Category Archives: Opinion

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.


Remembering Doreen

I stumbled upon this article by Philstar writer Alfred Yuson, entitled “Honoring Doreen’s Legacy”. Today is Doreen Fernandez’s 10th year death anniversary.

“Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture” was one of the first book I ever bought when I started buying books. I don’t know who she was then. I was starting to build my Filipiniana collection and her publisher is known for the quality of its writers and published materials. I decided to grab a copy hoping that it was more than a cooking book.

Well, it was more than what I expected.

It became one of those books that influenced the way I think about Filipino culture. She write in very simple form and she understands how to explain culture like no other. She has traveled the country in search of stories behind our culture of food.

People like her made me realize how much history is in the things we taste and try to digest. She’s a writer that proves history is everywhere and can be easily found. Having parents that grew up in the same province where Doreen came from made me relate to much of what she wrote about. To this day, whenever I’m in Negros, and eating, I would be reminded of her wonderful stories.

In her writings one can sense her fear of losing Filipino culture.  I share this fear – as do many Filipinos who had opened their eyes to our dying traditions. What I like about her is that she traveled and researched more than any other person that taught or write for a living. She was out there experiencing Filipino culture and history. When I read her today, I know that she wrote was what she experienced first hand and not what she just read and heard.

The Philstar writer included an excerpt from the introduction of Maya Roxas, Doreen’s niece, in the book “Appetite for Life”: “Her strength rests in this, the exploration and presentation of food not just as the stuff of lifestyle magazines and serial cookbooks, but as a significant and compelling index of who and what we are as a people.”

Doreen is one of our best historian. Although her topics were mostly about food culture and traditions there was no doubt that what she accomplished with her writings did more for Philippine history appreciation than any other history essayist of her time.

Andres Bonifacio Subject in College

Get ready for another shocker of a bill  courtesy of our lawmakers: A college subject solely dedicated to the revolutionary hero, Andres Bonifacio. This was proposed recently by one this party group called Kabataan in congress.

Let’s wait for more. Why stop with Bonifacio? Lets add college units for all our heroes! Labu-labo na lahat na gawan ng suheto sa colegio!

Mabini should have one too. I can hear Caviteños clamoring another one for Aguinaldo. Maybe the brilliant Gen. Antonio Luna should be studied as a subject as well. My Ilongo parents would certainly wish one for their hometown hero Jaena.

But, really, do we need additional subjects so we can better appreciate Filipino history? Do we need a Bonifacio subject to understand the importance of his contributions?

Is it not that Philippine history is not being taught properly right from grade school? and that we lack programs that promote our culture and history?

Students are not even paying attention to Rizal and now we are about to add Bonifacio. When students are fairing well with existing history subjects we have in place – then we think of adding new subjects.  But for now – please, honorable congressmen, heed the advice of legendary English rock band Pink Floyd “leave the kids alone…”

The problem with our country is that we think we need more laws to fix our problems. We end up swamped with more laws than we know. There are more issues in Philippine historiography that needs to be addressed. We don’t need new subjects.

We need to strengthen the teaching of Philippine history – when begin to appreciate Philippine history as an essential part of our identity – then we have done our job. If we fail to do this, and we are failing, the whole thing falls apart – we continue with Philippine history subjects as just units that needed to be completed to pass high school and college. We end up with generations of Filipino with a shallow understanding of what the Filipino past is all about.

The biggest challenge is making Philippine history more accurate, more interesting, more accessible and more effective for the young. We need innovative historical  programs (in school and in public) that will capture our peoples imagination. We need to look at other countries and how they’re succeeding. Lets use all medias at our disposal – fund projects that will engage students and save what’s left of our national treasures. These are what our kagagalang-galang na mga representante should be tackling in congress. When these guys get creative and proactive, when they acquire vision – we get our taxes worth.

BJ Penn Manila Visit

Penn meeting his adoring Filipino fans in SM MOA

As early as 3PM MMA fans had already swarmed the venue (SM Mall of Asia) cable channel Balls and ABS CBN arranged last Wednesday. The atmosphere was thick with anticipation. Everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of BJ Penn. Arguably one of the greatest MMA fighter of all time.

The last time I was in MOA was three years ago. I was then actively competing in grappling competitions. MOA has become the venue of choice for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and grappling challenges for some time now. Having been a practitioner of the discipline before has made me appreciate fighters like Penn who employs a lot of Jiu Jitsu techniques in his arsenal. BJ is the best BJJ fighter in MMA (the other guy in my opinion is Shinya Aoki)… and I’m not going to miss the chance to see the Prodigy in the flesh (I already missed Georges St. Pierre’s public workout this year).

Addressing the crowd after a very cool MMA demo slash workout.

Bidding the fans goodbye. On his right is PJ Penn, left is Jeff (forgot his last name) who use to drop by our classes before. He's a cool purple belt instructor.

Aside from being a champ in two different UFC divisions, BJ made history as the first non Brazilian to ever win a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world championship.  This is the reason why he’s so admired by BJJ practictioners. He’s looked upon as someone that took BJJ to a whole different level.

BJ Penn lost his last fight in UFC 137 and has retired since. He’s now touring the world to promote MMA.

Unlike Ronnie Nathanielsz and some of our Kababayan who are making the case for Marquez’ winning over Pacquiao, BJ still sees the Filipino fighter winning because the “challenger didn’t brought the fight” to Manny. “It was close” according to the Prodigy but he’s not jumping on the bandwagon of those who calls the fight a robbery (if you want to see a robbery in boxing watch Roy Jones Jr’s Olympic gold medal match in Korea!). Being a fighter himself he knows the ups and downs and off nights on the ring. He also said that there’s no need for a “4th Marquez fight” because Pacquiao has already beaten him. And I agree.

Speaking of Manny, he made some interesting comments about Nathanielsz’s calling him “not Filipino”. Well, Ronnie is a Filipino whether we like it or not. I feel that Manny should have never made those comments. But what catches my ire with Ronnie is his “Manny lost to Marquez” talk. He reminds me of that Hermie Rivera who belittled a young Pacquiao before he fought Marco Antonio Barrera. He predicted that Pacquiao will lose badly because the Mexican is the better fighter. Of course, he was wrong (Ed Picson started calling him Hermie “Barrera” since) and so is Ronnie. Manny won the fourth fight and yes, it was close but what I like about that fight was he gave it all under what ever circumstances he was in at that time. He prevailed under the slimmest of margins.

Some people are just Pacquiao hating. Lets support our kababayan – he’s done a lot for the nation.

Pacquiao will beat Mayweather – after that, I hope he hangs up his gloves.

Damn it, why am I writing about these here.

Must get back to traveling and my studies.

EDSA for now…

Filipino politicians are always trying to rewrite history by replacing traditional street names with whatever fits their moods and interest. EDSA highway is now being threatened by yet another attempt to have it named after Cory. Its as idiotic as renaming a street after someone who grew up in it (plenty of examples of this serial disregard of history).

Are there no more important issues to discuss in congress these days?

The Boholano congressman probably never read about Senador Roxas’ previous attempt to rename EDSA. Roxas exactly had the same intention – name it after Cory. He abandoned his plans after finding out how unpopular his idea was – he doesn’t want to deal with issues that could affect his electability (he was running for VP then).  I think he would have lost more votes if he insisted. Another senator, Dick Gordon, pushed hard for replacing another historical symbol – the flag. He sees the first republic’s flag as not representing our Muslim brothers. The guy is smart but this made me cringe – I didn’t know the flag is supposed to represent a group or a religion. What I know is that it should stand for the history and aspirations of our founding fathers. I would have voted for him if it were not for this crazy idea of his.

What’s exciting is that no one wants these changes made anymore – it is as if Filipinos have awaken from a long sleep. People are now rejecting what before would have not even made the tabloids. Now everybody is talking. If we continue resisting these idiotic laws, soon, these politicians will lose their appetite trashing history. So, while I’m bothered by the way some of our leader think, I’m happy seeing this renewed vigilance of our young people. I’m pretty hyped!

A few weeks ago, the Batangas Governor’s proposal to put an ala-hollywood Batangas sign in Taal and it drew so much negative criticism from all over the country that the Batangas’ politicians had to go on the defensive. Their proposal became a goldmine for jokes and ridicule in the social media sphere. I was smiling from ear to ear hearing the Batangas politicians trying to explain their side in prime time news – they don’t know what just hit them.

In Negros,there’s this wonderful coastal town once called Saravia. We have fisher folk relatives there that my mother used to visit when she was younger. The town, according to her, was popular for their brand of kinilaw and scenic seascape. When I brought her to Negros recently she was shocked to find that they renamed the entire town after Enrique Magalona (grandfather of the late Francis M). She asked “how was that possible?’, I don’t know if there was ever a consensus to have the town renamed but my view is that such changes only serve to diminish the historical significance of a town because a name, whether for a person or a place, represents identity.

But in a country where politics is a circus what can we expect! There was even a time in our history that politicians was pushing for the name of the country to be changed.

These people are unbelievable. Crazy.

I Wish Filipiniana Books were Cheaper

I picked up a book yesterday for 50 pesos. And it’s a Filipiniana. So that’s surprising.

The book is entitled “Taga sa Bato”  by Ted T. Antonio. First published by Ateneo de Manila University Press in 1994. It is a compilation of Tagalog poems from 1973 – 1988.

But no, there’s no Filipiniana sale going on…

The book was probably misplaced because it was in the international section (I also got Michael Phelp’s “No Limits” for  P100). Foreign titles usually goes on sale. Local titles – well, rare as a unicorn.

What I want to see is for the Filipiniana titles prices to go down.

We need to get Filipinos to read Filipinos – ensuring the Filipiniana are cheaper is a needle moving on the right direction. Comic, magazines and pocket books are the most profitable publications out there, partly, because they’re cheap and easier to read.

The price is a factor. I read a lot but I won’t spend more than 200 or 300 pesos for a book. Every peso counts these days. Books are not supposed to wreck a person’s budget.

I’ve been reading LMG (The Anthology of Leon Ma. Guererro) from the shelves of Powerbooks because it cost 1000+! Who are going to buy these books? Certainly not the average folks.

Not that Filipinos would pick up Filipiniana titles once the prices drop, of course, our schools needs to do their part.

I don’t believe Filipinos, especially students, won’t be interested in Filipino history books for example – Ambeth Ocampo already showed us it can be sold – and in high volumes!

We just have to somehow find a way to keep the prices low.

And, make people like Ambeth write…

That’s Just Crazy

I’ve seen some pretty bizarre things in my three decade long of existence. Pass 2am this morning, a guy apparently fell off the roof of Vivere in Alabang. That’s a 30 floor drop. That’s an unsurvivable situation. I don’t know if it was an accident or something else. The dead man can be seen right out of  the window of my office. It’s heartbreaking — I could just imagine the reaction of that young man’s parents once they find out what just happened to their son.

This is not the first time I’ve seen death. I saw a man die from stab wounds when I was in grade school in Makati. While I was in Cebu (somewhere near Argao) I saw before my own eyes a boy get hit by a van. Poor kid died on the spot. Seeing people die is not something you get used to and given the chance, I would not want to see one again.

To add to this sad incident was that it took almost four hours for the body to be taken either to the morgue or a med facility. Yes, there should be an investigation that must be completed but why does it have to take that long? Why can’t these cops take a thousand pictures, remove the body and follow up with their investigation later? The poor guy was lying on asphalt for hours while useseros take photos of his badly contorted body. Whatever happened to dignity for the dead?

Yes, we live in a f***** up world. How can these cops allow that guy to just lie there for hours. I don’t get it.

That’s just crazy man!

New Trainer Aircrafts for PAF

At least these days, there’s an apparent plan to upgrade and develop the flying capabilities of our air force. The acquisition of 18 new Aermacchi’s is a good indication that our government is concern over the unbelievable deterioration of our air force.

Today, believe it or not, we don’t have an air deterrent capability. Which means, when an air force fighter jet from another country flies over our country, all we can do is sit and watch them violate our sovereignty.

The staggering number of our force’s fleet is composed of: 31 active helicopters and 91 air crafts (considered mission ready). The last fighting squad we had, the freedom fighters (F5’s), were decommissioned six years ago.

My stand over the argument whether this is something that we can justify over the other pressing issues of our nation is that air defense is vital for the nation’s stability. We can’t neglect this area as this is a necessary component of economic growth. Back in the 18th and 19th century, when Moro raids were pillaging the coastal towns, it took ingenious defense planning (for example, manned sentinels as early warning device) that involved both church and people that  solved the perennial problem. When security was established economic growth followed.

Now, these are trainer aircraft’s — So these ac’s are not going to secure our air space even if it get fitted with missile launchers but upgrades in training will provide good experience to our young air force men that in the future would be using modern air crafts to serve the nation. We have to make sure that these people are safe and its important that we make them feel that we have their safety in mind when we send them out flying.

These are good investments that hopefully, little by little, our government can continue. We have to tighten our belts and makes sure no funds are wasted. We have to invest well now. I don’t mind having a two or three decade modernization plan as long as the execution is free from corruption.

Lee Kuan Yew @ 88

A couple of days ago, Lee Kuan Yew, one of the longest serving political leader in the region celebrated his 88th birthday. I’ve long admired his work and how he lived his life. There are very few, if any, that can match what this statesman accomplished.

I haven’t fully read his memoirs (The Singapore Story) only picking chapters. I would need to take a long vacation to finish it! The two part series is the story of LKY’s life and his involvement on how the island state was founded.

LKY’s discipline as a politician is impressive. I like the story of him (along with another colleague) attending a meeting with Malayan leaders. It was more like a party with food and gambling going on. It must have been strange for him because he’s not used to that kind of politics. He takes his role as a representative of his country very seriously and felt that such things are unacceptable. He stayed on and tried to press some official business but as soon as young attractive girls started coming to please the mostly Malay politicians, he and his colleague walked out!

One of my favorite chapter in the book is Chapter 43, entitled “Talak, Talak, Talak”. If that sounds familiar, its because it is the Malay word for divorce or the act of splitting from the spouse. To us Filipinos, it means something different–in literal Tagalog, “you talk too much!”. You hear this from fighting couples all the time.

The chapter discussed the eventual split of Singapore from the Malay federation. Looking back, I’m sure they now see this as the greatest event that ever happened in their history as this failed union with UNMO catapulted them to achieve what many thought impossible to pull off.

I would like to write about LKY’s view of the Filipino politicians he dealt with during his time but first, I have to finish reading the voluminous memoir of this great man. Not a lot of people know that he offered Marcos refuge at the height of the Philippine crisis where Cory was eventually installed as president. He once said that the inability of Marcos to solve the crisis was because he was “the problem”.

Singapore is a great country, and a young one. The generation of today’s Singaporean must never forget about how Lee Kuan Yew and his generation labored it into existence. They must steer clear from dangerous influences coming from the outside. There’s a reason why Singapore succeeded – they must continue to follow  their founding fathers ideals – and for us Filipinos, the Singapore story must be a lesson.

Ron Paul: What If?

I hope my relatives in the US supports this guy and people like him. America needs to take back their country. Bring it back to what it was before it engaged in imperialism. If this guy was alive when the American government had leaders contemplating on taking over countries from Spain (including us) he would have opposed them just like what many great Americans did then. Unfortunately, the powers that wanted an empire won.

The America today is not the America their founding fathers had in mind. ts baffles my mind why most Americans look at people like Paul and dismiss his non interventionist and liberal views for being out of this world? I’ll tell you what is out of this world — America policing it — its time Americans wake up. Your country could no longer keep this up.

The consistency of this Ron Paul fella is unbelievable. Americans should look into what this guy has been saying all the years. He never flip flopped on issues – whether they’re popular or not. I always tell my relatives that most politicians are crooks if not smooth talking car salesman. They love Obama because “he’s gonna bring everybody (US military) back home (US)”.

Where are they now? Not only did Obama didn’t kept his promise, he expanded the wars!

Its strange that I’m talking about American politics here but since the stability of that country affects all of us, it does not hurt to study and read about what’s going on there. They’re economy is that big – it shakes everybody. Just like if you wanted to understand what happened in our country during the Spanish era, it’s not that bad to brush up on Spanish history as it gives you an idea of the prevailing political and economic conditions at that time.

Ok, too long an intro – here’s Ron Paul’s speech:

What if our foreign policy of the past century is deeply flawed and has not served our national security interest?

What if we wake up one day and realize that the terrorist threat is the predictable consequence of our meddling in the affairs of others, and has nothing to do with us being free and prosperous?

What if propping up repressive regimes in the Middle East endangers both the United States and Israel?

What if occupying countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing Pakistan is directly related to the hatred directed toward us?

What if someday it dawns on us that losing over 5,000 American military personnel in the Middle East since 9/11 is not a fair tradeoff with the loss of nearly 3,000 American citizens no matter how many Iraqi, Pakistanian, Afghan people are killed or displaced?

What if we finally decide that torture, even if called “enhanced interrogation technique”, is self-destructive and produces no useful information and that contracting it out to a third world nation is just as evil?

What if it is finally realized that war and military spending is always destructive to the economy?

What if all war-time spending is paid for through the deceitful and evil process of inflating and borrowing?

What if we finally see that war-time conditions always undermine personal liberty?

What if Conservatives who preach small government wake up and realize that our interventionist foreign policy provides the greatest incentive to expand the government?

What if Conservatives understood once again that their only logical position is to reject military intervention and managing an empire throughout the world?

What if the American people woke up and understood that the official reasons for going to war are almost always based on lies and promoted by war propaganda in order to serve special interests?

What if we as a nation came to realize that the quest for empire eventually destroys all great nations?

What if Obama has no intention of leaving Iraq?

What if a military draft is being planned for for the wars that would spread if our foreign policy is not changed?

What if the American people learned the truth, that our foreign policy has nothing to do with national security, that it never changes from one administration to the next?

What if war in preparation for war is a racket serving the special interests?

What if President Obama is completely wrong about Afghanistan and it turns out worse than Iraq and Vietnam put together?

What if Christianity actually teaches peace and not preventive wars of aggression?

What if diplomacy is found to be superior to bombs and bribes in protecting America?

What happens if my concerns are completely unfounded?


But what happens if my concerns are justified and ignored?

Nothing good.

Dog Eaters

“Is it true that Filipinos eat dog?”, a British educated Indian colleague asked. “Well, some mountain tribes do… I never met anyone that do, ya’ know these things, they’re grossly exaggerated”, I answered, trying to be evasive.

Of course, that’s a lie. Because I know people and I’ve seen dogs get slaughtered, and these are no mountain tribe people nor was I in the highlands!

But did we, or do we have a tradition that turns our furry little friends into delectable cuisine?

Most Filipinos are outraged whenever they would see dogs get slaughtered. Grossed out to see dog meat. It is true that this is practiced by a minority [like the Macabebes]. Dog eating in the country are very isolated but popular in some rural communities. But when people say that “Filipinos don’t eat dogs”, then what do you call those who do?

The tradition of eating dogs was once confined to tribes and Luzon provinces that had ancestors who considered dogs as livestock. Those who grew up with it perhaps had migrated out of their rural communities and now live and work amongst us here in the metro. These are the folks here in Manila that we would occasionally hear craving for a “calderetang aso”.

We’re not going to deny them of their tradition, are we? and is it not the contention of many scholars that these mountains tribes and their traditions are to be considered  “original” and “true” Filipino? If they are, then why censure and deny such practice? Because it does not comply with what exactly?

I think it was last year, when a jeep-full of dog meat were apprehended. Raps were filed against those that were involved in transporting the meat. They were headed north. Apparently, we had enacted laws that criminalize such trade. Now, that’s suppression of what should be a guaranteed right. We don’t want the Muslim’s to impose on us Christians not to eat pork nor do we allow them to ban it in provinces where they’re a majority.

History tells us of the Igorotes that were presented as “dog-eaters” in the St. Louis World Fair. Americans had insisted that no pants be put on them. It adds to the shock value. The Filipinos back home who know what the Americans were up to protested. Such exhibit would only create a negative opinion as to the real state of Filipinos they say.

But at the time, American’s were still seeking the worlds favorable opinion on their occupation of the country. They had to sell “education”, “christianization” and “democracy” like they do now with their war on terror.

My reaction to that innocent question posed to me perhaps, meant that I was also secretly ashamed to admit that such a tradition, although isolated to some parts, exist in the country. It was a response, albeit on a much smaller scale, similar to the protest against exposing the poor Igorotes to the world. Afraid to be associated with such traditions that goes against what is considered by the west as acceptable.

This is the problem. We only want the good stuff, we constantly seek appreciation and acceptance. Anything that the west see bad, oh no, that’s not Filipino.

Noynoy, an Apology is in Order

What’s wrong with apologizing to the survivors and relatives of that terrible Luneta hostage taking?

The so called rescue was bungled and ended up in tragic deaths. So many lives lost. The situation was mishandled from the start. Unfortunately for this president, The responsibility goes up the chain.

Its not usual practice for a leader of an independent state to apologize for its past errors. I know. The Japanese won’t do it, the American’s will never do it and so many powerful nation that once seized land, people and resources in the past will never admit to their empires trespasses.

But we are not these nations. We are better than them. We had been victims before and has long been seeking apologies and closure like the family of these victims.

All these bravado in Malacanang would lead to nowhere.

The Chinese, well, they’ve been bullying us lately over the Spratlys. Shame on them. But that’s the government and not the people. Lets leave these things out and be Christians enough to admit our shortcomings.

No one wanted that to happen. But it happened because of how it was handled.

The world saw what happened in Luneta. We can’t hide the facts. Let’s face it. Its time to man up and apologize.

What about suicide bombers killing people in other parts of the world? do the governments have to apologize for each and every foreign nationals that gets killed? Well, first, the Luneta hostage taker was an ex-cop, a former gov’t employee, second, he did that because he believe that his case was mishandled by the government and third, well, we all saw how it ended.

The government created this monster and failed to take him out when he became a crazy murderer.

Now, I heard that they’re asking for compensation. We better look into that as well. But that’s money. So that would be tougher to provide [the coffers had been badly looted in the past] but hey, if we apologize they might not ask for it anymore.

I hope.

The Rizal Manifesto

Having visited Rizal’s reconstructed house in Calambâ recently (biking all the way there from Muntinglupà!), I became interested again in the circumstances that led to his execution. I reread “The Trial of Rizal” (a book almost forgotten today) and saw some interesting facts that are often glossed over by our history teachers.

For example, not many are aware that those witnesses who testified against Rizal were all Filipinos — not a single Spaniard pointed an accusing finger. This could be trivial to some but nonetheless an illustration of how the trial was conducted. These witnesses signed a written affidavit confirming that they acted on their free will. Of course, we could no longer determine if they were forced or they willingly provided the information.

There are lots of questions revolving around that historic trial.

Were they pinning Rizal down so he could take the fall? They say that all great movements need a martyr to believe in…

It is not conspiracy theory; Rizal made some enemies in his years as a propagandist. He was admired and envied. In his trial, he even mentioned names that he considered hostile against him. The peaceful man that he was, he chose to retire and begin a new life. But his past haunted him. Powerful forces were out to get him. And they did get their quarry.

Rizal was aware that his name was being used not only to solicit funds but also as some sort of a head figure for the Katipunan. His family had warned him about it. And this concerned him gravely. Fearing that such an activity would result to loss of lives, he requested the governor general that he be permitted to publicly denounce it. On 11 December 1896 (a few weeks before his death sentence), he wrote a manifesto to address the issue:

”Fellow countrymen: Upon my return from Spain I learned that my name was being used as a rallying cry by some who had taken up arms. This information surprised and grieved me but thinking that the whole affair was finished, I refrained from commenting on something that could no longer be remedied. Now, rumors reach me that the disturbances have not ceased. It may be that persons continue to use my name in good or in bad faith; if so, wishing to put a stop to this abuse and to undeceive the gullible, I hasten to address these lines to you that the truth may be known. From the very beginning, when I first received information of what was being planned, I opposed it, I fought against it, and I made clear that it was absolutely impossible.  This is the truth, and they are still alive who can bear witness to my words. I was convinced that the very idea was wholly absurd — worse than absurd, it was disastrous. I did more than this. When later on, in spite of my urgings, the uprising broke out, I came forward voluntarily to offer not only my services but my life and even my good name in order that they may use me in any manner they may think opportune to smother the rebellion. For I was convinced of the evils which that rebellion would bring in its train, and so I considered it a privilege if at whatever sacrifice I could ward off so much useless suffering. This is also of record.

“Fellow countrymen: I have given many proofs that I desire as much as the next man liberties for our country; I continue to desire them. But I laid down as a prerequisite the education of the people in order that by means of such instruction, and by hard work, they may acquire a personality of their own and so become worthy of such liberties. In my writings I have recommended study and the civic virtues, without which no redemption is possible. I have also written (and my words have been repeated by others) that reforms, if they are to bear fruit, must come from above, for reforms that come from below are upheavals both violent and transitory. Thoroughly imbued with these ideas, I cannot do less than condemn, as I do condemn, this ridiculous and barbarous uprising, plotted behind my back, which both dishonors us Filipinos and discredits those who might have taken our part. I abominate the crimes for which it is responsible and I will have no part in it. With all my heart I am sorry for those who have rashly allowed themselves to be deceived. Let them, then, return to their homes, and may God pardon those who have acted in bad faith.”

After clearly dismissing any involvement in the planned uprising, wanting his countrymen to avoid its evils, Rizal laid out plans on what he saw as the proper approach and focus so that civil liberties and eventual freedom can be achieved. Sadly, these “prerequisites” were totally forgotten by the generation of leaders who had succeeded him.

The manifesto cannot be any clearer and articulate than how it was written by Rizal. He was a revolutionary, yes, but he never wanted a bloody one. In his view, it was not only costly in terms of lives but was self-defeating. His was a revolution of the mind.

What’s striking about the document is that it was written weeks before his execution. It was apparent to him that, after the discovery of the Katipunan,  a mass revolt was soon to follow and that his death would most likely ignite it. What I find fascinating about Rizal is that he was a gifted psychic. Although he defended himself well against the accusation leveled against him, he knew that he would end up in Bagumbayan. He predicted this years even before he was implicated in the rebellion (Bagumbayan was mentioned five times in Noli Me Tangere)! This clairvoyance probably made it easier for him to accept his fate.

A closer examination of the trial documents will show that Rizal was actually innocent on the charge of rebellion. Aside from testimonies and letters, there was nothing solid that can pin him down for initiating the rebellion. He had proven that there was no link between his La Liga Filipina and Andrés Bonifacio’s Katipunanother than some of those who were with him during the founding of his group (which, according to him, “died stillborn”) who later got involved or joined Bonifacio’s group altogether.Curiously, however, the words Liga and Katipunan mean the same thing in English: “league”.

Now I can understand why we were kept away from such documents. They were protecting Rizal’s reputation of being the prime mover of independence. I believe there’s no need to hide such historical lessons. After learning what he was fighting for, personally, he even became greater than he ever was. His revolution goes beyond winning wars — he wanted a revolution of the mind, to see our fellow Filipinos as part of our selves. The Rizal who was sentenced to death wanted us to dedicate ourselves to the civic and social betterment of the Filipino nation.

Violence can never be justified in Rizal’s revolution.

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