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Category Archives: Metro Manila

The Bourne Legacy official trailer

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Here’s the much-awaited full-length official trailer for The Bourne Legacy that was released yesterday.

Why is FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES posting this stuff? Because this trailer (as well as the movie itself) features several scenes from Metro Manila!  But not the pretty sights that a tourist would want to see. Anyway…

The film crew had four countries on their list of shooting locations: Brazil, Indonesia, India and the Philippines; ultimately, the Philippines was chosen. Jeremy Renner arrived in the Philippines on January 6, 2012 while the rest of the cast arrived earlier. From January, 2012 until the middle of February, the film was shot in Metro Manila. The final part of the film was rumored to be shot in Palawan. —Wikipedia

Finally, the Philippines lands in a major Hollywood film. I’m sure this isn’t the first time that The Pearl of the Orient Sea will be shown in the international silver screen (to name a few, Apocalypse Now and Missing in Action III come to mind). But in an era where social media rule, this is something novel. Let us not, however, cheer yet; we still do not know how our country will be portrayed in this action spy film. Hollywood has a penchant of portraying Third World countries in a negative light.

At any rate, a promotion is still a promotion. The people behind the It’s More Fun in the Philippines tourism campaign must surely be patting each other’s backs for a job well done (if they ever had anything to do about this at all). Things are looking up.

And just imagine this: what if Edward Norton (the antagonist in this film) wasn’t fired from the billion-dollar-earning superhero flick The Avengers? There would have been two Marvel Studios actors in this movie! Hawkeye vs The Incredible Hulk in Manila! Wow!

“Bloggers’ Hour” at the NCCA

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The first ever "Bloggers' Hour" organized and hosted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS are honored to have attended the first ever “Bloggers’ Hour” this morning. The event was organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Click here for the story.

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.

CF Madrid too good for Philippine Azkals

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Here are the results of last night’s football charity game for the victims of Typhoon Sendong (from Inquirer.net):

CF Madrid too good for Philippine Azkals

MANILA, Philippines — It was a loss that felt more like a win for Philippine football.

The Azkals Alyansa bowed to a more cohesive and disciplined Internacional de Madrid side, 1-3, Saturday night in a charity game that lured a crowd of 8,000 at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

Proceeds of the match dubbed “Dili ka nag-iisa” will go to relief efforts for the victims of Tropical Storm Sendong in Mindanáo and for goal scorer James Younghusband, that was already enough.

“I’m glad to get the goal, but for me just being part of this game is already special,” he said.

At halftime, CF Madrid officials turned over a check for 10,000 euros to the Philippine National Red Cross chair Sen. Richard Gordon. The stadium observed a minute of silence for the victims before the game and the crowd sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the 1943 Broadway musical Carousel dedicated to the victims.

Younghusband scored the only goal for the Azkals—a header from a cross from Chieffy Caligdong—in the 62nd minute, but by that time, the Spanish Tercera division side had already settled the outcome after going 3-nil up a minute into the second half.

Rufo Sánchez put CF Madrid ahead with a 15th minute penalty after Eduard Sacapano clipped Daniel García Fernández inside the box.

Fernández doubled the lead in the 32nd minute with a curling strike from just inside the box. A quick counterattack a minute into the second half saw Ignacio Feijoo make it 3-nil with a well-taken strike from close range.

While several players from the United Football League were in the squad, Azkals Alyansa coach Edwin Cabalida opted to field a starting lineup made up of national players.

But the Azkals were a shadow of the fearsome side that won five matches last year, struggling to keep up with the pace and enterprising play of the Spanish side, which continuously created chances in the opening half.

“The fitness level was very low. The passing and combination play wasn’t there, but the team improved in the second half,” said Cabalida.
The Azkals are preparing for the AFC Challenge Cup in March and Cabalida said the match showed there was plenty of work to be done on the team to become competitive in the tournament.

“It was a tough game and we played a very good team which makes this trip worth it,” said CF Madrid coach Javier García Márquez.

A swift three-pass combination from the backline allowed Fernández to run past Antón Del Rosario, forcing Sacapano to go out of his line.

The Azkals found difficulty to break down the Spanish side with Ian Araneta limited to long-range efforts and Phil Younghusband managing just a tame shot in the 10th minute.

To CF Madrid and Philippine Azkals: ¡muchísimas gracias! God bless you both for your charity. :-)

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.

Pananaw Magazine, the magazine that never was

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Special pre-launch issue of Pananaw Magazine (December 2010).

When netrepreneur and writer extraordinaire JB Lazarte contacted me late last year for a magazine gig, I was so excited and overwhelmed. Finally, the realization that I might just accomplish all of Cuban hero José Martí’s three-fold mission of what a man ought to do in his life was to become a reality: to “plant a tree, write a book, have a son”. I haven’t fed Mother Earth any seedling yet, but that would be too easy, anyway. And I already have three sons. So probably the most difficult to accomplish among Martí’s real-macho-man attributes is to publish a book.

I haven’t published a book yet. I was commissioned three years ago to co-write a biography of San Pedro, La Laguna’s town mayor (a family friend), but it’s still in developmental hell (and since the good mayor is very busy working for the town’s cityhood, and my writing partner has lost all interest, his biography might not get published anymore). But to write for a magazine is the closest to publishing a book as one could get.

As they say in the world of writing, “publish or perish”.

Blogging today is the in thing. But even in a world that is ever dominated by the Internet, nothing can topple the worth and value and weight and authenticity and command that the contents of a physical book can hold. Thus this ache of getting published. The last time I was published was back in college. But those were verses that were published in our school journal. Seeing one’s writings published in a book or, for this matter, on a national daily or magazine beats all that.

It’s not just the feeling of being known that bites me, or of becoming famous even. It’s this ache of wanting others to know that you do exist, and for some lofty reason.

So back to my story. JB Lazarte is a multi-awarded writer. And he has more contacts to whatever writing gigs there are available for a craving and trying-hard scribbler like me. He contacted me late last year to contribute for a magazine of which he will become one of its editors (the other editor is Palanca awardee Omer Oscar Almenario).

The magazine’s name is Pananaw (Opinyon ng Bayan) published by the “Makabagong Pananaw Foundation, Inc.”, a group allied to the present administration. JB The Magus found my travels published in this blog cute. So he thought that such articles were a good addition to the magazine. Pananaw was also meant to promote agribusiness in the Philippines.

Editorial box with a list of the board of directors of Makabagong Pananaw Foundation, Inc. as well as the magazine's editorial staff.

The first article I’ve contributed was my coverage of the Día del Galeón last year, 6 October 2010. It was published in Pananaw’s special pre-launch issue last December and was chosen as its feature article!

Here it is!

EL GALEÓN ANDALUCÍA
Pepe Alas

To see a Spanish-era galleon ship docked in Manila Harbor’s Pier 13 amidst modern steel ships is not just surreal — it is downright weird (one could not help but be reminded of Walt Disney Picture’s The Pirates of the Carribean film series). And that weird feeling was what exactly my wife and I felt that hot afternoon of 6 October when we visited the visiting Galeón Andalucía! The coming of the said galleon was actually the highlight of the recently concluded Día del Galeón celebration.

No, Andalucía was not a galleon straight out of the past, preserved and renovated. It was only a replica of what a typical 17th century galleon used to look like during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (1565-1815). But the Andalucía holds the distinction of being the only actual replica of a Spanish galleon that has ever been built in modern times.

According to Fernando Ziálcita, professor of Cultural Anthropology in Ateneo de Manila University and one of the organizers of the said event, it was Spanish historian Pedro Luengo who informed him last year of the Andalucía’s planned voyage from Seville to Shanghai, China. Professor Ziálcita thought that as the Philippines was the focal point of the Galleon Trade, the said ship should naturally have a stop-over in Manila. Earlier this year (February), Prof. Ziálcita and other concerned individuals had a meeting with the Philippine Academic Consortium for Latin American Studies in Cavite City. Mr. César Virata, former Prime Minister during Ferdinand Marcos’ regime and is now the president of the Cavite Historical Society, was present in the said meeting. He expressed interest in sponsoring an event that will feature the coming of the Andalucía Galleon.

The galleon trade may have a soft spot in Mr. Virata’s heart: aside from Manila Bay, (and occasionally Puerto Galera in Mindoro island), Cavite City used to be a port and construction site for the galleons.

But what really made things official was when Prof. Ziálcita proposed to the national government to sponsor the said event. They were very excited, he said. Thus, through the assistance and efforts of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Senator Edgardo Angara, a hispanista, the event was made possible. So this past June, the government launched initiatives to celebrate the first international Día del Galeón Festival on 8 October. No less than the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared that the said date should be celebrated annually as the Day of the Galleon in commemoration of the Galleon Trade.

Although the event’s name is called Day of the Galleon, it was actually a month-long affair. The event’s official website (http://www.diadelgaleon.blogspot.com/) lists down a schedule of various lectures, cultural showcases, stage plays, and other cultural showcases, stage plays, and other cultural programs related to the galleon trade. My wife and I were able to attend only one event: the day when the Galleon Andalucía —the main event— “returned” to our shores.

As we were on our way to Manila Bay that afternoon to welcome the galleon, I was briefing my wife about what the event —and the galleon trade— was all about in order for her to appreciate our visit. Admittedly, her knowledge of galleons and of the galleon trade was minimal as is the case, sadly, with many Filipinos today (an ex-office mate of mine even pronounced it as a “Galileo” ship, much to my annoyance). Yearly, Filipino students are given a few hours’ rehash of what had transpired during the galleon trade for more than two centuries; an important epoch not only in our country’s history but in world history as well.

It is never enough to say that the galleon trade was merely a part of Philippine History, nor should it be limited to the retelling of Spanish History in Asia and the Pacific. Such scenario would have been too trifle to say the least. Rather, the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade should stand side by side with “the glory that was Greece” and “the grandeur that was Rome”. It should have equal status to that of the Industrial Revolution or the epic telling of survival during the Age of Depression and other economic revolutions. This would be no exaggeration for, truly, the galleon trade literally turned the world into a global village.

To put in simpler terms, it was the world’s first foray into globalization. Scholars and historians agree today that, although the trade was “limited” between Manila and Acapulco, México, it was in fact global in scope. Good from major markets in Asia, such as China and India, traveled to Amoy and Canton where they were shipped to Manila. From Manila Bay (just across Intramuros, which was then the original Manila) and/or Puerto de Cavite (today’s Cavite City), Asian goods, such as silk, spices, jewels, chinaware, and ivory, traveled across the globe through the Pacific in a perilous journey towards the other side of the world. From there, these goods were both sold and traded for Mexican silver and other goods coming not just from all over the Americas but from Europe as well (which were shipped over from the Atlantic).

The journey indeed was perilous because sea navigation today was different from that era. Lacking modern equipment in maritime affairs, the trip from Manila, which usually began from July or August, could last for six months and a half. The galleons followed the North Equatorial Current that had been discovered by Fray Andrés de Urdaneta on his return trip to México. During that time, it was the only safest route back across the Pacific to México and the rest of the New World (they could not travel eastward due to the Treaty of Tordesillas). Indeed, Spain could not have colonized the Philippines without this oceanic current.

It should be emphasized that it was not a simple sea voyage; as mentioned earlier, maritime voyages were not as sophisticated compared to modern sea navigation. Countless sailors perished out of hunger, thirst, and illness during the galleon trade due to miscalculation in logistics and supplies. As such, mutinies were not uncommon. Also, many a galleon ship perished in ferocious typhoons. Other galleons even met a more tragic fate — they were captured by vicious English buccaneers. Four of them were taken: Santa Ana in 1587; Encarnación in 1709; Covadonga in 1743, and; Santíssima Trinidad —the largest ship during that era— in 1762. Due to poor navigation, some were lost at sea, never to be seen again. Other galleons sank due to overloaded cargoes.

The return trip to Manila was as equally perilous as the voyage to México, but it was shorter: the galleons left Acapulco either in February of March and reached Manila in more or less 90 days. The return trip passed south of the North Equatorial Current, docking briefly in what is now known as the Marshall Islands and Guam.

The Galleon Trade allowed the participation of all Filipinos. An individual or organization must have a boleta (ticket) in order to engage business in the Trans-Pacific trade. The cargo space of a galleon was usually divided into 4,000 units. Each unit was represented by the said boleta. Thus, if the individual has, say, five boletas, he could ship an amount of merchandise to fill five units of cargo space. The government, however, had the privilege of owning over a thousand units (other groups who share such privileges are church leaders and businessmen). However, some individuals would choose to sell their boletas to wealthy businessmen for a higher fee (they were the precursors of today’s scalpers outside the Araneta Coliseum).

The galleon trade was truly epochal for Philippine existence. Through it, our country received different kinds of crops such as camote, sincamás, tomate (tomato), cacahuete or manî, lechugas, corn, avocado, pineapple, tobacco, and countless others. Virtually all the vegetables mentioned in the popular Tagalog folk song “Bahay Kubo” were brought over by the galleons from México and nearby Asian countries. Thus, we could be singing a different version of “Bahay Kubo” today without the galleon trade!

The said trade also gave the Filipinos the piano, the guitar, the violin, the cubiertos (fork, spoon, knives), plates, drinking glasses, cups and saucers; clock and calendar; various complex and simple machines, such as the printing press, the plow, the wheel, hammer and nails, books, pens, and other scholarly materials, etc.

It was not just inanimate things and tools that the galleons brought to our country. They also gave us livestock such as cattle and horses and poultry. Farming techniques written in various papers and books were also brought by these ships. The idea of arts and architecture were not excluded. Friars from various religious orders sailed through the galleons. Also, various laws and edicts and royal letters, as well as the occasional monetary assistance from the Spanish monarch were channeled through these enterprising ships.

The provinces of Lanáo del Norte and Lanáo del Sur in Mindanáo, by the way, were named after these galleons (la nao is another Spanish term for el Galeón).

There was also an exchange of peoples. Some Mexicans who joined the voyage to the Philippines never returned to their native land, and vice-versa. Therefore, sans the Clavería decree of 1849, there are Filipinos today who have Mexican last names such as Aguilar, Álvarez, Carrillo, Cruz, Flores, Guerrero, López, Pérez, del Río, Santibáñez, etc. And here is a shocking fact: there is a 200-year-old clan in México whose surname is Magandá which is the Tagalog word for beautiful!

The cultural exchanges that occurred between the Philippines and México were quite enormous; I might even end up in weeks enumerating everything. But it is safe to conclude that the galleon trade virtually created the Philippines. And almost everything that we Filipinos savor up to this very day we have to thank the galleon trade for. These facts my wife, who is not a history buff like me, discovered on her own during that 6 October visit to the galleon ship because, happily, one of Pier 13′s multi-purpose halls was converted into a temporary waiting area where visitors were able to view various exhibits, murals, and very helpful information and lectures about the Galleon Trade. It helped her and other visitors to the Andalucía to at least have a clearer idea of how the trade went about during those truly gaudy days of Spain in the Philippines, aside from the cultural gifts that we received.

As we stepped on board the Andalucía (it was named by the way after the place where it was constructed: Andalusia, Spain) together with a noisy crowd, I tried to imagine how the sailors fared a long time ago. Observing the Andalucía’s
middle deck, it was indeed amazing how some 4,000 units of cargo space could have fitted there, aside from the provisions for the sailors and the sailors themselves. Looking at the modern ships around the galleon, Andalucía seemed smaller and looked quite fragile. It’s made entirely of hardwood, a clear indication of the ship’s faithfulness to the original galleons.

Also, as I was looking down on the murky waters of Manila Bay softly lapping at the ship’s bow and stern, a stark realization dawned upon me: the last galleon that arrived in the Philippines was in 1815 (fortuitously, it was named Magallanes). That means it has been 195 years since a galleon last visited our shores!

Welcome back!

Those who were able to enjoy and fathom the Andalucía experience will never look at the galleon trade the same way again.

The pre-launch issue never made it to the newsstands. It was distributed only to selected government offices. The first issue was supposed to be on sale last January of this year (where I wrote a short essay about the importance of agribusiness). I also solicited a brief article from leading economist Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas for an economic forecast of the Philippines for the year 2010.

But the publication of Pananaw kept on stalling due to problems unknown to me. Like that biography I’m working on, it appears that Pananaw is still in developmental hell. And it’s almost a year since the pre-launch issue.

Sometimes I am tempted to believe a relative of mine who belittled me several years ago. Hinahabol yata talagá acó ng malas, ¡hahaha! :D

So I thought it wise to publish online what I wrote for that magazine. Because I am confident that whoever received a copy of it, nobody read my galleon trade article. Sayang namán. At least here in FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES, I have a fanbase…

About three or four bored souls.

Family trees

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

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

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

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

Screenshot of a webpage dedicated to the Évora Family Tree.

On a related note…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 75th birthday, Señor Gómez!

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Happy 75th birthday to the man who gave my life direction: Señor Guillermo Gómez y Rivera!

My wife Yeyette with the birthday celebrant himself, Señor Gómez, el Padre de Filipinismo.

Click here to view photos of Señor Gómez’s advanced birthday bash last 10 September 2011 at the Chihuahua Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar, Ciudad de Macati!

Jerry Acuzar and heritage conservation

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For the heritage conservationist, San Nicolás in Manila is a well of opportunities to tap into one’s worth as a cultural worker. It is because this fabled district is filled with decaying centuries-old Filipino houses that are yet to be saved by the government and other concerned sectors. It is but unfortunate that there has been no move yet to salvage these historical treasures from the deathly claws of urbanization and civil apathy. Around three years ago, me and my friends Arnaldo Arnáiz and Will Tolosa visited the place and took pictures of almost all the antique houses. One that stood out from among the rest was the so-called Casa Vizantina.

BEFORE: A picture that I took of a decrepit-looking Casa Vizantina when it was still in the corner of Calles Madrid and Peñarubia, San Nicolás, Manila in 2008.

AFTER: Casa Vizantina restored to its former glory by Jerry Acuzar when we visited it last year in its new home in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataán.

I am very familiar with Casa Vizantina’s façade. Whenever we go to my mom’s home in Tondo, we often pass by San Nicolás, right in front of this house. Throughout my growing-up years of traveling to and from Tondo, I do notice this house’s gradual deterioration. Year after year, the house turns more uninhabitable although several squatter families still live inside it.

It is interesting to note that the popular Casa Manila in nearby Intramuros was modeled after Casa Vizantina. This San Nicolás gem was built in the late 1800s by a certain Don Lorenzo del Rosario. During the First World War, the house was leased out to the Instituto de Manila (former president Manuel Roxas once studied there! today, the school proper is in Sampáloc district and is now known as the University of Manila). When all of Manila was being burned and bombed by the Japanese Imperial Army and the US WASPs, almost all of San Nicolás was miraculously spared. But what the war did not do to this once majestic arrabal the neo-poor did. Casa Vizantina, for instance, was leased out to “various tenants”. Little by little, the house was apparently abandoned by its original owners. Sadly, this once-upon-a-time palace became a castle of various squatter families —a “legacy” of US WASP governance— from the Visayas and elsewhere. Many other old houses in San Nicolás were being toppled down almost every year. And this alarming travesty continues to this day. It is very disheartening to hear that in every regime change, promises of a booming economy are continuously thrown at our faces. But we never hear anything from them about conserving our past treasures such as these San Nicolás houses that could even rival those in Taal, Batangas. The San Nicolás houses have a very big potential to attract tourists especially our Spanish, Latin American, and even Southeast Asian friends (remember that the bahay na bató is a perfect blend of Oriental and Occidental). Since the dawn of the internet, blogging, and Facebook, we have been seeing so many self-appointed heritage advocates clamoring for the conservation of various heritage sites throughout the country. But the government paid attention to other duties. And hardly do we find any philanthropical action dedicated towards the conservation of our past architectural masterpieces.

Enter Jerry Acuzar in the picture.

This self-made millionaire from Quiapò, Manila has been collecting heritage houses (bahay na bató) from all over the Philippines for several years already. As a young boy, he used to pass by Calle Hidalgo on his way to school. In his growing-up years, he witnessed how the beautiful Filipino ancestral homes found in the said street deteriorated. He then wondered why these houses were not being taken cared of by both the owners and the local government. Years later, he took it upon himself to save prominent but abandoned/semi-abandoned antique houses found all over the country. After buying them from their respective owners, Acuzar had these houses dismantled (his critics use the word “demolition”), had them transported to his seaside hacienda in Bagac, Bataán, and from there resurrected to how they originally looked like. Originally, Acuzar planned to make his Bataán property his own private getaway, but changed his mind. He then opened his 400-hectare seaside resort to the general public. The once private hacienda became known as Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

Casa Vizantina is one of the houses he was able to save from further humiliation, neglect, and possible destruction. It is now back to its former glory, albeit in a different site.

This herculean effort of Acuzar, however, received both praise and negative criticism from various sectors. Indignation against him reached its crescendo last year when the nation learned that he already bought and started dismantling the ancestral home of the national hero’s mother in Biñán, La Laguna. The dismantling was put to a halt when heritage conservation groups led by Dr. Rosauro “Bimbo” Sta. María of the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, Inc. (UACCD) pressured the local government. As of this writing, the impasse between the City of Biñán and the UACCD vs Jerry Acuzar and Gerry Alberto has yet to be resolved. Over the past few months, my ambivalent stance towards the actions of Mr. Acuzar remains to be unresolved as well. Me and my wife had the opportunity to visit his estate late last year. Right after that visit, it dawned upon me that if it is possible to dismantle houses from their original locations, is it not possible to return them there as well? Shouldn’t we just consider Acuzar’s estate as a temporary haven for these houses, as a “safe-keeping” enclave where they will be maintained everyday until their local governments and/or original owners will be able to afford to take them back?

Various hispanistas and conservation heritage advocates such as popular travel blogger Ivan Henares and my Círculo Hispano-Filipino contertulios Gemma Cruz de Araneta and Dr. Fernando N. Ziálcita maintained that heritage structures should remain in situ. As Henares put it, “structures should remain where they are, preserved together with the environment they were built in”. But should these houses continue to remain where they are even if their very own environment starts neglecting them? That will no longer be heritage conservation.

Based on my observation (and experience), perhaps 99% of local governments all over our country do not have heritage conservation on the top of their to-do list. About a decade ago, I was working part-time for the now defunct Nueva Era newspaper which Señor Guillermo Gómez edited. It was the last Spanish-language newspaper in the Philippines. Me and Señor Gómez usually went around Metro Manila taking photos of all ancestral houses that our eyes could catch, for we feared that they will not remain standing in the next few years (before I joined the old man, he was already traveling around the country taking photos of various bahay na bató). We would then publish the photos in the said newspaper (those were the days before blogging, Facebook and Twitter ruled the universe). To our quixotic minds, since we are powerless to physically save those houses from being torn down, we were at least able to record historical memories for posterity’s sake. And browsing through past issues of Nueva Era, our fears proved to be true after all. We noticed that year after year, these Filipino houses continue to be demolished to give way to modernity. No worth at all is given for their historical value. Our patrimony was placed further into the darkest background. A bahay na bató was turned into nothing more but a mere bahay na bató that has no more place in modern times. It seemed as if nobody even cared to save these houses anymore.

But Acuzar is doing exactly that — saving Filipino structures from years and decades of neglect by having them transferred to his estate where they will remain taken cared of for good. Of course, the thought that he will earn money from it should be taken out of the question in the meantime. The fact remains that Acuzar will shell out money regularly to have these ancestral houses he had “snatched away” from neglect and ruin to be well-maintained and preserved for ages. Henares will definitely counter this. He wrote in his blog that the best solution is to educate the masses about the importance and worth of heritage structures found within their locality. I agree, or should agree. But is anybody doing this? With all due respect to Mr. Henares, has he or anybody else offered any concrete steps on how to do this? Who exactly should be responsible to educate the masses? And more importantly, who and how will this project be funded? And will this “education” immediately save the Alberto Mansion? Remember: around 20% of that structure was already dismantled last year. Only an official verdict is keeping it from being totally transported from Biñán to Bagac. Also, the owner, Gerry Alberto, needs no education on heritage; he is a highly educated man, and a distant relative of Rizal himself.

Henares also added that Acuzar should just build replicas in his hacienda instead. Still, building a replica of, say, the Alberto Mansion will not exactly save the Alberto House in Biñán. Gerry Alberto gave up on it already due to financial problems of maintaining it. If he hadn’t sold it to Acuzar, then he would have sold it to other people. And if that ever happened, perhaps a more terrible scenario could have occurred to the house itself. But in Acuzar’s hands, at least future generations will still be able to see it. And, as I have mentioned earlier, there is always the possibility of bringing the whole house back to Biñán once the Biñenses are truly ready to take care of it.

Going back to the Alberto House, what matters here now is how it should be conserved. And Acuzar was able to find a more viable solution. Before the Acuzar purchase, almost nobody ever gave a damn as to what this house is all about. But when the purchase and dismantling commenced, out came the “concerned” activists. Out came the “angry voices”. Out came Facebook pages trying to save the Alberto House. I guess what I hate about this hullaballoo is why do we have to wait for an Acuzar to enter the picture before we TRULY act? Now, it’s almost too late.

I would like to stress out that I am not against movements such as the UACCD. It’s just that their protestations came out a little too late. And although I am saddened by the thought that the spot where the Alberto house still stands might become vacant soon, I admit that I have now become somewhat soft against Acuzar’s ancestral-house purchases because to date only he has provided the most viable solution against the destruction of Filipino ancestral homes. Sometimes, unwanted methods had to be used for the sake of heritage conservation. Such are the methods of Acuzar. So let me make this clear once more: what I dislike about this heritage controversy is the apparent tardiness of Filipinos. They usually make noise only when the trouble has started to make serious damages.

I received some flak against members of the UACCD for my rather unfriendly remarks against their protest rally last year. One member even dared me on my sentiment about not writing anything about Biñán anymore. But let bygones be bygones. Right now, what is important is for all people concerned to save Doña Teodora Alonso’s ancestral house in situ. Besides, Dr. Sta. María himself revealed to me that he and his group has finally made some “strategic plan” to save the Alberto ancestral house. I have yet to interview him to know more about this. It is still worth a try. It might save not only the Alberto Mansion but also all ancestral homes in San Nicolás as well as those found all over the country.

But if this proves to be another failure, then let us all leave Jerry Acuzar alone.

Lastly, if P-Noy is really sincere in attaining everything good for our country’s sake, then may he be able to transfer the still existing military slush funds into saving the Alberto Mansión. With political will, he can do that in just a snap of a finger. Turn bad money into good.

Heritage conservation should not rest solely on non-governmental institutions such as the UACCD. It should be one of our government’s top priorities. Conserving our patrimony will help us map out our future because through it, we will be able to catch a glimpse of our future by reflecting on images of our beautiful past. And glimpses of our beautiful past are still within our midst.

Not everything is lost yet. Just look around; you might be able to see a bahay na bató “shimmering” alone on a street corner…

The great migrations

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Early this month, the National Geographic Channel launched the “Great Migrations“. It’s a “global television event” that featured a seven-part series about the “powerful stories of many of the planet’s species and their movements, while revealing new scientific insights with breathtaking high-definition clarity and emotional impact. The beauty of these stories is underscored by a new focus into these species’ fragile existence and their life-and-death quest for survival in an ever-changing world.”

This reminded me and Yeyette of a couple of photos that I took during one of my final days as a corporate slave. Yeyette fetched me that morning. We stayed for a while at my ex-company‘s pantry, twenty four storeys high. The glass windows had a wonderful view of Laguna de Bay (obstructed by some buildings), spectacular sunrises, and the busy City of Muntinlupà. One morning, while gazing at the lake and the city, I noticed something peculiar by the glass panels…

Spiders outside our building's glass panels! How could they survive this height (twenty four storeys from the ground)?

I didn’t know that there were spiders that could survive this height. Well, in the mountains, yes. But outside tall buildings such as Insular Life (it has more than 30 floors) exposed to the harsh elements? Wow. It really came as a surprise. One cold, smoggy morning, we even saw a praying mantis clinging on to the glass’s smooth surface! Sometimes, there are even moths.

But then I realized that these spiders, just like the rest of the animal kingdom, are losing their natural habitat faster than you can spell the words “Peter Parker picked a peck of pickled spiders”. Skyscrapers are not the natural habitat of these poor arachnids. But since they are losing their original homes (Alabang was heavily forested just a few decades ago), they have no other choice but to adapt to an ever-changing world. This reminded me of the first amphibians that were actually fishes to a certain extent. During the Devonian Period, these fishes were forced to migrate to dry land when much of the planet’s waters were drying up. In order to adapt, they evolved multi-jointed leg-like fins, enabling them to crawl on the ground underwater rather than swim. Later on, as the waters of the earth (particularly rivers and streams) were heating up and drying out, they learned how to crawl out of the water and breathe (this evolutionary process took thousands, or perhaps even millions, of years).

In modern times, there is the peculiar case of Britain’s peppered moth. It’s a white-colored moth with small black speckles. Over time, due to Britain’s industrial pollution, it was forced to evolve itself rather than die out: its white color became almost entirely black! Many scientists regard this as a classic example of Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory.

Could this be the case with these Alabang spiders? Perhaps. The nights and early mornings are cold, and when the sun rises, it’s sure torment for these web spinners. But somehow, they are able to adapt to their environment. Those who did not “choose” to die out gradually “accepted” change. So when the forests of Alabang gave way to the asphalt jungle, these spiders moved in with humans to their skyscrapers (yung ibá nga lang, nasa labás nacatirá). This change, however, is a kind of change that is not natural (like what had happened to those Devonian fishes) but is motivated by profit (Britain’s industrial smoke).

Pre-Magellanic/pre-Philippine cultures also adapted to a natural change, a change that is called by anthropologists as “cultural dissemination”. Thus, these numerous cultures belonging to various islanders “adapted” to a new kind of change instead of dying out. Besides, this change was positive as it enhanced their way of life. And that is the reason why we Filipinos still exist today. We pray inside churches. We eat using spoons and forks, plates and drinking glasses. We learned how to dress up like modern men (i.e., Europeans). We learned advanced concepts of time and space, of age and grace. We began to have a cultural swagger of our own, something distinct, something that we now call Filipino. This kind of change is acceptable.

However, when the minds of those men who we now consider as our heroes were engulfed with subversive and novel ideas such as liberté, égalité, et fraternité, a new change set in. Before, our nation was living in the realm of the supernatural, i.e., of spirituality, filled with love and hope. But when some of these heroes allowed themselves to become agents of change, a new era began of which unprecedented changes occurred. To the betterment of the Filipino? Look around you: you decide.

These agents of change brought about the downfall of spirituality. We now live in a consumer society, a society driven mad by profit. We Filipinos, as well as other nations whose sovereignty were grossly raped by the neocolonials, are like these poor spiders hanging on to dear life. These great migrations are also happening to cultures and nations.

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