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2013 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 140,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

NCCA’s “Bloggers’ Hour”: Philippine Arts Festival 2014 — Art on the Edge

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It’s all systems go for this year’s National Arts Month!

In preparation for the upcoming Philippine Arts Festival (PAF), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) held its second “Bloggers’ Hour” last Thursday in its headquarters in Intramuros, Manila. The first Bloggers’ Hour was two years ago wherein I signed up as ALAS FILIPINAS. The blogpost I wrote for it was largely ignored in this wonderful country of ours because it was written in Spanish. Although I was hoping to grab the attention of the Spanish-speaking community overseas, it was not a clever move if I had wanted a Filipino audience. Actually, I didn’t. But never mind that. Anyway. This time around, I signed up as the Filipino eScribbler. And yes, I bet this pretty blogpost of mine will garner thousands of hits. Because the NCCA said so.

Last Thursday, me and other fellow bloggers who attended the simple gathering were informed about the upcoming events for the PAF 2014. The PAF is a month-long celebration held every February in time for the National Arts Month which was created by virtue of some presidential decree which nobody has ever heard of. This year, the event will start from January 31 up to March 3.

PAF 2014 will have a “soft opening” later this morning. At exactly 8:00 AM, there will be a flash mob of various artists coupled with performances by hip hop, ballet, and Filipiniana dancers at the Doroteo José station of the Light Railway Transit in Manila. It will be followed by another one at the Metro Railway Transit’s Cubáo station in Quezon City at 10:00 AM. So slackers who plan to be late for work will have a pretty good excuse: “I was mobbed by people with fancy Bohemian clothing, and they were armed with paintbrushes, chisels, and they were talking smack verses! I was totally helpless, boss!”

I’m supposed to be there later but I couldn’t because I haven’t slept yet since yesterday morning, and I’m still wide awake listening to the howling Siberian winds outside, and it’s close to 4:00 AM as I write this, and I have a thousand other lame excuses. But I think the ever-reliable blogger Gemma San José will be there to blog about it. So stay tuned to her blog Lifelong Learning. And yes, her latest blogpost has just saved me (and probably the other bloggers) from further explaining in detail what the highly informative NCCA Chairman Felipe de León, Jr. spoke about during last Thursday’s Bloggers’ Hour. Snippets of his absorbing impromptu speech about Filipino Identity and the arts can be viewed from Hoshi‘s video below:

And yes, that pretty boy to the right of the video is me. Talicogenic pa rin.

NCCA’s Bloggers’ Hour may not be as huge as other blogger events, but I am still honored to be part of it nonetheless especially since it is organized by the country’s bastion of —what else?— culture and the arts.

Hey. It would be nice if you’d get rid of that humdrum existence of yours once in a while. Or even for just a month. Let February do that for you. It’s National Arts Month, and art is on the edge. Better be there when it happens. As they say over at the NCCA, “Halina’t maqui-sining“. It’s guaranteed to get funky and fun. :D

Click here for more photos of Bloggers’ Hour. You may also visit PAF’s Facebook page by clicking here.

Now on its fourth year: still no good news on the Maguindanáo Massacre

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Photo: AP/Bullit Márquez

The grisly Maguindanáo Massacre is now on its fourth year, yet there is still less positive news for the deadliest incident in the history of news media. Because despite the overwhelming evidence, nobody has been sentenced yet. Incredible.

The perpetrators must be silently thanking Janet Nápoles and super typhoon Yolanda for stealing the limelight from them. But the scoundrels must have forgotten that Filipinos no longer have a short memory span — they will have to curse for social media for that.

Justice delayed is justice denied. But we’ll continue to be on guard. A-holes.

La Familia Viajera — not just another travel blog

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Finally, a travel blog that I could call my own!

Actually, not just mine, but my family‘s. :-)

LA FAMILIA VIAJERA, probably the country’s first and only family travel blog (if there’s already a Filipino blog that has claimed the title first, feel free to pinch my ears when you get to see me). The blog features our very humble exploits wherever our itchy feet take us. It was soft-launched last October 21, two days after we roamed the ancient streets of Intramuros and took photos of fancy stuff there.

Fancy stuff that is our heritage.

Since LA FAMILIA VIAJERA is a family oriented blog, I will be much tamer there. I will try my best not to sound belligerent, no anti-imperialism remarks, no clenched fists raised high above the air, and no Rage Against the Machine blurting out in the background. All that indignation is reserved only for FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS (I said I will try my best).

OK. I’ll shut up now and let my third blog do the talking. Please click here for my family’s first entry to its online travelogue.

And oh, did I forget to mention? My long-time nemesis Carlos Celdrán is featured there. Believe it or not. :D

PS: And since I’d be traveling with my wife and four kids in LA FAMILIA VIAJERA, there will be no more travel blogposts in ALAS FILIPINAS and FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES from now on.

 

Abusive journalism?

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When this seemingly innocent little tweet of mine caught the attention of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial staff last week, I didn’t intend to make an issue out of it. I just posted a brief comment on my FB account, then that’s it. But then, I got mentioned again by the same newspaper the following day, and this time by one of its most “respected” columnists. So I think that, hey, they really won’t let me be. Blast it.

First of all, I AM NOT a sympathizer of Janet Lim-Nipples. If you ask me, with all the evidence being presented by investigative journalists, I think she really is guilty. I don’t like her one bit. Imagine: buying several mansions and condominiums here and abroad when she and her husband only have four kids! Isn’t one house enough for these greedy people? But that’s them: stinking drunk with wealth and power.

However, I am not out to condemn Janet yet since she has not yet been formally investigated in a court of law nor has she been convicted. I’m not a fan of trial by publicity. But I’m a fan of sarcastic and witty memes, hehe!

When I tweeted that Janet was being bullied by Inquirer reporters, that didn’t necessarily mean that I was already sympathizing with her. It was just an observation of mine. Because that was the truth: she was really being bullied, particularly by Managing Editor Joey Nolasco and photographer Edwin Bacasmas. Imagine: she went to Inquirer on her own accord, ready to air her side, and knowing that she was to speak to only ONE journalist: the editor-in-chief herself, Ms. Letty Jiménez-Magsánoc. But her humble request was denied. Instead, the suspect was shanghaied into a round-panel interview that she was not expecting. Here, check this out (at the video’s 1:18 mark):

Nápoles: Yes, ma’am, I’m sorry po. Kasi ’di ba parang everyday na, tapos wala naman. Tapos sabi ko sa husband ni [pointing to reporter Cathy Yamsúan], first time kong nakita siya si Ma’am Cathy. Sabi ko, Brian, may access ba para sa Inquirer. Para lang umapela ako bilang ina na sana bago isulat, kunin muna side namin. Yun lang ho talaga. Kaya akala ko, mga 10:30, pag wala na hong. Kasi hindi ko alam may mga ganito. First time ko pumunta ng Inquirer. That’s why, Ma’am, na-shock ako sa inyo. “Don’t you know that there’s a roundtable?” Sabi ko, “Ha?”

And throughout the video, the suspect has been pleading the photographer, Mr. Bacasmas, not to take her picture anymore. Bacasmas already had taken several, but he still disrespected the suspect’s pleas. Worse, Mr. Bacasmas was not even admonished by Raúl Pañgalañgan (PDI publisher). What really irritated me is that some of those journalists asked her questions as if they were members of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee! My golly. For instance, listen to Mr. Nolasco’s arrogant questioning (11:03 of the first video above, then at the first few minutes of the video below):

Nolasco: Mrs. Nápoles, tutal nandito na kayo…

Nápoles: Nakakatakot ka, sir, ah. Bakit anong kasalanan ko sa’yo?

[Laughter]

Nolasco: Heto, pagkakataon mo na ’to. Ano ang maling sinulat ng mga reporters namin tungkol sa inyo? Sabihin niyo na ngayon. Ilalabas natin.

Nápoles: Asa anak ko, naka ganun eh [mimics writing/listing]. Naka… [laughs]

Nolasco: Siguro naman naalala mo ’yung mga main points nun. [This refers to Nolasco asking Napoles to talk about inaccuracies in the reporters’ stories on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.-Ed.]

Chato Garcellano/Opinion Editor: Oo naman, alam niyo ’yun.

Nolasco: Pagkakataon niyo na ’to.

Nápoles: Mahirap magsalita.

Pañgalañgan: Kahit hindi lahat. Just a few.

Nolasco: Anong naaalala niyo dun? Kasi inaakusahan niyo ’yung mga reporter namin na…

Nápoles: Ah kasi [unintelligible] si Atty. (Lorna) Kapunan ng kaso. Nilagay niya. Eh dun na lang. Baka magalit sa akin yung abogado. Kasi kung [unintelligible].

Nolasco: Ang ibig sabihin, Mrs. Napoles, hindi niyo alam?

Nápoles: Hindi ko alam. Kasi siyempre, nasa dyaryo. Siyempre, hindi naman ho lahat ng sinulat sa dyaryo pwede mong idemanda. Siyempre babasahin mo, pantay ba yung [unintelligible].

Nolasco: O, ano? Ano ang maling sinulat ni ano … ng mga reporter namin? Wala? Wala kang masabi?

Nápoles: Hindi ho, meron siyempre.

Nolasco: O, ano?

Garcellano: Sabihin niyo na.

Mike Suárez/News Service Chief: Sabihin niyo na.

Nolasco: Dahil ’yun ’yung susulatin nila, wala kang masabi.

Blast it, do these journalists really expect the most hated Filipina today to be as articulate as they are, especially in an unexpected round-panel interview? Even I would have stammered like sh*t if I were placed in such a situation even if I wasn’t guilty of anything. So to paraphrase Mr. Mon Tulfo, that candid interview with Nápoles would have won her sympathy from the public had her initial request been respected.

*******

On a related note, I do not believe that the pork barrel would be scrapped that fast. Malacañang almost always uses it as a form of “bribe” to legislators. Cooperative senators and congressmen receive their pork barrel in full and on time. Those who are in the opposition would receive nothing. That’s the sad truth.

So I think the only remedy at hand is to enhance the government’s procurement processes. They should upgrade to e-Procurement wherein all procurement activities of the government are transparent to both buyers and suppliers. In our country, the only Filipino company I know that provides e-Procurement services is Transprocure (not sure if BayanTrade is still around). So why not give e-Procurement a chance? It’s worth a try.

*******

And lastly, Janet’s last name is pronounced as NAH-po-les, not Na-POH-les. Her last name is Spanish for that lovely Italian municipality called Naples, a major international tourist destination (no wonder traveling is in her daughter’s genes, LOL). So if you can’t pronounce it right, go for Janet Lim-Nipples. Blast it.

❤ Mindanáo!!! (FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES’ 4th anniversary special)

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I think I have overused the word AWESOME since Sunday. :-)

But to begin with, my apologies to Dennis Dolojan for using the title of his soon-to-be-iconic website as my blogpost article. I couldn’t help it because it’s catchy, it’s hip, and “LOVE MINDANÁO” are the only fitting words (aside from AWESOME) that I could utter upon visiting and touring that beautiful island for the first time in my life!

Although I don’t exactly tag myself as a travel blogger (because I really am not), I had the privilege to be invited by the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance to help promote the region’s ecotourism potential. Also invited are more renowned travel bloggers (such as “prim-and-proper” Gael Hilotin and “oozing-with-sexiness” Gay Miriel Mitra-Emami), members of the media, officers from the Department of Tourism, my boss Ronald Yu (of In-Frame Media Works), and world-renowned photographer George Tapan.

With world-famous and award-winning travel photographer George Tapan somewhere on the heights of Mt. Lambilâ, Lake Sebú, Cotabato del Sur (07/16/2013). Tito George also happens to be a distant relative of mine (he’s from Unisan, Quezon). We just couldn’t figure out how exactly; for all we know, he could be my nephew, haha! :D

Unfortunately, it’s getting late. And because of the week’s activities, I’m now exhausted and spent. So I better hit the sack and leave you guys hanging for a while, hehe! But don’t worry; in the coming weeks, I will definitely serialize on this blog the fun (mis)adventures that I experienced in that promising land in the south that has been unfairly tagged by the media as a dangerous place to visit. For now, all I can say is that “Muslim Mindanáo” is a dirty myth.  And it is NOT TRUE that the whole island of Mindanáo is dangerous. During my brief stay there, I have never felt so secure (and even carefree) for a long time. I even had to be more alert in the asphalt jungles of Metro Manila than in the rough roads leading to the jungles of the Allah Valley. Simply put, Mindanáo is REEKING of FUN and ADVENTURE! So far, my brief Mindanáo sojourn has been the most AWESOME birthday week I ever had!

And happy 4th anniversary to this blog which still has more or less six or seven clueless fans, LOL! Cheers, everyone! :-)

Did social media affect 2013 Philippine polls?

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Did social media affect PH 2013 polls?

By Kathlyn dela Cruz and Ivy Jean Vibar, ABS-CBNnews.com
Posted at 05/15/2013 10:29 AM | Updated as of 05/15/2013 10:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The 2013 elections did not yield a social media-driven, “Obama-like” miracle win. As a matter of fact, it may be said that what happened was the very opposite—social media lent little weight to the outcome of the mid-term polls.

Some of the most talked-about senatorial candidates online did not reach the coveted top 12, and despite the viral posts shedding negative light on certain candidates, they still were able to garner millions of votes, and were not even relegated to the bottom of the list.

Despite being said to have mattered very little in the recent elections, the social media seeds planted during this time may blossom in future. After all, the 2013 elections became only the second during which candidates extensively used social media to push their campaigns forward. Social media was already in use in earlier elections, but not by all national candidates.

The monitoring of online traffic seemed to be more intensive during this year’s polls, as media and technology companies partnered to create social media trackers to gauge the impact of online conversation on offline electoral decisions.

Several personalities were highlighted on social media during the past elections. Their mentions spiked as interest in them as offline events crossed over to the internet and social media. Some were also talked about due to events which occurred only online.

This, despite analysts saying social media does not quite have an impact.

Not much fuss over buzz

As of writing, Grace Poe Llamanzares is in the lead in the senatorial race according to partial and unofficial results sourced by ABS-CBN from the Comelec Transparency Server. She is followed by Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Bam Aquino, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes IV, Cynthia Villar, JV Ejército Estrada, and Gringo Honasan.

Click here for more!

Baby Catáquiz vs Norvic Solidum: the Battle for San Pedro!

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Despite the lack of conclusive and official judgment, it is already common knowledge that the late actor and Filipino cultural icon Fernando Poe, Jr. was cheated during the 2004 presidential, legislative, and local elections. Having lost faith in democratic politics, that was the last time I exercised my right to suffrage. Turning apolitical, I swore to myself never to participate in elections ever again.

Incidentally, it was on the same day when I relocated my family from BF Homes Parañaque to Barrio San Vicente in San Pedro, La Laguna. A female cousin of mine who was married to a native San Pedrense (from the well-known Igonia clan) helped us in finding an apartment unit. Having lived most of my life in urban Parañaque City, I was somehow elated with the idea that me and my family will become provincianos and enjoy a rural lifestyle. I’ve been an urban kid for years. That’s why rural life always revs up the sentient patterns of my behavior toward society. Summer vacations in my father’s rustic hometown during my childhood made the thought even more nostalgic. But I was disappointed with what I saw.

As an aficionado of nature and culture, I was expecting farmlands, tranquility, more of nature, more rustic imagery, and more bahay na bató houses in San Pedro. But upon entering it from Muntinlupà City, what greeted me was a vandalized bridge and welcome arch, a garbage-filled estero, pro-promiscuity Sogo Hotel, smoke fumes from numerous tricycles, boorish traffic on potholed and littered roads, and a motley assemblage of unaesthetic establishments reminiscent of dirty Quiapò, Manila in the 80s and 90s. Simply put, the then Municipality of San Pedro was an exuberance of poor municipal planning. I promptly blamed the current town leader, Felicísimo Vierneza. My reason: command responsibility, if not inept leadership. It was but unfortunate, in my opinion, that he won during the said elections.

In 2007, businessman Calixto Catáquiz —half Tayabeño, half San Pedrense— again entered the scene as San Pedro’s chief executive. I said “again” because he has already managed San Pedro before, starting in 1986, when he was first appointed by the late President Corazón Aquino as Officer-In-Charge, all the way to 1998. 2007 was the year that I truly noticed CHANGE in San Pedro.

One more challenge

I’ve been hearing about Mayor Calex since I was a kid because he is actually a family friend; his father and my father are both from Unisan, Tayabas Province. In fact, one of my uncles is a very close associate of his. And whenever I spend my summer vacations  in Unisan as a young boy, I do remember seeing him in the Rural Bank of Unisan (now Entrepreneur Bank) which was owned by his family (he used to manage the bank). It was just pure coincidence that I transferred my family to San Pedro that has been the home of a fellow Tayabeño.

But that is all I know. I never knew Mayor Calex on a personal level until 2008. During that time, my friend and fellow history buff Arnaldo and I were pondering on how we could make it to the publishing scene. We maintain blogs that deal with Philippine History and Filipino Identity. But we believed that the only way we could make it into the big league (or for our body of work to be seriously noticed) is to get published. Publish or perish, as noted authors will always say. But really, we have no idea how to start.

And then it hit me: why not write a history book for San Pedro? That could be a good start. After all, my nose for history compelled me to read everything that I could regarding my family’s adoptive hometown since 2004. I was confident that me and Arnold could write one. But we needed support. I thought of using my connection to be able to reach out to Mayor Calex. And so one day, I contacted my uncle, and he setup a meeting between us (me and Arnaldo) and the Mayor at the old municipal office (fronting the town plaza and the historic Church of San Pedro Apóstol). But like everyone else, we had to wait for our queue (there were many people who had wanted seek an audience with him that day, and he was also officiating a civil marriage for about ten couples or so). Then came our turn to speak to him. We were led to his desk by his stern but polite staff. The mayor turned out to be a nice guy after all, very accommodating, hearing us out well, and not menacingly intimidating (because of my activist background, I then had reservations of dealing with politicians). And despite his tall stature, Mayor Calex was a soft-spoken man, even showing qualities of timidity that I think is unusual for a politician. I immediately liked him.

We never talked about our Unisan connections. We immediately told him our plans: a history book for San Pedro. But much to our dismay, he revealed that there were already two books published about San Pedro’s history. The most recent was made during the incumbency of his predecessor entitled San Pedro, Laguna: Noon at Ngayon (San Pedro, La Laguna: San Pedro Historical Committee, 2007) by Amalia Cullarín and Sonny Ordoña. Prior to that is the now rare Kasaysayan ng Bayan ng San Pedro Tunasán (Manila: Liberty Press, Co., 1963) by Anastacio Olivárez. However, Mayor Calex did not immediately dismiss us. Little did we know that he was actually planning to have his own biography. He was inspired to have one after having read the best-selling biography of his good friend, the late Comedy King Dolphy (Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa by Bibeth Orteza, Quezon City: Kaizz Ventures, Inc., 2008). He and Dolphy made a movie together, Home Along da Riber, in 2002. Mayor Calex was then the General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), and he conceptualized the said movie to promote environmental efforts for Laguna de Bay, the Philippines’s largest lake.

A book is a book. An opportunity is an opportunity. So we grabbed the chance. And that is how my close association with Mayor Calex started. And I got to know him better.

From municipality to cityhood

While doing research for his biography, we found out that during his first two years as OIC of San Pedro, Mayor Calex was able to accomplish a staggering 110 major projects! It must be noted that the number of projects that Mayor Calex was able to accomplish was already outstanding for a first-time “accidental” politician. Accidental, because he never even planned of becoming Mayor despite his parents’ ties with the late strongman President Ferdinand Marcos. Another remarkable feat: in less than a decade, from his OIC years up to 1995, he was able to raise the coffers of the municipal treasury from ₱6.41 million to a staggering amount of ₱70 million! In 1992, he was able to make San Pedro a 1st class municipality. He could have done more. But in 1998, Vierneza replaced him. And this new leader took hold of San Pedro’s mayoralty seat up to 2007. It was during these years that San Pedro retrogressed into the disappointing municipality that I found it to be in 2004.

In retrospect, how was Mayor Calex able to do such accomplishments even without any formal training in political leadership? He was not from a political family. They were more into business (the Catáquiz family is, in fact, one of the wealthiest —if not the wealthiest— in all of San Pedro). And so with this, he invented a formula: his “50-50″ scheme which means that he had to be a 50% politician and 50% administrator. Using the “banker” side of his character, or his being a 50% administrator, he turned San Pedro’s financial woes into financial gains.

So fast forward to today. For the past few years, Mayor Calex has been working extremely hard for the cityhood of San Pedro. His hardwork finally paid off when, on 27 March 2013, Republic Act 10420 was signed, effectively converting San Pedro into La Laguna province’s newest city.

The failed municipality of San Vicente

Thankfully, this act was signed in due time. Because if not, San Pedro would have fallen into a downward spiral.

In a blogpost that I published last month, I wrote about the selfish plans of Mayor Calex’s political rival, Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum. It turned out that Solidum and his partner/protégé Allan Mark Villena were petitioning the provincial government to split San Pedro into two by having Barrio San Vicente converted into a new municipality. If that ever happened, San Pedro’s income class would have gone down to 3rd class, thus making impossible San Pedro’s bid for cityhood. And as main petitioners, either Solidum or Villena would have been the mayor of this failed municipality of San Vicente.

Such schemes are a pet peeve of mine, for I do not believe in the splitting of towns/cities. Why? Because I always subscribe to this Nick Joaquín dictum, which is logical and highly principled:

Philippine society, as though fearing bigness, ever tends to revert the condition of the barangay of the small enclosed society. We don’t grow like a seed, we split like an amoeba. The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns. The moment a province becomes populous it disintegrates into two or three smaller provinces. The excuse offered for divisions is always the alleged difficulty of administering so huge an entity. But Philippines provinces are microscopic compared to an American state like, say, Texas, where the local government isn’t heard complaining it can’t efficiently handle so vast an area. We, on the other hand, make a confession of character whenever we split up a town or province to avoid having of cope, admitting that, on that scale, we can’t be efficient; we are capable only of the small. The decentralization and barrio-autonomy movement expresses our craving to return to the one unit of society we feel adequate to: the barangay, with its 30 to a hundred families. Anything larger intimidates. We would deliberately limit ourselves to the small performance. This attitude, an immemorial one, explains why we’re finding it so hard to become a nation, and why our pagan forefathers could not even imagine the task. Not E pluribus unum is the impulse in our culture but “Out of many, fragments”. Foreigners had to come and unite our land for us; the labor was far beyond our powers. Great was the King of Sugbú, but he couldn’t even control the tiny isle across his bay. Federation is still not even an idea for the tribes of the North; and the Moro sultanates behave like our political parties: they keep splitting off into particles.

Setting aside his selfish ambitions, it is safe to conclude that, based on the above, Solidum fears bigness and thinks like an amoeba, therefore not fit for public service. Anything large intimidates him.

And because he’s intimidated, he sought to play dirty.

¿Daáng Matuwíd ñga bá talagá?

During the fiesta of Barrio San Vicente last month, a strange document started circulating in various Facebook accounts, pages, and groups concerning San Pedro. The document, dated 5 April 2013, is purportedly from the Office of the President of the Philippines, ordering Mayor Calixto Catáquiz “to vacate his office immediately”:

The strange thing is that these papers first appeared on the internet, that is why it was considered dubious at best. And for many days since the papers first appeared on the web, Mayor Calex still had to receive the hard copies. News of this also reached the major dailies and some radio stations. So upon hearing the news, thousands upon thousands of supporters, many of whom were native San Pedrenses, trooped to the new municipal hall and to the town plaza to show their support for the mayor.

Why these documents first appeared on the web still remains a puzzle. But it is already clear that it is a form of black propaganda to discredit the mayor. It should be noted that Mayor Calex belongs to the Nacionalista Party whereas Solidum is being carried by President Noynoy Aquino’s powerful Liberal Party. Noynoy is known to hate everyone who used to be allied with former President Gloria Macapagal de Arroyo (just ask Renato Corona). And Mayor Calex was an appointee of the former president.

The ghost of LLDA: the real score

The order to vacate the mayoralty seat stems from Mayor Calex’s case with the LLDA. In 2001, ex-president Arroyo appointed him as LLDA General Manager (prior to this, he was already a member of its Board of Directors from 1992 to 1998). One of his well-known achievements as its administrator was securing for Laguna de Bay the “Living Lake” honor from the prestigious Living Lake network, winning the distinction over Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetlands, and Poland’s Milicz Pond.

Nothing is too small or too big for Catáquiz as the GM of LLDA. During his administration, he made studies about the feasibility of tapping Laguna de Bay as a source of potable water for Metro Manila, citing that having this as an option would greatly reduce water utility costs. His vision was reinforced by his observance of the Singapore model in which part of used water is recycled. Before leaving LLDA, he had already made this recommendation to the Office of the President.

He was also bent on changing the office culture into a more productive environment the moment he stepped in as its GM. But when he found out about employees playing computer games during office hours, he issued an intra-office memo banning and removing all computer-based games within office premises, much to the dismay of some lazy employees.

This very trivial matter was actually the start of his troubles with the LLDA employees. He was a strict boss, but fair in all his dealings. Corruption? An impossibility. He was already a millionaire even on the day he was born because of his parents banks and other profitable businesses. To put it more bluntly, he never needed the GM job nor any political seat just to enrich himself, as is the practice of many politicians who are not as financially fortunate as him.

Sadly, his strictness was not received well by these employees. Later on, these same employees would join the clamor made by a militant fishing group (whose members lost their illegal fishing fences within the lake courtesy of GM Catáquiz) to replace the GM. Perhaps they were looking for a leader who could tolerate their laziness and other unfair dealings?

GM Catáquiz reasoned out that he always had the employees’ welfare in mind. But he was unwilling to tolerate unprofessional deeds. He was fully expecting that everyone would subscribe to the idea that they would have to abide by the law and that they should have the focused willingness to serve the poor people.

Due to graft charges unfairly hurled against him by some LLDA employees who had personal grudges to bear, Catáquiz parted ways with the organization on a sad note.

NOT convicted

His enemies inside the LLDA prevailed. In 2003, Catáquiz was dismissed as GM “on the grounds of corrupt and unprofessional behavior and management incompetence”. But this is the real score: he was NEVER CONVICTED in a court of law. Instead, he was found guilty of administrative misconduct by a tribunal by the Office of the Solicitor General. Two years later, a resolution from the Office of the President that was based on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission imposed the penalties of “disqualification from reemployment in the government service and forfeiture of retirement benefits” on Catáquiz. But he never pursued that anymore because it was already moot and academic.

In simple words, the Supreme Court merely acknowledged that an administrative case was filed against Catáquiz, that it was uncontested, and so that the penalties attached to the case were applied. That was all to it. There was no conviction at all. After this setback, Catáquiz simply went back to private life and just supported his wife Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz’s political career who was then serving as the town’s Vice Mayor. Eventually, he returned as mayor of San Pedro in  2007.

Simply put, his troubles with the LLDA had NOTHING to do with his being mayor of San Pedro. Therefore, the recent order from Malacañang, signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., is ILLEGAL.

The problem now is that during Solidum’s campaign sorties, his group continuously trumpet that Catáquiz was convicted by the Supreme Court when the truth is that the high court took no action at all with the mayor’s past (and questionable) troubles with the LLDA.

Cracks in the Solidum-Almoro tandem?

But in a twist of fate, as mentioned earlier, thousand of angry residents of San Pedro trooped to the city hall to show their support for Mayor Calex, something that Solidum’s camp never anticipated. And it happened for several days last month. Could this overwhelming (and probably unexpected) show of support one reason why the dubious Malacañang order for Mayor Calex to vacate his position never materialized?

And could this also be the reason why Solidum’s camp was rattled? According to a very reliable source, Solidum’s running mate, Sheriliz “Niña” Almoro, already broke away with him. Not only her but two others who are running for councilors under the Solidum bandwagon:

Ina Olivárez, Niña Almoro, and Kim Carrillo reportedly broke away from Solidum’s camp. How true?

The three, however, have kept mum on the issue.

COMELEC unreliable

Nothing happened with the questionable Ochoa papers. So out of desperation, and realizing that Mayor Calex was still popular inspite of the smear campaign against him, the enemy camp made one final blow.

With just a few days left before May 13, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) suddenly decided to disqualify Mayor Calex from seeking reelection:

In a resolution dated May 7, the COMELEC first division granted the petition filed by Catáquiz’s rival, San Pedro Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum, and two others to disqualify the local chief executive, who was also recently ordered by Malacañang to step down.

The COMELEC ruling, signed by Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, and Christian Robert Lim, cited Section 40 of the Local Government Code, which bars “from running for any elective local position … those removed from office as a result of an administrative case.”

Catáquiz, a member of the Nacionalista Party, said he has yet to receive a copy of the COMELEC order but vowed to seek “legal remedies” from a higher body to stop his disqualification.

“With three more days to go (before the elections), this is just a strategy of my opponents to discredit me,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

But COMELEC decisions are highly unreliable these days. It will be remembered that just a few days ago, they implemented COMELEC Resolution No. 9688 which prohibits the “withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks and conversion of any monetary instrument into cash from May 8 to 13, exceeding P100,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency, per day in banks, finance companies, quasi-banks, pawnshops, remittance companies and institutions performing similar functions.” But the Supreme Court put a stop to it, declaring it unconstitutional. So how can one rely on COMELEC’s wisdom?

Norvic then made a mad scramble and trumpeted the news. Last Friday, an old yellow model pick-up truck (take note: the plate number was covered) was driving all over the municipality declaring, with its megaphone blurting out that Mayor Calex was already disqualified, and that all who would vote for him will no longer be counted.

But Norvic, party’s not over when it’s really over.

Enter Baby Catáquiz

Just when Solidum et al. thought that they had won (especially since another mayoralty bet, Berlene Alberto, is not really well-known), Cataquiz’s wife Lourdes filed her certificate of candidacy last Friday at the COMELEC office (almost at the same time that Mayor Calex received his copy of the COMELEC resolution that disqualified him from the mayoralty race). The move is legal.

Let it be known that under COMELEC rules:

“The substitute for a candidate who died or is disqualified by final judgment, may file his COC up to mid-day of election day, provided that the substitute and the substituted have the same surnames.” (see COMELEC Resolution No. 9518).

So to all registered San Pedrense voters, please be informed that all votes for Mayor Calex will still be counted. And all of them will be automatically accounted for his legal substitute: Mrs. Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz.

In less than 24 hours, it’s election time! Let it be known that this blog is not supposed to be a political blog. However, I now feel concerned with the elections in my adoptive hometown, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna especially since this has been our home for the past nine years. Despite my rather apolitical stance (I’m not a registered voter), I feel I had to do this because it is a civic duty, and not out of political friendship or bias. And I feel the need to endorse and support Mrs. Baby Catáquiz not out of political ties (they never instructed me nor paid me to write this blogpost, believe it or not). Because I know that it is the RIGHT and JUST thing to do.

Yes, Mayor Calex is a friend of mine. And to my observation, I honestly do find Mr. Solidum as an inept and unfit and uncouth public servant (many witnessed how Solidum made a slit-throat gesture yesterday when his motorcade met Mrs. Catáquiz’s). But I never thought of putting myself in the midst of their rivalry by writing a blogpost in support of Mayor Calex (who am I to do that in the first place? I’m just another blogger).

Nothing really personal with Mr. Solidum. But had he not attempted to divide San Pedro, then this blogpost wouldn’t have existed. During the last elections, in 2010, I never wrote any article/blogpost in support of Mayor Calex. Nor did I attack his challenger (Vierneza) back then.

So to my fellow San Pedrenses, you now know where you stand.

And what of Mayor Calex? His story has not yet ended.

His biography is still in progress. :-)

Happy 441st anniversary to the province of La Laguna!

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A blessed day to you all!

Today, 28 July 2012, is a very historic day for all of us Lagunenses. On this day we commemorate our province’s date of becoming. Today is a celebration of life…

The province of La Laguna —commonly known today as Laguna— marks its 441st foundation anniversary today!

But this is no ordinary foundation day celebration because on this day we mark the first time in its long history that the province of La Laguna will commemorate its date of inception! And what makes it more unique is that this first ever foundation anniversary is being celebrated online!

Why online? Unfortunately, since the controversial resolution regarding the date’s recognition is still in limbo (no thanks to hispanophobic ultranationalism), La Laguna Governor E.R. Ejército is unable to physically celebrate it today. He, however, sent his greetings earlier this afternoon. Be that as it may, we have the internet to celebrate this memorable event. Since the date was discovered in the age of Facebook and Twitter, I believe it is appropriate to celebrate it for the first time right here on the web!

Spread the good news! And I invite my fellow Lagunenses to take a moment of silence and thank the Lord God Almighty for giving us this wonderful province as our home!

Today we truly have a festival of life!

I would also like to acknowledge all those who have strongly supported this date against detractors. Each and every one of them had a special participation on this and, in one way or another, shared their inputs, time, and knowledge to push for the date’s annual celebration. They are (in alphabetical order):

1) Mr. Albert A. Abárquez — Chief: Provincial Sports and Games Development Office.
2) Mr. Delto Michael “Mike” Abárquez, Jr. — Provincial Government Department Head: Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Trade Office (LTCATO).
3) Mr. Gil Nielo Almendral — Creator/administrator: About Laguna (Facebook group).
4) Mr. Bong Arcángel — Chief: International Relations and Trade Office.
5) Ms. Regina B. Austria — Chief: LTCATO Tourism Division.
6) Professor David Dwight Diestro — Associate Professor of History: UP Los Baños College of Arts and Sciences.
7) Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera — Academic Director: Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.
8) Hon. Neil Andrew N. Nocon — Board Member: La Laguna 2nd district (author of Draft ORDINANCE NO. 44, s. 2012*).
9) Ms. Daisy Pelegrina — Assistant to BM Nocon.
10) Dr. Nilo Valdecantos — proprietor: Kape Kesada; arts patron of Paeté; tourism consultant to the governor.
11) Mr. Ronald A. Yu — Publisher/editor/photographer: In-Frame Media Works.

Ron (the publisher/editor/photographer of my forthcoming coffee table book about La Laguna) has exerted so much of his strength, time, and even finances for the right to celebrate our province’s birthday. I don’t know of any other Lagunense who knows so much about the history as well as every nook and cranny of our province, not to mention the passion and love he has for it. Take a bow, my friend!

Special thanks to Alex Pascual for the slick foundation day logo. Fact: he did it in just a couple of hours with his hands tied while blindfolded!

And of course, there’s my lovely wife, Yeyette Perey de Alas, who has never faltered in her support for what I believe is right. ¡Te quiero mucho!

Again, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BLESSED PROVINCE OF LA LAGUNA! ¡MABUHAY ANG BAGONG LA LAGUNA: UNA SA LAHÁT!

Pepe Alas,
A Proud Lagunense
:D

*******

RELATED ARTICLES:
1) 28 JULY 1571: THE FOUNDATION DATE OF THE PROVINCE OF LA LAGUNA
2) 28 July 1571: The story behind the discovery of La Laguna’s foundation date.
3) The truth about the encomienda (FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES’ 3rd anniversary special)
4) La Laguna, Una Sa Lahát (music video)

*AN ORDINANCE DECLARING JULY 28, 1571 AS THE FOUNDING DATE OF THE PROVINCE OF LAGUNA AND RECOMMENDING TO THE HON. GOVERNOR JEORGE “E.R.” EJÉRCITO ESTREGAN TO PROVIDE FUNDS THEREOF RELATIVE TO ITS GRAND ANNUAL CELEBRATION

28 July 1571: The story behind the discovery of La Laguna’s foundation date.

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Good day, dear readers, particularly to my fellow Lagunenses. For this blogpost, I am sharing to you the story behind my discovery of our province’s foundation date, as well as the ongoing process of having the date passed as an ordinance (as of this writing, the case is still pending approval). This is a historic find, so I thought that all of you deserve to know about this, especially since there is still no news yet regarding this matter.

Before anything else, please allow me to refer to our province as La Laguna, not just Laguna alone. The article La was removed from Laguna sometime during the US occupation of the Philippines. Since there is no logical reason for its removal, I refuse to address my adoptive province as such. We should always refer to it by its original, complete, and correct name: LA LAGUNA.

The discovery of the date

OK now. Last January, I revealed in my other blog, ALAS FILIPINAS, that I will be writing my first book, a coffee table book actually, about the history and culture of the Province of La Laguna. I even said bye bye for a while in my social media accounts in order to concentrate on my writing. It’s going to be my first book. I don’t want to screw it up. And just a few weeks ago, during our national hero’s birthday, I also announced about something big that will change the history of our province. So here it is, right on this blogpost…

During the course of my research for the said book that I’m writing, I happened to stumble upon the foundation date of La Laguna. I discovered the date just last month, in the morning of 13 June, when I was about to sleep (right after my night shift). My hair was still wet because I just had a morning bath. So while drying it, I grabbed from my bookshelf one source material —a very old one: 1926— and started fumbling through its pages. Then in one of its delicate and yellowing pages, I unexpectedly found the date: 28 julio 1571.

How providential, indeed. Had I slept earlier, I would have never discovered the page/chart where 28 July 1571 appears. And I wasn’t even in full-research mode!

I do not claim to be the first researcher to have encountered this chart. Perhaps other historians before me have seen this already. However, they must have surely overlooked the fact that this chart reveals when La Laguna (and perhaps other Philippine juridical entities today) was established.

This date is important to all Lagunenses, especially to the provincial government. Why? Because up to now, they do not know when their province was founded. This was revealed to me by my editor, Mr. Ronald Yu (publisher/editor/photographer at In-Frame Media Works), a few months ago after a short talk that I had with Biñán City’s tourism officer designate, Ms. Jasmín Alonte, who in turn told me that their city doesn’t have a foundation date too. I found out that this foundation date is a big deal. Ron explained that during the administration of former Governess Teresita “Ningning” Lázaro (2001-2010), a “bounty” was to be awarded to anyone who might find the missing foundation date. There were even individuals who went to some archive in Spain just to search for it, but to no avail. Fast forward to a few weeks ago: I learned from Mr. Peter Uckung of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) that even famed Pagsanjeño historian Gregorio Zaide was also searching for La Laguna’s foundation date, but to no avail.

I never had any serious intention of hunting for that date. If historians already went to Spain looking for it, not to mention the legendary Gregorio Zaide failing to find it, then I thought that there’s no chance for me to be able to come across the date.

The formulation of the case

And so going back to the morning of 13 June when I stumbled upon the date right inside our apartment unit. I actually have a collection of antique Filipiniana which I have gathered over the years (acquired or purchased from antique shops and various individuals who no longer need them), and it is in one of those volumes where I discovered the date. I didn’t even gave it much importance at first glance, especially when the date says that La Laguna was given as an encomienda to Martín de Goití. It didn’t state that La Laguna was a province during the date that the region was accorded to Goití.

But after a few days, it hit me.

After further research, cross-referencing through other books and documents, and much deliberation, I finally came up to the conclusion that 28 July 1571 was indeed the date when La Laguna began. Not exactly as a province but as something else. The analogy is like this: Adamson University, my alma mater, began as the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry in 1932. It became a university only in 1941. However, 1932 is still regarded as Adamson’s foundation year, not 1941, for the simple reason that Adamson was established on that year. It’s transformation into a university years later never negated the fact that Adamson was already in existence. That was the case of La Laguna. It began as an encomienda in 1571, not exactly as a province. It only became a province, (as observed by Ron), when Bay was made the capital of La Laguna in 1581. But there is no denying the fact that La Laguna already existed, that it was already established. Just like Calambâ City. It became a city only in 2001. But that doesn’t mean that Calambâ never existed before its cityhood.

Ron paid me a visit in my San Pedro home last 17 June to see the antique book where I found the date. After clarifying questions from him and clearing up other arguments, we both found out that the case for La Laguna’s foundation date proved to be strong. Actually, I was already composing a scholarly paper when he visited me since I do not want the date to be misconstrued as just another date in the pages of Philippine history. It wasn’t finished yet when I showed to Ron the draft of the paper.

Reporting the discovery to the governor

Ron confirmed the discovery to Governor Emilio Ramón “E.R.” Ejército, especially since the book that I’m writing is the latter’s project. The governor was very excited upon hearing this. We then presented my discovery to him last 18 June at the Cultural Center of Laguna (during the memorial celebration of Dr. José Rizal‘s 151st birthday). Before speaking with the governor, Ron introduced  me to various Lagunense figures, among them Mr. Uckung, senior researcher at the NHCP, and Hon. Neil Andrew Nocon, provincial board member of La Laguna’s 2nd district. Little did I know that I would be “working” with these people in the coming days.

Afterwards, Dr. Nilo Valdecantos, one of Governor E.R.’s consultants, facilitated our quick meeting with the latter (it’s Governor E.R.’s policy that you fall in queue to speak to him regardless of social standing and whether you’re a government official or just an ordinary civilian). The governor was already weary due to the day’s activities, for right after the 151st José Rizal memorial rites, his weekly “People’s Day” followed. But upon showing to him the old book where La Laguna and the date appears, his energy came back, and admitted to having had goosebumps all over! He was so amazed over the coincidence of the recently concluded La Laguna Festival, which he conceptualized, to what I have discovered. Little did I know that he had no idea that La Laguna was actually the original, complete, and correct name of the province he governs. But then, almost all Lagunenses in particular and Filipinos in general do not know that fact. And so I took that opportunity to tell him that it is perhaps high time to bring back the name. He did not respond to it, probably still elated with the find. He then said that he will endorse it to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Laguna (SPL) to have it filed as a resolution. A few days later, I received a phone call from BM Nocon’s secretary, Ms. Daisy Pelegrina, requesting for documents pertaining to the date. I learned that the filing of the resolution was already on its way. The ordinance was to be authored by BM Nocon since he was the chairman of education, tourism, history, arts and culture, and public works. I told Ms. Pelegrina that I was actually composing a brief dissertation regarding the matter, and that I will just email them the paper once done.

Realizing that the 28th of July is near, Ron advised Governor E.R. that the foundation date would be one of his greatest legacies to his constituents. Therefore, it is best that the province’s very first foundation date be celebrated immediately, especially since it’s going to be election season next year. Midterm legislative and local elections will be held on 13 May 2013. Nobody knows who’s going to win or not. Governor E.R.’s extreme popularity among Lagunenses is not always a guarantee that it will win him another term. That is why it is best that he commemorate La Laguna’s very first foundation day celebration —technically its 441st— the soonest possible time while he is still governor. The governor agreed (later on, he decided to moved his first State of the Province address to 28 July to coincide with the province’s very first foundation day celebration; the SOPA was originally scheduled for August).

Señor Gómez enters the scene

Shortly after finishing my paper, Ron advised me to email the paper to renowned scholar and historian Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera to have it reviewed and validated. Ron was thinking forward: he heard from BM Nocon that the NHCP will have to review and write a recommendation on my discovery before the ordinance could be passed. No disrespect to the NHCP, but both Ron and I somehow felt that the NHCP might write a negative recommendation on my find, as the case might fall on opinionated grounds (a few days later, our hunch proved to be correct). So he thought of having it validated by another neutral party: Señor Gómez. For my editor’s part, he is respectfully questioning whether the NHCP has any authority at all to have a final say whether or not a date should be declared as the province’s foundation date.

Afterwards, we visited the governor’s house (Don Porong Mansion) in Pagsanján on 23 June to personally present to him the scholarly paper which I wrote regarding the La Laguna’s foundation date (PLEASE CLICK HERE to read my dissertation). The next day (coinciding with the Philippines’ 441st anniversary), I received a positive reply from Señor Gómez which he also forwarded to members of the online group Círculo Hispano-Filipino.

¡Enhorabuena Pepe Alas! Has escrito una tesina de primera fuerza porque está muy bien documentada y, sobre todo, porque todo lo que deduces está fuertemente investido con la lógica y el sentido común que todo escritor e historiador de su propio país debe tener. Y es una tesina escrita independientemente porque se levanta por si sóla. Y está escrita magistralmente por un puro filipino como lo eres tu de espíritu y talante. Sugiero que lo pongas todo en español más tarde y lo publiques en tu blog Alas Filipinas. En horabuena de nuevo y un fuerte abrazo. Nos enorgulleces a todos los que te conocemos de cerca.

Afterwards, I also emailed the paper to Ms. Pelegrina for BM Nocon’s reference since it will also serve as an aid of legislation. On the morning of 25 June, I visited Señor Gómez to retrieve from him his signed recommendation letter. I then hurried off to the capitolio in Santa Cruz and met up with Ron to submit an edited version of my paper, Señor Gómez’s recommendation letter, as well as reproductions of the page where the date appears. Mr. Valdecantos again facilitated our quick meeting with the governor, and for that he had a run in with the governor’s arrogant Chief-of-Staff. And while waiting for an audience with the governor, this rude power-tripper actually thought he was funny so he acted like a clown and proceeded to make fun of what I wrote and even questioned Señor Gómez’s reliability (if he had said that in Malacañang, the President himself would have laughed at his total ignorance of Señor Gómez’s persona). But I was glad that I was able to keep my cool (a very difficult task on my part). Anyway, after that unfortunate incident, Ron was finally able to speak with the governor; I was no longer in the mood to speak to Governor E.R. after all the insults that I’ve heard from his “highly respectable” Chief-of-Staff. The governor then informed us that he is endorsing the date not as a resolution but as an ordinance! Earlier that morning (during the weekly flag ceremony), we learned that the governor already announced to all employees about the foundation date, and that they will all receive an annual bonus every 28th of July (amounting at least to ₱3,000 per employee). This, of course, is good tidings for the provincial employees. However, the ordinance will still have to be passed first and foremost in order for the said bonus to take effect. Before leaving the capitol, BM Nocon informed me and Ron that we will all go to the NHCP in Ermita, Manila the next day, together with the governor himself, to report my discovery and request from their office any technical assistance as well as a recommendation and/or guidelines on the legality of declaring 28 July 1571 as La Laguna’s foundation date.

NHCP visit

The next day, an afternoon, we all went to the NHCP. Our party was composed of Governor E.R., his wife (Pagsanján Mayor Maita Ejército), my editor Ron, BM Nocon, Mr. Valdecantos, and other capitolio political consultants. There were actually three agendas: the construction of the country’s first sports museum (to be constructed on the capitolio grounds), the setting up of a historical marker to La Laguna’s old capitol building, and the historic date which I discovered. We were received by NHCP Executive Director Ludovico Bádoy and his staff.

As expected, my discovery was met with opposition. During the meeting, Ron and I had an argument with Mr. Uckung and a colleague of his, Mr. Ogie Encomienda (of all surnames). They argued that the date I discovered cannot be accepted since it does not pertain to La Laguna’s creation as a province. But that wasn’t the case we wanted to present. Our argument is that La Laguna was founded on 28 July 1571, period. Whether or not it was a province, La Laguna began on that date (please see related link above to read my arguments on my paper). Finally, straight from their mouths, they agreed that my paper is correct. However, they just couldn’t accept the fact that La Laguna must recognize its founding as an encomienda. In Mr. Uckung’s opinion, it does not seem to be apt to celebrate La Laguna’s founding as an encomienda because, according to him, the encomienda connoted “slavery”. Good heavens, I thought. These people subscribe to the leyenda negra (as expected). And worse, Mr. Encomienda even suggested to us to just write an ordinance declaring 28 July as the province’s foundation date, but 1571 cannot be recognized as the province’s foundation year because, according to him, it is highly questionable that La Laguna was founded earlier than Manila. To Mr. Encomienda, Manila was founded on 1574! Goodness gracious. Anyway, I refused to argue about that anymore; it’s a different issue and will only prolong the argument. Anyway, the meeting was at a stalemate. Governor E.R. was still excited over the date, and mandated Mr. Uckung to speed up his research to corroborate with my findings. However, right after the argument that we with Mr Uckung and Mr. Encomienda, I already knew right there and then that they will disapprove my discovery.

The SPL hearings

Ron attended the first hearing 27 June which was also attended by Vice Governor Caesar Pérez, various board members, representatives from the budget office, and other political consultants. I wasn’t able to attend because of my night shift. It was during that meeting that Ron hypothesized that La Laguna could have become a province when Bay was declared as the provincial capital on 1581. The problem: the date is still missing up to now. Furthermore, that doesn’t negate the fact that La Laguna already existed, but as a different political/juridical entity.

Two days later, during a meeting of the Laguna Tourism Council (facilitated by Monsignor José D. Barrión) last 29 June held at the Santo Sepulcro Shrine in San Pedro, Mr. Delto “Mike” Abárquez, chief of the Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Trade Office (LTCATO) announced to the members about the discovery of the province’s foundation date.

Mr. Mike Abárquez, seated at right, during the Laguna Tourism Council 2nd quarter meeting at the Santo Sepulcro Shrine last 29 June 2012 (photo courtesy of Le Voyageur International-Travel.

On 2 July, the date when the ordinance was officially stamped as received by the Office of the SPL, I made my first appearance to the deliberations of the SPL. It was actually the public hearing regarding the ordinance. A lady official from the LTCATO had Mr. Uckung on the line and gave the phone to BM Nocon. The lady official seemed to be a big supporter of NHCP. Ron and I had no idea why. After the phone discussion, the public hearing began. Laguna’s Supervising Tourism Operations Officer, Ms. Regina Austria, was also in attendance. I explained my case to the panel and also gave a brief lecture about what an encomienda is, and how this encomienda metamorphosed into a province (limited only to the case of La Laguna; probably not all provinces began as an ancomienda). BM Nocon also revealed that he had already distributed my scholarly paper to all municipal and city governments throughout La Laguna, as well as various educational institutions in the province which of course includes the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The plot thickens

The next day, I was with San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz and his friends in Rockwell, Macati discussing with him his biography which is still in developmental limbo. Ron sent me a rather alarming txt message: an anonymous person was heckling him on his cellphone, ridiculing him for his ardent participation on the 28 July 1571 issue. We already have a suspect. But why was she doing it?! I mean, what for?

The next day after that, on 4 July, there was another brief hearing at the capitolio. I wasn’t able to attend due to lack of sleep (imagine doing all this while working at night!), but Ron was able to attend. LTCATO chief, Mr. Abárquez, was also there. He assisted Ron in defending the merits of the date.

Three vs one

Finally, last Friday, 6 July, I had another showdown with the NHCP right inside the Governor’s Office. The governor, however, was absent during the proceedings. Unfortunately, Ron wasn’t with me during that time (he had a fever). There were three of them (Mr. Uckung, Mr. Encomienda, and another one whose I wasn’t able to get) against my lonesome self. Mr. Encomienda this time, had a different tune: instead of arguing that it cannot be accepted that La Laguna came first before Manila (which is erroneous because Manila was founded as the capital of the Philippines by the Spaniards on 24 June 1571), he instead referred to his notes and said that he had found another data stating that La Laguna was founded as an encomienda in 1572, not in 1571. He now forwarded the problem on how to “synchronize” both 1571 and 1572. But the answer to that is rather simple: choose the earliest date, for crying out loud. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to say that, since I have not yet verified his finding. He mentioned to me both Manuel Buzeta and Félix de Huerta as his sources. Well, I have Buzeta’s Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de las Islas Filipinas (co-authored with Felipe Bravo) at home. I reviewed it last night and found no mention of 1572 pertaining to La Laguna at all. I’m still to review Félix de Huerta’s Estado Geográfico, Topográfico, Estadístico, Histórico-Religioso de la Santa y Apostólica Provincia de San Gregorio Magno. But regardless of whether or not the year 1572 also points to the founding of La Laguna as an encomienda, common sense will still dictate that the earliest year declared must be considered, especially if there is basis. In this case, it’s 1571.  Although I understand that Buzeta and Huerta’s respective books were published way before Fr. Pablo Pastells’ book (my source) was even conceptualized, one should not focus on the book’s year of publication alone. Fr. Pastells did not simply write 28 July 1571, as was the case with what Buzeta and Huerta did. Fr. Pastells’ chart itself was a primary source that was taken from the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. The chart itself that was used by Fr. Pastells was an official document whose authenticity can never be questioned.

Also present during the meeting was UPLB professor Dwight David Diestro, co-author of the book Nineteenth-Century Conditions and the Revolution in the Province of LagunaHe had read my paper and actually supported my discovery. But he also stated his opinion that if it were him, he would rather recognize the date when La Laguna became independent from Spain. I argued, however, that independence is different from being established as a political entity. Then the mention of the encomienda again as a form of slavery was raised, until the discussion came to a point that I was already defending Spain’s “creation” of the Philippines. A very debatable matter, Mr. Uckung retorted, to which I had to agree so as not to swerve from the main issue.

The questionable case of Pangasinán’s foundation date

But I believe that I won that round. Why?

At the end of the meeting, I respectfully questioned NHCP’s “authority to meddle” in the ordinance proceedings because of the Pangasinán case which was researched by Ron a few days prior (You may read the whole account of the case here). It turned out that La Laguna has a similar case to that of Pangasinán. In Pangasinán’s case, it was also founded as an encomienda: on 5 April 1572. Later on, it was organized into a province in 1580, but the exact date is missing up to now. After thorough deliberations on the researches made by members of the committee, it was finally decided to just mix up the dates: 5 April 1580 was then declared as the foundation date of Pangasinán. Not only is it highly questionable. It was also laughable and illogical. How come the NHCP let this historical travesty go away just like that? It reminded me of Mr. Encomienda’s suggestion to us when we were at the NHCP, that July 28 can be be passed as an ordinance, but not 1571. So is he suggesting that we do another Pangasinán?

I really told them, but in a respectful tone, that Pangasinán’s case was mangled, and that I will never allow the same error to happen to my beloved province in case they’re planning to do the same. They all kept quiet.

Sadly, nothing was concluded. BM Nocon still awaits that recommendation from the NHCP. He then said that the next meeting will be on Friday the 13th.

And so my fight continues.

Before I end this narrative —and I hope that the people over at the NHCP reads this—, I would like to remind all of you that whether or not this ordinance is passed, it will not make me famous like Myrtle Sarrosa. It will not even make me rich. Perhaps I might receive some sort of recognition, but I am not expecting it. Besides, I’m sure that most of the credit will go to Governor E.R. and BM Nocon. But that’s OK. I am doing this not for myself, anyway. Not even for the governor. No matter how corny this may sound to all of you, I am doing this for the province of La Laguna. Aunque no lo creáis. Because this will give me and all Lagunenses the satisfaction of priding ourselves with a complete history of our province.

At walá pong mawáwala sa aquin cung hindí maipápasa ang ordenanzang itó. Who’s going to lose? Me? My credibility? No. Never. The biggest loser here will still be the people of La Laguna who will forever miss this chance of celebrating the province’s birthday.

So many things have happened since I discovered the date. It was a whirlwind experience. The coffee table book that I’m writing for the governor was even put to a halt to focus on the ordinance. But I will have to continue writing the book starting today. And whatever happens, 28 July 1571 will always remain as La Laguna’s foundation date. It began as an encomienda, whether we like it or not, which later on metamorphosed into a province probably in 1581.  And this logical FACT will appear in the coffee table book which will be launched before the year ends. So there.

He dicho.

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Draft ORDINANCE NO. 44 , s. 2012

AN ORDINANCE DECLARING JULY 28, 1571 AS THE FOUNDING DATE OF THE

PROVINCE OF LAGUNA AND RECOMMENDING TO THE HON. GOVERNOR

JEORGE “E.R.” EJÉRCITO ESTREGAN TO PROVIDE FUNDS THEREOF

RELATIVE TO ITS GRAND ANNUAL CELEBRATION

Author: Hon. Neil Andrew N. Nocon

Whereas, Laguna has been in existence for many centuries already but has failed to commemorate and celebrate its inception due to the lack of a founding date;

Whereas, since the Philippines has been declared independent on 4 July 1946, the Tagalog-speaking province of La Laguna, now simply referred to as Laguna, in the CALABARZON region is still incognizant of when exactly it came into being;

Whereas, it has become an important tradition for almost all individuals, organizations, and territorial units (places) to commemorate how they first came to be;

Whereas, no official declaration or any royal decree has been made affirming the creation or existence of Laguna as a province consisting of several reducciones or towns;

Whereas, research findings revealed that Laguna was founded as a juridical entity on 28 July 1571;

Whereas, this date appears in volume 2 of Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J.’s Historia General de Filipinas which was published in Barcelona, Spain in 1926;

Now, therefore, upon motion, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Laguna in a session assembled that:

Section 01. Title- This Ordinance shall be known as “AN ORDINANCE DECLARING JULY 28, 1571 AS THE FOUNDING DATE OF THE PROVINCE OF LAGUNA AND RECOMMENDING TO THE HON. GOVERNOR, JEORGE “E.R.” EJÉRCITO ESTREGAN TO PROVIDE FUNDS THEREOF RELATIVE TO ITS GRAND ANNUAL CELEBRATION”

Section 02. Definition of Terms — for purpose of this ordinance, the following terms are defined as follows:

a. commemorate – to call to remembrance, to mark by some ceremony or observation.

b. incognizant – lacking knowledge or awareness, unaware of the new political situation.

c. juridical – of or relating to the law and its administration.

d. reducción – a colonially designed resettlement policy that the Spaniards (the friars in particular) used in Central and South America.

e. rekindle – to inflame again, to rouse anew.

f. reminisce – a narration of past incidents with one’s personal experience, that which  is recollected or recalled to mind.

g. reverently – showing deep sense of respect.

h. unheeded – unnoticed or disregarded.

Section 03. Objectives of this Ordinance.

1. To help establish the founding date of Laguna because this province has been in existence for many centuries already but has failed to commemorate and celebrate its inception due to the lack of a foundation date.

2. To officially declare 28 July 1571 as the founding date of Laguna and relative to its celebration, request the Provincial Governor for the provision of funds thereof.

Section 04. Information, Education, and Communication Campaign. Upon approval of this Ordinance, the province shall conduct massive information, education, and communication campaigns using quad media (print, radio, television, and internet) in the conduct of rekindling this foundation date.

Section 05. Deputation of Officials. All municipal and city officials are automatically deputized by the Provincial Governor for the strict and effective implementation of this ordinance.

Section 06. Mandate. The government through the Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Trade Office is hereby mandated to provide a program wherein activities shall be implemented for one day celebration which shall commence every 28th day of July of every year/s ahead.

Section 07. Implementation. This Ordinance shall be implemented right after the date of its approval.

Section 08. Separability Clause. If any part of this ordinance is declared juridically as unconstitutional or unlawful, such declaration shall not affect the other parts or sections hereof that are not declared unlawful or unconditional.

Section 09. Repealing Clause. All previous ordinance inconsistent with this ordinance shall be deemed repealed or modified accordingly.

Section 10. Effectivity. This Ordinance shall take effect upon its approval from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

APPROVED: ??????

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