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Monthly Archives: February 2014

124th birth anniversary of Claro M. Recto

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On the occasion of his 124th birth anniversary, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES would like to pay tribute to one of the greatest Filipino thinkers of modern times, the late senator Claro M. Recto. Here is a brief biographical sketch of the Tayabeño nationalist written by Antonino V. Mico (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).

CLARO M. RECTO
(1890-1960)

Senator Claro M. Recto is known as a statesman, a constitutionalist, a jurist, internationalist, parliamentarian, poet, scholar, linguist, patriot, and nationalist. He was born on February 8, 1890, in Tiáong, Tayabas (now Quezon), the son of Claro Recto, Sr., and Micaéla Mayo, of Lipâ, Batangas. He obtained his elementary education in Lipâ and in his home town.

As a young man, he was endowed with a marvelous mind, an active imagination, a venturesome spirit, and a firm determination to stick to his personal convictions. At 19, he was already a holder of the Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila; and at 24, he obtained his Master of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomás. In 1914, he was admitted to the Philippine bar and was licensed to practice law as a profession.

Recto’s political career began in 1916, when he served as legal adviser to the Philippine Senate. In 1919, he was elected representative from Batangas and served as House minority floor leader until 1925. In 1924, he went to the United States as member of the Parliamentary Independence Mission. He was admitted to the bar in the United States in 1924.

Upon his return to the Philippines, he founded the Demócrata Party, which served as a political thorn to the leadership of Manuel L. Quezon, when the latter was head of the Nacionalista Party and President of the Senate. He was elected senator for the first time in 1931 as a Demócrata and served as minority floor leader for three years.  In 1934, he became majority floor leader and President pro tempore of the Senate. He resigned his Senate seat when President Roosevelt appointed him Associate Justice in the Supreme Court in place of Justice Thomas Street, who retired. He left the Supreme Court in 1941 as a Nacionalista and again in 1953 as guest candidate of the Liberal Party. He ran as an independent Nacionalista candidate for President of the Philippines in the national elections of 1957, but lost.

Considered one of his immortal achievements in public life was his presidency of the Constitutional Convention, which drafted the Philippine Constitution, the first requirement towards the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth regime.

Recto was a brilliant poet, satirist, and author. He wrote such law books as The Law of Belligerent OccupationValidity of Payments During Enemy OccupationThree Years of Enemy Occupation, several one-act plays in Spanish, and a collection of poems. He was a recipient of the Zóbel Prize for literature and an honored member of the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.

The then President Carlos P. García appointed Recto Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on the goodwill and cultural mission to Europe and South America in August, 1960. He was also appointed delegate to the 9th conference of the World Parliament Association in Venice in September, 1960, and was elected vice-president.

While giving a news conference in Rome, Recto suffered a heart attack from which he never recovered. He died in October 2, 1960.

Regarding his death, not a few historians believe that the great poet-turned-politician did not merely suffer from a heart attack. There’s this one interesting account from Raymond Bonner’s 1987 book Waltzing With A Dictator (pp. 41-42) that I’d like to share:

Transplanting democracy meant going after (Ramón) Magsaysay’s domestic political opponents, the most effective of whom was Senator Claro M. Recto, as unrelenting in his opposition to American foreign policy in the region as Magsaysay was slavish in following it. Recto, who was proud of his complete collection of Foreign Affairs, considered himself not anti-American but pro-Philippine. He criticized the bases agreement on the grounds, correctly, that the U.S. agreements under NATO and with other countries were far more favorable to the host country than was the U.S. arrangement in the Philippines. In Spain, the Spanish flag flew over the bases; in the Philippines, it was the American flag. When Washington claimed that the United States owned the lands on which the bases were situated, Recto prepared memorandums setting out the Philippine position that the United States had only leasehold rights, an argument eventually accepted by the United States. Recto was the “spearhead and brains of the national reawakening”.

The CIA set about to destroy Recto, who had been a principal drafter of the 1935 Constitution. It planted stories that he was a Communist Chinese agent who had been infiltrated into the Philippine Senate. To derail Recto’s electoral ambitions, the agency prepared packages of condoms, which it labeled “Courtesy of Claro M. Recto — The People’s Friend”. The condoms all had pinprick-size holes in them at the most inappropriate place. The agency went further. The CIA station chief, General Ralph B. Lovett, and the American Ambassador, Admiral Spruance, discussed assassinating Recto, going so far as to prepare a substance for poisoning him, an assassination plot that has not been publicly discussed before.

Recto wasn’t assassinated, the idea abandoned “for pragmatic consideration rather than moral scruples” (and with Lovett later suggesting that the bottle containing the poison was tossed into Manila Bay). He died of natural causes at the age of seventy.

It is hinted on this book that Recto was “assassinated” in Rome. Also, there have been persistent rumors that Recto did suffer a heart attack, but his medication was not given to him immediately which led to his very untimely death. Rumors they all may be, but there is a saying in Tagalog: “capág may usoc, may apóy” (when there’s smoke, there’s fire). Also, it is interesting to note that the place where he passed away was just a stopover. Recto was really on his way to Spain, the land of his mother tongue which is Spanish. He had never been there all his life, thus the excitement throbbing within his nationalistic spirit. He had already prepared a speech in Spanish, “Por los Fueros de una Herencia“, of which he was to deliver there upon arrival. But because of his demise, it remained unspoken.

The CIA knew that Recto delivering that speech in Spain would have proven catastrophic to their neocolonialistic ventures which were then in its early stages, as the Philippines was granted a phony independence 15 years earlier. That is why it was imperative for Recto to perish before he reached Spain.

One could just imagine what nationalistic and nostalgic fervor Recto would have sparked in Mother Spain had he delivered his speech there. Spain, who was robbed of her islands in the Pacific and the Americas in 1898, would have rekindled “righteous anger” into delivering, perhaps, the final blows of that war that should have ended justly and nobly. What fireworks his speech would have set upon the citizens of our Patria Grande! “Sayang” is all I could utter. Sayang…

Feliz cumpleaños, Don Claro. Tendré una botella de Cerveza Negra en su honor.

I’m merely warding off writer’s block, hence this dull blogpost. So please ignore. This is not for you.

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When I launched this much-hated blog back in 2009, I had intended it to be my own personal space this side of cyberspace. Y’know, just to write whatever stuff there is under the proverbial tropical sun which abruptly crosses my (un)usually cluttered thoughts. The truth is, a year or so before that stodgy launching, the blog’s first incarnation was simply entitled eSCRIBBLES, a name which I thought was perfectly descriptive of its status as an online journal. I also remained anonymous during its brief existence. However, I allowed myself to be identified in my other blog, ALAS FILIPINAS, the multi-awarded and internationally acclaimed Spanish-language Filipino blog (as I have said earlier, this is my personal space; bear with my happiness).

In eSCRIBBLES I was practically writing whatever it was that fancied me. Eventually, however, my pen kept on drawing towards the direction of one topic which interests me the most: Philippine History, and its offshoot which is Filipino Identity. In the course of time, I noticed that writing serious topics related to Filipino Identity and the like seemed to be out of sync for a blog containing a hodgepodge of topics such as rock bands, office blues, my relationship dramas with the missus, my fantabulous self, etc. So little by little, I felt compelled to start a new blog. And so FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, your computer screen’s favorite partner during lull hours, was born. And since I’m picky with dates, I deliberately timed its launching on the night of my 30th birthday. I simply left eSCRIBBLES to fester online, but I eventually closed it down completely about a year or two later (I still have an XML file copy of it in my turtle-paced Acer laptop as a memento of my drabness).

At the onset, I still had wanted the “new and improved” blog to run its course as a personal site, to tell more stories about my life, of what I think about the birds and the trees and the bees. However, given the dilemma that I encountered during its first run, I gave it a new twist: a blog dealing with everything about my Filipino cosmos, particularly our national identity (wow, how patriotic, clap clap clap!). I first thought of calling it “Pinoy eScribbles” because it sounded cute, not to mention the wide acceptance of that informal demonym in all corners of the world where there is an OFW. But Señor Guillermo Gómez had me convinced that Pinoy is a derogatory contraction of “PIlipinong uNgÓY” (Filipino monkey). While I do not attempt to argue that claim’s veracity here, the main reason why I opted to use Filipino instead of the more endearing Pinoy is because of the former’s nobleness in sound alone. The word Filipino exudes more grandeur, more dignity, more respectability. I am able to patriotically identify myself more with the word Filipino than with Pinoy which has already earned some level of corruption when a variation of it —PNoy— was used by the current president who is fast becoming unpopular due to lapses in judgment during times of crisis and near hopelessness.

Now what is the point of all this blah? Aside from the fact that the preceding three paragraphs all ended with words ending with the suffix -ness, I would also like to end with how I delimit my thematic output. I have always wanted to write on a regular basis, but I noticed that this fun plan is hampered with the limits of which I had imposed upon myself regarding the topics that I must publish as well as the tone and type of language that must surface in each blogpost. Following best buddy Arnaldo Arnáiz‘s advice many moons ago, I had tried to sound scholarly in some blogposts, particularly those which deal with history and identity. But of course, if we had wanted to be taken seriously by both readers and hecklers (another word for critics), we should at least try to style ourselves as very serious in our craft. Much to my dismay, we are still not taken seriously.

But why the need to be taken seriously? Because of an advocacy, a lingering itch that needed to be scratched from time to time. To my agitated mind, the Philippines is suffering from an excessive sleep disorder in the midst of an impending danger from both Red Chinks and Redneck Yanks, thus the need to kick her lazy Hollywoodized @$s to finally wake her up. It’s a tough choice that I chose, and it’s a losing battle. Nevertheless, it’s one damned good fight that I want to participate in.

Anyway, activism is not the point for this blogpost. What I really wanted to declare is that I simply wanted to free myself of the writing shackles which I have bound upon myself. No, I do not mean that I will no longer write Philippine History, Filipino Identity, and its related addendums. Topics here will still remain Philippine. What I had wanted to expound is that there will be an expansion of not just thoughts but of feelings. There will be more of me and not just history and identity. Because this is what this blog was supposed to be in the first place: a web log of what I think, not just of my thoughts.

Now eSCRIBBLES has come back to haunt me.

Not too long ago, I have segregated themes among my blogs: ALAS FILIPINAS should focus more on my advocacy for the return of the Spanish language in the country including a few write-ups about my personal and innermost thoughts and feelings; FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES should deal solely on Philippine History and National Identity coupled with a sprinkling of current Filipino news and current affairs (glad that ABS-CBN did not trademark the phrase), and; my latest piece, LA FAMILIA VIAJERA, is my sorry attempt at travel writing, but I included here the missus and the entire Alas caboodle especially since there is already a plethora of solo travel bloggers in the country. But now that I’ve been experiencing a drought in writing output, I think it’s time to break some rules. I’m already 34, and in a few days I will turn 40. And yet I have written only a handful of what I really wanted to express. And it pains and irritates me all the more that my writing spirits are high only when I’m at my busiest as a corporate slave but during my freetime I end up being a slacker watching zombie films on viooz.co (I highly recommend Warm Bodies; it is fun to watch over and over again).

Besides —and this is by no means any serious bragging of expertise— I believe that I write better in English than in Spanish (I don’t even know how to compose a neat essay in Tagalog) and that’s because since day one I’ve been exposed to this language, particularly in schools. But aren’t we all? Now, if I limit my topics to a certain theme, all the other non-essentials will dam up inside my pro-wrestling infested brain which will then drive me nuts and the people around me as well. I would only suffer from more mental drought and rage. I guess I’m still looking for a voice. Or maybe I haven’t reached a spot in the writing realm yet wherein I feel I should really be.

Creating another blog is out of the question. One more blog then I’m dead. So there. I must be free with the fewest possible blogs.

It is admirable to use writing to advance a struggle, to forward an advocacy. But in the end, writing should not be burdensome. It should all boil down to having fun, too. 😀 So I guess it’s time for me to write about my crazy neighborhood and those buses with unwanted videos-on-board. Might as well complain about the neverending littering problem that we have. And the alarming yet unnoticed growth of cockroaches everywhere (this is what Carlos Celdrán and his followers should really address, or else they might surface the city streets and manage a take over of PNoy civilization — I’m dead serious). Yes. All these and more. After all, I’m a Filipino out of time.

I’m free? I’m free.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

This insignificant blogpost was caused when a Batangas-bound bus suffered from spontaneous combustion at the South Luzón Expressway this morning, causing heavy traffic which has desensitized Filipino mobility anyway.

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