Category Archives: Historia

Meet up with Dr. Legarda

 

I had a senior moment a few days ago. I accidentally deleted the original post “Meeting Dr. Legarda” (December 2017). I tried googling caches of the blog online hoping that there’s a copy out there somewhere to no avail. And so, I’m starting from scratch.

 

I wanted to ask Dr. Benito Legarda Jr. a few questions and have my books signed (a personal favorite is his compiled writings “Occupation: the Later Years”). I’ve enjoyed and learned so much from his work over the years. So I messaged (on FB) him last year, sometime November. To my surprise, the nonagenarian responded! He told me to let his secretary, Ms. Fe, know when I plan to visit. I first met Dr. Legarda in person in a seminar at the Instituto Cervantes a few years ago.

I started reading Dr. Legarda’s articles and books in college (1996). I was not really into WWII history then but I heard stories about it all my life. One consistent storyteller in our home was our father. He imparted to us unforgettable stories of life, death and struggle in wartime Negros. My father passed away last August. He was 10 years old when the war came to our shores. I told Dr. Legarda that reading his stories now brings memories of my late Father. His stories echoes Papa’s memories of the war in his  home province of Negros Occidental.

Another person who shared memorable wartime stories with us was the late Doña Amparo (affectionately called Mommy in Calle Bagtican). I refer to her as my “adopted grandma” not because she took care of me (although she sometimes did) but because she was really the first person who introduced me to culture and arts. She placed my feet on the door of lifelong quest for education on Filipino history. Doña Amaparo came from an affluent family. The last American director of Iwahig was her dad. They used to own parts of Cartimar and where Pasay Chung Hua now stands. One story that I’ll never forget (this was also shared by one of her granddaughter during her eulogy) was when she was placed inside a bangâ (but I believe it must have been a tapáyan because this had a wider opening and a wider base) when the Japanese inspected their home in Pasay. She was so slender and small that she not only fitted inside the earthen jar but stayed there for at least an hour until the Japanese left!

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After signing my books I posed a few questions to Dr. Legarda. He had some allergy that afternoon so I decided not to stay long. The first question was how he feels that WWII history is not a popular subject among our youth. He said “prominent families collaborated with the Japanese then… many of them still in power today.” He cited former President Noynoy Aquino whose grandfather, Benigno Aquino Sr., was director general of the local political party the Japanese created.

Dr. Legarda’s observation made sense. How can a President like Aquino recount and promote the heroism of his people during the war when his very family colluded with the enemy who had Filipinos killed by hundreds of thousands?

The late Dr. Andrade said that he had reasons to believe that many of the collaborators families still received benefits to this day. The Japanese are known for their commitment to their word. Gen. Ricarte’s children received allowances and scholarship in Japan long after his death in the highlands of Luzon.

My next question was if he heard of Japanese running other towns with kinder hands. “Yes, but they were certainly not here in Manila.” He then shared statistics of deaths in Manila. We went on to talk about Ambassador Rocha who survived the Liberation of Manila when he was only 7. The good Ambassador made it his advocacy to promote the remembrance and study of the events that transpired during the war. Dr. Legarda wrote an informative tribute to the Ambassador when he passed two years ago.

My family’s experience, on my Dad’s side, must have been an exemption. They were treated fairly by the Japanese. But this came with a heavy price. When the Japanese left San Carlos (Negros), they were hunted by Guerrillas. They were excessively brutal my Father said. So cruel that they buried a grand uncle alive!

Before heading out, I thanked Dr. Legarda and told him that “I can’t tell my father’s wartime stories to my son, it’s impossible. But thanks to your books, I don’t have to.” He smiled and said, “it will, they’re good substitutes.”

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#AngLarawan: not a film review

We Filipinos complain about the sad state of our film industry. But when a good local film comes out it doesn’t get the support it deserves.

Ang Larawan, adapted from Joaquin’s Portrait of an Artist as a Filipino (1952) is as good as it gets.

A friend remarked, “sadyang mababaw daw tayong mga Filipino.”

I don’t agree—I’ve seen artsy foreign films get noticed by moviegoers and receive rave reviews from local film critics.

Perhaps a more acceptable explanation is this:

We lack the education and exposure to Filipino art and history. We limit our children with what television offers (and lately, social media). We bring them to malls and beaches, rarely to museums, plays and art classes.

It is time that we read Filipino literature to our children. Many of our great writers remains unread.

 

Déjà vu!

The late director and National Artist Lamberto Avellano’s adaption (A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino 1965) was snubbed as well when it came out in . It closed after 5 days because of poor attendance. It starred his wife, Daisy H. Avellana as Candida. Like her husband, she’a a National Artist awardee.

Joaquin’s classic first appeared in Weekly Womens Magazine. Before it was adapted to film, the play was popular among theater viewers. It run for 160 shows which is considered the longest in Filipino theatre history.

Avellana was said to have approached Atty. Manuel “Manny” De Leon for support. The LVN boss was curious if Manila would see it—if there was such “intelligentsia” that would see the film. He produced it but they would be disappointed—the film flopped.

Ang Larawan Comeback

I intended to watch the film in SM Muntinlupa. It was pulled from their cinema the day I was about to see it.

The film critics and awards it garnered has put winds on its sails. Now cinemas started showing the film once more (after being pulled out in many movie houses during its first week). I saw in TV Patrol the other day that people has started buying tickets—bravo!

Thoughts on Joaquin

Guillermo Gomez Rivera, who used to play Don Perico (in one performance, a boozed up Joaquin howled and cheered from the audience), told me that the entire play is Joaquin’s interpretation of what happened to identity as people—we had a truncated culture.

“That was the termination of something beautiful (our culture and identity)… we perhaps would never see it again,” Gomez told me. Paula, Candida and the Father, the maestro, died defiant against a fast changing world.

Contra mundum! 

One of my biggest regret was not meeting Joaquin. I would love to pick his mind (but he’s not into interviews I was told). Filipina writer based in Chile, Elizabeth Medina, told me that she once requested for an audience with Joaquin.

“Too bad Nick Joaquin didn’t “pescarme” (hindi ako pinansin) when I called him in Manila in 1997. He didn’t realize, that’s all that I was asking him, to mentor me, that I was genuine. But then it means that he was not meant to be my mentor,” She said.

Seeing Joaquin’s work articulated visually by artists and even students today is personally gratifying. I’ve been a fan for so long that it feels good to see his following grow in number (among my generation and the so called “milleneals”).

My only other wish is that Filipinos dig deeper, contemplate on the message Joaquin conveys through his stories and characters. He is to me, the conduit to our glorious past forgotten.


Sun Yat Sen’s Singapore Villa

The villa sits in a residential area. It is in Balestier (near Novena, a Catholic church popular among Filipinos) named after US Consul Joseph Balestier, a huge chunk of the estate was made into his botanical garden. Balestier was married to Maria Revere, daughter of one of US’s founding father, Paul Revere.

Last month, I visited the historic villa that became the Singapore headquarters of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. I found out about this place from a Chinese-Singaporean cab driver who I met three years ago.

While he drives his cab here in the Lion City, his Filipino family is in Iloílo. The daughter studies in a Chinese school (I couldn’t remember if it was Iloílo Sun Yat-sen High School).

He told me that he intends to retire in his wife’s native province. Not a bad idea. I would likely do the same, I said. He then went on to talk about Dr. Sun. His knowledge of the Chinese revolutionary was impressive. He said it comes from his parents who revered China’s “forerunner of democratic revolution”.

When we passed by the Balestier area, he told me that there’s a house there where Dr. Sun stayed. Officially, he only visited it a total of nine times.

Dr. Sun and his Filipino connection

There’s this delightful photo of Dr. Sun and Mariano Ponce wherein the former was dressed in a Western-style suit while the latter, looking rather like a Japanese, was wearing a kimono. Those who don’t know both patriots won’t be able to tell the difference. They shared a deep friendship. One of the first biographies on Dr. Sun was penned by Ponce himself.

Dr. Sun assisted the Filipinos in procuring arms from Japan. Most of these did not reach its buyers. The ship carrying the arms sank in Chinese seas. Some of the salvaged guns and ammunition ended up in the hands of Chinese revolutionaries.

I visited Dr. Sun’s Penang headquarters two years ago. I didn’t intend to see it, but we stayed close to it. The series of defeats made solicitations in Singapore difficult; Dr. Sun had to move his nerve center.

Penang (Georgetown) is cashing in on their Sun Yat Sen connection. They have tours going on in places that are linked to him. He is a popular historical figure among the Chinese–their version of José Rizal. Both lived in the same era, they were contemporaries. But they never met. Judging from their renown, I am sure that they had heard about each other.

Dr. Sun (middle seated) surrounded by his Singapore crew. The guy knows how to dress. Good looking fella. (Photo taken from the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall)

The Villa in Balestier

The villa owner at the turn of the century was the rubber magnate and Dr. Sun supporter, Teo Eng Hock. He purchased it for his mother as a retirement home (it was called Wan Qing Yuan). Teo is the great granduncle of Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (I saw how this man campaigned because we used to live in Punggol, his constituency, and we were startled to see how tall he was in person — the guy can play basketball center!).

When Teo Eng Hock learned that Dr. Sun chose Singapore to be the center of his campaign, he offered his villa, and the mother was OK with it. Balestier at that time was considered outskirts; there was not a lot of happenings in the area.

They just don’t make things like this anymore. Look at the details and finish. Singapore not only preserved this villa but made sure that it would last for another one hundred years. When it comes to restoration and re-use of heritage structure, no one comes close (in the region) to how Singaporeans does it.

It is a stately mansion (we Filipinos used this word). From its veranda, once could probably see the rubber plantations and all the natural beauty old Singapore once had. The art deco shop houses in the area are worth seeing.

The two-tiered colonial style villa changed hands a few times. A group of Chinese businessmen bought it, then handed it over to the Chinese chamber of commerce. During the Japanese occupation, it became a communications office.

The first floor exhibits the story behind the Singapore operations and its contributions to the revolution. The second floor features the room believed to be used by Dr. Sun. There’s also the “Reading Room” where revolutionaries brought the Chinese in Singapore to be indoctrinated and educated.

Dr, Sun’s republic is most likely closer to the wester ideals than to the Chinese model we have today. He spent a considerable amount of his younger years in Hawaii where he became a Protestant Christian. When he got back to his bucolic Chinese village he openly criticized old religious practices and even attacked temples. I am sure he also learned how to surf! Mahalo!

Model restoration

We Filipinos could learn a thing or two from Singapore’s heritage conservation. They create clear and viable plans, there’s vision on how historical buildings are managed. Singapore’s museums and heritage sites rank among the best in the world.

There’s but one board that decides which building and monuments are to be preserved. Once a decision is made for a monument or building to be gazetted (for conservation by a technical group capable of doing so, and for public education by relevant agencies), they follow three simple rules: maximum retention, sensitive restoration, and careful repair. Throughout the process, from deciding which one needs preservation up to the actual restoration, there are no overlapping agencies. So typical of Singapore — uncomplicated process, free from delay and corruption.

A detailed floor plan of the Balestier submitted to the colonial British administrators

A delightful tour

I went to the museum intnding to observe the exhibit on my own. I ended up joining the tour. There were only three of us. The other two visitors were young, bespectacled Singaporeans, history buffs like myself.

The tour guide was a knowledgeable and cheerful volunteer, Madam Mae Chong. She goes to the villa to tour people. She laments that visitors are often small.

If there ever was a person with expertise and passion about the life and times of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his men in Singapore, this lady is it.
I asked Madam Chong if Dr. Sun is revered in China as much as in Taiwan and other places. She said Dr. Sun is considered the founding father of China—they claim him as theirs, the same way the Taiwanese does.

Like what the Beatles said, “you say you want a revolution, well, you know, we all want to change the world”. Looks like everybody has a different take on how to change things.

 


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?


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.

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 😁😁😎

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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.


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