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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Road Map 2020 – San Pedro, La Laguna

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Too bad we won’t be here in San Pedro by 2020 anymore. But we’ll definitely pay this future city a visit when that time comes.

I have one complaint in this video, though. The demonym for the people of San Pedro is San Pedrense, not San Pedronian. I think I have to discuss this with the good mayor the next time we meet.

Here’s hoping that the people of San Pedro will help the mayor achieve these goals. The local government of San Pedro cannot do all this by itself. The people’s support and active participation are a major factor in fulfilling the goals of San Pedro Road Map 2020. The future looks bright. San Pedrenses should keep this momentum going.

A famous theologian will be Manila’s new archbishop

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Finally, one of Asia’s leading theologists will soon occupy the throne of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila.

MANILA, Philippines — The Vatican has appointed Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle to succeed Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, after the latter’s resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.

Tagle’s appointment was announced by charge d’affaires Gabor Pinter of the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila and by the Manila Archdiocese.

A known theologian, Tagle is currently the chairman of the Commission on Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle is now Manila's newest archbishop.

The announcement was made just a few hours ago (6:00 PM, Manila time) at the Vatican. The Most Reverend Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle will soon replace Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales as Manila Archbishop following the latter’s resignation in accordance to canon law. As of this moment, there is still no announcement on when the formal transition will take place.

Like the current leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, the Most Reverend Tagle is a renowned theologian. He currently chairs the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines’ Commission of the Doctrine of the Faith. This is like a branch of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (of which Pope Benedict, before becoming Pope in 2005, was its prefect).

In my opinion, having a theologian for an archbishop is a welcome note to the Catholic faithful not only in Manila but in the whole country, especially during these crucial days of RH Bill squabbles that have already divided the nation. It is high time that we have a verbose theologian who can and should explain to pro RH Bill Catholics the reason why the Catholic Church is adamantly against it.

Catholic theologians such as the new Manila Archbishop should deftly explain that the Church’s stand against the RH Bill is not solely rooted in faith and morals alone. In the end, it all boils down to logic. And this is one of the first challenges that the latest Prince-Cardinal should tackle.

Speaking of logic…

Many young Filipino “intellectuals” today who love to make a punching bag out of the local Catholic Church claim to be “lovers” of ideologies and “champions” of liberalism. And that the Church is “out of logic”. They love to “philosophize” and display the many witty quips that they learn from tomes of books they claim to have read. They proclaim themselves as “the new Rizals”. They claim a hatred for mediocrity and “religious superstition”, clamoring for a more intelligent and “freethinking” Filipino. But many of them do all this for the mere heck of it, and not for the purpose of a better society. And now we have social networking. Through these new media they rant and multiply and increase, and they spend hours upon hours in front of their PCs than they do with their pet lizards because they could not get a real job nor could they maintain contact with physical friends (but to them, the words “contact” and “physical” could mean something else). Unfortunately, these kids, for all their intellectual hogwash, have already revealed their characters and self-worth by the choice of words that they use in various online forums. Wittingly or unwittingly, what these bunch of “sucks-to-be-you” kids are doing will only lead this country to anarchy. If they ever win, within a decade or two we will certainly have a transsexual president who will legitimize pole dancing as a school subject. I dare say all of this because I used to think like them — been there, done that. I’ve mingled with so many of these book-toting crybabies back in the 90s. And just thinking about it makes me supersick.

What these “lemme-give-y’all-an-iota-of-my-superb-brain” jactanciosos claim to know about the Catholic Church is so superficial to say the least. All I can say is this: looking back at my brief anti-Catholic self, I just couldn’t believe how stupid I was (a long story that I’ll share one day).

I’m glad that I dealt a lot with logic whenever I flip a page out of a dusty book. Gracias a Dios por este regalo de sabiduría.

So here’s hoping that Manila’s new archbishop will also tackle the increasing number of “pseudo intellectuals” from elsewhere. Not for the Church’s sake actually, but for these proud but hapless kids’.

Enough of my rant. This is about the special Vatican announcement. So please click here to proceed.

Ambeth Ocampo on Tomás Pinpín

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Everybody’s favorite scholar and today’s foremost historian, the very friendly Ambeth Ocampo, shares with us some tidbits of a great Filipino, culture hero Tomás Pinpín, to commemmorate Día de la Hispanidad which happens tomorrow (or just a few minutes from now as of this writing).

October 12, 1492 is the day Columbus set foot on America. This was an event once commemorated as the “discovery” of America but in 1992 was celebrated and repackaged as the “encuentro de dos mundos” or the encounter of two worlds, the meeting of the Old World (Europe) and the New (the Americas). When I was in college, we had 12 units of Spanish in our curriculum and each year on Oct. 12, students celebrated the Spanish National Day or Día de la Hispanidad with song, dance, and food. After college, I looked forward to the annual reception in the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Forbes Park to meet old friends and partake of the largest paellas in Manila.

Día de la Hispanidad for me is better associated with T. Pinpín, a narrow forgotten street in downtown Manila named in honor of the 17th century engraver Tomás Pinpín. Unfortunately, not much is known about him, not even basic information, date of birth and date of death — however Pinpín’s name lives on, at least in Filipiniana bibliographies, for the wonderful books he printed, many of them rare today. He is also remembered for a bilingual Spanish-Tagalog book he wrote and printed that resulted in his being conferred the title of “Prince of Filipino Engravers” that makes me wonder who is “the King” of Filipino Engravers. His other textbook title is “Patriarch of Filipino Printing” that again makes me wonder if the printing profession was exclusively male in the past because many book companies or publishing houses today were established or run by women: Esther Vibal, Socorro Ramos, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Gloria Rodríguez, Reni Roxas, Karina Bolasco, Cristina Pantoja Hidalgo, Maricor Baytión and many more. So if Tomás Pinpín is the “patriarch” of Filipino Printing, we have to determine the “matriarch.”

Tomás Pinpín was active in his profession from 1610, when his name first appeared in Blancas de San José’s “Arte y reglas de la lengua tagala” (the first Tagalog grammar ever published), to 1639, when he published the “Relación de la Vida y Martirio del Jesuita P. Mastrilli” (Report on the life and martyrdom of the Jesuit Fr. Mastrilli). While Pinpín’s name does not appear in books after 1639, no one is sure whether this is due to death, retirement, or the passing of his printing press to his son Simón.

Bas relief of Tomás Pinpín.

Read the rest of the article here.

Tayamaan Beach

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My wife’s hometown of Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental has it all: lush forests, breathtaking mountains, majestic waterfalls, fine beaches, crystal clear rivers and streams, romantic hills and farmlands, interesting indigenous villages, even a cave. There is just so much exploring there to do for a nature lover.

So whenever we visit her relatives in nearby Mamburao, I frown like a child. It’s not that I don’t want to visit her relatives. It’s because there’s not much exploring to be done there compared to what one can do in Abra de Ilog. But there’s one place that I can recommend a first-time visitor to Mamburao. And that’s Tayamaan Beach.

This beach is just a few minutes away from the población of Mamburao, about 10 to 15 minutes. The waters are as crystal clear as the rivers and streams of Abra de Ilog. Its fine whitish sands that are comparable to those of Násugbu in Batangas and Puerto Galera in Mindoro Oriental. Looking back, I’m thinking that perhaps Puerto Galera looked exactly like Tayamaan before the former was hounded by commercialization, i.e., beach resorts, bars, hotels. There were a few thatched cottages here and there. But that was all about it. And because of this relative obscurity, romantic beach lovers can still regard Tayamaan Beach as a “secluded beach”.

But alas, this was the Tayamaan Beach that I saw 10 years ago. I haven’t seen the place in ages. I just hope that in our next visit, the place still looks the same. Below is a photo of me and Yeyette, taken a decade ago (summer of 2001).

La Playa de Tayamaan, Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental. Notice the crystal-clear quality of the waters. A yacht behind us anchored for awhile. Perhaps those inside were captivated by the beauty of the place. By the way, pardon me for the shirt I'm wearing; it was just given to me by mom's sister, LOL!

Sustainable development: the key to protecting the environment

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Aside from fighting the preposterous leyenda negra by attempting to bring back the Spanish language in order to redeem our Filipino Identity, I have another advocacy: environmentalism. But so much has been written about it already. Any views from me will be a mere drop of water in a filled bucket. All I can say is this: much of the Philippines before, especially during the supposedly “exploitation-filled” Spanish times, was a haven for nature fauna and flora. This beauty inspired the creativity of many a poet and artist. But many of these natural wonders today are either gone or polluted. All this in the name of capitalism inspired by US WASP greed and avarice.

The desecration of our natural resources is a major factor for my travels. My travels are fueled not solely by my passion to search for traces of our country’s Hispanic past, nor are they spurred exclusively by a responsibility to document maltreated Fil-Hispanic heritage sites. I feel an urge to visit our country’s natural wonders because I fear that one day, any time soon, these natural wonders will soon disappear. Or that they might meet the same fate as the Pásig River or once lush forests that are now commercial centers. That is why I keep on taking pictures of beautiful sceneries. Those photos are for my children. When they grow up and these natural beauties are gone, they would still be able to see them, at least through my eyes in all the pictures that I took.

I fear not for myself but for my children. Let me just borrow a few lines (written in original Tagalog spelling) from Filipino folk band Asin to explain this fear:

Ang mğa batang ñgayón lang isinilang,
¿May hañguin pa cayáng matiticmán?
¿May mğa puno pa cayá siláng aaquiatín?
¿May mğa ilog pa cayáng lalañguyán?

Right now, it’s not enough to be simply “environmental” in order to save our natural resources. Protecting the environment nowadays is not just about throwing one’s waste in a designated trash bin or turning off electrical appliances that are not in use. It is not just about tree planting events. This is not just about hating illegal logging. Environmentalism is something that “needs to be done”, and without harming the economy.

The keyword here is sustainable development. The International Institute for Sustainable Development explains this much better:

All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time.

When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.

We also understand that quality of life is a system, too. It’s good to be physically healthy, but what if you are poor and don’t have access to education? It’s good to have a secure income, but what if the air in your part of the world is unclean? And it’s good to have freedom of religious expression, but what if you can’t feed your family?

The concept of sustainable development is rooted in this sort of systems thinking. It helps us understand ourselves and our world. The problems we face are complex and serious—and we can’t address them in the same way we created them. But we can address them.

Click here and here for more information about sustainable development.

Act now.

Pananaw Magazine, the magazine that never was

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Special pre-launch issue of Pananaw Magazine (December 2010).

When netrepreneur and writer extraordinaire JB Lazarte contacted me late last year for a magazine gig, I was so excited and overwhelmed. Finally, the realization that I might just accomplish all of Cuban hero José Martí’s three-fold mission of what a man ought to do in his life was to become a reality: to “plant a tree, write a book, have a son”. I haven’t fed Mother Earth any seedling yet, but that would be too easy, anyway. And I already have three sons. So probably the most difficult to accomplish among Martí’s real-macho-man attributes is to publish a book.

I haven’t published a book yet. I was commissioned three years ago to co-write a biography of San Pedro, La Laguna’s town mayor (a family friend), but it’s still in developmental hell (and since the good mayor is very busy working for the town’s cityhood, and my writing partner has lost all interest, his biography might not get published anymore). But to write for a magazine is the closest to publishing a book as one could get.

As they say in the world of writing, “publish or perish”.

Blogging today is the in thing. But even in a world that is ever dominated by the Internet, nothing can topple the worth and value and weight and authenticity and command that the contents of a physical book can hold. Thus this ache of getting published. The last time I was published was back in college. But those were verses that were published in our school journal. Seeing one’s writings published in a book or, for this matter, on a national daily or magazine beats all that.

It’s not just the feeling of being known that bites me, or of becoming famous even. It’s this ache of wanting others to know that you do exist, and for some lofty reason.

So back to my story. JB Lazarte is a multi-awarded writer. And he has more contacts to whatever writing gigs there are available for a craving and trying-hard scribbler like me. He contacted me late last year to contribute for a magazine of which he will become one of its editors (the other editor is Palanca awardee Omer Oscar Almenario).

The magazine’s name is Pananaw (Opinyon ng Bayan) published by the “Makabagong Pananaw Foundation, Inc.”, a group allied to the present administration. JB The Magus found my travels published in this blog cute. So he thought that such articles were a good addition to the magazine. Pananaw was also meant to promote agribusiness in the Philippines.

Editorial box with a list of the board of directors of Makabagong Pananaw Foundation, Inc. as well as the magazine's editorial staff.

The first article I’ve contributed was my coverage of the Día del Galeón last year, 6 October 2010. It was published in Pananaw’s special pre-launch issue last December and was chosen as its feature article!

Here it is!

EL GALEÓN ANDALUCÍA
Pepe Alas

To see a Spanish-era galleon ship docked in Manila Harbor’s Pier 13 amidst modern steel ships is not just surreal — it is downright weird (one could not help but be reminded of Walt Disney Picture’s The Pirates of the Carribean film series). And that weird feeling was what exactly my wife and I felt that hot afternoon of 6 October when we visited the visiting Galeón Andalucía! The coming of the said galleon was actually the highlight of the recently concluded Día del Galeón celebration.

No, Andalucía was not a galleon straight out of the past, preserved and renovated. It was only a replica of what a typical 17th century galleon used to look like during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (1565-1815). But the Andalucía holds the distinction of being the only actual replica of a Spanish galleon that has ever been built in modern times.

According to Fernando Ziálcita, professor of Cultural Anthropology in Ateneo de Manila University and one of the organizers of the said event, it was Spanish historian Pedro Luengo who informed him last year of the Andalucía’s planned voyage from Seville to Shanghai, China. Professor Ziálcita thought that as the Philippines was the focal point of the Galleon Trade, the said ship should naturally have a stop-over in Manila. Earlier this year (February), Prof. Ziálcita and other concerned individuals had a meeting with the Philippine Academic Consortium for Latin American Studies in Cavite City. Mr. César Virata, former Prime Minister during Ferdinand Marcos’ regime and is now the president of the Cavite Historical Society, was present in the said meeting. He expressed interest in sponsoring an event that will feature the coming of the Andalucía Galleon.

The galleon trade may have a soft spot in Mr. Virata’s heart: aside from Manila Bay, (and occasionally Puerto Galera in Mindoro island), Cavite City used to be a port and construction site for the galleons.

But what really made things official was when Prof. Ziálcita proposed to the national government to sponsor the said event. They were very excited, he said. Thus, through the assistance and efforts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Senator Edgardo Angara, a hispanista, the event was made possible. So this past June, the government launched initiatives to celebrate the first international Día del Galeón Festival on 8 October. No less than the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared that the said date should be celebrated annually as the Day of the Galleon in commemoration of the Galleon Trade.

Although the event’s name is called Day of the Galleon, it was actually a month-long affair. The event’s official website (http://www.diadelgaleon.blogspot.com/) lists down a schedule of various lectures, cultural showcases, stage plays, and other cultural showcases, stage plays, and other cultural programs related to the galleon trade. My wife and I were able to attend only one event: the day when the Galleon Andalucía —the main event— “returned” to our shores.

As we were on our way to Manila Bay that afternoon to welcome the galleon, I was briefing my wife about what the event —and the galleon trade— was all about in order for her to appreciate our visit. Admittedly, her knowledge of galleons and of the galleon trade was minimal as is the case, sadly, with many Filipinos today (an ex-office mate of mine even pronounced it as a “Galileo” ship, much to my annoyance). Yearly, Filipino students are given a few hours’ rehash of what had transpired during the galleon trade for more than two centuries; an important epoch not only in our country’s history but in world history as well.

It is never enough to say that the galleon trade was merely a part of Philippine History, nor should it be limited to the retelling of Spanish History in Asia and the Pacific. Such scenario would have been too trifle to say the least. Rather, the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade should stand side by side with “the glory that was Greece” and “the grandeur that was Rome”. It should have equal status to that of the Industrial Revolution or the epic telling of survival during the Age of Depression and other economic revolutions. This would be no exaggeration for, truly, the galleon trade literally turned the world into a global village.

To put in simpler terms, it was the world’s first foray into globalization. Scholars and historians agree today that, although the trade was “limited” between Manila and Acapulco, México, it was in fact global in scope. Good from major markets in Asia, such as China and India, traveled to Amoy and Canton where they were shipped to Manila. From Manila Bay (just across Intramuros, which was then the original Manila) and/or Puerto de Cavite (today’s Cavite City), Asian goods, such as silk, spices, jewels, chinaware, and ivory, traveled across the globe through the Pacific in a perilous journey towards the other side of the world. From there, these goods were both sold and traded for Mexican silver and other goods coming not just from all over the Americas but from Europe as well (which were shipped over from the Atlantic).

The journey indeed was perilous because sea navigation today was different from that era. Lacking modern equipment in maritime affairs, the trip from Manila, which usually began from July or August, could last for six months and a half. The galleons followed the North Equatorial Current that had been discovered by Fray Andrés de Urdaneta on his return trip to México. During that time, it was the only safest route back across the Pacific to México and the rest of the New World (they could not travel eastward due to the Treaty of Tordesillas). Indeed, Spain could not have colonized the Philippines without this oceanic current.

It should be emphasized that it was not a simple sea voyage; as mentioned earlier, maritime voyages were not as sophisticated compared to modern sea navigation. Countless sailors perished out of hunger, thirst, and illness during the galleon trade due to miscalculation in logistics and supplies. As such, mutinies were not uncommon. Also, many a galleon ship perished in ferocious typhoons. Other galleons even met a more tragic fate — they were captured by vicious English buccaneers. Four of them were taken: Santa Ana in 1587; Encarnación in 1709; Covadonga in 1743, and; Santíssima Trinidad —the largest ship during that era— in 1762. Due to poor navigation, some were lost at sea, never to be seen again. Other galleons sank due to overloaded cargoes.

The return trip to Manila was as equally perilous as the voyage to México, but it was shorter: the galleons left Acapulco either in February of March and reached Manila in more or less 90 days. The return trip passed south of the North Equatorial Current, docking briefly in what is now known as the Marshall Islands and Guam.

The Galleon Trade allowed the participation of all Filipinos. An individual or organization must have a boleta (ticket) in order to engage business in the Trans-Pacific trade. The cargo space of a galleon was usually divided into 4,000 units. Each unit was represented by the said boleta. Thus, if the individual has, say, five boletas, he could ship an amount of merchandise to fill five units of cargo space. The government, however, had the privilege of owning over a thousand units (other groups who share such privileges are church leaders and businessmen). However, some individuals would choose to sell their boletas to wealthy businessmen for a higher fee (they were the precursors of today’s scalpers outside the Araneta Coliseum).

The galleon trade was truly epochal for Philippine existence. Through it, our country received different kinds of crops such as camote, sincamás, tomate (tomato), cacahuete or manî, lechugas, corn, avocado, pineapple, tobacco, and countless others. Virtually all the vegetables mentioned in the popular Tagalog folk song “Bahay Kubo” were brought over by the galleons from México and nearby Asian countries. Thus, we could be singing a different version of “Bahay Kubo” today without the galleon trade!

The said trade also gave the Filipinos the piano, the guitar, the violin, the cubiertos (fork, spoon, knives), plates, drinking glasses, cups and saucers; clock and calendar; various complex and simple machines, such as the printing press, the plow, the wheel, hammer and nails, books, pens, and other scholarly materials, etc.

It was not just inanimate things and tools that the galleons brought to our country. They also gave us livestock such as cattle and horses and poultry. Farming techniques written in various papers and books were also brought by these ships. The idea of arts and architecture were not excluded. Friars from various religious orders sailed through the galleons. Also, various laws and edicts and royal letters, as well as the occasional monetary assistance from the Spanish monarch were channeled through these enterprising ships.

The provinces of Lanáo del Norte and Lanáo del Sur in Mindanáo, by the way, were named after these galleons (la nao is another Spanish term for el Galeón).

There was also an exchange of peoples. Some Mexicans who joined the voyage to the Philippines never returned to their native land, and vice-versa. Therefore, sans the Clavería decree of 1849, there are Filipinos today who have Mexican last names such as Aguilar, Álvarez, Carrillo, Cruz, Flores, Guerrero, López, Pérez, del Río, Santibáñez, etc. And here is a shocking fact: there is a 200-year-old clan in México whose surname is Magandá which is the Tagalog word for beautiful!

The cultural exchanges that occurred between the Philippines and México were quite enormous; I might even end up in weeks enumerating everything. But it is safe to conclude that the galleon trade virtually created the Philippines. And almost everything that we Filipinos savor up to this very day we have to thank the galleon trade for. These facts my wife, who is not a history buff like me, discovered on her own during that 6 October visit to the galleon ship because, happily, one of Pier 13′s multi-purpose halls was converted into a temporary waiting area where visitors were able to view various exhibits, murals, and very helpful information and lectures about the Galleon Trade. It helped her and other visitors to the Andalucía to at least have a clearer idea of how the trade went about during those truly gaudy days of Spain in the Philippines, aside from the cultural gifts that we received.

As we stepped on board the Andalucía (it was named by the way after the place where it was constructed: Andalusia, Spain) together with a noisy crowd, I tried to imagine how the sailors fared a long time ago. Observing the Andalucía’s
middle deck, it was indeed amazing how some 4,000 units of cargo space could have fitted there, aside from the provisions for the sailors and the sailors themselves. Looking at the modern ships around the galleon, Andalucía seemed smaller and looked quite fragile. It’s made entirely of hardwood, a clear indication of the ship’s faithfulness to the original galleons.

Also, as I was looking down on the murky waters of Manila Bay softly lapping at the ship’s bow and stern, a stark realization dawned upon me: the last galleon that arrived in the Philippines was in 1815 (fortuitously, it was named Magallanes). That means it has been 195 years since a galleon last visited our shores!

Welcome back!

Those who were able to enjoy and fathom the Andalucía experience will never look at the galleon trade the same way again.

The pre-launch issue never made it to the newsstands. It was distributed only to selected government offices. The first issue was supposed to be on sale last January of this year (where I wrote a short essay about the importance of agribusiness). I also solicited a brief article from leading economist Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas for an economic forecast of the Philippines for the year 2010.

But the publication of Pananaw kept on stalling due to problems unknown to me. Like that biography I’m working on, it appears that Pananaw is still in developmental hell. And it’s almost a year since the pre-launch issue.

Sometimes I am tempted to believe a relative of mine who belittled me several years ago. Hinahabol yata talagá acó ng malas, ¡hahaha! :D

So I thought it wise to publish online what I wrote for that magazine. Because I am confident that whoever received a copy of it, nobody read my galleon trade article. Sayang namán. At least here in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, I have a fanbase…

About three or four bored souls.

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