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Santacruzan sa Unisan 2011 (Unisan, Tayabas)

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The Philippines may have lost the Spanish language to some extent, but it has not lost contact with its Hispanic past. Our country’s Latin spirit has been kept alive by our culture itself as represented by numerous town fiestas and other Catholic events held almost every week.

Suffice it to say that Catholicism is almost synonymous to Hispanidad, at least, perhaps, in our country. After all, it was the Spaniards who brought the Catholic faith to these once heathen islands. But it can also be said that it was the Catholic faith which spurred the conquistadores (inspired by the zeal of the Catholic Spanish crown) to win new souls in Christ the Lord’s name.

In modern slang, the Catholic-Spanish influx to these islands which we now call the Philippines was a “double whammy” of sorts.

Take the month of May, for instance. Filipinos celebrate the famous Flores de Mayo with much pomp, grace, and grandeur. It has been deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche that it is not even considered Hispanic anymore. But it was and still is. Flores de Mayo is a true testament of what Hispanidad really is, aside from a linguistic point of view.

My cousins Jam Alas (Reina de las Flores) and Kevin Alas (escort).

Flores de Mayo (translated as “Flowers of May” in English) is celebrated in honor of the Virgin Mary. At the end of the month, a religio-historical beauty pageant called the sagala, commonly known as the Santacruzan, is held in many towns all over the country. This Catholic tradition (perhaps endemic only to our country) can be traced to the epic journey of Saint Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Saint Constantine the Great (the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity), to locate the Vera Cruz (True Cross) of Jesus Christ. Actually, according to Catholic tradition, Saint Helena discovered the cross on 14 September 325; why the Santacruzan is held every May remains a puzzle to me.

The people of Unisan, Tayabas (now Quezon) may have not noticed it (particularly the younger generation), but these prying eyes did. The colorful mix of the procession, the devotees’ singing of Dios Te Salve María and other church songs in Latin, and the town’s various ancestral houses (bahay na bató) made the whole scene very Hispanic, indeed. After having attended Unisan’s Santacruzan and witnessed the Rigodón de Honor, I remarked that the only thing lacking to make the picture complete was the Spanish language.

But even without the Spanish language, for as long as the Philippines remains Christian, i.e. Catholic, complete with her traditions that were brought here by the friars, we shall continue living as a Hispanic country.

Santacruzan sa Unisan

Last 29 May, my cousins Josephine “Jam” Alas y Láus (one of Magic 89.9‘s youngest disc jocks) and up-and-coming basketball superstar Kevin Louie Alas y Platón (of Colegio de San Juan de Letrán Knights and PBA D-League‘s Cebuana Lhuillier Gems; son of famous multi-titled basketball coach Francisco Luis “Louie” Alas y Évora) participated in the annual Santacruzan, the culmination of the month-long Flores de Mayo. Jam represented the queen of May flowers, La Reina de las Flores; Kevin was her escort. Typhoon Chedeng was threatening to ruin the event all week. Surprisingly (or should I say miracurously), the typhoon suddenly veered its course, and that afternoon procession was greeted by sunny skies instead!

Below are photos of each queen with brief historical descriptions, but not wanting in criticisms. It is hoped that subsequent Santacruzan processions will strictly adhere to tradition, and that each representative queen must first be “indoctrinated” on the meaning and significance of this holy procession even before they participate. This is not merely a pagandahan affair. Each queen has meaning. That must be squarely emphasized so as not to forget the true value of this summertime Catholic procession.

¡Gracias a la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo!


Reina de los Ángeles. Traditionally, this queen has a branch of white flowers.


Young girls clad in white carrying the letters AVE MARÍA.


Reina Banderada.
Traditionally, this queen is a young girl dressed in a long red gown. She carries with her a triangular yellow flag. She represents the arrival of Christianity. But where is the yellow flag in this photo?


Buán (Moon) at mğa Bituín (Stars). Buán represents the Moon which is the throne of the Virgin Mary.


Another representative for Reina de los Ángeles.


Reina de la Fe symbolizes Faith, the first of the Theological Virtues. This queen should carry a crucifix (but the lady pictured above doesn’t have one).


Reina Esperanza symbolizes the second of the Theological Virtues: Hope. This representative should carry an anchor, the Christian symbol for Hope.


Reina de la Caridad symbolizes Charity, the last of the Theological Virtues. And this queen should carry an image of a red heart (Christian symbol for the virtue she represents). But instead of that, what she carries in this photo is an abanico (a local fan).


Reina Luwalhatì represents the Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Hapis represents the Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Tuwâ represents the Joyful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.


Reina Abogada (in front) represents the defender of the poor and the oppressed. Traditionally, she carries a large book and wears a toga similar to those worn during graduation ceremonies. Behind her is Reina Sentenciada. Traditionally, her hands are tied by a rope. She represents the First Christians, particularly the virgins who were martyred in the name of the Christian Faith.


Reina de la Justicia. She represents the “Mirror of Justice”, a personification of the Virgin Mary which is one of her titles in the Litany of Loreto (Letanías Lauretanas). Her symbols (again not shown in this procession) are the familiar images of justice: a weighing scale and a sword.


Reina Samaritana represents the biblical lady with whom our Lord Jesus Christ had a conversation with at the well (John 4:13-30). Her symbol is a water jug which the representative queen should carry on her shoulders. (not apparent in this photo).


Reina de Saba represents the queen who had a special friendship with the famous King Solomon (I Book of Kings 10:1-13).


Reina Esther (sometimes spelled Ester) was a Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from certain death at the hands of Haman the Agatite through her timely intervention. At the Flores de Mayo/Santacruzan procession, this queen is supposed to carry a scepter.


Reina Judit is the widow who saved her city from the Assyrians under the cruel general Holofernes. Her symbols: the severed head of Holofernes that she is supposed to carry in one hand and a sword in the other. Again, these props were not used.


Reina Elena III. There are usually three representatives for Reina Elena during the Santacruzan procession. But the escort particularly for Reina Elena III is traditionally a young boy, representing a young Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great.


Reina Elena II.


Reina Elena I.


Reina Elena, the mother of the emperor-saint, Constantine the Great. In Catholic tradition, she was the queen who looked for the relics of the Vera Cruz, or the True Cross, of our Lord Jesus Christ. Curiously, Vera Cruz is also a surname of one of the oldest families in Unisan.


Reina Emperatriz is actually the mother of Emperor/Saint Constantine the Great, none other than Reina Elena. The title emperatriz is derived from the Latin words Augusta Imperatrix, an honorific title given by the emperor to his mother.


The young escorts of the Reina de las Flores. The girls (left to right): my cousin Carmela and my niece Amber. Behind them are my cousins Rafaél (Carmela’s brother) and Joseph (Jam’s brother).


My cousins Jam and Kevin as the Reina de las Flores and her escort, respectively. La Reina de las Flores is considered the “Queen of Flores de Mayo“. From my observation, it seemed that Jam was the only queen who strictly continued the Santacruzan tradition that afternoon — because the Reina de las Flores should carry a bouquet of flowers in the procession, which she did. To paraphrase Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — FINALLY… something went right! 🙂


Imagen de la Virgen María, la reina verdadera de las Flores de Mayo al regresar a la iglesia después de la procesión.


At the Rigodón de Honor in Parque de Tamesis. Kevin and Jam are at center.


Seated in front of me is family friend Mayor Calixto Catáquiz y Ramírez of San Pedro, La Laguna (his late father is from Unisan). To his right (in green shirt) is Tayabas/Quezon province’s 3rd district representative Danilo Suárez.


My dapper don dad (Sr. Don Josefino Alas y Évora) preparing for the Rigodón de Honor.


Capitana Gloria Alas (at the podium) giving a speech of acknowledgment.


The colorful and lively Rigodón de Honor. At photo is my cousin, Ate Mª Cecilia Alas de Órgano and her dance partner. This dance event was participated by many of my relatives (including dad) and former congresswoman Aleta Suárez (wife of incumbent congressman Suárez).


Left to right: Kevin, our niece Lía, Jam, Lía’s brother RR, and the preferred escort of all Flores de Mayo queens (who else?).


Alas Bratpack (left to right): RR, Kevin, Joycee, Lía, Jam, my wife Yeyette, Ate Glen, Emperor Pepe the Great, and Laiza.


Goofing around with Wifey (but lovely still). 😀

*******

All photos in this article were taken by myself and my cousin Ate Lilet Alas de Fernández.

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Philippine general election 2010

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The first time I voted was in 1998. It was a hilarious experience. I voted in Tondo, Manila, my mom’s hood. I rooted for Manila hizzoner Alfredo Lim, then a known crime buster. I even had the rare chance of voting with him in the same precinct. Lim was sitting right in front of me. The crazy media was all over him. And since I was sitting behind him, they were all over me too. Some crazy photojournalist even stepped on my desk just to photograph Lim while casting his vote. Thus, my ballot had this photojournalist’s shoeprint. I was too young to protest nor complain. Sana palá sinumbóng co cay Lim. Sayang.

The late President Cory Aquino endorsed Lim. Fellow hispanista/filipinista, the late great Nick Joaquín, even wrote his biography: May Langit Din Ang Mahirap: The Life Story of Alfredo Siojo Lim. I was too young back then, 18 years of age. I could easily be coaxed. And many of my peers in the university were communist/socialist supporters. I voted just for the experience. However, my choice for the presidency was genuine: I really wanted Lim to pulverize crime and corruption, something that he was known for during his cop days (or so I was told). But Erap won that game.

Through the years, my disdain for local politics was like a festering disturbance in the brain. Politics worsened, and so was my opinion of it. Like many disgruntled Filipinos, I lost hope in the electoral process. Heck, I lost hope in politics altogether. And during my reevaluation of Philippine history, world history, philosophy, and religion, I figured out that we were actually better off under a monarchial form of government (seriously; but I will expound more on this in a future blogpost). I viewed democracy from another standpoint. I realized that it will not work without theological guidance, something frowned upon by hardcore fundamentalist democrats. Filipino nationalist and philosopher Dr. Salvador Araneta proposed for a Christian democracy (published in his 1958 opus Christian Democracy for the Philippines), but he was ignored to the point of even being marginalized.

In 2004, the issue of the National Identification System was top news. Many politicians were proposing that all Filipinos should have a national ID. During that time, I wasn’t really following the news; I had my own personal crisis to take care of, something far more important for me than the caprices of the powers that be. But if I understood the events of that time correctly, those who were eligible to vote but will not register for that year’s election will not receive this important National ID. Yep, I was suckered to vote. As if I had no choice. Whatever. So I chose the lesser evil: FPJ. Me and my wife voted in Pásay City (where we used to live). I was able to cast my vote. She failed to do so — her name was missing for crying out loud! And countless others in the same area were not able to cast their votes as well.

During chats that we had with those unfortunate ones whose names were missing in the voting precincts, I found out that most of them –if not all– voted for Erap back in 1998 (Yeyette herself voted for him). A clever move.

A few years later, “Hello Garci” became one of the most celebrated and best-selling records of all time, of all time! And that was it for me. I told myself, “never again”.

So that is why I did not register for this election. And I vowed to myself that, after what they did to FPJ last 2004, I will never for the life of me waste my time practicing my right of suffering… suffrage I mean.

And so I would like to extend my sincerest apologies to our family friend, Mayor Calixto Catáquiz of San Pedro, La Laguna, who is running for reelection (I did not vote, but I prayed for your victory, sir).

But fellow hispanista/filipinista José Miguel García is wittingly correct with his comment on my Facebook wall: “Pepe, participating in election today, is interacting in a social game, which is very entertaining and diverts us from the stress of the real world for a few weeks or months at least. Do you not like to be relieved of pain even just for a few months?”

Hmmm… sure, why not? It only comes once in a couple of years. It may already be too late to vote. But it is certainly not too late to enjoy the show!

So I went out this morning to take a couple of photos of this circus called the 2010 Philippine National Elections!

The town plaza (with the municipio behind it) seemed so peaceful.

The entrance to the municipio seemed deserted. Not much action here...

...because most of the action is here at the Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro. Many public schools throughout the country have been converted into voting precincts for the rest of the election period.

Ready to help the helpless.

Voters waiting for their turn are made to wait in vacant rooms.

Here they go!

Thankfully, the voting process in Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro is peaceful and orderly. Hopefully, the rest will be the same throughout the archipelago.

Last-minute campaigning.

San Pedro Roadmap 2020: will this project (and other similar projects nationwide) ever materialize?

Only God knows...

After taking photos, I treated myself to a Capampañgan delicacy in a nearby restaurant: sisig! No, this is not in honor of GMA, a heartless and shameless Pampangueña. To my mind, feasting on sisig is better than voting. =)

Disappointment over my unofficial hometown

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Fulfilling what I wrote yesterday, I went around San Pedro, La Laguna, tagging along mi única hija Krystal. It was also a baptism of fire of sorts for our new camera (although we already used it on Christmas Day). I’ll blog about it when I feel OK already (I’m so exhausted with all that walking under the afternoon sun!); hopefully tomorrow. I still haven’t mastered how to use the camera correctly, nor have I accustomed myself with its special features. That’s why I won’t be surprised if the pictures don’t come out OK.

I’ve been around San Pedro numerous times already. We’ve been living here for the past five years. We moved here last 10 November 2004, on the very day of the 2004 Philippine National Elections (that’s when FPJ won in the voting but got lost in the counting). Yeyette was then heavy with child (three days later, she gave birth to Momay, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima). A female cousin of mine who was married to a San Pedrense helped us in finding a place to stay. Those were struggling times for us. Indeed, getting married at a very inopportune time will not do a person any good, especially in this age of economic crises.

When we first moved here, I was really excited. I’ve been an urban kid for years. That’s why rural life always revs up the sentient patterns of my behavior toward society. Summer vacations in Unisan, Quezon during my childhood made it even more nostalgic.

In short, I’m sick of urban life.

But as soon as I stepped inside the world of San Pedro, La Laguna back in 2004, I was immediately disappointed. I was expecting some farmlands, tranquility, more of nature, more rustic imagery, more bahay na bató. But upon entrance (from Muntinlupà City), what greeted me was a vandalized bridge and welcome arch, a garbage-filled estero, Sogo Hotel, smoke fumes from numerous tricycles, boorish traffic, and a motley assemblage of unaesthetic establishments reminiscent of Quiapò, Manila. It was an exuberance of poor municipal planning.

San Pedro, La Laguna is reputedly the “Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines”. But I saw no Sampaguita. Beerhouses, however, were not wanting. And should I even mention the garbage?! And that poor thing called a river…!

But it’s the Christmas season. I shouldn’t be writing about horrible things. I’m just disappointed. It appears that the “curse” of cityhood has encroached rural territories.

San Pedro’s deterioration is not the local government’s fault alone. The people are to be blamed as well. The first thing that you notice in a place is its cleanliness (or filthiness, whichever comes first). With San Pedro, you’ll immediately run into filth. It’s funny how its people continuously complain of the government’s inaction against garbage when they themselves litter everywhere as if there’s no tomorrow.

And lastly, where are the cultural sites? The province of La Laguna is supposed to be a tourist destination. The last time I checked, San Pedro is still in La Laguna.

This afternoon, Krystal and I took pictures of San Pedro’s major sites. But it’s still disappointing. There’s really nothing much to see in San Pedro. No offense to our family friend, San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, but I used to kid around that San Pedro is the “ugliest place in La Laguna province”. I know it sounds rude. But it appears to be true. And I say that not really to insult but out of helpless disappointment.

Mayor Calex has a lot of work to do if his reelection bid becomes successful in the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections. His vision 2020 for San Pedro is astounding, almost too good to be true. In his still unpublished biography, A Date With Destiny
(One More Challenge!): The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Catáquiz
(which Arnaldo and I are still working on), San Pedro writer Sonny Ordoña has this to share:

“Mayor Catáquiz is a visionary,” says Sonny Ordoña, the town’s resident historian and the municipal hall’s consultant for cultural affairs. “Once he asked me for a unique nickname for the town. Since we have a couple of shrines here, particularly the miraculous Santo Sepulcro Shrine in Landayan, I suggested to him, ‘well, why not dub it as a Shrine City?’ His eyes beamed with the idea. The next thing you know, he’s telling everyone that he’s planning to create a 30-storey high bronze statue of Jesus Christ! He wants it installed up in the mountains of San Pedro!”

Also mentioned in this still unpublished biography:

Another pet project of his is quite ambitious: to redevelop idle parts of San Pedro into an economic zone — a trading convergence zone for products coming in from Southern and Northern Luzón!

“Through this economic zone, traders and farmers from Southern Tagalog, and even the whole of Southern Philippines, will be able to sell and showcase their native produce and other items in San Pedro. At the same time, Filipino businessmen from the North will be able to do the same. Thus, this setup will definitely make San Pedro a crucial business zone, making its nickname as the Gateway to Calabarzon truly worthy!”

I’m not sure if Mayor Calex is still interested in having his biography published. We haven’t seen nor talked to each other for about a month or so. The book’s 99.99% done. Gemma Cruz Araneta has even reviewed it already. And Arnaldo is now busy with other historical projects. Furthermore, we’ll be moving out of this town next year. For good. If Mayor Calex isn’t interested anymore, we’ll just charge it to experience.

Anyway, with the way things are going around in San Pedro –my “unofficial” hometown– it looks as if Mayor Calex still has a long way to go with regard to his noble Vision 2020 plans.

Pero cahit anó pa man, napamahál na rin sa aming familia ang pueblo na itó. Five years is five years. We’ve had many good memories in this town named after Saint Peter the Apostle.

Por la intercesión del San Pedro Apóstol, que el Señor Dios le bendiga a este pueblo.

*******

Happy birthday, Mayor Catáquiz!

Errors still unrectified: a brief historical outline of the Philippine Left (with commentaries)

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“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” –Karl Marx–

Today marks the 41st founding anniversary of the reestablished Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of José María Sison, a leftist writer and former university professor who is now on self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

On 26 December 1968, Sison, together with other leaders of the Philippine left, convened in a rural area in Pangasinán province to integrate the principles of Marxism-Leninism to that of Mao Tse-Tung’s, creating the said political party in the process. The following year, the CPP launched its armed wing: the New People’s Army (NPA). The landscape of our country’s progressive political thought — not excluding security and order — has never been the same since.

Sison’s CPP actually traces its origins from the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP, or CPP in English) of Crisanto Evangelista. PKP was organized on 26 August 1930, but was officially proclaimed on 7 November of the same year (at the height of the American Occupation). The two dates, August 26 and November 7, are significant to Filipino Communists: August 26 of that year was actually the 34th anniversary of the Katipunan’s Cry of Pugad Lawin (Nick Joaquín contends that it happened on 23 August 1896 in Balintawak — I believe him); 7 November 1930 was the 13th anniversary of the Russian Revolution (October 25 in the old Russian calendar). Wrote Novo Ecijano Alfredo Saulo in his groundbreaking book Communism in the Philippines: An Introduction (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1990):

The Philippine Revolution was a nationalist revolution, the first in Asia, while the Russian Revolution was a communist-led working class revolution, the first in the history of mankind.

In trying to bridge the two revolutions, the CPP would seem to emphasize both the nationalist and proletarian character of its revolutionary struggle.

It is significant to note that the party was organized in the Templo del Trabajo (literally Temple of Labor), doubtless the most important gathering place for labor elements in the city in the early thirties. It was proclaimed at Plaza Moriones, Tondo, the heartland of Manila’s working-class district.

PKP, on the other hand, claims to carry on the “unfinished struggle” of the Filipino masses led by Andrés Bonifacio, erroneously designated with the title “The Great Plebeian”. For one, Bonifacio may not have been rich, but he was not from the lowliest of economic classes: he used to work as a business agent in a British firm — what’s proletarian about that? And besides, he joined Freemasonry in 1892 (Taliba Lodge No. 165). Despite claims of espousing the ideals of liberté, égalité, et fraternité, the world’s oldest (and mysterious) fraternal group usually recruit well-off members of the community –at least in the Philippines during Spanish times. Bonifacio couldn’t have been a Mason if he was purely plebeian. And one more thing: the Philippine Revolution of 1896 were the brains of the elite, not of the masses alone, as carelessly claimed by the late historian Teodoro Agoncillo.

But these historical divulgations are to be tackled in the future.

Speaking of the elite, the PKP wouldn’t have survived the prying eyes of Imperialist US if not for the help of an ilustrado by the name of Isabelo de los Reyes, the direct founder of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. He was then serving a prison sentence in Spain for his ties with the Philippine Revolution. During his incarceration, he was able to meet Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, the infamous anarchist and free-thinker who had a hand in the sacking and burning of about 400 Spanish Catholic churches (Saulo wrote that de los Reyes got the idea of founding the Iglesia Filipina Independiente from him although it is unlikely due to his anarchist background). Upon de los Reyes’ return to the Philippines in July 1901, he brought with him the first batch of socialist literature to have ever reached the archipelago.

Socialism vs Communism

Saulo brilliantly observed that de los Reyes’ “socialist literature must have had such a tremendous impact on local labor circles…”

…that hardly two years later (circa 1903) Lope K. Santos, a young journalist and labor leader, started the publication of Banaag at Sikat (‘Ray and Sunrise’) his social novel, in the daily newspaper Muling Pagsilang (‘The Rebirth’) which he also edited.

Published in book form in 1906, Banaag at Sikat was the first literary work by a Filipino to expound the principles of socialism in the Philippines. This novel antedated by almost a generation the birth in 1932 of the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) founded by Pedro Abad Santos.

Legendary revolutionist Luis Taruc used to be the right-hand man of Abad Santos who is the brother of the 5th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court José Abad Santos. Although Taruc, who died a few years ago, claimed that Abad Santos’ SPP was founded in 1932, others contend that the socialist organization was founded in 1929 or 1933. A few years later, some of SPP’s members who had communist leanings supported then Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon’s social justice program, a move which is frowned upon by many communists who believed that the left should not in anyway “support” the capitalist/imperialist establishment. Meanwhile, more trade unions have been organized following the organization of both the PKP/CPP and SPP (but there were already trade unions which preceded both militant groups such as the Unión de Impresores de Filipinas which was founded in 1906). Labor strikes were rampant (notable was the one which happened in Fábrica, Negros Occidental — about 15,000 walked out from the Insular Lumber Mills company). The Great Depression happening in the US was being felt in the archipelago, much like what had happened in the recent US financial crisis.

Both PKP and SPP, of course, had various differences, particularly in ideology. The PKP is strictly communist: they advocate a social structure in which societal classes must be abolished and that private property should be publicly owned. And like most communist groups, the PKP believed that only a proletarian revolution will help them achieve their goals. Abad Santos’ SPP is, of course, rallying for socialism. But the difference between both progressive ideologies are a bit blurry especially since both groups share the same objectives: a classless society. Many social scientists say that socialism allows some free market economy –a familiar feature in capitalist societies– to exist. An individual is also allotted resources depending on their needs. Unfortunately for communists, especially those who look down to socialists, socialism is in fact based in the theories of Karl Marx, the oft-mentioned German philosopher who laid the foundations of modern communist thought through his famous pamphlet Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (commonly known in English as The Communist Manifesto) and his extensive book Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Capital). Bolshevik Leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin finally concluded that socialism is actually a transitional stage between capitalism and communism (this brought forth the popular Marxist-Leninist school of communism).

Hukbalahap

Japanese aggression during World War II compelled both PKP and SPP to submit themselves to an “unholy alliance” to secure a more effective and meaningful struggle against the enemy. However, many of their leaders, including Abad Santos and Evangelista, were arrested by the dreaded Japanese kempetai. It was a disastrous blow to the Philippine left, but it launched its “Second Front” under the leadership of Dr. Vicente Lava. Eleven days before the dramatic fall of Bataán, the PKP launched the now legendary breed of Filipino guerilleros called the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon, commonly known as the Hukbalahap, on 29 March 1942.

After the war, Hukbalahap members fought the government, especially when Manuel Roxas was being groomed by Imperialist US to become the first president of the “independent” Republic of the Philippines. The Huks didn’t trust him, for he was a Japanese collaborator. This disturbing fact was divulged by no less than General Douglas MacArthur’s contact with the Philippine underground movement against the Japanese: Commander Charles Parsons. This was mentioned in the book Cross-Currents in the Philippines (Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, 1946) by Bernard Seeman and Laurence Salisbury: “Roxas didn’t collaborate actively. He was really a passive collaborator,” said Parsons. But dirty politics and a vile US economic policy toward war-shamed Japan made Roxas the US’ main man in the Philippines. And so the hatred between him and the Hukbalahap members commenced.

It can be said that the Hukbalahap is the precursor to today’s NPA.

Rectifying errors

It has been over three decades, but the communist movement hasn’t had any stronghold in local Philippine political philosophy.

Several setbacks forced a beleaguered PKP to go underground, and then later on to join Philippine politics, albeit apathetically. Several blunders in its central committee resulted into petty bickerings, malcontents, and other dissidents. One of them was a young nationalist by the name of José María Sison who was a big fan of Filipinist Senator Claro M. Recto.

Sison was a very belligerent young member of the PKP, which was then led by the Lava brothers (Sison later on sarcastically called the group the “Lava clique”. His virulent ideology always placed him on the party’s critical side. Highly disenchanted with the party’s seeming failures, he prepared a treatise which took him two years to write: Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party. In the said document, Sison, using the nom de guerre Amado Guerrero which means “beloved warrior”, criticized the political blunders made by the PKP throughout its history and struggle for political existence. Sison/Guerrero assiduously enumerated the errors he thought were committed by the party. He also took time to inject Mao Tse-Tung’s political theories into his faction which he called the “reestablished” PKP, renaming it in English as the the Communist Party of the Philippines, Marxist-Leninist/Mao Tse-tung Thought, or simply as the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP):

The main ideological weakness of all previous leaderships of the Communist Party of the Philippines has been subjectivism, appearing in the form of dogmatism and empiricism, and resulting in Right and “Left” opportunist lines. The Philippines, being a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country, has a large petty bourgeoisie which serves as the historical and social basis for subjectivism. Since the Party exists in this kind of society, it is liable to reflect subjectivist trends from without and from within if it is not alert and careful in its Marxist-Leninist ideological building which is the first requirement in Party building.

The Party could be penetrated by a considerable number of Party members of petty-bourgeois orientation (middle peasants, intellectuals, handicraftsmen and other petty producers) who fail to remould their world outlook and methods of thinking in accordance with Marxism-Leninism and who fail to integrate revolutionary practice with dialectical materialism and historical materialism.

Although the first Party members were mainly from the working class represented by Comrade Crisanto Evangelista, the Party leadership erroneously put much reliance on open, legal, parliamentary and urban political activity which resulted in the paralyzation of the Communist Party of the Philippines once it was outlawed by the US imperialists and their running dogs. A revolutionary and thoroughgoing proletarian world outlook would have made the Party recognize the dialectics of the whole Philippine situation and would have enabled it to adopt the correct methods of legal and illegal struggle.

Sison, upon reestablishing (some say it was somewhat a “schismatic” move) the Communist Party of the Philippines 41 years ago today, went on with a barrage of angry accusations of political carelessness against the old PKP. He also played the role of a psychological observer to the leaders of the PKP, saying that there was an “overconcentration on urban political work because of the subjectivist and opportunist desire to compete or collaborate with bourgeois parties and groups” and that “subjectivism of the dogmatist type prevailed during the first two years of the José Lava leadership and the first five years of the Jesús Lava leadership”.

Right opportunism and “Left” opportunism have been committed in the history of the Communist Party of the Philippines. These political errors have emanated from the subjectivist world outlook. They have restricted the building of a Marxist-Leninist party that is firmly and closely linked with the masses on a national scale, that has a correct style of work and conducts criticism and self-criticism, that implements a programme of agrarian revolution and that makes use of the national united front to broaden its influence and support in its struggle against US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

The urban, parliamentary and open character of the Communist Party of the Philippines during the early months of its existence in 1930 and 1931 was mainly responsible for the political disaster and difficulties that it soon suffered. During this early period, the Party leadership was given to the use of “Left” language in public against the entire bourgeoisie, and illegal work was not effectively carried out together with legal work.

The Party did not arouse and mobilize the peasantry as the main force of the revolution. Even when the principal leaders of the Party and its mass organizations were banished to different provinces, they were not conscious of the significance of planting the seeds of the new democratic revolution in the countryside. The idea of the national united front was not also immediately taken up and adopted. Even the urban petty bourgeoisie was not given serious attention as a class ally and as a source of cadres.

Current analysis

Sison also cited some military and organizational errors which he sought to rectify in the reestablished CPP. But looking at the CPP today, it seemed that the reestablishment which he did also ended up in failure. There is no more need to engage Sison in an ideological debate, nor to imitate his wont for flowery words. The very fact that he lives comfortably in Utrecht while his comrades here suffer a pitiful plight in various malaria-infested Philippine mountains and in garbage-laden urban jungles demonstrates the juvenile adventurism which he viciously hurled against the PKP.

To reiterate: his reestablishment is a total failure.

My wife has an uncle who used to be an NPA member in their hometown of Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental. I’ve engaged this uncle in numerous conversations about his past life with the left. But he knew nothing about the ideology. We also had an elderly household helper who also joined the NPA in the mountains, all because of agrarian unrest. But her knowledge about what the movement is all about is zero.

I’ve also heard stories of NPA members who are as young as 15 years old! What do these kids know about capitalism, right opportunism, the deeper roots of agrarian unrest, León Trotsky, and other leftist terminologies and thought?

In Unisan, Quezon, my auntie’s sari-sari store, as well as other business establishments, were regularly visited by communist cadres to demand “revolutionary taxes”. Nonpayment would mean further harassment and scare tactics. Big businesses in rural areas bear much of the brunt of communist rage. Their establishments are either bombed or burned or looted.

When I was in elementary school, me, my brother, and some cousins were on a bicycle stroll outside the población of Unisan (we were on summer vacation). We were visiting a nearby hillside forest outside town. Little did we know that the whole town was in panic mode because of a skirmish between the NPA and local police. Virtually all the houses closed down their doors and windows in broad daylight. The whole town went silent after the firefight. Our family members were desperately looking for us in fright. My mom even claimed to have seen NPA members escaping the town.

When we got back, the action was over. The NPA were gone. Two policemen were killed. And our butts received generous amounts of spanking for something that we didn’t understand and wasn’t our fault.

Later on, I learned that the two policemen who were killed by the NPA in cold blood were former communists who returned to the government. That is why it is difficult for me not to believe the political purgings and mass killings that were hurled against Sison et al.

When the CPP-NPA was declared as a terrorist organization by the US and Philippine governments, they cried foul. But what do they call the recent activities of their group in far-flung provinces?

Even my friend, San Pedro, La Laguna Mayor Calixto Catáquiz, dreads going home to his father’s hometown of Unisan, Quezon for fear of being visited by money-hungry NPAs who might ask him for revolutionary taxes, whatever that meant.

I used to be a member of the progressive movement, that’s why it saddens me to occasionally hear bad news about the left whose main goal is to eradicate poverty –and ultimately, evil itself– once and for all. I even had the privilege of joining an underground meeting with members of the Sosyalistang Partido ng Manggagawa (SPP) led by its leader, Sonny Melencio, many years ago somewhere in Quezon City (I was then a passive member of its youth wing, the Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan). One of my comrades, Danilo Balao (an Ybanag) even confided to me that Melencio also helped Sison in drafting Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party. But realizing that the psychosocial elements inherent in the movement are no different to those found in organized religion (continuously fragmenting and splitting), I gave up hope on hope itself, eventually becoming a cynical atheist prone to suicide.

I am confident that I wasn’t alone in this kind of disenchantment. Even Sison himself felt the same way. But he reestablished the group; I desisted.

The recent US financial crisis didn’t lead to capitalism’s self-destruction, as predicted even by Marx himself. Or is it because there was inaction? Or too much dependency on economic theorems?

Then and now

Years later after that, I was able to watch a televised interview of Sison in Utrecht. He may be faraway from the dangers of local politics, but he’s not really living a life of luxury (this was before his group was declared as a terrorist group). Politically speaking, he’s free to move, free to write down his thoughts. He was all smiles in the interview. It appears that he has given up hope when, in parting, he said that even if he wouldn’t be able to witness the fruits of his labor, others will continue it for him. Isn’t this line of thinking in a way be considered as adventurism itself? It seems that age has mellowed down a once angry and dissident Amado Guerrero. Or perhaps disenchantment from members –and a stubborn government pursuit of NPA members)– forced too much inactivity from him and from his comrades. The controversial yet harmless ballroom dance that he had with actress Ara Mina a few years ago signalled the end, wittingly or unwittingly, of his militancy’s self-armistice. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism has just died right then and there.

The late journalist Máximo Solivén was right when he mentioned that communism is virtually utopia, paradise on earth. It is something that has always fascinated the youth who is prone to militancy and adventurism, thus paving the way to ideological pride and stubborness of spirit. Those who never outgrew this kind of youthful character ended up as lonely

I live in a capitalist environment. The fabric of this society is woven with evil threads. But I choose to live my life to the fullest. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have succumbed to the perils and temptations of materialism. I have never –and will never– become one of this reality’s seamsters.

“Our main problem in this country is the problem of social justice,” wrote the late historian-priest, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, S.J. Sadly, Sison wasn’t able to address that glaring problem despite rectifying errors here and there.

Communism isn’t the answer, after all. Or perhaps it isn’t just that…

Reunion with three friends.

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“The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.”

The workload in my current company makes me want to disappear from this world with just a snap of a finger. Last night’s shift was hell. Too many issues, slow internet, bad vibes, and documents drowning my thoughts. All of us weren’t able to finish the job. And it has been weeks like that. Some of us feel that we lack manpower. Some feel that there were bad project decisions from the higher ups. Some felt sick (literally). Me, I just feel like I want to fly away from it all.

I was supposed to continue all unfinished tasks at home. But…

It was a reprieve when my wife fetched me and broached the idea of visiting a childhood friend of mine, Christian Caballero, who works in the building next to ours. I already know that Tanò has been working in the other building for a long time (thanks to our office concierge, Oliver). But we haven’t had the chance to see each other due to our busy schedules.

Our bunch was the baaaadest and nastiest in our own turf in some posh yet decrepit village in Parañaque City, my “dirty south, baby!” hometown. We’ve known each other since kids. I was estranged from my childhood pals when I was kicked out of our home because I chose to stay with my pregnant girlfriend (who’s now my wife) instead of being with my family and continue schooling. Since then, I began seeing my Parañaque homies sporadically. And the last time I saw Christian and the rest of the gang was back in 2006, but only for a short drunken while. We weren’t even complete that night. We’ll, now there’s Facebook; many of my childhood pals are already in my list: Jerome, John Michael, Dennis, Angerico, etc. But of course it’s a different feeling when you get to see your long lost friends eye-to-eye and in the flesh.

We were all delighted to see each other of course. He’s also engaged to his college sweetheart Lesleyann Tugnáo of Majayjay, La Laguna. Their wedding will be this coming December in Sanctuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Ciudad de Macati. And I’m expecting to see the rest of the gang on his wedding day. =)

Congratulations and best wishes, Christian and Lesleyann! May the good Lord bless you always!

*******

Next stop was our current town, San Pedro, La Laguna.

After visiting Krystal and Momay at school, we went to Tita Deming, the manager of our apartment, to pay for the monthly rent. She works in the Municipal Hall. And since we were there already, I thought of introducing Wifey to our town mayor, Calixto R. Catáquiz, whom I haven’t seen since the death of his father. I just wanted to introduce my wife to him, and perhaps setup a date with him to talk about whether he’s still interested in publishing the biography Arnold and I wrote for him last year (it was even reviewed by our country’s first beauty queen, Gemma Cruz de Araneta, in her Manila Bulletin column “Landscape”).

Well, it turned out that he is still very interested in it. But the problem is proper timing. Aside from his father’s untimely death, Typhoon Ondoy ruined all of San Pedro’s lakeshore villages. Now he has the task of taking care of thousands of San Pedrense families who have lost their homes and who are now sheltered in various evacuation centers scattered around San Pedro. He invited us to join him for lunch. I wasn’t able to say no. And my wife, who was star struck (hehehe), urged me to come along.

We ate at Max’s Restaurant in –coincidentally– Parañaque City, my hometown! There we discussed lots of things about town politics, national politics, the 2010 Philippine National Elections, and of course, his biography.

He also mentioned to me interesting facts that Arnold and I haven’t included yet in his unpublished biography, A DATE WITH DESTINY: One More Challenge! (The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz). When he was still the chairman of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, he made several project recommendations to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and even Malacañang Palace to help safeguard and uplift the status quo of Laguna de Bay. For one, he recommended that LLDA should adopt a system for Laguna de Bay which is very similar to the Dutch Flood Barrier System. Mayor Calex also once tackled environmental and developmental issues of the lake with renowned architect Felino Palafox, Jr., who last month declared that the the national government already foresaw the massive floods of September 26.

The mayor also cited sewage, water treatment, and other waterworks projects that he had envisioned for Laguna de Bay. He also forwarded the idea of taking care of not just the lake but its tributaries as well. He also complained LLDA’s lack of policepower which should have enforced environmental rules. And he also lamented the fact that the LLDA was not under the direct supervision of the Office of the President (this would have ensured the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s commitment to a “green” Philippines). But all of these were ignored. If they weren’t ignored, the horrible displacement of thousands of lakeshore families –not to mention the death toll which the flood had left– wouldn’t have happened.

We also discussed his San Pedro 2020 Vision.

My wife had a grand time listening to the Mayor’s candid stories. Afterwards, we spent a relaxing afternoon at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club.

*******

The next reunion was, well, via SMS only. =(

Mayor Calex and his convoy drove us home. On our way home, I remembered having kept the cellphone number of someone else from my past: Ka Danilo Balao.

I never thought that I’d be able to communicate with a dear comrade in Ka Dan. He is from the Ybanag tribe of the northern lands. We were both socialist activists during our college days, members of the militant Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan (in political solidarity with the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa). Me, Danilo, and a host of other socialist youth shared each other’s tribulations, joys, hunger, and sufferings. Like my Parañaque boys, we at LSK were also a bad bunch (giving the League of Filipino Students some headache which they deserved). Aaaahhh, the days of yore! I really stopped growing when I reached 30 years of age!

I got his number several days ago from another long lost activist friend, mad chemist Allan Jay Q. Martírez (my “discoverer”!) whom I rediscovered in Mike Chanco’s / JB Lazarte’s (my other “discoverer”!) controversial website Flesh Asia Daily 3.0.

So here I print our text conversation:

PEPE: Danilo Balao
DANILO: Hu r u?
PEPE: Visit https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com and you will know, my old friend…
DANILO: Hav n0 tym searchin.. Y cant u say it n0w?
PEPE: Because I do not want the military to trace me. You know the drill, Ka Dan.
DANILO: Hahaha.. U.G.? Ur kidding me.. H0w can it pocbly be? Wat org?
PEPE: Mabuhay ang LIGA NG KOMUNISTANG KABATAAN!
DANILO: Damn! Is this true? Wer did u get my numbr?
PEPE: José Mario Alas Fans Club
DANILO: Hahaha! Yeah..! Wats crakin man? Wat happen 2 u? I’ve been searching u 4 d last 3 years. H0w did u realy get my numbr?
PEPE: I have been monitoring you for the last five years. I was sent to kill you, Gerry, Page, and Allan Jay. But I couldn’t because you’re my friends.

I got no more reply from good ol’ Dan. I must’ve totally freaked him out with my last text, so…

PEPE: Just kidding, dude.

*******

I miss my other friends. I miss the past. I miss the Spanish past although I’ve never lived in that era. I grew up listening to We Built This City On Rock N’ Roll, Footloose, and Rico Mambo. I cried when Atreyu’s horse Atrax was taken by the Swamps. Garfield still had farm friends (beats Facebook’s FarmVille), and the Christmas Belén in C.O.D. (Cubáo, Quezon City), and so much more.

I’m getting old, and dying.

Shucks. Nostalgia fever setting in again.

The only bad thing that happened this afternoon? My wife’s almost-a-decade-old cellphone camera was out of battery. =(

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