RSS Feed

Category Archives: Social Networking

Clarifying a misconception on the definition of “Filipino”

Posted on

How timely it surely is that, as we celebrate History Month, two individuals who are very passionate in the study of Filipino History introduced a new argument that the long-accepted historical definition of the term Filipino, i.e., Peninsular full-blooded Spaniards who were born in Filipinas, is dead wrong. In a Tagálog article written by Mr. Jon Royeca on his blog last August 14, he argues that the claim made by previous historians, particularly Renato Constantino, that the Insulares were the first Filipinos was wrong. He went on and cited Fr. Pedro Chirino’s monumental work Relación de las Islas Filipinas (1604) as his source:

Heto ang katotohanan… tinawag ng may-akda niyon na si Padre Pedro Chirino ang mga Tagalog, Bisaya, Ita, at iba pang katutubo ng Pilipinas na Filipino.

(Here’s the truth… the author, Father Pedro Chirino, called Tagálogs, Visayans, Aetas, and other natives of the Philippines as Filipino.)

Royeca then shared his blogpost on Philippine History, Culture, & Tradition, a popular Facebook group lined up with many well-known historians, anthropologists, and other like-minded social scientists dedicated to the discussion and exchange of ideas and new discoveries regarding that page’s theme.

A few days later, and on the same Facebook group, Royeca was seconded by Mr. Nonoy Regalado who shared the screenshot below:

Explaining the screenshot, Regalado wrote:

The 1822 Diccionario de la Lengua Castellana (by La Academia Española, Madrid) defined Filipino as follows: “El natural de las Islas Filipinas o lo perteneciente a ellas” (The native of Las Islas Filipinas or what pertains to them).

Regalado ended his opinion piece by declaring that all the other seasoned historians such as León Mª Guerrero and Ambeth Ocampo (including National Artist Nick Joaquín, of all people) were wrong in spreading the idea that the term “Filipino” traditionally referred only to Peninsulares.

Going back to Royeca, it is really bothersome when he concluded his blog in this manner:

…malinaw pa sa síkat ng araw na ang mga unang tao na tinawag na Filipino—o ang mga orihinal na Pilipino—ay ang mga katutubo mismo ng Pilipinas.

(…it is clear as the sun that the the first people who were called Filipinos —or the original Filipinos— were the indigenous themselves of Filipinas.)

To my observation, Royeca and Regalado did not tell us the complete definition of the term Filipino. Although they did share primary sources showing how the word Filipino was defined during the early years of our country’s vassalage under the Spanish monarchy, I wonder if they even bothered to ask themselves WHY the early Filipinos were called as such. I ask WHY because the name Filipino is NOT EVEN INDIGENOUS, meaning to say, the term does not come from any native language like that of the Tagálogs, the Visayans, the Aetas, etc.

To further emphasize this: the term Filipino is not a Tagálog word. The term Filipino is not a Visayan word. The term Filipino is certainly not an Aeta word. And so on and so forth. The name Filipino is Spanish, thus the impossibility of the notion that the demonym used for the indios (as the indigenous were generally referred to at that time) had some natural or indigenous etymological imprint whatsoever. Due to this, Royeca and Regalado must now categorically point out WHY Fr. Chirino called the natives as Filipinos. Certainly, there must be a reason why the good friar called them as such.

Another thing that bothers me is that both Royeca and Regalado averred that those seasoned historians they mentioned were mistaken in referring to the insulares or native-born Spaniards as Filipinos. I’m afraid that the one wrong in this particular aspect —and I mean them no disrespect— are Royeca and Regalado themselves… unless they can point to us an indigenous individual who wrote calling himself a Filipino, or even an indigenous group for that matter who referred to themselves as such, and has been doing so even before the Spaniards came and founded the Filipino state on 24 June 1571 together with the founding of Manila as its capital city.

In addition, Both Royeca and Regalado are also proven wrong when they implied, wittingly or unwittingly, that the insulares or Spaniards born in the islands were not called Filipinos at any time in our history. It should be remembered that Charles Derbyshire, a US writer and translator of José Rizal’s novels and poems, did write about it in 1912, years before Renato Constantino was even born. In the glossary to his 1912 English translation of the El Filibusterismo, Derbyshire clearly differentiated the indio and the Filipino:

Indian: The Spanish designation for the Christianized Malay of the Philippines was indio (Indian), a term used rather contemptuously, the name Filipino being generally applied in a restricted sense to the children of Spaniards born in the Islands. (emphasis mine)

And in two footnotes found in the same book, Derbyshire made it clear that:

The Spanish designation for the Christianized Malay of the Philippines was indio (Indian), a term used rather contemptuously, the name filipino being generally applied in a restricted sense to the children of Spaniards born in the Islands. (p. 14).

Natives of Spain; to distinguish them from the Filipinos, i.e., descendants of Spaniards born in the Philippines. See Glossary: “Indian.” (p. 23)

Yes, Derbyshire did not cite any source on why he defined the Filipino that way. Nevertheless, Royeca and Regalado still has to explain to us why this US translator of Rizal, who lived closer and thus was more familiar to the moods and traditions of Spanish-era Filipinas, gave such definition. And, to reiterate, while both of them successfully pointed out that Fr. Chirino called Tagálogs, Visayans, Aetas, etc. as Filipinos, can they also point out any indigenous individual who called himself a Filipino during the Spanish times? We can tell them confidently that nobody did so. There was, however, one insular or Spanish creole who referred to himself as such, and that was nationalist poet Luis Rodríguez Varela of Tondo, Manila. It is on record that he did call himself a Filipino —a first in Filipino History— and even declared it in the official gazette of Manila.

Let me then share to you the first two stanzas of one of Rodríguez Varela’s poem that was written in 1812:


Los primeros Filipinos, vasallos son de Felipe.
Pues filipinos lo somos los nacidos en Oriente
De padres peninsulares, conquistadores valientes
Que vinieron a estas islas desconocidas y vírgenes.

Y son también filipinos los de peninsular padre
Y madre oriental o india que en buen castellano parlen;
Educados en colegios de sacerdotes y madres
En el candor del Padre Nuestro y en los oficios y artes.

In the first stanza, Rodríguez Varela pointed out that the first Filipinos were vassals of King Felipe II, and that included full-blooded Spaniards who moved to Filipinas, many of whom died here (eg., Miguel López de Legazpi, Martín de Goití, Simón de Anda, Fr. Francisco Manuel Blanco, etc.). By vassals, we mean those who had accepted the king of Spain as their rightful sovereign (eg., Rajah Humabon and all the rest of the indios who were Christianized and accepted Spanish rule). In that aspect enters the definition of Fr. Chirino. But in the second stanza, the poet made it clear that even Spanish mestizos were Filipinos.

In view of the foregoing, the reason why Fr. Chirino called the natives as Filipinos is because they were members of the Filipino State organized together with Manila as its capital on 24 June 1571 to which all the pre-Filipino or indigenous or ethnic states incorporated themselves into. The moment those natives accepted Spanish authority, and the moment they accepted Christianity, i.e., Catholicism, as their new faith, they automatically became Filipinos.

And since etymology was mentioned earlier, let us also point out that the Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Portland House, 1989) has already correctly defined what a Filipino is:

Fil·i·pi·no (fil’əˈpē’nō), n., pl. -nos, adj. —n. 1. a native of the Philippines, esp. a member of a Christianized native tribe. —adj. 2. Philippine. [< Sp. derived from (las Islas) Filipinas Philippine (islands)]

Take note that those who created the said dictionary are no ordinary lexicographers. When one speaks of Webster, we speak of language authorities, expert etymologists who diligently study the origin of words in order to define things and concepts. No wonder Fr. Chirino defined the Filipino as such in his book.

The name Filipino, in summary, referred at first to the Spanish peninsulars serving King Felipe II in Filipinas. Their children, full-blooded Spaniards born in these islands, naturally inherited the classification. And by the 19th century, Spanish educational and political reforms such as the democratic constitution of Cádiz included the indigenous as well as the chinos cristianos as Filipinos, together with the insulares or criollos.

There is no question that Fr. Chirino referred to all natives as Filipinos. We have to laud Mr. Jon Royeca and Mr. Nonoy Regalado for their diligence in making us notice what seems to have been often overlooked. However, Fr. Chirino’s context in his definition of the term Filipino has to be understood clearly in order to avoid misconceptions. The friar merely “covered with a Filipino blanket” those indigenous who assimilated themselves into the Filipino cosmos. During those years of imperial glory, a resident of the islands of Filipinas should naturally be called a Filipino, but it is completely different from a Filipino who had joined or had allowed himself to be absorbed into the Filipino Identity.

Too many “official” hashtags for the upcoming papal visit?

Posted on

In recent years, hashtags have become the lifeblood for social media’s dynamism, real-time qualities, and fast connectivity to other people sharing the same message or news online. Twitter set the wheels in motion, then other social media giants such as Facebook and Instagram followed suit upon noticing its popularity and usefulness. Hashtagging has now become a big deal in the Internet. Today, we have become a world fixated in hashtags. Even politicians, big business, and religious leaders find it riveting and, in the long run, useful especially in popularizing ideas and messages. And even one’s agenda.

In the past few months leading to Pope Francis’ visit to our country which will happen within this week, we have come across so many “official” hashtags for his historic and spiritual visit. Rappler has #PopeFrancisPH. ABS-CBN uses #PopeTYSM. And so on and so forth.

While these local media giants have all the right to popularize their own hashtag on the upcoming papal visit, let it be known that they are not official. There is only one official hashtag for Pope Francis’ visit. And that is…

#PapalVisitPH is the only official hashtag to Pope Francisco’s visit to Filipinas.

To declare that #PapalVisitPH is the only official hashtag is not being selfish. It’s just setting the record straight that an official hashtag referring to the papal visit should come, of course, from the Catholic Church and not from secular institutions, especially those who are forwarding their LGBT agenda while sucking up to the Pope for recognition.

Happy 2015!

Posted on

¡Feliz Año 2015 a todos ustedes! I hope this year would be a productive one, blogwise. Thank you for patronizing this humble blog. And please continue joining me on my quest to recover and value our authentic national identity, an identity based on our Hispanic roots. See you around the corner, folks!

P.S. Please like us on Facebook! ¡Gracias!

An unpublished book and some throwback “Thank Yous…”

Posted on


It was nice to hear former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz’s friendly voice again.

This charismatic political veteran, now known as San Pedro Tunasán‘s “Living Legend”, was the man who helped put my trust back into politics. I haven’t seen nor talked to him for months because I’ve been busy trying to sort out financial problems brought about by Yeyette’s delicate and life-threatening childbirth. This afternoon, I received a phone call from him. The line was terrible, but his reassuring voice still went through. From what little I understood, he said something about going to Ángeles City tomorrow to check out some rare wood carving or something like that. I would have agreed to go with him but I couldn’t because I accompany my daughter Krystal every Saturday afternoon to her flamenco class in Rockwell under the tutelage of another living legend, the great Señor Gómez (tomorrow’s only her sixth session, yet she has already learned three dances!).

Although Mayor Calex is a family friend for years, I only started to learn more about him and his life’s work back in 2008 when Arnaldo and I started to work on his biography in the hopes of breaking it into the publishing scene (every writer’s dream). But Mayor Calex’s biography still remains in developmental hell — due to personal reasons, Arnaldo completely left the project to me; Mayor Calex faced several political controversies which led to his unjust disqualification from the mayoralty race last year; and I, for years, have been struggling to keep awake every day just to read and write because of my nightly corporate appointments. Sad.

Anyway, I’m glad that Mayor Calex called because he also reminded me about the book project. He is still keen on having it published. And I’m 90% done with it. 90%, because I have to add the recent events that had transpired in his life as an effective public servant who catapulted a once obscure Lagunense town into one of CALABARZON‘s strongest cities today. I am now reblogging Arnaldo’s recent post wherein he published beauty queen-historian Gemma Cruz Araneta’s brief review of the book’s first few chapters. The ageless Gemma, a fellow hispanista (she used to be a member of the Círculo Hispano Filipino where I was once its youngest member), had our manuscript reviewed and was kind enough to publish it in “Landscape“, her column in Manila Bulletin. Gemma also told me that he already met Mayor Calex many years ago to transact some realty business. Small world.

Mayor Calex with the Alas kids. Taken last February 22 (Sampaguita Festival).

By the way, in Arnaldo’s blogpost (which I am reblogging now), he also included clippings of that Landscape column which Gemma wrote. Excerpts from chapter 1 of Mayor Calex’s biography appears there. It deals mainly with San Pedro Tunasán’s early beginnings. I would just like to add that I have already edited chapter 1. So if you see any errors regarding historical fact, don’t worry; I’ve already corrected them.

Without further ado, here’s Arnaldo…

Originally posted on With one's past...:

I took part in writing a biography a few years ago. It was about the longest serving town mayor of San Pedro Laguna, Calixto Cataquiz, an unpretentious local politician who became a friend during the course of the project.

I would have not agreed to write the bio if my friend, Pepe Alas, was not on board. I was a supervisor at a BPO in Alabang; Pepe, a Spanish speaking agent under my program. I assumed the writing task would be easier working with someone I knew personally. We often times wrote while we’re both in the office.

We had a great time writing. Of course, there were a few bumps and misses but nothing we couldn’t handle. The only frustration was that the book remained unpublished.

The last time I caught up with Mayor Cataquiz was during Pepe’s wedding. He told me of a few political issues that made…

View original 215 more words

Intramuros Administration responds to “graffiti art”

Posted on

I am reposting here the reply of Atty. Marco Antonio Luisito V. Sardillo III, Intramuros Administration administrator, to my Facebook complaint concerning the existence of a graffit mural art within the historic Hispanic walls of Intramuros which people like me find out of place (and my response to it is right below):

Mr. Alas, allow me to begin my “explanation” by setting out the factual context within which I hope my “explanation” is received. First, I assumed office in August 5, 2013. The graffiti wall that you are referring to was a project that took place long before I assumed office. (In fact, if you google, you will see that this has been written about before, eg:…/arts…/35516-legal-graffiti-wall) Second, I believe that some/most of the explanation that you are seeking has already been supplied by Carlos, when you posted a link to your article in the Heritage Conservation Society FB page. As I mentioned, I was not around at the time, and so, this project was not something that I could have “disallowed.”

I do not have the expertise and neither am I qualified to engage in a debate on whether graffiti constitutes art; thus, anything I say about graffitis would be but a mere comment and not an “informed” opinion. As such, I am not inclined to pass judgment or chime in, as my thoughts will not add value to that “debate” (that you alluded to).

That being said, I do believe that, as we chart the path towards the “orderly restoration and development of Intramuros,” we should be able to accommodate a more inclusive appreciation of what it means to be “Filipino” — and in that process, expand and enrich our notion of it. Indeed, Intramuros, by law, should be a monument to the Hispanic period of Philippine history. I should emphasize that it is a monument “to” and not a monument “of.” What this means is that Intramuros’ “orderly restoration and development” should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on photographs — or what others have referred to as a “disneyfication.” Intramuros, too, is about what the Filipinos have made of it, and what it has become as a result of that enriching process. This ongoing process should be able to tolerate a difference in opinion, even as we are continuing to understand and unpack the meaning and value of “Intramuros.” (Case in point: I have been in conversations with “experts” where the only apparent consensus is that they can’t come to an agreement about what we really mean about the “past.”) [N.B. Under existing laws, it is Fort Santiago that has been declared as “hallowed” ground, and not all of Intramuros. Even then, there is no specifically mandated or required form of respect or reverence. After all, respect or reverence is, essentially, an internal movement.]

As a final note, and here my personal thoughts would indicate my general inclination towards that graffiti project. Do I personally find it disrespectful of Intramuros? Personally, I don’t. The fact that that project exists on the fence of a vacant lot indicates to me that its context is not premised on permanence. As a “public policy” issue, I also recognize that (1) there is a tension between “graffiti” as art and its street cred and (2) I appreciate that having a “graffiti wall”–particularly, on a temporarily designated fence–provides a venue for expression, and a disincentive for vandalism (that could occur elsewhere). That fence can just as easily be torn down–or the graffiti be painted over or whitewashed. In the greater scheme of things, within the context of the fence of a vacant lot, personally, I can tolerate (and, on some level, even appreciate) the effort made towards transforming bare concrete–and inciting thought and debate.

If the Intramuros Administration allows the proliferation of graffiti and other similar “art” within the Walled City, then our dear Old Manila would be relegated to the status of just another EDSA and the like.

Thank you so much for taking time to reply, sir, and for stating your honest-to-goodness stand regarding this matter. I do not desire to prolong this especially since our friend Carlos regards it as a “non-issue” (if a famous celebrity activist declares it as such, then poor anonymous me cannot do anything much about it). Besides, I have already made and proven my point that graffiti, no matter how cool it looks or how much you glorify it, is not Filipino art. No art appreciation nor rocket science needed to discern it.

Anyway, I would like to clarify a few things. One of them is your remark that Intramuros is a monument “to” and not a monument “of” our country’s Hispanic past, and that the Intramuros today “should not be a mere snapshot or recreation based on (old) photographs”. But sir, I wasn’t even thinking of old photographs when I first saw that graffit on Twitter. I simply deemed it correct that it shouldn’t be there. You know, I may agree with you to some extent that we can no longer bring back the Intramuros of old (if that is what you mean by “mere snapshot”). With huge buildings such as those of the Manila Bulletin, Bank of the Philippine Islands, and The Bayleaf Intramuros (gasp!) towering over the original edifices, squatter settlements such as the one fronting the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (irony of ironies), as well as several fastfoods and other commercial establishments firmly scattered throughout the Walled City, there is this huge impossibility of ever bringing back the original Manila of our nostalgia. But my point is simply this: what little we can do to conserve what Intramuros is all about —a monument OF our country’s Hispanic past, as you said— then that is what we must do.

That graffiti art simply does not fit the above statement.

And that is why, even though it is painted on private property, I am still against it. And speaking of private property, we should even avoid using that argument. So with all due respect, dear sir, I discourage you from even saying it. Remember that it is always used as an excuse by people without any regard to heritage for them to tear down or sell their privately owned ancestral houses (case in point: the fabled Alberto Mansion in Biñán, La Laguna).

Now, just like the debate on whether graffiti constitutes art or not, there is, too, an ongoing debate on what really is a Filipino (again, not who but what) which was aggravated more when renowned historian Teorodo Agoncillo, in his book History of the Filipino People, stated that “it is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is“, confusing many students in the process. That is why today, we have different versions of our national identity: some claim that it dates far back before the Spanish advent; some say that it is based on our Hispanic past; some say that it is an amalgam of both our Hispanic heritage and US pop culture; still others say that our identity was fully formed only after 1872 or 1898 (or even 1986). The reason why I share this to you is that, in view of the ongoing identity crisis, it is highly unlikely that we can “expand and enrich” our notion of it.

To be honest —and you will certainly find this biased— I belong to that minority who believes that our national identity was formed from our Hispanic past, the very same era which created that walled enclave that you have sworn to protect as per the IA’s mandate.

And with all due respect to your personal opinions, they really do not matter here. What matters is what the IA’s national mandate to Intramuros is, and not what its officials personally think of what should or should not constitute the Walled City. Personally, I also find graffiti art cool. But as I have already mentioned, it is simply out of place. Un-Filipino. We don’t need to use it as a “disincentive for vandalism”. What we need is stringent measures to prevent it.

Be that as it may, I would still like to thank you for your humbleness to respond to a “non-issue” (unlike current NCCA chairman Felipe M. de León, Jr. who simply walked away with his tail between his legs, completely ignoring my grievance). I am sure that you and I have genuine concern for Intramuros. The only problem is that both of us do not possess the same eye on how to approach it. I see Intramuros as our country’s “heart and soul” (the state of Intramuros is a reflection of our country). I bet you see it differently.

He dicho.

Del Superior Govierno: our country’s first newspaper

Posted on

Today marks the 213th anniversary of Del Superior Govierno, our country’s first newspaper. Making its debut on 8 August 1811, or 218 years after printing was introduced here by the Spanish friars, it was intended for local Spaniards to satisfy their need for the latest develpments in Spain and the rest of Europe.



Del Govierno Superior was edited by Mariano Fernández del Folgueras, a two-time governor-general of Filipinas (he’s the same man who gave English traders permission to establish the first commercial houses here). The newspaper came out during a time when Spain was in tumult — the mother country was then ruled by a French monarch, Joseph-Napoléon Bonaparte, the elder brother of the more famous Napoléon Bonaparte. The French invasion of Spain, however, had little to no impact at all in our insular affairs. Nevertheless, the happenings in the peninsula explains as to why throughout Del Govierno Superior‘s brief stint (it came out with only 15 issues over a six month period), much of its content was about the events surrounding the costly Napoleonic Wars.

In addition, Del Govierno Superior was also our country’s  first newspaper to show in its layout the name, date, and place of its publication. And despite its brief existence, it paved the way for more newspapers, albeit belatedly, to appear in later years such as La Esperanza (1846), La Estrella (1847), Diario de Manila (1848), and a host of others. All the newspapers that followed soon expanded to a much wider readership, not just to the Spaniards. There were also “specialty newspapers” which catered to a specific audience (for instance, the Revista Mercantil de Filipinas was a weekly newspaper founded in 1892 and was dedicated solely to financial, agricultural, and commercial interests).

I just wonder why this newspaper was not included in Wenceslao Retana’s El Periodismo Filipino (1811-1894). In the said book, Retana made a list of all known newspapers in Filipinas throughout Spain’s rule. But instead of Del Govierno Superior, he cited La Estrella as our country’s first real daily.

Of course there’s no need to mention that our first dailies were all written in the sonorous language of Miguel de Cervantes and José Rizal. And that’s the odd thing about it. We are commemorating today the inception of our country’s first ever newspaper, a newspaper that was written in the Spanish language, in a milieu dominated by English-language newspapers and Taglish tabloids.


As an aside, it is sad to note that there are no more Spanish-language newspapers in our country. The last such newspaper was the weekly Nueva Era which ceased publication in 2008. I am proud to say that I was a part of that newspaper, having worked there as assistant to its editor-in-chief on a part-time basis (nothing big; I just swept floors and made coffee). Aside from Nueva Era, the now defunct Manila Chronicle used to have a Spanish section on its Sunday edition called Crónica de Manila (edited by former Instituto Cervantes de Manila Director José Rodríguez y Rodríguez and the late statesman Raúl Manglapus). But it didn’t last long; eventually, the newspaper itself folded up sometime during the last decade.

Critics will be quick to say that, of course, there are no more Spanish-speaking communities for such newspapers to cater to. However, keen observers will immediately point out that, bit by bit, the language of our forefathers is making a comeback, thanks in part to BPOs that pay above par salaries to those who are fluent in the language.  It should also be remembered that a couple of years ago (3 July 2006), the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines created Resolution No. 2006-028 which urged the national government to support and promote the teaching of the Spanish language in all public and private universities and colleges throughout the country. Then a year later (17 December 2007), the Department of Education issued Memorandum No. 490, s. 2007 which encouraged secondary schools to offer basic and advanced Spanish subjecs in the 3rd and 4th year levels respectively, as an elective.

And then there’s social media (and my other blog, hehe). Speaking of which, the Internet may already be sounding the death knell for print journalism in our country and elsewhere, regardless of language usage, especially since all major dailies today have their own websites. Even known columnists have their own blogs. Some are also predicting that the impending death of print journalism will happen in the next couple of years. But that’s another story altogether.

Pepe Alas on ANC Shop Talk (video)

Posted on

Ría Tanjuatco-Trillo: Do you believe that history is written by the victors? Pepe Alas: Really? But I thought Wood was a singer.

Just a few minutes after I published this blog’s fifth anniversary special last July 18 (my 35th birthday, and it’s not yet too late to send me gifts), ABS-CBN Shop Talk posted my TV interview with them. I wasn’t able to blog about it immediately because me and my family were in the midst of screaming kids playing DotA and Counter-Strike in some Internet café that serves no coffee, and we were about to go home at that time. And, as usual, life got in the way again thereafter. That’s why I get to post this just now. Anyway, I’m glad that Shop Talk edited out those parts wherein I sounded like a total dork. So, if you still wish to know the answers to all of life’s unnerving questions, then watch my interview by clicking here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,419 other followers

%d bloggers like this: