View Full Version : US journalist in the Spanish-American war cites Filipinos’ strong sense of justice

07-04-2012, 03:18 PM
In the century or so of Philippine-US relations—marked today (July 4) as Filipino-American Friendship Day—Americans are invariably portrayed as liberators and/or imperialistic colonizers, democratic allies and benevolent teachers, missionaries and investors, or tourists and bride-seekers. Francis D. Millet came with the US colonizers in 1898 as a journalist embedded in the American army and wrote about what he saw in the strange country seemingly with the air of white-man superiority typical of the era. Fourteen years later, he would be among the passengers riding first-class who drowned in the sinking of the RMS Titanic that killed 1,500 people. A visual artist-turned-journalist, Millet was in the Philippines from June to September 1898 as a war correspondent for Harper’s Weekly and LondonTimes. He wrote of his experiences in his little-known work, “The Expedition to the Philippines,” published in 1899 and recently digitized by the US Library of Congress. Millet’s 275-page chronicle provides glimpses of the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, the Philippine Revolution under Emilio Aguinaldo, the fledgling First Republic and the uncertainties brought about by the growing American military presence in Manila.
Beginning of the end
The arrivals included Gen. Wesley Merritt, who was to become the first US military governor of the Philippines. They were welcomed with a cannon salute by the Olympia, flagship of Adm. George Dewey, whose fleet had defeated the Spaniards but was unable to complete the capture of Manila due to the lack of troops. “[T]he dull echo of the great guns sounded along the great curve of the low shore miles to the north where the domes and towers and palaces of Manila gleamed white in the sunlight, and carried to the Spanish an emphatic message that this was the beginning of the end,” Millet wrote. Tension was high in the Spanish and American camps as they were expecting the arrival of a Spanish fleet from Spain to relieve the American siege and drive away Dewey. The fleet, then at Suez Canal, was later ordered to return home.
Filipinos left out
By then, the American and Filipino troops closing in on Manila had divided up the surrounding towns into “zones of occupations.” Millet wrote that the American military leaders, who considered Aguinaldo neither an ally nor an enemy, planned to edge out the Filipinos from their zones. Millet said the arrival of more American troops had worried Aguinaldo and other Filipinos, who feared that minor incidents might result in hostilities between the two camps.
Battle of Manila
The Filipinos’ fears were not unfounded—they were left out of the final attack on Manila. Millet accompanied the US troops as they advanced to Manila, digging trenches and setting up defenses around the walled city. The switching of night lights at the Luneta and the presence on the US command ships of diplomat-emissaries from the Spanish camps were signals to Millet that “something decisive” wasabout to happen. This was the Battle of Manila on August13, when the walled city, after a token resistance, surrendered to the Americans. Millet arrived just in time to witness Spanish Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes and Merritt sign the preliminary capitulation terms at the Ayuntamiento, or City Hall.
The hostilities over, the tired Millet, after joining the American military’s victory supper, crossed over to Binondo and spent the night at the Hotel Oriente. Later, as the US occupation of Intramuros and nearby villages began, Millet even found himself invited to lodge in Malacañang. From the Palace grounds, he observed Filipinos living along the Pasig River and using it as a trading thoroughfare.
“Everywhere along the river on the banks and on all the native craft, the men and women are always bathing and washing their clothes.The bath is usually taken in the Malay fashion by pouring water from a cup or dipper over the head and body, and it is no uncommon sight to see a laborer deliberately walk into the water, take off his garments one by one, wash them, put them on and walk away, aperambulating clothes-drier,” he wrote.
Music lovers
As for the women, Millet said they were “dressed in the thinnest cotton jacket and sarong, waded into the water up to their waists andbeat the soiled garment with stones and clubs much the same as peasants of European countries do.” Millet commended Filipinos, whether in the city or in the provinces, for being clean in their bodies, clothes and homes, adding that apart from mosquitoes, he was never pestered by any other insects, whether at Camp Dewey or Malacañang. He particularly praised the Filipinos for being habitually temperate, for being understanding of foreigners unfamiliar with local customs and for being music lovers. In nearly every hut, a guitar ora similar instrument would be found, he said.
Typhoon warning center
In Ermita, Millet visited schools and the Manila Observatory. Its director, Fr. Federico Faura, showed him seismic equipment, a large telescope imported from the US, and scientific drawings and engravings by Filipinos. Millet learned that the observatory had put up 14 stations throughout the Philippines to send daily or hourly weather reports by telegraph. The observatory also acted as an early warning center for neighboring countries. “From (the) reports, the approach and probably force and direction of the dreaded typhoons are immediately anticipated and a warning telegram is at once sent to Hong Kong and thence transmitted to all important shipping ports in China and the Yellow Sea,” Millet said.
Aguinaldo interview
In August, as negotiations began in Paris on a treaty ending the war, Aguinaldo moved his capital from Bacoor to Malolos, where he announced the convening of a Congress on September 15 to write a constitution. On that day, Millet found himself on the Manila-Dagupan railway traveling to Bulacan to interview the President. He had befriended the railway manager, Horace Higgins, and they journeyedto the end of the rail in Pangasinan. Higgins wanted to complain to Aguinaldo about the destruction of rail tracks, the raids on the stations and the strikes by rail workers. At Aguinaldo’s headquarters in Malolos, they were ushered into a waiting room and given Manila cigars.
Gentleman in black
“[W]hile we were lighting up, a small individual, in full evening black suit and flowing black tie, presented himself before us,” Millet said. “Never having seen the gentleman before in civilian’s dress, I did not for a moment recognize him, but was struck at once by the Chinese cast of his head and features. An instant later I saw, of course, it was Aguinaldo, and we all three sat down, after a handshake,and began our chat.” Millet and Higgins tried to speak to Aguinaldo about public interest matters but to every leading question, the President would reply, “My people will decide,” or “I shall be obliged to refer this to my people in whose hands I am.” Millet was generally unimpressed with Aguinaldo and thought he was a mere figurehead. However, he noted that Aguinaldo’s manner were “irreproachable” and he was cunning and astute. After promising Higgins that he would deal with the strikers, Aguinaldo invited them to the opening of the Congress.
Sweltering heat
At Barasoain Church, Millet saw that the delegates were wearing black coats, in contrast with current photos showing them in white. He observed the delegates were using their bowler hats to fan themselves vigorously due to the heat. Millet said he and a Japanese were the only foreign journalists at the Congress’ inaugural. When Millet left Manila on September 22 for Hong Kong, the delegates were still drafting the Constitution and more US troops were arriving in the occupied city.
Gentle people
Millet admitted his narrative only gave one side of the picture. “Most of our men had never any dealings with semibarbaric people andthey were absolutely unable to comprehend their nature or to appreciate the motives of the Filipinos, who were, from the American point of view, almost as far removed from the condition of civilized man as are the anthropoid apes,” he said. Personally, Millet said, he never had any difficulties with Filipinos, except those which naturally resulted from the state of tension that existed. “The officers and the soldiers with whom I came in contact under ordinary circumstances were always courteous and friendly and the natives not bearing arms were as gentle and mild-mannered as any other people of Malay stock,” he said.
Virtues and faults
Millet said Filipinos “have many grave faults, but they have remarkable virtues as well.” “Since their faults are different from those to which we are accustomed, they take a more prominent place in our estimation of their character and the temperament of this interesting race,” he said. “They are said to be irregular in their habits of work and are shiftless and improvident. That is, of course, partly theresult of the climate and of long oppression, but it is really temperamental at the bottom. They are also commended for loyalty to those for whom they conceive an affection, for remarkable domestic virtues and for generous instincts of hospitality. “They are extremely sensitive and nervous and have a strong sense of justice which, if once outraged, breeds in their minds a spirit ofvindictiveness, which almost amounts to a madness.” In April 1912, Millet, 65, was returning from London when he, along with his bosom friend, Maj. Archibald Butt, a military aide to President Howard Taft, went down with the Titanic. Millet’s remains—among the 300 bodies recovered—were buried in his native Massachusetts. A memorial fountain at President’s Park in Washington, dedicated in 1913, commemorates the two friends.

Sam Miguel
10-29-2012, 09:27 AM
History goes boom in Valenzuela; slums yield massive war artifact

By Nathaniel R. Melican

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:51 pm | Saturday, October 27th, 2012

For years it lay partly buried, of all places, in the middle of a dirt basketball court. But local residents who had long considered it part of their community finally agreed to have it excavated, restored, and shared with the rest of the Filipino people.

A 9-ton cannon dating back to the 1800s was recently unearthed in a slum area near Valenzuela City Hall in Barangay Malinta.

The artillery piece, about 10 feet long, was made in Spain but later dedicated by the Americans to a US colonel who served in the Philippine-American War, according Jonathan Balsamo, curator of Museo Valenzuela and head of the restoration project.

Balsamo said the war relic would undergo restoration in the next few months as a heritage piece of the city. And though the cannon bore inscriptions in memory of an American officer, he said it should now serve as a reminder of the Filipinos who fought in the Battle of Malinta, a rarely told episode in the war that raged from 1899 to 1902.

“The cannon’s body indicates that it was made in 1859 in Trubia, a village in Asturias, Spain, known for making cannons,” Balsamo told the Inquirer in an interview last week.

After the war, additional inscriptions were made and remained legible to this day: “In memory of Col. Harry Clay Egbert, US Army, Brigadier General–US Volunteers, who was mortally wounded on this spot while leading his regiment, the 22nd US Infantry, 26th March 1899.”

“Historical accounts indicate that Egbert died in the Battle of Malinta. And what is fascinating about this part of the Philippine-American War is that while the Americans were able to control Malinta, they did not defeat the Filipinos in actual battle,” Balsamo said.

The Filipino fighters took cover in a church when they saw the Americans approaching, he said, quoting records. Aware of the range of their rifles, they waited for the right distance before firing at enemy troops as they went past the church.

“That was when Egbert was killed,” he said. “The Filipinos pulled back only when they ran out of bullets.”

The American colonial government under Acting Governor General Henry Ide later marked Egbert’s fall by building a memorial in the area. A 1906 proclamation designated a tract of land in Malinta (then still under the jurisdiction of Bulacan province) as the Egbert Monument Reserve.

“The place was landscaped and this cannon, complete with the inscriptions, was erected at the center of the monument,” Balsamo said.

However, the monument fell into neglect in the years that followed. In the 1990s, the cannon ended up being “swallowed” by the earth after treasure hunters dug a tunnel beneath it, Balsamo said.

After the diggings, only the cannon’s tip—showing the parts known as the knob and the neck—remained visible aboveground, and it oddly jutted out at an angle in the middle of what is now an unpaved basketball court. Also, parts of fence marking the monument still stand.

“Over the years, under previous city administrations, there have been many attempts to recover the cannon. They all failed for various reasons, but mainly because residents in the area resisted the plan,” Balsamo said.

“They were reluctant to have the cannon excavated, saying their ancestors were allowed by the Americans to look after that piece of land,” he said. Some residents even threatened to bring the issue to court.

“We had to hold a dialogue in late September to inform them that we will restore the cannon. It was only then that we were able to persuade them and start digging,” the museum official said.

It took around 60 workers two days to get the rusty cannon out and another day just to drag it to the road where a forklift was waiting.

The massive gun is currently kept in a warehouse, its restoration to be funded by the city government and handled by experts from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

“After the restoration, we plan to put it on display at City Hall grounds for everyone to see,” Balsamo said. “But through it we are now recognizing the unnamed Filipino soldiers who fought Egbert and his troops in the Battle of Malinta.”

“For me, this cannon is now about the Filipinos who showed courage and nationalism, soldiers who were never paid to fight yet stood up in defense of our country,” he said. “This is not just about the appreciation of an artifact. It goes deeper. It should make us think: What form of heroism can we do for our country now?”

Sam Miguel
02-19-2013, 11:23 AM
Honest Naia workers cited: ‘My God, you people are amazing!’

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:57 pm | Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

“They are angels in our midst.”

This was how Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Jose Angel Honrado described four airport workers who returned money and other valuables left behind by passengers at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

“This February alone, we have multiple recoveries reported to us. This is truly heartwarming. We are very happy that the culture of honesty is very much alive at Naia. These ‘angels’ are our source of pride,” Honrado told reporters on Tuesday.

In the latest incident that took place on Feb. 8 at Naia Terminal 3, Rodileen de la Vega, a building attendant, found a black wallet on top of the utility shelf inside one of the toilet cubicles.

She called her work partner, Mina Ilagan, and asked her to call for another witness. Together, they brought the wallet to the Airport Police Department (APD) outpost for proper turnover and to check the owner, who was later identified as Maksim Pantaleev.

The wallet, which contained peso and US dollar bills with a total value of around P60,000, was later claimed by Pantaleev.

Three more recoveries were reported to the Miaa earlier this month.

On Feb. 2, Ronnie Oquendo, a member of the Miaa job order personnel, found a black pouch containing P96,000 in cash that was left behind by the then Bacolod City-bound Lucebar Tajan inside a toilet also at Terminal 3. Oquendo turned over the pouch to the APD’s lost-and-found section.

Tajan was contacted thanks to an identification card belonging to his wife Arsenia, which was also found in the pouch. The couple were already in Bacolod when reached by Naia officials.

Tajan flew back to Manila the following day to get the pouch, and gave Oqueno a token of the couple’s gratitude.

“We are going to use the money for the treatment of our child who is sick. We commend Mr. Oquendo for his honesty,” Tajan later told reporters.

On Feb. 6, Mark Joven Aquino, a service crew member of Little Vin Vin cafeteria at Terminal 2, found a brown leather vest on one of the seats of the restaurant, with one of the pockets containing some P66,000 in cash. The vest and the money were returned to the owner that same day.

On Feb. 7, Richard Baybayon, a messenger-janitor of the Bank of Commerce branch at Terminal 1, found a brown clutch bag on top of the bank counter. The bag contained cash in different currencies, two silver bracelets, a digital camera, a mobile phone and a British passport belonging to Alan Bernard Stephens.

Stephens, a 59-year-old banker then on vacation in the country, realized he had lost his bag when was already in a cab going to his hotel.

The tourist went back to Naia with little hope of getting his bag back—and was surprised to find it in the lost-and-found section.

“My God, you people are really amazing! For that amount I knew that the finders would think twice about returning it, but you airport people are wonderful. Thank you very much,” an APD staff member quoted the Briton as saying.

Honrado said he would gather the honest airport employees in the monthly flag ceremony next month to formally honor them. Airport employees who had received praise for similar deeds in the past were given plaques of appreciation and bonuses.

Sam Miguel
03-27-2013, 09:00 AM
Film on Philippines’ rescue of WWII Jews to premiere in SF

INQUIRER.net U.S. Bureau

3:17 am | Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO–The premiere of a historical documentary entitled “Rescue in the Philippines,” which shows the desperate plight of the Jewish Diaspora during WWII and how the Philippine government rescued some 1,200 Jews who fled Nazi Germany and Austria, will be held at The New Peoples Cinema in Japantown, San Francisco on April 7.

The one-hour film documents a previously untold story. Five Frieder brothers, Cincinnati businessmen making two-for-a-nickel cigars in pre-WWII Manila, got together with Manuel Quezon, the charismatic first president of the Philippines, Paul McNutt, U.S. High Commissioner and former governor of Indiana and an ambitious Army Colonel named Dwight Eisenhower. The group devised a scheme to help 1,200 German and Austrian Jews escape the Nazis and immigrate to the Philippines.

Conchita Applegate of the Philippines American Friendship Organization (PhilAm Friends) and Mary Farquhar, San Francisco coordinator for the film put the final touches on the preparations for the premiere, which their organizations are co-sponsoring.

Mary Farquhar’s Viennese parents were part of the fortunate group that was rescued and she sees the film as a major tribute and testament of gratitude to the Philippines for its heroic and generous action. Her family became Philippine citizens.

The Philippines has also welcomed and accommodated refugees from other major conflicts, including thousands of White Russians from the Russian Civil War (1919-1920), refugees from Mao’s post-WWII China, and hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Indochinese conflict, who were given a temporary home before going on to final resettlement in the U.S. plus other countries.

The premiere is on Sunday, April 7, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the New Peoples Theater on 1746 Post Street, San Francisco (Japantown). A reception and refreshments will follow the showing. There is no admission charge, but donations are apprecieate. Seats are limited. RSVP in subject line to bwsasser@gmail.com

Sam Miguel
04-25-2013, 09:30 AM
Philippines: A Jewish refuge from the Holocaust

By Rodel Rodis

5:45 pm | Saturday, April 13th, 2013

The 1993 Best Picture movie, Schindler’s List, informed the world about Austrian industrialist Oskar Schindler and how he saved 1,100 Polish Jews during WWII by hiring them as workers in his factory. A new documentary, Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge From the Holocaust, being shown this month in hundreds of PBS stations throughout the US, will now inform the world about Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon and the role he played in helping German Jews escape Nazi persecution in 1939 by providing them with visas and safe shelter in the Philippines.

The significance of Quezon’s actions can be appreciated in the context provided by another Hollywood movie, the 1976 film, Voyage of the Damned, based on the true story of the 1939 saga of the luxury liner MS St. Louis, which left Hamburg, Germany with 937 Jewish passengers bound for Cuba. When the ship landed in Havana, the Jews were refused entry, as the Nazi authorities expected. The ship then headed for Florida where the US government also refused to allow the Jews to disembark. After the ship was refused entry in other ports, it returned to Germany where its Jewish passengers were forcibly removed and dispatched to concentration camps for extermination. A Nazi official in the film declares: “When the whole world has refused to accept them as refugees, no country can blame Germany for the fate of the Jews.”

But at least one country can. In the year when the MS St. Louis was rejected by all the countries where it sought refuge, the Philippine Commonwealth accepted 1,300 Jews and was willing to accept as much as 10,000 more if the US State Department had allowed its commonwealth to do so.

The Washington Times reported on December 5, 1938 (“Quezon Urges Jews’ Haven”) that “the possibility of a haven for Jewish refugees from Germany was broached today by Pres. Manuel Quezon” who said “I am willing to facilitate entrance of such numbers of Jewish people as we could absorb…I favor large scale immigration to Mindanao, if well financed.”

The untold story of the Philippine rescue of Jews was first prominently recounted by Frank Ephraim in his book, “Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror” (University of Illinois Press, 2003), which was based mostly on his own eyewitness account as a child who was one of 1300 Jewish refugees who arrived in Manila in 1939.

According to Ephraim, the history of the rescue begins with the decision of the Frieder brothers in 1918 to relocate its two-for-a-nickel cigar business from Manhattan to Manila, where production would be cheaper. Alex, Philip, Herbert and Morris Frieder took turns overseeing the business in the Philippines for two years each joining a community that had fewer than 200 Jews. At its height, the Frieder brothers’ tobacco company in Manila produced 250 million cigars in a year.

The idea for the Jewish exodus to the Philippines came in 1937, when 28 German Jews who had earlier fled Germany for Shanghai were evacuated by the Germans to Manila after fierce fighting erupted between Chinese and Japanese troops. The Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, headed by Philip Frieder, was formed to help them settle in the Philippines. From these refugees, the Frieders heard first-hand accounts of the Nazi atrocities in Germany and the uncertain fate of the 17,000 Jews still stranded in Shanghai.

The Frieders decided to seek the help of their poker buddies to get the Philippines to become a haven for the fleeing Jews. But these were no ordinary poker buddies. One was Paul V. McNutt, the American High Commissioner for the Philippines; another was a young officer named Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aide of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, then Field Marshall of the Philippines; and then there was Manuel L. Quezon, the president of the Philippine Commonwealth.

In their late night poker sessions, as Ephraim recounts it, the buddies hatched a plan for the Philippines to accept as many as 100,000 Jews to save them from persecution in Germany.

McNutt had served as National Commander of the American Legion and as governor of Indiana (1933-37) before Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped him to be the High Commissioner of the Philippines in 1937. McNutt’s task was to convince the US State Department to grant visas for Jews to enter Manila.

Col. Eisenhower’s task was to organize a plan to bring Jews to settle in Mindanao. In the Rescue in the Philippines documentary,Susan Eisenhower, President Dwight Eisenhower’s granddaughter, reflects on his involvement: “It’s one thing to sit around a card table and talk about a worrisome situation—even a dire situation. It’s quite another to actually take some action, and I think that’s why this is a story for all time.”

President Quezon faced the formidable task of winning over the anti-Semitic members of his own cabinet as well as those in the political opposition led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo who viewed Jews as “Communists and schemers” bent on “controlling the world”. In a letter written in August of 1939, Alex Frieder wrote of Mr. Quezon’s response: “He assured us that big or little, he raised hell with every one of those persons. He made them ashamed of themselves for being a victim of propaganda intended to further victimize an already persecuted people.”

To the members of his own Catholic Church who were prejudiced against Jews, Quezon asked: “How can we turn our backs on the race that produced Jesus Christ?”

In the Rescue film, Manuel L. Quezon III ponders his grandfather’s reason for helping the Jewish people: “I think for my grandfather, it was perhaps that simple. You have a country. You have a little authority. You have an opportunity. Someone has asked for refuge—which is the most basic humanitarian appeal anyone can make. You answer it.”

At the April 23, 1940 dedication of Marikina Hall, a housing facility for Jewish refugees that was built on land that he personally donated, Quezon said: “It is my hope and, indeed, my expectation that the people of the Philippines will have in the future every reason to be glad that when the time of need came, their country was willing to extend a hand of welcome.”

Quezon’s expectation of how future generations of Filipinos will feel about the rescue of the Jews during their time of peril had one flaw: the future generations never learned of the country’s noble deed. After the Rescue documentary was shown at its April 7, 2013 San Francisco premiere, a question and answer forum followed. One Filipina from Vallejo stood up and identified herself as having been a public school teacher in the Philippines before immigrating to the US. “How is it possible that I never heard of this Jewish rescue when I was a student in the Philippines, when I was a teacher there, all the way until I watched this film tonight?” she asked.

The answers provided by other Filipinos in the audience (“because it was not taught in Philippine history books”) begged the question of why this significant event in Philippine history was omitted from the Philippine history books.

Sam Miguel
04-25-2013, 09:31 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

I went to elementary school at Letran College in Intramuros, Manila. Every day, for the 8 years I was there from kindergarten to 7th grade, I passed by the imposing bronze statue of Manuel L. Quezon, the school’s most distinguished alumnus. I thought I knew everything there was to know about Quezon until I stumbled on Frank Ephraim’s book in 2005 and learned for the first time about Quezon’s role as a “righteous gentile” and wrote about it then.

Why was this heroic episode hidden from the Filipino people? Why was it not included in Philippine history books? Strangely enough, what is recounted in the history books is that on November 29,1947, the Philippines was the only Asian nation to support the partition resolution at the United Nations creating a Jewish State in Palestine.

On June 21,2009, a monument to Manuel L. Quezon was unveiled at the 65-hectare Holocaust Memorial Park in Rishon LeZion, Israel’s 4th largest city located south of Tel Aviv. The monument designed by Filipino artist Junyee is called “Open Doors”. It is a geometric, seven-meter-high sculpture rendered mainly in steel and set on a base of marble tiles shipped from Romblon, showing three doors of ascending heights.

Speaking at the dedication ceremonies on behalf of the Philippine government, Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano said: “the monument celebrates the Filipino heart, a heart that touches others with compassion, a heart that makes one a blessing to the world.” But that Filipino heart desperately needs to be informed about the noble act that made it a blessing to the world.

The education of that Filipino heart has begun in earnest with the release of Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge From the Holocaust and its public airing TV stations throughout the US and soon in the Philippines. This will be followed by another documentary, “An Open Door: Jewish Rescue in the Philippines”, which is being produced and directed by a Washington DC-based filmmaker, Noel “Sonny” Izon.

In his film, Izon seeks to “explore the rare confluence of the Pacific and European theaters. It juxtaposes momentous events in history such as the passage of the Nuremberg Laws on September 15, 1935 and, exactly two months later, the inauguration of the Philippines as a Commonwealth of the United States. One door closes and another opens…the story of a deep and improbable, international friendship borne of common adversity and intense love for freedom. Together, Filipinos and Jews struggled, endured and ultimately prevailed against overwhelming odds.”

Izon has a personal reason for making his film. He was born in Manila in 1946, the year after his “deathly ill” father was saved at a Manila hospital by Dr. Otto Zelezny, one of twelve physicians among the 1300 Jews who found safe haven in the Philippines. This film is his chance to thank the good doctor from Berlin who “made my life possible”.

Sam Miguel
05-31-2013, 08:55 AM
The three ‘balimbing’

By Ambeth R. Ocampo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:45 pm | Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Nobody ever loses in Philippine elections. Many losers claim they were cheated and file an electoral protest. This pattern goes all the way back to the founding fathers, to March 23, 1897, when Andres Bonifacio and 44 others issued a document that has come down in history as the “Acta de Tejeros.” Unfortunately, many students know the title of the document but don’t have an idea of its contents because it is not provided in grade-school history class.

This document contains neither the “acts” nor “minutes” of the Tejeros Convention; it is an electoral protest that challenged the results of the election held on the preceding day. Bonifacio and his loyalists declared the election at Tejeros null and void and called on other Katipuneros to consider this to be so because the election was: disorderly, the ballots were tampered with, and it was unclear who were actually qualified to vote. Were these unqualified voters of the same breed we know today as “flying voters”?

Textbook history oversimplifies the story to paint Bonifacio as a hothead. When Daniel Tirona challenged his election as director of the interior and proposed a lawyer from Cavite instead, Bonifacio drew his gun. No one supported Tirona’s motion, but Bonifacio felt so insulted that he declared the proceedings void and walked out. This presentation of Tejeros generates an emotional response from students when they should be taught to see the whole story, if only to understand why Bonifacio acted the way he did. Tejeros is more complicated than we think.

Remember that Bonifacio was presiding and the secretary at Tejeros was Artemio Ricarte. They sat at a table tallying the votes when Magdiwang treasury secretary Diego Mojica informed the Supremo that many voters did not fill out the ballots as these had writing on them before distribution. One account even states that the writing on the ballots were all by one hand! Bonifacio ignored this and proceeded with the election. Why? Which faction stood to gain from this fraud?

If we look at the Tejeros results, we will see that the Magdiwang had a clear majority: president, Emilio Aguinaldo (Magdalo); vice president, Mariano Trias (Magdiwang); captain-general, Ricarte (Magdiwang); director of war, Emiliano Riego de Dios (Magdiwang); director of the interior, Bonifacio (Magdiwang). That’s four to one. What happened?

When Trias, Ricarte, and Riego de Dios took their oath as elected officials of the new revolutionary government, did they transfer their loyalty from Magdiwang to Magdalo? Should we consider them balimbing? Perhaps the three balimbing who changed sides and the course of history did not really owe their loyalty to Magdiwang or Bonifacio? Can we give these three balimbing the benefit of the doubt and presume they saw beyond their local Katipunan affiliation and glimpsed the nation at the end of the tunnel? Did their defection signal an end to the Katipunan, a withdrawal of support from Bonifacio? If so, how could the revolutionary government represent everyone as one nation when Katipunan leaders from outside Cavite were not present? Maybe we should challenge the current thinking that Tejeros was the Magdalo elite from Cavite seizing power from the Magdiwang elite or the “masses” represented by Bonifacio?

Was Tejeros a vote of confidence for Aguinaldo, who was a promising military leader, against Bonifacio, who had not won a single battle and was unfairly referred to by some in Cavite as “alsa balutan” or someone who sought refuge in Cavite after the disaster in San Juan (a historic site known as “Pinaglabanan”)?

What about numbers? We do not know how many men cast their votes in Tejeros and how many of them were qualified to vote. But if we are to go by the account of Telesforo Canseco, the ballots cast for the presidency were: Aguinaldo 146, Bonifacio 80, Alvarez 30. That makes 256 votes. The hall was full and described by Carlos Ronquillo, secretary to Aguinaldo, as being so packed there was no place for a pin to drop. “Siksik na siksik lahat nang sulok ng malaking convento. Walang mahulugang karayom.”

Let’s presume that Ronquillo’s crowd estimate included: voters, alalay, and uziseros. This crowd, or a part of it, later voted by standing at different corners of the room designated for nominees for director of war and director of the interior. If Canseco’s count is accurate and there were indeed 256 electors in Tejeros, then the 45 who signed the protest we know as the Acta de Tejeros was a minority. From the 45 who signed the Acta some, like Ricarte, eventually joined the Aguinaldo government. How many really supported Bonifacio at this point in the game? What should we learn from the tragic fact that Bonifacio was killed by the very revolution he started?

Textbook history tells us that Rizal, the First Filipino, was universally accepted, but it doesn’t tell us about the elections in Madrid that showed Plaridel as the better politician. Textbook history states that Bonifacio’s leadership was undisputed, but it doesn’t tell us the whole story of Tejeros and how the mantle of leadership transferred to Aguinaldo. It is time to go beyond ideological bias and emotional response and ask hard questions about Tejeros. Each time I ask my students to ponder these questions, I know these will not yield definite answers. But the discussion alone provides insights relevant to our times.

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06-11-2013, 09:56 AM
The virus of racism

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:01 pm | Monday, June 10th, 2013

In one “friendly” match between two Italian clubs last January, Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng of the visiting AC Milan kicked the ball into the stands and walked off the pitch in anger and disgust. He was followed by his teammates and supported by his club and the match was abandoned. In the days that followed—instead of being raked over the coals for what seemed like unsportsmanlike and unprofessional conduct—Boateng was hailed as a hero by the world of football.

That singular act was a powerful blow delivered by one person against the one malignant ailment that has afflicted the world’s most popular sport for decades—racism. Boateng was verbally abused by fans of the host club and, after 25 minutes of racist chants, he decided he would not take it any longer. With one single kick, Boateng achieved what the International Federation of Association Football (Fifa), the world governing body of the sport, had failed to accomplish—to deliver an eloquent and compelling message that hatred, discrimination, intolerance and prejudice have no place in football or anywhere in sports and the civilized world.

Red-faced after Boateng’s heroism, Fifa formed an antiracism task force to come up with tougher measures against offenders. According to Sepp Blatter, president of Fifa: “There have been despicable events this year that have cast a long shadow over football and the rest of society.” But only days after Fifa adopted the new antiracism measures, another ugly incident was added to that list. This time, the object of racist abuse was an entire nation.

By all accounts, including that of Inquirer reporter Cedelf Tupas, the match between the Philippine Azkals and Hong Kong last week was hardly friendly. Raucous spectators booed the Azkals and pelted them with debris the moment they entered the pitch of the Mong Kok Stadium to warm up. As sports competitions go, that’s par for the course, no matter that the match was called a “friendly.” But the boos and catcalls got even louder and rowdier when the Philippine national anthem was played. And when James Younghusband scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the first half, it was downhill from there.

Calling the Filipinos “a slave nation,” a section of the spectators shouted down a small group of Filipinos, mostly women and children, as they pelted the Azkals with water bottles and tetra packs. They unfurled a banner to remind everyone of the botched bus hostage rescue that killed eight Hong Kong tourists in 2010 at the Rizal Park, as if the Azkals and their fans had anything to do with it.

Overshadowed by the ugly scenes was the excellence on the pitch displayed by both teams, with Younghusband heading in a first-half goal, Neil Etheridge making one sensational save after another, and the Hong Kong side putting up a spirited fight up to the last minute. Almost forgotten, too, was the fact that in its finest performance thus far, the Philippines scored its first victory over Hong Kong since 1958 while enduring the hostility of the host crowd.

The incident comes at a time when the Philippines is grappling with diplomatic difficulties with its neighbors. Apart from the never-to-be-forgotten bus hostage rescue bungling, the Philippines is dealing with China’s incursions into its maritime territories and the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine coast guards.

Sports had become hostage to these diplomatic disputes. Only last month, the basketball association of Chinese-Taipei withdrew its invitation for the Philippines to defend the title in next month’s Jones Cup basketball tournament, purportedly for security reasons. The situation will become trickier when the Philippines hosts the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) Asia basketball tournament in August. Chinese-Taipei has been grouped with the Philippines in the first round.

That political statements, let alone racist acts, are made in sporting events goes against the principles of sportsmanship, mutual respect and fair play that must govern all of sports. In Blatter’s words, the whole family of football must go against what has blighted the game for so long.

“The big problem with racism,” Boateng said, “is that there is no vaccine for it. There are no antibiotics that you can simply take. It is like an extremely dangerous and contagious virus. It is emboldened by our indifference and inaction.”

Sam Miguel
10-11-2013, 09:27 AM
Epifanio de los Santos

By Ambeth R. Ocampo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:32 pm | Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Historians work with traces of the past, with diaries, letters, photographs. One could say historians work with ghosts from the past—they are there but you cannot see, touch, or talk with them. One person who took a step historians will never take was Guillermo Tolentino, first National Artist for Sculpture, whose keen interest in the Philippine Revolution is narrated visually and forcefully in his works.

Tolentino not only relied on library and archival research, he also interviewed participants of an age that gave birth to the nation. Information he could not get from documents, books and oral history he sought from beyond the grave. As a founding member of the Union Espiritista Cristiana de Filipinas, he hosted regular séances in his home on Retiro Street in Sampaloc, where he conversed with all sorts of spirits, many of them figures from our history. In Tolentino’s book “Si Rizal” (1957) is the transcript of a séance that bridged time and space between Rizal and Trinidad Rizal, the hero’s lone sister who lived long after World War II.

To get a sense of Tolentino’s genius you must visit the Security Bank hall dedicated to his work in the National Museum. Here one can literally stand eyeball to eyeball with heroes and other figures from Philippine history. On my last visit to the National Museum the bust I spent the longest time with was that of Epifanio de los Santos, the obscure historian for whom Edsa, the longest street in Metro Manila, was named. I know his name, I have read many of his works, and I have seen a youthful photograph of him in the rogues’ gallery at the National Library that gives you the faces and names of all the directors from James Alexander Robertson to Antonio Santos. If we rewrite the history of our National Library, the first director should be Pedro Paterno, but then that is another story for another column.

Epifanio de los Santos was a friend of Tolentino’s and they were considered two of the best guitarists of their generation. Tolentino even made a charming plaster portrait of “Don Panyong” playing a guitar that has since been lost. As I looked face to face at the image of De los Santos—where he was described as “slender, standing about five feet high, with slightly drooping shoulders … his eyes … behind his glasses betray[ing] the prolific poet … a voice as soft as velvet”—I could not see that in a dirty plaster sculpture. But one of the things that make Tolentino sculptures come alive is the way he forms the eyes. In the image, the eyes of De los Santos reminded me that he was a collector of Filipiniana and that some important documents, like the manuscripts believed to be in the hands of Andres Bonifacio (presently in the collection of Emmanuel Encarnacion), were collected and preserved by him. J.P. Bantug, one of the important prewar collectors, described De los Santos as “a lawyer by profession, an historian by choice, and a collector of antiques by accident.”

According to Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, “[De los Santos] was very fond of studying any kind of books, especially those that referred to the Philippines and the Filipino people. He was [so] fond of this hobby that he was considered as a plague in the libraries of his friends, searching for books of this kind, which he never failed to read and study carefully with or without the unwillingness of the owner.”

When he accepted the post as director of the National Library, where he served from 1925 to 1928, De los Santos gave up all his passions except for music and books. He stopped collecting Filipiniana and writing history because he considered these a conflict of interest. Bibliographer Gabriel Bernardo explained:

“Assuming his duties as Director of the Philippine Library and Museum at the sacrifice of personal convenience, [De los Santos] religiously renounced collecting for his personal hobbies and devoted all his energies to the enrichment of the resources of the institution under his care. He also laid writing aside to wait for a greater personal leisure. For it was his creed that no librarian can be a public servant and at the same time be a library’s competitor in the acquisition and use of its resources.”

Another contemporary remarked that: “When he assumed the position of Director, at a sacrifice of the comfort his independent means gave him, he abandoned all his collecting and gave the same zeal to the furtherance of the Government’s interest that had made his own collection in works, paintings, sculpture, furniture and all other lines of artistic Philippines unrivalled. The Library and Museum profited by his administration more than under any of his predecessors, counting that their work was adding large known collections by purchase made possible by legislative appropriation.”

Although he redirected his personal collecting zeal to the benefit of the National Library, De los Santos did not turn over or sell the best pieces in his collection to the National Library or Museum. Months after he died of a heart attack, the Philippine Legislature passed Act 3475 on Dec. 7, 1928, appropriating funds to purchase his collection.

But what of his collection was acquired? What of his collection was destroyed during the Battle for Manila in 1945? Those were questions I asked as I contemplated the Tolentino bust of Epifanio de los Santos.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-21-2014, 11:20 AM
Naia cops recover P770,000 in cash left in cab by Spanish tourist

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:58 pm | Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — Ninoy Aquino International Airport policemen on Tuesday recovered cash worth P770,000 accidentally left in a cab by an 80-year-old Spanish tourist.

Marco Muñoz Santiago, who arrived in Manila on Monday from Sydney, Australia, said he returned to Naia Terminal 1 on Tuesday morning to return a baggage that he wrongly claimed. After doing so, he realized that he left his shoulder bag containing cash inside the taxi.

Airport police department chief Jesus Descanzo said Santiago, a retired physical therapist, sought help from the APD office, which dispatched investigators to contact Santiago’s hotel in Manila for information regarding the cab.

The cab’s name was identified by the hotel as a “Kevin Carlo Taxi” with plate number UVJ-421. The investigators then contacted the Land Transportation Office, which provided name of the operator, who in turn, contacted the driver.

The policemen found the cab parked along Pedro Gil Street in Ermita, Manila at around 4:30 p.m. The driver, when confronted by the police, returned the shoulder bag.

The bag contained US$8,200, US$250-worth of travelers’ checks, and 9,800 Australian dollars and as well as Santiago’s passport and eyeglasses. The cash and checks combined was equivalent to about P770,000 based on Wednesday’s exchange rates.

Santiago thanked the airport policemen for returning his money.

Sam Miguel
02-24-2014, 09:37 AM
Forgotten heroes of 1986 Edsa revolt

By Ramon Farolan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Monday, February 24th, 2014

Tomorrow (Tuesday) marks the 28th anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and brought back democratic norms of governance to the country. Some say it simply restored the dominance of the oligarchy. There may be some truth to this observation.

Today, the nation continues to be held in the grip of a few families, with the gap between the rich and the poor getting wider. But perhaps, that is another story.

Last Saturday the Inquirer featured 28 key Edsa personalities. Some of them ended up as senators of the land, two went on to become president, and two are currently embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal involving the congressional pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

Let me feature some of the forgotten heroes of the Edsa Revolution.

In the four days in February 1986 that stunned the nation, two officers contributed in no small measure to the peaceful outcome of the historical event.

One was assigned at Camp Aguinaldo as part of the staff at General Headquarters and chose to join the rebel group led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos. He had no troops of his own but he was aware of the power and the reach of radio and television broadcasting.

The other was a commander of troops. He led a Marine brigade of some 1,000 battle-tested men equipped with light tanks, armored vehicles, machine guns and automatic rifles.

Col. Manuel Oxales was assigned at OJ-5 (Plans and Programs) at the General Headquarters (GHQ), Camp Aguinaldo. After dinner on Feb. 22, 1986, he was informed by his eldest son Neil, that Radio Veritas had just broadcast the defection of Minister Enrile and General Ramos. The radio then announced the arrival of several prominent personalities of government joining Enrile and Ramos in a press conference at the defense building in Camp Aguinaldo.

On Monday, Feb. 24, after much soul-searching, Oxales, accompanied by his wife Sylvia, proceeded to Channel 4 TV station that had then been captured by rebel forces. Inside the studio, seated around a table facing the cameras, were: Brig. Gen. Eduardo Ermita, Sen. Ernesto Maceda, Niñez Cacho-Olivares, and lawyer Jose Mari Velez. Oxales was welcomed by the group and handed a microphone. He then proceeded to deliver his message, appealing to Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar, the Marine commandant and his former classmate at the Philippine Military Academy, to join the Enrile-Ramos forces. He also called on Col. Braulio Balbas, another Marine officer, as well as Commodore Ernesto Arzaga, head of the AFP Logistics Command, to reconsider any possible acts of firing at fellow soldiers and innocent civilians. Oxales also appealed to other AFP officers to join the rebel forces. His recorded message was repeatedly aired on radio and television during the day and night.

After the broadcast, Oxales and other Channel 4 employees brought the station van loaded with remote broadcast equipment from Bohol Avenue to Camp Crame. At times, they had to pass through areas still held by loyalist forces. These facilities enabled Enrile and Ramos to speak to and rally support from other elements of the armed forces and the people. The uninterrupted use of Channel 4 contributed immensely to the success of the revolt.

Colonel Oxales was awarded the Bronze Cross for acts of heroism involving risk of life. He retired as Wing commander of Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City, with the rank of brigadier general.

* * *

Col. Braulio B. Balbas Jr. was the deputy commandant of the Philippine Marines during those fateful days of February 1986.

On Feb. 23, 1986, he was designated as commander of the 4th Marine Provisional Brigade, with two battalions under him and given the mission of assaulting and seizing the Ministry of Defense Building at Camp Aguinaldo.

At the intersection of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue, his convoy of troops on vehicles was stopped by parked automobiles and hordes of people. Unable to move further, he was ordered to return to Fort Bonifacio.

The following day his group was again ordered to move out for Camp Aguinaldo. This time they entered the Logistics Command through Santolan Road. Balbas started to position his 105-millimeter howitzers on the golf course, eight mortars and V-150 tanks in various areas fronting Camp Crame, ready to fire.

At 9 a.m., he was ordered by Maj. Gen. Josephus Ramas, the commanding general of the Philippine Army and concurrent ground commander, to fire his howitzers at Camp Crame and to report compliance. Balbas hesitated, and reported that he was still positioning the howitzers.

At 9:20 a.m., he was again ordered to fire the howitzers. He replied that he was still positioning the cannons.

At 9:30 a.m., Balbas informed General Tadiar that General Ramas had issued orders to fire at Camp Crame. He asked if this was cleared by Malacañang. A few minutes later, Tadiar replied, “The order to fire is confirmed and you can fire.” At this point, Balbas argued that firing his cannons would result in the killing of thousands of innocent civilians. Tadiar then told Balbas to use his discretion.

At 9:40 a.m., Balbas received another call from Ramas with orders to fire at Camp Crame. Balbas replied that he was still positioning his cannons.

At about 11 a.m., Tadiar ordered Balbas to return to Fort Bonifacio. Upon arrival he was relieved of his command of the 4th Marine Provisional Brigade and reverted back to his regular assignment as commanding officer of the Combat Service Support Brigade.

(The sequence of events mentioned above appear in the “Participation Report” submitted to Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, chief of staff, New Armed Forces of the Philippines, by Colonel Balbas on March 1, 1986.)

Just as the defection of Philippine Air Force Col. Antonio Sotelo and his helicopters is considered a major turning point of the revolt, the decision of Colonel Balbas not to fire his howitzers represented a critical moment in the event that eventually led to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Had Balbas fired his cannons, the character of the revolt would have been completely changed with far-reaching consequences for the nation.

Balbas retired as head of Western Command in Palawan with the rank of brigadier general.

Oxales and Balbas both belong to PMA Class 1960.

Sam Miguel
03-27-2015, 08:05 AM
11 Things From Philippine History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly

Trust us, you do, but we can’t say we blame you (it’s happened to us too). The passage of time, wrong information, and inaccurate portrayals have left us picturing famous events just a way bit off-tangent.

For the benefit of enlightenment then, let us look at some of the famous events from Philippine history we’ve been picturing incorrectly and see them for what they really are—warts and all.

11. The First Shot of the Philippine-American War Did Not Happen On A Bridge.
What You’re Picturing: The first shot of the Philippine-American War was fired on the San Juan Bridge.

The Reality: As taught to us so many times during our history class, the first shot which started the Philippine-American War was supposed to have taken place on San Juan Bridge. However, it actually happened on Sociego Street in Sta. Mesa. In fact, the marker has since been moved by the National Historical Institute to a corner of Sociego and Silencio streets.

Also, it is interesting to note that the entire war was started by an Englishman. Yes, Private William Grayson—the man who fired the first shot—was a full-blooded Anglo who later immigrated to Nebraska with his parents when he was still a child.

10. Those Who Attended The Tejeros Convention Were Magdiwang, Not Magdalo.
What You’re Picturing: The Tejeros Convention of 1897 was dominated by members of the Magdalo faction led by Emilio Aguinaldo, leading to the latter being elected as the President.

The Reality: While it was true that Andres Bonifacio had the odds stacked against him at the Tejeros Convention, we’d just like to point out that majority of those present belonged to the Magdiwang faction of which Bonifacio himself was associated with.

In fact, other than Aguinaldo, the rest who won positions in the new government (Mariano Trias, Artemio Ricarte, Emiliano Riege de Dios) were all Magdiwang. Also of note was that Magdiwang controlled a more-powerful army and larger territory than Magdalo.

So, what gives? Why was Bonifacio still defeated? Did both factions band together for the common good, or did they fall prey to regionalism? Can we trust the accounts of those who attended the said convention? Inevitably, however, the infamous Tejeros Convention will have to remain as one of the raging controversies of Philippine history.

9. Jose Rizal Was A Naughty Boy In The Famous “Moth And Lamp” Story.
What You’re Picturing: Little Jose Rizal was an obedient child who listened attentively as her mother told him the “moth and lamp” story.

The Reality: Perhaps no other story sums up Rizal’s childhood so succinctly as his famous story about the lamp and the moth. And despite what you may think, little Rizal was actually being naughty.

Instead of reading a Spanish children’s book diligently given to him by his mother Teodora, he was instead doodling caricatures on its pages. Even after being scolded, he did not pay much attention to the book, instead focusing his gaze on some moths that were flying around a coconut oil lamp.

To get his attention, Lolay (Rizal’s mom’s nickname) decided to finally tell a story about moths in Tagalog. Sure enough, little Jose attentively listened but never loosened his gaze on the flying moths. And contrary to popular belief, one of the moths met its doom by falling and drowning into the coconut oil after its wings got burned, but not by the fire itself.

Still, Rizal would never forget the moths, which he in his grown-up years described as “no longer insignificant to him” after that fateful episode.

8. The Cry of Balintawak (or Cry of Pugadlawin, Etc.) Was A Series Of Meetings.
What You’re Picturing: The Cry of Balintawak (or whatever other historians call it) is synonymous to the tearing of cedulas (community tax certificates) by members of the Katipunan led by Andres Bonifacio.

The Reality: To simplify this monumental event as one where Bonifacio and his followers cried for a revolution outside someone’s yard and tore apart their cedulas would do it injustice. In fact, Bonifacio and other top-ranking members of the Katipunan would repeatedly meet and discuss behind closed doors during those fateful days when the Spanish authorities discovered their existence.

Also, not all leaders of the Katipunan were in favor of the uprising (three of them being Teodoro Plata, Briccio Pantas and Pio Valenzuela). It was only after Bonifacio managed to implead the majority that the revolution finally got underway; the tearing of the cedulas was a mere afterthought (which could be the reason why there are so many differing accounts of the “Cry”).

Again, to sum it up, there was a series of hotly-debated meetings, a plea for patriotism, and finally an overwhelming decision to finally rise up against the Spanish. Real history is sometimes much more badass than the legend itself.

Sam Miguel
03-27-2015, 08:08 AM
^^^ (Cont'd)

7. Blood Compacts Were Made By Drawing Blood On The Chest, Not Arms.
What You’re Picturing: In 1565, Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi entered into a blood compact (sandugo) with Bohol’s Datu Sikatuna. The ritual was done by drawing blood from their arms, mixing it with wine, and drinking the said mixture from a cup.

The Reality: Contrary to popular belief, those famous blood compacts which signified a peace treaty between the Spaniards and the natives were not done by drawing blood on the arms, but on the chest.

The incision was usually made below the breast which was to signify how far the participants would be willing to defend each other’s lives. It also manifested the great trust both parties placed on each other (imagine having a blade so near the heart).

As for the misconception that drawing blood was done on the arms, the mix-up could be attributed to the Katipunan members’ practice of drawing blood on the arms and using it to sign their oath of membership. In time, the blood compacts also came to be wrongly associated with the Katipunan method.

6. Gregorio del Pilar Died Early Due To His Own Carelessness.
What You’re Picturing: Gregorio del Pilar was the last man to die at the Battle of Tirad Pass, desperately charging into battle with his white horse whilst clutching a saber before falling to the superior firearms of the Americans.

The Reality: As fate would have it, del Pilar actually died early in the battle—and it was due to his own carelessness. According to his lieutenant Telesforo Carrasco, del Pilar himself decided to participate in combat after finding out the Americans were being pushed back early on. A few minutes into the battle, he raised his head because of the tall cogon grass and ordered his men to stop firing because he wanted to see the American position.

Carrasco warned the boy general that he should crouch down because he was being targeted. Unfortunately, no sooner than he said that, an American bullet found its mark and shot through del Pilar’s neck, killing him instantly.

Ironically, American general Henry Ware Lawton also met his end earlier in the same way—shot in the chest after standing carelessly exposed in a heated battle.

5. Ferdinand Marcos Wasn’t The First To Proclaim Martial Law.
What You’re Picturing: President Ferdinand Marcos was the first and only person who proclaimed martial law in 1972.

The Reality: We may have the image of a strong-faced Marcos pointedly telling us why he declared martial law on television. However, credit for the first declaration belongs to his Minister of Public Information Francisco “Kit” Tatad who delivered the proclamation on air at 3 PM of September 23, 1972. Marcos himself would go on air much later, at 7:15 PM of the same evening.

4. Jose Rizal Was Finished Off With A Bullet To The Head.
What You’re Picturing: Jose Rizal’s ultimate sacrifice ended with the exclamation point of him turning his back and facing the sun in one last act of defiance against Spanish tyranny.

The Reality: While we won’t debate whether his “twist” was deliberate or accidental, we’d point out Rizal’s execution was completed with the “tiro de gracia” or the mercy blow to really make sure he was dead. After Rizal fell, a medical officer went up to his body to feel his pulse (he didn’t declare whether he was still alive or not), and beckoned for a soldier to shoot Rizal in the head.

The soldier who gave the final blow was in fact the Spanish commander of the firing squad who, after doing the deed, took out Rizal’s bloodied handkerchief and covered his face with it. Also of note was the surreal atmosphere surrounding the execution. While a somber mood dominated the Filipino crowd, the Spanish present (including the friars) treated the whole event as a virtual fiesta, with makeshift viewing stages set up around the execution grounds.

3. Andres Bonifacio Fought With A Revolver, Not A Bolo.
What You’re Picturing: Andres Bonifacio is usually portrayed in movies and statues as a rugged camisa de chino-wearing man wielding a revolver and bolo.

The Reality: While undoubtedly badass, Bonifacio in his lifetime preferred to fight with a revolver and was not known to use a bolo at all. It showed in many instances, such as during the Battle of San Juan, or during the time when he tried to kill Daniel Tirona at the Tejeros Convention. In fact, Bonifacio—in his correspondence with other high-ranking Katipunan members—repeatedly mentioned and emphasized the use of firearms.

The perennial image of a bolo-wielding Bonifacio can be attributed to Isabelo de los Reyes, the founder of the Aglipayan Church and whose accounts characterized the revolution as a plebeian struggle. His writings inspired sculptor Ramon Martinez to immortalize Bonifacio in his 1911 Balintawak monument as the bolo-wielding and flag-holding barefooted peasant who fought for the masses.

2. Emilio Aguinaldo Never Waved The Philippine Flag, Nor Was It Done On A Balcony.
What You’re Picturing: Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed independence on a balcony of his mansion while waving the Philippine flag in the early morning of June 12, 1898.

The Reality: Actually, it was Jose Rizal’s distant relative, a lawyer named Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, who read the Act of the Declaration of Independence in the late afternoon in front of an open window. In fact, Aguinaldo added the balcony only sometime in 1919 to 1921.

Also, while it was Aguinaldo who unfurled the flag, it was Bautista who ended up waving it in front of a jubilant crowd. Lastly, contrary to popular belief, the flag had already flown twice before its official unfurling—at Cavite Nuevo’s Teatro Caviteño after the Filipino victory at the Battle of Alapan, and again at the Spanish barracks after another Filipino win in Binakayan.

1. Lapu-Lapu And Magellan Never Actually Duelled.
What You’re Picturing: Lapu-Lapu killed Ferdinand Magellan in an epic one-on-one fight.

The Reality: While there was much glory to be had for Lapu-Lapu and his men for fending off the invaders from Spain, (begrudging) respect should also be given to Magellan for going down like a true warrior should.

While things initially went well for the Spaniards (yes, they were winning the battle early on with their armor and guns), Magellan and his few dozen men eventually buckled under the endless assault of more than a thousand natives they were fighting in the densely-forested inlands of Mactan.

It didn’t help that the Mactanis started targeting their legs and arms after noticing they were left un-armoured. In the end, it was the heavily injured Magellan (he took a poisoned arrow to the leg, in addition to several slash and stab wounds in his extremities and face) who alone faced off against the natives after he stayed behind to let his men get away, managing to injure and kill a few of them until he was finally overwhelmed and killed on the beach.

So, for all the bravery Lapu-Lapu displayed in defying the Spanish, we also have to give credit to Magellan for making a last stand worthy of a Hollywood movie.

About the Author: When he isn’t deploring the sad state of Philippine politics, Marc V. likes to skulk around the Internet for new bits of information which he can weave into a somewhat-average list you might still enjoy. For comments on this article, contact him at:vaflormarcus@yahoo.com

Sam Miguel
01-27-2016, 01:14 PM
‘Padre Damaso’ and the friars: Myth versus reality


By: Pio Andrade Jr. (Contributor)


Philippine Daily Inquirer

02:45 AM January 25th, 2016

EXACTLY a year ago when Pope Francis visited the Philippines, Carlos Celdran, who claims to be a culture and history guide for tourists and heritage buffs, made a public appeal for the Pope to intervene in his civil case for “offending religious feelings.”

The case was filed against him when he disrupted a service in 2010 at the Manila Cathedral by donning the gentleman’s suit à la Jose Rizal and crying “Padre Damaso!” (a reference to the villain in Rizal’s fiction) at Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and priests and policemen (who were attending the service).

Celdran, who did the stunt to protest alleged Church violation of the separation of Church and state by its political activism, had called for forgiveness, but he was nonetheless convicted by the Manila court. He had vowed to appeal his conviction at the Supreme Court.

Now that the Philippines is observing the first anniversary of the Pope’s visit and hosting for the second time the International Eucharistic Congress since 1937, it would be worthwhile to look closely at the issue.

Is the fictional Padre Damaso an accurate representation of the friars who dominated Philippine life during the Spanish era?

If the friars—the Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans and Recollects—were mostly evil like Damaso, how was Spain able to hold the Philippines for 350 years with a ridiculously low army of occupation?

If the friars were evil Damasos, would Catholicism, which for the past 100 years has been painted black by public education, be deeply implanted in Filipino hearts?

If most of the friars were evil, there would have been many records of lynching of priests by the natives. But how come no such accounts can be found in history books, even those written by historians critical of Spain and the friars?

Let us look at the accomplishments of the friars during the Spanish era which are not adequately described—if they are mentioned at all—in history textbooks.

The friars propagated many useful plants from Mexico during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

In history textbooks and press articles, the Galleon Trade has been simplified as the commercial exchange of Mexican silver with Chinese silk and spices. But many Filipinos do not know of the Mexican plants that came with the galleons, such as corn (maiz), camote (camotl), peanuts, tomato, sunflower, ipil-ipil, cacao, indigo, kalachuchi, marigold, kamatchili (quamochitl), kakawati, maguey, tobacco, acacia, caballero, papaya, chico, coffee, pineapple, guava.

These plants have increased the Philippines’ food supply, providing us new medicines, giving rise to rural industries, and beautifying backyards and plazas.

Some of the better-known friars responsible for the introduction of such flora were: Fr. Jose Davila (cacao and chocolate making); Fr. Diego Garcia (tobacco and cigar making); Fr. Tomas Moncada (wheat); Fr. Octavio (indigo and processing of indigo dyestuff); and Fr. Antonio Sedeno (mulberry; he was a Jesuit, not a friar, but just the same a Catholic missionary like the friars).

Philippine history textbooks are silent about Mexican plants being introduced locally and the big role the friars played in propagating them all over the country. Some of the plants led to the establishment of extensive rural industries such as cigar, indigo dye, tanning leather, chocolate and coffee.

But the friars also propagated useful plants from neighboring Asian countries. They popularized the use of moras or vetiver for erosion control of irrigation canals and small streams; citrus plant species from China for eating and cooking; rosemary and thyme for home remedies; and sugarcane from China for the manufacture of sweets.

The Dominicans brought Tonkin seeds (from Vietnam, of course) and showed the plant’s medicinal potentials.

The friars built roads and bridges for transportation.

Dominican Fr. Juan Villaverde built over 100 kilometers of roads in Pangasinan, Nueva Vizcaya and Kiangan. He also pointed out the Dalton Pass as the gateway to Cagayan Valley.

Recollect Fr. Pedro Cuenca built the Bacolod-Minulan Road in Negros; Franciscan Fr. Victorino del Moral built the famous Puente del Caprichio in Majayjay, Laguna; and Fr. Andres Patino built the Tinajeros Bridge in Malabon.

The friars quarried stone and introduced new building technologies.

Dominican Fray Domingo de Salazar, the first bishop of Manila, quarried at the mouth of the Pasig to come up with solid materials to replace the combustible nipa-and-wood house of the native Filipinos. Jesuit Fr. Sedeno introduced the technology of brickmaking and burning limestone to make lime as mortar for brick and stones to build stone structures. These translated into the building of durable, long-lasting stone bridges, churches, schools, fortifications and bahay-na-bato.

The friars introduced modern irrigation.

The Philippines was a rice exporter in the 1860s until 1880s because of the irrigation systems built by the friars in many provinces. In Cavite province, the Recollects built 18 irrigation systems that watered 21,000 hectares of rice lands.

In Calamba, Laguna, under the Dominicans, eight irrigation systems watered 4,250 hectares of ricelands. In Bataan, an irrigation dam of the Dominicans supplied water to 521 hectares of rice lands. Bulacan had two friar-built irrigation systems watering 1,850 hectares.

In Umingan, Pangasinan, a Dominican priest taught the farmers how to build portable bamboo waterwheels to draw water from brooks or streams below the level of farmlands.

We became a rice importer because it was more profitable to raise sugarcane, abaca and tobacco than rice by the 1880s.

The friars made the abaca industry.

Abaca was a Philippine monopoly and a major export crop starting in the 1830s. Credit is due Franciscan Fray Pedro Espallargas in Albay for inventing the abaca stripper, which made abaca fiber extraction faster and easier while increasing the yield and quality of the abaca fiber, the best marine fiber in the world.

The abaca stripper was so successful that, from 1830 to 1920, abaca became known internationally as “Manila hemp,” and it accounted for 20-40 percent of the foreign exchange earnings of the Philippines.

Fr. Espallargas is unmentioned in history textbooks.

Sam Miguel
01-27-2016, 01:16 PM

The friars established the hospital, banking and water systems in the Philippines.

Fr. Felix Huertas, a Franciscan, is unknown except for a street in Manila’s Santa Cruz district, which does not identify him as a priest. He was the head of San Lazaro Hospital for lepers and he founded Monte de Piedad, a combination of savings bank and pawnshop, which was the first agricultural bank of the Philippines.

But his greatest achievement was completing the forgotten Carriedo to supply Manila with safe, potable running water beginning in 1882.

I do not remember reading about Fr. Huertas in the many articles on Manila’s past published in the Philippine press.

The friars established the modern printing press.

Dominican Fr. Francisco Blancas de San Jose introduced modern printing in the Philippines. This replaced the wooden block press, also introduced by him and the Dominicans, which published the first books in the country such as “Doctrina Cristiana.”

The press was a big help in education. It helped disseminate the Gospel in the native languages, which meant the friars did not destroy local languages and cultures, as most history books virulently declare, but, rather, they studied and conserved them. The press that Father Blancas established is still running today—the University of Santo Tomas Press, which is the second oldest in the world after Cambridge.

The friars cultivated the Filipino’s talent in music and the performing arts.

Filipinos are the minstrels of Asia. One writer noted that nightclubs in Asia would always boast of their Filipino musicians. Indeed, the Philippines may be the most musical of Asians and the friars cultivated the musicality of Filipinos.

Franciscan Fr. Jeronimo Aguilar was the first to teach Filipinos and deepen their musical talents. The friars taught the natives music for Mass and other religious rituals. I have seen in the National Archives a few Cuentas, the record of income and expenses of each province during the Spanish era; they showed that choir members were paid for their services.

The friars defended the Filipinos from abusive Moro attackers and slave traders and built fortifications that have withstood the test of time.

While busy building communities, the friars were also defenders of the natives from corrupt local leaders and pirates who periodically raided coastal villages to plunder and acquire slaves.

The friars built a hospital and welfare system in the Philippines that was ahead of North America’s.

The friars built the first hospitals in the Philippines; they built them in the first century of Spanish rule, antedating the system in the United States by 100 years.

They introduced medicinal plants from Mexico and Spain and recorded for posterity the herbal cures used by the natives, so that Philippine herbal medicinal knowledge and skills were conserved.

The friars built the sugar industry.

The giant sugar industry was also due to the work of the friars, particularly the Recollects missions in Negros. Sugarcane then was first crushed between two wood or stone cylinders called trapiche to yield its sweet juice.

Fr. Fernando Cuenca introduced the first hydraulic sugarcane crusher in 1850, which began the sugar boom and made Negros a very wealthy province.

The friars built the looming industry.

The Dominicans, who founded University of Santo Tomas, the oldest university and the only Pontifical university in Asia, introduced the first modern loom system, supplanting the native loom and making weaving faster and easier. Thus, the weaving industry became a big home industry in many places in the country.

The friars, not the North Americans, introduced public instruction.

Most Filipinos have been led to believe that Spain did not educate the Filipinos to make them submissive to Spanish officials and that the United States introduced public education in the Philippines. This is a big lie.

Formal public education in the Philippines officially began in 1863 with the Educational Reform Act. But even before that the friars had been active in teaching elementary reading and writing.

Gunnar Myrdal, in his monumental classic “Asian Drama,” wrote that the Philippines was ahead of other colonized Asian countries in education in the second half of the 19th century. The Philippines had higher literacy than other Asian countries, even higher than Spain, according to data submitted by Taft to the US Congress.

This was, in fact, the prime reason for the Katipunan revolution—our relatively advanced state of education and the economic progress under Spain that had been largely fostered by the friars. Revolutions are not started by uneducated masses.

It is important to point out that the Philippines was economically prosperous during the last four decades of Spanish rule, thanks to the agriculture-based industries—abaca, sugar, tobacco, indigo, and coffee—the propagation and cultivation of which were pushed by the friars.


Many of the information about the big role the friars played in Philippine cultural and economic advancement are not being taught in our schools; thus, generations of Filipinos do not know of the good friars. Thus, Filipinos are culturally Catholics but are superficial about Catholicism, especially its moral teachings and the work of the missionaries.

With the visit of good Pope Francis last year and the hosting of the International Eucharistic Congress this week by the Archdiocese of Cebu—the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines and the largest diocese in Asia, and whose Visayan people are known for their very intense devotion to the Santo Niño introduced by the Augustinians, the first missionary order in the country—it is imperative to re-examine the prejudice against the friars fostered by our ignorance and the lies spread by anti-Catholic or pseudo-nationalist historians and writers.

Filipino Catholics should banish the negative and largely false image of the friars fostered by dishonest historians, politicians, writers, media men and culture tour guides like Carlos Celdran.

Pio Andrade Jr. is a history buff and freelance journalist. He obtained degrees from Mapua Institute of Technology and University of Florida, and is a science researcher who has written several studies on ethnobotany, radiation chemistry, textile chemistry, food technology, pesticides and biomass energy.

11-29-2017, 09:41 AM
Why this OFW won't be home for Christmas

By: Alan Udtag - @inquirerdotnet 05:04 AM November 29, 2017

Christmas has begun. Overseas Filipino workers like me are excited to go home to celebrate with family and friends. But news just broke of the two-week suspension of issuance of new overseas employment certificates (OECs), or exit passes. Thousands of OFWs have been prevented from leaving and possibly lost their jobs.

This made me reconsider my plans to buy that overpriced return ticket: SIN-MNL-SIN.

I am a direct hire, working legally in Singapore for almost seven years now. Direct hires are hired without going through an employment agency. This is now banned by Section 123 of the 2016 Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Rules. Sure, there are exceptions, but these rely solely on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III's discretion.

Is that not a terrible bottleneck? The labor secretary reading thousands upon thousands of requests for OEC exemptions daily? Is that not too much to ask of Bello, a senior citizen?

And what does one do while waiting for him to decide? Nothing but wait and pray that he comes to his senses and realizes that there is a better way of protecting the rights of Filipinos working abroad.

Last year, they changed the rules so I no longer need to apply for new OECs as long as I work for the same company. But come the time that I find a better opportunity and want to change employers, I will be required to apply for a new OEC or whatever the POEA will require then.

My fear is this: If I go back for Christmas, a new POEA rule might suddenly prevent me from leaving. I could lose my job and the entire world I spent years building abroad.

Of course, there is a workaround: I could declare myself a tourist and pay for the airport and travel taxes. I could simply lie. They would not dare curtail my constitutional right to travel, would they?

I remember the last time I stood in an immigration queue at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. I saw domestic helpers clutching their neatly arranged documents dearly. Their hands shook as they approached the immigration officer, who knew very well that he had the power to decide if the kasambahay could leave or not.

I wanted to tell them to be cool, that it is their basic right to travel and to pursue what they think might be a better life. But, of course, I kept my mouth shut and minded my own business. Like everyone in that special OFW queue, I wanted to get out of there with no hassle.

The question is: Why do our kababayan fear immigration officers even if they are carrying complete requirements? Because "offloading" is not uncommon. An OFW can be prevented from leaving any time. Then if you want to try to get on another flight, you have to pay for a new ticket. Even legitimate tourists are subject to this injustice.

I would love to see better and more realistic rules implemented by the POEA. I understand that Bello's mandate is to protect OFWs from abuses. But all-encompassing rules such as banning direct hires, with vague exceptions, is a waste of time, effort and resources.

I know of Filipinos who work as vice presidents in multinational banks. I sincerely doubt that these folks, or even a lowly IT consultant for a global company like myself, would need an employment agency's help to resolve employment issues.

The government would be better off auditing existing agencies that deploy domestic helpers and charge exorbitant fees that they have to pay over several months?over SG$1,000. Let me spell that out: The POEA requires these humble helpers to work for months just to be able to pay agency fees. Is that not a form of legalized, modern-day slavery?

Going back to my dilemma, should I go home for Christmas and risk not being able to fly back and eventually lose my job? Or should I just tell my mother that, sorry, I will not be there for Christmas, her birthday and New Year?s Day, like in the past three years?

The risk of being trapped in my own country by a POEA rules change is too worrying. We will have to be content with virtual hugs for a fourth year.

* * *

Alan Udtag is an IT professional working in Singapore.

02-27-2018, 08:05 AM
Jose W. Diokno and principled politics

By: Ed Garcia - @inquirerdotnet 05:07 AM February 27, 2018

Jose "Ka Pepe" W. Diokno died on Feb. 27, 1987, a little more than a month after demonstrating peasants were gunned down on Mendiola, which practically put an end to the peace talks that he was leading. "Jobs and justice, food and freedom" was the framework he had proposed for the talks; the peace process was ended in a hail of bullets before he died.

I remember Ka Pepe struggling to contain his tears as we heard about the massacre of peasants on Mendiola on Jan. 22, which led to his resignation as head of the human rights committee and as the government's peace czar. I had come to consult him during the last stages of the campaign to seek the citizens' approval of the 1987 Constitution in a referendum then scheduled on Feb. 2. He had devoted his life to causes that totally consumed him, and he was at the end of his physical powers but there was still fire and fight in his eyes.

By his life and example, by his deeds and his words, Ka Pepe defined courage for an entire generation who lived through the long night of martial law. He embodied the resistance to dictatorship, he upheld human rights in season and out of season, he led the struggle to oust US military bases from Philippine shores.

He did so by practicing a brave brand of principled politics, by taking a stand without regard for his political fortunes or personal safety. He spoke out eloquently and tirelessly in the halls of Congress and in the streets, throughout the country and abroad.

I remember Ka Pepe soon after his release from the dictator's prison, where he stood his ground strong and unbowed. He spoke firmly about the need to resist the excesses of martial law in the town plazas of the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions. On one occasion in Sorsogon, he spoke to a crowd surrounded by soldiers carrying Armalites. He did not blink; nothing seemed to deter or discourage him.

I remember Ka Pepe leading a rally in Davao City's main plaza in driving rain. It was in that city after the vast gathering that I first noticed that he would cough incessantly, his booming baritone struggling to be heard above the din. He was in the first stages of his battle against cancer, and he would not let that deadly disease deter his crusade.

In the end, Ka Pepe was defined by the crusades he fought. He raged against violations of human rights; thus, soon after his release from prison he founded FLAG, or the Free Legal Assistance Group. He did not run away from a fight and consistently argued against the presence of US military bases on Philippine soil. He never accepted the rationale for Marcos' martial law and resisted the dictatorship till the end, without a hint of compromise. He defended the common man in the law courts and in the halls of the legislature, in the plazas, and in school assemblies. He defended the unjustly persecuted, such as Fr. Niall O'Brien, an Irish Columban missionary, and his companions. Called the “Negros Nine,” O’Brien and his companions were set free after Ka Pepe's brilliant defense scuttled the lies and the lack of logic in the trumped-up murder charges leveled at them.

He left a singular legacy: He pioneered principled politics, a new way of doing politics that was honorable and unafraid, bold and brave, giving assurance to those who were advanced in age and providing inspiration and encouragement to the youth of the land.

Jose W. Diokno defined courage for a generation that resisted martial law in the Marcos era. He defied the dictatorship that imprisoned him and the designs of the imperial power that supported the dictatorial regime. Thirty-one years after his death, he lives on in his ideals and his dreams, and his deeply held belief that it is worth building "a nation for our children."

* * *

Ed Garcia is a veteran of the First Quarter Storm and a framer of the 1987 Constitution.

03-13-2018, 10:19 AM
PH in the grip of political dynasties

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:10 AM March 13, 2018

The 1987 Constitution is blunt about the bane posed by political dynasties. Art. II, Sec. 26 says, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

The Consultative Committee appointed by President Duterte to review the Constitution as part of the Charter change efforts of his administration likewise thinks so.

The 20-member committee has voted to regulate political dynasties by prohibiting relatives of incumbent officials up to the second degree of consanguinity (relations by blood) and affinity (relations by law) to run for public office.

The committee’s consensus is that the “extent of the domination by political dynasties … have led to bad governance, created monopoly of political and economic power, bastardized democracy, stunted socioeconomic development, and contributed to poverty.”

However, the committee’s proposals are merely that — recommendatory. Congress as a constituent assembly may choose to ignore the committee’s action points altogether — as it has ignored the various antipolitical dynasty bills filed over the decades, all of them eventually moldering and dying in the self-serving legislative mill that remains caught in the unyielding grip of the Philippines’ sprawling dynastic families.

Overweening self-entitlement is what drives these families to think that they have a natural right to public office.

Take Imee Marcos, who hinted recently about seeking a seat in the Senate, saying her family had discussed the matter because her brother Bongbong’s election protest was taking some time to resolve: “Napag-usapan na ito sa pamilya namin dahil itong protesta ni Bongbong is taking forever.”

The efforts of the late dictator’s heirs to put the Marcos scion and namesake in the vice president’s post having failed so far, they think it’s expected of them to have that imagined slot reserved for them in national politics filled up by another blood member.

The sense of entitlement is acute: Heaven forbid that a political slot be ceded to anyone else; if the son can’t hack it, then the daughter must step up.

According to a study by Prof. Rolando Simbulan of the University of the Philippines, that dynamic happens across much of the country, with 73 of the 81 provinces of the Philippines under dynastic control.

Another study — by Dean Ronald Mendoza et al. of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government — as cited by Inquirer columnist Cielito Habito, highlighted the particular insidiousness of the Philippine experience: “Cross-country comparisons suggest that the Philippines has been unusually more prone to political dynasties than other countries … with 75 percent of lawmakers belonging to dynasties as of 2013. In the United States, the figure was 6 percent, while it was 10 percent in Argentina and Greece, 22 percent in Ireland, 24 percent in India, 33 percent in Japan, 40 percent in Mexico, and 42 percent in Thailand.”

Leveling the playing field and ensuring more equitable representation in political life are crucial to a healthy republic, but the framers of the 1987 Constitution fell short in enshrining that principle by leaving the crucial task to lawmakers — the very products of that very rotten system.

True to form, the political heirs have only used their family perches to strengthen and expand their hold on power.

As the Ateneo study pointed out, in the 8th Congress (1987-1992), 62 percent of legislators had relatives in elective positions; that number went up to 66 percent by the 12th Congress (1998-2001), and 75 percent in the 14th Congress.

Even the party-list system, designed to democratize representation in Congress, has been hijacked, with one of every four sectoral representatives (14 of 56) now also coming from dynastic backgrounds.

Any whole-scale amendment of the Constitution must start with one basic but radical scalpel work on the system: the long-delayed ban on political dynasties.