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Family trees

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I’m a family tree freak, being a history buff. I even astonish my wife for being one, especially because I know more about her ancestors than she does.

For years I’ve studied the lineage of renowned Filipino families: Araneta, Cojuangco, Salvador, Zóbel de Ayala. Now that we have a new laptop, I can start writing about these families and publish them in this blog very soon. But of course I will also need to research on my own family tree.

Through a family tree, clan members will have the opportunity to be able to know more about their respective family’s origins as well as promote closer ties to long lost relatives who share the same ancestor(s). Such is the case when I met on Facebook the relatives of my paternal great grandfather, Don Paulo Évora y Fortunato of Calapán, Mindoro Oriental. Paulo married a creole, Doña Rafaela Bonilla, of Unisan, Tayabas (now Quezon) province, and that marriage produced several children including my father’s mother.

Many of Don Paulo’s relatives are now in the US. A nephew of his, Raymond Évora y Heildebrand (son of Paulo’s brother Carlos) now serves as the Évora historian. He has a vast collection of Évora photos from yesteryears. And he even took the wondrous time of creating an online family tree for the whole Évora Clan.

Screenshot of a webpage dedicated to the Évora Family Tree.

On a related note…

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine, Antonio Saturnino Velasco y Filoteo, showed to me copies of his Spanish grandfather’s documents: birth certificate, passport, and naturalization papers. His grandfather, Don Saturnino Velasco y García was an immigrant from Arroyal, Burgos, Spain (his parents were Mariano Velasco and Patricia García). According to Cuya Tony, his abuelo married a Spanish lady. The marriage bore them Antonio María Benito Velasco who was born in Ciudad de Lucena, Tayabas (the same place where I was born).

Personal documents of Saturnino Velasco y García, a Spaniard who migrated to the Philippines and became a Filipino citizen.

Don Saturnino later remarried when his first wife died. He got himself a Manileña: Dolores Monzón of Malate, daughter of Julián Monzón and Juana Mijares. In the process, Saturnino’s son by his first marriage became Antonio María Benito Velasco y Monzón.

Antonio María, one of the managers of Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., married a Chavacana damsel from Ciudad de Cavite: Perla Filoteo de Velasco (daughter of Ramón Filoteo and Venancia García). The marriage produced many children, among them my friend Cuya Tony, an IT specialist in Mærsk Line Filipinas.

While checking the documents of Cuya Tony’s grandfather, I tried to imagine what was on the old man’s mind while he was taking care of his immigration papers. Did he immediately fall in love with his new home? How did he adapt to his new environment? Did he ever think ill of Filipinos? Or did he die with his heart fully transmogrified into one that is Filipino?

Don Saturnino Velasco y García and his bride. I'm just not sure if the lady is his first or second (photo taken from the Familia Velasco Facebook group).

Moving to another country is a difficult move. Although I haven’t done that myself (and I don’t have plans to), I had moved from one place to another ever since I eloped with my girlfriend (who is now Mrs. Alas). And I can tell you that in so doing, it was a hassle. The vicissitudes of having to adapt to a new environment was daunting. You’ll have to deal with different modes and schedules of transportation, new sources of daily commodities, new faces, etc. And I’m just talking about moving from one place to another within the Philippines. What more if we talk about moving to a different land whose cosmos is different from ours?

Cuya Tony told me that his late father, a former manager of one of the world’s most successful businesses, was very organized with all important documents pertaining to their family. All documents were meticulously filed, preserved, and in order. These precious files —the well-preserved Velasco documents as well as Lolo Raymund’s precious Évora photos— serve as windows to the past. That is why it is important for all of us to preserve whatever keepsakes there are at hand: receipts, scribbled notes, even electric bills. This, however, is too cumbersome for an ordinary person to do and is usually best left in the hands of history-sensitive individuals. Rizal was one such person. That is why we know so many things about him.

Indeed, a thorough study of one’s bloodline and filial traditions will help that person understand more about his clan’s religious, cultural, social, economic, and even political fluctuations throughout generations. Studying and getting to know the history of one’s family (without a tarnished past, that is) will inculcate in that person a sense of belongingness, pride, and being. The past is never dull. It is always engaging. Learning more about a past forgotten, a milieu living only in memory (and documents), will help our feet tread towards the right path.

The Azkals need an “Ace”

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Joseph "Josefino" Alas y Láus, the future of Philippine football.

Joseph L. Alas (21 November 1994) is a Filipino football player from Valle Verde VI, Ciudad de Pásig, Metro Manila. He is now based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he is continuing his high school studies.

During his career in the Philippines, he played with La Salle Greenhills, Makati Football Club, Unión Football Club, and Alabang Football Club. In Malaysia, he played for Mont’Kiara Football Club and is currently playing with Mont’Kiara International School and the International Soccer Academy.

Equipped with extensive football experience from Sweden, Spain, Denmark, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, Joseph is also a one-time Makati Football School Most Valuable Player (2009). He dreams to one day play professionally in England, Spain, and the USA. But what he aspires the most is to play for his beloved country in the FIFA World Cup. When not playing football, Joseph also engages himself in basketball.

When looking for new blood, the Philippine Football Federation should look no further: sooner or later, the Azkals will be needing an ace up their sleeves.

Learn more about the new face of Filipino football at these sites:
Website
http://www.wix.com/joester_alas/josefino
Facebook Fanpage
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joseph-Alas/151964558196325

Happy eleventh birthday, Krystal!

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Happy eleventh birthday to my única hija, Jewel Krystal Rose!

150th birth anniversary of José Rizal: but no Spanish is so unRizal

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Para leer en el destino de los pueblos, es menester abrir el libro de su pasado. —José Rizal—

Krystal at the Rizal Shrine in Ciudad de Calambâ (taken just this morning).

Today, modern Philippine history is making history by celebrating history.

Our nation’s polymath national hero, Dr. José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realondo, turns 150 years today, the sesquicentennial anniversary of his birth. The whole archipelago, Filipino communities abroad, and all places of historical significance to Rizal are commemorating his natal day with lavish parties, parades, quiz bees, art and writing contests, and discombobulating speeches from politicians (happy is the “public servant”, indeed, who has been given the chance to grandstand on this very special occasion). There are even rock concerts and “special” appearances of TV personalities to boot.

It is indeed a national event (and international as well since overseas Filipino communities are also celebrating), an event that is reminiscent of the centennial celebration of our country’s “independence” 13 years ago.

During the previous years, I try to make it a point to attend Rizal’s natal day celebration in his hometown of Calambâ, La Laguna. Over the years, I find nothing new, except for the annual themes that nobody cares to enshrine into himself, primarily because they’re either in a foreign language (English) or they’re too over-the-top for an ordinary baker/bus driver/factory worker/saleswoman/mason/office clerk/service crew/etc. to comprehend. This year’s theme is Rizal: Haligi ng Bayan (Rizal: el Pilar de la Nación).

But what I do realize is that the Filipinos are made to appreciate him more and more. The “Love and Idolize Rizal” campaign has been brought outside the classroom is now out in the field, especially in this era of social networking in the internet. Filipinos are now encouraged to travel to places where Rizal had trod. This “appreciation campaign”, however, is focused more on Rizal’s life and loves and travels. Whatever energy that is left to make us appreciate his works is de-emphasized especially since his literary masterpieces are mere translations.

Who reads Rizal?

And that is what I want to rant about on this special day. How come that, in spite of a year-long preparation for his 150th birthday, the Spanish language —the language closest to Rizal’s heart and soul, the language of his mind— is again left out? How will the Filipinos ever have a full and genuine appreciation of his literary masterpieces —all written in Spanish— if they are made to read English and Tagalog translations?

And speaking of literature, there is yet another crisis: who reads Rizal’s work nowadays? And when I say read I mean to say reading for the sake of reading, i.e., enjoyment and pleasure.

On writing about Rizal’s famous novels, National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín wove it perfectly more than anyone could:

Rizal’s books have been so beatified, so canonized, so enshrined, that they have almost ceased to belong to literature.

Whatever the motives of a writer to produce a work of literary art —be it religious, political, emotional, nationalistic, or just for the heck of it—, the reader’s enjoyment and/or mental gain will matter the most in the end. But in our case, the Filipino is being forced to read Rizal. A work of art, no matter what nationalistic bull it symbolizes, should never be enforced to be seen nor appreciated solely for the purpose of instilling nationalism. That is why this compulsory imposition of Rizal’s works further alienates the national hero from the average Juan de la Cruz.

Rizal law

In that, the late Senator Claro M. Recto had failed. A rabid nationalist and anti-WASP, he (together with Senator José P. Laurel) authored Republic Act No. 1425, more popularly known as the Rizal Law. This law is the reason why college students have Rizal’s Life and Works as a school subject. The opening lines of the law state:

WHEREAS, today, more than any other period of our history, there is a need for a re-dedication to the ideals of freedom and nationalism for which our heroes lived and died…

It should be noted that when this law was authored, the president back then was Ramón Magsaysay. He was well-loved by the masses but was notorious against Filipino nationalists such as Recto because the latter knew that the former had the full-backing of imperialist US (via CIA agent Edward Lansdale). Overwhelmed by imperialist enemies and alarmed by the seeming apathy of the Filipino masses, Recto thought it best to bring back Rizal’s nationalist endeavors to his milieu.

Unfortunately for the nationalist senator, he was barking up the wrong tree.

To begin with, Rizal’s novels were more anti-Catholic than anti-Spanish in nature (hardly nationalist), that is why he was met with opposition from the Catholic Church. The Vincentian friar Fr. Jesús Mª Cavanna argued intelligently that the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo belonged to a different milieu and that teaching them would misrepresent current conditions. It was therefore unwise to enforce the books in schools. But all protestations were ignored. Recto won and his bill was signed into law on 12 June 1956.

A curious section in this law, the first one actually, states that:

Courses on the life, works and writings of José Rizal, particularly his novel Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shall be included in the curricula of all schools, colleges and universities, public or private: Provided, that in the collegiate courses, the original or unexpurgated editions of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo of their English translation shall be used as basic texts.

The author(s) mentioned the word unexpurgated. This means that Rizal’s novels should be taught without censoring or amending it. If we are to go into technicalities (which is the wont of most laws and lawyers, if not all), translating his novels from Spanish to English is already tantamount to expurgation. And if taught in translation, the novels can be expurgated. This is evident enough in the numerous Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo textbooks that our schools use.

In this regard, the Rizal Law is, humorously, violating itself.

Rizal and the Spanish language

Truth to tell, although the said law states that English translations shall be used in the teaching of Rizal’s novels, Recto never had the English language in mind especially since this Tiáong native has Spanish as his first language. And being an intellectual and linguist (he reportedly mastered the English language in only three months!), he should have known first hand the dangers of translation. The late Ilonga writer/translator Soledad Lacson vda. de Locsín herself shared her insights into this matter while translating Rizal’s novels into English:

Spanish is a beautiful language; but translated into English literally, it becomes florid and clumsy with its long periodic sentences, shifting tenses and wandering modifiers and, therefore, less comprehensible.

To make the above statement simpler, how many ingenious Tagalog jokes are robbed of its humor when translated into English, and vice versa?

Translation per se is not bad. But oftentimes, it robs the cadence, the emotion, the sparse clarity, the wit, the humor, and the soul of what the original language had wanted to convey. Those who read Rizal through English translations of his novels do not notice the stark sarcasm of the author towards the institutions and persons that he was maligning. Another flaw which Lacon-Locsín had wisely observed was that there seemed to be a “greater pursuit to depict the political and social thoughts of Rizal’s time in the context of the translator’s milieu rather than simply to tell the story of a different world in a different time.”

Although translations have to be in tandem with the semantics of the age in which they are read to be appreciated, my own personal view is that they should, as much as possible, capture much of the nuances and cadence of the period in which they had been written; even at the risk of sounding awkward or stilted.

And how can the nuances and cadence of Rizal’s period be captured? By “capturing” Rizal’s mind. And how to capture this still mysterious mind?

There is a key: the Spanish language, of course.

We always quote Rizal: “To foretell the destiny of a nation, it is necessary to open the book that tells of her past.” But reading our past through translations is never enough. And it is not giving justice to Rizal whenever we read his poems, novels, and essays in English/Tagalog. English is so foreign to him as Swahili is so distant to us. In order to understand Rizal fully, it is necessary to capture the nuances of his genius.

Not only that, by learning Spanish we will uncover more about ourselves. We shall be able to, at last, open the book that tells us of our past. Our real past. Already, the small amount of “Spanish evidence” that we have is shedding much light about who we are and what we were. What more if we are able to salvage more than 13 million documents stocked in the National Archives, written in Spanish, waiting to be “decoded”?

Hopefully, our nation’s leaders will make something that is significantly historic: by fully reintegrating the Spanish language back into our lives. In doing so we will be able to understand what Rizal was all about, what his motives were, his emotions and attitude towards everything he tackled, and why he truly deserves to be called el pilar de nuestra nación.

*******

My Facebook photos of Rizal@150.

Santacruzan sa Unisan 2011 (Unisan, Tayabas)

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The Philippines may have lost the Spanish language to some extent, but it has not lost contact with its Hispanic past. Our country’s Latin spirit has been kept alive by our culture itself as represented by numerous town fiestas and other Catholic events held almost every week.

Suffice it to say that Catholicism is almost synonymous to Hispanidad, at least, perhaps, in our country. After all, it was the Spaniards who brought the Catholic faith to these once heathen islands. But it can also be said that it was the Catholic faith which spurred the conquistadores (inspired by the zeal of the Catholic Spanish crown) to win new souls in Christ the Lord’s name.

In modern slang, the Catholic-Spanish influx to these islands which we now call the Philippines was a “double whammy” of sorts.

Take the month of May, for instance. Filipinos celebrate the famous Flores de Mayo with much pomp, grace, and grandeur. It has been deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche that it is not even considered Hispanic anymore. But it was and still is. Flores de Mayo is a true testament of what Hispanidad really is, aside from a linguistic point of view.

My cousins Jam Alas (Reina de las Flores) and Kevin Alas (escort).

Flores de Mayo (translated as “Flowers of May” in English) is celebrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. At the end of the month, a religio-historical beauty pageant called the sagala, commonly known as the Santacruzan, is held in many towns all over the country. This Catholic tradition (perhaps endemic only to our country) can be traced to the epic journey of Saint Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great (the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity), to locate the Vera Cruz (True Cross) of Jesus Christ. Actually, according to Catholic tradition, Saint Helena discovered the cross on 14 September 325; why the Santacruzan is held every May remains a puzzle to me.

The people of Unisan, Tayabas (now Quezon) may have not noticed it (particularly the younger generation), but these prying eyes did. The colorful mix of the procession, the devotees’ singing of Dios Te Salve María and other church songs in Latin, and the town’s various ancestral houses (bahay na bató) made the whole scene very Hispanic, indeed. After having attended Unisan’s Santacruzan and witnessed the Rigodón de Honor, I remarked that the only thing lacking to make the picture complete was the Spanish language.

But even without the Spanish language, for as long as the Philippines remains Christian, i.e. Catholic, complete with her traditions that were brought here by the friars, we shall continue living as a Hispanic country.

Santacruzan sa Unisan

Last 29 May, my cousins Josephine “Jam” Alas y Láus (one of Magic 89.9‘s youngest disc jocks) and up-and-coming basketball superstar Kevin Louie Alas y Platón (of Colegio de San Juan de Letrán Knights and PBA D-League‘s Cebuana Lhuillier Gems; son of famous multi-titled basketball coach Francisco Luis “Louie” Alas y Évora) participated in the annual Santacruzan, the culmination of the month-long Flores de Mayo. Jam represented the queen of May flowers, La Reina de las Flores; Kevin was her escort. Typhoon Chedeng was threatening to ruin the event all week. Surprisingly (or should I say miracurously), the typhoon suddenly veered its course, and that afternoon procession was greeted by sunny skies instead!

Below are photos of each queen with brief historical descriptions, but not wanting in criticisms. It is hoped that subsequent Santacruzan processions will strictly adhere to tradition, and that each representative queen must first be “indoctrinated” on the meaning and significance of this holy procession even before they participate. This is not merely a pagandahan affair. Each queen has meaning. That must be squarely emphasized so as not to forget the true value of this summertime Catholic procession.

¡Gracias a la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo!


Reina de los Ángeles. Traditionally, this queen has a branch of white flowers.


Young girls clad in white carrying the letters A-V-E M-A-R-Í-A.


Reina Banderada.
Traditionally, this queen is a young girl dressed in a long red gown. She carries with her a triangular yellow flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity. But where is the yellow flag in this photo?


Buán (Moon) at mğa Bituín (Stars). Buán represents the Moon which is the throne of the Virgin Mary.


Another representative for Reina de los Ángeles.


Reina de la Fe symbolizes Faith, the first of the Theological Virtues. This queen should carry a crucifix (but the lady pictured above doesn’t have one).


Reina Esperanza symbolizes the second of the Theological Virtues: Hope. This representative should carry an anchor, the Christian symbol for Hope.


Reina de la Caridad symbolizes Charity, the last of the Theological Virtues. And this queen should carry an image of a red heart (Christian symbol for the virtue she represents). But instead of that, what she carries in this photo is an abanico (a local fan).


Reina Luwalhatì represents the Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Hapis represents the Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Tuwâ represents the Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Abogada (in front) represents the defender of the poor and the oppressed. Traditionally, she carries a large book and wears a toga similar to those worn during graduation ceremonies. Behind her is Reina Sentenciada. Traditionally, her hands are tied by a rope. She represents the First Christians, particularly the virgins who were martyred in the name of the Christian Faith.


Reina de la Justicia. She represents the “Mirror of Justice”, a personification of the Virgin Mary which is one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto (Letanías Lauretanas). Her symbols (again not shown in this procession) are the familiar images of justice: a weighing scale and a sword.


Reina Samaritana represents the biblical lady with whom our Lord Jesus Christ had a conversation with at the well (John 4:13-30). Her symbol is a water jug which the representative queen should carry on her shoulders. (not apparent in this photo).


Reina de Saba represents the queen who had a special friendship with the famous King Solomon (I Book of Kings 10:1-13).


Reina Esther (sometimes spelled Ester) was a Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from certain death at the hands of Haman the Agatite through her timely intervention. At the Flores de Mayo/Santacruzan procession, this queen is supposed to carry a scepter.


Reina Judit is the widow who saved her city from the Assyrians under the cruel general Holofernes. Her symbols: the severed head of Holofernes that she is supposed to carry in one hand and a sword in the other. Again, these props were not used.


Reina Elena III. There are usually three representatives for Reina Elena during the Santacruzan procession. But the escort particularly for Reina Elena III is traditionally a young boy, representing a young Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great.


Reina Elena II.


Reina Elena I.


Reina Elena, the mother of the emperor-saint, Constantine the Great. In Catholic tradition, she was the queen who looked for the relics of the Vera Cruz, or the True Cross, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Curiously, Vera Cruz is also a surname of one of the oldest families in Unisan.


Reina Emperatriz is actually the mother of Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great, none other than Reina Elena. The title emperatriz is derived from the Latin words Augusta Imperatrix, an honorific title given by the emperor to his mother.


The young escorts of the Reina de las Flores. The girls (left to right): my cousin Carmela and my niece Amber. Behind them are my cousins Rafaél (Carmela’s brother) and Joseph (Jam’s brother).


My cousins Jam and Kevin as the Reina de las Flores and her escort, respectively. La Reina de las Flores is considered the “Queen of Flores de Mayo“. From my observation, it seemed that Jam was the only queen who strictly continued the Santacruzan tradition that afternoon — because the Reina de las Flores should carry a bouquet of flowers in the procession, which she did. To paraphrase Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — FINALLY… something went right! :-)


Imagen de la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo al regresar a la iglesia después de la procesión.


At the Rigodón de Honor in Parque de Tamesis. Kevin and Jam are at center.


Seated in front of me is family friend Mayor Calixto Catáquiz y Ramírez of San Pedro, La Laguna (his late father is from Unisan). To his right (in green shirt) is Tayabas/Quezon province’s 3rd district representative Danilo Suárez.


My dapper don dad (Sr. Don Josefino Alas y Évora) preparing for the Rigodón de Honor.


Capitana Gloria Alas (at the podium) giving a speech of acknowledgment.


The colorful and lively Rigodón de Honor. At photo is my cousin, Ate Mª Cecilia Alas de Órgano and her dance partner. This dance event was participated by many of my relatives (including dad) and former congresswoman Aleta Suárez (wife of incumbent congressman Suárez).


Left to right: Kevin, our niece Lía, Jam, Lía’s brother RR, and the preferred escort of all Flores de Mayo queens (who else?).


Alas Bratpack (left to right): RR, Kevin, Joycee, Lía, Jam, my wife Yeyette, Ate Glen, Emperor Pepe the Great, and Laiza.


Goofing around with Wifey (but lovely still). :D

*******

All photos in this article were taken by myself and my cousin Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández.

Pahiyás Festival 2011 (Lucbán, Tayabas)

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When he was still a Mason, Rizal once calumnied the town fiesta in his first novel. Hispanophobic elements in our educational system carried on what was but an immature satire from the national hero’s imagination. But today, who is seriously making fun of the fiesta? One could not even see such calumnies in Lucbán, Tayabas (now Quezon province) every May. In that, Rizal’s anti-Catholic clowning failed, at least in this pastoral town. Last week (15 May) was a dream come true for me. I’ve been wanting to visit this town since I was a kid. I first read about the town, particularly the fiesta that made it famous, from an uncle’s old textbook. Since then, the sights and flavor described in that textbook never left my imagination. Finally, after two decades, I was able to experience the famous Pahiyás Festival (together with my wife and my cousin and her boyfriend)! The Pahiyás Festival (“pahiyás” means “precious offering”) is celebrated every May. It signifies the end of summer and the start of the rainy season. It is in honor of Saint Isidore (San Isidro), patron saint of farmers. The people of Lucbán thank him for interceding for them for a good harvest. But according to a local (a godfather of my cousin’s boyfriend), whether or not their harvest is fruitful, they never fail to thank the Spanish saint for praying to God for them. And they express their gratitude through this colorful celebration of life and a bountiful harvest!

This landmark signifies that you're near the town of Lucbán. I have no idea what this farm produces. But the landscape is cute nonetheless.

The fiesta produced a horrendous traffic going into the town. Lesson learned: when one plans to visit the annual Pahiyás Festival, travel time from the metropolis should begin at dawn.

A backdrop of Monte de Banahaw de Lucbán seen from the entrance of the town. Professional mountaineers classify it as a Level 5/9 mountain in terms of climbing difficulty.

Monte de Banahaw de Lucbán stands 6,152 feet above sea level! Take note that this mountain is not the actual Monte de Banahaw; it is just a part of the Banahaw mountain range of which Monte de Banahaw and Monte de Cristóbal are a part of.

Southern Luzón State University is at the entrance of the town (in Barrio Culapì).

I noticed that many Filipino houses here are well-maintained. Good job, Lucbán!

Yeyette in front of the 169-year-old house of Dñª Ana María Herrera de Nepomuceno.

Municipal hall.

Lucbán town plaza. The Rizal monument (left) has the national hero's Mí Último Adiós written all over it. But it's in the Spanish original. I wonder how many Lucbeños understand it.

This colorful pancít habháb kiosk is an entrant at a local competition. Pancít habháb, a Lucbán delicacy

Old Center Pancitería, said to be the home of the original pancít habháb.

A modernized version of the pancít habháb. I didn't like it (most of the time, I always prefer original versions), but this one still tasted good!

The image of Saint Isidore on a carroza is being taken out for the famous Pahiyás parade.

The size of the people pales in comparison to that huge San Miguel Pale Pilsen replica on top of the public market!

We have the "best seat in the house"! :-)

The best-decorated houses are given prize money ranging from ₱3,000 to ₱50,000.

Cayó ná ang mayaman. :-)

My one and only! ;-)

Scene stealer.

Back to where we began.

Carabaos were also the stars of the parade!

The pancít habháb sold outside the streets are much better than those inside local restaurants. The old-fashioned way is always the best!

I bought one!

¡Gigante!

It's nighttime already. But the throng of people didn't even lessen.

Street revelers in a street party!

Lucbán delights (the food, not them): jardinera, pancít habháb, mechado de carabáo, etc.

******* Lucbán According to popular legend, Lucbán town was named after a citrus fruit called lucbán (Citrus maxima, otherwise known as sujà or pomelo; see photo below). The town of Lucbán (just a couple of kilometers from my birthplace) was founded by missionaries from the Order of Friars Minor, otherwise known as the Franciscan friars. Like present-day Taal in Batangas, Lucbán used to be on another site. The town was transferred to its present site in 1629. ******* Lucbán Church (Church of Saint Louis the Bishop)

Lucbán Church (Iglesia/Parroquia de San Luis Obispo).

Lucbán Church, formally known as the Church of Saint Louis the Bishop, is an example of a pre-modern baroque church. As can be read in the historical marker, this church was built in 1595 but was ruined in 1629. The second church was constructed between 1630 and 1640, but a conflagration severely damaged it in 1733. The present church was completed in 1738; the convent followed in 1743.

Retablo.

Santíssima Trinidad.

An image of Saint Louis (1274 – 1297) at the right side of the nave. At twenty three years old, he became a very young Bishop of Toulouse, France. What was I doing back then at his age? Already a young father of one, of course.

Impressive façade — with a human head, haha!

Saint Isidore The Farmer (San Isidro Labrador)

Saint Isidore, Patron of Farmers, was born at Madrid, Spain, of a poor family at the end of the 12th century. He was named after the famous Bishop of Seville, and from an early age was employed as a laborer on a farm outside the city. He married a lovely girl, but after the early death of their son they agreed to live in continence. Isidore went to church every morning, prayed while working in the fields, and spent the holidays visiting the churches of Madrid. One time, his fellow workers complained that his religious practices caused him to be late at work. To test the truth of this accusation, his master hid himself to watch. He noticed that Isidore did actually arrive late, but he also saw several angels assisting him.

San Isidro Labrador. Not many Filipinos know that he's a Spaniard (from Madrid).

Isidore’s generosity to the poor was so great that he often reserved for himself only the scraps they left over. One a winter’s day, while carrying a sack of corn to be ground, he saw a number of birds on the bare branches of a tree. He opened the sack and poured out half of its contents for them. When he reached the destination, the sack was still full and its produce double of the usual amount of flour! Isidore died in 1130. From that time, many miracles were worked through his intercession. His wife, who survived him for several years, is venerated in Spain as Santa María de la Cabeza (because her head is often carried in procession in times of drought).

María Torribia, commonly known as Santa María de la Cabeza, the wife of San Isidro Labrador.

(Culled from my daughter’s MY FIRST BOOK OF SAINTS published by Quality Catholic Publications; minor edits are mine).

Las turistas: me (looking a bit harassed, haha!), my wife Yeyette, my cousin Joycee, and her boyfriend Jivann in front of Lucbán Church.

Lucbán Church shortly before midnight.

After enjoying the sights and sounds of Lucbán on its most special day, one will immediately know the meaning of its old Tagalog motto: ¡yanong riquít, baling gandá!

Click here for more photos of PAHIYÁS 2011!

Happy second birthday, Juanito!

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Happy second birthday to my youngest son, Juan Pablo Benedicto P. Alas!!!

Juanito

Life goes on

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I haven’t posted anything for a month. It’s either I got burned out, or my grandmother’s death shocked the wits out of me, or both. All I did was toy around with Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t even read books.

In my last blogpost, I wrote that I will write more details about my grandmother’s passing in the coming days. But I thought it best to cancel that. Life must go on. We will never be able to bring her life back. Even if I cry every time.

But on the other side of things, I must be happy for her, because she is no longer in a tremendous amount of pain. Something that even the best doctors in the world will not be able to remedy.

So what have I been doing aside from doing nothing? I just stayed at home, doing nothing. I attempted many times to read and write, but failed. This blogpost is an attempt. Another attempt to get rid of this numbness of the mind. And my mind feels like a sponge. But I did visit Señor Gómez these past two Saturdays to discuss and debate on a lot of things. Yo hasta traté de bailar flamenco en sus clases aunque tengo izquierdos dos pies.

Life must move on, I guess. I have my grandmother as an inspiration, anyway. I will never forget that day when she declared that she’s proud of me for putting the Spanish language back to the family, for continuing the family heritage.

I will never allow that torch to be extinguished. Sigo la lucha.

A novena prayer for my dearly departed abuela, Srª Dñª Norma Évora y Bonilla vda. de Alas

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My dearly beloved grandmother, Nanay Norma (1930-2011), is finally reunited with her one and only true love, Tatay Godofredo “Godò” Alas y Sarmiento (1925-1997). They are now in Good Hands, a place where there is no more pain nor sadness, only true and eternal bliss.

My abuela passed away last night —on my dad’s 59th birthday— at 11:38 PM in Makati Medical Center (MICU 7). She should have been 81 this May 3rd. But God is merciful: He didn’t allow for my grandmother to suffer any further. He even gave her just enough strength to be with my dad on his birthday.

The pain of losing a loved one, a matriarch, is something that is almost unbearable. Nonetheless, we are glad that Nanay Norma is no longer in pain, that she is now with Tatay Godò, that both of them are reunited with the Lord…

I will write more details about this sad event in the coming days. In the meantime, please do join the Alas and Évora clans in prayer during this moment of great grief.

Mi abuelo Godò y abuela Norma. Foto sacada durante nuestra vacación en Pagsanján, La Laguna, circa 1997.

Let us now offer this novena prayer for our beloved Nanay Norma E. Alas who has departed from this world and now returns to you.
O Lord, in your mercy welcome her into your heavenly kingdom.
She has gone to her rest.
Now, she hopes to rise with you.
O Lord, in your encompassing love, bring her into the light of your Divine Presence.

We meekly intercede, O Lord, for our faithful departed Nanay Norma.
May she find eternal peace with you.
May she inherit your kind forgiveness.
May she see you face to face.
Yes, you are our hope in this world.
You are our resurrection and life.
You are our Judge and Savior.

O Lord, we humbly beseech you: be merciful in your judgment and grant to Nanay Norma the promised salvation.
Remember not her faults, but cleanse her of her sins and grant her lasting reward.
O Lord, extend to Nanay Norma your victory over sin and death.
Let her not be separated from you, but grant her a place in your eternal abode.

Jesus, Lord of the living and the dead, comfort of the weary and the afflicted, conqueror of death and sin, guide our departed Nanay Norma.
As she reaches the end of her journey, lead her back to you.
As her life comes to an end, let her live with you.
As she stands before you in judgment, please speak again these words:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

May the good Lord grant her a merciful judgment and look kindly upon her.

ALL: Lord, help us see death for what it really is:

—the end of poverty and the beginning of riches:
—the end of frustration and the beginning of fulfillment;
—the end of fear and the beginning of tranquility;
—the end of pain and the beginning of joy;
—the end of weakness and the beginning of strength.

Let not grief overwhelm us or a sense of loss embitter us, but out of our sadness let there arise a new joy.

Cast out our fears and let not our hearts be troubled.
Let your spirit of peace come alive within our experience and hurt, our sorrow and isolation, our sadness today and loneliness tomorrow.

We humbly commend to you, Nanay Norma, whom you called out of this mortal life.
You loved her always with a great love.

Now that you have freed her from all the evils of this earth, bring her into your paradise where there is no more grief or mourning or sadness, but peace and joy with your Son and the Holy Spirit forever.

We thank you for all the blessings you have given to Nanay Norma in her mortal life.
We pray that she may be able to glorify you with the life she lived and the way he made use of your blessings.

Lord, grant that we will never forget that life is short and uncertain.
Let your Spirit guide us in holiness, justice, and service to our brothers and sisters.

We pray for the healing of all unhappy and hurting feelings death may have caused in our hearts.
Be with us, Lord, during our moments of sorrow and loneliness.
You are our rock, our fortress, and our strength.

We trust in you and hope in your glorious resurrection.
We lift up to you our grief and sorrow, confident that you Hill change mourning to rejoicing that our beloved now rests in your peace.

L: Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
A: And let perpetual Light shine upon her.
L: May she rest in peace.
A: Amen.
L: May the soul of Nanay Norma and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
A: Amen.

*******

Prayer taken from Straight From The Heart… A Prayer Companion by “healing priest” Fr. Mario José C. Ladra (pp. 321-326, St Pauls Publications, 2007).

Nanay Norma’s critical condition

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I was supposed to share good tidings today, particularly about the meeting I had almost 24 hours ago with my compañeros regarding the founding of our new group/website. But that has to come later.

Because I think my abuelita‘s life is hanging on the balance.

Although bound to a wheelchair, she still looked rather healthy when I took this photo of her last 12/10/2010 in front of her house in Unisan, Tayabas/Quezon.

My dad’s mother, my beloved abuelita, is confined (for the nth time) in Makati Medical center, this time in the hospital’sintensive care unit (ICU).

According to mom, my dad (he’s been taking care of grandmother for the past few years in Unisan) has been sending SMS messages to her in Manila, telling her of abuela‘s worsening condition. She suddenly started to weaken right after the Holidays. She was sent promptly to Makati Med last Thursday (1/27/2010) Wednesday (1/26/2011).

My grandmother, affectionately called Nanay Norma by many people, is diabetic. Through the years, the dreaded disease has contributed much to her debilitation. And aside from old age, mobility changed abruptly by an accident last year; she fell from her bed, fracturing her hips.

When me and Yeyette visited her this evening, I was shocked with what I saw. I immediately placed myself in self-denial. This could not be my grandmother who showered me with so much affection and love… for why couldn’t she speak to me (when she was hospitalized last year, she could still talk coherently)?! Also, it was my first time inside an intensive care unit. Many “hoses and wires” were connected to her semi-bloated right arm and nostrils; she was undergoing intravenous therapy. And worse, she was moaning. She could hardly speak anymore, as if she’s suffering from “reverse trismus”: her jaw won’t shut. And I could hardly understand what she was saying. She was moaning because of breathing difficulties. And she appeared to be in so much pain. It all appeared so surreal, so unreal. It was just a month ago that I was talking to her! I so could not believe what I was seeing that all the tears that supposed to well up in me fell instead from Yeyette’s eyes.

Thankfully, my grandmother immediately recognized me in spite of her drowsiness caused by drugs.

I later learned that she has pneumonia, the same ailment that killed her husband, my late grandfather Godofredo Alas y Sarmiento, in 1997.

Dad is the only one there at the hospital who is taking care of her when we arrived. Uncle Louie was also there, paying a visit. Soon, my mom and two sisters arrived.

For the benefit of all Alas and Évora family members, below is a photo of grandma’s cardiac monitor (a usual fixature in many a hospital scene in the country, especially when one of the film’s character is about to give up the ghost). Her status will also be described below the photo:

My grandmother's cardiac monitor. This is a necessary equipment in intensive care units.

My wife took the above photo of my grandmother’s cardiac monitor before we left last night. The green graph represents her pulse rate; the normal rate is from 60 to 100. The yellow graph represents her respiratory rate; the normal rate is from 20 to 25. 102/46 (the numbers in red) represents her blood pressure. Her blood sugar is (59), but it should be maintained at 80.

However, when we got home (a few hours ago), we received an SMS (11:26 PM) from my sister Jessica: abuela‘s blood pressure worsened — it dropped to 68/46!

It’s now 4:16 AM. Time to go to sleep. We plan to go back there this afternoon; it’s dad’s 59th birthday today. Such a bad timing to cheer him up. Nevertheless, we’ll be there. We should be there.

And I’d like to whisper to Nanay Norma’s large Hispanic ears that we will attend her 81st birthday in Unisan. And that she should be there to host it.

*******

A thousand thanks to our relatives who already visited. Thank you for your prayers and moral support:
Captain Ernesto Alas
Tito Monching Alas
Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández
Uncle Paul Évora III
Tita Corina Unson (Thank you so much for Saint Anne’s oil!)

May God bless you every single day of your lives. =)

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