Friday, December 31, 2004

A Rizal cottage industry

A Rizal cottage industry

Updated 04:45am (Mla time) Dec 31, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A13 of the December 31, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

ANOTHER intriguing item in the Nov. 28, 2004 auction of the Philippine Numismatic and Antiquarian Society was a book reputed to be one of the last objects owned by Jose Rizal. Lot number 625 was described in the catalogue as follows:

"La imitacion de Cristo by Tomas de Kempis (1890). Published and printed by Libreria Religiosa, Barcelona in 1890. This religious book has a handwritten dedication addressed to Dr. Jose Rizal and was signed by Father Pastells. It was believed that the same book was given to Josephine Bracken just before he was executed in Luneta. Extremely rare. US$3,500."

If the above description is accurate, then this devotional work of which thousands of copies were printed gains particular emotional and historical significance to Filipinos. A photograph of the handwritten dedication of the Jesuit Pablo Pastells to Rizal in the catalogue can surely be authenticated by one of the following Jesuit historians: Fr. Jose Arcilla, Miguel Bernad and John Schumacher. If the signature is authentic and this book kept Rizal company in Fort Santiago during his last hours, then it is really something a collector will find irresistible. But then if this was the same book given to Josephine Bracken, where is the handwritten dedication by Rizal?

Years ago, I examined a copy of another "Imitacion de Cristo" with a handwritten dedication on the flyleaf that read, "To my dear and unhappy wife Josephine," signed and dated by Rizal on Dec. 30, 1896. This was in the possession of a daughter of the late Dr. Silvino Dayco and at the time it was the focus of a family quarrel. Since this was but one of a handful of books with the same dedication, I wasn't impressed, though this had collaborative proof: a letter from then National Library Director Teodoro M. Kalaw written in the 1930s requesting Dr. Dayco to lend the book to the library for an exhibit of Rizal memorabilia.

I have lost track of this book, but I am sure it will surface again someday at auction. At the moment, all I have is a vague memory of it and the pleasure of having handled the original sometime in my misguided youth.

The above led me to re-read the newspaper dispatches sent to Madrid from Manila in December 1896. The late Dr. Domingo Abella, former director of the National Archives, was a medical doctor who spent a lot of time in the libraries and archives of Spain and the United States researching on the history of Bicol. Being one of the early researchers in Spain, he was fortunate to catch a lot of rare Filipiniana in Spanish antiquarian booksellers. Among his prized acquisitions were four scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings on the Philippines from Madrid newspapers in the years 1896 and 1897. While contemporary historical research has shot holes into the accuracy of these newspaper accounts, one can still describe the material as "history in a hurry." With critical reading and some cross checking, one can find use for these nuggets of information. They are not a complete waste of time.

Abella published some of the dispatches concerning the execution of Rizal in the special 1961 Rizal issue of the Historical Bulletin and translated these from the original Spanish. Thus, we have the reports of two correspondents in Manila for the Madrid papers: Santiago Mataix of El Heraldo de Madrid and Manuel Alhama of El Imparcial. Life was indeed difficult in an age without e-mail. Correspondents had to write their copy in longhand and to evade the strict censorship in Manila, the dispatches were sent to Hong Kong from where they were cabled to Madrid.

I doubt much of the material dispatched on the day of execution, but this was the report sent in by Alhama that appeared in the newspapers early in 1897. It described Rizal as having gone to confession four times and, in apparent mood swings, he either told jokes or read a devotional book, giving the impression that he wasn't worried about his impending execution. Then we read:

"Josephine Bracken, Rizal's woman, was conducted to the chapel. Rizal, greatly moved, greeted her by extending his hand. A priest performed the marriage ceremony, at the end of which Rizal asked Josephine: 'And now, what will happen to you? What are you going to live on?'

"Josephine answered: 'I shall make a living by giving English lessons.'

"The lady was trying to suppress the emotion which she was feeling. Shortly after, Rizal expressed his wish to receive Holy Communion, which was administered to him by a Jesuit priest. He bade goodbye to his wife, and at the parting moment, he muttered some English words and asked her something in a low voice, to which she answered, 'Yes, yes.'

"When Josephine disappeared, Rizal, sobbing, threw himself into the arms of Father Faura [now better remembered as that dingy Manila street, Padre Faura]. Meanwhile, Josephine in the next compartment, stamping her feet furiously, was shouting: 'Miserables! Crueles..."'

Now, with some violin music in the background, you have enough material for a dramatic movie scene. No wonder there is so much romance and tragedy in Rizal's life and death. There is a lot of material to go on, many relics like devotional books sold at auction to keep the Rizal cottage industry churning for the next century. If only other heroes had as much documentation, our history would be more engaging.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Antonio Luna's Christmas memories

Antonio Luna's Christmas memories

Updated 02:07am (Mla time) Dec 24, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A13 of the December 24, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CONTRARY to popular belief, it is Antonio Luna's greatest misfortune to be acknowledged as one of the national heroes of the Philippines. Like Jose Rizal, he has been reduced to a statue of bronze or stone, a bit of textbook data that forever locks him in the closet of our imagination as the greatest general of the Filipino-American War. And yet, according to Teodoro Agoncillo, he never won a single battle in his career. Because textbooks have a tendency to oversimplify, heroes like Antonio Luna have to be seen in another light in order that the complexity of their lives and times can be appreciated.

Browsing through the compilation of La Solidaridad, I spotted an article on Christmas Eve in the Jan. 25, 1890 issue. It is datelined Paris, Jan. 12, 1890 and is bylined with the familiar pseudonym Taga-Ilog. The Lunas trace their roots to Ilocos Norte; the painter Juan Luna was born in Badoc, but his younger brother Antonio was born and raised in Binondo, near the Pasig River hence the pseudonym Taga-Ilog, from which we derived the term "Tagalog." Luna spent Christmas Eve 1889 in Madrid where the winter cold was made worse by his homesickness and his thoughts of Christmas in the Philippines. Luna met an old beggar on the street and instinctively put his hand into his pocket to find a coin but it was so cold the donation took some effort and he said, "And they would call this Christmas Eve when cold paralyzed even the hand which likes to give alms."

We are indebted to the late Guadalupe Fores-Ganzon who translated the first two years of La Solidaridad from the original Spanish to English; and to Bookmark that took over the project and published the entire series in parallel text. Luna's prose may be too florid for our taste today but, just to give you an idea, here is how he opened the essay:

"Delightful spring night in the capital of the Philippines-there where grey skies are covered with extensive clouds which, following the laws of condensation, descend in a cascade of slender bales of cotton threads, or in precipitate bundles of minute pieces of paper which float in space as if thrown from a balcony by the nervous hand of an irate woman."

No mention of snow, Santa Claus, and reindeer. The scientist in Luna (he was a chemist trained in the Institut Pasteur in Paris) refers to the laws of condensation! If you read on you are rewarded to a glimpse of Christmas Eve in the late 19th-century Philippines. In the cold of Europe, he pursued his memories:

"...(W)hich gladdens the soul, we took flight in imagination to a place thousands of miles away-there where the cheerful season sings of the Birth of Christ, under the thick arbor of trees which intertwine and embrace each other, and among the plants and flowers which by their perfumes intoxicate, we found ourselves seated beside a shy dalaga (maiden), and we inhaled the sweetness of a garland of sampaguitas that in graceful folds tries in vain to hide the virginal purity of her white breast."

While most Filipinos today remember Christmas Eve through their taste buds or their childhood noche buenas, Luna remembers Christmas through different senses. He is tired of cold and snow and longs for the tropics. Covered with a muffler and scarf, he remembers the scent of sampaguita. A musician, reputedly one of the best guitarists of his time, Luna remembers sounds:

"Again I seem to hear the sounds of a tuned orchestra of Sampaloc, of San Juan del Monte, of Pandacan wafted in undulating chords by the breezes which throb in space. It is the customary thing for the family to group together in celebration of Christmas Eve. The family members go to church to hear midnight mass; from the church to the house and then to the dance; from the dance to dinner; until exhausted by the excitement of the recreation, they sleep in the first hours of the morning.

"Artistic paper lantern imitating the Spanish escutcheon, the Star of Bethlehem, etc., with different inscriptions such as 'VIVA EL NI¥O JESUS' and 'Esta noche es Noche Buena' [This night is Christmas Eve], starts the parade, carried by a barefoot lad dressed in shirt and white pants, a funny handkerchief around the brow like the Aragonese custom. Eight or ten more boys, jumping happily around him threaten by their jumps and thrusts the vertical position of the lanterns which oscillates at every step. Other boys of the streets gather around and follow with their shouts of Aba! Ta aqui ya el orquesta, ta aqui ya, ta aqui ya [Oh! Here comes the band. It is coming…it is coming]. Happy are the hearts that in experiencing the sweet impressions of music are gladdened or saddened by them. Music is the sister of sentiment; those children of the street and of ignorance feel. People who feel are not slaves.

"Behind the children come the ‘dalagas’ and the ‘bagontaos,’ the ‘tatays’ and ‘nanays,’ the fastidious aunts and at the tail end of the paraders, the orchestra playing the polkas of Fahrback, Fliege, Coote, the waltzes of Strauss, Waldteudel, Metra, the sanzas of Silos, Perez, Enriquez, Kostka and Castañeda."

The Christmas Eve in Antonio Luna's memory is so different from our own. Even the composers he mentions are unknown to me. He describes the “noche Buena” party but makes no mention of food or drink. Memory can be very selective which makes history a very complicated profession.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

'Noche buena' in the 1920s

'Noche buena' in the 1920s

Updated 11:27pm (Mla time) Dec 21, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the December 22, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

A FEW weeks back, readers (especially expat Filipinos for whom Christmas can be most lonely) wrote and e-mailed to thank me for the mouth-watering remembrance of duman and the Christmas table in my favorite aunt's house in San Fernando groaning with all the gastronomic Kapampangan delights that make the food in this region rivaled but unsurpassed. My conscious appreciation for the food of my paternal relatives resulted from my association with the late E. Aguilar Cruz (whose portrait now hangs beside that of his wife on the ground floor of the original Café Adriatico in Malate). Long before Doreen Fernandez became the doyenne of food writing in the Philippines, it was "Abe" Cruz who was often interviewed on things gastronomic. He shared his own memories of noche buena in the 1920s with Ching Alano as follows:

"The noche buena...was a comparatively light meal...For a slightly above average family, standard noche buena fare was a heartwarming affair with fideos [translated by the interviewer as "vermicelli" though it actually is the thick and round macaroni-type noodles found in soup], or in its absence there usually was nilagang manok. The main dish was rellenong manok...They called it the main dish because it was at the center of the table, because it was stuffed. It was rare that they had stuffed turkey because, in the first place, it was hard to find turkey [from my own experience I would presume that turkey was not the fowl of choice because it was bland, somewhat like having a supersize piece of white meat when most Filipinos will throw cholesterol caution out the window and opt for dark meat] and it was hard to bake. So they settled for rellenong manok.

"To tell you frankly, I don't remember our taking fish [during noche buena]. In those days bread was a real treat which usually came before the rice...besides the rice menu there was a tinapay menu. The popular bread then was the Pan Americano... [Other things on the Christmas table were:] jamon de funda from Australia, a must for native bourgeois Christmas, and so-called because it was wrapped in cloth that made it look like a pillow case, queso de bola or edam cheese, chestnuts, apples, and you see it was more modest than what we see in magazines and on TV today."

Cruz's list of dessert started with his all-time favorite kalamay ube, followed by the usual: malagkit, suman and leche flan, not necessarily in that order.

When I interviewed him, nursery rhymes from his childhood came flooding back from memory. Aside from food, it was from Cruz that I rediscovered the language of my father, which I was discouraged from using by my Tagalog mother who feared it would give me the infamous Kafamfangan accent as well as future pronunciation problems with my f's, p's and e's.

While talking of food as my heritage, Cruz started to recite: "Isa adwa bibingka/ atlu kapat patupat/ lima anam suman/ pitu walu bobotu/ siyam apulo ginilo." You don't have to be Kapampangan to guess that this is a counting rhyme that ends with various types of food: bibingka is the rice-cake served with grated coconut meat (niyog) or some syrup or sugar; suman is the delicacy made from glutinous or sticky rice wrapped in different types of leaves (usually coconut) rolled or folded to form various shapes and sizes; patupat is a suman variety served with sugar or latik, that is a sweet preparation made of cooked and sweetened coconut milk; boboto is better known in other areas as tamales; and ginilo is coconut milk served cold with gulaman, the closest one can get to the refreshing Spanish drink horchata.

All the foods above remembered by Abe Cruz are just about the same things I remember from my childhood and which will be remembered by my nephews and nieces who go to lunch in San Fernando, Pampanga, once a month (when I was growing up this was every Sunday plus long vacations in the summer) and pine for the simple uncomplicated food that only my aunt's cook seems capable of dishing out. Unlike older, more affluent families who had special cooks hired for special meals or dishes, the only thing that seemed out of the ordinary for me was the buco sherbet that was not bought off a supermarket shelf but scooped out of a large wooden garapinera filled with salt and ice. I never got around to studying the contraption because I was distracted by this sweet crystallized and fine buco juice frozen to perfection.

Interviews with those who had a "dulce cook" or someone who specialized in sweets are something worth exploring again. I heard of a certain "Apung Pedro" of Bacolor whose piece de résistance in an assortment of sweets was a concoction made from eggs which he steamed and shaped in a round llanera. When it was cooked and solid, he placed it on a tray and sliced it to form a flower, which was said to look like a dahlia with each petal garnished with cherries and poured over with a secret recipe syrup. When this beautiful edible flower had absorbed the sauce, it was ready to eat. Unfortunately, my informant had no name for it and only remembered that it was good.

Some day I may yet embark on a new line of research, do my mother's dream book on Filipino kakanin from north to south, and thus preserve part of our gastronomic heritage.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Prayers for the Revolution

Prayers for the Revolution

Updated 06:37am (Mla time) Dec 15, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the December 15, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

CHRISTMAS traffic is upon us again. Our yearly experience of being stuck on the road near malls and commercial centers is enough to dilute the spirit of giving (and buying, of course) generated by lights, décor and Christmas carols playing on public address systems.

There is something about the season that makes us forget, at least momentarily, the pressures of everyday life. In recent days, my students seem to be far away, lost in thought, not about the past and history but about Christmas parties past and future. One wonders if people felt this way at Christmas during the Philippine Revolution, the Filipino-American War, or even World War II. Soldiers may have no occasion for shopping, but usually a ceasefire is called on Dec. 25 so that the battle weary can rest and think of peace. Why we cannot hold on to this wonderful spirit indefinitely is the challenge that has faced man for a long time.

One man who had a miserable Christmas in 1896 was Jose Rizal who was locked up in Fort Santiago and brought out only to face a military court on charges of treason. Rizal left us with a lot of letters and he seems to have forgotten to describe his last Christmas. He was not allowed to see his family, except for his mother and sisters. His father and elder brother Paciano were not allowed to see him; the only males allowed into the cell were toddlers. Rizal left us with a lot of documentation for various parts of his life but is silent about Christmas 1896, knowing that he faced a death sentence as soon as the trial was concluded.

In this silence, we have room to imagine how he filled his time. Sleeping or perhaps scribbling his "Ultimo Adios"? A historian studying this period in Rizal's life often wishes that some sort of document was left, but then having nothing and being forced to imagine can be better.

There is a lot of documentation on the Philippine Revolution that remains to be looked into and evaluated, but in the great mass that is now in the National Library, the Philippine Revolutionary Records or PRR (formerly the Philippine Insurgent Records or PIR) will tell us how Christmas was celebrated during the Revolution. All it needs is a historian who is looking specifically for documents on the topic.

The Jesuit historians, Pedro de Achutegui and Miguel Bernad, have compiled an interesting mix of documents on Aguinaldo and the Revolution of 1896 (Ateneo de Manila, 1972) that give us a sense of the times. I refer to two letters that ask for prayers. The first one is dated Nov. 16, 1896 and is originally in Tagalog. The text reads:

"In gratitude to the help extended to our Katipunan by the Blessed Mother of God, whose perpetual succor we have felt in trying to achieve our Liberty, please command your Brothers of the Katipunan under your jurisdiction to tell the townspeople to recite the Holy Rosary at all hours. Ask them to implore the help of the Holy Mother and of her Child to redeem us from the bondage of slavery and to take us under the mantle of grace. For three consecutive nights, ask the Brothers under your jurisdiction to pray that the enemy may abandon their contemptible conduct and that they face God and the mercy of heaven. Thus, the freedom that we have been able to hold so far may be ours forever.

"Please try to fulfill the order I gave last week with regard to the reinforcement of the camps and inform us of its compliance."

Praying the rosary for three consecutive nights in the hopes of a military victory is quite significant because the Spaniards surely prayed just as hard for a different outcome. Not knowing God as well as some people today, I wonder how He settled the issue.

The other document is signed by Baldomero Aguinaldo and is dated Jan. 14, 1897. He ordered the following:

"To the Military Commanders and Presidents of the towns mentioned in the margin [these are Mabilis, Magdalo, Gargano, Haligui, Magpuri, Sumilang, Mapagibig, Alapaap, Matalilong and Taliba]:

"According to a message sent here by a countryman of ours who is reliable and sympathetic to our cause, the enemy will attack our towns on the 24th of this month. However, we should be on guard even in the intervening days, and prepare all ways and means for our defense.

"Please order the people, especially the women, to make novenas. Ask those in charge of the barrios to be strict in carrying out this order, because we must understand that our prayers to Almighty God are really powerful weapons against our enemies."

In previous columns, I have written about various feasts and parties that Aguinaldo attended even when he was being pursued up north from Malolos by the Americans. Even in times for great difficulty, the Filipino found time to relax and to party. They also found a time to pray, a time to fight, a time to retreat.

There are documents on the music that was played, the food that was served and enjoyed. Trivial, of course, in the wider context of the struggle for independence but important to our understanding of how the Revolution was fought. Surely, there are more documents asking for prayers than there are instructions to soldiers on how to fight. When all of these are unearthed and studied, only then will we get a complete picture of the Revolution.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A sense of life in the past

A sense of life in the past

Updated 10:42pm (Mla time) Dec 09, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

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

WHEN tourists (both foreign and Filipino) walk near San Agustin Church and the Casa Manila complex, they will notice that this is one small spot of Intramuros that has cobblestone streets. The sound of “calesa” bells or the wooden wheels on the stone conjure many romantic notions about life in the Walled City. Often I hear people exclaim that it would have been wonderful to live in Spanish Manila, and I often feel like bursting the bubble and saying that then, as now, if one was not wealthy, life could be uncomfortable.

Travel accounts of the islands give us a real sense of life in the past. If you take one of those exorbitantly priced calesa rides around Intramuros today, you get a quaint ride because most streets are paved and the wooden wheels are lined with rubber creating less noise and a smooth ride. When Ethel Colquhoun and her husband Andrew arrived in Manila at the turn of the last century, they did not have confirmed hotel bookings. They must have presumed that nobody would bother to visit Manila and so they could find a decent room in the best place in town, Hotel de Oriente, outside Intramuros whose imposing facade is often the subject of old photographs.

The hotel was full but for one room, and so the opportunistic clerk charged them $7 per person for this small single room with a single bed. There were four people in the party who looked and "felt dusty, hot and badly dressed." They were told to take the room at that price or leave it.

Of course they left, with Ethel saying she would rather sleep in the street than be had. Now they had to find another hotel and couldn't do that on foot. Since they didn't know anyone of consequence in Manila, they had no ride and had to get the ancestor of today's FX taxi:

"After some delay we got a little box on wheels and rattled away in search of other quarters. Carriages, be it here noted, are hard to hire in Manila, most people keeping their own. Everyone drives, so the demand is frequently larger than the supply." (It must have been a good day because there is no mention of traffic that then, as now, plagued Manila. Haven't you noticed the irony of the word "rush hour"? One cannot rush at this time because of traffic. Another example would be "salvage," which the dictionary defines as saving something but in the Philippines means disposing of someone bodily. That's material for another column, so to get back to Colquhoun's taxi ride:)

"The carromatta is a two-wheeled cart, with a cover; there is room for two Filipinos inside, or for one European and a half. The driver sits on a little perch just in front, and the only way in is to climb over the wheel. The carromatta we hired on this occasion was not very sure of its wheels, and as we joggled and jolted along over the bad roads and cobblestone-paved streets, the driver eyed them nervously. Every now and then came a sickening heave and wrench as we bumped into a hole, and our heads were banged first against the sides of the cover and then against each other. Luckily the wheels held until we had passed along some Spanish-looking streets -- white and grey houses with the inevitable rajas -- through a low arched opening in the thick wall, which looks much older than it is, and into the walled city. I was too much engaged with holding my head on and watching the wheels to notice much of the city..."

Climbing into this vehicle one had to grasp on the wheels for support, and knowing how dirty the streets were at the time, this could be quite disagreeable. We have air pollution today, but in those days when the term "horsepower" was taken literally, you can imagine that there was a bit more than air pollution in Manila. One had to mind where one was walking not only because of potholes but horse droppings. Seating capacity as mentioned above was for two Filipinos, the equivalent of one and a half European passenger. One wonders if an oversized lone Westerner was charged twice, because even on a jeepney today the driver always tries to pack the seats. He looks back through his mirror and barks "animan 'yan," meaning six people per row. Often this is a signal for everyone to compress, or for mothers to put a child (who rides free) on her lap and accommodate the sixth passenger. However, I was once seated with a fat lady the size of two passengers and the driver kept telling us to squeeze together because "animan 'yan" instead of shaming the obese and charging her double.

All postwar travel accounts of the Philippines marvel about the jeepney -- its wild colors and the number of mirrors and horses on the hood -- but do not pick up what to us is ordinary: passing your fare up front. Witty signs like "God knows Hudas not pay." Or even the various ways to stop the jeep if it is not fitted with a wire or button that rings a bell or flashes a red light by the driver. Normally, the Pinoy often refrains from ordering the driver "Para" so the more polite "Sa tabi lang, po" is used. Non-verbal signals often differ according to sex: Men will knock on the ceiling, while women will demurely hiss "Pssst!"

We see this but rarely notice the everyday details.

Friends say I should have been an anthropologist rather than a historian because I mine travel accounts for everyday detail, providing more body to a history that will otherwise be dull and dry.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Dressing for the tropics

Dressing for the tropics

Updated 00:53am (Mla time) Dec 08, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the Dec. 8, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

ETHEL Colquhoun is a name familiar to the strange birds that frequent places like the Lopez Memorial Museum, the National Library, the University of the Philippines Main Library, or the Rizal Library of the Ateneo de Manila University. Her Book Two on their travels (London, 1902) is just one of many travel accounts on the Philippines available to researchers or plain interested readers.

Unlike other authors who narrate their trips "around the world," Colquhoun is different because she is a woman. Most travel books are written by men, and it is fascinating to see the world from a different angle. She was also an amateur artist and captured what she saw in delightful pen and ink drawings and some watercolors reproduced in color. One wonders where the original notebooks or sketchbooks are today because those images made at the turn of the last century have now attained some historical or anthropological value.

Last weekend, a friend and I were browsing at the Samsonite shop in Glorietta, looking at a wide array of luggage and wondering how sturdy these had to be in order to take the beating of modern air travel (and of course, rough careless baggage handlers and thieves in foreign airports). In the days when people traveled by sea and train, they had trunks that came complete with drawers and hangers. They were like portable cabinets and definitely weighed more than the 20 kilos allowed for economy passengers. These wouldn't fit in the overhead bins of planes and would be declared "oversized" today.

Travel in the past seemed such an adventure, requiring real planning, unlike today when you can get a discounted tour package, fly and be assured of hotels and transfers.

Colquhoun traveled in southern Philippines, visiting Sulu, Dapitan, Cagayan, Misamis and other places that wouldn't be in a tour package today. Come to think of it, foreign governments these days advise their citizens to avoid Mindanao altogether. Thus, it was a delight to read her impressions of the country at the time.

Surely, the Philippine climate has not changed much in a century, although my father claims it was cooler before the war. I attribute this to global warming and his imagination. Colquhoun and her husband wanted to know what to wear in the tropics and couldn't think of anything aside from a wide sun hat.

It seems they brought a number of trunks that eventually got lost, just as luggage gets waylaid today. This is what she recommended that women bring on a trip to the tropics:

"Take for evening wear...the thinnest black gown you can get with long sleeves...not very tight. The reason is that one's arms get mosquito-bitten and that long gloves are out of the question in the heat. It is better to have the dress black because if you are seasick and your Chinese servant or your husband packs for you, he will probably put the stuff you shine your patent shoes with on the top, and it will break and intimidate the whole trunk. Boot-blacking smells nasty but doesn't show much on black silk. Don't take fine muslins or coloured cottons, except for special occasions. Don't have collars to your frocks, and don't take Paris hats. All these things are a weariness to the flesh."

Reading the above made me grateful for modern conveniences like mosquito repellent (with moisturizer if you want) and, of course, Tupperware and Ziplock bags to contain spills in the luggage.

Like most men, Colquhoun's husband advised her to travel light and just buy clothes along the way. There was not much she wanted in many stops and was promised that Manila shopping would make up for all the disappointment. One did not really need formal clothes since the chances of being invited to a wedding or state dinner were quite slim. So, more on what to bring to the tropics:

"(1) A warm coat and skirt -- serge for preference -- rain proofed. (2) An unlined alpaca coat and a couple of skirts. (3) Quantities of white cambric and silk blouses, and plenty of linen skirts. (4) Some dark-coloured cambric and silk blouses to match coats and skirts. (5) Some loose wrappers of nun's-veiling. (6) A Panama straw hat, and a burnt straw shape, with one or two made-up 'trimmings.' (7) A couple of evening frocks, say, one coloured and one black, as described above. A high silk bodice to one of these (unlined) will do duty as an afternoon gown.

"With these as foundation, you can count on being neatly and comfortable attired under almost any circumstances -- unless, of course, you are going to attend race-meetings or vice-regal garden parties."

These days, we have wash and wear, drip-dry clothes. We have the convenience of washing machines and Laundromats, but in those days one really needed laundry and pressing service.

Maybe Colquhoun was just concerned with what to wear socially, but the Spartan list above doesn't mention underwear and sports clothes. One wonders what excess things she took in her trunks that got lost. The above list in itself is a useless bit of trivial data, but when one uses it to compare and contrast what was fashionable and basic a century ago with our own times, it is an exercise in historical reflection and imagination. It aids us in trying to piece together what the Philippines was like at the time.

From what she wrote in her book, Colquhoun seems to have enjoyed her stay in the Philippines.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Center of Christmas celebration

Center of Christmas celebration

Updated 10:55pm (Mla time) Dec 02, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

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

WHILE Christmas carols have been playing in some shops since September (the beginning of the so-called "ber" months leading to December), I have not really felt the Christmas cheer. By this time Christmas trees, lights and lanterns are already up, but nothing struck me as hard as missing the "Gloria" at last Sunday's Mass. The once colorful celebrant's vestments have turned dark, reminding us of Advent. Not a very cheerful liturgical season really, but one cannot emphasize the joy of Christmas without providing contrast.

Driving north and south of Manila recently, I gazed at rice fields and noticed the white herons walking or flying about. This is one of the signs of Christmas, migratory birds escaping from the cold winds of China, resting in the Philippines before moving off to their next destination.

Looking at the beautiful birds, the Pinoy in me wondered if they were edible, and if they were, did they taste best roasted, fried, stuffed or drowned in some dark and thick sauce? I guessed they were not very good or that at least they were swift enough to elude hunters because most of our seasonal visitors survive the long trip and return to their point of origin.

Short of causing panic, I also asked aloud if they were immune to bird flu. I answered my own question and suggested that the warm and polluted Philippine air eliminated the virus.

Two Sundays ago, after lunch in my favorite aunt's house in San Fernando, Pampanga, there was a scramble for something on the table. Wrapped in newspaper and banana leaves was the fragrant “duman,” young, green, semi-sticky rice sold only in November and December. Since a small bag costs P1,800, it was not served on a platter but was lovingly and sparingly coaxed from the bag and everyone grabbed handfuls without waiting for the chocolate in the kitchen that had not yet come to a boil.

With the first bag quickly gone and enjoyed, my aunt waited for the hot chocolate to come in before opening the second bag of duman. Again the mad rush, but this time the duman was mixed with the chocolate and scooped up like there was no tomorrow.

While this was going on, people expressed their preferences. Some liked duman as is while others liked theirs fried and popped to make what is better known as “pinipig.”

Different people have different ways of reckoning the seasons, using varying signals that are usually visual. But for me, food is a major marker. With duman, the countdown to Christmas and everything nice begins.

Aside from being with the truly extended family, it is the meal that is at the center of the celebration. It is odd that while the menu has not changed in decades, everyone looks forward to it. After midnight Mass (which these days is often celebrated earlier), the cool air gives one a hearty appetite and an appreciation for steaming hot chicken and pork “nilaga” with added zest from roasted ham bones boiled to make the stock. Standard fiesta fare will be found on tables: “rellenong bangus,” “rellenong manuc” or “galantina,” generous slices of “queso de bola” (aged edam cheese, usually of the "Marca Pato" or "Marca Piña" brand, with the trademark duck or pineapple on the red cellophane cover), tamales, glazed ham, fruit salad, “biringhi” (the Spanish paella indigenized in Pampanga, made with sticky rice and given a distinctive green color), and, if available, “apahap” which was once considered the only fish proper for a fiesta table because it was the most expensive.

Then, of course, what fiesta table can be complete without “lechon,” roasted suckling pig, as the centerpiece? (But in recent years, I have noticed that the apple in the snout is not as common as it used to be.) My aunt has the best freshly popped “chicharon” (pork skin) with “laman” in town. She encourages us to enjoy the chicharon, assuring us it is healthy having been deep-fried in canola oil.

Dessert that sits on a separate table could be said to be just as important (or perhaps more important) than the “ulam,” or viand, on the main table. In Pampanga, we have a sweet tooth resulting in a wide range of choices: hot chocolate with duman, “tibuk-tibuk” (loosely translated as "shaking" because it does jiggle like Jello but has more calories since it is made with a lot of nipa sugar and carabao milk topped with “latik,” or sweet curdled coconut milk), “leche flan,” “jale ube,” and “tocino del cielo” (children call it mini-leche flan, which it is, except that each bite-size piece contains one whole egg yolk), “pastillas,” “turron de casuy,” sans rival (from the French "without rival" because it is a deadly combination of wafer and butter topped with chopped cashew nuts), “silvanas,” and the commercially bought cakes, pies, and breads. All these goodies make the dessert table and Christmas memorable for children.

In the first volume of "Remembrance of Things Past," Marcel Proust begins a narrative triggered by the taste of Madeleine on the tip of his tongue. It's a kilometric novel about a man eating cake. Our writers have gone to libraries and the world in search of material for the great Philippine novel after those written by Jose Rizal over a century ago. But why go through so much trouble inventing a collective history or a worthwhile literature to find ourselves? There is so much waiting to be unearthed and written down -- a lot, literally, on the tip of our tongues.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Where are the bones of Bonifacio?

Where are the bones of Bonifacio?

Updated 01:56am (Mla time) Dec 01, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the December 1, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

YESTERDAY, I found myself on a hill known as Nagpatong in Maragondon, Cavite. It is "officially" the place where Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were executed by a team led by Lazaro Makapagal on May 10, 1897. I put the word "officially" in quotation marks because personally I don't think anyone really knows where the brothers Bonifacio were killed and buried. As a matter of fact, I believe that the so-called Bonifacio bones dug up in 1952 in the area now marked by the Philippines Historical Committee are not those of Andres Bonifacio. These bones were brought to Manila with much fanfare but they have disappeared since. I am sure these bones would not have withstood closer scrutiny. That is another story detailed in my book "Bones of Contention" (Anvil, 2001).

When I first visited Nagpatong seven years ago, I traveled on foot from Maragondon passing through a rickety suspension bridge, two streams and largely uninhabited terrain. It was a desolate place. The historical marker had been vandalized, covered with graffiti (of the type that goes "Loloy loves Mary" and "Bawal omehe deto").

Today, a dirt road makes the place accessible to tourists in cars. There are some scattered houses now, as well as a visible military presence in the area that suggests Nice People Around. Through the efforts of Maragondon Mayor Monte A. Andaman this place may yet see some development. A huge tableau by Toym Imao is rising on the site, changing the landscape we hope, for the better.

This development will surely spark some historical controversy. Worn-out questions will resurface like: Who was responsible for the death of Bonifacio? Who should rightfully be our National Hero?

If the monument will inspire patriotism, then it is worth all the trouble. But if it simply becomes another excuse to divide, another way to indulge in historical sabong, then it has no place anywhere in the Philippines.

What will be overlooked again is that our textbooks do not agree on the site of the execution of the Bonifacio brothers. Some books, following tradition, say they were executed on Mt. Buntis; others, towing the official line, say Mt. Nagpatong. I have no clear answer except that they were buried somewhere in this mountain range.

When I asked people to point out Buntis to me yesterday, I got the same vague answer as seven years ago. Nobody seems to know anything specific. From Nagpatong where we stood, Buntis was just a mountain away separated by Naputok. This is not a joke. The traditional names of the hills or mountains on the Maragondon range are very suggestive: Nagpatong, Naputok, Buntis and Hulog.

Until the National Historical Institute corrects history, as it did recently when it moved the site of the beginning of the Filipino-American War on Feb. 4, 1899 from a bridge in San Juan to a spot in Sta. Mesa, then we are stuck with Nagpatong. For whatever it is worth, I reproduce excerpts from a letter of Fr. Lupo Dumandan published in Taliba on Jan. 12, 1918 narrating the finding of the alleged Bonifacio bones on Nagpatong:

"In the town of Maragondon, Cavite, in a place called Hulog, on the hacienda of Jose Reyes, on the libis of a hill called Nagpatong and under the shade of an alibangbang tree, I found the burial place of the Supremo...I asked the residents of the area of the cause of death of the Supremo of the Katipunan. Some said that before the Spanish soldiers entered the town of Maragondon the revolutionaries took the wounded Supremo to the site I have mentioned, where he was shot and buried...

"Many people saw the Supremo...being carried in a hammock by two men because he was wounded....According to the people, Bonifacio was wounded in a battle that happened between the revolutionary soldiers...due to the delicacy [kaselanan] of my present state and due to my being a Catholic priest, I should not get involved in politics and in this way I am announcing the discovery of the skeleton of Andres Bonifacio so that those encouraging love of country can see if they should be moved to a place that is more fitting."

We now have many monuments to Bonifacio (and street names, too) all over the Philippines, among the most significant being that in Caloocan by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino (in the junction now popularly known as Monumento). There is another in bronze by National Artist Napoleon Abueva in Balintawak (the older statue in plaster, the one with white shirt and red pants, is now in front of Vinzon's Hall in UP Diliman]. Part of the mural by National Artist Carlos V. Francisco in Manila City Hall has Bonifacio leading his men to battle. There is also a sole figure of Bonifacio standing in front of the Manila Post Office, now the Liwasang Bonifacio, also by Guillermo Tolentino, and a rather tacky but striking three-dimensional tableau on Mehan Garden by the prolific Eduardo Castrillo who is sometimes mislabeled as a "National Artist." It is the Castrillo piece that spawned the one in Maragondon by Imao.

There will be more monuments to follow, and it is unfortunate that the remains of the Bonifacio brothers have not been found and given a proper burial. Till that day comes, let's hope historians and forensic doctors can piece together what happened to the Bonifacio brothers and why this happened.