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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.

 


The 2nd Part of Pio Andrade Jr.’s Podcast

This is the second installment of my recorded conversation with historian cum chemist extraordinaire Pio Andrade Jr. I divided the 3 hour podcast and edited the gaps and dead air last year. I published the first part last January and shelved the second part for a later publication—I thought I lost it only to find out that I backed it up (oddly, the only copy I made!) on one of my thumb drives.

Here the Paracale historian talks about the Catholic church’s legacy, Quezon’s corrupting influence, origin of the “pork barrel,” Agoncillo as historian, Aguinaldo and Gen. Luna, early 20th century Filipino Justice’s delicadeza and so many other historical tidbits about us Filipinos.

The University of Florida alum also discussed the origin of towns and places name; How most of it have botanical if not zoological origins. We should stop telling our children those fancy legends about our towns but I must confess that I find them too amusing. Pasay for example came from a variety of shrimp known as Pasayan—I grew up hearing the legend that Pasay was a name of a Bornean princess—we’ll Andrade just crushed that belief now!

* * *

Andrade’s views are controversial but to him the only history that merits sharing are the ones that are supported by historical proof — outside this everything’s propaganda.

It is easy to understand why there’s resistance to what he writes. He does not conform to the standard, he does not mince words, he plays no politics.

When I spoke with archivist Ernie de Pedro, one of Andrade’s friend, his fear was that Andrade has made so many enemies that no one would touch him one day—that his wealth of historical knowledge would never see the light of day.

Now Andrade’s working on building Arellano University’s publishing house. I wish he gets all his books out.

An illustration of his belligerent writing is an article that came out last November in Inquirer, “Andres Bonifacio: A monument of lies.” I happen to glance over the comments below it and saw a plethora of hate remarks.

That article would stand up to deeper enquiry—trouble is that it’s about Bonifacio—a hero that has been lionize beyond measure.

It’s true that we Filipino are not prepared yet to look at our heroes and scrutinize how they were presented to us—it took me years before I grasped that most of what I know about our history is not really history but political advertising.


That Dam in Tres Cruces Tanza

Spurred by historian Pio Andrade Jr. during our recent meeting (last year, November), I went to Tanza earlier to look for the Tres Cruces dam. “Go see it, it’s still there… look at how they built that dam…it’s quite advance for its time” he said.

I asked Andrade to visit the irrigation projects that the Friars established in Cavite with me a few years ago. He’s an expert in Friar Contributions having made extensive studies on the subject for his lectures and articles. But because of his health he told me he could no longer do it; I would now attempt to record the status of these heritage structures here alone.

Tres Cruces is a barrio in Tanza (formerly Santa Cruz de Malabon). It is an old town that produced notable Filipinos: Felipe Calderon, a patriot, founder of local law schools, the Cenizals: Josefino and Olivia, both Filipino artist of great talents. Josefino translated from the original Bisaya the traditional Christmas song “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit,” which is erroneously attributed to him.

And if you’ve seen that inconsistent film “Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo”; remember the Tejeros Convention scene where Bonifacio was elected for the vice presidency which Daniel Tirona indignantly challenged? The latter suggested a fine lawyer, Jose del Rosario (later the revolutionary government’s Interior Secretary), a Tanza native.

In Tres Cruces’ barrio hall (2.8 kilometers from the Riego de Dios army camp) I approached these guys clustered in a wooden bench to ask for directions. The instruction was simple, “see that camachile? turn left then go straight.” I ate camachile in grade school but have the slightest idea what its tree look like! But I know that the squally wind in the vicinity could only come from a lake (I live near one). Turns out that the lake of Tres Cruces and the dam was nearby, concealed by the houses erected on its shore.

While I was snapping pictures of the placid lake and its imposing dam, I was surprised to see the barangay chief, Vicente Tulipan, right behind me; he offered to accompany this blogger around the barrio. Turns out that he’s a beneficiary of the irrigation. The dam is now administered by the National Irrigation Authority. He said he pays 1500 pesos per hectare every harvest season. This is on top of the lease (he does not own the land) and all the other expenditures he settles once he sold his produce. “Do you earn enough?” I asked, “Barely enough but that’s the life of a farmer in this country.”

We proceeded to the dam’s walls, which had been recently reinforced by concrete. A typhoon in 2013 cracked open the barrier killing several locals and dismantling a pig farm downstream. The barrier and its foundation were originally built using solid adobe blocks; there are portions where these materials could still be seen. The adobes are adjoined by durable mortar but porous which permits it to absorb water.

Almost the entire dam had already been covered with cement; if you have not read its history you would not think of it as a century old structure. This project was undertaken by the Augustin Recollect mission and was completed in 1886. It has gone several repairs, the first major one was in 1915. This was recorded by Engineer Benett who was assigned by the Americans to oversee the project.

According to Andrade the dam was “watering the large portion of the estate of San Francisco de Malabon. Besides the dams there are great system of tunnels, driven through the rock, carrying the water to the canals distributing it over the fields. These tunnels vary from 45 to 80 inches in width and 60 to 80 inches in height; they are not lined, but faced at the bents where men may go down to clean them of any sediments.”

I asked the barrio chief about stories he heard from his elders about the lake and its dam. He recounts, “I remember being amazed at how it provides water to the rice fields but no one knows how the tunnels (he calls it “mina”) were excavated… there are some legends about it but no one’s seems to know who did it during the Spanish time. It is not even lined according to the elders. I would take you to where the water comes out.” From the lake, we drove for less than a kilometer where the water from the lake gushes out, flooding the irrigation channels. A few meters away is the farm of the barrio chief. Fascinating is that houses and roads were built on top of the water tunnel. This tunnel, according to official records, is about 300 meters and had already been rehabilitated during the American administration. At one point, they had to drain the dam which provided the townsfolk an assortment of fishes estimated to be around thousands of pounds!

In the 1900’s additional buttresses for the entire structure were built to make it stable. Appropriation was made for 30,000 pesos to “preserve the irrigation system…to put the dam in a safe condition.” Another spillway was also added to control water levels. The rehabilitation which started in 1915 was completed two years after. Today, National Irrigation Administration are the ones in charge of guaranteeing the dam’s stability; which they failed to do when it cracked and dropped an ungodly volume of water downstream drowning some locals in the past.

It would be good to note that the Friars bought the lands when it was hardly cultivated. Like Imus, a back wood area that they manage to transform into a productive farm estate. When these lands started to yield crops, locals demanded that they should be the ones running everything if not use them for free. So the landless revolted, led by the landed, who later enriched themselves with more lands. Remember, Aguinaldo and his men were no mendicants but prosperous men whose families earned their fortune from lands the Friars developed for farming.

Speaking of Friar land, after the revolution, these were sold off through the administration of American Governor Taft. It must be explained that majority of these lands did not go to the simple farmer but to rich families who had the means and influence to buy them. Some of the names are familiar—like Emilio Aguinaldo and Jose Laurel; the former was forced to give up some of his friar lands by the courts, the latter would be indicted for not paying taxes for his acquired Friar lands.

According to Andrade, “without taking into account these improvements (dams and irrigation canals), the Friars lend the estates to tenants who paid them 10% of the product of the land, or perhaps somewhat less than 10%, if not in money, in kind.” After the local landowners took over, apart from the lease the farmers have to pay, there are numerous expenses that deprives him of his bounty. Remember, they have to pay the National Irrigation Agency too. There’s no such thing as a free meal—not even a mass revolution could guarantee that!

Chief Vicente Tulipan attest that his barangay is not only a peaceful place but charming too. Not too long ago he said there was some discussion of making the dam a kind of attraction by a local politico. Nothing happened of course but he still thinks that it’s a good idea.


Non-Spanish, Non-Catholic Defenders of the Friars

Non-Spanish, Non-Catholic Defenders of the Friars

Pio Andrade Jr.

The many good and enduring accomplishments of the Friars did not escape the attention of foreign visitors and historians. Many of them wrote favorable of the friars and defended them from the unjust treatment and comments that were heaped on them by critics. I would cite here praises for the Friars written bu non-Spaniards many of whom are not Catholics.

“With no oither arms but faith, the Religious Orders pacified and civilized the Philippines archipelago,” write Frenchman Jean Mallat who stayed in the Philippines for 6 months in the 1790 and traveled to many places in the islands.

Yale Historian, Edward Gaylord Bourne, in his introduction to the monumental 50 volume Blair and Robertson’s THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS praised the friars zeal and charity. “…it was the spirit of kindness, Christian love and brotherly helpfulness of the missionaries that effected the real conquest of the islands is abundantly testified by qualified observers of various nationalities and periods, but the most convincing demonstration if the ridiculously small military force that was required to support the prestige of the Catholic King. The standing army organized in 1590 for the defense of the country numbered 400 men.”

Fray Ezequiel Moreno, who served as priest for Parañaque is remembered as one kindest and generous that seashore town ever had. So loved was this man that townspeople protested his transfer. Today, when people hear friar they think of  Rizal's fictional Friar character, Damaso. (Photo courtesy of http://friarydiaries.tumblr.com/)

Fray Ezequiel Moreno, who served as priest for Parañaque is remembered as a kind and generous leader. So loved was this man that townspeople protested his transfer. Today, when people hear friar they think of Rizal’s fictional Friar character, Damaso. (Photo courtesy of http://friarydiaries.tumblr.com/)

Sir John Bowring, a former Governor of Hong Kong, in his book on his travel and official visit to the Philippines in 1850 wrote his admiration for the intimate unity of natives and the Friars, and the absence of a caste in the country. “I have met the Friars who were the object of special respect and affection, and in fact they merited it as guardians and restorers of peace in the family, and as protectors of the children in their studies, and moreover for the labors they undertook in the welfare of their respective pueblos.”

The German Naturalist Jagor in his book “A Traveler in the Philippines”, “Spain belongs the glory of having raised to a relatively high grade of civilization, improving greatly their condition, a people which she found on a lower stage of culture distracted by petty wars and despotic rule. Protected from outside enemies, governed by mild laws, the inhabitants of those splendid islands, taken as a whole, have no doubt passed a more comfortable life during recent centuries than the people of any tropical country whether under their own or European rule.”

Frederick Sawyer, a British businessman who lived in the Philippines for many years including the decades of 1890’s, in his book “The Inhabitants of the Philippines Islands” heaped praises on the friars accomplishments in the Philippines. “Let us be just, what British, Dutch and French colony, populated by natives, can compare with the Philippines as they were in 1895,” he concluded his defense of the friars and Spanish rule.

In the first decades of the American rule when the Friar lands was a burning issue, Stephen Bonsal, a Protestant correspondent of the New York Tribune wrote an article in the North American Review defending the Friars. He mentioned the Friars role in the education of the natives, the churches, roads, bridges, and villages they built, the commercial plants they introduced, their work in agricultural extension, their services as soldiers. On the 10 million valuation of the Friars lands, Bonsal wrote: “There are half a dozen foreign firms in Manila without the knowledge of the people and the islands which the Friars possess, who have made as much as this out of the Philippines within the decade.” He did not cover up that the Friars, being men, had been swayed by human passions at times and, therefore they are not without stain. Nevertheless, his overall judgment of the Friars will be echoed by historians who cares to dig the truth. “But when time has calmed the controversy to which the termination of their mission in its medieval shape has given rise, it will be seen that under their guidance a large portion of the Filipinos have reached at much higher stage of civilization than has been attained by other branches of the Malay family under other circumstances and in another environment. I believe the work of the Friars is recorded in the golden book.”

It will surprise many Filipinos that during the American period, the most outspoken and spirited defenders of  the Friars were American journalists Walter Robb and Percy Hill who were not Catholics. Robb came to the Philippines as a teacher but later gravitated towards journalism and became the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce. He wrote many articles about the Friars’ accomplishments in that history-minded publication.

On the other hand, Percy Hill came here with the invading army in the Philippine American war. He became a school teacher for a few years and then settled to a farm in Nueva Ecija where he became a big rice farmer. All the while, he wrote about the Philippines during the Spanish era. He wrote many articles on the Friars’ work in Northern Luzon, and was ahead of William Henry Scott and other historians in praising Fr. Juan Villaverde’s mission in Ifugao country.

Both Robb and Hill based their history articles on their readings of history in the National Library. Both are fluent in Spanish unlike today’s history writers whose articles are recycled history from shallow and distorted sources in English.

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Undated article written by chemist and historian, Pio Andrade Jr. He sent this article to me last week. Posted here with his permission.


THE THOMASITES AND SPANISH

tag: pio andrade jr., thomasites, spanish philippines

THE THOMASITES AND SPANISH

The Thomasites were the American teachers who staffed Philippine public schools during the early American period. They were so-called because most of them came to the country in the U.S.S. Thomas, a transport ship. The Thomasites taught English to Filipino students in the public schools. What is not mentioned in history books is that the Thomasites had to learn Spanish for them to be effective teachers and for them to socialize with the local elite who were mainly Spanish-speaking. In fact, in the annual Teacher’s Assembly in Baguio City every summer, advanced and beginning Spanish lessons were given to American teachers.’

Here are four Thomasites and their brushes with the language of Cervantes:

Mrs. Eloise Gibbs, a Thomasite schoolmarm, taught young Pampaguenos in San Fernando , Pampanga in 1901-03. She wrote an article “Filipinos I Have Known” in THE FILIPINO STUDENTS MAGAZINE which mentioned her Spanish conversations with her cochero and ward.

One day, Mrs. Gibbs’ cochero, Flaviano, came to her crying. He told Mrs. Gibbs: “Senora, Senora, Senor A  habla me ladron.” (Madam, Mr. A  called me a thief.)

Mrs. Gibbs and her American co-teachers adopted a waif named Valentin. After an earthquake, Valentin said, “El diabio mucho trabajo,” (The devil works overtime.) by way of explaining to Mrs. Gibbs why the earth quaked.

William Freer taught in several provinces and he became superintendent of public schools in Nueva Ecija and Ambos Camarines. Before returning home. He wrote a book THE EXPERIENCES OF AN AMERICAN SCHOOL TEACHER on his teaching days in the Philippines. The book has a glossary of Spanish words for the readers to better understand his work in English.

Mary Fee wrote many articles and a book of her teaching experiences in the Philippines. Fee’s book IMPRESSIONS OF THE PHILIPPINES, like Freer’s, contains many Spanish words and expressions. Here is a paragraph from the book about her learning of transportation terms in the country at that time.

“We had picked up the vernacular of the street carromata in Manila. This is very simple. It consists of sigue, para, dereeho, mano and silla. For the benefit of such readers do not understand pidgin Spanish, it may be explained that these words signify, respectively, “go on,” “stop,” “straight ahead,” “to the right,” and “to the left.” The words wino and silla mean really “hand” and “saddle”; I have been told that they are linguistic survivals of the days when women rode on pillions and the fair incubus indicated that she wished to turn either to the side of her fight hand or to the skirt side.”

Charles Derbyshire is familiar to most Filipinos because of his English translations of Rizal’s NOLI and Fili, which are the official versions used in Philippine public schools. Unknown to most Filipinos, Derbyshire was a Thomasite and he taught in Negros Oriental, Zambales; and Manila. He studied Spanish in UST to be able to translate Rizal’s book into English. He left the Philippines in 1918.

Back in the United States, he taught in the University of West Virginia where he opened a Department of Spanish. In 1928, he met two Filipino college students travelling through West Virginia. Immediately, he talked to them in Spanish, thinking they were conversant in Spanish as many of the Filipinos he left behind. The two students, however, knew less Spanish than Derbyshire for they had been educated only in English in Philippine public schools.

From Pio Andrade Jr.’s unpublished book “Que Barbaridad”.


Bamboo Spanish

tag: pio andrade jr, spanish philippines, thomasite,  philippine american war

BAMBOO SPANISH

 

How did the American soldiers in the Philippine-American War manage to make themselves understood by the Filipinos in the absence of an interpreter? Answer: By speaking “Bamboo Spanish,” which was also called “Soldier’s Spanish”, or “Pack-Train Spanish.” 

By far, Bamboo Spanish is the most comical version of the language of Cervantes. It is more comical than Chabacano, the “Spanish” of Zamboanga City and Cavite City. “To speak Bamboo Spanish,” according to Thomasite William Freer, “the American soldiers have but to know, correctly or incorrectly, about 10 verbs in the third person, singular number and present tense, 20 nouns, the adjective forms bueno and malo, and the adverbs, si, no, and por que, and to be able to throw these together with the English words interspersed; and lo, he was able to converse anywhere and everywhere.”

To this, I would like to add that Bamboo Spanish hispanized English by adding Spanish endings to English words, especially the nouns, and using the word “este” a lot, spiced generously with hand gestures. Here are some Bamboo Spanish stories:

A One day an American troop detachment escorting a mule team with lumber for a bridge was ambushed by Filipino soldiers. The mules ran away as soon as the fighting began. When the Filipinos were driven off. The American soldiers went after the mules; but they came to a crossroad and did not know which way the mules took.

A few civilian Filipinos came along and the captain, wanting to question them, called out to his men: “Is there anybody here who can speak Spanish?” A corporal presented himself and said he could. “All right,” the captain said, “Ask this man here if he has seen any mule go down this road.”

The corporal thought for a few minutes, and then he questioned the frightened Filipino, “Say, hombre, you see este mulio go down este rodeo?

Were the mules found because of the corporal’s Bamboo Spanish? The story did not say so. It ended with the statement that the captain never again used his corporal as an interpreter.

It was 1900 and Manila was already well under American control. The American authorities ordered that “Keep off the grass” signs be planted in the Luneta to keep the lawn green and beautiful.

One day an American ex-soldier, who was a member of Manila’s Finest, was pounding his Luneta beat when he saw a Filipino sauntering over the lawn. The American policeman accosted the Filipino trespasser.

“Hey, you,” he shouted while pointing at the sign. “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you read?”

“No comprendo, (I don’t understand)” the Filipino replied. “que quire decir eso? (What does that thing mean?)”

After a few exchanges, the American realized that the Filipino did not understand English. So he switched to the language of Cervantes, Manila American version: “You sabe este signio habla, oostay no puede vamos este caballo chow-chow. (Roughly: This sign means that even a horse is forbidden to come near this grass to eat.)”

The Filipino sneaked off the lawn into the gravel path. Did he understand the Bamboo Spanish of the American policeman, or was he just intimidated by the gringo?

Not long after his arrival in the Philippines, geologist Dr. Warren E. Smith, who later became Bureau of Mines director, assisted Jesuit Fr. Sanchez, a teacher, admirer, and friend of Rizal, in cataloguing the geological and mineralogical specimens of the Ateneo Museum. Since Fr. Sanchez did not know English, Dr. Smith had to talk Bamboo Spanish. The two worked together very well despite Fr. Sanchez perfect Castillian and Dr. Smith’s questionable Spanish. Dr. Smith admitted, though, that Fr. Sanchez’s innate courtesy made him unaware of the in-adequacy of his bamboo Espanol.

Bamboo Spanish may be crude, comical, and grammatically monstrous, but it generally worked. A Thomasite, in his first three weeks in the Philippines, was amazed at the linguistic ability of his fellow Americans. Everywhere he went, he saw Americans, especially soldiers, conversing effortlessly with Filipinos in Spanish. A month later, when he had learned some Spanish, the Thomasite realized that what he heard his compatriots speaking was Bamboo Spanish. There was a big difference between la lengua de Dios, as Spanish-speaking people call the Spanish language, and la lengua de los soldados Americanos en las Islas Filipinas, or Bamboo Spanish.

 

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This article was sent to me by historian Pio Andrade Jr., This first appeared in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column.


Fr. Felix Huerta : Great Benefactor

PHILIPPINE history focus so much on political history that many historical, but nonpolitical, persons of outstanding accomplishments are hardly mentioned in standard history textbooks. Take the case of Franciscan friar Fr. Felix Huerta, the administrator from 1850 to 1878 of San Lazaro Hospital which treated lepers for free. To most Manilans today, Felix Huerta is a street close to the San Lazaro track [1]. Very few know that Fr. Huerta was responsible for two enduring and beneficial projects — Monte de Piedad and Manila’s water supply system.

Plaza Goitti, now Lacson Plaza (after the late Manila mayor). To the right is the rear wall of the newly renovated Sta. Cruz Church. The BPI building, as it is known today, was the Roman Santos building, Monte de Piedad’s first home. (see notes for the building’s brief history)

As early as 1860, the Madrid government ordered the founding of charitable pawnshop in Manila for the poor. But for some reason or another, the order was not carried out. Thus on July 21, 1880, Fr. Huerta, with the backing of the Archbishop and the Governor General and 33,000 pesos from the Obras Pias [2], founded the Monte de Piedad, a bank and pawnshop for the poor. The bank was formally opened on August 2, 1882, with office at the first floor of Santa Isabel College in Intramuros.

Monte de Piedad lent money at 6% annual interest and paid 4% annually on savings deposits. But its biggest business was in pawned jewelry. It was an old custom of Filipinos to buy jewels as capital, and hock them in times of need. Monte de Piedad charged .5% interest monthly on pawned jewelry and other properties which could be redeemed anytime before maturity of renewed when due. Unredeemed jewelry and properties were auctioned every 10th and 11th of each month.

For auctioned properties, Fr. Huerta insisted on a charitable policy, which is said to be a pristine Catholic banking practice. All earnings from the auction exceeding the amounts due to the bank were turned over to the debtors. If the debtors was dead, a search was made for the heirs, while the money was kept in the bank earning interest.

Today, Monte de Piedad is still around. Its banking rates and policies may have changed, but still extends cash and jewelry loans using the deposits as collateral.

Fr. Huerta also made the Carriedo water systems a reality. Before he died in 1743, Francisco Carriedo stipulated in his will that 10,000 pesos be invested in the Galleon trade until it earned enough to build a water system for Manila. But the British appropriated the Carriedo fund, then worth 250,000 pesos, when they conquered Manila in 1762. As a result, the Carriedo fund had to start anew with a capital of 10,000 pesos. With the end of the Galleon trade in 1815, the Carriedo fund was forgotten. Fr. Huerta dogged search of over 300 documents in the archives led to the discovery of the Carriedo fund which amounted to 177,853.44 in 1878. This was used to finance the completion of the Carriedo water system in 1882.

Fr. Huerta, was also a good historian. He wrote “estado geografico, topografico, estadistico, historico, religioso de la provincia de san gregorio.” [3] The history of the order in the Philippines.

in 1960, I was confined for chicken pox at the San Lazaro hospital. The chicken pox ward was the second floor of an old Spanish building attached to the old San Lazaro chapel, which could have been the original hospital for the lepers. As I ascended the stairs to the ward, I saw on the wall a portrait of Fr. Felix Huerta. I did not know then that I was looking at the portrait of a great missionary, a true child of St. Francis, and a great benefactor of Manila.

Just like Fr. Huerta in his day, many priests and nuns today are engaged in development projects for the poor while remaining steadfast in their religious devotion. I will mention several examples:

Mother Milagros of the Assumption Sisters, with the help of her former students, built a school for the poor in San Simon, Pampanga in 1970. She also built an irrigation system and established a farmers’ cooperative in the same town.

Jesuits Gaston Duchesneau and Mr. Benedicto Allanegui in 1961 organize the San Dionisio Credit Cooperative in Paranaque with 38 members and 380 peso capital. Today this cooperative assets are worth over 10 million, making it the largest and most successful credit cooperative in the country.

In 1971, a Filipina nun acquired a piece of land in Antipolo which was transformed into a low cost housing project for the slum dwellers she was serving.

We rarely read these modern counterparts of Fr. Huerta in the press which harps so much bad news. Thus we are deluded into thinking that the Philippines is a basket case with no hope in sight. If the press will print good news as avidly as it prints bad news, then we could say, borrowing the words of William Faulkner, “We, Filipinos, will not only survive, we will prevail.”

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Blogger’s notes & footnotes:

This undated article was written by the historian Pio Andrade Jr.

– Interestingly, the street Felix Huerta in Sta. Cruz does not carry the religious title of “Padre,” as in streets like Padre Burgos and Padre Gomez. It is as if to hide the fact that Padre Huerta was a Spanish priest who dedicated his entire life caring for the people he served.

– The Roman Santos building used to be the site of the first office of the “Bank of the Poor”. First planned in 1884 by the Monte de Piedad de Casa de Ahhoros and by a decree of Governor General Moriones. The first foundation was said to have been laid during the birthday of Queen Ma. Cristina. Initial funds came from the Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila, private donors and loans from Banco Espanol Filipino (todays BPI). The building was opened on 1894. The event was graced by then Manila Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda. In 1937 the building was sold to Consolidated Investments Corporation. It became a multiple floored structured by this time. The plan was drawn by Juan Luna’s son, Andres Luna San Pedro. The building was under construction during the outbreak of WWII. It became a warehouse during this period. During Manila’s liberation, the building was converted into a Red Cross hospital. In 1952, Prudential Bank and Trust Company founder, Roman Santos, made it the headquarters of his company. Since then the building carried his name. In the following years, the building would be completed. It had 9 floors by 1957.

[1] San Lazaro Hippodrome – Race track that dates back to the Spanish times. Most of the defunct “hippodrome” was bought by Henry Sy and this became an SM mall in 2005 . The art deco styled building was among the casualties of this development. The greatest heritage destroyer of Manila, Mayor Lito Atienza, graced the opening of SM San Lazaro with the owner in 2005.

This race track in Sta. Cruz was home to Asia’s first racing club (1867).

[2] Obras Pias (Works of Piety) – Catholic foundations that received donations dedicated to religious, charitable, medical and educational purposes. Some of these charitable institutions invested in the galleon trade allowing them to widen the reach of their missions.

[3] Estado geográfico, topográfico, estadístico, histórico- religioso de la santa y apostólica Provincia de San Gregorio Magno – The histories of the Franciscan missions in the province of St. Gregory the Great (mission towns under the Franciscan order). This book is an essential resource for local town culture and history.

Related article: Don Francisco Carriedo and Manila’s First Water System


Education and Spanish in RP

By Pio Andrade, Jr.
1. THE BLACK LEGEND ON THE STATE OF EDUCATION (1)
Filipinos in the 20th Century were repeatedly taught or told in schools and in the press, that Spain always kept their ancestors uneducated to have them ignorant and the always docile subjects of Spain. The blame was, in particular, thrown upon the friars, “who, from motives of their own, discouraged the learning of Spanish by the natives, in order that they may always act as intermediaries between the people and the civil authorities, and thus, retain their influences over their charges”. The most common proof cited for the alleged uneducatedness and ignorance supposedly reigning in Hispanic Philippines is the incontrovertible fact that only the Philippines, among all the other former Spanish colonies, is not Spanish-speaking today. But was this really so?

The 1896 revolution, the first revolution in Asia by a colonized people for independence from the colonizer, refutes the charge that Spain did not educate the Filipinos, for revolutions are not made by the ignoramuses but by the educated folks. Indeed, most of the leading lights and leaders of the 1896 Revolution were Ilustrados, or educated folks. The propaganda literature and the communications coming from the Revolutionaries were mostly in Spanish; and, the Malolos Constitution was debated and drafted in Spanish. The revolution was made possible by the widespread knowledge of Spanish. Thus, Spanish was the language of the 1896 Revolution and Philippine nationhood.
The 1896 Revolution is but one of the many proofs against the oft-repeated assertion that Spain deliberately did not educate the Filipinos, specially in the Spanish language. This assertion is nothing but a big lie. This lie is another black legend, and black propaganda, concocted by anti-Spain and anti-church zealots, xenophobic nationalists, leftists ideologues, the American controlled Philippine Public school system, and the American missionary societies of the early days of American rule. This black legend and propaganda, which has caused severe negative effects upon many facets of Philippine life, must be exposed as nothing else but a destructive historical distortion. And that is the object of this article. King Philip II’s Law of the Indies (Leyes de Indias) mandated Spanish authorities in the Philippines to educate the natives, to teach them how to read and write and to learn Spanish.

However, the latter objective was well-nigh impossible given the realities of the time. First, there were very few Spaniards in the Archipelago to teach Spanish at that time. Second, the Philippines, at the coming of Spain was inhabited by diverse tribes with different languages, customs, and religion. Third, the geographical barriers – – – the seas, the mountain ranges, lush virgin forest and the absence of enough roads made travel and communication difficult during those years. Thus, the friars, the vanguard of evangelization and education, opted instead to learn the native languages first and in order to use them as tools to evangelize and teach the natives in the missionary schools. But Spanish was also taught to those who wished to learn the language. Among these were the native principalía and the Chinese traders who only began to come in greater numbers after the coming of Spain to the Philippines. Spain introduced the first movable printing press in the country and with it Tomas Pinpin, the Prince of Filipino printers, publish a book on how to learn Spanish. In the UST Archives are three extant Spanish-Chinese dictionaries published during Spanish era.

Another proof that Spain’s language education was taking place in the first years of Hispanization in this Country was the Galleon Trade. This is the longest and the most hazardous of sea-borne trade in history which largely benefited the Philippines, China and Mexico more than it ever benefit Peninsular Spain.. The Galleon Trade would not have been possible if the Filipinos, Spaniards and Chinese could not communicate with each other in Spanish.

In 1863, with the passage of the Education Reform Act in the Spanish Cortes, the Philippine public school system was born. Separate schools for boys and girls were established in every pueblo for the compulsory education of Filipino children. The law also established the Escuela Normal to train male and female teachers. This was ten years before Japan had a compulsory form of education and forty years before the American government started a so-called public school system in the country.

It is important to cite here two scholarly studies made on the state of education in Asia, including the Philippines, by two non-Spanish and non-Catholic writers during the nineteenth century. The first of these non-Spanish writers is the eminent Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal.

In his monumental 3-volume book on ASIAN DRAMA, Myrdal wrote of Philippine education under Spain, in the following terms:” The earliest colonial intruders in Europe in South Asia were the two Catholic imperialist powers, unlike Spain and Portugal, the Netherlands and Britain, who arrived later, they had a planned educational policy from the beginning. One of their missions, in addition to economic exploitation, was to convert the pagans to the Christian faith. What is important is that this duty was interpreted as requiring the education of the people to read and write – a policy that would hardly have appeared warranted had political power of commercial and fiscal exploitation been the chief and only purpose.” “This had the most far-reaching effect in the Philippines, which was under Spanish rule continuously for more than three and a half centuries.

By the early part of the seventeenth century, the ground had been laid for a system of even a secondary and tertiary education that was not directed merely toward religious teaching. And the priest and monks, who worked closely with the civil authorities, began creating a network of elementary schools, in which both religious and secular subjects were taught. By 1863 the Spanish colonial government had adopted a program of compulsory elementary education that was to be free to all children between the ages of seven and thirteen. When
Spanish left a generation later, this ambitious program was far from being fulfilled. Nevertheless, the Philippines was already ahead of most other South Asian colonies in popular education.” (underscoring done by the author)

Another reference worth citing on education in the Philippines under Spain is British author H.A. Wyndham’s 1898 book NATIVE EDUCATION IN CEYLON, JAVA, FORMOSA, THE PHILIPPINES, FRENCH INDO-CHINA AND BRITISH MALAYA. Wyndham concluded that the Filipinos were the most educated of the colonials he studied.

One of the most vociferous voices claiming that Spain did not educate the Filipinos was UP historian emeritus Teodoro Agoncillo who wrote in THE REVOLT OF THE MASSES that “When the Americans took over the Philippines, only 2.5% of the Filipinos spoke and wrote in Spanish”.

This figure was taken from the 1880 book of Cavada Mendez de Vigo. Later, in his history textbook , THE HISTORY OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE, Agoncillo also claimed that “it is safe to say that the literacy rate of the native population was somewhere between 5% and 8%”. These Agoncillo claims are wrong for these two statements on the Philippine literacy can not be sustained by factual evidence.

Agoncillo failed to see that since 1811 with the publication of DEL SUPERIOR GOBIERNO, the Philippines had a popular press which further disseminated the Spanish language in the country. The Philippines was the first country in Asia to have a popular press in Spanish and, by the coming of Dewey, there were many more popular newspapers and books published in Spanish. The several newspapers in the native languages most always carried Spanish language sections. Manila, itself, (then with about half a million people) had three Spanish language dailies in the morning and three other dailies, also in Spanish, in the afternoon. These dailies in Spanish had no equal counterparts in other Oriental countries.

Since 1863, with the passage of the Education Reform Law in the Spanish Cortes, the Philippines was given by Spain a public school system with Spanish as the sole medium of instruction. This is another big push for the increased learning and use of the Spanish language by Filipinos.

Another factor for increased Spanish literacy was the Chinese population. The Chinese community obligates Chinese cabecillas or Chinese barangay captains to teach rudimentary Spanish to new Chinese immigrants. After a month in these Chinese-owned schools, the Chinese immigrants spoke kastilang tindahan, or Caló Chino Español, a kind of Spanish Chabacano, that later become fluent albeit accented Spanish . When these Chinese immigrants intermarried, they brought forth Spanish-speaking mestizos. The 100,000 Chinese population at the turn of the century were all conversant in Spanish though in varying proficiency, from the kastilang tindahan of the new Chinese immigrants to the fluent Spanish of Chinese old timers.

The growth of the popular press, the public school system and the Chinese population increased Spanish literacy in the Philippines by the time of Dewey’s advent. Joseph Earl Stevens, an American who resided in Manila from 1893-1894 had these to say about Spanish in the country in his book YESTERDAYS IN THE PHILIPPINES: “Spanish, of course, is the court and commercial language and, except among uneducated natives who have a lingo of their own or among the few members of the Anglo-Saxon colony, it has a monopoly everywhere. No one can really get on without it, and even the Chinese come in with their peculiar pidgin variety”.

EDUCATION AND SPANISH IN RP (2)
By Pio Andrade

2. THE SPANISH LANGUAGE IN HISPANIC PHILIPPINES
A more enlightening view was that of Carlos Palanca, the most prominent Chinese in the last two decades of Spanish rule. He submitted a memorandum to the Schurman Commission about the main products and languages in the different provinces, Palanca listed 18 provinces as Spanish-speaking with 5 provinces as speaking little Spanish. The rest of the provinces speak the regional language. The Spanish-speaking provinces, the most prosperous provinces, were deeply influenced by the friars and had a significant concentration of Spanish-speaking, Chinese and their mestizos. Yet, in the other provinces not classified either as Spanish-speaking or speaking little Spanish, one could find several headmen who spoke fluent Spanish, according to Stephen Bonsal, an American war correspondent who traveled widely in the Philippines.

Still another revealing source on the widespread use of Spanish at the time of the American invasion was the fact that American soldiers had to speak crude Spanish, dubbed “bamboo Spanish”, to make themselves understood by the native Filipinos.

An important reference on the widespread literacy and, by inference, the wide use of Spanish in the Country, is the 1903 Philippine census. The Census, although deliberately— it seems— not answering Spanish-speaking and writing inhabitants in the country at that time, stated that the literacy rate of the Philippines at 20.2% including those who can read and write in any Philippine language. However if the figure that includes those who could read but could not write, the same figure jumps to 44.5%. Surely this literacy rate has little to do with the Americans who came to the Philippines only in 1898 and did not start their public school system until 1900.

Agoncillo’s statements downplaying the extent of education and the widespread use of Spanish during the end of the Spanish era is debunked by contemporary historical accounts on the subject matter and by even the 1903 Philippine census. Philippine history textbooks give the impression that the transition of the medium of instruction in the public school system from Spanish to English occurred smoothly. By the first decade, American bureaucrats in the Philippines were informing the American authorities in the USA that the Filipinos by the middle of the first decade were already English-speaking. Actually, Spanish grew even more during the 1900-1920 period. Professor Henry Jones Ford of Princeton University in his 1913 secret report on his six months travel and research about the Philippine situation to President Woodrow Wilson, had this to say on the use of Spanish in the country at that time: “There is however, another aspect of the case that should be considered. I had this forcibly presented to me as I traveled through the Islands, using the ordinary conveyances and mixing with all sorts and conditions of people. Although on the basis of School statistics the statement is made that more Filipinos now speak English than any other language, no one would think of the testimony of one’s own ears. Everywhere Spanish is the speech of business and social intercourse. For one to receive prompt attention, Spanish is always more useful than English and outside of Manila, is almost indispensable. Americans travelling about the Islands, use it habitually. What is more, they discourage the use of English. This was a development that took me by surprise. I asked an American I met on an inter-island steamboat why he always spoke Spanish to the stewards and waiters, and whether they could not understand him in English. He said that probably many of them could but one would not be treated with as much respect using English and not Spanish; that Filipinos seem to loose their manners using English, becoming rude, familiar and insolent.”

Professor Ford further underscored the widespread use of Spanish in the country by writing about the existing press thus: “There is unmistakable significance in the fact that there is not in all the Islands one Filipino newspaper published in English. All of the many native newspaper are published in Spanish and in the dialect. The Vanguardia, the Manila newspaper of largest circulation, has a Spanish section and a dialect section, and most of the native papers throughout the Islands follow this practice. The Philippine “Free Press”, the periodical of largest circulation under American control, is published in English and Spanish, and all the American newspapers use Spanish to some extent in conjunction with English. The only purely Filipino paper that uses English at all is the Revolutionary Organ, “The Philippine Republic”, published at Hong Kong. It is in Spanish and English. The avowed purpose being to reach American readers in the interest of Philippine Independence.”

It is relevant to mention here that as late as 1930, the Spanish dailies had a much bigger circulation than either Tagalog or English dailies. Noteworthy also is the fact that in the 1930’s there were a few Chinese periodicals in both Chinese and Spanish. Another big proof for the prevalence in Spanish over English in 1913 Philippines cited by Professor Ford is the failure of Act No. 190 enacted by the Philippine Commission mandating English as the sole official language of the courts and their records by January 1, 1906. The law was amended several times to accommodate Spanish as co-official language of the courts with English till January 1,1920. And Filipino legislators and Constitutional delegates made Spanish still an official language in the Commonwealth.

Spanish was also heavily used by American and Chinese businessman. Pacific Commercial Company, the largest American trading corporation in the country had the best Spanish teacher under their employ to teach Spanish to new American employees from the beginning to the time when the Japanese came. Meanwhile, the minutes of the Philippine Chinese Chamber of Commerce was in Spanish from their inception in 1904 to 1924, after which Hokien was used.

Truly, Spanish was already deeply widespread at the time of the coming of the Americans. Had it been used together with English in the American-controlled Philippine public school system, Filipinos would be like the Puerto Ricans today, speaking both English and Spanish.

Modesto Reyes Lim in a 1924 issue of the Rizalian Magazine ISAGANI vehemently criticized the imposition of English upon the Filipinos. He wrote: “¿No es acaso de sentido común, que hubiera sido muy fácil propagar más el castellano, que ya se usaba como lengua oficial y se hablada ya por muchísimas familias filipinas dentro y fuera de sus hogares, y del cual contaba entonces el país con muchos literatos, poetas y escritores distinguidos?” (Is it not of plain common sense to know that it would have been far easier to further propagate Spanish, which was already the official language and the mother tongue of so many pure Filipino families, in and out of their homes, and from whom where born so many writers, poets and distinguished men of letters?) “Indudablemente, como dice un ilustre filipno miembro actual prominente de la administración de justicia, que con el mismo tiempo y dinero gastado, sistema y otros medios modernos de instrucción empleados en la enseña del inglés, si en lugar de éste se hubiera propagado en mucha mayor proporción que se haya hoy propagado el inglés.” (There is absolutely no doubt, says a Filipino jurist of today, that if the same time and money, and the same teaching system and methods, now employed in the teaching of English were instead dedicated to the teaching of Spanish, the latter would have been propagated in a much larger proportion in which English has been propagated.)

Modesto Reyes Lim’s criticism of the teaching of English to the exclusion Spanish in the Philippines looks overly biased in favor of Español, but the view is the same view of Edgar Bellairs, an Associated Press was correspondent, who covered the Philippine-American War and traveled widely in the Philippines. Bellairs, in his book AS IT WAS IN THE PHILIPPINES, criticized the teaching of English over Spanish in Philippine public schools thus: “I lay it down as a proposition that if you start today and teach thousands of children in the Spanish language, in a period of two years, at the expiration of that time, you will have done more good for these people and this country and the masses of them will have a wider knowledge of their worlds’ history and be more capable of assessing this government than they will ever be at the expiration of 5 years under the present English language system”.

It was a mistake to exclude the teaching of Spanish and its use as a medium of instruction in the Philippine public schools system under the Americans. The exclusion led to the ignorance of Spanish by Filipinos, specially historians and journalists, who could, and should, shed better lights on the distorted Philippine past.
The present ignorance of Spanish by Filipino historians and writers perpetrates the ignorance by Filipinos of many positive and beneficial aspects of Spanish rule in the formation of the Filipino Nation. This ignorance is behind the lack of appreciation for our Spanish heritage and the loss of that precious capital of human hope. It is the task of historians and writers — a task admirably and effectively played by the late Nick Joaquin — to disseminate the need of learning the Spanish language to correct the heavily distorted history of our Hispanic past and to destroy the black legend that falsely says that Spanish rule in the Philippines was mostly evil when the contrary was true.

Notes from Arnaldo:

I’m collating some of the articles of Pio Andrade Jr. and posting them here believing that they present an important element in the study of Filipino historiography–an unbiased and genuine study on what has been twisted and distorted history. It’s unfortunate that historians like him are relegated to the sidelines because he doesn;t conform with the establishment historians and scholars who for the most part has contributed nothing but confusion, exaggeration and lies.

I would also be re-posting some old newspapers articles from other writers who wrote along the same line as Andrade. Since these involves a lot of typing, it’s taking sometime but with out a doubt worth all the tiring manual trouble!

I’m in the process of creating a new page in this site to house all these articles.


Kamagsa Vines, Dirigkalin, and the Church of Paracale

Whenever we hear the words ‘materiales fuertes’ we know what it exactly means. High grade, durable and resistant. The ecclesiastical structures and those baronial ‘bahay na bato’, reinforced the usage of the Spanish ‘materiales fuertes’ in all Filipino languages. After all, they’re the only structures that has survived the test of time. In fact, most of them would still be standing today if it were not for the avariciousness of those who inherited the legal right to own them.

The facade of the Church of Paracale.

One of these structures made of ‘materiales fuertes’ is the church that houses the miraculous Nuestra Señora dela Candelaria de Paracale. I recently visited the church and the first question that came to mind was how did this structure survived all those giant typhoons that ravaged Bicolandia for hundreds of years? What kind of cement was used here? Remember, like all the coastal towns of Bicol, they get blasted by the strongest gusts of the year round typhoons before it goes to up to us in Manila!

The ideal resource person here of course is Pio Andrade Jr., the recognized history scholar of Paracale. ” I once asked my father what was the cement used in building the stone church of Paracale, and he said that according to old folks it was a mixture of lime and molasses. I didn’t believe it but I found out later as a student of the University of Florida that lime-molasses was the universal cement for stone houses before the invention of Portland cement in 1832.”

You look up lime and molasses today on the internet and you’ll come up with kitchen recipes. However, this ‘lime and molasses’ technique has been used by the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English in their colonies. The Spanish perfected the method in their roads and buildings, evident are all the Spanish era structures that constitutes most of our heritage buildings. Somehow their builders figured out that thick molasses mixed with lime mortar slowly solidifies the mix, not only preventing cracks from developing but the gradual healing process makes it stronger. Eggs were also used because it had a similar effect like the molasses–it stabilizes air in the mix and reduce water, preventing bleeding , increasing malleability and strength. The egg shells are not thrown away–they’re crushed into calcium paste and gets thrown into the mix.

What about the indigenous woods used?

“The ceiling of all old Camarines Norte churches were made of marang planks–not the wood of the marang fruit–because it is light and water resistant. Batikuling is the wood most used in sculpting religious statues because it is easily carved and light. One of the parts of the Paracale Church that disappeared was the choir loft which was at the same height as the wooden floor leading to the belfry. This loft is supported by two post of dirigkalin. This wood which is now extinct in Paracale is water and anay-resistant and it is so hard the nail bounces on it. Holes are drilled with running water in this wood to attach metal attachments. Old dirigkalin posts from old houses are recycled to build new houses. Molave, Apitong, Lauan, Palosapis, Dungon, Yacal… are other hardwoods used in construction of other load bearing structures of Churches. For Church pews and other furniture, narra and kamagong are used.”

The triangular interior of the church. There’s ‘brownout’ which I was told is common these days in town.

The most interesting wood in this list is Dirigkalin. I’ve seen posts made of this hardwood and I could attest that there’s possibly no tougher woof out there that could match it. So solid that when I first  encountered it I thought that it was painted cement formed to look like a tree trunk. This is the adamantine of all Philippine hardwood. I’ve never seen a living Dirigkalin tree which are relegated to be foundations and posts because its hardness and weight removes it from any other effective usage. Even internet provides sparse resources on this particular specie. I wonder if there’s still a healthy number of these trees around or if they had been extinct for sometime.

The thick walls of this church has provided sanctuary for hundreds of years to native Paracalenos. Those who lives near the coast still runs to the church to seek shelter to this day.

The Kamagsa vines which to this day holds in place the massive bells of the church according to Andrade  also bind the beams in the church’s ceiling until a super typhoon blew off the roof. Instead of repairing the damage, the parish priest at that time decided not to. Forever removing an integral building element that secured the roofs on top of the faithfuls heads for hundreds of years. The historian adds, ” One thing about kamagsa: when fresh it’s so supple you could twist it easily as a rope, but as it ages, it becomes as hard as nails. Also it is mold- and anay-resistant.”

Where did the builders of these ecclesiastical buildings and houses acquired these incredible knowledge of the natural building materials around them? Obviously, this know-how came from a culture that had experienced using these materials before. Now, with the arrival of the Spanish came the systematic methodology of combining masonry and crafting wood to form functional and artful religious buildings. Whenever I see a church like this one in Paracale, all I could think of is that wonderful combination of Spanish and native elements that make up what I understand to be the truest of Filipino forms.

The Kamagsa vines tied to the Yakal beams. This hasbeen in place for 150 years now. Photo courtesy of Pio Andrade Jr.


Romancing the Gold… Pio Andrade’s History of Paracale

“Paracale played a no insignificant part in Philippine history… Paracale gold helped Padre Moraga convince King Philip III in 1613 not to abandon the Philippines.”

Earlier this week, Pio Andrade Jr. sent me the cover design of his upcoming book about the history of his native town, Paracale. I recently visited this iconic gold town and I’m eager to get my hands on the physical book but I would have to wait until September. That is if I’ll get a copy.

Along with the cover, Andrade sent me the prologue of the book. He was candid and unpretentious in his introduction which I thought suggest what can be expected from the rest of the book. Here, he openly wrote about the struggle of being a writer and writing:

Freelance writing in a non-reading nation like the Philippines is not a remunerative occupation. Thus, I had to work at other writing jobs which prevented me from working on the Paracale history book. A near fatal stroke hospitalized me in 2004, draining my meager personal savings, and shelving the Paracale history book project indefinitely. Providentially fortunately, if unexpectedly, my classmates and friends of Paracale High Scholl (PHS) Class 1958 stepped in so that the dream of a Paracale history book would turn real.

And these people, these Paracaleño high school buddies of his would be instrumental in kick starting the history book project:

Arturo (Art) Villanueva, my friend and high school classmate, now an American citizen, retired and living in Cerritos, California, found out through the Internet that I had become a journalist, an historian, and a published author. He called me long distance in September 2008 in Batch ’58 monthly reunion in the Astillero farm in Paracale. The long distance call was hooked up to another classmate Pepito de la Riva in Ontario, Canada. What a joyful, “jokeful” long distance conversation between three friends who have not seen each other for 50 years.
At the middle of our conversation, Art turned serious. Without my asking nor the least hint, Art offered me $300 to buy myself a notebook so that I could write the history of Paracale. I told Art that a PC notebook would give us a manuscript but not a book. To publish a book, there should be money not just for typing the manuscript but also for research, artwork, photography, editing, promotion and printing. I estimated the Paracale book would run to 300 plus pages and this would cost us about P125,000.00, but I added that we could secure such amount easily by soliciting $100 and $50 contributions from Paracaleños in the United States and Canada and from Paracaleño balikbayans. I thought of tapping the pursue purse of Paracaleños abroad not just because they can afford but also to promote closer bonding between Paracale expatriates and their town mates who remained in Paracale. Moreover, I consider this book as a joint project of the author and the Paracaleños in diaspora.

The idea of a history book for Paracale had been prophesied by foreigners who lived and experienced the gold mine life in that far off Bicolano town, Andrade writes:

A future Paracale history book had been hinted before, William Freer, American Superintendent of Schools for Ambos Camarines in 1903-1905 wrote:  “The history and romance of these mines would make a theme worthy of a Rider Haggard,” then a popular British writer of novels about mysterious Africa. Wenceslao Vinzons, Camarines Norte’s popular World War II hero, wrote in 1932 that Mrs. Harriet Reed, an American Lady who lived in Paraale since 1909. “may yet write her beautiful stories of Paracale and publish them in book form.” Alas Mrs. Reed died in 1951 without writing Paracale’s history.  Sadly, Paracale’s five accomplished writers and journalists: Nicolas Velas, Congressman Pedro Venida, TV broadcaster Rey Vidal, Benjamin Condino, and Vicente Elnar never bothered to write Paracale’s history.

And I’m certain that Andrade would leave no stone unturned in this book project. He reminds his future readers:

My research for this book yielded a rich trove of data for writing down Paracale’s past and its historical importance. At the same time, however, I realized more deeply what I have been noting in my history readings and writings that the Philippine history, which is taught in Philippine schools and retold in popular publications, is heavily distorted. These distortions are in the forms of omissions, incomplete information, wrong interpretations, and outright lies. They are meant to demonize the Catholic Church, Spain, and lately America, cover-up Japan’s wartime destruction of the Philippine economy and corruption of Philippine politics before, during, and after World War II, beatify so-called nationalists heroes as saints and angels, and cover-up the virtues and outstanding accomplishments of real heroes not to the liking of the leftist nationalists. And these distortions have been committed in the name of nationalism. How much history distortions have been committed in the name of nationalism by nationalists who are dishonest and unpatriotic.

I’m excited about the ‘Appendix’ that promises to be a goldmine of reference material. Because of Andrade’s scientific methodology in researching his subjects, this is to be expected:

An outstanding feature of this book is a 20-article, 100-page plus Appendix of outstanding published and unpublished writings about Paracale which amplify and provide contemporaneous perspective to the facts mentioned in the text. The appendices also preserve for posterity these precious and hard-to-access articles about Paracale and make them available to readers who would like to dig further on gold mining and Paracale’s exciting saga. Finally, the Appendix is a well of heart throbs–interesting incidents showing human nature which make reading exciting and enjoyable.

Not too long ago, with my friend Alas (who’s now writing the history of La Laguna), tried to convince a municipal mayor to fund us in writing the history of the town where my friend resides and where I own a small house. While that request was turned down, I remain a believer in the importance of ‘localized’ history books. The text books we have in schools neglects the celebration of local history. The study of history, traditions and customs of our hometowns should be made as introduction to national history–this ensures that we are rooted strongly in the land of our forebears. And when we are aware of the  local culture and history closes to us, we tend to nourish and cherish the homeland.

“I find his [Andrade’s] work, formidable” I told F. Sionil Jose a few weeks ago, and I have no doubt that this soon to be publish book has the making of a ‘formidable’ book that would be the yardstick of future works on the history of Filipino towns.

And when I get that call to write my hometown’s history, if ever that comes, I’m sure I’ll pull out a copy of Andrade’s book right from the shelf to be guided.


With Manong Frankie Sionil Jose

How do you give an introduction for someone like F. Sionil José? Anything that I’ll say was probably said better by others. So let me skip the introduction.

While I differ from his view on many toipcs in Philippine history, my appreciation for his cultural, social and historical writings remained.

The man has never abandoned his quest for social justice. His criticism of the country’s irresponsible elites and the locals passiveness has become the theme of his impassioned writings. I admire that he never tire of bearing the desire to change his nation after all these years. Most people would have given up–but not Manong.

I like this picture. FSJ looks disinterested (I’m not sure if he was). That’s a great profile of the man. We kept banging our knees. We took turns seating side ways. The novelist is a hefty, tall guy, almost the same height as I am. His office is cramped with books, there’s a type writer. No laptop. He slouches on his seat like a little boy. Favors wearing crocs over shoes around his office. He readily admits that he tire easily these days. (Special thanks to César for taking photos).

To quote him, “my generation failed; it made all this mess and I am, myself, culpable. Looking back, I should have shouted more loudly, longer, too, even perhaps to the point of getting hoarse. For that is what Bertolt Brecht said — “Shouting about injustice hoarsens the voice” — and the artist whose voice is hoarse will not be understood, will not even be listened to.” His egalitarian ethos for the common Filipino has never diminished.

It was easier for him to rest on his laurels, write commissioned biographies, get rich doing what so many gifted minds has done but he prefers to toil and tug along that rough road.

He runs a bookstore where he still writes.  He’s now 88.

This is not a formal interview, more like a chit chat between an obscure blogger and one of the country’s literary greats, Manong Frankie.

F. Sionil José: Teka, are you related to the the pilot — that made the trip from Manila to Spain?

Arnaldo: Yes. I heard from older relatives. But I don’t know how he’s related to me.

F. Sionil José: You see, that was in the, what 20’s or 30’s?

Arnaldo: Early 1900’s Manong, not sure when.

F. Sionil José: See I have good memory. I remember. Matagal na yon ha!

Arnaldo: Let me shake your hand.

F. Sionil José: Oh. [Laughs]

Arnaldo: I’m shaking the hands of one of the greats!

F. Sionil José: Oh, narinig mo yun Cesar? [Laughs]

F. Sionil José: Oh ano? ano ba interest mo?

Arnaldo: How are you? kamusta po ang buhay?

F. Sionil José: Oh sige salamat, it’s humdrum

F. Sionil José: Do you write?

Arnaldo: I blog…

F. Sionil José: Ok yan. May blogger dito nun’ kamakailan lang.

Arnaldo: Is it true that you’re a snub, I don’t think so, but why do people…

F. Sionil José: [laughs] Ganito yan’ ah kung minsan I’m so busy I don’t want visitors. Kung minsan naman, kagaya mo, suddenly you just drop by out of the blue… otherwise naman I could spare time with anyone who wants to see me.

Arnaldo: I’ve read the things you’ve wrote about Singapore, I worked there but recently had to quit…

F. Sionil José: Ha? Teka muna, what’s your work in Singapore?

Arnaldo: I was working with a software company. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that they’re trying to localize the workforce there?

F. Sionil José: They can’t do that. They don’t have enough people.

Arnaldo: But they’re trying to develop their locals…

F. Sionil José: Kahit na. At saka, no matter what they do, they’ll always need people that knows more. I know Singapore well. Simple lang yan. I was there when it was like Binondo. Curious ako, “ano kaya yan Singapore na yan?,” it was a small town surrounded by rubber plantation. Mostly, rubber plantation. I’ve been traveling around the region, from the late 40’s onwards.

Arnaldo: A few weeks ago, I was reading an old article of yours about your grandson in Illinois.

F. Sionil José: Ah, that. It was a short story. It was very autobiographical.

Arnaldo: Do you still write?

F. Sionil José: Feet of Juan Bacnang. César kailan ba lumabas itong Juan Bacnang? ah yes, February last year. This could very well be my last.

Arnaldo: No, no, no.

F. Sionil José: I’m not well. Marami akong sakit. Salamat na lang that this [pointing to his head] is not yet demented. I know younger people who suffers from memory sickness.

Arnaldo: Are you aware how you inspired young people, like, to look at social and cultural issues in a…

F. Sionil José: Yes, yes. But I don’t really think of it.

Arnaldo: Did you really told Ramos to hold on to power and reform the government?

F. Sionil José: Yeah, to stage a coup. It’s just articulating the obvious.

Arnaldo: Do you think someone would come along and lead us, correct the wrongs, heal the ills?

F. Sionil José: Maybe.

Arnaldo: Never thought of running for public office?

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] No, but I was in government for two years. I was in the Foreign Service, I went to Sri Lanka. I have experience in the bureaucracy, the Department of Foreign Affairs, thank God, it was led by someone I admire, knew very well, si Manny Pelaez. So it wasn’t too bad. I had direct communication, all the suggestions I gave were followed. Those kind of things. Because there’s nothing more frustrating than when you have something good which you think should be accepted but gets rejected.

Arnaldo: Do you think artists can be good at running things? like government?

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] We’re rooted on reality. It’s the imagination, the dream that sustains us, that takes us off to the cosmos.

F. Sionil José: Paano ngayon di ka na babalik sa Singapore?

Arnaldo: I don’t know. I’ll look around and see what are opportunities I could take. The economy, they say, is doing well. So, let’s see.

F. Sionil José: Maraming opportunities dito. But sometimes, it’s difficult even for the skilled. Ganyan naman dito sa atin. How are your ties here?

Arnaldo: My network is good. I’m very positive, upbeat po tayo!

F. Sionil José: Alam mo that’s the advantage of open societies. You can fit in anytime because you have the talent needed. Dito, what’s wasted dito sa ating bayan is not the talents that go out but the talents here that are not utilized! Hindi ginagamit, ang daming marunong, you know, but somehow they could not get into [inaudible] positions.

Arnaldo: So these talents, ends up poor, desperate?

F. Sionil José: Basahin mo yun Star last Sunday. I’m writing something about poverty. Again. Kailan ka ba dumating?

Arnaldo: A couple of weeks ago.

F. Sionil José: Ah so you don’t…

Arnaldo: I download all your articles and put then all on my e-book.

F. Sionil José: Ah [laughs] you’re, what’s that, a techy. I can’t even use the computer.

Arnaldo: I’ll never forget that Cervantes seminar where you shouted at Pío Andrade, why were you so upset?

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] Ah na dun ka ba?

F. Sionil Jose: I can’t stand it.

Arnaldo: You scared a lot of people there!

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] Ah oo na dun ka pala. Madami, daming audience, tao. Hindi daw kasi totoo yun kay Rizal ano? [Laughs] I can’t stand it, I’m incense by such things.

Arnaldo: I know that man, met him, Pío Andrade, he wrote “The Fooling of America”, I personally find his works formidable

F. Sionil José: His book is good. That one demystifying Romulo. Which is not completely true, I know Romulo. But there’s more than a kernel of truth in that book!

Arnaldo: So you read him also?

F. Sionil José: Ah yeah. Di naman ako basta basta nagsasalita.

Arnaldo: Tell me about Ninoy, Cory…

F. Sionil José: I would select the books and Cory would bring it to Ninoy in prison. I know them both very well.

Arnaldo: What about Robert Frost?

F. Sionil José: What about him?

Arnaldo: You’ve met him, right?

F. Sionil José: Ah yes, he was 80, and healthy when I interviewed him!

Arnaldo: Wasn’t he senile?

F. Sionil José: No! not at all. He was healthier than me kasi his cabin, di naman hills, but there were inclinations. We walked. He was walking faster than I! And I was just 30 years old.

F. Sionil José: Ah, you brought up Robert Frost. The woman that introduced me to him, I learned afterwards that she was the mistress! [laughs]
Was she Filipina?

F. Sionil Jose: No, Americano. Her husband was a good friend of Frost. Works in Harvard.

Arnaldo: Para palang si Hemingway to’?

F. Sionil Jose: [Laughs] but yun ano, yun persona ni Robert Frost, was old and gentle. I read in his biographies that he was cranky, one of the children committed suicide, but I didn’t saw these, iba s’ya sa personal.

Arnaldo: Was he cocky at all?

F. Sionil José: No, he was very nice. Very nice.

Arnaldo: These are the Americans intellegencia that was against the American empire

F. Sionil José: Oh yes. Ok, let me get back to work. Next time don’t show up unannounced!

Arnaldo: I will. Thank you Sir. I really appreciate this. Agnamayak!

F. Sionil José: [Laughs] Ok, ok.

May 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All other text enclosed in parenthesis is mine.


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