Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tragic and mysterious

He was a charismatic and brilliant organizer who had a way with people. Perhaps it was because he infected them with his passionate and militant advocacy for the cause. His primordial aim, like many of his peers, was to unify an emerging nation and its people. He did not have a doctorate degree, no one is certain where he graduated, but reliable sources say his parents could afford a private tutor. Home schooling made him a voracious reader; he was a self-made man who worked for two multinational firms; he had an ear for music and wrote patriotic poems. He joined what was then considered a radical movement the leader of which was immediately captured by government authorities so he establisihed a secret society that was hunted but feared, specially after the its unexpected initial attack that thundered from Balara to San Pedro Makati to Santa Ana and struck right at the heart of Manila. Today ( 10 May) is the 114th anniversary of his tragic and mysterious death at the hands of fellow fighters, at the foot of a forlorn mountain in Maragondon, Cavite.

The summary execution of Gat Andres Bonifacio after a hasty trial exposed some horrifying defects of our national character like regionalism, deviousness and divisiveness, our pitfalls to this very day. To commemorate the death of the Supremo of the Katipunan, I read through "Mga Kasulatan sa Pagllilitis " (Agoncillo, 1963). The brothers Bonifacio--Andres and Procopio--were accused of "nagtipon ng kawal barilan at sandatahan ng walang parating gumagawa ng pulong na lihim" (illegal army and possession of arms, secret assemblies) Utterly grave was , "May panukalang ihapay itong pamahalaan at patayin ang Presidente [Aguinaldo]" (intent to overthrown government and assasinate the president) They were sentenced to death, "parusang kamatayan", but curiously enough, in the same document, the death penalty was commuted to "destierrong walang taning dusang gaganapin sa isang tanging lugal nahiwalay at babantayan." (perpetual exile at an isolated and well-guarded place)

So what happened? Why were Andres and Procopio killed just the same? On the 97th birthday of former President Emilio Aguinaldo in 1969, historian Teodoro Agoncillo read a paper at a conference of the Philippine Historical Asscociation where he recapitulated certain facts. He said that Aguinaldo decided to exile Andres and Procopio Bonifacio instead of executing them but was overrruled by the Council of War. Consequently, in a letter signed by General M.Noriel, a certain Major Makapagal was ordered to kill the brothers and had he failed to mete the punishment, Makapagal would have been punished with all the rigors of the Spanish Military Court.

Very few know that Andres Bonifacio had joined the La Liga Filipina established by Jose Rizal on 3 July 1892, and had successfully organized its local councils. When Rizal was arrested and hastily exiled to Dapitan , Bonifacio founded the Katipunan, attracting Liga members who saw the need for more drastic measures. Surprisingly enough, Bonifacio's death is commemorated yearly in Maragondon, Cavite but only since 2008 in Manila, under Mayor Alfredo S. Lim's second incumbency. On the day of his tragic and cruel death, Gat Andres Bonifacio is given military honors at his shrine beside City Hall and his other monuments and markers all over the city are embellished with wreaths of summer flowers.

Mabini's eulogy

The most precious, lofty, heart-rending but profoundly inspiring tribute to Jose Rizal was written by Apolinario Mabini in a book he wrote during his exile in Guam, La Revolucion Filipina. You will find this awesome eulogy in Chapter VIII, "First Stage of the Revolution" ; I have read it many times and have wept each time. Mabini did know what it was all about!

He wrote: "In contrast to Burgos who wept because he died guiltless, Rizal went to the execution ground calm and even cheerful, to show that he was happy to sacrifice his life, which he had dedicated to the good of all the Filipinos, confident that in love and gratitiude, they would always remember him and follow his example and teaching. In truth, the merit of Rizal's sacrifice consists precisely in that it was voluntary and conscious. He had known perfectly well, that, if he denounced the abuses which the Spaniards were committing in the Philippines, they would not sleep in peace until they had encompassed his ruin; yet, he did so because , if the abuses were not exposed, they would never be remedied. From the day Rizal understood the misfortune of his native land and decided to work to redress them, his vivid imagination never ceased to picture to him at every moment of his life the terrors of the death that awaited him; thus he learned not to fear it, and had no fear when it came to take him away. The life of Rizal, from the time he dedicated it to the service of his native land was, therefore, a continuing death, bravely endured until the end for love of his countrymen. God grant that they will know how to render to him the only tribute worthy of his memory: the imitation of his virtues."

Let us then imitate Rizal's virtues as a gift for his 150th birthday.

(Source: Mabini, Apolinario, The Philippine Revolution, translated into English by Leon Ma. Guerrero, 1969)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Lynching" an ambassador

Figuratively speaking, that is what happened to Mr. Carlos Pascual, USA ambassador to Mexico until recently ( March 2011) . The dramatic word "lynch" came from a lady radio commentator whose name I did not catch. Wikileaks had revealed that in a report to Pres. Barack Obama, Amb. Pascual said the fight against organized crime is inefficient due to internal strife in the army and navy , described Mexican President Felipe Calderon as "inseguro" and the presidential aspirants of the ruling party, PAN (Partido Accion Nacional) as "hombres grises" meaning colorless. ( I am quoting from "La Jornada", a local rag.)

Pres. Felipe Calderon felt betrayed and hurt, to say the least. As expected, Amb . Pascual was attacked relentlessly by legislators, the academe, the labor sector and the public in general. Had he not resigned, he could have been declared "persona non grata." However, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, came to the rescue, praised Pascual's good work in helping Mexico fight drug lords and announced that the ambassador would stay for a bit to insure orderly transition. She declared that his replacement will be appointed after the Mexican presidential elections (next year!) ; a charge d'affaires will take over in the meantime. Was that a veiled threat?

Amb. Carlos Pascual, a Cuban-American, used to be connected with the Brookings Institute and, curiously enough, his previous diplomatic assignments were to "precarious" states like the Ukraine, so when he was sent to Mexico, there was a lot of "eyebrow raising" here. Be that as it may, Amb. Pascual made frequent visits to Los Pinos (Mexico's Malacanan) , had the ear of the President with whom he was reported to have discussed and perrhaps planned "Rapido y Furioso" (Fast and Furious) a controversial deal that secretly sent 2,000 high-powered arms to Mexico, the unmanned flights of drone planes over Mexican territory, and heaven knows what other obscure operations which Mexicans fear may be violating their Constitution.

In a radio interview, Mexixcan historian, Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, said that was certainly not the first time a US ambassador to Mexico has had shown his hand. In 1853, Amb. James Gadsen negotiated with the corrupt Pres. Antonio de Santa Ana the sale of a vast part of Mexican territory to the USA. The " Gadsen Purchase" so infuriated the Mexican people there were many uprisings and revolts against Santa Ana who was overthrown by the Ayutla revolution.

Dr. Meyer also related that in 1912, when Francisco Madero became president after the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson thought him a weak reformist so he openly cultivated the friendship of Madero's rivals like Gen. Victoriano Huerta. Emboldened, the latter rose against Madero and during a meeting, supposedly at the US embassy, Amb. Wilson advised Huerta to "do what was best for Mexico". Huerta lost no time and Madero was assasinated. For his part, US Pres. William H. Taft believed that Amb. Wilson had gone too far and bade him to stop meddlding in Mexican political affairs. Had there been Wikileaks in those tumultuous times, Ambassadors Gadsen and Wilson could have been lynched.# (written in Mexico city, March 2011)

His Lolo Leon

A few days after Carmen Guerrero - Nakpil's latest book , HEROES & VILLAINS, was launched my brother, Toto Cruz (the publisher) said, he had an incredible story to tell me so I should go to his place directly after work and have dinner there.

According to Toto, late one evening, he caught a glimpse of someone buying a copy of Mommy's book at the reception desk of his office and the secrtary was surprised when the man said he was buying the book because his grandfather, Leon, was on the cover. Intrigued, my brother dashed out of his office, assistant Peter Lee at his heels, to look for the mysterious stranger. They had hoped to catch him by the elevators but he was nowhere to be found so they rushed down to the front desk of the building where visitors had to retrive their IDs.

"We sighted Franz when he was already walking away from Tower One (of the Philippine Stock Exchange) ," Toto related. "Peter gave chase seeing he was carrying a red book (color of the cover), so we invited him to the brokers' lounge." Franz Villafuerte, grandson of Gen. Leon Villafuerte, works as a government securities dealer at the Development Bank of the Philippines. His Lolo Leon lived to a ripe old age of over 100 and passed on in 1956. Like Macario Sakay, his friend and fellow revolutionary, he had an "anting-anting" which he bequeathed to Franz's father but which his mother buried in their garden. I can only imagine why she could have done that ; I have two Rizalista "anting-anting" which I have not quite deciphered but are on display in my living-room.

Toto told Franz, whom he described as a handsome mestizillo, that our mother put that famous group picture of Gen. Macario Sakay and his comrades-at-arms, Leon Villafuerte included, on the cover of her latest book because she is an admirer of the former. Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim , another Sakay die-hard, had a monument built in his honor at the Plaza Morga in Tondo. Franz had not heard about it. Toto continued to say that yet another Sakay stalwart, his sister Gemma, will surely want to interview him about his Lolo Leon. (to be continued)

His Lolo Leon, 2

Franz Villafuerte, grandson of Gen. Leon Villafuerte, said he would like to research more abour his Lolo Leon. He also told my brother, Toto Cruz, that they have a photo of his Lolo Leon in their living room, so I wonder if it is the same one that is on the cover of my Mother's book (HEROES & VILLAINS) , that famous group picture of Gen. Macario Sakay and his officers, Villafuerte included. Well-groomed and dressed in crisp white "cerradas", did they know they were posing for posterity?

Considering how the post-Aguinaldo revolutionary guerrillas were being hunted and killed by the Americans, the Bringandage Act of 1903 punished them with death and/or life imprisonment with hard labor. It is heartening to know that Franz's elders did not conceal their blood ties with Gen. Leon Villafuerte even if he had joined Sakay who was branded an outlaw or "bandolero" by the American colonial government.

Gen. Leon Villafuerte was a follower of loyal "magdiwang" Gen. Luciano San Miguel who never stopped fighting, not even after the uneasy truce declared at Biak na Bato, nor after President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan , Isabela, in 1901. When Gen. San Miguel was killed in battle in 1903, many of his men joined Macario Sakay, among them Leon Villafuerte.#

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Legislating Rizal, 1

Sixty years after Dr. Jose Rizal was execusted in Bagumbayan, mere mention of his two novels, the Noli Me Tangere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891) , could stilll whip up a bitter controversy. Firebrand of the Senate, Claro. M. Recto, was reported to have described Rizal's books as, " a constant and inspiring source of patriotism with which the minds of the youth , specially during their formative and decisive years in school, should be suffused."

It was still the post-war, a grim period of rebuilding a devastated economy, recovering shreds of natonal self-respect while choking on unequal treaties so, naturally, there was a resurgence of nationalism. Senator Claro M. Recto invoked Jose Rizal and authored a bill which made his novels (the unexpurgated versions) compulsory reading in all colleges and universities in the Philippines. This was sponsored by the Committee on Education headed by Senator Jose P. Laurel and supported by all senators with the exception of three--Franciso (Soc) Rodrigo, Decoroso Rosales and Mariano Cuenco.

There was weeping and gnashing of teeth at committee hearings that began in April 1956. Vehemently opposed to the bill were the Catholic hierarchly, the Catholic Action of the Philippines, Congregation of Missions, Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Teachers Guild and other Catholic organizations. Stinging commentaries by radio personalities of Church-supported stations called Rizal a ' 'thing of the past and his books an "inadequate Bible of Philippine nationalism today."

With daggers drawn, the Veteranos de la Revolucion (Spirit of 1896) rallied behind Senators Recto and Laurel. Indignant, so did the Alagad ni Rizal, Freemasons, and the Knights of Rizal. The archaic posture of the Church infuriated even the Book Lovers Society. They all affirmed that prohibiting generations of Filipino youth from reading the novels and works of Rizal was tantamount to executing the hero all over again, just like what the Spanish friars and colonial authorities did.

Many of those who opposed the Noli and Fili had not read the novels carefully, or not read them at all, except perhaps for a certain Fr. Jesus Cavanna who tried to slaughter the nationalists with a curious numbers game. He said that in the Noli, out of 332 pages only 25 had patriotic passages while 120 pages attacked the Church; as for the Fili, out of 293 pages only 41 alluded to patriotism and 80 were anti-Catholic. He must have gone through the novels with a fine-toothed comb but interestingly, he is the very same Fr. Cavanna who was inextricably involved in the Rizal retraction hoax.

Source: Totanes, Stephen Henry S., "The historical impact of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo" (Budhi Papers, #7, Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1987)

Legislating Rizal, 2

No legislation was ever so divisive; none has so brutally gashed old national wounds. Never since the Revolution had the Catholic Church been the object of such derisive indignation.

Heading the Veteranos de la Revolucion, Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the First Philippine Republic, denounced the Filipino clergy for putting themselves "under the yoke of the old Spanish friars, against whom the Filipinos of 1896 had risen in arms..."[with] our blood spilled on the battlefields." He demanded the true separation of Church and State and said that Rizal's novels were "banned by the Spanish authorities who had kept Filipinos subject for more than 300 years under the guise of Christianity".

It was Magdalo times all over again ! Four thousand (4,000) revolucionarios gathered at Imus, Cavite, some gave moving testimonies of how they risked their lives just to be able to read the NOLI and FILI when still under Spanish subjugation. They unanimously approved a manifesto calling "un-Filipino and morally repulsive" any opposition to Senator Recto's bill. An old venerable declared he would stop going to church until the bill was approved. Another exclaimed, "My loyalty to religion ends where my loyalty to the country begins."

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines insisted that Rizal attacked "the possibility of miracles, purgatory, the sacraments, indulgences, prayers, disparaged the veneration of saints, images, relics, the Blessed Mother and questioned Papal authority. Worst, Rizal doubted "God's omnipotence". In a pastoral letter, Bishop Rufino Santos of Manila explained their opposition to the "compulsory reading in their entirety of such books in any school where Catholic students may be affected."

Senator Laurel, head of the Education Committee, modified Recto's bill for expediency's sake by allowing exemptions for "reasons of religious belief." On 12 June 1956, Republic Act. No. 1425 (Rizal Law) was finally passed. Thus, the writings of Rizal especially the unexpurgated versions of the NOLI and FILI, became compulsory for all public and private schools in the Philippines.

Source: Locsin, Teodoro, "The Church Under Attack", "Phillippines FreePress", May 1956