Category Archives: Cavite

Gentri Naturally

After visiting the Tres Cruces dam in Tanza, I dropped by General Trias to see my Lola. Our lone surviving grandparent on both sides. The last time I saw her was some two years ago. Because I go out of the country regularly, these trips are becoming few and far between.

I have great memories of General Trias (thanks to my Aunt and cousins who hosted my summer vacations, here where I immersed myself playing near the irrigation canal, chasing dragonflies and poaching summer fruits—and watching ol’ school wrestling on betamax tapes!). My Lola’s garden is still planted with practical vegetation. Like my father, her nephew, she enjoys having a garden where she can pick vegetables to be broiled with fish. That’s how Visayan do soup—simple, healthy, a bit briny sometimes but none the less delicious!


We’re all supporting cast here, the star is standing to my left!

Her only son, Tito Felix, a professor in a state university, decided to stay on to look after her—this I thought is practical. In other countries old people are left to the care of medical facilities and retirement homes. Last year, while I was in the US, a relative of mine (who works for a physical therapy clinic) told me how some old people don’t even get visitors during holidays—it disturbs him because he gets to be friends with some of these old folks and he adored his grandparents growing up in their Quezon city home; I could understand the sympathy he feels for his patients —but societies differ from country to country.

But that small home, my Lola’s home, is a happy one. All her grandkids, three of them, are there with their Cebuana mom and my uncle—they’re smart and polite. I’m sure if they work hard there’s nothing they can’t achieve in this life. These kids surprised me when they told me that they found this blog and saw pictures of their Lola (so I’m partly writing this for them to read). I don’t go telling relatives that I write on line, let alone post their pictures without their consent but I’m glad these kids found all of US here!

By the way, I just discovered a new name for General Trias. Looks like Trias is out. The hip name for it these days is Gentri. You learn every day! I wonder what’s next…

Related posts:

Lola Never Runs out of Hugs

San Francisco de Malabon, AKA Trias

That Dam in Tres Cruces Tanza

Spurred by historian Pio Andrade Jr. during our recent meeting (last year, November), I went to Tanza earlier to look for the Tres Cruces dam. “Go see it, it’s still there… look at how they built that dam…it’s quite advance for its time” he said.

I asked Andrade to visit the irrigation projects that the Friars established in Cavite with me a few years ago. He’s an expert in Friar Contributions having made extensive studies on the subject for his lectures and articles. But because of his health he told me he could no longer do it; I would now attempt to record the status of these heritage structures here alone.

Tres Cruces is a barrio in Tanza (formerly Santa Cruz de Malabon). It is an old town that produced notable Filipinos: Felipe Calderon, a patriot, founder of local law schools, the Cenizals: Josefino and Olivia, both Filipino artist of great talents. Josefino translated from the original Bisaya the traditional Christmas song “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” which is erroneously attributed to him.

And if you’ve seen that inconsistent film “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo”; remember the Tejeros Convention scene where Bonifacio was elected for the vice presidency which Daniel Tirona indignantly challenged? The latter suggested a fine lawyer, Jose del Rosario (later the revolutionary government’s Interior Secretary), a Tanza native.

In Tres Cruces’ barrio hall (2.8 kilometers from the Riego de Dios army camp) I approached these guys clustered in a wooden bench to ask for directions. The instruction was simple, “see that camachile? turn left then go straight.” I ate camachile in grade school but have the slightest idea what its tree look like! But I know that the squally wind in the vicinity could only come from a lake (I live near one). Turns out that the lake of Tres Cruces and the dam was nearby, concealed by the houses erected on its shore.

While I was snapping pictures of the placid lake and its imposing dam, I was surprised to see the barangay chief, Vicente Tulipan, right behind me; he offered to accompany this blogger around the barrio. Turns out that he’s a beneficiary of the irrigation. The dam is now administered by the National Irrigation Authority. He said he pays 1500 pesos per hectare every harvest season. This is on top of the lease (he does not own the land) and all the other expenditures he settles once he sold his produce. “Do you earn enough?” I asked, “Barely enough but that’s the life of a farmer in this country.”

We proceeded to the dam’s walls, which had been recently reinforced by concrete. A typhoon in 2013 cracked open the barrier killing several locals and dismantling a pig farm downstream. The barrier and its foundation were originally built using solid adobe blocks; there are portions where these materials could still be seen. The adobes are adjoined by durable mortar but porous which permits it to absorb water.

Almost the entire dam had already been covered with cement; if you have not read its history you would not think of it as a century old structure. This project was undertaken by the Augustin Recollect mission and was completed in 1886. It has gone several repairs, the first major one was in 1915. This was recorded by Engineer Benett who was assigned by the Americans to oversee the project.

According to Andrade the dam was “watering the large portion of the estate of San Francisco de Malabon. Besides the dams there are great system of tunnels, driven through the rock, carrying the water to the canals distributing it over the fields. These tunnels vary from 45 to 80 inches in width and 60 to 80 inches in height; they are not lined, but faced at the bents where men may go down to clean them of any sediments.”

I asked the barrio chief about stories he heard from his elders about the lake and its dam. He recounts, “I remember being amazed at how it provides water to the rice fields but no one knows how the tunnels (he calls it “mina”) were excavated… there are some legends about it but no one’s seems to know who did it during the Spanish time. It is not even lined according to the elders. I would take you to where the water comes out.” From the lake, we drove for less than a kilometer where the water from the lake gushes out, flooding the irrigation channels. A few meters away is the farm of the barrio chief. Fascinating is that houses and roads were built on top of the water tunnel. This tunnel, according to official records, is about 300 meters and had already been rehabilitated during the American administration. At one point, they had to drain the dam which provided the townsfolk an assortment of fishes estimated to be around thousands of pounds!

In the 1900’s additional buttresses for the entire structure were built to make it stable. Appropriation was made for 30,000 pesos to “preserve the irrigation system…to put the dam in a safe condition.” Another spillway was also added to control water levels. The rehabilitation which started in 1915 was completed two years after. Today, National Irrigation Administration are the ones in charge of guaranteeing the dam’s stability; which they failed to do when it cracked and dropped an ungodly volume of water downstream drowning some locals in the past.

It would be good to note that the Friars bought the lands when it was hardly cultivated. Like Imus, a back wood area that they manage to transform into a productive farm estate. When these lands started to yield crops, locals demanded that they should be the ones running everything if not use them for free. So the landless revolted, led by the landed, who later enriched themselves with more lands. Remember, Aguinaldo and his men were no mendicants but prosperous men whose families earned their fortune from lands the Friars developed for farming.

Speaking of Friar land, after the revolution, these were sold off through the administration of American Governor Taft. It must be explained that majority of these lands did not go to the simple farmer but to rich families who had the means and influence to buy them. Some of the names are familiar—like Emilio Aguinaldo and Jose Laurel; the former was forced to give up some of his friar lands by the courts, the latter would be indicted for not paying taxes for his acquired Friar lands.

According to Andrade, “without taking into account these improvements (dams and irrigation canals), the Friars lend the estates to tenants who paid them 10% of the product of the land, or perhaps somewhat less than 10%, if not in money, in kind.” After the local landowners took over, apart from the lease the farmers have to pay, there are numerous expenses that deprives him of his bounty. Remember, they have to pay the National Irrigation Agency too. There’s no such thing as a free meal—not even a mass revolution could guarantee that!

Chief Vicente Tulipan attest that his barangay is not only a peaceful place but charming too. Not too long ago he said there was some discussion of making the dam a kind of attraction by a local politico. Nothing happened of course but he still thinks that it’s a good idea.

Taal and Friends

What’s with Taal that draws travelers like a moth to a flame?

Well, there’s only a handful of towns like it left. Along with Carcar and Vigan, these townships are the citadels of Filipino heritage conservation. It is not only the number of Antillean houses that had been gratifyingly safeguarded but the attitude of the locals towards their heritage.

I first saw the town 4 years ago. It was an enthralling old town with a splendid basilica but for an advocate of conserving our tangible historic and cultural heritage it meant more than just a tourist attraction.

I took my friends, Señior Gómez and Pepe Alas to the historic town of Taal last Wednesday. For years, I’ve been telling these two that we all should go out of town. So this trip was the fulfilment of that idea and also a treat (although he insisted to pay for gas and food) for ol’ man Gomez. He started visiting the town four decades ago. It was easier to drive around with the him on the passenger seat. He knows Taal like the back of his hand. I thought it a good idea to bring him to the town because he’s currently writing a Spanish novel where a key character is from Taal.

From Manila, I decided to take the lengthier but scenic Tagaytay route. I wanted to see some nature myself to soothe my frazzled mind! But before heading down to Lemery, we ate in one of those low-priced restaurants along the road that has a great view of the Taal Lake, surrounding mountains and the crater. We ordered sinigang na bangus, sisig and pancit bihon, all of which were surprisingly good!

After the brief chow stop, we headed straight to Diokno highway, a well paved but zigzagging road that starts where Nasugbu’s welcome arch stands (near Caleruega). It was a great drive; it’s all downhill until you reach Lemery. There were quite a few dangerous bends but it’s a smooth road so it was a relaxing drive.

This is only my second time in town, but my first visit to the miraculous wells of Santa Lucia. Located not far from the posterior of Caysasay church. Señior Gómez told me that it was the affluent Chinese Catholics who funded and erected the baroque fortification that houses the wells. There are two watering holes that never dries out up even during the warmest days of summer. The faithfuls, both local and tourist, would gather water from it and wash with it in a makeshift bath room nearby. Some takes home water from the well using containers and bottles. This has been a practice for over a hundred years now.

Inside the church of Caysasay, a lady devotee (who took our photos) recounts the reason for her devotion. She said that not too long ago, someone told her to go to the church and pray to the Virgin. Believing that there’s nothing wrong with it since she’s a Catholic, she did so some months later. A few days later after her visit, she and her family got involved in a terrible accident. Their driver lost control of the vehicle with her daughter and her inside it, and smashed straight into an electric poll. They hit it so hard that the transformer installed on it fell not far from where their vehicle rested. Miraculously, aside from a few bruises and wounds, no one was seriously injured. Ever since this incident, she saw to it to visit the church weekly to pray to the Virgin of Caysasay.

We then went to the Basilica and explored the old houses of the town. The one thing I like about the town, like Vigan, is that the locals are not only proud but protective of their heritage. There are incessant threats to bahay-na-batos that had stood for more than 100 years, but at least here, the people are partners in conservation, not destruction.

There was a recent controversy over a parish priest’s planned construction of a performance venue right beside the Basilica. He thought it to be a good racket, and assumed he could get away with it. But then the people rallied behind a well-known local artist to stop the construction. This zealous passion to preserve our heritage is an outstanding example for the rest of the country. It is the locals that must get their hands dirty to contest these bogus land developments.

By taking the Tagaytay route earlier, then Lipa on our way back (exiting Star toll) we inadvertently traveled around the lake of Taal and its lake towns. You know you’ve traveled a protracted distance when you see weather change right in front of you. We experience heavy rains in Alitagtag but sunshiny conditions in Lipa. While there was no rain when we reached Makati, we were all surprise to find out that some of the streets (de la Rosa and parts of Pasong Tamo) were underwater.

Well, traveling, like life, is full of surprises they say.

San Francisco de Malabon, AKA Trías

There’s hardly anything left of the old Spanish era San Francisco de Malabon. Even the old name was lost. The province dropped its hispanized name in the early 1900’s to honor its greatest son, Mariano Trías, the vice president of the de facto government created in the Tejeros convention.

A province mate, Congressman Emilio Virata, himself a historian and a former governor authored the law that changed the town’s name. Virata wrote a bio about Aguinaldo in 1964 published by the mason publishing house in the province.

Now, when young Caviteños ask where the revolutionary Gen. Trias was born they’ll be told that he was born in Gen. Trias. This highlights why such changes screws our national memory.

Lets just hope that Caviteños won’t allow Kawit to become Aguinaldo, or Imus to Revilla.

Yglesia de San Francisco de Malabon – A former “visita” of Cauit (Kawit). A Franciscan mission, turned over to Jesuits in 1600’s. Rebuilt in stone by a Spanish countess. Here the Banda Matanda first played the Marcha Filipina.

Last Saturday I visited General Trias but instead of going straight to my relatives I decided to see the old Franciscan church. I have not seen it in decades. It had undergone some minor restoration. It hardly changed its exterior appearance which is welcome news. The plaza in front of it however has become a modern square.

I have vivid memories of the Gen. Trias of the 80’s. The vast farmlands, going out to see the lights of EPZA at night–they were magical days for this young city boy. The clearest summer night skies, the brightest stars I’ve observed as a child in this once sleepy town. The best tinapa and talaba, I get to taste here too.

But even with its hurrying development, with its once farm land  fast converted to economy housing, the town will remain as one of the province’s most historic town. I think it’s the most historically underrated part of Cavite.

The town of San Francisco de Malabon used to be friar land that included present day Tanza and Rosario (Tejeros). In the late 1700’s it became private property.

Not too many Filipinos know that the first known movements of the revolutionary war against Spain took place in this town. Gen. Trías coordinated these movements under the directives of the party of Aguinaldo. He had wrestled General Trías from Spanish control in 1897.

Trías, was educated in Manila. Like Aguinaldo and the majority that led the revolution, Trías was a scion of an affluent family. Gen. Trías uncle, Padre Manuel Trías, was the parish priest of Malabon. This priest must have inspired the young man’s revolutionary ideas because Padre Trías’ uncle was Padre Mariano Gomez, one of the GOMBURZA priest.

After San Francisco de Malabon, succeeding power take overs took place in Novelata and Kawit (Cauit).

Not far from the old town of Gen. Trías is Tejero. The place where the first election took place. Aguinaldo of course won, Bonifacio protested. The rest is history.

Near the church is the house where Bonifacio along with his brothers and wife boarded. The marker is still there but the structure has been refurbished through out the years. It had been bought by several owners, one of which is Congressman Emilio Virata, the man who changed the towns name to what it is today. This house was said to be so urbane in its heyday that even national leaders like  Osmena, Quezon, Quirino and Roxas used it during their visits.

Another legacy the town is very proud of is the Banda de San Francisco de Malabon (later Banda de Malabon). The first musicians to ever play the national anthem in public which at that time was a marching song.

This same anthem would later have beautifully Spanish written lyrics. However, its lyrical grace was muted when it was decided to have it translated to Tagalog.

Sad to say that much was lost in translation.

Another prominent revolutionary from old San Francisco de Malabon is Artemio Ricarte. He headed the primary school education in town. Originally from Ilocos he was assigned in town to help educate its young. It is here where he got deeper into the movement against Spain. The Philippine Army (that recently celebrated their 117th anniversary) considers this revolutionary as the ‘father of Philippine army’.

This Ilocano revolutionary is one of those historical figure that has long fascinated me. The lone leader to never swore allegiance to the Americans. Mariano Trías has led efforts to bring revolutionaries to the American fold. While Ricarte, jailed and exiled, refused to accept the legitimacy of the American annexation. Historians places his legacy in question because he returned to the country with the Japanese (already in his 80’s). He suffered greatly from his despisal of the US control.

He died in the highlands during the latter part of the Japanese occupation. He was buried there for decades until historical agencies decided to bring him to the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig.

The man’s life story would make a great movie. There’s a play about his life which I have not seen.

It is said that Ricarte still have family members in town. I wish to meet and talk to them one of these days.

My Lola & the Fighting Cañetes

I rarely post pictures of myself and family here but this time I would like to make an exception. This is the most recent photo I have with Lola Nene. Taken last year December. (L to R) Lola, Me, Samboy (my brother) & Aunt Norma

Last year when I visited my last surviving lola we spoke a lot about her memories growing up. She’s the youngest of more than a dozen siblings. I was reminded of her and our conversation when a few weeks ago, an Australian man I’m training with told me about his experience and facsination with “arnis”. I didn’t brought up the stories my Lola had told me because I know little about the history of arnis. Which is a shame really considering I’m related to the originators of this popular style of Filipino martial arts.

Lola Nene being the youngest was taken by her older sister when the war broke out. While her brothers joined the military. Aside from the sister who took her in (my fathers mother), she never got reunited with her other siblings again after the war. What’s sad was that she kept hearing stories about them but never got the chance to see them. She said another reason was that she never had the time to look for them because she had to raise her son alone after the untimely death of her husband (a Cabahug). Today her unico hijo, Uncle Boy, is a speechwriter and a long time professor in PUP.

She told me that one of her brother, Silvestre, was hired to become a top bodyguard of President Osmena. She thought that she’ll meet him in Cebu only to find out that the man moved to the US. Silvestre, along with his brothers, founded the “Doce Pares” style of escrima. She’s unsure if Ciriaco, the lone surviving member of “Doce Pares” (must be in his 90’s) is a cousin or a brothers. Yoling, the eldest, had long passed. He was the leader of the group until his death.

I guess with this post I’m just hoping that someone, a brother or the second generation of Cañetes here and abroad, would stumble across this and find that Lola remembers and thinks of them to this day and wonder, whatever happened to them fighting Cañetes.

Hong Kong
November 2012

Corregidor Seen From Up Above

The Rock, shaped like a squiggly tadpole. Bataan peninsula on the right corner. There’s a ship below – they say that Corregidor got its name from the Spanish word “to correct”. Navigators has been using the island to correct their position when approaching the port of Manila.

Sometimes delays can be good. It gives you more time. I don’t know if the flight was instructed to circle around to land on the opposite runway. Because it appeared that the plane was about to approach the runway that passes through the Taguig area but at the last minute the plane suddenly shifted path to land on the opposite runway near barrio of San Dionisio in Paranaque.

Because of this sudden change, I had the chance to see the island of Corregidor and the Bataan Peninsula from the vantage point of the clouds. It was a breathtaking sight – the sky was serene. The sea was like glass, mirroring the sky above. Corregidor really look like a tadpole from up above.

Opposite Corregidor is the historic town of Ternate. The Maragondon River and the small island called Balut (an island that appears to block the river’s passage way to the Bay) is distinguishable from up above. Then there’s SM Sucat – man, these malls are everywhere nowadays. Even in the sky you can see them.

My fascination with maps has helped me recognized islands and landmarks up above the air. I never get tire of taking pictures from the window of a plane. I really don’t care if it looks silly to others. I believe that you’ll only see things once, you can revisit them again but you’ll never see it the same – nothing gets repeated in this life.

October 2010

A Day in Ternate Cavite: Finding Chavacano II

“TA RECIBI MIJOTRO CON USETEDE CON TODO CORAZON”: Everyone’s welcome here. Instead of Tagalog and English the Ternateño’s used their local language to welcome their town’s visitors.

When I wrote an article about the Chavacano situation in Cavite City last year – I was also thinking about Ternate. I’ve always been interested in our creole language. Is it experiencing alarming decline like what Cavite City is experiencing?

When I visited Municipalidad de Ternate my questions were answered.

I was relieved that Chavacano usage in Ternate remains high even after decades without conservation programs. It was almost noon time when I reached Ternate. A town with its own version of Chavacano (that some of them claim to be “mas puro”) not far from Cavite City. The welcome arch greeting is written in old Chavacano – an indication of how proud Ternateño are of their culture and language.

The old poblacion is where you’ll find a significant number of Chavacano speaking families. Speaking with the gracious Ternateños, descendants of the original settlers from Ternate in the Maluku islands was a pleasure and I’m already looking forward to go back maybe celebrate their fiesta with them one of these days. Their appearance reminds me of the Ilocanos of the north. I found out that the Ternatenos, their ancestors, characteristically have darker skin tone and solid built. The loyal Christianized Ternateños  have also figured in many battles against the Moros in defense of Manila. They were trusted and respected during the Spanish era.

The facade of the church of Sto Nino de Ternate. I’m uncertain if the original was damaged or destroyed during the war. How I wish that the original that most Ternatenos during the 19th century grew up with was retained. Sto. Nino is still a popular devotion among Ternateno. This devotion has shaped the Ternateno tradition as we know today. I’m surprised that there are no mass in Chavacano – something that I believe the Church leadership should address.

I entered the Church of Sto. Niño de Ternate to pay my respects to what has become the center of the towns art tradition. Their fiesta is reputed to be one of  the liveliest and most original in Cavite. Locals recount many stories about how their Sto. Niño saved their town from man and natural danger. They’re a people who still pervently believe in the power of prayers offered to their child Jesus. The “hermano” of this Sto. Niño, according to the locals is in the Aglipayan church, a stone throw away from the Catholic church. Its interesting how both groups co-exist in harmony. In fact, some people attend both churches which I find fascinating.

I tried to gauge the usage of Chavacano by observing the people around first then interviewing some of them. I was always welcomed with a smile. A friend once told me that the old families of Ternate are very honest, cheerful and hospitable – he was right. They’re the reason why the Ternateño tradition is alive and well. The first person I got to speak with is Councilor Wilfred Huerto. A cheerful chap with a great sense of humor. He was with his wife and kids near the plaza. Right away they agreed to speak to me and did not mind  our conversation being recorded. Apparently, most Ternateños who speaks Chabacano are likely to teach the language to their sons and daughters because this instills a sense of identity. In their own words, a Ternateño must speak Chabacano. “Most of us speaks Chabacano exclusively inside our homes” said the good councilor.

Children that grew up in these parts are all good swimmers I was told. Fishing is still one of their industry. I can just imagine generations of Ternatenos who had done the same, swimming and fishing around here. I wonder what the Ternatenos of the old would think of the “land fill” and the language situation today.

I then posed the question: why is it that the number of speakers is decreasing then? his answer made sense, “because there are far too many people relocating here, they are outnumbering us!”. The couple acknowledges the presence of the huge Tagalog and Visayan speaking community that moved in the area as a threat but both expressed with confidence that Ternateño will never die. “Imposible” said the councilor who said that Ternateños are too attached to their language that separation is impossible.

The couple’s relatives in Europe and in the US, whose kids has never even set foot in Ternate are speakers of Chabacano. This they told me is “proof” why their version of this creole language will never go away. I can tell that they’re so proud to be Ternateños. They love who they are and this is exactly why its important that we appreciate our history and culture because with this we are able to maintain our true unique identity.

Councilor Huerto, a former seaman, also told me of an experience he had in Ermita back in the early 60’s: “While I was in Manila, I had with me some Francos that I intended to convert to pesos. So I went to Ermita. There I spoke with these money changers near the plaza – I caught them speaking, whispering, in Chabacano, it has a different tone and phase but I can tell it was Chabacano – right there and then, I knew that they intended to buy low. I then spoke to them in Chabacano and they were surprised – I haggled for a higher price in Chabacano of course!”. It was the 60’s, were those people  speakers of the now extinct Ermitense? “I can never tell but the tone was different”, Councilor Huerto said.




Old timers in the public market are all Chabacanos and those people that would come to do business have no choice but to learn the language. A vegetable vendor, originally from Cebu, told to me that she can’t speak Chabacano but could understand it well.

I was then led to the house of the poblacion’s barrio captain located next to the river where a brahminy kite incessantly circles up above the scenic Maragandon river. Children were jumping in and out of the water near where I was interviewing the man they simply call Kapitan Meyong. He was a very accommodating man. He was pleased hearing that someone from the outside is interested to study their beloved language.

Capitan Meyong and her daughter with the visitor. Almost all the old families residing in Ternate are descendants of the legendary seven clans that came from the Maluku islands, Ternate, an Indonesian island situated in the Malay peninsula which was once governed by Manila.

Capitan Meyong is from the old town of San Jose where Chabacano is exclusivley spoken.Its common to hear locals transacting in the creole language in the market place but perhaps the biggest community of Chavacanos can be found in Barrio San Jose. “San Jose is 100% Chabacano”, he confirms. But all the other barrios outside the poblacion and San Jose are not speakers of Chabacano he said. Unlike the couple I spoke with earlier, Sr. Meyong is worried that Ternate would be completely wiped out by Tagalog and that one day it will finally lose its foothold in  Ternateño society.

He acknowledged that there has been no major project to promote Chabacano as a Ternateño laguage that can be offered to all people now living in the municipality. But he firmly believes that it is necessary. He said, “we have to teach this (chavacano) to all children that is now living in Ternate, whether from the original families or those who recently settled here”. I mentioned that Spanish as a subject in school is already close to being realized. He said, “much better, we could understand Spanish, Cavitenen (Cavity City) and Zamboanga anyway, its all related”.



When I visited the Barrio Captain, he was having a hearty lunch with his family right beside the river. I wonder what the place use to look like in the old days. I’m always consumed by what places use to look like. I try to find an old photo and compare them with the new ones that I shot – it amazing seeing the transformation, sadly, most of our old towns had seen better days.

The Barrio Captain then spoke about the  pressing issues the municipality have like the garbage dump its effect on the enviroment. This is truly a sad development. I believe no town deserves to be a site for waste disposal – I could not imagine the pain (giving up space for other towns garbage) this people have to live with. Garbage disposal is a tricky and complicated issue, we all know that garbage will have to be deposited somewhere and I’m sure no one wants to be given this unfortunate role – I hope that someday no town would ever have to deal with being elected as garbage site.

After my visit to the Captains home I headed straight to San Jose where I met an old woman who married into one of the oldest clan in Ternate. Almost everyone is related in this beautiful town, well, at least it felt that way. She was Waray but has resided in Ternate for almost four decades now and believes that she’s a Ternatena through and through. “I’m more Ternateña than waray”, she said with a big laugh. She told me that it only took her “less than a year” to learn the language. The language sounded like “singing birds” to her when she first arrived in the 70’s. All her grandchildren speaks Chavacano saying that its ” [not speaking it] unacceptable as it is our language inside our home”. She then instructed her son to take me to another relative of theirs who have “more stories to tell about the history of the town and the language”. The man then invited me to his tricycle and took me to this relative – he refused my payment.

A reputed Ternateno from the days of yore. not exactly sure if he really was that colorful but its the thought that counts. Right?

The man we were supposed to visit wrote a book about Chavacano and is an active member of the historical comittee of the province. He is considered a foremost expert in the creole language. Unfortunately, he was not there when I dropped by. True to the hospitality of the Ternateno’s I was still invited inside their home which is right beside a basketball court. Not far is a monument, painted in color of an ancient Ternateño dressed in his traditional costume standing proud amidst the modern houses and structures that surrounds him. They are indeed a unique people and I’m really happy to have been able to meet so many of them in one day.

Finding Chabacano (Chavacano) I

I came across this blog and was quickly reminded how fast everything seems to be going these days. The blog is about the vanishing Caviteño Chavacano, the Spanish-based creole language that was widely spoken in Cavite City but has long been neglected. Kudos to the author for putting up a site that would be a repository of his beloved language. It is filled with anecdotes and recollections about Chavacano and the people who use it.

I spent a day in the port city to observe and to get to know its people. Some  found it strange why I was asking them if they speak Chavacano. I wanted to hear people use it. A tricycle driver resting near a convenient store said his family still speaks Chavano but attested that most of his fellow drivers do not because they are just dayo, meaning not originally from Cavite City.

Belfry of Sta. Monica now surrounded by shanties. old ladies warned me against taking pictures without "pasintabi". According to them, whenever someone would trespass the barrio suffers bad luck.

In the public market, I heard tinderas speaking Chavacano with their patrons. I’m not familiar with the city’s districts but I assume that the town center is where it is still widely spoken. But it wasn’t easy finding people conversing in Chavacano. Maybe because I was just under the impression that it was still prevalent. There are many migrant families in the area and since this movement can’t be controlled, its effect on local traditions is inevitable. This makes the locals, who’s trying hard to keep their language, job more difficult.

Measures must be taken to ensure that traditional languages are still kept for future generations. When a society allows old traditions to just die out, then there is something terribly wrong. Either the people are not taught of its importance or they just don’t give a damn about traditions. Which is not surprising considering how Filipino history is taught to children these days.

I’m not really familiar with Chavacano’s present status in Cavite City. But I heard that some people are still struggling for its survival. I have nothing but good words for them. The old timers have organized a mass and even a local daily in Chavacano. Groups like the Asosacion Chabacano del Ciudad de Cavite and Cavite City and Museum has been actively promoting their language. These are very powerful actions which will hopefully inspire the younger generation of Caviteños.

How Chavacano evolved is not widely understood. Its birth and evolution can only be attributed to the community’s interaction with the Spanish sailors and army men. This is the reason why all major ports; Manila, Cavite, and Zamboanga had developed their own version. How each version became a language in itself is just simply amazing.

The Chavacano blogger made an interesting observation how Cavite Chavacano seems to be closer structurally to the original Spanish. Another interesting facet of Chavacano as a whole is how it differs from each other. I remember a story of an event in Instituto where Chavacanos from Cavite City, Ternate, and Zamboanga met and spoke using their own local versions. People around were amazed that they somehow understood each other!

Tricycle Drivers in front of a clinic owned by a prominent Caviteno family, Los Rojas

I’m interested to know if Ternate still speaks the language. There is also a fourth version: Chavacano Ermiteño. It has been extinct since the war, but there were reports that an old lady and a grandson of hers in Las Piñas still speak it. Also, there have been rumors that some old Filipino folks in the US West Coast (those who were able to escape the horrors of World War II) still speak Ermiteño.

Señor Guillermo Gómez gave me a CD of his that has the song “El pasacalle del ¡aray”. The lyrics was from the great poet, Jesús Balmori, who himself was an Ermitense. He often wrote using his beloved Chavacano. Some of his literary works, such as this song, offer us a glimpse of the extinct Ermiteño. Professor Emmanuel Luis A. Romanillos of UP has written a book entitled, “Essays on Cavite’s Chabacano Language and Literature” in 2006. In it, he wrote about the literary heritage of the language, proving that Chavacano was more than just a “lengua de tienda, y de nula dignidad, lengua de trapo”.

Like Spanish, the same effort should also be put up to restore our country’s various Chavacano tongues.

Maragondon’s Heritage Sites Today

The Reyes House where the court martial procedding for Bonifacio took place. The government lease the house from its private owners (until 2013). The family are mostly based in the US. The restoration was led by Ambeth Ocampo.

Maragandón is a place that evokes a painful past. Here, the cracks in the Filipino revolution started to open. A swift trial followed by a murky death sentence was carried out by a military trial for the Bonifacio brothers, Andrés and Procopio. It would have been easier to accept, especially for those who admire Bonifacio, if the people who supposedly shot and hacked them to death were foreigners. This internal fiasco is the reason why Bonifacio commemorations are focused on his date of birth and not his death — big name historians and our government are being careful not to trigger any animosity towards the Aguinaldo hero. Even in Filipino historiography, there’s politics.

The graceful bahay na bató of Teodorico Reyes, now reinforced with steel beams, made me contemplate on what had happened during those crucial days. I can only imagine the tension as the accused desperately pleaded for his life. There’s a life- size diorama of the trial at the second floor of the Reyes house. The white stone figures looked more like ghosts to me. It is a house that I find strangely intriguing. Seeing the rooms made the hair on my neck stand on end. I was greeted by an accommodating woman in her 40s at the door. She was a former school teacher but now a full-time NHI guide. I was glad to hear her discuss a few things about the events that led to the brutal murder of the Bonifacios. I was really impressed with the depth of her knowledge regarding the trial. The NHI employee said that they must be prepared because tourists come regularly in Maragondón. Just the other day, “GMA 7 came to shoot a documentary in the house”, she said. Entrance is free but of course donations are much needed to maintain the site.

The Maragondon Church. Dedicated by the Jesuits to the Assumption of our Lady

The journey to Maragondón is a smooth one. There’s still nature left in this part of Cavite, a welcome sight in a province that is fast losing its natural environment to housing projects. This trip gives you an idea how difficult traveling was in those times when horse-drawn carriages ruled the roads. Today, we travel quite comfortably in air-conditioned buses, so we really can’t complain. I first visited the old town’s Jesuit Church. It is an old one, nearing its tricentennial, so I expected to see alterations and losses from the original. In Maragondón’s case, the parish added a cement canopy in the entrance. This altered the original architectural design. I suspect that it was done to protect the doors from the elements. Its huge front door is perhaps the most intricately decorated that I’ve ever seen in the province. Maragondón’s church is known for its beautifully carved retablo designed utilizing images that inspires the Jesuit way of faith. The Bonifacios were said to have been kept here for awhile during their trial. The convent was largely spared from renovations (although I have not seen the entire convent but just its halls and staircases). There was a monkey chained in a horizontal pipe attached on a tree on one end, and the convent window on the other end. I don’t know why they keep the poor animal as a pet. I find it cruel and inappropriate for the place.

The local website provides us with a brief history of the church:

Parish Church of the Assumption of Our Lady (Maragondón, Cavite). The church was built in the early 18th century by the Jesuits, with later additions by the seculars and the Augustinian Recollects. Much of the church and belltower, and the lower portion of the convento is made of irregular river stones, indicative of the early level of technology operating at that time. The intricately-carved retablos, pulpit and church doors (with galleons and floral designs) date from Jesuit times, while the hugely carved beams crossing the nave were installed by the seculars– one of the beams even carries the name of the indio priest who commissioned them. The unusual horseshoe-shaped communion rail, with a flooring of inlaid wood of various colors, recalls that of San Sebastián Church, Manila, another Recollect construction.

There are very few old house left here in Maragondon.

Not far is a shrine on the foot of Nagpatong dedicated to Bonifacio. I decided not to go there. From the photos I’ve seen, it’s no Abueva, no Tolentino; it was but a poor interpretation of the legendary Bonifacio. How could it not be bad? Nobody told the artist that a photo of Andrés ever existed. The artist was once quoted saying, “there is no definitive look of Bonifacio, we do not even have a photo of him”. The National Artist, Guillermo Tolentino, was said to have studied the facial structure of a Bonifacio sister for his statues (in Caloocan and Liwasang Bonifacio) — talk about preparations. The price tag of Maragondón’s Bonifacio monument is around 27 million pesos, money which could have been used elsewhere.

What was surprising is the fact that it was the Erap administration which made an effort in fully restoring the Reyes house. It was surprising because I thought that the improvements were made during the centennial celebrations under Ramos’ helm. Erap —according to him and his cohorts— had parallel comparisons with the Manileño Bonifacio. The former president saw himself as a leader who is closer to the masa than the elitist politicians. This claim is somewhat ironic since his Ejército clan (who are originally from Malolos) has always been part of the elitist group. It would be incorrect to assume that Andrés is the poor hero that he is often portrayed to be. His associations suggested his rank in the Manileño society. Not many people during those days can get through the people he worked with — he clearly was a somebody. Not rich but still well-connected. His biggest accomplishment in his life as Filipino hero is when he led the Katipunan — a group initiated by its real founder Deodato Arellano but was led to battle by Andrés. They always had libertarian objectives, but this secret society would later seek to divide than unite with the rising ilustrado leadership.

The Riego de Dios house.

The Emiliano Riego de Dios marker. One of my favorite hero names in Filipino historiography!

Bonificio’s revolution was short lived — and it was not even national. It would be hard to imagine that it is because it was virtually impossible to be one.  It was the Katipunan faction in Cavite which would have a life of its own separate from its mother branch led by the ilustrados and the province’s rich men that won significant victories against the Spaniards. In Cavite, Filipinos realized that the Spaniards can be defeated. Cavite was the illusive spark. This led the defeated Bonifacio to evade Manila for Cavite, where he was considered a nobody. Very few people would even consider that there were two revolutions in ’86 led by two different men. The difference between these two men and their group is staggering. But very few would notice the difference — only those who read outside the basic historical literature would see that Cavite and Katipunan are two different realms. This is a case of a generalization clouding our understanding of what really took place. Historians had succeeded in convincing Filipinos that all the uprisings, the minor and the major ones, during the Spanish years is but one single event. This is like saying that all those EDSA events is all and the same.

The manner of which Bonifacio and his brother were executed was simply beyond imagination. Whenever I read about it, it still brings chills. A violent ending for a man who advocated the use of violence for independence. The Caviteños had arms but he had none. We are only left to guess at what really happened but I’m inclined to believe the statement of Macapagal — he was there; those who did not believe him were not. One of the permanent displays in the house museum is his correspondence with Aguinaldo which is an indication that this man was directly, if not closely, taking orders from Aguinaldo.

A few blocks from the Reyes house is a wonderful old house that has lived for more than 200 years — the Riego de Dios house where Emiliano together with his siblings grew up. The Atenean headed the court martial proceedings against Bonifacio. He was at the time the Secretary of War of the Revolutionary government. He would reside in Hong Kong, where he was head of the junta, until peace was made with the Americans. It was disappointing that I was not allowed to enter the house, which was not in perfect condition but is still being used by the descendants, so this is good news. During my visit there, the kids who were inside told me that no one was at home but them. I asked them if they knew the Riego de Dios clan in Philippine history. They quickly answered, “Lolo po namin”. I saw pride in their eyes and smiles. It was nice seeing them.

History has been somewhat unkind towards Aguinaldo. I believe that the Bonifacio execution was his own design; he was compelled to stop Bonifacio from splitting the revolutionary forces. Nevertheless, it had caused very serious inconveniences on, as well as the loss of, Aguinaldo’s reputation. He must have been haunted by that execution during his days of retirement. The death penalty had added mystique and legend to Bonifacio. This is one of those historical events that, even with countless readings and rereadings, will never tire one’s imagination. Though it ended on a rather sad note, it gives us a perspective of how our nation started.

Aguinaldo’s Limo

One of the attractions of the Aguinaldo shrine is the first President’s elegant personal car during his years as Presidente of Los Veteranos dela Revolucion de Filipinas. A Packard limousine (1924), whose maker was the indisputable leader in the field of luxury automobiles at the time. The great depression of the 1930’s impaired Packard’s business that by mid 1950’s they were history. The Aguinaldo limo is sheltered in a good-looking open glass enclosure. Though the form was amazingly restored by the Jose brothers of the Lazarus Car Restoration Group, a fitting name for a group that brings dead cars back to life, the gorgeous Packard is solely for display purposes. Its splendid rolling days are over.

I don’t know much about cars but a limousine is sure expensive and cool, then and today. Not a lot of people can get their hands on these things. Seeing it brought back to memory a comment that I heard a long time ago about Aguinaldo, “He love life!”, but he probably deserve all these fine things in life after all the hardship that he’s been through, let’s give this man a break!

I’ve always thought of Aguinaldo and his pretty stallion together, riding to the horizon ala Leon Guerro. I forgot that the time came when horse power would come to mean machine power, not horse power on four legs. One of the enduring legacies of the beloved Yankees were the stateside solid wide cars. At the time, there were no other made but American made and we were buying them like pancakes. We were helping their economy pretty good and these cars are testimony how we went gaga over the coche – little did we know that we were being cooked by our own mantica because we granted them with cheap resources to build these machines that they would sell to us.

It was just a matter of time that all mode of transport would be on four wheels. We started to see the decline in water transport, the esteros eventually dried out and the rio’s became shallow and filthy – there were no longer as important as they use to. So if ever you’re wondering what ever happened to those kusko’s in Pasig and the steamboats that traverse the towns of Laguna de Ba-y all the way to inner Manila, they were all replaced, all to sudden by these giant American imports. We forgot about how we use to move around, how our waterways were kept clean because of they are source of irrigation and was then the only public high way.

The Philippine Flag as Fashion Statement

Before the collezione polo shirts and FrancisM apparel became fashionable, Filipinos in the early 1900’s tried making dresses a bit more interesting - using the entire Philippine flag as silent protest over the American policy of banning the public display Philippine flag. Photo taken from NHI collection.

Cavite Coastal Classic Ride

Slow ride...take it easy!

More than twenty years ago, back when public transportation going to Cavite were not as extensively established, you have to ride these colorful mini buses somewhere in Coastal, near Baclaran, going to the old towns of Cavite.

They made an impression on me, (well, I was an impressionable kid) because these buses were pieces of art in my eyes. Seating capacity was more than that of a jeep and though the ride was a bit stiff,  for a child it was a fascinating time.

An OFW Uncle once owned one of these minis. It plys the Novelata – Kawit part of the province. I never got to ride it but I remember its unique interior design. They made it look like a Christian chapel, inside you’ll see many bible verses painted on the ceiling. The seats were painted teal and it roars like a big truck.

Cavite's classic mini bus rides...

The ride that I enjoyed the most are those “Slow Rock” themed ones. Where you’ll see posters of Led Zep, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Deep Purple stapled on the ceiling – they remind me of rock studios where you do rehearsals back in the high school years. Some even have portraits of rock icons painted inside and out. The deafening sound system completes the deal. Imagine all of this while you travel the coastal area of Cavite.

Last Sunday, I was strolling down memory lane, when I rode one of these old timer’s in Bacoor near SM. I was headed to Kawit. I was smiling all the way through because the damn thing haven’t changed at all.

The best part of the ride is hearing the old “slow rock” tunes being played on the radio!

Foghot’s Slow Ride in the background…

The whole time, I was time traveling!

Happy Aguinaldo Day!

First time I visited this place in years! A lot has change, it was better thanks to NHI except for the hispanophobic remarks in some of the items inside the museum ( Banditry/Panunulisan was the result of the Spanish rule - this is absurd!). Other than this, bravo to the local and national agencies for the improvement of the shrine.

Today is Aguinaldo day. Holiday in the whole Cavite province, normal day to us outside Cavite.

This tells you where Aguinaldo is in the pantheon of Filipino heroes.

A blogger once asked why we don’t have an Aguinaldo day. We do have but its seem to be celebrated exclusively by his beloved Cavitenos. For all the negative connotation Cavitismo had in the past, at least this trait never failed to remember their great idol. March 22 by the way is also the same day Aguinaldo won the Tejeros convention aside from being his birth day.

After the fall of his revolutionary government, the assasination of known allies (the first political killings in Filipino history) and surrender to the Americans – he gradually fell from critical favor – his reputation never fully recovered. The final nail was when he was soundly defeated by his former soldier Quezon in the first election.

Historians like Ocampo suggest that he lived too long, declining into a sad old age – if he died in the battle fields his story would’ve been an epic, just like that of Boni and Pepe.

This day would’ve been a national holiday.

As I approached Binakayan, I suddenly remembered the days when my Father would wake us up or call our attention because we are nearing the Aguinaldo mansion. The road use to pass by the mansion, now it has been redirected since a park was created to honor the General.

The park was a fitting tribute not only to Aguinaldo but the proclamation of Philippine Independence. The reality at that time was that we’re still not free, we have not gotten rid of the Colonials but it was a brave thing to do – its like Taiwan proclaiming independence from motherland China (which up to this point has not been done for fear of being crushed by the red giant).

Mabini opposed this proclamation, as he feared that we are revealing our intentions prematurely which puts us into a disadvantageous position against the Yanks who conquered a nation just by just controlling Manila and the important ports of its bay.

I think that it’s strange that they continue to portrait that a flag waving Aguinaldo declaring Philippine independence in his balcony. The Binense Rianzares-Bautista authored and read the proclamation. Not that its really that important, you have to expect some degree of historical inaccuraccies.In our case, more than the usual amount.

The events that took place in Kawit should be studied, discussed and analyzed. There’s much that we can learn from it.

Happy Aguinaldo day everyone.

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