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Don Hilario Ziálcita has finally come home…

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Early this morning, I was chatting with Tita Maggie Ziálcita de Tomás, a former print model and an old friend (we used to be neighbors back in the 80s). I was asking her help if she knows where I can recruit household helpers (a usual problem for me and my wife).

Suddenly, her mobile phone rang. It was from her cousin Manny, a brother of renowned cultural anthropologist, Fernando “Butch” Ziálcita.

Tita Maggie’s voice startled during the brief phone conversation. After the call, she broke down. The news sucked the air out of my brain: Manny and Butch’s father, the great Don Hilario Ziálcita y Legarda of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española (RAE), was dead. He was to turn 98 this year.

Prior to his death, Don Hilario may have been the oldest known Spanish-speaking Filipino, and was the oldest member of the RAE.

Flashback to 30 April 2004: a lazy afternoon at SPI Technologies. I was surfing the net when I suddenly encountered a news article reporting the unexpected death of Nick Joaquín the day before. Nick was one of the greatest Filipinos who had ever lived. And I almost met him a couple of times but didn’t. I quietly left my work station… and wept at some corner overlooking —of all places— Monte de Maquiling.

I idolized Nick so much to the point that I made an altar of him in my mind. Señor Guillermo Gómez, a close friend of his, proposed at least two or three times for me to finally meet him. But nothing came out of it due to schedule problems. What a wasted opportunity. What could have ever happened if I met the creator of Joaquinesquerie himself? Sayang. One of my life’s biggest regrets.

Now it’s followed by another loss.

Tita Maggie has invited me many times to visit her uncle. Don Hilario became one of my favorite poets after having read his collection of poetry, La Nao de Manila y Demás Poesías / The Manila Galleon and Other Poems, which his son Butch gave to me and other members of the Círculo Hispano-Filipino two years ago. It is a bilingual book published in 2004 containing some of Don Hilario’s poetry in Spanish coupled with English translations that were edited by Lourdes Brillantes. I then gave the book to my daughter so that she could perfect her Spanish.

Another sayang moment here because I was planning to interview Don Hilario, mainly to know more about the Intramuros of old, his poetry, and perhaps a chance to feature him in a new magazine that I am connected with right now. But it didn’t happen because me and Tita Maggie had a petty falling out a few months ago.

Nevertheless, 97 years on Earth is already a big achievement. Only a few people today are blessed to live that long. Don Hilario is one of those few. And his credentials are amazing. Don Hilario was a poet, a medical doctor in the field of radiology, a distinguished académico for the RAE, and a nationalist and true Christian — indeed, the quintessential Filipino, a gentleman of the old school, and a descendant of Don Agapito Ziálcita, one of the signatories of the Philippine Declaration of Independence.

To honor him, I am publishing a poem of his, translated from the Spanish original. This poem is apparently dedicated to his wife Mercedes, one of the daughters of Filipino patriot Julio Nákpil

THE RINGING OF BELLS

From the church… bells reverberate,
They reverberate, they reverberate
To toast
The dawn of a new day,
Its charms, its joys…
The bells reverberate, reverberate
Without ceasing…

Ringing out the memories
Of my life…
Echoing, echoing
To relive
The most precious moments,
Remembering the happy ones
As sleep comes…

The dying echoes
Fade away…
Moving away, moving away
Without wanting to.
I go on dreaming,
Reliving your memory,
Not wanting,
Not wanting it
To perish…

For you are unforgettable…

10 October 1997
Sioux City, Iowa

You, Don Hilario, are unforgettable. At last you are now with your beloved Merceditas…

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Julio Nákpil, musical revolutionist

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Today is the birth anniversary of a very prominent and highly talented revolucionario. His name is Julio Nákpil. Below is a brief biographical sketch of the Manileño revolutionist written by Carmencita H. Acosta (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Institute).

JULIO NÁKPIL
(1867-1960)

In Julio Nákpil’s musical compositions is reflected his intense love of country. Upon the request of Andrés Bonifacio, he composed and wrote the lyrics of what the Supremo envisioned as the national anthem of the Philippines, entitled Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan.

On November 2, 1896, Nákpil left his home in Manila and proceeded to San Francisco del Monte where he joined the forces of Bonifacio. He fought his first battle alongside Emilio Jacinto in San Mateo under the command of Bonifacio. Nákpil helped in procuring arms and ammunition for the Katipunan. From December, 1896, to March, 1897, he succeeded in sending to Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabón, about 30 to 40 copper boxes of gunpowder taken from the polvorón de San Guillermo in Binañgonan, Mórong. Had Nákpil been caught by the Spaniards, he would surely have been executed.

He assumed the fictitious name “J. Giliw” in all his revolutionary activities, as was the custom during that dangerous period, so as to escape detection by the enemy. When Bonifacio was called to Cavite, he entrusted the command of the revolutionary forces in northern Manila to Isidoro Francisco and chose Nákpil as secretary of said forces. He fought several battles in the aforesaid area under the command of Emilio Jacinto.

His patriotic musical compositions include the “Amor Patrio” which was inspired by Dr. Rizal’s deportation to Mindanáo; “Pahimakas”, a funeral march in commemoration of the execution of Dr. Rizal; “Pásig Pantayanin”, which was dedicated to the bravery and sacrifices of the Revolutionary Army; and “Sueño Eterno”, a tribute to the bravery of the slain General Antonio Luna.

Nákpil was born on May 22, 1867 in Quiapò, Manila, the fourth of twelve children of Juan Nákpil Luna and Juana García Putco. He was self-educated; and earned fame as a pianist and composer. He married the widow of Bonifacio, Gregoria de Jesús, by whom he had seven daughters and one son, Juan F. Nákpil, a renowned architect.

Nákpil spent the last years of his life at his home in Quiapò, Manila, where he died on November 2, 1960. His memoirs of the Revolution were published after his death under the title of Julio Nákpil and the Philippine Revolution. The Bonifacio Centennial Commission conferred on Julio Nákpil a posthumous award in 1963 in recognition of his patriotism.

Those who have been patiently reading my historical posts in the net might notice an ambivalence towards how I treat revolucionarios, particularly the murderous members of the hispanophobic Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan nğ mğá Anak nğ Bayan. In one blogpost, I condemned them with the fury of a scornful youth (using street language that may have tore down –unfortunately for me– all credibility of the facts which I have written there). In conversations that I have with other like-minded individuals, I do not, for one second, hesitate to declare that Bonifacio and his Katipunan cohorts were criminals, terrorists, and troublemongers.

So why feature a brief biography of an ex-Katipunero? What made him different from Bonifacio and the other Katipuneros?

True, this is a very difficult topic to ponder and discuss. In a free-for-all historical discussion that I had with my allies Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera and Arnaldo Arnáiz two weekends ago, I was told that in the conflict between historical characters in the Filipino setting (and this excludes the Yankee invaders), there were no villains nor heroes. It was simply history in the making. Although Señor Gómez also has an ambivalent and sometimes compromising attitude towards certain historical personalities, for him, the nationalism of the person counts most. Therefore, Bonifacio is a hero in his book.

But not for me. I always look for the results of human outbursts. And the result of the Katipunan is what we see right now: a society fit for rabid dogs and not for men. Indeed, Bonifacio may have had nobler purposes and dictates, but his dictates were those of the Masonic lodge, the ancient enemy of the true Filipino faith which is Christianity, aka, Catholicism. The seemingly noble ideals of liberté, égalité, et fraternité bedeviled the foothold of absolute monarchy which, in reality, gave birth and form and spiritual synergy to then heathen and backward peoples such as ours. Freemasonry exchanged it for democracy which, in reality, makes us self-destruct, disfigures us, and places us back to our heathen beginnings, no thanks to liberal amounts of liberation.

Going back to Nákpil, perhaps my inclination towards the arts gave me a soft spot for this Quiapense. After his revolutionary works, he lived a semi-hermit life dedicating himself to music and self-education. Aside from his musical masterpieces (which up to now are the talk of many historians and some classical musicians), he also dabbled in linguistics and scholarship (even making notes on the etymology of local geographical names). Although a Tagalista, his language was actually Spanish: he wrote his memoirs and other personal and scholarly notes (such as Teodoro M. Kálaw’s La Revolución Filipina) in the beautiful language of Miguel de Cervantes. And he was sure damn proud of it. How ironic, indeed, for someone to have joined an anti-Spanish terrorist group but whose language and psyche is that of the colonialists.

During his final years, Nákpil was regarded as a “true gentleman of the old school”. His biographer, the late historian Encarnación Alzona, has this to say about the musical revolutionist:

This writer had the privilege of meeting him when he was already in his eighties. What impressed her was his dignified bearing. He was erect, slender, and sprightly, with a ready smile, and above all his mind was lucid. When the conversation turned to the subject close to his heart –the Philippine Revolution– he talked animatedly. He could recount with vividness his experiences during that turbulent epoch. He remembered distinctly certain personalities and what he learned from them. The episode had made lasting impressions on his mind…

By October 1960 his children noticed in him a pronounced physical debility, although he continued his customary morning constitutional, when the weather permitted. On sunny mornings he could be seen dressed neatly and with the aid of his walking stick strolling on the promenade in the Luneta. On All Saints’ Day, 1 November 1960, however, he stayed in bed. On the afternoon of the following day, 2 November, he expired at his home on Barbosa Street. He was ninety-two years old.

If I were to make a comparison between the Katipunan and, say, the Abu Sayyaf, the latter would have paled in deathly comparison. Although both groups are terrorist organizations, the intellect of many a Katipunero was far higher than that of their modern Mindanáo counterpart. Abu Sayyaf members are scalawags and vermins of the lowest ground. After being neutralized, members remain as scumbags. But many Katipunan members such as Nákpil remained dignified and even exalted.

And his music –and language– dignified him more.

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