Because I just couldn’t find myself walking his way.
My statement in yesterday’s blogpost –We go against bigoted and twisted versions of Philippine History, originating particularly from hispanophobic UP professors and instructors — was not taken too lightly. As expected (but not so soon).
Why did I take a swipe at that self-styled tour guide? To grab attention because he’s popular and I’m not? Goodness gracious, no. It’s because I just can’t stay silent while listening to all the lies that he’s spreading about our history. Just take a look at the video below:
In Celdrán’s Facebook Wall:
Mark Bryan Ocampo: I don’t think that you’re US-centric at all.
Carlos Celdrán: Oo nga. I’ve been called anti American more than once. For sure, cono! (sic)
Now, dear readers, tell me: don’t you think what he said in the video is too much ?
Let us review his short lecture:
“…after only thirty years of American rule, look at Santa Cruz Church in the distance (showing his audience an old photograph of the church)… and then take a look at Santa Cruz Church again (he then shows a new photograph). Wow!
Both photos aren’t visible in the video, but it is obvious that he was trying to emphasize some “positive change” which happened to the church when the Americans took over this country. Judging by the bulk of the portfolio he’s holding, this tourist guide obviously showed other photographs (comparing the achievements of the US in the Philippines while demeaning those of Spain) that were no longer recorded in the video. One might say that the rest of the photographs he was holding was enough evidence of Spanish mismanagement. But that portfolio wouldn’t be able to hold three hundred and thirty three years. And going back to the Santa Cruz pictures, whatever change or improvement that the Americans did to that church alone (if it were really the Americans who did it, which I strongly doubt) doesn’t –and should not– account for the whole country. That’s too much generalization, to say the least.
Too bad photography was introduced only in 1840, fifty eight years before the coming of the North American invaders. Spain could have shown more of its charm (actually, there is no more need for any photographic evidence of her contributions –they are still extant and very useful in our daily lives).
“Incredible, unprecedented growth,” he remarked with admiration, further stating with surprising pride that Manila took only three decades (of American rule) to encompass or surpass what three hundred years of social development under Spain did.
But nothing like that is apparent in today’s Americanized society. If he’s already awed by the renovations done to the Santa Cruz Church during the American period, that doesn’t necessarily prove an “incredible, unprecedented growth” (what do you call the front of a building or church? a façade, right?). If he had only researched on those three hundred years of Spanish rule with much depth, then that “incredible, unprecedented growth” remark of his would have been directed to another epoch where the concept of a Filipino first sprang.
“With the Americans we proved that miracles could happen overnight…”
I should’ve agreed with him, only if he changed the word “miracles” into “nightmares”. If this tourist guide wasn’t lying in the video, then perhaps he didn’t know the genocide, the atrocities, the mass murder which the Americans did to the Filipino people. All in the name of “benevolent assimilation”. Roughly one sixth of the total population were wiped out from 1899 to 1901.
“… because with them we wiped out cholera, we wiped out typhoid, we wiped out tooth decay (with much glee)! And we wiped out illiteracy.”
It is an undeniable fact that the Yankees brought sanitation to a high level upon their arrival, thanks in particular to Dr. Victor Heiser and his team. But this is not to say that Spain didn’t do anything at all to counter epidemics and other diseases, as grossly implied by this tour guide who relies more on theatrics than facts. Didn’t he know that when smallpox was spreading in the Philippines in the early 1800’s, the King of Spain himself, Carlos IV, started a campaign to wipe out the dreaded disease? Smallpox vaccination was introduced, saving countless lives (for smallpox was then a deadly killer).
Going to the issue of illiteracy, his claim is yet another fallacy. He gives credit to his beloved Thomasites for our country’s 96% literacy rate. Little did he know that the Filipinos were already literate, having a refined culture that they have developed throughout three centuries of Spanish rule. The Filipinos had their own alphabet (the 32-letter abecedario) for many years already, not to mention an educational institution much older than the US’ own Harvard University.
There was no tabula rasa when the Americans came here. In fact, the Filipinos were already reading widely circulated Spanish dailies such as Hojas Volantes (1799), Del Superior Gobierno (1811), La Esperanza (1846), La Estrella (1847), Diario de Manila (1848), El Católico Filipino (1862), El Porvenir Filipino (1865), Diario de Filipinas (1880), La Opinión (1887), and La Solidaridad (1899, published in Spain then smuggled to the Philippines) to name just a few. And the Spanish period produced an incredible cast of writers namely Manuel Zumalde, José Javier de Torres, Luis Rodríguez Varela, José Vergara, Juan Atayde, Anselmo de Jesús, Fernando Canón, P. José Burgos, Marcelo H. del Pilar, the irrationals’ rational hero, Dr. José Protacio Rizal, and a host of other literary greats. Filipino literature, which was then in Spanish, continued to thrive even when the American flag was already unjustly hoisted over our islands. Writers such as Cecilio Apóstol, Manuel Bernabé, Claro M. Recto, Jesús Balmori, Rosa Sevilla Alvero, etc., used nationalist themes in their Spanish prose and poetry.
Also, to bury the myth behind the claim that the Americans brought the public school system into our turf, may I inform this flamboyant tourist guide who’s earning a lot from his “entertaining” tours by spreading lies and inaccuracies that it was Spain who first introduced the public school system into our country and not his beloved US. From now on, may we please hear from his histrionics that in 1863, to young Filipinos? It was even compulsory. There were separate schools for boys and girls in every pueblo. The same decree also established the Escuela Normal which trained future educators.
After sharing his reverence and awe for the Thomasites, he went on to declare “that is how Manila earned the name the Pearl of the Orient”, again implying American involvement. This is classic anachronism. The Philippines has been called La Perla del Mar de Oriente a long, long time ago. This tour guide’s rational idol even included our country’s famous nickname in the opening lines of his valedictory poem (and that was written before the American invasion):
Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,
Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!
This is the problem of the Filipino historian today. How can he teach our nation’s history with fairness and clarity when he himself couldn’t come to terms with the past? There is so much blind hatred going on toward our Spanish past without even knowing the reason behind such rage. We’re already in the 21st century. And the funny thing is the Spaniards are no longer here.
And lastly, don’t he dare say that tooth decay was wiped out by the Americans; up to this very moment, Colgate, Close-Up, and Hapee are still having a hard time fighting it.
Teca nga muna… ¿meron pa bang Beam Toothpaste?