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On the term “pre-Hispanic Philippines”

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When we say “pre-Hispanic” or “pre-Spanish”, it pertains to a period in a particular nation’s history that was not yet colonized by Spain. In the phrase “pre-Hispanic Philippines”, pre-Hispanic is the adjective while Philippines is the proper noun. Looking into the term more closely, the adjective pre-Hispanic is composed of two words: the prefix “pre” (meaning “before”) and the adjective “Hispanic” which relates to, is characteristic of, or is derived from Spain (or Spanish-speaking nations).

In scholarly circles and (most especially) history classes, the term pre-Hispanic Philippines is a by-word. It ascribes to the period either before 16 March 1521 (the coming of Fernando Magallanes) or 27 April 1565 (the coming of Miguel López de Legazpi).

In both dates, historians contend that prior to the advent of the Spaniards, we already have our own culture, our own civilization. They speak as if we were already a nation, as if the concept of the term Filipino was already in existence. That is not even half-truth but a total falsity. The nominative plural pronoun “we” is used here in a rather anachronistic sense. This is because before the coming of the West, there was no Philippines nor Filipinos to speak of. The concept of the Filipino Identity had not yet been perceived (by Philippines we mean the country which we know and speak of today, i.e., all the political and geographical attributes that are comprised of by the Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo regions). What the Spaniards found or discovered in this part of the world which we speak of right now was but a multitude of islands whose inhabitants had been in perpetual war against each other (or either that, had been distrustful of one another). In short, there was no Philippines yet to speak of.

A bigoted nationalism

The trouble with the term pre-Hispanic or pre-Spanish is that it is commonly used by hispanophobic nationalist purists to forward their claims of a mythical and blissful past that was halted and stunted by Spain. The coming here of the West they keep on negating as not Filipino at all, thus the need to come up with such terms as pre-Hispanic and pre-Spanish to describe what they claim as a time when our nation was not yet “invaded” and ruled by a “foreign” nation.

But then, if the Tagalogs, Pampangueños, etc. all migrated here from neighboring Malay islands (using ancient boats called barangáy or balañgáy), then aren’t they considered foreigners, too? It is because this archipelago we speak of is not their native soil anymore if they are from other lands. In this case, the definition of the term “foreign” fades into oblivion. But that is another story.

When the Spaniards arrived in this part of the world, they forged the myriad of islands which they discovered into one, single, and compact nation. Thus, it is also safe to assume that their incumbency here, including everything else they disseminated into our culture (as astutely observed by Arnaldo Arnáiz), ceased to be Spanish but Filipino. Take, for example, the stately architecture of the bahay na bató. Misled nationalists claim that it is merely a Spanish-style house or —worse— a colonial house, but it is not. Although it has influences from Western architecture, it is rudely incorrect to deny that it is not a product of Filipino architecture. Cultural anthropologist Fernando Z. Ziálcita, a fellow member of the Círculo Hispano-Filipino, pointed out that it is first important to distinguish between two types of nationalist discourses in order to appreciate (and eventually realize) Filipino architecture: dialectical and reductionist. Applying his observations (based on undisputable analogies from various cultures), it is best, if not imperative, that we utilize a dialectical approach in studying Philippine history in order to comprehend the nature of our identity.

Thus, when Spain brought here, say, the cuchara and tenedor, they ceased to become anything Spanish but Filipino. When the Spaniards brought here the cooking technique called the guisado, it ceased to become Spanish; it became Filipino. Even Christianity was Filipinized. And so were the Spaniards who were born here — the insulares or creoles, although purely Iberian, were naturally more loyal to their patria chica (Philippines) compared to their patria grande (Spain). In short, although still Spaniards (albeit being born here), they ceased to become Spaniards but Filipinos. And that is why they are called —and should be regarded as— the First Filipinos.

This could go on and on.

In the words of José Miguel García, what Spain bequeathed to us has become part of our so-called “national developmental code”:

Can we exist as a nation without having been born acquiring a unique identity? Could we as a nation have been born without having been conceived? Could we as a nation have been conceived without having parents undergoing through a process of developmental intercourse? There are the Iberians, the natives of a group of islands now known as Filipinas, the North Americans, the Chinese, and the Japanese. Who among these entities could have engaged in a developmental intercourse that resulted to our conception and, finally, birth as a nation as Filipinas? If based on information, we have come to know WHO we really are; if based on information, we have come to know that WHO we really are has been lost; if based on information we know that WHO we really are is our inheritance as part of our national developmental code; then it is our birth right to recover it. But based on information, where can we find our inheritance?

Obviously not from our bleak and dark “pre-Hispanic past”.

Pre-Philippine, not pre-Hispanic

Here then lies the predicament surrounding the term pre-Hispanic Philippines.

If we delete the prefix “pre” from “pre-Hispanic”, what will remain solely is the adjective Hispanic (Hispanic Philippines). But, using Professor Ziálcita’s dialectical approach towards Philippine History as an analogy, there should be no such thing as Hispanic Philippines. It is but incorrect to impose the adjective Hispanic to a nation that had just been born. Although it is true that Spain created our country, upon inception it was not Hispanic anymore but simply Philippine.

Therefore, it is high time we get rid of the term pre-Hispanic Philippines from our historical vocabulary. It should be replaced with the more correct term PRE-PHILIPPINE whenever we refer to events before 1565 or 1521, an obscure era when we were still but a scattered group of heathen islands.

And may we all stop degrading ourselves by looking for a past that was never there.

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.

A local yet global style

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The following article was written by a contertulio of mine (in Círculo Hispano-Filipino), the erudite scholar Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil.

He is a professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University and is also the director of the Cultural Heritage Program of the said school. Professor Ziálcita has written several articles and books, namely Notions Of Justice: A Study Of An Ilocos And A Bulacán Barangay, Nick Joaquín: a portrait of the existentialist as Filipino, and Philippine ancestral houses (1810-1930). He specializes in the encounter between indigenous culture and Spanish influence.

This article, A Local Yet Global Style, was first published in the book Endangered: Fil-Hispanic Architecture which is actually a compilation of selected papers which were presented at the 1st International Congress on Fil-Hispanic Architecture that was held in Manila (27-29 November 2002). The book was published by the Instituto Cervantes de Manila five years ago.

Remember that “architecture is another form of language” (Guillermo Gómez Rivera).

The author, Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil (third from right), with members of the Círculo Hispano-Filipino (from left to right): José Ramón Perdigón, Alberto Hernández Miño, Guillermo Gómez, Ziálcita, Atty. Cirilo Lubatón, and me.

A LOCAL YET GLOBAL STYLE
Fernando Ziálcita

During the 16th-19th centuries, new architectural styles using timber and stones emerged in Luzón, Visayas, and Northern Mindanáo. My interest centers on what I call the “Wood-and-Stone style” of urban dwellings. I have tried to show that it should be called “Filipino” rather than either “Spanish” or Antillean (Ziálcita 1980; 1997; 1997B). There is more public interest in these structures at present than there was previously. Still, a number of architects continue to deny that there is any Filipino architecture other than the bahay kubo (the farmer’s house-on-stilts). One who has built many mansions for the rich has commented that these houses and churches, shown in a traveling exhibit organized in 2000 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to draw attention to Filipino architectural heritage, were “colonial impositions”.

In this article, I would like to point out the following:

• It is important to distinguish between types of nationalist discourses.
• To appreciate the complexity of the Filipino’s architectural heritage, we need a dialectical rather than a reductionist discourse.
• When viewed properly, the Wood-and-Stone style is both a unique local product and a product with multiple international connections.

Assimilation versus Exclusion

Nationalism is a discourse that crystallized during the 1789 French Revolution. It proposes that members of a large extended group “imagine” themselves as a sovereign, political “community” that transcends ethnic, religious, and class divisions because of a shared history, heritage, and mission (Anderson 1983). Nationalism thus excludes outsiders even as it defines criteria for membership. But who are the members? And what is the heritage that unites them? I distinguish between two types of nationalism. The first I call “reductionist”; the second, “dialectical” nationalism.

Reductionist nationalism uses “race” as the criterion for membership and “indigenous culture” as the substance of the shared heritage. It assumes that race, an inherited set of biological characteristics, determines how you think and feel. If you do not look like the majority, or if you are not of the same “race” as them, then you cannot share their feelings. This nationalism also yearns for a mythical past that was supposedly more authentic because it was truly “indigenous” — that is, it had no foreign admixture. Its static perspective has no room for mutually transformative encounters between cultures. It thus ignores what 20th century anthropologists say, namely: 1) that no empirical data can support the notion that race shapes ability, 2) that racism fosters the persecution of minorities, and 3) that culture, being a set of symbols, values, and practices that is socially learned, is therefore permeable and changeable.

In contrast, dialectical nationalism believes that feelings transcend race. By joining a community and imbibing its ideals, you become loyal to it. Sympathy has nothing to do with looking like the majority. Dialectical nationalism can thus regard as local what was once imported: 1) if it has been assimilated to local symbols, values, and practices, or 2) if it has a positive contribution to the local. A dialectical view sees the world as consisting of forces that may oppose each other at particular points in time and space, but may also modify each other and fuse into one.

German nationalism of the late 19th century down to 1945 was reductionist. Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) extolled the Volksgeist and the need to build institutions that emanated from it. Every people (Volk) have their own ethos (Geist) which is manifest in its language, literature, and law. A people should think and act according to its Geist, for it is unnatural to ape foreign fashions (Ergang 1966: 100-1). Herder inspired nationalists all over the world, like our own Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes, to study popular songs, dances, architecture as manifestations of the folk’s lore. His “Volksgeist” anticipated the notion of “culture” that British anthropologists would popularize in its present form, starting in the last decade of the 19th century. However, according to Wolfgang Welsch (1995: 195), Herder’s notion has serious deficiencies. It ignores the fact that modern societies are multicultural. Moreover, its insistence on purity leads to political conflicts and wars. Carriers of a Volksgeist are supposed to experience “insensibility, coldness, blindness” and even “contempt and disgust” towards outsiders.

Meanwhile, during the late 19th century, another development took place. Since the Germans lived in many small states that were independent of each other, German nationalists argued for blood as the determinant of nationality. Anyone of German ancestry, regardless of residence, was German. This included even those who had migrated to other Eastern European countries centuries ago. In the 1930s, the Nazis equated Germanness with belonging to the “Aryan race”. Nazi policies were junked after their defeat; contemporary Germany is an open and tolerant society. But even today, migrants, who are born in and educated in Germany, face hurdles in applying for citizenship if their parents are non-Germans (Brubaker 1992: 75 ff.).

In contrast, French nationalism has generally been dialectical and assimilationist. Being French has more to do with sensibility than with genes or skin color. To be French is to embrace the ideals of the 1789 Revolution (Brubaker 1992: 35 ff.). Thus the French call their patrie a “Terre d’asile” — a land that shelters all migrants who believe in liberty, equality, and fraternity. To be French is also to appreciate the achievements of French civilization. French citizenship is thus open to Africans, Indians, Caribbeans, Indochinese, or anyone who participates in French culture.

Moreover, anything created on French soil that either contributes to France’s glory or carries the imprint of the French sensibility is French, even if the creator is a foreigner by birth. The 20th century Ecole de Paris, which invented modern painting and sculpture, was the creation of Frenchmen (Matisse, Braque, Leger), Spaniards (Gris, Picasso, Miró), Russians (Chagall), Germans (Hartung), Italians (Modigliani), Romanians (Brancusi), and others living and working in Paris. These non-Frenchmen are often classified as “French” by French authors. A work of art can be French yet cosmopolitan. French identity is thus not something determined once and for all by race and ethnicity. Writing on the diversity and conflicts between French regions, Braudel (1986: 94) says that “France” had to be “invented”. We can infer that, for it to remain flexible and open, it must be reinvented today.

Mexicanness is likewise a sensibility that is the product of tradition rather than biology. During the 20th century, following the 1910 revolution, which was both economic and spiritual, Mexicans came to appreciate the diversity of their traditions. While they affirmed their once-despised Amerindian tradition (Olmec, Zapotec, Aztec, and Maya), they also claimed that the Spanish tradition constituted an integral part of their culture. Likewise the Afro-American. The magic word was “mestizaje” or the fusion of cultures (Fuentes 1992). Thus “baroque” in Mexico is Mexican rather than Spanish.

How should we characterize the discourse of Filipino nationalism? Is it reductionist or dialectical? I believe it is in-between. On the one hand, textbooks and the press say that Filipino culture is diverse. It has “Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and American influences”. Our folk dance troupes showcase the diversity of the archipelago’s dance traditions in each performance. Nick Joaquín, in his novels and essays, has shown how to approach history as a process that assimilates the diverse influences, especially the Hispanic, upon the Filipino (1989). On the other hand, however, the educated casually talk of either a “Filipino race” or a “Malay race”. For instance, in preparation for the second millennium AD, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a daily series of short articles on its front-page on the achievements of the “Filipino race”. From anthropology’s perspective, the better term would have been “Filipino culture”, for values and world-views are acquired by anybody who commits himself to a group. But physical characteristics, such as skin and hair color, are inherited genetically. Moreover, “Filipino race” would exclude Negritos, Chinese, and Euroamericans who consider themselves Filipinos. Unfortunately, anthropology’s clarifications about “race” are ignored by the current discourse.

The permanent exhibit on the Filipino people at the National Museum has a wonderful English title, “History of the Filipino People”. But the Tagalog translation is an unacceptable “Kasaysayan ng Lahì” (History of the Race). Ignored likewise by many nationalists is anthropology’s concept of “culture” as a permeable, changeable set of symbols, values, and practices. I have heard many educated Filipinos characterize Filipino achievements in cookery, dances, and sculpture as “bastardized/mongrel/derivative/imitative”. They imagine that a culture has to be “pure” and free of outside influences in order for it to be respectable.

Renato Constantino exerted much influence on the nationalism of the 1970s to the present. While he does not idealize pre-Hispanic culture, he has nothing positive to say either about Hispanized Filipino culture. He characterizes both the masses and the elite during the Spanish period as suffering from a “relative ignorance” brought about by the colonizer’s values (Constantino 1978:52-54). Those reading him must therefore conclude that Spanish influence in any form is cause for embarrassment.

A preoccupation with race stumbles when confronted with figures like Fr. José Burgos. Born of a Spanish lieutenant and of a mestiza from Vigan, Burgos spearheaded the Filipino clergy’s demands for equal treatment with Peninsular priests (Villaroel 1971). His execution in 1871, together with Frs. Gómez and Zamora, shocked the public into discovering that they were being oppressed by peninsular interests. But the highly influential historian Teodoro Agoncillo wondered if Burgos, because of his ancestry, can be called “Filipino” (Nolasco n.d.:2). On the other hand, Marilou Díaz-Abaya, in her film on Rizal, depicted Burgos as a brown-skinned Indio. In effect, nationalism became skin-color.

I sympathize with the concerns of Filipino nationalists. The Philippines is indeed a society that continues to be colonized by outside forces. Moreover, it is highly stratified with widespread poverty. But, as I have shown (Ziálcita 2000), exploitation and stratification antedate the Spanish conquest. Our national honor is not diminished by admitting that the Spaniards did positive things like eliminating slave raiding for sacrifice. Also, there are two things to consider: 1) The Philippines is a multi-ethnic society. Many Filipinos, especially in the major cities, are descendants of foreign migrants, some of whom sacrificed much on behalf of the Philippines (Nolasco 1970-71:178 ff.). Surely, they are no less Filipino than the purely indigenous; 2) Our country has to assert its presence in the world forum, and attract more interest in its culture and its products. To respond to both, we need a nationalism that can deal with complexity and multiple connections.

Filipino Modern

The Philippine has diversified its exports by selling high-quality furniture and home accessories. Designers like Ched Berenguer-Topacio, Budji Láyug, Jeanne Goulborn, Kenneth Cobonpue, and others have projected contemporary Filipino design internationally. But what is “Filipino modern”? Why has it attracted rave reviews and orders? If we examine their best sellers carefully, we shall see that some combine the indigenous with imported traditions.

For instance, a fashionable chair pioneered in by Filipino designers combines an exposed metal frame with rattan weaves that form a seat and a backrest. Sometimes the metal frame evokes a boxy armchair; at other times a curvaceous lounging chair. Always, however, the textured rattan weaves give these chairs a relaxed tropical feel. Two traditions meet in these chairs: the indigenous, which skillfully manipulates rattan for basketry, and the Spanish, which makes wrought iron furniture and lamps. The Spanish baroque tradition also shows in the generous S-curves of some of these chairs. Or, consider another example: wall hangings and shades. Filipino wall hangings made of silk have a translucent quality that evokes the Japanese, which currently is the vogue. At the same time, they have playfully inserted pieces of bamboo and rattan, for added texture. Filipino modern reinterprets international styles using skills and preferences inherited from once-foreign but localized cultural traditions.

Together with Alice Reyes and Paulo Alcazaren, I worked on a book on the best of the contemporary Filipino house designs (Reyes 2000). The staff of the Singapore-based publishing firm that produced the book was enthused by the varied forms exhibited in contemporary Filipino architecture. While some villas had strong affinities with Italian-Spanish-Mexican houses, others had rooms that, because of their shell-paned panels, recalled Japanese interiors. Other villas, though modern, had a more indigenous feel because of their imaginative local materials. As a whole, regardless of their stylistic orientation, the various houses had a common denominator: interior spaces dialogued with the surrounding gardens.

A reductionist approach accepts only the “indigenous” as Filipino. This cripples the Filipino’s options in a competitive global market. In contrast, a dialectical approach appreciates the variety of both our contemporary designs and our 18th-early 20th-century urban houses, because it looks at history as a process.

Distinct yet many-sided

I have discussed the history of the Wood-and-Stone House (Bahay na bató at cahoy) in previous writings. Rather than repeat this, I would like to highlight particular points in order to show how the style is both local and global.

1. The indigenous style of architecture prevailing in the 16th century Luzón and Visayas was suited to a rural but not to an urban environment. The indigenous dwelling was essentially a frame construction where the heavy roofwork was supported not by the walls, which were either of timber planks or of bamboo sidings, but by many wooden pillars dug deeply into the ground. This type of structure thus merely swayed during an earthquake. The floor was elevated above the ground as protection against floods and insects. The steeply pitched roof made of thatch shook off the heavy downpour and allowed hot tropical air to circulate upwards.

But this style had a disadvantage when used in an urban environment where buildings press against each other. Its materials were flammable. The first Spanish Manila, whose cathedrals and dwellings were built of bamboo and thatch, was consumed by an accidental fire in 1583. This prompted a shift to construction in stone, using the deposits of volcanic tuff (locally called “adobe”) that were newly discovered in Macati along the Pásig River.

Similar shifts had occurred earlier among other Southeast Asian peoples. Bas-reliefs I have seen on the temples of Prambanan (9th century), in Central Java, depict houses-on-stilts. However, during the heyday of the Majapahit Empire in the 13th-14th centuries, the Central Javanese shifted to all-brick dwellings resting directly on brick platforms (Schoppert 1997: 32-34). This continues to be the norm today in that region which is Indonesia’s cultural heartland.

The famous bronze drums of Dong-son from Vietnam (5th century AD) likewise reveal longhouses-on-stilts with steeply pitched roofs, which are still common today among the upland peoples of Vietnam. But the Chinese, who incorporated what is now Northern Vietnam into their empire from the first century BC to the 10th century AD, brought in houses whose plastered brick walls stood on stone platforms a few meters above the ground (Bezacier 1955; Taylor 1983). These one-story, tile roofed dwellings of brick continue to be the norm both in rural villages and in the town centers of Vietnam.

I mention these shifts because many Filipinos reduce Filipino architecture to the house-on-stilts; they do not accept subsequent developments as relevant. Also, they reject Spanish-influenced architecture as an obstacle to an Asian identity. They believe the house-on-stilts to be more Southeast Asian, being more indigenous. The truth is that some of our neighbors long ago shifted to more durable houses, partly in response to urban environments with limited land.

2. Spanish architectural styles, which are many and varied, may have been suited to an urban environment, but not necessarily to a tropical, earthquake-racked environment. Spanish urban styles are the product of a long process reaching back to at least 1000 BC, to Celtiberian towns and urban settlements established by Phoenician and Greek colonists on Spain’s Mediterranean seaboard. With their thick walls of cut stone or brick, and their roof of tile, these dwellings protected against fire. Their rigidity posed no threat in a land where earthquakes were uncommon. Their relatively small windows gave better insulation against cold.

However, these advantages failed them in the Philippines. In 1630, the Augustinian Juan de Medina ([1630] 1903-1909: 242) remarked that Manila was cooler and healthier when the buildings were made of wood, rather than stone, for this allowed the wind to blow through.

3. In 1645, 1658, and 1677, severe earthquakes collapsed Manila’s tall stone dwellings. Following these earthquakes, two contrasting traditions —the Spanish and the indigenous— fused into a major synthesis. A wooden framework to carry the trusses and rafters of the roofwork extended all the way to the ground. Thick stone walls tended to be confined to the first floor, though brick walls were used in the second story for some partitions. Wooden curtain walls enveloped the second story. But these were opened up by an ensemble of three windows. On the exterior transom was an immovable opening (espejo) covered with shell panes. Between the windowsill and the floor sill was another window: the ventanilla, which was protected by a screen or either wooden balusters or a metal grille and by sliding wooden panels.

This Wood-and-Stone style was called arquitectura mestiza by the end of the 17th century, not because it was for mestizos, but because of its mixture of wood and stone (Alcina [1668] 1980). Mestizo, like the English word “mixed”, comes from the Latin word “mixtus”. The new style was one major response to Philippine conditions. However, it is not the only possible response.

Ilocos, particularly Vigan, developed a house, starting probably in the 1970s, that used brick on both stories (Ziálcita 1997A) but had no wooden framework (Manalo 2003). Most likely this was in response to the fire that struck the city in the late 18th century (King 2000). Despite the absence of a wooden framework, the Ilocano All-Brick-House-with-Pilasters has survived the earthquakes that have struck the coast over the past two centuries. During the 20th century, new technologies, such as the embedding metal frameworks in concrete, entered the Philippines. These have opened new possibilities for urban constructions.

When I speak of the Wood-and-Stone house as “Filipino”, I claim that it was a reasonable response at a point in time, given the knowledge and skills then available, to a particular set of environmental challenges that remain with us. Surely it is not the only possible Filipino style. I like the French and the Mexicans as well. I prefer to dwell on their positive contribution to our culture, rather on how indigenous their makers were.

4. Components of the Wood-and-Stone house connect it to other traditions in particular countries. This opens intercultural bridges that should help us when projecting our country.

The house on stilts was widespread among Austronesians (the peoples of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines; some upland peoples in Vietnam like the Jarai), Austroasiatics (Cambodians and most Vietnamese), and the Thais before the entry of Chinese, Indian, Arabic, and Western influences. The irony is that the Wood-and-Stone house of Hispanized Luzón and Visayas exhibits greater continuity with this millennial Southeast Asian tradition than do the one story stone dwellings of Lowland Vietnam, post-Chinese conquest, or of Central Java, post-Majapahit.

The Wood-and-Stone style likewise connects with the several versions of the longhouse that continue to be built in Borneo as houses-on-stilts. A Sundanese graduate of mine from West Java, Budi Gunawan, made a highly significant remark before a print of a 19th century Tagalog Wood-and-Stone house. “It looks like a Bornean longhouse,” he said. The house had a tile roof, it was horizontal in orientation with sliding shell windows, and had a cantilevered wooden second story over a stone first story. I thought he might have been referring to the pronounced horizontal orientation of the Wood-and-Stone house and its use of the second story as opposed to the preference by both Sundanese and Central Javanese for one-story stucco brick dwellings.

But a visit to the Dayak country in the Four Lakes District of Eastern Borneo clarified what he meant. During that visit, another Indonesian student, Martinus Nanang, and myself went to a longhouse that was still in use. The main entrance was on the long side: a log with notches led to a verandah with a series of wooden arches and fretwork. Here was the main door. The two-story house was on stilts with wooden boards for both stories. The roof was of wooden shingles. The house’s ambience was not Javanese. Save for the notched log, the house exterior evoked 19th-century Visayan plantation mansions.

A common feature of houses in the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Western India is the screened wooden balcony. The Arabs call it mashrabiyya, also rowshan this three-meter-high balcony is supported by wooden consoles embedded into stone walls protruding 60 cm from the building. It has its own roof; its roof line is decorated with entablature. This balcony protects the occupants’ privacy while permitting the air to circulate through the adjoining room through grilles (Earls 1997A, Earls 1997B, Earls 1997C). The Arabs brought it to Spain where it acquired the ajimez, two windows that share a common column in-between.

The screened wooden balcony acquired a different configuration in the various localities that adopted it in the Hispanic World. According to the Spanish art historian Dorta (1973:403), the screened balcony’s evolution attained its final stage in the galería volada (jutting gallery) of the Filipino house of the Spanish period. It was neither open as in the Caribbean, not closed with lattices as in Lima. Instead, it was enclosed with shell-paned window panels.

The galería volada connects the Philippines not only with Spain and with Spanish America, but likewise with the Near East and India. This hanging gallery became commonplace in Manila by the last decade of the 17th century (Ziálcita and Tinio 1980: 8, 244 ff.). A topic for research should be the routes by which this gallery reached the Philippines. Was it only via Mexico? Or also via Indian merchants who came here during the Galleon Trade?

A particular house type that developed in Java during the Dutch period was the Rumah Gedong. This literally means the “office house”, perhaps because it was originally associated with offices. Unlike the conventional Javanese house, it has two stories: stone below, wood above. It recalls our Wood-and-Stone house except that the windows are different. As is the case throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, the wooden shutters that protect the windows hang from the façade like wings. They open outwards. The window itself is a vertical opening that extends from lintel to the floor and has a protective wooden railing and balusters. It looks like a modified French window.

The Rumah Gedong is widespread in South Sumatran villages near Palembang. Is there any connection between them and our own Wood-and-Stone houses? I do not think the Rumah Gedong influenced the development of the Wood-and-Stone house in 17th-century Manila. Based on existing documents available, the phases in the emergence of the latter do not suggest influences coming from Java. Could it be that the Rumah Gedong may have been influenced by our Wood-and-Stone house? This deserves investigation.

I mention these similarities between our 17th-19th century house and the Rumah Gedong to underline once more that what may seem so “Spanish” and so alien to Southeast Asian converges in fact with parallel developments in the region. Outside Palembang, I did see bamboo-and-thatch houses-on-stilts scattered among the fields. But in towns and even the tiny village where I stayed, the preference was for solid materials which, in the South Sumatran case, meant using stone below and wood above, with a roof of flat tiles.

Finally, there is Chinese-Japanese influence. There were only a few Chinese in Tondo when the Spaniards came in 1570. Their numbers soared to 8,000 by 1600 because the Galleon Trade exchanged Chinese silks and porcelains for highly coveted Mexican silver coins (Scott 1977: 207). Among the Chinese who settled in Manila were artisans. The Galleon Trade also attracted the Japanese who came in, though in smaller numbers.

While Chinese migration has been continuous to the present time, Japanese migration ended in 1624 after the shogun limited foreign contacts (Hedinger 1977). However, after the opening of Japan to world trade in the 19th century, the Japanese began coming again as migrants. Among them were carpenters.

In some Wood-and-Stone houses, the roof’s corner eaves curl upwards. An example is the Constantino house in Balagtás (Bigaá), Bulacán. But the more substantive Chinese-Japanese contribution may be in the framework and the openings. Both Chinese and Japanese use a wooden framework to carry the roof. The Chinese combine this with non-load bearing brick walls (Knapp 1990: 37). The Japanese raise all-wood walls (Yoshida 1954). Moreover, both of them like to expose their beams and pillars, including twisted ones.

While this was also the case in indigenous Filipino tradition, this practice’s persistence in the Wood-and-Stone style may have been encouraged by Chinese-Japanese builders. The use of translucent material as windowpanes may have come in from these northerners that paste rice paper on window frames. In the Philippines, the flat shell of the cápiz, abundant in shallow waters, substituted for paper. Filipino wooden frames use a plain checkerboard pattern. A similar window pattern is universal in Japan, and in some areas in Southeastern China.

The Japanese signature is evident too in that Filipino window panels slide in a sill whereas in China, they push out. Because of these translucent panes, Filipino interiors have a parchment-like glow, which Japanese visitors say recall their own. During the late 19th century, the transforms in the interior partitions were opened with tracery, which permitted more light and air to circulate while providing decoration. These cutwork panels are found in Chinese and Japanese dwellings. Japanese called these ramma. They can feature either fine wooden latticework or a wooden panel with a variety of patterns (Yoshida 1954: 156).

In some Filipino houses, Chinese motifs, like the peony, are present. In others, like the Festejo house in Santa Lucía, Ilocos Sur, the interlocking diamond-shaped frames reveal a Japanese hand. In general, however, the motifs in these cutwork panels are inspired by the Filipino’s preferences, for instance lyres and flowers — poetry and romance. These cutwork panels, though with different motifs, are also found in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Perhaps originally Chinese and Japanese, they create another bridge between us and our neighbors.

The Galleon Trade (1565-1815) was the first trade network to encompass three continents: Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Aside from Chinese goods, products from all over Asia were purchased in Manila with coined Mexican siliver. Traders from other Asian countries came here, bringing ideas as well. For the French economic historian, Pierre Chanau (1960: 18), the Philippines was where cultural currents originating in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and flowing in opposite directions met each other again, for the first time in world history. They also met currents from China and Southeast Asia. The Philippines is thus “the only true end-point of the world” (le seul vrai bout du monde).

The music scholar John Summers (1998: 208, 213) says that Manila’s musical life was truly cosmopolitan. In 1611, entries to a citywide poetry contest were in “Latin, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, Castilian, Mexican, Tagalog, and Visayan”. Non-Spanish dances and Tagalog-speaking residents formed part of the festivities. If I am correct, the story of the hanging gallery further illustrates how globalization became a reality in Manila. The gallery may have come in from two directions, from Mexico and from India and Arabia. Here it met the Austronesian preference for constructing dwellings on piles and the Chinese-Japanese tradition of woodworking, and merged with them.

Local Yet Global

Filipinos find themselves in an international environment where, on the one hand, they are expected to affirm an artistic style that is uniquely theirs. On the other hand, they are expected to show commonalities with their Asian neighbors. We should be careful of discourses on identity that imprison. A more dialectical, rather than a reductionist, approach can better show how the initially foreign can become localized. Imported Spanish traditions in stone construction had to be modified to suit the unstable Philippine floor. A dialectical approach can also disclose paradoxes. Though influenced by a non-Southeast Asian tradition, Filipino houses retain continuities with the Southeast Asian house-on-stilts that traditional Vietnamese and Central Javanese houses do not.

Finally, a dialectical approach is more open to surprises in the empirical data. The cantilevered wooden second story of the Filipino house connects in fact with traditions of both East and West. Because of the Galleon Trade, 17th-century Manila became a meeting place for different cultural currents. The Philippines developed a distinct local, urban style, from the 17th-early 20th centuries, that resonates globally. It continues to do so, as shown by its current success in furniture and furnishings.

Last Monday’s Manila Hostage Crisis was a possible act/effect of injustice

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Anger may be foolish and absurd, and one may be irritated when in the wrong; but a man never feels outraged unless in some respect he is at bottom right. –Victor Hugo–

In 1872, a secular priest who was about to be executed in the killing fields called Bagumbayan was literally crying out for justice against a mutiny which he did not instigate. One hundred thirty-eight years later, last Monday to be precise, in the very same place which we now call Rizal Park, another man, apparently another victim of injustice, was provoked to do the unthinkable, the inhumane, the insane. Unlike the secular priest, who took no lives with him and peacefully accepted his fate during the final minutes of his life, this man we speak of disrespected the lives of others out of sheer desperation. And in the aftermath, several Hong Kong nationals who visited our country for a vacation met a tragic end…

Mendoza (man on the steps of the bus) speaking to a negotiator. Many times he was seen at the entrance of the bus, in the line of fire, an easy target. But why, why, why wasn't he shot?

Yesterday, President Noynoy Aquino issued Proclamation No. 23 as a consequence of last Monday’s hostage-taking incident in the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, Manila. Eight Chinese tourists from Hong Kong were mercilessly executed while others were injured. The hostage taker himself, a deranged cop who lost his job, was killed rather belatedly.

Now that the smoke has been cleared, reports over what had transpired are also getting much clearer, as well as its damning effects: once more, public perception and trust over our police force worsened; our tourism industry is now in jeopardy, and; our country has garnered international embarassment.

The principal cause

The criminal who instigated all this polemic bloodbath was, ironically, a former high-ranking, highly decorated commissioned cop from Náic, Cavite whose name will forever be damned in the history of Philippine international relations.

Former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza’s resumé is indeed a handsome one. With a degree in BS Criminology from the Philippine College of Criminology, he entered the police force through the defunct Integrated National Police in 1981 as a patrolman. When he was a 31-year-old officer in 1986, during the height of the EDSA Revolution, he and his men caught a van which was carrying 13 crates of filthy lucre which an exiting Ferdinand Marcos was purportedly trying to stash out of the country. This merited Mendoza a Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines award from the Jaycees International later that year.

Aside from the TOPP prize, Mendoza received more than 10 other awards and commendations from the Philippine National Police (PNP) throughout his outstanding career, including multiple citations of the Medalya ng Papuri (PNP Medal of Commendation), the PNP Badge of Honor, the Medalya ng Kasanayan (PNP Efficiency Medal), Medalya ng Kagalingan (PNP Merit Medal), and the Medalya ng Paglilingkod (PNP Service Medal), as well as a Letter of Commendation.

A decade after entering the police force, he was absorbed into the PNP with the rank of Senior Police Officer 3 with “Manila’s finest”, the Western Police District (WPD, now known as the Manila Police District). In 2002, he was promoted to Inspector. And after only three years, he was made Senior Inspector as well as chief of the Mobile Patrol Unit.

But all these admirable accomplishments –very rare nowadays among policemen– vanished into thin air when, early this year, the Office of the Ombudsman expelled him and four of his colleagues from the police force. Worse, they were stripped of their retirement benefits (Mendoza was supposed to retire next year) and were barred from holding any position in government service.

This punishment stemmed from a case filed against him by a certain Christian Kálaw (interestingly, Kálaw is also the name of the street where the Manila Police District is based), a chef of the Mandarin Hotel. According to police records, Mendoza and the other policemen who were dismissed along with him accosted the chef for illegal parking, driving without license, and use of illegal drugs two summers ago in Malate, Manila. They accused Kálaw of being a drug user and tried to extort P3,000 from him. The records also showed that, at the headquarters of the Mobile Patrol Unit of the Manila Police District where the police brought Kálaw, the former manhandled the latter by forcing him to swallow a sachet full of crystal meth (commonly known as shabú in the Philippines). Furthermore, they tried to extort an additional P20,000 from the poor chef.

Several days later, administrative charges were filed against Mendoza and his men. Two months after the incident, there were plans of assigning Mendoza to faraway Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanáo but it never happened because he served a 90-day suspension instead. In August of that year, the Manila Prosecutors Office Eighth Division also dismissed the case after Kálaw failed to appear during the preliminary proceedings of the case. Two months after that, the PNP Internal Affairs Service recommended the dismissal of the case after Kálaw again failed to attend the dismissal proceedings. Regardless of the case’s dismissal and the 90-day suspension, Mendoza and his cohorts were all terminated from the police force.

Up to his very last breath two days ago, Mendoza denied the crime he reportedly committed against the Mandarin chef.

Metaphysics of the crime

This blogpost is not intended to defend Mendoza’s vile actions. It only seeks to understand why this shameful massacre occurred, and how it can be avoided in the future.

As we have observed by perusing Mendoza’s background as a police officer, it is safe to assume that he was a good cop, a clean one. That by turning over the stash of cash which he and his men confiscated from a Marcos van two decades ago, as well as his steady climb to his industry’s higher echelon, speaks of his dedication to his job. Notwithstanding all the accomplishments he garnered during his career, the probability of getting those awards through “police politics” is now immaterial, almost improbable even. The message here is clear: he got those awards because he was a straight cop. But the fruits (i.e., his retirement benefits) of his labors were all taken away from him by this one single incident over illegal parking, manhandling, and extortion. Was he even proven guilty? He cried foul, pointing at the unjust way he was expelled from service. He claimed that there was no due process over his expulsion. He even attempted to appeal his case, but nothing was heard about it.

Could it be true?

Let us examine further: Mendoza was the principal efficient cause of last Monday’s bus carnage in Rizal Park. But what was the final cause (or motivation) behind his seemingly “senseless” act? Speaking through the mass media (which also grossly erred in this hostage drama), he said that all he wanted was to get his job back, as well as his retirement benefits.

Mendoza was an angry old man. But looking through this anger and disorder, one can sense a bit of “logic” cloaked behind it. For if he was indeed guilty of this crime committed against Kálaw, he would not have held hostage innocent tourists enjoying the candy-wrapper-and-cigarrette-butt-strewn streets of Manila the way his co-accused remained silent (besides, Mendoza claimed that it was them who did it, not him — could that be a reason why they “did not lose their senses”?). The usual impulse for those whose arms are caught inside the cookie jar is to wallow in shame and guilt and silence. Mendoza didn’t. Out of desperation, he used “collateral damage” in crying out for justice in a country which seemed to have lack of it. Ask P-Noy himself.

It is easy to blame Mendoza for what had happened, for the happy lives he took, for the international shame he brought to P-Noy’s infant presidency. But what good will it do us? Besides, he’s about to join the earthworms. What should be reviewed now is if his claim of lack of due process on his case was true? Somehow, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES is inclined to believe that he was a victim of injustice. And in a country lacking the caressing arms of Lady Justice, what would an embattled policeman do? Or more appropriately, what did it do to his sanity?

On national TV, he shamelessly asked for his job back. Looking through Mendoza’s nearly-insane behavior, what did his desperate demand tell us? This is beyond “cacapalán ng muqhâ“. Something is amiss.

He was a victim of injustice.

Although he used twisted means, what he desired was good (getting his old job back). In philosophy, only the good can motivate an agent. Only the good can act as a final cause. But in this bloody hostage-taking, the agent (Mendoza) thought something to be good (taking hostage of the ill-fated Hong Kong nationals) which was really evil. In this case, Mendoza was the efficient cause of the evil indirectly.

Injustice for all

What then should be considered as the per accidens of Mendoza’s murdering of the tourists?

Some people blame the mass media for its lack of sensitivity. It was known that the hostage taker had access to radio and that the tourist bus also had a TV monitor. He was thus able to see and hear what was happening around him. And when he learned that his brother was apprehended by the police for earlier entering the bus without coordinating with them, Mendoza lost what little was left of his sanity. So he started firing at his frightened and defenseless victims. But blaming the media won’t do any good. It will never budge. Ever. For mass media practitioners, bad news is good news. And good news reaps good ratings and more commercial success.

The police? Partly. Besides, it is ancient news among astute observers that our police force is generally a bunch of inutile and useless eaters, sworn to protect primarily (aside from themselves) the rich and their bank accounts. Twelve hours? C’mon.

Arnaldo shared to me of a similar incident which happened in Singapore. A hostage taker was shot point blank by a police officer posing as a negotiator. Clever move. No hostage was killed. Other than that, there was a news blackout. Thus, Singapore did not face international embarassment.

Lessons to be learned: never negotiate fairly with a hostage taker; it is not necessarily a bad idea to block media coverage, especially when lives are at stake; it is high time to strenuously train the police force over hostage-taking situations…

I am going off on a tangent here. So let us go back to the main question: what is the per accidens of all this madness?

Injustice. Injustice is what instigated Mendoza’s criminal act. Indirectly, injustice is what is causing P-Noy too much headache now. Indirectly, injustice is what angered the international community towards the police force’s failure to save the hostages (perhaps not even Venus Raj’s admirable “major, major mistake” could help ease the heat that we are receiving from foreign nations, particularly Hong Kong). Injustice is the last cause of all this because its very opposite was what the efficient cause (Mendoza) tried to accomplish, therefore producing its bloody effect.

Injustice drives weak men, the helpless, the voiceless, to do the the unthinkable, the inhumane, the insane. Injustice is what drove those militant farmers to Mendiola in 1987, only to meet a tragic fate. How much more casualties, indignation, and insanity can we take due to the absence of injustice?

President P-Noy should be exhorted to combat not just corruption, but injustice.

La Naval de Johannesburg

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The World Cup fever may have already subsided, but I just couldn’t ignore one glaring trivia related to last month’s Spain-Netherlands tussle.

Only a few people today know that last month’s 19th FIFA World Cup™ wasn’t the first time that Spain faced and defeated the hardy Dutch boys. In World History, the Netherlands used to be a part of the huge Spanish Empire under King Charles V. The subjugation continued up to the reign of the king’s son, King Philip II (yep, we got our country’s name from him). During the revolt against Spain, the Dutch also sent their naval force to battle the Spaniards in another Spanish colony: the Philippines.

There were five great battles which occurred right here on our turf, mostly in 1646:

16 March — Five Dutch fleet attacked Isla de Mariveles (near Isla de Corregidor). There were only two Spanish galleons at that time, but, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary (thanks to the frightened crew’s recitation of the Holy Rosary, as written by chroniclers during the said event), they were able to ward off the Dutch invaders.
29 July — The Dutch returned with seven large vessels and almost a thousand men. The battle, fought in the waters between Romblón and Marinduque, was said to be one of the bloodiest naval battles during that time, lasting from seven in the evening up to four in the morning. Again, the Dutch lost the battle.
31 July — The escaping Dutch were pursued by both Spaniards and Filipinos, catching up with them in the waters of Mindoro. Much more damage were inflicted on the supposedly battle-ready Dutch.
15 September — In Manila, one more Dutch squadron remained. The Spanish galleons who figured in the preceding battles against the Dutch invaders had been reinforced a newly constructed galleon that was intended for México, but now prepared for war. The three galleons sailed from Cavite and saw their parley in Cabo de Calavite (Calavite Point). The Dutch were overwhelmed after a five-hour battle, forcing to escape the scene.
4 October — Coincidentally, the Dutch were defeated a final time during the month of the Holy Rosary. But the following year, the Dutch returned for a vengeance (particularly in the Spanish port of Cavite). They, however, faced the same humiliating defeat.

In all these naval victories, all the men –both Spaniards and Filipinos– fervently prayed for the intercession of the Virgin of the Most Holy Rosary. All these victorious naval battles against the Protestant Dutch were considered miraculous since most of the ships which defended the young nation were not intended for battle. They were galleons in the first place, ships intended for trade. That is why the once mighty city of Manila (Intramuros) used to celebrate an extravagant feast during October called the La Naval in thanksgiving for Mother Mary’s intercession. And up to now, the city of Ángeles in Pampanga still holds a feast in honor of its patroness, Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario de La Naval de Ángeles.

Some wise guys claim that these great battles should never be taught in the study of Philippine History because it was not part of Philippine History at all but of Spanish History in the Philippines. Really now. But they fail to recognize that these naval battles were indeed crucial to the study of Philippine History. The Philippines was still young, still fortifying itself into becoming the nation that we know today. Although we always say that there are no ifs in history, it is still interestingly scary to note that if the Dutch did defeat the gallant Spaniards and Filipinos, then the Philippines would have been a Protestant nation rather than Christian. Or worse, there would have been no Philippines (i.e., Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo) to speak of.

From naval battles to soccer, it seems that the Dutch are no match for the Spaniards. History does repeat itself sometimes, albeit in a different setting. =)

Monte Manabú (Santo Tomás, Batangas)

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Mount Manabú was supposed to be an easy climb. Until we lost our way.

Everybody’s favorite Pinoy Mountaineer, Gideón Lasco, wrote: “Because of its easy access, short trail, and very beautiful environs, Manabú Peak is a great introduction to hiking for beginners.” And so after years of prodding, I was finally able to convince Yeyette to experience the “chilly thrill of being up there” by trying out this easy-to-climb mountain in nearby Santo Tomás, Batangas.

We left early morning last 30 May, during the last days of summer. We did not plan to stay there overnight. We do not have camping gear. And even if we did, I am not really fond of staying up there even if for just a night. Yeyette even forgot to bring extra shirts and power snacks. Upon reaching the entrance trail to the mountain, we were lucky to have found a small store there where we bought a couple of junk foods. This lack of preparation was my fault: I shouldn’t have let a neophyte hiker do the packing for us.

On our way to Mount Manabú. Beyond is the Malipunyô mountain range which is composed of three peaks: Malipunyô, Susong Dalaga, and Manabú.

Register here (for only ₱10.00 per person).

The climb to the top begins here.

We started the hike at around 9:30 AM. As we followed the trail, we passed by thick grasses and foliage, encountered wild mountain flowers and even farm animals which urban people don’t see anymore for obvious reasons. Although we have been to such places before (especially me), this abundance of nature never fails to thrill both of us.

A horse is on our way!

A bitter gourd (ampalayá) plantation at the foot of the mountain.

And now we got cows.

This map only got us confused later on...

Going higher and higher.

Boulder man.

Met some hikers who were descending. They spent the night at the peak.

Mountain spring!

¡Pahiñgá muna!

=)

To the grotto.

Violet mountain flowers! What are they called?

Wild pineapple!

The grotto fronting a spring.

Mt. Manabú's Marian grotto.

The estimated time of arrival was 11:30 AM to 12:00 PM. I planned for us to stay at the peak for about an hour or two.

But that didn’t happen.

Confusion began as soon as we reached the grotto. After staying there for awhile, we followed a small sign which says Station 8 that was perched on a tree branch to the left of the grotto. Underneath the sign was a trail, or what looked like a trail. But to the right of the grotto, there was another trail. And it sloped so high and looked a bit difficult to tread on that we quickly assumed it might lead to nowhere (because before reaching the grotto, the trail to the top has been an easy one)

Going farther on to the wrong trail (which was fast disappearing in the foliage), we saw this lone image of the Blessed Virgin.

The roof of the hut fronting the grotto (behind Yeyette).

Getting steeper and steeper...

The trail disappeared somewhere here. Or what we thought of as a trail.

¡Pahiñgá ulít! We realized that we're already lost. We were just not admitting it to each other.

After what seemed like hours of difficult climbing (we were virtually using our hands to hold on to trees and the soil just to keep us from rolling down to sea level!), I realized that we were lost. I knew that Yeyette knew that we were lost, but I did not want her to panic. The reason why we refused to go down is because of the Station 2 map whose photo we took.

The red line shows the wrong trail that we followed because of a Station 8 sign stupidly hanging on the wrong path. And speaking of stupid, I mistook North for East, and vice versa. But that is because the trail on the map was horizontally placed instead of vertical. Ah, so many excuses, LOL!!!

Besides, it is pretty tiring to go down just to look for the correct trail and then climb up again. And worse, our water supply was not enough. To our mind, trudging upwards will lead to the same peak, anyway.

Little did we realize that we were already on the wrong mountain. Not on the wrong side, but literally ON THE WRONG MOUNTAIN.

Sobrang taás nitó sa malapitan.

Wild jackfruit!

The vegetation gets thicker and thicker, blocking our way.

Yeyette's rash guard was not able to protect her from rashes caused by these prickly stuff. Probably the lipâ pricklies (yep, that's where Ciudad de Lipâ got its name).

If it were raining, this boulder would have rolled us over! Even light rains over the mountains could cause huge rocks to slide down.

Yes, there are bayucô snails up here! We learned later on that these snails are edible and are actually exotic and rare!

When we descended, residents said that bayucô can only be found on the highest parts of the mountain. That means weve reached the top of the mountain already when this photo was taken! But where's the freakin' trail?!

This spiked tree wounded my wife's right hand.

Mushrooms feasting on a dead tree trunk.

We were virtually hanging on to trees in order to avoid rolling downwards -- the ground up here is almost vertical!

From this vantage point, I was so sure that we're no longer in Mount Manabú!

We reached the top, at last. But it did not fit Gideon’s description of Mount Manabú — because we were in the middle of a tropical forest! The sounds that unseen animals and birds produce from up there were quite eerie. We have exhausted our bodies, and I was on the verge of dehydration (I drink a lot of water even at home). There was nowhere else to go, and we could not even find the “trail” that we were following anymore.

Getting dehydrated here due to lack of water.

Mushrooms on the ground.

Sampinít, but unripe.

During the climb, I was looking at our digital camera from time to time, probing the picture that I took of the trail map from Station 2. Suddenly, I thought of tilting the camera sideways, then realized a scary mistake.

We were following a different trail which is not really a trail! After thoroughly examining the photo, and using my “mind’s compass” by checking out the position of the sun, I turned my head through the foliage, and there. From afar, I saw the mountain where we were supposed to go…

Mount Manabú is over there! We are indeed on a different mountain!

There was no other option but to descend. And while our ascent was tiring and difficult, the descent was almost impossible, for the way down tilted crazily, almost vertical. Some of the sites that we passed by was possible to climb on, but virtually impossible to descend to. There were just so many ravines. And I could even feel my legs and knee giving in whenever I use them to balance my body with gravity. Twice, I almost rolled downwards when I stepped on loose soil, or when some plants that I was holding on to keep myself from falling also gave in. And during those times, my wife immediately grabbed my arms, thus saving me from getting killed or paralyzed.

And I loved her even more for that. =)

For all the bravado that I have of being an experienced mountaineer, a neophyte –and my wife at that!– saved my @$$, hahaha!

We continued the perilous descent, shouting occasionally for help, hoping that somebody will hear us and lead us to the right track.

The tiring descent begins...

Deathly steep!

Used vines to get down.

We made it! Just a few more ravines!

A home for wasps (putactí) up there on that tree!

Finally, in what seemed like forever, we noticed that we were finally on level ground. But we were still lost.

Sea level at last!

What are those -- some sort of cabbages?

Pardon my ignorance. I really don't know what this is. But it looks delicious, hehe!

We've reached the bottom, yes. But the place is unfamiliar. Definitely NOT the place where we started trekking. Which means... WE'RE STILL LOST!

Lookin' for help.

¡Nuno sa punsô!

Still in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, people! We saw some a small settlement of Batangueños who told us that Mount Manabú was far, far away!

Darn, we descended on the wrong side of the wrong mountain!

We told them that we were already climbing the said mountain, until we got lost. They were very surprised to hear how we reached the peak of a mountain that is never visited even by residents of Santo Tomás. Then, in true Pinoy fashion, some of them recalled stories of how some mountaineers did lose their way in the past, perhaps due to unseen and playful spirits (probably of the infamous ticbalang). Of course I didn’t buy it; my provinciana wife did, LOL!!!

But at the very least, we were still in Santo Tomás. The mountain which we climbed was a nameless one (but some of them call it Santa Cruz). They said that people rarely go up there because it is very dangerous!

At last, people! They provided us with water, and confirmed that we were indeed in the middle of nowhere!

It was past 2:00 PM. It was OK for me to go home. Anyway, what we climbed was a mountain. But Yeyette was still raring to go for Mount Manabú! ¡Guay! That was the mountain we came for in the first place.

One of the old ladies there (the one with the eye patch) accompanied us to the main road (actually a dirt road) and pointed to us the correct way towards Barrio Santa Cruz where we can start our climb to Mount Manabú once more. We also asked if there was any nearby sari-sari store where we can have eat and buy drinks. Luckily, there is one about half-way towards the entrance trail to Mount Manabú, and it’s owned by her relatives. The road had no vehicles, somewhat deserted. So we had to walk about a kilometer towards that store.

The Batangueños in the previous photo led us to this road which links Santo Tomás, Batangas to San Pablo, La Laguna. It will also lead us back to the foot of Mount Manabú.

Dead tired but still smiling. =) What an adventure!

Chickens!

We had some refreshments at a store behind this milestone.

The people who own this store are related to those Batangueños in the earlier photo who helped us earlier. Íisang pisâ cung tauaguin sa nayon.

I don't like eating pancít cantón with rice. But with what we went through, the heck with fussiness! The meal turned out to be delicious! And best of all, the rice was free!

Lancâ (jackfruit).

After refreshing ourselves at the store, we met a certain Tanó, also a relative of the one-eyed lady we met earlier. He offered to guide our way so that we won’t get lost. And he knew of a nearer trail from the store. It was almost 3:00 PM, but he assured us that we will reach the peak before dark.

I asked Yeyette again if she still wants to pursue the climb. She said yes. She was enjoying every minute of our adventure, and I’m happy about it. So off we went for our second mountain that day!

The second trek commences a few minutes past three in the afternoon. Cuya Tanò went with us as a guide. He's also a relative of those Batangueños we met earlier.

We started off on a different trail, a place few mountaineers are aware of!

Crossing a crystal-clear stream.

Afternoon laundry.

The land goes up again.

A mahogany forest, as far as the eye can see!

Our destination: the white cross of Mount Manabú, located at the peak.

That hut on the other hill is where we originally trekked before we got lost. It is near Station 2.

The original trail and the new one that we're following merges here!

Free this monkey!

Free these rabbits and hamsters!

Station 2 again. They sell fresh coconut juice here. Yeyette saw an ex-officemate of hers with the latter's friends. They had just arrived and will spend the night at the peak.

Tunay na lacás -- Ralph Recto, ¡hahaha!

We had to go ahead of them because we were in a hurry. Besides, we did not bring any camping gear.

The hike resumes.

The fun climb turned into a fast one because dusk was just about two hours away. We had to reach the peak fast enough in order to stay there a little bit.

They say that mushrooms which grow from dung can give a much stronger high compared to what marijuana and talampunay can offer. And it is said that this crappy li'l mushroom costs high in the black market!

To Cuya Tanó, this climb's a piece of cake. My wife says otherwise.

At last! A clearing! We're out of the dark woods!

Ciudad de Lipâ and the town of Cuenca, Batangas in the background.

We're near the peak!

The brown tract of land from afar is the peak of Mount Manabú.

As we neared the peak, we entered another forest.

More of the edible and sweet sampinít or wild mountain berries. Although its season is summer, these in the photo are still unripe.

Warning: this sign leads to a ravine! Obviously a cruel prank (I wasn't able to remove it because it was situated in a very dangerous area where it is not impossible for one to fall down). Just ignore it.

Finally, we reached Mount Manabú peak a few minutes past five in the afternoon. Because it was just her first time to reach a mountain peak, all of Yeyette’s exhaustion suddenly vanished! But I could not wait to lie down on the ground for a quick rest!

Aaaaaaaahhh! The peak! Finally!

Thank the Lord, we still made it in just two hours despite our exhaustion! The white cross, by the way, was constructed by Cuya Tanò together with some of his friends and relatives many years ago.

It's her second mountain peak in just one day! And this is just her rookie climb! Try to top that!

The mighty Monte Banahao is behind Yeyette. The mountain is shared by the municipalities of Lucbán, Quezon and Majayjay, La Laguna.

The municipalities of Lucbán and Sariaya in Quezon province behind us.

Thick forest below!

The sun is about to set on Lago de Taal.

Ang aming cauntíng báon.

My wife's ex-officemate and her crew still far below us.

Monte de Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas. I've climbed this mountain on my 26th birthday (07/18/2005)!

The mysterious and somewhat mystical mountain of Banahao.

Faraway La Laguna de Bay.

A welcome intruder! Cuya Tanò said it's an ulyabíd.

It's raining yonder!

Yeyette's ex-officemate Sierma Limos (left) and her posse arrived just before dusk.

Mang Pirying: the keeper of Mount Manabú

Although it was still summer, the climate was very cold at the peak. But of course; we were on top of a 2,494.75-foot forested mountain. A few minutes past 6:00 PM, we bid goodbye to Sierma and her friends who were staying there overnight. This time we followed a different trail which will pass by the hut of Mount Manabú’s famous resident, Mang Pirying.

Descending. These thick ropes are used by mountaineers during slippery days.

With the Manabú Man himself, Mang Pirying!

Mang Pirying, the keeper of Mount Manabú.

Mang Pirying was a very humble man. A hermit, he has been living in the midst of the mountain for a long time. He introduces himself as a 48-year-old man, but he looks older (Cuya Tanò says that he could be in his 60s already). Many people living around the mountain know him. Also, it is not uncommon for hikers to visit him. Besides, Mang Pirying offers them perhaps the best tasting café baraco that I have ever tasted (and it’s all for free)! Freshly brewed! And the coffee beans are from his small plantation beside his hut.

I told him that he’s quite popular in the net among local mountaineers. But I don’t think he understood what the internet is.

We told Mang Pirying of the early day’s adventure, of how we got lost and found our way down. Then he told us that it could have been us who he heard shouting for help from the other mountain which he called Aluyan. So that first mountain is still officially nameless, indeed, for people sometimes call it either Santa Cruz (or Holy Cross in English, perhaps named after Barrio Santa Cruz where Mount Manabú is situated) or Aluyan. Ironically, Mount Santa Cruz has no cross. But Mount Manabú, which has a white cross on its peak, is not named as such.

After the brief pleasantries, we had to leave because it was very dark already.

Darkness fell.

Back at Station 2. There are no more buco juices left.

The people over at Station 2 provided us with this torch which they call cuyóg. It is made up of dried coconut pulp.

Back from where we began. This house is right in front of the mountain's entrance trail.

Truly, an incredible day. Especially for wifey. Who would have thought that, on her first climb, she will conquer two mountains?! And she’s raring for her second, nay, third, climb with me as soon as the rainy season has stopped.

Enjoy nature, guys, while it’s still there. Because, sadly, it appears that there is no stopping the curse of urbanhood, i.e., pollution, deforestation, . But I pray that Monte de Manabú’s bounty of natural beauty will remain until the end of times.

Tilapià

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My family usually consume tilapià once or twice a week. We eat it either fried or sinampalucan. I prefer the former, but the rest of the family loves the latter. Sinampalucang tilapià is a fish broth which has, aside from the fish, sampáloc or tamarind (brought here by the Spaniards from México). In addition as a sour flavoring, the tamarind also gets rid of the lansá or stench of the tilapià.

If I remember correctly, it was former president Ferdinand Marcos who had the tilapià imported from Africa; the fish is not native to the Philippines. Now, it is the country’s second most important food fish for mass domestic consumption next to bañgús or milkfish, which is considered as the pambansáng isdâ. Moreover, the Philippines was ranked as the fourth largest producer of “tilapià world aquaculture” in 1998 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Truly, the tilapià has gone a long way.

Due to strong demand perhaps, a kilo of tilapià costs ₱100.00 (between three to five pieces) in the wet market nowadays. And at the market, one should buy this fish ALIVE to assure of its freshness. Yes, the fish can live for hours out of water. And that fact fascinates me. Whenever I accompany Yeyette to the market, I never tire of watching these fishes in fish stalls gasping for air (or water, I should say), leaping for dear life. I pity them most of the time, and feel glad that I am not a fish. And then I remember a line from Kurt Cobain’s “Something In The Way”: It’s okay to eat fish, ’cause they don’t have any feelings.

Below is a video of Yeyette buying a couple of these fishes who live pitiful lives for the sake of our existence (uh, not for the faint of heart):

After Yeyette chose a couple of tilapià, the fish vendor then hits the fish’s head with a hard object to knock it out of its wits. This keeps the fish from struggling but not actually killing it. Afterwards, these fishes are scaled alive (notice how their fins stiffen in pain!). Then their hasang or gills are cut out. Finally, they are cut into pieces.

But hey — they still survive for a couple of seconds or minutes after being hacked and chopped to death! Many times I’ve felt these chopped fishes still moving inside their plastic bags!

I am so glad I am not a fish (especially a tilapià), although we somehow live a fish-like existence in a capitalistic/imperialistic realm.

Enough about that for now. Here’s an entry of this poor fish from everybody’s favorite, Wikipedia:

Tilapià

Tilapià (pronounced /tɨˈlɑːpiə/) is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapià inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Historically they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa and the Levant and are of increasing importance in aquaculture. Tilapià can become problematic invasive species in new warm-water habitats, whether deliberately or accidentally introduced but generally not in temperate climates due to their inability to survive in cool waters, generally below 60 °F (16 °C).

Etymology

The common name tilapià is based on the name of the cichlid genus Tilapià, which is itself a latinization of thiape, the Tswana word for “fish”. Scottish zoologist Andrew Smith named the genus in 1840.

Tilapià go by many names. The moniker “St. Peter’s fish” comes from the story in the Christian Bible about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a shekel coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish. While the name also applies to Zeus faber, a marine fish not found in the area, a few tilapià species (Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus and others) are found in the Sea of Galilee, where the author of the Gospel of Matthew accounts the event took place. These species have been the target of small-scale artisanal fisheries in the area for thousands of years. In some Asian countries including the Philippines, large tilapià go by pla-pla while their smaller brethren are just tilapià.

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