Did Imelda Marcos Took Part in a Haiti Invasion Plan?

In a recent Joe Rogan podcast, Dan Pena, implicated former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos as part of the group that planned invading Haiti.

Dan Pena was a former military officer and a one time Manila resident. He would later make his millions in oil, stocks and running several businesses worldwide. He now runs a self improvement program straight from a 14th century castle in Scotland, his official residence.

It is unclear what was Imelda’s interest in invading Haiti, even Pena’s not sure why she took part in planning and possibly funding the project.

Pena said that he created the plan under Constantine Gratsos, right hand man of the shipping magnate Onassis.

Dan Pena likes to call himself the 50 Billion Dollar Man

“He (Gratsos), the Vatican, the CIA, Imelda Marcos, and a guy named Talavera (?) of Mobil Oil came up with an idea that they’re gonna invade Haiti, just like what Clinton did 12 years later, OK. For all different reasons, Onassis wanted the shipping of the oil, Mobil wanted the oil, the Vatican wanted more Catholics, CIA wanted not to have the Communists near florida and I don’t know what Imelda was there for, she wasn’t buying shoes or anything, but she was there…”

Dan Pena likes to call himself the 50 Billion Dollar Man
To this date, Philippines military involvement in Haiti has been solely humanitarian. The country has sent military troops (under UN’s MINUSTAH) to the island for more than a decade now.

Pena’s recommendations for invading Haiti fizzled out. He said the Secretary of State at that time pulled the plug. It did not materialize but two decades later, President Clinton authorized an invasion.

Pena presented no documentary proof but his dealing with the CIA and his work as consultant for foreign states.

Why Imelda or any of her associates conspire with Pena and the CIA to invade a foreign country, an island not even in Asia?

Perhaps Madame Imelda, whose children are still in politics, could set the record straight.

Is this true?


Article (June 2017) reposted from one of my inactive blog (Papel de Manila).


The Japanese song about Muntinlupa by Hamako Watanabe

Undated photo of Japanese POW in Munti

A few days ago, I wrote about the Onoda deal between Marcos and Japan. This brought to mind the Japanese POWs that were incarcerated in Muntinlupa. Some of these men were executed, while others were kept as prisoners for years until they were repatriated.

Two death row Japanese WWII prisoners, Gintaro Shirota and Masayuso Ito, made a lasting contribution to Japanese popular culture. Their poem, “The Night Goes on in Muntinlupa” (あゝモンテンルパの夜は更けて) became a popular song. It was performed by the iconic Japanese singer Hamako Watanabe (渡邊はま子).

Watanabe, visited the Philippines in 1952 to appeal for Japanese prisoners release. At the time of her visit there were still 180 left languishing in prisons. She wore her intricate kimonos in the tropics according to accounts.

Shirota and Ito were later pardoned by President Quirino.

Watanabe to her countrymen was a compassionate crusader for Japanese POWs. She was their voice and her song kept their hopes alive.

Album cover. Yes, that’s Bilibid’s facade.

To this day, Japanese visitors, young and old, makes the long voyage to a small Japanese garden in Muntinlupa. There, they would be heard singing Watanabe’s song.

One of the Filipino inmate, tasked to oversee the Japanese garden, during my visit told me about the song called “Muntinlupa”.I would have never found out about the song if it were not for this man.

He said he’s moved by how they would travel far, sing a song (Watabe’s “Night goes on…”) and still shed tears after all these years.

The first blog I wrote about the song had a YouTube link that appears to have been withdrawn.

For those interested, I found another YouTube clip (see below).

This one’s from a popular Japanese drama Senjō no Melody (戦場のメロディ Melody of battlefield 2009). The television series was about the life and times of Hamako Watanabe.

The moving scene below is Watanabe visiting the prisoners to perform her hit “The Night Goes on in  Muntinlupa”.

Some comments from YouTube visitors: “The power of singing is amazing. This song was attributed to all of Muntinlupa’s death row prisoners from Japan.” Another comment, “thanks to the President,” referring to magnanimous act of President Quirino pardoning the prisoners.

The song hasn’t been completely forgotten. It lives on.

Today, even younger Japanese can be heard singing Watanabe’s song. Its popularity has surged once more when “Senjō no Melody” was aired in 2009.

Below is a YouTube clip of one them. The performer is cute little girl who has a large following in Japan, Aki Azuma. Her rendition brings a contemporary appeal to Watanabe’s classic.

Related links:

The Japanese Shrine in Muntinlupa (2008)

http://tinyw.in/2Suy

Japanese Memorial Garden in Muntinlupa and other WWII stories (2015)

http://tinyw.in/hhZs

 


the Hiroo Onoda $1 million deal

Known as the last Japanese soldier to surrender, recently uncovered documents reveals that 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda’s repatriation, was a carefully orchestrated deal between President Marcos’ administration and the Japanese government.

“Will the Japanese government offer compensation for the human and material damage they caused?” an unnamed Marcos’ negotiator asked.

The reparation paid was 1 million US dollars (equivalent to approx. 6.5 M USD today). Provided as a “gift” for Onoda’s victims in Lubang.

Unfortunately, the donation was used to promote suspicious cultural programs in the island by the Philippine government. No relatives of the Japanese hold outs’ victims received any money.

Onoda, unaware that his country had already lost the war, stayed in Lubang for 30 years after Japan surrendered in 1945.

The Japanese stragglers killed 30 and injured 100 Filipinos during their time in Lubang. Most were committed after the war had ended.

When Japanese officials found out about Onoda, they feared for his life. They immediately asked for guarantees that the lone soldier (two others had died years earlier) would not be harmed.

The other motivation for the exchange was that during the 70’s the Japanese economy was booming. They had business interests they want to pursue in the Philippines. Bringing home the last known soldier to them was closing a painful episode for both countries.

Marcos, a WWII veteran himself, received Onoda in Manila where the Japanese officer ceremoniously yielded his samurai.

The 600 page documents reveals how far the Japanese government is willing to go to bring back one of their own. Aside from the money they readily disbursed, the entire incident involved the highest persons in their foreign affairs.

Hiroo Onoda, came home a hero to a people who values loyalty and considers it part of their national character.

Upon landing in Japan he said, “it was an honor to have spent 30 years of the prime of my life doing something worthwhile.”

 


Boac Fire Destroys Heritage Houses

Sad news coming from Boac. A fire destroyed 8 heritage houses in its poblacion. This includes the gazetted Piroco house (also called Maharlikang Bahay) according to an Inquirer report.

Among the fires casualty is the ChiWing Panciteria. The granddaughter of its original owner, Karlene Chi, broke the news to this blogger last night, she posted:

“Last night, a fire ripped through four blocks and almost all the buildings featured here have been destroyed. My family owns the panciteria that was featured here (surname is Chi). It’s called the ChiWing Panciteria, after my grandfather. My grandfather opened that store way back in the 30s or 40s. My dad and his siblings grew up in that kitchen. It is devastating to think that the history and that kitchen is gone… that’s all the family has left. Pictures and memories.”

My eldest brother’s stories about Moriones Festival inspired me to visit Marinduque. I grew up seeing his big red flag with a centurion’s angry face in our home. A keepsake from his pilgrimages to the island.

Some of the houses I visited in the area were annihilated by the blaze. I felt a familiar grief similar to the destruction of Bohol’s old churches after the devastating earthquake of 2013. I am blessed to have seen those churches before they went down.

The destruction of Boac’s antebellum houses is such a great lost. There’s this lamentable abrupt termination of tradition and cultural identity whenever a bahay-na-bato goes down. We can always reconstruct a certain architecture but never recover its rooted soul.

As Teodoro M. Kalaws elucidates:

“the great houses… are the material expression of our communal type of society… our grand sires erected those mansions to house generation after generation of descendants. They served to give life and fulfillment to the supreme ideal of stability, unity, perpetuity, of the Filipino family.”

When I visited Boac, I went mad taking snapshots of its old houses. Like their version of Tagalog, their antillean houses were delightfully unique. Perhaps owing to the islands isolation and fortune—for the most part, the houses were spared from destruction during WWII.

It is my belief that everything happens for a reason. Bad philosophy I was told but it’s a Christian way of rationalizing such a horrible event. Let’s all hope that things gets better for those affected…

And they will.

I look forward to the day that the houses would be reconstructed to honor the old Boac.

Here are some photos (there was no photocopying machine when I was there) of the heritage mapping done by Boac’s secondary students. This project had been archived by the province’s tourism department.

These photos were not included in my Boac blog (read it here http://tinyw.in/7M4x). I saved it on a separate folder. I thought it was nice reminder that the next generation would take up the mantle of heritage conservation when their numbers gets called.

Bahay ni Purificacion de la Santa. That name is holy indeed.

Sofronio Roque house


Felipe Buencamino’s US Senate Appearance

The biopic movie “Heneral Luna” introduced many Filipinos for the first time to Felipe Buencamino. Veteran actor Nonie Buencamino, a descendant of his, played his“contra vida” character.

Felipe Buencamino is one of Emilio Aguinaldo’s trusted ministers. He started on the other side of the fence, worked for Manila’s Audencia (courts), became a fiscal and later a judge. He fought against the Filipinos (which he claims at the beginning were mostly brigands, disorganized and had no political goals) during the outbreak of the revolution. But he had a change of heart after he was imprisoned for espionage by Spanish authorities. He jumped ship after his incarceration.

He must have impressed Aguinaldo because he had a meteoric rise—from the battle fields to becoming foreign affairs minister. He remained one of the closest man to the president’s ears until he was captured (November 1899). Unlike most of El Presidente’s trusted Caviteño men, Buencamino was a true blue Bulaqueño. He later help frame the Malolos Constitution.

In the early 1900’s he co-founded the Partido Federalista with Trinidad Pardo de Tavera as president (while Aguinaldo escaped north). The party’s goal was to have the US take us in as its citizens and the country as one of its states. They were also popularly referred to as the Americanistas.

I got interested in Buencamino’s story when hispanist historian Guillermo Gomez Rivera gave me a copy of his “Statement before the committee on insular affairs on conditions in the Philippine islands.”

He appeared before the US Senate in 1902.

Here are some of what Buencamino shared during the hearing.

On “Heneral Luna,”:

“Two bands were formed within the Philippine Army, one for Gen. Luna and the other for Gen. Aguinaldo.”

“General Luna wanted to effect a coup d’etat to supplant Aguinaldo.”

“General Aguinaldo decided on the suppression of General Luna… collected 4000 men and went to look for General Luna, leaving the town where the captain-general was temporarily on June 1. General Luna was leaving Bayambang, about 75 miles from Cabanatuan, so that it took Aguinaldo four days to arrive at the town of Bayambang. But what I can not explain is the coincidence that upon the same day that Aguinaldo was arriving at the residence of General Luna… on the same day and at the same hour General Luna reached General Aguinaldo’s house (Cabanatuan).”

“Everybody lost confidence in the insurrection by this occurrence (Luna’s assassination). It can be said that from that time the insurrection had morally died.”

On how the hostility started between the Filipinos and Americans, the US Senate Chairman asked, “so the opening of the hostilities was simply premature. The hostilities were to be begun by Aguinaldo (through an executive order) anyway a little later?

“Yes, Sir. The basis of this was a lack of confidence in the Americans.”

While he was critical of how Spain failed to entirely educate Filipinos, he acknowledged the benefits of their regimented religious education:

“When the Spaniard came they taught Christianity, the immense benefit of which I cannot but acknowledge. This was an incomprehensible act in the 15th century, because only the Philippines in the Far East were selected to be Christianized; and, as is natural, Christianity perfected us and our education about the basic principles of life… Spain at that time brought about the unity of the Philippine people, who had been divided into a great many tribes. We were as highly educated as any people in the world, any citizen of the most civilized country in the world could go to the Philippine before the revolution and could be sure of his life, his property and interest.”

Buencamino’s opinion apparently changed after the abortive revolution. This appears to be the opinion of the Federalistas for wanting to become American citizens. They believe we “can not govern ourselves,” he continues:

“Self-governance, according to my sad experience, belong only to people and nations who can inspire their neighbors respect and consideration… Let it be supposed that Aguinaldo established a free government under a system of independence, and he would have a conflict with any of the hundreds of these foreigners (with residences and businesses in the country, some of whom were claiming indemnities because of the damage caused by the revolution, i.e., in Iloilo) because he has no idea of what international responsibility is, we would have international conflict. Thus, we would go on until we would extinguish ourselves forever, and we would suffer the fate of Samoa and China. For all these reasons I deduced the inadvisability of our being independent.”

He believes that the Filipinos unpreparedness to govern was brought about the Spaniards failure to educate its colonial subjects. “We have never had an opportunity of being politicians,” Buencamino said.

The name Felipe Buencamino will forever be linked to Antonio Luna’s ghastly death. Buencamino allegedly told his men, “At last they’re dead, go see the body and get all the papers from their pockets, especially the telegram”. This same man would later state that the Filipino revolution “morally” died the day Luna was assassinated.


Stranger dreams

I’m not good at remembering dreams so I’m writing this here. This happened two weeks ago.

I slept at around 12 midnight. I got up at exactly at 3 AM. Yes, that’s three hours of sleep. This has been my routine for more than a year now. I start my day drinking brewed coffee and eating toasted sliced bread with butter. I’ve been doing freelance work for this same company for three years. So everything at this point, as far as my job is concerned, has been routine. I can do my tasks with my eyes closed.

After responding to important emails, I said “Hi” to my colleagues online. We have a chatroom where everything gets discussed. There were four online (three from the Dominican Republic one in the US). The boss, a New Yorker, was idle. That’s always good news (like his city, he wants things done fast). There were no immediate requests that needed to get handled.

Suddenly, I started having problems with my Internet. I remember having trouble opening websites. I decided to restart my computer. Got back in after five to eight minutes. I started back reading the conversation in our group chat, checking if I missed out on any updates. I noticed that the only words that came from me was “I’m back”. Weird, considering that I knew I had a few short conversations since I logged in earlier. To be certain, I started looking at logs and time stamps. There was nothing there. I then checked my email’s sent folder. For sure, the emails I responded to earlier had copies there. To my shock, nothing!

It dawned on me that everything that I thought I did never really happened. It all happened inside my head! I never had my coffee, no toasts with butter. My Internet never got disconnected. The chats, the emails, they never happened. It is clear now that I woke up from that hyper realistic dream of mine when I typed those words “I’m back.” This strange dream would not be the last. It had a shorter sequel a few days later…

I had this bad habit of catching a nap after a heavy meal. One day, I was woken up by my wife. She normally doesn’t disturb me unless it’s something really important. But this time she did. She said she only wanted to remind me that she and my son had eaten one of the mangoes (she bought three big ones the previous day). She remarked that they were nice and sweet. I said OK and then went back to sleep. The following day, to my surprise I found that the mangoes, all of them, were untouched! I confronted my wife and asked “didn’t you tell me last night you sampled one of the mangoes?” She gave me this puzzled look and said in her usual emphatic “suplada” tone “No”.

Of course she did not. Again, I dreamed all that!

Is it possible that we all could be living inside such dreams? When we see a person who acts strange, those who seem to talk to imaginary companions, are they really mad or are they living inside these prolonged lucid dreams? I’m not worried but perplexed because this hasn’t happened before.

And yet there’s another strange occurrence a few days ago. I don’t know how this one ties up with my two strange dreams earlier.

The other day, I labeled a few jars. The way I do this is with a packing tape and a pentel pen. I’m not really a stickler for order, but I like labeling things, even when the visible contents are already screaming what’s inside. After labeling a few jars. I had a short merienda (light snack). I took my stuff and placed it inside our cabinet. We have a dedicated area for hardware and tools. Then I slept afterwards.

Later that day my wife called my attention asked, “Why was the masking tape inside the ref?”.

Oh boy.


On remembering

After my father passed away last year, I’ve been consumed by the question, “do we survive death”?

Growing up Catholic, I understand my religion’s conception of the afterlife. But there’s something about losing a person close to you that triggers questions about what you previously thought you comprehend.

Maybe it’s human nature to not want death to be the end. That they go on existing in a plane our limited earthbound mind would never even come close to understanding.

I wasn’t looking for advise on the matter but as Carl Jung once said, “synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see”.
The Chile-based writer, Elizabeth Medina, author of “Rizal According to Retana,” (http://tinyw.in/524l) wrote me an email last week (responding to the topic of her Lolo’s grave in Ilocos):

In the end, our physical bodies die, and we continue on. Where we have lived and acted consciously to express our being, in a way that impacts positively on others (with the conscious intention of helping, defending, protecting, educating, supporting), is the best way to leave a mark. It doesn’t even matter whether you leave a mark, or you don’t, but the mere fact of living a conscious life and expressing your humanizing intent means that you will link your existence to others’ futures.

Yes, my lolo’s grave will probably disappear but I found his memory and I wrote a book to rescue it. The book has reached some people’s consciousnesses (thank you for reading it), and it isn’t the fact that I’ve written it that has protected my lolo’s life from being erased. It’s the fact that he lived as he did that made it inevitable for a descendant of his to write a book about him. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Each of us changes the world, but especially if we become awakened to the meaning that we can give to our lives, consciously (yes, with love, with devotion).

Rizal’s bones were exhumed and those that had not returned to the earth are in that monument in Rizal Park. The remains of GomBurZa returned to the earth in Paco Cemetery. But those lives and deaths sacralized our land, for anyone who wants to feel it.

I believe finally in a greater Plan (Cosmic Intelligence) that doesn’t change even if individuals disappear from this material world. The Plan is beyond our capacity to grasp in its mechanisms, which are divine. Which are the laws of “life, energy and evolution”. And each of us is valuable for it, we come from it and we return to it.

But unless we start from the basic (honoring our ancestors/forebears, expressing it in actions, experiencing a change in our awareness, a deepening, an appreciation that was not there before), the questioning life about the deeper themes, the things not said, we can’t advance to the subtle. We can’t redeem ourselves, so to speak. They don’t tell you anything about this in school, or even at home. Life seems to be nothing but a survival machine and it’s a bit depressing and meaningless, mechanical, with some highs interspersed, some magical moments, and then back to the doldrums. When everything is meaningful and magical and new and talking to us all the time, but we are deaf blind and dumb. So my lolo Emilio as who he was, your father as who he was, when we internalize them, they can no longer be “lost”, nor can we. Then we can relax and let go of them. They are in us. I don’t miss Filipinas, she is in me. She always was. It’s wonderful to go home and eat lumpia Shanghai, discover Mount Banahaw. But if I can be there in the body, it is in me, in my spirit.

We do what we can in the material realm, and within our poor limitations, but the important thing is what happens in our mind, in our awareness, in our emotion joined to our intellection, and to the body. This is about us. It isn’t about them. It’s about the communion between them and us, that goes beyond dying or dates. Or if the bad people won and the good people lost. We are the continuing story, What we are doing, feeling, thinking today and how we work with the past, present and future, in the direction we choose.

So really, I am in peace. I am glad I wrote and published Sampaguitas and made it available in English as well. I have no idea if it has reached a lot of people or not. I did it for me, for lolo Emilio, my father, my kids. You know, around 5 years ago a young woman contacted me here in Chile. She was really emotional about having read Sampaguitas, because her mother (Chilean) had her with a Filipino who was in the merchant marine and he abandoned them, typically, and she had never known anything about him or the Philippines, and when she came across the book, she felt she had connected with her father. I lost contact with her almost immediately, but I could feel how moved she was.

The ”Sampaguitas” mentioned here is her book, “Sampaguitas en la cordillera” (2006). Its English version, “Sampaguitas in the Andes” she made available for gratis in her website (http://www.elizabethmedina.cl).

Now, do I believe all that?

Yes, I do.

I remember this one moment, standing in front of my father’s remains, feeling that he’s not there. I was looking at him but I was looking for him. Then it hits me. Before me was merely the vessel that carried his spirit. I was comforted by this thought.

“When we internalize them, they can no longer be “lost”, nor can we. Then we can relax and let go of them. They are in us.”

Amen.

Love you Pa.

 

 


You can’t make this stuff up!

 

ctto: “Feast of La Naval de Manila” https://news.mb.com.ph/

I recently started posting short blogs across all my social media. The first one was about Gen. Henry Lawton. He died in San Mateo in 1899. The only US general to perish during the Philippine-American war. The coincidence relating to his death is worthy of a “Twilight Zone” episode:

 

“We all know Lawton (Manila), the plaza named after US General Henry Lawton. As army captain, he led the expedition that captured the legendary Indian chief Geronimo (Apache wars), a feat that had been attached to his name. Years later, he finds himself in San Mateo (Rizal), now a general, pursuing Filipino fighters. He died on December 19, 1899, from a gunshot wound. Ironically, the Filipino General he fought against that day was a man named Gerónimo (Licerio).”

The other miniature story is about the “80 years war” between Spain and the Netherlands. Our involvement and how its culmination bequeathed us with a lasting religious tradition.

“One of the longest war in human history, the “80 years wars” (9th longest) between Spain & Netherlands, reached our shores in the 1600s. There were several battles that took place from March to October 1646, from Lingayen to Corregidor. It culminated with the Spanish colony crushing the attacking Dutch forces who had 19 ships against their 4 fitted civilian ships (Dutch suffered 500 casualties; the Hispano-Filipinos 15). Staggering was the victory over the massive Dutch armada that most attributed it to heavenly intercession (popular accounts of the Virgin Mary appearing with flag in hand). This epic confrontation produced one of our greatest and enduring Catholic tradition, the “La Naval” of Manila (the Dominican Church is now in Sta. Mesa Hts. QC).”

This post is partly inspired by my wife who had known of La Naval since she was a child. She studied in UST from grade school to college. However, she knows little of its past aside from the basic information Priests had told them. This is my gripe against our clerics today. There’s no emphasis on apologetics and local Church history in schools and churches. Droves of Catholics are parting with their religion of birth and there’s very little that’s being done to win them back in. The bishops, for example, has decided to preoccupy themselves with local politics these days. Last time the Church got embroiled in running the government it flared up a revolution.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”


Remembering Fr. Gerry Tapiador

While searching for news about Filipino Catholicism online, I inadvertently discovered that the great Catholic apologist, Fr. Gerardo “Gerry” Tapiador, passed away five years ago. Fr. Gerry made regular TV guestings on shows where Catholic viewpoints were needed. The last time I saw him was on GMA Network with broadcast journalist Howie Severino. They were discussing the beatification of Pope John Pall II. Fr. Gerry also had a radio show in the 90’s that I listened to intermittently. He had that distinct unhurried and mild voice that listeners could easily distinguish and appreciate despite the gravity of his expertise which is Catholic Apologetics.

I attended a public school frequented by born again Christians. They conducted regular Bible studies. We also had Catechism, but the Born Again Christians were far more vigorous. They brought snacks and toys to entice us children to join them. We also happen to have relatives who left the Church and became active in this Christian sect. It is during this time that my curiosity was stirred about certain Catholic practices. I started reading about what other religions were saying.

Many, many years ago, Kabayan Noli de Castro’s defunct “Magandang Gabi Bayan” showed a religious debate among different religious sects. Fr. Gerry represented the Catholic Church. De Castro inquired about the Bible versions his guests were using; everyone had their own modern and translated versions of it, but Fr. Gerry had the Septuagint (LXX) version. The earliest existing Greek translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew. He was fluent in Greek and Hebrew. There was no doubt who was the real Bible authority among the panelists.

 

One of his books for Catholics who wants to understand their faith better. Published by St. Paul Publication. He would be remembered for his contribution in Catholic Apologetics and as for me, planting that mysterious seed that grew my faith over the years.

 

I was probably 13 years old when I met Fr. Gerry in person. It happened at St Paul’s Library in Makati. We lived next door to it. In fact, the bookstore’s raised parking space was our play area. Our eldest brother attended the adjacent Saint Paul Seminary (SPS). During that meeting, I asked him what book would best answer inquiries other religions make about the Church. Upon hearing my inquiry, I could then tell that he was a bit perplexed, perhaps because of my young age. He suggested this booklet, “The Catholic Church Has The Answer,” by Paul Whitcomb. After having acquired a copy of my own, I had read it repeatedly from cover to cover. It kept me Catholic. In fact, I never owned any other books on Catholic apologetics after that. I no longer have the original yellow booklet that I bought that day. It was lost when we moved out of Makati (a copy of it in digital form is now available in EWTN’s website).

Part of his introduction in the Diocese of Novaliches’ website reads, “Fr. Gerry was born in Rome, Italy. He graduated at San Carlos Seminary (Batch 1981) and was sent to Rome and Jerusalem for further biblical studies. He was the first Filipino to deliver a valedictory speech in Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem… a devoted lover and servant of the Word of God, he served as Regional Director of the National Capital Region for the Episcopal Commission on the Biblical Apostolate in the Philippines. He is also an active member of the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) whose Bible Museum at its Headquarters in U.N. Avenue, Manila is embellished by his contributions. He has also published several materials to aid people in appreciating and studying the Word of God; they include among others The Mysterious Seed: A Simplified Manual on the Tools and the Principles of Interpreting the Bible (1993), The Roman Catholic Faith and the Bible, Hark the Herald: How the Bible Tells Us When Jesus Was Born (2005).”

The last time I met Fr. Gerry was during the wake of a love one, Doña Amparo Keyser, in Súcat, Parañaque. After the requiem Mass, I approached him and retold the story I shared here. How did it turn out?, he asked. I’m still Catholic, I said. We both laughed. We had a very brief exchange, but I doubt he remembered that boy from some 20 years before, knowing him as a busy man. I thanked him for what he did and his work in general. I felt that was important. There are no longer a lot of priests around like Fr. Gerry.

Descanse en paz, Padre Gerardo.


That’s a staycation

We have no immediate family here in Singapore, so I thought a two- to three-day family vacation would be a great way to celebrate my son’s second birthday. Last year, we arranged a Jollibee party for him. It was attended mostly by family members and a few of our closest friends in southern Metro Manila. It was also a good time for my son’s cousins to see each other, some of whom haven’t seen him in person. I also wanted my parents to be there since it’s his first birthday but my father, who passed away recently, was not feeling well that day. My mother was there along with his half a dozen “após”.

All firsts are special. His small Jollibee party was a lot of fun. But after the party I told my wife that in the future, instead of parties, we should travel instead as a family, something we did as a couple before the baby came. Now that he’s getting bigger, it’s time to tag him along. We had so much fun during our stay in D’Resort (D’Resort @ Downtown East). A caveat here, though: this is not a review — don’t even think it is one. It’s a brief shout out of sorts. The place was so nice and the people too.

Mother telling his son not to be afraid of the crashing waves, not to fear mother nature.

We celebrated our son’s birthday in D’Resort over the weekend. It is a quality leisure and entertainment resort. People get to relax, dine, and play. It was renovated in 2012 with the concept of being the “first nature-inspired resort with an integrated waterpark experience”. It has its own access passage to the enormous swimming complex (Wild Wild Wet). Swimming and playing around the pool is something that the mother and child enjoys. But because my son just turned two, we didn’t get to try those towering pool slides. They look enticing and intimidating at the same time. There’s this slide (they call it Vortex) that is so high one would slide down at 35 feet per second! Our baby was happy waddling around the shallow pools for toddlers. And so did we. For the price of the accommodation, we had a great room (Beach Cove class) with a vista of Pasir Ris Beach. It’s big enough to house maybe six people. It has four beds that we ended up linking together. We brought our own food, some pasta, bread, drinks, and of course the birthday cake as we sang “Feliz cumpleaños a ti” to our beautiful boy on the first night of our stay at around eight in the evening.

From time to time, I do surf fishing in Pasir Ris beach. The rear of the D’ Resort faces the straits of Johor. The body of water that separates the main island to Pulau Ubin. On a clear day, you could see what’s on the island. I heard a few signal noises from commercial ships that pass by. Nothing that would bother your rest. As a matter of fact, I get excited when I hear one. Our room is about 500 meters from the shore. These loud noises are created by the ships air horn. They remind me of my time in Mabolo, Cebú City. I rented an apartment near the pier. At nights, when land traffic and human noise are low, you could hear the ships.

For this vacation, my wife came up with the idea of taking one but not going out of town. She said it’s called “staycation”. I thought the whole thing did not make sense. Why would you go to a hotel within town to take a vacation?

Well, they say when you try new things, that’s when you learn. Our schedule here in Singapore is hectic. We both work and take turns taking care of the baby. We don’t have household help nor relatives to rely on. I’m consulting for a European company that is based in California. This gives me some flexibility with time. I work all night (morning in the US).

When the sun comes up, I take over baby duties. When my wife comes back home from work in the afternoon, she takes the wheel from me and I go rest. I normally sleep less than 4 hours in most days. If you don’t have a lot of time for an extended vacation and you need to have one quick vacation, a “staycation” solves that. The idea wasn’t as bad as I thought it to be. So we headed to the closest resort in town. And when I say close, I mean close. Roughly three kilometers away from home!

On the third and last day, we waited for the sun to rise. There’s an exit to the park and beach surf for guests at the rear. We walked along the coasts. It was relaxing to us adults, but the baby was a bit terrified by the strong crashing tides. I wonder if he would have any memories of this when he grows up.


That grouper was not named after Lapu-Lapu!

 

When I heard a relative telling his friends that the fish Lapu-Lapu was named after Lapu-Lapu, the Mactán chieftain who furiously defended his turf against Fernando Magallanes (popularly known as Ferdinand Magellan), I thought of correcting him. But then again, I didn’t want to embarrass him.

As early as grade school, I learned from school that the carroty grouper fish Lapu-Lapu was named after the shadowy hero. In college, I heard a different twist from the story. Someone told me that it was the hero that was named after the fish. Some historical accounts list his real name as Cali Pulaco (Salip Pulaka).

I normally don’t pay attention whenever I hear someone repeat trivial historical inaccuracies, like the origin of town names, for instance. These tales abound with folklore which are often recognized as historical truth. Filipinos like reciting stories that have no historical basis. These persist maybe because they really are as entertaining as they are amusing.

Setting my hooks for an afternoon fishing session

 

I took up fishing last year. In this part of the world, Malays are the most passionate anglers. Fazmi, a Malay friend, told me that this  has something to do with their ancestors living in fishing villages or communities.

One of the most prized catch in shore fishing are groupers. They taste good and are quite rare. So rare that for more than a year of fishing I haven’t even caught one.

In one of my fishing sessions, I encountered the word “kerapu”. Curious, I asked a group of fishermen what kind of fish it was. One of the guys, thinking I was Chinese, answered “ang gau”. I took note of these names and researched about them when I got home.

Kerapu is the Malay’s common name for the grouper fish. Skilled fishermen would know the type of grouper just by looking at its color and spots.

Our Lapu-Lapu is a kerapu. Ang Bau is the Hokkien name of the kerapu fish. I realized that there’s no truth to the claim that it was named after Lapu-Lapu the hero.

But why did kerapu became Lapu-Lapu?

Loanwords evolve —or are corrupted, if you may— as time passes. “Bagas” is milkfish in Malay; we call ours “bañgús”. A common anchovy is called “bilis” here, which sounds like our favorite anchovy “dilis”. “Banac” (mullet) to us is “belanak” to them. Common sardine is “tamban” here; we call ours the same. These are just some of the words that I encountered along the shores which rang a bell. I’m sure there are more because we share a common ancestor.

I hope that relative of mine gets to read this and stop telling the fish was named after Lapu-Lapu.

Or maybe not.


To España (via Philippine National Railroad!)

In Alabang, PNR staffers told passengers that they could only accommodate those who bought tickets from an earlier time. The rest would have to wait  for two hours for the next ride. Yes, not efficient but if you don’t have any options you’d be happy to wait. Well,  air conditioned Metropolis Alabang is nearby so those passengers can go inside and idle their time away.

No not madre españa but that frequently flooded area named after the Iberian motherland.

The journey felt like an attraction ride. It ran steady at 20 kilometers per hour as it wildly swayed from side to side. Not to disparage efforts our government is taking to modernize our train network but like its current speed—it’s too slow.

To this my mother said, “mas mabuti na yan kaysa wala”.

But let me point out that even in its current condition PNR benefits many of our countrymen. The trip from Alabang to España was under an hour. That’s faster than taking any other public transportation today.

During the ride, I stroke up a conversation with a farmer from Tanauan. An OFW from Saudi who decided to come home to farm. He was headed to Pasay to buy pesticides. He dreams that our trains would one day connect his beloved Tanauan, hometown of the hero Mabini, to Manila.

“Pare, maybe not in our lifetime, but who knows?” I told him.

I went to a public elementary school in Makati where many of my classmates lived “home along da riles”. Our school was near the Buendia Station. Our teachers would pause from teaching as trains blasts their thunderous horns.

We played in and around the railroad. I noticed how scant and unkempt my friends houses were. They were illegal settlers along the railroad. Their shanties stood in stilts with the canal below serving as sewage. But what made an impression on me was how happy they were even living in that condition.

Rail work begun in 1887 under British direction. The asset was transferred completely to the Philippine government during the American administration. Since then it went through its phases of development.

Our PNR stations these days are devoid of the former elegance and grace it once had. We never had grand and wide stations like those in old Europe but they were lovely. They look pretty and there are a few of them left, like Paco and San Fernando (Pam.), though slowly crumbling to their deaths, scattered along our old riles.

Our trains had its good days. The line north referred to “Sugar road” while the south transports “Sugar, forest products and petroleum.”

History teachers tells us of Rizal’s letter praising the women of Malolos. Well, he visited the town via our railroad. He then proceeded to see friends as far as San Fernando. This was a century ago. The crumbling stations along the north has been waiting for the trains return.

When? that depends on how determined our government wants to put us right back on track (there’s the pun).

Recent developments under Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” vision looks promising. It comes as one of the bigger items in the infrastructure build up. The railway sector get a big pie with 1 trillion pesos (this budget includes the MRT).

The north would be extended all the way to Malolos (from Tutuban). Then another 55 kilometer railway reaching Clark in Pampanga. So you can alight from Clark airport and go straight to Manila.

To the South, from Tutuban the railway would run once more and reach Los Banos. I’ve been dreaming of riding an overnighter train to Bicol since I was a little boy. I wonder when would I finally get to ride one—I’m almost 40 now!

While I was on vacation a few years ago when visited Quezon province I saw the old railroad cut through an intensely green rice paddy (if memory serves me right I was in Unisan). Imagine if you were on a comfortable train ride going down south and you wake up seeing something like that?

Aside from moving goods and people, there’s tourism money for the PNR and towns it serves. A reliable and working train network is good for local economies too. One of my favorite travel show is “Japan Hour,” it is basically people riding trains to visit towns in the province.

The plan to establish a train running near the Laguna De Ba’y was drawn during the American occupation. Another plan that would have benefited us if it were carried out (much like the Burnham plan for Manila) to its conclusion. Due to massive population growth in recent years all you see today are houses.

Experts say that trains would contribute in dispersing the population out of Manila. It improves local economies. People would build their homes outside Manila if there’s an efficient public transport. This is something we haven’t realized yet because we have a failed rail system.

How we ended up with a mismanaged railway system? We all know the answer to that. The same answer why we ended up with poor infrastructure all over our islands.

I now live here in Singapore where the slightest delays in train arrivals makes the evening news—and theirs I feel is one of the best in Asia. They demand the highest standards from the people that runs their train system. I imagine having the same trains going in and out of our cities, taking us to our provinces, north and south, to see relatives and spend fiesta holidays.

Sana lang we get to see it in our lifetime. Sana.

 


Meet up with Dr. Legarda

 

I had a senior moment a few days ago. I accidentally deleted the original post “Meeting Dr. Legarda” (December 2017). I tried googling caches of the blog online hoping that there’s a copy out there somewhere to no avail. And so, I’m starting from scratch.

 

I wanted to ask Dr. Benito Legarda Jr. a few questions and have my books signed (a personal favorite is his compiled writings “Occupation: the Later Years”). I’ve enjoyed and learned so much from his work over the years. So I messaged (on FB) him last year, sometime November. To my surprise, the nonagenarian responded! He told me to let his secretary, Ms. Fe, know when I plan to visit. I first met Dr. Legarda in person in a seminar at the Instituto Cervantes a few years ago.

I started reading Dr. Legarda’s articles and books in college (1996). I was not really into WWII history then but I heard stories about it all my life. One consistent storyteller in our home was our father. He imparted to us unforgettable stories of life, death and struggle in wartime Negros. My father passed away last August. He was 10 years old when the war came to our shores. I told Dr. Legarda that reading his stories now brings memories of my late Father. His stories echoes Papa’s memories of the war in his  home province of Negros Occidental.

Another person who shared memorable wartime stories with us was the late Doña Amparo (affectionately called Mommy in Calle Bagtican). I refer to her as my “adopted grandma” not because she took care of me (although she sometimes did) but because she was really the first person who introduced me to culture and arts. She placed my feet on the door of lifelong quest for education on Filipino history. Doña Amaparo came from an affluent family. The last American director of Iwahig was her dad. They used to own parts of Cartimar and where Pasay Chung Hua now stands. One story that I’ll never forget (this was also shared by one of her granddaughter during her eulogy) was when she was placed inside a bangâ (but I believe it must have been a tapáyan because this had a wider opening and a wider base) when the Japanese inspected their home in Pasay. She was so slender and small that she not only fitted inside the earthen jar but stayed there for at least an hour until the Japanese left!

—-

After signing my books I posed a few questions to Dr. Legarda. He had some allergy that afternoon so I decided not to stay long. The first question was how he feels that WWII history is not a popular subject among our youth. He said “prominent families collaborated with the Japanese then… many of them still in power today.” He cited former President Noynoy Aquino whose grandfather, Benigno Aquino Sr., was director general of the local political party the Japanese created.

Dr. Legarda’s observation made sense. How can a President like Aquino recount and promote the heroism of his people during the war when his very family colluded with the enemy who had Filipinos killed by hundreds of thousands?

The late Dr. Andrade said that he had reasons to believe that many of the collaborators families still received benefits to this day. The Japanese are known for their commitment to their word. Gen. Ricarte’s children received allowances and scholarship in Japan long after his death in the highlands of Luzon.

My next question was if he heard of Japanese running other towns with kinder hands. “Yes, but they were certainly not here in Manila.” He then shared statistics of deaths in Manila. We went on to talk about Ambassador Rocha who survived the Liberation of Manila when he was only 7. The good Ambassador made it his advocacy to promote the remembrance and study of the events that transpired during the war. Dr. Legarda wrote an informative tribute to the Ambassador when he passed two years ago.

My family’s experience, on my Dad’s side, must have been an exemption. They were treated fairly by the Japanese. But this came with a heavy price. When the Japanese left San Carlos (Negros), they were hunted by Guerrillas. They were excessively brutal my Father said. So cruel that they buried a grand uncle alive!

Before heading out, I thanked Dr. Legarda and told him that “I can’t tell my father’s wartime stories to my son, it’s impossible. But thanks to your books, I don’t have to.” He smiled and said, “it will, they’re good substitutes.”


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