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Category Archives: Delineations

Señor EDSA

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Perhaps the most prominent highway in modern Philippine History is EDSA.

A portion of EDSA.

Formerly known as Highway 54, it was constructed during the American Occupation of the country. This 23.8-kilometer circumferential road runs through five cities (Pásay, Macati, Mandaluyong, Quezon, and Caloocan) and actually stands on what was then a very long coastline hundreds of years before the place was occupied by humans (that is why workers in construction sites along the area usually find seashells during a dig).

EDSA became famous throughout the world during the tumultuous decade of the 1980s not because of its length nor its notorious traffic. It is because this highway was the site of the bloodless 1986 coup which toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his cohorts from Malacañang Palace.

It is sad to note that only a few Filipinos today know that this highway was named after the initials of an illustrious Filipino writer and historian who lived during the Spanish and American era. His name is Epifanio De los SAntos, and his birthday falls today.

No festivities along the highway named after him?

Anyway, below is a brief biographical sketch of this “gentleman from the old school” written by Renato J. Mendoza (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Institute).

Epifanio de los Santos (1871-1928).

EPIFANIO DE LOS SANTOS
(1871-1928)

Historian and man of letters, Epifanio de los Santos was born in Malabón, Rizal (the lakeside province once known as Morong –Pepe–), on April 7, 1871, to Escolástico de los Santos and Antonina Cristóbal.

When he was seven years old, he studied under a certain Maestro José Flores. He finished his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila; and his Licentiate in Law from the University of Santo Tomás in 1898.

A brilliant student, Don Panyong’s versatility covered such different endeavors as painting, music, history, literature, law, politics, and others. In his diverse studies, he became acquainted with Germans, French, and Greek literatures, not to mention English and Spanish.

Aside from his achievements in literature, he occupied the following government positions: provincial secretary of Nueva Écija; governor, fiscal of Malolos for 10 years; director of the Philippine Library.

Don Panyong spent most of his time in extensive researches and historical studies which resulted in the formation of one of the most comprehensive Filipiniana collections of his time. He died in Manila on April 18, 1928, of cerebral attack.

Señor de los Santos was also regarded by his peers (notably Cecilio Apóstol, a famous Filipino poet in the Spanish language) as one of the best Spanish-language writers during his time. Some of his notable works are Algo de Prosa (1909), Literatura Tagala (1911), El Teatro Tagalo (1911), Nuestra Literatura (1913), El Proceso del Dr. Jose Rizal (1914), and Folklore Musical de Filipinas (1920). He also wrote the biographies of notable Filipinos in history such as José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Rafaél del Pan, and Francisco Balagtás.

Speaking of Balagtás, de los Santos 1916 translation of the former’s 19th-century Tagalog epic Florante at Laura is now considered a classic in Philippine Literature.

Emilia Boncodín (1954-2010), the incorruptible

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Emilia Boncodín (1954-2010) proved to the world that not all Filipinos working in government are corrupt nor support corruption. She was among the famous Hyatt 12 — cabinet members of the corrupt Arroyo government who resigned in the midst of the Hello Garci controversy.

There is one word which best describes her defiance against Arroyo’s corrupt government. And it’s spelled H-E-R-O-I-S-M. But like many good people, she died young: 55 due to kidney failure.

May the good Lord bless her soul. And may we have more government workers like her in the next administration.

Emilia Boncodín (1954-2010) chose to abandon corruption rather than joining it.

Tears, laughter mark necro service for ‘angel of budget’

Stories about Emilia Boncodín’s frugality drew much laughter.

Tears and laughter—but mostly laughter—marked the necrological rites for former Budget Secretary Boncodín held Thursday night by her friends and colleagues in government service.

On the fourth night of Boncodín’s wake, her colleagues at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) and the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) took turns to share stories and anecdotes about her and to praise her dedication and integrity as a public servant. Her mother Cristeta and only sister Adel were present.

Patricia Santo Tomas, Development Bank of the Philippines chair and former labor secretary, said Boncodín’s idea of a treat for her staff was ordering food to-go from Jollibee.

“She also liked going to Kamameshi and Serye at Quezon Memorial Circle. Sacsacan ng tipíd. (She was miserly).” Fine dining was not part of Boncodín’s lifestyle.

Exemplar of modesty

Calyzar S. Divinagracia, DAP board chair, described Boncodín as an “exemplar of modesty and frugality.”

DAP president Antonio D. Kálaw, Jr. spoke about her “utmost diligence and simplicity.”

Rarely did Cabinet members, who served on the DAP board, attend meetings, he said. They usually sent representatives. But Boncodín was always present.

Boncodín, however, was perennially late, Kálaw said, a habit that was confirmed by other colleagues who spoke at the tribute.

The reason, they said, was she always gave time to people who consulted her and there was never enough time for each one. And so she would be late for the next appointment and the next.

Boncodín, Divinagracia said, worked to make the DAP financially viable without asking funds from government. She played a key role in its seven-year subsidy program. She also taught at the DAP and at the University of the Philippines (UP) National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG).

“She did not want DAP to have an isáng cahig, isáng tucâ (hand-to-mouth) existence.” But, he added, “She was very matipíd (frugal). She even refused to give honoraria to the DAP board of trustees. ”

Always do right

Former Welfare Secretary Corazón Alma de León recalled: “Emy helped me get the needed budget when I was chair of the CESB. That is why they now have a building they call their own. She exercised the art of the possible but always with honesty, integrity and hard work. She lived the core values of ‘Gawin ang Tamà (Do what is right). She didn’t have to die at 55. But I guess she was ready. None of us are.”

“Emy liked singing,” Santo Tomás said. “She was more than just a public servant. She was a happy person and a really good person. They say that if you are with good persons, you also become a good person.”

Fiery words and flashy pronouncements were not Boncodín’s style. She just walked her talk. It could be done, it could be lived—was the message of her life. She lived simply, she died simply.

“But now she has lipstick on, and even eye shadow,” Santo Tomás quipped, drawing laughter from the audience.

Click here for the complete news article.

Incredible longevity for a “Filipina at heart”

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Jessie Lichauco at 98: Feasting by the Pásig, dances with memories

When someone asked the “Birthday Girl” to dance, her fair skin almost blushed and a dreamy look came over her gray-green eyes. She said, “thank you, but I am dancing with my memories.”

Together with a hundred guests of all ages and from all corners of life, Jessie Lichauco celebrated her 98th birthday last Jan. 10.

Talented 7-year-old Hannah sang the Philippine National Anthem in the garden of an ancient home along the Pasig River. Tita Jessie then personally greeted each guest with an energetic smile and spry movements, her ageless body moving in rhythm with the live big-band music provided by The Executives, whose selection of music from days gone by provided backdrop to the ever-flowing conversation.

Each friend or relative was there because this lady had left an unforgettable imprint on their lives.

Larry Henares recounts, “When my wife Cecilia died of a sudden heart attack while we were in Paris, I was so devastated that I could not bear the thought of telling my children about their mother’s death. The first thing I did was call Tita Jessie—I knew she would know the best way to tell them and comfort them at the same time.”

Jessie Lichauco with her granddaughter Sunshine de León (standing). Jessie is the wife of the late diplomat and historian Marcial Lichauco. She can be a good source of oral history because, despite her age, her memory is still sharp!

Curiosity, adventure, love

When Jessie Lichauco, my grandmother, first came to the Philippines in 1933, she was 18 years old. The population of the country was 8 million, and many people still traveled in horse-drawn carriages.

She became the wife, and later the widow, of lawyer-diplomat Marcial P. Lichauco. Her life during the past 76 years has allowed Jessie to witness and interact with people, places and events that make up a large part of Philippine history. She has seen the country at its best and worst. And although she is part Irish-Scottish-Cuban-Spanish on the outside, her heart is unquestionably Filipino.

Why did she embark on that 28-day ship voyage from America to the Philippines? She has always answered, “Curiosity, adventure and love.”

Watching her celebrate with the people she has befriended since her life’s journey began 8 decades ago, there is no doubt she continues to live with those three ideals in mind. Age has never prevented her from engaging every adventurous moment life offers her.

Many people have asked her what the “secret recipe” is to living long and appearing so much younger than she is. The answer is less likely found in following a particular diet or health program (other than fresh buko juice daily, very little meat or chicken, and no coffee, alcohol or smoking) than on certain guidelines for living.

The secret is simply in the way she views the world and lives her life, which allows her to remain so actively involved in it.

“I am at the age of self-preservation,” my grandmother says. “I don’t worry about things over which I have no control.”

She points out that stress of any kind goes through your mind and can affect your body. “You always have a choice—to be a grouchy old person or take life as it comes. I often tell young people that having a sense of humor is very important. Sometimes you think things are insurmountable. There is nothing you can do but accept it and move forward.”

Click here for more.

Related link:
Down the River (WITH ONE’S PAST)

Ananias Diokno, taaleño revolucionario

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Today is the birth anniversary of Ananias Diokno, one of the greatest Filipino soldiers of all time.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the taaleño revolucionario 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 Institute).

ANANIAS DIOKNO
(1860-1922)

The only Tagalog general to lead a full-scale military expedition to the Visayas against the Spaniards was General Ananias Diokno. He was also among the very few who, in the twilight period of the War of Independence, bravely undertook guerrilla warfare against the Americans.

General Diokno, born on January 22, 1860, in Taal, Batangas, to Ángel Diokno and Ándrea Noblejas, began his military career as Secretary of War in the departmental government of Batangas. After distinguishing himself in several battles in the Batangas-Laguna-Tayabas zone, he was commissioned to lead an expedition to the Visayas to attack the Spanish stronghold there and to forge unity between the Visayan rebel forces and the Central Revolutionary Government of Emilio Aguinaldo.

Diokno, therefore, organized the Maluya Battalion and sailed in September, 1898, first to Mindoro, then to Marinduque, where he reorganized his battalion; then proceeded to Camarines and places to the south. He established the local revolutionary governments in Buriás, Sorsogón, and Romblón where he supervised the election of local officials.

At Navas, Aclán, he victoriously laid siege to the Spanish stronghold. Diokno’s army then proceeded to Calibo and afterwards to Cápiz and in both places defeated the Spaniards. In a short while, the whole of Cápiz was completely liberated from Spanish rule.

Aguinaldo, upon recommendation of Apolinario Mabini, appointed Diokno politico-military governor of Cápiz. Diokno held the post for a time then left for other regions of Panay to lead his battles. He established contact with General Martín Teófilo Delgado, commander-in-chief of the Visayan rebel government, and in December, 1898, went to Jaro with his troops to maintain peace and order following the defeat of the Spaniards.

However, the temporary peace brought about by Spanish defeat was cut short by the arrival of the American forces. In November of 1899, General Diokno arrived at Santa Bárbara, Iloílo, where he had several engagements against the American troops. At Passi, he almost lost his life when he was ambushed by several mounted Americans. With his son Ramón, he fought off the enemy and even captured two of them.

The Americans being equipped with the latest weapons, many of the revolutionary officers throughout the archipelago knew that they were fighting a losing war and consequently the majority of them surrendered to the enemy. But Diokno refused to do so. He retreated to the hinterlands of Cápiz and resorted to guerrilla warfare. Badly wounded, he was captured by the Americans in a skirmish in 1901 and imprisoned.

After his release, he led the ordinary life of a citizen. The American government offered him in 1916 the directorship of the Bureau of Agriculture. Diokno refused because he believed it was disloyalty to his country so serve the very foreigners who had suppressed its independence.

He spent the remaining years of his life in Aráyat, Pampanga, where he died on November 2, 1922.

The ancestral house of Ananias Diokno in Taal, Batangas (photo taken by Arnaldo Arnáiz).

León Mª Guerrero, “lion” scientist

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Dr. León Mª Guerrero, the Father of Philippine Pharmacy.

From the illustrious and remarkable Spanish-speaking Casa de los Guerrero comes another Filipino genius: León Mª Guerrero (1853-1935), scientist brother of artist Lorenzo Guerrero and grandfather of diplomat/writer León María Guerrero (his namesake, author of the opus The First Filipino, 1962). Today is his birth anniversary.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the the man who is considered as the Father of Philippine Pharmacy and Botany. It is again written by Héctor K. Villaroel (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Institute).

LEÓN MARÍA GUERRERO
(1853-1935)

Born on January 21, 1853 at Ermita, Manila, Dr. León María Guerrero was first among the many Filipinos to put the Philippines on the scientific map of the world.

A man of astounding scientific ability, he finished pharmacy in the University of Santo Tomás in 1876, specializing in pharmacology and botany, particularly the study of flowers. Later, he was awarded the degree of Licentiate in Pharmacy, the highest degree in that line at that time.

In 1887, he became a professor in pharmacy and botany and chemical technician of the Supreme Court in 1888.

During the Revolution, he assumed the editorship of the República Filipina; and upon the founding of the short-lived Philippine Republic University, he served as its dean and professor in pharmacy. Likewise, he was a delegate of three provinces to the Malolos Congress and representative to the first Philippine National Assembly in 1907.

Pursuing other fields of study, like zoology, ornithology, and lepidopterology, he wrote and published several penetrating and brilliant scientific papers which attracted the admiration and respect of Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries.

He died on April 13, 1935.

José Escaler, lawyer extraordinaire

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It’s a pity that nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a principled lawyer made from genuine intellectuality such as José Escaler of Pampanga. What we have instead are unprincipled lawyers molded from genuine lies.

It’s also a shame that the glory brought by this illustrious Pampangueño to his fellow Cabalens would years later be tainted by the arrival of perhaps the most corrupt president this archipelago has ever known.

Today we commemorate his birth anniversary. Below is a brief biographical sketch of this lawyer extraordinaire from Apalit, Pampanga. It was written by Héctor K. Villaroel (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Institute).

JOSÉ ESCALER
(1885-1927)

José Escaler, intellectual, lawyer, industrialist, and businessman, was born in Apalit, Pampanga, on January 19, 1885, the eldest of six children of Manuel Escaler and Sabina Sioco.

He obtained his early education from private tutors; afterwards, he studied at San Juan de Letrán, where he finished his segunda enseñanza at the head of his class in 1897. His studies were briefly interrupted during the Revolution. When peace was restored, he studied at the Liceo de Manila, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors in 1903. In 1905, he earned his Bachelor of Laws from the Escuela de Derecho at the head of his class; after which he left for the United States and Europe and studied briefly at Yale and Oxford universities. In 1909, he returned to the Philippines and took and passed the bar examinations.

In recognition of his educational attainment, he was elected president of the Philippine Columbian Association for several terms and made vice-president of Club Filipino. Meanwhile, after a brief apprenticeship in the law office of William Kincaid, a noted American lawyer, he was made the latter’s junior law partner. Later, he established his own office in Intramuros, with Quintín Salas as his partner.

As a public servant, he started as clerk of the Philippine Assembly; then became attorney of the City of Manila; and, in 1916, was appointed first Assistant Director of Education. The following year, he was appointed Undersecretary of Justice; and, in 1918, acting President of the University of the Philippines, where he had served earlier as member of the Board of Regents and as professorial lecturer.

Escaler was one of the most active businessmen of his generation. He was at one time vice-president and director of several commercial enterprises. A firm believer in the country’s economic progress, he stressed that government intervention in the economic realm was inevitable, that technical know-how must be developed, and that research facilities and laboratories should be established.

Not being a person of very strong constitution, his health soon broke down. He left for Europe to rest and recuperate, but it was too late. He returned to Manila in January 1927, and died on February 17 of a heart ailment. Escaler married Aurea Ocampo on June 26, 1915, by whom he had seven children.

Oh where have all the gentlemen from the old school gone?

The new “Propagandists”

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I’d been having dreams lately, drunken dreams with their peculiar lucidity in which the Experience Trail, the High Seas seemed to call louder and louder, more and more insistently with a voice that was at the same time music—a siren’s song that almost threatened me if I refused to obey its quixotic urgings … –Sol Luckman–

The nuevas “Propagandistas” —el Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Arnaldo Arnáiz, José Miguel García, and yours truly— convened for the first time this morning to discuss the formal founding of a website which would be the nucleus of our group (I playfully call it a “cyberclique”, LOL!!!).

We talked about our passion for Philippine History, how we got interested with the subject, and shared each other’s viewpoints on how to rectify the errors of this taken-for-granted field. Blithely, Señor Gómez likened us to Don Quijote, hopelessly fighting the windmills. We were like “madmen”, so to speak, because the topic of Philippine history is perceived to be reserved only in school. And we have to face it: we are like ants against rampaging elephants. But this knowledge that we have is our “curse”; we have to live with it. And we had to live through the somewhat belittled field of Philippine history for it encompasses everything that is truly Filipino, the very subject which in a way keeps us sane. For us, the study of Philippine history is a treasure trove of knowledge and discoveries about our past that has been taken away from us by a neocolonialist extragovernment.

After our meeting, I told the group that I’m so happy that our number has “grown”. This is because I thought that Señor Gómez and I are fighting a lonely war. The great Filipino scholar and I have known each other since 1997 (he’s been like a father to me). We’ve also been searching for like-minded people, but in vain. Historian priests Fr. José Arcilla, S.J., and Fr. Fidel Villaroel, O.P. would have been perfect allies. But as published men, they are on a league of their own. Besides, having them on board will only attract baseless and absurd accusations of “ecclesiastical bias” and “papism”. There’s also prolific researcher Pío Andrade, author of the highly controversial book The Fooling of America and a friend of Señor Gómez. But we couldn’t find him. And so it was a blessing that Arnaldo Arnáiz and I have met back in 2007; Having discovered who the real Filipino is through his own researches, he too started to look for like-minded individuals to whom he can share his thoughts. I happily introduced him to Señor Gómez (they later found out that they’re distant relatives). Then just last year, the mysterious José Miguel García found the three of us in cyberspace.

The rest, as they are wont to say, is history.

Some of those who know us should already have an idea of what we’re up to. This group, particularly the website that we’re planning to set up, will encompass everything that we’ve been fighting for all these years: the recovery of our national identity (which is based on our undeniable hispanic/latin physiognomy and culture), to counterattack the ludicrousness of the so-called leyenda negra (that the Americans “saved” us from the “evil clutches” of the Spanish Empire), the rectification of an ill-written and bigoted Philippine history, and the defense of the much maligned Catholic Church, the faith which brought the Western civilization to these once heathen shores. In one way or another, all this shall be realized by bringing back the Spanish language as an official language of the Philippines (or –perhaps– at the very least, to have it taught in all levels of education).

Here is a brief profile of my comrades:

We shall continue what our heroes fought for. The struggle for the conservation of our national identity espoused by one of the greatest Filipino Nationalists who has ever set foot on this planet, Senator Claro M. Recto, will never falter.

1.) ARNALDO ARNÁIZ has been a history buff for as long as he can remember. An astute researcher and a master when it comes to the life and psychology of national hero José Rizal, it is surprising to note that Arnáiz has had no formal training in historiography and historical research. He is, in fact, a business process outsourcing (BPO) professional and a jiu jitsu expert. Instead of taking up History, he pursued Computer Management and earned his degree from the University of Perpetual Help Rizal (now the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA).

Later on, Arnáiz took advantage of the BPO boom in 2002, earning six years of exceptional experience in call centers. His work ethic paid off in 2004 when he was promoted as a team leader (supervisor). In that designation, he helped lead a pioneer customer service account in APAC Customer Services, Inc., eventually winning the Best Team Leader award a year later. In between working as a call center supervisor and a traveler-photographer, he delves into the mangled world of Philippine history. Through his own, he was able to discover our true roots. But it wasn’t always that way in his younger years:

I’ve realized lately that I have become what I, as a younger man, hated to become: negligent of one’s history. When I was child, I can recall getting upset whenever my classmates would make fun of Bonifacio (the Andrés hatapang ‘di a tacbó joke). I don’t know why and where this started, but my history education as a child was better than the other kids in town. I have the luxury of learning from one of our well-off neighbours who had in their collection a vast array of titles, some are centuries-old books.

The rest of my History lessons was concluded in schools. Although the lessons were barely acceptable to my standards, I’ve always felt that it was insubstantial. In my adult years after college, I bought my own books to supplement my studies but not as avid as I once was. ‘Past is past’ they say, but unless you study them you will continue to make the same mistakes. As my favorite history quote goes, ‘One faces the future with one’s past’. I now try to regain some lost ground in my study of history. It’s never too late for all of us to study and preserve what is left.

A curious note: although Spanish is not his native language, Arnáiz is a staunch defender and advocate of the said tongue. Like the late non-Spanish-speaking senator, Blas P. Ople, this distant relative of Señor Gómez seriously deserves to be commended a Premio Zóbel medal once the said oldest literary award-giving body in the country is reactivated.

2.) To introduce Señor GUILLERMO GÓMEZ RIVERA would already be superfluous in the light of his myriad of accomplishments in the field of arts, literature, language, and history. He is described in Wikipedia as “a Filipino writer, journalist, poet, playwright, historian, linguist, and scholar of Spanish and British descent from the province of Iloilo”…

Gómez Rivera is an academic director of the prestigious Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española (Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language), the local branch of the renowned Real Academia Española based in Madrid, Spain, and part of the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (Association of Spanish Language Academies). He is also a teacher of various Spanish dances, and is considered the undisputed maestro of Flamenco in the Philippines.

In addition to his contributions to Philippine literature and history, Gómez is also an accomplished linguist and polyglot. He speaks and writes fluently in his native Hiligaynon as well as in English and Tagalog. Aside from being an acclaimed master of the Spanish language in the country, he is also conversant in French, Italian, Portuguese, Kinaray-a, and Cebuano, and has made an extensive study of the Visayan and Chabacano languages.

Critics regard him as the Spanish equivalent to his friend Nick Joaquín’s English. Joaquín’s body of written works were discreetly about the “Hispanic soul” of the Philippines brought about by three centuries of Spanish rule. Joaquín’s stories in particular were sentimental, reminiscing the Philippine’s Spanish past as well as its decline. Gómez wrote on the same theme, more thoroughly about the decadence of the country’s “Hispanic soul,” but his style was much frank and straight to the point—the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) were the cause of Spanish decline in the Philippines. Also, unlike Joaquín, Gómez focused more on fiery essays than short stories.

He won a Premio Zóbel in 1975 for his play El Caserón (The Big House) which was published in 1976. He has since been a longtime master of ceremonies for the said award-giving body. Prior to this, Gómez won second place in the Premio Manuel Bernabé for an essay on the historical and nationalistic value and import of the Spanish language.

Much of the theme for Gómez’s poetry, as well as his essays and short stories, lie mainly on the destruction of which he calls the “Filipino Cosmos,” i.e., the destruction of Philippine languages and culture due to American neocolonization.

Gómez is a somewhat belligerent writer, as can be gleaned by his scathing attacks in his Spanish weekly newspaper Nueva Era against what he observed as local pro-compulsory “ONLY-English-language government officials” who he accuses as vile puppets of US WASP neocolonialism. Many of his writings boast of proofs against these people he accuses. Through his monumental body of literary works, he has advocated his Filipino readers to “rediscover” their Spanish past in order for them to gain knowledge of their true national identity.

Another way of doing this is through cultural dissemination, particularly through dance. Aside from sharing his knowledge of flamenco, he has made several researches on Philippine songs and dances, especially those of Hispanic influence, which he was able to contribute to the internationally acclaimed Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company. In fact, most of the Spanish-influenced native songs and dances choreographed by the said group can trace their origins from Gómez’s researches, which earned him the role of an adviser for Bayanihan.

He was also a recording artist, having recorded Filipino songs that were originally in Spanish, as well as Chabacano songs that were popular in areas were Chabacano used to be prevalent.

Gómez is also credited for reintroducing into the modern local film industry the now forgotten film Secreto de Confesión. It was the first film that was produced in the Philippines that was spoken and sung in Spanish (la primera película hablada y cantada en español producida en Filipinas).

He was also the National Language Committee Secretary of the Philippine Constitutional Convention (1971–1973) during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. As part of the committee, he fought for Tagalog to become the country’s national language. In the same convention, Gómez teamed up with other nationalists to preserve Spanish as one of the country’s official languages. Spanish, however, later was made an optional language (together with Arabic) from the Freedom Constitution of 1987 when Corazón Aquino took over from where former strongman Marcos had left.

Due to his tireless efforts in attempting to bring back the Filipino national identity based on Spanish, he is considered by some of his hispanist/nationalist friends, such as Edmundo Farolán, as El Don Quixote Filipino.

These astounding accomplishments (including those not written above!) should earn Señor Gómez no less than a National Artist Award for Literature and/or Dance and/or Historical Literature and/or Music (for his two-volume LP Nostalgia Filipina). Surprisingly, the credibility of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts spiralled down to the sewers when it chose to give awards to undeserving people such as those who glorify blood and gore on film.

3.) Unfortunately, I cannot discuss much about our compañero JOSÉ MIGUEL GARCÍA (not his real name) due to security purposes, no thanks to this corrupt, neocolonized, and LAME puppet government. For now, his real identity cannot be revealed (thus the reason the four of us don’t have a photo together). But this is all I can say about my tocayo: I am mighty glad to have someone like him on our side.

Call me pretentious; I don’t really care (been called worst names in the past). But now that there are four of us, I can proudly say that our heroes did not die in vain after all.

Those @-h0les who have been spreading blatant lies and stupidities about our country’s history will VERY SOON have their “beautiful day” in cyberspace.

A Rizalian Challenge

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“Kaniya-kaniyang Rizal…”

–Cris Villanueva in Bayaning Third World

Today, the Philippines, as always, celebrates its national hero’s 113th martyrdom. As always, renowned politicians, attention-hungry statesmen, and a wild caboodle of TV-familiar faces who are in control of government and business are all over public plazas frothing out “nationalistic” fervor in relation to Rizal’s life, works, and influence. This will continue on and on and on, a vicious and aching cycle for a nation attuned to the vices of modern technology.

Nowadays, who cares about Rizal? Who reads him? I mean, who really reads him? Would an avid Rizalian be able to share his heroism towards the masses who would rather pay more attention to bring food to their homes at least twice a day? Ambeth Ocampo does, but mostly towards students who are affluent enough to be able to enroll in posh schools like La Salle or the Ateneo.

But here lies the question: why is there a need to study Rizal? For the simple reason that he is the key towards identifying the Filipino national identity. Not that he was the first Filipino (in a way, he was, in the romantic context of León Mª Guerrero), but whenever there is a mention of Philippine history, this Calambeño will easily come into mind. Besides, Rizal did have something to do with national identity; he lived in that identity which was later lost when we were invaded in 1898 and which, up to now, our generation is still looking for (or is it?)

Rizal, as well as his contemporaries, but especially him, knew where he stood. National identity was never a dilemma nor a mystery for him. Nor was it a mystery for the rest of the Ilustrados and majority of Filipinos. Knowledge of national identity is power. And with this, Rizal and the rest of the Ilustrados had knowledge of this power; the only problem was some of them didn’t know how to use it.

The scenario today is twice as frightening: we don’t know our true national identity, thus we are powerless.

Since Rizal, among other venerated people of the past, is the most conspicuous and most widely known throughout the islands, it is but wise to use him as the key to opening that treasure chest of knowledge of our national identity that has been long searched for and debated.

But there is yet another problem: Which Rizal should we use?

This realization behind the mystery of Rizal was raised upon watching the last scenes of Mike de León’s film biopic Bayaning Third World (winner of the Gawad Urian Awards 2000).

At the end of the movie, Cris Villanueva’s character, which was dumbfounded behind the controversies surrounding Rizal’s retraction, couldn’t help but mention “Kaniya-kaniyang Rizal” (each has his own version of Rizal). This was a result of his and Ricky Daváo’s character’s frustration over their unresolved search for the truth behind Rizal’s retraction from Masonry.

Did he or did he not retract?

Standing on top of the heap of all this controversy was a Vincentian from the San Carlos Seminary, Jesús Mª Cavanna, C.M.

Several decades ago, he published a massive tome: Rizal’s Unfading Glory (a Documentary History of the Conversion of Dr. José Rizal, 1956). Cavanna’s brilliant defense that Rizal did return to the Catholic Church seemed up to now unbeatable. In the book, through the strengthening of the “Rizal did retract” postulation, Cavanna virtually stripped Rizal’s novels and vitriolic essays off every trace of heroism. Indeed, what is so heroic behind irresponsible calumnies against an institution which technically created a nation? But the gist of the book is that Rizal’s heroism may be found in the retraction itself — he fought for what he thought was evil, unjust. He aligned himself against forbidden secret societies, read books that were included in the Index of Forbidden Books. All this he did for love of country. The retraction he did for love of God.

In view of the foregoing, the truth behind Rizal’s retraction is terribly crucial: if he didn’t retract, that only goes to show that everything he wrote against the Catholic Church, no matter how baseless and Satiric, were true. That would have given Christianity in the country a gaping hole. That could only mean that Dan Brown is right about the Church after all. On the other hand, if Rizal did retract, what’s all this talk of Rizalian heroism during his birth and death anniversaries?

No matter how strong Fr. Cavanna’s evidence is, skeptics remain. Thus, it is up to the historian in general and to the Rizalian scholar in particular to finish this discussion once and for all. We may never know where Bonifacio was exactly buried. We may never know where the first cry of revolt was made. We may not even know the real reason behind Gomburza’s execution. But with Rizal, perhaps the most self-documented Filipino hero of all time, everything to know about him is all set on the table; all we need to do is to have a discerning eye, a conscious mind, a relaxed judgment of facts.

Not to mention a huge amount of patience and time.

In order to know Rizal, we should follow and faithfully observe his life. One step at a time. In order to know Rizal, we have to get into his mind.

To the historian and Rizalian scholar lies the brunt of responsibility. He must think and feel like Rizal. He must follow his every movement — from his childhood days in Calambâ to his misadventures in Biñán. From his poetic youth in Manila to his sojourn in Singapore and elsewhere. From his cold lonely nights in Europe to his peaceful days in Dapitan. From his final moments in Fort Santiago to Eternity.

He must think like Rizal. He should literally read all the books Rizal read, page by page, word for word. After reading, the Rizalian should learn how to daydream like Rizal, and how the latter felt after reading the triumphs of his literary heroes. Was it a feeling of triumph, of wild ambition, of a realization?

He should feel like Rizal: meditate on the heartaches and the pains of a broken heart, from Batangas all the way to Europe. He should discover how Rizal felt when he secretly left his parents on his way to the Old World.

He should be able to answer why Rizal hated the very institution which nurtured his hunger for knowledge, and quenched his thirst for the sciences. Why did he rebel against those who supported his desire to make love with the arts and letters?

The Rizalian should know the hidden fears, excitement, and awe that Rizal must have felt upon entering the Lodge door. If the need arises, the Rizalian, if religious, should make a pact with God before entering the Lodge just as to know more about the evolution of this Renaissance Man from Calambâ. Within the Lodge lies so many answers behind the evolution of Rizal’s rebellious character later on in his life.

The Rizalian must learn how to talk to God, for that was how Rizal was: deeply spiritual man despite his Masonic degrees. And in this spiritual puzzle, the Rizalian must be able to delve in order to solve it.

He must undergo a lot of challenges. He must undergo a transformation. He must become José Rizal. Because Rizal was never human. First and foremost, he was a man, sent by God to challenge our iniquities in these direst of times.

All this the Rizalian must face — if he wishes to finally decipher Rizal and his religious conversions. Only an end to this retraction hullaballoo will finally get rid of the rust that has encrusted our “key” which can open the age-old chest hiding our national identity…

For each Filipino cannot have his own version of Rizal, nor he be allowed to have his own fancy of the national hero…

We should only have one Pepe Rizal.

*******

This is a repost (with minor edits) from an article which I wrote for Skirmisher last 19 June 2008.

Of Spanish Ties

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OF SPANISH TIES
(A Sonnet)
Hilario Ziálcita y Legarda

What binds us to Mother Spain
who, in truth, loves us, her sons?
What strange force attracts us
To her people with bonds of brotherhood?

What treasures do we have of her culture,
her Christian tradition, her fervent faith,
her romantic language, its cadence,
Castilian elegance bequeathed to me?

When you circled the globe, the first
in your daring voyage of exploration,
you encountered the Philippines

Thus meriting the world’s admiration…
She, the heiress of your charms,
Thanks you with all her heart.

Manila, June 1999

From left to right: the poet Edwin A. Lozada, Don Hilario Ziálcita y Legarda, and Javier Galván (former director of the Instituto Cervantes de Manila). Photo taken on 27 June 2002 at the Casino Español in Ermita, Manila.

As a young man, Hilario Ziálcita y Legarda (b. 1913) wrote poems in Spanish and had them published in the Spanish language newspapers of the 1930s. Although he wanted to pursue a career in poetry, he took up medical studies instead. He finished high school and pre-med at the Ateneo de Manila and his formal medical studies at the University of Santo Tomás. After the liberation of the Philippines he pursued higher studies in radiology at Michigan University, at Ann Arbor, USA.

He was in charge of radiology at the U.S. Army 49th General Hospital at Fort McKinley in (sic) 1949-50 and in the U.S. Veterans Administration Office in Manila until 1959. He was the Chief Radiologist at the Chinese General Hospital. With Dr. Paterno Chikiamco, he organized the Philippine Radiology Society and was president at one time. He returned to America in 1986 and worked for the U.S. Army and Air Force until his last assignment at Fort McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia, when he retired in 1993.

Despite his busy career, he had taken time to pursue graduate studies in Spanish at San Juan de Letrán College and in English Literature at the Ateneo de Manila before going abroad. After retiring from the practice of medicine, he went back to his old love — writing poems in Spanish.

From his bilingual book, The Manila Galleon and Other Poems, published by Caridad Z. Sevilla and printed by Eres Printing Corporation, 2004)

Click here for the Spanish version of this blogpost!

Gregorio del Pilar: a victim of Tirad Pass?

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Today, the Philippines, particularly the people of Bulacán, Bulacán, commemorate the birth anniversary of the boy general of who died at Tirad Pass…

GREGORIO DEL PILAR
(1875-1899)

If the ancient Greeks had their valiant King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae, Filipinos have their General Gregorio del Pilar and the Battle of Tirad Pass.

General del Pilar, youngest officer of Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army, met his gallant death defending Tirad Pass on December 2, 1899. With only 60 men under him, del Pilar held the pass against pursuing American troops until an enemy bullet felled him, ending a brief but brilliant military career, but giving Aguinaldo much precious time to escape.

A nephew of the illustrious Marcelo H. del Pilar, Gregorio was born on November 14, 1875, in Bulacán, Bulacán, the fifth son of Fernando del Pilar and Felipa Sempio. He was a student at the Ateneo de Manila when the revolution broke out.

His exceptional feats of valor in the battles of Malíbug and Kakaróng de Sili earned him his generalship. He was only 23 when he was struck down by a sniper’s bullet at Tirad Pass. –Jesús C. Guzon (Eminent Filipinos, National Historical Commission, 1965)–

GREGORIO DEL PILAR

One of his men saw him killed instantly by a sniper's bullet -- but that was due to his carelessness!

Some fastidious students of Philippine History, however, treat his heroism with some doubt and a lot of questions. And with regard to Guzon’s comparison of King Leonidas to del Pilar, National Artist for Literature and historian extraordinaire Nick Joaquín has this to say:

“The wrong thing to do about Tirad Pass is invoke Leonidas and Thermopylae, because we would be invoking to our hurt another people fatally flawed with the inability to unite and organize. Besides, the parallel with Leonidas, king of the Spartans, is neither exact nor flattering: it was not Aguinaldo who fell at Tirad. Moreover, the annals of war show that in mountain warfare, especially in actions on a mountain pass, the advantage is with the defender, not the invader, and victory must be expected from the defender.” (A Question of Heroes by Nick Joaquín, Filipinas Foundation, Inc., 1977)

Joaquín went on by citing several other mountain battles which happened in other parts of the globe. And he showed that in all those mountain battles, it was the defenders who always won. And there was this particular case that happened in World War II when the British took two years to dislodge the Japanese army from the mountains of Burma.

“But Tirad Pass was taken in six hours.

“There were, you will say, only 60 men to defend it. Precisely. And that was the stupidity. Our improvidence always forces us in the end to improvise, when it’s too late even to improvise. We will not plan ahead, we will just muddle through, and then at the last hour we send men to die for our blunders, our lack of foresight. If there were any justice, it’s Aguinaldo, it’s Mabini, who should have perished on Tirad. But so that Aguinaldo can flee in futile flight, 60 men are sent to pay with their lives for the monstrous botch he has made of the Revolution. And now we read Tirad as a symbol of heroism, not stupidity.

“A few more Tirads and we’ll be the most heroic people in extinction.”

PASO DE TIRAD

Tirad Pass: Thermopylae it is not.

And according to the diary of Telésforo Carrasco y Pérez, a Spaniard enlisted in Aguinaldo/del Pilar’s army, the boy general, who in stories was said to have died heroically and fighting to the last bullet, died due to his own carelessness:

“At dawn we saw the enemy climbing the slope and moments later the firing began in the first entrenchment, which was under Lieutenant Braulio. At around nine in the morning two Igorots climbed to the peak and told the general that the Americans had suffered losses at the first entrenchment and could not advance. Heartened by the news, the general decided that we were to descend in his company and take part in the combat.

“This we did and an hour later found ourselves where nine soldiers were defending the left flank of the mountain in the second entrenchment. Hardly had we got there when we saw the Americans climbing up, only fifteen meters away, whereupon the soldiers started firing again.

“The general could not see the enemy because of the cogon grass and he ordered a halt to the firing. At that moment I was handling him a carbine and warning him that the Americans were directing their fire at him and that he should crouch down because his life was in danger — and that moment he was hit by a bullet in the neck that caused instant death.”

But this “stupidity” is just the tip of the villainous iceberg.

In the classrooms, it is not taught that Goyo del Pilar was actually one of Aguinaldo’s high-ranking hatchetmen. The blood of assassinated general Antonio Luna’s friends is upon del Pilar’s hands. Murdered under the boy general’s helm were Luna’s allies such as Manuel and José Bernal. And some of Luna’s staff were harassed, tortured, and ordered arrested.

I wonder most of the time what the word heroism really mean in this country. Marami tayong mga bayani na hindí namán dapat tinítiñgalà. What should be the attributes of a true national hero?

As an ardent observer of Philippine History, there is one shocking fact that I’ve learned: countless villains in this country are regarded as heroes; and the integrity of the true heroes of the nation are perpetually besmirched. This will not stop until we have freed ourselves from the fetters of neocolonialism and the blind hispanophobic rage that we have against our glorious past.

That is why if only I have registered for the 2010 Philippine National Elections, I would vote for the lesser evil whom the current administration have unjustly incarcerated for six years.

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