Romancing the Gold… Pio Andrade’s History of Paracale

“Paracale played a no insignificant part in Philippine history… Paracale gold helped Padre Moraga convince King Philip III in 1613 not to abandon the Philippines.”

Earlier this week, Pio Andrade Jr. sent me the cover design of his upcoming book about the history of his native town, Paracale. I recently visited this iconic gold town and I’m eager to get my hands on the physical book but I would have to wait until September. That is if I’ll get a copy.

Along with the cover, Andrade sent me the prologue of the book. He was candid and unpretentious in his introduction which I thought suggest what can be expected from the rest of the book. Here, he openly wrote about the struggle of being a writer and writing:

Freelance writing in a non-reading nation like the Philippines is not a remunerative occupation. Thus, I had to work at other writing jobs which prevented me from working on the Paracale history book. A near fatal stroke hospitalized me in 2004, draining my meager personal savings, and shelving the Paracale history book project indefinitely. Providentially fortunately, if unexpectedly, my classmates and friends of Paracale High Scholl (PHS) Class 1958 stepped in so that the dream of a Paracale history book would turn real.

And these people, these Paracaleño high school buddies of his would be instrumental in kick starting the history book project:

Arturo (Art) Villanueva, my friend and high school classmate, now an American citizen, retired and living in Cerritos, California, found out through the Internet that I had become a journalist, an historian, and a published author. He called me long distance in September 2008 in Batch ’58 monthly reunion in the Astillero farm in Paracale. The long distance call was hooked up to another classmate Pepito de la Riva in Ontario, Canada. What a joyful, “jokeful” long distance conversation between three friends who have not seen each other for 50 years.
At the middle of our conversation, Art turned serious. Without my asking nor the least hint, Art offered me $300 to buy myself a notebook so that I could write the history of Paracale. I told Art that a PC notebook would give us a manuscript but not a book. To publish a book, there should be money not just for typing the manuscript but also for research, artwork, photography, editing, promotion and printing. I estimated the Paracale book would run to 300 plus pages and this would cost us about P125,000.00, but I added that we could secure such amount easily by soliciting $100 and $50 contributions from Paracaleños in the United States and Canada and from Paracaleño balikbayans. I thought of tapping the pursue purse of Paracaleños abroad not just because they can afford but also to promote closer bonding between Paracale expatriates and their town mates who remained in Paracale. Moreover, I consider this book as a joint project of the author and the Paracaleños in diaspora.

The idea of a history book for Paracale had been prophesied by foreigners who lived and experienced the gold mine life in that far off Bicolano town, Andrade writes:

A future Paracale history book had been hinted before, William Freer, American Superintendent of Schools for Ambos Camarines in 1903-1905 wrote:  “The history and romance of these mines would make a theme worthy of a Rider Haggard,” then a popular British writer of novels about mysterious Africa. Wenceslao Vinzons, Camarines Norte’s popular World War II hero, wrote in 1932 that Mrs. Harriet Reed, an American Lady who lived in Paraale since 1909. “may yet write her beautiful stories of Paracale and publish them in book form.” Alas Mrs. Reed died in 1951 without writing Paracale’s history.  Sadly, Paracale’s five accomplished writers and journalists: Nicolas Velas, Congressman Pedro Venida, TV broadcaster Rey Vidal, Benjamin Condino, and Vicente Elnar never bothered to write Paracale’s history.

And I’m certain that Andrade would leave no stone unturned in this book project. He reminds his future readers:

My research for this book yielded a rich trove of data for writing down Paracale’s past and its historical importance. At the same time, however, I realized more deeply what I have been noting in my history readings and writings that the Philippine history, which is taught in Philippine schools and retold in popular publications, is heavily distorted. These distortions are in the forms of omissions, incomplete information, wrong interpretations, and outright lies. They are meant to demonize the Catholic Church, Spain, and lately America, cover-up Japan’s wartime destruction of the Philippine economy and corruption of Philippine politics before, during, and after World War II, beatify so-called nationalists heroes as saints and angels, and cover-up the virtues and outstanding accomplishments of real heroes not to the liking of the leftist nationalists. And these distortions have been committed in the name of nationalism. How much history distortions have been committed in the name of nationalism by nationalists who are dishonest and unpatriotic.

I’m excited about the ‘Appendix’ that promises to be a goldmine of reference material. Because of Andrade’s scientific methodology in researching his subjects, this is to be expected:

An outstanding feature of this book is a 20-article, 100-page plus Appendix of outstanding published and unpublished writings about Paracale which amplify and provide contemporaneous perspective to the facts mentioned in the text. The appendices also preserve for posterity these precious and hard-to-access articles about Paracale and make them available to readers who would like to dig further on gold mining and Paracale’s exciting saga. Finally, the Appendix is a well of heart throbs–interesting incidents showing human nature which make reading exciting and enjoyable.

Not too long ago, with my friend Alas (who’s now writing the history of La Laguna), tried to convince a municipal mayor to fund us in writing the history of the town where my friend resides and where I own a small house. While that request was turned down, I remain a believer in the importance of ‘localized’ history books. The text books we have in schools neglects the celebration of local history. The study of history, traditions and customs of our hometowns should be made as introduction to national history–this ensures that we are rooted strongly in the land of our forebears. And when we are aware of the  local culture and history closes to us, we tend to nourish and cherish the homeland.

“I find his [Andrade’s] work, formidable” I told F. Sionil Jose a few weeks ago, and I have no doubt that this soon to be publish book has the making of a ‘formidable’ book that would be the yardstick of future works on the history of Filipino towns.

And when I get that call to write my hometown’s history, if ever that comes, I’m sure I’ll pull out a copy of Andrade’s book right from the shelf to be guided.

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