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161st birthday anniversary of Plaridel

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prop·a·gan·da /ˌprɒpəˈgændə/ [prop-uh-gan-duh] (noun)
information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

Finally, we have fulfilled a promise to Lola Bening by visiting her grandfather’s shrine in Bulacán. And we did so during a timely event.

Last month, August 30, the town of Bulacán commemorated the 161st natal day of its most celebrated son, Marcelo H. del Pilar, aka Plaridel. For his nationalistic writings mostly published in La Solidaridad and various pamphlets, del Pilar is widely regarded as the Father of Philippine Journalism. Many sectors also add another title to Plaridel’s hallowed name: the Father of Philippine Freemasonry.

For this year, the theme was “Talas ng Panulat at Talino, Inspiración ng mga Filipino” (Sharpness of Pen and Mind, Inspiration of all Filipinos). In a speech given by Bulacán Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, the provincial leader made mention of the media killings and harassment during the past administration (Arroyo’s), noting that while it continues, the power of journalism then as now will always prevail against the forces of evil.

In such speeches celebrating historic milestones of our national heroes, understandably borne out of subtle “mind-conditioning” in schools, there is always an almost unconscious temptation of painting the past in a darker picture, as if the very air that our heroes’ breathed at that time were smothered in smoke deadlier than the smoke fumes we have today from factories and vehicles. That the sharpness of Plaridel’s pen cannot be denied. That his patriotism can even be at par with that of José Rizal’s, or even far greater, more sublime, deeper and more profound.

But it should be understood thoroughly: what did Plaridel really fight for? How did he put to good use the talas of his panulat?

To simply say that Plaridel “fought against Spanish abuses and tyranny” is mere elementary school talk, very shallow, a premise totally unacceptable in scholarly conversations. An unbiased reassessment of the past will clearly show that the Bulaqueño native belonged to the second wave of the “Propaganda Movement” (the first wave included creoles such as Padres Pedro Peláez and José Burgos, Miguel Rodríguez Varela, etc.), a movement strictly anti-clerical not so much that they were anti-Catholics but that the movement, inspired by a wave of revolutions in Europe, particularly France, saw in itself as carrying the cudgels of reform for a modernized/liberalized Filipinas. In the eyes of these intellectuals —”Europeanized” due to their language, Spanish—, the Philippines was very left behind in terms of economy and technology, arts and culture.

On a side note: if the propagandistas were alive today and then noticed at how that “backward culture” they loathed so much produced, ironically, renaissance men such as themselves —an endangered species in our supposedly modernized/liberalized milieu— I’m sure that they would have been laughing at their follies. Del Pilar would have been roaring the loudest out of sheer disappointment and despair: his nationalism cost him years of precious fatherhood.

Since the intellectuals of that time knew that the friars held prestige and influence on government affairs, these hapless men of the cloth became the main target of attack in the propagandistas‘ campaign for societal changes. Del Pilar was among the first to fire a salvo of anti-friar attacks, writing and distributing defamatory pamphlets and organizing rallies among students who have read liberal writings from Europe. On 1 March 1888, del Pilar helped organize the strongest anti-friar rally ever held during that time: the protesters marched to the office of José Centeno, the civil governor of Manila at that time. Their petition? To ask for the expulsion of Manila Archbishop Pedro Payo as well as all the friars in the Philippines. In the words of historian-priest Fr. Fidel Villaroel, “never before had Manila watched such a bold demonstration against the religious institutes and their Archbishop.” Steeped in knowledge of Church laws, the rallyists’ manifesto (strongly believed to be authored by del Pilar) quoted heavily from the Canon Law and the Leyes de Indias to support accusations against the friars: that they were hostile to authority, ambitious, despotic, etc.

This massive anti-friar protest —probably the first in Philippine History— was the main reason for del Pilar’s escape to Spain, for he was afterwards branded as a filibustero and even anti-Spanish. A legal action was subsequently filed against him, prompting the Commissioner Judge of the legal case to deport del Pilar (probably to faraway Marianas or elsewhere). To escape legal persecution, del Pilar opted to leave Manila for Spain on 28 October 1888, leaving his wife and two daughters behind.

He never saw them ever again.

But in Spain he still continued to fight for whatever reforms he had in mind. Still bitter on his apparent loss against the friars in the Philippines, del Pilar joined their ancient enemy, the Freemasons.

In an interview last year, Lola Bening told me that the main reason why her grandfather affiliated himself with Freemasonry was out of convenience. For a reformist during those days, joining Freemasonry was the most logical thing to do. Del Pilar joined Freemasonry not because he hated Christianity (although later on, estranged for too long from the faith of his forefathers and family, he did become a deist). Del Pilar did so because in Spain he saw an “atmosphere of freedom”, the very same atmosphere he had been yearning for for his beloved country.

During Spanish times, the friars were not just influential over the course of government affairs; the friars were also very much a part of every Filipino family. Unlike today, the cura párroco made it a point to literally look after the lives of his flock by visiting their homes every now and then and as much as possible. Strict Christian ideals and discipline were imposed in every home. Probably “choked” by all this for centuries, and seeing that it was no longer the norm in Spain (for the liberals were already winning during that time), del Pilar et al. called it quits and yearned for “more freedom” from a “stifling” religious life.

For the Freemasons, it was a win-win situation to have del Pilar, a very talented writer in both Tagalog and Spanish, join their ranks. For Freemasonry, nothing more can be sweet but to see the Church of Christ, i.e., the Catholic Church, to be laid to waste.

While in Spain, del Pilar rose through the ranks in Freemasonry quite fast (I do not doubt that he could have been a Freemason already while still in the Philippines). In La Solidaridad, a newspaper that is still very unfamiliar and misunderstood today because it is in Spanish, he wrote scathing essays and even more defamatory articles against the friars in the Philippines. He and his allies continued the “pamphleteering” (hence the name “propaganda”). But unprecedented events and in-fighting within the propagandistas, particularly between del Pilar and Rizal, proved to be fatal for the reform movement in Spain. In the end, an embattled and frustrated del Pilar wrote to his brother-in-law, Deodato Arellano, to organize a more radical group in the Philippines to finally overthrow the Spanish government and not just the friars anymore. Arellano took action and formed the underground movement known as the Katipunan, erroneously known to be a brainchild of Andrés Bonifacio. This fact, therefore, makes del Pilar the indirect founder of that group which directed the destiny of the nation. But that’s for another blogpost.

And since the Propaganda Movement was wasted in the end, the Freemasons saw no more use for del Pilar. In the end, they left him on his own to die on a lonely hospital in Barcelona. But the Freemasons abandoning him was fortuitous, for it allowed del Pilar to have silent moments with God. It is always said that only during the last hours of a man’s life does he take into account all the good and bad things that he has done throughout his existence, and to realize the “existential insignificance” of this ethereal life of ours.

He took the Holy Communion shortly before he died, thus reconverting to the faith of his fathers.

Taking note of all this, it is somehow disappointing to see Freemasons during special days held in honor of both del Pilar and Rizal and hear them lay claim to still having a brotherhood with both heroes in spirit. To a logical person, it should not be difficult to accept cold, hard facts: that both del Pilar and Rizal swallowed their pride and died as Christians. There lies their greatest heroism that should be emulated by all Christians and prodigal sons, an action that is sung not only on Earth but as it is in Heaven. If it is not ignorance from the the part of these Freemasons, then it is sheer desperation to continue acknowledging that Rizal and del Pilar are their brothers. To quote Fr. Villaroel, “what is important is to establish the historical facts and arrive at the truth, whether it pleases or not.

Familia del Pilar (left to right): Rev. P. Vicente Marasigan, Leticia Marasigan de Balagtás, Doña Marciana del Pilar (Plaridel's wife), Antonia Marasigan de Gadi, Sofía H. del Pilar (Plaridel's eldest daughter), Marcelo Marasigan (the baby), Anita H. del Pilar de Marasigan (Plaridel's youngest daughter and mother of Lola Bening), Josefina Marasigan (Madre Mª Aurora of the "Order of Pink Sisters"), Benita Marasigan de Santos (Lola Bening).

El Santuario de Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán (Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine). Lola Bening (del Pilar's granddaughter) told me that the original house was torn down. This house is just a replica of the original (much like the case of Calambá's Rizal Shrine). On this very site stood the original. This is where Plaridel was born and where he spent his youth. The whole property was reacquired later on by Lola Bening. It measures 4,027 square meters, but she had no qualms of donating it to the government for the sake of national patrimony. The shrine is now under the custody of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Mrs. Sylvia Santos de Pineda, daughter of Lola Bening and great granddaughter of Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán.

Bulacán Mayor Patrick Meneses, Bulacán Provincial Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Plaridel's great granddaughter Sylvia Santos de Pineda and husband Patricio Pineda, and Bulacán Vice-Governor Daniel Fernández

Click here to view more photos and details of del Pilar’s 161st birthday!

The Filipino eScribbler, Patricio Pineda, Sylvia Santos de Pineda, and Vicente "Bong" Enríquez (manager of Bulacán-based VSE Productions, a private theater ensemble).

More “new propagandists” to the Filipino cause!

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It has been a little over a year since I quixotically boasted of a new “Filipino supergroup”, a group of “new propagandists” who will face the leyenda negra that has been twisting the minds of millions of chicharón-munching Filipinos. We had talked and agreed of consolidating our ideas, our advocacy, into one coherent and compact body whose nucleus would be a website with a search-engine-attractive name (yeah, something with the name “Filipina” in it — porn surfers beware!). But, as mentioned, it has been over a year…

So where’s the multi-zillion-euro website that I’ve been tellin’ everyone?

Due to time constraints, lack of technical know-how, personal matters, paella fever, and finances (contrary to popular belief, we’re not made of money), this cute little project of ours kept on stalling like MRT coaches. But the dream hanged in there, like a trapo politician.

Then suddenly, one very cold December morning, I bumped into a rocker dude (through a mutual friend who’s actually the niece of a living legend in Filhispanic literature), and he’s into designing and developing webs! The rocker dude is Santos “Tuts” Trangía. His cool-soundin’ last name, aside from complementing his cool attitude and friendliness, reminds me of Old Manila’s Frisco-like tranvías (makes me wanna wish that my last name’s República). He’s an axeman for the indie rock band At Helen’s Wake, whose first EP will be out soon. And whoever Helen is, I have no idea; I’ll ask Tuts when I get the chance. So at gunpoint, I was able to make him agree to help us out with this website once and for all. We hope to begin this weekend.

Another good news: I finally found someone! And man, that did knock me off my clammy feet! And that someone is someone who is feared by many WASP-educated “nationalist kunô” UP historians et al. who shamelessly worship images of Zeus Salazar inside their respective toilets. Without further adieu, this someone is none other than controversial historian, the great Pío Andrade, Jr., “the Scourge of Carlos P. Rómulo”, the número uno investigative historian, the next big thing in Philippine historiography! Yes, sir Pío has promised yours truly a few days ago to deliver the goods once our website is up and running (hopefully on or before this summer).

Still more good tidings! Tourism expert —and our group’s dearest online friend from dear old Spain— Juan Luis García (not related to fellow propagandist José Miguel García, a full-blooded Filipino guerrero) is now part of our “online clique”, le guste o no le guste, ¡jajaja!. Juanlu has been very supportive of our group and our advocacy since day one. Also, he has a couple of tourism projects in mind for our country (this he discussed personally with José Miguel when he visited the country last year) — and all this being thought of by a Spaniard, for crying out loud! So what better way to gift him than with a “free membership” into our group? And this free membership comes with a freebie as soon as he comes back to the Philippines for a visit: a Regular Yum with Cheese value meal from Jollibee courtesy of Arnaldo!

Coincidentally, today marks the first year anniversary of Juanlu’s pro-Filipino blog, VIAJAR EN FILIPINAS! Congratulations are in order!

We still await for Chile-based writer/historian Elizabeth “Isabel de Ilocos” Medina‘s response. She’s a distant relative of both Arnaldo and Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera. Also, another heavyweight scholar will join us. But that’s for another blogpost, folks!

Fun days are expected — on our part, that is.

WASPos, anti Filipinos, “Abakada” Pinoys, and all the others who like to go back worshipping trees and scribblin’ on tree barks… your happy days are numbered.

Because THE TRUTH is on our side.

Y todo esto es para el gran honor de Dios, el fuente de nuestra identidad verdadera.

Marcelo H. del Pilar’s letter to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán

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Below is a letter of Marcelo H. del Pilar to his niece, Josefa Gatmaitán. It was translated from Spanish into English by del Pilar’s granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos:

Me and del Pilar's granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Barcelona, 13 March 1889

My dearest niece,

The vagaries of life, which Providence in its most inscrutable design has alloted to me, had taken me away from that beautiful land where I have left behind the treasures of my life without even giving me a chance to say goodbye to the people I cherish and appreciate. In this letter to you, I shall try to make amends for my precipitate flight, by sending through you this my humble message to the young women of Bulacán. I feel convinced that you have been chosen, and on you depends the regeneration, the rebirth of our town. For there is no doubt of the strength and scope of a women’s influence on the family. Daughter, sister, wife, or mother — a woman offers the balm of solace that makes endurable the rigors of everyday life. More than that, she is the element that guides men to paths of virtue and courage or to the pitfalls of wrongdoing and cowardice.

In all these countries that I have now visited, I have found eloquent proof that where women are virtuous, vice is timid and dignity predominates in the life of man. But when feminine frivolity reigns, the men are taken up in immorality and the abandonment and disregard of the sacred duties of man is the popular way of life.

It is your duty to God to develop your mind and your reason by education; it is your duty to your fellowmen to share the knowledge that you possess, that they may use it to better their lives. Do not forget, dear niece, that an untutored mind is like a lighthouse without light, useless to guide the sailor to his port.

I shall recommend to you the diligent study of the Spanish language, because knowledge of Spanish will open to you the opportunity of wide reading which in turn solidifies your education. For this reason alone you should, and the other women of Bulacán with you, devote yourselves to the mastery of the Spanish idiom.

Studying Spanish is not a luxury reserved for a few and denied to the indigent and the female. To study it is not a useless activity to be passed up in indifference and carelessly exchanged for a few idle hours of gossip everyday.

You, my dear niece, and your friends who will be the mothers of tomorrow, do not throw away this treasure. Cherish knowledge not only for yourself but that posterity may have received it from you and bless you for this legacy. Surely, for this you may well sacrifice a few hours a day, the few hours you waste so carelessly in “panguingue” and idle gossip.

For this reason, I have written you from across the sea. For this I plead with all my soul — will you not do this out of love for our town of Bulacán, our unhappy town that had cradled our birth, had sheltered our youth and now shares with us the bitter and the sweet of life’s memories? Look not with indifference at my plea for the weal of Bulacán is linked with yours and those of your children. Study, spread the love of learning, uplift yourselves, and you shall yet uplift your town. And I beseech you for the sake of this goal, to learn to work as one in spirit and determination. Forget and set aside petty rivalries that frequently becloud your little groups. Be ready to sacrifice your little prides in the bigger altar of common good and your noble purposes shall have a better chance of survival. Build up, my dear niece, the honor and prestige of Bulacán by spreading the love of learning among your compatriots. For the mind enlightened and elevated is better than a temple of stone; it is a living sanctuary reflecting the magnificence of its Omnipotent Creator.

M.H. DEL PILAR

Marcelo H. del Pilar y Gatmaitán

Click here to read the letter in its original version. =)

May God forgive the “Fish King” of Mactán

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Carlos Calao (whose relatives today now spell their last name as Kalaw) was a Chinese Mestizo from Binondo. He published the below Spanish poem in 1614. It’s fortunate that I still found a copy of it. The poem was written in praise of Fernando Magallanes (Ferdinand Magellan in English) for having brought the Christian religion to these islands. Cali Pulaco, popularly and erroneously known as Lapu-lapu, was pictured as the real villain (“por orden de Satán“) in that legendary battle.

Actually, Magallanes was hailed by Filipinos as a hero for centuries, even after Spain had left the Philippines. A monument was even erected in Mactán island in his honor. But when our country was invaded and colonized by the US WASPs, they imposed upon us many questionable “heroes”, among them Cali Pulaco/Lapu-lapu, systematically brainwashing the Filipino mind to hate their Spanish past, killing the Filipino identity in the process.

For good or bad, Magallanes et al. brought to these heathen islands the concept of Christianity. So we better salute and thank him for introducing to us the Christmas season which is just around the corner. =)

To read the full and real story behind the battle of Mactán, click here. I wrote that indignant article more than three years ago for JB Lazarte‘s techno-humor blog SKIRMISHER (a history blogpost published in a techie blog — ang layo, ¿no?).

Without further adieu, here is Carlos Calao: poet, Filipino…

A monument of Magallanes in Punta Arenas, Chile. Although Magellan has a couple of monuments here in our country (with some places named after him), he is still looked upon with scorn for having "invaded the Philippines". A classic case of historical stupidity among Filipinos today.

QUE DIOS LE PERDONE
Carlos Calao

Que Dios le perdone al salvaje,
Al pagano de Mactán
Que no entendió la palabra
De Dios en el Capitán
Magallanes, a quién muerte
Dió por orden de Satán,
El enemigo de Cristo,
El ponsoñoso alacrán.

A dos cientos cobardes
Cali Pulaco mandó
Que se le tire arena
En los ojos a traición
Y que con pedradas y palos
Se le cayera el toisón:
¡Un hombre contra dos cientos
Salvajes sin corazón!

El Capitán Magallanes
Los invitó a servir
Al verdadero Dios servir nuestro;
Mas, aquel régulo vil
Llamado Cali Pulaco
No quiso ver ni sentir
La dádiva de la Fe
Y nos lo hizo morir.

Mas, no fue en vano la muerte
Del noble Conquistador.
El Niño Jesús que se entrona
En Cebú es hoy la flor
Que a su martirio perfuma.
Nadie recuerda al traidor
Que a Magallanes dió muerte.
Tal vez, otro vil traidor.

I dare say that the true hero of Mactán was not your vile Fish King. For having resisted Christianity and a possible early Filipinization, he unwittingly became the enemy of Christ, the poisonous scorpion.

To Magallanes: a respectful salute and boundless admiration!

Wisdom of the ages: la Señora Doña Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos

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With the granddaughter of national hero Marcelo H. del Pilar, la Señora Doña Benita Marasigan vda. de Santos

“Anó ang nangyari sa buhay có? Namulubi lang ang familia co. Ualáng nangyari sa mañgá guinauá co…” thus said a dying and remorseful Marcelo H. del Pilar, as relived by his 92-year-old granddaughter, Atty. Benita Marasigan-Santos.

Del Pilar died for country and principles. But precious time that was supposed to be for his wife and two young daughters Sofía and Anita went with him to the grave. Despite of it all, Lola Bening was still proud of his Lolo Celo for his patriotism.

Last 5 September, I had the rare opportunity to “speak with history” when a cousin of my dad, Paul Évora III, happened to read the article that I wrote about del Pilar which coincided with the national hero’s 160th birth anniversary. He was the one who arranged my lunch meeting with Lola Bening. And since, to the best of my knowledge, I have never met Uncle Paul all my life (I found him only through this wonderful online creature called Facebook), little did I know that his partner, Corina Unson, is actually the youngest daughter of Lola Bening.

We were welcomed by Uncle Paul and his gracious better half at their homely enclave within the bustling party district of Malate. For me, it was a queer sight to see such a handsome bahay na bató in highly urbanized Manila, still standing proudly and mysteriously behind a youngish narra tree (the house sometimes spooks the wits out of unknowing passersby, Uncle Paul told me).

The Marasigan-del Pilar ancestral house. At the gate are Uncle Paul, Yeyette, and Auntie Corina.

Lola Bening, despite her old age (she was born on 4 April 1918), was still sharp of mind. Very sharp. Like her grandfather, she used to be a writer. In fact, her English translation of her grandfather’s Spanish letter to her Tía Josefa landed a spot in Dr. Celedonio G. Aguilar’s Readings In Philippine Literature (Rex Book Store, Ciudad de Quezon, 1994). Trained as a laywer, she wrote numerous articles but mostly about her favorite subject: Philippine History.

“When I was a student at the University (of Santo Tomás), I befriended the librarian there. Once, I asked her if I could gain access to the archives to read the works of my grandfather, “La Frailocracía Filipina” and “La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas“. I was hoping that I could translate them (from Spanish into English). When I was not allowed access, I spoke with the rector who explained to me that ‘the times have already changed’, that it is really not necessary to read them anymore.” I immediately understood the reason why she was denied access. I explained to her that due to the anti-Catholic content of the two essays, the Catholic university thought it best not to have them exposed to a new generation of Filipinos who no longer deserved a useless war between the religious and secular thought. But I assured her that translations are now available everywhere, including the internet.

If not for her blindness, I am quite certain that Lola Bening would still be writing.

Lola Bening also recounted how her family lost their fortune due to her grandfather’s costly eight-year self-exile in Barcelona, Spain. Whenever they could, the family sent del Pilar money to sustain himself as well as to keep his anti-clerical activities up and running. Although a devout Catholic, Lola Bening seemed not to be ashamed of her grandfather’s stance towards the friars because she believed that what del Pilar did was right and was for the benefit of the masses.

After del Pilar’s death, the family was somehow able to rise from the ashes of poverty due to the hero’s youngest daughter’s marriage to businessman Vicente Marasigan.

“On the day of my mother’s marriage, she was crying the whole time because she never wanted to marry my father,” said Lola Bening. The reason? “It was a planned marriage. And besides, my mother preferred to study than get married.” She then bade us to a sepia photo hanging on the sala wall to examine the countenance of her then young mother who was with her father. The photo was taken shortly before the marriage.

Portrait of Lola Bening's parents: Anita del Pilar and Vicente Marasigan.

“Take a good look. Notice the sadness in her face. She was crying before that picture was taken,” Lola Bening added.

The downcast countenance of Marcelo del Pilar's youngest daughter.

The wedding rings of Lola Bening's beloved parents, made of pure gold. They were married on 12 March 1912. The date is engraved in Anita's ring (the one with the name of Vicente engraved on it).

The couple's wedding rings with 13 gold coins or arras dating back to the Spanish times. The custom of giving 13 arras originated from Spain.

Fortunately for the rest of the family, Anita learned to love Vicente in the course of the marriage (Auntie Corina said that she and her siblings used to call them Lola Tâ and Lolo Tê respectively). The marriage produced nine children. As a testament of Anita’s background of grief, their first two children died. But as compensation —and quite ironically for the “Father of Philippine Masonry”— the Marasigan brood grew up to be god-fearing individuals. They were never influenced by their grandfather’s reputation as a high-ranking Mason. In fact, there were two religious among Vicente and Anita’s children: Ateneo de Manila University’s Fr. Vicente Marasigan, S.J., and; Sr. Mother Mary Aurora Marasigan of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters (she globally headed the “Pink Sisters” a record four times). Lola Bening herself had her schooling in two Catholic institutions: the University of Santo Tomás (which was then in Intramuros) and Saint Paul University Manila. She eventually took up law, but was never able to practice it fully; she taught law and history at Saint Paul and also served time as a corporate lawyer. However, her husband, the late Justice Arturo B. Santos, took her place in the practice of law and served as judge of the Court of First Instance of Tarlac, Branch II.

Lola Bening proudly said that her father once owned a handsome house along Calle Isaac Peral (now United Nations Avenue in nearby Ermita) which eventually became the model of and setting for Nick Joaquín‘s Portrait Of An Artist As Filipino (even the Marasigan last name Nick adopted into that play’s main characters, but in no way do the fictional Marasigan players reflected the lives of the real ones, said Auntie Corina). They had another house near the Remedios Circle. It was there were Lola Bening spent her earlier years before transferring to their present home (built in 1929) in Calle Miguel Malvar (first known as Tennesse street; renamed Mindoro Street during the Japanese Occupation).

At the height of the controversial snap presidential polls of 1986, Lola Bening was one of the leaders of the National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections. During that stint, she was interviewed by a then struggling correspondent who later on became an Emmy-Award-winning journalist: Jim Clancy of CNN International.

During our lunch meeting, I was actually expecting to learn more about del Pilar (the man, not the hero) that I have never read nor heard before. Quite embarassingly, I was told of the anecdote of “Ang Piso Ni Anita“, something quite famous in the academe but was totally unfamiliar to me. However, I learned more about Anita and her pains throughout her life. Throughout her childhood, she was yearning for fatherly love. Lola Bening said that as a child, her mother used to look at photos of her dad, contemplating on how he looked like in person, asking her elders more about how her father’s physical appearance beyond the photos.

As history had taught us, Anita and her Ate Sofía (whom Lola Bening took care of during her final years) never saw their father again when the latter left for Spain in late 1888. All for the love of country. They saw him one last time, though — inside a coffin on a cold December day in 1920 amidst cheers from Masons and government leaders at the Manila pier. Then many years later, just as when Anita had learned what love is with Vicente, the latter was dead set on offering his services to join the struggle against the 14th Imperial Japanese Army. All for the love of country. A dramatic confrontation ensued, as witnessed by Fr. Marasigan (Auntie Corina shared that —fortunately for Anita— Vicente’s love of family prevailed over him).

Anita’s death was perhaps as painful as her depressing moments in life. In 1955, she suffered a stroke and was in comatose for 40 days before Death finally took pity on her.

Anita’s life was a revelation. Something about her story made me love my wife and kids more and more, for they never had to endure the sufferings of a sorrowful wife and fatherless children.

Lola Bening continued sharing her thoughts not only about her grandfather and Philippine history (she even knows the controversial and delicate issue of “Le Fableux Doña Ysidra” but was careful not to mention any name), she was also up to date with current events. A few years ago, at the height of the much-publicized Subic rape case, she advised close friend Fr. James Reuter, S.J. to be cautious in the issue that was then confronting American Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith. And wisely so because the much-beloved Jesuit became spiritual adviser to the accused and their respective families. His task indeed should be more spiritual than mundane. Fr. Reuter thus avoided the controversial political aspects where he would have been up against a much powerful force: the radical feminist groups who were behind Smith’s “victim”.

“In the end, to settle the issue out of court, they (the US government) gave her (Nicole, Smith’s purported rape victim) a US visa which appeared to be what she wanted in the first place,” said Lola Bening, “because, strangely, her relatives got to the US ahead of her!”

She also asked us about what we thought of Noynoy. I wisely decided not to comment since it’s too early into his presidency to do so. But she was an anti-charlatan when it comes to opinion. She was, after all, basing her viewpoints on account of her age and experience throughout the decades. She wisely observed that our country, throughout its sad history, has been led too much by the elite (Auntie Corina kidded her on this comment, pointing out as if she’s in a glass house throwing stones!). She observed how our country’s natural resources have been exploited by outsiders, and how the WASPs have thrown their weight around our national leaders. Classic features of neocolonialism, I commented. To which she replied:

“Maybe it’s time that we recover our identity.”

Indeed it is time.

I would have asked her more about Intramuros and the Spanish language during her heyday. But out of courtesy, I didn’t — the family invited me mainly because of what I wrote about Marcelo H. del Pilar, so it was expected that I ask more about the propagandist. Hopefully, I’d be able to talk to her again to learn more about my beloved Walled City which she saw before the last war destroyed it.

Throughout the end of the visit, Lola Bening exhorted me and Yeyette to visit the 4,027-square-meter Marcelo H. Del Pilar Shrine in Bulacán, Bulacán, the land of which she donated to the government in 1983. She was beaming with pride on how she had helped build the shrine together with the government, and contributed to its many modifications for the sake of national posterity.

As we said our goodbyes while promising her that we will visit her dear grandfather’s shrine very soon, my mind was somehow drifting towards that lonely Barcelona room where a tubercular propagandist, more in pain from being away from his wife and daughters than from his ailment, was quietly weeping while writing letters to his loved ones. And as my mind drifted, I dreamily promised Lola Bening that “we will visit the Mabini Shrine very soon.”

The 92-year-old lady, still sharp of wits, corrected this absent-minded 31-year-old blogger of his unforgivable mistake:

“Del Pilar Shrine! Not Mabini, Pepe!”

Undoubtedly, Lola Bening’s grandfather would have been as alert as her if only he had reached his 90s. But such is the grand design of our history.

Uncle Paul, Auntie Corina, Lola Bening, Yeyette, and del Pilar's mascot.

The National Hero’s Crib (Calambâ, La Laguna)

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Calambâ is a lovely town in Laguna province, Luzón, the largest of the Philippines’ seven thousand islands. A crystalline river flows through the town while the hills gracefully curve against the blue sky. From these hills and from the modern highway that now runs through the town, one can see Laguna de Bay softly lapping its shores.

The traveler who passes here may pause to admire the scenic beauty of palm-covered mountains, fields green with young rice stalks, and the lake’s sparkling water.

A century ago, Calambâ must have been even more beautiful, although not equipped with modern conveniences. There were neither motorcars to raise the dust off the highways nor electric lights to disturb the tranquility of its rustic streets. It had about three or four thousand inhabitants, a tribunal, a church, a convent, a few well-constructed houses, and the so-called Casa Hacienda of the Dominicans. This was the town where Rizal was born on June 19, 1861. –Asunción López-Rizal Bantug (Indio Bravo: The Story of Rizal)–

Calambâ was a very pastoral town many years ago. I can still remember how much of it looked like whenever we pass by the place during summer vacation trips to Unisan: vast farmlands, crystal clear rivers, a vista of the picturesque mountain of Maquiling, majestic pine trees along the tollway, endless green, and the sweet smell of green and earth!

But during the years surrounding the town’s incorporation into a city on 21 April 2001, very much has changed. Gone were the vast agricultural lands, emerging industrial centers produced much pollution, the remaining pine trees along the now traffic-stricken tollway are dying, the rivers decayed, shanties here and there, envelope-wielding Badjáo beggars everywhere, prostitutes in hot springs resorts, residential subdivisions around and along the slopes of Monte de Maquiling, etc. So, this cityhood is for who’s betterment?

Oh well, “progress” will always be “progress”.

Today, Calambâ is the most populous town —or rather city— in the province of La Laguna (yes, La Laguna, and not just Laguna). And because of the place’s current economic condition, it is now considered as a first class city (this means that the town’s average annual income is 400 million pesos or more — not bad). Calambâ is perhaps the most well-known place in La Laguna mainly because it is the birthplace of the country’s national hero. Other than that, it is also the site of many hot springs resorts (like its neighbor, Los Baños) as well as the popular Canlubang Golf and Country Club in Barrio Canlubang, the biggest among Calambâ’s 54 barrios or barangáys (occupying almost a third of the city!).

According to a popular legend, the name Calambâ was derived from —again— a miscommunication between Spaniards and natives. Two guardias civiles lost their way into a nameless settlement where now stands the old town of Calambâ. They encountered a lady carrying a clay pot (bañgâ) and a wooden stove (calán). The soldiers asked the lady for the name of the place. Unwittingly, they used the Spanish language, a tongue unfamiliar to the poor lady. Thinking that the soldiers were asking what her items were called, she nervously gave their names: calán at bañgâ. The Spaniards, unable to pronounce Tagalog correctly, assumed that the place they bumped into was called “Calamba”. This legend is now immortalized with a huge clay pot in Calambâ’s plaza, just across the Church of Saint John the Baptist where Rizal was baptized. The clay pot or bañgâ is said to be the largest in the world.

For a significant point in history, Calambâ used to be a part of Tabuco. On 28 August 1742, it became a full-fledged pueblo or town. Cityhood finally followed nine years ago.

Rizal Shrine

I lost count on the number of times I’ve visited the Rizal home in Calambâ, La Laguna. Actually, the house is just a replica of the original that was burnt down during the last world war. The replica was designed by renowned architect Juan F. Nákpil (the only son of the musical-revolutionist Julio Nákpil) using an old photograph of the house as well as oral descriptions from the Rizal family and some neighbors.

So much has already been written about the Rizal Shrine in Calambâ. So I might as well just give you a pictorial tour of our visit last 19 June 2010, on the occasion of Pepe Rizal’s 149th birth anniversary.

This is Krystal's second time to visit the Rizal shrine (2006 was her first). This is just Momay's first visit.

An old map of Laguna de Bay and its environs. When I first traveled to this house with Arnaldo Arnáiz and our friend mutual friend Mike Adzuara a few years ago, I meticulously studied this map. This is where I found out that the name of that small river beside Festival Supermall in Alabang was Río Albán. It is now called Alabang River or sometimes as Mañgañgate. And it is from Albán where the name Alabang comes from.

A recipe from Narcisa Rizal de López!

=)

This well is said to be the only original remnant of the Rizal house before it was totally destroyed during the last war.

Rafaél Palma (1874-1939), the politician, journalist, and Mason who became the first Filipino president of the University of the Philippines, wrote a prize-winning biography about Rizal written in the Spanish language entitled Biografía de Rizal (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1949). In the said book’s first chapter, Palma made a detailed description of the Rizal house. I translate it here:

The magnificent two-storey house was high and was of solid and massive construction. The upper floor was made up entirely of wood except for the roof which was made of red tile in accordance with the architectural style of such houses found in Manila. Cápiz shells adorn the sliding windows. As defense against earthquakes, the first floor was made up of thick walls of lime and stone. Francisco Mercado (Rizal’s dad), supervising the construction himself, chose only the most durable wood from a nearby forest. It took two years to build the house. Behind the house was a terrace roof (azotea) and a wide and deep well which used to gather rainwater for household purposes.

Rizal Day

A view of the shrine's museum.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is here!

It's not easy being green. The Rizal house as viewed from the garden.

Itatapon co sana, eh. Caso ang daming táo.

My kids with sculptures of little Pepe (not me, of course) and his dog Alipato.

Coinciding with Rizal's birthday was the oath faking, err, taking (hehe!) by local officials under Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The festive atmosphere spills outside Rizal's bahay na bató. Actually, the whole town is in merriment every 19th of June.

Soldiers in a nearby restaurant.

Vocalists.

The tall Chief Justice in the background.

Standing tall.

Above us red and blue.

¿Baquit maraming militar dito? Anyway, my kids got to experience going inside a battle tank!

Masons

Rizal never went beyond the third degree of Masonry (Master Mason). For some reason, while in Spain, he had a falling out with some high-ranking members of the craft (Marcelo H. del Pilar and, more specifically, Pedro Serrano). He spent his last years in the Philippines (Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte) as an inactive Mason, and this he vehemently upheld during his trial in late 1896. And on his final night on earth, he signed a retraction paper and peacefully went back to the Catholic fold — a fact that is supported by an overwhelming evidence put forth by Catholics, Protestants, and Masons alike (as collected and recounted in Fr. Jesús Mª Cavanna’s Rizal’s Unfading Glory). But Masons in the Philippines are stubborn — they still refuse to believe that the world is round. So every Rizal anniversary, they still honor my tocayo as their exemplary brother. I may cry.

Some jolly members of the ancient enemies of my faith.

The Most Worshipful Brother Avelino I. Razón, Jr. of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.

Razón and his brother Masons, honoring Rizal who they thought died as a Mason.

Speaking with the media.

Masons, the enemies of Christianity.

In the presence of my enemies.

Masonic District No. 6, Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines, Dr. J.P. Rizal Lodge No. 270, Calambâ, La Laguna.

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista

Rizal was baptized in this church three days after he was born. As a matter of fact, the baptismal cistern which was used to baptize him is still preserved despite the tragedy which befell the church and the town (Calambâ was razed to the ground during World War II where around 2,000 people were killed). Unfortunately, when me and my kids visited the church after our tour of the Rizal Shrine, it was closed tightly shut (perhaps to avoid the noise coming from the Masons across the road?). Of course, this won’t be our last visit. Besides, we will be certified Calambeños by next year, when all plans fall into place.

Iglesia de San Juan Bautista.

Sa guilid ng iglesia.

The town

The world's biggest clay pot was completed in 1939.

This is considered to be biggest clay pot in the world. It is found in the plaza fronting the Church of Saint John the Baptist. The origin of Calambâ's name was said to have originated from a clay pot.

Calambâ still has a handful of handsome bahay na bató left.

Like many kids of my generation, I used to gather santán flowers for their sweet nectar. Fewer kids, especially in the urban areas, do that nowadays.

City College of Calambâ behind the Church of Saint John the Baptist. This used to be the municipal hall of Calambâ (when the city was still a town).

Well, he ought to be here coz he's from here.

Color of green: I love you green!

The General’s staircase

Aside from Rizal, Calambâ has another hero: Brigadier General Vicente Lim (1889–1944). He was the highest-ranking Filipino soldier under General Douglas MacArthur during World War II. Lim was a survivor of the infamous Bataán Death March. He led many secret guerrilla activities against the Japanese. He was later caught and beheaded by the enemy. But check out the photos below of how his “house” was treated by the government.

A staircase -- what is left of General Vicente Lim's once fabulous bahay na bató.

And these officials had the nerve to put up a historical marker instead of having saved the house from being destroyed (by a typhoon, says an oldtimer who I interviewed the day I took the photos). What is that — adding insult to injury?!

May tauag dian sa Tagalog, eh: cagaguhan. Abá, mabuti pá ang inútil nating policía, may budget. Tapos para sa herencia natin, ualâ. And this will become the fate of most of what is left of our country’s casas solariegas once apathy continues to hang onto our backs like monkeys.

*******

No matter how much Calambâ has changed over the years, it will always remain the “town” that I came to know of in history books.

¡Viva Calambâ!

La casa solariega de Rizal.

Marcelo H. del Pilar, a broken dad till the end…

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Today is the 160th birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the bulaqueño native written by Carmencita H. Acosta from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines (recently known as the National Historical Institute).

Yeyette in front of Marcelo H. del Pilar's monument in Plaza Plaridel (Remedios Circle), Malate, Manila. This monument used to be in front of nearby Manila Zoo. Fellow Círculo Hispano-Filipino member and Heritage Conservation Society president Gemma Cruz de Araneta (a descendant of Rizal's sister María) suggested the transfer of this monument to this site. It was done last year under the guidance of Mayor Alfredo Lim.

MARCELO H. DEL PILAR
(1850-1896)

“The most intelligent leader, the real soul of the separatists…” — these were the words used by Governor General Ramón Blanco, chief executive of the Philippine colony, in describing Marcelo H. del Pilar. A master polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, del Pilar was the most feared by the Spanish colonial authorities.

Del Pilar was born in Bulacán, Bulacán on August 30, 1850, the youngest of ten children of Julián H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitán. His father had held thrice the post of gobernadorcillo in their home town. Del Pilar studied at the Colegio de San José in Manila and at the University of Santo Tomás; at the age of thirty he finished the course in law. He devoted more time to writing than in the practice of his profession because in the former he saw a better opportunity to be of service to his oppressed country. His oldest brother, Father Toribio H. del Pilar, a Catholic priest, had been deported along with other Filipino patriots to Guam in 1872 following the Cavite Mutiny.

He founded the Diariong Tagalog in 1882, the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where he publicly denounced Spanish maladministration of the Philippines. His attacks were mostly directed against the friars whom he considered to be mainly responsible for the oppression of the Filipinos.

In 1885, he urged the cabezas de barangay of Malolos to resist the government order giving the friars blanket authority to revise the tax lists. He instigated the gobernadorcillo of Malolos, Manuel Crisóstomo, to denounce in 1887 the town curate who violated government prohibition against the exposure of corpses in the churches. In the same year, he denounced the curate of Binondo for consigning Filipinos to poor seats in the church while assigning the good ones to Spanish half-castes.

On March 1, 1888, the populace of Manila staged a public demonstration against the friars. Led by the lawyer Doroteo Cortés, the demonstrators presented to the civil governor of Manila a manifesto entitled “¡Viva España! ¡Viva la Reina! ¡Viva el Ejército! ¡Fuera los Frailes!“. This document, which had been signed by eight hundred persons, was written by Marcelo H. del Pilar. It enumerated the abuses of the friars, petitioned for the deportation of the archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Pedro Payo, and urged the expulsion of the friars.

It was because of his having written this anti-friar document that del Pilar was forced to exile himself from the Philippines in order to escape arrest and possible execution by the colonial authorities.

“I have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,” del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain. La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas (Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. The others included Sagót ng España sa Hibíc ng Filipinas (Spain’s Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines), Caiigat Cayó (Be Like the Eel) — del Pilar’s defense of Rizal against a friar pamphlet entitled Caiiñgat Cayó denouncing the Noli Me Tangere.

Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers, the purpose of which was to agitate for reforms from Spain.

In Madrid, del Pilar edited for five years La Solidaridad, the newspaper founded by Graciano López Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy. His fiery and convincing editorials earned from him the respect and admiration of his own Spanish enemies. “Plaridel” became well-known as his nom de plume.

In November, 1895, La Solidaridad was forced to close its offices for lack of funds. Del Pilar himself was by then a much emaciated man, suffering from malnutrition and overwork. He was finally convinced that Spain would never grant concessions to the Philippines and that the well-being of his beloved country could be achieved only by means of bloodshed — revolution.

Weakened by tuberculosis and feeling that his days were numbered, he decided to return to the Philippines to rally his countrymen for the libertarian struggle.

But as he was about to leave Barcelona, death overtook him on July 4, 1896.

His passing was deeply mourned by the Filipinos for in him they had their staunchest champion and most fearless defender. His death marked the passing of an era –the era of the Reform Movement– because scarcely two months after his death, the Philippine Revolution was launched.

I am not really a big fan of Marcelo H. del Pilar, especially when I learned that he was a high-ranking Mason. Besides, I believe that what he fought for would not equate to heroism. He was, to put it more bluntly, another American-invented hero. The American government, during their colonization of the Philippines, virtually influenced the Philippine puppet government to recognize “heroes” who fought against Spain.

But a closer observation on Marcelo’s life will reveal that, like Rizal and other Filipino “heroes” of his generation, he never fought against Spain. They fought against the Church, the sworn enemy of their fraternity (Freemasonry).

What really captivated me about Marcelo is his heartbreaking fatherhood. Since I am a father of four, I can empathize with his sorrowful plight.

A few years ago, when Yeyette and I had only one child (Krystal), and we were still living in a decrepit bodega somewhere in Las Piñas, I happened to stumble over Fr. Fidel Villaroel’s (eminent historian and former archivist of the University of Santo Tomás) monograph on del Pilar — Marcelo H. del Pilar: His Religious Conversions. It was so timely because during that time, I had just gone through my own religious conversion, having returned to the Catholic fold after a few years of being an atheist and agnostic.

In the said treatise by Fr. Villaroel, I learned of del Pilar’s anguish over being separated from his two daughters, Sofía and Anita. Due to his radical activities as an anti-friar, as can be gleaned in Acosta’s biographical sketch above, del Pilar escaped deportation. He left the country on 28 October 1888, escaping to Hong Kong before moving to Spain. And he never saw his little kids and his wife ever again.

Sofía was just nine years old at the time of his escape; Anita, one year and four months. Father Villaroel couldn’t have written this painful separation better:

Month after month, day after day, for eight endless years, the thought of returning to his dear ones was del Pilar’s permanent obsession, dream, hope, and pain. Of all the sufferings he had to go through, this was the only one that made the “warrior” shed tears like a boy, and put his soul in a trance of madness and insanity. His 104 surviving letters to the family attest to this painful situation…

…He felt and expressed nostalgia for home as soon as he arrived in Barcelona in May 1889, when he wrote to his wife: “It will not be long before we see each other again.” “My return” is the topic of every letter. Why then did he not return? Two things stood in the way: money for the fare, and the hope of seeing a bill passed in the Spanish Cortes suppressing summary deportations like the one hanging on del Pilar’s head. “We are now working on that bill.” “Wait for me, I am going, soon I will embrace my little daughters, I dream with the return.” How sweet, how repetitious and monotonous, how long the delay, but how difficult, almost impossible!

Here are some of those heartbreaking letters (translated by Fr. Villaroel into English from the Spanish and Tagalog originals) of Marcelo to his wife (and second cousin) Marciana “Chanay” del Pilar and Sofía:

In 1890: I want to return this year in November (letter of February 4); Day and night I dream about Sofía (February 18), I will return next February or March (December 10).

In 1891: It will not be long before I carry Anita on my shoulders (January 22); Sofía, you will always pray that we will see each other soon (August 31).

In 1892: If it were not for lack of the money I need for the voyage, I would be there already (February 3); I am already too restless (March 2); I feel already too impatient because I am not able to return (April 14); This year will not pass before we see each other (May 11); Be good, Sofía, every night you will pray one Our Father, asking for our early reunion (September 14; it is interesting to note that del Pilar advised her daughter to pray the Our Father despite his being a high-ranking Mason –Pepe–); Don’t worry if, when I return, I will be exiled to another part of the Archipelago (November 9).

In 1893: Who knows if I will close my eyes without seeing Anita (January 18)!; My heart is shattered every time I have news that my wife and daughters are suffering; hence, my anxiety to return and fulfill my duty to care for those bits of my life (May 24); I always dream that I have Anita on my lap and Sofía by her side; that I kiss them by turns and that both tell me: ‘Remain with us, papá, and don’t return to Madrid’. I awake soaked in tears, and at this very moment that I write this, I cannot contain the tears that drop from my eyes (August 3); It is already five years that we don’t see each other (December 21).

In 1894: Tell them (Sofía and Anita) to implore the grace of Our Lord so that their parents may guide them along the right path (February 15); Every day I prepare myself to return there. Thanks that the children are well. Tears begin to fall from my eyes every time I think of their orfandad (bereavement). But I just try to cure my sadness by invoking God, while I pray: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I am the most unfortunate father because my daughters are the most unfortunate among all daughters… I cannot write more, because tears are flowing from my eyes aplenty (July 18); We shall meet soon (December 5)

I have to admit, reading these letters never fail to move me to tears because I, too, have experienced the same orfandad and the longingness for a father. It is because I have never lived with my dad for a long time since he was always overseas. When we were young, he only stayed with us for a couple of weeks or a few months. And my dad was a very silent man.

His work overseas, of course, was for our own benefit. But the price was depressing: we’ve been detached from each other forever. Whenever he comes home to us, my dad was like a total stranger to me. Especially now that I have my own family and I rarely see him nowadays. No, we are not in bad terms (although I know that he still resents the fact that I married at a very early age). But we are simply not close to each other because of those years of separation and lack of communication. I do not know him, and he doesn’t know me. We do not know each other personally. But I know for a fact that my dad loved us dearly, and that he experienced the same anguish experienced by del Pilar. I’ve read some of dad’s letters to mom, and in those letters he expressed the same desire to come home with us and stay permanently. But nothing like that happened.

The same thing with del Pilar. After all those patriotic talk and nationalistic activities, nothing happened. His sacrifice of being separated from his family was, sadly, all for naught…

When he died a Christian death in Barcelona (yes, he also retracted from Masonry shortly before he passed away), he was buried in the Cementerio del Oeste/Cementerio Nuevo where his remains stayed for the next twenty-four years. Paradoxically, a renowned Christian member of the Philippine magistrate, Justice Daniel Romuáldez, made all the necessary procedures of exhuming the body of del Pilar, one of the highest-ranking Masons of the Propaganda Movement. His remains finally arrived on 3 December 1920. He was welcomed by members of Masonic lodges (perhaps unaware of del Pilar’s retraction, or they simply refused to believe it), government officials, and his family of course.

Sofía by then was already 41; and del Pilar’s little Anita was no longer little — she was already 33.

Anita was very much traumatized by that fateful separation. Bitter up to the end, she still could not accept the fact that her father chose the country, ang bayan, before family. An interesting (and another heartbreaking) anecdote is shared by Anita’s son, Father Vicente Marasigan, S.J., regarding her mother’s wounded emotions:

[My] first flashback recalls April 1942. Radio listeners in Manila had just been stunned by the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor. There was an emotional scene between my father, my mother, and myself. My mother was objecting to something my father wanted to do ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’. My mother answered, ‘Lagi na lang bang para sa kabutihan ng bayan?’ [‘Is it always for the good of the country?’] And she choked in fits of hysterical sobbing. All her childhood years have been spent in emotional starvation due to the absence of ‘Lolo’ [Grandfather] Marcelo, far away in Barcelona sacrificing his family para sa kabutihan ng bayan.

“The second flashback is rather dim in memory. I was then two years old, in December 1920. I think I was on board a ship that had just docked at the [Manila] pier, carrying the remains of Lolo Marcelo. All our relatives from Bulacán were present for the festive occasion. Some aunt or grandaunt was telling me how proud and happy I must be. I did not understand what it meant to feel proud, but I knew I was unhappy because I felt that my mother was unhappy. In the presence of that casket of bones, how could she forget the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her father ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’ [for the good of the country]?

History is not just about dead dates, historical markers, and bronze statues of heroes. It has its share of eventful dramas and personal heartbreaks. And this is one heartbreak that I will never allow my children to experience.

To all the fathers who read this: cherish each and every moment that you have with your children.

La Naval de Johannesburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GGR’s angels

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José Miguel García, yo, y Arnaldo Arnáiz -- los últimos filipinos que luchan contra una realidad enroscada.

The three of us, together with our leader, GGR (Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera), have been planning this filipinista website for months. We have already consolidated our ideas and other plans regarding it. But where the heck is the website?

We need funds first, LOL!!!

Somebody out there with deep pockets (and who believes in our humble cause), please — have mercy, hahaha!

Tabuco (Cabuyao, La Laguna)

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After our Santa Rosa Easter Sunday walk, Krystal and I proceeded to nearby Cabuyao town.

A handsome bahay na bató across Saint Polycarp Church's south transept.

A long time ago, the northern part of La Laguna province was once a very huge town. It used to comprise what are now known as San Pedro, Biñán, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao, Rizal’s beloved Calambâ, and perhaps areas of today’s Santo Tomás town in Batangas province. This large lakeshore town was then known as Tabuco (usually spelled as Tabuko).

Like in many parts of the pre-Philippine era, Tabuco was then inhabited by people who originated from Malay nations. When Manila was possessed by Miguel López de Legazpi in 1570, he sent his grandson, Juan de Salcedo, to explore these parts of La Laguna de Bay. But the first indio settlement conquered by capitán de Salcedo was the lake’s eastern portion known today as Taytay and Caintâ in the province of Morong (now Rizal province). Afterwards, he and his men crossed the lake and Acherón at Barrio Pinagsañgahán (now known as Pagsanján, La Laguna). They continued inland and conquered the nearby settlements of Nagcarlán and Majayjay, also in La Laguna.

Since the place was already mountainous, the party of de Salcedo went back to the Lake of Bay (or Ba-í) and continued to conquer the lakeshore’s northern settlements. Later on, they anchored along the shores of Tabuco. Just like the settlement of Bay, the Spaniards discovered that Tabuco had large plains and thick forests. Among them who were knowledgeable with agriculture agreed that Tabuco’s climate was also suitable to farm crops.

On 16 January 1571, Miguel López de Legaspi converted Tabuco into an encomienda or a town under the helm of Gaspar Ramírez. The barrios of Malabanan (Biñán), Santa Rosa, and other territories was placed under the administration of the Tabuco government. The boundary to the north was: San Pedro Tunasán (which was also a part of Tabuco; it is now simply known as San Pedro; Tunasán is now a mere barrio or barangáy of Ciudad de Muntinlupà); to the south was the town of Bay (a stone’s throw away from Los Baños); west was Suñgay (now divided into two barrios of Ciudad de Tagaytay, Cavite: Suñgay del Norte and Suñgay del Sur), and; to the east was the Lake of Bay (or Laguna de Bay).

A couple of years later, the barrios which made up Tabuco became independent from the local central government. Barrio San Pedro (my current residence), for instance, became a separate town on 18 January 1725. Biñán, Santa Rosa, etc. followed suit. All that is left of that local government is what we now know as the Municipality of Cabuyao, the town that is sandwiched by the cities of Santa Rosa and Calambâ.

Up to 1997, the people of Cabuyao celebrated 16 January as their town’s feast day. But former Santo Sepulcro (in Landayan, San Pedro) parish priest Monsignor Jerry Bitoon changed it to 23 February which is the feast day of Saint Polycarp.

Inside a jeepney, on our way to Cabuyao from Santa Rosa (04/04/2010).

A Nestlé Philippines plant along Mahárlica Highway is one of Cabuyao's industrial engines. A dear uncle of mine was a top-ranking manager here before he transferred to Malaysia.

National Road/Mahárlica Highway.

True Brown Style!

When Tabuco was transformed into an encomienda, The Order of Missionaries of the Augustinian Recollects arrived. This is, of course, due to the fact that the receiver of the grant (which, in this case, was Ramírez) had the responsibility to protect the indios from warring tribes (and from warring against each other), to teach them the Spanish language, and to Christianize them. A little later, the Augustinian Recollects handed Tabuco over to the Franciscans.

Like most towns, Cabuyao also has its share of legends as to how its name originated. It is said that when the Franciscans arrived by boat, they saw women washing clothes along the lakeshore. They asked these women the name of the place. Due to language barriers, the ladies thought that the friars were asking for the name of the fruit extract that they were then using to wash their clothes. These fruits were from the nearby cabuyao (or cabullao) trees. And so these unknowing ladies replied “cabuyao” to the friars. Another similar version says that the women thought that the friars were asking for the names of the trees growing around the wharf where they first docked.

In compliance to Spain’s Christianization mission, the friars started building a stone church for the indios in the second half of the 1700s. It was actually the second church to be built since the first one was destroyed by floods and strong waves. The church was finally finished some time in 1771. It was dedicated to Saint Polycarp — bishop, martyr, and titular head of the Catholic Church in Asia.

Thankfully, the church has retained its original feature throughout the years. It is also famous for having the controversial secular priest Father Mariano Gómez of the GómBurZa as its parish priest from 1848 to 1862. Together with the town’s alcalde, José Deasanta Rivera, Fr. Gómez built a cemetery in front of the church on the right side of the tribunal. Eerily, this site is now the home of the Monastery of Saint Clare.

During the American era, The Church of Saint Polycarp was witness to the town’s single bloody event in its history: the Sakdalista attack of 1935. The Sakdalista was an anti-American movement founded by Senate employee Benigno Ramos (the same man who, together with Artemio Ricarte, organized the infamous MAkabayan KAtipunan Ñg Mg̃a PILIpino or Alliance of Philippine Patriots, more popularly known in its abbreviated form MAKAPILI). When Ramos’s opposition to the Tydings-McDuffie Law failed (because he demanded for the Philippines’ absolute independence from imperialist US), his 20,000-strong group attacked 14 towns in various provinces. One of the ill-fated towns was Cabuyao, La Laguna. Today, one can still see bullet marks within the vicinity of the church.

Crossing a road to get to Cabuyao's parish church.

Iglesia de San Policarpo de Esmirna.

Behind the calachuchì.

Shrouded by an acacia tree.

St. Polycarp, the martyred Christian bishop of Smyrna (in parts that is now covered by the Republic of Turkey).

Liceo de Cabuyao, located within the vicinity of the Church of Saint Polycarp.

The church's nave is not that long.

The simple yet appealing altarpiece.

Cupola.

The good news on Easter Sunday (04/04/2010).

A painting of Saint Polycarp being martyred (somebody get rid of that wall clock, hahaha!).

A chapel dedicated to the Saint Polycarp, located inside the church's north transept.

The church's old bell, dating back to the Spanish times. No longer in use due to a crack, it is now on display outside the church. I wasn't able to figure out if it was made by Hilarión Sunico of San Nicolás, Manila because the bell was protected by a steel fence.

At the choirloft.

Church tower.

Krystal just loves church towers!

A wall painting at the choirloft, probably of a saint. I asked the choirmaster who she is, but he didn't know.

A holy water stoup with Spanish inscription.

Krystal with the young choir.

The choirmaster did not allow us to go further up the church tower.

The entrance to the Monastery of Saint Clare fronts the church and the town plaza.

A wide chapel within the monastery grounds.

The town plaza is in front of the monastery and beside the town church.

It's tocayo again.

Only a handful of Antillean houses or bahay na bató is left here in Cabuyao. Fortunately, they are well taken care of by the owners.

Nestlé break. A show of support for Uncle Amador Alas y Évora who helped my family dearly many years ago. =)

I had a hard time taking a picture of this house, whether near...

...or far.

Commercial boon/bane.

Like the UnionBank branch in Santa Rosa whose photo I took, this bahay na bató is now known as Rose Pharmacy.

Going home.

I just love taking pictures of roads (especially the smooth ones) while inside vehicles!

It is sad to note that Cabuyao has somehow lost its touch of rural charm, something that the Philippines is known for, and something which still sparks our generation’s childhood delights and memories. The curse of cityhood is slowly creeping into the municipality. Gone are the large farmlands and thick forests, and its share of the lake is not fit anymore for swimming nor frolic like it used to be in the glory old days of Spanish Philippines. But the unchanging Church of Saint Polycarp and the few remaining bahay na bató still stand as living testaments to this town’s hispanic past.

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