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124th birth anniversary of Claro M. Recto

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On the occasion of his 124th birth anniversary, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES would like to pay tribute to one of the greatest Filipino thinkers of modern times, the late senator Claro M. Recto. Here is a brief biographical sketch of the Tayabeño nationalist written by Antonino V. Mico (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Commission of the Philippines).

CLARO M. RECTO
(1890-1960)

Senator Claro M. Recto is known as a statesman, a constitutionalist, a jurist, internationalist, parliamentarian, poet, scholar, linguist, patriot, and nationalist. He was born on February 8, 1890, in Tiáong, Tayabas (now Quezon), the son of Claro Recto, Sr., and Micaéla Mayo, of Lipâ, Batangas. He obtained his elementary education in Lipâ and in his home town.

As a young man, he was endowed with a marvelous mind, an active imagination, a venturesome spirit, and a firm determination to stick to his personal convictions. At 19, he was already a holder of the Bachelor of Arts degree from the Ateneo de Manila; and at 24, he obtained his Master of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomás. In 1914, he was admitted to the Philippine bar and was licensed to practice law as a profession.

Recto’s political career began in 1916, when he served as legal adviser to the Philippine Senate. In 1919, he was elected representative from Batangas and served as House minority floor leader until 1925. In 1924, he went to the United States as member of the Parliamentary Independence Mission. He was admitted to the bar in the United States in 1924.

Upon his return to the Philippines, he founded the Demócrata Party, which served as a political thorn to the leadership of Manuel L. Quezon, when the latter was head of the Nacionalista Party and President of the Senate. He was elected senator for the first time in 1931 as a Demócrata and served as minority floor leader for three years.  In 1934, he became majority floor leader and President pro tempore of the Senate. He resigned his Senate seat when President Roosevelt appointed him Associate Justice in the Supreme Court in place of Justice Thomas Street, who retired. He left the Supreme Court in 1941 as a Nacionalista and again in 1953 as guest candidate of the Liberal Party. He ran as an independent Nacionalista candidate for President of the Philippines in the national elections of 1957, but lost.

Considered one of his immortal achievements in public life was his presidency of the Constitutional Convention, which drafted the Philippine Constitution, the first requirement towards the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth regime.

Recto was a brilliant poet, satirist, and author. He wrote such law books as The Law of Belligerent OccupationValidity of Payments During Enemy OccupationThree Years of Enemy Occupation, several one-act plays in Spanish, and a collection of poems. He was a recipient of the Zóbel Prize for literature and an honored member of the Royal Academy of Jurisprudence and Legislation, of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española.

The then President Carlos P. García appointed Recto Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary on the goodwill and cultural mission to Europe and South America in August, 1960. He was also appointed delegate to the 9th conference of the World Parliament Association in Venice in September, 1960, and was elected vice-president.

While giving a news conference in Rome, Recto suffered a heart attack from which he never recovered. He died in October 2, 1960.

Regarding his death, not a few historians believe that the great poet-turned-politician did not merely suffer from a heart attack. There’s this one interesting account from Raymond Bonner’s 1987 book Waltzing With A Dictator (pp. 41-42) that I’d like to share:

Transplanting democracy meant going after (Ramón) Magsaysay’s domestic political opponents, the most effective of whom was Senator Claro M. Recto, as unrelenting in his opposition to American foreign policy in the region as Magsaysay was slavish in following it. Recto, who was proud of his complete collection of Foreign Affairs, considered himself not anti-American but pro-Philippine. He criticized the bases agreement on the grounds, correctly, that the U.S. agreements under NATO and with other countries were far more favorable to the host country than was the U.S. arrangement in the Philippines. In Spain, the Spanish flag flew over the bases; in the Philippines, it was the American flag. When Washington claimed that the United States owned the lands on which the bases were situated, Recto prepared memorandums setting out the Philippine position that the United States had only leasehold rights, an argument eventually accepted by the United States. Recto was the “spearhead and brains of the national reawakening”.

The CIA set about to destroy Recto, who had been a principal drafter of the 1935 Constitution. It planted stories that he was a Communist Chinese agent who had been infiltrated into the Philippine Senate. To derail Recto’s electoral ambitions, the agency prepared packages of condoms, which it labeled “Courtesy of Claro M. Recto — The People’s Friend”. The condoms all had pinprick-size holes in them at the most inappropriate place. The agency went further. The CIA station chief, General Ralph B. Lovett, and the American Ambassador, Admiral Spruance, discussed assassinating Recto, going so far as to prepare a substance for poisoning him, an assassination plot that has not been publicly discussed before.

Recto wasn’t assassinated, the idea abandoned “for pragmatic consideration rather than moral scruples” (and with Lovett later suggesting that the bottle containing the poison was tossed into Manila Bay). He died of natural causes at the age of seventy.

It is hinted on this book that Recto was “assassinated” in Rome. Also, there have been persistent rumors that Recto did suffer a heart attack, but his medication was not given to him immediately which led to his very untimely death. Rumors they all may be, but there is a saying in Tagalog: “capág may usoc, may apóy” (when there’s smoke, there’s fire). Also, it is interesting to note that the place where he passed away was just a stopover. Recto was really on his way to Spain, the land of his mother tongue which is Spanish. He had never been there all his life, thus the excitement throbbing within his nationalistic spirit. He had already prepared a speech in Spanish, “Por los Fueros de una Herencia“, of which he was to deliver there upon arrival. But because of his demise, it remained unspoken.

The CIA knew that Recto delivering that speech in Spain would have proven catastrophic to their neocolonialistic ventures which were then in its early stages, as the Philippines was granted a phony independence 15 years earlier. That is why it was imperative for Recto to perish before he reached Spain.

One could just imagine what nationalistic and nostalgic fervor Recto would have sparked in Mother Spain had he delivered his speech there. Spain, who was robbed of her islands in the Pacific and the Americas in 1898, would have rekindled “righteous anger” into delivering, perhaps, the final blows of that war that should have ended justly and nobly. What fireworks his speech would have set upon the citizens of our Patria Grande! “Sayang” is all I could utter. Sayang…

Feliz cumpleaños, Don Claro. Tendré una botella de Cerveza Negra en su honor.

List of historic sites and structures installed with historical markers.

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Did you know? The website of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has a complete list of  the country’s historic sites and structures that are installed with historical markers. The list was last updated on January 16 last year. CLICK HERE to view the list so that the next time you plan your next out-of-town trip, you might as well have a print out of the said list to see if your itinerary may have any historic site or structure. Para may pang historic selfie selfie din cayó pag may time, ¿di ba?

The baroque Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Gracia, popularly known as Guadalupe Church because it is located in Barrio Guadalupe Viejo in Macati City.

Also, the website has a list of institutions with markers and another list for declared historic sites and structures by region. Check ’em out!

Let us all save the Alberto House of Biñán

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PRES. BENIGNO AQUINO III: Save the historic Alberto Mansion in Biñán, La Laguna.
Dr. Bimbo Santa María

The house is almost 200 years old. It was built by Lorenzo Alberto Alonso, father of Teodora Alonso and grandfather of Dr. José Rizal. The house was in almost perfect shape until the current owner, a descendant of Alberto Alonso, sold it to a resort owner in Bagac, Bataán. The local government opposed it and did not grant the dismantling permit. However, in May of 2010, the house was dismantled from the inside.

A campaign to save the house was launched spearheaded by local heritage advocates called the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development (UACCD). With the help of the print and broadcast media together with netizens, the issue gained public interest.

A new law on heritage conservation was approved by then President Gloria Arroyo on March 2010 stating that structures 50 years and above have to be conserved if it has cultural importance. The National Historical Institute (now National Historical Commission of the Philippines or NHCP) was ready to put a marker in the house recognizing it as historical since the 90s but was refused by the owner. Since then, and in spite of the public clamor to save the house, the NHCP till the present has reiterated it was never declared as an important cultural property, at the same time saying that they do not have the funds to save the house.

The house is the only remaining original structure on site in relation to Dr. Rizal. The Rizal Shrine in Calambâ is only a replica built from its foundation and floor initiated by then Pres. Elpidio Quirino through funds coming from donations of schoolchildren in the 1950s.

Many would say that it is not that important since it is “just” the house of Rizal’s mother. Not realizing that without Teodora Alonso, there would be no Pepe Rizal. Teodora was Rizal’s first teacher and was the one who moulded his character of love of country. The house is the living soul that reminds us of the memory of this great woman and her contribution to Philippine history.

The destruction of this house is man-made. They took away the ceiling, the floor, and even dug the foundations, leaving only the shell of the house. A part of the roof caved in last week. A call for help ran in the internet for the government to immediately intervene before the whole house collapses, but it fell into deaf ears. On 22 October 2012, 75% of the roof went down along with a big part of the façade.

But the house can still be saved. It took one president in the past to rebuild the Rizal Shrine in Calamba. Now, we call on our president to step in and help save and reconstruct this irreplaceable part of our history in Biñán. A fitting honor for a mother of a national hero.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION BY CLICKING HERE!

The truth about the encomienda (FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES’ 3rd anniversary special)

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I didn’t know that my accidental discovery of La Laguna province’s foundation date was going to dance with controversy. Instead of receiving magnanimity from the powers that be, it was, sadly, received with vehement opposition.

First, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) contended that 28 July 1571 should not be recognized because on that date, La Laguna was founded not as a province but as an encomienda. I told them that it should not be made an issue. There is no question that La Laguna —now referred to simply as Laguna— did not begin as a province on that date, but the NHCP had overlooked what a foundation date really is. My argument is really simple: when La Laguna came into being. Not as a province per se, but as La Laguna itself.

Up to now, nobody knows exactly when La Laguna became a province. Ron Yu, the editor of the coffee table book that I’m writing about the province, theorized that it could have been 1581 when Bay was made the first capital of La Laguna (many in the provincial capitol, including yours truly, agree with him). But the problem is that there is no exact date. Nevertheless, whether we have an exact date or not, it will NEVER negate the fact that La Laguna already existed prior to 1581. Oddly, concerned individuals over at the NHCP either fail to understand this or they simply don’t want to accept it.

In the end, when they could no longer withstand the strength of the logic of what a foundation date really is, one of them found a loophole: that it would be unpatriotic if Lagunenses will choose La Laguna’s foundation as an encomienda simply because this system connoted slavery! Yes, this gentleman mentioned the word slavery. And he crumbled right before my very eyes.

But did the encomienda really connote slavery? Let us first study the background of the problem.

What is an encomienda?

In elementary and high school classes, Filipino students are generally taught that an encomienda was a piece of land given to a Spaniard for a certain period of time. Included on that land are the indios (natives) who were the original settlers. The receiver of the encomienda is called an encomendero. The encomendero had the right to exploit the natives for labor but without enslaving them.

Unfortunately, it is hardly taught that an encomienda was a quid pro quo affair. What is hardly taught these days is that it was the duty of the encomendero to:

1) protect the natives from tribal enemies
2) to educate them, i.e., to teach them the Spanish language, and
3) to indoctrinate them into the Christian faith.

To wit, an encomienda was a legal system employed by the Spanish crown during the colonization of the Americas to regulate Native American labor. And this system was later applied to the Philippines.

Hardly slavery.

In this scheme, the Spanish crown grants the encomendero a specified number of indios (for a limited time period) for whom they were to take responsibility by accomplishing the aforementioned duties. That is why it is called an encomienda in the first place: it is from the Spanish verb “encomendar” which means “to entrust”. In return, the encomendero could extract labor from their wards in the form of labor, gold (if available), or other products (mainly agricultural produce). There was, therefore, a mutual obligation from both encomendero and indio.

What should be firmly noted in this system is the existence of the aforementioned mutual obligation between the encomendero and his subjects. In the first place,there would be no encomienda at all without either of the two parties involved. At the onset, pre-Philippine societies were not yet organized into township communities, i.e., they were not yet set up in a way the Spaniards had wanted them to be. These communities were small and scattered. Many were forest dwellers. And those living in river and lakeshore communities were not as compact as well. Naturally, it took some time and effort for an encomendero to organize the indios in his encomienda in order for the mutual obligation to materialize. Thus, it is safe to say that the encomienda served as the prototype (or it laid the groundwork) for the reducción, at least in these islands.

Important note: this is not to say that the encomienda preceded the reducción. In the early years of Spanish rule, both encomienda and reducción have taken place at the same time. But in Laguna, this seemed to have been the case.

To wit: the distribution of land during the early years of Spanish rule had to start somewhere, and that was done through the encomienda system. The encomendero was also required to support the missionaries and to train the indios assigned to him how to grow various crops and raise farm animals. Through the encomienda system, the indios learned modern farming methods. Through the encomienda system, the carabao was imported from Vietnam to facilitate rice farming. All this stimulated modern agriculture.

This is not to say that the encomienda system was perfect. Did it become corrupt? Yes, but not to the extent which ultranationalist anti-Hispanics wanted it to appear in our minds. True, abuses and corruption did take place (that is why the friars later on opposed it). But which regime on Earth at any point in history was considered heaven? And if we are to compare the encomienda system to our modern political landscape, the encomenderos of yore would have looked like saints compared to our politicians today.

For the sake of argument, let us say that the encomienda was filled with nothing but hardship and suffering for our indio ancestors. Should we still consider 28 July 1571 as La Laguna’s foundation date? Of course. In the case of La Laguna and 28 July 1571, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur should come to mind. “The thing speaks for itself.” It doesn’t matter anymore if the encomenderos were drunkards or rapists. What is written on paper (i.e., the chart where the foundation date of La Laguna appears) should still be recognized and respected and should not be mixed with opinionated bull.

It’s like this: suppose that a man was the product of rape, why should he be disallowed to celebrate his birthday?

Anyway, back to the encomienda. The creation of provinces did not happen overnight. It had to evolve. And it did evolve from the encomienda. And even if the encomienda system did not become corrupt, it would have been abolished, nay, replaced in the first place. The encomienda was the basis for the creation of provinces. If not for the encomienda, there would have been no provinces in the first place.

In closing, subscribing to the leyenda negra will never do us anything good at all. Hating everything that Spain did to us only harms all the more. Ultranationalism is the problem here. It leads us to blind hatred. Attacking our Spanish past is tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot. For good or for worse, the encomienda is part of our history, and is already history. It helped create modern Filipino society.

But to these NHCP historians, the encomienda system was bad, bad, and bad. The Spanish colonization of the Philippines was bad, bad, and bad. It makes me wonder why one of them still uses the surname Encomienda. He should change it to, perhaps, Lapu-lapu or Gat Páñguil.

Or Datu Putî.

Aw, shucks. Good vibes, Pepe… it’s FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES‘ third birthday today! 😀

28 July 1571: The story behind the discovery of La Laguna’s foundation date.

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Good day, dear readers, particularly to my fellow Lagunenses. For this blogpost, I am sharing to you the story behind my discovery of our province’s foundation date, as well as the ongoing process of having the date passed as an ordinance (as of this writing, the case is still pending approval). This is a historic find, so I thought that all of you deserve to know about this, especially since there is still no news yet regarding this matter.

Before anything else, please allow me to refer to our province as La Laguna, not just Laguna alone. The article La was removed from Laguna sometime during the US occupation of the Philippines. Since there is no logical reason for its removal, I refuse to address my adoptive province as such. We should always refer to it by its original, complete, and correct name: LA LAGUNA.

The discovery of the date

OK now. Last January, I revealed in my other blog, ALAS FILIPINAS, that I will be writing my first book, a coffee table book actually, about the history and culture of the Province of La Laguna. I even said bye bye for a while in my social media accounts in order to concentrate on my writing. It’s going to be my first book. I don’t want to screw it up. And just a few weeks ago, during our national hero’s birthday, I also announced about something big that will change the history of our province. So here it is, right on this blogpost…

During the course of my research for the said book that I’m writing, I happened to stumble upon the foundation date of La Laguna. I discovered the date just last month, in the morning of 13 June, when I was about to sleep (right after my night shift). My hair was still wet because I just had a morning bath. So while drying it, I grabbed from my bookshelf one source material —a very old one: 1926— and started fumbling through its pages. Then in one of its delicate and yellowing pages, I unexpectedly found the date: 28 julio 1571.

How providential, indeed. Had I slept earlier, I would have never discovered the page/chart where 28 July 1571 appears. And I wasn’t even in full-research mode!

I do not claim to be the first researcher to have encountered this chart. Perhaps other historians before me have seen this already. However, they must have surely overlooked the fact that this chart reveals when La Laguna (and perhaps other Philippine juridical entities today) was established.

This date is important to all Lagunenses, especially to the provincial government. Why? Because up to now, they do not know when their province was founded. This was revealed to me by my editor, Mr. Ronald Yu (publisher/editor/photographer at In-Frame Media Works), a few months ago after a short talk that I had with Biñán City’s tourism officer designate, Ms. Jasmín Alonte, who in turn told me that their city doesn’t have a foundation date too. I found out that this foundation date is a big deal. Ron explained that during the administration of former Governess Teresita “Ningning” Lázaro (2001-2010), a “bounty” was to be awarded to anyone who might find the missing foundation date. There were even individuals who went to some archive in Spain just to search for it, but to no avail. Fast forward to a few weeks ago: I learned from Mr. Peter Uckung of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) that even famed Pagsanjeño historian Gregorio Zaide was also searching for La Laguna’s foundation date, but to no avail.

I never had any serious intention of hunting for that date. If historians already went to Spain looking for it, not to mention the legendary Gregorio Zaide failing to find it, then I thought that there’s no chance for me to be able to come across the date.

The formulation of the case

And so going back to the morning of 13 June when I stumbled upon the date right inside our apartment unit. I actually have a collection of antique Filipiniana which I have gathered over the years (acquired or purchased from antique shops and various individuals who no longer need them), and it is in one of those volumes where I discovered the date. I didn’t even gave it much importance at first glance, especially when the date says that La Laguna was given as an encomienda to Martín de Goití. It didn’t state that La Laguna was a province during the date that the region was accorded to Goití.

But after a few days, it hit me.

After further research, cross-referencing through other books and documents, and much deliberation, I finally came up to the conclusion that 28 July 1571 was indeed the date when La Laguna began. Not exactly as a province but as something else. The analogy is like this: Adamson University, my alma mater, began as the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry in 1932. It became a university only in 1941. However, 1932 is still regarded as Adamson’s foundation year, not 1941, for the simple reason that Adamson was established on that year. It’s transformation into a university years later never negated the fact that Adamson was already in existence. That was the case of La Laguna. It began as an encomienda in 1571, not exactly as a province. It only became a province, (as observed by Ron), when Bay was made the capital of La Laguna in 1581. But there is no denying the fact that La Laguna already existed, that it was already established. Just like Calambâ City. It became a city only in 2001. But that doesn’t mean that Calambâ never existed before its cityhood.

Ron paid me a visit in my San Pedro home last 17 June to see the antique book where I found the date. After clarifying questions from him and clearing up other arguments, we both found out that the case for La Laguna’s foundation date proved to be strong. Actually, I was already composing a scholarly paper when he visited me since I do not want the date to be misconstrued as just another date in the pages of Philippine history. It wasn’t finished yet when I showed to Ron the draft of the paper.

Reporting the discovery to the governor

Ron confirmed the discovery to Governor Emilio Ramón “E.R.” Ejército, especially since the book that I’m writing is the latter’s project. The governor was very excited upon hearing this. We then presented my discovery to him last 18 June at the Cultural Center of Laguna (during the memorial celebration of Dr. José Rizal‘s 151st birthday). Before speaking with the governor, Ron introduced  me to various Lagunense figures, among them Mr. Uckung, senior researcher at the NHCP, and Hon. Neil Andrew Nocon, provincial board member of La Laguna’s 2nd district. Little did I know that I would be “working” with these people in the coming days.

Afterwards, Dr. Nilo Valdecantos, one of Governor E.R.’s consultants, facilitated our quick meeting with the latter (it’s Governor E.R.’s policy that you fall in queue to speak to him regardless of social standing and whether you’re a government official or just an ordinary civilian). The governor was already weary due to the day’s activities, for right after the 151st José Rizal memorial rites, his weekly “People’s Day” followed. But upon showing to him the old book where La Laguna and the date appears, his energy came back, and admitted to having had goosebumps all over! He was so amazed over the coincidence of the recently concluded La Laguna Festival, which he conceptualized, to what I have discovered. Little did I know that he had no idea that La Laguna was actually the original, complete, and correct name of the province he governs. But then, almost all Lagunenses in particular and Filipinos in general do not know that fact. And so I took that opportunity to tell him that it is perhaps high time to bring back the name. He did not respond to it, probably still elated with the find. He then said that he will endorse it to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Laguna (SPL) to have it filed as a resolution. A few days later, I received a phone call from BM Nocon’s secretary, Ms. Daisy Pelegrina, requesting for documents pertaining to the date. I learned that the filing of the resolution was already on its way. The ordinance was to be authored by BM Nocon since he was the chairman of education, tourism, history, arts and culture, and public works. I told Ms. Pelegrina that I was actually composing a brief dissertation regarding the matter, and that I will just email them the paper once done.

Realizing that the 28th of July is near, Ron advised Governor E.R. that the foundation date would be one of his greatest legacies to his constituents. Therefore, it is best that the province’s very first foundation date be celebrated immediately, especially since it’s going to be election season next year. Midterm legislative and local elections will be held on 13 May 2013. Nobody knows who’s going to win or not. Governor E.R.’s extreme popularity among Lagunenses is not always a guarantee that it will win him another term. That is why it is best that he commemorate La Laguna’s very first foundation day celebration —technically its 441st— the soonest possible time while he is still governor. The governor agreed (later on, he decided to moved his first State of the Province address to 28 July to coincide with the province’s very first foundation day celebration; the SOPA was originally scheduled for August).

Señor Gómez enters the scene

Shortly after finishing my paper, Ron advised me to email the paper to renowned scholar and historian Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera to have it reviewed and validated. Ron was thinking forward: he heard from BM Nocon that the NHCP will have to review and write a recommendation on my discovery before the ordinance could be passed. No disrespect to the NHCP, but both Ron and I somehow felt that the NHCP might write a negative recommendation on my find, as the case might fall on opinionated grounds (a few days later, our hunch proved to be correct). So he thought of having it validated by another neutral party: Señor Gómez. For my editor’s part, he is respectfully questioning whether the NHCP has any authority at all to have a final say whether or not a date should be declared as the province’s foundation date.

Afterwards, we visited the governor’s house (Don Porong Mansion) in Pagsanján on 23 June to personally present to him the scholarly paper which I wrote regarding the La Laguna’s foundation date (PLEASE CLICK HERE to read my dissertation). The next day (coinciding with the Philippines’ 441st anniversary), I received a positive reply from Señor Gómez which he also forwarded to members of the online group Círculo Hispano-Filipino.

¡Enhorabuena Pepe Alas! Has escrito una tesina de primera fuerza porque está muy bien documentada y, sobre todo, porque todo lo que deduces está fuertemente investido con la lógica y el sentido común que todo escritor e historiador de su propio país debe tener. Y es una tesina escrita independientemente porque se levanta por si sóla. Y está escrita magistralmente por un puro filipino como lo eres tu de espíritu y talante. Sugiero que lo pongas todo en español más tarde y lo publiques en tu blog Alas Filipinas. En horabuena de nuevo y un fuerte abrazo. Nos enorgulleces a todos los que te conocemos de cerca.

Afterwards, I also emailed the paper to Ms. Pelegrina for BM Nocon’s reference since it will also serve as an aid of legislation. On the morning of 25 June, I visited Señor Gómez to retrieve from him his signed recommendation letter. I then hurried off to the capitolio in Santa Cruz and met up with Ron to submit an edited version of my paper, Señor Gómez’s recommendation letter, as well as reproductions of the page where the date appears. Mr. Valdecantos again facilitated our quick meeting with the governor, and for that he had a run in with the governor’s arrogant Chief-of-Staff. And while waiting for an audience with the governor, this rude power-tripper actually thought he was funny so he acted like a clown and proceeded to make fun of what I wrote and even questioned Señor Gómez’s reliability (if he had said that in Malacañang, the President himself would have laughed at his total ignorance of Señor Gómez’s persona). But I was glad that I was able to keep my cool (a very difficult task on my part). Anyway, after that unfortunate incident, Ron was finally able to speak with the governor; I was no longer in the mood to speak to Governor E.R. after all the insults that I’ve heard from his “highly respectable” Chief-of-Staff. The governor then informed us that he is endorsing the date not as a resolution but as an ordinance! Earlier that morning (during the weekly flag ceremony), we learned that the governor already announced to all employees about the foundation date, and that they will all receive an annual bonus every 28th of July (amounting at least to ₱3,000 per employee). This, of course, is good tidings for the provincial employees. However, the ordinance will still have to be passed first and foremost in order for the said bonus to take effect. Before leaving the capitol, BM Nocon informed me and Ron that we will all go to the NHCP in Ermita, Manila the next day, together with the governor himself, to report my discovery and request from their office any technical assistance as well as a recommendation and/or guidelines on the legality of declaring 28 July 1571 as La Laguna’s foundation date.

NHCP visit

The next day, an afternoon, we all went to the NHCP. Our party was composed of Governor E.R., his wife (Pagsanján Mayor Maita Ejército), my editor Ron, BM Nocon, Mr. Valdecantos, and other capitolio political consultants. There were actually three agendas: the construction of the country’s first sports museum (to be constructed on the capitolio grounds), the setting up of a historical marker to La Laguna’s old capitol building, and the historic date which I discovered. We were received by NHCP Executive Director Ludovico Bádoy and his staff.

As expected, my discovery was met with opposition. During the meeting, Ron and I had an argument with Mr. Uckung and a colleague of his, Mr. Ogie Encomienda (of all surnames). They argued that the date I discovered cannot be accepted since it does not pertain to La Laguna’s creation as a province. But that wasn’t the case we wanted to present. Our argument is that La Laguna was founded on 28 July 1571, period. Whether or not it was a province, La Laguna began on that date (please see related link above to read my arguments on my paper). Finally, straight from their mouths, they agreed that my paper is correct. However, they just couldn’t accept the fact that La Laguna must recognize its founding as an encomienda. In Mr. Uckung’s opinion, it does not seem to be apt to celebrate La Laguna’s founding as an encomienda because, according to him, the encomienda connoted “slavery”. Good heavens, I thought. These people subscribe to the leyenda negra (as expected). And worse, Mr. Encomienda even suggested to us to just write an ordinance declaring 28 July as the province’s foundation date, but 1571 cannot be recognized as the province’s foundation year because, according to him, it is highly questionable that La Laguna was founded earlier than Manila. To Mr. Encomienda, Manila was founded on 1574! Goodness gracious. Anyway, I refused to argue about that anymore; it’s a different issue and will only prolong the argument. Anyway, the meeting was at a stalemate. Governor E.R. was still excited over the date, and mandated Mr. Uckung to speed up his research to corroborate with my findings. However, right after the argument that we with Mr Uckung and Mr. Encomienda, I already knew right there and then that they will disapprove my discovery.

The SPL hearings

Ron attended the first hearing 27 June which was also attended by Vice Governor Caesar Pérez, various board members, representatives from the budget office, and other political consultants. I wasn’t able to attend because of my night shift. It was during that meeting that Ron hypothesized that La Laguna could have become a province when Bay was declared as the provincial capital on 1581. The problem: the date is still missing up to now. Furthermore, that doesn’t negate the fact that La Laguna already existed, but as a different political/juridical entity.

Two days later, during a meeting of the Laguna Tourism Council (facilitated by Monsignor José D. Barrión) last 29 June held at the Santo Sepulcro Shrine in San Pedro, Mr. Delto “Mike” Abárquez, chief of the Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Trade Office (LTCATO) announced to the members about the discovery of the province’s foundation date.

Mr. Mike Abárquez, seated at right, during the Laguna Tourism Council 2nd quarter meeting at the Santo Sepulcro Shrine last 29 June 2012 (photo courtesy of Le Voyageur International-Travel.

On 2 July, the date when the ordinance was officially stamped as received by the Office of the SPL, I made my first appearance to the deliberations of the SPL. It was actually the public hearing regarding the ordinance. A lady official from the LTCATO had Mr. Uckung on the line and gave the phone to BM Nocon. The lady official seemed to be a big supporter of NHCP. Ron and I had no idea why. After the phone discussion, the public hearing began. Laguna’s Supervising Tourism Operations Officer, Ms. Regina Austria, was also in attendance. I explained my case to the panel and also gave a brief lecture about what an encomienda is, and how this encomienda metamorphosed into a province (limited only to the case of La Laguna; probably not all provinces began as an ancomienda). BM Nocon also revealed that he had already distributed my scholarly paper to all municipal and city governments throughout La Laguna, as well as various educational institutions in the province which of course includes the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The plot thickens

The next day, I was with San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz and his friends in Rockwell, Macati discussing with him his biography which is still in developmental limbo. Ron sent me a rather alarming txt message: an anonymous person was heckling him on his cellphone, ridiculing him for his ardent participation on the 28 July 1571 issue. We already have a suspect. But why was she doing it?! I mean, what for?

The next day after that, on 4 July, there was another brief hearing at the capitolio. I wasn’t able to attend due to lack of sleep (imagine doing all this while working at night!), but Ron was able to attend. LTCATO chief, Mr. Abárquez, was also there. He assisted Ron in defending the merits of the date.

Three vs one

Finally, last Friday, 6 July, I had another showdown with the NHCP right inside the Governor’s Office. The governor, however, was absent during the proceedings. Unfortunately, Ron wasn’t with me during that time (he had a fever). There were three of them (Mr. Uckung, Mr. Encomienda, and another one whose I wasn’t able to get) against my lonesome self. Mr. Encomienda this time, had a different tune: instead of arguing that it cannot be accepted that La Laguna came first before Manila (which is erroneous because Manila was founded as the capital of the Philippines by the Spaniards on 24 June 1571), he instead referred to his notes and said that he had found another data stating that La Laguna was founded as an encomienda in 1572, not in 1571. He now forwarded the problem on how to “synchronize” both 1571 and 1572. But the answer to that is rather simple: choose the earliest date, for crying out loud. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to say that, since I have not yet verified his finding. He mentioned to me both Manuel Buzeta and Félix de Huerta as his sources. Well, I have Buzeta’s Diccionario Geográfico-Estadístico-Histórico de las Islas Filipinas (co-authored with Felipe Bravo) at home. I reviewed it last night and found no mention of 1572 pertaining to La Laguna at all. I’m still to review Félix de Huerta’s Estado Geográfico, Topográfico, Estadístico, Histórico-Religioso de la Santa y Apostólica Provincia de San Gregorio Magno. But regardless of whether or not the year 1572 also points to the founding of La Laguna as an encomienda, common sense will still dictate that the earliest year declared must be considered, especially if there is basis. In this case, it’s 1571.  Although I understand that Buzeta and Huerta’s respective books were published way before Fr. Pablo Pastells’ book (my source) was even conceptualized, one should not focus on the book’s year of publication alone. Fr. Pastells did not simply write 28 July 1571, as was the case with what Buzeta and Huerta did. Fr. Pastells’ chart itself was a primary source that was taken from the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. The chart itself that was used by Fr. Pastells was an official document whose authenticity can never be questioned.

Also present during the meeting was UPLB professor Dwight David Diestro, co-author of the book Nineteenth-Century Conditions and the Revolution in the Province of LagunaHe had read my paper and actually supported my discovery. But he also stated his opinion that if it were him, he would rather recognize the date when La Laguna became independent from Spain. I argued, however, that independence is different from being established as a political entity. Then the mention of the encomienda again as a form of slavery was raised, until the discussion came to a point that I was already defending Spain’s “creation” of the Philippines. A very debatable matter, Mr. Uckung retorted, to which I had to agree so as not to swerve from the main issue.

The questionable case of Pangasinán’s foundation date

But I believe that I won that round. Why?

At the end of the meeting, I respectfully questioned NHCP’s “authority to meddle” in the ordinance proceedings because of the Pangasinán case which was researched by Ron a few days prior (You may read the whole account of the case here). It turned out that La Laguna has a similar case to that of Pangasinán. In Pangasinán’s case, it was also founded as an encomienda: on 5 April 1572. Later on, it was organized into a province in 1580, but the exact date is missing up to now. After thorough deliberations on the researches made by members of the committee, it was finally decided to just mix up the dates: 5 April 1580 was then declared as the foundation date of Pangasinán. Not only is it highly questionable. It was also laughable and illogical. How come the NHCP let this historical travesty go away just like that? It reminded me of Mr. Encomienda’s suggestion to us when we were at the NHCP, that July 28 can be be passed as an ordinance, but not 1571. So is he suggesting that we do another Pangasinán?

I really told them, but in a respectful tone, that Pangasinán’s case was mangled, and that I will never allow the same error to happen to my beloved province in case they’re planning to do the same. They all kept quiet.

Sadly, nothing was concluded. BM Nocon still awaits that recommendation from the NHCP. He then said that the next meeting will be on Friday the 13th.

And so my fight continues.

Before I end this narrative —and I hope that the people over at the NHCP reads this—, I would like to remind all of you that whether or not this ordinance is passed, it will not make me famous like Myrtle Sarrosa. It will not even make me rich. Perhaps I might receive some sort of recognition, but I am not expecting it. Besides, I’m sure that most of the credit will go to Governor E.R. and BM Nocon. But that’s OK. I am doing this not for myself, anyway. Not even for the governor. No matter how corny this may sound to all of you, I am doing this for the province of La Laguna. Aunque no lo creáis. Because this will give me and all Lagunenses the satisfaction of priding ourselves with a complete history of our province.

At walá pong mawáwala sa aquin cung hindí maipápasa ang ordenanzang itó. Who’s going to lose? Me? My credibility? No. Never. The biggest loser here will still be the people of La Laguna who will forever miss this chance of celebrating the province’s birthday.

So many things have happened since I discovered the date. It was a whirlwind experience. The coffee table book that I’m writing for the governor was even put to a halt to focus on the ordinance. But I will have to continue writing the book starting today. And whatever happens, 28 July 1571 will always remain as La Laguna’s foundation date. It began as an encomienda, whether we like it or not, which later on metamorphosed into a province probably in 1581.  And this logical FACT will appear in the coffee table book which will be launched before the year ends. So there.

He dicho.

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

Draft ORDINANCE NO. 44 , s. 2012

AN ORDINANCE DECLARING JULY 28, 1571 AS THE FOUNDING DATE OF THE

PROVINCE OF LAGUNA AND RECOMMENDING TO THE HON. GOVERNOR

JEORGE “E.R.” EJÉRCITO ESTREGAN TO PROVIDE FUNDS THEREOF

RELATIVE TO ITS GRAND ANNUAL CELEBRATION

Author: Hon. Neil Andrew N. Nocon

Whereas, Laguna has been in existence for many centuries already but has failed to commemorate and celebrate its inception due to the lack of a founding date;

Whereas, since the Philippines has been declared independent on 4 July 1946, the Tagalog-speaking province of La Laguna, now simply referred to as Laguna, in the CALABARZON region is still incognizant of when exactly it came into being;

Whereas, it has become an important tradition for almost all individuals, organizations, and territorial units (places) to commemorate how they first came to be;

Whereas, no official declaration or any royal decree has been made affirming the creation or existence of Laguna as a province consisting of several reducciones or towns;

Whereas, research findings revealed that Laguna was founded as a juridical entity on 28 July 1571;

Whereas, this date appears in volume 2 of Fr. Pablo Pastells, S.J.’s Historia General de Filipinas which was published in Barcelona, Spain in 1926;

Now, therefore, upon motion, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Laguna in a session assembled that:

Section 01. Title- This Ordinance shall be known as “AN ORDINANCE DECLARING JULY 28, 1571 AS THE FOUNDING DATE OF THE PROVINCE OF LAGUNA AND RECOMMENDING TO THE HON. GOVERNOR, JEORGE “E.R.” EJÉRCITO ESTREGAN TO PROVIDE FUNDS THEREOF RELATIVE TO ITS GRAND ANNUAL CELEBRATION”

Section 02. Definition of Terms — for purpose of this ordinance, the following terms are defined as follows:

a. commemorate – to call to remembrance, to mark by some ceremony or observation.

b. incognizant – lacking knowledge or awareness, unaware of the new political situation.

c. juridical – of or relating to the law and its administration.

d. reducción – a colonially designed resettlement policy that the Spaniards (the friars in particular) used in Central and South America.

e. rekindle – to inflame again, to rouse anew.

f. reminisce – a narration of past incidents with one’s personal experience, that which  is recollected or recalled to mind.

g. reverently – showing deep sense of respect.

h. unheeded – unnoticed or disregarded.

Section 03. Objectives of this Ordinance.

1. To help establish the founding date of Laguna because this province has been in existence for many centuries already but has failed to commemorate and celebrate its inception due to the lack of a foundation date.

2. To officially declare 28 July 1571 as the founding date of Laguna and relative to its celebration, request the Provincial Governor for the provision of funds thereof.

Section 04. Information, Education, and Communication Campaign. Upon approval of this Ordinance, the province shall conduct massive information, education, and communication campaigns using quad media (print, radio, television, and internet) in the conduct of rekindling this foundation date.

Section 05. Deputation of Officials. All municipal and city officials are automatically deputized by the Provincial Governor for the strict and effective implementation of this ordinance.

Section 06. Mandate. The government through the Laguna Tourism, Culture, Arts, and Trade Office is hereby mandated to provide a program wherein activities shall be implemented for one day celebration which shall commence every 28th day of July of every year/s ahead.

Section 07. Implementation. This Ordinance shall be implemented right after the date of its approval.

Section 08. Separability Clause. If any part of this ordinance is declared juridically as unconstitutional or unlawful, such declaration shall not affect the other parts or sections hereof that are not declared unlawful or unconditional.

Section 09. Repealing Clause. All previous ordinance inconsistent with this ordinance shall be deemed repealed or modified accordingly.

Section 10. Effectivity. This Ordinance shall take effect upon its approval from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

APPROVED: ??????

Marcelo H. del Pilar, a broken dad till the end…

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Today is the 160th birth anniversary of Marcelo H. del Pilar, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

Below is a brief biographical sketch of the bulaqueño native 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 Commission of the Philippines (recently known as the National Historical Institute).

Yeyette in front of Marcelo H. del Pilar's monument in Plaza Plaridel (Remedios Circle), Malate, Manila. This monument used to be in front of nearby Manila Zoo. Fellow Círculo Hispano-Filipino member and Heritage Conservation Society president Gemma Cruz de Araneta (a descendant of Rizal's sister María) suggested the transfer of this monument to this site. It was done last year under the guidance of Mayor Alfredo Lim.

MARCELO H. DEL PILAR
(1850-1896)

“The most intelligent leader, the real soul of the separatists…” — these were the words used by Governor General Ramón Blanco, chief executive of the Philippine colony, in describing Marcelo H. del Pilar. A master polemist in both the Tagalog and Spanish languages, del Pilar was the most feared by the Spanish colonial authorities.

Del Pilar was born in Bulacán, Bulacán on August 30, 1850, the youngest of ten children of Julián H. del Pilar and Blasa Gatmaitán. His father had held thrice the post of gobernadorcillo in their home town. Del Pilar studied at the Colegio de San José in Manila and at the University of Santo Tomás; at the age of thirty he finished the course in law. He devoted more time to writing than in the practice of his profession because in the former he saw a better opportunity to be of service to his oppressed country. His oldest brother, Father Toribio H. del Pilar, a Catholic priest, had been deported along with other Filipino patriots to Guam in 1872 following the Cavite Mutiny.

He founded the Diariong Tagalog in 1882, the first daily published in the Tagalog text, where he publicly denounced Spanish maladministration of the Philippines. His attacks were mostly directed against the friars whom he considered to be mainly responsible for the oppression of the Filipinos.

In 1885, he urged the cabezas de barangay of Malolos to resist the government order giving the friars blanket authority to revise the tax lists. He instigated the gobernadorcillo of Malolos, Manuel Crisóstomo, to denounce in 1887 the town curate who violated government prohibition against the exposure of corpses in the churches. In the same year, he denounced the curate of Binondo for consigning Filipinos to poor seats in the church while assigning the good ones to Spanish half-castes.

On March 1, 1888, the populace of Manila staged a public demonstration against the friars. Led by the lawyer Doroteo Cortés, the demonstrators presented to the civil governor of Manila a manifesto entitled “¡Viva España! ¡Viva la Reina! ¡Viva el Ejército! ¡Fuera los Frailes!“. This document, which had been signed by eight hundred persons, was written by Marcelo H. del Pilar. It enumerated the abuses of the friars, petitioned for the deportation of the archbishop of Manila, the Dominican Pedro Payo, and urged the expulsion of the friars.

It was because of his having written this anti-friar document that del Pilar was forced to exile himself from the Philippines in order to escape arrest and possible execution by the colonial authorities.

“I have come here not to fight the strong but to solicit reforms for my country,” del Pilar declared upon arrival in Barcelona, Spain. La Soberanía Monacal en Filipinas (Friar Supremacy in the Philippines) was among the first pamphlets he wrote in Spain. The others included Sagót ng España sa Hibíc ng Filipinas (Spain’s Answer to the Pleas of the Philippines), Caiigat Cayó (Be Like the Eel) — del Pilar’s defense of Rizal against a friar pamphlet entitled Caiiñgat Cayó denouncing the Noli Me Tangere.

Del Pilar headed the political section of the Asociación Hispano-Filipina founded in Madrid by Filipinos and Spanish sympathizers, the purpose of which was to agitate for reforms from Spain.

In Madrid, del Pilar edited for five years La Solidaridad, the newspaper founded by Graciano López Jaena in 1889 which championed the cause for greater Philippine autonomy. His fiery and convincing editorials earned from him the respect and admiration of his own Spanish enemies. “Plaridel” became well-known as his nom de plume.

In November, 1895, La Solidaridad was forced to close its offices for lack of funds. Del Pilar himself was by then a much emaciated man, suffering from malnutrition and overwork. He was finally convinced that Spain would never grant concessions to the Philippines and that the well-being of his beloved country could be achieved only by means of bloodshed — revolution.

Weakened by tuberculosis and feeling that his days were numbered, he decided to return to the Philippines to rally his countrymen for the libertarian struggle.

But as he was about to leave Barcelona, death overtook him on July 4, 1896.

His passing was deeply mourned by the Filipinos for in him they had their staunchest champion and most fearless defender. His death marked the passing of an era –the era of the Reform Movement– because scarcely two months after his death, the Philippine Revolution was launched.

I am not really a big fan of Marcelo H. del Pilar, especially when I learned that he was a high-ranking Mason. Besides, I believe that what he fought for would not equate to heroism. He was, to put it more bluntly, another American-invented hero. The American government, during their colonization of the Philippines, virtually influenced the Philippine puppet government to recognize “heroes” who fought against Spain.

But a closer observation on Marcelo’s life will reveal that, like Rizal and other Filipino “heroes” of his generation, he never fought against Spain. They fought against the Church, the sworn enemy of their fraternity (Freemasonry).

What really captivated me about Marcelo is his heartbreaking fatherhood. Since I am a father of four, I can empathize with his sorrowful plight.

A few years ago, when Yeyette and I had only one child (Krystal), and we were still living in a decrepit bodega somewhere in Las Piñas, I happened to stumble over Fr. Fidel Villaroel’s (eminent historian and former archivist of the University of Santo Tomás) monograph on del Pilar — Marcelo H. del Pilar: His Religious Conversions. It was so timely because during that time, I had just gone through my own religious conversion, having returned to the Catholic fold after a few years of being an atheist and agnostic.

In the said treatise by Fr. Villaroel, I learned of del Pilar’s anguish over being separated from his two daughters, Sofía and Anita. Due to his radical activities as an anti-friar, as can be gleaned in Acosta’s biographical sketch above, del Pilar escaped deportation. He left the country on 28 October 1888, escaping to Hong Kong before moving to Spain. And he never saw his little kids and his wife ever again.

Sofía was just nine years old at the time of his escape; Anita, one year and four months. Father Villaroel couldn’t have written this painful separation better:

Month after month, day after day, for eight endless years, the thought of returning to his dear ones was del Pilar’s permanent obsession, dream, hope, and pain. Of all the sufferings he had to go through, this was the only one that made the “warrior” shed tears like a boy, and put his soul in a trance of madness and insanity. His 104 surviving letters to the family attest to this painful situation…

…He felt and expressed nostalgia for home as soon as he arrived in Barcelona in May 1889, when he wrote to his wife: “It will not be long before we see each other again.” “My return” is the topic of every letter. Why then did he not return? Two things stood in the way: money for the fare, and the hope of seeing a bill passed in the Spanish Cortes suppressing summary deportations like the one hanging on del Pilar’s head. “We are now working on that bill.” “Wait for me, I am going, soon I will embrace my little daughters, I dream with the return.” How sweet, how repetitious and monotonous, how long the delay, but how difficult, almost impossible!

Here are some of those heartbreaking letters (translated by Fr. Villaroel into English from the Spanish and Tagalog originals) of Marcelo to his wife (and second cousin) Marciana “Chanay” del Pilar and Sofía:

In 1890: I want to return this year in November (letter of February 4); Day and night I dream about Sofía (February 18), I will return next February or March (December 10).

In 1891: It will not be long before I carry Anita on my shoulders (January 22); Sofía, you will always pray that we will see each other soon (August 31).

In 1892: If it were not for lack of the money I need for the voyage, I would be there already (February 3); I am already too restless (March 2); I feel already too impatient because I am not able to return (April 14); This year will not pass before we see each other (May 11); Be good, Sofía, every night you will pray one Our Father, asking for our early reunion (September 14; it is interesting to note that del Pilar advised her daughter to pray the Our Father despite his being a high-ranking Mason –Pepe–); Don’t worry if, when I return, I will be exiled to another part of the Archipelago (November 9).

In 1893: Who knows if I will close my eyes without seeing Anita (January 18)!; My heart is shattered every time I have news that my wife and daughters are suffering; hence, my anxiety to return and fulfill my duty to care for those bits of my life (May 24); I always dream that I have Anita on my lap and Sofía by her side; that I kiss them by turns and that both tell me: ‘Remain with us, papá, and don’t return to Madrid’. I awake soaked in tears, and at this very moment that I write this, I cannot contain the tears that drop from my eyes (August 3); It is already five years that we don’t see each other (December 21).

In 1894: Tell them (Sofía and Anita) to implore the grace of Our Lord so that their parents may guide them along the right path (February 15); Every day I prepare myself to return there. Thanks that the children are well. Tears begin to fall from my eyes every time I think of their orfandad (bereavement). But I just try to cure my sadness by invoking God, while I pray: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ I am the most unfortunate father because my daughters are the most unfortunate among all daughters… I cannot write more, because tears are flowing from my eyes aplenty (July 18); We shall meet soon (December 5)

I have to admit, reading these letters never fail to move me to tears because I, too, have experienced the same orfandad and the longingness for a father. It is because I have never lived with my dad for a long time since he was always overseas. When we were young, he only stayed with us for a couple of weeks or a few months. And my dad was a very silent man.

His work overseas, of course, was for our own benefit. But the price was depressing: we’ve been detached from each other forever. Whenever he comes home to us, my dad was like a total stranger to me. Especially now that I have my own family and I rarely see him nowadays. No, we are not in bad terms (although I know that he still resents the fact that I married at a very early age). But we are simply not close to each other because of those years of separation and lack of communication. I do not know him, and he doesn’t know me. We do not know each other personally. But I know for a fact that my dad loved us dearly, and that he experienced the same anguish experienced by del Pilar. I’ve read some of dad’s letters to mom, and in those letters he expressed the same desire to come home with us and stay permanently. But nothing like that happened.

The same thing with del Pilar. After all those patriotic talk and nationalistic activities, nothing happened. His sacrifice of being separated from his family was, sadly, all for naught…

When he died a Christian death in Barcelona (yes, he also retracted from Masonry shortly before he passed away), he was buried in the Cementerio del Oeste/Cementerio Nuevo where his remains stayed for the next twenty-four years. Paradoxically, a renowned Christian member of the Philippine magistrate, Justice Daniel Romuáldez, made all the necessary procedures of exhuming the body of del Pilar, one of the highest-ranking Masons of the Propaganda Movement. His remains finally arrived on 3 December 1920. He was welcomed by members of Masonic lodges (perhaps unaware of del Pilar’s retraction, or they simply refused to believe it), government officials, and his family of course.

Sofía by then was already 41; and del Pilar’s little Anita was no longer little — she was already 33.

Anita was very much traumatized by that fateful separation. Bitter up to the end, she still could not accept the fact that her father chose the country, ang bayan, before family. An interesting (and another heartbreaking) anecdote is shared by Anita’s son, Father Vicente Marasigan, S.J., regarding her mother’s wounded emotions:

[My] first flashback recalls April 1942. Radio listeners in Manila had just been stunned by the announcement of the surrender of Corregidor. There was an emotional scene between my father, my mother, and myself. My mother was objecting to something my father wanted to do ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’. My mother answered, ‘Lagi na lang bang para sa kabutihan ng bayan?’ [‘Is it always for the good of the country?’] And she choked in fits of hysterical sobbing. All her childhood years have been spent in emotional starvation due to the absence of ‘Lolo’ [Grandfather] Marcelo, far away in Barcelona sacrificing his family para sa kabutihan ng bayan.

“The second flashback is rather dim in memory. I was then two years old, in December 1920. I think I was on board a ship that had just docked at the [Manila] pier, carrying the remains of Lolo Marcelo. All our relatives from Bulacán were present for the festive occasion. Some aunt or grandaunt was telling me how proud and happy I must be. I did not understand what it meant to feel proud, but I knew I was unhappy because I felt that my mother was unhappy. In the presence of that casket of bones, how could she forget the emotional wounds inflicted on her by her father ‘para sa kabutihan ng bayan’ [for the good of the country]?

History is not just about dead dates, historical markers, and bronze statues of heroes. It has its share of eventful dramas and personal heartbreaks. And this is one heartbreak that I will never allow my children to experience.

To all the fathers who read this: cherish each and every moment that you have with your children.

Biñán is in the heart (Biñán, La Laguna)

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Indians brought their game-cocks to be admired, but we did not encourage the display of their warlike virtues. There was much firing of guns, and a pyrotechnic display when the sun had gone down, and a large fire balloon, bearing the inscription, “The people of Biñán to their illustrious visitors,” was successfully inflated, and soaring aloft, was lost sight of in the distance, but was expected to tell the tale of our arrival to the Magidenne in Manila Bay. Biñán is a place of some importance. In it many rich mestizos and Indians dwell. It has more than 10,000 inhabitants. Large estates there are possessed by the Dominican friars, and the principal of them was among our earliest visitors. There, as elsewhere, the principalia, having conducted us to our headquarters, came in a body to present their respects, the gobernadorcillo, who usually speaks Spanish, being the organ of the rest. Inquiries about the locality, thanks for the honours done us, were the commonplaces of our intercourse, but the natives were always pleased when ” the strangers from afar” seemed to take an interest in their concerns. Nowhere did we see any marks of poverty; nowhere was there any crowding, or rudeness, or annoyance, in any shape. Actors and spectators seemed equally pleased; in fact, our presence only gave them another holiday, making but a small addition to their regular and appointed festivals. Biñán is divided by a river, and is about a mile from the Laguna. Its streets are of considerable width, and the neighbouring roads excellent. Generally the houses have gardens attached to them; some on a large scale. They are abundant in fruits of great variety. Rice is largely cultivated, as the river with its confluents affords ample means of irrigation. The lands are usually rented from the Dominicans, and the large extent of some of the properties assists economical cultivation. Until the lands are brought into productiveness, little rent is demanded, and when they become productive the friars have the reputation of being liberal landlords and allowing their tenants to reap large profits. It is said they are satisfied with one-tenth of the gross produce. A tenant is seldom disturbed in possession if his rent be regularly paid. Much land is held by associations or companies known by the title of ‘Casamahanes.’ There is an active trade between Biñán and Manila. –Sir John Bowring

My son Jefe looking at the busy Biñán town plaza during his third birthday a few months ago (01/13/2010). The Alberto Mansion is obscured --nay, VANDALIZED-- by colossal political campaign ads. Will Jefe and his siblings ever see this house again?

“When’s your next travel to Biñán, man?”

This Arnaldo guy never fails to tease me in this manner whenever he urges me to travel. It’s because he has traveled to many parts of the country: Luzón, the Visayan islands, and Mindanáo. My record is a measly one compared to his — I’ve only traveled mostly in and around the La Laguna provinces, and most of those travels were in Biñán.

What’s with Biñán, anyway? =)

I dunno. But Biñán is in the heart. It reminds my wife Yeyette of its public market’s bargain prices, and of Barrio Canlalay’s garden plants and flowers for sale, and of course, the famous puto biñán. For me, it reminds me of its rich history and culture when the Philippines was still an overseas Spanish province. It reminds me of the town’s sector de mestizos filled with grand Antillean houses or bahay na bató, of the incorruptible Santa Filomena de Almarínez, and of the Rizal connection. And the best part of it is that it is just beside our current home, San Pedro Tunasán, the sampaguita capital of the Philippines.

All of my visits in that municipio-turned-city were mostly unplanned, such as the first one in 2004. Napagcátuwaan lang naming mag-asawa. That is when I first saw the Alberto ancestral house. I fell in love with it immediately. That is why it is devastating and heartrending to hear about this historic house’s impending doom. Its sale to controversial businessman Jerry Acuzar created quite a stir within cultural and historical circles.

The townhall of the then Municipality of Biñán. I recently learned that by virtue of last year's Republic Act 9740, this historic municipio is now a city. But its cityhood does not even manifest in itself.

Somewhere along this river, Rizal used to swim and frolic during his youth. He even almost drowned here when a naughty cousin of his pushed him on its deeper parts. Sometimes, I wonder what would he feel if he sees this river again in its polluted state. To the people of Biñán: congratulate yourselves for a job well done!

Another old house almost as big as the Alberto's. It stands across the Alberto Mansion at the town/city plaza. Soon, it will be another casualty of cultural and historical ignorance, and I will not even be surprised when that happens.

It is as if a heavenly light that rainy afternoon (11/04/2009) was bidding the Alberto Mansion to come up to the heavens.

THE SAGA OF THE ALBERTO ALONSO ANCESTRAL HOUSE

From where I sit, the status of Teodora Alonso’s ancestral home remains unclear: will it continue staying where it has been standing for centuries or not? The last time I heard, the sale of the Alberto Mansion to Mr. Acuzar will still push through despite the valiant efforts of Dr. Rosauro “Bimbo” Sta. María and the United Artists for Cultural Conservation and Development, City of Biñán, Inc. (UACCD), to save it from being dismantled (“demolished” is what they call it) and transported to the businessman’s Bataán resort. In his Facebook account, the good doctor seemed to confirm that the good fight is indeed over; he wrote an emotional letter to the members of the UACCD, and its title: PAALAM BAHAY ALBERTO!. A part of that letter read:

To keep the Alberto House in situ would mean at least ₱150,000,000 to buy the property, restore, and maintain it for the next five years. Adaptive reuse can be in the form of a museum, but will take time for it to become self-liquidating. Neither the City nor the National Government have this enough money for a single purpose.

Finis es?

*******

Whether or not this house is related to national hero José Rizal is beside the point. It has been part and parcel of Biñán for hundreds of years, alongside other historic Antillean houses. Moreover, this same house was visited by a famous foreign dignitary at that time: Sir John Bowring (1792-1872), the fourth Governor of Hong Kong. In his A Visit to the Philippine Islands, he wrote the following about the Alberto Mansion:

The roads are generally good on the borders of the Laguna, and we reached Biñán before sunset, the Indians having in the main street formed themselves in procession as we passed along. Flags, branches of flowering forest trees, and other devices, were displayed. First we passed between files of youths,then of maidens; and through a triumphal arch we reached the handsome dwelling of a rich mestizo, whom we found decorated with a Spanish order, which had been granted to his father before him. He spoke English, having been educated at Calcutta, and his house —a very large one— gave abundant evidence that he had not studied in vain the arts of domestic civilization. The furniture, the beds, the tables, the cookery, were all in good taste, and the obvious sincerity of the kind reception added to its agreeableness. Great crowds were gathered together in the square which fronts the house of Don José Alberto.

Inside the patio of the controversial Alberto residence. This is the house's zaguán where the Alberto's carromatas and horse-drawn carriages were kept. It now serves as a decrepit bodega.

At the patio.

What was once a beautiful garden is now an untidy heap of woebogone structures.

The patio stairway from another angle.

The stone escalera from the patio leading towards where the azotea and cocina are.

There are actually two zaguanes in the Alberto patio. The zaguán, in a way, is today's equivalent of a car garage.

The empty side of this house was burned several years ago in a fire accident. The other side has since been converted to a grocery store. I wonder: if Jerry Acuzar successfully acquires the Alberto Mansion, how would he figure out the way this house looked like in its original state when he rebuilds it in his Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar?

An odd, unaesthetic mix of old and new: centuries-old stone blocks with modern concrete masonry units (or hollow blocks).

An intricate arch which survived the centuries. Will it continue surviving?

The main entrance is not through this door but at the stairway to the left.

Cápiz shells were often used as squared window panes in wooden ventana panels. This is a usual trademark of a genuine bahay na bató.

I forgot who this lady in the portrait was, but Arnaldo still remembers that she's none other than José Alberto's allegedly adulterous wife. It was said that she was the cause of Teodora Alonso's arrest and imprisonment.

The spacious caída.

The now messy balcón overlooking the town plaza.

The door yonder (behind the staircase) leads to the main part of the house which eventually burned a couple of years ago. What was saved has been converted to Gerry Alberto's small office.

A glimpse of the Biñán's public market.

¡Totoy na totoy!

Arnaldo sitting in front of José Alberto's portrait. Notice the Orden de Isabel la Católica hanging on Alberto's chest.

A view of the now cemented patio from the antesala.

Techo (ceiling).

Only a few remaining Antillean houses / bahay na bató today sport a red-tiled rooftop.

Sunlight entering a doomed house. Or is it really doomed? Heaven forbid such a travesty to happen...

The same stairway which John Bowring ascended.

Then as now, great crowds still gather together in the square which fronts this house. The only difference is that today, this throng is composed mostly of uncaring, nonchalant, and uncultured individuals. And many of them are local government officials.

As I’ve written early this month, Arnaldo and I had the opportunity to meet Gerardo “Gerry” Alberto last 11/04/2009, a direct descendant of José Alberto, an uncle of the national hero. He confirmed to us that indeed he was selling the house to a businessman. He even handed out to me a photocopied document of an email conversation between a relative of his (one of his nieces, if memory serves right) and Ambeth Ocampo regarding the impending sale of the house to Acuzar, back then an unknown person to me. Unfortunately, that paper is still missing in my library, and I’ve completely forgotten what exactly the conversation was all about.

Arnaldo and I were troubled to hear about Gerry’s plan. Too bad we did not have any right at all to convince him to change his mind. In a recent TV interview, he was correct when he said that his ancestral house is private property — it is his property. He’s paid his (real estate) taxes religiously. Thus, he can do anything he wants with it: desecrate it, enshrine it, turn it into a casino, a gay bar, a school, a private zoo, a museum, sell it, anything that pleases him. And all cultural groups and “concerned” politicians can kiss his Fil-hispanic tuckus.

But Arnaldo and I know something that many Biñenses do not know: if only Gerry had the money to maintain the house of his ancestors, he would have kept it. End of story. Furthermore, he told us that he once asked some monetary assistance from the then Municipality of Biñán, but nothing came out of it. But of course, local governments did not have any money to shell out just to help maintain the house.

So what’s all the fuss these past few weeks among local government officials of Biñán as well as other concerned groups? All of a sudden, we see them on national TV and in dailies, protesting what many of them imply to be Gerry’s historical crime against their city? But where were they when Gerry needed their help?

¿Palagui na lang báng ganitó ang mga Filipino? Abá, cumiquilos lang tayo capág hulí ná ang lahát. Qué divertido.

It should be noted that Gerry no longer lives in that house but somewhere else in Metro Manila (again, that decision of his is none of our business). Of what use should it be whenever he shells out money to maintain a house that technically no longer serves him? The guy’s just being practical. In today’s deprived economic milieu, where inflation never stops harassing even the monetary giants of the world, no person in his right mind would continue financing an already abandoned and deteriorating house. Gerry may have lots of money, but he’s not wealthy (to use financial adviser Francisco Colayco’s context). Put yourselves in his shoes, dear readers.

Do not be mistaken, though. I do not intend to be his apologist. During my many visits to his ancestral house, I met Gerry only once. We’re not friends. I am just trying to make a rational point out of all this brouhaha. The point is, none of this debacle would have happened if everybody acted much earlier.

When news broke out that the house’s dismantling had already started, and that protests against it commenced, I let out a silent, sickening chuckle filled with resentment and loathing towards the people of Biñán. Why why why is it that there is no end to this kind of stupidity…?

So, when I saw the pitiful state of the house again more than a month after killer typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng unleashed their fury all over the capital and its surrounding environs, deep down inside –MUCH TO MY MOST BITTERREGRET–, I thought it was best to take care of the house elsewhere where it will be safe…

Arnaldo and I revisited Biñán together last 11/04/2009, nearly two months after Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng wreaked havoc in Luzón.

Dirty, unkempt, deprived of care, but still standing proudly across the ages...

Entrance to the patio.

Arnaldo with Gerry Alberto, a great grandson of José Alberto, Rizal's uncle.

Parts of the house haven't dried up yet due to the recent killer typhoons.

The cápiz shells in the window panels were rapidly deteriorating.

Rainwater seeped into the house. The interiors are no longer safe for future typhoons.

A view of the town plaza (including the San Isidro Labrador Church at the left) from the Alberto house.

Everytime I see this portrait of José Alberto, it gets worse. It was slightly damaged by rainwater caused by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Don Zoilo Alberto and his bride (Gerry's parents). Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera had the chance to meet him many years ago. He described Don Alberto as a true Filipino of the old school. Even this portrait was damaged by typhoon rains.

Downstairs.

Un arcoiris -- ¿habrá una esperanza para este caserón histórico?

Gerry Alberto, moi, et Arnaldo Arnáiz.

RIZAL’S SCHOOL

Here’s another reason why I deplore Biñenses: the sad fate of Rizal’s school

Historically, Biñán is best known as the place where Rizal had his primary education under maestro Justiniano Cruz y Aquino.

Take a look at the hut now where Rizal spent some of his school days in Biñán. When my family visited this place in 2004, it was already fragile but still standing. We even had the opportunity to go inside. Why did Biñenses allow this to happen?

I first visited this nipa hut school in 2004. It was situated inside the huge garden of, if I remember right, the Jacobo Gonzales ancestral house (which is along Calle Gonzales, the area which was called sector de mestizos during Spanish times). Thanks to my wife’s insistence, we were allowed entry but never really got to talk with the owner. We were with Krystal and Momay (they were just two back then). We were so fortunate to have entered the premises because a few years later, When Typhoon Milenyo attacked the Philippines, maestro Justiniano Cruz’s school was to become but a stack of woods. Too bad we did not have any camera during that unplanned visit.

The hut was already on the brink of ruin when I first saw it. I was able to talk to the caretaker. He said that many people –tourists, students (mostly from UP), and conservationists– have visited the place. They took not only photos but videos of the place. Some even promised monetary assistance to help maintain it. But nothing came out of those promises.

Typhoon Milenyo gave it a deathly blow in 2006. Nobody ever cared about the school anymore. Not even historical conservationists. Not even the incredible local government.

A SEPULCHRAL DISCOVERY

Walking towards the national road on our way home from the Alberto Mansion (during our 11/04/2009 visit), we came across a queer discovery: a 19th-century structure that is either a chapel or a mausoleum…

We just chanced upon this old structure on our way home. I am still not sure if it's a chapel or a mausoleum. Around this structure is a small cemetery.

This chapel (or mausoleum) has been standing here since 1853!

And then, we saw these…

We inadvertently found the tombs of Gerry's parents!

A tomb in Spanish, housing the remains of a certain Macario Marco, possibly a family member of Gerry Alberto's mother.

Hours earlier, as I was browsing over boxes containing old stuff from the Alberto past, I came across a passport owned by a certain Pilar Alberto (Gerry’s mom?). And then hours later, we saw her tomb. Weird/creepy coincidence? Arnaldo kidded that perhaps the souls of the Alberto’s of yore were sending us a message to help them preserve their house.

For all we know…

NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LA PAZ Y BUENVIAJE

Here is another Biñense blunder: the total renovation of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Parish Church located in Barrio de la Paz. It’s now altered beyond recognition. For what? Because it looked old?

An undated old photo of the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje chapel, possibly taken either during the last years of the Spanish era or during the early years of the American invasion of the Philippines.

Right after the unnecessary facelift, taken several years ago (courtesy of BJ Borja).

Unknown to many, this is the old chapel where Rizal used to frequent. It was heavily renovated and modernized, much to a historian's chagrin. This should have never happened, because changing the whole feature of any historic or heritage site is tantamount to desecration. It should have just been maintained and well taken care of. Again, why did Biñenses allow this architectural desecration to happen?

The retablo.

An image of La Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción, the patron saint of the Philippines.

The image of the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje (Our Lady of Peace and Good/Safe Voyage). Although the chapel --now a parish church-- was heavily renovated, the parish priest we spoke with when this photo was taken (03/28/2008) said that this image is still the original.

A close-up of the image.

For posterity! =)

This chapel –now a church– was one of Rizal’s favorite places in Biñán. In his diary, he wrote that during his last days in Biñán, he usually walked from his place to this church (a chapel back then) to pray most of the time. Why bypass the town church (San Isidro Labrador) which was nearer to where he stayed in Biñán? Why walk several meters just to pray to that faraway chapel? We surmise that this holy place had a special affinity to Rizal’s heart because his mother, Teodora Alberto Alonso, was a devotee of Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje in Antipolo, Morong (now called Rizal province). It should be remembered that a young Rizal once traveled to that church in Antipolo with his dad in order to fulfill his mom’s promise when he was still in her womb. And during his homesick days in Biñán, he somehow felt at home in this chapel which is the namesake of that other historic church in Antipolo which was also close to Doña Teodora Alonso’s religious heart and soul.

Today, not even a historical marker can be found in this equally historic site. And worse, if Rizal were to be transported to our era on a time machine, he would have been horrified by the altered unaesthetic look of one of his favorite haunts as a child.

IGLESIA DE SAN ISIDRO LABRADOR

Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador, Población, Ciudad de Biñán, La Laguna.

All photos of this church were taken last 11/04/2009

The church's Eucharistic Adoration Chapel.

May God forgive me, but somehow this triangular symbol gives me an eerie feeling that it is somewhat... Masonic...

The handsome altarpiece.

Among the donors of this church, we've already personally met two: Adelaida Yatco (a friend of another friend, Mayor Calixto Catáquiz of nearby San Pedro Tunasán) and Gerry Alberto.

MY FINAL VISIT TO BIÑÁN

The following photos were taken during my son Jefe’s third birthday (we did not bring Juanito because he was still an infant):

Jefe's third birthday in Jollibee, Biñán.

My family enters the mansion -- for one last time...

Ascent through time...

Time space warp!!!

¡Mi mujer linda!

My family within the eerie shadows of the Alberto house's foreboding doom...

The first time I visited this place with my family was a Sunday. And I still had only two kids. We were not able to go inside because it is open only on weekdays. Jefe’s birthday was a Monday, thus we were able to come in; Gerry was not available that time, but his secretaries still recognized me.

I happily toured my family inside. Most of the furniture were kept inside one of the big rooms; it appeared that preparations were all underway for an imminent demolition (some of the tambays downstairs and even the secretaries did confirm that). I explained to Yeyette and Krystal that it could be the last time that we’d be able to relish this piece of history in Biñán. It saddened us all.

*******

What can we learn about all of this?

Arnaldo couldn’t have put it more perfectly on his blog when he reacted to what had happened to Rizal’s school:

Here in Biñán, I found the perfect example of how our government has failed to restore and promote our national treasures. We are not being unfair with the historical giants, but to our very own children. Only in pictures will we be able to share to them what Rizal’s old school looks like.

And I couldn’t agree less.

But in fairness to Biñenses, this kind of travesty does not happen in Biñán alone (it just so happens that right now, their hometown is the center of all this unwanted attention). Almost everywhere in the Philippines, the same dookie happens. Irritatingly, concerned individuals react only when the death blow is about to strike.

Who is to be blamed?

I say, EVERYBODY in Biñán is to be blamed.

We have already tackled Gerry’s plight. According to him, he was just compelled to sell his house, implying that he had no more money to maintain a house that he no longer uses. But earlier this month, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) issued a statement on its website:

NHCP on ALBERTO HOUSE

1. The NHCP exhausted all possible means to convince the owner (Gerardo Alberto) to retain and preserve his property (the Alberto House) in its original setting in Biñán, Laguna, and to prevent its eventual demolition.

2. Two or three years ago, the NHI coordinated with Mr. Alberto on several schemes it prepared for the structure’s rehabilitation and adaptive reuse. The structure was already in a bad state of conservation, and deterioration and material losses were getting worse. The rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of the house were not pushed through by the owner for reasons beyond the control of the government.

3. The NHI prepared guidelines and recommendatory measures for the preservation of the Alberto House. These were forwarded to Mr. Alberto.

4. Several meetings had already been conducted at the Alberto House among the owner/s, Biñán local officials, Ms. Gemma Cruz, the design consultant, and NHI officials and technical staff. The owner/s repeatedly explained his/their plans for the old house and what assistance can be provided by the government if their house is declared a Historical Landmark or a Heritage House. Otherwise, Mr. Alberto reiterated that he is already quite old, and the decision that would serve the family’s best interest should be made soonest.

5. Before the controversy, the local government of Biñán was not interested in the preservation of the Alberto House. It signified its protest to the owner when it came to know that the Alberto family had already committed the transfer (dismantling and reconstruction) of the house from Biñan to Bagac, Bataan.

6. For so many years, the Municipality of Biñán allowed the proliferation of makeshift structures around the house, thus obliterating the majestic view of the old structure. If they considered the house as an important Landmark and part of their heritage, why did they not attempt to clear the area for visitors to appreciate the structure?

7. In 2004, the NHI Board approved in principle the installation of a historical marker for the house. NHI wrote Mr. Alberto regarding the proposed marker, and stipulated his compliance for the removal of obstructive and unsightly signage at the ground floor façade. The marker was not installed since Mr. Alberto did not react very positively to the conditions set by NHI.

8. The Alberto House is a private property. The Alberto family does not want the government declaration because now, the Bagac deal best serves the family’s interests and needs.

9. The Alberto House is not a declared National Historical Landmark nor a Heritage House because of its bad state of conservation (less than 70% authenticity), the owner’s non-acceptance of any declaration and installation of a historical marker, and his refusal to donate the property to the government (local or national).

10. The house cannot be 435 years old as claimed, having been built in 1575. The construction method of the original house used cut nails made of steel. Steel was first used in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Therefore, the Alberto House could have been constructed between the late 1700s to early 1800s. The year 1575 may have referred to the family escutcheon, as the original owner’s father was decorated with a Spanish order during that time.

11. As time drags on, the Alberto House continues to deteriorate and accumulate damages, thus lessening the historical value and conservation opportunities of the structure. If no intervention/maintenance efforts are made, the house will certainly be totally lost.

12. It is not necessarily true and apropos to automatically declare any or all structures 50 years old or more an Important Cultural Property, a National Historical Landmark, or a Heritage House without passing through the established criteria. It will be very much prejudicial to the significance/quality of the structures/artifacts of historical or cultural importance, and to the best practices in selecting nationally-significant historical and cultural heritage.

13. A personal heritage may not necessarily be another person’s heritage; a family’s heritage may not necessarily be another family’s heritage; a community’s heritage may not be another community’s heritage… But we can have a national heritage whereby all citizens can claim the right to preserve and protect it. Likewise, in a world heritage, all peoples in the world have the right to preserve and protect it regardless of race, religion or ideology.

14. Some residents of Biñán approached NHI, asking if there is still a way to prevent the planned transfer of the Alberto House to Bagac. Architect Reynaldo A. Inovero advised them that if there would be any offer to fully restore the Alberto House for the family, and a place for the family’s proposed commercial establishment, perhaps the interested party can approach the Alberto family and make this proposal. Otherwise, there is no better alternative to the Bagac transfer in terms of the owner’s advantage.

15. The term used by heritage advocates is the “demolition” (Demolition of 200-year-old home of Rizal mom stopped, PDI, June 2, 2010). The correct term is dismantling, in order for the house to be transferred to Bagac. NHI does not advocate the destruction of any structure. We consider all options for a structure’s preservation, including compromises.

16. The one disadvantage of the transfer of the house to Bagac is Biñán losing one of its most important historical structures.

7 June 2010

It is hard to dispute the logic set forth by the NHCP on its statement regarding the Alberto house debacle. However, item 7 may put more heat on Gerry Alberto. It said that a few years ago, he did not react positively to the conditions set by NHCP (then known as the National Historical Institute) with regards to the installation of a historical marker for the house. What was that negative reaction all about? Here was perhaps a chance to save his house. But he apparently blew it.

ACUZAR

Acuzar then enters the picture. He has been painted by popular blogger Ivan Henares as a heartless and greedy sonofagun, shopping for cute Antillean houses that he can transfer to his seaside resort in Bagac, Bataán. Acuzar’s got good intentions, says some. He is, after all, gunning for old heritage structures that are no longer being taken care of, as is the case of the Alberto ancestral house. Rather than let it fall apart on its own, shouldn’t we rather see it safe and sound and intact, albeit in another location? Yes, it will hurt all of us lovers of heritage, culture, and history to see such architectural gems dismantled from their original sites just to be transferred to a money-making resort. But as what the NHCP said, the Bagac transfer is the only viable option right now to save what is left of the house. My museum idea is another option, but nobody would buy it.

Oh, did I say Acuzar had good intentions? Yeah. And as some clever wags say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions…”

Indeed, if Acuzar wants to play philanthropist and/or culture hero, and if he is indeed deeply concerned on saving heritage structures, why not just donate the money to Gerry Alberto? Well, that would have been crazy. So think logically: no capitalist in his sane mind would ever want to do that. Acuzar, therefore is no financial saint. In “saving” the Alberto home, he also has to consider that act as an investment. Not just for “pogi” points, but for money points in the future.

According to fellow Círculo Hispano-Filipino member, Prof. Fernando Ziálcita, Ph. D., when Acuzar acquired the Enríquez Mansion in Quiapò, Manila, he also bought its lot. And what happened to that lot? A condominium now stands in place of the mansion! Professor Ziálcita has more to add about this:

Well, the first two ground stories form an arcade over the sidewalk. But there was no serious intent to copy closely the original look. The cornice juts out exaggeratedly in a very clumsy way. The arcade pillars of reinforced concrete now have grey, adobe garments whereas originally they were round, lime-covered, white Tuscan columns. And the arcade now serves as parking for the cars of the residents rather than as a walk-through for pedestrians.

No alternative traffic plan has been provided by him for a street that has five (5) jeepney terminals and that is always clogged at almost all hours.

Indeed, whoever approved of this condominium is today a rich man.

Aside from the fact that this condominium defies the already-worse vehicular traffic, it can also prove Acuzar’s greed. Why? He bought the age-old Enríquez Mansion not just to “save” it from Calle Hidalgo’s urban jungle but to build this money-making machine called a condominium.

So, where’s the love, Mr. Acuzar?

UNITED ARTISTS FOR CULTURAL CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT, City of Biñán, Inc.

And now we have Dr. Bimbo Sta. María and the UACCD to contend with.

The whole country, and perhaps the whole of Biñán, first heard of this group only when the dismantling began of the Alberto house. But where were they before this tragedy happened? Why protest at this late hour? They’ll be quick to defend that their group just started early this year (March, if I’m not mistaken). But still, the dismantling started early this month. And if they again defend themselves that they were not privy to the Alberto-Acuzar deal beforehand, then –again– what’s with the late protestations?

Better late than never? Not quite enough. I’ve been a student activist in college, having attended several protest rallies myself. And none of them achieved anything at all except, perhaps, solidarity among the student youth going against the powers-that-be. But really, that is all what it is. All protest rallies are virtually useless and inutile except if it transforms into a rebellion such as what had happened in EDSA more than nine years ago.

Days after the dismantling of the Alberto house began (which was immediately and unceremoniously halted by the city hall), the UACCD organized “WELGA: Isang Gabi ng Dula, Awitan, Sayawan, Atbp.” on the evening of the 9th of June. It was held at the town plaza, right in front of the troubled mansion. It showcased various cultural activities courtesy of the UACCD and other artistic individuals. But do most of these kids actually know what they’re doing? The disenchanted are correct: protesting in the streets is perhaps a “fashionable” thing to do. People will think of these kids as heroes, and that is exactly what these kids wanted the people to think of them.

Using the Alberto Mansion troubles, was the WELGA, therefore, organized to formally catapult the UACCD into prominence, given that this group was founded just a few months ago?

Doctor Sta. María’s advocacy may be true and pure. How about the people around him? How about the members of the UACCD? Their WELGA is a powerless show, whether or not the number of those who attended were big, whether or not it was in a festive mood (it shouldn’t have been festive; it should have been angry). It’s not about how many attended that night; it’s about the advocacy. How sure is Dr. Sta. María about the sincerity of all his young members who strutted their stuff on stage during their p(r)etty WELGA? Their dances and poems and stuff were no match against greed and apathy.

Gerry and Jerry must have been laughing their @$$e$ off in amusement during that night (“those crazy kids oughta be drinking their milk and sayin’ their prayers already,” they must’ve been thinking). That is one reason why I didn’t join that protest rally. It’s virtually useless. Money had already exchanged hands. That is why the dismantling already began.

I reiterate (counting from experience and years of observation): most, if not all (and that is a big IF), protest rallies are but a comedic sham. It is another product of democracy which is, in turn, a product of imperialist US.

I’d rather join a revolution.

*******

The UACCD might answer me back: “so did your writing/ranting about this issue fared better than ours?”

I admit: it did not save the Alberto House. It is because no powerful dude who read what I wrote listened nor even bothered to take it seriously. I do not wish to say that my suggestion to convert the Alberto Mansion into a money-making museum to save it from being uprooted from Biñán is the only smart solution. But at any given moment, it is a viable solution, nonetheless.

I wrote too late, too. Yeah. But, frankly speaking, I should not even be troubling myself with all this. I’m not a Biñense for crying out loud. But that is where, modesty aside, my sincerity and concern (and disappointment) comes in. What about you, people of Biñán? Many years ago, my friend, the great scholar and Filipinologist, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, took pictures of your then town’s old houses in its sector de mestizos, fearing that one day, they’d be gone. He published those photos in his now defunct Spanish newspaper, Nueva Era. Fast forward to today, and his fears came into fruition. Look at what happened to Rizal’s school. To the church in Barrio de la Paz. The Yaptinchay Mansion. And many others that are now deteriorating. Arnaldo has written a couple of blogposts about the Alberto Mansion in the past, particularly its impending demise. And he was right, too.

Again, if nobody listened to the three of us because we’re not as popular as Ambeth Ocampo or Ivan Henares, or perhaps people think that we have no substantial things to say, then that is no longer our problem. And again, we’re not from Biñán. Cayá mahiyá namán ang dapat mahiyâ.

Besides, if nobody listened to the NHCP’s suggestions, who’d listen to a mere blogger? The likes of me are but products of an irritating and stupid society.

*******

Mahiyá namán ang dapat mahiyâ. Hmmm… At this juncture, it is virtually useless to point an accusing finger to anybody. The damage has been done. But items 5 and 6 of the NHCP’s statement regarding the Alberto Mansion just couldn’t stop me from ranting out my angry disappointment:

5. Before the controversy, the local government of Biñán was not interested in the preservation of the Alberto House. It signified its protest to the owner when it came to know that the Alberto family had already committed the transfer (dismantling and reconstruction) of the house from Biñan to Bagac, Bataan.

6. For so many years, the Municipality of Biñán allowed the proliferation of makeshift structures around the house, thus obliterating the majestic view of the old structure. If they considered the house as an important Landmark and part of their heritage, why did they not attempt to clear the area for visitors to appreciate the structure?

If we are to publicly behead all the culprits of this sickening psychodrama, we should look no further. Or, in the case of the Alberto Mansion, it should look no further. The culprits are just across the street.

Yep. Biñán’s caboodle of shiny shoed politicians should be figuratively burned at the stake (burning them literally is not a bad idea, too). The dirty trail leads to their inept offices. Anyway, one does not have to rely on the NHCP’s statement — just take a look at the house’s façade and surroundings in some of the photos above, and you’ll see these politicians’ dirty work.

Oh, I’m suddenly reminded of WWE wrestler Kane’s usual pronouncement to his foes: “Burn in hell!”

*******

So that is it. I will never ever return to Biñán, for it will only break my heart to see the población without its crown jewel, the Alberto Mansion (its absence in the población even gave me nightmares, seriously). Its polluted river, its helter-skelter streets, the rogue people on its grimy and littered streets, the worsening condition of its many Antillean houses, the disagreeable façade of the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje, and the sickening fate of Justiniano Cruz’s nipa hut school are the reasons why I do not want to go back. Not even puto biñán will make me go back there. I can buy some here in San Pedro.

But Biñán is still in the heart. Will always remain.

I am referring to old Biñán, still pure, still virginal, without any vestige of the American Dream. What we have now is a horrible shell of its former self.

Old Biñán will forever be etched in my heart. And that is the town that I will revisit…

¡Paalam, Casa Alberto! Hindí ca namin malílimutan. Nawá'y mahabág ang casaysayan sa mga waláng pusong lumapastañgan sa'yó...

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