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The AlDub phenomenon, and why Filipinos have gone crazy over it

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No matter how much we complain or give praise about it, it is a fact that stares us hard right in the face: our country is fixated with showbiz. It has become part of our culture — Filipino pop culture to be precise. From advertisements to philanthropy to politics, celebrities are almost always a focal point. Since the departure of strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, who during the Martial Law years suppressed freedom of the press due to (alleged) circumstances beyond his control, emerging media moguls (led by ABS-CBN) somehow tinkered with the newly satiated freedom of many anti-Marcos Filipinos whose civil liberties were intentionally excluded by military rule. As emotions were running high during that time, new expressions of TV freedom (this includes TV Patrol’s rather controversial “on-air tabloid” style) were suddenly introduced to minds that had just been freed from years of media suppression. Not much later, Kris Aquino, the daughter of Marcos’ successor herself, became its prized darling and has been so for close to three decades already. Post-Marcos media’s coddling of suppressed liberties using glitz and glamour as well as appeal to emotion, including the enthronement of political daughter Kris as the “Queen of all Media”, is probably one of the reasons why celebrities from both TV and film have been treated by Filipino masses as if they’re demigods. The masses adore them more than anyone else, especially since the characters they portrayed on screen somehow mirrored real-life scenarios of the ordinary Juan de la Cruz. That is why their fame has even been used as a gauge for political readiness.

But fame, of course, is not without its repercussions. With fame getting into their heads, many showbiz personalities throughout the years have become notorious for acting like their Hollywood counterparts: their lavish lifestyle, foul behavior off camera, and personal scandals have been fodder for the very same ratings-hungry media which takes advantage of both them and their followers.

With the growth of Internet usage at the close of the last century, many have observed that TV and film appreciation may have reached a saturation point. Social media now provides a healthy avenue for Filipino netizens to look for new alternatives as against overexposed media brats. In fact, today’s revered media darlings (Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, Bogart the Explorer, etc.), not to mention indie film breakthroughs, originated from the Internet.

But what happens when both TV and Internet personalities were put together?

“We’re moving towards the direction where both [social and mainstream media] have no choice but to co-exist,” observes TV host and talent manager Boy Abunda. And the first stop towards that direction is currently materializing on noontime TV.

For close to three months now, Filipinos all over the world via cable TV and the Internet have been glued to Eat Bulaga!‘s “Juan for All, All for Juan” (JAAJ) segment to witness an ongoing series that began in accidental fashion. The longest noontime variety show in the country has hit a goldmine with the unplanned formation of an unconventional love team between matinee idol Alden Richards and Internet sensation Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza. Eat Bulaga! since then has capitalized on the hugely popular tandem by creating what they call a “Kalyeserye”, much to the detriment of rival networks and to the amazement of pop culture observers, social media pundits, and even sociologists. Alden and Maine’s huge following has even given their love team a nickname which trends on various social media (particularly on Twitter) every single day: AlDub, a portmanteau of Alden and Yaya Dub.

And just how wild is this latest Filipino pop culture craze?

Worldwide phenomenon

AlDub brings back reminiscences of our fanaticism over Mexican actress Thalía brought about by her “Marimar” telenovela during the early 90s. Since AlDub’s accidental inception last July 16, social media have been pregnant with reports about office workers who miss or adjust their lunch breaks just to catch the ongoing AlDub drama, with some arriving late or not reporting for work at all. School children have been vocal about their wish for class suspensions (one provincial governor took time to answer such clamor). TV sets inside malls, restaurants, and other related establishments are being flocked by customers during noontime. Bus, jeepney, tricycle, and train terminals with TV sets have waiting passengers tuned in to them, unmindful of waiting for the next ride. Many sari-sari stores and bakeries shut down operations whenever Kalyeserye is about to begin. A video of a little girl crying because of AlDub’s star-crossed situation became viral in YouTube. One militant solon unashamedly professed his support for the love team. Fellow showbiz personalities like Judy Ann Santos, Ai-Ai de las Alas, and many others confessed that they are fans of the love team. Even people from ABS-CBN, the  heated rival of Eat Bulaga!’s studio GMA Network, were not spared from the AlDub fever.

Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada enjoying his “AlDub break”.

OFWs are not spared from the craze. As in the case here in Filipinas, many AlDub fan clubs from other countries have sprouted like mushrooms, keeping themselves abreast of each episode. And speaking of other countries, US film giant Walt Disney Studios stunned its Filipino fans when it posted on its Facebook page two characters from one of its popular animated films commenting on the AlDub fever!

AlDub has also been breaking Twitter records. Last September 24, its #ALDubEBforLOVE hashtag drew an astonnishing 25.6 million tweets! A week earlier, #ALDUBMostAwaitedDate was tweeted and retweeted more than 10 million times in a span of 14 hours (the final tally was 12.1 million). Guinness World Records is reportedly considering awarding the latter with the “Fastest Rising Worldwide Trend” Award.

No part of the world is spared from the AlDub craze.

How this love team is embraced by people from all walks of life, from a wide range of demographics, is certainly unprecedented and astounding. It would be thoroughly surprising to meet anyone who is not familiar with today’s most recognizable faces on both TV and social media. But for the sake of those who are still stuck in some kind of antimatter universe, here’s something to fill you in (and for the millions who already know, a reminiscence)…

Dubsmash Queen

It all began when Dubsmash, a video messaging application for mobile devices, captivated the interest of local netizens early this year. With the application, users can choose an audio recording of a well known recorded quote from an uploaded list and record a video of themselves in which they dub the quote. Usually, the uploaded quotes are lines from a movie or a TV program.

Enter Nicomaine Dei Mendoza, or simply Maine, a pretty twenty-year-old lass from a petite bourgeoisie family in Santa María, Bulacán. She graduated from an exclusive school where she took up culinary arts and had her on-the-job training in New York. As such, it’s unlikely for a pretty young lady with intimidating credentials to make fun of herself online, least of all distort her face for everybody’s amusement. But that’s what exactly Maine did to herself. Just a few months ago, her Dubsmash parodies of various people, most notably presidential sister Kris Aquino, have gone insanely viral, this because of her expressively creative ways of dubbing those persons’ lines, complete with body movements, make-up, and props to boot. Her facial elasticity and the preciseness in which she dubs made it appear as if she’s not dubbing at all, as if she really owned the uploaded voices. Because of her dubbing creativity, her Dubsmash videos became viral, with her rendition of Kris Aquino last summer earning more than a million views overnight.

Since then, any mention of Dubsmash will immediately bring Maine Mendoza to mind, at least in our country. Netizens now call her the “Dubsmash Queen of the Philippines”. And the buzz which she has inadvertently created caught the attention of Eat Bulaga! who then recruited her via Facebook. She was given the role of Yaya Dub which is short for Divina Úrsula Bukbukova, and her last name would be Smash, an ingenious homage to the video messaging application that made her an Internet sensation; yaya is Tagálog for nursemaid. Her responsibility as Yaya Dub is to be the girl Friday to comedian Wally Bayola’s snobbish and supercilious Doña Nidora Esperanza y Zobeyala vda. de Explorer, or Lola Nidora for short. Together, they join José Manalo and Paolo Ballesteros in JAAJ doing comedy vignettes in various barrios in Luzón while helping out less fortunate families (drawn through a lottery from the studio) by giving them food, cash, and other prizes from Eat Bulaga!’s wide array of sponsors.

Struggling actor

Let’s face it: it is already common knowledge that GMA Network is behind its rival, media giant ABS-CBN. While some of GMA’s shows have proven themselves to be more successful over their rivals (this includes Eat Bulaga!), mainstream media popularity is being enjoyed by a majority of ABS-CBN programs. As such, many of the former’s talents are considered by many as second-rate compared to the latter’s stars. A marquee with the name “Alden Richards”, a GMA Network contract star since 2011, has less appeal if it were to be placed vis-à-vis ABS-CBN matinee idols such as Daniel Padilla or Enrique Gil or James Reid. So despite his string of successes in his mother studio, Alden seems to be “still struggling” when it comes to the mass appeal being enjoyed by Padilla, Gil, and other ABS-CBN male stars, as if he is still carving his own niche in local showbiz — all this, of course, was before the AlDub craze that is currently sweeping the Filipino community worldwide by storm.

Nevertheless, Alden has everything a matinee idol needed to have in order to succeed: good looks, good build, and admirably good manners. But the impression remains that his seemingly goody two-shoes image is just that — another good-looking fellow who will soon fade away from GMA’s supposedly lackluster limelight. Whatever fame Alden has couldn’t seem to go toe to toe against that of his more popular counterparts in ABS-CBN. One write-up even called him the “John Lloyd Cruz of GMA” (Cruz is one of ABS-CBN’s top stars), a comment which, of course, complements Cruz more than Alden.

Recently, Alden was given the chance to be launched as a major actor when he was given the weighty role of national hero José Rizal in the epic docudrama “Ilustrado”. Surprisingly, despite the name Rizal and the historicity attached to it, the drama series was not warmly received. It lasted for a mere 20 episodes, immediately forgotten.

The birth of a phenomenon

As many fans already know, Alden was hired by Eat Bulaga! in May this year as one of its many co-hosts, but only for a month-long trial period. He was followed by Maine a few weeks later. But they were not put together since Alden’s duties are studio-based, hosting a contest for attractive young men. Maine, on the other hand, is always on the road together with her JAAJ colleagues. The only interaction that JAAJ cast had with their studio colleagues (particularly Eat Bulaga!’s main hosts Tito, Vic, and Joey) was via split screen communication.

The magic began when Eat Bulaga!’s staff found out that Maine had a real-life crush on Alden who she has yet to meet. The staff then thought of pulling a soft prank on her by having Alden sit with the audience at the studio while Maine was doing her grumpy Yaya Dub routine (JAAJ was somewhere in Olóngapo). Then this happened:

And just like that. Sparks flew on their first split screen meeting. Local netizens immediately noticed the delightful interaction between Alden and Yaya Dub and were tickled pink with how the latter unintentionally broke character. Yaya Dub’s masuñgit demeanor was shattered beyond her control. For the first time since her TV debut, Eat Bulaga! fans saw grumpy Yaya Dub’s genuine smile. More “kilig” moments between her and Alden transpired in the following days. On social media, particularly on Twitter, netizens were on a frenzy, demanding more screentime for the two. It was during those early days when somebody thought of coming up with the catchy nickname AlDub which spread like wildfire. Eat Bulaga! management took notice of the well-received split screen flirtations which seemed to have overtaken the segment itself. And then there’s that huge spike in the ratings, of course. Noontime viewing habits have never been the same since that unexpected July 16 episode. Kalyeserye (a Joey de León coinage) was born and has been on a nonstop rampage both in the ratings and in social media.

Because of the craze, Alden’s career was rejuvenated like never before! Both he and Maine have become instant media darlings and endorsement favorites. Just recently, fastfood giant McDonald’s Philippines and cellular service Talk N Text have also capitalized on AlDub’s huge popularity by making both Alden and Maine as their endorsers. And even before their commercials were premiered for the first time (especially in McDo’s case), netizens were already abuzz with excitement. It can even be said that McDo’s AlDub TV advertisement has become the most anticipated TV commercial in local media history.

But what made AlDub in particular and Kalyeserye in general tick among an overwhelming majority of Filipinos?

Cinderella complex?

It can be argued that while AlDub is the centerpiece of the so-called “teleserie parody”, it’s the whole Kalyeserye itself that has captivated millions of Filipino viewers all over the world. Wally’s superb breakthrough acting as the strict Lola Nidora hilariously complements the eccentric nonspeaking Yaya Dub of Maine who merely “dubsmashes” as a way of communicating. And as Kalyeserye took flight to stardom, Manalo and Ballesteros followed suit in the zany acting, eliciting hordes of laughter and tears wherever they go.

Many have attempted to explain the reason for this phenomenon. One sociologist claimed that “Cinderella complex” is the underlying factor behind the craze, It holds water since Filipinos have been exposed to “clacismo” conflict (poor boy/girl falls in love with rich girl/boy) in local romance movies for many years, a phenomenon that can be traced to our Spanish colonial past since it was the Spaniards who introduced feudalism here. And that’s the core of the story of Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye: a matinee idol and a nanny falling in love — split screen style, though. But the twist here is that the nursemaid’s rich boss (who is later revealed to be related to her) is against the blossoming love affair for reasons not yet clearly known (in the story, the reason is written in Lola Nidora’s diary, but it was stolen by a mysterious riding-in-tandem).

Hispanic elements

Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye is deemed by many as a parody of telenovelas or teleseries (hence the name). But if you look at it closely, it is more than that. Teleseries are rehearsed and taped whereas Kalyeserye is delivered spontaneously. As already revealed in various interviews, the actors don’t have a script. They merely follow a storyline. In drama circles, this is called “improv acting”. And since it’s improv comedy, the actors are given the license to break the fourth wall from time to time, that’s why it’s not unusual for televiewers and studio audiences to see them trying hard to control their laughter whenever a fellow actor (or other Eat Bulaga! hosts on the studio) blurt out one-liners or rib them with other hilarities.

Kalyeserye’s improv acting adds up to the charm. However, it is but another ingredient to what makes up the whole picture. To put it more bluntly, Kalyeserye is essentially a zarzuela. In fact, we see several elements of it: comedic acting with matching colorful costumes, drama and romance, and much dancing and music — “Dubsmash” music, that is. And it’s all done on live TV, hence the “modern-day” tag. AlDub is a reincarnation of this now rare Spanish lyric-dramatic genre. The zarzuela, in fact, is an important component in our national identity because it has been a major part of our history for more than a century. As a Hispanic people, it is already in our genetic memory, in our DNA, Deep within the Filipino psyche is a nostalgic longing for this theatrical art form which has endeared generations of Filipinos since 1879.

(Incidentally, Vicente Sotto, the grandfather of Tito and Vic Sotto, 2/3 of Eat Bulaga!’s Tito, Vic, & Joey triumvirate, was one of the first writers of the zarzuela. In 1902, Sotto wrote “Maputi ug Maitum” or “Black and White”, a zarzuela in the Cebuano language).

Zarzuelas of old were also known to tackle and include social issues of the day as well as to impart values. These we see in Kalyeserye whenever the riding-in-tandem appears (the prevalence of riding-in-tandem crime incidents), whenever Alden and Yaya Dub show their split screen “lambiñgan” right in front of a very upset Lola Nidora (impetuous juvenile relationships), whenever Lola Nidora cautions Yaya Dub to act like a “dalagang Filipina“, and a whole lot more.

Speaking of values, Kalyeserye has also been earning both praise and support from various sectors, most notably the local Catholic Church, for subtly imparting traditional Filipino values and customs that, sadly, are rarely practiced by Filipinos nowadays. As a matter of fact, we can boldly claim that Kalyeserye has Filipino values written all over it. We see this whenever Alden writes “pô” and “opò” in his fan sign communications with Lola Nidora and her two sisters Lola Tidora (Ballesteros) and Lola Tinidora (Manalo). We see this whenever Yaya Dub performs the “mano pô” gesture, bowing her head towards the offered hands of Lola Nidora, Lola Tidora, and Lola Tinidora as she presses her forehead on their hands. And that only strengthens our claim that, indeed, this show is a modern-day zarzuela because it imparts the appreciation of Filipino culture, customs, values, and even spirituality (Alden making the sign of the cross before a Catholic image as he enters Lola Nidora’s mansion in episode 63).

In Kalyeserye we see more of this Hispanic genetic memory of which we spoke of earlier. Remember the first time Yaya Dub broke character when she couldn’t control her smile towards Alden? She immediately covered her face with her abanico. Wittingly or unwittingly, she mimicked the Filipinas of olden times who covered their faces with abanicos each time their faces revealed their emotions. Her now famous “pabebe wave” is, in fact, a modest/demure way for a Filipina to wave towards her admirer. And need we mention that this novelty word is rooted in Spanish? “Pa” is a Tagálog prefix while “bebe” is Spanish for “baby”.

We all laugh at the “asaua ni” jokes being thrown around by cast members when, unbeknownst to many, it’s a nod to the Spanish language’s gender rules. And need we remind everyone that Kalyeserye is derived from Spanish? (calleserie). And of course, there’s Lola Nidora’s last name which was inspired from that famous Hispanic American cartoon character called Dora The Explorer. Lola Nidora herself speaks (broken) Spanish from time to time.

Magical realism

But how come Lola Nidora seems to have never aged in spite of the fact that she’s already 150 years old? All her three bodyguards are named “Rogelio”. The riding-in-tandem seems to come out from nowhere. In many episodes, we see Alden from one part of the screen hand out flowers and other gifts to Maine who’s at the other screen. In one hilarious episode, Alden hands out a glass of water to Lola Nidora. But when the latter, who is on the other end of the screen received it, it became a cup of coffee with a drowned fly in it. And how come Yaya Dub (prior to episode 58) couldn’t speak? And who could ever forget episode 24 when Yaya Dub participated in Eat Bulaga!’s regular celebrity contest “Dabarkads Pa More”? After her performance, she was threatened by Lola Nidora, guised as a witch, to immediately flee Broadway Centrum or she would turn into a fat pumpkin.

There are lots of questions in Kalyeserye which nobody even bothers to ask not because the show is just a parody but because such questions don’t really need any answers. Or to be more apt, many weird occurrences in Kalyeserye simply don’t require any explanation at all. Kalyeserye is simply out of this world but is not because it has to mingle with the goings-on of Eat Bulaga!. This strange mix of fiction and reality is called magical realism.

Magical realism traces its roots to Latin American Literature, another Hispanic creation.


But it can never be ignored that the major selling point of Eat Bulaga!’s Kalyeserye is its so-called “kilig” factor between Alden and Yaya Dub. Kilig is a modernized spelling for the word “qilig“. Many say that it has no direct translation to any language. So let’s go back to history to find out more about its meaning.

On page 265 of the book “Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala” (published in Manila in 1860 by Spanish friars Juan José de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlúcar), we see that qilig is defined as “temblar el cuerpo por picado de culebra” which means “the shaking of the body as caused by a (poisonous) snakebite”. That is why today, we associate kilig/qilig to that shaking, inexplicable feeling whenever one is infatuated or falls in love. The split screen antics of Alden and Yaya Dub have given their fans an overload of kilig/qilig, not only to the young but across all age groups, including married couples. Surprisingly, even the “baracos” are not spared!

What in the world could have caused this strange occurrence, that even full-blooded males are swooning over AlDub?

Aside from the clacismo conflict that was explained earlier, one telling reason is the fact that Alden and Maine (prior to the September 5 episode and all succeeding Saturdays after that) had never met or communicated in real life. The only communication they had for most of the time was through split screen. To some, this setup endeared netizens towards the show because Alden and Maine’s situation reminded them of long-distance relationships that are linked only by the Internet. Many of them use Skype, FaceTime, and other related video chat applications to communicate with their long-distance love interests. However, not all netizens use such software. Therefore, we still have to dig deeper into the Filipino psyche…

We go back to Intramuros, the blueprint of all towns in Filipinas.

During the days when the sun did not yet set on the Spanish Empire, houses inside the Walled City were built so close together that neighbors could see the interiors of each other’s houses through their large windows. This set-up was taken advantage of by young lovers who surreptitiously communicate through windows at night. This romantic practice by young Filipino lovers during the Spanish times spilled over to other towns across the country whose houses were similarly built like those inside Intramuros — close together.

The above facts remind us of this once popular tale of two lovers in old Quiapò who communicated with each other only through the windows of their respective houses. They have never spoken outside of their homes; only through their windows. The boy once attempted to come close to his wooed who was then walking outside the church but hesitated especially when he saw his lover’s parents with her. This went on for a while until, no longer able to bear her emotions, the young lady challenged her lover to formally court her and to present himself to his parents. Their courtship eventually gave birth to the traditional habanera Filipino song La Flor de Manila, now known as Sampaguita (more about this story in a future blogpost).

During that time, Filipino suitors touching even just the hands of Filipinas were considered taboo. The only time that they were allowed to come in close contact to each other was during the day of their wedding. And that adds up to the thrill which we now call qilig/kilig. In modern times, however, all of this has been lost. The Filipino youth, Anglo-Saxonized to the core, have engaged in premarital sexual relationships in wild abandon, debasing love of its purity and truest form. That is why Alden and Maine’s first appearance together in split screen last July 16 woke up in us our latent Hispanic romanticism. The split screen were, in a way, the windows of those old houses where lovers of yesteryears whispered either puppy love frivolities or their undying love for each other.

Like many other pop culture phenomena, Kalyeserye will one day run its course. But the positive effect it has on Filipinos about rekindling their time-honored values will be for keeps. Let’s enjoy and cherish it while it lasts.

What do “Bossing” Vic, Senator Tito, and the late FrancisM have in common?

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The grandfather of “Bossing” Vic and Senator Tito Sotto and the grandfather of the late “Master Rapper” FrancisM were both former senators who were staunch defenders of the Spanish language in Filipinas.

Senator Vicente Sotto.

In the late 1940s, Senator VICENTE SOTTO (1877-1950), the “abuelo” of Bossing Vic and Senator Sotto, authored Republic Act No. 343 which ordered the teaching of the Spanish language “as one of the possible subjects in all the high schools, either public or private” all over the country. Republic Act No. 343 was also known as the “Sotto Law”.

Senator Enrique Magalona.

In the early 1950s, Senator ENRIQUE MAGALONA (1891-1960), the “abuelo” of legendary FrancisM, reinforced the Sotto Law by introducing a bill which then became Republic Act No. 709. The act provided for the obligatory teaching of Spanish “in all universities and colleges, public and private, and all students shall be required to complete twelve units at least”.

Both former senators should be considered as heroes for their admirable attempts at preserving this very important component of our National Identity. After all, Spanish is not a foreign language. It is the FOREMOST and the ORIGINAL Filipino language. And both Senators Sotto and Magalona knew this.

But I think what they didn’t know was that, in the future, their respective grandchildren would become co-hosts of “Eat Bulaga!”, the country’s number one and longest-running noontime variety show.

Destiny? Perhaps. And speaking of destiny…


Up next: the AlDub Phenomenon!

Clarifying a misconception on the definition of “Filipino”

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How timely it surely is that, as we celebrate History Month, two individuals who are very passionate in the study of Filipino History introduced a new argument that the long-accepted historical definition of the term Filipino, i.e., Peninsular Spaniards who were born in Filipinas, is dead wrong. In a Tagálog article written by Mr. Jon Royeca on his blog last August 14, he argues that the claim made by previous historians, particularly Renato Constantino, that the Insulares were the first Filipinos was wrong. He went on and cited Fr. Pedro Chirino’s monumental work Relación de las Islas Filipinas (1604) as his source:

Heto ang katotohanan… tinawag ng may-akda niyon na si Padre Pedro Chirino ang mga Tagalog, Bisaya, Ita, at iba pang katutubo ng Pilipinas na Filipino.

(Here’s the truth… the author, Father Pedro Chirino, called Tagálogs, Visayans, Aetas, and other natives of the Philippines as Filipino.)

Royeca then shared his blogpost on Philippine History, Culture, & Tradition, a popular Facebook group lined up with many well-known historians, anthropologists, and other like-minded social scientists dedicated to the discussion and exchange of ideas and new discoveries regarding that page’s theme.

A few days later, and on the same Facebook group, Royeca was seconded by Mr. Nonoy Regalado who shared the screenshot below:

Explaining the screenshot, Regalado wrote:

The 1822 Diccionario de la Lengua Castellana (by La Academia Española, Madrid) defined Filipino as follows: “El natural de las Islas Filipinas o lo perteneciente a ellas” (The native of Las Islas Filipinas or what pertains to them).

Regalado ended his opinion piece by declaring that all the other seasoned historians such as León Mª Guerrero and Ambeth Ocampo (including National Artist Nick Joaquín, of all people) were wrong in spreading the idea that the term “Filipino” traditionally referred only to Peninsulares.

Going back to Royeca, it is really bothersome when he concluded his blog in this manner:

…malinaw pa sa síkat ng araw na ang mga unang tao na tinawag na Filipino—o ang mga orihinal na Pilipino—ay ang mga katutubo mismo ng Pilipinas.

(…it is clear as the sun that the the first people who were called Filipinos —or the original Filipinos— were the indigenous themselves of Filipinas.)

To my observation, Royeca and Regalado did not tell us the complete definition of the term Filipino. Although they did share primary sources showing how the word Filipino was defined during the early years of our country’s vassalage under the Spanish monarchy, I wonder if they even bothered to ask themselves WHY the early Filipinos were called as such. I ask WHY because the name Filipino is NOT EVEN INDIGENOUS, meaning to say, the term does not come from any native language like that of the Tagálogs, the Visayans, the Aetas, etc.

To further emphasize this: the term Filipino is not a Tagálog word. The term Filipino is not a Visayan word. The term Filipino is certainly not an Aeta word. And so on and so forth. The name Filipino is Spanish, thus the impossibility of the notion that the demonym used for the indios (as the indigenous were generally referred to at that time) had some natural or indigenous etymological imprint whatsoever. Due to this, Royeca and Regalado must now categorically point out WHY Fr. Chirino called the natives as Filipinos. Certainly, there must be a reason why the good friar called them as such.

Another thing that bothers me is that both Royeca and Regalado averred that those seasoned historians they mentioned were mistaken in referring to the insulares or native-born Spaniards as Filipinos. I’m afraid that the one wrong in this particular aspect —and I mean them no disrespect— are Royeca and Regalado themselves… unless they can point to us an indigenous individual who wrote calling himself a Filipino, or even an indigenous group for that matter who referred to themselves as such, and has been doing so even before the Spaniards came and founded the Filipino state on 24 June 1571 together with the founding of Manila as its capital city.

In addition, Both Royeca and Regalado are also proven wrong when they implied, wittingly or unwittingly, that the insulares or Spaniards born in the islands were not called Filipinos at any time in our history. It should be remembered that Charles Derbyshire, a US writer and translator of José Rizal’s novels and poems, did write about it in 1912, years before Renato Constantino was even born. In the glossary to his 1912 English translation of the El Filibusterismo, Derbyshire clearly differentiated the indio and the Filipino:

Indian: The Spanish designation for the Christianized Malay of the Philippines was indio (Indian), a term used rather contemptuously, the name Filipino being generally applied in a restricted sense to the children of Spaniards born in the Islands. (emphasis mine)

And in two footnotes found in the same book, Derbyshire made it clear that:

The Spanish designation for the Christianized Malay of the Philippines was indio (Indian), a term used rather contemptuously, the name filipino being generally applied in a restricted sense to the children of Spaniards born in the Islands. (p. 14).

Natives of Spain; to distinguish them from the Filipinos, i.e., descendants of Spaniards born in the Philippines. See Glossary: “Indian.” (p. 23)

Yes, Derbyshire did not cite any source on why he defined the Filipino that way. Nevertheless, Royeca and Regalado still has to explain to us why this US translator of Rizal, who lived closer and thus was more familiar to the moods and traditions of Spanish-era Filipinas, gave such definition. And, to reiterate, while both of them successfully pointed out that Fr. Chirino called Tagálogs, Visayans, Aetas, etc. as Filipinos, can they also point out any indigenous individual who called himself a Filipino during the Spanish times? We can tell them confidently that nobody did so. There was, however, one insular or Spanish creole who did so, and that was nationalist poet Luis Rodríguez Varela of Tondo, Manila. It is on record that he did call himself a Filipino —a first in Filipino History— and even declared it in the official gazette of Manila.

Let me then share to you the first two stanzas of one of Rodríguez Varela’s poem that was written in 1812:


Los primeros Filipinos, vasallos son de Felipe.
Pues filipinos lo somos los nacidos en Oriente
De padres peninsulares, conquistadores valientes
Que vinieron a estas islas desconocidas y vírgenes.

Y son también filipinos los de peninsular padre
Y madre oriental o india que en buen castellano parlen;
Educados en colegios de sacerdotes y madres
En el candor del Padre Nuestro y en los oficios y artes.

In the first stanza, Rodríguez Varela pointed out that the first Filipinos were vassals of King Felipe II, and that included full-blooded Spaniards who moved to Filipinas, many of whom died here (eg., Miguel López de Legazpi, Martín de Goití, Simón de Anda, Fr. Francisco Manuel Blanco, etc.). By vassals, we mean those who had accepted the king of Spain as their rightful sovereign (eg., Rajah Humabon and all the rest of the indios who were Christianized and accepted Spanish rule). In that aspect enters the definition of Fr. Chirino. But in the second stanza, the poet made it clear that even Spanish mestizos were Filipinos.

In view of the foregoing, the reason why Fr. Chirino called the natives as Filipinos is because they were members of the Filipino State organized together with Manila as its capital on 24 June 1571 to which all the pre-Filipino or indigenous or ethnic states incorporated themselves into. The moment those natives accepted Spanish authority, and the moment they accepted Christianity, i.e., Catholicism, as their new faith, they automatically became Filipinos.

And since etymology was mentioned earlier, let us also point out that the Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Portland House, 1989) has already correctly defined what a Filipino is:

Fil·i·pi·no (fil’əˈpē’nō), n., pl. -nos, adj. —n. 1. a native of the Philippines, esp. a member of a Christianized native tribe. —adj. 2. Philippine. [< Sp. derived from (las Islas) Filipinas Philippine (islands)]

Take note that those who created the said dictionary are no ordinary lexicographers. When one speaks of Webster, we speak of language authorities, expert etymologists who diligently study the origin of words in order to define things and concepts. No wonder Fr. Chirino defined the Filipino as such in his book.

The name Filipino, in summary, referred at first to the Spanish peninsulars serving King Felipe II in Filipinas. Their children, full-blooded Spaniards born in these islands, naturally inherited the classification. And by the 19th century, Spanish educational and political reforms such as the democratic constitution of Cádiz included the indigenous as well as the chinos cristianos as Filipinos, together with the insulares or criollos.

There is no question that Fr. Chirino referred to all natives as Filipinos. We have to laud Mr. Jon Royeca and Mr. Nonoy Regalado for their diligence in making us notice what seems to have been often overlooked. However, Fr. Chirino’s context in his definition of the term Filipino has to be understood clearly in order to avoid misconceptions. The friar merely “covered with a Filipino blanket” those indigenous who assimilated themselves into the Filipino cosmos. During those years of imperial glory, a resident of the islands of Filipinas should naturally be called a Filipino, but it is completely different from a Filipino who had joined or had allowed himself to be absorbed into the Filipino Identity.

August is History Month

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Proclamation No. 339, s. 2012






WHEREAS, History Week is observed from 15 to 21 September of every year by virtue of Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974);

WHEREAS, there is a need to transfer the observance of History Week from 15 to 21 September to the whole month of August and rename the occasion as “History Month” to emphasize the most significant turning points in Philippine history;

WHEREAS, major events in the nation’s history occurred in the month of August which concludes with National Heroes Day on 30 August; and

WHEREAS, a week of observance is not enough to undertake various activities given the richness and diversity of our nation’s history.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BENIGNO S. AQUINO, III, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby declare the month of August of every year as “History Month.”

Proclamation No. 1304 (s. 1974) is hereby repealed.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.

DONE, in the City of Manila, this 16th day of February, in the year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve.


By the President


Executive Secretary


Executive Secretary

Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day 2015

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Today we commemorate the ties that bound us forever, ties that have shaped us for three hundred and thirty-three years, ties that are seemingly gone yet are very much alive in the culture that we live and breathe upon…

© Marbella Congresos








The 2nd part of Pío Andrade Jr.’s podcast

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I’m reblogging part two of Arnaldo Arnáiz‘s podcast with chemist-historian Pío Andrade, Jr. You may listen to part one right here. Learn and enjoy.

Originally posted on With one's past...:

This is the second installment of my conversation with historian cum chemist extraordinaire Pio Andrade Jr. I divided the 3 hour podcast and edited the gaps and dead air last year. I published the first part last January and shelved the second part for later publication—I thought I lost it only to find out that I backed it up (oddly, the only copy I made!) on one of my thumb drives.

Here the Paracale historian talks about the Catholic church’s legacy, Quezon’s corrupting influence, origin of the “pork barrel,” Agoncillo as historian, Aguinaldo and Gen. Luna, early 20th century Filipino Justice’s delicadeza and so many other historical tidbits about us Filipinos.

The University of Florida alum also discussed the origin of towns and places name; How most of it have botanical if not zoological origins. We should stop telling our children those fancy legends but I must confess that I find them too…

View original 248 more words

Today is the 444th founding anniversary of Filipinas; let’s make it official!

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Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the cities of Manila and San Juan del Monte, both of which are in Metro Manila, busy themselves with festive celebrations. The former commemorates its foundation anniversary today while the latter celebrates the feast day of its namesake saint, Saint John the Baptist. But I and a very few others (sadly) remember June 24 quite differently. For us, that date is when our country, Filipinas, was founded. In brief, Manila was founded on 24 June 1571 not only as a city but as a capital city. But a capital city of what? Now that, ladies and gents, is what they (whoever they may be) are not telling us. So once and for all, let us all join hands in petitioning Malacañang Palace to make this hallowed date an official one. Please sign the petition by clicking here.

The founding of Manila on 24 June 1571 signified not just the founding of a city but also of the establishment of the Filipino state. © Viajes Navales.

In the meantime, let me greet my beloved country a big Happy 444th Birthday! May the Motherland find the peace, unity, and progress that she deserves. Amen.


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