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161st birthday anniversary of Plaridel

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prop·a·gan·da /ˌprɒpəˈgændə/ [prop-uh-gan-duh] (noun)
information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

Finally, we have fulfilled a promise to Lola Bening by visiting her grandfather’s shrine in Bulacán. And we did so during a timely event.

Last month, August 30, the town of Bulacán commemorated the 161st natal day of its most celebrated son, Marcelo H. del Pilar, aka Plaridel. For his nationalistic writings mostly published in La Solidaridad and various pamphlets, del Pilar is widely regarded as the Father of Philippine Journalism. Many sectors also add another title to Plaridel’s hallowed name: the Father of Philippine Freemasonry.

For this year, the theme was “Talas ng Panulat at Talino, Inspiración ng mga Filipino” (Sharpness of Pen and Mind, Inspiration of all Filipinos). In a speech given by Bulacán Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, the provincial leader made mention of the media killings and harassment during the past administration (Arroyo’s), noting that while it continues, the power of journalism then as now will always prevail against the forces of evil.

In such speeches celebrating historic milestones of our national heroes, understandably borne out of subtle “mind-conditioning” in schools, there is always an almost unconscious temptation of painting the past in a darker picture, as if the very air that our heroes’ breathed at that time were smothered in smoke deadlier than the smoke fumes we have today from factories and vehicles. That the sharpness of Plaridel’s pen cannot be denied. That his patriotism can even be at par with that of José Rizal’s, or even far greater, more sublime, deeper and more profound.

But it should be understood thoroughly: what did Plaridel really fight for? How did he put to good use the talas of his panulat?

To simply say that Plaridel “fought against Spanish abuses and tyranny” is mere elementary school talk, very shallow, a premise totally unacceptable in scholarly conversations. An unbiased reassessment of the past will clearly show that the Bulaqueño native belonged to the second wave of the “Propaganda Movement” (the first wave included creoles such as Padres Pedro Peláez and José Burgos, Miguel Rodríguez Varela, etc.), a movement strictly anti-clerical not so much that they were anti-Catholics but that the movement, inspired by a wave of revolutions in Europe, particularly France, saw in itself as carrying the cudgels of reform for a modernized/liberalized Filipinas. In the eyes of these intellectuals —”Europeanized” due to their language, Spanish—, the Philippines was very left behind in terms of economy and technology, arts and culture.

On a side note: if the propagandistas were alive today and then noticed at how that “backward culture” they loathed so much produced, ironically, renaissance men such as themselves —an endangered species in our supposedly modernized/liberalized milieu— I’m sure that they would have been laughing at their follies. Del Pilar would have been roaring the loudest out of sheer disappointment and despair: his nationalism cost him years of precious fatherhood.

Since the intellectuals of that time knew that the friars held prestige and influence on government affairs, these hapless men of the cloth became the main target of attack in the propagandistas‘ campaign for societal changes. Del Pilar was among the first to fire a salvo of anti-friar attacks, writing and distributing defamatory pamphlets and organizing rallies among students who have read liberal writings from Europe. On 1 March 1888, del Pilar helped organize the strongest anti-friar rally ever held during that time: the protesters marched to the office of José Centeno, the civil governor of Manila at that time. Their petition? To ask for the expulsion of Manila Archbishop Pedro Payo as well as all the friars in the Philippines. In the words of historian-priest Fr. Fidel Villaroel, “never before had Manila watched such a bold demonstration against the religious institutes and their Archbishop.” Steeped in knowledge of Church laws, the rallyists’ manifesto (strongly believed to be authored by del Pilar) quoted heavily from the Canon Law and the Leyes de Indias to support accusations against the friars: that they were hostile to authority, ambitious, despotic, etc.

This massive anti-friar protest —probably the first in Philippine History— was the main reason for del Pilar’s escape to Spain, for he was afterwards branded as a filibustero and even anti-Spanish. A legal action was subsequently filed against him, prompting the Commissioner Judge of the legal case to deport del Pilar (probably to faraway Marianas or elsewhere). To escape legal persecution, del Pilar opted to leave Manila for Spain on 28 October 1888, leaving his wife and two daughters behind.

He never saw them ever again.

But in Spain he still continued to fight for whatever reforms he had in mind. Still bitter on his apparent loss against the friars in the Philippines, del Pilar joined their ancient enemy, the Freemasons.

In an interview last year, Lola Bening told me that the main reason why her grandfather affiliated himself with Freemasonry was out of convenience. For a reformist during those days, joining Freemasonry was the most logical thing to do. Del Pilar joined Freemasonry not because he hated Christianity (although later on, estranged for too long from the faith of his forefathers and family, he did become a deist). Del Pilar did so because in Spain he saw an “atmosphere of freedom”, the very same atmosphere he had been yearning for for his beloved country.

During Spanish times, the friars were not just influential over the course of government affairs; the friars were also very much a part of every Filipino family. Unlike today, the cura párroco made it a point to literally look after the lives of his flock by visiting their homes every now and then and as much as possible. Strict Christian ideals and discipline were imposed in every home. Probably “choked” by all this for centuries, and seeing that it was no longer the norm in Spain (for the liberals were already winning during that time), del Pilar et al. called it quits and yearned for “more freedom” from a “stifling” religious life.

For the Freemasons, it was a win-win situation to have del Pilar, a very talented writer in both Tagalog and Spanish, join their ranks. For Freemasonry, nothing more can be sweet but to see the Church of Christ, i.e., the Catholic Church, to be laid to waste.

While in Spain, del Pilar rose through the ranks in Freemasonry quite fast (I do not doubt that he could have been a Freemason already while still in the Philippines). In La Solidaridad, a newspaper that is still very unfamiliar and misunderstood today because it is in Spanish, he wrote scathing essays and even more defamatory articles against the friars in the Philippines. He and his allies continued the “pamphleteering” (hence the name “propaganda”). But unprecedented events and in-fighting within the propagandistas, particularly between del Pilar and Rizal, proved to be fatal for the reform movement in Spain. In the end, an embattled and frustrated del Pilar wrote to his brother-in-law, Deodato Arellano, to organize a more radical group in the Philippines to finally overthrow the Spanish government and not just the friars anymore. Arellano took action and formed the underground movement known as the Katipunan, erroneously known to be a brainchild of Andrés Bonifacio. This fact, therefore, makes del Pilar the indirect founder of that group which directed the destiny of the nation. But that’s for another blogpost.

And since the Propaganda Movement was wasted in the end, the Freemasons saw no more use for del Pilar. In the end, they left him on his own to die on a lonely hospital in Barcelona. But the Freemasons abandoning him was fortuitous, for it allowed del Pilar to have silent moments with God. It is always said that only during the last hours of a man’s life does he take into account all the good and bad things that he has done throughout his existence, and to realize the “existential insignificance” of this ethereal life of ours.

He took the Holy Communion shortly before he died, thus reconverting to the faith of his fathers.

Taking note of all this, it is somehow disappointing to see Freemasons during special days held in honor of both del Pilar and Rizal and hear them lay claim to still having a brotherhood with both heroes in spirit. To a logical person, it should not be difficult to accept cold, hard facts: that both del Pilar and Rizal swallowed their pride and died as Christians. There lies their greatest heroism that should be emulated by all Christians and prodigal sons, an action that is sung not only on Earth but as it is in Heaven. If it is not ignorance from the the part of these Freemasons, then it is sheer desperation to continue acknowledging that Rizal and del Pilar are their brothers. To quote Fr. Villaroel, “what is important is to establish the historical facts and arrive at the truth, whether it pleases or not.

Familia del Pilar (left to right): Rev. P. Vicente Marasigan, Leticia Marasigan de Balagtás, Doña Marciana del Pilar (Plaridel's wife), Antonia Marasigan de Gadi, Sofía H. del Pilar (Plaridel's eldest daughter), Marcelo Marasigan (the baby), Anita H. del Pilar de Marasigan (Plaridel's youngest daughter and mother of Lola Bening), Josefina Marasigan (Madre Mª Aurora of the "Order of Pink Sisters"), Benita Marasigan de Santos (Lola Bening).

El Santuario de Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán (Marcelo H. del Pilar Shrine). Lola Bening (del Pilar's granddaughter) told me that the original house was torn down. This house is just a replica of the original (much like the case of Calambá's Rizal Shrine). On this very site stood the original. This is where Plaridel was born and where he spent his youth. The whole property was reacquired later on by Lola Bening. It measures 4,027 square meters, but she had no qualms of donating it to the government for the sake of national patrimony. The shrine is now under the custody of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Mrs. Sylvia Santos de Pineda, daughter of Lola Bening and great granddaughter of Marcelo Hilario del Pilar y Gatmaitán.

Bulacán Mayor Patrick Meneses, Bulacán Provincial Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Plaridel's great granddaughter Sylvia Santos de Pineda and husband Patricio Pineda, and Bulacán Vice-Governor Daniel Fernández

Click here to view more photos and details of del Pilar’s 161st birthday!

The Filipino eScribbler, Patricio Pineda, Sylvia Santos de Pineda, and Vicente "Bong" Enríquez (manager of Bulacán-based VSE Productions, a private theater ensemble).

Archbishop Villegas honors Tomás Pinpín

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In this Inquirer.net commentary (published just today), Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas writes a brief description of Tomás Pinpín. The latter was a chino cristiano who authored and printed the first book in the Philippines during the early years of the 17th century. In this regard, it is but proper that Pinpín be honored as one of the country’s earliest cultural heroes.

Bas relief of Tomás Pinpín.

On March 17, Bataán will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the creation of the Diocese of Balanga by Pope Paul VI of holy memory. On the same day, the 400th anniversary of the first book authored and printed by a Filipino will be celebrated, too. That author and printer was Tomás Pinpín, from Abucay, Bataán.

Pinpin was the first Filipino author in Tagalog and Spanish. He was also the first native Filipino printer by typography. He was the first Filipino poet in Tagalog and Spanish. He was the first Filipino to write a grammar for Tagalogs to learn Spanish.

He was a Filipino. He was a Christian. He was from Bataán. Tomás Pinpín was the first Bataeño.

Typography student

Pinpín was born in about 1590. He received his education from the Spanish Dominican missionaries in Abucay and it was from Fr. Francisco Blancas de San José that he received his training in printing by typography.

An esteemed Dominican historian, Fr. Fidel Villaroel, OP, wrote: “In 1610, in the modest house of the Dominican mission of the pueblo of Abucay in the partido of Bataán, the first Filipino press brought to the world two grammars, which were the first books ever printed by Filipino printers.”

That year, Fr. Francisco Blancas de San José wrote the book “Artes Y Reglas de Las Lengua Tagala” and Pinpín printed it. Pinpín’s work, written in Tagalog for them to learn Spanish, was titled “Librong Pag-aaralan Nang Mañga Tagalog Nang Uicang Castila.” It was, in turn, published by a certain Diego Talangháy in the same year.

W. Retana says “Pinpín is the most interesting figure among the Filipino typographers, the patriarch of them all.”

First book

Pinpín’s story is a saga of faith in God and love of his countrymen. In the beautiful “Sulat” introducing his first book, he acknowledged with a deep sense of gratitude that his Christian faith was a great gift from God Almighty.

In the same breath, he admonished his countrymen to aim high and study with utmost diligence the Christian faith and the Castillan language.

The memory of Pinpin must inspire us to ever move toward excellence in everything we do and to fight the gnawing culture of mediocrity and the degrading temptation of ease and comfort.

According to Father Villaroel, “Like all pioneering enterprises, the making of printing press in the early 17th century Philippines must seem to the contemporaries almost “mission impossible.” As Retana wrote in 1610, the first typography on these islands was like “self apprenticeship, like the quasi invention of the press.”

Pinpín teaches us diligence and fortitude. His memory is an inspiration for excellence and perfection.

Click here for the complete story.

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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