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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.

The medium is the key

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I’ve been noticing a lot of new and younger historians today, giving lectures, interviews, and tours here and there, working extra hard to multiply their followers in their respective social media accounts. Many are probably looking forward to becoming “the next Ambeth Ocampo​”, or something to that effect. And even more are willing to become iconoclasts, eager to rewrite historical canon when opportunity knocks. Nothing wrong with that. But Filipino History is a complex study. It is incomparable to the histories of other nations. Our history is more about discovering new data and thrashing out the older ones. Because ours is a sad case, is in fact tainted with lies and absurdities (“leyenda negra“, hispanophobia, regionalism, etc.). Our history does not need a simple rewrite. It requires effort for self-justification of the Filipino. It needs an interpretation based not on nationalistic emotions but on hard data. Because our country’s history, to put it more bluntly, offers salvation of identity. This identity is power for it will return the dignity and swagger that we once wielded. It is the kind dignity that will enable ourselves to FIGHT all elements that dare trample on our beaten and tired souls.

Our true identity is locked away inside the forgotten chest of history. Today’s new breed of historians need not destroy it, for doing so will only do more harm to our already damaged culture. All they need is a key to unlock it. That should be their sole purpose (today. Historians should not act like celebrities. Rather, and modesty aside, they should behave more like superheroes loser by day, crime fighter by night). In reality, they really are. The Filipino Historian has a far more nobler purpose. He does not merely dig through sheets of yellowing paper to uncover hitherto unknown data and simply write about it. No. The purpose is to unravel and expose in order to help the Filipino self to recogize who he really is.

However, the Filipino Historian, who is also a writer, is not spared from the travails and hardships brought about by economic realities. More often than not, this reality serves as a hindrance to that noble purpose we speak of. But let not these deprivations discourage the Filipino Historian, for the fruits of their labor is for the betterment of their patria.

But where is that key? It’s not difficult to find: our forefathers who used pen and paper to elucidate and express their thoughts and ideas in aspiring for a better Filipinas left us just that — a medium in which to disseminate what was on their minds. That medium is the key to interpret our muddied history.

© Español al Día

Was Indang Church… attacked?

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Earlier today, a netizen from Indang posted several photos in his Facebook account of a horrendous accident inside the Saint Gregory the Church of Indang, Cavite.

© Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

The impact destroyed one of the antique stoups (to the left) and barely missed the gravestones of Agustín de las Alas (left) and Severino de las Alas (right), a close associate of Emilio Aguinaldo. @ Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

What’s left of the antique door and the stand of the broken stoup. It was the stoop I used before I stepped outside the church last March 22. @ Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

At first, shocked as I was, I really thought that it was just a freak accident. Until my daughter Krystal reminded me that this “accident” might have something to do with the quarrel between parish priest Fr. Von Arellano and Mayor Bienvenido Dimero. It’s because the latter entered into a questionable water supply project that sought to supply Tagaytay City with 10,000 cubic meters of potable water to the detriment of Indang’s residents. Just last year, thousands of people from both Indang and nearby Náic gathered in front of this church to protest this unpopular and dull-witted project. And the last time I talked to my father-in-law about this subject, he did confirm to me that Indang is having problems with its water supply since then.

The evidence against the mayor regarding the unpopular water supply issue is just too glaring to ignore. @ La Familia Viajera

@ La Familia Viajera

@ La Familia Viajera

In other words, Tagaytay, a major tourist spot in Cavite Province, now has more water supply than Indang even though the former sources its supply from the latter. The irony of it all.

Because of my daughter’s heads-up, I started to examine the photos of the accident. Now I have a hunch that she could be right. Besides, I’ve been to this church a couple of times already especially since my father-in-law still resides there. I am familiar with the church’s surroundings. The church itself is SEVERAL meters away from the road, and the narrow pathway leading towards the church’s antique doors is surrounded entirely by a cemented raised-bed garden. The driver could have easily skidded his vehicle against this raised platform to put a halt to it, or at least to slow it down. But he didn’t. Other than that, this “accident” happened at around 1:00 AM this morning, when the steel gates to the church grounds are already closed. Ramming straight into those gates would have slowed the vehicle down. But it didn’t.

How uncanny it is that the raised cemented garden-bed on either side of the narrow pathway remain unscathed! @ Dino Carlo Callejas Rolle

The driver had a choice to either swerve left or right and just ram his vehicle on either post of the projecting porch (a latest addition, anyway). But he didn’t. Instead, he opted for a more perilous choice: the antique church’s wooden door. This photo was taken last March 22. @ La Familia Viajera

That is why I do not believe that this was an accident.

Fr. Arellano, by the way, is an officer of the Save Waters of Indang Movement, the group opposing Mayor Dimero’s unpopular move.

Sayang.Me and my family were at this church just last March 22. We, most especially my wife, marveled at the antique and stylish interiors of this Caviteño heritage site. And now this recklessness happened. I remember when, in 1897, Andrés Bonifacio allegedly attempted to burn this House of God should government forces recapture the town from his fellow Tagalog rebels. Even in the past, this church already figured in political controversy. Then as now.

Is this church, now led by an implacable priest hostile against the local government’s (alleged) greed and stupidity, under attack? I’m inclined to think so, but I honestly hope that I’m wrong.

From what I have gathered, the owner of the jeepney is willing to pay for the church’s damages. And the good news is that the door can still be rebuilt. But I doubt if it would be put back to its former condition. As a friend of mine shared on her Facebook: “Sorry means nothing when you hurt someone. And you hurt me bad… ” Photo taken last March 22. @ La Familia Viajera

Walk Back in History: The San Nicolás-Binondo Heritage Tour

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Walk Back in History: The San Nicolás-Binondo Heritage Tour is a historical and architectural walk on the world’ s oldest chinatown. Walk the streets of historical San Nicolás and cosmopolitan Binondo. Explore their history and the evolution of their architecture. Learn the historical, social, political, and economic factors that gave rise to the unique architecture of the area. Apart from learning history and architecture, learn also another Philippine devotion to the black Christ, the Santo Cristo de Loñgos
—Mª Cecilia Sunico—

This unique tour, probably a first of its kind to be conducted in the ancient arrabales of Binondo and San Nicolás, will be launched on May 3rd, a Sunday. The tour begins at exactly 8:00 AM in front of Binondo Church. Make sure to wear casual summer attire and sandals or sneakers as this tour will require plenty of walking. The tour will be facilitated by my friend Cecille Sunico, a well-known heritage activist in Manila who is also a descendant of the famous Hilario Sunico; chances are, the bells ringing from your población‘s old church belltower were cast from Sunico’s San Nicolás foundry (see photo above)

The fee is only ₱500 per person (exclusive of meals). Click here to join!

Pío Andrade, Jr.: the scientific historian! (podcast)

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Few people today remember Pío Andrade, Jr.; he created quite a stir among the intelligentsia back in the late 1980s when he published his book unmasking the true character of revered statesman Carlos P. Rómulo. Shortly after that, he replaced popular historian Ambeth Ocampo as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s resident history columnist when the latter entered the cloister.

During that brief stint with the Inquirer, Andrade was attacking various historical personages left and right, dead or alive. Unlike Ocampo, the columns he wrote were not simply trivial and informative but combative as well, for Andrade was a nationalist and a fearsome hispanista. This concerned a friend of his, a well-known official from the Film Archives of the Philippines, who had warned him to tone down his fighting stance as it might endanger his career, if not his safety (this was told to me by fellow history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz). But it was too late. The fearsome historian since then has become a marked man: marked to become forever marginalized.

Unlike many historians we have today, Andrade treats his historical researches as pure science. But this should come as no surprise since he is an acclaimed chemist who has made significant contributions on the studies of local medicinal plants, radiation chemistry, textile chemistry, food product development, pesticide chemistry, ethnobotany, and biomass energy. His profound knowledge of scientific research assisted him in uncovering many truths about our country’s historical truths. For one, he was able to raise more doubts about the authenticity of Rizal’s alleged execution photo. Also, he can tell a hispanophobe point blank, and with sources to boot, that the Spanish language was indeed widespread in Filipinas during the Spanish times.

With all his achievements in the local scientific community, he could have easily garnered a lucrative career overseas. But he never chose that easy path. His reason? Love of country.

Without further ado, here’s good ol’ Arnaldo’s interview with Señor Don Pío Andrade, Jr. last November in episode 5 of our podcast venture. Unfortunately, I was absent in episode 5 because I had to tend to a farm that day (cubicle farm, that is). The interview is a long one, that’s why Arnaldo had to cut it into two parts (part two will be available soon). But for those who are interested in Filipino History, an hour-and-a-half interview with probably the country’s most adroit and fearsome historian today is even “bitín“.

Prepare to be intrigued by a barrage of information overload.

Stay tuned for part two!

The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila

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We will always remember
What we shouldn’t forget
What made our hearts asunder
From the rubbles of regret.

Baybayin is not Filipino

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As per the research of scholar Trinidad Pardo de Tavera.

At the 4th Baybayin Festival Rizal held at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City last November 22, Senator Loren Legarda announced that she filed Senate Bill No. 1899 which calls for the use of Baybayin in all official logos of government agencies, departments, and offices.

While her bill will impact only official government logos, the fact remains that the good senator is still campaigning for its eventual general usage. This became evident when, on the same event, she said:

Marahil ñgayón ay hindí na maunauaan ng caramihan ang cahalagahán ng Baybayin dahil sanáy na tayo sa sistema ng pagsusulát na ating nacagisnán. Ñgunit capág binalicáan nátin ang ating casaysayan, ang baybayin ang símbolo ng civilización ng mga sinaúnang Filipino, bago pa man táyo mapasailálim sa pamumuno ng mg̃a dayuhan. (Perhaps today, many no longer understand the importance of Baybayin because we are already accustomed to the current system of writing which we have been using. But when we look back at our history, Baybayin is the symbol of civilization of the first Filipinos, right before we were subjugated by  foreign rule.)

This statement only implies her full support for Baybayin.

More than one Baybayin

Baybayin, as many of us all know, is an ancient pre-Filipino script that was used by major ethnolinguistic groups in the country such as the Tagálogs, Cebuanos, Ilocanos, etc. It has always been taught to us that the Baybayin (mistakenly referred to as Alíbata years ago) was the original Filipino system of writing. This is, of course, a false notion. For one: before the Spaniards arrived, our country was not yet created. Hence, there were still no Filipinos during that time (the first Filipinos were actually criollos or insulares; the term “Filipino” itself was coined by one). Second, and more importantly, there are several variations of Baybayin.

As can be seen from the chart above, there are more than one version of Baybayin. The Baybayin of the Visayans is not the one used by the Bicolanos, the Baybayin of the Ilocanos could neither be read by the Pampangueños, and so on and so forth. Even Tagálog has five versions! So how can Senator Loren Legarda incorporate the usage of this ancient script when it varies according to linguistic region? Will she do an eeny, meeny, miny, moe? Or will she arbitrarily use Tagalog since it is the basis of the national language? But again, WHICH Tagalog Baybayin? And if she chooses a different script other than Tagalog, that will make the other ethnolinguistic groups feel left out as well.

At this early stage, we can already feel the ineffectiveness of Baybayin. It will only espouse more division than unity other than confusion to an already uneducated Filipino studentry.

From Baybayin to Abecedario

We do, however, understand the nationalist stance of Senator Legarda. It is the same sentiment shared by many other nationalists, particularly those from UP Dilimán. But it is a kind of nationalism that is twisted and not rooted to historical reason and analysis. Had the good senator and those supporting her bill looked beyond their textbook knowledge as basis for this ancient script’s usage, they would have realized its inefficacy (eventually realizing their misplaced nationalism). Baybayin was actually scrapped not because the Spanish friars thought of it as the “workings of demons”, as we are wont to hear from hispanophobic historians, but for the simple fact that it was not an effective medium in disseminating novel thoughts and ideas to a people who were about to be taught the rudiments of contemporary literacy — book culture.

We can point out to Tomás Pinpín, our country’s first typographer and printer, as the culprit behind the disuse of the Baybayin. But he did it for practical reasons. When Pinpín was commissioned by the Dominicas to print the first Christian booklets for each native language, different typographical sets of Baybayin had to be manufactured. It was a very tedious process considering the fact that during his time (late 16th to early 17th century), wooden letter chips which were used to form each word that had to be printed were then handmade. It dawned upon Pinpín that it would take a lot of time, possibly years, to complete so many sets of Baybayin even before he could begin printing a book.

The archaic xylographic method of printing was a tedious process. Just imagine your first book being published in this manner using just one writing system. What more if it will be published in other systems of writing? You would have lost more hair by then compared to this guy in the picture.

But being of Chinese origin, Pinpín was aware that mainland China also had many languages. The difference, however, is that the Chinese always had one common system of writing, something which our country didn’t have at that time. And so this gave our first typographer and printer a marvelous idea: why not standardize the system of writing of all indigenous groups in Filipinas? Instead of using the various kinds of Baybayin, Pinpín (with the blessings of the Dominicans) decided to adopt for all the native languages the writing system that the Spaniards have been using — the Roman alphabet.

Not only did this move save Pinpín tons of time and labor in printing the first set of books meant for religious missions. It also gave the several groups in the archipelago, from Aparrí all the way to Joló, a sense of unity, of oneness, and of identity. And that is also the reason why up to now, we are still using the same system of writing.

Hardened nationalists who despise the present use of the Roman alphabet and yearn for the return of the Baybayin should take note that Pinpín’s decision to discard the latter not only gave him and future printers the ease of work. Inadvertently, it also paved the way for the introduction of two new vowel sounds: the “E” and the “O” (before the Spaniards arrived, the natives only had three vowel sounds: “A”, “I”, and “U”). It also assisted the natives into learning not only the Spanish language but also other European languages using the same alphabet. In the long run, the Filipinos developed their own alphabet, different but somewhat similar. It was called the Abecedario Filipino.

Bring back the Abecedario Filipino

If Senator Legarda’s intention of bringing back the Baybayin from obscurity is to instill nationalist pride among Filipinos, then she’s barking up the wrong tree. If one were to analyze it, Baybayin will only foster regionalism rather than nationalism. This alarming observation is already evident in local Pampangueño historian Michael Raymon Pañgilinan‘s patronization of the Culitan, the Capampañgan term for their version of Baybayin. Pañgilinan and his followers’ preoccupation for the Culitan did not instill in them love of country but love of region. As a result, Pañgilinan himself disdains of being called a Filipino and is obsessed with talks of a fairy tale “Kingdom of Luzón“.

What Senator Legarda and other leaders in government tasked to handle cultural and heritage issues is to bring back instead not the Baybayin but the 32-letter Abecedario Filipino, the true Filipino orthography which developed from Pinpín’s ingenious move to use the Roman alphabet instead of the awkward Baybayin.

Having 32 letters (five letters more than its Spanish counterpart), the Abecedario Filipino is clearly one of the longest alphabets in the world. Most of its consonants are read with the Batangueño inflection “eh”:

A (ah), B (be), C (se), CH (che), D (de), E (eh), F (efe), G (he), H (ache), I (ih), J (hota), K (ka), L (ele), LL (elye), M (eme), N (ene), NG (nang), Ñ (enye), ÑG (ñga), O (oh), P (pe), Q (ku), R (ere), RR (erre), S (ese), T (te), U (uh), V (ube), W (doble u), X (ekis), Y (ih griega), Z (seta)

As mentioned earlier, the introduction of the Roman alphabet by Pinpín which paved the way for the development of the Abecedario Filipino augmented the phonemes of the local languages with the addition of new vowel (“A”, “I”, and “U”) and consonant (“F”, “Ñ”) sounds. The Abecedario Filipino is also the same alphabet utilized by Francisco Balagtás when he wrote his now classic Florante at Laura. It was the same alphabet used by our forefathers, and that included Rizal and his contemporaries, in writing literature and in corresponding among themselves. Whether a Filipino back then spoke a different native language, his usage of the Abecedario Filipino is one proof that he has assimilated himself into the Filipino cosmos,

The Abecedario Filipino is thus the orthography that must be put back to full usage because of its unifying characteristics. Other than that, the Abecedario Filipino will prove once and for all that Tagalog, Cebuano, Capampañgan, Bicolano, etc. are not inferior to English.

This obsession for a mythical glorious past should stop because it is retrogressive and very un-Filipino. But if Senator Legarda still insists of having her worthless bill passed into law, then she might as well push for all Filipinos to go back to writing on banana leaves and tree barks.

The Baybayin NEVER united our archipelago. It never did. And it never will. On the other hand, the Abecedario Filipino has already proven its effectiveness in strengthening our collective identity as Filipinos.

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