It’s coming next weekend, folks! See you there!
It’s coming next weekend, folks! See you there!
Look at all this extensive forest cover behind the town of old Sariaya in Tayabas Province! Do we even still have such scenery in that province, let alone in the rest of the country? The photo’s in sepia, but I could imagine how awed the photographer must have been to see a world blanketed in and endless sea of green at the foot of Monte Banajao.
Sadly, this scene is no more.
I only get to see scenes of towns standing beside huge forests in movies filmed abroad. But in our country, it’s deplorable. I remember scaling one mountain in Batangas years ago and was aghast to find a ramshackle house in the middle of an upland forest there being maintained by a family with kids who still go to school every day. And the house’s surroundings have been cleared off for farming. That was almost a decade ago; I start to wonder if they have neighbors there now. Our country has lost so much forest cover because of capitalist activities. Back then, one could really say that our country was really paradisiacal. But when rapid commercialization crept in at an alarming pace, only a few places, many of which are now privately owned, are left to enjoy.
In my opinion, nature is what attracts tourists the most. All else is secondary. Therefore, aside from tangible heritage, our natural surroundings are what our country should value the most. Our government should learn how to strike a balance between industrialization and environmental protection. A well-conserved forest cover side by side with built heritage will definitely bring our country to places in the tourism scene.
¡Feliz Día de la Tierra!
Tayabas/Quezon Province is my roots. I grew up in Parañaque and have been connected to La Laguna Province for the past decade, but Tayabas will always be a part of me. I was born in Lucena and, as a child, have spent many happy summer vacations in Unisan, my dad’s hometown (my mom grew up in Tondo but her mother is also from Unisan). That’s why I feel very honored to have been invited to join the Quezon Province Heritage Council, Inc. (QPHC) upon the recommendation of Gemma San José of Talólong/López. It’s like a homecoming of sorts. I still am a Tayabeño.
I attended the group’s meeting last week in San Antonio, Tayabas (it was just their third since the group was conceived only recently). The meeting was held in charming Fil-Am Garden Resort owned by another member, inspirational author Julie Cox who is a native of the said town.
The meeting, moderated by interim president Danny de Luna, was very organized that we were able to tackle everything on the agenda, even wrapping up ahead of schedule. Being a new organization, much of what was talked about revolved on how to structure QPHC into a fully legal entity, including future activities and a possible merger with the Quezon Historical and Cultural Society which, at least to me, seems to have been inactive for a long time.
Also, during the meeting, the group took advantage of showing its appreciation to Ms. Cox for graciously hosting the event. The entrepreneur/philanthropist celebrated her birthday a few days prior, so it’s only fitting for her to be honored, and in a rare manner. Tina Decal of Kulinarya Tagala fame presided over an ancient Tagalog “vin d’honneur” for the hostess. Fellow QPHC member Eric Dedace described what we had witnessed and experienced:
…everybody prepared for the traditional “tagayan” ritual of drinking lambanóg facilitated by the Sariaya food heritage aficionado Ms. Tina Decal who acted as the “tanguera”. She properly enunciated its symbolic nature as a great expression and gesture of local warmth and welcoming hospitality by saying: “¡Ang init ng pagdaán ng lambanóg sa lalamunan ay tandó ng init ng pagtangáp ng mg̃a Tayabasin (Tayabeños) sa mg̃a visita!”
Incorporated within the ritual was the “hagbóng”, a traditional Tayabeño ceremony given to a lady on the eve of her birthday. As such, two bouquets of flowers, individually brought by Ms. Decal and Ms. Maricel Martín, were handed over to Mr. de Luna and Architect Juanito Martín, who stood at both sides facing Ms. Cox who had her back to the center backdrop. Ms. Decal, who stood behind the center table, then presided over that very distinctive tradition by raising her hand holding the lambanóg in a wine glass, and offering the drink with the words “¡Na’ay pô!” (Here is my drink!). And, as previously instructed, everyone replied with a “¡Paquinabañgan pô!” (Make use of your drink!). Afterwards, Mr. de Luna and Architect Martín, one after the other, raised their toasts as well to Ms. Cox in the same gallant manner, and completed the one-of-a-kind ritual by handing her the flower bouquets amid much applause. Ms. Martín then handed the gracious host her very own black QPHC T-shirt as well.
Many of us today relate the Tagalog words “tagay” and “tanguero/a” to informal drinking sessions, usually rowdy drinking sessions out in the streets or in a local sari-sari store with buddies (“baricán” is what they call it), not knowing that such words have loftier origins and usage. And who would have thought that such a ritual still exists, or at least, that the Tagálogs have very sophisticated social norms? That is why the study of history, culture, and heritage is significant not only to scholars but to ordinary citizens as well. Because much of what we do in our daily lives is rooted to our past. And knowing and understanding our past strengthens our resolve about who we are and helps us value our society even more.
I am thankful and fortunate to have witnessed this ancient ritual among like-minded people in the Quezon Province Heritage Council, Inc. I am sure that I have much to learn about Tayabas. This province is so rich in both tangible and intangible heritage, much of which are in danger of being erased by careless modernity.Our group has a lot of job to do.
Today is the birth anniversary of Paz Márquez de Benítez (1894–1983), a fellow Tayabeña. She hails from Lucena City, Tayabas Province where I was born. With Spanish being her first language, Márquez deftly produced what National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín aptly described as a literary gem from the U.S. occupation period: “Dead Stars”. Published in 1925, it is considered as the first Filipino modern English-language short story. It is one of my favorite short stories of all time. The tale’s denouement will leave a shock of emotion, a void in the chest, an emptiness of the heart which one has never experienced before. It is one of those love stories you wish you have never read but will keep on rereading.
Paz Márquez de Benítez is now among the stars of our country’s literary firmament. But her light sure ain’t dead. Click here to read the classic Filipino tale.
On the occasion of his 124th birth anniversary, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES would like to pay tribute to one of the greatest Filipino thinkers of modern times, the late senator Claro M. Recto. Here is a brief biographical sketch of the Tayabeño nationalist written by Antonino V. Mico (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines).
CLARO M. RECTO
Senator Claro M. Recto is known as a statesman, a constitutionalist, a jurist, internationalist, parliamentarian, poet, scholar, linguist, patriot, and nationalist. He was born on February 8, 1890, in Tiáong, Tayabas (now Quezon), the son of Claro Recto, Sr., and Micaéla Mayo, of Lipâ, Batangas. He obtained his elementary education in Lipâ and in his home town.
As a young man, he was endowed with a marvelous mind, an active imagination, a venturesome spirit, and a firm determination to stick to his personal convictions. At 19, he was already a holder of the Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila; and at 24, he obtained his Master of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomás. In 1914, he was admitted to the Philippine bar and was licensed to practice law as a profession.
Recto’s political career began in 1916, when he served as legal adviser to the Philippine Senate. In 1919, he was elected representative from Batangas and served as House minority floor leader until 1925. In 1924, he went to the United States as member of the Parliamentary Independence Mission. He was admitted to the bar in the United States in 1924.
Upon his return to the Philippines, he founded the Demócrata Party, which served as a political thorn to the leadership of Manuel L. Quezon, when the latter was head of the Nacionalista Party and President of the Senate. He was elected senator for the first time in 1931 as a Demócrata and served as minority floor leader for three years. In 1934, he became majority floor leader and President pro tempore of the Senate. He resigned his Senate seat when President Roosevelt appointed him Associate Justice in the Supreme Court in place of Justice Thomas Street, who retired. He left the Supreme Court in 1941 as a Nacionalista and again in 1953 as guest candidate of the Liberal Party. He ran as an independent Nacionalista candidate for President of the Philippines in the national elections of 1957, but lost.
Considered one of his immortal achievements in public life was his presidency of the Constitutional Convention, which drafted the Philippine Constitution, the first requirement towards the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth regime.
Recto was a brilliant poet, satirist, and author. He wrote such law books as The Law of Belligerent Occupation, Validity of Payments During Enemy Occupation, Three Years of Enemy Occupation, several one-act plays in Spanish, and a collection of poems. He was a recipient of the Zóbel Prize for literature and an honored member of the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.
The then President Carlos P. García appointed Recto Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on the goodwill and cultural mission to Europe and South America in August, 1960. He was also appointed delegate to the 9th conference of the World Parliament Association in Venice in September, 1960, and was elected vice-president.
While giving a news conference in Rome, Recto suffered a heart attack from which he never recovered. He died in October 2, 1960.
Regarding his death, not a few historians believe that the great poet-turned-politician did not merely suffer from a heart attack. There’s this one interesting account from Raymond Bonner’s 1987 book Waltzing With A Dictator (pp. 41-42) that I’d like to share:
Transplanting democracy meant going after (Ramón) Magsaysay’s domestic political opponents, the most effective of whom was Senator Claro M. Recto, as unrelenting in his opposition to American foreign policy in the region as Magsaysay was slavish in following it. Recto, who was proud of his complete collection of Foreign Affairs, considered himself not anti-American but pro-Philippine. He criticized the bases agreement on the grounds, correctly, that the U.S. agreements under NATO and with other countries were far more favorable to the host country than was the U.S. arrangement in the Philippines. In Spain, the Spanish flag flew over the bases; in the Philippines, it was the American flag. When Washington claimed that the United States owned the lands on which the bases were situated, Recto prepared memorandums setting out the Philippine position that the United States had only leasehold rights, an argument eventually accepted by the United States. Recto was the “spearhead and brains of the national reawakening”.
The CIA set about to destroy Recto, who had been a principal drafter of the 1935 Constitution. It planted stories that he was a Communist Chinese agent who had been infiltrated into the Philippine Senate. To derail Recto’s electoral ambitions, the agency prepared packages of condoms, which it labeled “Courtesy of Claro M. Recto — The People’s Friend”. The condoms all had pinprick-size holes in them at the most inappropriate place. The agency went further. The CIA station chief, General Ralph B. Lovett, and the American Ambassador, Admiral Spruance, discussed assassinating Recto, going so far as to prepare a substance for poisoning him, an assassination plot that has not been publicly discussed before.
Recto wasn’t assassinated, the idea abandoned “for pragmatic consideration rather than moral scruples” (and with Lovett later suggesting that the bottle containing the poison was tossed into Manila Bay). He died of natural causes at the age of seventy.
It is hinted on this book that Recto was “assassinated” in Rome. Also, there have been persistent rumors that Recto did suffer a heart attack, but his medication was not given to him immediately which led to his very untimely death. Rumors they all may be, but there is a saying in Tagalog: “capág may usoc, may apóy” (when there’s smoke, there’s fire). Also, it is interesting to note that the place where he passed away was just a stopover. Recto was really on his way to Spain, the land of his mother tongue which is Spanish. He had never been there all his life, thus the excitement throbbing within his nationalistic spirit. He had already prepared a speech in Spanish, “Por los Fueros de una Herencia“, of which he was to deliver there upon arrival. But because of his demise, it remained unspoken.
The CIA knew that Recto delivering that speech in Spain would have proven catastrophic to their neocolonialistic ventures which were then in its early stages, as the Philippines was granted a phony independence 15 years earlier. That is why it was imperative for Recto to perish before he reached Spain.
One could just imagine what nationalistic and nostalgic fervor Recto would have sparked in Mother Spain had he delivered his speech there. Spain, who was robbed of her islands in the Pacific and the Americas in 1898, would have rekindled “righteous anger” into delivering, perhaps, the final blows of that war that should have ended justly and nobly. What fireworks his speech would have set upon the citizens of our Patria Grande! “Sayang” is all I could utter. Sayang…
Feliz cumpleaños, Don Claro. Tendré una botella de Cerveza Negra en su honor.
The Philippines may have lost the Spanish language to some extent, but it has not lost contact with its Hispanic past. Our country’s Latin spirit has been kept alive by our culture itself as represented by numerous town fiestas and other Catholic events held almost every week.
Suffice it to say that Catholicism is almost synonymous to Hispanidad, at least, perhaps, in our country. After all, it was the Spaniards who brought the Catholic faith to these once heathen islands. But it can also be said that it was the Catholic faith which spurred the conquistadores (inspired by the zeal of the Catholic Spanish crown) to win new souls in Christ the Lord’s name.
In modern slang, the Catholic-Spanish influx to these islands which we now call the Philippines was a “double whammy” of sorts.
Take the month of May, for instance. Filipinos celebrate the famous Flores de Mayo with much pomp, grace, and grandeur. It has been deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche that it is not even considered Hispanic anymore. But it was and still is. Flores de Mayo is a true testament of what Hispanidad really is, aside from a linguistic point of view.
Flores de Mayo (translated as “Flowers of May” in English) is celebrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. At the end of the month, a religio-historical beauty pageant called the sagala, commonly known as the Santacruzan, is held in many towns all over the country. This Catholic tradition (perhaps endemic only to our country) can be traced to the epic journey of Saint Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great (the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity), to locate the Vera Cruz (True Cross) of Jesus Christ. Actually, according to Catholic tradition, Saint Helena discovered the cross on 14 September 325; why the Santacruzan is held every May remains a puzzle to me.
The people of Unisan, Tayabas (now Quezon) may have not noticed it (particularly the younger generation), but these prying eyes did. The colorful mix of the procession, the devotees’ singing of Dios Te Salve María and other church songs in Latin, and the town’s various ancestral houses (bahay na bató) made the whole scene very Hispanic, indeed. After having attended Unisan’s Santacruzan and witnessed the Rigodón de Honor, I remarked that the only thing lacking to make the picture complete was the Spanish language.
But even without the Spanish language, for as long as the Philippines remains Christian, i.e. Catholic, complete with her traditions that were brought here by the friars, we shall continue living as a Hispanic country.
Santacruzan sa Unisan
Last 29 May, my cousins Josephine “Jam” Alas y Láus (one of Magic 89.9‘s youngest disc jocks) and up-and-coming basketball superstar Kevin Louie Alas y Platón (of Colegio de San Juan de Letrán Knights and PBA D-League‘s Cebuana Lhuillier Gems; son of famous multi-titled basketball coach Francisco Luis “Louie” Alas y Évora) participated in the annual Santacruzan, the culmination of the month-long Flores de Mayo. Jam represented the queen of May flowers, La Reina de las Flores; Kevin was her escort. Typhoon Chedeng was threatening to ruin the event all week. Surprisingly (or should I say miracurously), the typhoon suddenly veered its course, and that afternoon procession was greeted by sunny skies instead!
Below are photos of each queen with brief historical descriptions, but not wanting in criticisms. It is hoped that subsequent Santacruzan processions will strictly adhere to tradition, and that each representative queen must first be “indoctrinated” on the meaning and significance of this holy procession even before they participate. This is not merely a pagandahan affair. Each queen has meaning. That must be squarely emphasized so as not to forget the true value of this summertime Catholic procession.
¡Gracias a la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo!
Reina de los Ángeles. Traditionally, this queen has a branch of white flowers.
Young girls clad in white carrying the letters A–V–E M–A–R–Í–A.
Traditionally, this queen is a young girl dressed in a long red gown. She carries with her a triangular yellow flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity. But where is the yellow flag in this photo?
Buán (Moon) at mğa Bituín (Stars). Buán represents the Moon which is the throne of the Virgin Mary.
Another representative for Reina de los Ángeles.
Reina de la Fe symbolizes Faith, the first of the Theological Virtues. This queen should carry a crucifix (but the lady pictured above doesn’t have one).
Reina Esperanza symbolizes the second of the Theological Virtues: Hope. This representative should carry an anchor, the Christian symbol for Hope.
Reina de la Caridad symbolizes Charity, the last of the Theological Virtues. And this queen should carry an image of a red heart (Christian symbol for the virtue she represents). But instead of that, what she carries in this photo is an abanico (a local fan).
Reina Luwalhatì represents the Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary.
Reina Hapis represents the Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.
Reina Tuwâ represents the Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.
Reina Abogada (in front) represents the defender of the poor and the oppressed. Traditionally, she carries a large book and wears a toga similar to those worn during graduation ceremonies. Behind her is Reina Sentenciada. Traditionally, her hands are tied by a rope. She represents the First Christians, particularly the virgins who were martyred in the name of the Christian Faith.
Reina de la Justicia. She represents the “Mirror of Justice”, a personification of the Virgin Mary which is one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto (Letanías Lauretanas). Her symbols (again not shown in this procession) are the familiar images of justice: a weighing scale and a sword.
Reina Samaritana represents the biblical lady with whom our Lord Jesus Christ had a conversation with at the well (John 4:13-30). Her symbol is a water jug which the representative queen should carry on her shoulders. (not apparent in this photo).
Reina de Saba represents the queen who had a special friendship with the famous King Solomon (I Book of Kings 10:1-13).
Reina Esther (sometimes spelled Ester) was a Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from certain death at the hands of Haman the Agatite through her timely intervention. At the Flores de Mayo/Santacruzan procession, this queen is supposed to carry a scepter.
Reina Judit is the widow who saved her city from the Assyrians under the cruel general Holofernes. Her symbols: the severed head of Holofernes that she is supposed to carry in one hand and a sword in the other. Again, these props were not used.
Reina Elena III. There are usually three representatives for Reina Elena during the Santacruzan procession. But the escort particularly for Reina Elena III is traditionally a young boy, representing a young Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great.
Reina Elena II.
Reina Elena I.
Reina Elena, the mother of the emperor-saint, Constantine the Great. In Catholic tradition, she was the queen who looked for the relics of the Vera Cruz, or the True Cross, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Curiously, Vera Cruz is also a surname of one of the oldest families in Unisan.
Reina Emperatriz is actually the mother of Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great, none other than Reina Elena. The title emperatriz is derived from the Latin words Augusta Imperatrix, an honorific title given by the emperor to his mother.
The young escorts of the Reina de las Flores. The girls (left to right): my cousin Carmela and my niece Amber. Behind them are my cousins Rafaél (Carmela’s brother) and Joseph (Jam’s brother).
My cousins Jam and Kevin as the Reina de las Flores and her escort, respectively. La Reina de las Flores is considered the “Queen of Flores de Mayo“. From my observation, it seemed that Jam was the only queen who strictly continued the Santacruzan tradition that afternoon — , which she did. To paraphrase Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — FINALLY… something went right! 🙂
Imagen de la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo al regresar a la iglesia después de la procesión.
At the Rigodón de Honor in Parque de Tamesis. Kevin and Jam are at center.
Seated in front of me is family friend Mayor Calixto Catáquiz y Ramírez of San Pedro, La Laguna (his late father is from Unisan). To his right (in green shirt) is Tayabas/Quezon province’s 3rd district representative Danilo Suárez.
My dapper don dad (Sr. Don Josefino Alas y Évora) preparing for the Rigodón de Honor.
Capitana Gloria Alas (at the podium) giving a speech of acknowledgment.
The colorful and lively Rigodón de Honor. At photo is my cousin, Ate Mª Cecilia Alas de Órgano and her dance partner. This dance event was participated by many of my relatives (including dad) and former congresswoman Aleta Suárez (wife of incumbent congressman Suárez).
Left to right: Kevin, our niece Lía, Jam, Lía’s brother RR, and the preferred escort of all Flores de Mayo queens (who else?).
Alas Bratpack (left to right): RR, Kevin, Joycee, Lía, Jam, my wife Yeyette, Ate Glen, Emperor Pepe the Great, and Laiza.
Goofing around with Wifey (but lovely still). 😀
All photos in this article were taken by myself and my cousin Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández.
When he was still a Mason, Rizal once calumnied the town fiesta in his first novel. Hispanophobic elements in our educational system carried on what was but an immature satire from the national hero’s imagination. But today, who is seriously making fun of the fiesta? One could not even see such calumnies in Lucbán, Tayabas (now Quezon province) every May. In that, Rizal’s anti-Catholic clowning failed, at least in this pastoral town. Last week (15 May) was a dream come true for me. I’ve been wanting to visit this town since I was a kid. I first read about the town, particularly the fiesta that made it famous, from an uncle’s old textbook. Since then, the sights and flavor described in that textbook never left my imagination. Finally, after two decades, I was able to experience the famous Pahiyás Festival (together with my wife and my cousin and her boyfriend)! The Pahiyás Festival (“pahiyás” means “precious offering”) is celebrated every May. It signifies the end of summer and the start of the rainy season. It is in honor of Saint Isidore (San Isidro), patron saint of farmers. The people of Lucbán thank him for interceding for them for a good harvest. But according to a local (a godfather of my cousin’s boyfriend), whether or not their harvest is fruitful, they never fail to thank the Spanish saint for praying to God for them. And they express their gratitude through this colorful celebration of life and a bountiful harvest!******* Lucbán According to popular legend, Lucbán town was named after a citrus fruit called lucbán (Citrus maxima, otherwise known as sujà or pomelo; see photo below). The town of Lucbán (just a couple of kilometers from my birthplace) was founded by missionaries from the Order of Friars Minor, otherwise known as the Franciscan friars. Like present-day Taal in Batangas, Lucbán used to be on another site. The town was transferred to its present site in 1629. ******* Lucbán Church (Church of Saint Louis the Bishop) Lucbán Church, formally known as the Church of Saint Louis the Bishop, is an example of a pre-modern baroque church. As can be read in the historical marker, this church was built in 1595 but was ruined in 1629. The second church was constructed between 1630 and 1640, but a conflagration severely damaged it in 1733. The present church was completed in 1738; the convent followed in 1743.
Saint Isidore The Farmer (San Isidro Labrador)
Saint Isidore, Patron of Farmers, was born at Madrid, Spain, of a poor family at the end of the 12th century. He was named after the famous Bishop of Seville, and from an early age was employed as a laborer on a farm outside the city. He married a lovely girl, but after the early death of their son they agreed to live in continence. Isidore went to church every morning, prayed while working in the fields, and spent the holidays visiting the churches of Madrid. One time, his fellow workers complained that his religious practices caused him to be late at work. To test the truth of this accusation, his master hid himself to watch. He noticed that Isidore did actually arrive late, but he also saw several angels assisting him.Isidore’s generosity to the poor was so great that he often reserved for himself only the scraps they left over. One a winter’s day, while carrying a sack of corn to be ground, he saw a number of birds on the bare branches of a tree. He opened the sack and poured out half of its contents for them. When he reached the destination, the sack was still full and its produce double of the usual amount of flour! Isidore died in 1130. From that time, many miracles were worked through his intercession. His wife, who survived him for several years, is venerated in Spain as Santa María de la Cabeza (because her head is often carried in procession in times of drought). (Culled from my daughter’s MY FIRST BOOK OF SAINTS published by Quality Catholic Publications; minor edits are mine). After enjoying the sights and sounds of Lucbán on its most special day, one will immediately know the meaning of its old Tagalog motto: ¡yanong riquít, baling gandá!
Click here for more photos of PAHIYÁS 2011!