. Our national identity has never left us. It has been with us all this time; we just don’t want to recognize it the way Agoncillo refused to do so.

We do not have to seek nor build our own identity. It’s already here, ready to strike us in the face. What needs to be done is to simply identify it. It is already within us. We just need to tap it. And make it known among ourselves. So to say that we do not have our own identity is tantamount to declaring that we have no country, that we are not a nation. Or that perhaps we are a nation of fools. I believe no nation would want to be referred to as such.

Since Agoncillo has been hailed by many as one of the best Filipino historians of all time, how come he was not able to determine that the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571? Didn’t he know that the Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language? In 1599, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members, and that they incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected King Philip II as their natural sovereign. How come Agoncillo didn’t seem to be cognizant of this fact if he is such a first-rate historian — or is he? In writing his History of the Filipino People, did he conveniently omit the fact that the first true Filipinos were the creoles or insulares, and that the indios (or natives such as the Tagalog, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilongo, etc.) who “aped” them genuinely assimilated themselves into the Hispanic sphere which was then called Filipino in this side of the world?

From a reliable source, I heard stories about how Agoncillo pronounced the disputed Code of Calantiáo as ‘Kalanshaw’ (kɑlʌnʃaʊ) in his UP classes. Worse, the ‘Bay’ (bʌˈɛ) in ‘La Laguna de Bay’ for him was pronounced the American/English way: ‘bay’ (beɪ). This only proves that this “Batangueño great” had no idea that La Laguna de Bay was named after the town of Bay in La Laguna province, just a few kilometers from his province. This should be a cause of concern and disturbance among those who admire him and –heaven forbid– aspire to be like him. And he’s a decorated scholar at that.

Here is another “riveting” case of pompous rhetoric from another scholarly giant, National Scientist Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (1926- ).

Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz.

According to Dr. Córpuz, the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan nğ mg̃á Anak nğ Bayan, popularly known as the Katipunan for short, was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation” (The Roots of the Filipino Nation, Vol. II, p. 223, Aklahi Foundation, 1989).

There is something wrong, if not irritable, with this assertion of his. How could the Katipunan embody the Christian Filipino nation when the group was anti-Christian, and thus anti-Filipino? As a renowned historian, shouldn’t he have been aware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives?

For this “National Scientist’s” intelligence enhancement, he should be reminded (lest he is still unaware) that Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church. There has been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter. If he is as astute as many people think he is, Dr. Córpuz should have traced the origins of the Katipunan to Freemasonry. Katipuan Supremo Andrés Bonifacio joined the Taliba Lodge (No. 165) and from there imbibed radical and anti-friar ideas. He also joined Rizal’s La Liga Filipina which was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making.

After the failure of La Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, it appeared that the campaign for peaceful reforms have hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who has been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in the Philippines. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan. Yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan.

What happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros‘ way.

Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation?

Indeed, hard data is not enough to support historical ideas and claims. Logic and a clear-cut understanding of things, as well as a keen observation of our surroundings and time, should quantify these data in order to come up with definite conclusions and concise pictures of what had really happened in our past. When faced with confusing historical documents, impartial critical thinking is the key to decipher their messages.

In comparison to the above statement, diplomas, awards, and other regalia are nothing but toilet paper and scrap metal.

The importance of organized religion

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After much contemplation, I decided to heed Arnaldo‘s months-long advice and attended the Holy Mass for the first time (except last Valentine’s Day) in such a long time. I attended an afternoon English-language mass in nearby San Pedro Apóstol; humorously, the sermon was conducted in Tagalog (but that matter is for a future blogpost).

Anyway, I would like to reiterate that my haughty contempt for the Novus Ordo Missae still remains. Regrettably, there is nothing much I can do about it at the moment. And as I wait for the opportune time to act for the return of the Tridentine Mass –the mass of all time–, why should I not attend my Faith’s congregation anymore?

The above case is what I scribbled about in a previous blogpost. An online friend of mine, Roberto, a frequent visitor to this humble blog, wrote a comment there that oganized religion should not matter anymore as long as I have faith in Jesus. However, this has been the belief of many a deist and a few agnostics for many centuries. It is understandable that these kind of people are fed up with religious strife in all parts of the globe. That is why John Lennon fancied a peaceful world without organized religions in his celebrated song Imagine. Marcelo H. del Pilar et al. lived proudly as a deist for years in Spain. Young freethinkers guising themselves as intellectuals have decreed that organized religion and faith are but for desperate fools and ignoramuses.

But, by shunning religion from their lives, did they find true peace and contentment that everyone has been yearning for ages? No. For a brief period of time, I myself eschewed the idea of a god and an afterlife many years ago. Trust me, it was the gloomiest part of my existence.

People who believe in God but do not believe in religious groups are like spiritual orphans, believers of God but without direction because without a community. And the danger lies in the fact that uniquely individual concepts about God will only lead to further division instead of unity. Now, if they say that organized religions usually lead to religious discord, it is not the fault of religious organization’s fault per se. All organizations are made up of humans, and we know that humans are not perfect creatures corporally and mentally. As such, it is not unusual to find cracks or dents in a seemingly well-fortified organization. Such people are what we call fanatics or extremists, unmindful of dialogue but advocates of jingoism and war. Worse, some founders and leaders of religion tend to be warmongers themselves by writing pugnacious remarks and decrees against nonmembers.

Be that as it may, religious discord should not be made as an excuse not to affiliate one’s self into a certain congregation. Becoming a member of a certain religious group does not mean that a person has already downplayed spirituality. Religion and spirituality complement each other. One should take note that the word religion originated from the Latin infinitive verb religare which means “to bind together” or “to reconnect”. It is because religion is what “binds us together” and “reconnects” us to God.

We have a duty to praise God and not to merely pray nor talk to him. God is not simply a “spiritual friend”. Realistically speaking, God is not a friend for the simple reason that he is God (you do not praise your friends nor do you pray to them, do you?). In a congregation, one can find himself in a community praying to God. There is a sense of belongingness, that the people around you believe what you believe. And that is what God wants; that is what is written in the Holy Bible. So why should it be defied in the first place?

In addition, I do not claim that salvation is a monopoly of the Catholic Church. Regarding the salvific fate of members of other religions, only God should know.

Organized religion is not the cause of wars. It is caused by men who do not understand their religion, as long as that religion does not exhort its members to wage an all-out war against other groups.

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