Category Archives: Historia

CIA’s cross hairs: then Recto, now Duterte?

There were those who kept vigil in the night of our forefathers… (photo courtesy of NHCP)

President Rodrigo Duterte’s paranoia of a CIA plot against him was recently responded to by US Ambassador Sung Kim who flatly denied the allegation. No surprise there. No powerful country that spends millions on their spy agencies would admit to commiting espionage—even when their mandate is to do so.

But Duterte’s charge isn’t new. America has intruded—and will continue to do so—in our political affairs.

A few months ago, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, the President’s son, exposed a meeting in which US representatives met with some members of the opposition in Manila. He did not specify who were the players, but the claim gives wind to rumors of a plot to oust his father.

President Erap Estrada himself believed that the US had a hand in ousting him. This after he did not heed the White House’s calls to stop military operations against the MILF back in 2000. Even the late President Ferdinand Marcos, inspite of his liaisons with the US government, wrote in his diary about the US Embassy and the CIA’s activities during his government.

Recto’s Heart

One historical figure that comes to mind whenever I hear talks of Filipino nationalism in the 20th century is Claro M. Recto. He was a vociferous anti-emperialist, opposed the unfair Bell Trade and Parity acts, fought for Rizal’s life and works to be taught in school—a political seppuku during his time. The Catholic Church did not want Rizal taught in schools, much more in their schools.

I recall a story from renowned hispanist Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera, a Premio Zóbel Awardee (1975). Sometime during the 50’s, he visited Recto at the latter’s Pásay law office (Calle Leveriza) to talk about Spanish-Filipino literature. Señor Gómez said that there was no doubt that Recto was only “equal to Rizal!”.

Recto, a hispanista, was able to see our deeply embedded identity in its Spanish past. In a society fast gravitating towards anything American, he was one of the few hold outs challenging the new master’s impositions.

Recto died of a heart attack in 1960 while he was on his way for a goodwill visit to Spain and to meet with Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. But Señor Gómez insists that Recto was assassinated. Recto was on regular medication at that time, he said. But when Recto suddenly fell ill, his medication mysteriously disappeared from where he had kept it. Investigative reporter Raymond Bonner in his 1987 book “Waltzing With a Dictator” mentioned something about a vial of poison being readied for Recto, but was not utilized. I also recall reading an article that implicated the CIA with regards to Recto’s death. The writer alleged that a powerful beam was directed to Recto’s heart. This was what killed him. But I find this too incredible to believe. Or is it?

Taken Down, Shake Down

In the book “Confessions of an Economic Hitman” by John Perkins, the author wrote about the death of Panamá’s Ómar Torrijos. Credited for bringing the Panamá Canal back to Panamá, Perkins believed that he was taken out. He wrote: “The jackals (US operatives) were back… they wanted Omar Torrijos and everyone else who might consider joining an anti corporatocracy crusade to know it.” The author quotes a book by Graham Greene, “Getting to Know the General” which gave an account of a bomb planted inside Torrijos’s plane. It is believed that another motive for the hit was his threat to get the Japanese to build and maintain the Panamá canal, taking it away from US companies like Bechtel. Torrijos was not only against US interests but Panamá’s oligarchs as well.

Is it safe to assume that what had happened in the Americas is not confined to that continent?

UP Professor Roland Simbulan in a lecture given in UP Manila said “It is now a well-documented fact that General Ralph B. Lovett, then the CIA station chief in Manila, and US ambassador Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, had discussed a plan to assassinate Recto using a vial of poison. A few years later, Recto was to die mysteriously of heart attack (though he had no known heart ailment) in Rome after an appointment with two Caucasians in business suits.”

Remember that unbelievable story of a beam directed towards Recto’s heart?

In 1975, Idaho senator Frank Church called an investigation on alleged CIA abuses (look up “Church Committee” in search engines). A weird looking gun was presented to the committee. It shoots a small, poisonous dart, developed to be undetectable. The target wouldn’t even know he was injected with a toxin. Deaths caused by this dart would later be made to appear as caused by some massive heart attack.

Was this “heart attack gun” or any similar lethal instrument developed by the US the one that ended Recto’s life?

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Guanyin, the Chinese Virgin Mary and Tampines Temple

My 19 month old son and I goes out for a walk every day. We live on a circular road. We start and end on the same spot, in front of a Chinese temple.

They say memories are attached to where our parents takes us the most. It won’t surprise me if my son develops a penchant for old Chinese architecture. He sees it everyday.

I saw an exhibit about the town’s history at the local library last Sunday. Turns out that the temple houses old religious relics. It was built three decades ago, a project that placed 13 Taoist temples together under one roof. The reason was the redevelopment of the town into a residential and commercial area (it used to host a dump site and big sand quarries along with scattered kampung villages). Understandably there were objections but eventually everyone decided to follow the government’s plan.

Guanyin and Mama Mary

I attended a wedding a few years ago and had an interesting conversation with the groom about Cavite’s history. He shared anecdotes about his ancestor, General José Ignacio Paua. He was called “intsik” by his contemporaries in the Philippine revolution. He was ethnic Chinese from Fujian. Most people remembers him for arresting and stabbing Andres Bonifacio. But the groom, of course, skipped that part.

According to him, Paua had a hand in recovering Cavite City’s Our Lady of Porta Vaga after the revolution. As proof, he said, he wrote his name on a concealed part of the Marian icon.

How true is this story? I don’t know. I sat there, listened and ate lechon. But the part I remember clearly was that according to this guy, the Chinese during those days worshipped the Virgin Mary because to them she’s the same as their deity Guanyin (Mazu). This I know but what I found interesting was that the deity Guanyin is a popular devotion among Fujian locals, the place where Paua was born. He must have been himself a devotee of our Lady of Porta Vaga because to him she’s the same as the deity Guanyin.

In Ari Dy’s book “Chinese Buddhism in Catholic Philippines,” he writes, “they (devotees of Guanyin) notes that both (Guanyin and Virgin Mary) are maternal and compassionate figures and are therefore the same in that they serve the function of heeding the cries and supplications of their spiritual children.”

Catholic clergy in the Philippines doesn’t encourage syncretism but they don’t repress it. Guanyin was originally a male, before shattering into pieces, then reappearing as a woman. Some devotees refers to her as the Chinese Virgin Mary. There are images of her that resembles that of the mother of Christ. The one in the temple near our home are seated like Buddha without a child and does not have any likeness with traditional depictions of Mary.

Perhaps the historical importance of this syncretism was its religious and cultural creations that we see in our churches and museums to this day. Jeremy Clarke in his book “The Virgin Mary and Catholic Identities in Chinese History” suggests that “the rise in the production of Madonna influenced the manner Guanyin images were produced… these deliberate borrowings become more evident when one considers the development of trade in south east asia throughout the 18th century.”

The demand for Marian and other religious images employed hoards of Chinese sculptors during the Spanish era. Their religious roots, unconsciously or maybe consciously, influenced their work. This explains the countless religious icons bearing Chinese features (like Virgin Marys with chinita eyes) in our old churches. The Chinese in the 19th and 18th century Philippines seemed to have adapted seamlessly to the Filipino way of life, like they do in business.


Automatic writing and the Ninoy story

Courtesy of Philnews

I saw this interesting UK TV show that featured the Glastonbury Abbey ruins and what excavations in the early 1900’s revealed. The archaeological information were provided by one Frederick Bligh Bond, who claims that everything he knew about the site came from spirits—through automatic writing.

In the 80’s there was this popular story involving an automatic writing psychic who claims that he received messages from the late Senator Ninoy Aquino.

The psychic was with paranormal writer and researcher Jaime Licauco (Jimmy, to his close friends, is a direct descendant of the pioneering 19th century Filipino painter, Damian Domingo).

Automatic writing is a controversial psychic method that claims a medium unconsciously writes words inspired by spirits.

The story goes that Licauco was consulting with the psychic when someone who introduced himself as Ninoy Aquino joined their session.

The first message were words of encouragement for his “sweetheart” Cory to “keep it up.” This was followed by messages for the Filipino people, Marcos, his Wife and Ken.

The message to Ken Kashiwara, veteran ABC correspondent (married to Ninoy’s sister Lupita) would give weight to the claim that it was Ninoy.

The words referred to a conversation the two had before leaving Taipei for Manila.

“Ken, I’m awfully sorry, we should have tried the “handcuff” trick…”

Licauco said no one in the room knows Ninoy personally or had any connections with him.

In 1988, Ken Kashiwara wrote an article in the Philippine Panorama entitled, “You’re Right, The Filipino is Worth Dying For.” In it he addressed his late brother-in-law, “Should we have handcuffed ourselves together as we joked that morning in Taipei?”

Licauco had Ninoy’s automatic writings years before the Philippine Panorama article.

Doña Aurora, Ninoy’s mother, addressing questions about the automatic writing said, “We don’t know how God works, I cannot really say if it was Ninoy who sent that message, but it included certain things which were only known to Ninoy and other members of our family, so who knows.”


Withonespast on Chinoy TV

I was watching ANC yesterday when I saw a Chinoy TV ad. They now have a time slot in ABS-CBN’s cable news.

I was tapped as resource person for two episodes of the “Kwentong Chinoy” segment in 2014. I never saw it until this week.

The producer (Vans) I worked with apparently left before I could get copies. When I saw them on ANC I again requested. They sent me the episodes the next day.

I edited and compiled the video. Cropped out the ads and all the other segments for upload. I just want to see myself talking (I’m kidding). It’s easier to upload smaller files.

The other resource person with me is Fil-Chinese photographer and travel blogger (Tara Let’s Asia) Jeff Lui.

I’m glad that they included some of my inputs.

Like stating that the mix of culture in Chinatown (Binondo) is not only Chinese and Filipino (or native)—Spanish influence was as important–it fused everything together.

Before I left, I gave them all my notes and all important historical material I brought with me about Binondo.

I was under the impression (“hoping” is the right word I think) that the feature on Don Roman Ongpin and Binondo would run longer.

We’re talking about the oldest Chinatown in the planet here.

But in television, time is currency.


Who Defines the Shape of our Land?

Apparently a Spanish Jesuit did 283 years ago and again last year.

Padre Pedro Murillo Velarde’s map (1734) is credited for giving the Philippines claim weight in the international arbitration in the Hague. Filipino international lawyers and historians calls it, “The Mother of All Philippine Maps”.

It was purchased by a Filipino executive and professor Mel Velarde for 13 million (PHP) in Sotheby’s. He said part of the reason why he pursued it was because he shared the Jesuit cartographer’s name.

The map came from a Victorian estate where parts of the Harry Potter movie was shot (first two films as the school). Apparently, a major culvert collapsed inside the property. They auctioned estates to fund the repair. The map is most likely part of the British loot when they came to Manila.

In Philippine studies, historical religious accounts are considered biased, if not completely unreliable. An example was when Rizal picked Morga’s Sucesos to anotate over countless religious’ history books about the islands. But even contemporary nationalist historians are willing to set this bias aside. No ones discrediting the Velarde Map for having been created by a Spanish religious.

The oldest pre-hispanic map I saw up close was made by Sultan Fakih Maulana Muhammad Amiruddin, a Mindanaoan ruler. It was made available in the National Library (Singapore) along with other rare maps. He wrote in Jawi, an Arabic form of writing used by Malaysian elites. The map was handed to interested British visitors.

One of the big If’s in our history is that if only the Sultanate of Sulu dealt with the Spanish, Sabah would still be Philippine land. When they agreed to lease it in “perpetuity” they’ve been duped.

Malaysians still remits to their descendants around 60K PHP yearly to this day as “cessation” money not as lease payment. Obviously playing with words to avoid recognizing historical facts.

I mentioned Sabah here because Borneo (Borney) is in Velarde’s Map. It shows the northern area which proves that the Spanish considered it part of the colonial state. Now here’s the difference, Spain left the islands to the Americans. When the British left, they turned everything over to Malaysia—including Sabah.

A Malaysian colleague from Sabah once told me that many Filipinos are in Sabah. Many had already applied for Malaysian citizenship.

The Velarde map gives ground to Spain’s role in securing and legitimizing our boundaries as a state. If it were not for their obsessive mapping, what would be the basis of our claims? No pre-hispanic maps exists that  backs our legal plea in the west seas. What do we have before them? Oral traditions? Arbitration of this kind deals only with hard evidence.

If historical lines were not drawn and walls were not made then there’s no country.

I like what reality TV star turned US President Donald Trump said about borders, “Well, you either have a country or you don’t.”

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Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The opposing view is that Spanish claiming the islands does not necessarily mean the creation of a state. Examples given are the presence of Mohammedan rulers and trade with China long before the Spaniards came. They say that we were already in existence long before the Spanish ships started show up.

But feuding rulers and seasonal commerce does not define the nature of a true state. A state is a governed territory (not necessarily independent like us in Velarde’s time), a nation on the other hand are people that shares a common culture, history, religion, values and language. Bring this two then you have a “nation state” which was what Aguinaldo and his contemporaries tried to establish. But by the time they pushed for this change, monarchic domination had been replaced by a new kind of empire—America.

The short lived Malolos constitution was an attempt to finalize a political and cultural identity. Representatives were placed to represent all provinces (including Palau, now an independent country). Although, not all were natives of the province they represented, the idea was to have different ethnic groups subscribing to an accepted polity.

Filipinoness, if we are to define it in their time, is hispanic and Catholic. Interesting to note here is the issue of separation of State-Church won by a mere one vote. This indicates a kind of religious conservatism in a time when the revolt cites Frailocracy as one of its catalyst.

The list of men that sat in that congress was perhaps the greatest minds our people had ever produced (more than 80 were not even properly educated but intellectuals). Unfortunately, the US had a different plan.

So we go back to the question, who gets to decide where a state’s territory begins and ends?

History has much to offer only if keep our minds open.

 

Blogger’s notes:

  • A reproduction of the map is in the Library of Congress website (https://goo.gl/2NfHCC). This year, replicas has been handed to our military museums by Mr. Velarde, not the Jesuit, the one still living.
  • The map’s exact title is “carta hydrographica y chorographica de las yslas filipinas : dedicada al rey nuestro señor por el mariscal d. campo d. Fernando valdes tamon cavallo del orden de santiago de govor. y capn.” I guess everyone’s in agreement, let’s call it Velarde Map.
  • A great article (with maps) is from a certain “Ka Jaime” that has maritime accounts from the past centuries of Bajo de Masinloc. I learned a great deal about the history of dispute in West Philippine Seas here. (https://goo.gl/o4GwHp)
  • What is rarely mentioned is that the engraver of the Velarde Map is a Malabon native, Nicolás de la Cruz Bagay. Padre Velarde immortalized his name by placing it in the map. Bagay is arguably the most successful local engraver of his time.
  • The other name mentioned in the map was Fernando Valdes y Tamon, the Governor of the islands from 1729-1739. When he came back to Spain he built the Palacio Del Virrey De Manila in Molina de Aragón to honor the capital were he governed. It still stands to this day and is one of the province’s main tourist attraction.

Bahay-na-Bato: Always the Haunted Houses

 

“The town’s Antillean houses were massive but refined, elegant.The builders were not cutting corners. They were out to impress!” These days they’re all gated, almost hidden, with only caretakers (like that lady) for residents.

I recently watched a GMA Front Row about the ancestral houses in San Miguel, Bulacan. “Front Row: Ang Misteryosong Lumang Bahay ng San Miguel Bulacan” was uploaded in Youtube October last year. I’m not sure when it aired on TV.

 

I wasn’t surprised that the stories were, again, about trifling ghost stories.

Filipino TV producers and writers are obsessed with haunted houses. Good for ratings—terrible for the already underappreciated bahay-na-batos.

Manuel, grandson of Doña Crispina de Leon (sister to former first lady Trinidad Roxas) said the, “house reflects the rich history of this town…it shows that even during those times there were cultured, educated people and entrepreneurs…movers of the town’s small economy.”

He said not once did he ever seen a ghost. Manuel spoke of the house’s colorful past. He took the focus away from it being jammed with ghosts.

All the other caretakers spoke of their scary experiences.

The featured De Leon house was where Gregorio del Pilar slept before living Bulacan to head north.

Teodoro M. Kalaw said it was the wish of the builders that their houses continues to be inhabited and appreciated by generations to come.

Our tangible heritage are not just spaces where horror films gets staged. They were built to last for “US” to live in, to celebrate.

Not long ago, while walking around the Dominican’s retreat house in Nasugbu, I overheard teenagers chuckle. “Ay dito yun, eto yun!” one of them somewhat reenacted a scene. Curious, I asked what’s going on. “Sukob po, yun movie ni Chris Aquino, dito po s’ya kinasal.”

Now, the Chapel is not a heritage structure. But my point is that the young would most likely recall a horror flick scene over the history of a place.

We once went to Wisconsin to buy clothes and electronics. This US state have low sales tax and great bargains from “outlet” shops.

I was looking for an IC recorder. A Sony attendant recommended one, “this model is very popular for ghost and paranormal people, y’know”.

Interesting sales pitch.

We have a different culture compared to westerners. In the US, old hotels rumored to be haunted gets more reservations.

Their notorious haunted houses are not adversely affected by its reputation.

On the contrary, Filipinos steer clear of places believed to be haunted.

A few years ago, someone looking for a place to rent in Manila sought my advise regarding an old apartment. He wanted to know if it had a history of being haunted!

In San Ildefonso, the “bahay na pula” was demolished in 2016. Not a whimper was heard. I didn’t even heard of it until a friend told me.

For most people, even local historians, it’s not only haunted, its “dark” past makes them want for it to just go away. They don’t want anything to do with it.

The house was one of the many sites where “comfort women” were raped during WWII.

A blogger friend told me that Engr. Acuzar allegedly bought the house for his Bataan beach resort.

But is it not better that it remain there to educate the young?

If we follow the proponents of the demolition’s logic, we should build on top of Bagumbayan. Ensure no trace of its past remains. No monuments, nothing. Luneta was where Filipinos got shot and guillotined! Let’s build an SM mall and a dozen Jollibee on its very ground!

—-

The last time I saw San Miguel was four years ago. My wife’s family is from nearby San Rafael. The town is a short jeepney ride away.

I remember witnessing two tricycle drivers fight MMA-style when I came to see the bahay-na-bato(s). I thought that’s a bad omen (there was also a bit of rain that day!).

True enough—it was.

I failed to inspect any of the famed houses up close. I viewed all of them from the street. No one allowed me in, not one caretaker!

The town’s Antillean houses were massive but refined, elegant. The builders were not cutting corners. They were out to impress!

San Miguel’s the biggest cluster of bahay-na-bato that I have seen in the province.

Owners are struggling financially maintaining their inherited properties. They’re not given financial and technical support but are told by government and public to hold on to it.

I know of one case in Laguna where the owner just decided to sell the house to free himself with what seem to him a lifelong encumbrance.

I always thank caretakers and owners I meet. What they’re doing is a difficult task. They’re not only preserving the memory of their forebears but the historical identity of us all.

—–

To be clear, I remain a fan of GMA 7 docus. I believe we’re in the golden era of Filipino documentaries. In my mind, they’re the best at it. But I’ve seen enough haunted houses that features our bahay-na-batos.

Time to make something else. Leave our old houses alone please.


Ernie de Pedro’s Takayama Ukon Research

Two weeks ago I received an email from Dr. Ernie de Pedro. Turns out that he has been conducting research for years on the recently beatified Takayama. I was elated to know that he created a website with his son dedicated to the Christian samurai lord.

For those not familiar with Dr. Ernie de Pedro, he’s an Oxford graduate and former director general of the country’s film archive body. He took up his doctorate studies in UST and is now a Managing Trustee for Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation. He specializes in Philippine-Japan history and has worked with several presidents; from Magsaysay to Erap.

Manong Ernie is a down to earth historian, approachable, rare for someone with his credentials. I met him six years ago. The Chile-based writer, Elizabeth Medina, asked me to interview him in 2011. 

According to Ms. Medina, Manong Ernie witnessed her grandfather’s​ public execution. Emilio Medina y Lazo was governor of Ilocos under the Japanese. Ms. Medina wrote Sampaguitas in the Andes (2006) a tribute and memoir to her grandfather.

When I asked if his spiritual belief is “framed within a formal religion or as a personal religiousness?” Dr. de Pedro had a profound response but the line that stuck with me was that for him, “Catholicism is a good religion to die in.” 

He ended up helping Japanese researchers after being approached for help on several occasions. They thought he was in charge of the country’s archives. He was working with film archives, not national archives. He later decided to help with research.

Last month I was reminded of Takayama when I saw the trailer of “Silenced” by Martin Scorcece. I went to the local library to look for the novel the film was based on. No copy was available. The film made the Japanese novel in demand once more.

“Silence” is about Portuguese Jesuits who came to look for their missing compatriot. The setting was during the time of the “Hidden Christians” of the Tokugawa era. Christianity was banned in 1614. Takayama came to Manila in 1615. He died a few months after his arrival.

Takayama Ukon in Plaza Dilao

I wrote several blog entries about Takayama. I take inspiration from his example. His is a story of faith and loyalty. It must have been his wish or must be God’s design that he died in Manila. Catholic burial rites was impossible under the Tokugawa ban. He would have been deprived of one.

According to Dr. de Pedro, Takayama was interred in the old Jesuit church in Intramuros. When WWII leveled much of it, the Jesuits moved the residents of the crypt to the Jesuit Novaliches cemetery. Takayama’s​ remains (along with Lord Naito) were mixed up with other bones. They did test for DNA but so far has failed to get positive identification.

When I visited the Archdiocese of Osaka I saw a simple statue of Takayama holding a small cross. The one in Paco’s Plaza Dilao have a long pointed crucifix (similar to the one in Takatsuki). The church is close to the historic Osaka castle, about 20 to 30 minute walk. Umeda or Nakatsu (closest to the Archdiocese) are the train stations nearby.

Last February, the Christian samurai lord was beatified in the Archdiocese of Osaka. The beatification puts him closer to sainthood.

In his old age, with support mainly from close friends and family, Dr. De Pedro took on a daunting task but he seem happy with how things has turn out. In his email he said, “Everyone is involved. When I crowd sourced our ramen-money for the Japan trip — every relativr from the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, the US, Canada and Norway came through! Isn’t it great to have such a formidable Support group?”

Please drop by takayamaukon.com and learn more about Justo Takayama Ukon. Support the cause and its advocates, include them in your prayers!

Here are my old posts about Takayama:

The Japanese of Old Manila

https://goo.gl/M4Nh0U

Save the Old Paco Train Station

https://goo.gl/iLmE5L

Takayama the Catholic Samurai

https://goo.gl/pNixye


Farewell “Tito Peping” Jose R. Lopez

One of the few things that I treasure in life is meeting​ learned individuals and drawing myself in long insightful conversations with them. This small blog has made this possible.

One of these special souls I was fortunate to interact with was Jose R. Lopez, grandson of Paciano and José Rizal. I read an update from my facebook page that he recently passed away at the ripe old age of 93.

Heis the youngest grandson by Paciano Rizal’s daughter, Emiliana Rizal.

I never met him in Mr. Lopez person but we had these lengthy exchanges through email (that I re-read when I heard of his passing, it made me sad). I learned a great deal about his family from him. He never turned down a question. He was so open, so honest and so humble.

I could imagine that he gets bombarded with typical Rizal questions all the time but there he was, dishing out answers as if it were his first time responding to them. My questions often required complicated answers, for after all, the Rizals is a huge family. He was very patient replying to them all.

He once opened up an invitation for me to see some of Jose Rizal’s personal effects (a watch, handed to him by a cousin that still runs), teaspoons and a salt container, all bearing the hero’s initial, “JR”. Unfortunately, I never found the time to visit the old man. While I thanked him all the time in our email exchanges it would have been proper that this be done in person.

I could sense that this man was genuinely interested in sharing his knowledge and his experiences. He did so with admirable humility. He didn’t even told me what he used to do for a living. I later learned that he works for banks. He hardly mentioned anything personal about himself. Paciano Rizal, his grandfather, had the same character. In one his letter he described him as “very simple…a withdrawn individual not wanting at all to be recognized.” He told me a story about how the owners of the sugar central would make it a point that they hand Paciano Rizal payments for his sugarcane harvest personally as a sign of respect. His grandfather retired and lived a farmers life. I told him that his grandfather is one my favorite figures of the Philippine revolution, like Mabini, they were ostentatious and selfless, true patriots.

I imagine that if I were to meet Paciano or Jose Rizal, they would be as pleasant, as humble as their grandson.

In one of his last messages he shared his thoughts on history themed blogs in general. I took it as his way of reassuring me that he appreciated my inquiries over the years.

I wish that you are enjoying your trips discovering the world in your unique way of appreciating the past. I do not blame you for doing so as there is so much displeasure in seeking the present and with such presence it is a bit difficult to project the future that awaits us…

It is time to say I do appreciate receiving news about you and how you are doing because with people like you, I personally think the world will be a better place to live in.

Well, the pleasure is mine Sir. Thank you.

Rest in peace now…

Jose R. Lopez
May 14, 1924 – April 19, 2017.


Short Visit to Angeles, Subic & Olongapo of my Childhood

A good time was had last Tuesday when my two brothers along with two nephews and a niece journeyed up north. My elder brother (here for a short vacation like myself) visited the final resting place of his US Navy mentor and friend, Andy. We then went to Subic, then Olongapo. Here we spent many summer holidays back when were little kids.

The first stop was Angeles where we met Cecil, Andy’s sister. He held the rank of master chief, the highest among enlisted personnel. He was not only accomplished Filipino in his field, he was, according to my brother, the kindest person he ever met. The kinda guy that would drop what he’s doing if someone needs his help.

A view of Mt. Arayat from Magalang.

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Andy recently retired, bought a beautiful house near the San Fernando-Angeles border. He started sending boxes after boxes of his stuff from the US: chandeliers, Japanese furniture, even a wooden mini bar. Everything was waiting for him—what he had is how every OFW imagine how their careers to end. Retire back home, surrounded by loveones, living in the dream lofty house decorated with personal effects culled from memorable trips. Sadly, tragedy struck. During one of his usual runs, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 51.

Some of the boxes he sent from the states are there in his garage, left unboxed, waiting to be opened. It was so sad to see.

After Angeles, we headed straight to SCTEX. Passing by Clark airfield and some of the best views of the peaks and valleys of Central Luzon. The kids were awed by mountains carved to make way for roads. Our driver, Jesse, who worked in Subic for two years said the entire project was supervised by the Japanese. The guy turns out to be a conspiracy theorist nut like myself. He said the Japanese took on the project so they can look for buried treasures. Of course, there’s absolutely no proof of that but it’s fun to talk about nonsense if you have nothing to do.

the Pinatubo eruption created this Martian like landscapes in central Luzon. Strange beauty indeed.

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Travel time was way longer in the 80’s but you get to pass all the busy towns. Now, Olongapo and Subic doesn’t​ feel that far of. The access has brought some economic benefits to locals. We kid our mother who practically gave her lots in the area to relatives (who doesn’t even know who she is) to take those back!

After eating our lunch in one of Subic’s restos along its scenic shoreline, we headed straight to another navy buddy of my brother. Navy servicemen are common in the area because Subic back then (when they still have the US port base) allowed Filipino recruits. Many of the young locals did join and some of them went back to retire.

I got really excited seeing the color coded jeepneys still plying the streets. As they say then, only an idiot get lost in Olongapo. If you don’t know how to read, all the jeeps are color coded.

We used to go to the busy wet market and see US servicemen buying local goods. When night time comes, the streets comes alive with all the a-go-go clubs neon lights. You see drunk American men then hanging on to their Pinay companions. One thing about the town is that almost all roads leads back to the main road.

Our house was in Balic-Balic and I remember being woke up by the thundering sound of fighter jets going around. The noise made the glasses in our small kitchen shake (we live uphill).

My Aunt Lydia’s husband worked as an engineer in Subic then. He would always bring back home some sweet goodies from the base. Back then, they have stores there selling merchandise for US servicemen. Everything of course was “estaytsayd”. The sweets and chocolates I tasted then are the ones I go for today (snickers and M&Ms). I never got to see the inside of Subic during those times. All I saw then was its gates guarded by US military men whenever we pass by.

Ah hot sun, sand and just look at that water, so nice. also hot 😁😁😎

A post shared by H_YARN_LDO (@heyarnaldo) on

Spending time in Olongapo is probably the reason why I love nature. I have a profound appreciation of our natural environment because I enjoyed it as a child. We used to bathe in Mabayuan (a tributary of Sta. Rita river) during my summer vacations back in the 80’s. While we’re at it, we would catch these almost invisible fresh water shrimps. My cousin Jean, who now lives in the US, uses her long skirt to net this fast little crustaceans. The water was so clear then, people would wash dishes and clothes there. Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing stream, I get transported back to those sweet childhood memories.


Captain Remo of San Pedro Tunasan

My friend, Pepe Alas, handed me a copy of his first book, “Captain Remo,” last Sunday. It’s short but a good read even if you’re not the history buff kind. I finished it on my flight back to Singapore yesterday.

According to the author, that sepia photo is the only extant picture of the hero. Unacceptable in today’s standards of course where everything is captured by our tiny phones for eternity

 

There are interesting historical anecdotes in the book. Like how San Pedro Tunasan, the old name, remained popular for decades even after it was officially shortened to San Pedro in the early 1900’s. I read President Marco’s diary last year and he still referred to it in its old name in the 70’s.

In page 6 Alas writes, “Cuyab was begininning its duck raising industry, San Roque was well known for its healthy farm produce…San Vicente for its numerous rice farms.” The rich barrios of the old days are the poor barangays of today. The traditional livelihoods and industries are all but gone. Even sampaguita, once the biggest in the country, somehow vanished. But according to the author, “although sampaguita shrubs were already aplenty, it was not yet an industry until after the war.” For some reason, the shrub easily grows and blooms in San Pedro. I wonder if this was the reason why the old locals started farming it. I can still remember seeing sampaguitas, from above the bridge (tulay), harvested in the early mornings along the railroad.

I collaborated with Alas on a book project before (remains unpublished). He made several revisions and additions over the years. I’m uncertain what the book would be like when, and if, it finally hits the printing press. Captain Remo’s biography is sponsored once more by San Pedro’s local government. Another project that they could explore is the history of the sampaguita trade. The town used to pride itself as the sampaguita capital.

The autobiography of Abelardo Remoquillo, popularly called Captain Remo, is an attempt to introduce a local hero, a Sanpedrense, who died in the Battle of Ba’y. The author’s observation that all prominent Filipino heroes are almost exclusively from the Spanish epoch is accurate.

It’s true what Alas said that the recognized heroes outside the revolution against Spain are the three faces in the 1000 bill (and Ninoy, if you consider him one). I’m sure not too many knows who the three figures were and what they did or how they died. Ok, if you don’t believe that, try to name them all while reading this, a ver?

If you got it right. Congratulations!

I studied in a school named after Jose Abad Santos and I swear that I have classmates that graduated without knowing who he was and how he died for his country. And the school never really bothered anyway to teach its students the Chief Justice’s story.

Remoquillo was a promising law student before the war started. He died when he was only 21. He figured prominently in the “Raid of Los Baños”.  Considered the most daring and successful rescue mission in modern warfare history. More than 2000 prisoners were freed. The young hero was under the command of Gustavo Inglés. So many books has been written about the rescue, I would leased surprised if one day Hollywood makes a movie out of it, like they did with the Raid of Cabanatuan.

One could only imagine what it takes to have all that courage to make the ultimate sacrifice. My grandfather on my mom’s side joined the resistance at a very young age but he survived the war. Imagine all the young lives, the innocent civilians that perished during those hard years. Capitan Remonquillo never saw his land liberated.

One other thing that this book made me realize is how important the reserve officers training in school was, the ROTC. While it is unlikely, war is a reality that will once more confront us in the future. The ROTC reserves that banded together and fought the Japanese were organized and courageous. We must have the same today.

The first time I saw Capitan Remo’s monument in the old municipio I wondered who he was, how he lived, how he died. I knew that he was a local, a WWII hero but that’s about it. Thanks to Alas’ and Ms. Sietereales’ work, these questions were answered.


Soon to Rise: Alberto House of Biñan?

I saw a link (Facebook) earlier of plans to acquire land in Biñan to reconstruct the historic Alberto mansion.

This most likely would be a total reconstruction since most parts of the house has been transplanted in Bataan. If you haven’t been to Las Casas I suggest you see the Alberto house there. They recreated it in its original dimensions.

But what’s the use of reconstructing the Alberto mansion?

They should have thought of this when the owner was looking for help. Even when he decided to sell the house’s materials, they should have jumped into the chance of acquiring it. There was virtually no interest in this bahay-na-bata not until social media and national TV highlighted what Biñan was about to lose.

According to an Facebook post the city council passed an ordinance to acquire “parcel of land consisting of 1,197 square meters, more or less…located in Plaza Rizal, Brgy. Poblacion, City of Biñan” This would place the reconstruction within the vicinity of its original location. I am not sure if they’re considering the actual area where it once stood. All of these for sure costs more now for sure. Hopefully the city council gets a good deal.

Back in ’08 with me is Pepe Alas. This staircase (or parts of it) is now in Las Casa. A scene from the blockbuster Heneral Luna movie features it. Arnisson Ortega,author of “Neolibiralizing Spaces in the Philippines”, alleges that the site was leased to Starbucks. If only they considered “reusing” the house then, the establishment or any shop would have benefited from having leased a space that’s considered among the most historically important and oldest house in the country!

The Alberto house is arguably the most “historically” important extant bahay-na-bato in Laguna before its demolition. The Rizal’s in Calamba is a complete reconstruction publicly funded during Pres. Quirino’s time. According to the US Secretary of Interior Standards is the “process of depicting, by means of new construction, the form, features, and detailing of a non-surviving site, landscape, building, structure, or object for the purpose of replicating its appearance at a specific period of time and in its historic location”.

For sentimental reasons I guess a reconstruction serves a purpose. But the way I see it, a waste of tax payers money. Instead of appropriating money to reconstruct the Alberto house why not spend it in rehabilitating existing bahay-na-bato in old Biñan? If owners don’t want it, then perhaps spending money in education and promoting the importance if these historical houses is just as good.

The Alberto house holds the record of being the most blogged about in this site. I simply fell in love with it the moment I first saw it. Along with fellow blogger Pepe Alas, I met the present owner twice—and the dead owners, once. True story, read it here!

I predict that bahay-na-batos would be extinct in half a century, with the exception of those being cared for and protected by local governments and loving descendants, most would be demolished and the land beneath it sold. An example of this is what’s happening now in Manila, in the old quarter of San Nicolas. Remember many of these houses stands in prime areas now. These are top of the line real estate we’re talking about here.

Filipinos don’t seem to have a sense of obligation to look after heritage. A visit to Bataan’s Las Casas’s resort proves this. I mean, who are these people giving up their ancestral houses? Selling them like scrap metal? There’s an old house there that was almost entirely procured from a junk shop!

A few years ago, I joined a group of Filipino expats in Chicago for a baptismal party. They rented a place just outside Chicago. We drove half an hour, maybe more, we had difficulties locating the house. Turns out that it was a beautifully restored century old log cabin located in a park. It brought to mind books I read about the old America. I can imagine the original owners living off the land.

My point is that they did all that for a humble log cabin house. In Binañ’s case, many didn’t even bat an eye for that poor centuries old house while it rotted and eventually taken down.

Is heritage conservation a priority only to affluent nations because they have money to spare?

I hope not because if this is the case, then ours, what’s left of it, would not be around much longer.


Libraries are our Friend

Libraries eventually will all be phased out as information becomes available in digital forms. This institution will all serve as repositories of physical books. One day,  we’ll just borrow digital facsimile online (Google’s on it with GoogleBooks). There will be no need for a visit.

And so, enjoy them while they’re still around.

Arguably the best library in the region is Singapore’s NLB. For foreigners like myself it comes with a price (around 2000 pesos) but it still a great deal. I consider it paying for a premium membership. I can borrow books from the central library and drop them at any of NLB’s branches island wide. Your library card is a piece of plastic that carries all your information. You don’t have to worry keeping track of what you loaned, there’s an app that alerts you when is your due. You can request for titles and reserve them on line. Open until 9 PM, they also operate from Monday to Sunday. It’s easy to see why I enjoy the library here, makes life and reading easy.

Drop your borrowed books, anytime!

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, chairwoman of National Book Development Board, in her email  to this blogger relating her NLB experience said, “how I love the National Library of Singapore! I spent my whole day there on my last visit last year. I was so envious!”

The titles I like the most of course are Filipinianas and old history books  about us Filipinos. Unfortunately I can’t bring most of these home. Most are tagged under “reference” use only. But it’s fine, the library provides spaces and facilities conducive to learning (and sometimes snoozing!).

 

They update you regularly by mail, SMS and email. Very efficient service, unlike no other in the region for sure.

 

Our library back home is teeming with first hand historical sources. I can’t wait for my next visit. It’s far from what Singapore has managed to establish but as long as books that I want to borrow are accessible that makes up for everything.

Our National Library has been a victim of  countless pilferage, especially after WWII. Constant issues with funding has also placed rare manuscripts in danger. I wonder if there’s a plan to ensure everything is backed up in digital form before they’re lost forever. In one of my visit to the Lopez Museum and Library they were already scanning their collection.

We have to go digital, invest in making local libraries around the country portals equipped with computers and tablets. There appears to be no other viable option for us.  You go the remotest barrios where even basic medicines are scarce. There’s just too many of us, scattered in so many islands, with so little money for sending books around.

I met a Filipino here a couple of years ago that works for a design firm. He related to me that  those small colorful National Geographic books in their dilapidated elementary school in Cebu inspired him to dream of working abroad as some kind of a visual artist. He would look at those donated book’s pictures for hours he said. He later left his small town to study arts in Manila.

Now, that’s the power of books.

***

I read a couple of books the last two visits I made to NLB. They have an impressive Filipiniana collection. Some are archived available only upon request. Most are in the “reference” section. You can read it there but you can’t take it home.

The first, “An Epistle of a Friar Prisoner 1898-1900” by Lino Dizon. An expert historian of Central Luzon during the Spanish-Philippines epoch.

The book is about Padre Fernando Garcia OSA experience during the Philippine revolution. There were his letters of his “sorties from town to town and provinces” as prisoner and missionary at the turn of the century.

This Spanish Augustinian wrote in Capampangan. Started his career in the mid 1890s. Initially assigned in Tarlac in 1896, then Macabebe. In 1989 he was in Hagonoy, a prisoner of Aguinaldo’s army. His observations were critical of the treatment they received from the revolutionaries . He escaped in Bontoc went back to Manila and wrote “Ing Macuyad a Pamagsalita Diquil Qng Bie Nang Delanan at Pangatimaua Ning Metung a Mebijag”. Many missionaries were left behind when the Spanish started withdrawing from the islands at the turn of the century.

It’s a fascinating read for it shows two things that many Filipinos reading history often overlook.

First is how skilled and learned the Spanish Friars were: they were engineers, scientists and scholars. The churches and presbyteries, today’s remnants of their handiwork, represents their meticulous and masterful planning.

Second is how they mastered the local languages. They communicated using it which made conversion faster. No one understood the local communities more than these Spanish parish priests. Perhaps they did more than other Filipinos living in other regions and speaking other languages during their time.

It is not rare to encounter documents written in local languages by Spanish missionaries like Padre Garcia’s work. It can be argued that by recording ancient local languages and customs they unwittingly preserved these for us to study today. Without written records, so much would have been lost!

Another book I stumbled upon was from a Monash University (Australia) professor, John Newsome Crossley, “Hernando de los Rios Coronel and the Spanish Philippines in the Golden Age”.

The book revolves around de los Rios, his time in the colony and his accomplished resume. It’s an interesting read that deserves a separate post. Crossley suggests that de los Rios was an ordained priest. The first chapters of the books presents the early history of Spain in the islands. Well researched and written; it even breakdown the political make up of the early administrations, even the role of the missionaries in the natives lives. This book’s a lot better than some of our standard text books in grade school and secondaries.

How Crossley got the idea to pick de los Rios as subject for his book is in itself an interesting story. During his visit to UST’s Benavides library in Manila, Fr. Aparacio presented to him a first edition of Copernicus’ “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium”. The copy was signed by “Hernando de los Rios Coronel”. You can tell a lot from what a man reads. The author then went on to write about the Spanish gentleman.


Padre Damaso’ and the friars: Myth versus reality

This article was written by Pio Andrade Jr. This appeared on for the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Lifestyle section on January 25, 2016.

If the Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans and Recollects were mostly evil like Damaso, how was Spain able to hold PH for 350 years with a ridiculously low occupying army?

EXACTLY a year ago when Pope Francis visited the Philippines, Carlos Celdran, who claims to be a culture and history guide for tourists and heritage buffs, made a public appeal for the Pope to intervene in his civil case for “offending religious feelings.”

The case was filed against him when he disrupted a service in 2010 at the Manila Cathedral by donning the gentleman’s suit à la Jose Rizal and crying “Padre Damaso!” (a reference to the villain in Rizal’s fiction) at Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and priests and policemen (who were attending the service).
Celdran, who did the stunt to protest alleged Church violation of the separation of Church and state by its political activism, had called for forgiveness, but he was nonetheless convicted by the Manila court. He had vowed to appeal his conviction at the Supreme Court.
Now that the Philippines is observing the first anniversary of the Pope’s visit and hosting for the second time the International Eucharistic Congress since 1937, it would be worthwhile to look closely at the issue.

Is the fictional Padre Damaso an accurate representation of the friars who dominated Philippine life during the Spanish era?

If the friars—the Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans and Recollects—were mostly evil like Damaso, how was Spain able to hold the Philippines for 350 years with a ridiculously low army of occupation?

If the friars were evil Damasos, would Catholicism, which for the past 100 years has been painted black by public education, be deeply implanted in Filipino hearts?

If most of the friars were evil, there would have been many records of lynching of priests by the natives. But how come no such accounts can be found in history books, even those written by historians critical of Spain and the friars?

Let us look at the accomplishments of the friars during the Spanish era which are not adequately described—if they are mentioned at all—in history textbooks.

The friars propagated many useful plants from Mexico during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

In history textbooks and press articles, the Galleon Trade has been simplified as the commercial exchange of Mexican silver with Chinese silk and spices. But many Filipinos do not know of the Mexican plants that came with the galleons, such as corn (maiz), camote (camotl), peanuts, tomato, sunflower, ipil-ipil, cacao, indigo, kalachuchi, marigold, kamatchili (quamochitl), kakawati, maguey, tobacco, acacia, caballero,
papaya, chico, coffee, pineapple, guava.

These plants have increased the Philippines’ food supply, providing us new medicines, giving rise to rural industries, and beautifying backyards and plazas.

Some of the better-known friars responsible for the introduction of such flora were: Fr. Jose Davila (cacao and chocolate making); Fr. Diego Garcia (tobacco and cigar making); Fr. Tomas Moncada (wheat); Fr. Octavio (indigo and processing of indigo dyestuff); and Fr. Antonio Sedeno (mulberry; he was a Jesuit, not a friar, but just the same a Catholic missionary like the friars).

Philippine history textbooks are silent about Mexican plants being introduced locally and the big role the friars played in propagating them all over the country. Some of the plants led to the establishment of extensive rural industries such as cigar, indigo dye, tanning leather, chocolate and coffee.

But the friars also propagated useful plants from neighboring Asian countries. They popularized the use of moras or vetiver for erosion control of irrigation canals and small streams; citrus plant species from China for eating and cooking; rosemary and thyme for home remedies; and sugarcane from China for the manufacture of sweets.

The Dominicans brought Tonkin seeds (from Vietnam, of course) and showed the plant’s medicinal potentials.

The friars built roads and bridges for transportation.

Dominican Fr. Juan Villaverde built over 100 kilometers of roads in Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya and Kiangan. He also pointed out the Dalton Pass as the gateway to Cagayan Valley.

Recollect Fr. Pedro Cuenca built the Bacolod-Minulan Road in Negros; Franciscan Fr. Victorino del Moral built the famous Puente del Caprichio in Majayjay, Laguna; and Fr. Andres Patino built the Tinajeros Bridge in Malabon.

The friars quarried stone and introduced new building technologies.

Dominican Fray Domingo de Salazar, the first bishop of Manila, quarried at the mouth of the Pasig to come up with solid materials to replace the combustible nipa-and-wood house of the native Filipinos. Jesuit Fr. Sedeno introduced the technology of brickmaking and burning limestone to make lime as mortar for brick and stones to build stone structures. These translated into the building of durable, long-lasting stone bridges, churches, schools, fortifications and bahay-na-bato.

The friars introduced modern irrigation.

The Philippines was a rice exporter in the 1860s until 1880s because of the irrigation systems built by the friars in many provinces. In Cavite province, the Recollects built 18 irrigation systems that watered 21,000 hectares of rice lands.

In Calamba, Laguna, under the Dominicans, eight irrigation systems watered 4,250 hectares of ricelands. In Bataan, an irrigation dam of the Dominicans supplied water to 521 hectares of rice lands. Bulacan had two friar-built irrigation systems watering 1,850 hectares.

In Umingan, Pangasinan, a Dominican priest taught the farmers how to build portable bamboo waterwheels to draw water from brooks or streams below the level of farmlands.

We became a rice importer because it was more profitable to raise sugarcane, abaca and tobacco than rice by the 1880s.

The friars made the abaca industry.

Abaca was a Philippine monopoly and a major export crop starting in the 1830s. Credit is due Franciscan Fray Pedro Espallargas in Albay for inventing the abaca stripper, which made abaca fiber extraction faster and easier while increasing the yield and quality of the abaca fiber, the best marine fiber in the world.

The abaca stripper was so successful that, from 1830 to 1920, abaca became known internationally as “Manila hemp,” and it accounted for 20-40 percent of the foreign exchange earnings of the Philippines.

Fr. Espallargas is unmentioned in history textbooks.

The friars established the hospital, banking and water systems in the Philippines.

Fr. Felix Huertas, a Franciscan, is unknown except for a street in Manila’s Santa Cruz district, which does not identify him as a priest. He was the head of San Lazaro Hospital for lepers and he founded Monte de Piedad, a combination of savings bank and pawnshop, which was the first agricultural bank of the Philippines.

But his greatest achievement was completing the forgotten Carriedo to supply Manila with safe, potable running water beginning in 1882.

I do not remember reading about Fr. Huertas in the many articles on Manila’s past published in the Philippine press.

The friars established the modern printing press.

Dominican Fr. Francisco Blancas de San Jose introduced modern printing in the Philippines. This replaced the wooden block press, also introduced by him and the Dominicans, which published the first books in the country such as “Doctrina Cristiana.”

The press was a big help in education. It helped disseminate the Gospel in the native languages, which meant the friars did not destroy local languages and cultures, as most history books virulently declare, but, rather, they studied and conserved them. The press that Father Blancas established is still running today—the University of Santo Tomas Press, which is the second oldest in the world after Cambridge.

The friars cultivated the Filipino’s talent in music and the performing arts.

Filipinos are the minstrels of Asia. One writer noted that nightclubs in Asia would always boast of their Filipino musicians. Indeed, the Philippines may be the most musical of Asians and the friars cultivated the musicality of Filipinos.

Franciscan Fr. Jeronimo Aguilar was the first to teach Filipinos and deepen their musical talents. The friars taught the natives music for Mass and other religious rituals. I have seen in the National Archives a few Cuentas, the record of income and expenses of each province during the Spanish era; they showed that choir members were paid for their services.

The friars defended the Filipinos from abusive Moro attackers and slave traders and built fortifications that have withstood the test of time.

While busy building communities, the friars were also defenders of the natives from corrupt local leaders and pirates who periodically raided coastal villages to plunder and acquire slaves.

The friars built a hospital and welfare system in the Philippines that was ahead of North America’s.

The friars built the first hospitals in the Philippines; they built them in the first century of Spanish rule, antedating the system in the United States by 100 years.

They introduced medicinal plants from Mexico and Spain and recorded for posterity the herbal cures used by the natives, so that Philippine herbal medicinal knowledge and skills were conserved.

The friars built the sugar industry.

The giant sugar industry was also due to the work of the friars, particularly the Recollects missions in Negros. Sugarcane then was first crushed between two wood or stone cylinders called trapiche to yield its sweet juice.

Fr. Fernando Cuenca introduced the first hydraulic sugarcane crusher in 1850, which began the sugar boom and made Negros a very wealthy province.

The friars built the looming industry.

The Dominicans, who founded University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university and the only Pontifical university in Asia, introduced the first modern loom system, supplanting the native loom and making weaving faster and easier. Thus, the weaving industry became a big home industry in many places in the country.

The friars, not the North Americans, introduced public instruction.

Most Filipinos have been led to believe that Spain did not educate the Filipinos to make them submissive to Spanish officials and that the United States introduced public education in the Philippines. This is a big lie.

Formal public education in the Philippines officially began in 1863 with the Educational Reform Act. But even before that the friars had been active in teaching elementary reading and writing.

Gunnar Myrdal, in his monumental classic “Asian Drama,” wrote that the Philippines was ahead of other colonized Asian countries in education in the second half of the 19th century. The Philippines had higher literacy than other Asian countries, even higher than Spain, according to data submitted by Taft to the US Congress.

This was, in fact, the prime reason for the Katipunan revolution—our relatively advanced state of education and the economic progress under Spain that had been largely fostered by the friars. Revolutions are not started by uneducated masses.

It is important to point out that the Philippines was economically prosperous during the last four decades of Spanish rule, thanks to the agriculture-based industries—abaca, sugar, tobacco, indigo, and coffee—the propagation and cultivation of which were pushed by the friars.

Prejudice

Many of the information about the big role the friars played in Philippine cultural and economic advancement are not being taught in our schools; thus, generations of Filipinos do not know of the good friars. Thus, Filipinos are culturally Catholics but are superficial about Catholicism, especially its moral teachings and the work of the missionaries.

With the visit of good Pope Francis last year and the hosting of the International Eucharistic Congress this week by the Archdiocese of Cebu—the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines and the largest diocese in Asia, and whose Visayan people are known for their very intense devotion to the Santo Niño introduced by the Augustinians, the first missionary order in the country—it is imperative to re-examine the prejudice against the friars fostered by our ignorance and the lies spread by anti-Catholic or pseudo-nationalist
historians and writers.

Filipino Catholics should banish the negative and largely false image of the friars fostered by dishonest historians, politicians, writers, media men and culture tour guides like Carlos Celdran.

Pio Andrade Jr. is a history buff and freelance journalist. He obtained degrees from Mapua Institute of Technology and University of Florida, and is a science researcher who has written several studies on ethnobotany, radiation chemistry, textile chemistry, food technology, pesticides and biomass energy.

 


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