Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Holy Week beliefs

Holy Week beliefs

Posted 00:54am (Mla time) Mar 23, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A13 of the March 23, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

WITH THE THREAT of terrorism looming in the background, I was told that our parish cancelled the traditional Holy Week procession and Easter Sunday "salubong." We have been warned that the Abu Sayyaf plans to bomb churches this week in retaliation for the killing of their cohorts who tried to escape from prison. Most people I have talked to ask aloud why the terrorists would pick on churches when there are other targets to choose from.

Holy Week is not the time for vengeance, but some hotheads suggest that if churches are bombed this week, maybe the same thing should be done to mosques during Ramadan. Unfortunately, the picture is oversimplified into a holy war, and in the process we forget that the Abu Sayyaf are plain bandits with no political or religious issues to promote.

Holy Week has indeed changed from what I knew as a child in the days before cable TV and malls. In those Jurassic days, you could not watch anything even slightly entertaining on TV, except re-runs of Fr. Patrick Peyton's "Holy Rosary Crusade" which seemed to have been filmed originally in Spanish and dubbed in English because the mouths did not quite coordinate with the speech. Most memorable is that Christ's face was never shown and all the viewers had to guide them into prayer was the back of his head with long black hair with curled ends-obviously a cheap wig.

Movie houses took the opportunity to re-run Cecil B. DeMille's classic "Ten Commandments," whose special effects will make viewers today yawn or, much worse, laugh. (One wonders if we will have reruns of Gibson's bloody "Passion" movie.) With all business establishments closed, there was very little diversion available and people could go home or bond with each other on the beach.

Frankly, it was not till I lived in a monastery that I realized how rich Catholic liturgy could be. When I was a child, Holy Week was spent on a beach, or playing with my cousins in Pampanga. We would attend a Wednesday procession in my father's hometown, watch flagellants in San Fernando and hear the wailing of "Pasyon" [Passion] everywhere.

This year, Instituto Cervantes in Manila has taken on the Pasyon tradition and will have a marathon oral reading of the entire Don Quixote over a number of days to commemorate a Cervantes anniversary. Perhaps a marathon reading of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation can be attempted, though I wonder if one week would be long enough.

With the change in Holy Week habits, there are many beliefs that are also beginning to change or be extinct. For example, we were told not to bathe on Good Friday. I didn't know what this was all about. When I asked for a reason, the reply was like a Zen koan: "Patay ang tubig." How can water be dead? We were not allowed to go to the beach or even play at 3 p.m. on Good Friday in commemoration, I guess, of Christ's death.

That, along with fasting and abstinence, was what was most memorable about Holy Week in my childhood. So when I was going over Fr. Francisco Demetrio's two-volume "Dictionary of Folk Beliefs and Customs," it reminded me of Holy Week in the past.

It was believed that accidents usually happened in Holy Week. Frankly, it had nothing to do with the season. It was just that you had an unusually big number of travelers and people returning to hometowns so accidents happened. These days on the expressways, we have rest stops and gas stations. In the North Luzon Expressway, you actually have swift assistance from tollways police who provide a phone or water for an overheated car.

There was also a belief that if an animal or insect bit you during Holy Week that bite was poisonous. The rest of the year these bites were harmless.

You were also warned to be extra careful because if you were wounded during Holy Week, the wound would take longer to heal. We were told the exact opposite about flagellants who were all bloodied, because they cut their backs with razor blades or specially made paddles with spikes, and when they were finished with their penitential rite, they bathed in the river and everything healed quickly.

Fashion also changed during Holy Week, because there was a taboo on wearing red on Good Friday, but nobody seemed to mind the Nazareno of Quiapo and his devotees who did wear red.

Roasting food on Good Friday was said to cause freckles or, even worse, turn the face soot black.

Other things you shouldn't do on Good Friday were: sweeping, spending, over-eating, laughing, traveling, working, walking about, using sharp objects, etc.-the list was quite long.

Most interesting is the underside to folk customs that state that magicians, witches, shamans and similar types recharge their powers during this time. Amulets, or "anting-anting," are also created or recharged during Holy Week.

The catalogue of Holy Week beliefs, as recorded by Demetrio, makes for interesting reading today because many urban people have outgrown them. There must be a logical or anthropological reason for all these beliefs and practices, and one can only hope that researchers compile current practices so that we can compare and contrast our present Holy Week beliefs and customs with the past.

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Comments are welcome at

Friday, March 18, 2005

Street names

Street names

Posted 00:47am (Mla time) Mar 18, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the March 18, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHEN there is yet another change in street names, historically conscious people usually turn to the National Historical Institute (NHI) first to complain. Under existing rules, prior consultation with the NHI should be made before a street name can be changed. The same principle also applies to proposals to rename public school buildings.

While the buck often ends with the NHI chair, the complete staff work and recommendations are made by the NHI research division under Dr. August de Viana and Carminda Arevalo. They go through the paperwork, look for precedents and other connections, resulting in a decision for or against the proposed change.

As a matter of principle, the NHI objects to changing street names that have been in existence for a long time and can be deemed "sanctified by usage." However, we have seen recent changes like Aduana in Intramuros now changed to Soriano or Pasay Road in Makati now changed to Arnaiz. I'm too young to remember the debate over the change from Azcarraga to Recto, but as a historian I realize that street names are not just signs to help us find an address, but also a way of remembering the past. The unsuccessful move to rename the Rizal Memorial Stadium as Benigno Aquino Stadium is an example of recent history overlapping with something older. Is there form, pattern, or logic to all these changes? The answer is worth a doctoral dissertation.

In the past 15 years, there have been repeated moves to rename Taft Avenue to either Aglipay, Aguinaldo or Diokno Avenue. They all failed because there was enough public opinion to oppose the change, but what about smaller, lesser-known streets?

Instead of blaming the NHI for changes in street names, people should vent their ire on government officials or legislators who initiate such moves because the NHI's opinion is consultative rather than deliberative. In simple language, this means that the NHI's opinion must be sought and, in principle, followed, but if the proponent is bull-headed, there is very little the NHI can do unless it is supported by public outrage.

Last year, there was a move to change España Boulevard to Arturo Tolentino Boulevard. Dr. De Viana, who also teaches at the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (incidentally founded by Spanish Dominicans, whose main campus is along España) came up with a position paper that should be taken in consideration in case another proposal is made to rename the street:

"Historically, España belongs to a series of streets that had something to do with Spain. There are street names such as: Galicia, Algeciras, Extremadura and Catalu¤a, which are Spanish provinces. One street, Dos Castillas, refers to Leon and Castille that are represented in the Spanish flag. Another, Maria Cristina, was named after the Queen of Spain who served as regent during the minority of King Alfonso XIII. There is also a street named Don Quixote, the main personality in the novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Other streets carry the names of virtues in Spanish: Economia, Trabajo, Prudencio and Constancia. The rest were apparently the names of relatives of the former estate, such as Eloisa, Adelina, Paquita, etc. Near the boundary of Quezon City the streets straddling España have names that relate to Jose Rizal: P. Leoncio (Rizal's godfather), Craig (after Austin Craig, one of Rizal's biographers), Basilio, Sisa and Ibarra (characters in 'Noli me tangere'). The pattern of these streets shows an aesthetic unity that could be easily destroyed by the renaming of even one of these."

Dr. De Viana then continues his lament:

"There are cases when the renaming of streets was pushed through even if the NHI interposed objection. Some renaming have taken place even without consultation with the NHI ... To my knowledge, there are already some streets along España [that] have been renamed without [prior] consultation with the NHI. These are: Constancia (now Cristobal), Pepin (now Marzan), and Forbes (now Arsenio Lacson). Earlier, P. Leoncio was renamed Antonio Quintos, Cataluña (now Tolentino), Economia (now Manuel de la Fuente), Trabajo (now Vicente G. Cruz) and Washington (now Antonio Maceda)."

We can go on with historical and emotional reasons to retain España. Dr. De Viana dug up a little known fact that provides a legal basis:

"The land where España Boulevard is located was donated by Antonio de la Riva, owner of the Sulucan Estate Corporation, on the condition that it shall be named after the Iberian nation. In 1952 the City Council of Manila tried to rename the boulevard but the heirs of de la Riva reminded city officials of the conditions of the donation. Furthermore, España is classified as a national road, as indicated by its white street signs. City roads are indicated by blue street signs. National roads are not under the jurisdiction of local governments, therefore the Local Government Code cannot be used as basis for the renaming.

"Instead of renaming the boulevard, España should be improved and beautified since it recognizes the nation's Spanish heritage. It could [also] become the venue of celebrations of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day now celebrated every June 30."

One must add that in Madrid, the place where the Rizal monument stands is Avenida de Filipinas. Heritage conservation is not just about old structures and antiquities but sometimes can be as commonplace as street names.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005



Posted 00:14am (Mla time) Mar 16, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the March 16, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

COMMENTING on the attention to detail in my work, someone once said that I would have been better off as an anthropologist rather than as a historian. Observing people is one of my joys, and one of the things I try to impart to my students. We often go through life seeing a multitude of things but we rarely take the time to stop and really notice.

I asked my students recently how a blind person would distinguish between the current P5 and P10 coins. Eyesight made the students remark that it was the gold inner part of the coin that made one different from the other. Our coinage is actually blind-friendly because you can tell by size, weight and shape (and even a hole) the different denominations, but the P5 and P10 peso coins are of a similar size and weight.

I asked my students to close their eyes and try and figure out what the difference was and was amused by their answers. One person said that if you drop the coins, the sounds are different. Another said that if you run your fingers over the coin, the way a mahjong player feels the surface ["salat"] of a mahjong tile, you could sense that the P10 coin feels different. Another student said that all a blind person has to do is use the unidentified coin to pay for something worth P7. If he gets change, then he must have handed over a P10 coin, and if the seller asks for P2 more, then he has P5.

Actually, you can tell by feeling the rim of the coins. The rim of the P5 coin is smooth, while that of P10 is ribbed. We handle these coins daily and yet we do not notice the text or pictures on them. We see the coins but do not note their differences. There is something about disability that strengthens the rest of the working senses.

The same can also be said about symbols. One of my friends who regularly passes through Lito Atienza's Baywalk noticed the street sign saying "Ped Xing" and asked me for its historical significance. Frankly, I was tempted to create a whole story about a Chinese adventurer in 1360 who married a pre-colonial princess in Malate and sired many children, one of whom produced many offspring from whom Jose Rizal could trace his ancestry. Of course, I come from the illegitimate line of the family. But I told her the sign was simply a short form for "Pedestrian Crossing." One can only wonder how many people want to know who "Ped Xing" is, but are afraid to ask. How many people pass through this sign daily but never notice?

The Philippine flag is one of the symbols we encounter daily, but we never stop to ask ourselves what the symbols mean and whether the symbolism taught to us in school conforms to the historical documentation. For example, one of the questions I usually ask my students is to give me the symbolism of the sun. Very few people can enumerate the eight provinces that are immortalized in the eight rays of the sun. Worse, when I ask that they pinpoint these provinces on the map, very few know that all eight are Luzon provinces. When you continue the interrogation and ask why these provinces were chosen, the standard reply is that these were "the first eight provinces that revolted against Spain." Historically, these were the first eight provinces placed under martial law by the Spaniards at the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution.

We all know that our flag is unique in that it flies with the blue field up in times of peace and the red field up in times of war. But, what about the colors? Do they mean anything else? Doesn't the declaration of independence read in Kawit on June 12, 1898 state that the red, white and blue in our flag is based on the red, white and blue of the US flag?

Mariano Ponce in 1899 sent a Philippine flag to a friend with a letter explaining the symbols as follows:

"...[T]he blue, color of the sky, means our hope in a future prosperity, through progress; the red means the blood with which we bought our independence; the white represents peace which we wish for ours and foreign countries. The sun represents the progress, and sometimes means that the Philippine nation belongs to the Oriental family, like Japan, Korea, etc., who bear also one sun in their flags. The three stars are the three great groups of islands composing the Archipelago, the Luzon group, the Bisayas group, and the Mindanao group."

Emilio Aguinaldo and other patriots have their own take on the flag and to enumerate them here will cause more confusion. You can choose from a number of texts to make a certain point.

Of late, there have been moves to redesign the flag and make it more sensitive to present socio-political life. There have been proposals for a ninth-ray in the sun or a crescent moon to make the flag inclusive of Mindanao, which is already represented by a star. One of Aguinaldo's speeches explained the rays of the sun saying it:

"...[S]tirred up Filipinos and spread the light over their world ... it is now the light which brightens every spot in the Philippine islands, and under its influence the Itas, Igorots, Manguians and Moros, all of whom I believe were made in the image of God, and whom I recognize as our brethren, now come down from the mountains to join with us."

Symbols are open to numerous interpretations, and in the case of the flag, it can be used to unite or divide. The choice is ours, which reading do we take?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Pigafetta on the coconut

Pigafetta on the coconut

Posted 00:26am (Mla time) Mar 09, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the March 9, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

OUR Christmas tree burned down last Rizal Day. The burning tree was dumped into the swimming pool and everyone was grateful that the fire was detected before it blazed like the one in Speaker Jose de Venecia's home.

That tree had seen many gifts under it over the years. One year, the fad was candles; another year, homemade scented soaps. Last Christmas, the gift of choice was virgin coconut oil.

It seems from remembrances of Christmases past that the days of the fruitcake (British friends refer to it as the "Christmas cake") are numbered. It is truly a joy to see this one staple of Christmas slowly growing extinct. The fruitcake used to be the refuge of the unimaginative. What do you give someone who has everything? A fruitcake. What is the safest gift for a person you hardly know? A fruitcake.

There was a time when we received one too many fruitcakes and so they were immediately recycled. Since these came nicely wrapped, all that was needed was to change the card. Soon the rumor went around that there were only a handful of fruitcakes in existence and that they just kept making the rounds, unopened and uneaten, every Christmas.

I have a secret source of cakes in Makati produced by a lady who imagines herself as the super-heroine Wonder Woman, but for me she is best described as a genie out of a bottle. Her cakes and desserts are the best in town.

It's almost Holy Week and I still have bottles of virgin coconut oil that I cannot recycle anymore. This is supposed to be healthy and should be taken in gulps daily. We tried coconut oil on salads, used it to fry food, used it on our hair as my mother used to, and soon I will try using coconut oil for my weekly massage at the risk of smelling like “bibingka” [native rice cake].

Coconuts and coconut oil have been with us a long time. The earliest detailed reference to them can be found in Antonio Pigafetta's account of the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan.

In March 1521, after escaping the thieves in the place they christened Ladrones Island, they sailed toward Samar and anchored on an island south of Samar called Suluan. Magellan ordered tents set up by the beach. While they were resting there and fetching fresh water, a boat with nine men on board arrived. Magellan offered food and drink to the men who were ornately dressed and later presented some fabulous (to him) gifts to what they presumed were heathen primitive natives. The gifts consisted of red caps, mirrors, combs, bells and other trinkets. In return, the men gave Magellan fish, a jar (earthenware or perhaps even Oriental ceramic vessel) with palm wine they called “vraca,” and bananas which Pigafetta, who was seeing them for the first time, described as "figs more than a foot long." They were also given smaller better-tasting bananas and two coconuts.

Due to the language barrier, the men spoke in sign language and made it understood that they would return in four days with rice, other types of food, and, again, coconuts. So Pigafetta describes the coconut and its uses in great detail:

"...Just as we have bread, wine, oil and vinegar in their several kinds, these people have the aforesaid things which come only from the palm [coconut] trees. Wine is obtained from these in the following manner. They make an aperture into the heart of the tree at its top which is called palmito, from which is distilled along the tree a liquor like white must, which is sweet with a touch of greenness. Then they take canes as thick as a man's leg, by which they draw off this liquor, fastening them to the tree from the evening until next morning, and from morning to the evening so that the said liquor comes little by little.

"This tree bears a fruit named cocho [coconut], which is as large as the head, and its first husk is green and two fingers thick, in which are found certain fibers of which those people make the ropes by which they bind their boats. Under this husk is another, very hard and thicker than that of a nut. The second husk they burn and make of it a powder that is useful to them. And under said husk there is a white marrow of a finger's thickness, which they eat fresh with meat and fish, as we do bread, and it has the flavor of an almond, and if it were dried it would make bread.

"From the center of this marrow there flows a water which is clear and sweet and very refreshing, and when it stands and settles it congeals and becomes like an apple. And when they wish to make oil, they take this fruit called cocho and put it in the sun and let said marrow putrefy and ferment in the water, then they boil it, and it becomes oil like butter.

"When they wish to make vinegar, they let the water of the said cocho ferment and put it in the sun, which turns it into vinegar like white wine. From the said fruit milk can also be made, as we proved by experience. For we scraped the marrow, then mixed it with its own water, [squeezed] and being passed through a cloth it became like goat's milk. This kind of palm is like the palm tree that bears dates, but not so knotty. And two of these trees will sustain a family of ten persons."

Reading Pigafetta's 1521 narrative and knowing all the coconut products and by-products we have today, the coconut can really be called a "tree of life."

After virgin coconut oil, what next?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Other unfinished Rizal manuscripts

Other unfinished Rizal manuscripts

Posted 00:08am (Mla time) Mar 02, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the March 2, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SOME readers have e-mailed to ask for more information on the two unfinished works of Jose Rizal summarized in last Friday's column. For those who want to read "Reminiscences of a Cock" and "The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands," these can be found in a little-known compilation called "Rizal's Prose" (Vol. III Book 2 of the Writings of Jose Rizal series published by the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission in 1962 and recently reprinted by the National Historical Institute).

Another volume in the series of similar interest is "Miscellaneous Writings" of Rizal, which contains a mixed bag ranging from his medical notebooks, to "Rules for the Determination of the Dimensions of Parapets," and a list of shells he collected in Dapitan. "Prose" is basically on literary works while "Miscellaneous Writings" is just that, stray pieces on a variety of topics not easily classified: notes on Tagalog orthography, the treatment of the bewitched (or how to cure a victim of a “mangkukulam” or witch), and one of the few articles Rizal originally wrote in English, this being his re-telling of the famous Philippine folktale "The Monkey and the Turtle." As everything is translated from the original Spanish or French or Tagalog, some people are misled into thinking that Rizal wrote some fairy tales that include "The Ugly Duckling" because the compiler forgot to mention that these tales by Hans Christian Andersen were translated into Tagalog and illustrated by Rizal for his nephews and nieces. These are best read in Rizal's original Tagalog.

It is truly unfortunate that a hero who left so much writing is so seldom read by his people. Maybe we are so conditioned to associate Rizal with nationalism and holidays that we forget he can be an engaging writer on a wide range of topics. To read him is to rediscover not just another aspect of the hero but a way to understand ourselves as Filipinos.

Before we go any further, I must correct a mistake in Friday's column that said Rizal placed the last period on the "Noli Me Tangere" in Berlin at 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, 1887. I checked with my offset copy of the manuscript and realized two things: first, the date should be Feb. 21, 1887, and, second, that my memory is starting to slip. Nevertheless, opening the above volumes of Rizal's writings brought out more forgotten material, like a fable that is worth reprinting here:

"Once two friends found a clam near the sea. They debated as to who would have it.

"'I,’ one said, 'saw it first.'

"'But I picked it up,' replied his friend.

"They went to court and asked the judge to settle the question. The judge opened the shell, ate the meat, and divided the shell between the litigants. A reminder to those fond of resorting to the courts of justice."

Another unfinished story or novel is quite similar to George Orwell's "Animal Farm." First published in 1946, Orwell set the story in a place called Manor Farm, renamed Animal Farm after a successful revolt of the animals that drove out the humans. The leader of the animals was a pig named Napoleon.

In Rizal's story the leader of the animals is also a pig, named Botiok. In this farm lived an efficient farmhand named Suan, who produced healthy and productive animals. One day, for some unknown reason, the animals turned sickly. Egg production dropped, the turkeys lost the sheen on their feathers and the other animals grew thin. This was strange, because there was no epidemic of animal disease at the time. The narrator, who was born on St. Solomon's Day, had the gift of understanding the language of animals, so he climbed and hid in a makopa tree to eavesdrop on the animals. Here he discovered that the animals, like humans, had a social structure of their own, with the pig at the head of their society. The great grand pig who had been castrated two years earlier and awaited slaughter for the Christmas table, was named Botiok and asked the other farm animals to obey him. "We the pigs are the superior race; you're an inferior race. Who will deny it? None of you has a snout as long and mobile as ours."

A turkey countered with "Ticaticatoccatoc!" which in translation meant "But we have a long and hanging red chest!"

Botiok replied: "But you don't have our broad ears."

"But we have a beard," replied another turkey.

Botiok, unimpressed, said: "Of course, you have a chest and beard, but you don't have the high honor of having been touched by Suan, our God and Lord. You aren't consecrated, that is, you aren't castrated like us; in this, you're inferior!"

A hen interrupted by saying: "There are also castrated cocks!"

Yet again Rizal left the manuscript unfinished, and on this note, the untitled work now known as "Suan's Animals" comes to an abrupt end.

Orwell left us with a fable on the failure of totalitarianism by showing Napoleon the pig living off the toil of other farm animals, walking on its hind legs and entertaining the very same humans they had booted out of the farm. Orwell showed that a line dividing pigs from men had been blurred, while Rizal's anti-clerical story seems to point to the fact that the line that divided pigs from friars was also blurred.

How this fable would have turned out, we will never know. But sometimes it is in the what-ifs that history becomes quite lively. Happy reading.

Treasures of Santa Cruz Church

Treasures of Santa Cruz Church

Posted 00:09am (Mla time) Mar 04, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the March 4, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

ONE of these days, I have to visit veteran photojournalist Ed Santiago in his modest Paco home to get a glimpse into my life two decades ago when we were both working for the now defunct Philippines Daily Express. He was, aside from Manny Goloyugo, the photographer I would always ask for because he was genuinely interested in the historical materials that ended up as illustrations for my magazine articles.

While sorting and filing these black and white photographs recently, I realized that whenever we went on a photo shoot -- for example, reproducing artifacts, pictures and documents from the National Library, the National Archives or the Lopez Memorial Museum -- he also took pictures of me at work. Now I can wax nostalgic over my lost youth.

One photograph has me peering out from the topmost window in the Emilio Aguinaldo mansion in Kawit, Cavite. Visitors are not allowed into the tower today, nor are they shown the numerous secret passageways and peep holes that dot the house. But even if I could push my weight around and insist on doing it again, I don't have the energy to climb the steep steps all the way to Aguinaldo's old lookout. I don't even think my overweight frame will fit into the pigeon coop I was photographed in.

Another photograph shows me on my knees at the door of Santa Cruz Church in Manila. Despite five years of monastic training, this is not one of my favorite positions. I was not praying or atoning for my sins. Curious about an ancient granite slab there, I had poured water on it and started rubbing it with old newspapers. It turned out to be a tombstone (one of many around the church) marking the grave of Jose Herrera who died in 1800 at the age of 82. A photograph of the same tombstone is in the recently published book "Santa Cruz Church: A Living Heritage," by Anna Maria L. Harper who occupies this same column space on other days.

The book isn't in the bookstores yet, but can surely be acquired in the church. Lavishly illustrated, it covers the history of the church and parish from its beginnings in the late 16th century to 1945, the end of the last war.

What I found interesting, aside from the pictures, are the archival sources used. For example, Harper translated part of a physical inventory of the treasures of the church following the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines in 1768. Reading the list helps us visualize the wealth of the church at the time, and also makes us understand why many ancient churches around the country are not only considered "heritage at risk" in terms of the physical structure but also because of the contents. Many churches and rectories, particularly in the Visayas, are consistently robbed from within and without, and the stolen church treasures are sold to antique collectors in Manila or sometimes exported abroad.

Harper provides a sampling:

"1. A gold crown of the image that is in the church with crystal stones; it weighed 6 marcos, 5 ounces and 77rrs in total removing the weight of the stones and some 2 ounces of silver from a half arch and 5 from the entire arch that is [illegible] that leaves pure gold of 5 marcos, 6 ounces and 7 rrs of the purest 20 carats; 2. A gold diadem of 18 carats that weighs 2 ounces and 4 rrs; 3. A sun of gold 20 carats weighed an ounce and 9 granos; 4. A potencia that weighed a total of three ounces, 7 rrs and a half; 5. Three gold rings with a ruby in each valued at a peso; 6. A Niño of ivory almost eight inches long with slippers and a girdle of gold, the adornment valued at 8 pesos and the ivory 2; 7. A gold crown of the Santo Niño of 17 carats with 70 false stones and 103 grains of small pearls weighing a total of eight ounces, 2 rrs and a half; 8. A gold brooch with 9 diamantes, the major one at the centre and the others valued at 300 pesos; 9. Two gold butterflies with 5 diamantes, each valued at 30 pesos; 10. Three flowers for the overdress of the Image with 425 medium-size pearls; 11. A forehead strap with a large diamante in the center and the rest false stones and 136 pearls as big as a chilantro gain valued at a hundred pesos; 12. An altar front of wood lined in silver measuring 26 x 12 inches (4 palms and a half in height and two palms in length) that according to prudent judgment based on the reliable opinion of the officer in charge of weights and measures contains 700 ounces of silver; 13. A crown and dress of silver of Our Lady of the Pillar with her child equally adorned; the silver according to the prudent judgment based on the reliable opinion of the officer in charge of weights and measures would reach 250 ounces; the image has as well a pair of eardrops with 26 crystal stones set in gold and 4 brooches of silver with fake stones each and a crystal in front 7 quarters in height and 5 wide."

Reading the above gives one an idea of the images that were in the church. The potencia was one of the three rays projecting from behind the head of Christ; saints being of lesser importance had haloes. The forehead strap was worn by the Santo Entierro or dead Christ in a bier. Surprisingly these images wore glittering but fake jewels mixed with the real thing.

A close review of Harper's material is worth a doctoral dissertation on art and cultural history. Which just goes to show that footnotes can be mined with profit.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Rizal's two unfinished novels

Rizal's two unfinished novels

Posted 00:47am (Mla time) Feb 25, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the February 25, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

EACH year on Feb. 25, people are busy with a commemoration of the 1986 People Power Revolt that drove Ferdinand Marcos from power and installed Corazon Aquino as president of the Philippines. Since the Inquirer is also one of the main products of those troubled times, it tries valiantly to keep the flame of Edsa alive, by publishing first-hand accounts on the front page.

But all this now seems like a dimly lit part of the Philippine past, especially to many of my students who were toddlers when all this was going on, changing the lives of their parents and all those who were adults at the time. Feb. 25 should be a time to remember the events of Edsa 1986 and today's column should focus on people power, but I go back to the late 19th century.

What better proof could there be that I am a walking anachronism than that I associate Feb. 25 not with Edsa 1986 but with Berlin 1887? Very few people know and remember that at 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 25, 1887 in Berlin, Jose Rizal placed the last period on the manuscript of "Noli Me Tangere."

I remember February 1986 well because that was supposed to be the centennial of the "Noli" but then things were overshadowed by the events of Edsa. At that time, I had embarked on the project that would study the novel as it progressed from its rough drafts to the final clean manuscript copy to the first printed edition of the novel. How did the novel develop? Even this study was overtaken by Edsa.

Working on this led to other unfinished manuscripts by Rizal in the vault of the National Library, and two of my favorites are worth remembering today because they should have been completed like the "Noli" and "Fili." The first is labeled "Principios de una novela satirica" by the National Library but it is better known under the title "Una visita del Señor a Filipinas" or in its English translation, "The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands." As an untitled work, it goes under a variety of names depending on which text or translation you are reading, thus it is also known as "Friars and Filipinos" or "The Divine Wrath."

The story opens with God the Father pacing around in heaven. He hears a stream of complaints from the earth and turns his attention to the Philippines where the complaints are coming from. He walks around, consulting a number of people, including Confucius and Buddha, asking about certain beings called friars and a pope who claims to speak in His name on earth. God traces all this to the Christian Church, so he summons both Jesus Christ and St. Peter to explain how and why this state of affairs has come about. Not satisfied with their answers, God then commands Jesus and Peter to return to Earth, investigate in the Philippines and report back to him. Jesus, naturally, refuses to go but is assured that on this trip he will not have to undergo another round of suffering and death on a cross.

Jesus and Peter are transported back to Earth, but God, it seems, has a bad pitching arm or an equally bad sense of direction because the pair appear, not in the Philippines, but in Hong Kong. They first visit a tailor because they are wearing New Testament attire instead of the clothing in vogue in the late 19th century. They learn about passports, visas and all the necessities for travel on board a regular steamer service from Hong Kong to Manila. All should have gone well, but upon arrival in Manila, the boat is placed under quarantine, which adds to the impatience of the duo that wanted to return to heaven as soon as possible. Jesus notes down all his observations (actually, more complaints) in a pocket notebook, which is later opened by Spanish customs and immigration officials in Manila, leading to yet another round of detention. When Jesus and Peter complain about the shabby treatment they receive in the hands of the Spaniards who do not know who they really are, both are branded as subversives by the authorities.

Somehow Peter manages to escape and searches for the Manila Cathedral, which he has heard in heaven is the seat of the archbishop whose authority emanated from Peter himself. As a matter of fact, a statue of Peter is to be found in the Cathedral. This is the place to go for help.

While leaving the Customs house, Peter overhears Jesus being interrogated, and at this point he feels so relieved that it is daytime because then he doesn't have to hear the cock crow thrice again.

Unfortunately, the unfinished novel ends abruptly on this note, leaving us wishing this classic of Philippine comic or satirical literature were completed. But then, that is Rizal for you: truly a man with so many talents, he tried out so many things but left many things half finished. What better word to describe this but “sayang” [what a pity]!

Then there is the other unfinished work of Rizal, also untitled, but known as "Memorias de un gallo." Written in the first person, it is a fictional autobiography of a newly hatched chick trying to fathom the mysteries of the world outside the secure confines of the eggshell.

The chick asks the mother hen the great existential question, "What is a man?"

A man, replies the mother, is "a chicken bigger than all of you, very powerful, very strong."

On this enlightening sentence, Rizal abruptly ends the manuscript to keep us guessing what he really meant well on to the next century.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The way to Baguio

The way to Baguio

Posted 00:56am (Mla time) Feb 23, 2005
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the February 23, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

LAST Friday, the Baguio Country Club began a series of activities to celebrate its centennial. It started with the usual things: a thanksgiving Mass, the unveiling of a bronze National Historical Institute marker at the entrance, and the launching of postage stamps with a picture of the club as it looked a century ago. These were followed by golf tournaments, photo exhibits, eating and drinking to celebrate the club's surviving well into a second century.

The club was established through the initiative of William Cameron Forbes, the governor general of the Philippines who is best remembered for the street in Manila that bears his name but is mispronounced "Por-bes." It is one of the street names sanctified by usage and one that has withstood some rather ill-considered but well-meaning changes. (Other Manila streets now threatened by legislators who want to foster historical amnesia are Espa¤a and Taft. Now that is worth another column.)

Forbes is also remembered for the upscale gated community in Makati called Forbes Park whose name is pronounced correctly but is sometimes sneeringly referred to as "Pobres Park" because some wags would want to believe that the premiere subdivision in the country is filled with mortgaged lots. From "Por-bes" in Manila to "Pob-res" in Makati-that's a world of difference best tackled by "Cocktales."

I had to look beyond contemporary history and go back 100 years to know more about the Baguio Country Club. I dusted off the two hefty volumes of "The Philippine Islands" by Forbes himself and published in Boston in 1928. I was surprised to find in the first volume, which tackles the history of the Philippines and of course the pillars of American colonial government in the islands-Civil Government, Public Order, Finances, Justice, Health, Public Works, Education, etc.-one whole chapter on Baguio. The reason for this was the justification of the now famous Kennon Road built by an army colonel named L.W.V. Kennon at a cost of well over $2 million dollars, which was widely questioned, because it was believed that this great expense was merely resorted to give a handful of high colonial officials a cool place for rest and relaxation. I'm sure digging into contemporary materials on the building of Kennon Road will make interesting reading.

When people plan a trip to Baguio by land these days (flying is much faster and convenient, but people can't seem to forget some recent high-profile plane crashes), they figure five to six hours of travel. That already takes into account traffic, going around tricycles, trucks and kuligligs and making the usual rest and meal stops along the way. We have two choices of routes these days: it is either the Marcos Highway, which is is supposedly longer but faster, or the scenic Kennon Road, which is shorter but takes longer to travel.

In the early 1900s, Forbes said that to get to Baguio from Manila one had to take a boat "to San Fernando, de La Union, and from there by horseback on a very fair trail known as the Naguilian Trail, as it passes through the town of that name. This was a comparatively easy trip, but it involved nearly a day on horseback into the hills, which in itself consumed a whole day."

This is hard to imagine today, but this was the same route taken by William Howard Taft who made it up to Baguio on horseback. There is a famous photograph of the heavy, smiling Taft on his horse and an equally famous quotation uttered when he reported to US Secretary of War Elihu Root that he made it up to Baguio in one piece, "but I'm afraid, I can't say the same for the horse."

A better road was planned and it was then known as the Benguet Road. It took about 4,000 men to work their way up, blasting a trail out of the mountains and paving these into what later became Kennon Road. Forbes wrote:

"As the Benguet Road began to creep into the hills, a stage line was inaugurated from the northern end of the railroad at Dagupan through the province of Pangasinan to the end of the road, from which point the remainder of the trip was made up the Bued River. During the construction of the road, stages passed from camp to camp of road-builders, until finally, at a point called 'Camp Four,' all passengers had to take to horses and follow a new rail which zigzagged up the mountain-side on an extremely steep grade, where it was often necessary to walk, leading the horses. The trail reached the high levels at a place called Loakan, from which point seven miles of delightfully cool riding on easy grades brought one into the site of the future city of Baguio."

Even when Taft left the Philippines to assume the post of secretary of war in Washington, he was keen to see the completion of this road up to Baguio.

Today it is easier to get to Baguio, but then a lot has changed from the Shangrila they described a century ago. The scent of pine that used to mark the ascent and entry into the city is no more. As a matter of fact, there is even a concrete pine tree on Session Road leading to the latest marker of progress, SM Shopping Mall.

Looking at Baguio's past will help us appreciate the city and hope to preserve its climate and character.