Saturday, October 25, 2008

Buying Filipino

Now that Filipinos are finally beginning to realize that they should buy locally made products, there is nothing on sale that is made here, from chicken parts to vegetables and fruits to apparel, every thing is imported or smuggled by people whose names we know but do not dare mention.Most of our industries have collapsed exponentially in the past decades, despite protective legislation. Who was it who pontificated--I think he was a president-- that it is cheaper to buy than to manufacture or to plant? However, the recent nose dive of the global financial system and the USA's economy have belied the efficacy of that short-sighted policy; it seems that we may not even be able to borrow the funds we need to buy our daily sustenance.

When the melamine milk scare became banner headlines for several days, I suddenly remembered how my mother used to insist that we drink milk from a dairy farm owned by one of the Aranetas, Vicente I think, brother of J. Antonio who eventually became my father-in-law. I don't remember the brand of that locally produced and bottled milk but I do recall that it was delicious and creamy but, unfortunately, not always available at our neighborhood store, Cherry grocery. Nevertheless, my mother was relentless in her support of Filipino industrialists.

Shortly after WWII, I was sent to St. Theresa's kindergarten and my first pair of leather shoes, courtesy of grandpa Dr. Alfredo Guerrero, was purchased at a posh store on the Escolta called Squires Bingham. I was fascinated by a kind of x- ray machine which showed whether the shoes were a perfect fit. However,as soon as Elpo rubber shoes and Gregg Shoes opened their doors that is where we shopped for our footwear , my college graduation shoes came from there. Along Legarda street in Manila, there was a row of shoe shops where my mother and I went for made-to-order party footwear, usually of the same fabric as one's formal frock.. Then Marikina blossomed into the country's shoe center; hundreds of shoe makers held regular shoe and bag fairs, a must see destination in those days. .

Cherry Grocery, now Foodarama, used to give personalized service so . I would often hear my mother dictating her weekly shopping list on the phone and in a couple of hours a small van would deliver our supplies. She would always punctuate her sentences with "Local", "LocaL", "LOCAL!" and when I once asked her why, she said, rather annoyed, that the grocery people (Tsinoys) would always ask her whether she preferred the imported brand. Our chocolates were Serg and Cocoa Ricoa; she frowned at Peter Paul ( which had a coco nutty flavor I loved) because these were manufactured by an American Company in Laguna, Franklin Baker I think, and although the wife of one of the American executives,Janet Walker, was a friend we never bought Peter & Paul and had them only when Mrs. Walker brought us children a boxful.

That was also why I was never addicted to pop drinks. To this day, I do not take Coca or Pepsi colas, in any form, with my meals, like most of my contemporaries. My siblings and I grew up on Cosmos sarsaparilla, buko water and home made fruit juices or an occasional glass of wine. Believe it or not, my mother used to venture into the wet market in San Juan to buy tapa and longanisa but when we needed processed foods it had to be by Ram. Naturally, that obssesion to "Buy Filipino " was explained to us children, even if Mother was probably not sure we quite understood. She would expound on how ridiculous it was to export our raw materials to industrialized countries only to buy them back as pricey processed goods. That was why it was and is vital for the Philippines to industrialize, she never tired to illuminate us. Industrialization meant more jobs for Filipinos, higher technological levels and a better life.

But all those incipient industries have since then withered on the vine for many reasons among them the colonial mentality of us Filipinos which we seem to have nurtured instead of extirpated, and later, blind adherence to the GATT and WTO and now globalization. Many of those Filipino industrialists did not turn out to be as patriotic as we hoped, instead of expanding the textile industry, remnants were smuggled from the USA; local food manufacturers folded up faced with intense competition from foreign firms that merely packaged goods for the local market. Eventually, we were told that it is cheaper to buy rice so the most fertile lands were converted into unproductive (but lucrative) subdivisions and golf courses.

Many of my mother's contemporaries espoused those nationalistic policies and practiced what they preached and now we can see that they were right after all and that lack of patriotism has an extremely high cost. It may not be too late to start again.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Macario Sakay vindicated, 1 &

It all began last year on 13 September 2007 when the City of Manila, led by Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, simultaneously commemorated the 100th death anniversary of General Macario Sakay and the 104th birthday of Amado V. Hernandez , two Filipino patriots, natives of Tondo. General Macario Sakay was born on Calle Tabora but no one knows where his house once stood so Mayor Lim had no choice but to hold a dual event at the Plaza Amado V. Hernandez, a rotunda of black granite slabs in front of the Santo NiƱo Church of Tondo.

“Sword & Pen” was the elegantly significant title devised by Mrs. Carmen G. Nakpil, chairperson of the Manila Historical & Heritage Commission (MHHC) The “sword” was General Macario Sakay who fought two imperial powers, Spain and the United States of America, as a katipunero of “balangay Dapitan” and later as a soldier of the Revolutionary Army of the First Republic. He was captured by the Americans in 1902 , was later granted amnesty only to take up arms even more ferociously and establish the Republika ng Katagalugan in the mountainous hinterlands of Rizal and Laguna. The “pen” was Amado V. Hernandez, labor leader and nationalist, activist poet and writer , who was posthumously honored with the National Artist Award f or literature.

“Next year, ”Mayor Lim declared after extolling the long-haired General’s love for country, “… there will be a monument to Macario Sakay at that plaza.” He was pointing at Plaza Morga, a narrow oval shaped plot, a stone’s throw away from where we were.
Indomitable revolutionaries like Gen. Macario Sakay, were a menace to the rapid “pacification” of the Philippines so the American colonial government passed the “Ley de Bandolerismo” which branded as bandoleros, tulisanes, ladrones and common criminals Filipinos who vehemently refused to pledge allegiance to the USA and continued fighting for independence. That is why there is no monument to General Macario Sakay. After he was betrayed in 1906, by Dominador Gomez, the general was imprisoned in Old Bilibid, hanged with other revolutionary fighters in 1907 and his body unceremoniously dumped in a common grave. To this day many Filipinos believe he was a dangerous outlaw and not a patriot.

Soon after the “Sword & Pen” , during a “tertulia”, a monthly gathering at the Museo ng Maynila (re-opened by Mayor Lim in 2007) historians, teachers, principals, students, barangay captains and kagawads and an assortment of history buffs and culture vulture, tackled the touchy topic of historical rectification and the vindication of our maligned and forgotten heroes. Should we rectify historical errors and vindicate our denigrated heroes? By all means, was the consensus at that monthly tertulia which showed that Mayor Lim’s monument project was very well received.

The implementation depended on a lot of other offices and city departments, not just on the MHHC , the Museo or the Manila Tourism and .Cultural Affairs Bureau. It is vital to network with the barangay where Plaza Morga is located and its neighboring units. Mayor Lim never fails to remind the department heads of the city government that inter-office cooperation should be cultivated for good and effective governance.

Macario Sakay vindicated, (2)

The Manila Barangay Bureau, headed by Mr. Roland Lim, had to be deeply involved every step of the way to assure that barangay folk will feel they have a stake in Mayor Alfredo S. Lim’s Macario Sakay monument project. Without the cooperation of barangay captains, kagawads and tanods it would be almost impossible to guarantee peace and order in the plaza and protection against vandals and malevolent elements who might try to deface the hero’s statue.

The City Engineers Office, led by Eng. Amado Andres, focused on the infrastructure. “Clinging vine” lamp posts of the past were replaced with others of a more appropriate design (still much too gaudy for my taste). The pedestal was a monolith, the standard 5x5x7 feet , and samples of marble and granite slabs were submitted for approval. Engineer E. Manimbo of the Parks Development and Beautification Office was enjoined not to even attempt to trim the one and only acacia that dominates Plaza Morga, lest he suffer the fate of Intramuros Administrator Bambi Harper.

Mrs. Monina Santiago, industrious OIC of the Museo ng Maynila, unearthed books about Macario Sakay and other “bandoleros” in the personal library of Atty Sioson, member of the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission (MHHC). Monumental and unequaled research work s of Antonio Abad, Orlino Ochosa and Luis Dery were sent of Mrs. Nakpil who wrote an edifying one- page article on Macario Sakay for the “Philippine Star.” For his part, historian Dr. Jaime Veneracion discussed Sakay and his times during my radio program “Krus na Daan” and to our surprise a lot of people called to ask for more information and congratulate us for rectifying history.

“Patnubay” Award for scuplture, Mr. Benjamin Mendoza , was commissioned to make the monument. He first presented clay model plus three drawings which were submitted to Mayor Lim . Meticulous with historical details, Mr. Mendoza asked for photos of Sakay’s weapons and not finding pictures clear enough to show details, I ventured to ask (Ret) General Manuel Yan, Jr. for technical advise. An aficionado of military history, Gen. Yan said that by the time Sakay was fighting the Americans guerrilla - style the saber was no longer in use so he should be shown carrying a pistol or revolver, to which Mayor Lim agreed

I visited Macario Sakay at Mr. Mendoza atelier on Matimtiman street at the Teachers’ Village . It was touching to see the statue of the “bandolero” take form, projecting such indomitable force and passion. The small clay model was much too mestizo- looking, but the big statue was turning out to be a more faithful representation of Sakay who had a small native nose. I told the sculptor that Mrs. Nakpil never fails to point out that the hair should be well-groomed, Sakay was after all a barber. With a master’s touch Mr. Mendoza made Sakay’s mane fly in the air, exactly how Mrs. Nakpil described it in her poignant article.

A week before the actual unveiling, the weather was most uncooperative; it rained torrents; streets were flooded knee- deep, many of us were stranded in City Hall. I was afraid the pedestal would be washed away in the downpour and that the statue of Macario Sakay, reclined under a makeshift canvas tent for final pouring and finishing touches, would end up splattered on the cobbles of Plaza Morga. The thought of having to cancel the unveiling of the first ever statue of Macario Sakay after such elaborate and painstaking preparations, was most depressing indeed.

By some miracle, the storm suddenly left with no other tropical convergence threatening our “area of responsibility” ; so on that Saturday morning, the 13th of September, a sun like the one embroidered on Macario Sakay’s red flag cast brilliant rays on the Mayor of Manila, his Tondo constituents, the navy and army men in full regalia, the police, teachers, students , bureaucrats, historians, vendors, workers, “Los Bandoleros” of UP, long-haired like Sakay, and all those curious souls who gathered at Plaza Morga to honor Macario Sakay and finally vindicate his name on the 101th anniversary of his cruel but glorious martyrdom.