Tag Archives: mariano ponce

Sun Yat Sen’s Singapore Villa

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Sun and his Filipino connection

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

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

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

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

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

The Villa in Balestier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Model restoration

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

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

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

A delightful tour

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

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

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

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

 

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Books, Books, Books: Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir)

I just finished reading Juan Ponce Enrile (a memoir) and I thought it was a book deserving of being blogged about. I know that there are people who hates what he represents but I would call even them to give it a chance.

I have the Kindle version which is 19.00 USD. Not cheap but since I am overseas I’ve been ordering Philippine published books available on Kindle when I have spare cash to spend. Reading them makes me feel right at home—albeit only in the mind.

Enrile’s book is an important memoir, if you don’t believe that, well, ask ex-President PNOY. He attended the book lunch four years ago, along with Imelda!

The history buff that I am relished the parts where Manong Johnny wrote about his childhood in that isolated bucolic barrio of Gonzaga in old Cagayan. His notes on how people behaved back in the day were charming snippets of the Filipinos old way of life.

I am aware of the criticism leveled against Enrile’s memoir. Some say it reeks of lies. Case in point was the “ambush” story which Gen. Montaño, the PC chief then who investigated the incident, already said was bogus.

In the first chapters, Enrile recounted the story of his father, his childhood, his old town and his beloved mother. Her only surviving photo I read prominently hangs in his posh Makati home. He looks more like his mother than his mestizo father. She sent him in several occasions to school by asking whoever was administering the school to charge them nothing in exchange for little Juanito running errands for them.

Enrile recounts in his book how he changed his mind from having no desire to become a lawyer (his father’s a popular lawyer, cousin of Mariano Ponce) to devoting himself to become one. The famous story of boys stabbing him with blades because of jealousy I have heard before but reading his accounts provided more details. The attackers were scions of Cagayan elites. They were never charged and remained regular students, while the young Enrile was expelled for causing trouble. Imagine if this injustice never happened, the man would have been an engineer we probably would never heard of.

An interesting account from the book was when Enrile was imprisoned by the Japanese. He shared a small dark space with a man he would later discover to be a Spanish tobacco trader. He spoke with the man in Spanish. He explains that while his Spanish was not perfect, he learned the language from his mother who spoke it with his grandparents. They were fluent speakers. My distant relative, Guillermo Gómez Rivera, whom Enrile represented in the past told me that the man speaks Spanish.

Rene Saguisag, one of the few lawyer that I admire, in a recent podcast interview with Martin Andanar (now PCOO secretary) said that our experiences during the war had a lot to do with corruption. I read the same observation from Director Erik Matti, who I heard was making a film about it. This same observation was echoed by several WWII survivors I’ve had the chance to meet. Not to blame past experiences for our present predicament but it’s an interesting subject to say the least.

My father’s stories about how Filipino guerrillas, in guise of fighting the Japanese, cruelly raped women and ransacked houses I thought were isolated incidents. He’s from Negros, Enrile’s from Cagayan and yet they have familiar stories. The former Senator recalls how bandits, after looting the houses in Gonzaga, brought him and his friend to the seashore. The abductors then asked them to dig their own graves. Enrile begged for his life from the group’s leader. He mentioned to him that his brother is a soldier fighting in Bataan. Upon hearing this he freed them. Turns out that this bandit trained along with his brother in the army reserves.

Unfortunately, my Father’s uncle in San Carlos was not spared by the guerrillas. Like Enrile, he was made to dig up his own grave but his fate was different. He was buried in that hole he burrowed.

The other book that I had the chance to read was “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” by Aries Rufo.

It’s an interesting book that most Filipino Catholics should read. The work of Rufo reminds us that even prelates are susceptible to sin. They’re human beings like you and me.

Rufo wrote about the once popular Bishop Yalung, a Cardinal Sin protege. He was later defrocked because of alleged romantic relations with a couple of parishioners. He came from the parish where I took up Catechism, The National Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in San Antonio Makati. The same parish where I would see the Binays attend Sunday mass regularly.

Could  you imagine the Church having a fund for illegitimate children of priests? It’s hard to believe but this exists.

The last time I visited this church was when I attended the wedding of a friend. He met his wife in the software company where I was a supervisor. I hired the guy and has become friends with the two. They’re both very good people and now they have a happy little toddler, a cutey named Liz!

Not all men who wears the cassock lives holy lives. But I have met great priests in my life; like the Servites in Muntinlupa, all selfless missionaries of the Lord. They’re great inspiration to young Catholics like myself. I’m inclined to believe that most are true servants but there are exceptions, of course, and this is what “Altar of Secrets : Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church” is all about.


Notes, Baliuag to San Rafael

I love names of old towns and barrios. It tells a lot about a place, and in some cases, what resident were like, their livelihood and expertise back in the day.

I was wandering around Baliuag and I encountered some interesting ones: Matangtubig, Tiaong, Tanawan, Pinacpinacan, Maguinao and Ulingao. And these: Pasong Instik, Pasong Callo and Pasong Bangkal.

Interesting is Calle Rizal, it connects the town center to the municipal road and the highway. After all these years, it retained the “calle”. It most likely have the St. suffix in updated official documents but who in his right mind would call it Calle Rizal Street?

In San Rafael, I’ve become familiar with the barrios too. Relatives here has made an etymologist out of me. Barrio Dagat-Dagatan, occasionally gets flooded when the river nearby overflows, hence, the name. Then there;s the main junction, Cruz na Daan, from the intersecting roads that resembles a cross.  Pulong Bayabas, Banca-Banca and San Agustin are some of the barrios nearby.

Curiously, there’s a barrio called “Bahay Pare”, but the entire place used to be rice fields. Neither a church or a casa de los clérigos was ever built there.

San Rafael’s old town was built around the church dedicated to San Juan de Dios. The site the missionaries chose was near a  settlement on the banks of a reservoir linked all the way to Angat Dam. The area around the church is considered the old town but there’s hardly a trace of ‘oldness’ here today.

The church is a site of an important battle between the Spanish and the locals. I first saw it in 2010. The Doric church has a dark history. So many perished here during the siege of Spanish forces and local volunteers. A mass grave was said to have been ordered to bury these revolutionaries.

Revisiting Baliuag

One of the reason why I visited Baliuag was to inspect its tall renaissance-style church. Too bad it was close. I first saw the church when I was in college.

It was only in the 90’s that the convent was restored to its “original Spanish” style by civic groups in partnership with the church and local government. People are waking up even in these parts.

“It’s two level, Renaissance facade has a triangular pediment, a dome resting on a drum and topped by a tempietto; paired round columns, and a central projecting portico (a latter addition) at the main entrance. Its slender, unusually tall and delicately designed bell tower, completed in 1866 by Father Marias Novoa, has round openings and a base as high as the horizontal cornice.” – PHILIPPINE CHURCHES, Benjamín Locsin Tayug

The monument they call “Baliwag para kay Rizal” is a curious one. It’s written in the archaic Tagalog that no one today appreciate and recognize. We lost it in less than two generation. The great Bulacan native Francisco Balagtas wrote his masterpieces using it. He did NOT used the “Pilipino” alphabet, he crafted his words with the more complete Spanish letra.

I wonder what would be his opinion of his old Tagalog being replaced by “Pilipino?”

“Baliwag para kay Rizal” was inaugurated in the 1920’s by Quezon, then senate president. It was erected a few meters from the church’s door. The Ponces, some of which served in the local government, was in attendance.

Mariano Ponce’s one of those guys who contributed a great deal but is largely forgotten by our generation. The co-founder of La Solidaridad was born and raised not far from the town’s church.They still have properties around the town.

He’s Juan Ponce Enrile’s great grand uncle. Now, don’t ask me to explain that.

Finally, the question of whether to use Baliuag or Baliwag.

There must be an ordinance that instructs people to use “Baliwag”, otherwise people would continue to use the old ‘Baliuag’. The older generation still prefers the old Tagalog. Who can blame them, it has been written this way for centuries!

But laws changes the future, so the next generation would probably never see their town’s name written as ‘Baliuag’.

Let’s see if the province of Bulacán change Guiguinto to Giginto, Meycauayan to Maykawayan, Marilao to Marilaw, Calumpit to Kalumpit and Bocaue to Bokawe.

They have a history of historical recklessness. Renaming old town like Quingua (now, Plaridel) and Bigaa (Balagtas) in the past. History books today tells us Balagtas was born in Balagtas. These changes makes no sense.

Ever heard of the great battle of Quingua? Where Filipinos prevailed over the mighty Americans under Gen. Bell and Col. Stotsenberg?

Unfortunately, Quingua now only exist in our history text. We have to thank our dimwitted politicians who erased this great town’s name replacing it with Marcelo H. del Pilar’s pen name.


Rizal’s Hong Kong

One of the remaining granite steps in Mid Levels. Even the colonial iron bars that separates the road was wonderfully restored.

The good thing about Hong Kong is that it’s just a two hours flight from Manila — and they don’t require a visa. You can grab round trip tickets on line for dirt cheap prices. Thanks to budget airlines.

There’s a huge Filipino community here. Never had problem finding my way around because there’s a Filipino in every corner. I heard Tagalog everywhere. Heck, I even saw a Jollibee on my way to the Mid Level.

Like many students, I saw those Rizal calling cards in Fort Santiago back in the 80’s. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of finding those Hong Kong addresses.

Finding Rednaxela Terrace and the hero’s eye clinic at no. 5 D’Aguilar Street didn’t posed that much of a challenge. Both have historical markers installed by the local government. Although the original structures are no longer there, seeing where they once stood was worth the visit.

The marker in D’Aguilar clinic.

The streets in this old quarters are narrow and crowded. Reminds me of Manila.

I have issues walking under these swinging billboards. Scare the you know what out of me.

That’s yours truly after a good cardio workout going up the Mid Levels just to see Rednaxela Terrace.

Another old road going up the hill.

The old Rizal home in Rednaxela was actually located further back near Peel Street. The marker was placed in the main path way for visibility. Rednaxela is Alexander misspelled. Obviously, someone messed it up pretty bad during the area’s zoning and the name got stuck.

The granite road and the street lamps Rizal wrote about in Duddell St. are still there. It’s a couple of blocks from the Central train station. The place appears to have been locked in a time capsule.

There’s another clinic, said to be somewhere near the Rizal’s Rednaxela Terrace home in the Mid Level. I haven’t come across any direct reference where this place used to stand.

Another site worth the visit is the location of the old Agoncillo residence in Morrison Hill Park. Said to be where Aguinaldo commissioned our flag to be sewn together. It also have a red metal marker courtesy of the Hong Kong Antiquities Council.

I’m interested to find where Aguinaldo and his men lodged during their exile. We don’t have any existing reference where this place was. Maybe someone would dug up this little piece of our history someday.

Another interesting location would be Jose Ma. Basa’s home. The unofficial Filipino center as it was customary for expats to pay it a courtesy visit upon arrival. I wonder what his opinion would be of his descendants feuding over the wealth he left behind.

Other places like the Mariano Ponce residence are yet to be discovered. In this house Juan Luna abruptly died of a heart attack. I read an interesting article from Ambeth Ocampo that alludes to the opinion that the painter was probably poisoned.

Later on, his son would take possession of his remains and stay in Hong Kong for some time before bringing his father to San Agustin church. It is said that he carried his father bones inside a bucket and would sleep with it under his bed. I assume that they stayed in a different location and not with Ponce. Where exactly, no one seems to know.

So many historic places that we have yet to find. I think it’s time our government commissions a study to find all these places.


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