Friday, December 28, 2007

from Peter Sanchez

Hi, Gemma. I really enjoyed your dissertation on the pinata. Had no idea of its interesting background other that it was of a Latino origin. I am usually in charge of the kids games at our company summer picnics. I would have a couple of these pinatas and would handpick the ones that would catch the children's fancy. It all makes sense to me now. Growing up in the Philippines, my siblings and I and the entire neighborhood kids enjoyed our version of the palayok after the procession during santacruzan season. (Now here is one for you...did the Pabitin have as colorful history as the Pinata?) Thanks you so much for your fascinating and enlightening articles. I really enjoy them as I am a history buff myself. Merry Christmas to you and your family and may you have a most Blessed New Year.

Your friend and fan,
Peter Sanchez

from Conrado Rigor

Hi Gemma,
Happy New year to you!
It's your fan from Seattle again who
wrote to you about old Ft. William McKinley.
I had forgotten to add that the exploiters
of that revered piece of land had mercilessly
taken out the centuries-old acacia trees that
had been the trademark of the old military reservation.
Those old trees, planted at the turn of the century,
had lined the long road known then as
MacArthur Avenue (where I grew up in)
in Ft. McKinley. The road extended all the way to
the millionaires' row in Forbes Park and was noted
for its shady, breezy lanes that lent so much
character to the place. It was on this road
that the cottages of Army officers and their
families were. In those days
(ask Senator Jun Magsaysay), our fathers
were professional soldiers who placed
God, country, honor, and integrity above all else.
How we miss those glorious days!
--Sluggo Rigor

from Rene Velazquez

Saludos GCA:

Prior to WW II, Clark Field was the aerodrome for Fort Stotsenberg – a cavalry post. The fort was named after Col. John Miller Stotsenberg of the First Nebraska Volunteers. He was killed on 23 April 1899 during the Philippine-American War.

According to contemporary accounts, on the morning of the 23rd, he was leading a battalion of the regiment in action against Filipino entrenchments near the Quinga river. On approaching the river (in what is now Plaridel, Bulacan) south of Calumpit, the batallion came under heavy fire from the dug-in Filipinos. The first casualties were Col. Stotsenberg, one lieutenant and two privates who were shot dead, and thirty-one men were wounded. Col. Stotsenberg apparently received three Mauser shots in the upper torso.

Fort Stotsenberg did not have an aerodrome until 1912 when the Philippine Air School was established. Construction of the runway started in 1919. It was named Clark Field in honor of Major Harold M. Clark.

Harold M. Clark was born in 1890 and died on 2 May 1919. He was acknowledged as the first United States airman to fly in Hawaii . He died in a seaplane crash in the Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal Zone and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery .

Fort Stotsenberg and Clark Field co-existed until shortly after the end of WW II, when it was renamed Clark Air Force Base.

I hope that sheds a little more light on the history of the place.


about Benazir Bhutto

The Islamic world has lost a strong voice for democracy

We mourn the death of Benazir Bhutto, twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, The assassination of the former Prime Minister Bhutto is not only a loss for the forces of democracy, it is a destabilizing blow for Pakistan and the region, already reeling from separatist conflicts and Al Qaeda-related tensions.

Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan could have strengthened the government, following moves for power-sharing with President Parvez Musharraf. Her death at the hands of an assassin has not only removed that option, it imposes more burdens on a government and a nation caught between the growing influence of extremists and radicals and the pressures coming from the United States and its allies.

Our sister Benazir was a powerful image for the Muslim world, a woman who was elected Prime MInister of an Islamic country where the military and the religious leaders were influential. Her death has erased that powerful image.

We offer our prayers and condolences to our sister Benazir's family and her nation in this tragic time. We pray for peace in Pakistan.

Amina Rasul
Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ms. Gemma Araneta,

Thank you. I have been reading your blogspot lately, I appreciate the
action taken by the City of Manila government, most particularly Mayor
Lim in saving the historic Luneta Hotel. I can still remember when my
parents, siblings, and I used to walkby and watch visitors getting in
and out of the hotel during the late 60's. We used to wait for our ride
back home along TM Kalaw infront of the hotel. Very nostalgic. I am now
in my mid-50's and I do wish that Luneta Hotel will still be there,
preserved and looked after until the day I leave this world.

More power and God bless.

Dante Ferrer

Break that piñata!

Believe it or not, the piñata is not a mere party game. Originally, it symbolized the eternal battle between Good and Evil . It was an instrument of evangelization, introduced to the New World via Mexico (Nueva España) , probably as early as the XVIth century.

Today the piñata is completely secularized and no one remembers its catechetical function. At piñata shops scattered all over Mexico (and probably the rest of Latin America and other parts of the world where Latinos live), one can buy all types of piñatas-- Santa Claus, Super Man, Spider Man, Nemo, furry animal, galleons with pretty sails, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter and other box office heroes. Gigantic, medium and small, these modern day piñatas have nothing to do with the Roman Catholic religion. For all we know, children end up traumatized by having to whack and destroy the effigy of their favorite pet animal or cartoon character.

A historically correct piñata consists of a terra cotta pot (palayok) disguised as a brilliant star wrapped in shiny colored paper, embellished with seven horns, each covered with paper of different hues, and each with a coquettish tassel dangling from the tip. The piñata is the Devil and the horns, the seven capital sins, that is why the piñata has to be as alluring as temptation itself and as irresistible as an occasion of sin. The Devil, temptation and sin have to be vanquished— breaking the piñata-- before we mortals can receive God´s blessings—symbolized by the spilling of its delicious contents..

Because it was a religious lesson, the piñata was broken at Christmas time, during a Pastorella, or during the Lenten season. Before taking a hack at it, one is blindfolded to profess “ blind Faith” (believing without seeing) ” with which one conquers temptation and resists committing sin. The stout stick used to hit the piñata symbolizes fortitude and other God-given virtues; it can also symbolize Jesus Christ himself, our Savior. The song that livens up the ritual is more like a religious canticle that enjoins us not to stray from the rightful path:

“Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino ,( Hit it and don´t lose your aim) porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino ( because if you do, you will lose the way) . Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino, mide la distancia que hay en el camino ( measure the distance of the way/road) . Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino, porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino..”.

Once broken the piñata disgorges a shower of cacahuates,( like our boiled mani) miniature naranjas (oranges) and jicamas (sinkamas) , cañas (chopped tubo), dulces (native sweets), , tejocotes ( small orange fruits ) which symbolize God´s blessings for those whose sins are forgiven. Why these fruits in particular? Each one probably symbolizes a Christian virtue.

As you know, the early missionaries adapted popular local traditions to facilitate evangelization. The loa and dalit of ancient Batangas eventually became religious songs. By coincidence, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on the very place where Aztecs venerated Tonantzin. Intriguing, isn´t it? There must be more to our fiestas and festivals than just street dancing.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cheering for Mar

Mar Roxas is the man !!!!! the next man !!! My children (both University students in the UK) agrees with me that Philippines must be lead by an honest President . As an Ilonggo , I am proud of his father then and I am proud of him now....
Malipayon nga Paskua.....

Patricio E. Jamelo , Jr.
EDP-System Administrator
Water & Sewage Authorities-Veria

Friday, December 21, 2007

Re: "In the same boat"

Hola Sra. Araneta:

The locale for Paseo Caribe would indeed ruin a beautiful historic area. I once had an office on the 11th floor of the Caribe Bldg. accross the street from the Caribe Hilton hotel. The site is on the East side of a small island called Puerta de Tierra connected to the mainland (much like Singapore is) by a causeway, the Dos Hermanos Bridge. South of the built-up area lies the Condado Lagoon where within sight of the tourism district, locals could still do some fishing.

There certainly are sound historic and environmental reasons to oppose to project. It would spoil not only the natural beauty of the area but also dwarf the historic site of San Geronimo (it's spelled with a "G" locally). If memory serves me right, there were not too many residences in the area, some of which were U.S. navy personnel housing. Expanding the population on-site would almost certainly disturb the marine life and the local gulls and pelicans.

It would appear that the Junta de Planificacion has altered its rules about development on the coastline. However, since the director of the Junta is appointed by the Governor and holds cabinet rank, it is entirely likely the Paseo plans have the backing of the Governor -- promising an uphill fight to opponents for sure.

Sadly, the same thing threatens historic sites in the auld sod. The last time I visited was in the 70's and was disappointed by many amateurish attempts at the beautification / restoration of historic churches, usually initiated by the parish priest -- well intentioned but architecturally un-informed. Things may have changed since then and I certainly hope so.

One only has to visit the Alamo in Tejas to see what poor development controls can do to a historic site. The mission sits dwarfed in a veritable canyon whose walls are made up of tall hotel buildings.

In particular, Intramuros holds special interest for me for family and historical reasons -- but let us leave that for another day.

R.V. in Los Angeles

Someone passed on your blog to me and I'm glad of it. I too value the Hispanic heritage of the archipelago and its historical landmarks.

From Senator Mar Roxas

> Office of Senator Mar Roxas
> Senator Mar Roxas called on the government to
> publish in full the provisions
> of a $50-million six-month contract signed between
> the Philippine Embassy in
> Washington D.C. and a United States lobby firm known
> as Covington & Burling
> LLP.
> “If true, this amount is even bigger than what we
> get from the US in
> military aid. If they can’t defend this in Plaza
> Miranda or any palengke in
> the country, then they should junk it altogether,”
> Roxas said.
> Roxas, chairman of the Senate trade and commerce
> committee, noted that the
> contract is another example of wasteful and
> non-transparent spending of the
> people’s hard-earned money.
> “What can Covington do that our own Philippine
> Embassy cannot accomplish?
> $50-million for a prominent US lobby firm is P2
> billion worth of assistance
> to disadvantaged sectors like farmers, fishermen,
> distressed OFWs,
> malnourished children and many others,” he said.
> “Tama ba na ang mga ganitong kontrata ang
> pinopondohan ng buwis ng bayan?
> Bakit sa ganitong mga transaksyon eh ang bilis
> nilang pumayag, pero sa mga
> panukala katulad ng zero VAT on oil ay ang bilis
> nilang humindi,” he added.
> “Glaring examples of such overpriced and needless
> foreign contracts are
> precisely why it’s better to let the people enjoy
> part of their money by
> suspending the EVAT on oil than let government
> decide on how such revenues
> should be allocated,” he explained.
> He recalled that the failed Venable contract which
> was priced at P50 million
> drew a huge outcry from the people and members of
> Congress.
> “I am familiar with the rates charged for normal
> trade access or information
> access. This amount is for something more, perhaps
> like getting the US
> Defense and Military establishment to soften
> resistance to a new strain of
> Martial Law,” he said.
> “Paulit-ulit na lang ang mga ganitong uri ng
> pagkakamali kaya napakababa ng
> kredibilidad ng ating pamahalaan,” Roxas said.
> The senator said that foreign contracts such as the
> Covington deal must go
> through public bidding and be imbued with
> transparency and accountability.
> “Who is behind this contract and why? Who is ready
> to stand before the
> people and explain what this contract is all about
> and why $50-million of
> the people’s money should be spent on this rather
> than on school-feeding
> programs, better health services, and other
> priorities?” he said.
> Based on news reports, Covington & LLP has been
> engaged to “promote the
> interests of the Republic of the Philippines with
> the US Congress and the US
> Government on a range of political, economic, and
> security issues” and other
> tasks.
> -more-
> The reported contract provides that "the term of the
> individual consultant
> shall be, at most, six months, renewable at the
> option of the appointing
> Head of the Procuring Entity," referring to Gaa. The
> consultant will "work
> closely with the Embassy of the Philippines in
> connection with the following
> tasks:"
> * Promote the interests of the Philippines
> with the US Congress and
> the US government on a range of political, economic,
> and security issues.
> * Support efforts that can result in
> increased US trade opportunities
> for the Philippines.
> * Support efforts that can result in
> increased foreign direct
> investment from US companies.
> * Support efforts to develop new initiatives
> or expand current
> programs that support the ability of the Philippine
> Armed Forces to
> strengthen capabilities in the areas of security and
> anti-terrorism.
> * Work with Philippine government officials
> to promote increased
> levels of US Development Assistance to the
> Philippines.
> * Ensure that members of the US Congress and
> government officials are
> regularly and accurately updated on developments in
> the Philippines to
> promote understanding of the importance and positive
> developments taking
> place in the country.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Military heritage

Have you ever been to Fort Stotsenburg? Perhaps you have, several times, without even realizing you were there. Fort Stotsenburg is the core around which Clark Air Base was built at the turn of the XXth century, during the USA invasion of our republic. When I first went there, a Filipino (General Camua) had just been assigned to head the command office (excuse my inaccurate military terms) and he was kind enough to show me around. There was a cluster of white cement houses with green roofs and as we drove past a two-story one, I told General Camua he should convert it into a museum, to which he replied with an amused smile—“ But, that is where I live.”

I went to Fort Stotsenburg again, a month ago, and was relieved to see the cement houses intact, albeit disguised as seaside dwellings with roofs painted in blazing Mediterranean blue. However, the heritage setting of what was Fort Stotsenburg is now somewhat disfigured by a hotel of indiscernible architecture, painted in various tones of peach, but named after the American general. Worse things could have happened.

Speaking of our neglected military heritage, this letter came from Mr. Conrado Rigor of Seattle, Washington who read my article about Mayor Alfredo Lim´s concern for the built heritage resources of Manila . Mr. Rigor wrote: “As a homesick expat living in America, the old landmarks you so affectionately write about like the Jai-Alai, the Manila Jockey Club, the Manila Opera House, and others light up visions of our glorious past… I happen to be what you would call an Army brat. My father was in the military, the old professional variety during the era of the great Ramon Magsaysay. “

While Mr. Rigor was growing up, he lived in Camp Henry T. Allen in Baguio, Camp Murphy ( now Crame) in Quezon City, and in Ft. William McKinley (renamed Bonifacio).. He now wants to know the “startling fate” or what has become of Ft. McKinley, (Ft. Bonifacio), “…after it was unceremoniously turned into a commercial area.” Reminiscing, he said :” As a high school student in the late 1950s , I saw American tourists come by the busloads to visit the old, historic American quarters inside Ft. McKinley because they were the same ones built by the first U.S. Army long before Douglas MacArthur even arrived in the country.”

Truly nostalgic, Mr. Rigor continued to say that he and his gang of adventurous Army brats, ”… used to explore some of the tunnels (similar to Corregidor's Malinta Tunnel,with space large enough for trucks and tanks to move about). I now wonder whatever happened to those mysterious caves and tunnels that my Dad used to say were emergency spaces built by the early Americans. Those tunnels would have been historical gems and sure-fire tourist attractions if they had been preserved.” Indeed!

Mr. Rigor ended with a sad note: “We who had grown up and had become so attached to the memory of Ft. McKinley feel that some people simply got blinded by greed to have chosen to destroy and sell such a historic place...Please write more about this little-known episode regarding Ft. Bonifacio. I realize you may be waking up sleeping wolves but I guess there is no other way to bring home a point unless one points to such gross indifference to our heritage..”

Fort Bonifacio was sold purportedly to finance the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces, but unlike Fort Stotsenburg, there is not a trace of what it used to be. However, the army has little to show, it was probably better equipped when you were an army brat, Mr. Rigor.. Suffice it to say that the wolves in question are in uniform, always foraging and never sleeping.

Monday, December 17, 2007

In the same boat

Mexico D.F.-- Not many people remember that Filipinas, Cuba and Puerto Rico are virtual sisters bound together by historical and cultural ties for they were colonies of Spain and were lost at almost the same time and for practically the same reasons. Through force of circumstances, Cuba has taken a distinct path but Puerto Rico and Filipinas are more or less in the same boat, specially when protecting built heritage resources.

A few days ago, a friend from Puerto Rico told me that he was so incensed about a “Paseo Caribe” project that he joined mass protests in San Juan to denounce its adverse effect on their most significant heritage site, the Fortin San Jeronimo. It brought to mind our own endangered Intramuros.

Apparently, the ¨Paseo Caribe” is a cluster of five high rise condo-hotels with entertainment and shopping centers and two parking buildings for 1,400 vehicles. My friend said the complex eclipses the view of Fortin San Jeronimo and its site and settings which include Paseo La Princesa and the historic La Princesa prison where many patriots were incarcerated.

At the onset in 2001, the Instituto Cultural Puertoriqueño voiced its opposition to the “Paseo Caribe” project as it encroaches on archeological sites around the Fortin area, as well as impedes access. However, with total impunity, the San Jeronimo developers fast tracked construction so in desperation the Instituto Cultural ran to the Senate which immediately called a committee hearing. We don’t know if that was done in aid of legislation but it seems the Senate discovered that the coastal land occupied by the “Paseo Caribe” was/is public domain.

How did the developer get all the required permits and clearances? Was government property privatized without public knowledge? If it had been sold, for how much ? On the other hand, humble homes belonging to poor workers were summarily appropriated because these were too near the walls of Fortin San Jeronimo. Why the double-standard?-- the Partido Independista senators wanted to know.

According to Senate findings, deeply embroiled in the ¨Paseo Caribe” controversy were the former secretaries of Natural Resources and Environment, the Interior, plus the spouse of an ex- governor. As it turned out, the erstwhile Secretary of Economic Planning was the principal promoter. Throughout his watch, during interagency meetings on government flagship projects, he would order his subalterns to expedite the permits of San Jeronimo Development Co. Not surprising was the Department of Justice´s request that all Senate materials be submitted to them; a criminal case was initiated promptly.

But despite restraining orders, mass demos by outraged environmentalists and the academe, and firm resolutions from the Association of American Jurors, the “Paseo Caribe” seems to have acquired a life of its own and is now approaching a second phase, the “Paseo La Princesa”. In Puerto Rico and Filipinas, culture, historical landmarks and heritage are protected by the Constitution, but in both places, my friend and I agreed, there are stationary bandits too greedy to put heritage resources to good use.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

No lip service for Manila Mayor Lim

Mexico D.F.-- From across the Pacific Ocean,I have
been able to follow closely the denouement of the
Luneta Hotel case, thanks to the internet. What a
relief that the venerable edifice, probably the only
one in the country reminiscent of Italian Renaissance,
has escaped the wrath of the wreckers ball, unlike the
lamented Jai-alai and the oldest police station in
Asia, the Meisic.

A couple of years ago, rumors were rife that the
Luneta Hotel was doomed because it sits on premium
real estate which was up for grabs. The modus
operandi then was to let heritage structures decay and
rot so the city administration in power could justify
demolition and award these to the highest bidder who
would then construct yet another lackluster shopping
center or a nondescript high-rise building. That was
what happened to the Manila Jockey Club, designed by
National Artist Juan Nakpil and declared a landmark by
the National Historical Institute. In the same
mindless manner, we lost Manila’s historic downtown
theaters, notably the Grand Opera House. So, until
recently, heritage advocates, history buffs, art
lovers, tourism promoters, even the general public
lived in dread of losing yet another irreplaceable
landmark—the Luneta Hotel.

A couple of months ago, there was a signboard on top
of the hotel´s main entrance which read “ Ïnternet
Casino”, but when asked, the PAGCOR (Philippine
Amusement and Gaming Corporation) denied knowledge of
any such plan. Then in October, a menacing building
permit, in blood red letters, was nailed on the
façade as construction materials started piling up on
the sidewalks around the Luneta Hotel. However, the
City Engineer insisted that there were no plans of
demolishing the Luneta Hotel, no matter how damaged
the structure; in fact, the new owners were starting
to repair it, that is why the building permit. It was
alarming, nevertheless, because no one knew the
property had changed hands.

The good news is that the Luneta Hotel will not
be demolished. Evidently, Manila´s built heritage
resources now have a better chance for survival
because Mayor Alfredo S. Lim ´s interest in
restoration is not merely lip service. When he was a
senator, he saved a vintage public school named after
Jose abad Santos from the wreckers ball. He believes
that traditional Filipino values can be revived
through history, culture and heritage, that is why
these are promoted in his 11-point agenda.

Last July, Mayor Lim signed Executive Order no.
10 which reconstituted a historical commission
established in his first tenure, it is now the Manila
Historical and Heritage Commission (MHHC) which works
closely with the City Engineer and City Planning
Office. The Museo ng Maynila at the former Army & Navy
Club is open once again. There is a “patrimonial
properties “ committee led by the Mayor´s Chief of
Staff and City Administrator, which meets weekly to
evaluate all city properties and their appropriate

Under Mayor Lim, the City Engineer´s Office has
become open and straightforward in its dealings with
NGOs like the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS)
which it has asked to liaise with the new owners of
the Luneta Hotel. This time, their pleas for
restoration and protection of built heritage resources
have not fallen on deaf bureaucratic ears, according
to HCS trustees Archs. Dominic Galicia and Bettina
Bonoan and past presidents Ms. Bambi L. Harper and
Arch. Augusto Villalon. Since Mayor Lim was easily
accessible, so sincerely concerned about the
preservation of the Luneta Hotel, the city engineers
and the new proprietors have to pay more than just lip

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Those nasty State Visits

> Contrary to its glamorous exterior, a State Visit
is a very nasty affair. Not everyone in the official
entourage can share the limelight with the President
so some of the personalities whose job descriptions
relegate them to behind the scenes can get to be
pretty vicious, perhaps out of sheer envy.But don't
get me wrong, there are many loyal bureaucrats who
dread the kleigs and are happy enough to stay in the
People who will never make it to any official
list, in any administration are often the most
ubiquitous; they either pay their way in or spend a
lot on intelligence work because before the
Presidential aircraft even touches down, they are
already assembled at the hotel lobby acting as if they
were they some sort of advance party.
> If they are from the private sector,
> spending their own private funds, then it can be
> argued that they are simply practicing and enjoying
> their right to travel. But, if they are government
> officials, whether appointed or elected, their
> presence at a State Visit will always be questioned,
> if not criticized by the public.
> One evening during a State Visit, I remember
sneaking into the ballroom of the hotel where the
State banquet hosted by our government was to take
place. Previous experience had taught me always to
check if my name card had not been purloined by a
vicious staff member who coveted my cabinet position.
Curiously, all the elegant name
> cards, mine included, were firmly taped on the
damask table cloth and as I bent forward to take a
closer look I heard a masculine voice telling me that
he had taped everything so ” you know
> who will find it difficult to shuffle or remove
place cards."
> Actually my penchant for checking place cards
began at another ball room of another
> hotel during an earlier State Visit when President
J.Estrada was scheduled to meet the Filipino
community. As we cabinet members arrived to take our
places on the dais, behind the presidential chair, we
noticed that all the seats had been occupied by some
unofficial members of the entourage, mostly friends of
the wife of a senior cabinet member. She was probably
claiming her share of the limelight . Of course there
> was a fight between husband and wife later in the
> evening; cabinet wife hit Mr. Secretary on the head
> with her fan.
> There were two elected officials whom we secretly
called limpets when we were being polite. They were
the bane of the protocol officiers of the host
countries because they always tried their utmost (but
never succeeded) to squeeze into the official convoy
in a Jaguar or Mercedes hired for the occasion.
Sometimes, we got veiled threats about losing the
budgets for our respective departments; I guess they
were taking it out on us.(gemma601@yahoo.c,

History never ends

There are people who believe that Senator A.
Trillanes should have died during the takeover of the
Manila Peninsula Hotel last 29 November. In our
culture, self-immolation transforms one into a hero.
Salvador Allende, intellectual, former president of
Chile, died defending his position during a bloody
coup d’etat in the 1970’s. To this day, visitors want
to see the exact spot where he was killed, to whisper
a silent prayer. Unlike General Gregorio del Pilar
who died in a blaze of glory, poor Pres. Emilio
Aguinaldo lived too long. Need I mention Senator Ninoy
Aquino whose untimely death overthrew a dictatorship.

Perhaps, I am one of the few who believe that Sen.
Trillanes and Gen. Lim should try their best to stay
alive; it may be noble to die for the Filipino but
nobler it is to live for them. We have too many dead
heroes who could have done so much more had they
stayed alive. Needless to say, I will not be
surprised if people chastise me for associating
Trillanes and Lim with heroism.

There is really nothing else Sen.
Trillanes and Gen. Lim can do to change their fate.
Both will be in prison for as long as they live as
they have been meted many life sentences for alleged
crimes from rebellion to treason to economic sabotage.
They will be made to suffer all kinds of physical and
psychological indignities to break their will and

Lt. Trillanes was allowed to run for the
senate on the mistaken assumption that he had no
chance but to everyone’s surprise, he garnered 10
million votes. Were he allowed to take his seat, I am
quite sure that the exhausting process of lawmaking
would have neutralized his “rebellious “ nature. The
present dispensation, like previous administrations,
refuse to learn from history; they forgot about Luis
Taruc et al.

What I fear most is the death of idealism. If memory
serves, during the Oakwood “mutiny”, military officers
themselves were wondering about the training and
education imparted at the Philippine Military academy.
Were the graduates becoming too idealistic? Idealism
was made to sound subversive, like some kind of
contagious disease that is best extirpated. I was
truly alarmed.

All right, so an APC (armed personnel carrier) rammed
its way through the lobby of the Manila Peninsula
which everyone agreed was over kill. Don’t they watch
the C&S series on TV? –a friend asked rather
flippantly. Even Margie Moran knows how to rappel
buildings, I once saw her do it at a Davao Tourism
fair. I doubt if Trillanes and Lim shook with fear
and awe at the sight of those APCs, battle- weary
soldiers are quite used to that; but, we ordinary
mortals got the message loud and clear.

Senator A. Trillanes and Gen. D. Lim have no other
alternative but to continue doing what they have been
doing these past years, reminding us of corruption in
government and the urgent need for drastic reforms in
the military. According to my favorite historian, we
ordinary citizens should join and/or form movements
and campaigns to promote various advocacies, be it the
environment, anti-corruption, human rights, heritage,
cultural revival and other noble causes. All these
are like ripples, waves and currents that will
eventually form confluences, conjunctures and turning
points that will bring about the moment, a period,
even an era during which we can make the structural
changes required and desired. Do not lose heart,
history never ends. (


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Setting the record straight

If you are ever in St. Paul , Minnesota, make it a point to visit the State Capitol and look fortwo commemorative plaques at the Capitol Rotunda.The first plaque of 1948 vintage glorifies theMinnesota 13th Volunteer Regiment for its valiant rolein the Spanish –American War. "They served the causeof humanity and freed the oppressed people of thePhilippine Islands from the despotic rule of Spain...", proclaims the first plaque. The second plaquecorrects the distortions contained in the first one.That there is a second plaque is in itself historical. The “tribute” in the first plaque makes reference to "...the Philippine Insurrection underChief Aguinaldo…" and lists all the battles gloriously won by the Volunteer Regiment . To those totally ignorant of Philippine history (as mostAmericans are) the military feats of Minnesota’s 13th Volunteer Regiment sound most impressive, but the truth is that the only battle fought by the Minnesota Volunteers against the “despotic rule of Spain” was that mock naval skirmish, on 13 August 1898, glowingly called “Battle of Manila Bay”.

The other battles fought by the Minnesota volunteers were not to “free the oppressed people of the Philippine Islands” but were against the Filipino people themselves whom they branded as “insurgents”. They were fighting the Philippine Revolutionary Army and the First Republic of the Philippines headed by a President, not a chieftain. How many more commemorative plaques in the USA bear such a plethora of historical distortions?

Interestingly enough, the Minnesota 13th Volunteer Regiment was supposed to have been sent to Cuba but at the last minute, they were ordered to board a train bound for San Francisco from where they were sent to the Philippines. Records attest that the commander, surgeon and chaplain of the Minnesota Regiment asked Gov. John Lind to recall the volunteers due to atrocities committed during the war. If only for that they should not have been honored with an adulatory plaque at the State Capitol.

For thirty- four long years, the Filipino community in Minnesota waged a relentless campaign to have a corrective plaque installed beside the erroneous one. They had hoped that by the Philippine Centennial in 1998, the gross historical distortions would have been corrected, but it was not possible. Far from discouraged, the Philippine Study Group of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society set up an unprecedented “Philippine –American War” exhibit right at the Capitol, that ran from June, 1998 toDecember 30, 1998. There were newspaper clippings that reported war atrocities, revolutionary flags from that period, artifacts, pictures, as well as letters written from the field by the Minnesota volunteers revealing unbecoming conduct during the war. There was also an autographed picture of President EmilioAguinaldo.

Finally, on February 4, 2002, the 103rd anniversary of the Philippine-American War, Gov. Jesse Ventura ( a Vietnam War veteran), signed a bill funding the second plaque that effectively corrects the first one . At the unveiling, members of both Houses of the Minnesota Legislature were in attendance, so was the Philippine Ambassador and the Commander of the Minnesota National Guard who solemnly declared that there was an urgent need "to set the record straight".

( source: Adelbert Batica ,originally from Samar, now a US resident)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

They're sorry

No school in the entire United States of America,--except the Wydown Middle School-- has a football field and team and a yearbook called “Igorrote”. But, no one in that educational institution in Clayton, Missouri knew where that exotic name came from, until the school celebrated its centennial. It occurred to teacher Margie Kindt, and her social studies class that it was about time they discovered the meaning of “Igorrote” and its connection to the school, so they began to surf the Internet..

They were amazed to learn that Wydown Middle School was built over the original site of the “Igorot Village” in the “Philippine Reservation” of the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. They were almost horrified that Dogtown acquired its name because the Igorots ate dog and, during the duration of the Fair, were accused of slipping out of the grounds to steal and butcher neighborhood pet dogs. .Ms. Kindt’s pupils posted queries on the Internet hoping to get in touch with any of the descendants of the Igorots “imported” to the Fair who might still be living in the USA. These were picked up by Rex Botengan of the Igorot Organization in California. .

After an exchange of electronic correspondence, seventeen descendants now living in California and Maryland went to St. Louis, Missouri as guests of the Wydown Middle School centennial celebration. Mayor Francis Kenney,gave them the key to Clayton City.

The visitors performed a few dances and their spokesperson, Mia Apolinar Abeya gave a moving speech about how deeply honored they all felt at being invited to the very place where their great grandparents stood a century ago. She also said: ” We are here once more to make the gongs reverberate in their name [the grandparents] , in the name of the Igorot, and in our children’s name, for is it not the children who brought us back to this honored place so that we may be reminded , yet one more time, to treat all human beings equally regardless of how we look, what we eat, how we speak and what we wear?” What a poignant message!

In reponse, Martha R. Clevenger of Wyndam Middle School said that when people were put on exhibit at the Fair they were turned into objects “to be stared at, denigrated, pitied and despised…” and that “crass commercialism tarnished the noble motives of the exposition…” However, she also said that it was the objective of the Fair to “emphasize America’s need to retain and civilize its newly acquired Asian colony” which proves, yet again, how deeply social Darwinism and McKinley’s “civilize and Christianize“ rhetoric had taken root in America’s collective memory.

It was an emotional experience for Megan Bliss, an eleven year old, six-grader: ‘I don’t know if saying sorry makes up for what happened a hundred years ago” she was reported to have said, “ but it tells them that we care.” Her classmates were just as apologetic. The St. Louis Post Dispatch printed a human interest story about the “Igorrote” visit which said ,”…Clayton students learned that the best way to make amends is to learn as much as you can about the past, and even to say you’re sorry.” (source: Fermin, Jose D., 1904 World’s Ffair, The Filipino Experience: University of the Philippines Press, 2004)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not once but twice!

First it was the 1887 “La Exposicion General de las Islas Filipinas” Madrid exhibit, then the “Philippine Reservation” at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, but, not only once nor twice were Filipinos put on display and exhibited as “savage” and “uncivilized”. Spain and the United States of America made a spectacle of us many times over. In the 19th century, international fairs were the rage among European colonial powers. The avowed objective of these expensive and elaborate undertakings was to foment trade and commerce, to project the modernizing effects of colonialism, but, the real messages were Darwinian and undeniably racist. They were image-booster for the Empire, at the expense of the colonized natives.

In pavilions that were architectural and engineering marvels, Empires flaunted their colonial treasure troves-- samples of precious minerals and metals, flora and fauna of value, uniquely crafted products and warm bodies, in tribal rags. Photographs of natives ( if not the natives themselves) were taken somewhat ethnographically at all angles, pretending to be scientific, but, maliciously choreographed to perpetuate prejudice, stoke ignorance and provoke awe and disdain. The impact of those “savages” on display, on the 19th century American and European viewers must have been so incredibly profound, it penetrated their DNA.

Spain put Filipinos on display in many international expositions—London (1851), París (1855 y 1867), Vienna (1873), Philadelfia , USA (1876) and Ámsterdam 1883 and in Chicago (1893) as a special “region” in the Spanish Pavillon. The 1887 Madrid exhibit was by far the most widely publicized in three contenents by the “La Ilustracion Europea y Americana”. No less than the Ministro de Ultramar ( Overseas Minister) headed the Exposition committee; a counterpart “Comision Central” was established in Manila; Governor-General and the Archbishop of Manila, Fray Pedro Payno, were appointed chairman and vice-chairman, respectively

More than fifty Filipinos were shipped to Spain for the 1887 Madrid Exposition. A fabulous Crystal Palace was constructed as a green house for Philippine flora; on the placid artificial lagoon in front of it, there were all kinds of bangkas, traditional fishing equipment and carabaos bathing by the shore. Around the exhibit pavilions, there were ‘construcciones etnograficas”, that is, various types of nipa huts, in clusters, simulating idyllic pastoral villages. There were ‘casas de tejedores’ or weavers’ huts, of embroiderers, of metalcraft makers and abaca strippers. The tobacco company in Manila built a “bahay” complete with “cigarreras” rolling the famous Philippine cigar.

While the Spanish government was determined to portray the progress and modernization brought about by colonization, the Archbishop of Manila was still obsessed with the Patronato Real (Christianization being the sole reason for conquest). He had taken over the selection of exhibition materials and argued that the “ethnic diversity” of the archipelago had to be projected. Evidently, he wanted to guarantee the sociopolitical position and clout of the religious orders vis-à-vis the Governor-General and the lay government.

As a result, a“Rancheria de los Igorrotes” was set up with real ‘igorots’ who were made to sacrifice pigs ( not dogs) to the horror of visitors. For dramatic effect, a tree house was also constructed in the “rancheria de los igorrotes”. That is probably why, to this day, foreigners ask us if we live on trees. According to some historians, Jose Rizal, Antonio and Juan Luna and other Filipino studying and clamoring for reforms in Spain were absolutely enraged by the 1887 Madrid Exposition. #

Two tree houses

There was a tree house at the “Rancheria de los Igorrotes” ( Igorot Village) in the 1887 Madrid world fair; seventeen years later, in 1904, a “Lanao Moro Tree House’ perched on a tree at the “Moro Village” in the courtyard of the Ethnological Building of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis “ The American world expositions from 1898 through 1916 were imperialistic fairs, reaching their full splendor in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition,” wrote historian Jose D. Fermin in his book 1904 WORLD’S FAIR, THE FILIPINO EXPERIENCE (University of the Philippines Press,2004). “…Human exhibits became a regular fixture…The usual victims were the Native Americans, Blacks, Africans, Chinese, Filipinos and other nonwhite groups. “

To illustrate, Mr. Fermin said that at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition Dahomeyans of West Africa, Samoans, Javanese and Filipinos were exhibited in a manner that showed a “sliding scale of humanity.” In 1901, a showbiz company in Idaho offered to pay the US government 75 percent of their gross receipts to exhibit the newly-captured Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo at the Pan-American Exposition. Imagine, our first Chief Executive was in danger of being reduced to a fixture at fairs, like poor Geronimo the Apache chief captured by General Lawton (who ironically was killed by a Filipino general called Glicerio Geronimo).

At the St. Louis World Fair, which occupied 517 hectares, a “Philippine Reservation” was, significantly enough, located across an “Indian Reservation”. Undoubtedly, it was the principal lure of the St. Louis World Fair for it dramatically projected “extremes ” that glaringly contrasted “ savagery with civilization”; for example, juxtaposed with that Lanao tree house was a simulated American-style classroom where a Miss Pilar Zamora taught English. To quote Walter Steven, secretary of the fair: “…Igorot braves bow to the raising sun, kill a dog and dance …while on the other side, the neatly uniformed Scouts from the civilized tribes stand at attention as the American flag is raised...Contrasts are many and edifying in the Philippine Expositiion”

Two agencies --the Publicity Department and the very aptly called Exploitation Department-- were churning out edifying press releases to four hundred local newspapers ( specially Sunday and holiday issues) about the “Philippine Reservation ”, with thousands of pseudo-scientific photos, screen haltone cuts and zinc etchings. The Exploitation Department also printed and distributed millions of booklets, handbills, posters and special programs that publicized a variety of events at the “ Philippines Reservation”. As if that media hype were not intense enough, an umbrella publicity department orchestrated everything including foreign promotions in German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

More than twenty million visitors were enticed by the Exploitation Department ; no wonder those tree house stories have lingered to this very

Displaying ilustrados

Displaying ilustrados

When the St. Louis World Fair opened in 1904, the Philippine-American war was still raging. Although Pedro Paterno and other members of the Aguinaldo cabinet had already switched allegiance even before President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in Isabela, a number of Filipino generals and their troops continued to valiantly resist American ‘s superior forces with guerrilla warfare. . In that context, there could have been no better device than the St. Louis World Fair to show the American people, and the international community, that the USA was not invading an independent republic but civilizing a “ Philippine Reservation” of savage tribes with “uncouth practices”.

In his revealing book --1904 World’s Fair, The Filipino Experience ( UP Press, 2004)-- Jose D. Fermin wrote there were vehement objections to the portrayal of Filipinos as savages fearing it would hurt our chances of regaining absolute Independence. The invasion and our clamor for Independence were crucial issues in USA’s electoral drama. Historian Maximo Kalaw said that the World Fair was a justification of US policy for it “… created in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Americans the indelible impression that the Filipinos have not yet emerged from savagery.”

Unwittingly perhaps, the ilustrados were also on display. Members of the Philippine Honorary Commission were sent to the United States not to live in the “Reservation” with their “savage” compatriots but to undertake a round of official tours and courtesy calls. Included in the illustrious list were : Philippine commissioners: T. Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legarda, and Jose de Luzuriaga; Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano, solicitor-general Gregorio Araneta and Judge Victorino Mapa.

Many provincial governors were invited: Tomas del Rosario, Bataan; Joaquin Ortega, La Union; Pablo Tecson, Bulacan, Juan Cailles, Laguna; Bernardino Monreal, Ssorsogon; Juan Pimentel, Camarines Sur and Norte; Alfonso Ramos, Tarlac; Epifanio de los Santos, Nueva Ecija; Manuel Corrales, Misamis; Juan Climaco, Cebu; Simeon Cruz, Batangas; Arturo Dancel, Rizal; Mana Crisologo, Pangasinan;

There were three media men: Jose de Loyzaga of “El Comerico”; Leoncio Gonzalez Liquet of “La Democracia” and Fernando Ma. Guerrero of “El Renacimiento” which shortly after was ordered closed by Dean Worcester for a defamatory editorial “Aves de Rapina” (Birds of Prey). .Fernando’s cousin, botanist Leon Ma. Guerrero, was the secretary of the Philippine Exposition Board, while Pedro Paterno was a board member. .

Because the St Louis Fair’s avowed objective was to foment trade and commerce, business people were included in the delegation like Ariston Bautista, whose Quiapo house still stands on a street with his name; coffee magnate Ramon Genato and Francisco Reyes, president of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce

The ilustrado lifestyle, was depicted in the elegant “ Manila Building” a re-created “bahay na bato” with fine furniture, paintings, carved panels, sculpture and other refinements. There were allegorical paintings by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo; twenty one works of Juan Luna including the ‘Parisian scene”, (which after a century, Winston Garcia purchased for GSIS) and “El Pacto de Sangre” ( now in Malacanang) where Luna used Jose Rizal and Pardo de Tavera, as models for Sikatuna and Legazpi; Curiously, one of the largest paintings was a Fabian de la Rosa masterpiece entitled “Death of General. Henry Lawton”.

Evidently, it was the lure of the wild and savage that was unforgettable; the ilustrados on display left no imprint on the collective memory of the twenty million who went to that world fair. If they had, at least, made a dent, Americans would not be asking us if we still live in tree houses.#

After the Fair

At the turn of the 20th century, international world fairs were the rage in the United States of America and in Western Europe. Millions of dollars were spent on landscaping the fair grounds, on engineering marvels and ostentatious pavilions of marvelous architectural design. Ostensibly, those fairs aimed to foment trade and commerce that would redound to the benefit of colonies like the Philippines and possessions like Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, to name a few.

At the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, there were magnificent palaces dedicated to Commerce, Electricity, Manufactures and other scientific breakthroughs of that era. However, it was the savagery exhibited at the “Philippine Reservation” , those contrived villages of “uncivilized “Igorrotes and Moros, with trees houses and animal sacrifices, that have lingered in the collective memory of North Americans. Of course, to give a “balanced” picture of life in the P.I, there was a handful of ilustrados “on display”. Visayans dressed as Gibson girls and bands of Philippine Scouts and Constabulary, in crisp uniforms, parading and entertaining millions of visitors with lively tunes and American songs. But such urbane refinements have long been forgotten.

I was appalled to learn that one of those ilustrados “on display” was famous botanist, Leon Maria Guerrero, my great grandfather, After the St. Louis World Fair, he was interviewed by Alfred O. Newell, Chief of the US Department of Exploitation ( a huge P.R. office) who included the encounter in his book, THE PHILIPPINE EXPOSITION, WORLD’S FAIR, ST LOUIS, 1904. Dr. Guerrero, secretary of the Philippine Exposition Board, knew no English so he spoke through an interpreter. When asked about the effects of the Fair on the Filipinos, Dr. Guerrero said there should be closer commercial ties with the USA, reduced tariff for Filipino products like hemp, American capital to establish factories and to help native inventors like the one who invented a machine to extract hemp fiber. Significantly, Guerrero stressed that Filipinos did not want trusts (big monopolies).

As the Philippine-American War was still raging during the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, notwithstanding Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901, Alfred Newell asked Guerrero what he thought of Aguinaldo to which he replied. “All Fliipinos have respect and sympathy for one who has been their leader.” Then Newell asked that crucial question: ”Do you think the Filipinos are capable of self-government?” And Guerrero emphatically declared: “If the government of the United States expects to make an Anglo-Saxon of the Filipino, it will take a long time. …If taken as they are, as Filipinos, I mean, they are capable of governing themselves—now.” That was precisely what the St. Louis World Fair did not want to project, that Filipinos were capable of self-government.

No wonder the memory of the First Republic had to be severely extirpated and what better way than through savage displays at the “Philippine Reservation” of international fairs. After St. Louis, Filipino minorities continued to be ‘imported” to various fairs and carnivals in the USA and Europe like the Lewis and Clark Centennial, American Pacific Exposition , Oriental Fair in Portland, Oregon (1905) Jamestown Tercentenary Exposition in Virginia (1907), Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle (1909), Ghent Exhibition in Belgium 1913 and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.

In the meantime, the Philippine Assembly convened in 1907 ( some of the ilustrados “on display” at St. Louis had won seats) and passed two laws , the first of which (1908) provided that “ no tribal people should be exhibited except those who were customarily fully clothed”, and the second, in 1914, penalized anyone who “exploited or exhibited tribal people “. The fine was five thousand dollars and imprisonment of not more than five years.

When Manuel L. Quezon was Philippine Resident Commissioner in the USA, he was invited to “Philippine Day” at the San Francisco Exposition where he lamented: “I have traveled to every part of the US and I have been saddened to learn how many misapprehensions exist here as to the real conditions in the Philippine Islands due… to the exhibition of the native Igorrote village at the St. Louis Exposition ten years ago.’ Yet, as late as 1931, the US War Department wanted to set up yet another “Igorrote Village” at the Paris Exposition and had the gall to demand that the Philippine Legislature appropriate US$50,000 for that purpose. Outraged, the Filipinos protested vehemently so wax figures and dioramas had to be used instead to project the US government’s enduring social Darwinism.#