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Celdrán’s antics are no longer repulsive

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Garbage collectors have been accustomed to the smell of garbage. The smell of filth. That is why they are hardly repulsed anymore whenever they are confronted by a pile of rotting fish and meat mixed with soiled diapers.

Strangely, I find Carlos Celdrán’s latest caper less repulsive, too. Aside from getting used to hearing garbage news on TV, I find his recent tarpaulin controversy more comical than ever before, but still pitiful, nonetheless. This time, however, I have to side with Celdrán against allegations that he’s a “papansín” (loosely translated as a person who perpetually seeks attention from the people around him). This is in relation to what he did two Fridays ago (18 March) against a helpless anti-RH bill tarpaulin.

Check out this video from everybody’s favorite “rational hero”:

As seen from the footage, the self-proclaimed “fat bastard” (Celdrán fans, before you strike, please be advised that this is how he described himself when he commented on a blogpost of mine last year; so there’s no need to be furious, OK? blame your idol, not me) tore down the said tarp —bearing the words “Choose Life, Reject the RH/RP Bill”—, and then ran away with it like a cellphone snatcher.

Right after that, there was complete silence. He did not mention anything at all about that roguery of his in both his Twitter and Facebook accounts. Immediately after stealing the tarp, he bragged in his Facebook account that he opened up an HSBC account in Binondo as well as scrutinized the Department of Tourism’s “Tara Ná” logo.

There was no mention at all about the now controversial tarp that he stole.

So does this latest caper of his make him a “papansín“? Definitely not. Cayá ñga siyá tumátacbo sa vídeo, eh. Dahil ayáw niyáng magpahuli sa guinawá niyáng pagnanacaw. Ayáw niyáng mapansín. Eh caso nahuli.

Now, whatever happened to that no-nonsense, trash-talking, church-profaning Carlos “Fat Bastard” Celdrán that fans loved about him the most? Shouldn’t they be disappointed with their idol, instead? He did not even inform them immediately right after he stole that darned tarp (Celdrán usually updates his “respectful” and “highly intelligent” fans on his daily activities and plans, even the most mundane ones). With all that running of his instead of another no-holds-barred attack against the clergy, it can be surmised, in a way, that Celdrán has gone “soft”.

And why is that?

It should be remembered that Celdrán still has a court case hanging over his head for his unprofessional conduct inside the Manila Cathedral last year. Thus, it is but logical for his lawyer to advise him not to do anything silly anymore especially since they are negotiating for an out-of-court settlement via a pathetic apology that I do not believe is sincere (he proudly proclaims himself a “Cafeteria Catholic” and is affiliated with the anti-Catholic group Filipino Freethinkers).

Unfortunately for Celdrán, focusing too much on his “street heroics” made him forget a Bayani Fernando legacy: the closed-circuit television cameras mounted all over the metropolis. And when reporters contacted him about his CCTV video, it was too late to deny, of course. Aside from the CCTV, there were witnesses. So right after being interviewed by reporters, he posted this on his Facebook fanpage:

Seriously. They have me on CCTV and got witnesses to ‘confirm’ it was me. Dang. I did it 3 p.m. Who says I was trying to hide it?

I do. Because in the video, you were running so fast as if a hungry pack of wolves mistook you for Grimace. And you almost ran down on a motorbike, Carlos (and not the other way around; perhaps that motorcycle dude has nine lives). And just by observing your Facebook statuses and tweets (thank you for following me, by the way; I am so honored, really), it is very obvious that you would never have mentioned anything at all about that tarp you stole if you weren’t caught on CCTV. But you were. So there. Tsk.

If there was no malice intended, especially since Celdrán thought that what he did was something heroic, he shouldn’t have run. He should have just taken that tarp off then walked away with it with his head held up high. But by running away like a thief in the night, he proved to his enemies the kind of coward that he is.

And he added that he is “coming clean”. Really. But why right after being caught on CCTV? He is saying that now only when he learned that we was caught on camera.

I am aghast that his shock-value fans did not even ask him why he was running away with his tail between his legs. Yet they still shower him with praises with his “coming clean” alibi.

Anyway, If I were stupid, I would have believed him, too.

With that pending case of his in jeopardy again, he can be considered as a lawyer’s nightmare. So how to remedy it?

By pulling off another stunt, of course. And again, at the expense of the Catholic Church’s tolerance on forgiveness. So with a barrage of mediamen, Celdrán marched to the church he profaned a year ago, to attend Mass and go to confession for the first time in years.

To my knowledge, he is the only celebrity in the world who publicized in advance his Sacrament of Penance.

There’s your hero.

Let me reiterate: the Church is not involving itself in politics. To halt the creation of life —a very natural process— is not a political but a spiritual issue, something that is already metaphysical even. The Church is entrusted to protect the sanctity of life; the government has breached it. By proposing the RH Bill, the government has tread upon holy grounds, a terra incognita not understood by secularized minds in the government. In effect, the government has declared war against the Church. It was they, not the Church, who made the first volley of shots. CBCP or no CBCP, the Church was merely on the defensive end.

It is the government, not the Catholic Church, who is guilty of violating the separation of Church and State.

We do not need an RH bill. Celdrán, for instance, has been distributing condoms to squatter families in Intramuros for years yet he did not go to jail on orders from an “evil friar”. And just visit your nearest health center; it is almost rare not to spot posters promoting “family reproductive health”. Condoms, pills, ligation in hospitals, heck, they’re everywhere. Frenzy condoms even sponsor rock concerts. You see such products in newspapers and magazines. Even on TV. And that RH Bill has not even been passed yet.

RH Bill proponents claim that this bill is also meant to educate the people about reproductive issues. Come on. I still remember clearly that I first learned about pills, IUDs, condoms, and the like when I was in the sixth grade — and in a Catholic school!

We do not need the RH bill to fight poverty. This overpopulation myth and all that hot garbage are not the cause of our economic woes. As a historian, Celdrán should know better.

Think. Don’t merely grandstand.

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Biography of Nick Joaquín (1917-2004)

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http://www.rmaf.org.ph/Awardees/Biography/BiographyJoaquinNic.htm

Nicomedes "Nick" Joaquín

This is the best biography of Nick that I’ve encountered so far…

The 1996 Ramón Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts

BIOGRAPHY of Nick Joaquín
Resil B. Mojares

He was the greatest Filipino writer of his generation. Over six decades and a half, he produced a body of work unmatched in richness and range by any of his contemporaries. Living a life wholly devoted to the craft of conjuring a world through words, he was the writer’s writer. In the passion with which he embraced his country’s manifold being, he was his people’s writer as well.

Nick Joaquín was born in the old district of Pacò in Manila, Philippines, on September 15, 1917, the feast day of Saint Nicomedes, a protomartyr of Rome, after whom he took his baptismal name. He was born to a home deeply Catholic, educated, and prosperous. His father, Leocadio Joaquín, was a person of some prominence. Leocadio was a procurador (attorney) in the Court of First Instance of Laguna, where he met and married his first wife, at the time of the Philippine Revolution. He shortly joined the insurrection, had the rank of colonel, and was wounded in action. When the hostilities ceased and the country came under American rule, he built a successful practice in law. Around 1906, after the death of his first wife, he married Salomé Márquez, Nick’s mother. A friend of General Emilio Aguinaldo, Leocadio was a popular lawyer in Manila and the Southern Tagalog provinces. He was unsuccessful however when he made a bid for a seat in the Philippine Assembly representing Laguna.

Nick Joaquín’s mother was a pretty, well-read woman of her time who had studied in a teacher-training institute during the Spanish period. Though still in her teens when the United States took possession of the Philippines, she was among the first to be trained by the Americans in English, a language she taught in a Manila public school before she left teaching after her marriage.

Leocadio and Salomé built a genteel, privileged home where Spanish was spoken, the family went to church regularly, had outings in the family’s huge European car (one of the first Renaults in the city), and the children were tutored in Spanish and piano. Salomé (“who sings beautiful melodies and writes with an exquisite hand,” recalls a family member) encouraged in her children an interest in the arts. There were ten children in the family, eight boys and two girls, with Nick as the fifth child. The Joaquín home on Herrán Street in Pacò was a large section of a two-story residential-commercial building —the first such building in Pacò— that Leocadio had built and from which the family drew a handsome income from rentals. In this home the young Nick had “an extremely happy childhood.”

Leocadio Joaquín, however, lost the family fortune in an investment in a pioneering oil exploration project somewhere in the Visayas in the late 1920s. The family had to move out of Herrán to a rented house in Pásay. Leocadio’s death not long after, when Nick was only around twelve years old, was a turning point in the life of the family.

Reticent about his private life, Nick Joaquín revealed little about his father. In the manner of fathers of his time, Leocadio must have been a presence both distant and dominant. He was already an accomplished man when Nick was born. One has a glimpse of him in the character of the proud Doctor Chávez in Joaquín’s short story “After the Picnic,” the father who lives by a strict patriarchal code and yet is all at once remote, vulnerable, and sympathetic. In an early poem, Joaquín vaguely alluded to what in his father was somehow beyond reach (“the patriot life and the failed politician buried with the first wife”). Yet he mourned the void his father’s death left: “One froze at the graveside in December’s cold, / childhood stashed with the bier. Oh, afterwards / was no time to be young, until one was old.”

The young Joaquín dropped out of school. He had attended Pacò Elementary School and had three years of secondary education in Mapa High School but was too intellectually restless to be confined in a classroom. Among other changes, he was unable to pursue the religious vocation that his strictly Catholic family had envisioned to be his future. Joaquín himself confessed that he always had the vocation for the religious life and would have entered a seminary if it were not for his father’s death.

After he left school, Joaquín worked as a mozo (boy apprentice) in a bakery in Pásay and then as a printer’s devil in the composing department of the Tribune, of the TVT (Tribune-Vanguardia-Taliba) publishing company, which had its offices on F. Torres Street in Manila’s Santa Cruz district. This got him started on what would be a lifelong association with the world of print.

Through this time he pursued a passion for reading. Sarah K. Joaquín, Nick’s sister-in-law, recounts that in his teens Nick had a “rabid and insane love for books.” He would hold a book with one hand and read while polishing with a coconut husk the floor with his feet. He would walk down a street, on an errand to buy the family’s meal, with a dinner pail in one hand and an open book in the other.

Both his parents had encouraged his interest in books. When he was around ten, his father got him a borrower’s card at the National Library (then in the basement of the Legislative Building in Luneta) and there he discovered Bambi and Heidi and the novels of Stevenson, Dumas, and Dickens (David Copperfield was his great favorite). He explored his father’s library and the bookstores of Carriedo in downtown Manila. He was voracious, reading practically everything that caught his fancy, from the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Vachel Lindsay to the stories of Anton Chekhov, to the novels of Dostoyevsky, D. H. Lawrence, and Willa Cather. He read American magazines (Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Magazine) and discovered the fiction of Booth Tarkington, Somerset Maugham, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway.

Joaquín’s choice of early readings was not exceptional. Joaquín and other writers of his generation who were schooled in the American era discovered Dostoyevsky and Hemingway before they did such Tagalog writers as Lope K. Santos and Rosauro Almario. Yet, it can be said that Joaquín never really lost his sense of where he was. He read Manila’s English-language newspapers and magazines for what Filipinos themselves were writing. (He had read the José Rizal novels in the Charles Derbyshire translation before he was thirteen, Joaquín said.) He always had a strong sense of place, a virtue that was to become a hallmark of his body of work. “When I started writing in the late 1930s,” he would recall many years later, “I was aware enough of my milieu to know that it was missing from our writing in English. The Manila I had been born into and had grown up in had yet to appear in our English fiction, although that fiction was mostly written in Manila and about Manila.”

His first short story dealt with the vaudeville of Manila, “The Sorrows of Vaudeville,” and was published in Sunday Tribune Magazine in 1937. (The editors changed its title to “Behind Tinsel and Grease.”) Earlier, in 1934, he published his first poem in English, a piece about Don Quixote. The story is told that when this poem appeared in the Tribune, Serafín Lanot, the Tribune’s poetry editor, liked the poem very much and went to congratulate the poet when he came to collect his fee, but the shy and elusive Joaquín ran away.

Very early, Joaquín was set on crafting his own voice. Writing in 1985 on his early years as a writer, he said that it appeared to him in the 1930s that both an American language and an American education had distanced Filipino writers in English from their immediate surroundings. “These young writers could only see what the American language saw.” It was “modern” to snub anything that wore the name of tradition and, for the boys and girls who trooped to the American-instituted schools, Philippine history began with Commodore Dewey and the Battle of Manila Bay. “The result was a fiction so strictly contemporary that both the authors and their characters seemed to be, as I put it once, ‘without grandfathers.’” He recalled: “I realize now that what impelled me to start writing was a desire to bring in the perspective, to bring in the grandfathers, to manifest roots.”

This was Nick Joaquín recalling in 1985 what it was like in the 1930s. Back then, the young Joaquín was just beginning to find his way into a literary life. He was gaining notice as a promising writer, publishing between 1934 and 1941 a few stories and over a dozen poems in the Herald Mid-Week Magazine and the Sunday Tribune Magazine. The literary scene was vibrant in the Commonwealth years, as writers and critics debated the role and direction of Philippine writing and formed feuding groups such as the Philippine Writers League and the Veronicans. Joaquín stood at the periphery of this scene. He probably had little time to be too reflective. He was already trying to fend for himself while quite young. He was also growing into a world that was marching toward the cataclysm of a world war.

The period of the Japanese occupation was a difficult time for the Joaquíns who, at this time, had moved from Pásay to a house on Arlegui Street in the historic San Miguel district of Manila, where Malacañang Palace is located. Like other residents in the enemy-occupied city, Joaquín scavenged for work to help support the family. The Japanese had closed down the Tribune and other publications at the onset of the occupation. Joaquín worked as a port stevedore, factory watchman, rig driver, road worker, and buy-and-sell salesman. Seeing corpses on the street, working for a wage in rice, demeaned by fear and poverty, Joaquín detested the war. He later said in an interview that the experience of the war so drained both his body and spirit that when it was over, he was filled with the desire to leave the country and go somewhere far. He dreamed of pursuing a religious vocation by going to a monastery in Spain or somewhere in Europe, “somewhere where you could clean up.”

Through the war years, he continued writing when and where he could. He finished “The Woman Who Felt Like Lazarus,” a story about an aging vaudeville star, and the essay “La Naval de Manila.” Both appeared in the wartime English-language journal Philippine Review in 1943. A monthly published by the Manila Sinbun-sya and edited by Vicente Albano Pacis and Francisco Icasiano, the Review also published Joaquín’s story “It Was Later Than We Thought” (1943) and his translation of Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios (1944). Readers were beginning to take notice. He cultivated a persona inaccessible and mysterious. When he was asked to fill up a biographical form for the Review, he simply wrote down: “25 years old, salesman.”

“La Naval de Manila” tells of a Manila religious celebration built on the tradition that the Blessed Virgin had miraculously intervened in the Spanish victory over a Dutch invasion fleet in 1646. Already it sets forth a major theme Joaquín would develop in the years ahead: that the Filipino nation was formed in the matrix of Spanish colonialism and that it was important for Filipinos to appreciate their Spanish past. He wrote: “The content of our national destiny is ours to create, but the basic form, the temper, the physiognomy, Spain created for us.” The article triggered an angry response in a subsequent issue of the Review from Federico Mañgahas, then a leading intellectual, who testily inquired why the Review was “building up” this young writer who would have readers believe that precolonial Philippine society was just a primeval “drift of totem-and-taboo tribes” and that Catholic saints can be the country’s unifying national symbols. Joaquín declined to reply but he had raised an issue that would continue to be debated after the war.

After the Americans liberated Manila in February–April 1945, Joaquín worked as a stage manager for his sister-in-law’s acting troupe and dreamed of getting away. In the meantime, he continued writing and publishing. He obviously did not sleepwalk through the years of the war but was writing out stories in his head. In heady years right after the war, he published in rapid succession such stories as “Summer Solstice,” “May Day Eve,” and “Guardia de Honor.” These stories have become Nick Joaquín’s signature stories and classics in Philippine writing in English.

The opportunity to leave the country came in 1947 when he was accepted as a novice at Saint Albert’s College, a Dominican monastery in Hong Kong. The story is told that the Dominicans in Manila were so impressed by his “La Naval de Manila” that they offered him a scholarship to Saint Albert’s and had the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomás award him an honorary Associate in Arts certificate so he would qualify. His stay at Saint Albert’s schooled him in Latin and the classics. He enjoyed the pleasant diversions of the scenic port city and the occasional company of his brother Porfirio (Ping) who was in Hong Kong on a stint as a jazz musician. It seemed, however, that he was too restless for life in a monastery. He stayed less than two years and returned to Manila.

Back in the Philippines in 1950, he joined the country’s leading magazine, Philippines Free Press, working as a proofreader, copywriter, and then member of the staff. At this time, Free Press was so widely circulated across the country and so dominant a medium for political reportage and creative writing, it was called “the Bible of the Filipinos.” Practically all middle-class homes in the country had a copy of the magazine.

Joaquín’s Free Press years established him as a leading public figure in Philippine letters. In its pages appeared the stories and essays that made him known to a wide national audience. The publication of Prose and Poems (1952), a collection of short stories, poems, a novella, and a play, cemented his reputation as an original voice in Philippine literature. He mined a lode of local experience that no one had quite dealt with in the way he did. He summoned ancient rites and legends, evoked a Filipino Christianity at once mystical and profane, and dramatized generational conflicts in a modern society that had not quite come to terms with its past. His was a vision that ranged through a large expanse of history in an English so full-bodied and a style sensuous and sure.

In 1955, his first play, A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino: An Elegy in Three Scenes, was premiered on stage at the Aurora Gardens in Intramuros, Manila, by the Barangay Theater Guild. He had written the play sometime around 1950 upon the urgings of Sarah Joaquín, who was active in Manila’s theater circles. Though it had been published in Weekly Women’s Magazine and Prose and Poems in 1952 and had been aired on radio, the play was not staged until 1955. It proved to be an immense success. It was made into an English-language movie by the highly respected Filipino filmmaker Lamberto V. Avellana in 1965, translated into Tagalog, adapted in other forms, and staged hundreds of times. No Filipino play in English has been as popular.

Using the flashback device of a narrator who recalls the sad fate of a prewar family as he stands in the ruins of postwar Manila, the play sets itself not only in the divide of war but that of past and present in Philippine society. Tracing the disintegration of an old and proud family in the transition from past to present, Nick Joaquín explored what had been abiding themes in his writing across the years.

He did not see the premiere of the play since, in 1955, Joaquín left the country on a Rockefeller Foundation creative writing fellowship. The prestigious award took him to Spain, the United States, and (with a Eugene F. Saxton Fellowship from the publishers of Harper’s Magazine) Mexico. In this sojourn, which lasted more than two years, he worked on his first novel, The Woman Who Had Two Navels (1961), a short and early version of which had appeared in Prose and Poems. The Woman Who Had Two Navels is a many-layered and less-than-perfect novel that teases out universal antinomies of truth and falsehood, illusion and reality, past and present, and locates them in the context of the Filipino search for identity. Though Joaquín had been criticized for a romantic “nostalgia for the past,” this novel and his other works, including Portrait, showed that he looked at the past always with the consciousness of the need for engaging the present world in its own terms.

Joaquín enjoyed his travels. He traveled all over Spain, lived in Madrid and Mallorca, visited France, stayed a year in Manhattan, went on an American cross-country trip on a Greyhound bus, crossed the border to Laredo, and had fun exploring Mexico. Spain and Mexico fascinated him (“my kind of country,” he says). He would, in the years that followed, take trips to Cuba, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Australia. Yet he was clearly in his element in his homeland and in Manila, the city that has been his imagination’s favorite haunt.

From the time he rejoined Free Press in 1957 until he left it in 1970 (during which time he rose to be the magazine’s literary editor and associate editor), Joaquin was as prominent in his persona as Quijano de Manila (a pseudonym he adopted for his journalistic writings when he joined the Free Press in 1950) as he was the creative artist Nick Joaquín. He churned out an average of fifty feature articles a year during this period. He wrote with eloquence and verve on the most democratic range of subjects, from the arts and popular culture to history and current politics. He was a widely read chronicler of the times, original and provocative in his insights and energetic and compassionate in his embrace of local realities.

One of his contemporaries remarked: “Nick Joaquín the journalist has brought to the craft the sensibility and style of the literary artist, the perceptions of an astute student of the Filipino psyche, and the integrity and idealism of the man of conscience, and the result has been a class of journalism that is dramatic, insightful, memorable, and eminently readable.”

He raised journalistic reportage to an art form. In his crime stories—for example, “The House on Zapote Street” (1961) and “The Boy Who Wanted to Become Society’” (1961)—he deployed his narrative skills in producing gripping psychological thrillers rich in scene, incident, and character. More important, he turned what would otherwise be ordinary crime reports (e.g., a crime of passion in an unremarkable Makati suburban home or the poor boy who gets caught up in a teenage gang war) into priceless vignettes of Philippine social history.

As Free Press literary editor, he virtually presided over the country’s literary scene. Free Press was the standard in Philippine writing in English because of its wide circulation and Joaquín’s editorship. Its weekly publication of short stories and poems was avidly followed. Joaquin was generous in encouraging young writers and exerted an influence on writers not only in English but in the Philippine languages. In a Filipino generation that had seen outstanding fictionists (N. V. M. González, F. Sionil José, and others), he was fondly spoken of as primus inter pares.

Since he joined the Free Press, he had been a full-time writer. The only other “job” he took was an appointment to the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures, from 1961 to 1972, under both presidents Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos. He took the post because, in large part, he loved the movies and practically did no cutting or banning of films, believing in the intelligence and good sense of moviegoers. He described this stint: “I was non-censoring.”

Philippine society was going through a period of deepening social crisis. The high hopes engendered during the popular rule of Ramón Magsaysay began to dissipate after Magsaysay’s death in 1957, as corruption, factional politics, and economic crisis buffeted the administrations of presidents Carlos García, Diosdado Macapagal, and Ferdinand Marcos. The Vietnam War politicized the Filipino intelligentsia, the economy floundered, a new Communist Party was established in 1969, and a new wave of militant nationalism swept through such institutions as universities and the media.

In the highly charged days leading up to the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972, Joaquin maintained his independence as an autonomous voice in Philippine media. He wrote articles that were current, stayed close to the events, and were deeply fired by liberal sentiments. In a time polarized by ideological conflict, he continued to speak in his own voice and not in those of others. This independence had always been a signal virtue of his writing career.

In the 1930s, when he started writing, he was already a writer apart. At a time when the United States was viewed as “the very measure of all goodness,” and “history” and “civilization” in the Philippines seemed to have begun with the advent of America, Joaquin invoked a deeper past. At a time when to be contemporary was to be “secular,” Joaquín evoked the country’s Christian tradition. At a time when “proletarian literature” was the “correct” line for young writers to follow, Joaquín was the skeptic who felt it was one more instance of local literary hierarchs’ “parroting the Americans, among whom ‘proletarian’ was then the latest buzzword.” He wrote: “I can see now that my start as a writer was a swimming against the current, a going against the grain.”

He had always been a writer engaged but apart. Part of the explanation resided in his character. Engaged in a public profession, with a very public name, he was a very private person. His reclusive character was formed early. In a rare, affectionate piece his sister-in-law Sarah Joaquín wrote about him in Philippine Review in 1943, she spoke of the young Nick as a modest and unassuming young man who was ill at ease with public praise and shied away from being interviewed or photographed (“he hadn’t had any taken for fifteen years”). Even then he lived his days according to certain well-loved rites. He loved going out on long walks (“a tall, thin fellow, a little slouched, walking in Intramuros, almost always hurriedly”), simply dressed, shoes worn out from a great deal of walking (which helped him cogitate), observing the street life of the city, making the rounds of churches. “He is the most religious fellow I know,” Sarah wrote. “Except when his work interferes, he receives Holy Communion everyday.” He was generous with friends and devoted to the family with whom, even in his teens, he shared what little money he earned.

A person of habit, he scribbled about himself many decades ago:

I have no hobbies, no degrees; belong to no party, club, or association;
and I like long walks; any kind of guinataan; Dickens and Booth Tarking-
ton; the old Garbo pictures; anything with Fred Astaire… the
Opus Dei

according to the Dominican rite… Jimmy Durante and Cole Porter tunes…
the Marx brothers; the
Brothers Karamazov; Carmen Miranda; Paul’s
Epistles and Mark’s; Piedmont cigarettes… my mother’s cooking…
playing tres-siete; praying the Rosary and the Officium Parvum… I don’t
like fish, sports, and having to dress up.

Though he cut the image of one gregarious with his loud, booming voice; his love for San Miguel beer (a product that turned him into an icon for Filipino beer drinkers); and his joy in belting out Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra songs in intimate gatherings in his favorite Manila cafés, he stuck close to the company of a few friends and hated making formal appearances in public. He grudgingly gave interviews and revealed such scant detail about his personal life that there are many gaps and contradictions in his published biographies. He was not above making mischief on unwitting interviewers by inventing stories about himself. He refused to give the exact date of his birth (May 4 and September 15 in 1917 have been cited) because, he said, he hated having people come around to celebrate his birthday.

He had zealously carved out private space in his home where he wrote reams in longhand or on a typewriter. Though he gave strangers the impression of someone careless and even dissolute, Joaquín was a very disciplined writer. He woke up early to read the newspapers, took breakfast, and, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, retired to his library on the second floor of his house where no one was allowed to disturb him. In his clean and spare study, with books on shelves lining the walls and, in the center, a chair and a table with a manual typewriter, Nick did his work. From 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., he took a siesta and, often, his second bath of the day, and then from around 4:00 p.m. onward, he was out of the house to go to the editorial office or explore his favorite haunts in Manila.

The turbulent days of political activism, as the 1960s came to a close, did not leave this very private person unaffected. In 1970, he joined a labor union organized by the workers of Free Press and agreed to be its president. This was the first union to be organized in the sixty-two-year-old publishing company that was widely regarded as a beacon of libertarian ideas. Organized at a time when Manila was seething with civil unrest, the appearance of the union sparked a bitter fight in the company. When management cracked down on the union, Joaquín resigned. With Free Press editor-writers Gregorio C. Brillantes and José F. Lacaba, artist Danilo Dalena, and close to thirty personnel of the administrative and printing departments, Joaquín launched the weekly Asia-Philippines Leader in 1971 and served as its editor-in-chief. In the pages of the magazine he wrote a regular column, “This Week’s Jottings,” where he continued his trenchant commentaries on the Philippine scene.

Martial law closed down Philippine media, including Free Press and Asia-Philippines Leader. The Marcos government subsequently allowed the publication of a few favored periodicals controlled by the Marcoses and their cronies. Joaquín refused to contribute. Among many intellectuals, silence became a form of protest. Joaquín’s irrepressible pen, however, could not be stilled. “I was never silent during martial law,” Joaquín declared in an interview in 1980. “I’ve never been silent.” He continued to write, worked independently, and contributed to both the underground and aboveground alternative press, the small newspapers and news sheets that came to be referred to as the “mosquito press” during the martial-law period.

Ironically, there was probably no other time when there was as much publishing of Joaquín writings as in the 1970s. These publications showcased his boundless creativity and versatility. In 1977, the National Book Store started issuing popular compilations of his Free Press human-interest features and crime stories (Reportage on Lovers, Reportage on Crime) as well as articles on local icons of popular culture (Nora Aunor and Other Profiles, Ronnie Poe and Other Silhouettes, Amalia Fuentes and Other Etchings, Doveglion and Other Cameos, Gloria Díaz and Other Delineations, Joseph Estrada and Other Sketches). Such was his readership that, between 1979 and 1983, more collections of his journalistic articles were issued: Reportage on the Marcoses, Reportage on Politics, Language of the Street and Other Essays, and Manila: Sin City and Other Chronicles. A selection of his speeches and articles appeared in Discourses of the Devil’s Advocate and Other Controversies (1983). It is not disingenuous to say that such burst of publishing may have been fueled by a certain nostalgia for the colorful, rough-and-tumble years before martial law imposed an order of repression and dull conformism.

Mr. & Ms. Publishing published Nick Joaquín’s Almanac for Manileños (1979), a coffee-table book that turns the form of the old almanac into “a weather chart, a sanctoral, a zodiac guide, and a mini-encyclopedia on the world of the Manileño.” Almanac is a romp for a writer whose knowledge of the country’s capital city —from churches to brothels, politicians and criminals, fashions high and low, past and present— has not been matched by anyone. In 1978–1979, the same publisher also commissioned Joaquin’s children’s stories and modernized fairy tales and put them out as independent titles as well as in an anthology, Pop Stories for Groovy Kids. Some of these stories also appeared in a volume entitled Joaquinesquerie: Myth á la Mod (1983). He had been asked to write just one story in the beginning, but he so enjoyed doing it that more followed (“it’s like eating peanuts”). That this writer of metaphysical thrillers also had a deft hand writing for young readers is shown in his essays on Manila for young Manileños, Manila, My Manila (1990), and his retelling of the biography of José Rizal, Rizal in Saga: A Life for Student Fans (1996).

He translated Spanish works into English, something he had done intermittently for years. His most important in this field was The Complete Poems and Plays of José Rizal (1976). Nick also returned to theater. He adapted the stories “Three Generations” and “Summer Solstice” as the plays Fathers and Sons (1977) and Tatarín (1978), respectively. In 1976, he wrote The Beatas, the story of a seventeenth-century Filipino beguinage, a religious community of lay women, repressed by a male-dominated, colonial order. The subversive message of the play, in the particular context of martial rule, lent itself to a staging in Tagalog translation in the highly political campus of the University of the Philippines in 1978. These plays later appeared in the volume, Tropical Baroque: Four Manileño Theatricals, published in Manila in 1979 and in Australia in 1982.

In 1972, the University of Queensland Press in Australia published a new edition of his fiction under the title, Tropical Gothic. An important feature of this edition was the inclusion of three novellas that originally appeared in Free Press, “Cándido’s Apocalypse,” “Doña Jerónima,” and “The Order of Melkizedek.” These novellas are powerful, historically resonant narratives that probably best represent the inventiveness and depth of Joaquín as fictionist. They are among the most outstanding pieces of Philippine fiction that have been written.

He went back to writing poetry, something he had not done since 1965. El Camino Real and Other Rimes appeared in 1983 and Collected Verse, the author’s choice of thirty-three poems, was published in 1987. Ranging from light verse to long narrative pieces, these poems —robust, confident, expansive, elegant— are markers in the development of Philippine poetry. They demonstrate, says the poet-critic Gémino H. Abad, a level of achievement in which the Filipino is no longer writing in English but has indeed “wrought from English, having as it were colonized that language.”

That the Filipino writer wrote in English was a virtue that seemed self-evident when Joaquin started his career in the 1930s. English was the language of government, the schools, and the leading publications. It was, for young Filipinos, the language of modernity and the future. In the late 1960s, however, the use of the English language in such fields as education, literature, and publishing came under serious question as a Marxist-inspired nationalism sought to establish a radical, popular basis for the national culture. Those who wrote in English either switched languages or felt called upon to defend their use of a foreign tongue. Arguing out of his favorite thesis that the Filipino is enriched by his creative appropriation of new technologies, Joaquin extolled the fresh values of temper and sensibility that English had brought into the national literature. As for his own writings, Joaquin’s response to the issue was more blunt: “Whether it is in Tagalog or English, because I am Filipino, every single line I write is in Filipino.” In a more jocular vein, he had written about how the local milieu was irrevocably present in his works: “I tell my readers that the best compliment they can pay me is to say that they smell adobo and lechón when they read me. I was smelling adobo and lechon when I wrote me.”

In 1976, Nick Joaquín was named National Artist of the Philippines in the field of literature, the highest recognition given by the state for an artist in the country. Conferred in Manila on March 27, 1976, the award praised his works as “beacons in the racial landscape” and the author for his “rare excellence and significant contribution to literature.”

Joaquín had reservations about accepting an award conceived by the Marcos government as part of First Lady Imelda Marcos’s high-profile program of arts promotion in the country, but he decided to accept it on the advice of family and friends. He also felt the award would give him leverage to ask Malacañang Palace to release from prison José F. Lacaba, a close friend of his and one of the country’s best writers, who was imprisoned for his involvement in the anti-Marcos resistance. Lacaba was released in 1976.

Joaquín kept his distance from power, studiously resisting invitations to attend state functions in Malacañang Palace. At a ceremony on Mount Makiling, Laguna, attended by Mrs. Marcos, who had built on the fabled mountain site a National Arts Center, Joaquín delivered a speech in which he provocatively spoke of freedom and the artist. He was never again invited to address formal cultural occasions for the rest of the Marcos regime. He was too unpredictable to suit the pious pretensions of the martial-law government.

The fact that government had conferred on him the honor of National Artist did not prevent him from criticizing government. In 1982, he put himself at the forefront of a public demonstration to protest government’s closure of the oppositionist newspaper We Forum and the arrest and detention of its publisher and editors. The newspaper had just published a series of articles exposing Ferdinand Marcos’s fake war medals.

The street appearance was not characteristic of the man. It was in the field of writing that he engaged power. Joaquin was the provocateur who delighted in debunking what was politically and intellectually fashionable. One such “fashion” was the interest in the “ethnic” and “indigenous” during the Marcos era. A legitimate expression of post-Vietnam Filipino nationalism, the return to the “native” was appropriated by state nationalism during the martial-law period. In the attempt to clothe with legitimacy Marcos’s “experiment” in Philippine-style democracy (and authoritarianism) and blunt both the insurgent opposition to his rule and Western criticism of human-rights violations, the Marcos government appealed to “nationalism” based on an indigenous and Asian heritage. In the intellectual field, this found expression in many intersecting ways: the glorification of barangay democracy; the promotion of Tagalog as the national language and the downgrading of English writing; the “Filipinization” of scholarly disciplines; the romancing of the 1971 discovery of the allegedly Stone-Age Tasadays; and the state-sponsored Tadhanà project started in 1975, in which a group of Filipino historians wrote a “new history” of the Philippines under the name of Ferdinand Marcos.

Addressing this trend, Nick Joaquín wrote articles attacking nativism and the glorification of the indigenous and the ethnic. Describing the Filipino as a “work in progress” whose national identity is the dynamic product of the various cultural influences in his history (in particular, he stresses, the Spanish-Christian experience), he debunked the idea of a “pure” native culture and lamented the denigration of Western influence. A vigorous polemicist, he taunted the “new” nationalists with statements such as “Asia, before 1521, was conspicuous by its absence in Philippine culture” or “Those who want Philippine culture to be what it was 400 years ago are afflicted with the Dorian Gray illusion: the illusion that innocence can be frozen or that a personality can be kept from showing the effects on it of time, space, nature, society, the outside world.”

The terrain had changed but Joaquín was fighting a battle he had started to wage as early as the 1930s. Then he was reacting to an intellectual establishment that, infatuated with America, wanted to wean itself from the past much too quickly. Now he was responding to leaders and intellectuals who, desiring to break away from the West, were invoking a golden past he felt was not there. In the years of the Japanese occupation, he was writing against the grain when he wrote the seminal essay “La Naval de Manila.” Then he was responding (whether deliberately or not) to the trend, encouraged by the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” for Filipinos to return to their “Asian” and “Malayan” roots. Now, in the 1970s, he was interrogating the scapegoating of the West and the romancing of “Asianness.”

Polemical rather than academic, he simplified the terms of the debate, drew dividing lines much too sharply, and couched arguments in hyperbolic terms. He was impatient with the either/or rhetoric of indigenists and nationalists. “Why isn’t it enough to be just Filipino?” Quoting James Joyce, he declared of his own work: “This country and this people shaped me; I shall express myself as I am.” He was, as always, the writer apart but passionately engaged.

In A Question of Heroes: Essays in Criticism on Ten Key Figures of Philippine History (1977) and Culture and History: Occasional Notes on the Process of Philippine Becoming (1988), he showed himself an insightful historian and vigorous cultural critic. Addressing a general public rather than specialists, he said that it was his aim to “open up fresh viewpoints on the national process” by asking “those pesky questions which, though they seem so obvious, have somehow never been asked about our history and culture.”

In Question of Heroes, a series of articles on Filipino heroes that first appeared in the Free Press in the 1960s, he demystified the heroes associated with the birth of the nation in the late nineteenth century. He humanized them, thickened their lives with sharp and telling detail, and situated them in the living context of their times. The result was not just a critical reevaluation of historical figures but a coherent picture of a nation in formation. Culture and History offered a more varied fare of fifteen essays that developed Joaquin’s ideas on what he called “the process of Filipino becoming.” Underlying these ideas was an evolutionary and optimistic confidence in the Filipino capacity to invent himself out of the constraints and opportunities of his historical experience. Attacking the syndrome of shame over the colonial past and guilt over being “neither East nor West,” Joaquín celebrated hybridity. Attacking nativism and other forms of exclusionism, he said (quoting Oswald Spengler), “Historic is that which is, or has been, effective,” and he gloried in what the Filipino has and will become.

There are conceptual gaps in Joaquín’s view of Philippine history. He tended to be too dismissive of precolonial culture (even as it figured in his own fiction), overstressed the transformative role of technology, and was perhaps too apologetic of the Spanish and Christian influence in Philippine culture. There was no denying, however, the intelligent passion with which he embraced his people’s culture and history. Few in his time played as effective a role in the public discourse on the national culture.

The shaking loose of the structure of the martial-law regime after the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, and the eventual collapse of the regime in the “People Power Revolution” of 1986, saw Nick Joaquín right in the public stream as the country’s premier chronicler of current history. A book that he started writing before martial law was declared in 1972, The Aquinos of Tarlac: An Essay on History as Three Generations, appeared in 1983. His chronicle of the People Power Revolution, The Quartet of the Tiger Moon, was published in 1986.

Twenty-two years after The Woman Who Had Two Navels, Joaquín came out with his second novel, Cave and Shadows (1983). He jokingly remarked at its appearance: “Now, I’ll be known as the man who has two novels.” Fervid and dense, Cave and Shadows was Joaquín’s “objective correlative” to the Crisis of ’72. Set in Manila in the steamy month of August 1972, just before the declaration of martial law, the novel weaves a plot around the discovery of a woman’s naked body in a cave in the suburbs of Manila. The search for answers to the mystery of the woman’s death becomes a metaphysical thriller in which past and present collide and reality is unhinged as a social order breaks down in division and revolution.

A deep fount of creative energy, Joaquín was a much sought-after biographer. From 1979 to 2000, he authored more than a dozen book-length biographies of prominent Filipinos, from artists and educators to business people and politicians. These include the biographies of diplomat Carlos Rómulo, senators Manuel Manahan and Salvador Laurel, technocrat Rafaél Salas, businessmen Jaime Ongpín and D. M. Guevara, artist Leonor Orosa Goquingco, educator Nicanor Reyes, civic leader Estefania Aldaba-Lim, and Jaime Cardinal Sin. He also wrote local and institutional histories—such as San Miguel de Manila: Memoirs of a Regal Parish (1990) and Hers, This Grove: The Story of Philippine Women’s University (1996)—and authored or edited diverse other volumes.

He was criticized for “writing too much,” producing commissioned biographies of uneven quality, and forsaking creative writing for journalism. While his Aquinos of Tarlac was a masterful interweaving of the life of a family and that of a nation, May Langit Din Ang Mahirap (1998), his biography of former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, seemed like a hurried, paste-up job. While his talent could be quite profligate, there was no mistaking the genuineness of his appetite for local life and drive to convert this to memorable form.

Nick Joaquín’s stature in his country is demonstrated by the numerous prizes he received for his literary and journalistic writings. His contributions to Philippine culture were acknowledged by the City of Manila with an Araw ng Maynila Award (1963), a Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award (1964), and a Diwa ng Lahi Award (1979). The national government conferred on him its highest cultural honors, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1961) and the title of National Artist of the Philippines (1976).

In 1996, he received the Ramón Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts, the highest honor for a writer in Asia. The citation honored him for “exploring the mysteries of the Filipino body and soul in sixty inspired years as a writer.” Accepting the award on August 31, 1996, Joaquin did not look back on past achievements but relished the moment, saying that indeed the good wine has been reserved for last and “the best is yet to be.” This from a man who was about to turn eighty when he received the award.

In his 1996 Ramón Magsaysay Award lecture, Joaquín addressed what, he said, had troubled his critics as his “Jekyll/Hyde” personality as journalist and litterateur. He had never been the hothouse artist, he declared, and had always felt there was no subject not worthy of his attention. The practice of journalism nourished his populist sympathies. “Journalism trained me never, never to feel superior to whatever I was reporting, and always, always to respect an assignment, whether it was a basketball game, or a political campaign, or a fashion show, or a murder case, or a movie-star interview.” Journalism exercised his powers of storytelling. “Good reportage is telling it as it is but at the same time telling it new, telling it surprising, telling it significant.”

Though he largely played his life and career “by ear,” Joaquín relished how he had moved in the right directions. On the one hand, he could trace himself back to the times when Plato and Cervantes or the Arabian Nights and the Letters of Saint Paul were all “literature” and there were no fine distinctions as to which mode of writing was belle and not belle enough. On the other hand, he had foreshadowed current trends that had broken down the generic boundaries of fiction and nonfiction or “journalism” and “literature.”

With the mischievous glee of one who enjoyed what he was doing, he said that such Joaquín reportage as “House on Zapote Street” and “The Boy Who Wanted to Become ‘Society’” antedated the American “New Journalism” that writers such as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal made famous. Moreover, the fiction that he wrote—from “May Day Eve” and “The Mass of St. Sylvester” to “Doña Jerónima” and “Cándido’s Apocalypse”—bodied forth “magic realism” long before the Latin American novelists made it fashionable.

While Nick Joaquín wrote in English, was published abroad, and had some of his works translated into foreign languages, he did not quite receive the high attention he deserved outside the Philippines. This was something probably of no great moment to Joaquín himself. He was firmly rooted in place and in active dialogue with his Filipino audience. This speaking to and about his people had always framed his writing life. Though he spoke from a specific location—writing in English out of Manila (he had not lived for any significant amount of time outside the capital)—his voice carried far among Filipinos.

In the Philippines, Nick Joaquín was a keeper of tradition and a maker of memory. He grew up in what he called an “Age of Innocence” in Philippine history, an era when Filipinos, seduced by the promise of America and modernity, distanced themselves from their Spanish colonial past and slipped into a kind of amnesia. He saw—having grown up in a home where his father told stories about the revolution and his mother encouraged a love for Spanish poetry—that it was his calling “to bring in the perspective, to bring in the grandfathers, to manifest roots.” In his writings, he traced a landscape haunted by the past—pagan rites in the shadows of the Christian church, legends of a woman in the cave, strange prophets roaming the countryside, grandfathers who seem like ghosts who have strayed into the present. He conjured a society stranded in the present and not quite whole because it had not come to terms with its past.

The problem of identity was central in Joaquín’s works. In an impressive body of literary, historical, and journalistic writings, Joaquín was a significant participant in the public discourse on “Filipino identity.” What marked the positions he took was his refusal of easy orthodoxies. An outsider to government, the political parties, and the universities, he kept his space to be an independent thinker on the issues confronting the nation. From the 1930s to until his death, he was consistent in his role as the critic of what passed for the politically “correct” of the day. In this manner, he opened up spaces for the Filipino to imagine himself in novel ways and act on this basis.

Nick Joaquín lived through eight decades of Philippine history and witnessed the slow, uneven, and often violent transformation of the nation—the American idyll of the prewar years, the violence and degradation of an enemy occupation, the Communist insurgency and the hard choices it confronted the Filipino with, the dark years of martial rule, the waxing and waning of hopes for a better nation. It is history that tempts many with despair. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Nick Joaquín, the writer, was that his was always the voice of a deep, inclusive, and compassionate optimism in the Filipino.

He had always—as Joaquín himself would say, quoting one of his favorite literary lines—raged, raged against the dying of the light. This was true not only of what he had written but how he had lived his life. When many of his contemporaries had long faded into the background, Joaquín continued to speak of his craft with the verve of a young writer. Well into his eighties, with close to sixty book titles to his name, he was working on more. He also continued to practice journalism. He wrote the regular columns “Small Beer” and “Jottings” for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Sunday Inquirer Magazine from 1988 to 1990; served as editor of Philippine Graphic magazine and publisher of its sister publication, Mirror Weekly, in 1990; and continued to contribute to various publications until his final days. When asked once if he ever intended to retire, Joaquín was said to have responded, with typical mischief, “I’m not retiring and I’m not resigned.”

NICK Joaquín lived in the city and country of his affections and continued to write until his death in April 2004 at the age of eighty-six.

*******

Culled from the Ramón Magsaysay Award Foundation website.

La Naval de Johannesburg

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The World Cup fever may have already subsided, but I just couldn’t ignore one glaring trivia related to last month’s Spain-Netherlands tussle.

Only a few people today know that last month’s 19th FIFA World Cup™ wasn’t the first time that Spain faced and defeated the hardy Dutch boys. In World History, the Netherlands used to be a part of the huge Spanish Empire under King Charles V. The subjugation continued up to the reign of the king’s son, King Philip II (yep, we got our country’s name from him). During the revolt against Spain, the Dutch also sent their naval force to battle the Spaniards in another Spanish colony: the Philippines.

There were five great battles which occurred right here on our turf, mostly in 1646:

16 March — Five Dutch fleet attacked Isla de Mariveles (near Isla de Corregidor). There were only two Spanish galleons at that time, but, through the intercession of the Holy Virgin Mary (thanks to the frightened crew’s recitation of the Holy Rosary, as written by chroniclers during the said event), they were able to ward off the Dutch invaders.
29 July — The Dutch returned with seven large vessels and almost a thousand men. The battle, fought in the waters between Romblón and Marinduque, was said to be one of the bloodiest naval battles during that time, lasting from seven in the evening up to four in the morning. Again, the Dutch lost the battle.
31 July — The escaping Dutch were pursued by both Spaniards and Filipinos, catching up with them in the waters of Mindoro. Much more damage were inflicted on the supposedly battle-ready Dutch.
15 September — In Manila, one more Dutch squadron remained. The Spanish galleons who figured in the preceding battles against the Dutch invaders had been reinforced a newly constructed galleon that was intended for México, but now prepared for war. The three galleons sailed from Cavite and saw their parley in Cabo de Calavite (Calavite Point). The Dutch were overwhelmed after a five-hour battle, forcing to escape the scene.
4 October — Coincidentally, the Dutch were defeated a final time during the month of the Holy Rosary. But the following year, the Dutch returned for a vengeance (particularly in the Spanish port of Cavite). They, however, faced the same humiliating defeat.

In all these naval victories, all the men –both Spaniards and Filipinos– fervently prayed for the intercession of the Virgin of the Most Holy Rosary. All these victorious naval battles against the Protestant Dutch were considered miraculous since most of the ships which defended the young nation were not intended for battle. They were galleons in the first place, ships intended for trade. That is why the once mighty city of Manila (Intramuros) used to celebrate an extravagant feast during October called the La Naval in thanksgiving for Mother Mary’s intercession. And up to now, the city of Ángeles in Pampanga still holds a feast in honor of its patroness, Nuestra Señora del Santíssimo Rosario de La Naval de Ángeles.

Some wise guys claim that these great battles should never be taught in the study of Philippine History because it was not part of Philippine History at all but of Spanish History in the Philippines. Really now. But they fail to recognize that these naval battles were indeed crucial to the study of Philippine History. The Philippines was still young, still fortifying itself into becoming the nation that we know today. Although we always say that there are no ifs in history, it is still interestingly scary to note that if the Dutch did defeat the gallant Spaniards and Filipinos, then the Philippines would have been a Protestant nation rather than Christian. Or worse, there would have been no Philippines (i.e., Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo) to speak of.

From naval battles to soccer, it seems that the Dutch are no match for the Spaniards. History does repeat itself sometimes, albeit in a different setting. =)

King George III and his “peacock”

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A few days ago, Yeyette and I bought a picture book for Krystal entitled True Facts (1000s of Freaky, Scary, Gross, Extraordinary, and Simply Unbelievable Facts!) by John Guest. It contains interesting facts about the sciences, world history, and various topics such as the case of a Kansas tornado that lifted an 88-coach train from the track, or that of the price of Russia’s Diamond Crypto SmartPhone which costs more or less $1,300,000.

What caught my interest more was a freakily funny entry about King George William Frederick, otherwise known as King George III:

THE MADNESS OF GEORGE III

British King George III (1738-1820) had a mental illness. For a time, he ended every sentence with the word “peacock.” He also sometimes spoke for many hours without pause, and claimed to talk to angels.

A portrait of the King George III by English portrait-painter William Beechey.

King George III, by the way, was the monarch during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). The British, under the command of his daring peacocks Admiral Samuel Cornish and Brigadier General William Draper, invaded Manila on 23 September 1762. After a fierce battle, Intramuros finally fell the following month, 4 October 1762. Aside from the capital, however, the Brits were only able to hold captive Cavite and Pásig; their occupation of Malolos, Bulacán, was short-lived. Finally, when the war ended, the Brits left two years later.

George III was also the same king who lost the United States in 1776. Many years later, he lost his favorite daughter, Princess Amelia, to lingering illnesses. Whereupon he lost his mind.

But his peacock wasn’t lost on me, LOL!!!

Although I already know of King George’s madness, I didn’t know about the hilarious “peacock” part! It was infectiously funny; I couldn’t help ending all my sentences with that word, too, much to the ire of Yeyette, hahaha! Of course, I was just playing around peacock. But you know, my wife is so picón (touchy) peacock. So I better shut up peacock.

Well, gotta go peacock. It’s getting late peacock.

Have a good peacock! 😉

Spread the love! Malate love! (Malate, Manila)

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The past Valentine weekend was a busy one, full of fun and love! My wife Yeyette Perey de Alas and I spent most of it in Malate’s scenic bayside area. And like what I promised yesterday, I’ll be writing articles about beautiful Malate in the next few days starting today (ang dami rin casíng fotos, eh)

Malate is one of Manila’s 16 geographical units south of the Río de Pásig. It was once a part of extramuros or outside the walls of the original City of Manila which was Intramuros (within the walls). Since Malate was extramuros, it was known as an arrabal or district.

Malate is most famous for its historic and iconic baroque church, the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies). Calle Remedios was named after the church’s patroness. Today, however, Malate is popularly known as Manila’s nightlife capital. Several bars and restaurants catering foreign delicacies line its colorful streets. Through the years, Malate also gained the notoriety for its flesh trade. Several politicians have tried to stop this foul image but to no avail. A young hooker even tried to sell me her “services” — right in front of Malate Church! Me and wifey were so amused and appalled at the same time, LOL!!!

Our Lady of Remedies, by the way, is the patroness of childbirth. The Virgin’s image, brought here from Spain in 1624, stands at the altar inside the sixteenth-century Augustinian church. The church was heavily damaged during World War II but was later restored. Below is a picture of how the church and its surrounding looked like hundreds of years ago:

View of Malate Church in 1831, from Frenchman Cyrille Pierre Théodore Laplace's Voyage autour du Monde par les Mers de l'Inde et de la Chine.

As you can see, the place where Plaza Rajah Sulayman now stands used to be a beach! And the site where the famous Aristocrat restaurant now stands used to have huts and foliage! Roxas Boulevard runs through what used to be Bahía de Manila‘s coastline!

Below are more Malate pictures! It was fun to see the romantic Baywalk as a convergence point of various Filipinos –Manileños in particular– doing nothing but enjoying the company of friends and family members. People from different walks of life mingle with the sea breeze. And me and my wife mingled with all of them: vendors, beggars, hobbyists, etc., greeting them as if we’ve known them for years.

It was a night filled with friendship, for friendship is love as well. We were spreading love the “Malate way!”

Spread the love, Malate love!

My beloved queen Yeyette Perey de Alas. Plaza Rajah Sulayman (Solimán in Spanish) is at the background.

Ped Xing, LOL!!!

The long wait to cross the famous boulevard.

Fast cars racing against Manila's urban twilight.

Finally made it! The romantic Roxas Boulevard Baywalk!

The sun had just set when we crossed the boulevard from the Plaza Rajah Sulayman.

Backpacker!

Pre-Valentine romance!

¡Sorbetes!

Our Sony Cyber-Shot® Digital Camera W220 in twilight mode.

The former King of the Road: the calesa

Yeyette posing with a shy nilagang manî vendor.

Fishing is a common hobby by the bayside. But that night, we found out that there was a fishing tournament going on!

¡Maíz! Lots of it!

Evelio Javier was one of many lesser-known oppositionists who were assassinated during the Marcos regime.

Dried calamares (squids)!

Eavesdropping! LOL!!!

A hammock between the bay and the boulevard.

A young-looking balete tree with my young-looking wife. -)

As mentioned in an earlier photo caption, little did we know that there was a recreational fishing tournament going on! I’m already familiar with recreational fishing going on in the Manila Baywalk area for years, but I didn’t know that there is already an angling organization! It is called the Manila Bay Angler’s Association. And on the eve of Valentine’s Day, they were having their first Open Tournament which also served as a fundraising activity for their group. The even started at exactly 6:30 PM. We had the opportunity to meet almost everyone who joined the activity, as well as the organizer’s of the group/event. Nice fisher folk!

First fish caught in the first ever Manila Bay Angler's Association Open Tournament Fundraising.

Manila Bay Angler's Association (Open Tournament Fundraising, 02/13/2010)

Posing with the friendly organizers and officers of the Manila Bay Angler's Association.

Trophies are in line for the best anglers!

Participants of the event line up most of the esplanade in the Malate area.

We met a very young couple selling roses for Valentine's Day. The young man's 21 and his wife's only 18! And their eldest daughter, almost as old as our daughter, was too shy to join the picture taking!

These two young street urchins kept on following us. I got fed up and so I took their pictures. They happily obliged...

...Wifey even joined them.

My wife's lovely hand over the waters of Manila Bay.

Can't get enough of ourselves, LOL!!!

¡Paá namán!

Ancient Malate Church looming behind us.

Posing with other participants in Manila Bay Angler's Association's first fishing tournament. They were the happiest of the bunch!

They said they're into recreational fishing just to avoid boredom. And it's a fascinating hobby for them. At least, they're not into something vile. So good for them. =)

Malate Love continues tomorrow! May pasoc pa mámayang gabí, eh, LOL!!!

Malate love!

Joey de León’s Evil Poem

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The Buwan ng Wika is about to end. Cayá meron acóng pahabol na may quinalaman sa wicang Tagalog.

I’d just like to share to you this horrible piece of –excuse my French– crap which noontime TV host Joey de León wrote supposedly in honor of the late president Corazón “Tita Cory” Aquino, as the title of his poem seemed to suggest. However, it’s just another one of his malicious attacks against his controversial noontime TV rival Willie Revillamé. The controversial host of the popular noontime program Wowowee! is currently on a sabbatical due to some misunderstanding over his wrong choice of words when he requested ABS-CBN’s Traffic department to remove video snippets of Tita Cory’s cortege (from La Salle Green Hills in Mandaluyong City to historic Catedral de Manila in Intramuros) while his show was ongoing. This happened last August 3rd:

Please be cautioned, by the way, that this blogpost is not about the Willie-Tita Cory controversy (the whole country already knows about it, anyway), nor is this in defence to Revillamé’s reasoning. This is actually about de León’s hypocrisy, not to mention his lack of literary merit. His poem below (originally published in The Philippine Star on August 9th) seemed to be at first an elegy to the late icon of democracy. But after going through the first few lines, one will notice that he has vile motives.

The poem is without doubt witty. But wit alone doesn’t make one a poet.

Without further ado, here is de León’s hypocritical poem.

The funeral cortege of former Pres. Cory Aquino: My tears came naturally

Joey de León: jealousy won't get you nowhere.

Joey de León: jealousy won't get you nowhere.

Wala na sa piling ng mga Pilipino,
Tinig ng awiting Mga Kababayan Ko,
At lumisan na rin noong isang Sabado,
Inang nagpalipad sa awiting Bayan Ko.
Ako’y sumasaludo, paalam Pangulo,
May isa ‘kong lihim, kay tagal itinago,
Sa lahat nang inabot kong mga namuno,
Tanging ikaw lang sa luha ko’y nagpatulo.

Marami ang nalungkot sa iyong pagyao,
Magalang ang lahat at puno ng respeto,
Nagpasalamat pa nga Kapamilya sa ‘yo,
Dahil kanilang himpilan naibalik mo.

Subalit ano itong nabalitaan ko?
Nangyari noong Lunes, a-tres ng Agosto,
Habang inililipat ang mga labi mo,
Ika’y parang nabastos sa isang TV show.

At ang napakasaklap at masakit dito,
Ang nambastos pa’y kapamilya ng anak mo,
Napanood ito ng tao at publiko,
Kakaunti na nga, ngunit lahat nahilo.
Sabi ng TV host na mainit ang ulo
Pagkakita sa video na kanyang kasalo,
“Sandali, meron akong ano… sa’ting ano…
Hindi naman sa ano,” nagkaanu-ano!
Ayon sa Internet, meron pa s’yang nasambit,
“Sana pakitanggal muna ‘yan sa’ting traffic…”
At ‘di maaalis sa iyong pag-iisip,
Ang parada ng patay ang pinaliligpit!
At dagdag pa daw ng naghahari-harian,
“I don’t think na dapat n’yong ipakita iyan…”
Nasaan naman ang paggalang, o nasaan?
Mga sinasabi natin minsa’y pag-ingatan.

At ‘di pa nangimi nang sumunod na araw,
Pinilit pa ring ginawa n’ya ay tama raw,
Mga nakarinig ‘di na nakagalaw
At ayon sa iba sila na la’y napa-wow!

“… Pero ako, totoo ‘ko eh … “, sabi kuno,
Totoo nga at totoo ring walang modo,
Pwede namang sabihin itong pa-sikreto,
Kaya’t wala na rin mga paliwanag mo.

“Kung ganyan, pakita na lang ‘yan!”, ang hamon pa,
Para bang ang prusisyon nila-“lang – lang” lang ba,
Ang pangasiwaan ay pinapili pa n’ya,
Sumunod ang himpilan, nung August 5 wala s’ya.

May mga komentong pwede nang pang-harapan,
“On camera” baga sa TV ang tawag d’yan
At kung sensitibo man ang gustong bitawan,
Pagpasok ng commercial, hintayin mo na lang.

Matutong magbaba muna ng mikropono
At saka idikta lahat ng iyong gusto,
Lagi kang mataas lahat daw takot sa ‘yo,
Ratings lang ang mababa — totoo ba ito?

The breaking news breaks your heart — at ‘yan ang bawi mo,
Nang mahalata mong sumablay ang pasok mo,
Pero sigurado ika’y maa-abswelto,
‘Di ba ikaw rin ang may-ari ng network n’yo?
Nung Hueves nag-apologize sa diario naman,
O, akala ko ba wala kang kasalanan,
Tapos ng angalan, sunod paliwanagan —
COMPLAIN before you EXPLAIN ka na naman!
O ito kaya ay isa na namang “glitch” lang,
Tulad ng “two-zero” ‘di na natin nalaman,
O ito ay maliwanag na kabobohan?
Sa tingin ng marami, mahirap lusutan.

Ang sabi ng iba — istupidong mayabang,
At giit ng iba — istupidong mayaman,
Mayaman man o mayabang ang tiyak diyan,
Napakayaman n’ya sa kaistupiduhan.

Buti pa ang apat na honor guards ni Cory —
Sina Malab, Laguindan, Rodriguez, Cadiente,
Walong oras tumayo sa ulan at viaje,
Ang lahat ay tiniis at walang sinabi.

Samantalang ikaw na may bubong sa ulo,
Komportable ka lang sa malamig na studio,
Nang kapirasong libing sa TV sumalo,
Angal at inis ang sumambulat sa iyo.

Maaari din namang pabayaan na s’ya,
Subalit ang nangyari’y mabigat talaga,
Namayapang pangulo’y huling paalam na,
‘Di mo pa pinagbigyan … hoy, nag-iisa ka!

At nais ko lang sabihin at ipagyabang
Sa mahigit na s’yam na libong tanghalian,
Sa limang pangulong sa Bulaga’y dumaan,
Kahit isa wala kaming nilapastangan.

As you can see, the poem above is way off the mark. The funeral cortege of former Pres. Cory Aquino: My tears came naturally? That title is deceiving. It has nothing to do with the President’s passing at all.

Joey should also receive the same amount of criticism and online bashing that the beleaguered Wowowee! host is having right now. Using the late President’s name for his unexplainable hatred of Willie is uncalled for and even disrespectful. Hindí lang si Willie ang binábastos niyá dito cundí patí na rin ang dating presidente. Dapat alám na niyá itó lalo na nga’t may edad na siyá para suriin cung anó ang tamà at hindî.

And we thought that Joey has already patched things up with Willie (they had a fall out two years ago). What a shame for a 62-year-old accomplished comedian. Tsk.

To Mr. de León:

I admit that I do watch Revillamé’s Wowowee! from time to time and even prefer it over your three-decade-old Eat Bulaga!. But don’t worry, Mr. de León. Although I prefer his show over yours, we both have something in common: we both don’t like Willie; I for his arrogance and his occasional unsavory behavior, and you for I-do-not-know-what (¿waláng gamót sa inguít?). What you wrote is not an elegy; it’s a perfect display of your hypocrisy.

But I can proudly say to myself and to anyone else that, although I am not a perfect person too, I do not have the letters H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E within the fibers of my being.

Farewell, Tita Cory…

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President Corazón “Cory” Aquino — the icon of democracy, Asia’s first woman president, champion of modern Filipino freedom — has finally been reunited with her spouse, fellow freedom fighter Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, together with the Lord God in heaven…

My kids watching Tita Cory's funeral on live TV (with a magazine about her, published right after the 1986 People Power Revolution)

My kids watching Tita Cory's funeral on live TV (with a magazine about her, published in 1986)

As of this writing, her remains are still being carried off in a mammoth parade from the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros towards her final resting place in Manila Memorial Park, Parañaque City. She is to be buried beside her husband’s simple grave.

It was raining profusely since last night (it seems the skies were crying, too), but countless Filipinos kept vigil outside the Manila Cathedral during the final morning mass for her (with a touching sermon by Tita Cory’s spiritual adviser Fr. Catalino Arévalo, S.J.). But as soon as her coffin was taken outside the historic church, the torrent miraculously stopped — having lived a life of prayer and faith, don’t even think it’s just coincidence.

It’s unfortunate that I work the night shift (and I still have a lot of eProcurement documents to track down right after this); I couldn’t cover this historic moment live. So I just content myself watching the whole event unfold on ABS-CBN Channel 2.

Kris Aquino, assisted by a religious, laying down a silver crucifix on top of her mom's coffin (ABS-CBN).

Kris Aquino, assisted by a religious, laying down a silver crucifix on top of her mom's coffin (ABS-CBN).

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Tita Cory and Senator Ninoy: together again.

Tita Cory and Senator Ninoy: together again.

After 23 years, Cory Magic is back on the streets! The massive throng, the yellow clothing and confetti, the Laban hand sign being displayed by those who honor her… almost everything reminiscent of the original EDSA People Power Movement have returned even if just for one day, for one final moment.

In Facebook, my dear friend and fellow blogger Arnold is teasing me that I’m a Cory fan. A Cory fan I am not (I even used to despise her for having approved the death of the Spanish language in the country). But ever since she apologized to Joseph Estrada for having made the terrible mistake of supporting today’s most unpopular Filipina (aside from having lived a life of prayer and faith), she earned my full respect and praise. Thus I am sure that if she only knew more about the importance of the Spanish language in our country, she wouldn’t have approved its deletion as one of our official languages in our current constitution.

And if memory serves right, Tita Cory is the only Filipina politician who has apologized publicly for her mistake; Mrs. Arroyo’s pathetic “I am sorry” speech doesn’t even prove anything because she is still desperately holding onto Malacañang.

Tita Cory has left us not just a legacy of freedom, democracy, and a prayerful life; she has also taught us the goodness of humility and repentance.

Let us be thankful that she has left a world of pain. She is now in a much better place, the greatest place in the universe.

From FILIPINO SCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS, let us hear this legendary cheer for one last time… CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY! CORY!!!

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