Category Archives: Opinion

Lent, superstitions & a reminder for penance

Last Wednesday I attended an evening mass nearby. I normally avoid this church because the choir’s too loud. They have complete drum sets and very powerful speakers. They remind me of born-again services I attended as a child during my summer vacations in Cavite. The singers, some Filipinos, have great vocals. Maybe I just prefer the more traditional music from the choir stalls—but that’s just me. It’s Ash Wednesday, with little time in my hands I had to go to where’s convenient.

Neo gothic beauty. Small but lofty ceilings with intricate leaf and vine artworks on its columns. Classic English Catholic church as can be seen in the positions of its auxiliary altars, apse, chancel and aisles.

 

I used to frequent an older church from the north east part of the island, not really far from where we are now but it takes two bus rides. I have written about this beautiful neo gothic church here established 150 years ago to serve the fishing Teochew communities. I still visit this church from time to time. Last month, I paid my last respects to a Burmese parish priest, Fr. Peter Paul, who recently passed. He was interned in Myanmar but services were held in Nativity to honor his memory.

I don’t know Fr. P that well but I attended masses he celebrated since 2009. The last time I saw him was a memorable interaction, my confession after so many years. Prior to this the last was back in grade school, that’s almost 30 years. He had a good laugh about it but then reminded me to do it more often. Which of course I still haven’t done and so Fr. Peter P. was my last confessor.

I’m a superstitious person. I was raised this way but interesting is that my siblings grew up unlike me. They took up from my father, an extreme opposite of my mother when it comes to superstitions.

One of my favorite superstitions is avoiding sleeping without eating something. The soul, Mama said, would look for food when your already in deep sleep. The danger is that it might not find its way back to your body! Why? The soul might get trapped inside the caldero ng kanin!

I remember being given pieces of bronze and all sorts of coins when I would wonder around our hilly property in Olongapo. I was told these metals makes you heavy and elemental hates the smell of tanso (copper). Hence, they can’t mess with you or put a spell on you.

Some are really scary. My mother would all wake us up if there’s a funeral procession passing by. According to her spirits possess powers that can lure our souls. When you’re asleep that’s when you’re soul’s vulnerable. Look, these all my sounds strange but believe you me, we have tons of it. Filipinos, like most orientals, are very superstitious.

Many of the superstitions I grew up with revolves around out witting evil spirits. Funny as it may sound that’s really what they were. But how can mortals out smart the devil? The whole idea sounds absurd but many of these are deeply embedded in Filipino tradition.

So are demons or whatever they are true?

I believe so.

I’m sure the good priest will be missed by his parish. It was nice meeting Fr. P. Rest in peace.

Now, back to my long over due penance with the late priest. There was this interesting coincidence that took place that made that day all the more unforgettable.

I normally don’t share these kind of stories here but here goes:

Fr. P and I had a brief chat after my confession. He said even he tries to do it weekly, twice if possible. He needs it because like me, he said, he’s a sinner too. He’s humble, happy, very accommodating guy. After the absolution, he gave me a list of prayers. So I started, and the good priest walked away. This took place near the altar, right after the afternoon mass.

When I was done with the prayers, which were surprisingly short (I was expecting a longer list after all those years of not doing it) I left hurriedly. It was pass 6PM, the skies still lit but the sun had set.

These days I listen to podcasts more than music. My playlist includes mostly stand up comics and educational podcasts like Freakonomics and NPR’S Radio Lab. When I left the Church’s premises I decided to listen on my ride back home. I lost track what I had on but was surprised that there was this comedians mocking priests and the Catholic Church. They were brutal, all the bad press you hear about the church and its priests. They were howling in laughter!

I’m inclined to think that’s just another coincidence?

Descanse en paz Fr. P.

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Libraries are our Friend

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

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

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

Drop your borrowed books, anytime!

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Now, that’s the power of books.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Padre Damaso’ and the friars: Myth versus reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The friars built roads and bridges for transportation.

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

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

The friars quarried stone and introduced new building technologies.

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

The friars introduced modern irrigation.

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

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

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

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

The friars made the abaca industry.

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

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

Fr. Espallargas is unmentioned in history textbooks.

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

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

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

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

The friars established the modern printing press.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The friars built the sugar industry.

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

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

The friars built the looming industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prejudice

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

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

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

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

 


More Philippine history books puh-lease!

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

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

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

Great Philippine history titles, very good ones.

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am sure many Philippine history buffs shares this sentiment.

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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?

Nothing.

But what happens if my concerns are justified and ignored?

Nothing good.


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