Friday, November 26, 2004

Fiesta de las Señas

Fiesta de las Señas

Updated 02:05am (Mla time) Nov 26, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the November 26, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SINCE a plane crash, terrorism and being hijacked are statistically improbable, I always look forward to my flights. However, on long trips my concern is the battle against boredom and physical inactivity.

I used to take a lot of wine with the meals to help me sleep. Then I wake up refreshed at the destination. Today there are many other diversions aside from cards and in-flight movies. I also look forward to Internet service that will be offered soon, but nothing beats plain conversation with friends. Unfortunately, on some flights to the United States, this is also regulated. For example, if you are seated away from a group of your friends and decide to stand on the aisle and chat with them, the stewardess will request you to return to your seat. If two or more people line up to use the restroom, they will also be told to return and wait in their seats.

One of the results of 9/11, aside from the tedious pre-boarding security checks, is the suspicion that awaits people who congregate on board during a flight. Walking around the aircraft to relieve boredom or stretch is now suspicious activity.

In the past, smoking was part of the diversion but since more and more flights are non-smoking, the desperate have to hide in the restrooms and tamper with the smoke detectors.

Then as now, long trips required diversion. During the time of the galleons, smoking was allowed in designated times and places. Cigarettes were prohibited but adequately covered pipes and cigars in holders were permitted.

Cards were also popular. Despite the ban on gambling, fortunes were either made or lost during the six-month voyage.

Naturally, sex was an option. One of the projects I have long abandoned was a research on the early "comfort women." Taken on board as sex slaves in Manila, they were eventually abandoned in Acapulco. The same thing happened with Mexican women, who were abandoned in Manila.

What became of them? The answer lies in the Archivo General de la Nacion in Mexico City.

Some passengers brought women for their exclusive use, while others rented them out to passengers and crew. A law against this was passed in 1608 but had little effect.

William Lytle Schurz, in his book "The Manila Galleon," makes passing reference to a man who took 15 women from Manila. Some gave birth during the voyage, others landed in Mexico pregnant, thus causing grave scandal.

Stranger than fiction though was the Fiesta de las Señas:

"This was the ceremony which was held on the discovery of the ‘señas,’ or signs, of the nearness of land. Then all restraint was broken down for a brief and uproarious celebration, and 'to the sound of drums and trumpets' there began a veritable saturnalia of the sea, with all the boisterous license which attends the modern 'crossing of the line.' Cubero Sebastian and Gemelli Careri describe the rough hilarity of this day, when ranks were topsy-turvy and gloom seemed driven from the ship. The instructions of Governor Valdes required that these festivities be kept within the bounds of 'decency and modesty.'

"The fiesta began with the singing of a Te Deum 'in gratefulness for the approaching end of so wearisome a voyage,' for the California coast was now ahead. The principal feature of the celebration was the ‘tribunal de las señas,’ or 'court of the signs,' where the common seamen, 'clad after a ridiculous manner,' sat in mock trial judgment on their superiors and on the passengers. The latter were hauled before the canopied dais of 'The President' and two assistant ‘oidores,’ or judges, and one after another made to account for his conduct during the voyage. Indictments were read in each case by the clerk of the court and jocular sentences of death imposed by the judges. However, these sentences could be commuted to full pardon on payment of compensation in money, chocolate, sweet meats or wine, which were distributed among the half-famished revelers. 'The best of it was,' said Gemelli, 'that he who did not pay immediately or give good security, was laid on with a rope's end ... I was told a Passenger was once killed aboard a galleon by keelhauling him; for no Words of Authority can check or persuade a whole ship's crew.'

"The general of Cubero's, who might have been a marquis of the peerage of Castile, was sentenced to death on the charge of keeping the hatches closed during storms, so that those below nearly perished of thirst; but he was pardoned on the usual condition of a largess of delicacies. The sergeant-major, who also acted as doctor, and had bled more than 200 persons on the way across, was convicted of having shed human blood. The pilot was accused of always quarreling with the sun, while Cubero himself, the chaplain of the galleon, was not exempted from the inquisition by 'benefit of clergy.' They complained that he was always seated in his chair admonishing them. They called him 'the guide of death' (‘el lazarillo de la muerte’) because, whenever he went below deck to minister to anyone, the next day that person was thrown into the sea. But the priest is indulgent towards their grim humor and adds: 'On this they burst out laughing, and this was a day of great rejoicing.'"

The economic aspects of the galleon trade have been covered, but much remains to be researched on social and cultural aspects to complete the picture.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Menu on the galleon

Menu on the galleon

Updated 03:53am (Mla time) Nov 24, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the November 24, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

PERHAPS it is an occupational hazard, but I am always in awe of jumbo jets. Each time I see a Boeing 747 in flight, I marvel at the fact that this huge chunk of metal, loaded with passengers and baggage, can actually fly and ferry people to destinations half the world away in less than a day. When I catch myself complaining or upset about jet travel today -- over delays or cancellations, bad food, disagreeable stewardesses, or slim movie options -- I look back on the Manila Galleon that traveled from Manila to Acapulco and back in voyages that lasted six to seven months each way. To remember one of the longest and most stressful continuous voyages made in those days is to appreciate life in the 21st century.

Then as now, there was first-class and economy-class passage. Then as now, there were particular dangers. Today, we simply risk a crash due to pilot error, defects or malfunction of the plane or terrorism. In the Manila Galleon, the dangers were legion: shipwreck, storms, mutiny in the high seas, disease, starvation, and sometimes, even fire. Then, of course, you had the even worse prospect of inactivity and boredom. A cabin on the galleon no matter how good was often described as a prison.

It is the food that always catches my attention. Today, as a general rule, the closer you are to the front of the plane, the better your food and service will be. Meals may come hot or cold in small, compartmentalized trays or they can be as simple as a plastic bag with assorted “chichiria” [snacks], but even in economy class there is intent to please.

In the galleon, it was something else. Gemelli Carreri, an Italian who visited the Philippines, described the bill of fare and is quoted in full in the standard work "The Manila Galleon" by William Lytle Schurz (1939) as follows:

"The Ship swarms with little Vermins, the Spaniards call Gorgojos, bred in the Biskit; so swift that they in a short time not only run over Cabbins, beds, and the very dishes the Men eat on, but insensibly fasten upon the Body. There are several other sorts of Vermin of sundry Colours, that suck the Blood. Abundance of Flies fall into the dishes of Broth, in which there also swim worms of several sorts. I had a good share in these Misfortunes; for the Boatswain, with whom I had agreed for my Diet, as he had Fowls at his Table the first Days, so when we were out at Sea he made me fast after the Armenian manner, having banished from his Table all Wine, Oyl and Vinegar; dressing his Fish with fair Water and Salt."

Abstinence from meat was followed on Fridays and other days. So there were days for fish and days for meat. Carreri narrated:

"Upon Flesh Days he gave me Tassajos Fritos, that is, Steaks of Beef, or Buffalo, dry'd in the Sun or wind, which are so hard that it is impossible to Eat them, without they are first well beaten. At dinner another piece of that same sticky Flesh was boil'd without any other Sauce but its own hardness, and fair Water. At last he depriv'd me of the Satisfaction of gnawing a good Biskit, because he would spend no more of his own, but laid the King's Allowance on the Table; in every Mouthful whereof there went down abundance of Maggots, and Gorgojos chew'd and bruis'd.

"On Fish Days the common Diet was old rank Fish boil'd in fair Water and Salt; at noon we had Mongos, something like Kidney beans, in which there were so many Maggots, that they swam at the top of the broth, and the quantity was so great, that besides the Loathing they caus'd I doubted whether the Dinner was Fish or Flesh. This bitter Fare was sweetened after Dinner with a little Water and Sugar; yet the Allowance was but a small Coco shell full, which rather increas'd than quench'd Drought."

An account like the above is definitely not for the squeamish. At one point during Magellan's voyage, food was so scarce the sailors boiled their leather belts and shoes and served these as meat. Rats were caught and sold at a profit, in normal times seen as rodents, in times of starvation a fresh meal. If Carreri was traveling in style and described his meals thus, one would hate to even imagine what the economy-class passengers and crew had for meals.

It must have been pleasant to set sail from Manila, which usually held a grand fiesta upon the arrival or before the departure of a galleon. At the beginning of the voyage, one had fresh fruits and vegetables, but later on when one was stuck with salted meat and fish, the once happy voyage could turn into a nightmare. Salted foods induced thirst that could not be quenched if water on board was not fresh. Now that was real trouble.

Biscuits seemed to be the staple in a galleon voyage, but the problem was that these were infested with worms. Another foodstuff enjoyed on board was chocolate. Some people were allowed to take live chickens in their cabins and there must have been pigs and cows in the hold. Hot meals were ideal but fuel was conserved to last the entire voyage. During storms or rough sailing, everyone had cold food. Ovens were not used during times of turbulence to safeguard the galleon from fire.

In a plane today, turbulence simply prompts the pilot to tell you to return to your seat and fastening your seat belt. We have indeed gone a long way since the galleons, and those days are worth remembering as we now contemplate commercial flights into space.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Looking closer into historical details

Looking closer into historical details

Updated 03:19am (Mla time) Nov 19, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the November 19, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

WITH THE NOTABLE exception of the slim volume, "Hills of Sampaloc" by the eminent economic historian Benito Legarda Jr., most works on the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War omit details of the struggle. Textbook history tells us of these events on a grand, macro-scale. We know their outcomes but do not know how they were actually fought. In recent years, undergraduate students, finding the details engaging enough, have embarked on their own research outside of their classes or research papers. Some students can tell me what guns, cannons and ammunition were used. Some go through the five-volume "Philippine Insurrection Against the United States" to outline a map on how military tactics were employed. Using old photographs, they can tell what equipment was standard issue to Filipino soldiers or whether they fought barefoot. Research covers tactics and even food. Meeting students like these is its own reward and makes teaching and all its troubles all the more worthy and meaningful.

During the centennial years, I searched in vain for someone in the Philippine Military Academy who did research and study on the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War. More than the outcome, I wanted to know how the war was fought. Even if I had scattered documentation, I needed expert opinion; I am still waiting for someone to help me out. One cannot expect our patriots, like Emilio Aguinaldo, to leave detailed battle plans to posterity. But I do remember being shown some maps, drawn in Aguinaldo's hand, in an antiquarian bookstore near Cornell University in upstate New York over a decade ago. I do not know what became of those papers -- that's another bit of our history gone.

One patriot who did leave us with an interesting historical documentation is Vicente Lukban, whose letters and circulars not only deal with the military end of the war but also provide a way of understanding the situation he was in. I have only read him in English translation and I can't wait to see the originals of a letter he wrote from Calbayog (now capital of Western Samar province) on July 8, 1899, where he described the political situation:

"The origin of all the disturbances here is due to those clerks, lawyers, writers and pettifogers during the Spanish domination, who appear to be under the orders and thumb, as I understand it, of that traitor Luis Flores, the so-called Presidente of Cebu, who turned over the city to the enemy without firing a shot. This gentleman was solicitor of the Audiencia in the said Island of Cebu. The tendency of all these men is to sow seeds of discord and friction between families; and to this is due the division of parties; all of them, under the name or pretext of Country, wish to feather their own nests. Evidence of this is the fact that this Flores, during the months he was in Leyte, ordered many colonels and a so-called brigadier general named Velozo, to recruit men in Leyte; and having noticed this move by reason of its tendency to federalism, I took all precautions and directed them that in the future they should not recruit any men without authorization from your Bureau or from the undersigned, and I believe that on this account those barrators and potbellied pretended patriots are working to have me removed from here. For they know that under Mojica they will have their own way, and they are taking advantage of this leniency or trust to carry out their wishes."

What, in the original manuscript, would be "pettifogger" and "pot-bellied pretended patriots"? Such strong language then and now. Like Apolinario Mabini, he complained of the upper class that had too much to protect, too much to lose. "Most of the wealthy and middle class here sacrifice their patriotism in favor of their personal interests and wish to eat when the table is already set, that is to say, they expect us to restore them, but they always offer lives and lands in words and not by acts."

Lukban coped with the lack of ammunition:

"My arsenal, situated in the mountains of Catbalogan, is already turning out cartridges of various calibers and my ordnance chemist Sr. Vito Borromeo, is studying how to increase the output of nitrate of potash, without the necessity of ingredients; because I discovered by the mixture of various substances secured in the woods chlorate is made, according to the chemist's analysis.

"The bullets used in the cartridges are made from the [church] bells that I ordered melted, all of which, General, when the cartridge machines are all working for which I also used worn out sewing machines, I will make a report, as also of the number of thousand cartridges manufactures per day.

"The enemy is steadily besieging us, and today it is a week that we have been eating sweet potatoes [‘camote’) in the morning, ‘morisqueta’ [boiled rice) at noon, ‘lugao’ [rice porridge] in the afternoon, and once in a while palm flour [‘harina de palmeras’], as rice costs ten pesos a ‘cavan’ [50-kilogram bag]. It is fortunate that the steamer Kondoy arrived here today with rice. But the price is the same."

All the material for a detailed study of the period is ready. All that is needed is a dedicated historian to weave it all into a coherent and surely absorbing story.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Caring for the dead

Caring for the dead

Updated 01:49am (Mla time) Nov 17, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the November 17, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHEN you ask a person to define "prehistoric," he or she will most likely make reference to dinosaurs and Neanderthals. While this is not entirely wrong, pre-history actually refers to the period before writing or written records.

Although Filipinos were said to be literate and to have a system of writing before the arrival of Magellan in 1521, little has survived to remind us of our long and complex pre-Spanish past. Until we discover a cache of pre-colonial documents by Filipinos and about Filipinos, we don't have much to go on other than 16th-century Spanish accounts of the Philippines and hypotheses of scholars studying the numerous archaeological sites dug up all over the country over the past century.

The earliest images we have of Filipinos come in a series of splendid illustrations from an anonymous 16th-century manuscript, popularly known as the "Boxer Codex" after the late historian of Asia, C.R. Boxer, who deposited this treasure in the Lilly Library of the University of Indiana at Bloomington. Ten years ago, I was invited to Professor Boxer's home outside London for lunch and a chance to see his famous library. All I wanted was to hold the Codex and go through the illustrations.

I was not disappointed. The illustrations were as vibrant as on the day they were painted, obviously for a high-ranking official in Spanish Philippines-the governor-general or perhaps the archbishop of Manila. Each drawing showing the costumes and physical traits of various peoples from Luzon and the Visayas was trimmed with gold, with borders of foliage and animals in the same manner that medieval monks "illuminated" their manuscripts. One of my regrets is that I did not have a camera with me.

After going through the Codex, the professor asked if I read Japanese. Although I answered in the negative, he still brought out books, including one with woodcut illustrations of early Filipinos. Again I regret not coming prepared with a camera. Worse, I did not even write down the title so I could go back to this book again.

Pictures may indeed be worth a thousand words, but for a historian, sometimes text is more desirable. My research area covers the late 19th century when photographs could already be taken, enabling us to visualize what our heroes looked like. But all this can never compare with a detailed letter or a journal brimming with personal revelations.

One of the things that Spanish chroniclers (usually friars) mentioned in their accounts of Filipino life as they understood it at the time was the care that was showered on the dead. November being the month when Catholics remember their "dear departed," I decided to go over burial practices of early Filipinos to see if we have changed much in the past four centuries. The main sources of information can be found in the 55-volume "The Philippine Islands" compiled by Emma Helen Blair and James Robertson. Just look in the index under the surnames: Plasencia, Loarca, Morga and Colin.

Both in life and death, there is a distinction between the rich and the poor, the rulers and the ruled, the famous and the anonymous. Elaborate ceremonies were held for VIPs; even the quality of their coffins and the place of burial were better of course than those of "ordinary" mortals. For example, the poor were placed in graves under the house, VIPs in wooden coffins. Some were placed in the jars imported from China, Thailand or Vietnam -- with again the more expensive and more beautiful ones reserved for the upper class. While modern-day funeral parlors have coffins for every taste and budget, what still determines the type of wake and funeral is basically the ability to pay.

What caught my attention was the belief that there was a particular type of “aswang” [local ghoul] that liked to feast on cadavers, hence people had to stay awake at night and the wake was well-lighted and noisy. When you think of the modern-day “lamay” [funereal wake], we think this is part of tradition not realizing that it goes a long, long way and has its roots in protecting the cadavers of our loved ones from the “aswang.”

In some wakes today, photographs of the deceased are displayed on top of the coffin. Sometimes some favorite possession is also on display. Colin mentions that beside the dead was a "box filled with the best clothing of the deceased and at suitable times various kinds of food were placed on dishes for them. Beside the man were placed the weapon, and beside the women their looms or other instruments of labor."

Today food is basically served to the living. During the wake for my mother, three meals a day were served, plus snacks. It also helps that by tradition, one should not take home anything from a wake so food and flowers last till burial time.

Today we have modern embalming techniques. In those days, corpses were rubbed with herbs and various concoctions. Mummies in the Cordilleras are a marvel in preservation.

During the burial time, we throw flowers as "pabaon" [going-away presents] for the dead. In pre-colonial times, it could be food, money, or even a live slave. Plasencia in 1589 mentions a living slave being tied beneath the body of a warrior and left to die so he could serve the master in the afterlife.

I thought reading about pre-colonial practices would show how different we are today, but one sees a lot of similarities. We have not changed much in the past 500 years.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Kyoto flea market

Kyoto flea market

Updated 03:27am (Mla time) Nov 12, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the November 12, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

COMMEMORATIVE car plates are popular these days. Those who sport these car plates advertise their support for a worthy cause and some even think these plates exempt them from the color-coding scheme.

If people want to celebrate a milestone event or the establishment of a certain organization, why don't they just put stickers on windshields rather than announce it on car plates?

Perhaps the Land Transportation Office should require commemorative plates to be displayed in the rear rather than the front of vehicles so that eagle-eyed traffic enforcers can still implement color-coding.

To complicate matters, the National Historical Institute has to certify the "historical significance" of the event being commemorated in a proposed commemorative car plate. Often the only significance is that the requesting party is a hundred years old, while others claim notable existence in increments of 25, 50 and 75 years. All this looks so simple, until someone decides to celebrate in between those years.

Time provides the perspective that helps us see historical significance or at the very least longevity. Teodoro Agoncillo used to say that the historian should wait at least 20 years before commenting on something. To some, two decades may be a long time to wait for historical perspective, but this is merely a wink when you visit a place like Kyoto which was the capital of Japan for over a thousand years.

Riding a bicycle through an ancient city like Kyoto is humbling for a Filipino historian who can only look back a century to our declaration of independence, four centuries to the founding of Spanish Manila. Filipinos think a decade is a long time, while the Japanese reckon age in millenniums.

In this context, it really stretches the imagination to have some obscure Philippine organization claiming "historical significance" when it is not even a quarter of a century old.

The same can be said of antiques. What is the cut-off point? Does a hundred years make something antique? Maybe 60 years, the same age we declare someone a senior citizen?

If you go by the sales pitch of Ermita antique dealers, their benchmark is a "century old." This is quite vague because dating is problematic especially in places were something made in the 1800s is described as dating to the "18th century."

Antique shops can be an informal history lesson. Last Sunday, we visited the Toji temple market in Kyoto which has a flea market on the first Sunday of every month. Like flea markets in other places in the world, it offers a wide range of things to choose from, depending on your taste and budget. Everything from authentic antiques to fakes, reproductions and plain junk can be had in makeshift stalls. (Some dealers sell out of the trunks of parked cars.)

Everyone knows, of course, that there are no real bargains or fabulous finds to be made in flea markets these days because the professional dealers arrive very early and buy whatever is noteworthy. Yet going to a flea market is a challenge: looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack and haggling to get the price down to an acceptable level. In a sense, the thrill is in the chase not the acquisition.

Casilda Luzares, who allowed us to camp out in her beautiful Kyoto home, a spit away from the Imperial Palace grounds, complained that she merely accompanied me to the flea market but ended up buying more than I did. Worse, when she got home, she wondered why she bought those odds and ends in the first place.

There are many foreigners in the flea markets, mostly tourists looking for souvenirs and some professional interior decorators. You have a wide assortment here: delicate porcelain (some of them pornographic), blown-glass and exquisite lacquerware. Old cabinets, chests, chairs and doors. Bronze objects and samurai paraphernalia. Walking through the stalls is like going through a museum exhibition of Japanese material culture.

My friend was on the look-out for vases in ceramic and bronze to be used in ikebana floral arrangements. He mistook a piss pot for a unique vase and was fortunately stopped before he pulled out his wallet.

Used or, should I say pre-owned, kimonos abound here and sell quickly. Both Japanese and foreigners can be seen rummaging through mountains of old clothing competing for the best bargain. You can buy something simple to wear or the more extravagant ones can be framed and hung on a living room wall.

The long sash or obi is another favorite souvenir item because this can be used back home as visually stunning table runners, or wall hangings. You can even cut it up into unique place mats. Now that's recycling at its best.

One can never tell what you will find in these places. Ever an optimist, I hoped to find a Fernando Amorsolo landscape brought home by a Japanese soldier during the war as a souvenir or war booty. Perhaps Fernando Zobel's experiments with calligraphy discarded in some hotel room 50 years ago will find its way to the flea market.

The only Filipiniana I have seen in the temple market are the wooden "man-in-the-barrel" from Baguio that may soon be rare collector's items if prudes have their way and ban them. Can we be represented in flea markets by some other artifact than this?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The right place to be stranded

The right place to be stranded

Updated 00:43am (Mla time) Nov 10, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the November 10, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

EYEBROWS are raised whenever I choose Philippine Airlines (PAL) over Cebu Pacific. At Cebu Pacific the staff is young, cheerful and eager to please. Unlike PAL attendants who wear sleek designer uniforms, Cebu Pacific has a more relaxed approach: shorts and sneakers. Flights on time 95 percent of the time should make Cebu Pacific the logical choice. But then, common sense isn't common.

Frankly, all I want to do at 25,000 feet is sleep rather than play parlor games. You cannot ignore Cebu in-flight games, particularly a singing contest or bring-me game. With my luck, I will be seated between two passengers who desperately want to win the coffee mug. I'm not growing old gracefully, I'm turning into a grouch.

This negative attitude was rewarded two weeks ago when I became a statistic on Cebu Pacific, one of the lucky five percent whose flight was delayed. I wish I had the same luck on lotto. My early morning flight out of Dumaguete City to catch a connection to Palawan province, was first delayed and eventually canceled. Rather than curse my luck, I made the most of my time and discovered that Dumaguete is not such a bad place to be stranded in.

Oct. 28, 2004 marked the centennial of the arrival of a band of missionary sisters of St. Paul of Chartres in Dumaguete. Since then, the sisters have multiplied and now run schools, hospitals and other charitable organizations around the country.

One can presume that the sisters were encouraged to establish a school a century ago to provide a Catholic alternative to the public school system established by the American colonial government at the turn of the last century. St. Paul's was also an alternative to the school that would later become Silliman University. Now St. Paul's is also a university.

If history is indeed a challenge and a response, we can understand why University of the Philippines president Vicente Sinco worked for the establishment of the non-sectarian Foundation University. Today, Dumaguete can rightfully claim to be the university town in the Philippines with such a small area now home to three prominent universities and many other smaller educational institutions.

Previous trips to Dumaguete have been confined to Silliman, which recently celebrated its centennial. An area of the campus, between the University Church and the oldest structure on campus, was declared a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute. This declaration thus saved the seafront building from demolition to give way to a fast-ferry port. Once sewage has been redirected away from the seafront and the area fronting the busy boulevard has been dredged and cleaned, it can be an ideal spot for swimming. If one wants cooler climate and freshwater swimming, one goes out of town to Valencia.

Silliman has a lot of historical and archeological artifacts in storage that await proper display in a university museum that will help the people of Dumaguete get in touch with their past. I have not found them yet, but I remember reading somewhere that one or two of the original posts from Jose Rizal's house in the southern city of Dapitan found its way to Silliman.

In Foundation University is a museum-in-progress that aims to remind the present students of the life and times of Vicente Sinco who turns out to have been one of the Filipino signatories to the UN Charter aside from Carlos P. Romulo. University president Mira D. Sinco and her son Dean have done an excellent job of creating an atmosphere where students and visitors can relax and reflect. A statue of Rizal with books by Guillermo Tolentino's assistant Anastacio Caedo can be found in the center of a pond teeming with carp. An original study by Tolentino has Rizal teaching children, but Caedo appropriated this and deleted the children so Rizal looks aimless, surrounded by books. In the present setting amid concrete columns and the pond, he can be like a pensive Greek god.

Christine Godinez and her St. Paul sister Beth arranged a visit with Edith Tiempo, National Artist for Literature, who lived on a mountain overlooking the sea aptly called Montemar. We interrupted her work on a college literature textbook and another book of literary criticism so she could endure my inane questions: Do you still write in long hand or do you use a computer? Do you write with music or in absolute silence? This short meeting was well worth missing my plane to Manila that morning.

Of course, a trip to Dumaguete is not complete without stopping by the Village Bookshop run by Dong and Danah Fortunato. They offered me coffee, but I asked to be brought to the market for a cup of hot native chocolate. This led to a row of stalls and carinderias each with the name of the owners. Every name was a history in itself: Martin Lenihan, Natividad Alviola, Guillerma Lauriaga, Potenciana Lantaca, Estrella Tamparong, Loreta Banaybanay, Perla Tumulak, Olivia Omole, Irene Dinampo and Jesusa Vivan. We went to stall No. 3, Jesusa Loyloy, for hot chocolate served in a small glass rather than a dainty demitasse cup. Sidings were red puto-maya (the all-time favorite because there was none left by 11 a.m.), “budbud kabug” and “pilit” [suman] that came plain or with chocolate.

Being stranded can be a disaster, but one can make the best of a bad situation. Dumaguete was the right place to be.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Gifts at an early 20th-century wedding

Gifts at an early 20th-century wedding

Updated 06:36am (Mla time) Nov 06, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the November 5, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

AFTER MY friend Renan Prado, chairman of the Department of European Languages at the Ateneo de Manila University, published a translation of Montero y Vidal's "Cuentos Filipinos" (1883) recently, I assumed that he would take a break. To my surprise, he showed me another manuscript recently translated from the original Spanish: the autobiography of Consolacion Singian de Miranda Viuda de Torres.

It is a fascinating peek into social life in pre-war Pampanga province. Most people will not be interested by upper-crust life, but the four pages that struck me contained the partial list of gifts she received during her wedding in April 1912. Her husband Jose Torres Vergara gave her a set of diamonds, the entire trousseau in white, a pink gown for after the wedding, a beautiful closet with beveled mirror, a grand matrimonial bed and a pair of big white pillows.

One wonders how life would be simpler with a wedding registry. Reading the list made me ask what you did with so many coffee sets and Vienna chairs. Silver and crystal seemed to be the gifts of choice. The partial list of guests and the gifts they gave would make an engaging socio-historical study. For what it is worth, I list them down here:

"Honorable D. Florentino Torres, Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, a complete set of black Vienna chairs with a marble table, a sofa and four chairs; Sabina Vergara de Torres, an elegant silver coin purse for ladies; Alejandra, Pilar and Rosita de Torres, two beautiful images, one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the other of the Sacred Heart of Mary in an exquisitely and elegantly decorated glass case; Manuel Torres, a dozen black Vienna chairs; Luis Torres, a dining table of narra and a refrigerator; Soledad Gomez de Torres, a dozen embroidered linen handkerchiefs and a pair of waste baskets."

There were many judges because her father-in-law was Supreme Court Justice Florentino Torres. Also many doctors because of her brother, Dr. Gregorio Singian.

The list continues: "Joaquin Singian, a magnificently elegant silver pitcher with a silver glass; Francisco Singian, a set of a beautiful washstand in green crystal; Encarnacion Singian de Lazatin, a dozen elegant and capricious oxidized tableware in a beautiful case; Gliceria Avelino Rosario, a lovely dish of fine plaster of Paris, an embroidered silk bedcover and a pair of pillows all in pink; Honorable Victorino Mapa, justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, a big and beautiful silver set of cruets, very capricious; Manuel Araullo, judge of Manila, a set of elegant lacquered platters; Simplicio del Rosario, judge of Manila, a silk cloth from China; Julio Llorente, judge of the Fourth District of Pampanga, a pair of elegant flowerpots on pedestals like the flowerpots; M. Abreu, judge of Manila, a big candy tray of silver and crystal; Dr. Francisco Liongson, governor of Pampanga, a pair of beautiful flowerpots on pedestals like the flowerpots in green; Dr. [T. H.] Pardo de Tavera, a big silver coffee service; Dr. Alemani and family, a silver sugar tray with its case;

"Dr. Ariston Bautista, a beautiful tray of very fine plaster of Paris; Dr. Miciano, two pairs of silver napkin holders, Mariano Limjap Sr., a set of very fine European crystals; Carmen Ayala de Rojas, a dozen beautiful and elegant silver tableware; Señora Viuda de Nacpil and children, an elegant tie clip of pearls and diamonds; Ramona Valenzuela de Goyena, six European chairs for dining; Ana Longos viuda de Zamora, a beautiful complete writing set in metal; Pacita Longos, a beautiful and elegant ivory fan with sequins; Carlos Cuyugan, a beautiful and elegant silver coffee service; Manuel Cuyugan, a pair of paintings of European scenes.

"Maximo Paterno, a capricious table centerpiece in silver and crystal; Alfonso Tiaoqui, a modern American nickel-plated coffee service with a spout; Victorino Torres, a beautiful table clock; Tristo Goyena, an elegant silver tea service; Antonio Brias, an elegant silver set of cruets; Antonio Constantino, a dozen elegant silver tableware; Antonio Mapa, a precious silver butter dish tray; Joaquin Longos, a very fine Japanese tea service; Faustino Lichauco, a capricious silver card holder case; Crisanto Lichauco, an elegant silver tea service; Gregorio Valenzuela, a beautiful silver butter dish tray;

"Generoso Roño, a precious crystal decanter; Benito Legarda Jr., a precious set of crystal tobacco container engraved with silver borders; Felipe Buencamino, a nickel plated coffee service in modern American style; Sofia Reyes de Veyra, a capricious set of dessert tray in silver; Carmen Zaragoza de Araneta, a toilet tray in painted wood; Tula Pardo de Tavera, a set of salt shakers with teaspoons; Vicente Gana, a complete set of very fine Japanese tea service; Pio Trinidad, a pair of beautiful Japanese flowerpots; Francisco Revilla, an elegant Russian coffee service; Mariano Limjap Jr., an elegant wash basin set of fine plaster of Paris in green; Manuel Iriarte, a set of silver dishes for sugar and milk; Manuel Zamora, an artistic silver flowerpot; Honorio Ventura, an elegant case containing silver sets for ladies; Godofredo Rodriguez, a silver toothpick holder; Ignacio Villamor, fiscal general, a pocket watch and a table clock."

All these must have ended up in a bodega or recycled during weddings, birthdays and Christmas. With all the stuff, the newlyweds could open a store.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Fit for the morgue

Fit for the morgue

Updated 11:19pm (Mla time) Nov 02, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on Page A15 of the November 3, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

OBITUARIES in British newspapers and magazines are a delight to read. In the Philippines, we are only supplied with pertinent information: name, date of birth, date of death, age at time of death, place where wake is held, date and time of interment. Our obituaries are often paid advertisements, unlike special sections in a British paper that provide more background. For example, obituaries in The Economist are so well researched and written I wonder if there is a special breed of journalists who specialize in obituaries.

Well, the word "morgue" has two meanings. It can be either a place for the dead -- a mortuary -- or a place where old newspapers are kept. The Oxford English dictionary defines the morgue in a newspaper office as "a room or file of miscellaneous information, especially for future obituaries."

As a historian, my favorite morgue is found in the air-conditioned basement of the Lopez Memorial Museum that houses the pre-martial law Manila Times, its evening paper the Daily Mirror and of course the Lopez-owned Manila Chronicle. Here one can browse through bound issues of the whole newspaper or go through shelves, from floor to ceiling, filled with brown envelopes filed alphabetically according to name and subject. I have often gone there to search for biographical data and, along the way, came upon material I was not originally looking for. Thus, my files are filled with photocopies from the Lopez Museum morgue and they do provide an assortment of useless information.

Recently I dug up clippings on kissing. It will amuse opponents of the Movies and Television Rating and Classification Board (MTRCB) by recounting that in 1966, Indian censorship rules permitted on-screen kissing in imported Western films but not locally produced Indian films. In recent years, Filipino filmmakers have asked why the MTRCB was more lax with Western films than our own. Well, Indian Information Minister Raj Bahadur explained: "We regard sex as something sacred. Kissing between husband and wife in the West is more of a ritual. To the average Indian it is sanctimonious -- to be done in private."

Reading the past really provides some context to the present.

Now, on to some local news. On June 14, 1966, this was reported from Hagonoy town in the province of Bulacan, north of Manila:

"A youth was locked up inside the Marilao Municipal Jail last night for stealing a kiss from a 19-year-old girl. Juanito Viernes, 24, of barrio Saog, Marilao, went last night to the house of Purificacion Mendoza in the barrio and allegedly took advantage of the darkness and the fact that the girl was alone in the house.

"Purificacion said later that while she was brushing her teeth near the kitchen, Viernes stole from behind her, embraced her and kissed her. They fell on the floor and the girl shouted for help. Her parents who were at a neighbor's house, rushed home and separated them.

"The girl told police that Viernes had not even courting (sic) her and that she was surprised by his action. He was detained in jail for failure to post bail of P3,000, fixed for his temporary release by municipal Judge Jose de Leon of Marilao."

The names alone really sound ancient and the style of reporting is different from the crime stories we read today. Yet stolen kisses, rape and other forms of harassment continue to our time.

One also sees from the newspaper reports how arbitrary the courts were in these cases. For example, the accused above was made to post P3,000 bail, which was a lot of money for a barrio boy in those days. Yet in another kissing case in December 1963, only P200 was required of a 33-year-old man who kissed a 14-year-old girl in the lips against her will. Now the latter is a more serious case, but why was the amount of bail so much lower? Perhaps this has something to do with the complaint filed.

As a layman, I cannot tell the difference between unjust vexation, acts of lasciviousness and sexual harassment. This is something best left to our fellow columnist retired Justice Isagani Cruz.

All the clippings on kissing came from the Daily Mirror that gives us a hint on editorial bent. The only photographs to accompany these stories appeared on June 19, 1965 in a story bannered "Kissing Bandits!" The top photo showed Consorcia Martinez Baniqued, a 28-year-old vendor, pointing to Toriano de la Cruz, a 28-year-old clerk who embraced her inside a jeepney in Quezon City and committed acts of lasciviousness on her (whatever that means). More interesting was another photograph. In handcuffs was Jaime Condino Gonzaga, a companion of De la Cruz who had a license to kiss in his pocket. This was reproduced in the paper and read:

"Department of Test and Survey. Department of Matrimony. Manila, Philippines. This is to certify that Jaime C. Gonzaga, whose signature appears below, is hereby licensed to hug and kiss any one of the opposite sex at any place within the Philippines. This kissing license is valid for a period of one year from April 14, 1965 to April 14, 1966." The card was signed by a director whose name was not spelled out. This wasn't necessary since there was no Department of Matrimony in the Philippines anyway.

Journalism is supposed to be history in a hurry. Now all these crazy news stories are part of history and are best left to rest in the newspaper morgue.