Category Archives: Makati

Gomez’s “quis ut deus” and the aswang

When the prolific Cebuano writer, Antonio Martinez Abad penned “La Vida Secreta de Daniel Espeña” in 1960 I wonder if he knew it would be the last from his generation. When I heard that the most dedicated advocate of the Spanish language in the country, Guillermo Gomez Rivera, completed his Spanish novel (more than half a century after Abad’s novel piece) I had to see him.

He handed fellow blogger Pepe Alas and myself a copy. I was supposed to read it but I forgot my copy back home. Alas told me that it’s an autobiographical novel. In it the Premio Zobel awardee included prominent contemporaries, individuals he knew—some family members.

Entitled “quis ut deus” (Latin for Who’s Like God?) the novel’s about Teniente Gimo; our version of Count Dracula.

Driving around Intramuros with Gomez. We had a so-so lunch in pricey Ilustrados were we ate sad small dishes. Pepe Alas took this photo. We were somewhere in Muralla (near Letran) here.

Interesting is how this novel, written around the legend of Teniente Gimo, have real people in it. This ghoulish character has prominently figured in Ilongo culture. If you’re Ilongo, or have Ilongo parents like myself, you perhaps heard about this legend from Dueñas.

This myth has done much to the detriment of this enchanting agrarian town’s reputation.

How an aswang could have anything to do in fighting the Americans in the 1900’s?

Well, this is something that we all have to find out.

Now, I really have to go back and get that book.

* * *

My mother is a hardcore believer in aswang. She swore that she had seen one, in fact she claims that one of our former household help in the 90’s was one! Her reason? she would see her walk around our compound pass midnight when everybody’s sound asleep. When quizzed what she was doing wandering around late at night she would have no memory of it!

It’s impossible to convince them that these things are not real. I remember one time telling them that aswangs are rumors instigated by the CIA in the Visayas to counter communist insurgency (Major General Edward Lansdale, lead intelligence operative in the islands admitted to this). My parents would not have any of this—they’re convinced that these ghouls disguised as ordinary people are as real as you and me.

The Spanish Orders who chronicled much of our ancient oral traditions had noted some of these in their accounts. These folklores are not a recent creations or something that the Friars invented to scare the general public into going to church.

My time spent around Malaysians has provided me with an invaluable understanding of our historical and cultural links with them. Most of our pre-Filipino customs and traditions are essentially “Malay” (I would be writing more on this topic later on).

The myth of “aswang” in all likelihood came from our Malay forefathers.

For example, the Mananangal also exist in their folklore. They call it “Hantu Penanggal”. They have Tianak too, they call it “Pontianak”. Their “Manaden,” “Langsuir,” and “Bajang” (we have “mambabarang,” these are witches) are like our aswang. At first I thought that because they’re Muslims they would not believe in these creatures but they do—turns out they’re as superstitious as we are!


Aguinaldo to Me

Last week I attended Dr. Serafin Quiason’s lecture on the life and time of Emilio Aguinaldo at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati. Most of the attendees were colleagues of the astute professor and descendants of President Aguinaldo; I met Wharton alum and one time finance minister, Cesar Virata, a grandnephew and another man who was a great grandson. The organizers, the Philippine Map Collectors Society, a group of prominent cartophiles, was there in force.

“The tragedy of Aguinaldo was that he lived too long and that he did not die a heroic death,” Dr. Quiason remembers his mentor, Professor Teodoro Agoncillo, telling him. The two visited President Aguinaldo together during their time working together in UP. He was enthralled by the late President’s “hospitality and generosity,” he recounted their time with the president with understandable pride. He said that Agoncillo and Aguinaldo spoke in traditional Tagalog which made it hard for him because he was Capampangan. According to him the President spoke Spanish with a Cavite accent and enjoys fried rice for breakfast.

Dr. Quiason and Gemma Cruz Araneta chatting before the lecture (at their back is a huge portrait of the Yuchengco by Botong Francisco). The Yuchengcos are ardent Rizalist. Aside from having a collection of paintings of Rizal, they renamed their insurance company after Rizal in the mid 1900’s. They also named their banking corporation Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation. I wonder if some of Rizal’s kin take royalties from all these!

The lecture was what I expected it to be. A litany of President Aguinaldo’s feats and exoneration from his involvement in the deaths of Bonifacio and Luna. At one point, the good professor even quoted Gen. Alejandrino’s words to Bluementritt extenuating the president from the killing of the founder of the Katipunan as necessary to unite the country. When asked if the president had any hand on these, Dr. Quiason responded that there’s nothing that would implicate Aguinaldo directly to these crimes. But many believes that history had already rendered its judgement on the man. I for one believe that it is these killings that has made him one of the least appreciated hero in our revolution. But then again, aside from Rizal, who else gets the right attention anyway?

There’s an interesting question raised regarding the absence of a holiday that commemorates the first president in the country. Everybody laughed at the question but I wonder if this exclusion had anything to do with his unpopularity. There are even calls by some to make Andres Bonifacio the first president which I think is silly but then I found out that this is supported by the likes of Robin Padilla; now it’s doubly silly. I think these people made that clamor to promote their Bonifacio movie last year. What would do us good is to study history as it should be studied—warts and all.

But is Aguinaldo a hero? In my mind he is. In his 20’s he had the weight of the entire Filipino people on his shoulder, leading a revolution and building a government. Did he made errors during his leadership? Sure, and I for one believe that he made critical lapses in judgement that led us to a more bloodier war (with the Americans) but hindsight as they say is perfect sight.

One of the highlights of our trip going to General Trias (formerly San Francisco de Malabon) when I was a little boy was seeing the Aguinaldo house where he declared the country independent. I recall my father would even ask me to get a five peso bill (the one where there’s a depiction of the house with Aguinaldo waving the flag) Of course later on I would learn that he did not made any declaration. It was read aloud by the Biñense lawyer Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, one of its author. Curiously, the document was not even signed by Aguinaldo. The trouble with how history is taught in our schools is that there’s so much exaggeration. While the idea is to foster nationalism it ends up distorting historical truths. I had to tell my father that what he told me then about Aguinaldo and that house was a big lie.

Oh well.




Second Hand Shops and Antiques in Evangelista

Segunda Mano shops are popping all over Evangelista. The area is now becoming the new Ermita. I recall how Mabini in Ermita was crammed with antique shops back in the day. They’ve been replaced by money changers. The antique shops hold outs can be found still in Mabini near Calle Sta. Monica.

In these Segunda Mano shops I go for old documents: letters, notary documents, pictures and Filipinianas. If they’re not too pricey books makes great acquisitions but dealers today are aware that collectors are willing to spend good money so they sell high. I remember seeing the classic coffee table book “The Streets of Manila” in 2007 for around two thousand pesos. Now it’s around 10 thousand if you’re lucky.

Looking for something specific here is literally trying to look for a needle in a haystack. So this one of those moments that it’s better to have no plans. I like the vinyls records as I’m thinking of starting my collection. The portrait is a Maribel Coching, daughter of the great comic illustrator and National Artist Francisco Coching.

Segunda Mano stores are more like garage sales. Most items they sell are not really antiques—old sofas, ornamental jars, decorative wall paintings and all sorts of junk. Antique shops on the otherhand, as its name suggest, sells just items that have cultural and historical value.

But the Segunda Mano shops, like the ones in Evangelista, are stocking up on invaluable antiques which makes them worthwhile haunts for collectors of bulkier antiques. For collectors of old documents I’d say there’s not much to see here but if you have time to spare it still makes a good stop over because some interesting documents of historical merit do find its way here.

In one shop I found a mid 1800’s law book bearing the signature of a certain Simeon Villa. I suspect this to be the famed poet Jose Garcia Villa’s father who serve as President Aguinaldo’s close aide during the revolution. He was a physician who kept a journal that provided details on the day to day lives and struggle of the revolutionary government on the run. I’ll probably regret not acquiring it.

Another interesting paper I found are what appears to be sketches of the great Tanay painter Tam Austria. Turns out that they’re consigned items that sells for a whooping 60 thousand pesos. I could not validate its authenticity (nor do I have the money to pay for it) so I examined the sketches without the intention of buying it of course.

In Calle Hen. P. Garcia I chatted with Tita Gemma, owner of a small shop that sells small figurines, paintings and decorative antiques. She too have interesting art works for sale including an early Anita Magsaysay-Ho who aside from knowing the name I know nothing more. It’s a pity that I understand little of Philippine paintings. The owner laments the high cost of keeping the shop. She bares that she often just break even.

In Calle Hen. Hizon, a  shop attendant listed the names of celebrities that visited them. I advised him to take pictures next time so he can post it in his store. That would make good advertisement I said. I asked him if he ever experienced multo from the ancient tocadors, mesas and huge aparadors he sells. He said that he has never seen one but he feels some kind of ghostly presence sometimes.

I left Evangelista around high noon and headed straight to Ermita. I still do visit the place to see what’s there to see. More of a force of habit. The prices has gone steeper; they know tourist can afford a higher price (the presyong turista attitude of our vendors). I was looking for a small clay jar for incense and I could not find anything below 800 pesos!

I don’t fancy myself as a collector. Items I’ve collected over the years does not have monetary value. I know because I frequent sites that sells antiques too—not to sell but to window shop.

Nothing compares to the joy of finding portraits of Filipinos, scribbling in Spanish or archaic Tagalog, clothed in the style of an era gone. These fires up all the romantic parts in me—what were the lives they lived, who are they, what were the food they enjoyed the most, what church they attended, languages they spoke, places they visited, are these people my relatives! These questions consumes me easy.

But just who would be interested in portraits of unknown Filipinos and their possessions except, maybe, relatives but the fact that these family heirlooms ended up in antique shops is a good indicator that even descendants has lost interest in them.

This is where an individual like myself comes in—if you have old pictures and documents you don’t want to keep just let me know!

The Binays of San Antonio Village

How I remember the Binays and why maybe it’s time to forget them.

I grew up near the Binay home in Makati. I would see the mayor every morning with family, friends and security jogging around San Antonio village. My way going to the school is where he starts his daily exercise.

He’s an amiable guy. He once donated basketballs after seeing the children in our neighborhood playing with a worn out ball. We would greet him and he would smile.

The VP’s daughter, Nancy, now a senator, use to do igib when there was a water shortage in the locality. Doctora Elen, the wife of the VP, is a caring doctor who treated patients for gratis, this, according to my mother. There were village leagues where Junjun, the current mayor, played on and we would shoot hoops. There was hardly any security around. My impression as a child was that the Binays was an ordinary family—and they were—then.

When we were being evicted from our homes after losing our case in the courts, I remember my parents, along with some of our neighbors seeing then Mayor Binay in his home. He could not overturn court decisions, so nothing really happened after that meeting, but his gesture of consoling the families made an impression on me.

I remember during the days when I would visit my classmates in Calle Lumbayao. We would peak beneath the gates of the Binay residence and watch him play ping pong. We would ask for those white plastic balls and he would throw some over the gate for us to pick.

I no longer follow Philippine politics these days. I find it foolish, repulsive and depressing. Watching these senate hearings is a waste of time but my father enjoys them like some dragging soap opera. But a few days ago I did watch some clips on youtube because the investigation involves the Binays, a family that I grew up admiring.

What I saw was depressing.

Everything points to the Binays owning that Rosario land. I wonder how long they could refuse ownership of that property.

If they’re not the true owners, as they defiantly claim—then it’s time for them to go to the mattresses—present hard proof that they don’t own that land that symbolizes everything that’s wrong and appaling with the rich families in this country.

Whatever happen to our neighbors, them Binays?

Gomez joins us for this Podcast!

I’ve known Sr. Gomez for 7 years now. But to this day I’m still learning new things from this man. His mind is a gold mine!

Two years ago he told me that we’re related. I told him that’d be hard to prove. A few months later he showed me this book with detailed family trees of the Locsin clan showing our familial link.

The guy’s a historian with a knack for finding buried truths.

I could understand why the ol’ man’s controversial. He doesn’t shy away from touchy historical topics. But as a young historian, I appreciate men like him because there’s not a lot people out there turning over stones. Whether you agree with him or not he deserves to be heard.

Gomez’s advocacy for the Spanish language is eerily similar to those forgotten Filipino who not only fought to keep it but used it to fend off rapid and rabid Americanization in the early 1900’s. His efforts, in print and, believe it or not, in social media, to bring Spanish back is quite fascinating.

Gomez’s from that generation of Spanish speaking Filipinos that saw Spanish as ‘THE’ language. While we all could draw different conclusions to this stand, it’s important to keep an open and critical mind. To understand this historian’s perspective we have to consider hisorical context. Gomez shares this ardent advocacy with the likes of Recto, Abad, Apostol, Balmori, Bernabe, Magalona and Cuenco.

There was a time when Filipinos stood up to defend Spanish, and to do so was patriotic. No one then questioned this advocacy as romanticism, although the American did consider it subversive. These days, only a handful of people fight this battle, and Gomez’s one of the last.


I’m of the opinion that Spanish must be studied not as a foreign language but a Filipino language. It’s irrefutable that old Spanish is part of our heritage.

Whether Spanish could lead the present generation of Filipinos to a deeper appreciation of our past is subject for open debate. I honestly believe that it’s not always the case. I’ve been in the BPO business for some time and has been friends with so many Spanish speaking Filipinos and majority of them possess no interest in our history nor our identity.

And yet, I’ve met people like the historian Pio Andrade, who has never spoken Spanish but has become a leading voice in bringing Spanish back in our schools. Another friend, a former Philippine Marine officer, who writes passionately on the subject, he too, never spoke Spanish.

So we go back to the question why Spanish is relevant today — I’d leave this for my distant uncle, my good friend, Sr. Gomez to answer.

Enjoy the podcast!

I’m kinda stuck now doing these podcasts in youtube. At the beginning, I thought that once the quality gets better and I get better producing it I’d try out itunes, only to find out that it would cost me to do so. So, I’m not going that route for now. These are the times when you wish you have money to pay for stuff.

For now, while it would be cool to have your own website and your files hosted, the way to go is to not to pay fees because there’s no fund for it. I think what’s important is that these conversations are uploaded in the internet and to allow people that are interested in ’em to get it when they want it. I have names lined up and together with my ol’ bud Filipinoescribble’s Pepe Alas, would continue making these podcasts.


Old Train Stations and Memories

A week ago, I visited Singapore’s old central train station. Though I didn’t see its interior, seeing the exterior’s art deco design was enough to make me feel better. Such structures has become rarer as time has gone on.

This accidental discovery has led me to another abandoned train station – the old Bukit Timah rail station. This one’s more modest and was more practical in its design. The station still have the old manual controls that was used to switch the tracks.

According to Remember Singapore blogger, “the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was completed in 1932 and part of Singapore-Kranji Line (Bukit Timah to Tank Road Terminal) was dismantled in 1939, the Bukit Timah Railway Station gradually lost its importance. After 1940, passengers could no longer board the train at this station as it was used as a passing loop station”. The length of this line going straight to the Malaysian heartland “is about 950km and the starting point is at Butterworth of Penang”. That means a Singapore-Butterworth-Singapore trip covers roughly a couple of thousand km’s!

I came across some young photography enthusiasts in the station. “we like old buildings as subject”, the boy said. The black painted steel bridge is in great shape. People and bikes and dogs uses it. The entire area, including the station, are planned for restoration. I’m sure there’s a lot of great memories here for the locals. I’m glad to know that they’re hanging on to this one.

Probably a railway office.

Building designated for conservation.

The switches. Cool. I wish I could play with these but they were off limits.

Some crushed old bricks. What made me shoot this. I don’t know.

You don’t mess with a property that belongs to someone called state. You just don’t.

No grand entrance.

Nature’s helicopter and its helipad. The forest has begun to reclaim what used to be a busy railway line.

I guess this is where it all ends.

The Bukit Timah station looks like the old Buendia PNR station of the 80’s. This brought back memories of my first school near the Manila – Makati border. Situated less than 300m from Buendia station, proximity to the railway, 50 meters. So close that every time a train passes with it honking its horns, everything stood still. Things inside the classroom would literally shake and vibrate from the tremor the trains create.

Accidents was common in the area because people lived right next to the rails. Most of my classmates are from this area we call “riles” (the illegal settlements along the railway). The school have windows over looking the “riles” which was great because I like seeing those mid 1900’s trains chug along. Another bonus is the narrow estero right beside the school. Not the cleanest of tributaries but it provided us some pleasant diversion from time to time. We’ve seen almost everything that floats pass by, from garbage bags to dead animals.

During summer, together with some of my classmates, we would drain the drying ponds under some of the shanties in the “riles” to catch catfish, dalag, gourami and martaniko. I would go home smelling like sewage (those pool doubled as septic tank for the settlers since there were no toilets!). As for the fish we caught, we never ate them (we once tried, in a lutu-lutoan way, and they taste awful), we kept them as pets (only to find out that they’ve cannibalized each other in a weeks time).

Seeing old train stations floods my mind with these wonderful childhood experiences. Now that most of the illegal settlers that once lived in the metro manila rail area are gone (which felt strange because I thought they’re going to be there forever) I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to those old classmates of mine.

That school was eventually transferred to a safer, modern and convenient multi-level building in Calle Caong. They could still hear the train coming but not as loud as we used to in Calle Bakawan. But what surprised me was finding out that the school now have proper uniforms. Back in the day uniforms was not strictly enforced. You can come in your underwear and the teachers won’t mind it. They know where the kids come from. Some families are so poor that they send their children to school to get fed.

While we don’t have much of a facility back then, we had that phenomenal canteen that dished out blissful nourishing soups. While the menu was limited to sopas, plain goto and champorado (and sometimes, when the stars are aligned we get arrozcaldo with chicken bits) we children loved them. It’s funny because we would get distracted during our classes the moment we start smelling what’s cooking!

Not a complete list, but I remember these great maestra’s:

Mdm. Ceremonias, who tried to convert everyone to born-againism, but looking back, we owe her big time – she was the soup maker.

Mdm. Subas, who almost crippled me with her stick when she caught me loitering. I love eating quail eggs and made it a habit to throw the shells everywhere. And oh boy did she straightened out this lad.

Mdm. Asis, the strictest teacher I ever had. She instilled in us to come to school well groomed, if you don’t, you get slapped! We would bite our nails to make them short. She inspects the class, like a drill sergeant, every morning.

Mdm. Abay, she an awesome science teacher. I think one of the best teacher I ever had. She opened my eyes to the magical world of science. She’d be greatly disappointed of course that I failed chemistry and physics subjects in college.

Mdm. Jaurigue, a devout Catholic who I impressed with my knowledge of the Saints! She probably thought of me a saintly boy but saintly I was not. I have two books at home around that time: a Tagalog-English dictionary and the Book of Saints.

Sir Brilliantes (?) The schools music teacher who taught us how to be part of rondalla. He does it all: teach music, repair instruments, conduct marches and compose songs (I wonder if he ever played the Blues – he must have, there’s no way he got to be that good without it!) He tried teaching us how to read music. It was just too much for me.

Mdm. Seriosa who married an American and left. She was my brother’s favorite teacher. From some 10+ years before me.

Sir Tecson, I remember his name but not what he taught us – probably math subjects.

That handsome lil’ lad. Top, first boy on the left. Yes. Right. That’s him. That’s me. Grade 2, circa 1987.

All my brothers knows these teachers well. They were their teachers too. Just imagine most of them has been teaching since the 60’s. That’s a lifetime of work. Such beautiful dedicated, noble spirited human beings. Where would we be without them.

Small school, big dreams…

San Antonio Village Elementary School

Makati, Philippines

1986 – 1992

CEU and the Sampaguita

Last night while trying to look for old Hispano-Filipino songs in youtube I stumbled upon clips of CEU’s gradution rites. It was amazing seeing graduating students singing “El Collar de Sampaguita”. I wasn’t expecting to witness that. I thought they’ve already translated it in Tagalog and abandoned the original.

I’ve read the history of CEU (Centro Escolar de Señoritas, now Centro Escolar) some years ago because I once considered taking a course in their Makati campus. The history buff that I am, I took a liking to one of the founders, Doña Librada Avelino . She grew up during the time when filipino-hispano culture was prevalent. She’s used to the Spanish style of education that when she initially established her first private school it failed because of the new standards set by the Americans. She enrolled herself to the Summer School of Linguistics to learn English.

The Spanish song El Collar de Sampaguita was one of the most popular Spanish songs of its time (and is a personal favorite). It speaks of the unique and rare quality of the country’s national flower. The inclusion of the song in the graduation rite’s probably started during the early 1900’s when the university had Francisco Buencamino, the composer of El Collar de Sampaguita. He taught music in the university.

My favorite part of the song is the closing stanza, “Pero al fin la delicada sampaguita, devorada por el fuego se marchita, y si alguien la guardó, esa flor se convirtió, en recuerdo de la dicha que pasó”. In many ways our remembrance of the old sampaguita is about history and keeping alive the memory of those who cherished it most.

There seem to be confusion on “La Flor de Manila” and “El Collar de Sampaguita”. Both songs dedicated to the national flower. “La Flor de Manila” was composed by Dolores Paterno, the younger sister of Pedro Paterno. She died relatively young at the age of 27. This song which was written in the 1890’s is her only known surviving work. It is said that she composed the music while she was asleep. This story was told to me by GGR. In the 60’s GGR compiled and sung all these wonderful song in his radio program.

The lyrics “La Flor de Manila” are credited to Antonio Luna, Maximo Hizon and Leopoldo Brias. Of course, we’re familiar with Antonio Luna and what happened to him. The other fellow, Hizon another forgotten hero in the revolution. He mysteriously died at the age of 31 after he was captured by the Yanqui’s in Pampanga.

So when someone say that these Spanish songs are remnants of our colonial past, we better think about who created them – because they in most cases, they’re the very people we regard as heroes and founders of our nation.

Discussions on the State of the Spanish Language during the American Occupation

I spent the whole morning talking with Pio Andrade and GGR about the true state of the Spanish language during the American occupation in the early 1990’s [and some other historical stuff].

Below are some of what they had to say about the topic:

PA: The Americans forbided the teaching of Spanish when they came yet the Spanish capability of the Filipinos increased because the Thomasites had to learn Spanish for them to teach English effectively. Instead of decreasing the speakers of Spanish, they increased it.

A number of English publications in 1903 compared to the number of English and Spanish publications of 1918 shows the latter increasing. Almost all English publications had to dedicate Spanish sections in order to be widely read. Agoncillo’s claim of 2% [Spanish speakers in the 1900’s] have no reference. It’s a big  lie.

GGR: It’s a lie to you, to me and to all Filipinos [that Spanish was never spoken by Filipinos]. That’s why they’re [the US] here, to lie. The exploitation was unbelievable since the beginning.

You should have a copy of the book “Rizal’s Unfading Glory”, written by Padre Jesús María Cavanna y Manso. Its the most exhaustive research on the man. Its all there. They try to wishy washy Rizal. Trying to justify American colonialism by promoting the Americanized version of this hero. If they want to get serious about Rizal then they should study his poems, novels, songs and plays in Spanish!

The brave women of Malolos wanted to learn Spanish. Rizal supported them. The message was clear. A lot of people appears to be afraid of the true Rizal but the true Rizal must come out! People just want to repeat the same stories about the man.

WOP: I’ll never forget the stories of my adopted grandmother about Spanish [language]. Having been born in prewar Manila she grew up around people who spoke Spanish. Her father was Irish, having stayed in the country for so long learned Spanish. Her mestiza mom, part Swiss, also spoke it. Intramuros  exclusively spoke Spanish. This includes according to her the servants and the Chinese merchants!

She saw it as something very Filipino. She’s so proud that her generation spoke “the language”. She succeeded in teaching it to her children and grandchildren. And this is an American citizen.

My biological great grandparents, and this came from those who lived with them, spoke the language. My maternal great grandfather was said to be a strict disciplinarian [he evicted my grandpa from Dumangas] exclusively spoke Spanish at home. He was Aglipayan.

Its just strange that we all remember our grandparents speaking Spanish and yet we believe what was taught in school. That it was never widely spoken by Filipinos.

Pio and GGR posing with the newspaper interview ( ¿se retracto Rizal?...¡si!) showing Trinidad Rizal admitting that Jose indeed retracted before he died. GGR here commenting and having fun on the printed shirt (waikiki) of Don Pio!


All other text enclosed in parenthesis is mine.

Goodbye Doña Amparo

Protection, shelter that’s what her name means in Spanish. And this is exactly what she gave her love ones.

She was a generous and loving lady. I know. I’ve had the privilege of being close to her. I was a recipient of her love.

I will always look up for her. She was a star.Though we were not related by blood, we were, by friendship and by love.

She gifted me with so many wonderful memories, but above all, she taught  me about the value of having a dream.

She’s big on “having a dream”. She even have song for it.

There were days that we would sing Disney’s Pinocchio theme, “When you wish upon a Star”. And oh boy did we sang like maya’s into the wind. She loves that song, and I did too.

We would sat in front of her house, while enjoying her beloved San Miguel Beer, she would tell me stories about her life and how Filipino life was like when she was younger. No wonder I’ve become a history buff – It was her amazing stories about the Filipino’s days of yore that got me.

She has very kind eyes. Those beautiful eyes were  very observant and curious. If it happened in Calle Bagtican – she knows it.

The reason the whole neighborhood calls her “Mommy” is because everybody love’s her. You’re not from that place if you don’t know the The Queen of Bagtican!

But when she gets upset – better watch out – she’s unstoppable, unpredictable when mad. She could curse, shout and rage in many language. She’s from a generation that gives importance to honesty – she speaks from the heart.

Mommy is always malambing. I think this is the Ilonga side of her. People know she hold no grudges. She’s not the type. Forgive and forget. This is how she was.

To Mommy: thank you, for all that you’ve done for me.

Nunca te olvidaré. Siempre estaras en mi mente y mi corazon.


Poblacion of Makati

I wanted to visit the Museo ng Makati but since it was closed I found myself wandering the streets of what was before the center of San Pedro Macati in the middle of the day.

I made surprising discoveries – because until that moment of my visit I had no idea that the local government commemorative metal markets in the old streets of Macati. Bronze plaques with descriptions of how the busy streets of the poblacion was once used, how it look like and what kind of people lived in the area.

I’m sure that those commemorative markers did not placed a dent on the city’s budget, considering Makati is the richest city in the country – they could afford to have more of them if they want to. What is important, and I think this was accomplished there, is that the people are made aware of what the place was once like. If locals can appreciate their area’s history, they’re they’re likely to come up with solutions on how preserve, maintain and protect their heritage places.

So what was San Pedro de Macati, its poblacion, was like in the mid and latter part of the 20th century?

The place was a summer villa for the rich Manila folks. Several families had houses near the river. Rest haus as they call it these days but much of Macati was still wild “cogon” land. The Poblacion’s riverside market must have been a fascinating place: “fish vendors yells out their merchandise of ayungin, hipon, tilapia, talilong, kanduli and biya…Various products were also peddled on the river aboard cascos…fish, shrimps, firewood from the forest of Binangonan, coconuts from Laguna, nipa shingles and delicacy made out of jammed panutsa called inuyat (a delicacy like panutsa from the province of Morong) were sold”.

The Presidencia, now the Makati Museum, is a beautiful building that was built in the 1930’s. The land where it stands was donated by the Ayala’s. Although I haven’t seen whats inside the building, the Presidencia is a  good example of architecture that dates back to a time when government offices were made with style and elegance.

The term “presidencia” came from the title of local chief executive then – municipal presidents. Locals, more familiar with Spanish than American English, called their offices Presidencia. This was the municipal and city halls during the Yankee era. In other countries Presidencia refers to the office of a prime minister.

The original cemetery of Makati before it was moved to Kalayaan is located in the Poblacion area. It was said to have a “12 foot wide gate with massive block of Molave wood connecting the gate posts overhead…there’s also a Molave crucifix on top of a stone pedestal”. Some of its occupants were known “Spanish clergies and Spaniards”. The area is now Plaza Cristo Rey.

When you think of Makati you characteristically think of the premier finance hub with expensive high rise residences and villages comparable to the swankiest and richest neighborhoods abroad. This is why a lot of people are surprised to see a centuries old churches standing in the midst of this busy modernity that is Makati.

Sts. Peter and Paul Church was first built by the Jesuits. The land was donated by a man made rich by the galleon trades. It was reconstructed after the British destroyed it when they occupied Manila.

Its strange how words got corrupted. The area was known to locals as “sampiro” before, from San Pedro, the patron saint of the area. Its likely that many of the locals then were primarily composed of Chinese mestizo (how else could a pronounciation of the word San Pedro be that far from the original!). San Pedro was later dropped and Macati was recognized as a separate municipality. Then Macati became Makati. Makati or Macati refers to the receding tide of the river according to old folks – quite possibly, Makati also describes the low water level of Rio Pasig in the area. To this day, one of the only bridge that was ever built to connect Makati to Mandaluyong is in this historic area.

Kudos to the Makati local government! I hope that their initiative would be replicated by other LGU’s. So that people would know what used to exist before our modern jungle of steel, glass and concrete.

The "Presidencia"

The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul. Built on what was known then as "Buena Vista" because of its elevated location.

%d bloggers like this: