The Cathedral’s Holy Cross Relic

Two years ago, a friend from Tarlac told me that their province has a piece of the Holy Cross. Curious, I googled it, her story checks out.

The relic can be found in the Church of Monasterio de Tarlac. It was donated by a German monastic in 2007. I wanted to see it until I found out that it was in a sealed reliquary.

I wanted to see an actual piece, a shard, no matter how small.

Two weeks ago, on my birthday, I dropped by the Cathedral (Cathedral of the Good Shepherd). I was in for a surprise. The Holy Cross relic is on display at the ecclesiastical museum.

Because the Cathedral’s museum has limited space, they regularly rotate exhibited items. Popular among visitors are the church’s cornerstone (primera piedra) and St. John Paul II’s mementos—the first Pope to have visited the island state.

The Cathedral, the oldest in the island, underwent full restoration for three years. It reopened in 2016. It was an impressive undertaking.

I can’t help but feel a bit envious. Why? Some of our Churches back home are older by even centuries and yet many languish in neglect.


I often encounter Holy Cross relics in literature but never got to see one until my recent visit to the Cathedral. While many doubts the authenticity of such relics, they remain popular object of devotion. It is after all, if genuine, a piece of the Church’s greatest symbol and that of man’s salvation.

The Holy Cross relic in the Cathedral is placed in the middle of a dark timber cross, adorned with mother of pearl floral and vine design. The relic is minute and hardly visible.

There’s another Holy Cross relic here in Singapore located in the Church of the Holy Cross.

St. Helen (Santa Elena) who was 82 when she went to the Holy Land to retrieve the Holy Cross, is believed to be the source of all Holy Cross relics.

A Netflix documentary suggests that the Queen made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land to save his son’s (Constantine) soul from hell. It is believed that the Emperor had his son and his wife murdered after uncovering their affair. Now, that’s kinda messed up but that’s ancient Rome!

Constantine was not only a Christian emperor but he’s known to Catholic’s as Saint Constantine the Great.

While he did not lived a saintly life, scholars believe that what he did for the Church expunged his sinful past.

Or maybe St. Helen unearthing the Holy Cross, the very symbol of salvation, did?

Santa Elena’s quest for the Holy Cross has inspired one our beloved summer tradition, the Santa Cruzan (Santacruzan). Everyone at some point in their lives has experienced one in their home provinces.

Must be our times, but these days this religious event has become a full blown beauty pageant—in some places even gays have their own version.

This tradition is considered by many as a pioneering feminist event. It’s female led and dominated. The Spanish missionaries, understanding the women’s role in our ancient societies, used it to draw the natives closer to the Church.

How feministic is it?

The Santa Cruzan is lead by a lady called Hermana Mayor, the women are called Sagalas. The characters at the beginning were all biblical, like Santa Maria Magdalena and Queen Sheeba. Even historical figures like Cleopatra and Judith were later added. Then in the early 19th century it had been Filipinized with addition of characters like Banderada, a woman dressed in the colors of the Philippine flag.

Santacruzan is a religious tradition that the pioneers of the Church created for the natives. We took it and ran with it. It exist in no other country but ours.

Why not Spanish?

(L to R) Tia Lydia, “Mommy” Doña Amparo y yo (¡Qué muchachito lindo! ) CTTO: James Mo

Looks like our local educational system is opening its doors to more languages like Korean. Hardcore K-Pop fans were delighted to hear the news!

But why prioritize Korean and Mandarin? Why not Spanish? Our old lingua franca?

All my siblings had mandatory Spanish. It was removed from standard curriculum when I started tertiary education.

With its contribution to our local languages, why was it removed as an “official” Filipino language in the Cory Constitution? Whose idea was it?

The late statesman and journalist from Bulacan, Blas Ople, who took part in drafting the 1987 constitution, tried to salvage it from being written off but was thwarted by hispanophobic colleagues.

While he doesn’t speak it fluently he was a staunch defender of the old lingua franca. His efforts was not forgotten by the Spanish speaking community. He was awarded the Premio Zobel, the country’s oldest literary award, in 1993.

In his Panorama column in 1992, he shared his experience during the crafting of the Constitution of 1987:

“I should reveal this now. In the Constitutional Commission of 1986, I fought until the end to have Spanish retained in the new Constitution as an official language, together with Filipino and English. I wanted at least an explicit recognition of Spanish as such a language until the wealth of historical material in our archives, most of this in Spanish, can be fully translated into English or Filipino.

But the real reason was that I wanted to preserve our last formal links with the Iberian world, which includes most of the countries in Latin Américas with a population of about 400 million. I remember Claro M. RectoClaro M. Recto’s sentimental journey to Spain, which was aborted by a heart attack in Rome. If we lost that final strand of solidarity with the Spanish-speaking world, we, too, would never get to Spain.

It was as though both sides had agreed on a policy of mutual forgetfulness.

The “radicals” in the Con-Com strongly advised me not to press the provision on Spanish, because this would have the effect of reopening other controversial issues in the draft charter. It could delay the framing of the Constitution beyond an acceptable deadline.

My worst fears have been realized. We have expelled ourselves from the Iberian community of nations. The rift is final, and will never be healed.

A few weeks ago, I saw an “Inquirer Radio” interview of Guillermo Gomez Rivera. An octogenarian, he remains the most active advocate of bringing Spanish back in our schools. Like Ople and his grandfather, Guillermo Gomez Windham, he won the Premio Zobel in 1975.

Another proponent of the language that I respect is the Filipina writer based in Chile, Elizabeth Medina. She now makes short YouTube lectures on Filipino history and culture. The last one I saw was about “Asuangs” (bruho)! In it she translates the accounts of Padre Francisco Ignacio Alzina about the fabled night creature.

Those who wants to improve their Spanish can benefit from her lectures. She speaks in Spanish and translates it in English and Tagalog. Must be her ulterior motive—imparting Filipino history while teaching Spanish—a matar dos pájaros de un tiro!

To continue to deny Spanish as a Filipino language is counter productive. We have thousands of words that came from it. We have centuries of history with it and it has economic value. Just ask Filipinos working as Spanish language support in BPOs.

My first Spanish lessons came from “Mommy,” our Spanish-American neighbor. She spoke often in English and Tagalog but she speaks Spanish sometimes, curses and sings in it too. At a very young age I heard such words as “urbanidad,” “amor propio” and “palabra de honor”. And, “hijo de puta,” “puneta,” “cabron” and “tarantado”! She loves Julio Iglesia’s “Hey” (Spanish version). And yes, I’ve got it memorized.

When Spanish was vilified in school it never got to me. Why? Because I was taught that it’s a well where many of our great traditions came from. I knew it was not something I should fear or hate.

I am sure many Spanish advocates in the country today had grandparents who shared with them wonderful stories about it. We all should consider ourselves fortunate that we heard it from the last generation that spoke it as a Filipino language.

Spanish Philippine Armada in Singapore (Part 2)

Governor General Juan de Silva’s mission to go after the Dutch outside Spanish Philippine territory, deep into the Malay peninsula, was not without its critics.

“Silva set sail from Manila late in the season, ill-staffed, ill-equipped, under a barrage of criticism from the church, the orders, the bishops, the cabildos and the Audiencia Real. Worst of all he left the city of Manila behind heavily taxed, the exchequer steeped in debt, and a fort-city with no defences to speak of… (P. Borschberg)”

But he was unswayed and determined. “Silva’s inexhaustible energy… his greatest virtue… he press his advantage home to the Dutch in the Moluccas, for he reasoned that as long as they had a base anywhere in the Far East, they would have the power to put Manila in the same peril as that from which he had freed it. (H. de la Costa)”

Silva arrived in Singapore confronted by the geopolitical realities of the Malay peninsula. Aside from the Dutch attacking the Portuguese where it can, Johor had been discreetly extending its assistance to the VOC. The Sultan of Johor did so because of political convenience. The Acehnese, under Sultan Iskandar Muda, was breathing down his throat. He needed protection and a strong deterrent which the Dutch provided.

Understanding that success of the luso-hispano effort partly relies in controlling the Johor king, Silva went straight to him. Malacca , which was an important port under the Portuguese, had been besieged by the Dutch.

“The main portion of the fleet (Silva’s Armada) appears to have remained off Singapore at anchor, two galleys of the Spanish armada proceeded to Malacca where they arrived toward the end of March, 1616… the city was understandably engulfed in a sense crisis and deep pessimism (after the Dutch attacks). It is against the backdrop of this gloom that one is to understand the excitement and new-found hope that accompanied the arrival of the Spanish governor in Malacca…(P. Borschberg)”

The presence of Spanish forces in Malacca was welcomed because they were Catholics intending to restore order. To many the Dutch were a “plague of heretics” while Silva and his Armada, saviors from an invading force.

“It was a most fortunate event, and was worthily celebrated by the public acclamation of the inhabitants of Malacca, who called Governor Don Juan de Silva their redeemer. They received him in their city under the pall, which demonstrations of joy and honors as if he were a viceroy, for as such did they regard him; and they assured themselves that with his valor and powerful fleet they were to deliver India from the inopportune war and the continuous pillaging of the Dutch.(P. Borschberg)”

To the bloggers left is the Straits of Singapore where some 400 years ago Governor Juan de Silva’s Armada slipped anchor. 

But in Malacca, Silva’s promising campaign took an unforeseen and tragic twist.

“The fleet entered the straits of Malacca on 25 February. Unfortunately, the Dutch squadron that had worsted Miranda (Portuguese) got wind of its approach and fled. On March 22, Silva slipped anchor before Malacca and was given a royal reception. The loss of the Portuguese galleons failed to disheartened him (Silva), and he was about to proceed to the Moluccas to deliver his knockout blow when he was seized by a sudden illness which proved fatal. He died on April 19, and his great enterprise, which might have changed the course of history in Southeast Asia died with him. (H. de la Costa)”

Rumor has it that Silva was poisoned. It is said that before dying, he completely lost fate in the campaign. Perhaps sensing that no one but him was capable of launching such an ambitious undertaking.

What happened to the Armada’s men?

“After lying in state at the residence of the Society of Jesus at Malacca, the embalmed corpse of the governor was brought to the fleet and received with a salute on May 2. Two days later, the ships set course for Manila…(P. Borschberg)”

Silva’s captain decided to hurriedly sail back to Manila after getting word that a Dutch attack, led by Spielbergen (who made allies out of Maguindanaoans and Sulus) was on its way. The Dutch had Iloilo on their radar, then Manila.

The question historians ask today is that if Silva did not perished in Malacca, would the campaign had succeeded?

It was a sad ending for Silva, but if it was any consolation, he left Singapore a maritime legacy that to this day remains a useful discovery.

“…the “discovery” of the so-called “Governor’s Strait” (or Strait of John de Silva), the present-day Philip’s Channel, which serves as the principal maritime artery for international shipping today. Intra-Asian trade at that time used to pass either to the north of present-day Sentosa (Old Strait of Singapore) or to its south (New Strait or Strait of Sta. Barbara). The “discovery” of this third and historically most significant passage…(P. Borschberg)”

History is full of “what if’s” but also of consequences from actions the boldest men had bequeathed it.

Sources & Recommended reading:

The Jesuits in the Philippines 1581-1768, H. de la Costa

Juan de Silva in the Straits of Singapore, 1615-1616, Prof. Peter Borschberg (NUS)

The Singapore and Melaka Straits : violence, security and diplomacy in the 17th century, Prof. Peter Borschberg (NUS)

The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898, edited by Emma H. Blair and James A. Robertson

First part of this blog, here:

Spanish Philippine Armada in Singapore (Part 1)


According to historian Peter Borschberg (National University of Singapore), “Spanish Governor of the Philippines, Juan de Silva, commissioned the construction of what was arguably the largest European armada seen in Asian waters before 1620. In the course of joint operations scheduled for the years 1615 and 1616, the Spanish and Portuguese sought to evict the Dutch once and for all from the region of the Singapore and Malacca Straits, if not the region as a whole… The presence and intervention of the Spanish armada around Singapore marks a fascinating episode in the pre-Raffles history of the island.”


I completely forgot about this expedition until I went over Fr. De la Costa’s voluminous, “The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581–1768”. An indispensable resource for Filipino history learners. I brought some of my history books here (Singapore) to study two months ago.

When the Dutch (the United Netherlands East India Company or VOC) threatened Cavite, Silva defended it so well that it forced them to skip attacking it. They proceeded to block the entrance to Manila, which was expecting trade ships it urgently wanted.

“Silva took the simplest and most direct view of the situation. He had to break the blockade. To do so, he must come out and fight. To fight he needed ships. He had no ships. He would build them.”

“(There’s) a galleon under construction in the island of Marinduque which had somehow escaped Wittert’s (the Dutch commander) notice. Silva sent word to complete her hull, give her a rig, and run her through the Dutch blockade to Cavite. It was a chance he had to take, but not a hopeless one… Silva flung an army of carpenters on her to complete her rigging, and the was his flagship—the San Juan Bautista.”

Silva went on the offensive.

“On 24 April 1610… Wittert, still at anchor near Fraile (now known as Fort Drum, south of Corregidor) , saw to his vast surprise this miscellaneous collection (Silva’s ships) bearing steadily down upon him… Screaming the ancient war cry of the Crusades (deus vult, Catholic motto during the crusades meaning God will it), the Spanish tercios swarmed over the side with musket, pike and cutlass. Luckless Wittert was the first to fall.”

Silva finished off the Dutch. Seizing all the invading forces vessels and killing their Captain.

“At two in the morning of the following day all he church bells of Manila pealed the victory to the surrounding countryside, and sent it swinging from belfry to belfry across the land… the action was called the Battle of Playa Honda (Zambales)”

Silva would be consumed by his desire to arrest the “Rising sun of Holland.” He knew that he had to venture outside Spanish Philippines to stop them.

He had an idea—Consolidate the Catholic forces in Asia to defeat a common enemy—The reformist Dutch.

A partnership with the Portuguese (Silva sent his Jesuit priests to Portugal’s Estado da India) has to be forged. The Portuguese knew the Spanish governor was the right man for the job. They agreed to supply him with four galleons. Silva waited for a year for the Portuguese in Manila.

Growing impatient, he decided to rendezvous with the Portuguese in Malacca. Silva was about to enter uncharted “dominium”, the Portuguese “sphere” set by the Treaty of Tordesillas. He set sail from Cavite with the largest Spanish armada Asia has ever seen. This also marks the first luso-hispano military venture in the continent.

In all, the Armada had ten large ships and an unspecified number of galleys. The flagship, La Salvadora, alone had 900 men. In all, the armada had 10 galleons, four galleys and three frigates. It had around 5000 men, 2,000 are Spaniards with 500 Japanese samurais. Silva had 300 cannons and 50 metric tones of gun powder.

February 25, 1616 the Armada reached the straits of Singapore. Silva sent word to the Sultan of Johor who was allied to the Dutch. He chastised the Sultan (who had signed a treaty of peace with Portugal earlier) for helping the Dutch attack Portuguese ships. As punishment, he ordered fruits to be struck down from trees. An interesting tactic to diminish food supply for natives that relied on farming.

(To be continued…)

The Little Prince exhibit at Singapore’s Philatelic Museum

The few fiction titles I enjoyed growing up were Les Miserables, The Last of the Mohicans, Don Quixote and The Old Man and the Sea. In college, an even shorter list, there’s Sophie’s World and some Stephen King classics. I prefer non-fiction—history books–of course.

I picked up Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince” when I was already 29. I saw random people in coffee shops reading it and I got curious. It was too short a read but it leaves a mark in you. “The Little Prince” had been translated to around 300 languages, the most translated book in history.

In 2015, the animated film “The Little Prince” came out. It rekindled my interest in the book that I wished I read as a boy. Jeff Bridges’ character in the film was the wise old retired aviator neighbor. James Franco was the fox. The little girl’s voice was played by Mackenzie Foy. She was the Young Murph in the film Instellar.

Two weeks ago, I visited Singapore’s Philatelic Museum‘s exhibit “The Little Prince: Behind the Story.” I was excited to see it because I’ve read the book. But also because Saint-Exupery is fascinating historical figure. He died relatively young at 44 in July 1944. He published “The Little Prince” April 1943. He was at his creative peak when he went missing.

Saint-Exupery was a poet, writer, aviator and a bad ass adventurer. He was a commercial pilot before he signed up as a reconnaissance pilot during WWII. He was a pioneer of postal flights and had close calls piloting for Aeropostale (not to be confused with the apparel). Saint-Exupery had a rich resource to write from—the man lived an interesting life.

But the origin of his greatest novella was as interesting. Dr. Jeffrey Mirus of & Christendom College, “The Little Prince was Saint-Exupéry himself. He was constantly sketching pictures of children, even on napkins in restaurants. On one occasion the American publisher Curtice Hitchcock asked him what he was drawing: “Nothing much: it is the child in my heart.” Hitchcock recommended he write the story of that child. The book was published in April 1943, about 15 months before Saint-Exupéry disappeared while flying a reconnaissance mission for the Americans over his native France, occupied by the Germans during World War II.”

Not many know that Saint-Exupery went to US to lobby for the North Americans to help against the war with Nazi Germany. During his time as postal pilot he assisted for the released of kidnapped downed pilots in the Sahara. The list of his accomplishments seems endless (“mais il savait tout faire” there’s nothing he could not do).

The gourmette. This bracelet confirmed where Saint Exupery crashed. Off Riau Islands, near Marseilles. This led to the discover of what remained of his plane. Ending speculations that he had been captured or shut down in enemy territory.

The mystery behind his death has for many years increased his cult like following. Many speculated that his reconnaissance plane was shut down (there’s a man who even claim he did it). Some suggest that he orchestrated his own death. But coming from a historic French Catholic family this theory is far fetched.

But even when his gourmette (bracelet with engraved identification) was found by a fisherman in Riou Islands speculations around his death persisted. Perhaps, it will never end because his readers clings to the mystery of his death, like family members of planes missing for years believes their love ones are off in some tropical island somewhere.



Beautiful sculptures from the French Artist Nazare-Aga. Reminds me of pop out books but these are exquisite sculpture!

Beautiful art created by French artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga. Made of lacquer and composite materials sculpture and painted with bright colors, these toy arts perfectly captures the images of what “The Little Prince” has experiences in that journey we all imagine to be in.  Nazare-Aga read the book when he was a boy. He later found out that his grandfather who was a pilot, like Saint Exupery, knew each other. This inspired the artist to create his sculpture with the help of Antoine Saint Exupery Youth Foundation.

Like most of us, Saint Exupery loves to draw to pass time. Here’s an example—a letter with illustrations.

Notebook of Andre Prevot. Saint Exupery’s co-pilot when he attempted the Paris-Saigon flight. They crashed in the Libyan desert. Prevot thought of suicide but felt guilty of leaving Saint Exupery behind. “We ought to struggle and stay together.”

The gourmette (bracelet with identification) of Saint Exupery. Its discovery (54 years after his tragic flight) puts an end to speculations that he was shut down. He crashed and died near France. Presumably due to mechanical failure.

A few days ago I posted a blog about a book project. The Chavacano translation of “The Little Prince”. The writer, who I don’t know in person, sent an FB message to promote his book project. I just visited the Saint Exupery exhibit at the Philatelic Museum (Singapore) a week earlier. Now that’s a strange coincidence.

But these things happens all the time. Times when you have something in mind, then you accidentally come across a book, stumble upon a place or meet someone related to whatever was inside your head.

I take this as a sign from Saint Exupery?

““Yo me pregunto si las estrellas están encendidas para que cada cual pueda un día encontrar la suya.”

El Diutay Prinsipe & the creole that’s more than a lengua de tienda

Various versions of Saint-Exupery’s classic

I must have sent a note to the universe and it decided to respond. Last week I was at the Philatelic Museum (Singapore) to see the exhibit, “The Little Prince: Behind the Story” (more on my next blog). Then a few days ago, Jerome Herrera sent a link (to this blog’s FB Page) to his book project press kit. He was translating The Little Prince to Chavacano. “El Diutay Prinsipe” is due for release this month (September 2018). Now, that’s a strange coincidence, right?

The writer’s work is written in modern Chavacano orthography. Proofread by friends and self funded, a labor of love for an often misunderstood language. Herrera is also a blogger whose site, Bien Chavacano, has become a meeting place and repository for Chavacanos and non-Chavacanos to visit.

What makes “El Diutay Prinsipe” important is that it puts to writing a language rarely used in popular literature. Rizal wrote Chavacano conversations in his Noli, wittingly or unwittingly, recording for eternity the creole he admired. He was not alone. There were many hispano-filipino writers that did, like Jesús Balmori, an Ermita native. He penned the lyrics for the song, “el pasacalle aray”. And now we have “El Diutay Prinsipe”.

More than “lengua de tienda, y de nula dignidad, lengua de trapo”

The first time I heard Chavacano spoken was in college. A close friend’s family were Zamboangueños. During some holidays, we would hung out in their home and have these drinking sessions that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. I remember then that there was this AM station that plays Spanish songs. He would tune in and explain what the songs were about. Chavacano has given him a deeper appreciation of our hispano traditions and I thought that was really cool.

I would discover Cavitenen and Ternateño when I already had this blog. By this time, I already spent considerable amount of hours researching the history of our vanishing languages, among them Spanish and Chavacano in Cavite (now spoken mostly by old timers). Ermita’s Chavacano, the one that the likes of Rizal was familiar with, is believed to have vanished in the mid 1900’s or after WWII.

What would save our Spanish and Spanish creole?

I posed this question to historian Benito Legarda Jr and he said, “both parents must speak using it at home, if only one does, the child won’t pick it up.” A former colleague from Bicol shared with me how his father literally forced him to speak Spanish. He would refuse his allowance to school whenever he catches his son speaking any other language at home except Spanish. It apparently worked because the language he hated when he was a child gave him a livelihood later in life.

Views that our Spanish creole is nothing but a bastardized language comes from hispanophobic Filipinos. The writer-historian Elizabeth Medina once shared an online discussion where she was defending the position of preserving Spanish as a Filipino language. In it I discovered that many of those who opposed her were, as Medina called them, “Tisoys”! One of the commentators in the thread said that the closes we’ll ever get to Spanish is our debased version, which is Chavacano. These Filipinos wants nothing to do with their hispano-filipino heritage. For them, its words were to be kept as communication worthy only to be used in the kitchen.

It is not surprising that today, especially in Metro Manila, other Filipino language are often scoffed at and made fun of—many try their best not to sound “promdi”. But we must continue with our local languages—using them ensures that the death bells won’t be tolled for them in the future.

Herrera’s “El Diutay Prinsipe” is a noble and admirable effort. It not only promotes the language among young Chavacanos, it also allows it to be read and studied by non-Chavacano speaking Filipinos. “El Diutay Prinsipe” shows that Chavacano is not mere pidgin but a complete language worthy of our appreciation as a Filipino language.

Dave Chappelle’s take on emasculated Pinoys and Pacquiao

In his recent Netflix special explains the legend that is Manny Pacquiao and the reason why Filipino men worships him. “Emasculated” by unemployment and having their overseas wives send money to support the family, Dave explains that Pacquiao somehow restored their manhood “with his fist”!

Dave Chappelle with wife Elaine and daughter Sonal. His Fil-Am wife, Elaine Erfe, is from Brooklyn, New York. They live with their kids in their 65 acre farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Dave Chappelle and his family are big Pinoy boxing fans. He flew his kids to Macao in 2013 to see Pacquiao fight Brandon Rios. He once interrupted a Nonito Donaire interview to have a photo with the Filipino pugilist telling him that he’s going to show it to his sons.

His Netflix special comes 13 years after the last, “For What It’s Worth”.

Dave Chappelle’s “The Age of Spin” comes in two parts. The Netflix deal is estimated to be worth 60 million.

Here’s Dave’s Pacquiao bit:

I noticed it with that Manny Pacquiao controversy. Yeah, it was– Now, in the gay community’s defense, Manny Pacquiao said some outlandish shit about gay people, very not nice things that I won’t repeat, but there was biblical verses and some analogies to animals. It wasn’t a good look… But if you know what’s popping in the Philippines, you know that they got a whole generation of kids in the Philippines growing up without their mothers. Yes. A lot of women in the Philippines go to the Arabian Peninsula, they come to the United States, they make all their money here, they send all that money back home, which is still one of the number-one staples in the Philippines’ economy– money that the expats send back to the Philippines. The men, on the other hand, are left rearing children, twiddling their thumbs, waiting on their wives’ checks. These men have been fucking emasculated. And then suddenly, a boxer rises from amongst them and reinstates their manhood with his motherfucking fist. This is not the guy you’re supposed to ask, “What do you think of homosexuals?” He’s not your champ!”

Dave Chappelle’s special is now available on Netflix.


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

Photo courtesy of

Lyrics of the Japanese song about Muntinlupa (montenrupano yowa fukete)

While writing the blog The Japanese Song About Muntinlupa I enlisted the help of Japanese YouTube users (commenters on Hamako Watanabe’s songs). I asked for the song’s lyrics to be translated to rōmaji (Roman letters) since none was available online.

A user that goes by the name Makoto, responded and provided the lyrics below:

Montenrupano yowa fukete

(Late in the evening of Muntinlupa)

Montenrupa no yowa fukete

tsunoru omoini yaruse nai

Tooi kokyoh shinobitsutsu

namidani kumoru tsukikageni

yasashii hahano yumewo miru

Tsubamewa matamo kitakeredo

koishi wagakowa itsu kaeru

Hahano kokorowa hitosujini

minamino sorae tonde yuku

sadamewa kanashi yobukodori

Montenrupani asaga kurya

noboru kokorono taiyohwo

muneni idaite kyohmo mata

tsuyoku ikiyoh taoremai

Nihon-no tsuchiwo fumumadewa

Makoto added, “This was sung in 1952 by professional singers back in Japan and became a big hit…”

I noticed that his title is, “Late in the evening in Muntinlupa,” different from “The Night Goes on in Muntinlupa” which I took from a Japanese news report. The book, “Japanese War Criminals: the Politics of Justice After the Second World war,” on the other hand, list it as “It’s getting late in Muntinlupa”.

I decided to skip making an English translation. Those who wish to understand the song can use online translators (i.e., Google). It’s not going to be that accurate but you get the key words and that helps.

One of the markers dedicated by the Japanese in Muntinlupa

Not everything went back to normal after the Japanese capitulated. There were still Japanese prisoners (in New Bilibid). What do you do with them? This took years before it got resolved.

Those who weren’t executed, were repatriated (after the San Francisco Treaty).

Muntinlupa now was then a sleepy rural town with dirt roads and scattered nipa huts. The town center has impressive American colonial wooden houses, some with thatch roofing (some are still standing to this day).

Songs like “Muntinlupa” are important accounts of our distant past.

Penned by Japanese prisoners, it reminds us of the consequences of war.

It’s a special song but a sad one.

Related blogs:

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)

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


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 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.

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