Tag Archives: elizabeth medina

On remembering

After my father passed away last year, I’ve been consumed by the question, “do we survive death”?

Growing up Catholic, I understand my religion’s conception of the afterlife. But there’s something about losing a person close to you that triggers questions about what you previously thought you comprehend.

Maybe it’s human nature to not want death to be the end. That they go on existing in a plane our limited earthbound mind would never even come close to understanding.

I wasn’t looking for advise on the matter but as Carl Jung once said, “synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see”.
The Chile-based writer, Elizabeth Medina, author of “Rizal According to Retana,” (http://tinyw.in/524l) wrote me an email last week (responding to the topic of her Lolo’s grave in Ilocos):

In the end, our physical bodies die, and we continue on. Where we have lived and acted consciously to express our being, in a way that impacts positively on others (with the conscious intention of helping, defending, protecting, educating, supporting), is the best way to leave a mark. It doesn’t even matter whether you leave a mark, or you don’t, but the mere fact of living a conscious life and expressing your humanizing intent means that you will link your existence to others’ futures.

Yes, my lolo’s grave will probably disappear but I found his memory and I wrote a book to rescue it. The book has reached some people’s consciousnesses (thank you for reading it), and it isn’t the fact that I’ve written it that has protected my lolo’s life from being erased. It’s the fact that he lived as he did that made it inevitable for a descendant of his to write a book about him. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Each of us changes the world, but especially if we become awakened to the meaning that we can give to our lives, consciously (yes, with love, with devotion).

Rizal’s bones were exhumed and those that had not returned to the earth are in that monument in Rizal Park. The remains of GomBurZa returned to the earth in Paco Cemetery. But those lives and deaths sacralized our land, for anyone who wants to feel it.

I believe finally in a greater Plan (Cosmic Intelligence) that doesn’t change even if individuals disappear from this material world. The Plan is beyond our capacity to grasp in its mechanisms, which are divine. Which are the laws of “life, energy and evolution”. And each of us is valuable for it, we come from it and we return to it.

But unless we start from the basic (honoring our ancestors/forebears, expressing it in actions, experiencing a change in our awareness, a deepening, an appreciation that was not there before), the questioning life about the deeper themes, the things not said, we can’t advance to the subtle. We can’t redeem ourselves, so to speak. They don’t tell you anything about this in school, or even at home. Life seems to be nothing but a survival machine and it’s a bit depressing and meaningless, mechanical, with some highs interspersed, some magical moments, and then back to the doldrums. When everything is meaningful and magical and new and talking to us all the time, but we are deaf blind and dumb. So my lolo Emilio as who he was, your father as who he was, when we internalize them, they can no longer be “lost”, nor can we. Then we can relax and let go of them. They are in us. I don’t miss Filipinas, she is in me. She always was. It’s wonderful to go home and eat lumpia Shanghai, discover Mount Banahaw. But if I can be there in the body, it is in me, in my spirit.

We do what we can in the material realm, and within our poor limitations, but the important thing is what happens in our mind, in our awareness, in our emotion joined to our intellection, and to the body. This is about us. It isn’t about them. It’s about the communion between them and us, that goes beyond dying or dates. Or if the bad people won and the good people lost. We are the continuing story, What we are doing, feeling, thinking today and how we work with the past, present and future, in the direction we choose.

So really, I am in peace. I am glad I wrote and published Sampaguitas and made it available in English as well. I have no idea if it has reached a lot of people or not. I did it for me, for lolo Emilio, my father, my kids. You know, around 5 years ago a young woman contacted me here in Chile. She was really emotional about having read Sampaguitas, because her mother (Chilean) had her with a Filipino who was in the merchant marine and he abandoned them, typically, and she had never known anything about him or the Philippines, and when she came across the book, she felt she had connected with her father. I lost contact with her almost immediately, but I could feel how moved she was.

The ”Sampaguitas” mentioned here is her book, “Sampaguitas en la cordillera” (2006). Its English version, “Sampaguitas in the Andes” she made available for gratis in her website (http://www.elizabethmedina.cl).

Now, do I believe all that?

Yes, I do.

I remember this one moment, standing in front of my father’s remains, feeling that he’s not there. I was looking at him but I was looking for him. Then it hits me. Before me was merely the vessel that carried his spirit. I was comforted by this thought.

“When we internalize them, they can no longer be “lost”, nor can we. Then we can relax and let go of them. They are in us.”


Love you Pa.




Ernie de Pedro’s Takayama Ukon Research

Two weeks ago I received an email from Dr. Ernie de Pedro. Turns out that he has been conducting research for years on the recently beatified Takayama. I was elated to know that he created a website with his son dedicated to the Christian samurai lord.

For those not familiar with Dr. Ernie de Pedro, he’s an Oxford graduate and former director general of the country’s film archive body. He took up his doctorate studies in UST and is now a Managing Trustee for Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation. He specializes in Philippine-Japan history and has worked with several presidents; from Magsaysay to Erap.

Manong Ernie is a down to earth historian, approachable, rare for someone with his credentials. I met him six years ago. The Chile-based writer, Elizabeth Medina, asked me to interview him in 2011. 

According to Ms. Medina, Manong Ernie witnessed her grandfather’s​ public execution. Emilio Medina y Lazo was governor of Ilocos under the Japanese. Ms. Medina wrote Sampaguitas in the Andes (2006) a tribute and memoir to her grandfather.

When I asked if his spiritual belief is “framed within a formal religion or as a personal religiousness?” Dr. de Pedro had a profound response but the line that stuck with me was that for him, “Catholicism is a good religion to die in.” 

He ended up helping Japanese researchers after being approached for help on several occasions. They thought he was in charge of the country’s archives. He was working with film archives, not national archives. He later decided to help with research.

Last month I was reminded of Takayama when I saw the trailer of “Silenced” by Martin Scorcece. I went to the local library to look for the novel the film was based on. No copy was available. The film made the Japanese novel in demand once more.

“Silence” is about Portuguese Jesuits who came to look for their missing compatriot. The setting was during the time of the “Hidden Christians” of the Tokugawa era. Christianity was banned in 1614. Takayama came to Manila in 1615. He died a few months after his arrival.

Takayama Ukon in Plaza Dilao

I wrote several blog entries about Takayama. I take inspiration from his example. His is a story of faith and loyalty. It must have been his wish or must be God’s design that he died in Manila. Catholic burial rites was impossible under the Tokugawa ban. He would have been deprived of one.

According to Dr. de Pedro, Takayama was interred in the old Jesuit church in Intramuros. When WWII leveled much of it, the Jesuits moved the residents of the crypt to the Jesuit Novaliches cemetery. Takayama’s​ remains (along with Lord Naito) were mixed up with other bones. They did test for DNA but so far has failed to get positive identification.

When I visited the Archdiocese of Osaka I saw a simple statue of Takayama holding a small cross. The one in Paco’s Plaza Dilao have a long pointed crucifix (similar to the one in Takatsuki). The church is close to the historic Osaka castle, about 20 to 30 minute walk. Umeda or Nakatsu (closest to the Archdiocese) are the train stations nearby.

Last February, the Christian samurai lord was beatified in the Archdiocese of Osaka. The beatification puts him closer to sainthood.

In his old age, with support mainly from close friends and family, Dr. De Pedro took on a daunting task but he seem happy with how things has turn out. In his email he said, “Everyone is involved. When I crowd sourced our ramen-money for the Japan trip — every relativr from the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, the US, Canada and Norway came through! Isn’t it great to have such a formidable Support group?”

Please drop by takayamaukon.com and learn more about Justo Takayama Ukon. Support the cause and its advocates, include them in your prayers!

Here are my old posts about Takayama:

The Japanese of Old Manila


Save the Old Paco Train Station


Takayama the Catholic Samurai


an email exchange, topic: a hispanized philippines

Below is an email exchange between Elizabeth Medina and a group of expat ‘mestizos’.

Medina is a Filipina writer-historian living in Chile. She wrote the classic “Rizal According to Retana: Portrait of a Hero and a Revolution” in 1999.

I’ve been been corresponding with tía isabel for some years now. Through this correspondence I learned a great deal about our history.

And also, that she’s a Cañete like my father. This family traces their line back to a southern Cebuano town, Barili, famous for their stick martial arts.

The exchange below was a discussion about tía isabel’s essay “A Hispanized Philippines: A Good Option?“. First published on line in the Austrian-Philippine website and has since been making the rounds over the last few years in various cultural forums and blogs.

I thought the exchange presented the contrast between the brain-washed ‘Americanized’ Filipinos and someone who understands that our Spanish speaking heroes revolution has been truncated by the systematic removal of our historical memory.

The result was generations inflicted with this ‘forgetfulness’ that has long plagued our attempts to understand our true past.

Note: (1) Letter to the group from a certain ‘Danding’. No, not the guy that  just lost the coco levy money, (2) Medina’s ‘scolding’ loaded with logic

I asked tía isabel’s permission for this to be blogged here (‘Dale Arnaldo, te doy permiso’).



A Hispanized Philippines isn’t a valid option.  I doubt anyone but a small group of romantic hispanistas think it is possible.  The reason is language isn’t something one can just learn like one learns algebra.  Language is so much deeper.  Language is how we experience life.  Language is how we store our memories.  Language is how we woo and procreate.  Language is how we create arguments.  Language isn’t learned.  Language is lived.

To begin with in ther 300+ years of colonial rule the Spanish were not able to impose their language on the Filipino.  Partly because there were too many already extant languages, partly because Spanish and European migration to the Philippines nver reached the heights they did in the Americas where they came in wave after wave.  For obvious reasons the first big wave imposes its language over the remaining waves.

There are many more Germans in the United States than there English but the English were the first wave thus the new country adopted their langauge and only theirs.  There are no German speaking pockets in the US as there is an enormous French-speaking pocket in Canada that remains French because of a unique set of historical reasons.  Brazil and Argentina both have many, many more Italians than Portuguese or Spanish.  But Italian in both countries is now spoken in first generation homes and spoken very badly in some second generation homes.

The best the Spanish could do in terms of transplanting their language was to do so with the intelligentsia who didn’t believe in the Marlboro man’s adage:  I’d rather fight than switch.  These people switched rather than fight.  When the American military authorities expelled every Spanish Jesuit form the Ateneo to be replaced by American Jesuits, they switched with a forceful bang.  Because the Jesuits fought the order.  Papa was at the Ateneo at the time as an interno and sometimes talked with much pain about the change.

The other Spanish religious orders who also ran schools did not fight the ordered language change and made a few adjustments within their teaching staffs.  But the Americans did impose their language over almost all, as the Spanish had done in the Latin America.  But there were only 6 to 8 million Filipinos then versus nearly a 100 million today, making such a task a logistical and logical impossibility.

The best the Spanish could do during their 300 years of colonization was to create a series of different “pidgin langauges” called chabacano.  It’s remarkable that one of the main chabacano centers was in Cavite so close to the center of Spanish power.  They couldn’t impose real Spanish even there.

Then there is Tagalog, a small regional language but today an almost fully widespread national language.  Let’s not forget Cebuano.  Almost every Filipino in the Visayas and in Mindanao speaks Cebuano (or a dialect therof like Ilongo or Waray).  This extends all the way to Davao and into Surigao, etc.  Let’s not forget the other regional languages.  Ilocano, Kapangpangan, Bicolano, etc.

The Philippines is one of the most linguistically rich countries.  But it is losing languages to extinction at an extraordinarily rapid rate.  In the 1800s there were more than a hundred languages, perhaps closer to 200.  By the 1950s there were only 50 or 60.   Today there are more than a dozen native languages without enough native speakers, ensuring their extinction. Most of these are languages without a written form.  I think it is a much more importance task to save these languages than to impose yet another language on a nation that has no shortage of languages.

Love to all,




Hola Danding, Angui, todos–


No, you didn’t understand what I was trying to say. You are hearing what we have always been told:


1.  Spanish was never the language of the Filipinos.

2.  It’s impossible for Filipinos today to learn Spanish.

3.  Spanish is irrelevant for the Filipinos.

4.  What we see today as the Philippines and the Filipino nation is all that has ever been, all that ever will be.




1.  Spanish is now once again an official Filipino language.

2.  A lot of young Filipinos would want to learn Spanish if they had the means. In fact, a lot of young Filipinos are now studying Spanish because they realize that it is an asset.

3.  A young Spanish historian told me that in Mexico at the time of independence, Spanish was not the lingua franca. In no former Spanish colony, practically, was Spanish the only language. It was in the course of the development of the new republics that the education system was developed and Spanish was spread.

4.  Spanish has been irrelevant for the Filipinos, we have been taught that it is irrelevant — as you yourselves, who should be the first to debunk this fallacy, as “tisoys” should have done, but have perhaps wanted to keep it a language for the kitchen and the family gatherings, but have not bothered to cultivate it in order to write in it and defend it, as many of your great-grandparents did while they knew that it was inevitable, that their own descendants would turn their backs on Spanish and embrace English, nay, even aspire to become estadounidenses.


We were taught that it was irrelevant.


And today, what?  Look at that country today.  Look at it from your ivory towers in the States or wherever you are.


I’m ashamed of you.


Really, and find your shortsighted tisoy arrogance completely anachronistic, passé, proper to our parochial past.


I am speaking on behalf of your great-grandparents and great-greatgrandparents who never meant revolution to mean turning our backs on a rich culture and embracing a foreigner who wasn’t even interested in marrying into our race and spending the rest of their lives in our homeland.


Okay, please excuse me for the scolding.  You can do what you want with it.


But the tisoy culture of the Philippines made its contribution to making Spanish and the Spanish past hated, and giving the anti-Filipinos who were posing as nationalistic heroes more firewood for the bonfire.  Indigenism, Tagalog as the only Filipino language.  The moros and ethnic minorities as irrelevant.


It was Elizalde who discovered the Tasaday, who showed love for them. I had never before seen any Filipino acting as though the jungle folk were worthy of being loved or honored.


I don’t know what the story was behind the scenes, no doubt there will be Elizalde bashers.


But the descendants of the Spanish in the Philippines also have things to examine in their consciences.




We have a Hispanic Filipino memory and history that we alone — I believe — of all the former Spanish colonies — have not known how to value.


Instead, we have joined in with the idiots and dwarves — the midgets that were called midgets by our own Hispanic Filipino great-grandparents — who have thrown our Hispanic heritage into the dustbin, to emigrate to the United States.


Or to Australia, or to God knows where, and use the Philippines as their occasional residence, to “not lose their roots”.


Or the Sorianos and Zobels et al. who give away prizes to their pet artists and writers, good for them, at least they are paying lip service.


But oh!  What a shame, what a damn shame!  For all the good things that the United States of America did for the Philippines, that the U.S. trained bureaucrats and politicians have only learned to manage decadence and a culture of ignorance, as Pardo de Tavera described it.


OK, he dicho.


Por encargo de los difuntos.


I had to say this one day, and it’s out of the bag. 


You can dish it out now.  I really am interested in what you will have to say.

Un abrazo,

Isabel de los Espíritus


“Not Just Another Rizaliana”

Today I went to Las Pinas to retrieve a package sent by Sra. Elizabeth Medina from Chile that I was expecting for weeks. Why it ended up in Las Pinas’ post office is something no one can seem to explain.


I can’t thank Sra. Medina enough, she has always been supportive and kind to this young aficionado of Filipino history. This time going out of her way to send me a copy of a book she wrote in 1998 for the centennial celebration.

The cover of Sra. Medina's obra

Her book, “Rizal According to Retana: Portrait of a Hero and a Revolution” was published in 1998 for the centennial celebration. Although NCCA agreed to publish the book, she went ahead and published the book herself. “Because of institutional bureacracy, NCCA would never have it out by June (centennial month)… the centennial has to be greeted by this book”.

It was in her own words, “a small gift to Inang Bayan” . I believe it is a valuable contribution to our Rizaliana that must be made available to Filipinos everywhere because while Retana’s work was significant (the first and most cited Rizal biography), he could not be read by our generation because he wrote for his generation – the Spanish Filipinos of his time.. Ms. Alaras, head of Centennial celebration for NCCA said, “Medina was doing what Rizal did to Morga’s”. And I absolutely agree. I’m done reading a couple of chapter and I’m really impressed with her book, she made Retana’s work easy to digest.

More on this major Rizaliana book after I’m done reading… ^_^

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