Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chiz's Rizal

Many months ago, on a Monday, Senator Francis Joseph Escudero, better known as Chiz, went to the Freedom Triangle of the Manila City Hall, upon the invitation of Mayor Alfredo Lim, to give a talk after the flag ceremony. The youthful senator had not yet turned forty and his colleague, Noynoy Aquino, was still completely opaqued by his dazzling celebrity sister.

The only thing I remember of what Senator Chiz Escudero said had something to do with Dr. Jose Rizal. He declared that Rizal was wrong to have said that the youth are the hope ( ang pagasa) of the country (bayan).Coming from a youth icon, that unexpected assertion raised quite a few eyebrows, including mine.

Chiz said that the youth of the land should not just standby, nonchalantly with folded arms, waiting for the future to happen; implying that that was what Jose Rizal meant. He said the youth should act now and be involved now and not wait for a future time . What a baffling interpretation of Jose Rizal lwho had consciously and relelntlessly lived his life for Filipinas and who faced death before he had turned forty.

In fact, the majority of our heroes and heroines, our "best and brightest", were young people who did not wait; in their 20s and 30s they had put their lives at stake so that in future Filipinos may have an independent and sovereign republic. Many of them were inspired by Jose Rizal's appeal (through Padre Florentino in EL FILIBUSTERISMO) so they did not just standby idly waiting for the future to happen.

I believe Senator Escudero misinterpretted Jose Rizal; he should either read the hero's works more carefully or fire his speech writer.#

Thursday, September 17, 2009

P is for peso

As early as 20 January 1899, US President William McKinley established the Philippine commission and instructed it to report on, among other matters, the currency situation in the Philippines, the newly independent republic who God supposedly told him to "Christianize and civilize". The Commission said that if there were monetary changes to be made, a dollar of the same weight as the Mexican silver one could circulate, but a new symbol distinct from the US dollar sign had to be configured to avoid confusion.

Someone suggested that the capital letter P be used to denote Philippine money because the word Philippines starts with a P, so does the word peso, and the Spanish word for silver which is plata. Moreover, the letter P is found on all typewriters. The naming game must have attracted the attention of American Judge Charles E. Magoon, acting chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, who immedidately sent a telegram to Governor William H. Taft in Manila. He supported the idea but said the letter P should be in capitalized Roman font with two parallel lines "passing through and extending slightly beyond loop at right angle to shaft or stem..."

That design was promulgated by the US colonial government through Executive Order No. 66, which stipulated that the Roman character P with the two lines be used",,,by all officials as the designation of the new Philippine pesos to differentiate it from the $ mark for United States currency and Pts. of Spain..." That was how the peso got its P. #

Designer Coins

You may be pleased to know that a Filipino designed the first "territorial coin" minted by the United States for its new colony, the Philippines. At the end of Spanish rule, there was a veritable Babel of currencies in this country, even coins from Spain's ex-colonies in Latin America were accepted as legal tender.

As early as 1903, when the Filipino-American War was still raging, the US Congress passed the Coinage Act to put some logic in the currency situation. A local sculptor, Melecio Figueroa, was hired to design the first Americana territorial coins. On the reverside of the coin, Figueroa drew the mighty American eagle with wings outstsretched and the words "United States Of America" with the year, 1903. On the obverse side, he put a lady, standing tall, holding a hammer-like instrument resting on an anvil. That coin was the size of a Mexican silver dollar.

Mr. Figueroa must have been a dotting father for he used his own daugahter as a model for the mallet-weilding lady, even if she was only ten years old then. I wonder why he did not ask his wife to pose, instead of imagining how his pre-teener would look like as an adult.

He had another design for the one centavo and half-centavo coins-- a man, also with a hammer and anvil, but seated in front of the Mayor Volcano. Eventually, the half-centavo coin was pejorataively called "kusing" as it was perceived to be valueless; it was eventually withdrawn from circulation. These designer coins are now collectors' items#

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seditious plays, 2

"...On its feet, rabid with fury and frenzy, for three hours..." that was how the Filipino audience of seditious plays was described by Commander Anthony Stanley Riggs in his book THE FILIPINO DRAMA (1905); he was a Manila resident from 1902-05. Continued Com. Riggs, "...it is also difficult to conceive of our own feelings, were we placed as the Filipinos are..." Perhaps, that was why Riggs felt compelled to delve into the phenomenon of seditious drama in the newly conquered and occupied Republic of the Philippines.

Com. Riggs grudgingly admired the intrepidi Filipino patriots who, with meager financial resources and devastated by a superior military power, wrote play after play in the vernacular, creatively transforming theater into guerilla warfare, as a deperate last-ditch struggle to keep revolutionary flames burning until the restoration of Independence.

Among the audacious Filipino playwrights was Aurelio Tolenltino whose "Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas" was presented on 14 May 1903, at a jam-packed Teatro Libertad in Manila. In the zarzuela, the actor symbolizing the Tagalog provinces had to trample on the American flag as a sign of victory; Aurelio himself played this role. The Americans in the audience reacted so violently there was a terrible riot after which Tolentino was arrested for sedition.

Juan Matapang Cruz, another intrepid patriot, presented "Hindi Aco Patay" at the Tetaro Nueva Luna in Malabon on 8 May 1903. Accordidng to reports, when the Katipunan flag was shown on stage, some American soldiers in the audience threw empty beer bottles at it, clambered on stage and destroyed the scenery, bedlam followed and J. Matapang Cruz and the actors were arrested by the American secret service a month later.

Gabriel Beato Francisco of Sampaloc (father of Filomena, first woman pharmacist, and Maria, firs twoman lawyer) wrote "Ang Katipunan" which was presented at the Teatro Oriental in Manila and later on 21 February 1905, in Laoag, Ilocos; everyone involved in the presentation, audience included, were arrested for violating the Sedition Act of 1901.

Pantaleon Lopez (1872-1912) wrote "Ave de rapina" or "Ibong manlulupig" in 1901, which alluded to the Dean Worcester versus "El Renacimiento" case where the latter was sued for esposing Worcester's predatory activities in a fiery editorial entitled "Aves de rapina" (Birds of prey"). The zarzuela was staged at the Teatro Angel in Singalong, Manila, under tight police surveillance as tension had been building up, a few days before, due to the arrest of a local band that played the Philippine National anthem at a fiest in Quiapo. Hoping to skirt arrest, Lopez made the fierce bird of prey rattle off a promise to look after the future of the country. Nevertheless, the theater was raided and playwlright, cast and audience were dragged to the Pako police station.

Most of the librettos and scripts of the Philippine seditious theater were confiscated and brought to the USA for translation and further scrutiny and then archived with the "Philippine Insurgent Papers.". Unwittingly, they were preserved for posteritiy in that roundabout and ironic manner.#

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Occupation day,2

According to the family grapevine, my maternal great grandfather, Leon Maria Guerrero, would wake up infuriated on every 13th day of August, a tragic day for him but "Occupation Day", a "fiesta oficial" for the American colonial government.

In the second volume of Capt. John R.M. Taylor's THE PHIIPPINE INSURRECTION AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, this American intelligence officer reported that on 10 August 1898, Gen. Pio del Pilar sent an ominous message to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, warning him that "...the Americans want to deceive us...we shall attack them and drive them out." Apparently, while Aguinaldo was organizing his forces in Cavite, Filipino troops in Manila, according to Taylor"...watched the arrival of American reinforcements with rising indignation for they saw that the capaital would not be theirs. They felt that they were about to be defrauded of the prize for which they had labored and fought. Many wanted to see their flag flying over the Walled City." Needless to say, Taylor also believed that all the Filipinos wanted to do was loot Intramuros.

On 12 August, Gen. Riego de Dios, whom Aguinaldo had installed as governor of Cavite, informed him that the Spaniards in Manila had reportedly surrendered to the Americans who were raring to take possession of Intramuros. That very evening, Aguinaldo received a terse telegraphed message from Gen. Anderson forbidding him and his "Filipino insurgents" from entering Manila. Sensing betrayal, Aguinaldo flew into a rage. Meanwhile his former allies had already taken possession of a bridge to prevent him and his troops from entering Manila.

On 13 August, Aguinaldo received yet another stern warning from the American general: "Your troops are not permitted to enter Manila without the permission of the American commander on this side of the Pasig River, as they would be under our fire."

Audaciously, the Filipinos passsed through Santa ana, according to Capt. Taylor"...and got into the city almost as soon as the Americans. They did not get in without opposition by the Americanas, who endeavored to eecute their orders to keep them out without resorting to actual force." On the same day, Aguinaldo received another telegram which read:"Serious trouble threatening between our forces. Try and prevent it. Your force should not force themseves in the city until we have received the full surrender [of the Spaniards].Then we will negotiate with you." To which Aguinaldo replied:"My troops are forced by yours, by means of threats of violence to retire from positions taken. It is necessary to avoid conflict, which I should lament, that you order your troops to avoid difficulties with mine as until now they [Filipino troops] have conducted themselves like brothers to take Manila."

Capt. John Taylor wrote: "It was fortunate for the Americans in front of Manila that Aguinaldo's councilors were not unified and that his soldiers were short of ammunition."#