Category Archives: Historia

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.

 


The Direction This Blog is Headed?

I suppose I should explain my long absence.

Well, this should. New born baby—my first!

Since I decided to be hands on in raising my boy, I have to follow a tight daily schedule. I couldn’t give up my work, I need to keep the paycheck  comin’ now more than ever so I juggle between my job, babysitting and all my other commitments.

This is perhaps the most challenging period of my life but also the most rewarding.

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I love that classic Eagle’s hit “push it to the limit,” because that’s what I’m doing now. I’m lucky if I get a straight 4 hours sleep —and things would only get busier as I’m about to enroll to a language class and continue training jiu jitsu!

So what happens here? What happens to this blog?

The blog continues but I couldn’t update it as often as I use to but it’s here to stay. My first entry here was in March 2008. I don’t know of any other project or hobby that I stuck with for this long except traveling and visiting historical sites around the country—and these are what I write about in the blog so they all go together.

I hardly travel these days and I have very little access to historical materials, these two things inspires me the most to blog. Living in a foreign land disconnects you from your comfort zone. But this shouldn’t stop me from updating this blog.

But what will I blog about?

This is something that I need to work on. This would take some creativity, easy for a creative person but I’m not but I’ll find a way to be more consistent without straying away from the theme of this blog project.

Gearing up for what’s left of 2017!

 


Books, Books, Books: Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir)

I just finished reading Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir) and I thought it was a book deserving of being blogged about. I know that there are people who hates what he represents but I would call even them to give it a chance.

I have the Kindle version which is 19.00 USD. Not cheap but since I am overseas I’ve been ordering Philippine published books available on Kindle when I have spare cash to spend. Reading them makes me feel right at home—albeit only in the mind.

Enrile’s book is an important memoir, if you don’t believe that, well, ask ex-President PNOY. He attended the book lunch four years ago, along with Imelda!

The history buff that I am relished the parts where Manong Johnny wrote about his childhood in that isolated bucolic barrio of Gonzaga in old Cagayan. His notes on how people behaved back in the day were charming snippets of the Filipinos old way of life.

I am aware of the criticism leveled against Enrile’s memoir. Some say it reeks of lies. Case in point was the “ambush” story which Gen. Montaño, the PC chief then who investigated the incident, already said was bogus.

In the first chapters, Enrile recounted the story of his father, his childhood, his old town and his beloved mother. Her only surviving photo I read prominently hangs in his posh Makati home. He looks more like his mother than his mestizo father. She sent him in several occasions to school by asking whoever was administering the school to charge them nothing in exchange for little Juanito running errands for them.

Enrile recounts in his book how he changed his mind from having no desire to become a lawyer (his father’s a popular lawyer, cousin of Mariano Ponce) to devoting himself to become one. The famous story of boys stabbing him with blades because of jealousy I have heard before but reading his accounts provided more details. The attackers were scions of Cagayan elites. They were never charged and remained regular students, while the young Enrile was expelled for causing trouble. Imagine if this injustice never happened, the man would have been an engineer we probably would never heard of.

An interesting account from the book was when Enrile was imprisoned by the Japanese. He shared a small dark space with a man he would later discover to be a Spanish tobacco trader. He spoke with the man in Spanish. He explains that while his Spanish was not perfect, he learned the language from his mother who spoke it with his grandparents. They were fluent speakers. My distant relative, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, whom Enrile represented in the past told me that the man speaks Spanish.

Rene Saguisag, one of the few lawyer that I admire, in a recent podcast interview with Martin Andanar (now PCOO secretary) said that our experiences during the war had a lot to do with corruption. I read the same observation from Director Erik Matti, who I heard was making a film about it. This same observation was echoed by several WWII survivors I’ve had the chance to meet. Not to blame past experiences for our present predicament but it’s an interesting subject to say the least.

My father’s stories about how Filipino guerrillas, in guise of fighting the Japanese, cruelly raped women and ransacked houses I thought were isolated incidents. He’s from Negros, Enrile’s from Cagayan and yet they have familiar stories. The former Senator recalls how bandits, after looting the houses in Gonzaga, brought him and his friend to the seashore. The abductors then asked them to dig their own graves. Enrile begged for his life from the group’s leader. He mentioned to him that his brother is a soldier fighting in Bataan. Upon hearing this he freed them. Turns out that this bandit trained along with his brother in the army reserves.

Unfortunately, my Father’s uncle in San Carlos was not spared by the guerrillas. Like Enrile, he was made to dig up his own grave but his fate was different. He was buried in that hole he burrowed.

The other book that I had the chance to read was “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” by Aries Rufo.

It’s an interesting book that most Filipino Catholics should read. The work of Rufo reminds us that even prelates are susceptible to sin. They’re human beings like you and me.

Rufo wrote about the once popular Bishop Yalung, a Cardinal Sin protege. He was later defrocked because of alleged romantic relations with a couple of parishioners. He came from the parish where I took up Catechism, The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Antonio Makati. The same parish where I would see the Binays attend Sunday mass regularly.

Could  you imagine the Church having a fund for illegitimate children of priests? It’s hard to believe but this exists.

The last time I visited this church was when I attended the wedding of a friend. He met his wife in the software company where I was a supervisor. I hired the guy and has become friends with the two. They’re both very good people and now they have a happy little toddler, a cutey named Liz!

Not all men who wears the cassock lives holy lives. But I have met great priests in my life; like the Servites in Muntinlupa, all selfless missionaries of the Lord. They’re great inspiration to young Catholics like myself. I’m inclined to believe that most are true servants but there are exceptions, of course, and this is what “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” is all about.


More and more Philippine Books on Kindle!

Earlier, I bought El Filibusterismo by León María Guerrero III in the Kindle store for $9.99. While I have the book version back home, I thought of reading it again. I also have his brilliant translation of Noli Me Tangere. But in my opinion, Ma. Soledad Lacson-Locsin’s Noli was far more significant and accurate because she was from Rizal’s generation.

I noticed lately that there’s an increase in books authored by Filipinos in Kindle. For someone who collects Filipiniana titles this is exciting news.

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Best biography on Rizal, also by Guerrero. The copy I have was given to me by an office colleague, Ben, nephew of NHI’s Director Badoy. This is also available in Kindle.

Recent titles like Endless Journey by Jose Almonte and Juan Ponce Enrile’s memoir, both criticized for some deceitful claims but generally good reads for both are major political figures. I’ll probably buy these two after I finish reading quite a few titles that I haven’t even started reading!

Almonte was assisted by journalist Marites Dañguilan-Vitug who also have her books about the Philippine Supreme Court on Kindle: Hours Before Dawn, Shadow of Doubt and Our Rights, Our Victories.

There are also several books about the Marcos era. One that is worth picking up is Primitivo Mijares’ “The Conjugal Dictatorship”. The author was an aide to Marcos who turned critic during the martial law years. Mijares, known as Tibo to his friends, went missing and was never found. His son was also murdered a year later.

Other books about the Marcoses on Kindle are mostly about Imelda. Which I’m sure sells well because Westerners are fascinated by her. Like Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s work. I remember reading Marcos’s diary where the former President cited that this author was financed by Iniñg Lopez (Eugenio II) to malign his wife.

Now, for the hardcore Philippine History buff you better download “The Philippine Islands” of Blair and Robertson. Antonio de Morga’s “History of the Philippines” (originally “Sucesos de las islas Filipinas”) is also a great addition. Even Dean Worcester’s Philippine: Past and Present is up for free download. This American, who came to the islands in the late 1800’s, won a libel case against the Spanish newspaper El Renacimiento in 1908. Kalaw was one of the newspapermen that was sentenced to go to prison but was later pardoned by Governor Harrison.

Books about historical events and personalities during WWII abounds in Kindle. Admittedly, this is one area in our history that I haven’t really studied as well as 19th century Philippines.

In contemporary Philippine literature you have works from F. Sionil Jose. The Samsons, Don Vicente, Dusk, Three Filipina Woman and even a German version of Gagamba, der Spinnenmann. I interviewed F. Sionil before; indeed, a living legend. I enjoy reading his essays on Philippine history and current events.

Then there are Kindle books on finding Filipinas for companionship, marriage and even sex. I wonder how Amazon regulates such titles but they’re there and I’m sure some people are clicking and buying.


Baclaran Day

p_20160305_144650I grew up seeing the hectic streets of Baclaran and its modern Romanesque church. I was too young to understand then why my mother would kneel, pray, and move, while kneeling, towards the altar. You still see a few devotees doing this today.

My Aunt’s ritual was different and less taxing. After mass and novena, we ate lechon (rumored to be “double-dead” swines!). These carenderias along Redemptorist Road has long been replaced by stalls vending anything from dress to herbal remedies.

Baclaran church is open 24 hours a day. Imagine the upkeep and the bills the Redemptorist fathers have to settle! But they have plenty of resources.When they recently asked financial support for a campaneria many came forward. One of them, Kris Aquino. It remains the biggest Marian shrine in the country. Everybody avoids Wednesday, Novena time, especially if the trip would pass by the area.

Baclaran church was designed by Don Cesar Homero Concio of Pateros. His version, completed in 1958, was the third building on the site. Concio also drew the plan for the Protestant Church of the Risen Lord in UP. In my view, the Insular Life Building in Makati is his second best work. Unfortunately this building was redesigned in 2005.p_20160305_144907

The Concios still maintains their ancestral house in Pateros. Perhaps the only significant bahay-na-bato in the smallest municipality of metro-Manila.

Before the Redemptorists moved to Baclaran they had a smaller church in Malate. When they transferred to Parañaque, Don Manuel M. de Ynchausti and Ana Belen, his wife, requested that the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help be placed in the center of the graceful altar they donated.

If it were not for the Ynchaustis, Baclaran would have been different from what it is now. We probably would see popular devotion to St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus instead. The founding Redemptorist, Fr. Drogan, was a devotee. One could still see a simple monument of the saint surrounded by “love locks” (no one’s sure how this trend started, inspired by  Paris most likely) courtesy of visiting lovers.

I’ve always been fascinated by the 19th and early 20th Ynchaustis. In the 1800’s they were commissioned to build Puente Colgante (also called Puente de Claveria), the first hanging steel bridge in Asia in the mid 1800’s. Described by the great Nick Joaquin as the unparalleled bridge in Asia it was dismantled and replaced by the art deco Quezon Bridge in 1939.p_20160305_145408

The 19th century Ynchaustis donated vast lands to religious and social causes. The only company I remember that at least had their name was YCO floorwax (YCO is the abbreviation of Ynchausti y Compañia). We use to wax the red wooden floors of our elementary school. We would later use “bunot” to polish the flooring.

The now saint, Pope John Paul II held masses in this church when he was still archbishop. He came back in 1981, then as Pope, and blessed the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Here in Singapore, devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is popular among local Catholics. Since they’re a former English colony, they use “Succour” instead of “Help”. The church of St. Alphonsus is currently undergoing redevelopment and expansion. It is situated in Thompson Road and it was of no surprise to find many Filipinos in attendance during masses. There’s even regular Tagalog mass schedule. The Redemptorists came in this island in the 1930’s. The train station (MRT) that serves the area is aptly called “Novena”.


National Gallery Singapore, a must-visit for every Filipino

Singapore is home to some of the most impressive art galleries and museums in the region. This certainly is not an accident. The government creates art programs accessible to its people and attractive to its visitors. Most museums are discounted if not free for its citizens.

I recently visited the new National Gallery Singapore. How they transformed the old City Hall and Supreme Court, buildings of great historical importance, into one modern museum is a feat that merits admiration.

NGS’s exhibit, the world largest collection of modern and classical SE Asian art, was just as impressive.

I feel like I’m already beating a dead horse in this blog when I say we need to emulate Singapore’s adaptive reuse of its old buildings. They’re under tremendous pressure to build and expand but they do so without knocking down their historic structures.

Now back to the museum.

For Filipinos, living or visiting the island, NGS is a must stop over. Put it on your to-do list paisanos.

Why?

Inside you’ll find works from our greatest painters: Juan Luna, Felix Resurrecion-Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo and Carlos “Botong” Francisco. Men hailed as art pioneers in the region. Their obra masetras—national symbols to us Filipinos.

Like Luna’s “España y Filipinas” that speaks of the Filipino past and identity. There’s so much symbolism in this obra. One could spend an entire day figuring out the concealed message it tries to convey.

There are three known “España y Filipinas,” all painted by Luna. I have seen the one in Lopez Museum 8 years ago. Another version is in Cadiz Spain. The one in the NGS’s collection appears to be the piece that was recently auctioned in Sotheby’s. I did check with a staff and I was told that the painting is on loan. So, I’m confused now. Maybe Ambeth Ocampo could help us figure this out.

Then there’s “The Christian Virgins Being Exposed to the Populace” by Félix Resurrección Hidalgo. This painting placed second to Luna’s massive “Spoliarium” in an art competition in Spain. I first saw this painting in Metropolitan Museum of Manila. The original was destroyed in a fire in Vallodolid.

The works of Fernando Amorsolo were so palpable you could feel his emotion. I learned about this painter in poster reproductions that adorned our elementary classrooms. I was too young to appreciate art then but those posters embedded in my mind the joyous nature of Filipinos, the beauty of our old barrio life and our great traditions.

Amorsolo’s painting during WWII are chilling reminders of a war that’s not that distant from us but many had already forgotten. NGS has two of his work during the occupation, “Defend Thy Honour” and “Marketplace during the Occupation”.

There were also art works from modern Filipino artists: Alfredo Manrique, Vicente Manansala, Ben Cabrera, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, Pablo Baens Santos, Romeo V Tabuena, Roberto Chabet, Hernando R Ocampo and Lee Aguinaldo.

The building that house’s NGS is in itself a great historical and architectural exhibit. I briefly joined the guided tour. The guide took the group around explaining its parts, history and even materials used. The visitors were entertained when she showed the temporary holding cells of the supreme court and later the trap door that opens to the courtroom upstairs.

The city hall is where Admiral Mountbatten accepted the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. Lee Kuan Yew, the island nation’s first prime minister, held office in this same building.

The National Gallery Singapore consists of two wings, the City Hall and the Supreme Court, connected by a link bridge.  The DBS Singapore Gallery focuses on local artists while the UOB gallery features classic and contemporary SE Asian artists. Both buildings went under painstaking restoration work. The entire project is a text book effort in architectural reuse.

I look forward to seeing the museum again, hopefully some of you guys can join me!

The city hall, from a distance, the supreme courts dome. These two building were adapted to house the Singapore National Gallery

Part of the Supreme Court wing of NGS. Good view of the Marina Bay Sands

Filipino artists work on display!

 


More Philippine history books puh-lease!

As force of habit, when I’m in Manila I spend a few hours scouring local bookstores for Filipiniana titles. I even have a planned budget to spend!

Since very few Filipino publishers goes to Kindle (like Sionil Jose’s publisher) you have to buy titles you like before they’re gone. I’m a die-hard bibliophile but I also don’t mind the convenience digital books affords.

So what did I found the last time I was home?

Great Philippine history titles, very good ones.

Thanks to university publishing houses like UST, Ateneo and UP. These guys are putting up some fascinating historical books out in the book market.

I’m done reading Richard T. Chu’s “Chinese and Chinese Mestizos of Manila: Family, Identity and  Culture 1860s to 1930s,” and “Chinese Merchants of Binondo in the Nineteenth Century”. The latter, about a 100 pages, is a quick read that provides a glimpse of how Chinese merchants took advantage of colonial laws and local traditions to progress their social and economic standing. These two books compliments each other.

Another good title, “Arenas of Conspiracy and Rebellion in the Late Nineteenth Century Philippines,” by Michael Cullinane. The book’s about the anti-Spanish movement in the south (most significant took place on Palm Sunday, “tres de abril”, in 1898) and how it influenced the entire country. The name of this foreign author sounded familiar, found out later that he also wrote, “The Parian of Cebu City: A Historical Overview, 1565-1898,” a must read if one endeavors to understand Cebu’s history.

The last title I purchased is “Sakdalista’s Struggle for Philippine Independence 1930-1945” by Motoe Terami-Wada. I haven’t started reading this one but the book’s subject is of great interest personally. I’ve heard of the Sakdalistas at a very young age from my father.  In 2011, I visited the church of San Policarpio in Cabuyao where some 61 of them perished during a battle that only lasted 48 hours.

Wada also authored the book “The Japanese in the Philippines 1880’s-1990’s” which is a collection of stories from Japanese living in the country in the 19th century. An interesting read for it contains reflections and attitudes of the Japanese in the country prewar and post war.

* * *

Last December, Benedict Anderson, author of “Imagined Communities” and “Under Three Flags” died in Indonesia. A leading scholar in South East Asian history and a personal favorite of mine. He traveled Filipinas quite extensively in a second hand car. I wished I had my books signed when he was still around.

I’ve always been curious why there seems to be as many foreign Philippine historians as Filipino historians. That these folks are around tells us that they’re getting support to research and write. Maybe more than our local historians.

I remember a visit I made in the National Archives in Kalaw a few years ago. I was surprised that in the table where you wait for your papers I sat with foreigners. I could imagine those old white men writing journals and books about us one day, maybe they probably did by now.

An uncle, who once owned a small clothing line, told me that local brands would always have a hard time competing with foreign brands because Filipinos have an aversion to buying local. I don’t accept this completely, there are some trusted local brands, but there’s some truth to his claim.

I wonder if this attitude applies also to history books? Do we prefer reading history when it’s authored by a foreigner? Do we trust them more?

When I was in high school I read William Henry Scott. The  foremost expert in Pre-Philippine history. What I remember then was that it was our history teacher who recommended his work. I was surprise that we were pointed to an American historian instead of a Filipino.

I think there’s nothing wrong with foreigners contributing to Philippine history text. In fact, if it weren’t for them we would know less of our past. We would have not known about Lapu-Lapu if Magellan’s scribe never bothered to mention his name but what I’m saying is that we need more Filipinos to write more about Filipino history and even more Filipinos to buy and read more Filipino history book!

I am sure many Philippine history buffs shares this sentiment.

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The Alberto House of Bagac, Formerly of Biñan

There she is, the Alberto Mansion, now in her new home, 150 kms north of Manila, Bagac!

When I heard that the Alberto House was rebuilt in a coastal resort in Bagac a few years ago I knew I had to go and see it. They say it’s a “replica” but I immediately recognized some parts of the house. How much of the house came from the original Biñan house must be in the low percentile; Gerry Acuzar stop acquiring parts from the Spanish era mansion after protests from the local government and some NGO’s in Biñan.

Gerry Alberto, the last owner, decided to donate (some claims he sold it) the house to Acuzar after typhoon “Ondoy” smashed parts of the roof and wall; water sip in damaging the house’s interior. I know this because I visited the house after the storm has passed and spoke with the owner. He knew it was time to give it up before the entire house collapses.

The politicians of Biñan who hugged the lime light when the news about the transfer was all over the place are silent now. While what remains of the house in Biñan are rotting under the elements.

I am against transplanting heritage houses but we should use it when everything fails. In Biñan’s case, the local and national government failed to salvage the house until the owner decided to dismantle it before it caves in. It was not in good shape even before that terrible typhoon. It was crumbling for years and no one came with a plan to rescue it!

A councilor commented on this site that his efforts to get the local government to act was “overtaken” by elections. They were too busy with politics as usual.

The Alberto House is gone and it ain’t coming back. Biñan’s energy is better spent looking after their other heritage sites in the city.

From the looks of it, Acuzar no longer needs the invaluable scraps from Biñan. Perhaps, now, the city of Biñan can reconstruct the Alberto mansion somewhere in town.

Early this year I visited an aunt’s property in Biñan, near the Carmona boundary, I was surprised to see the city’s vast open lands. You don’t get to see this when you’re in the crowded downtown.

If Las Casas de Acuzar recreated an Alberto House in Bataan, why not within the prosperous city where there’s still plenty of open space?

I believe there are government officials there that genuinely cares about the city’s heritage but their voices were sadly never heard. The only way they can correct this wrong is to recreate the Alberto mansion and use it to educate Biñenses.

The Alberto House in Bagac was oddly familiar. This bahay-na-bato stands as the one that I visited the most (and blogged about too). It was a twilight-zonish moment to know that it stood for hundreds of years in Biñan but is now in Bagac. But seeing it felt like reconnecting with a friend you have not seen for awhile.

It was the first house that I entered in the Las Casas. It’s located near the bridge going to the Sanctuario de San Jose. The portion that was rented out to moviehaus operators in Biñan is there, now an Italian restaurant. This is the only part of the original house that I have not seen before. At least here in Bagac the Alberto House is complete, it’s clean; I walked in every room and was satisfied to see how this “replica” turned out.

So many local tourist was impressed by the house. I overheard teenagers talking about how wealthy Rizal’s grandparents must have been. “Even wealthy people now don’t build houses like this,” one of them said.

Well, the Filipinos from that epoch built houses to showcase their religiosity, culture and identity.

Rich Filipinos now just build to impress—their houses, in exotic Mediterranean style and Bali inspired themes. They’re proud to show the history of another nation except their own as if they’re ashamed of it.

As I walked around the Alberto house I imagined how Consul John Bowring described it in his book “A Visit to the Philippine Islands”. It was that important back in the day, when an official comes to Biñan they make a courtesy call to the mansion.

I have seen countless bahay-na-batos in the country and for me the Alberto house stands out as the grandest, the most impressive—not to mention its colorful history.

Biñan lost a great deal in this one.

A few weeks ago, a lightning struck the head of the Rizal monument in Biñan’s plaza. This is right in front where the house once stood.

Call me superstitious but I take that as an ominous sign.

Some materials, like this dirigkalin post, made it all the way here. Some of the paintings too. In this house, Rizal’s sister-in-law was said to have been held. The incident caused Teodora her liberty. She was accused of poisoning her sister-in-law.

The windows that’s close to me personally. The times that I visited this house in Binan I would look out out from these windows and see the church and the municipio. These windows used to open up to the Presidencia, the town hall in Binan. My avatar since I started this blog are these capiz windows, I think they managed to salvage the frames but the capiz shells appears to be new.

Here I get to experience the spacious court yard as it was during the prime years of the house. Just look at how princely it is. Beautiful. It’s a Spanish-Filipino colonial mansion like no other I tell you. Listen, they don’t make them like they used to!

Related Posts:

puto biñan and an alberto house-less biñan

The Fight for the Alberto House of Binan

Update on the Alberto House of Binan

The Alberto of Biñan and the Vigan Wife

Calls to Save Casa Alberto of Biñan…Too Late the Hero

The Alberto’s and Binan

Discovering Rizal’s Chapel of Our Lady of Peace


Bravo, Heneral Luna!

This is the first the time I experienced a dominantly young crowd applaud at the end of a local film.

Heneral Luna is an inspiring film, didactic in an entertaining way.

This film is probably one of the best local historical period drama ever produced, along with Raymond Red’s “Sakay,” FPJ’s “Asedillo” and Albert Martinez’s “Rosario”.

The trouble with me sometimes, when it comes to these kind of films, is that I tend to look for details that were missed and events that were deliberately distorted. Drives me crazy! But even the best period films based on real historical figures, “Braveheart” for example, did not nail everything perfect.

The challenge period movies face is that its writers and directors had to take liberties to dramatize and to communicate—here’s where they’re often hit. For Heneral Luna, with its budget, they face far more difficulties.

But even autobiographies gets confronted with charges of deliberate falsehoods—difference is that making movies is a form of art, it will always be subject to the mind of its creators.

Let’s support this movie and keep it in cinemas for more weeks.

There are three things I like about Heneral Luna, the film:

First, they showed the human side of him. Instead of centering on his epic battles (which they could have since he was the only real military leader in that cabinet, and a fighting one at that) they spent time presenting who he was as a person. They also steer clear from the rumors about Luna, like the one where he was supposed to have handed the “treasury” to his lover (although she did appear there as somewhat of a power broker).

Luna was a renaissance man, he enjoys poetry like his women, he understand medicine, he was a legendary guitar player; short tempered but the only man that was capable of prolonging the war if not win it completely.

The success of the film was not the depiction of the battle scenes (which for me were not impressive in the movie) but in how they highlighted Luna’s attributes and weaknesses.

At the end of the movie, everyone understood who he was, his purpose, why he did what he did; why he was prepared to die for his country and why he was executed by the very people he sought to liberate.

Second, while the subject of the film is heavy, they made the characters people the audience can relate to. I suspect Antonio Luna to be a very serious fellow, judging on accounts about him and how he writes, but we have to remember that while his generation were highly educated and Hispanized they have qualities that are no different from ours today.

The scenes where the hero was depicted as being jovial amid a perilous battle, connects with Filipinos today. Do we not smile and continue to laugh even when we’re faced with the most trying events in our lives?

Third, the message. I think many Filipinos now understands that if we are to succeed as a nation, we have to rid our government of corruption. We can no longer afford to be soft on those who err and steal so they can enrich themselves and their families.

Luna tried to rectify corrupt cabinet members and undisciplined military leaders. It proved costly on his part; he made powerful enemies. Even today, the leader that would endeavor to do what he did would end up like him—if not maligned, jailed if not killed.

Why? We’re too divided, we go tribal easily.

In order to move this country forward, we can’t afford leaders sleeping with our enemies and having their pockets lined with the “kaban ng bayan”. Luna’s character in the movie spoke of this in his intense debates against the rich cabinet men of Aguinaldo.

When a Luna like figure comes, I hope, we Filipinos will support that leader. It going to be demanding to get behind leaders that are not cowed by special interests, local military upheavals and other nations—they’re going to make unpopular decisions, hard ones but there’s no alternative.

We need the kind of revolution Luna called for—united with zero tolerance for the corrupt and those who wish to tear the country apart.

There’s some crazy uproar about what the movie failed to show—how it demonized certain individuals considered national heroes by certain groups and families. Again, it’s the message we need to focus on, not the personalities. Not because your relatives and kababayan took part in the revolution entitles them to be national heroes.

The film’s message is timely, election’s just around the corner.

Do we really want the Aguinaldos, the Buencaminos, the Mascardos and the Paternos to continue leading us, or do we want a Heneral Luna?

I say we must have a Heneral Luna, and we must be Heneral Lunas. All of us.


The ALDUB Phenomenon and Filipino Values

Before I get in trouble with supporters of this new ALDUB love team, let me say that I have only seen a few episodes, two actually, the one that I like was the cancelled wedding affair where Yaya Dub fainted (turns out that’s real). So I am not an expert as you can see but rather a casual fan of the Kalyeserye.

What Joey de Leon labelled as Kalyeserye was purely accidental a friend told me but it took off like it did and now people moves their lunch breaks just to get a glimpse of the tandem and all the character around them.

While the whole Aldub appears to have been a happy accident, the scouting eyes of the comedic geniuses behind Eat Bulaga is not. They get the right guys, most not really big showbiz names, to join their show. That’s why they’re still in business after all these years.

Ok, so why am I even writing about this.

It is refreshing that the Aldub segment is conveying some old values that most Filipinos remembers well but no longer practice.

The Aldub series appeals to the Filipino because it shows them what is now missing in today’s generation—old Filipino values we once held so high. I saw an article stating that the show was some divine creation, well, I won’t go that far but what I know is that it struck a chord among Filipinos because it mirrors parts of our past.

At least these two still engage in old school “ligawan”.

This may sound odd, and I know the “Lola” is played by a man who once became notorious for his disgusting sex scandal video, but how many of us remembers our overly protective grandma’s just by seeing the character that he plays?

This “Lola Nidora” is also based on a woman that was supposed to have been educated in the old Philippine-Spanish system, from a Spanish-Filipino family, which explains her passion for style, sophistication and educated opinions—and her being so “maldita” at times.

I find all of these very interesting but I’m not surprised that Filipinos identify with this “character” as someone close to them. It’s like hearing Filipinos talk about their conservative Spanish-Filipino mestizo grandparent that spoke Spanish, went to church like clockwork, led their local communities, build beautiful houses, how educated they were—nothing but nice words really.

Whenever I hear these stories I feel that most Filipinos, at least in memory, still cherish the kind of people we once were.


SPANISH INFLUENCE ON FILIPINO CATHOLIC SPIRITUALITY

by: Fr. Jose “Long” D. Gutay, OFM

Let me begin this article by quoting from the lecture of Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi on Filipino Spirituality. He said:

The drafting committee for the CBCP Pastoral on Filipino spirituality avoided getting enmeshed in complex definitions peculiar to the academic scene. We opted to simply view spirituality as arising from a spiritual experience. What precise experience is this? We defined it as the Filipino’s historical encounter with Christ and as a result of this encounter the Filipino is invited to walk on the path leading to holiness (Landas ng Pagpapakabanal). Since this CBCP letter adopted a pastoral approach, it studied the objective of this encounter in its manifestations within the life of witness and worship of the faithful. This encounter is no illusion; it is not a figment of our imagination. It takes place in the reality of our day-to-day lives. It leaves its mark in the way we worship God and give witness to his goodness and mercy. This is what we mean by the spirituality of a people. It is a living, palpable experience that motivates and impels us to conversion.[1]

A very significant element mentioned in the above definition of Filipino spirituality is what the archbishop calls as “the Filipino’s historical encounter with Christ”. It is an assertion that the Filipino’s encounter with Christ and his response to this living experience have all passed through a process in history. The main protagonists in this historical process are the Spanish friar-missionaries who brought Christianity to the Filipinos.

The Encounter

The first attempt to colonize and evangelize the Philippines happened with the Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, in 1521. But the effort was cut short by his death in the hands of the native warriors of Mactan, Cebu. It was only in 1565 and through the endeavors of the Spanish adelantado, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi that Christianization and colonization in the islands formally began. The first missionaries who launched a modest but daring attempt to convert the natives were the Augustinians who came with the Legazpi expedition. Much-needed assistance was supplied with the arrival of the Franciscans in 1578. The Jesuits followed suit in 1581. The Dominicans and Augustinian Recollects arrived in 1587 and 1606 respectively.

The missionaries played a major role in the Filipino’s “encounter” with Christianity and the Christian God. This in a way became the ground of Filipino Spirituality. The efforts of the missionaries were greatly conditioned by factors that are intrinsically woven into the geographical and chronological context of the period. The Philippines is geographically way off the cultural evolution of Europe. Thus, the friar missionaries had no choice but to take into account the unique ethno-historical character of the host territory. Although the Philippines evolved culturally on its own, this development was also a confluence of the local ethnic elements and those of its Asian neighbors.[2] And besides, Islam had already made significant strides in the south (Mindanao) and penetrated, although still superficially, Luzon and the Visayas.[3] It was also a period wherein Spain and the Church were being ushered into new historical, religious, political and economic paradigms in Europe. The Protestant and Catholic Reformation, Spain’s Siglo de Oro, the age of conquest, mercantilism, Hapsburg’s ascent to power, to mention some, were all important events that shaped this epoch. Quite evidently, the motives and actions of the missionaries were all molded by these historical events.

But it was not a one-sided process in which the Spanish missionaries shaped the Filipino spirituality. Much of the native pre-Christian cultural expressions survived in the process. Given the geographical, political (social fragmentation and political decentralization), demographical (personnel vis-á-vis the native population), and linguistic limitations within which the Spaniards had to operate in the colony, the Filipinos were provided a chance to choose from among the various religio-cultural elements being laid down by the Europeans. At the end of the process, the resultant spirituality is a syncretic blend of Hispanic imposition and the natives’ Filipinization of Christianity.

The Hispanic-Christian Imposition

American historian John Leddy Phelan’s analysis of the imposition of Christianity in the Philippines would be of great help at this juncture. Phelan asserts that Spanish missionaries viewed themselves as soldiers of Christ waging with spiritual weapons a war to overthrow the devil’s tyranny over pagan peoples and they envisaged their work as a “spiritual conquest” of the minds and hearts of the natives, a supplement to, and the ultimate justification for, the military conquest.[4]

In pre-hispanic Philippines, religion touches all aspects of life. Religion and culture were terms whose meaning was practically the same. The native culture found by the missionaries was radically religious and the native religion was the great cultural wealth of the country. There was no religious vacuum. Religion filled all corners of life. It was life, art, literature, poetry and music. All was touched by religion. In primitive societies nothing is secular.[5]

The missionaries came ready to conquer the world for Christ. The temporal conquest, through the power of the arms, had no justifications without the spiritual conquest through the power of the Word of God. Satan’s kingdom had to be vanquished. Christ’s kingdom had to be established. In preaching the Gospel to the natives the missionaries were convinced that they were presenting the absolute and total truth.[6]

However, much that they would like to launch a wide scale “spiritual conquest” of the Philippines, the situation on the ground proved to be relatively difficult. During the first synod of Manila convened by the first bishop of Manila, Domingo de Salazar OP., shortly after his arrival, there were attempts to address the problems of evangelization in view of the unique cultural and geographical situation in the colony.

Methods of Evangelization

The methods used by the missionaries in the propagation of the faith can be reduced into the following: catechism (pre-baptismal and post-baptismal), preaching, the administration of the sacraments, the introduction of liturgical practices, fiestas, etc. The venue in which the missionaries used to implement this approach was the reduccion.[7] It was, in a way, effective although the natives at first resisted it. In the long run, due to the blessings of town living, and other inducements of the missionaries, like rituals and celebrations (fiestas), new civilization was born in the Philippines. To attract and convince the natives to leave their farms, the missionaries introduced come-ons like colorful fiestas, processions, dances, theatre shows, Moro-Moro plays, etc.

In a relative short period of time a big number of natives were converted to Christianity. One major factor that facilitated this phenomenon was the missionaries’ decision to preserve the native’s political structure. The missionaries counted on the local leaders. They knew the prestige and the power they exercised over the local communities. Although it is true that the Spaniards imposed a centralized form of government with the institution of the governor general and the alcaldes mayores as heads of the provinces, all the other agents of the local government in the municipalities were natives. The barangay set-up was basically retained. The role of municipal mayors (gobernadorcillo), capitanes de barrio, cabeza de barangay were given to the elite class (principalia). The principales eventually became the intermediaries between the new rulers, the Spaniards and the local communities. They consequently became the intermediaries (fiscales) between the Church and the people.

The conversion of the natives might be caused by political advantages. But this approach was necessitated by the urgent need for evangelization. This may not be the effect of a deep and profound spiritual discernment. This would only come later, with a deeper catechetical instruction and the missionaries took this task seriously.

Religious and Liturgical Practices[8].

The missionaries also introduced many of the religious and liturgical practices that they themselves had in Spain but not without innovations to fit the native culture. Among them are: fast and abstinence during Lent and the Holy Week, sanctorum (religious contribution during confessions), feast days of obligation, devotion to the saints, and the misa de aguinaldo (Christmas dawn masses).

The Filipinos responded affirmatively to these practices. It did not take much effort to convince the natives to accept them. They seemed fit to the Filipino’s penchant for outward expressions as spiritual articulations of their relationship with the divinity. The missionaries simply substituted these articulations with the aforementioned practices. One such concrete example is the veneration of the saints that the natives eventually took as a replacement to their spiritual anitism[9].

The penitential practices introduced by the missionaries proved to be attractive to the Filipinos. A Spanish canon who was studying in a Jesuit college in Manila introduced the practice of inviting the church men of different social standing, in order to take discipline three times a week. The natives, attracted by this, lost no time imitating the Spaniards. In time, however, the spirit of penance lost its appeal, becoming in many places mere external rituals. Many who felt impelled more by fanaticism than true devotion went to extremes of bloody penance (flagellation, reenactment of the crucifixion, etc.). These are still being practiced even today.

Popular Religiosity: Filipinization of the Spanish Imposition

Phelan believes that the Filipinos were no mere passive recipients of hispanization and Christianization, and the circumstances gave them considerable freedom in selecting their responses to this cultural stimulus.[10] This could explain well the reasons why the aforesaid practices have themselves evolved into the Filipino’s expression of religiosity in the course of time.

Once encouraged by the missionaries to build little altars in their houses, the natives have easily made this practice an important part of almost every household. The painting of crosses on arms, houses, along roads, at strategic places, on top of mountains, in their own fields, etc., have evolved into a native’s custom after having been introduced by the missionaries to the devotion to the Holy Cross. The recitation of the Angelus three times a day also became a popular devotion in the poblaciones.

Another devotion that was brought from Spain and took root in the religiosity of the natives was the reading of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At the beginning of its practice, the Pasiones, as the narrations of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord were called, were literal translation from Spanish. The Pasiones eventually were indigenized, written in the local languages, and has incorporated some peculiar folk elements and values in them that made them uniquely Filipino. Another practice introduced by the missionaries that has become a Filipino custom still being done at present is the celebration of the Misa de Aguinaldo[11] or Misa de Gallo (Christmas dawn masses).

What became a universal devotion in the Philippines is the praying of the rosary. It was probably the most widespread than any other devotion. Its origin in the colony however is associated with some heroic and glorious moments of Philippine history – Spain’s victory over the Dutch intruders in the seventeenth century. The triumph was attributed to this devotion. Since then the people not only prayed the rosary, they wore it around their necks as anting-anting (amulets).

The missionaries took advantage of the Filipinos’ giftedness in singing, dancing, and acting hence making these practices more appealing to the latter. The Filipinos came up with innovations so that these European religious expressions would in effect be inculturated and filipinized. All the more that these practices became pervasive in the colony when the Spanish Church in the Philippines was institutionalized.

Hispanic-Cathlolic Spirituality

A hispanic-catholic spirituality? The natives already had their spirituality before the arrival of the Europeans. They did have a pantheon of gods and goddesses, rituals, native priesthood, belief in the afterlife, creation, etc. They did have an “encounter” with the divine many years prior to Hispanization. But the missionaries came as innovators and saw Christianity as a very effective means of incorporating the natives into Spanish culture. And besides, the missionaries were themselves product of the Council of Trent and self-proclaimed agents of the Catholic Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries. Their goal was to reorganize the politics, economy, and religiosity of the host colony. But the Filipinos too had a complementary role to play. They had to adapt themselves to the changes introduced by the Spaniards and they did somehow respond enthusiastically to the multiform appeal of the new religion and cultural imposition.

Spirituality in colonial Philippines could be aptly described as syncretic. This is evidenced by the reality of Filipino spirituality today. It is like praying to Jesus and Mama Mary with bended knees inside the steaming Quiapo Church with a recently purchased anting-anting in one hand and a rosary in the other, while wearing a western-designed pair of jeans and shirt to top it all.
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[1] Archbishop Leonardo Legazpi, OP is the prelate of the Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres (Naga). He delivered a conference on “Filipino Elements in Spirituality” on July 29-31, 2002 at UST, Manila. The text is printed in the “Lecture Series on Spirituality” published by Carmelite Center for Spirituality, Manila, Philippines.
[2] The latest theory on the peopling of the Philippines and its cultural evolution is what some historians term as “core population theory”. Considered as a better scientific alternative to “wave migration theory”, the former explains that population centers (cores) evolved simultaneously with other neighboring territories in the region. These centers either influence the demographic and cultural evolution of their neighbors or are themselves influenced by the latter.
[3] Islam arrived in Jolo, an island off the coast of mainland Mindanao, in 1481. It was brought here by a certain Muslim missionary and scholar, Sharif Kabungsuwan from Borneo.
[4] John Leddy Phelan, The Hispanization of the Philippines: Spanish Aims and Filipino Responses 1565-1700, Madison 1959, p. 53.
[5] Cfr. Lucio Gutierrez OP in The Archdiocese of Manila: Pilgrimage in Time (1565-1999), ed. by Crisostomo Yalung., Manila, 2000, p. 97.
[6] Ibid, 97-98.
[7] Owing to the fragmentation of the pre-hispanic Philippine society, the missionaries decided to resettle the dispersed households into compacted villages of 50 to 100 houses to form the nucleus of the territory which they eventually called the cabecera. The poblacion-barrio pattern we have today is a carbon copy of the cabecera-visita we find today the town, the municipality, the poblacion. Where the visita was found we find today the barrio. The church, the town hall, the palengke – a loaned word for market form old Spanish – the school and the houses are all clustered around the church. The plaza is the center of the town. Ibid, p. 92
[8] Cfr. Pablo Fernandez, History of the Church in the Philippines (1521-1898), Manila 1979, pp. 157-164.
[9] The anito is not a deity but a spirit medium who functions as an intermediary between the believers and the deities.
[10] Phelan, p. viii.
[11] This is the custom of celebrating masses very early in the morning during the nine days previous to Christmas day. It was established soon after the arrival of Christianity to the islands. It is not known however when nor who were responsible for its initial establishment.

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Reposted here from the Franciscan online archive


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