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The amistad between Nick Joaquín and Guillermo Gómez Rivera

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This newspaper clipping was published exactly 24 years ago today. It appeared in the now defunct Newsday and was written by one Jorge Seurat (never heard of such a columnist before; probably didn’t make it that big after Newsday folded up). The column explains the relationship as well as the converse similarity between writers Guillermo Gómez and Nick Joaquín.

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The great Nick Joaquín, proclaimed “National Artist” during the glorious years of Ferdinand Marcos, has turned seventy-five. Three-fourths of a century. And as he ages into immortality and mythology, the English language appears to be on the way out in the Philippines. Overpopulation, lack of funds, and diploma mills are seeing to that.

This is so, because English has not taken root as Spanish did take root. And if the English language has a Filipino writer like Nick Joaquín, it is because Nick Joaquín’s real language is Spanish. By Hispanizing English, he has succeeded in Filipinizing it. And lo, in the very Filipino works of Nick Joaquín, English has become Filipino! After 92 neocolonial years of deception and bitterness, we only have this writer who can be considered significant in what we may call “Philippines Literature.”

But Nick Joaquín had to will this Filipinization of English. Rizal and Recto did not have to Filipinize Spanish through their writings. Spanish was already the Filipino Language when they wrote in it without having to choose it from English or “Filipino.”

Nick Joaquín,s merit according to his ardent follower, Don Guillermo Gómez Rivera, is his having been able to pour into English a good part of the essential message of what has been Filipino since 1571. No other writer in English has done this.

Gómez Rivera, a generation or two younger than Nick Joaquín, is the Nick Joaquín of contemporary Filipino literature in Spanish. Were Gómez Rivera to write in English as he does in Spanish, he would sound almost, if not exactly, like Nick Joaquín. If Nick Joaquín is a continuation of Claro M. Recto, who wrote in Spanish in local English letters, Gómez Rivera is the continuation of Nick Joaquín back in the same language of Rizal and Recto.

This is so because both Nick Joaquín and Guillermo Gómez Rivera actually belong to the same Filipino tradition even if they don’t write in the same language. Of course, if Nick Joaquín were to write in Spanish, he would in turn sound almost, if not exactly, like Guillermo Gómez Rivera. Don Lorenzo Marasigan’s portrait for his two daughters, Cándida and Paula, has become alive, both artistically and literally. The young man, Anchise, is Guillermo Gómez Rivera, and the old man is Nick Joaquín, and the burning city that both are leaving behind is our country, ravaged and ruined in almost every sense of the word by this despicable galungóng-brained “democracy” that would condemn our people with the Bataán Nuclear Plant. And, possibly, vacuum of power after frustrating so brazenly the national elections without our people really knowing about it until after a few months, or years, later.

And Guillermo Gómez Rivera wrote a poem in homage of Nick Joaquín after the latter had dedicated to him a copy of his play, Portrait, in book form, saying in Spanish, “A Guillermo Gómez Rivera, el nuevo Colón de la música filipina…” this was so, because Gómez Rivera, after recording his third long-playing of Filipino songs, in their original Spanish versions, asked Nick Joaquín to listen to them. Nick Joaquín obliged and enjoyed listening to Gómez Rivera’s singing of “El collar de Sampaguita” with Bert Buena’s rondalla. He went to Gómez Rivera’s office library, that of Solidaridad Filipino-Hispana, Inc., at the third floor of the Citadel Bldg. on Bonifacio Street, way back in 1969. Since then, Gómez Rivera has held Nick Joaquín in utmost reverence and, as a member of the Academia Filipina, he has suggested to the Fundación del Premio Zóbel, to adjudicate, one of these years, the said prize to Nick Joaquín.

The poem titled “Nick Joaquín prismático,” is worth transcribing and translating here:

Traductor de la historial por toda una / generación perdida en inglés./ Maestro / que enseña la verdad: / —luz opurtuna / para los que no tienen / ni alma ni estro

(“History’s translator / for entire generations / lost in the English language. / A teacher who teaches / the truth, that pertinent light / needed by those / who misplaced / their soul / and their poetry of life.”)

Pues,  el candor y el arte. / La sapiencia de toda una cultura: / —la cultura que es la de Filipinas— es la ciencia; / es la gloria; / es toda la emvoltura / de este gran hombre prismático — trazluz / del madero / que alzamos hoy en cruz.

(“Because candor, art / and the knowledge / of an entire culture / which is Filipino / is the science, the glory, and the whole shroud / of this great and prismatic man / who stands / as the background light / for the planks of wood / we’d now lift into a cross.”)

Ese es  / Don Nicolás Joaquín, / flamante / fragua de este país / de sordociegos, / tabla de salvación / del ignorante / que perdió sus estribos / y sus pliegos.

(“That man is / Nick Joaquín, / the burning torch, / over this country of deaf-mutes… / He is the phalanx / of redemption / for those that ignore / what is truly Filpino / because they have lost / their documents / and the running board / upon which they could have stood.”).

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Podcasting with Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera

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For “episode 3” of my podcasting venture with Arnaldo Arnáiz (his idea, actually), we featured our friend and mentor, the veritable and venerable Filipino scholar, Señor Guillermo Gómez y Rivera. On this episode, we talked about the importance of the Spanish language in Filipinas.

The sound quality for episodes 1 and 2 were poor. But for episode 3, there was significant improvement, thanks to Arnaldo’s new recording gadgets. The only thing here which didn’t improve was my voice. 😀

Without further ado, here’s our September 20th podcast with the renaissance man himself, Señor Gómez (WARNING: Be prepared to be blown away with TONS of historical info).

Finding Nick Joaquín through podcasting

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Podcasting‘s not my thing. But if it’s about Nick Joaquín, then I’m in.

A tête-à-tête between FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and WITH ONE’S PAST last August 31st about Nick Joaquín’s significance to Filipino History. We usually spend hours talking about history and related topics. But the difference this time around is that we had it recorded.

At least twice a month, or whenever we could, Arnaldo and I will podcast many of our informal “cuentuhan tuncól sa casaysayan” for our niche audience. For our first outing, we thought of discussing about our favorite historian, 1976 National Artist for Literature, Nicomedes “Nick” Joaquín y Márquez, and his significance to Filipino History.

But why do a podcast?

Arnaldo has been an avid listener to podcasts and is familiar with people who are known for it (like Joe Rogan, for instance). He was the one who broached the idea to me. However, it is more precise to say that it was his wife Mhaan who spurred him to pursue it. You see, Arnaldo has been lecturing weird stuff to his wife; I’ve been doing the same thing to my family, too. That weird stuff I’m referring to, of course, is Filipino History (I refuse to call it Philippine; more on that in a future blogpost… podcast). Weird, because I’m sure that many of our friends and family members find us peculiar whenever we talk about the past — national heroes, the return of the Spanish language in our country, vintage photographs, ancestral houses, old names of streets, etc. To many people, such topics are confined only in history books (or perhaps restricted only for aging scholars whose backs have become crooked due to years of study). Anyway, this podcasting project about Filipino History was technically —and perhaps inadvertently— an idea of Arnaldo’s wife. According to Arnaldo, Mhaan chided him once that instead of giving out unsolicited “lectures” to her, most of which remain unrecorded or unblogged, why not put them all in a podcast? She may not have been serious when she said that, but it was a light-bulb moment for With One’s Cookbook.

And why not? We both think it’s a wonderful idea because it’s going to capture a lot of stuff that we couldn’t write much about. And our ideas just might reach another online audience that prefers to listen than to read. Admittedly, though, I still have my reservations because I’m not that much of a talker. When it comes to discussing history and related subjects with like-minded people, I prefer to listen, ask questions, then write. Arnaldo, Señor Gómez, and JMG know about this (I am talkative about the subject only to my wife and kids, hehe!). I’m a slow thinker, too. My mind tends to process thoughts quite longer before I am able to speak them out, and in a cluttered manner at that. Furthermore, my spoken voice is hoarse, raspy, unpalatable to the ear (a usual problem for good looking men 😀 ). And according to Eugenio Ynión, Jr., the ever respectable multibillionaire CEO of Yngen General Holdings, I sound like a faggot (yes, he’s the same saintly gentlemen who threatened to kill me last summer).

But the most important thing about this podcasting activity of ours (which could probably be the very first podcast in the country to focus on Filipino History) is that we are able to record many important facts that we fail to jot down in our respective blogs, and then broadcast it later on. You see, we cannot submit 100% of our time to what we are doing online. The two of us are not well-heeled scribblers of the past; we need to survive, too. As such, mundane tasks take away much of our energy to think and to write, and that is a major factor (or should I say a big blow) as to why we irregularly update our blogs. Especially in my case. I’ve been living like a vampire for almost a decade and have five kids to raise with my wife. So it’s not an easy lifestyle for a struggling pundit like me.

Whenever Arnaldo drops by at our place, or whenever we meet up with Señor Gómez (and very rarely with JMG), hours seem like minutes as we discuss the day away with many aspects of all things Filipino, and how this affects our national identity. We never tire talking to one another. It’s just disappointing that, after a wonderful and intellectually productive day spent with these dear scholarly friends, I couldn’t seem to have the energy to write the important things that we have talked about. And so the ideas start piling up, becoming a burden to the mind as it becomes difficult on which topic should be written first. I’m pretty sure Arnaldo feels the same way. So yes, podcasting our off-the-cuff discussions should do the trick.

As mentioned earlier, our podcast will consist of our usual informal discussions. Parang nagcucuentuhan lang talagá camí. So please don’t expect it to sound like a radio talk show. It isn’t. For this first episode of ours, however, I did notice that we sounded a bit stiff because we were conscious that we’re recording our chat. We’ll try to do better the next time around.

So, without further ado, here’s to Nick. 🙂

Incidentally, it’s going to be Nick’s 97th birthday this coming Monday, September 15th.

Stay tuned for upcoming episodes. For episode 2, we will feature another Filipinista, well-known travel blogger Glenn Martínez of Traveler On Foot. In fact, we have already interviewed him last Sunday. We will also be “guesting” more interesting people to make our podcasts more lively, more interesting, and to expand more knowledge about what we are really advocating about — not Filipino History per se but the recovery of our true Filipino National Identity.

And yeah, pardon me for my faggot-like voice on the podcast (Kapitan Jun Ynión‘s words, not mine). I’ll take some salabát next time. I might even sing a song or two.

Pilipinas vs Filipinas (in defense of the KWF)

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Hi folks!

It’s been four years since the last time you heard of our unified voice. It was a huge hit because our collective take on the state of Filipino History disturbed and ruffled a few feathers, proving our effectiveness in annoying people, hehehe! It even alarmed a former cabinet member of a former president (no kidding), prompting her to send a cautionary email. So we thought of “volting in” once again, this time to defend National Artist Virgilio Almario’s stand on what should really be the name of our country.

Should it be FILIPINAS or PILIPINAS/PHILIPPINES?

Almario is currently the chairman of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (Commission on the Filipino Language), the official regulating body of the national language which is based on Tagalog. I have attacked this institution on numerous occasions in various online forums and even wrote a scathing commentary about it on this very blog due to its apparent cluelessness on what should really be our country’s national tongue. But me and my friends think that it’s high time to defend it, not on the national language issue (incidentally, the country is now celebrating Buwan ng Wika or Language Month) but on the controversial decision of its chief executive to restore the original name of our country which is FILIPINAS.

For over a year, a huge majority of local netizens have continuously bashed Almario and the KWF over their decision to push for the return of our country’s original name. I have read several blogs, websites, online news, and social media commentaries heavily criticizing and even making fun of the issue. And judging by these people’s comments, I notice that most of them are even unaware of the real reason why the KWF has been insisting on the name Filipinas. Hilariously, many of these bashers even find the name Filipinas “too gay” compared to Pilipinas (obviously, these kids didn’t even bother to read the whole story but instead relied on headlines and images). And I have yet to find a blog/website that supports KWF’s patriotic decision to stand firm on what is historically correct. But I am saddened to realize that there are really only a handful of Filipino netizens who are sensible towards our country’s history.

If you have time, please read what we have to say about this controversial issue in our respective blogs:

1) Juan Luis García in VIAJAR EN FILIPINAS.
2) José Miguel García in PATRIA.
3) Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera in FILHISPÁNICO.
4) Arnaldo Arnáiz in WITH ONE’S PAST.
5) And me in ALAS FILIPINAS.

We do not wish to wage war against those who are “anti-Filipinas“. All we ask is for you to listen. Read carefully what we have to say before you even decide on letting prejudice consume you.

Remember what your idol José Rizal wrote during his final moments on Spaceship Earth…

Mi patria idolatrada, dolor de mis dolores,
Querida Filipinas, oye el postrer adiós.
Ahí te dejo todo, mis padres, mis amores.
Voy donde no hay esclavos, verdugos ni opresores,
Donde la fe no mata, donde el que reina es Dios.

Have a nice day!

Finally, a new batch of National Artists!

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At long last! After a very long wait, Malacañang Palace has finally announced our country’s new set of National Artists:

Alice Reyes – Dance
Francisco Coching (Posthumous) – Visual Arts
Cirilo Bautista – Literature
Francisco Feliciano – Music
Ramón Santos – Music
José María Zaragoza (Posthumous) – Architecture, Design, and Allied Arts.

Of the six, I am only familiar with two: Cirilo Bautista, one of my favorite writers, and the late Francisco Coching, known among local graphic novelists as our country’s undisputed “King of Komiks” and as the “Dean of Philippine Comics”.

Francisco Coching (1919-1998). He’s done with “Spic” here, and is about to start with a “Span”.

Aside from being a comic book illustrator, Coching was also a writer, a craft he acquired from his father Gregorio, a novelist for Liwayway magazine. Using his skills as an illustrator and weaver of stories, Coching created memorable characters that have been etched in the imaginations of Filipinos, even to those who are not fans of comic books. Some of his well-known characters were Don Cobarde, Hagibis, and Pedro Penduko, probably his most famous creation (it even spawned four films and two fantasy TV series in ABS-CBN).

Coching’s first nomination as a National Artist was in 1999, a year after his demise. Nothing came out of it. But since then, his name has always cropped up each time there were plans of elevating new culture icons among our pantheon of National Artists. Nevertheless, I’ve always referred to him as a National Artist especially since he was one of the pioneers of the (now dead?) local comic book industry. The prestigious award was long overdue.

One of his daughters, former model Maridel, is also inclined to painting. Maridel’s daughter Valerie, a friend of mine, has also imbibed the artistic skills of both her mom and illustrious grandfather. And like her mom, Valerie also enchants the stage through flamenco; she graduated under the tutelage of renaissance man Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera. So in a way, Valerie and I were “classmates” since both of us were trained by Señor Gómez: she under Flamenco and me under Philippine Studies.

Yeyette and sultry Valerie, the granddaughter of legendary graphic novelist Francisco Coching. My wife is forcing Valerie to smile; there’s a jungle knife on her right hand.

The second awardee who I’m also most familiar with is, of course, Cirilo Bautista, the inimitable genius behind the epics Sunlight On Broken Stones and The Trilogy of Saint Lazarus. Inspite of the daily grind and toils of teaching creative writing and literature in various universities throughout the years, Bautista still made it a point to produce books showcasing his beautiful prose and poetry, without any trace of hurriedness of a clock puncher, while maintaining a weekly column as well as being the literary editor of the Philippine Panorama (Manila Bulletin‘s Sunday magazine).

I have learned so much from that column of his called Breaking Signs (been reading it on and off since high school). In it, Bautista discusses the ways and methods of how to read a work of fiction, particularly poetry, as well as other genres of creative writing. He engages his readers on how to decipher the hidden meanings in verses (hence the name of the column), and also tackles on various topics related to Philippine Literature in particular and World Literature in general. Some of his best essays from Breaking Signs were compiled in The House of True Desire, a book which I highly recommend to all those whose passion for both ink and pen never wavers. There is some strange quality in each essay of his that frees the mind from being hampered by some unseen mental blockade. Perhaps this queer feeling is best explained in his foreword to the said book:

In writing my column, I have no particular audience in mind. I do not want my creativeness to be limited by an unseen force with its own demands on my literary act. And so to those who ask, “For whom do you write?” I answer, “If you read my column, then I write for you.” That is the closest I can get to defining my readers—not by their quality but by their response.

 

Cirilo Bautista, multi-awarded bilingual writer (English and Tagalog). Now a National Artist. And now he’s got The Undertaker’s urn, too.

Prior to his announcement as National Artist for Literature last Thursday, this Manileño wordsmith has already been receiving countless awards left and right. His name has long glorified various award-giving bodies such as the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards, Philippines Free Press Awards, and the Gawad Balagtás.

I remember one special day when I gifted myself on my 22nd birthday (18 July 2001). Weeks before that, I read somewhere that Bautista was to give a lecture on Ricardo M. de Ungria’s poetry at the Philippine Normal University, if memory serves correct. With excitement, I scrimped and saved just to have something to pay for that lecture (not that it cost much, but my allowance as a student-dad wasn’t that much), and to see Bautista in person on how he deciphers the cryptic codes in a poem. It was a rainy afternoon when I got there, and the room where he was to give his lecture was crowded (Alfredo “Krip” Yuson was there, back then still sporting a rather thin pony tail). In fact, many were left without chairs. But the crowded room and the pelting rain didn’t stop us from being mesmerized by the magic of Bautista’s ideas transformed into an authoritatively poetic human voice. I’ve learned so much during that 60-minute or so lecture (and I still ended up as a blogger-slash-keyboard warrior, haha).

It is a pity that I don’t have anything to say about the other four National Artists (Reyes, Feliciano, Santos, and Zaragoza) because, admittedly, I really don’t know much about them. However, I am confident that they are all deserving, unlike the last time when the National Artist award was heavily tainted with controversy. I hear that there’s some noise going on about Nora Aunor being left out of the final list, but my only comment on that is a query: if National Artist Nick Joaquín didn’t go “baquiâ” on her, why did the Palace?

Breaking news for the upcoming coffee table book “LA LAGUNA The Heart of the Philippines”…

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It’s now official: renowned historian, scholar, and linguist, Señor Guillermo Gómez y Rivera, will write the foreword to my debut book, LA LAGUNA The Heart of the Philippines!

Meeting last Sunday night (04/07/2013) at J.Boy Japanese Fast Food Shop in Macati City. Man, their noodles there are almost as thick as my fingers! (L-R: me, Ronald Yu of In-Frame Media Works, and Señor Gómez).

To those who do not know yet, Señor Gómez— as he is called by friends, students, admirers, and critics—is currently one of the board of directors of the prestigious Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española, the oldest state institution in the Philippines. From 1971 to 1973, he was the secretary of the National Language Committee of the Philippine Constitutional Convention. For many years, he taught Spanish language and grammar as well as Philippine History, Geography, and Philosophy of Man at Adamson University (my alma mater). In 1974, the Department of Education condecorated him for his work as a teacher and writer with the Plus Ultra Filipinas award. The next year, he won the Premio Zóbel for his play El Caserón, but primarily in recognition for his efforts in preserving the Spanish language and culture in our country. He has since been a longtime master of ceremonies for the said award-giving body until its demise in 1999. Prior to this, Señor Gómez won second place in the Premio Manuel Bernabé for an essay on the historical and nationalistic value and import of the Spanish language in the Philippines.

Señor Gómez has authored many books, among them El Conflicto de Soberanía Territorial Sobre las Islas Malvinas, Georgias, y Sándwich del SurThe Conflict Over Territorial Sovereignty on the Malvinas, Georgias, and Sandwich Islands of the South (Manila, bilingual edition, 1984), FilipinoOrigen y Connotación, y Otros Ensayos (Manila: Ediciones Solidaridad Filhispana-El Maestro, 1966), and various textbooks on Spanish grammar and history such as Español Para Todo El Mundo and Texto Para Español 4-N: La Literatura Filipina y Su Relación al Nacionalismo Filipino (both used in Adamson University and Centro Escolar University). He is also active in Filipino dance and music. He is currently an instructor of various Spanish dances, particularly flamenco (he is in fact considered as the undisputed maestro of Flamenco in the Philippines).

Aside from sharing his knowledge of Flamenco, he has made several researches on Philippine songs, dances, and costumes, 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 an advisory role for Bayanihan. He also released an LP back in 1960 when he was still the producer of La Voz Hispanofilipina, a radio program of DZRH. He made research about “lost” Filipino songs that were originally sung in Castilian during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. He reintroduced the songs through recording. The successful LP was entitled Nostalgia Filipina. He was the one who sang in all of the songs, accompanied by the late Roberto Buena’s rondalla (on 14 August 2006, he relaunched a digitally mastered version of this album at the Instituto Cervantes de Manila through financial support from the Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation).

In 1997, he was a segment host of ABS-CBN‘s defunct early morning program Alas Singko Y Media. In the said show, he hosted a five-minute Spanish lesson.

In addition to his contributions to Philippine literature, culture, and history, he was also a journalist; he used to publish and edit the El Maestro magazine which served as the organ of the Corporación Nacional de Profesores Filipinos de Español, Inc., and also contributed to various newspapers, magazines, and websites (Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippines Free Press, Revista Filipina, etc.). Aside from the weekly newspapers The Listening Post and The Tagalog Chronicle, he also edited Nueva Era, the only existing Spanish newspaper in the Philippines in modern times (these three, owned by the late Batangueño publisher and businessman Emilio M. Ynciong, were accessible only via subscription; I used to be Señor Gómez’s editorial assistant for these papers, now out of print, from 2001 to 2003).

Señor Gómez is also an accomplished linguist and polyglot. He speaks and writes fluently in his native Hiligaynón 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 Italian, Portuguese, French, Quiniráy-á, Cebuano, Hokkien, and has made an extensive study of the Chabacano and Visayan languages (he was crowned Diutay ñga Príncipe Sg Binalaybáy sa Binisayà at the age of 13).

It is a little known fact that Señor Gómez, although a Bisayà, can also be considered a Lagunense: he traces his Gómez Spanish ancestor to Pagsanján, and has many Rivera relatives in Pila.

Indeed, the writer of the book’s foreword is a virtual heavyweight compared to the lowly writer himself. But hey, I am humbled with all of this. I admit now that is difficult for me to imagine somebody else writing the foreword to my very first book. And if I’m not mistaken, this would be the fourth time that Señor Gómez will write a foreword/introduction for somebody else. The first time he did so was for multi-awarded multilingual poet Federico Espino (Premio Zóbel awardee, 1978) for his bilingual collection of poetry, Ave En Jaula Lírica / Bird in the Lyric Cage (Solidaridad Filipino-Hispana, 1970). The second was for Conchita Huerta (another Premio Zóbel awardee, 1965) for her Arroz y Sampaguitas (Ediciones Fil-Hispanas, 1972), a collection of essays and short stories. And the last he did was for Perspectives in Politics: Public and Foreign (UST Publishing House, 2005) by UNESCO Commissioner and international political analyst José David Lápuz.

This is truly a huge dream come true for me. 😀

LA LAGUNA The Heart of the Philippines is a collaboration between the historic Provincial Government of La Laguna (Gov. E.R. Ejército) and In-Frame Media Works (Mr. Ronald Yu).

Book launching will be announced soon! 😀

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.

****************************

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: ??????

Happy 75th birthday, Señor Gómez!

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Happy 75th birthday to the man who gave my life direction: Señor Guillermo Gómez y Rivera!

My wife Yeyette with the birthday celebrant himself, Señor Gómez, el Padre de Filipinismo.

Click here to view photos of Señor Gómez’s advanced birthday bash last 10 September 2011 at the Chihuahua Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar, Ciudad de Macati!

Charming Chabacano! (Ciudad de Cavite, Cavite)

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Caviteño fanfarrón,
Roba cualta na cajón.
—Chabacano Caviteño Proverb—

In just a few months, it will be November. Aside from All Saints’ Day, November reminds me of that brief but wonderful trip that I made to the historic City of Cavite in the province of the same name nearly four years ago.

I was then a call-center guy. Me and two of my officemates, Khalil and Jordan, were invited by our Caviteña officemate, Marian. Her father’s a Spanish-speaking gentleman from Pampanga while her mom is a native of Cavite City.

We went to Cavite using Khalil’s convertible van. And since it was my first time to ride one, I spent most of the trip with my face against the wind!

Now entering Cavite City!

Like many places in the Philippines, Cavite City has a very interesting history to tell. It is, in fact, replete with history because many scholars and nationalists point to it as the birthplace of Philippine Nationalism: the infamous Cavite Mutiny (20 January 1872) happened at Fuerte de San Felipe leading to a series of events which culminated in the execution of Rizal and the Katipunan revolt years later.

Cavite City is the original Cavite, i.e., the whole province of Cavite was named after it back in the days when it was not even a city yet. The name Cavite is said to be a Spanish corruption of the Tagalog word cauit which means “hook” because the place is actually a hook-shaped peninsula. In old Tagalog, this kind of land formation is called tangwáy. As a matter of fact, the place was known as Tangwáy (in a letter to Emilio Jacinto, Andrés Bonifacio twice referred to the town as Tanwáy, another spelling for Tangwáy). But the change of name from Tangwáy to Cauit is unknown.

But why Cavite instead of Cauit then?

The Spanish alphabet, then as now, rarely uses the letter “W”. So instead of “Cawit”, the name of the town was spelled “Cauit”. However, since Spanish is a daughter of Latin, the letter V was used (“U” was a variant of “V”). The last letter, “E”, is a contraction of “eh“, a common but meaningless inflection in Southern Tagalog dialects (you’ll usually hear “ala eh” at the end of each sentence among Batangueños). Through the years, with the evolution of language and orthography, Filipinos gradually pronounced Cauit as Cavite (the letters V and B are both pronounced the same in Spanish: /biː/).

Ridiculously, however, due to the “Pilipinization” of many Tagalog words that began in the 1970s (Rizal’s obnoxious Nueva Ortografía del Lenguaje Tagalog was the inspiration, but I will expound on that in a future blogpost), many Filipinos began misspelling the names of places and even people. In the process, they started spelling Cavite as Kabite; Bulacán as Bulakán; Cauit as Kawit; Calivo as Kalibo; Cabugao as Kabugao; Caloocan as Kalookan. Puro na lang kalokohan. Thankfully, though, the spelling “Cavite” still persists despite the widespread orthographic nonsense.

Back row (from left to right): Marian, me, and Khalil. Front row: Samantha (Marian's daughter) and her cousins Julienne and Jasmine. The squatter-infested belfry ruins of Santa Mónica Church is right behind us.

Cavite City’s territorial history may confuse many, especially when the nearby municipality of Cauit/Kawit is mentioned. For a time during the Spanish regime, when Cavite was then a huge town and not yet a city, it comprised the municipalities of Cauit, Tierra Alta (now Noveleta), and Imus. The territory which we now call Cavite City was then known as Cavite La Punta since it was a point or tip of land jutting out towards Manila Bay. Actually, two elongated land masses of this small peninsula extend towards the bay and is connected by a narrow isthmus to mainland Luzón: to the northwest is San Antonio and Punta Sangley (Sangley Point). Jutting towards the northeast is the part where the district of San Roque (and the Philippine Naval Base/Fort San Felipe) is located. Cañacáo Bay is sheltered between the land masses of both San Antonio-Sangley Point, San Roque, and the aforementioned isthmus where the districts of Caridad, Santa Cruz, and Dalahican are located.

Cavite La Punta was also called Cavite El Puerto because of Fort San Felipe where the shipyard and arsenal for the Spanish navy were situated.

The ruins of Santa Mónica Church, destroyed during the last war. Only the bell tower remains. Locals call it samburio. Squatter families now live in and around it.

Legend has it that whosoever climbs this tower, somebody below will die. That is why me and my friends were not permitted to climb it.

The main industry of Caviteños from the abovementioned districts was fishing. But others did some small-scale farming as well as backyard poultry and hog raising. During the Spanish times, these districts were once barrios or towns. In 1614, Barrio San Roque was founded. Next were the barrios of Caridad and San Antonio. Sangley Point was already in existence since the 10th century, not really as a town but as a trading point between pre-Filipinos and Chinese merchants (the Tagalog word “sanglâ” meaning “to pawn” comes from the Cantonese word “sang-lei”, later Hispanized as Sangley, thus clearly showing here not only the origin of the name of Punta Sangley but also indicating the mercantilist attitude of the first Chinese in our archipelago) . There used to be a hospital in Sangley Point back in the 1870s built for sick and wounded soldiers. It became a naval station right after the Battle of Manila Bay (which just happened nearby). A few years later, in 1901, all the barrios in this hook-shaped peninsula were merged to form the Municipality of Cavite. It also became Cavite province’s capitolio (today, the capital is Trece Mártires). On 26 May 1940, Cavite became a chartered city.

And immediately right after the war, Cavite’s once pristine image gradually faded away due in part to rapid urbanization and poor city planning. Squatter families such as Badjáo tribesmen from Mindanáo migrated to create shanty communities. And the waters started to decay due to pollution.

And side from Santa Mónica Church, there was another casualty: the Chabacano language.

Khalil and Jordan in front of the Biblioteca y Museo del Ciudad de Cavite.

Chabacano caviteño

Chabacano is a Spanish-based creole language. There are five variants (or dialects?) of this hybrid Philippine tongue: Caviteño (Ciudad de Cavite), Cotabateño (spoken in parts of Ciudad de Cotabato, Maguindanáo), Davaoeño (spoken in parts of Daváo), Ternateño (Ternate, Cavite), and Zamboangueño (Ciudad de Zamboanga). There was another one in Manila called Ermiteño that was spoken in the arrabal (district of Ermita) but is now extinct (but rumors still pervade that some very elderly folk along the US East Coast speak the language; also, there was a report years ago that an old grandmother and her grandson somewhere in Las Piñas still speak it).

So what is Chabacano, really? A language, dialect, or merely a pidgin? Some may call it a pidgin for the mere fact that the Spanish term chabacano (from where Chabacano was derived) means gaudy, tasteless, coarse, and even vulgar. But Emmanuel Luis Romanillos, linguist, polyglot, translator, and scholar, has this to say:

Hay quienes quieren describir el chabacano como la filipinización lingüística del castellano. El chabacano de Mindanáo es el idioma español bisayizado, el caviteño la tagalización del castellano. Pero más correcto llamarlos como dialectos españolizados. Fue vehículo de comunicación y diálogo de unas comunidades que intentaban deshacer los obstáculos lingüísticos que les separaban los gobernantes españoles.

My translation: Some want to describe Chabacano as the linguistic Filipinizatión of Spanish: the Chabacano of Mindanáo is “Visayanized” Spanish while Caviteño is “Tagalized” Spanish. But it is more correct to call these as “Hispanized” dialects. It was a vehicle for communication and dialogue between communities that tried to break the language barriers which separated them from their Spanish rulers.

I agree with him. Using Spanish, I have spoken to many Chabacanos already: Zamboangueños, Caviteños (Marian’s family members and neighbors), and Ternateños. Although with some difficulty, we somehow understood each other. Indeed, Chabacano is, in the words of Romanillos (which I translate again), “basically Spanish despite the obvious differences in morphology, phonetics, syntax, and lexicon”.

But whence did Chabacano come? And how did it materialize? Nobody knows for sure. Several cultural anthropologists and linguists have theorized and postulated: Charles O. Frake, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, John Holm John Lipski, Patrick Steinkrüger, Keith Whinnom, and Romanillos to name a few. Although there could never be a direct answer, there seems to be a consensus that all Chabacano dialects —with the exception of Ternateño/Bahra— originated from Ciudad de Cavite, and that it particularly started among non-Spanish-speaking indios (natives) working at the Cavite shipyard. The workers naturally had to communicate with their Spanish army superiors. In the process, this communication developed over the years into something different: not Spanish, not Tagalog, but Chabacano. And gradually, these workers also started to speak this hybrid thing in their respective households in particular and in their communities in general.

I could just imagine the humor among the Spanish army superiors laughing merrily at the coarse Spanish of the laborers in the shipyard. Perhaps it was they, the army officers, who first termed this creole tongue as “chabacano”. But eventually, these army officers who were obviously outnumbered by the natives, had to speak Chabacano as well in order to be well understood by their subjects. Nahawa na rin silá. 😀

Years later, when this hybrid language was fully developed, some of its speakers, both army officers and laborers, were sent to Zamboanga to help man Fuerte del Pilar. And so these first speakers of Chabacano were immersed in a new linguistic environment: in the milieu of the Bisayà (Hiligaynón and Cebuano). Hence, Chabacano Zamboangueño was born. And gradually, this new Hispanized dialect spread to other parts of Mindanáo. The rest is history.

Iglesia de San Roque. This church (which was under renovation when I took its photo) houses the oldest known painting of the Virgin Mary in the Philippines: Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga.

Ironically, Chabacano Caviteño (locals there call it “Cavitén”) is now a dying language while its offshoot, the Chabacano dialects of Mindanáo (particularly Zamboangueño) are alive and kicking. I read somewhere that only less than a thousand Caviteños speak it, and most of them are senior citizens. When I went there in 2007, Marian took all the trouble bringing me to places where there are Chabacano speakers. We even had to persuade those we found (not excluding her mom) to speak their native tongue.

The trouble is that the seniors failed to teach the new generation of Caviteños on how to speak the language. Another problem is heavy migration of non-Chabacanos from nearby towns and provinces. They are getting outnumbered yearly. There is a public school for locals (right in front of the Biblioteca y Museo del Ciudad de Cavite) who want to learn the language. And there are special masses in Chabacano held inside San Roque Church. But I am not sure if these are still under operation.

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga

Speaking of San Roque Church, this House of God is also the home of the country’s oldest known Marian painting called Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga, or Our Lady of Solitude of Vaga Gate in English. At the back of this painting is an inscription in Spanish: “A doze de Abril 1692 años Juan Oliba puso esta Stma. Ymagen Haqui“. In English, it means: This most holy image was placed here by Juan Oliba on 12 April 1692.

Our Lady of Solitude of Porta Vaga was Canonically Crowned on 17 November 1978. Her feast days are held every 2nd and 3rd Sundays of November. Like many ancient Christian icons in the Philippines, this painting is believed by many devotees to be miraculous.

Nuestra Señora de la Soledad de Porta Vaga.

My souvenir poster distributed by the Cavite City Hall. It's now posted on a door in our cramped apartment unit.

For a first-hand information about Chabacano Caviteño, you may want to follow Josie Valentín del Rosario’s Habla Chabacano blog. First-hand, because she is a native speaker of this Hispanized dialect. And she tries her very best to preserve and conserve her city’s beloved language via the internet.

To conclude this blogpost, I share to you a Caviteño Chabacano song from the 1700s sung and recorded by Señor Gómez (accompanied by Roberto Buena’s rondalla) for posterity. This was recorded in the LP Nostalgia Filipina released in the 1960s and rereleased a few years ago.

Click here for more photos and videos of my 2007 journey!

¡Hasta la vista, Cavite! From left to right: Mrs. Catacutan, her daughter Marian, and me. Jordan's behind us. And why was I wearing that freaking ID?!

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In memory of Purificación “Nyora Puring” Ballesteros y Nicolás (18 May 1927 — 22 December 2010), the Mother of Chabacano Caviteño.

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.

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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.

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