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Pío Andrade, Jr.: the scientific historian! (podcast)

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Few people today remember Pío Andrade, Jr.; he created quite a stir among the intelligentsia back in the late 1980s when he published his book unmasking the true character of revered statesman Carlos P. Rómulo. Shortly after that, he replaced popular historian Ambeth Ocampo as the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s resident history columnist when the latter entered the cloister.

During that brief stint with the Inquirer, Andrade was attacking various historical personages left and right, dead or alive. Unlike Ocampo, the columns he wrote were not simply trivial and informative but combative as well, for Andrade was a nationalist and a fearsome hispanista. This concerned a friend of his, a well-known official from the Film Archives of the Philippines, who had warned him to tone down his fighting stance as it might endanger his career, if not his safety (this was told to me by fellow history blogger Arnaldo Arnáiz). But it was too late. The fearsome historian since then has become a marked man: marked to become forever marginalized.

Unlike many historians we have today, Andrade treats his historical researches as pure science. But this should come as no surprise since he is an acclaimed chemist who has made significant contributions on the studies of local medicinal plants, radiation chemistry, textile chemistry, food product development, pesticide chemistry, ethnobotany, and biomass energy. His profound knowledge of scientific research assisted him in uncovering many truths about our country’s historical truths. For one, he was able to raise more doubts about the authenticity of Rizal’s alleged execution photo. Also, he can tell a hispanophobe point blank, and with sources to boot, that the Spanish language was indeed widespread in Filipinas during the Spanish times.

With all his achievements in the local scientific community, he could have easily garnered a lucrative career overseas. But he never chose that easy path. His reason? Love of country.

Without further ado, here’s good ol’ Arnaldo’s interview with Señor Don Pío Andrade, Jr. last November in episode 5 of our podcast venture. Unfortunately, I was absent in episode 5 because I had to tend to a farm that day (cubicle farm, that is). The interview is a long one, that’s why Arnaldo had to cut it into two parts (part two will be available soon). But for those who are interested in Filipino History, an hour-and-a-half interview with probably the country’s most adroit and fearsome historian today is even “bitín“.

Prepare to be intrigued by a barrage of information overload.

Stay tuned for part two!

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Marrying in ancient, sacred Catholic rites

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It may seem improper to share to all of you today one of the best and greatest moments of my life, my wedding, especially on a time like this (re: the earthquake crisis in the Visayas). But more than a month after that simple yet historic Filipiniana wedding of ours, news about it came off the press just this morning… so maybe its better if I attempt to offset all the bad vibes besetting the Catholic Church in Bohol and Cebú with this article…

Marrying in ancient, sacred Catholic rites

The bride, wearing the traditional baro’t saya and a long veil topped with a tiara of sampaguita flowers, arrived in a horse-drawn carriage at the San Pedro Apostol Parish Church in San Pedro town in Laguna.

The groom, who sported a black suit that matched his bowler hat and cane, waited for her at the church’s doorstep.

Without the usual wedding frivolities, they exchanged vows—in Spanish—in the Mozarabic Rite of Toledo held on their 14th anniversary as a couple.

Click here for the rest of the story!

Marrying in ancient, sacred Catholic rites

Special thanks to Maricar Cinco for the excellent photo and write-up. 🙂

Ash Wednesday essay

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Today is the start of this year’s Lenten Season…

ASH WEDNESDAY: TURN AWAY FROM SIN
Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas
(reposted from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The season of Lent is a preparatory period for the celebration of Easter. Easter is the central point around which revolves the message of Christianity. If Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith would be meaningless, irrelevant and purposeless.

We open the season of Lent today by putting ashes on our foreheads as the Church admonishes us, “Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel.”

Without God, nothing has value. Without God, we are nothing. With God, everything is beautiful. With God, everything is possible. God has become like us so that we may become like Him.

Who are you? Who are we? Who are we in relation to the material things we have? Who are you in relation to your possessions? Who are you in relation to the earth? Who are you in relation to other people? Who are you in relation to the times and seasons and years of your lives? Who are you in relation to your talents and your intelligence?

Are you an owner?

The owner says this money is mine. The owner says this land, this house, this car, this property is mine. The owner says I am free to use all my properties and possessions as I wish. The owner says I can enjoy what I have because I worked hard for them.
I have absolute rights over my body and over my properties. I can use my time however I wish. I can waste it. I can use it—my time is mine.

I have people I pay for serving me, they are mine. I can dismiss them. I can use them provided I pay them justly according to our contract. I am the boss. I am the owner. I do not need to account to anyone. I am the master of my life and I am the captain of the ship of my life.

But you are not an owner! You are only a steward.

Everything is grace

My time, my talents and my treasures were entrusted by God to me temporarily. The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, says Psalm 24:1.

If what I have is God’s and not mine, therefore, I must use my material blessings according to the plan of God and not just according to my whim and pleasure and comfort.

The steward’s rights are not absolute. The steward will one day return what has been entrusted to him by the real Owner. Christ died for you. By your baptism, you have become a recipient of the life and love of Christ Himself.

The source of our stewardship is our baptism. When we were baptized, God entrusted to us the honor of being His children. “You belong no longer to yourselves. Remember at what price you have been bought and make your body serve the glory of God.” (I Cor 6:19).

Everything is grace. You have done nothing to merit being a child of God. None of us is self-made. When God created us, he looked at us and found us very good.

Life, time are borrowed
The ashes on our foreheads remind us of the temporariness of all things and all peoples. When we were born, we were born with a twin sister — Sister Death. Death is a sure part of the story of everyone born on earth.

Our life is borrowed. Our time is borrowed. At a time we do not know, we will return to ashes from where we came and God will judge us if we had been wise and faithful stewards or pretentious and self-serving owners.

Do not forget — you are not an owner. You are only a steward.

A local yet global style

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The following article was written by a contertulio of mine (in Círculo Hispano-Filipino), the erudite scholar Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil.

He is a professor of Cultural Anthropology at the Ateneo de Manila University and is also the director of the Cultural Heritage Program of the said school. Professor Ziálcita has written several articles and books, namely Notions Of Justice: A Study Of An Ilocos And A Bulacán Barangay, Nick Joaquín: a portrait of the existentialist as Filipino, and Philippine ancestral houses (1810-1930). He specializes in the encounter between indigenous culture and Spanish influence.

This article, A Local Yet Global Style, was first published in the book Endangered: Fil-Hispanic Architecture which is actually a compilation of selected papers which were presented at the 1st International Congress on Fil-Hispanic Architecture that was held in Manila (27-29 November 2002). The book was published by the Instituto Cervantes de Manila five years ago.

Remember that “architecture is another form of language” (Guillermo Gómez Rivera).

The author, Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil (third from right), with members of the Círculo Hispano-Filipino (from left to right): José Ramón Perdigón, Alberto Hernández Miño, Guillermo Gómez, Ziálcita, Atty. Cirilo Lubatón, and me.

A LOCAL YET GLOBAL STYLE
Fernando Ziálcita

During the 16th-19th centuries, new architectural styles using timber and stones emerged in Luzón, Visayas, and Northern Mindanáo. My interest centers on what I call the “Wood-and-Stone style” of urban dwellings. I have tried to show that it should be called “Filipino” rather than either “Spanish” or Antillean (Ziálcita 1980; 1997; 1997B). There is more public interest in these structures at present than there was previously. Still, a number of architects continue to deny that there is any Filipino architecture other than the bahay kubo (the farmer’s house-on-stilts). One who has built many mansions for the rich has commented that these houses and churches, shown in a traveling exhibit organized in 2000 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to draw attention to Filipino architectural heritage, were “colonial impositions”.

In this article, I would like to point out the following:

• It is important to distinguish between types of nationalist discourses.
• To appreciate the complexity of the Filipino’s architectural heritage, we need a dialectical rather than a reductionist discourse.
• When viewed properly, the Wood-and-Stone style is both a unique local product and a product with multiple international connections.

Assimilation versus Exclusion

Nationalism is a discourse that crystallized during the 1789 French Revolution. It proposes that members of a large extended group “imagine” themselves as a sovereign, political “community” that transcends ethnic, religious, and class divisions because of a shared history, heritage, and mission (Anderson 1983). Nationalism thus excludes outsiders even as it defines criteria for membership. But who are the members? And what is the heritage that unites them? I distinguish between two types of nationalism. The first I call “reductionist”; the second, “dialectical” nationalism.

Reductionist nationalism uses “race” as the criterion for membership and “indigenous culture” as the substance of the shared heritage. It assumes that race, an inherited set of biological characteristics, determines how you think and feel. If you do not look like the majority, or if you are not of the same “race” as them, then you cannot share their feelings. This nationalism also yearns for a mythical past that was supposedly more authentic because it was truly “indigenous” — that is, it had no foreign admixture. Its static perspective has no room for mutually transformative encounters between cultures. It thus ignores what 20th century anthropologists say, namely: 1) that no empirical data can support the notion that race shapes ability, 2) that racism fosters the persecution of minorities, and 3) that culture, being a set of symbols, values, and practices that is socially learned, is therefore permeable and changeable.

In contrast, dialectical nationalism believes that feelings transcend race. By joining a community and imbibing its ideals, you become loyal to it. Sympathy has nothing to do with looking like the majority. Dialectical nationalism can thus regard as local what was once imported: 1) if it has been assimilated to local symbols, values, and practices, or 2) if it has a positive contribution to the local. A dialectical view sees the world as consisting of forces that may oppose each other at particular points in time and space, but may also modify each other and fuse into one.

German nationalism of the late 19th century down to 1945 was reductionist. Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) extolled the Volksgeist and the need to build institutions that emanated from it. Every people (Volk) have their own ethos (Geist) which is manifest in its language, literature, and law. A people should think and act according to its Geist, for it is unnatural to ape foreign fashions (Ergang 1966: 100-1). Herder inspired nationalists all over the world, like our own Rizal and Isabelo de los Reyes, to study popular songs, dances, architecture as manifestations of the folk’s lore. His “Volksgeist” anticipated the notion of “culture” that British anthropologists would popularize in its present form, starting in the last decade of the 19th century. However, according to Wolfgang Welsch (1995: 195), Herder’s notion has serious deficiencies. It ignores the fact that modern societies are multicultural. Moreover, its insistence on purity leads to political conflicts and wars. Carriers of a Volksgeist are supposed to experience “insensibility, coldness, blindness” and even “contempt and disgust” towards outsiders.

Meanwhile, during the late 19th century, another development took place. Since the Germans lived in many small states that were independent of each other, German nationalists argued for blood as the determinant of nationality. Anyone of German ancestry, regardless of residence, was German. This included even those who had migrated to other Eastern European countries centuries ago. In the 1930s, the Nazis equated Germanness with belonging to the “Aryan race”. Nazi policies were junked after their defeat; contemporary Germany is an open and tolerant society. But even today, migrants, who are born in and educated in Germany, face hurdles in applying for citizenship if their parents are non-Germans (Brubaker 1992: 75 ff.).

In contrast, French nationalism has generally been dialectical and assimilationist. Being French has more to do with sensibility than with genes or skin color. To be French is to embrace the ideals of the 1789 Revolution (Brubaker 1992: 35 ff.). Thus the French call their patrie a “Terre d’asile” — a land that shelters all migrants who believe in liberty, equality, and fraternity. To be French is also to appreciate the achievements of French civilization. French citizenship is thus open to Africans, Indians, Caribbeans, Indochinese, or anyone who participates in French culture.

Moreover, anything created on French soil that either contributes to France’s glory or carries the imprint of the French sensibility is French, even if the creator is a foreigner by birth. The 20th century Ecole de Paris, which invented modern painting and sculpture, was the creation of Frenchmen (Matisse, Braque, Leger), Spaniards (Gris, Picasso, Miró), Russians (Chagall), Germans (Hartung), Italians (Modigliani), Romanians (Brancusi), and others living and working in Paris. These non-Frenchmen are often classified as “French” by French authors. A work of art can be French yet cosmopolitan. French identity is thus not something determined once and for all by race and ethnicity. Writing on the diversity and conflicts between French regions, Braudel (1986: 94) says that “France” had to be “invented”. We can infer that, for it to remain flexible and open, it must be reinvented today.

Mexicanness is likewise a sensibility that is the product of tradition rather than biology. During the 20th century, following the 1910 revolution, which was both economic and spiritual, Mexicans came to appreciate the diversity of their traditions. While they affirmed their once-despised Amerindian tradition (Olmec, Zapotec, Aztec, and Maya), they also claimed that the Spanish tradition constituted an integral part of their culture. Likewise the Afro-American. The magic word was “mestizaje” or the fusion of cultures (Fuentes 1992). Thus “baroque” in Mexico is Mexican rather than Spanish.

How should we characterize the discourse of Filipino nationalism? Is it reductionist or dialectical? I believe it is in-between. On the one hand, textbooks and the press say that Filipino culture is diverse. It has “Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, and American influences”. Our folk dance troupes showcase the diversity of the archipelago’s dance traditions in each performance. Nick Joaquín, in his novels and essays, has shown how to approach history as a process that assimilates the diverse influences, especially the Hispanic, upon the Filipino (1989). On the other hand, however, the educated casually talk of either a “Filipino race” or a “Malay race”. For instance, in preparation for the second millennium AD, the Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a daily series of short articles on its front-page on the achievements of the “Filipino race”. From anthropology’s perspective, the better term would have been “Filipino culture”, for values and world-views are acquired by anybody who commits himself to a group. But physical characteristics, such as skin and hair color, are inherited genetically. Moreover, “Filipino race” would exclude Negritos, Chinese, and Euroamericans who consider themselves Filipinos. Unfortunately, anthropology’s clarifications about “race” are ignored by the current discourse.

The permanent exhibit on the Filipino people at the National Museum has a wonderful English title, “History of the Filipino People”. But the Tagalog translation is an unacceptable “Kasaysayan ng Lahì” (History of the Race). Ignored likewise by many nationalists is anthropology’s concept of “culture” as a permeable, changeable set of symbols, values, and practices. I have heard many educated Filipinos characterize Filipino achievements in cookery, dances, and sculpture as “bastardized/mongrel/derivative/imitative”. They imagine that a culture has to be “pure” and free of outside influences in order for it to be respectable.

Renato Constantino exerted much influence on the nationalism of the 1970s to the present. While he does not idealize pre-Hispanic culture, he has nothing positive to say either about Hispanized Filipino culture. He characterizes both the masses and the elite during the Spanish period as suffering from a “relative ignorance” brought about by the colonizer’s values (Constantino 1978:52-54). Those reading him must therefore conclude that Spanish influence in any form is cause for embarrassment.

A preoccupation with race stumbles when confronted with figures like Fr. José Burgos. Born of a Spanish lieutenant and of a mestiza from Vigan, Burgos spearheaded the Filipino clergy’s demands for equal treatment with Peninsular priests (Villaroel 1971). His execution in 1871, together with Frs. Gómez and Zamora, shocked the public into discovering that they were being oppressed by peninsular interests. But the highly influential historian Teodoro Agoncillo wondered if Burgos, because of his ancestry, can be called “Filipino” (Nolasco n.d.:2). On the other hand, Marilou Díaz-Abaya, in her film on Rizal, depicted Burgos as a brown-skinned Indio. In effect, nationalism became skin-color.

I sympathize with the concerns of Filipino nationalists. The Philippines is indeed a society that continues to be colonized by outside forces. Moreover, it is highly stratified with widespread poverty. But, as I have shown (Ziálcita 2000), exploitation and stratification antedate the Spanish conquest. Our national honor is not diminished by admitting that the Spaniards did positive things like eliminating slave raiding for sacrifice. Also, there are two things to consider: 1) The Philippines is a multi-ethnic society. Many Filipinos, especially in the major cities, are descendants of foreign migrants, some of whom sacrificed much on behalf of the Philippines (Nolasco 1970-71:178 ff.). Surely, they are no less Filipino than the purely indigenous; 2) Our country has to assert its presence in the world forum, and attract more interest in its culture and its products. To respond to both, we need a nationalism that can deal with complexity and multiple connections.

Filipino Modern

The Philippine has diversified its exports by selling high-quality furniture and home accessories. Designers like Ched Berenguer-Topacio, Budji Láyug, Jeanne Goulborn, Kenneth Cobonpue, and others have projected contemporary Filipino design internationally. But what is “Filipino modern”? Why has it attracted rave reviews and orders? If we examine their best sellers carefully, we shall see that some combine the indigenous with imported traditions.

For instance, a fashionable chair pioneered in by Filipino designers combines an exposed metal frame with rattan weaves that form a seat and a backrest. Sometimes the metal frame evokes a boxy armchair; at other times a curvaceous lounging chair. Always, however, the textured rattan weaves give these chairs a relaxed tropical feel. Two traditions meet in these chairs: the indigenous, which skillfully manipulates rattan for basketry, and the Spanish, which makes wrought iron furniture and lamps. The Spanish baroque tradition also shows in the generous S-curves of some of these chairs. Or, consider another example: wall hangings and shades. Filipino wall hangings made of silk have a translucent quality that evokes the Japanese, which currently is the vogue. At the same time, they have playfully inserted pieces of bamboo and rattan, for added texture. Filipino modern reinterprets international styles using skills and preferences inherited from once-foreign but localized cultural traditions.

Together with Alice Reyes and Paulo Alcazaren, I worked on a book on the best of the contemporary Filipino house designs (Reyes 2000). The staff of the Singapore-based publishing firm that produced the book was enthused by the varied forms exhibited in contemporary Filipino architecture. While some villas had strong affinities with Italian-Spanish-Mexican houses, others had rooms that, because of their shell-paned panels, recalled Japanese interiors. Other villas, though modern, had a more indigenous feel because of their imaginative local materials. As a whole, regardless of their stylistic orientation, the various houses had a common denominator: interior spaces dialogued with the surrounding gardens.

A reductionist approach accepts only the “indigenous” as Filipino. This cripples the Filipino’s options in a competitive global market. In contrast, a dialectical approach appreciates the variety of both our contemporary designs and our 18th-early 20th-century urban houses, because it looks at history as a process.

Distinct yet many-sided

I have discussed the history of the Wood-and-Stone House (Bahay na bató at cahoy) in previous writings. Rather than repeat this, I would like to highlight particular points in order to show how the style is both local and global.

1. The indigenous style of architecture prevailing in the 16th century Luzón and Visayas was suited to a rural but not to an urban environment. The indigenous dwelling was essentially a frame construction where the heavy roofwork was supported not by the walls, which were either of timber planks or of bamboo sidings, but by many wooden pillars dug deeply into the ground. This type of structure thus merely swayed during an earthquake. The floor was elevated above the ground as protection against floods and insects. The steeply pitched roof made of thatch shook off the heavy downpour and allowed hot tropical air to circulate upwards.

But this style had a disadvantage when used in an urban environment where buildings press against each other. Its materials were flammable. The first Spanish Manila, whose cathedrals and dwellings were built of bamboo and thatch, was consumed by an accidental fire in 1583. This prompted a shift to construction in stone, using the deposits of volcanic tuff (locally called “adobe”) that were newly discovered in Macati along the Pásig River.

Similar shifts had occurred earlier among other Southeast Asian peoples. Bas-reliefs I have seen on the temples of Prambanan (9th century), in Central Java, depict houses-on-stilts. However, during the heyday of the Majapahit Empire in the 13th-14th centuries, the Central Javanese shifted to all-brick dwellings resting directly on brick platforms (Schoppert 1997: 32-34). This continues to be the norm today in that region which is Indonesia’s cultural heartland.

The famous bronze drums of Dong-son from Vietnam (5th century AD) likewise reveal longhouses-on-stilts with steeply pitched roofs, which are still common today among the upland peoples of Vietnam. But the Chinese, who incorporated what is now Northern Vietnam into their empire from the first century BC to the 10th century AD, brought in houses whose plastered brick walls stood on stone platforms a few meters above the ground (Bezacier 1955; Taylor 1983). These one-story, tile roofed dwellings of brick continue to be the norm both in rural villages and in the town centers of Vietnam.

I mention these shifts because many Filipinos reduce Filipino architecture to the house-on-stilts; they do not accept subsequent developments as relevant. Also, they reject Spanish-influenced architecture as an obstacle to an Asian identity. They believe the house-on-stilts to be more Southeast Asian, being more indigenous. The truth is that some of our neighbors long ago shifted to more durable houses, partly in response to urban environments with limited land.

2. Spanish architectural styles, which are many and varied, may have been suited to an urban environment, but not necessarily to a tropical, earthquake-racked environment. Spanish urban styles are the product of a long process reaching back to at least 1000 BC, to Celtiberian towns and urban settlements established by Phoenician and Greek colonists on Spain’s Mediterranean seaboard. With their thick walls of cut stone or brick, and their roof of tile, these dwellings protected against fire. Their rigidity posed no threat in a land where earthquakes were uncommon. Their relatively small windows gave better insulation against cold.

However, these advantages failed them in the Philippines. In 1630, the Augustinian Juan de Medina ([1630] 1903-1909: 242) remarked that Manila was cooler and healthier when the buildings were made of wood, rather than stone, for this allowed the wind to blow through.

3. In 1645, 1658, and 1677, severe earthquakes collapsed Manila’s tall stone dwellings. Following these earthquakes, two contrasting traditions —the Spanish and the indigenous— fused into a major synthesis. A wooden framework to carry the trusses and rafters of the roofwork extended all the way to the ground. Thick stone walls tended to be confined to the first floor, though brick walls were used in the second story for some partitions. Wooden curtain walls enveloped the second story. But these were opened up by an ensemble of three windows. On the exterior transom was an immovable opening (espejo) covered with shell panes. Between the windowsill and the floor sill was another window: the ventanilla, which was protected by a screen or either wooden balusters or a metal grille and by sliding wooden panels.

This Wood-and-Stone style was called arquitectura mestiza by the end of the 17th century, not because it was for mestizos, but because of its mixture of wood and stone (Alcina [1668] 1980). Mestizo, like the English word “mixed”, comes from the Latin word “mixtus”. The new style was one major response to Philippine conditions. However, it is not the only possible response.

Ilocos, particularly Vigan, developed a house, starting probably in the 1970s, that used brick on both stories (Ziálcita 1997A) but had no wooden framework (Manalo 2003). Most likely this was in response to the fire that struck the city in the late 18th century (King 2000). Despite the absence of a wooden framework, the Ilocano All-Brick-House-with-Pilasters has survived the earthquakes that have struck the coast over the past two centuries. During the 20th century, new technologies, such as the embedding metal frameworks in concrete, entered the Philippines. These have opened new possibilities for urban constructions.

When I speak of the Wood-and-Stone house as “Filipino”, I claim that it was a reasonable response at a point in time, given the knowledge and skills then available, to a particular set of environmental challenges that remain with us. Surely it is not the only possible Filipino style. I like the French and the Mexicans as well. I prefer to dwell on their positive contribution to our culture, rather on how indigenous their makers were.

4. Components of the Wood-and-Stone house connect it to other traditions in particular countries. This opens intercultural bridges that should help us when projecting our country.

The house on stilts was widespread among Austronesians (the peoples of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines; some upland peoples in Vietnam like the Jarai), Austroasiatics (Cambodians and most Vietnamese), and the Thais before the entry of Chinese, Indian, Arabic, and Western influences. The irony is that the Wood-and-Stone house of Hispanized Luzón and Visayas exhibits greater continuity with this millennial Southeast Asian tradition than do the one story stone dwellings of Lowland Vietnam, post-Chinese conquest, or of Central Java, post-Majapahit.

The Wood-and-Stone style likewise connects with the several versions of the longhouse that continue to be built in Borneo as houses-on-stilts. A Sundanese graduate of mine from West Java, Budi Gunawan, made a highly significant remark before a print of a 19th century Tagalog Wood-and-Stone house. “It looks like a Bornean longhouse,” he said. The house had a tile roof, it was horizontal in orientation with sliding shell windows, and had a cantilevered wooden second story over a stone first story. I thought he might have been referring to the pronounced horizontal orientation of the Wood-and-Stone house and its use of the second story as opposed to the preference by both Sundanese and Central Javanese for one-story stucco brick dwellings.

But a visit to the Dayak country in the Four Lakes District of Eastern Borneo clarified what he meant. During that visit, another Indonesian student, Martinus Nanang, and myself went to a longhouse that was still in use. The main entrance was on the long side: a log with notches led to a verandah with a series of wooden arches and fretwork. Here was the main door. The two-story house was on stilts with wooden boards for both stories. The roof was of wooden shingles. The house’s ambience was not Javanese. Save for the notched log, the house exterior evoked 19th-century Visayan plantation mansions.

A common feature of houses in the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, and Western India is the screened wooden balcony. The Arabs call it mashrabiyya, also rowshan this three-meter-high balcony is supported by wooden consoles embedded into stone walls protruding 60 cm from the building. It has its own roof; its roof line is decorated with entablature. This balcony protects the occupants’ privacy while permitting the air to circulate through the adjoining room through grilles (Earls 1997A, Earls 1997B, Earls 1997C). The Arabs brought it to Spain where it acquired the ajimez, two windows that share a common column in-between.

The screened wooden balcony acquired a different configuration in the various localities that adopted it in the Hispanic World. According to the Spanish art historian Dorta (1973:403), the screened balcony’s evolution attained its final stage in the galería volada (jutting gallery) of the Filipino house of the Spanish period. It was neither open as in the Caribbean, not closed with lattices as in Lima. Instead, it was enclosed with shell-paned window panels.

The galería volada connects the Philippines not only with Spain and with Spanish America, but likewise with the Near East and India. This hanging gallery became commonplace in Manila by the last decade of the 17th century (Ziálcita and Tinio 1980: 8, 244 ff.). A topic for research should be the routes by which this gallery reached the Philippines. Was it only via Mexico? Or also via Indian merchants who came here during the Galleon Trade?

A particular house type that developed in Java during the Dutch period was the Rumah Gedong. This literally means the “office house”, perhaps because it was originally associated with offices. Unlike the conventional Javanese house, it has two stories: stone below, wood above. It recalls our Wood-and-Stone house except that the windows are different. As is the case throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, the wooden shutters that protect the windows hang from the façade like wings. They open outwards. The window itself is a vertical opening that extends from lintel to the floor and has a protective wooden railing and balusters. It looks like a modified French window.

The Rumah Gedong is widespread in South Sumatran villages near Palembang. Is there any connection between them and our own Wood-and-Stone houses? I do not think the Rumah Gedong influenced the development of the Wood-and-Stone house in 17th-century Manila. Based on existing documents available, the phases in the emergence of the latter do not suggest influences coming from Java. Could it be that the Rumah Gedong may have been influenced by our Wood-and-Stone house? This deserves investigation.

I mention these similarities between our 17th-19th century house and the Rumah Gedong to underline once more that what may seem so “Spanish” and so alien to Southeast Asian converges in fact with parallel developments in the region. Outside Palembang, I did see bamboo-and-thatch houses-on-stilts scattered among the fields. But in towns and even the tiny village where I stayed, the preference was for solid materials which, in the South Sumatran case, meant using stone below and wood above, with a roof of flat tiles.

Finally, there is Chinese-Japanese influence. There were only a few Chinese in Tondo when the Spaniards came in 1570. Their numbers soared to 8,000 by 1600 because the Galleon Trade exchanged Chinese silks and porcelains for highly coveted Mexican silver coins (Scott 1977: 207). Among the Chinese who settled in Manila were artisans. The Galleon Trade also attracted the Japanese who came in, though in smaller numbers.

While Chinese migration has been continuous to the present time, Japanese migration ended in 1624 after the shogun limited foreign contacts (Hedinger 1977). However, after the opening of Japan to world trade in the 19th century, the Japanese began coming again as migrants. Among them were carpenters.

In some Wood-and-Stone houses, the roof’s corner eaves curl upwards. An example is the Constantino house in Balagtás (Bigaá), Bulacán. But the more substantive Chinese-Japanese contribution may be in the framework and the openings. Both Chinese and Japanese use a wooden framework to carry the roof. The Chinese combine this with non-load bearing brick walls (Knapp 1990: 37). The Japanese raise all-wood walls (Yoshida 1954). Moreover, both of them like to expose their beams and pillars, including twisted ones.

While this was also the case in indigenous Filipino tradition, this practice’s persistence in the Wood-and-Stone style may have been encouraged by Chinese-Japanese builders. The use of translucent material as windowpanes may have come in from these northerners that paste rice paper on window frames. In the Philippines, the flat shell of the cápiz, abundant in shallow waters, substituted for paper. Filipino wooden frames use a plain checkerboard pattern. A similar window pattern is universal in Japan, and in some areas in Southeastern China.

The Japanese signature is evident too in that Filipino window panels slide in a sill whereas in China, they push out. Because of these translucent panes, Filipino interiors have a parchment-like glow, which Japanese visitors say recall their own. During the late 19th century, the transforms in the interior partitions were opened with tracery, which permitted more light and air to circulate while providing decoration. These cutwork panels are found in Chinese and Japanese dwellings. Japanese called these ramma. They can feature either fine wooden latticework or a wooden panel with a variety of patterns (Yoshida 1954: 156).

In some Filipino houses, Chinese motifs, like the peony, are present. In others, like the Festejo house in Santa Lucía, Ilocos Sur, the interlocking diamond-shaped frames reveal a Japanese hand. In general, however, the motifs in these cutwork panels are inspired by the Filipino’s preferences, for instance lyres and flowers — poetry and romance. These cutwork panels, though with different motifs, are also found in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Perhaps originally Chinese and Japanese, they create another bridge between us and our neighbors.

The Galleon Trade (1565-1815) was the first trade network to encompass three continents: Asia, the Americas, and Europe. Aside from Chinese goods, products from all over Asia were purchased in Manila with coined Mexican siliver. Traders from other Asian countries came here, bringing ideas as well. For the French economic historian, Pierre Chanau (1960: 18), the Philippines was where cultural currents originating in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and flowing in opposite directions met each other again, for the first time in world history. They also met currents from China and Southeast Asia. The Philippines is thus “the only true end-point of the world” (le seul vrai bout du monde).

The music scholar John Summers (1998: 208, 213) says that Manila’s musical life was truly cosmopolitan. In 1611, entries to a citywide poetry contest were in “Latin, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Basque, Castilian, Mexican, Tagalog, and Visayan”. Non-Spanish dances and Tagalog-speaking residents formed part of the festivities. If I am correct, the story of the hanging gallery further illustrates how globalization became a reality in Manila. The gallery may have come in from two directions, from Mexico and from India and Arabia. Here it met the Austronesian preference for constructing dwellings on piles and the Chinese-Japanese tradition of woodworking, and merged with them.

Local Yet Global

Filipinos find themselves in an international environment where, on the one hand, they are expected to affirm an artistic style that is uniquely theirs. On the other hand, they are expected to show commonalities with their Asian neighbors. We should be careful of discourses on identity that imprison. A more dialectical, rather than a reductionist, approach can better show how the initially foreign can become localized. Imported Spanish traditions in stone construction had to be modified to suit the unstable Philippine floor. A dialectical approach can also disclose paradoxes. Though influenced by a non-Southeast Asian tradition, Filipino houses retain continuities with the Southeast Asian house-on-stilts that traditional Vietnamese and Central Javanese houses do not.

Finally, a dialectical approach is more open to surprises in the empirical data. The cantilevered wooden second story of the Filipino house connects in fact with traditions of both East and West. Because of the Galleon Trade, 17th-century Manila became a meeting place for different cultural currents. The Philippines developed a distinct local, urban style, from the 17th-early 20th centuries, that resonates globally. It continues to do so, as shown by its current success in furniture and furnishings.

PDI’s commitment to pursue justice for the victims of the Maguindanáo Massacre

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Strong commitment, thirst for justice, indignation, powerful words from my favorite source of news…

Commitment

WE WILL BE their witness.

We will retrace their steps, those early hours before their shocking extinction, when they, at least 27 journalists, set out for a day’s work. We will piece together the bloody shards of the crime—the point in the highway in Ampatuan country where the convoy in which they were part was waylaid, the guns that snuffed them out, the grassy field where they, along with the rest of the unfortunate lot, breathed their last.

We will approximate the horror, mindful of the limitations of words but galvanized by the same calling that ultimately led them to their doom.

We will keep asking the terrible question: How could this have happened?

Maguindanáo Massacre victims: you shall never ever be forgotten...

The mass murder in Maguindanáo on Nov. 23 has come to define our generation as journalists. Nowhere in our history as an endangered breed has a similar occurrence approached such a degree of enormity or the body count been so outrageously high. Yet a more significant aspect casts a large shadow on the crime—the climate of impunity that served as fertile ground for it to happen. Let not the staggering dimensions of the killings take the edge off that fact.

We will be their witness. Removed as we are from the arena of their toil, we will acknowledge the peculiar nature of their daily terrain as shaped by the unbridled, unabashed power that holds sway. We will presume that getting into the vehicles that made up the convoy heading to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak, thence to witness and record a process that would have made official Esmael Mangudadatu’s gubernatorial candidacy, they pushed trepidation aside and sought comfort in the idea, hitherto unshakable, that journalism is a power unto itself, sufficient to stand up to fear itself.

That they are dead now is heart-wrenching, and we will mourn their—our—having been proven wrong. Yet, despite having been crudely disabused of the idea that reporting on an event, for the benefit of the public that we are sworn to inform, is no longer a guarantee of even safe passage, we will persevere. For too long have we lived gripped by a particular tension as Gordimer had defined it: that of being participant and recorder of events—a necessary burden of writers and, by extension, journalists. And we will continue to record our times and the evil that men and women do even as we rail at oppression and injustice.

We will not lose sight of the fact that as many as 68 journalists, not counting the 27 murdered in Maguindanáo, have been killed since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power. (Once upon a time, her husband, addressing a group of journalists in Negros, said no journalist on the island had been killed because “journalists here are responsible reporters.”) To Camus’ requirements of “courage in one’s life and talent in one’s work” we will add strength and commitment.

There will be justice for the 27 journalists (and the women and other civilians) who perished in the badlands of Maguindanáo.

We will be their witness. Though we may be under the gun, we will endure.

Maguindanáo Massacre: is our country the most dangerous place for journalists?

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Is our country the most dangerous place for journalists?

Throughout the years, countless media men in the Philippines have died in the line of duty. It is not uncommon for human rights groups to criticize the government over its lack of ability to counter these harrowing tales of violence against members of the Fourth Estate. Not too long ago, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility declared the Philippines as the second most dangerous place for media practitioners, second only to war-torn Iraq!

Some found this declaration offensive, yet many claim this to be true. But early last Monday, all debate regarding this matter was silenced when more or less 50 people –30 of whom were journalists– were abducted and brutally murdered. All in the name of political warlordship.

Campaign season hasn’t even begun.

It’s saddening how our country makes news. Recently, Manny Pacquiáo and Efren Peñaflorida made headlines, bringing glory to our country. But all that fame and honor were quickly wiped out by this bestiality courtesy of (allegedly) Datu Unsay town mayor Datu Andal Ampatuan, Jr.’s men. If they are men at all.

The Ampatuan warlords of Maguindanáo are known political allies of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Is this the way she wants her administration to end — with a big and bloody exclamation point?

But before Malacañang Palace answers that question (if they ever will), let us go back to the original query: is the Philippines the most dangerous place for journalists?

Sadly, Iraq will have to move down from being number one.

*******

Inquirer man recounts harrowing tales of survival

TACURÓNG CITY, Philippines—Ian Subang, a long-time friend and former colleague in the now defunct Gensan Media Cooperative, was in his usual jovial mood, poking fun and exchanging jokes with us.

Alejandro “Bong” Reblando, Manila Bulletin reporter covering the Socsksargen area—South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos—was, as always, in his fighting mood—insistent and persistent with his own opinion.

He always came late to media events, the reason why we used to tease him “The Late” Bong Reblando. Now, he will forever be called such.

That was last Monday morning, a few hours before the mass killing took place in Maguindanáo province.

The painful truth that these guys together with 32 other media colleagues met death in the hands of a ruthless band of goons just won’t sink into my consciousness, not even now.

Ian would usually play the role of a clown and he could easily make anyone in the group smile with his jokes.

Bong, the most senior among us, was contented with the role of big brother to us. He was already a radio reporter when I was in high school way back in the 1980s.

Early Monday morning, a few hours before they were abducted and slaughtered, we were enjoying a breakfast of “pastel”— a kind of stew—served to us by our host.

An intense yet cordial exchange of ideas ensued as this reporter, Reblando and two other journalists discussed with ARMM Assemblyman Khadafy Mangudadatu the security concerns and the scenarios that may arise later that day.

Subang and his group, including several other reporters, were gathered outside the living room of Mangudadatu’s mansion in Buluan town, Maguindanao.

They were waiting for the result of our brainstorming inside. There were just six of us in that discussion—Mangudadatu legal counsel Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon, Khadafy, Reblando, Joseph Jubelag, Paul Bernáldez and myself.

We were insisting that reporters covering the scheduled filing of certificate of candidacy of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu must be assured of their safety. Toto is eyeing the gubernatorial seat in Maguindanao.

Toto had requested for security escorts from Chief Superintendent Paisal Umpa, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanáo (ARMM) police regional director, but his request was turned down.

He turned to the Philippine Army for help but his request was also denied.

Had the police or military provided security escorts, the mass slaughter of defenseless women and journalists might have been prevented.

According to the Mangudadatus, a week before the massacre, there were massive movements of the Ampatuan’s armed followers—police, civilian volunteers and Cafgu members—in the area.

Believing in the power of the media, Mangudadatu, who felt helpless then, asked help from the media.

He requested several journalists—through Henry Araneta of DZRH—to cover the scheduled filing of his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections provincial office in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanáo.

Araneta managed to invite 37 journalists from the cities of General Santos, Tacurong and Koronadal.

“Maybe, they will not harm us if journalists are watching them,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu disclosed that he organized a group of women led by his wife, Genalyn, elder sister Vice Mayor Eden Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town, Bai Farinna Mangudadatu, the youngest of the Mangudadatu siblings, and lawyers Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon and Connie Brizuela.

The gubernatorial aspirant claimed reports had reached him that the Ampatuans had threatened to chop him into pieces once he filed his COC with the Comelec.

“Under our tradition, Muslim women are being respected. They should not be harmed just like innocent children and the elders,” Mangudadatu stressed.

Governor Andal Ampatuan ran unopposed in the 2007 elections.

Mangudadatu claimed that the Ampatuans were considered above the law, warlords and political demigods in Maguindanáo.

But, he said, someone must come to the fore to bring about change and improve the lives of the Bangsamoro people.

He said that women from Buluan should be the ones to file his COC, no security escorts, only journalists to avoid creating tension.

Eden, along with his sister-in-law and younger sister, was in a jovial mood before the departure. She was saying that Muslim women should play a more active role in Maguindanáo politics to attain genuine social change and economic progress.

“This is women power in action. Let’s help our men chart a better future for the province,” she was heard as saying.

We were confident nothing bad would happen as some of us in the convoy had been frequent visitors to the Maguindanao provincial capitol.

Even while inside the vehicles, the group enjoyed each other’s company. There was no hint of the heartbreaking and vicious fate awaiting them.

All in all, there were 58 persons—37 journalists, 16 Muslim women who handcarried Mangudadatu’s COC and five drivers—in the convoy.

After several attempts, I was able to contact Major General Alfredo Caytón, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, through a mobile phone.

He gave an assurance that the national highway going to Shariff Aguak had already been cleared and was safe for travel. He even added that police checkpoints littered the long route from Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat to Shariff Aguak.

Five convoy vehicles left Buluan around 9:30 a.m. Monday. The lead vehicle was an L-300 van of UNTv.

Aside from UNTv reporter Victor Núñez, his cameraman and driver, Paul Bernáldez and myself joined in.

However, while the convoy was refuelling in Buluan, I decided to transfer to Joseph Jubelag’s vehicle to accompany him. Bernáldez followed suit.

The five-vehicle convoy went ahead and we just told them we will follow right away.

We decided to drop by BF Lodge in Tacuróng City where we stayed the night before to get some valuables and meet some personal necessities.

I didn’t expect that such digression would save our lives. I should have been there. I should have been killed together with them.

Two hotel attendants approached me and revealed that two unidentified men riding on separate motorcycles had left barely three minutes earlier.

The hotel personnel claimed the two men were asking for the names of journalists covering Mangudadatu’s filing of COC.

Luckily, the hotel management did not give any name.

This made us change our minds and we decided not to go to Shariff Aguak.

On our way back to Buluan, we tried several times but failed to establish contact with our media colleagues in the convoy.

Upon arrival in Buluan, the vice mayor told us that all the five vehicles had been seized by the Ampatuans’ armed followers.

Not only journalists, family members, relatives and supporters of Mangudadatus were abducted and killed.

Military sources disclosed that several other innocent motorists from Buluan and Tacuróng City were seized and summarily executed on mere suspicion that they, too, were followers of the Mangudadatus.

Out of the 34 journalists abducted and brutally killed, only 25 were identified.

They were Ian Subang, Leah Dalmacio, Gina Dela Cruz and Maritess Cablitas, all of Mindanáo Focus, a General Santos City-based weekly community newspaper; Bart Maravilla of Bombo Radyo-Koronadal City; Jhoy Duhay of Mindanáo Goldstar Daily; Henry Araneta of DZRH and Andy Teodoro of Central Mindanáo Inquirer.

Neneng Montano of Saksi weekly newspaper; Alejandro “Bong” Reblando of Manila Bulletin; Victor Núñez of UnTv; Macmac Arriola, UnTV cameraman; and Jimmy Cabillo, a radioman based in Koronadal City.

Rey Merisco, Ronnie Perante, Jun Legarta, Val Cachuela and Humberto Mumay, all Koronadal City-based journalists.

Joel Parcón, Noel Decena, John Caniba, Art Belia, Ranie Razón and Nap Salaysay.

On Monday evening, gory scenes of slain media colleagues kept flashing in my mind. I didn’t have a decent sleep, for the very first time in my life.

Once again, several working journalists shed their blood in the name of press freedom.

This, however, will not deter us or discourage us from doing our job as journalists.

Underpaid and under threat, be that as it may, we will continue answering the call of our beloved profession.

With blood on their hands?

Desecrating the Philippine flag

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The Fourth Estate got too elated over Pacman’s systematic decimation of Miguel Cotto last November 15 that it failed to notice that a law was already being violated.

Many didn’t notice this, but the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a photo last November 17 showing a man unwittingly desecrating the Philippine flag at the expense of his admiration for Manny Pacquiáo(see below):

This action grossly violated the provisions of the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines (Republic Act No. 8491):

Section 34 of the Prohibited Acts;
f. To add any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawings, advertisements or imprints of any nature on the flag;

But what if that guy holding the flag is a Filipino who’s already a US citizen — would he still be exempted from Republic Act 8491? Besides, the crime was done overseas — would it still matter?

Right now, what matters most is that our local leaders, particularly Senators Richard “The Dick” Gordon, “Candid” Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Francis “El Queso” Escudero, have proposed to “legally desecrate” the flag that has been known to us –and to our patriots who first hoisted it– as a symbol of our nationhood for more than a century already. The details of this “legal desecration” can be found in the provisions of Senate Bill 3307 which proposes to amend Republic Act 8491.

The bill seeks to add a ninth ray to our flag’s sun. With tons of national problems continuously disturbing our lives every day, why do our solons want to do such a thing?

In a statement, Gordon, who’s the most vocal on this latest move to make a graffiti out of our country’s beloved symbol, has this to say: “We are a country that has had a conflict with our Muslim brothers for the last so many decades. I think this is a big step toward reuniting our country, recognizing the contributions of our fellow countrymen, the Filipino Muslims. We should recognize their deeds in our country.”

He did not say, however, what those contributions were, if there were any at all. We’re speaking here in the context of Philippine historiography, something that the good senator is trying to imply especially when he mentioned that our country has been in conflict with Mindanáo Muslims for decades.

Well, not exactly decades, but for centuries. Or perhaps since the Fall of the Byzantine Empire. Or perhaps since their “prophet” Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh wrote these hate-filled passages in the Qur’an:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (S IX 29)

“O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you; and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.” (S IX 123)

“O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (For friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guided not a people unjust.” (S V 54)

(The People of the Book are the Christians; jizya, on the other hand, is the tribute.)

As you can see, lasting peace between Muslims and non-Muslims is nothing but a pie in the sky.

Here in the Philippines, the government has tried everything it can to break the dividing wall between Muslim Filipinos and non-Muslims, particularly Christians. But it is the Muslims who keep on distancing themselves. And with much bravado. We long for peace, but they take pride in war. Why? Just refer to their Qur’an.

And now they have the nerve to claim Mindanáo for themselves. This should not be a surprise anymore because Filipinos today do not know much about Philippine history…

Renowned US historian John Leddy Phelan’s monumental work, The Hispanization of the Philippines (University of Wisconsin Press, Menasha, WI, 1959), recounts the story of one of the processes of how our nation was built:

In various provinces of the Philippines native chieftains and freeman were assembled during the year 1599 in order to “elect” the Castilian king as their natural lord and sovereign. These election ceremonies were organized upon the urging of a royal cedula from Spain. The Filipinos based their voluntary submission on the contractual promise that the king and his new subjects would render each other certain services.

To reiterate, the Filipino identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571. The Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language.

As stated in Phelan’s book, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members in 1599. They incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected the Spanish King (Rey Felipe II) as their natural sovereign. This election was verified during a synod-plebiscite held also that year.

From that time on, and after forming part of the 1571 Filipino State, our pre-Hispanic ancestors also accepted Spanish as their official and national language with their respective native languages as auxiliary official languages. Thus, the previously autonomous Ethnic States that existed before 1599 were respectively the ones that belonged to the Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Pampangueños, Bicolanos, Visayans, Mindanáo Lumads, etc. including the Moro Sultanates of Joló and Maguindanáo.

Yes, even Mindanáo’s Muslim leaders had a deal with the Spanish monarchy.

Thus, before we go off topic here, adding a ninth ray to the sun will not be a solution that there will be everlasting peace between Christian Filipinos and Muslim Filipinos. This is not to say that we should continue hating the Muslims. No, of course not. It’s useless. Jesus Christ didn’t teach us to hate. But the tenets of Islam teach Muslims to hate: “O ye who believe! Fight the unbelievers who gird you about…

Sadly, their fundamentalism can never be denied.

Now, let us discuss what the symbols of the flag stand for. The white triangle stands for equality and fraternity. The blue field is for peace, truth, and justice. The red field for patriotism, and valor, and bravery. The stars are for Luzón, Visayas, and Mindanáo. And the eight rays of the sun represent the first eight provinces which declared themselves in a state of rebellion against Spain: Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Écija, Bataán, Laguna, and Batangas (these provinces were then placed under martial law by the Spanish government).

Adding a ninth ray to the sun tarnishes the significance of the meaning of the other eight rays. What province does the ninth ray represent? And what if other groups ask to be represented in the flag as well? Besides, the Moros fought the Spaniards in order not for them to be assimilated to the Philippine government. Is that what you call a fight for freedom? Yes, it is. But they fought only for themselves, not for the whole country.

To put it more bluntly, they fought against the Philippine government during the Spanish times, like what they’re still doing to this very day. And then our politicians want to reward them something that they never did?

In another angle, Emmanuel Libre Osorio postulated in a column of his in Business Mirror (25 June 2009) that “until the ninth ray is added to the Philippine flag, the Philippines cannot be a truly national community. It is that simple and yet its truth has eluded many.” (Business Mirror).

Simple? Unbeknownst to Mr. Osorio, the Philippines has been a national community since 24 June 1571. And that was when Manila was founded and declared as the capital city of the Philippine Islands during the reign of the first Spanish Governor-General, El Adelantado Miguel López de Legazpi.

The Filipino State, therefore, was simultaneously founded with the founding of the City of Manila. Logically speaking, why should there be a capital city, seat of a central government with its laws, without a corresponding state to govern?

We should thus celebrate June 24 each year as the birthdate of our country, and not merely as Araw ng Maynilà.

In the same article, Mr. Osorio also implied that this clamor for a ninth ray has much weight in it because it has been raised numerous times in the past by people of influence and political significance: former Cagayán de Oro City, Misamis Oriental Mayor (and now Senator) Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.; two-time Speaker of the House of Representatives José B. Laurel, Jr., and; Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, ex-chairperson of the National Historical Institute. But that is beside the point. Mr. Osorio is already using appeal to authority here. Even if, say, José Rizal were alive today and he’d also opt for a ninth ray, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their argument would be correct already. Einstein may have been a genius, but that didn’t make him infallible.

Mr. Osorio then asks: is the addition of the ninth ray a constitutional heresy?

What does the Constitution say?

Article XVI, Section 1 of the Constitution states: “The flag of the Philippines shall be red, white and blue, with a sun and three stars, as consecrated and honored by the people and recognized by law.”

The Constitution is silent on the number of rays.

But that silence doesn’t mean that we should allow creativity –or should I say POLITICAL WHIMSICALITY– to meddle with what Marcela Marino de Agoncillo, together with her daughter Lorenza and Rizal’s niece Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, toiled for in Hong Kong way back in 1897. The constitution is also silent with the color of the sun and even on the shape of the flag. It can be “silent” about so many other things regarding the attributes of our flag; all one needs is an imaginative mind. I’m sure Mr. Osorio doesn’t want to encourage “creativity” such as what that boxing fan did when he hoisted the Philippine flag last Sunday with a “PACQUIAO FOR PRESIDENT” lettering, does he? But if Mr. Osorio is cool with that, then God save the Philippine flag and all other things which symbolize our national identity.

“The revolution, which is a commitment to freedom, is being recognized, symbolized by the rays. In the search for national unity, a common bond is sought and found. The common bond is the commitment to freedom. A commitment to freedom different from staging a revolution may also be symbolized by a ray or rays. It is all very simple.”

No, it is not all very simple. We are speaking of concepts here, beautiful concepts that exist only in the mind, in a distant future, a fevered dream, utopia. The “ninth ray advocates” may have a good intention: peace and harmony in Mindanáo. But no, adding a ninth ray to finally hault the neverending insurrection in the south is not a simple thing to do. Frankly speaking, it’s a waste of time, money, energy, effort, not to mention a crime against history. It is 100% guaranteed that the Muslim insurectos in Mindanáo and elsewhere will never give a monkey’s @$$ whether we add a ninth ray, or perhaps a tenth ray for Sultan Kudarat, or an eleventh for Shariff Kabunsuan, or a twelfth ray for Christmas, etc. The Muslims never asked for a ninth ray. The hungry and jobless Filipino masses do not need a ninth ray for their flag; what the masses are asking for are for food, stable jobs, and a trustworthy government. That is what the people are clamoring — THAT IS WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD GIVE. The Mindanáo Muslims (led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other self-styled Islamic patriots) on the other hand, are asking for the whole island of Mindanáo, or at least the areas covered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanáo. That is what the government should focus, on how to make them understand that it is not possible because it’s tantamount to destroying Filipino patrimony which Spain bequeathed to us.

This futile effort of adding a ninth ray to the sun’s flag in order to achieve peace can be compared with those peace talks the government conducts with local communists under the leadership of José Mª Sison. Malacañang Palace should realize that the communists will not stop until they have set-up a dictatorship of the proletariat, something that is vague and strange under republican and big-business politicians that we have today.

Sad but true.

The government’s efforts to find a solution to end these hostilities are laudable. But please, not at the expense of our flag. It has been an unwavering symbol of our national identity.

To repeat Arnaldo Arnáiz, LEAVE THE FLAG ALONE.

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