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Ms. González’s “petty” remark

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Last Sunday, me and my wife Yeyette visited Señor Gómez in Rockwell Center (Ciudad de Macati) where he teaches flamenco. Aside from consoling him for the demise of his daughter, Yeyette was also planning of resuming her flamenco lessons.

At the building where the Great Old Man of Filipinismo teaches, I chanced upon a copy of The Philippine Star’s Modern Living section and saw the name of one of Literatura Filipina‘s most reverred figures: Mª Soledad Lacson vda. de Locsín (who happens to be an auntie of Señor Gómez). It was written by Star columnist Bárbara González, a granddaughter of María Rizal, one of the national hero’s sisters.

Below is the article which appeared last Sunday:

Locsín’s ‘Noli Me Tangere
SECOND WIND By Bárbara C. González (The Philippine Star)

I have just finished reading José Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere, translated by Soledad Lacson-Locsín, the late, great mother of one of my late, great friends, Raul Locsín, once publisher of the newspaper Business World. Doña Soledad was a dignified, well-educated lady who grew up speaking beautiful Spanish and therefore translated the novel masterfully. On the first page of her Notes or the book’s glossary, it reads: The title, Noli Me Tangere, is Latin for “Touch Me Not,” and comes from the Gospel of St. John, XX: 17, where Jesus says to Mary Magdalene: “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” The author relates this to a social cancer “of a breed so malignant that the least contact exacerbates it and stirs in it the sharpest of pains” in his dedication: “To My Motherland (A mi patria). On March 5, 1887, Rizal wrote to the painter Resurrección Hidalgo: “The book (Noli) has matters which no one among ourselves has spoken of until now — so delicate that they cannot be touched by anybody…”

I have had this book for many years but never read it. It was not very easy to read, not because of the content but because of the book’s size and weight, being thick and hardbound, difficult to read in bed where I do most of my reading. I know I have read parts of the Noli before, in English, when I was much younger, but no translation is as good as this one. I know I also read a few chapters in Pilipino — even acted them out for my eldest daughter so she would understand and pass her school year — but nothing was as beautiful or comprehensible as this translation. It is also obvious to me that Doña Soledad Locsín respected the writer and sought to translate exactly what it is he wanted to say.

Rizal wrote each chapter as a piece of a large puzzle, randomly handed to the reader so that in the end we would see not quite the whole picture. In the end we know what happened to everyone, from Capitán Tiago to Padre Dámaso, Doña Victorina to Linares, who became María Clara’s jilted fiancé. We even know that María Clara became a somewhat crazy nun. But we do not know what happened to Crisóstomo Ibarra, except that he was lying at the bottom of a banca that floated away, while the pursuing Spanish police called the Guardia Civil shot at Elias as he jumped out of the banca that he had shared with Ibarra to distract the guards.

If you are over 60, I recommend you read this translation of Noli Me Tangere. You will see fully what life was like when we were under the friars. How petty they were! You will question: what happened to our country? You will see how little has changed or that whatever has changed is very superficial. Filipinos stepped into the shoes of their colonizers and now act exactly the same way as the friars. And you will want to weep like Rizal did. He was executed at Bagumbayan, now the Luneta, in 1896, 115 years ago. Ninoy Aquino was shot at the airport in 1986, just a scrambling of the very same numbers. That was 25 years ago. Two executions. Two heroes. Each one followed by its own brand of uprising and still nothing much has changed.

Last Friday, Aug. 5, I was at the Little Theater watching the musical of Noli Me Tangere, tickets compliments of the National Historical Commission, who gave them to Rizal descendants. I would give the Noli production an “A” for effort. The libretto, if you could understand the words — because the orchestrated minus one was too loud so you couldn’t understand what they were singing — was written by National Artist Bien Lumbera, who was there. The performance, I thought, was too level. I am not sure I can explain it well. Usually you can draw a stage performance in waves, there are high, medium and low points, which shadow the plot. In this case it was like a straight line. Many of the descendants fell asleep. A few developed crushes on Gian Magdangal, who made a very good-looking Crisóstomo Ibarra.

Ryan Cayabyab composed the music but there was no real standout piece. I thought that Sisa’s song, as she was singing it, was the best but I could not even attempt to hum it afterwards, meaning the melody was not compelling enough to stick in the audience’s mind. I was just glad that I was still reading the Noli when I watched the show because, I guess, I understood it more. While the cast and crew deserve congratulations for their work — an A for effort, as I said — it still needs a lot of polishing to make the audience truly understand the Noli. I think that is the point of a stage performance — to enlighten an audience. You perform to make the audience understand the story. That night nobody understood what was going on except that Crisóstomo Ibarra and María Clara were in love and had to say goodbye because Padre Salvi was in love with her. But that was not all of the Noli.

I finished the book last night before going to sleep. I shut the book, put it on the floor beside my bed, and said aloud to no one in particular, “That was beautiful.” It really and truly was.

* * *

Send your comments to 0917-815-5570.

After reading her article, the only words that struck me was her elementary anti-friar remark: “How petty they were!” Since she left her cellphone number out in the open for comments, that is what I did. Below I print our brief SMS exchanges:

ME: RE: Locsín’s Noli Me Tangere’. Please don’t rely solely on Rizal regarding the friars of his time. By saying “how petty they were”, you tend to generalize.
ME: Remember: when Rizal wrote his novels, he was a Freemason. He had his biases and committed a lot of doctrinal errors.
ME: Thank you for your time. PEPE ALAS (https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com)
GONZÁLEZ: Thank you.
GONZÁLEZ: You moust (sic) be a priest or a pastor. Don’t read my columns. We will always disagree.
ME: Neither. I’m just an ordinary kid. I’m not a follower of your column. It just so happened that I saw you used Soledad’s name who happens to be one of my
ME: favorite writers. There were bad friars, then as now. But as a journalist, be careful not to generalize. Reassess Philippine History. Thanks.

I tried to be diplomatic with my comment. But what did I get? A “taray” reply a la Maricel Soriano.

Anyway.

Please, ma’am, get your historical facts straight. If you can’t, then please don’t comment on Philippine History anymore. Stay true to the title of the section in which your column belongs: MODERN LIVING.

And speaking of straightening up historical facts — Ninoy was assassinated in 1983, not 1986.

Farewell, Ate Mayén

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Marién Gómez de Lizares (1968-2011).

The angels in heaven will soon be dancing flamenco. And Marién Gómez de Lizares will be their maestra.

Last night, my dear friend and mentor Señor Guillermo Gómez‘s única hija passed away last night (7:00 PM). She is survived by her husband Paul Lizares, their children (Iñigo, Saulo, and Inés), her brother (Guillermo Gómez y Ordóñez) and sister-in-law, nieces and nephew, and her parents.

I used to see her in my younger years while visiting her dad in Macati. There I watch both father and daughter perform powerful and captivating flamenco performances together with their friends and Japanese students. I will never forget her rendition of the Spanish dance Celos del Viento. It was such a spectacle to see, and it displayed the strength and color of her femininity and grace. And at the end of the dance, she twirled like a tornado without losing the gracefulness of a true performance artist.

Her life was a life of music and dance. Under her illustrious father, Ate Mayén started dancing at a very young age (four years old). Later on, she studied overseas (California, USA) under the tutelage of Maestro Rubén Nieto and acclaimed dancer/choreographer Linda Vega. She then studied ballet at the age of six. This performance dance became a passion of hers which she pursued at the age of thirteen.

She then took up advanced courses at the Academy of the Performing Arts under Alice Parham Juico and Sony López Gonzales. She also studied at the Manila Metropolis Ballet under renowned dance masters Eduardo Mendoza (popularly known as Eddie Elejar) and the late Antonio “Tony” Fabella. She finally became the principal dancer of that group. Her Jazz mentors were Marissa Aboitiz and Douglas Nieras.

Years later, she relocated to Bacólod, Negros Occidental to start a family with Paul Lizares (who is from one of the most illustrious families in the said province) where she worked as a dance instructress at Power Dance Fitness & Dance Studio. She occasionally visited her father in Macati to perform with the latter’s dance group and to assist him with his flamenco students. She also taught jazz, flamenco, and yoga at Lydia Gaston’s School of Dance (also in Bacólod).

Many see her as Don Guimo’s likely successor in the field of Flamenco Filipino. Unfortunately, to borrow from Alanis Morissette, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with brain cancer, the cause of her passing…

This is a sad moment for Don Guimò. And since his loss is my loss, it is a sad moment for me as well. This is also a sad moment for Philippine Dance. Flamenco Filipino has just lost an icon.

Descanse en paz, Ate Mayén. Vaya con Dios…

Life goes on

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I haven’t posted anything for a month. It’s either I got burned out, or my grandmother’s death shocked the wits out of me, or both. All I did was toy around with Facebook and Twitter. I didn’t even read books.

In my last blogpost, I wrote that I will write more details about my grandmother’s passing in the coming days. But I thought it best to cancel that. Life must go on. We will never be able to bring her life back. Even if I cry every time.

But on the other side of things, I must be happy for her, because she is no longer in a tremendous amount of pain. Something that even the best doctors in the world will not be able to remedy.

So what have I been doing aside from doing nothing? I just stayed at home, doing nothing. I attempted many times to read and write, but failed. This blogpost is an attempt. Another attempt to get rid of this numbness of the mind. And my mind feels like a sponge. But I did visit Señor Gómez these past two Saturdays to discuss and debate on a lot of things. Yo hasta traté de bailar flamenco en sus clases aunque tengo izquierdos dos pies.

Life must move on, I guess. I have my grandmother as an inspiration, anyway. I will never forget that day when she declared that she’s proud of me for putting the Spanish language back to the family, for continuing the family heritage.

I will never allow that torch to be extinguished. Sigo la lucha.

The new “Propagandists”

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I’d been having dreams lately, drunken dreams with their peculiar lucidity in which the Experience Trail, the High Seas seemed to call louder and louder, more and more insistently with a voice that was at the same time music—a siren’s song that almost threatened me if I refused to obey its quixotic urgings … –Sol Luckman–

The nuevas “Propagandistas” —el Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, Arnaldo Arnáiz, José Miguel García, and yours truly— convened for the first time this morning to discuss the formal founding of a website which would be the nucleus of our group (I playfully call it a “cyberclique”, LOL!!!).

We talked about our passion for Philippine History, how we got interested with the subject, and shared each other’s viewpoints on how to rectify the errors of this taken-for-granted field. Blithely, Señor Gómez likened us to Don Quijote, hopelessly fighting the windmills. We were like “madmen”, so to speak, because the topic of Philippine history is perceived to be reserved only in school. And we have to face it: we are like ants against rampaging elephants. But this knowledge that we have is our “curse”; we have to live with it. And we had to live through the somewhat belittled field of Philippine history for it encompasses everything that is truly Filipino, the very subject which in a way keeps us sane. For us, the study of Philippine history is a treasure trove of knowledge and discoveries about our past that has been taken away from us by a neocolonialist extragovernment.

After our meeting, I told the group that I’m so happy that our number has “grown”. This is because I thought that Señor Gómez and I are fighting a lonely war. The great Filipino scholar and I have known each other since 1997 (he’s been like a father to me). We’ve also been searching for like-minded people, but in vain. Historian priests Fr. José Arcilla, S.J., and Fr. Fidel Villaroel, O.P. would have been perfect allies. But as published men, they are on a league of their own. Besides, having them on board will only attract baseless and absurd accusations of “ecclesiastical bias” and “papism”. There’s also prolific researcher Pío Andrade, author of the highly controversial book The Fooling of America and a friend of Señor Gómez. But we couldn’t find him. And so it was a blessing that Arnaldo Arnáiz and I have met back in 2007; Having discovered who the real Filipino is through his own researches, he too started to look for like-minded individuals to whom he can share his thoughts. I happily introduced him to Señor Gómez (they later found out that they’re distant relatives). Then just last year, the mysterious José Miguel García found the three of us in cyberspace.

The rest, as they are wont to say, is history.

Some of those who know us should already have an idea of what we’re up to. This group, particularly the website that we’re planning to set up, will encompass everything that we’ve been fighting for all these years: the recovery of our national identity (which is based on our undeniable hispanic/latin physiognomy and culture), to counterattack the ludicrousness of the so-called leyenda negra (that the Americans “saved” us from the “evil clutches” of the Spanish Empire), the rectification of an ill-written and bigoted Philippine history, and the defense of the much maligned Catholic Church, the faith which brought the Western civilization to these once heathen shores. In one way or another, all this shall be realized by bringing back the Spanish language as an official language of the Philippines (or –perhaps– at the very least, to have it taught in all levels of education).

Here is a brief profile of my comrades:

We shall continue what our heroes fought for. The struggle for the conservation of our national identity espoused by one of the greatest Filipino Nationalists who has ever set foot on this planet, Senator Claro M. Recto, will never falter.

1.) ARNALDO ARNÁIZ has been a history buff for as long as he can remember. An astute researcher and a master when it comes to the life and psychology of national hero José Rizal, it is surprising to note that Arnáiz has had no formal training in historiography and historical research. He is, in fact, a business process outsourcing (BPO) professional and a jiu jitsu expert. Instead of taking up History, he pursued Computer Management and earned his degree from the University of Perpetual Help Rizal (now the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA).

Later on, Arnáiz took advantage of the BPO boom in 2002, earning six years of exceptional experience in call centers. His work ethic paid off in 2004 when he was promoted as a team leader (supervisor). In that designation, he helped lead a pioneer customer service account in APAC Customer Services, Inc., eventually winning the Best Team Leader award a year later. In between working as a call center supervisor and a traveler-photographer, he delves into the mangled world of Philippine history. Through his own, he was able to discover our true roots. But it wasn’t always that way in his younger years:

I’ve realized lately that I have become what I, as a younger man, hated to become: negligent of one’s history. When I was child, I can recall getting upset whenever my classmates would make fun of Bonifacio (the Andrés hatapang ‘di a tacbó joke). I don’t know why and where this started, but my history education as a child was better than the other kids in town. I have the luxury of learning from one of our well-off neighbours who had in their collection a vast array of titles, some are centuries-old books.

The rest of my History lessons was concluded in schools. Although the lessons were barely acceptable to my standards, I’ve always felt that it was insubstantial. In my adult years after college, I bought my own books to supplement my studies but not as avid as I once was. ‘Past is past’ they say, but unless you study them you will continue to make the same mistakes. As my favorite history quote goes, ‘One faces the future with one’s past’. I now try to regain some lost ground in my study of history. It’s never too late for all of us to study and preserve what is left.

A curious note: although Spanish is not his native language, Arnáiz is a staunch defender and advocate of the said tongue. Like the late non-Spanish-speaking senator, Blas P. Ople, this distant relative of Señor Gómez seriously deserves to be commended a Premio Zóbel medal once the said oldest literary award-giving body in the country is reactivated.

2.) To introduce Señor GUILLERMO GÓMEZ RIVERA would already be superfluous in the light of his myriad of accomplishments in the field of arts, literature, language, and history. He is described in Wikipedia as “a Filipino writer, journalist, poet, playwright, historian, linguist, and scholar of Spanish and British descent from the province of Iloilo”…

Gómez Rivera is an academic director of the prestigious Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española (Philippine Academy of the Spanish Language), the local branch of the renowned Real Academia Española based in Madrid, Spain, and part of the Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española (Association of Spanish Language Academies). He is also a teacher of various Spanish dances, and is considered the undisputed maestro of Flamenco in the Philippines.

In addition to his contributions to Philippine literature and history, Gómez is also an accomplished linguist and polyglot. He speaks and writes fluently in his native Hiligaynon as well as in English and Tagalog. Aside from being an acclaimed master of the Spanish language in the country, he is also conversant in French, Italian, Portuguese, Kinaray-a, and Cebuano, and has made an extensive study of the Visayan and Chabacano languages.

Critics regard him as the Spanish equivalent to his friend Nick Joaquín’s English. Joaquín’s body of written works were discreetly about the “Hispanic soul” of the Philippines brought about by three centuries of Spanish rule. Joaquín’s stories in particular were sentimental, reminiscing the Philippine’s Spanish past as well as its decline. Gómez wrote on the same theme, more thoroughly about the decadence of the country’s “Hispanic soul,” but his style was much frank and straight to the point—the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) were the cause of Spanish decline in the Philippines. Also, unlike Joaquín, Gómez focused more on fiery essays than short stories.

He won a Premio Zóbel in 1975 for his play El Caserón (The Big House) which was published in 1976. He has since been a longtime master of ceremonies for the said award-giving body. Prior to this, Gómez won second place in the Premio Manuel Bernabé for an essay on the historical and nationalistic value and import of the Spanish language.

Much of the theme for Gómez’s poetry, as well as his essays and short stories, lie mainly on the destruction of which he calls the “Filipino Cosmos,” i.e., the destruction of Philippine languages and culture due to American neocolonization.

Gómez is a somewhat belligerent writer, as can be gleaned by his scathing attacks in his Spanish weekly newspaper Nueva Era against what he observed as local pro-compulsory “ONLY-English-language government officials” who he accuses as vile puppets of US WASP neocolonialism. Many of his writings boast of proofs against these people he accuses. Through his monumental body of literary works, he has advocated his Filipino readers to “rediscover” their Spanish past in order for them to gain knowledge of their true national identity.

Another way of doing this is through cultural dissemination, particularly through dance. Aside from sharing his knowledge of flamenco, he has made several researches on Philippine songs and dances, especially those of Hispanic influence, which he was able to contribute to the internationally acclaimed Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company. In fact, most of the Spanish-influenced native songs and dances choreographed by the said group can trace their origins from Gómez’s researches, which earned him the role of an adviser for Bayanihan.

He was also a recording artist, having recorded Filipino songs that were originally in Spanish, as well as Chabacano songs that were popular in areas were Chabacano used to be prevalent.

Gómez is also credited for reintroducing into the modern local film industry the now forgotten film Secreto de Confesión. It was the first film that was produced in the Philippines that was spoken and sung in Spanish (la primera película hablada y cantada en español producida en Filipinas).

He was also the National Language Committee Secretary of the Philippine Constitutional Convention (1971–1973) during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. As part of the committee, he fought for Tagalog to become the country’s national language. In the same convention, Gómez teamed up with other nationalists to preserve Spanish as one of the country’s official languages. Spanish, however, later was made an optional language (together with Arabic) from the Freedom Constitution of 1987 when Corazón Aquino took over from where former strongman Marcos had left.

Due to his tireless efforts in attempting to bring back the Filipino national identity based on Spanish, he is considered by some of his hispanist/nationalist friends, such as Edmundo Farolán, as El Don Quixote Filipino.

These astounding accomplishments (including those not written above!) should earn Señor Gómez no less than a National Artist Award for Literature and/or Dance and/or Historical Literature and/or Music (for his two-volume LP Nostalgia Filipina). Surprisingly, the credibility of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts spiralled down to the sewers when it chose to give awards to undeserving people such as those who glorify blood and gore on film.

3.) Unfortunately, I cannot discuss much about our compañero JOSÉ MIGUEL GARCÍA (not his real name) due to security purposes, no thanks to this corrupt, neocolonized, and LAME puppet government. For now, his real identity cannot be revealed (thus the reason the four of us don’t have a photo together). But this is all I can say about my tocayo: I am mighty glad to have someone like him on our side.

Call me pretentious; I don’t really care (been called worst names in the past). But now that there are four of us, I can proudly say that our heroes did not die in vain after all.

Those @-h0les who have been spreading blatant lies and stupidities about our country’s history will VERY SOON have their “beautiful day” in cyberspace.

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