Tag Archives: ternate

Revisiting Corregidor

Been busy the past few weeks. Things I do now eats up a lot of my time. I no longer get to travel much. So I usually (even with friends) pass up travel opportunities. Budget is tight and there are far more important things to be concerned with is my alibi these days. But there are exemptions, of course, invitations I can’t say no to. Like this request from a brother who wanted to see Corregidor. He wanted to see it before going back stateside. This year being his last tour of duty with US military he wanted to visit what he calls the “Rock”. He’s been to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbour, so I guess this completes his pilgrimage of sorts.

He’s as crazy as I am when it comes to history but his expertise is in the American part of our history. He believes America brought us closer to the ideals political democracy. We don’t agree on a lot of issues, obviously, but this passion for the past has brought us closer. We tolerate each others’ opinions and we enjoy debating over a cup of coffee (we can literally go straight for 4-5 hours discussing historical items, this is our version of “catching up” with lost time!).

We woke up around 5 am and started preparing for the trip. We commuted to Manila and was in the Sun cruises compound before 7 am. Since we don’t have reservations, we were what people there called “chance passengers”. We have to wait for people to cancel or not show up. It was a “full tour” a staffer told me. So I was a bit worried that we might not get on a boat to Corregidor. The first time I went to Corregidor they accommodated more tourist because the boat they used was bigger. This time it was much smaller. I was told that during weekdays Sun cruises only utilize these boats. Since there’s only one tour during weekdays, tourist crowds the first and only tour.

The boat had a mix of foreign tourist on board. Aside from Americans, there were a lot of Japanese. At first I thought that these people would stir clear from Corregidor, they got beaten here pretty bad, but then I realize that their the kind of people that would go and pay their respects to their war dead regardless where the place is. I remember that small cemetery in Muntinlupa where there are Japanese regularly making the pilgrim to that isolated small garden. I can’t help but admire these people. They have good memory when it comes to their national history. We won and forgot about our heroes, they lose but never forgot about the sacrifice of their young men. We can learn something from them.

I thought I’m going to have to talk a lot about what happened in Corregidor. Not the case. Turns out that what I know is not even half of what my brother knows about the battle of Corregidor and Bataan (pronounced Bat’an by Americans). So the tour guide became the tourist in Corregidor. Aside from showing him the Spanish Navy’s battleship mast that was made into a flag pole for the stars and stripes near the old Spanish lighthouse, I hardly contributed any new information to my brother!

The suffering the defenders of Corregidor went through was unimaginable. Being part of the tour makes you respect more what those brave soldiers did. Corregidor and Bataan were the last to be surrendered to the Japanese. The island was where Quezon was inaugurated for his second term (him and Erap were the only presidents that had been sworn to office outside Manila). The Malinta Tunnel became bomb shelter, hospital and residence. The network of tunnels inside Malinta is extensive. So much history in such a small piece island. Just imagine 4000 Japanese men died during the American take over.  Most of them refusing to surrender were burned alive.

It was only in the 1980’s that the location of the Japanese graves was revealed to the Japanese government. For some reason, the location of the mass grave was withheld from the Japanese until that decade. Why the Philippine and American government concealed that location is a mystery. The Japanese was allowed to construct a garden for their dead near where their soldiers were collectively  buried. The Japanese visitors can be seen here offering prayers and incense to a stone goddess about 8 to 10 feet tall.

As me and my brother continued exchanging historical anecdotes we often found ourselves pausing to reflect on some interesting places that catches our attention. Like this gunnery where Japanese letters are etched on the wall. We took photos of it as he wanted his Japanese wife to see it. I was reminded that the island is still surrounded by explosive ammo. I think it was last year when the current President requested help in disposing these dangerous cache of ammo. He made that request to Obama while he was in the White House.

The island is now densely forested. It is as if nature is taking the island back. According to the tour guides, the islands were reforested because almost all of its trees were struck down by bombs. I’m sure Corregidor must be one of the most bombed place in world history. How soldierssurvive the tumultuous years, when the island was relentlessly shelled, is something I can’t get my mind to imagine. It must have been one hellish and awful existence!

The tour and most of the literature about the island concentrates on the role it played during the pacific wars. Hardly ever mentioned is what was life like before the American came. Believe it or not there were several thriving barrios around the island during the Spanish times. The fishing barrio of San Jose is located north (location of bottomside today) of the island. It sits right beside the surf and had a church, a convent, a school (Escuela de Nuestra Señora del Carmen), a market and a small plaza (there was even an ice plant in the island that employed locals). When the Americans came they added two elementary schools and a secondary school. And of course, their living quarters. The schools here are the first ever American public schools in the islands. I’m glad to see that the old Filipino Spanish church was reconstructed (entirely faithful to the original building) reminding tourist’s that the islands past  goes beyond the pacific war.

Along with Manila, Corregidor was the only other Philippine territory under Spain that was attacked by all of its enemies in the pacific. First was this guy Li ma hong. The ambitious Chinese had his eyes on Manila and with his ships and 3000 men launched successive attacks against the capital from Corregidor. He was defeated by the Juan Salcedo and his men. The galant young captain was summoned from Ilocos to defend Manila. And he did just that. Limahong and his forces was chased up to Pangasinan by the Spanish and their local allies. Without the ships that brought them here, some say, Limahong’s men settled in Pangasinan and intermarried with the locals.

Then came the war with the Dutch. The most extensive Philippine war that never made the books. Olivier de Noort was defeated by Spanish galleons converted to battle ships. Manila’s victory was short of a miracle. Those who fought sincerely believed in their hearts that our Lady was with them. After this historic naval battle, Manila decided to create a squad permanently posted in Corregidor to guard it at all times. The reason why I believe this war against the Dutch must be taught in school is that in all of the battles that took place there were large contingents of natives fighting alongside the Spanish. On all of these skirmishes (the last being the Battle of Playa Honda where the Dutch blocked the entrance of all vessels to Manila) the Dutch were defeated. Could you just imagine how many native Filipinos fought in these series of battle with the Dutch? If the Dutch won, we’ll all be familiar with pale lager and not pale pilsen, San Miguel beer would’ve never been the national beverage instead, we’ll be drinking Heineken! We would’ve been “going Dutch” in no time.

Looking back, without the Dutch attacks, Manila would’ve never had a “La Naval” tradition. We must remember that the first devotees were those who took part in the battles to keep Manila Spanish. Most of them native Filipinos that honestly believed in their hearts that by defending Manila they doing just service for their country, their motherland and the Catholic church. The Brits came later and held the capital hostage for three years. The Americans before the turn of the century, and the Japanese. All of these invaders made use of Corregidor for some reason or another.

Well, I guess I should write a separate articles about all of these.

Below are some of the photos I took that day:

That’s smog. One day we’ll all just choke in the metro. When I was still in my teens I imagined myself residing in one of those towers so I can see the sunset going down Manila bay.

I think that’s MOA but with all that smog I could be wrong.

They say the Japs were the ones that dug those caves. They made these area near the port their temporary submarine base.

The islands port. In this area, MacArthur left the country for Australia. Remember the “I shall return”, he said that to Wainwright here along with the promise of promoting him when gets his ass back.

I think these are Korean letters. Possibly by those who fought alongside the real Japs – but then again these could be just graffiti from Korean tourist!

Mi hermano inspecting a WWII relic. These heavy artillery are unbelievable. Makes you think if the Americans prepared for war long before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. These are massive armaments man!

I found this flag near the Japanese shrine where most of the Imperial army men were buried. They say this was the Japanese flag in the island. I’m sure most of those who wrote here died in the island. There was less than a dozen Japanese soldiers that survive the so called liberation of the island.

This baby right here sunk countless ships before heavy Japanese bombardment took it out. These was installed here in the early 1900’s. I’m sure these were not brought here to scare pirates and foreign fishing boats. The Yankees knows somethings up ahead otherwise they would have not prepared this well. If the Spaniard armed Corregidor like what these people did, it would’ve taken them a long time to capture Manila.

My brother staring at the tail of the island of Corregidor. Somewhere near the “tail” is the air strip of the island.

December 2011

A Day in Ternate Cavite: Finding Chavacano II

“TA RECIBI MIJOTRO CON USETEDE CON TODO CORAZON”: Everyone’s welcome here. Instead of Tagalog and English the Ternateño’s used their local language to welcome their town’s visitors.

When I wrote an article about the Chavacano situation in Cavite City last year – I was also thinking about Ternate. I’ve always been interested in our creole language. Is it experiencing alarming decline like what Cavite City is experiencing?

When I visited Municipalidad de Ternate my questions were answered.

I was relieved that Chavacano usage in Ternate remains high even after decades without conservation programs. It was almost noon time when I reached Ternate. A town with its own version of Chavacano (that some of them claim to be “mas puro”) not far from Cavite City. The welcome arch greeting is written in old Chavacano – an indication of how proud Ternateño are of their culture and language.

The old poblacion is where you’ll find a significant number of Chavacano speaking families. Speaking with the gracious Ternateños, descendants of the original settlers from Ternate in the Maluku islands was a pleasure and I’m already looking forward to go back maybe celebrate their fiesta with them one of these days. Their appearance reminds me of the Ilocanos of the north. I found out that the Ternatenos, their ancestors, characteristically have darker skin tone and solid built. The loyal Christianized Ternateños  have also figured in many battles against the Moros in defense of Manila. They were trusted and respected during the Spanish era.

The facade of the church of Sto Nino de Ternate. I’m uncertain if the original was damaged or destroyed during the war. How I wish that the original that most Ternatenos during the 19th century grew up with was retained. Sto. Nino is still a popular devotion among Ternateno. This devotion has shaped the Ternateno tradition as we know today. I’m surprised that there are no mass in Chavacano – something that I believe the Church leadership should address.

I entered the Church of Sto. Niño de Ternate to pay my respects to what has become the center of the towns art tradition. Their fiesta is reputed to be one of  the liveliest and most original in Cavite. Locals recount many stories about how their Sto. Niño saved their town from man and natural danger. They’re a people who still pervently believe in the power of prayers offered to their child Jesus. The “hermano” of this Sto. Niño, according to the locals is in the Aglipayan church, a stone throw away from the Catholic church. Its interesting how both groups co-exist in harmony. In fact, some people attend both churches which I find fascinating.

I tried to gauge the usage of Chavacano by observing the people around first then interviewing some of them. I was always welcomed with a smile. A friend once told me that the old families of Ternate are very honest, cheerful and hospitable – he was right. They’re the reason why the Ternateño tradition is alive and well. The first person I got to speak with is Councilor Wilfred Huerto. A cheerful chap with a great sense of humor. He was with his wife and kids near the plaza. Right away they agreed to speak to me and did not mind  our conversation being recorded. Apparently, most Ternateños who speaks Chabacano are likely to teach the language to their sons and daughters because this instills a sense of identity. In their own words, a Ternateño must speak Chabacano. “Most of us speaks Chabacano exclusively inside our homes” said the good councilor.

Children that grew up in these parts are all good swimmers I was told. Fishing is still one of their industry. I can just imagine generations of Ternatenos who had done the same, swimming and fishing around here. I wonder what the Ternatenos of the old would think of the “land fill” and the language situation today.

I then posed the question: why is it that the number of speakers is decreasing then? his answer made sense, “because there are far too many people relocating here, they are outnumbering us!”. The couple acknowledges the presence of the huge Tagalog and Visayan speaking community that moved in the area as a threat but both expressed with confidence that Ternateño will never die. “Imposible” said the councilor who said that Ternateños are too attached to their language that separation is impossible.

The couple’s relatives in Europe and in the US, whose kids has never even set foot in Ternate are speakers of Chabacano. This they told me is “proof” why their version of this creole language will never go away. I can tell that they’re so proud to be Ternateños. They love who they are and this is exactly why its important that we appreciate our history and culture because with this we are able to maintain our true unique identity.

Councilor Huerto, a former seaman, also told me of an experience he had in Ermita back in the early 60’s: “While I was in Manila, I had with me some Francos that I intended to convert to pesos. So I went to Ermita. There I spoke with these money changers near the plaza – I caught them speaking, whispering, in Chabacano, it has a different tone and phase but I can tell it was Chabacano – right there and then, I knew that they intended to buy low. I then spoke to them in Chabacano and they were surprised – I haggled for a higher price in Chabacano of course!”. It was the 60’s, were those people  speakers of the now extinct Ermitense? “I can never tell but the tone was different”, Councilor Huerto said.




Old timers in the public market are all Chabacanos and those people that would come to do business have no choice but to learn the language. A vegetable vendor, originally from Cebu, told to me that she can’t speak Chabacano but could understand it well.

I was then led to the house of the poblacion’s barrio captain located next to the river where a brahminy kite incessantly circles up above the scenic Maragandon river. Children were jumping in and out of the water near where I was interviewing the man they simply call Kapitan Meyong. He was a very accommodating man. He was pleased hearing that someone from the outside is interested to study their beloved language.

Capitan Meyong and her daughter with the visitor. Almost all the old families residing in Ternate are descendants of the legendary seven clans that came from the Maluku islands, Ternate, an Indonesian island situated in the Malay peninsula which was once governed by Manila.

Capitan Meyong is from the old town of San Jose where Chabacano is exclusivley spoken.Its common to hear locals transacting in the creole language in the market place but perhaps the biggest community of Chavacanos can be found in Barrio San Jose. “San Jose is 100% Chabacano”, he confirms. But all the other barrios outside the poblacion and San Jose are not speakers of Chabacano he said. Unlike the couple I spoke with earlier, Sr. Meyong is worried that Ternate would be completely wiped out by Tagalog and that one day it will finally lose its foothold in  Ternateño society.

He acknowledged that there has been no major project to promote Chabacano as a Ternateño laguage that can be offered to all people now living in the municipality. But he firmly believes that it is necessary. He said, “we have to teach this (chavacano) to all children that is now living in Ternate, whether from the original families or those who recently settled here”. I mentioned that Spanish as a subject in school is already close to being realized. He said, “much better, we could understand Spanish, Cavitenen (Cavity City) and Zamboanga anyway, its all related”.



When I visited the Barrio Captain, he was having a hearty lunch with his family right beside the river. I wonder what the place use to look like in the old days. I’m always consumed by what places use to look like. I try to find an old photo and compare them with the new ones that I shot – it amazing seeing the transformation, sadly, most of our old towns had seen better days.

The Barrio Captain then spoke about the  pressing issues the municipality have like the garbage dump its effect on the enviroment. This is truly a sad development. I believe no town deserves to be a site for waste disposal – I could not imagine the pain (giving up space for other towns garbage) this people have to live with. Garbage disposal is a tricky and complicated issue, we all know that garbage will have to be deposited somewhere and I’m sure no one wants to be given this unfortunate role – I hope that someday no town would ever have to deal with being elected as garbage site.

After my visit to the Captains home I headed straight to San Jose where I met an old woman who married into one of the oldest clan in Ternate. Almost everyone is related in this beautiful town, well, at least it felt that way. She was Waray but has resided in Ternate for almost four decades now and believes that she’s a Ternatena through and through. “I’m more Ternateña than waray”, she said with a big laugh. She told me that it only took her “less than a year” to learn the language. The language sounded like “singing birds” to her when she first arrived in the 70’s. All her grandchildren speaks Chavacano saying that its ” [not speaking it] unacceptable as it is our language inside our home”. She then instructed her son to take me to another relative of theirs who have “more stories to tell about the history of the town and the language”. The man then invited me to his tricycle and took me to this relative – he refused my payment.

A reputed Ternateno from the days of yore. not exactly sure if he really was that colorful but its the thought that counts. Right?

The man we were supposed to visit wrote a book about Chavacano and is an active member of the historical comittee of the province. He is considered a foremost expert in the creole language. Unfortunately, he was not there when I dropped by. True to the hospitality of the Ternateno’s I was still invited inside their home which is right beside a basketball court. Not far is a monument, painted in color of an ancient Ternateño dressed in his traditional costume standing proud amidst the modern houses and structures that surrounds him. They are indeed a unique people and I’m really happy to have been able to meet so many of them in one day.

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