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Classifying Teodoro Agoncillo’s history book

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I was with my family in some mall this afternoon. We went to a popular bookstore to buy some stuff. Then I saw a copy of Teodoro Agoncillo’s much revered History of the Filipino People which made me see red. Rather than ripping it apart and end up being apprehended, I just placed it in a section where it should really belong…

This is where you belong.

There. At may casama pang Zodiac Sign. Blast it.

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.

Debunking the historical claim

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Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. -Carl Jung-

It comes but as an unconscionable delight to a person (who has no more good argument to extract from his wonderful comprehension of events) who disagrees with another individual to attack the latter’s credibility, especially when the former is already overwhelmed by offenses from his foe. Some instances of common diatribes: “You are a nobody; how dare you say such things!” “Do you even have a Master’s degree to lay such claims?” “Have you won awards to make yourself known as an iconoclast?” “We would rather resort to scholars and other published greats than waste our time weighing the merits of your blog!”

The foregoing examples are, indeed, a barrage of poor reasoning. In a world that is wanting of intellectual arguments, hitting on a person’s scholarship –or lack of it– should never be highlighted by an applause nor should be sided upon. Yes, it is true that a case usually wins by an overwhelming quantity of physical evidence and even witnesses. But isn’t it that hard data is prescribed and narrowed down by critical thinking and other related realms of impartial thought? Hard data alone should not be considered as sola scriptura. That is why we humans are so fortunate to be gifted with mental faculties to discern things that should be or should not be.

On the other hand, those supposedly credible persons who spread falsities and inaccuracies –if not lies– take all the credit. Take this reasoning, for instance, from renowned historian Teodoro A. Agoncillo (1912-1985):

Teodoro A. Agoncillo (photo from historian Ambeth R. Ocampo).

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define what a Filipino is. All that can be done is to pick out some traits common to the average Filipinos and to separate those that are obviously Spanish or American. The common traits are probably Malay and characterize the Filipinos as a people. (History of the Filipino People, eighth edition, pp 5-6, Garotech Publishing, 1990

It should be noted that Agoncillo is highly regarded as one of the top bananas in the field of Philippine history. A product of the University of the Philippines, he wrote Philippine history from a rather “puristic” nationalist point of view with leftist undertones. He served as a linguistic assistant at the Institute of National Language and also taught at the Far Eastern University and the Manuel L. Quezon University. His seminal book, Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan, was both highly acclaimed and criticized. He also taught at his alma mater and even got to chair its Department of History during the 60s. Perhaps one of the biggest achievements of his scholarly career was when former President Diosdado Macapagal made him a member of the National Historical Institute in 1963. Aside from history, he is also an acclaimed essayist and poet in his native Tagalog language (he hails from Lemery, Batangas).

For all his sterling qualities as a scholar, his statement about what a Filipino is debunks his worth as a historian. How could such a crème de la crème of scholarship find it difficult to define what a Filipino is? The Spaniards know who they are. So do the Northern Americans. Ask any Japanese to define their national identity, and you might end up listening to them for hours. But here in the Philippines, a supposedly topnotch historian leads the nation in claiming difficulty in defining our national identity. And so he resorts to the inner physiognomy of a Filipino, going so far as to claim that our identity is of Malay origin!

Although we Filipinos are renowned for our hospitality, piety, industriousness, etc., these are traits that are not unique to us alone. It is too selfish and proud for a nation to monopolize such traits. And to simply put it, that is not the proper way to define our national identity. It is not just through a distinction of traits that a national identity should be defined; rather, it should be strongly viewed through a shared common history and affinity of blood and tongues and culture and faith and cuisine and song and literature and visual arts and dance and craftsmanship and even architecture. Indeed, various criteria should be applied.

To say that our national identity has been elusive through the years because of colonial trauma is nothing but hogwash and useless rhetoric. Ours is just a simple case of being unable to handle the truth. Our national identity has never left us. It has been with us all this time; we just don’t want to recognize it the way Agoncillo refused to do so.

We do not have to seek nor build our own identity. It’s already here, ready to strike us in the face. What needs to be done is to simply identify it. It is already within us. We just need to tap it. And make it known among ourselves. So to say that we do not have our own identity is tantamount to declaring that we have no country, that we are not a nation. Or that perhaps we are a nation of fools. I believe no nation would want to be referred to as such.

Since Agoncillo has been hailed by many as one of the best Filipino historians of all time, how come he was not able to determine that the Filipino Identity is the product of the Filipino State that began to exist in Spanish on 24 June 1571? Didn’t he know that the Filipino State was founded together with Manila on that same date, with the government having Spanish as its official language? In 1599, the previously existing native ethnic states went into the Filipino State as co-founding members, and that they incorporated themselves with the Filipino State when they elected King Philip II as their natural sovereign. How come Agoncillo didn’t seem to be cognizant of this fact if he is such a first-rate historian — or is he? In writing his History of the Filipino People, did he conveniently omit the fact that the first true Filipinos were the creoles or insulares, and that the indios (or natives such as the Tagalog, Bicolano, Ilocano, Ilongo, etc.) who “aped” them genuinely assimilated themselves into the Hispanic sphere which was then called Filipino in this side of the world?

From a reliable source, I heard stories about how Agoncillo pronounced the disputed Code of Calantiáo as ‘Kalanshaw’ (kɑlʌnʃaʊ) in his UP classes. Worse, the ‘Bay’ (bʌˈɛ) in ‘La Laguna de Bay’ for him was pronounced the American/English way: ‘bay’ (beɪ). This only proves that this “Batangueño great” had no idea that La Laguna de Bay was named after the town of Bay in La Laguna province, just a few kilometers from his province. This should be a cause of concern and disturbance among those who admire him and –heaven forbid– aspire to be like him. And he’s a decorated scholar at that.

Here is another “riveting” case of pompous rhetoric from another scholarly giant, National Scientist Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz (1926- ).

Dr. Onofre D. Córpuz.

According to Dr. Córpuz, the Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan nğ mg̃á Anak nğ Bayan, popularly known as the Katipunan for short, was “the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation” (The Roots of the Filipino Nation, Vol. II, p. 223, Aklahi Foundation, 1989).

There is something wrong, if not irritable, with this assertion of his. How could the Katipunan embody the Christian Filipino nation when the group was anti-Christian, and thus anti-Filipino? As a renowned historian, shouldn’t he have been aware of the Katipunan’s Masonic roots as well as its motives?

For this “National Scientist’s” intelligence enhancement, he should be reminded (lest he is still unaware) that Freemasonry has been condemned numerous times by the Catholic Church. There has been at least 24 papal pronouncements regarding this matter. If he is as astute as many people think he is, Dr. Córpuz should have traced the origins of the Katipunan to Freemasonry. Katipuan Supremo Andrés Bonifacio joined the Taliba Lodge (No. 165) and from there imbibed radical and anti-friar ideas. He also joined Rizal’s La Liga Filipina which was in fact a Masonic lodge in the making.

After the failure of La Liga Filipina and the arrest and deportation of Rizal to Dapitan, it appeared that the campaign for peaceful reforms have hit the glass ceiling. Thus, an agitated and disenchanted Marcelo H. del Pilar, himself a high-ranking Mason and a rabid propagandista who has been on self-exile in Spain for years, wrote to his brother-in-law Deodato Arellano and urged the latter to form a much more radical and violent group to finally end Spain’s reign in the Philippines. Arellano thus gathered other members of the beleaguered Liga to form the Katipunan. Yes, it was Arellano, and not Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan.

What happened next was bloodshed and the senseless killing and torture of innocent Spanish friars and other individuals who went against the Katipuneros‘ way.

Seeing now that the Katipunan was a bastard child of Freemasonry, the ancient enemy of the Christian religion, how in the world did Dr. Córpuz come up with the idea that the Katipunan was the first active embodiment of the Christian Filipino nation?

Indeed, hard data is not enough to support historical ideas and claims. Logic and a clear-cut understanding of things, as well as a keen observation of our surroundings and time, should quantify these data in order to come up with definite conclusions and concise pictures of what had really happened in our past. When faced with confusing historical documents, impartial critical thinking is the key to decipher their messages.

In comparison to the above statement, diplomas, awards, and other regalia are nothing but toilet paper and scrap metal.

A review of Brother Andrew’s Book: “Language and Nationalism: The Philippines’ Experience Thus Far” by Pío Andrade

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A REVIEW OF BROTHER ANDREW’S BOOK: “LANGUAGE AND NATIONALISM: THE PHILIPPINES’ EXPERIENCE THUS FAR”
Pío Andrade

Brother Andrew’s treatise “Language and Nationalism” was praised in the foreword by Cecilio López as “the most exhaustive and up-to-date treatment of the language problem in the Philippines”.

It may have been up-to-date when it was published, but by no means could it be described as exhaustive. One look at the list of references shows the absence of very important sources such as the following:

1.) The Official Census of 1903.
2.) The Ford Report of 1916, which shows that the use of Spanish was more widespread than commonly admitted.
3.) Pío Valenzuela’s History of Philippine Journalism.

There are many big and important facts on the language question that are not mentioned at all in Brother Andrew’s book, such as the fact about Spanish being the language of the Revolution, the role of Spanish in effecting the unity of the various Filipino ethnic groups which made the 1896-1899 Revolution possible, the role of the Chinese Filipinos in disseminating the language of Cervantes all over the country due to the fact that the Philippines was the most thoroughly educated Asian colony in the last decades of the 19th century, and the fact about the much higher circulation of Spanish language dailies than either the Tagalog or English dailies in the 1930s.

Brother Andrew González, FSC, uncritically accepted the figure of 2.8% as the percentage of Filipinos who can speak and write in Spanish at the turn of the century given by Cavada Méndez y Vigo’s book. This book was printed in 1870, just seven years after the establishment of the Philippine Public school system in 1863 by Spain.

Surely by 1900, more than 2.8% of the Filipinos were speaking and writing in Spanish and there was incontrovertible proof behind this assertion.

Don Carlos Palanca’s Memorandum to the Schurman Commission listed eight Spanish-speaking provinces in the islands in addition to the 9 Tagalog-speaking provinces which, according to him, are also Spanish-speaking. To this total of 17 Spanish-speaking provinces, Don Carlos added that there were only five other provinces where “only a little Spanish is spoken”. Don Carlos Palanca was the gobernadorcillo of Binondo and the head of the Gremio de Mestizos. (Chinese Christians were the ones referred to as mestizos since the Spanish half-breed was called criollo).

William Howard Taft’s 1901 statement after his tour of the Philippines clearly says that Spanish was more widespread than Tagalog.

This fact about Spanish being even more widespread than Tagalog in the entire archipelago is further attested to by the well-documented fact that American soldiers during the Fil-American war had to speak bamboo Spanish to all Filipinos –not bamboo Tagalog– in order to be understood without any interpreter. There is still that other fact about the early occupational government of the American Military in the Philippines having to published in Spanish, not in Tagalog, all its official communications in order to be understood by the Filipino people. An English translation was appended whenever necessary for the consumption of the Americans themselves.

This official use of Spanish by the Americans themselves went on up to 1910 when they started to issue communications in English but still followed by a corresponding Spanish translation of the same. In view of this fact, if a national Filipino national language needed to be established other than English, the correct choice should have been Spanish, not Tagalog.

A big fault of Brother Andrew’s book lies in his uncritical acceptance of Teodoro Agoncillo’s History of the Revolution. Agoncillo’s History book has already been proven to be heavily distorted by omission of facts, false interpretation of events and documents and by outright lies.. The omission of these other facts was done because the same could not be reconciled with Mr. Agoncillo’s own personal bias in the narration and teaching of Philippines history. An example of Brother Andrew’s fault with regard his uncritical acceptance of Agoncilo’s distortion of history is the conclusion that the founding members of the KKK (Katipunan) were Filipinos of lowly origin. The founding Supremo of the KKK is Andrés Bonifacio and it is not so that he is of lowly origin. Bonifacio was definitely not a poor man when he got into the Katipunan.

Nor were the other Katiputan charter members. Agoncillo also failed to mention that the Philippine economy was booming during that decade and that Bonifacio, unlike most other Filipinos, approved of the torture of a captive friar.

The years 1900 to the Commonwealth period (1935-1941) wre not well researched by Brother and Cotor Andrew Gonzalez. Thus, the language issue affecting the Filipinos then are not well discussed. Had Brother Andrew researched more on the language issue of that period, he would have found out that as laste as the 1930s Spanish dailies outcirculated wither the Tagalog or English language dailies.

He would have found out also that the use of Spanish during the following decade of 1940 was bound to even get stronger had it not been for the devastating 1943-1945 war.

The strength of Spanish is evidenced by the majority of cinema films shown between 1900 and 1940. These films, even if made in Holywood were in Spanish subtitles and talkies. And several of the Philippines produced full-length films had all-Spanish talkies.

Another important fact not found in Brother Andrew’s book is the role of the Spanish language in assimilating and integrating the Chinese emigrants into mainstream Filipino society. The 100,000 Chinese in the Philippines at the turn of the century spoke Spanish in varying degrees of proficiency. The Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce since its establishment in 1904 wrote its minutes in Spanish until 1924. When they ceased using Spanish in their official meetings and minutes, they reverted to Chinese, not English. Today, strange as it may seem, the last bastion of whatever Spanish language is left are the Chinese Filipinos, and not those of Spanish descent except the Padilla-Zóbel family that maintains the annual Premio Zóbel.

Finally, Brother and doctor Andrew González treated very superficially the question of nationalism and language. There should have been more discussions on the point that adopting a foreign tongue, or using foreign words, are not per se against nationalism. If nationalism is love for ones country and foreign words and language can best help literacy and communication, it is nationalistic doing so.

Neither did Brother and Doctor Andrew González realize that nationalism in the question of language can be destructive as has been the case in the Philippines. Doing away with Spanish orthography and the cartilla, the educational authorities did away with a very inexpensive and very effective method for teaching reading skills to the young. Exterminating Spanish in the schools made the Filipinos today estranged to their Hispanic past and made Filipinos prey to nationalist historians who misled several generations of Filipinos in the sense that Spain had done the Philippines very little good when the contrary is true.

What is the prime purpose of language? Is it not to make us understand one another better? Yet, Brother and Doctor Andrew González’s book gives the impressions that showing nationalism is the prime purpose of language.

To be fair to Brother Andrew González, we want to think that he is a victim of too many distortions found in Philippine History including the history of language among Filipinos. Thus, the remark of Cecilio López in his introduction to Brother Andrew’s book “Language and Nationalism”, the the same “is the most exhaustive and up-to-date treatment of the language problem in the Philippines” is only true in the sense that the very few books on the same subject are mostly superficial.

Perhaps it will be correct for us to recall a Spanish saying that prays: En el país de los ciegos el tuerto es rey.

Arnaldo Arnáiz and Pío Andrade, defenders of true Philippine history!

The battle lines will soon be drawn…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about launching a party list group to advocate for the full return of the Spanish language. Not just in schools, but in the national government. However, comrade Arnaldo Arnáiz‘s skepticism toward something political is beginning to discourage me as well. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean it will not push through.

Admittedly, it’s going to be a tough ride to achieve such a feat. We’re virtual unknowns, we neither have the political machinery (i.e., funds) nor enough number of supporters, and we’re beholden to wage slavery which eats up our time. And worse, I even fear that there could only be three of us (with Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera) who share the same line of thinking; we’re not very much sure with José Miguel García yet because, although we’re readers of his PATRIA, we really haven’t talked to him nor seen him in person. We still have to consolidate our thoughts. And we think that Traveler On Foot (who recently pledged support to our advocacy via email) still needs to be “lectured” more on what Filipino identity is all about (this popular blogger’s got full potential).

This lonely war that we’re waging is not merely confined to the struggle for the Spanish language cause in the Philippines. That is just the tip of the iceberg. We consider ourselves as iconoclasts. We go against bigoted and twisted versions of Philippine History, originating particularly from hispanophobic UP professors and instructors (including US-centric walking tour guides who are trying to distort the way you look at Manila — one step at a time), from what Arnaldo calls the “Agoncillo standard” (taken from Teodoro Agoncillo’s myopic and infantile viewpoints on Philippine history). And I even go a step further to declare that –despite Fernando Ziálcita’s objection to it– Christianity and the study of Philippine History should go together, that they are inseparable, that the other one could not go against the other.

In the long run, we would end up going against those who attack our faith no matter how hard we try to distance ourselves from it. As written in my Spanish blog

…Filipinas es, en realidad, una creación española… una gran creación española. Y me atrevo a decir que la reunión entre España y Filipinas es una fuerza mayor increíble. Una obra milagrosa de Dios

He may be our national hero (and I have the highest respect for my tocayo), but his views weren't always rational. And he himself admitted to that.

The greatest paradox this side of the nationalist cosmos would be to defend our Spanish past while assaulting the Catholic Church (which I erroneously did from 2003 to 2004) at the same time. Now, what is hilariously upsetting is to find people on the internet parading the legacy of our national hero, José Rizal, to simply suit to their pseudo-intellectual braggadocio without even knowing who Rizal really was or what he was fighting for. These individuals proudly appear in dailies and radio shows harping about “rationality” here and “godlessness/agnosticism” there, implying that it is “cool to be a freethinker”, and alleging that the Catholic Church is a “destructive force” that needed to be brought down. They take pride being tagged as the “new Filibusters”, wittingly or unwittingly pretending to be the noble saviors of those who are still “wallowing in ignorance” wrought about by an alleged Catholic despotism. I may cry.

These irrational filibusteros keep on whining about Catholic faults and failures. But Arnaldo wisely observed that they are exactly the fruits of what they claim to be as Catholic errors.

Something’s gotta give. They’re looking for war. We’ll give ‘em one.

This we swear: the battle lines will soon be drawn. Just wait and see…

The mist is rising.

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