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DMCI’s Torre de Manila and Laudato si’

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Three days before the 154th birth anniversary of Dr. José Rizal which falls today, Filipinos were treated to glad tidings. The construction of the Torre De Manila condominium, rightfully dubbed by concerned Filipinos as “Terror de Manila” for photobombing the scenic background of the Rizal Monument at the Luneta, was issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court (SC).

“SC issues TRO against further construction of Torre de Manila; orders oral argument on June 30 at 2 PM” the SC Public Information Office said in its official Twitter account.

While this may just be a temporary victory, it was still welcomed with glee, especially by heritage advocates. It is still a victory nonetheless, considering the fact that this eyesore of a building by DMCI Homes keeps on growing and growing each day, conveniently ignoring the cease and desist order issued by the National Culture for Commission and the Arts (NCCA) last January that was based on existing heritage laws.

Don’t we all miss this scene? © John Tewell

This blogpost will not attempt to discuss the ins and outs of this issue as it has already been exhausted by several media outlets, opinion makers, and blogs since tourist guide and heritage activist Carlos Celdrán revealed this heritage crime to the public three years ago. As an ordinary netizen myself, I’ll just content myself to reading comments online (as usual) about this positive turn of events.

This so-called “Terror de Manila” is as unpopular as the more terrifying Bangsamoro Basic Law. The stream of comments expressing rage against the construction of this condominium as well as the joyful comments when news of the SC’s TRO broke out is overwhelming  so much that to encounter a comment expressing sympathy towards the building is simply too jarring not to ignore. One such comment in the Philippine Daily Inquirer caught my attention:

“The fact remains that the building was approved by the Manila Zoning Board. Now that the construction is stopped and probably not be restarted, I would like to ask those responsible for the demise of this building-1. Who is going to feed the workers and their families whose sole employment is probably this construction? 2. Who is going to reimburse those who already paid for the condominiums, money earned from blood and sweat? 3. Who is going to reimburse the expenses of DMCI ( DMCI is not privately owned. There are a lot of stockholders, myself included.)? I would appreciate very much if the senator, Knight of Columbus, Carlos Cedran, NCCA and so called conservationist answer those questions. Can we feed the hungry with the statue of Rizal or his image. We have more urgent problems than disfiguring the view of a statue.”

The issues raised by the commenter seems representative of everything that is pro-DMCI/Torre de Manila. Although acceptable to some quarters (and there are very few of them), all his points are still invalid. And this is the objective of this blogpost: to answer this comment point by point (let Celdrán and the NCCA tackle DMCI themselves because I’m way out of their league anyway):

1) “The fact remains that the building was approved by the Manila Zoning Board.” — But the fact also remains that the Manila Zoning Board violated Republic Act No. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) on the grounds that “it mars the sightlines or visual corridors of the Rizal Monument, a declared National Cultural Treasure of the Philippines and a sublime symbol of the Filipino nation.”

2) “Who is going to feed the workers and their families whose sole employment is probably this construction?” — Didn’t the commenter realize that the Torre de Manila project does not offer permanent employment to the masons, carpenters, and other laborers involved in the construction of the said building? In case the construction pushes through and the building gets done, so is the employment of those lowly laborers. After the project, DMCI will have totally forgotten them for sure.

3) “Who is going to reimburse those who already paid for the condominiums, money earned from blood and sweat?” — DMCI of course. It was their fault from the very beginning. They can afford to make several more torres de Manila and make them disappear with a snap of a finger, considering the fact that they are one of the country’s top conglomerates (2014 total revenue in millions: ₱56,561.0 | 2014 gross profit in millions: ₱18,265.7).

4) “Who is going to reimburse the expenses of DMCI” — Same answer: DMCI can pay itself for its misdeeds, and for all we care. Even with the downfall of Torre de Manila, and DMCI eventually declaring a loss because of it in their annual reports, the reality remains that DMCI will still be around for the next couple of decades… that is, if people will only listen to Pope Francisco’s recently released Laudato si’, a powerful encyclical tackling the destruction of the environment caused by senseless consumerism… pretty much what DMCI has been doing for years (re: Isla Semirara), don’t you think?

In closing, the commenter ended his refutable questions with a more valid one: “Can we feed the hungry with the statue of Rizal or his image. We have more urgent problems than disfiguring the view of a statue.”

True, heritage conservation cannot put food on the table for the hungry poor. It cannot directly solve economic problems. But do we always have to forego heritage for profit? Is it always money above heritage, money over culture? And whose benefit would all this profit be for, anyway? Progress for whom? For the stockholders of DMCI, of course. It is obvious to the discerning reader that the commenter is concerned more about his stocks and was simply mentioning the plight of the Torre de Manila laborers to gain sympathy. And mind you, heritage has been in dire straits for the past few years. Left and right, tangible heritage buildings are fast disappearing (remember last year’s “September Massacre“?), all in the name of profit. In spite of that, did it even alleviate the sorry conditions of our less fortunate fellow Filipinos? No, it did not.

Speaking of economy, the Aquino Government has been harping this 7% growth in GDP for the longest time now, but it has not even trickled down to the most downtrodden in society (the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program should not even count because it is an outright bribe for future votes for the Liberal Party). In the same vein, will Torre de Manila’s completion benefit its construction workers for the long term? The answer is a confident no.

And since I mentioned Laudato si’, this encyclical of Pope Francisco could have never been so timely because DMCI perfectly fits in its scathing statements against consumerism, about the “relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment” (its Semirara Island project), “apathy” (its arrogant insistence of continuing Torre de Manila), “the reckless pursuit of profits” (violating existing heritage laws in exchange for big moolah), “excessive faith in technology” (fast-tracking the completion of the building inspite of NCCA’s cease and desist order), and “political shortsightedness” (former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and/or current Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada allowing its construction in the first place).

What will this nation become of one day? A nation of malls and condominiums?

As aptly stated by Senator Pía Cayetano: “It is high time that we, as a people, take the protection of our history, culture and heritage more seriously as these make up the intangible ideals that bind us as Filipinos and define our national identity.”

It should be remembered that the Turkish government was able to demolish the multi-million Onalti Dokuz buildings because they were rising right behind the minarets of picturesque Süleymaniye Mosque, a major tourist attraction. So what is stopping us from doing the same: apathy, greed, or both? Just tear down Terror de Manila already. It will be the perfect birthday gift for the National Hero.

¡Gracias, Papa Francisco!

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As of this writing, Papa Francisco is already airborne on his way back to Vatican City after staying in our country since Thursday evening.

It was a momentous event not only for the more than 80% Catholics in the country but for all Filipinos who shared the same goodwill and call to peace and unity. It was also historic because last Saturday morning in Tacloban, the beloved pontiff celebrated what was described as “the most moving Mass of our generation” as it was attended by victims and survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda, “the storm of the century”, and it happened during a raging storm, with everyone cold, wet, and shivering — including the pope himself. It was, in a way, symbolic of the tragedy which has finally found closure with the Pope’s arrival.

Me and my family were glad that we were able to attend one papal event in which Pope Francis celebrated his first Mass in the country (at the Manila Cathedral last Friday morning). However, we missed yesterday’s Papal Mass at the Luneta because the same storm that disturbed the Pope’s Mass in Tacloban had already reached Manila. We didn’t put to risk our children getting sick because of the stormy weather, especially our five-month-old baby girl.

It turned out that yesterday’s Mass at the historic Luneta became the most attended papal event in history, with more than six million faithful braving the storm!

Me and my family simply tuned in to the Internet for the live proceedings. Scenes of the mammoth crowd amazed us. If there was no storm, the throng would have been far bigger. And we would have been there, too.

This morning, while browsing the net for more news about the papal visit, a video from the Papal Visit – Philippines 2015 Facebook page that was becoming viral caught my attention. It was from yesterday’s record-breaking Mass at the Luneta wherein the people are already singing “Tell The World of His Love”, the same song which was used during the 1995 World Youth Day that was held in the same area. This time, the musical arrangement was a bit better compared to the original. It was grander and more emotional. But that was not the reason why the video caught my attention. It was the people themselves, people from all walks of life, singing in unison under the dark skies, holding candles in the rain. I was left in tears at that I N C R E D I B L E show of unity and diversity! And to think that people outside the Faith chide such events as unruly and lacking in solemnity! Not even the storm was able to stop the more than six million faithful who trooped to Luneta for that moving Papal Mass!

Typhoons, earthquakes, famines, heresies and anti-Catholics holding Dámaso placards, economic and political instabilities, wars, brimstone and fire, etc… BRING IT ON! But Christianity/Catholicism in this country will NEVER die and will CONTINUE to grow! It is this Faith which created the Filipino in the first place. So we will continue carrying the torch passed on to us by our grandparents! Yes, we Catholics may not be perfect and falter from time to time, but we will continue to declare that JESUS IS LORD, and we will continue to tell the world of His LOVE — the GREATEST LOVE the world has known!

¡Gracias por la inspiración, Papa Francisco! ¡Qué le veamos de nuevo!

The story behind the assassination of Fernando Manuel Bustamante

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Earlier today, in Palacio de Malacañán‘s official Facebook page, the below post was published:

#todayinhistory — On August 9, 1717, Fernando Bustamante y Rueda assumed his post as the Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines. He stirred trouble with the religious orders and also with the archbishop, which lead to his assassination by mob.

I just find it irritatingly odd that instead of commemorating the reforms and projects of the Bustamante administration since today is the anniversary of his installation as Gobernador-General de las Islas Filipinas, Malacañán’s Facebook handlers found time to instead harp on the governor-general’s assassination. Shouldn’t they have, instead, posted the above info on the anniversary of his death which falls every 11th of October (1719)? Because it’s more timely that way. And is the assassination the only thing our historians remember about Bustamante? Furthermore, how much do we even know about his character?

The said Facebook post has garnered several shares already, not to mention eliciting another round of those now classic “frailocracy at its finest” and “Padre Dámaso” comments. Open-minded people will then start to wonder if the said post was meant to make people not really to remember but to  “keep on hating”. And when you ask these anti-Catholic bashers (deplorably, many of them are Catholics themselves) what’s the real score behind the assassination, they will not be able to provide a decent answer.

So what’s the real story behind this infamous scene in our history? Let us now hear it from historian extraordinaire, Nick Joaquín:

What’s often cited against the 18th century are grisly happenings like the killing of Governor Fernando Manuel Bustamante — happenings that seem to indicate a priest-ridden society still groping about in the Dark Ages.

Bustamante was a reform governor (1717-1719) with good intentions but a violent temper. He used the militia to terrorize the public. He filled the jails to overflowing but his prisoners were not all government crooks he had caught; some were people who merely disagreed with him. When he jailed the archbishop of Manila, it provoked a demo.

Angry mobs marched to the palace waving banners and crucifixes and yelling: ‘Church, religion, and king!’ They were met on the palace stairway by Bustamante, who wielded a gun in one hand, a sword in the other. ‘Death to the tyrant!’ shouted his visitors, rushing up the stairs. The governor plunged his sword into the first body to approach him and then could not pull out the sword fast enough to drive back those who were surrounding him. He was cut down with dagger and spear. A son of his who came to his rescue was likewise stabbed to death.

The mob then stored Fort Santiago and released the imprisoned archbishop. The prelate would assume the governorship, as interim head of state. He decreed a pension of a thousand pesos for the family of Bustamante but the widow rejected it.

Me, Juanito, and Krystal at the foot of the massive EL ASESINATO DEL GOBERNADOR BUSTAMANTE Y SU HIJO, an oil on canvas completed in 1853 by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo y Padilla, at the National Museum (photo taken on 10/30/2012 by my wife).

Out-of-school Nick had poured over first source materials and had made researches in various libraries and archives. He had spent so much of his time in such places more than any schooled historian that I know of. And since Spanish was his language, it was easy for him to decipher the “encrypted stories” about our country’s oft-misunderstood past. That is why the PhDs and the MAs of the world fear and respect him. And that is why I trust him more about the Bustamante story more than anyone else’s version of it, most of which are twisted anyway.

To continue, the cause of Bustamante’s assassination was not exactly done out of religious sentiments. In a time when there were still no senators nor congressmen, when the political climate was still different, it was actually the Church who served as the “opposition” against a form of governmental setup that had all the potentials of turning into a dictatorship. Although violent and bloody, the demo against Bustamante was our country’s first dealings with democracy.

The happening is ugly but what caused it can be equated with the system of checks and balances, a beautiful feature of democracy. Because of the distance of Manila from Madrid, the Spanish kings were persuaded to grant their Philippine royal governors almost absolute powers. In effect, the executive was also the legislative and the judiciary. He headed army and navy. And he was answerable only to the king.

Against this potentate, the only checks and balances were provided by the Church, principally the friars, who served as the opposition. The opposition was sometimes “holy”, as in the friars’ campaign against the abuses of the encomenderos, and sometimes “unholy”, as in this killing of Bustamante — though we should remember that, before the fatal demo, the governor had called out and sicked his vigilantes in public.

So much slur has been thrown at those hated Spanish friars. Bashers don’t even think that if such events did not happen, who would have stopped potentially abusive government leaders? To wit: it was the opposition (friars) who acted against the majority (encomenderos) on the continued implementation of the corrupted encomienda system. And how come I don’t see anyone praising the friars for this? Why the double standard?

Anyway, good ‘ol Nick concluded Bustamante’s assassination story with this…

…the point here is not interference between Church and State, but the natural feud between government and opposition. It’s like the clash between King Henry II of England and Archbishop Becket, with the difference that in the Philippine case it was the King Henry who got slain.

Just a piece of advice: read widely and think critically to avoid bashing benightedly.

Rizal Day thought

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It was not José Rizal who got shot in Bagumbayan 117 years ago…

…it was Mother Spain. :-(

Is this famous Rizal execution photo real, or is it just a still from a 1912 movie? Click here to find out.

The Black Nazarene of Quiapò (Facebook photos)

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Exactly a week has passed but I haven’t blogged about the Black Nazarene procession of Quiapò which I have attended. I have been very busy attending to some personal matters: taking care of my pet grasshoppers; searching for fireflies in the dead of the night, etc. Actually, I did blog about this historic event (reportedly one of the longest processions ever at 22 hours despite terrorist-threat warnings from Malacañang!) in my other blog, with videos to boot. But it’s in Spanish. So I will blog about the event here in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES very soon. Hopefully before the month ends.

In the meantime, I have published my photos of the Fiesta de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno in my Facebook page. You can view the photos (with captions) by clicking here.

78th Adamson University Grand Alumni Homecoming / 80th Foundation Anniversary of Adamson University

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Calling all Adamsonians/alumni of Adamson University worldwide (Preparatory, Elementary, High School, College, Graduate School, and College of Law from 1934 to 2011): you are all invited to attend the 78th GRAND ALUMNI HOMECOMING and celebration of the 80th FOUNDATION ANNIVERSARY OF ADAMSON UNIVERSITY.

PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

1:00 PM … Registration/Fellowship/University Tour
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM … Unveiling of the University Mural at the SV Lobby
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM … Anticipated Mass by our own alumnus, Rev. Fr. Fernando “Pando” Suárez
5:00 PM -7:00 PM … Recognizing the Jubilarian Awardees, Board, and Bar Passers; induction of the new set of Officers of the Architecture Alumni Alumni Association.

RECOGNIZING THE ALUMNI COMING FROM ABROAD
RECOGNIZING ADAMSONIAN AWARDEES – Outstanding Alumni

7:00 PM … DINNER

7:30 PM – 9:30 PM … PROGRAM AND RAFFLE DRAW
9:30 PM … FIREWORKS DISPLAY
9:45 PM onwards …. DANCE/DISCO/BALLROOM with FULL SHOW BAND

TICKET PRICE: ₱500.00

For more information and ticket reservation, please call the Alumni Office. Look for Red, Judy, and/or Pat.

AUAAI: 524-2011 local 302
Telefax: 524-6544

For Office for Institutional Advancement, AdU: 524-2011 local 314
Telefax: 5259858. Look for Ms. Eva A. Dulay, Ms. Edylyn Medina, AJ, and/or Jheralin.

¡Nos vemos! See you! =)

*******

Special thanks to the Adamson University Alumni Association, Inc. for the above info.

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