Monthly Archives: April 2011

Mabini Letters: Divisive Lucrative Politics

A senator slash actor slash tv host had just instructed his party, a group he co-leads with the former prez, to go to “war” because the seating president insist on filing graft charges against the ex-presidential son (and some of their kapartido), now a representante for the security guards (I’m not sure if they even know that) in the camara de representates. Alarmed that the present administration is bent on taking all of them down, mighty Pepeng Aguimat Jr moves to defend the poor Congressman.


It is our misfortune that we have such leaders. Instead of thinking about the wellbeing of a suffering public , opt to act in favor of their own selfish interest.

Why would you save from harm a corrupt man? Because by doing so you protect what hides behind your closet – you know, the skeletons and secrets that must be kept away.

Let these crooks defend themselves from accusations of graft – let them be humiliated for their greediness in front of the public – lawyering for these thieves is not an elected officials, or a political party’s function. Issues like education and the ever increasing cost of living, can wait for these politicians but not protecting their loot and reputacion. They who would rather defend their dishonesty than do anything good for their country.

But of course, easier said than done – the biggest criminals, the most corrupt politicos, always escape prosecution. Worst, and this is familiar to see today, disgraced politicos charged with pilfering millions watch their childrens and relatives get voted back to power as if they’re the only people that can be elected. We have yet to figure out a remedio for this case of terrible amnesia.

Where are we headed with these men disguised as leaders – our economy and our future, if we keep voting for these payasos, is headed to the slaughter house!

I can’t stop thinking about Apolinario Mabini when I hear news like this. A man who had the unpleasant experience as the second man in command, to see his country, disintegrate from American demands right before his very eyes. The first republic was lost because a great number of politicians started to the recognize the benefits of being “under”  than winning freedom.

The people who wanted  no more trouble, the rich politicos, appeared to have abruptly retracted support to continue fighting for an independent government. At this time, autonomistas were already preparing to strike a deal with the Norteamericanos while the revolutions poor sons and daughters, together with their admirable battle commanders (typically from the ilustrado and burgiouse class) continue to die in the war fields around the country.

Because he refuse to side with those who wanted to do away with fighting, Mabini, grudgingly retired his post.

“My character is not suited to the restless life of the politician – a lief that I have led only out of necessity”, said Mabini after turning over his post to Paterno. This was around the time when many, especially the “comfort loving people”, the “rich and cultured of Manila” that was “so well represented among the powers that be” had already gone soft, opting to “Surrender unconditionally” to the demands of the Americans.

Even during the early years of the first republic, politicians played the political game as if the only thing at stake are their personal interests. Sadly, more than a century later, not much has changed – ang dami, halos karamihan ng politico ngayon ganito pa din, sarili lang ang iniisip.

Those who went to the side of the Americans, wanting to preserve their interest than fight, Mabini had this to say, “people who lose heart after a few months of fighting are only good to carry the yoke of slavery”. He might as well have said this to the succedding generations of Filipinos who today are still slaves to money and power. If we are to win against corruption in this land, we could not afford to be light handed on those who committ crime against the Filipino people. If we jail pickpocket crooks and sneaky cellphone snatchers, lets apply the same to those who made miliions from the kaban ng bayan.

Life would have been easier for this Mabini  he just sided and work with the rich folks whose influence could have sustained him for life. And even better, if he accepted American rule, he could have ended with a high appointment in the justice department or some other post suitabe for his genius but his true patriotism and amor propio would not allow him to act like his contemporary leaders. His uncompromising and relentless belief against accepting a foreign power to run the affairs of his country is what I truly admire about him.

He was a very simple man and this could be attributed to his peasant background. He was never comfortable with the comforts of life. If he was never gifted with a “ginintuang ulo” he would have been a farmer back in his hometown. I remember his granddaughter telling me that the americana (a gift from a friend) he wore in his wake was also the suit he wore in his photo portraits and other special occasions. That was his entire couture right there – he never found a need for fancy clothes.

Our present politicos, those who study history, probably read the great Mabini. They look at his life and imagined what life would be after they leave office – if they don’t grab whilst they can they’ll end up like him – penniless. So they enrich themselves while they seat in their ivory towers pretending to be leaders.

Mabini’s uncompromising position,his refusal to consent to the “absurd demands” of an invading empire was the reason why this patriot was relegated, by the Yankees and their Filipino allies, to the sidelines. Worst, even after his death, the rich Filipinos whom he attacked and criticized in his writings, stirred spiteful rumours about the real cause of his death (and thanks to that fat and balding national artist, a historian wannabe who added more fuel to the  dirty chismis against the poor paralytic).

If it was any consolation for Mabini, he was more fortunate because the other person that denounced the “surrender” , Antonio Luna, lost his head. He was more radical in his view. He called the Filipino leaders who were ditching the revolutionary government for a puppet one as “traidores”. He threatened to imprison all leaders that would deal with the Americans.

The only man who could have created the conditions for a protracted war was eliminated, by who? There are theories out there that draw different conclusions – and this is for another article. Let me get to Cabanatuan first, maybe the spirit of Don Antonio Luna would disclose the true reason behind his assasination!


Mga Antigong Larawan: Post War Iloilo Photos

The parade of Paquito Bolero with other artistas (that includes Dolphy according to GGR). The motorcycle with sidecar are policemen while the trailing bikes are members of Panay Motorcycle Club (similar to todays widespread motorcycle groups). The street is now J.M. Basa, previously it was Casa Real, considered the city’s version of Escolta where one can find both foreign and local “bazar”. The banner hanging on top, ” I was a shoplifter” is a Hollywood movie (about to be shown in the nearby Eagle theater), so don’t worry, its not shaming a local caught shoplifting! Most of the building here are still existing today, this main road and its surrounding remains to be the busiest in the whole Panay island.

Last Saturday, I visited my friend Sr. Gomez at his home. He showed me some old photos of his and I volunteered to scan them so he can save a digital copy somewhere in his computer. Our humid weather accelerates the deterioration of such old materials, its best to scan them for safe keeping. Eveytime he’ll pull out a photograph, he would tell a dozen story about it and its just amazing how an old faded photograph can trigger great memories – and for someone like me, deeper appreciation of our past traditions and our heritage.

When he handed me an envelope-full of photographs, I just realized the gigantic task at hand – but I’m happy that he entrusted them to me, anything for the ol’ man, who not only happen to be a great friend but also a distant lolo!

I would be sharing more old photos from here on out. Since they are just in a box in the house – I’ll try to scan them and put them here for everyone to see. I have amassed a considerable collection since I normally buy some in antique shops whenever I find one. I usually get family and personal portraits of unknown people. My imagination would just take over – who are these people, what were they like, what are their occupation, what was their language – questions that arise from just looking at these tattered photos. How these picture end up in a shop’s buckets to be sold cheap, I have no clue. The only reason I can think of why I pick them up is that I don’t want to deal with the guilt of not saving them from being discarded.

If I recall what GGR said about this one correct is that this was hishometown’s (Dingle) theater during the post war years. The movie ad, “Prisipe Don Juan”, is a movie that starred Efren Reyes Sr.’s, a popular actor during his time. The movie made and shown in 1950. He was well known for his epic movies. Reyes’ is the grandson of Lola Basiang, the king of Sarsuela – Severino Reyes. Interesting is that the people seem to gather outside, was this after the movie or were they just hanging around. Striking a pose for the photographer maybe?

Sra. Conchita of Roxas City. A photo of an elegant Filipina in terno. This was sent to GGR as a keepsake. Back in the days, people use to send studio photos to friends and relatives. They would dress in traditional customes and of course give out their best smile! Some of the best photographs I’ve seen are portraits like this. They are gems, truly precious and rare.

This I believe is a relative of GGR’s. Another post war photograph in his collection. Observe how the passing on looker is dressed. Before and after the war, you’ll rarely see a Filipino in the streets wearing sleepers, shirts and sandos. Almost everyone are formally dressed (this would be the case up until the 60’s). We use to have a sense of decorum and discipline in the streets. 

All photo rights belongs to the site author. Do not use without permission.

A Bit of Turumba and Pakil History

I’ve been dreaming of circling Laguna de Bai for some time. Approaching it from the south then on to Morong, then back home (Muntinglupa). I’ve been trying but to no avail. The farthest, in one of these numerous attempts, is Pakil. Feels like I’m sort of doing this travel project in installments.

The Church of Pakil (Paquil)

Pakil’s church seem to jump out of a national bookstore postcard. This elegant looking, well preserved architectural baroque is the pride of the town! The church is said to be one of the most beautiful in existence, not only in Laguna but in the whole country. It seem to glow like a desirable reddish jewel at certain times of the day. A visit would explain why – its one of those structure that reveals itself thoroughly when visited.

Locals tell of legends how the church had escaped relentless bombing (by both the Americans and the Japs) during the pacific wars. Like when it was supposed to be destroyed by Yankee war planes. Locals claim that because of their passionate prayers to the Virgin Mother, the heavens interceded and shrouded the entire sky with fat bulky clouds, hiding the church from the heavy bombers.

The church of San Pedro de Alcatara, first came into existence in 1676, had been reconstructed several times following successive destruction brought by nature. The town is popular for its Turumba Festival, held seven times for two months, it observes the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary (Nstra. Sra de los Dolores).

The milagrosang imahen ng Birheng Dolorosa of Pakil has an interesting origin. Legend has it that a missionary crossing the lake lost it when strong winds had suddenly rocked his casco. Lost in the vast lake, the man gave up finding his beloved santo, but the image was miraculously recovered, in all places, a fisherman’s net! And so goes the story of how this imahe came to the shores of this wonderful town. The Turumba, they say, came from the way the missionary priest described the local people’s wild chanting and dancing. The fisherman left the image on top of a stone but when the people decided to transfer it inside the church it all of a sudden became so heavy that it was impossible to move. When they finally succeeded in transferring the image the people broke out in ecstatic praise and celebration. This is said to be the origin of what many of us know today as Turumba.

The tradition of singing and dancing, on this occasion brings out the religious nature of the locals. Historical description of how this “strange spectactle” drove its devotees to “throw themselves to the ground grasping for air and rest motionless for hours”, is well recorded. Up to this day Turumba continue to fascinate and mystify – It still attracts believers and on lookers (and crowds of wannabe photographers), which continue to swell in abundance according to locals, from far away places.

Old Paquil, the name and the settlement, is attributed to its last Yndio chief’s name. The previous Tagalo leaders, Gat Salyan (Gatchalian) and Gat Maitan (Gatmaitan) brought their clan to the present day Pakil to flee from the regular banditry which has cost them much adversity.

Pakil have great traditions inspired by the wonderful combination of native’s old beliefs and the Spanish missionaries’ “new religion”. Though its notable celebration speaks of its strong Catholic religious values, buried behind the frenzied dance of Turumba is the indigenous nature.

The town also has a strange geography. Its land is split into two. Separated by the mighty Laguna de Ba’i. During the Spanish times the town was known to “possessed of a crystal spring pool”. I wonder where it is now. Such stories are lost without the recovery of the artifact.

The Spanish founders of the town, who devoted their church to a Saint from their homeland, San Pedro de Alcala, were Franciscans. One of its early planners was San Pedro Bautista, another Spaniard, who had established several strategic communities in Laguna along with the headquarters of the Franciscan mission north of Manila (now in San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City). Bautista is one of our forgotten cultural hero whose contributions lie buried in the annals of Philippine historiography.

Vista del interior de la Iglesia parroquial de San Pedro de Alacala

Another interesting story I read about the town  is that there was once an “arnis” like art that flourished in its communities. If true, this native self defense technique must have been lost in the 1900’s or even earlier. The only reference to this martial art that I found was written by a Presbyterian missionary in 1940.

Jean Mallat, a French roaming the countryside, noted that this part of Laguna once had “prettiest native women…they rival those of Pampanga”. The Frenchman quite had keen eyes for the ladies. Was he prospecting for business or shopping for a wife? I love reading accounts from foreigners who had lived in the country in the past. They present a more direct depiction of the old country’s scene and character.

Its interesting to note that there were several Europeans [my favorite is Jala-Jala’s Paul dela Geroniere] who toured the countryside and wrote about their life here. If it were not for there written accounts, we would have fewer reference today. Reading them is like observing history from their perspective, they tend to be more candid about their views and feelings. Their works are still some of the finest reference about our old ways and landscape accessible to us today.

Visiting Corregidor

April is the month we honor what we Filipinos call “Kagitingan” of those who fought against the Japanese during the Second World War. I’m not surprised that the day (April 9) just passed like an ordinary day. We live in a world where such commemoration is no longer an integral part of our society. If we had live through the terror of that war – we would remember these dates for sure.

The Mile Long barracks

I brought myself to Corregidor to reflect on this part of our history. I don’t spend as much time studying our history during WWII compared to 16th to 19th Filipino history, which I study with much dedication (or so I think). For some reason I can’t explain, mid 1900’s appeals to me less, but of course this does not mean that it means less. The events of WWII here in our land deserves to be read and meditated upon. That war was as crucial as the revolution of 1896.

A vet and his son. This former marine served in the Korean war not in the pacific, "I was too young but I wouldnt mind", he said. Fine chaps from the state of Kentucky.

For a very reasonable fee, Suncruise Tours, will take you to Corregidor; give you an incredibly informative tour and unlimited food for lunch, now that’s not a bad deal at all!

48 kilometers west of Manila, the boat ride was fast, smooth and air-conditioned, now this is good for those who don’t want to deal with the heat. What really surprised me was how knowledgeable the tour guides are – yes, they probably have been doing this for years but still, it’s nice to know that you’re listening to people that really knows what they’re talking about. I’m done with those tour guides that resorts to historical “what-if’s” and badly researched but appealing lectures to sell their gigs.

Deserted buildings in the island where you can sense death and suffering.

The American flag of Corregidor

There were a lot of old foreigners on board. There were even some Japanese (they spoke no English). Just by looking at some of them I know they were there, or somewhere, in the thick of battle, fighting their guts out. I could just imagine the horrors they’ve witnessed. It must be tough to go back to a place where friends and people you know died. I wonder if walking around the island was a healing experience for them – this could very well be the case.

The island is considered by many as a place for forgiveness and acceptance. Believe it or not there’s shrine in the island dedicated to the Japanese dead. A sign that things are back to normal – nations that once fought eachother are friends once again. An American tourist, in his 30’s, remarked “we’re too forgiving!” after the tour guide took the crowd to the Japanese shrine where a huge monument of  a Japanese goddess stands. Forgiving is a liberating experience but we can’t blame those who haven’t come to terms with losing their loveones. My father still holds grudge against the Japanese. I’ve also heard of Filipino families, whose lovones were brutalize by Americans and local guerilla soldiers. Who can blame them if they still detest those who committed atrocities against family members. Old wounds sometimes don’t heal.

One of the first things I noticed is how stunning the island is – aside from the floating rubbish that reaches its shore, the island is still a tropical escape not far from Manila. Its black volcanic sands and rocky coast provides a scenic, historic adventure. There’s no longer any barrio in the islands (there was once a lively fishing village called Sn Jose).

I was told that all the people that I see around are employees. The place employs quite a number of people. The grounds, the museum, shrines (Pacific War Memorial, Filipino Heroes Memorial and Japanese Peace Garde) are very well maintained – all of these made feel that the money I spent was very well worth it.

The Malinta Channel

You could see Manila, Cavite and Bataan at some vantage point like the lighthouse in the old Spanish plaza. It was such an incredible sight but going up to the tower requires a little physical flexibility, its good exercise. Near the old plaza one could see a metal poll, where anAmrican flag is hoisted, this war booty was taken from defeated Spanish ship.

Noticeable around the structure are the scars the bullets and bombs left in the island. I heard from somewhere that Corregidor is the second most bombed placed on earth. Heavily bombed as was Poland, I was thinking that the bombers, the Japanese and then the Americans, were not only trying to demolish the defense of the Rock but sink the whole island!

One could literally smell death in some of the dark abandoned quarters that managed to survive heavy bombardment. The batteries had been riddled and disfigured by bullets, bombs and shrapnel’s. You start to picture how the men defended Corregidor for weeks without yielding to the enemy – I’m sure, a quick surrender had crossed the defenders mind a million times – it was the easier option. Touring the island made me understand how resilient they choose to be.

Where McArthur made his buh-bye for now

An American civilian officer describes what it was like taking refuge in the island while it was under assault, “under bomb and shell with our soldiers and sailors…where men were down to the ultimate realities of life, where all of us lived daily with death”.

There are four islands in this part of Manila bay, Corregidor is the biggest. The other islands are: El Fraile, Caballo and Carabao. These three were all fortified, converted as virtual batteries. The geography, had been divided into four areas by the Yankees:  Topside (where almost all social activities were), Middleside (was for some quarters, hospitals and schools), Bottomside (site of the old Fishing barrio of Sn. Jose) and Tailside (where there was once an airstrip).

Much of the restoration here were accomplished with American funding and expertise.

Charles Morris an American historian describes Corregidor and its surrounding islands during the time of the Battle of Manila Bay: “ The entrance is 12 miles wide on the south and almost midway rise the rocky island of Corregidor and Caballo. Corregidor was strongly fortified, armed with heavy modern guns and equipped with searchlights that would have enabled competent defenders to render entering it a hazardous feat. The channel on the north is called Boca Chica and Boca Grande is on the south”.

They say that the whole island is haunted but I wont mind staying here for a night!

The significance of the islands to the mainland’s survival, even before the war with Japan, can be discovered in numerous historical text. It was always the first to defend the capital. Assault were also launched by intruders from this rocky island. From the attack initiated by the famous Chinese pirate, the British take over and the Dutch harassments, Corregidor not only witnessed history but it was an integral part of the events that shaped our history.

Don Hilario Ziálcita y Legarda (1913-2011)

Sad news here. I was told by my friend Pepe that Don Hilario Zialcita passed away this morning. He was an accomplished medical doctor who served during the war. But what I know about him and like is that he wrote beautiful poems in Spanish.

He’s one of those who tried to spread the beauty (even when it was popular to bash it)of  our filipino-hispano culture and arts.

A wornderful tribute from a friend of his, fellow hispanista, Guillermo Gomez reads:


Le conocí en los años 60 al Dr. Ziálcita en su clínica de radiología, ubicada en la antigua casa de los Nakpil, en la Calle Barbosa, arrabal de Quiapo, Manila.

Amable, simpático, culto representaba toda la preciosa cultura hispana de Filipinas.

Bien leido, escritor y poeta, además de médico, siempre venía a visitarnos en las oficinas y la biblioteca de la Solidaridad Filipino-Hispana, Inc. al que se hizo socio.

Nos invitó, una vez, a poner un programa de bailes españoles en la sala de la antigua casa de su familia. La que hoy es la Casa de Julio Nakpil. Y disfrutó inmensamente de la compañía de nuestros alumnos.

Curó, gratuitamente a uno de nuestros empleados que se quejaba de un quiste en las nalgas. Lo sometió a su radiología y le compró, él mismo las medicinas, que necesitaba.

Y así, a lo largo de los años, siempre nos saludábamos en funciones y reuniones culturales de caracter pro fil-hispano.

Lo que consideraba como una muy buena noticia para la hispanidad fue lo que él denominaba como “la pronta latinización de Estados Unidos”.

El Dr. Hilario Zialcita y Legarda representaba lo que antes era el Quiapo de los mejores tiempos con sus casas ancestrales, sus calles bonitas, la Calle Barbosa, la Calle de Hidalgo, la Plaza del Carmen y la Iglesia de San Sebastián. Cuando dejó de vivir en Quiapo, este arrabal pareció perder su alma y su poesía.

Un día memorable para fue cuando un antiguo residente de Quiapo, Francisco Arlegui, volvió de España para ver, por última vez, Filipinas. Una de las calles principales de Quiapo es la Calle Arlegui, y Don Francisco estaba muy contento cuando Don Hilario y Don Francisco Zaragoza, otro quiapense, se reunieron con un servidor para dar una vuelta por todas las calles de Quiapo. Era una ocasión feliz por romántica a la vez de nostólgica. Afortunadamente tengo las fotos y algún día las voy a mandar subir al internet para que se vuelva a saborear aquella alegría que los cuatro sentimos en aquellos inolvidables momentos. Allí Don Hilario entre nosotros, contentísimo en señalar cada calle, cada esquina, cada casa con algún bonito reucerdo del pasado y de su juventud.

Ahora, ya llegó el fin. Pero es un fin glorioso porque Don Hilario supo vivir toda una vida de gran cultura, de poesía, que él también escribía, y de una historia filipina que muy pocos entre nosotros todavía conocemos y atesoramos. Hasta pronto mi querido Don Hilario. He aqui unos versos que te dediqué y te las vuelvo a dedicar en este día de tu partida.


Al recibir la compilación de poesías

Del Dr. Hilario Ziálcita y Legarda

El 12 de octubre, 2003, en Makati

Metro-Manila, ¡tuve que escribir y

enaltecer la obra del Dr. Ziálcita que

la continúa su hijo,

el Dr. Fernando Ziálcita y Nákpil!

Sus apellidos suenan como claves

que abren calles y casas distinguidas

en el barrio quiapense…

Son las naves

de unas almas que se alzan tendidas

con versos castellanos que, cual aves,

van y vienen en páginas henchidas

de gloriosos recuerdos

que enriquecen;

o de antiguos ideales que ennoblecen.

Esa es la sensación que las poesías,

de este poeta, me dan al aspirarlas.

Tienen, del ayer, dulces melodías

que se desgranan como azules perlas

de un vistoso collar y las visiones

de unos enamorados corazones.

Testimonian el bien que hemos perdido

por desidia, flaquesa y cruel olvido.

Manila, 2003

Rolling to the right: School bound for the second time around?

I’ve been  contemplating for weeks now on whether to take up a course in aeronautics – all these thinking has been giving me sleepless nights. Well, days actually since I work the night shift. If this goes on, I could probably lose some weight, which I think is the good side. I have excess poundage on my gut I’ve been trying to get rid off for years! I have to decide soon or else I would have to wait for another term.

My fascination is more on the the process, the science of flight. The study, designs and creation of flight machines. I find all of these most interesting! And when I do fly,  if and when it happens,  it would be for the sheer pleasure of it. Not interested in living the life of a commercial pilot, I never was, I could imagine why it appeals to many people – there’s a certain glamor attached to the profession. For me, I wanted to work on planes – flying it is a good goal down the line but fixing it, opening it up, maintaining it, designing it is what will satisfy me really. I don’t mind if its a backbreaking job, I’ll do it for free.

My interest in aeronautics has grown with each passing year. It all started when I begun reading the books about planes, its evolution and its basic principles. I was already in college when I acquired this obsession. So it was a lil’ too late for me to shift courses, at the time, the other problem is that aeronautical courses and diplomas are not offered in my school. I didn’t bother taking up the idea to my brother, who was funding my education, transferring to another course would have pissed him off (after finishing my 3rd year in physical therapy I transferred anyway took up business administration and majored in computer management). So, ten years later, I work as a supervisor at some IT support company, doing what my schooling thought me to do. Lesson: be careful what you take up in college, you might really end up doing it for a living!

Another interesting question is that if (and this is a big IF) I finished an aeronautical course, what’s next? I don’t think that Filipinos who takes up aeronautical courses dreams of making big bucks here, I mean those who study in flying schools (their parents spends milliones!) can dream of that since they end up in those sleek white uniforms flying those damn gorgeous flying machines but for most aeronautical students who would later work on servicing planes on the hangar, I don’t think they do. Siguro kung nasa abroad pa oo. I know a man who graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and is now working for a BPO. The guy struggled to find work in the airplane biz and I think there are many pilots now that are having difficulty finding vacancy. So what is in it for me? Nothing other than learning more. I know, that sounds crazy. Will I make a career out of it? I don’t know. Maybe.

One of my grandfather (on the father side) was an aviation pioneer. First man to have ever completed a flight from Manila to Madrid (during the time of Prez Quezon). It was an amazing feat he achieved with another fella. It was nice to find out that someone in the family had made a name in the field. A major road was renamed after him (but since I’m against changing old street names, for cultural and historical reasons, that wasn’t cool for me). I’m proud of this man who I found out from pictures looking exactly like my father. I’m sure he was a great man but I never met anyone from his side of the family. We lost contact with most of our Negrense family since my father went here in Manila. My brother, who now resides in HK, met the pilot son by chance while he was in a bank. When the bank lady called the apelyido which they both shared, the two men simultaneously stood from their seats, my brother was the person being called, the pilot guy went back to his seat and approaced my brother later. Not sure what they spoke about but its strange how you bump into long lost relatives. I’m sure Dn. Antonio had something to do with that chance meeting.

Speaking of flights, during one of my flights en route to my other home, I took this video of the Taal and its environ. The volcano has been in news recently because of its irregular, or normal as it is a living volcano, activity which alerted many groups particularly those living in the area. I hope the tiny volcano won’t unleash her fury anytime soon, not now, because a major eruption would be very cataclysmic to us here in the south. Add to this is that we probably won’t see “tawilis” available for sometime in the mercado, summer pa naman masarap isabay sa manga ang tinapang tawilis!


Pardo – Cebu’s Fortress Iglesia


My mother’s long time friend and trusted cabulig [she prefers this term over katulong] in her small food stall asked me how my Cebu experience was. I told her it was awesome. I haven’t visited the stall ever since I left for Cebu in ’09.

Nida’s from El Pardo, once a small coastal old Barrio of Ciudad de Cebu together with Talamban that are now residential districts of the progressive provincial capital. Its a 3 mile ride from the city. It has become crowded over the years as many people wanted to live near the city center.

My mother’s helper, like many others, decided to relocate here in Manila believing that luck awaits them. The move proves to be a wrong move. Her husband was jailed for estafa. I don’t know what happened to him. I’ll never  accept the excuse of “kahirapan” for involving oneself in criminal activities. But who am I to judge the hearts of man. This former security guy once save civilians from a “holdaper”. Sayang. How unfortunate that some souls are driven to commit crime because of utter poverty.

Our trusted cabulig is now raising her family alone, with four kids and just recently, a grandson, all living with her in a small house in the Makati slums. Believe it or not, they pay rent.

But its easy to criticize these provincianos for relocating here. We are not in their shoes. We’ll never understand the hopelessness that draws these souls here. Moving here in the capital is a move of desperation for many provincianos, they don’t have anything back home and what they’ll soon find out is that the standard of living here for them would be worst than where they came from.

Most of them that won’t make it – regrets once they realize there’s nothing behind the Manila glitter.

I remember very well the day I walked around Pardo, it was the summer of 2009, it was a hot and humid day. I was sweating like crazy. I had visited three other churches along the south hi-way and the church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva was the last stop.

Pardo’s church is an eccentric looking building that resembles more a battle tower than a traditional old Filipino church. Painted white, the church has a bas relief in front that illustrates a known Agustino symbol. Our old churches, like this one established as a visita of Sn. Nicolas, are simply more artful, elegant, lofty and resilient. We don’t build them like we used to.

But what’s even sadder these days is that what ever is left of our heritage is discarded like some dead snake skin! I was reading a feature in the Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday about a chef who constructed a pleasant residence that many mistake to be an ancestral house, somewhere in Pampanga. He’s proud that he “sourced” his construction materials from a centuries old church being torn down!

Inside the Pardo Church

When I arrived there was an on going Primera Comunión. First communion back in the old days was an important milestone in the life of a Filipino Catholic family. Somehow it doesn’t feel like that anymore. Have we lost our religious traditions?

I stayed a little longer and took some pictures. The little girls were dressed in these pink dresses. They had these cute little wings attached at the the back of their bright outfits. The lil’ boys were more conventional, wearing collared shirts but I observed that some had hairs styled in very modern anime-sque fashion. Gone are the glossy brushed up hairs that was once the only fit hair-do for such occasions. But I thought the change, the strange hair styles and those angelique customers was fine. It was not like this when I had mine. Time has changed many of our old traditions.

One of its oldest resident priest is an uncle of a friend where I work. He said he’s admired, among family and wherever he’s assigned. This friend has got some interesting stories about this uncle priest but I would leave it at that. They say “humans will always fail; it is only God that never fails”J

Mabini Letters: Week 1 April 1899

These past few days work in the office and important errands here at home has rendered me useless to pull together any traveling or even a good long read. Thank heavens there’s a bit of a lull in the activities during Sundays. As usual, I try to put myself to sleep reading books.

My favorite in these occasions are reading compiled letters of our great heroes. I’ve been reading Rizal’s for years now and I’m still not done – his is probably the best compiled available today (thanks to NHI). I like Plaridel’s also but lately its Apolinario Mabini for me. I’ve long been fascinated by his role in our history. If you want to understand a person, you must understand his values – letters, especially the personal ones, reveals, not only the writer’s point of view, but his intentions and his true character.

So what was  Mabini, whose revolutionary government had moved to Sn Isidro from Malolos, up to 112 years ago?

During the first two weeks of April he had been busy writing [some letters were handwritten] to  a variety of people. An intersting letter dated April 8, 1899 addressed to El Generalissimo, talks about the problem they had with one Hen. Antonio Luna. “He does not give account of what he does, we close our eyes”. Interesting is what Mabini said about the unsansctioned military actions of Luna, “what is taking place is sad because if we succeed, all honor will be Luna’s – and I am very willing that he should have it; but if we fail, if his plan should end in failure, the responsibility will be ours because we allowed him to go on”.

In the same letter, he had sought the intervention of Aguinaldo on behalf of the messenger who brought the letter. “the bearer is B. Teodoro, is requesting that you find out the reason why his brother was arrested there under the orders given by Gen. Luna”.

He had also informed the President, this time playing the role of an ombudsman, of the abuses of some of the soldiers in Iloilo, “did nothing but loot and rob the people…there were soldiers whose guns were broken because they used thme in carrying money… it is said that these soldiers not only refuse to fight the Americans but also refused to surrender their guns to those who were willing to fight”.

The squabbling among the military leaders  had caused the revolutionsary government great pains. I believe that we had lost the war not because we were confronted with superior arms but because the government and the military was not cohesive. The revolutionary government had lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the common man. Mabini in his letters had frequently reminded military leaders against abuse which was prevalent. He knew that these violence would have direct effect on the results of the war against the Americans.

Just imagine the stress and the pressure this man was subjected to. What was his day like? Did he ever sleep with all of these events taking place?  Reading his letters makes me accept that I have less to complain about in life.

Another letter to the President, during  the  first week of April, he expressed that he was “exerting efforts to reduce the salary expenses of the government”. This is where we can glimpse the role this man had in the government. He was everything and everywhere. With all the power he had during that time, managing even the payroll,  he could have retired a wealthy man. Well, we all know that he died penniless. His family did not inherit acres of lands or a large house. All he left them is a good name. Which, sadly, means less in our society today.

Macao’s Newest Tourism Ad

These people are smart because they treat the promotion of their heritage sites as an investment.  Tourism is something that their economy needs. I’ve seen some of their ads before and they impressed me.  We can learn a thing or two from this predominantly Chinese state.

Their tourism website tells its visitor’s:

“Over history Macao has been an important gateway through which western civilization entered China; for hundreds of years this piece of land has nurtured a symbiosis of cultural exchange, shaping the unique identity of Macao… its value lies not only in the completeness of the architectural and urban infrastructures, but also in the fact that these have retained their original function and spirit to the present day. As an integral part of the city’s life, the conservation of “The Historic Centre of Macao” is crucial to the local community, while on a broader context, it represents a part of Chinese and world history, which, due to its historic and cultural significance must be preserved”.

We don’t do it as much here. Why? because some of us still continue to cling to our biases rather than appreciating the gifts we’ve received from the past. We are not taught that Filipino history is cumulative experiences and memories of what had occurred. We are products of this wonderful evolution.

Most of us thinks, for example,  that promoting our hispano heritage is siding with the wrong side. That somehow we are betraying the legacy of our ancestors. I often hear tour guides tell people how churches, bridges, roads and towers were build by forced labor – making it sound like we were some kind of beasts that jumped out from the caves and started serving the white man. Not being taken into consideration is the culture that drove them to become planners, builders, architects, developers, artisans and designers. When I speak of this “culture” I mean to refer to the wonderful combination of both local and global influences.

Some of the buildings constructed from 16th to the 19th century are among the greatest structures ever built in the world but because they are remnants of the Kastila, some feels that it must be of  little value. These buildings and houses are left to rot if not destroyed with regularity. Allowing this had proven costly – we have lost a lot in the past decades and will continue to  do so not unless we change.

Macao does not have as much colonial buildings as we do here. Not even close to what we have but what they have is vision and appreciation. By taking care of their old Portuguese era buildings, roads and bridges – they had attracted many Portuguese speakers  interested in the  imperial past. Tourism pamphlets, and ads have Portuguese instructions.  They have a great campaign ad [that includes the video above] and they also keep everybody there, foreigners most especially, comfortable and safe. Their tourism campaign is a product of careful planning and strategizing. I call it practical thinking. They succeeded because they do away with misguided nationalism and fake patriotism.

A very popular tourist spot in Macao is “the grand façade of the Ruins of St. Paul’s” –  they held on to what remained of the ancient church. Our country has so much to offer, if only we can get the right people on the job.  The Macaonese efforts in conserving the facade of that church is their way of showing that they have pride in these things — And this is just what is left of the old church, a facade, while we here have hundreds of centuries old churches much grander, historic, older, architecturally significant structures but we refuse to take care of them.

I remember when I visited the church of Good Shepperd in Singapore. There were volunteers that tours visitors around the church. When I told them that we have churches built in the mid and late 1500’s they were shocked! I bragged a little when I told them that the funding of their beautiful church, which was currently being restored when I visited, was partly financed and supproted by the Archdiocese of Manila – they were all left speechless. But to many people, this is not “us”, not Filipino history, this was the “kastila” history in the Philippines. Now, this has to change.

Don Vicente Rama and his Plane Jitters

Reading “The Vicente Rama Reader” this weekend gave me an idea what Cebu was like during the war years. Aside from being a collection of his written works, it provided important personal accounts in Cebu;s most challenging days. He’s a gifted storyteller who wrote in his beloved Bisayan, Spanish and English. I wonder why they excluded some of his Spanish essays. He is said to possesses a fine literary style in Spanish. My favorite essay in the book was “First Time on an Airplane”, written in English and Bisaya (“Unang Pagsakay sa Ayroplano”).

For those not familiar with this great Cebuano, Rama, like all the other Cebuano geniuses of his time was accomplishing a lot of things in so little time. He excelled in “literature, publishing, journalism and politics”. His literary genius is obscured by his giant achievements in politics, “elected representative from the third district of Cebu to the Philippine Legislature for three consecutive terms from 1922 to 1925, 1925 to 1928 and from 1934 to 1935. He ran and won as a coalitionist for assemblyman in the fourth district of Cebu”. And  on November 26, 1938 he took his oath of office as Mayor of Cebu before President Manuel L. Quezon at Malacanang Palace”. Known as the “Father of Cebu City Charter” his periodicals were written in Cebuano (Bag-ong Kusog), Spanish (Nueva Fuerza) and English (Progress).

If his last name reminds you of Ruffa Guittierez’s always angry mom, Anabelle, that’s because she’s one of the many “apo”. Don Vicente’s family today are still very much involved in Cebuano politics.

Don Vincente was required to attend the “First Session of the Philippine Congress” by no less than President Osmena and Gen. Macarthur who gave direct orders to the eithteth army based in Cebu to “give every assistance and oppurtunity” to the good senator. Because it was “nearly dark” and afraid that Japanese planes could appear anytime,  the distinguished gentleman from Basak Cebu was not really looking forward to fly. He had good reasons for being afraid – the Japs was still a fighting force the Allied forces has yet to put down. Don Vicente wanted not to go but was commanded by an American army captain, “no but’s honored today, I’m going to put you on a plane, orders by the general”. Feeling helpless he wrote, “I nurse the resentment of a lowly servant when unceremoniously rushed, I thought of refusing to board”. But his patriotism and respect towards President Osmena made him go. “I remembered how Osmena gave orders to transport me and pushed for my attendance when our country’s senate would convene for the first time”.

It was his first time to fly and airplanes for him were “reliable source of terrifying moments in life”. He’s used to seeing planes bomb their neighborhoods. The war was not yet over. He admired the two young pilots who maneuvered the planes like it was “just practice”. A pilot friend of mine said he prefers flying smaller planes becauseyou can feel the wind and hear the sounds. You’re flying the plane”. I guess the pleasure of flying is knowing that you’re in control and not asking what the plane is doing. Imagine how flying was back in the days when it was not as smooth and advance as it is today.

The senator amusingly recalls his pilots as “two young American’s…doing acrobatics feats with the aid of a steel bar attached to the ceiling of the aircraft… truly impressed by the young men’s ability to do their balancing routine, not at all affected by the way the aircraft was tossing about, having run into some bad weather. They were merely engage in indoor sports”. I wonder if Don Vicente was taken to Manila by a C-47 or a DC-3. Being an aviation fan I try imagine how it felt flying these beautiful aircrafts. There are still some DC-3’s that takes to the skies these days – that’s how durable these planes are.

His lunch on board the three hour flight was standard ration:  “putos, didtoy biskwit, sikwating matam-is, sabawang pinulpog, kiso”. The flight that started in Lahug [now a business and residential area] reached Manila [Nichols, now Villamor air base] safe. The captain of the army plane told the good senator that they will go around for him to see Manila by night. “Dili pa motugpa dayon kun dili molibot una sa tibuok sa siyudad aron makita nako ang dagway sa Manila kun magabii”, the first time flyer said. What a sight would that have been. If only he had a digicam with him.

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