1. …the Aquilizans somehow lift the opprobrium off Calma’s mater…What happens to Calma is vaguer and more difficult to track, which is why this provocation is indispensable because it is at once so disturbing and so beautiful, with Mabini art finally becoming contemporary and museum-worthy though slaughtered, so to speak, at the altar of art. It is only through this slaughter that it achieves an aesthetic quality meaningful in the legitimate art world, but a slaughter nevertheless that denies it of its own tradition on the street where it lives.

    - Excerpt from No Country For Natives by Patrick D. Flores (excerpt from installation at Ateneo Art Gallery)

    The Mabini Art Project at the Ateneo Art Gallery is a fascinating argument for what constitutes art. If you can’t visit in person (and I would recommend doing so to see some of their other pieces in the permanent collection) you can click through to view their online gallery.


  2. At the Ateneo

    Yes, I’m part of the EU. I love Ambassador Manalo to bits! I’m also a proud student of Fernando Zialcita, and also have been under the wing of other notable Ateneans who have shaped my identity and have pushed me to preserve Filipino culture.

    I must be more careful with my words. Thank you for reminding me that!

    No worries friend! None at all.

    By the way, if I may give my humble opinion on professors. Learn everything you can from Zialcita. Really.

    He’s likely our finest anthropologist alive today, and one of the keener minds as well when it comes to analyzing our history and understanding our culture. He applies modern techniques, but remains relatively bias free. A unique combination in Philippine historiography. His collection of essays on Filipino identity is fascinating and engrossing stuff, not to mention his work on Philippine architecture. I’ve posted a few lines of his in the past. One of the more relevant to my area is:

    The claim that all Spanish influence is evil injures our sense of national identity. So likewise is the notion that Filipinos lost their culture and ended up as mere copycats. Almost anything with a Spanish name is now suspect as being non-Filipino even if it is original…

    On the other hand, despite the value placed on the indigenous, few seem to bother to read the voluminous anthropological ethnographies on our brothers and sisters in the non-Hispanized parts of the Philippines during the early part of the twentieth century, or the detailed accounts by the early European travellers on sixteenth-century Philippine societies…As a result they fail to realize how strong and persistent indigenous ways are even in the lowlands, and that these modify the foreign.

    Of this, he is an extension, or one of the modern day banner carriers, of the type of work on identity that Nick Joaquin has done, and Alejandro Roces did with regards to fiestas and folk customs. For Roces, the fiesta took primacy as the repository of Philippine history and culture. Writ on those events was the story of the Philippines and the process that we underwent in becoming Filipino. It is why, with regards to the Moriones mask, he wrote that even if you strip away the mask of the Moriones to get at the indigenous heart of the fiesta, you will still find the Filipino as you know him today.

    For Nick Joaquin, he turned his eye towards Philippine culture and history on the whole. Though, his more informative work was his study on the heroes of the Revolution. Though, I do say that his Culture and History stands along side A Question of Heroes.

    There are sadly a select few broader anthropologists and historians today who take this type of integrative approach to Philippine history. 

    And Ambassador Manalo? One of the quickest wits around. And a woman who has done much for the Philippines. Formidable I do believe.


  3. Reading that reflection of Demetrio shows the extremes and deficiency of nationalism, extreme in the sense that recent attempts of post-colonialism had been paranoid and purist,  and deficient in the sense that, as you always have pointed out, so few have attempted to paint on the canvass of our past. Oh well, from our ongoing dialogue here in Tumblr, the re-introduction of Joaquin’s thesis, and the deconstruction of Agoncillo, and the recent internet discovery of @margoism I cannot help but to think Filipino identity in its present form is of a schizophrenic kind!

    But alas, seeing the interests of the youth to blogs like you and @ellobofilipino (which by the virtue that he is following me back results into having a big chunk of my new followers for the past month being highschool girls uyyy gwapo ni ser, haha) I am very hopeful that someday we will be successful in imagining a community which is in terms with her past, in charge of her present and confident of her future. But for now, I should say we need a little nudge in the academic community to write as is, research as is and only then paint later.

    Am I making sense? Damn, I need my sleep. Haha.

    Made sense. Though I am only on my second cup of coffee. It will probably make even more sense after my third. Ahhh coffee addictions.

    My superficial, readily admitted, view has always been that some of the historians and institutions have approached studying our past with very specific goals in mind. They come in and conform history to pre-existing notions, as opposed to allowing the study of history to help inform. If that makes sense (need more coffee).

    For example, Agoncillo’s historiography is rife with methodological inconsistencies. One that I pointed out recently was his rejecting period documents, reports and testimonials (which corroborated each other) in favor of a flawed memoir by a very suspect revolutionary in Pio Valenzuela ( a figure I am rapidly beginning to see as the wellspring of so much disinformation). His argument was that memoirs are more reliable than third party corroborated court testimonies. Testimonies mind you that were offered up by Valenzuela after he voluntarily surrendered himself to the Spanish to take advantage of the Blanco general amnesty.

    Yet, Agoncillo put more weight on memoirs written thirty years after, by a man who was likely trying to situate himself as an important figure in the ‘96 events. Compromised to say the least. Any historian worth his salt will tell you that memoirs are one of the least reliable of source documents. Especially when they are uncorroborated. As Valenzuelas were. Agoncillo favored these memoirs because they fit his narrative; eschewing others, that while running counter to his concepts, were likely more reliable.

    So yes, your point is absolutely correct. What the Philippine academe needs to do is re-approach our history with rigorous methodologies, shorn as much as possible of bias. Something that frankly has not been done. And much of the reason is that we continue to see history as a propaganda and political tool.

    Further, as opposed to fostering a hostile and exclusionary environment for opposing viewpoints our academe must be more accepting. Institutions like UST and the Ateneo, in my experience, are relatively more open. The UP? Not so much.

    To be fair, that’s a fairly broad generalization. For example, one Ateneo history professor in particular is guilty of excluding/ignoring/persecuting those whose historical views don’t line up with his. And schools are not only guilty of this. The NHI is guilty as well in terms of pushing one specific ideologically tinged and methodologically flawed historical view.

    The hope is that more pop oriented writers will do the work and lean on more informed historical opinions as opposed to falling into the rote type of opinion-making that has been prevalent for the last thirty to forty years or so. Maybe since the 60s. What we lack is the bridge from the academe to broader consciousness. Let’s be honest, as brilliant as Schumacher is, he’s not exactly going to fire up people’s interests and imagination. No, that is where writers like Nick Joaquin came into play.

    It’s pretty much worthless to even ask if we have a Joaquin or Roces operating today in the broadsheets.

    (via brownmonkeytheory)


  4. A little post on Basques in the Philippines

    A recent discussion on Casa Gorordo in Cebu reminded me of a lecture I gave at the Ateneo de Manila University on Basque history in the Philippines. It was just a simple survey lecture, mainly hitting the high points of the history.

    We often look at the Spanish (kastilas, conquistadors etc) as being one cultural entity; as in all the same. We rarely consider that they came from different parts of Spain, or the Empire, or from a diverse background of ethnicities and cultures (as in the case of Mexican missionaries and businessmen). For the Basques, they were a part of the Spanish empire, sworn to the crown, but they operated autonomously. Some historians have referred to them as the money behind the crown.

    For the Philippines the roll call of influential Basques is like a roll call of “great” men in Philippine history. As that slide behind me says: “We may have been a Spanish territory, but we were a Basque nation.”

    The relationship, so to speak, with the Basques goes back to even before Legazpi and Urdaneta (two Basques). That started with Juan Sebastian Elcano (the first circumnavigator of the world). Most of the crew of Magellans expedition were Basque as well. The Basque as a people were prominent sailors and ship-builders; hence their economic influence throughout the Spanish Empire. In actuality, during this period, there were likely less than 1 million Basques in existence. Today, there are about 2.5 million in the Basque County (encompasses Alava, Biscaya and Gipuzkoa) and an additional six million or so in their Diaspora.

    Elcano was a Basque, as were Legazpi and Urdaneta. Included in the Legapzi expedition were Basques such as Salcedo, Martin de Rada, Aguirre and so on. Later Basque governor-generals of influence were Simon de Anda and Jose Basco y Vargas. Simon de Anda rose to fame in effectively coordinating and mounting a national defense that kept the British hemmed into Manila. When he ascended to the governor-generalship (for the second time) he was a prominent advocate of infrastructure development, the secularization of the government, breaking the control of the friars and very pro-native. As I’ve mentioned before, his influence was such that he became a rallying point for the early Propagandists (when the Spanish government tried to move his body). When Anda died, he was shunned by the Spanish and tended on his death bed by Filipinos who had adopted him as one of their own.

    The influence of Jose Basco y Vargas is tremendous; in many ways the father of agriculture and industry in the Philippines. His innovations and policies allowed the Philippines to become a self-sufficient territory, and laid the groundwork for the economic boom of the 19th century. As we have said, the new economic independence of the Filipinos allowed them to become educated and to travel. Thus, opening their world to new possibilities.

    In terms of modern influence, look no further than some of the more venerable families in Philippines. Families such as the Ynchaustis, Elizaldes, Ayalas (not the Zobels), Aboitiz, Luzurriaga, Larrinaga, Larazabal, Garchitorena, Ortigas and McMickings and so on all trace their roots to the Basque Country.

    Companies such as Bank of the Philippine Islands were founded and run by Basques. Sugar and abaca as well were industries developed by Basques. The greatest concentration of Basque families are in fact found in Cebu and Negros. When I gave my lecture I was surprised at how many students came up afterwards and said that they were of Basque descent.

    The influence of Basques in the Philippines is little studied, and it should be studied. Even the hero of Rizal’s novels was of Basque descent (Ibarra). There has been one book published so far (Basque History in the Philippines by Marc de Borja) and taken in a vacuum, it is a respectable first step in the studying their influence.

    It may seem a bit strange to study an ethnic minority and their influence in the Philippines. But in the case of the Basques, their influence is so pervasive it warrants attention. Further, the study of Basques in other countries (Mexico, Argentina and the United States) has yielded starting insights into colonial history. For us, just look at the prominence of the Jesuits and their contributions to the Revolution. The Jesuit order is a Basque religious order (Francis Xavier and Loyola were Basques), many of the Jesuit and Augustinian priests who journeyed here were Basque. The question is, did the fact that they were Basque make a difference? I would argue that yes, I think it did.

    As the Basques became more influential in the Philippines, so to did the economic fortunes of the Philippines improve. The Royal Economic Society of the Philippines and the Royal Philippine Company were both Basque institutions. In the case of the Philippine Company this was just essentially a reorganization of the Caracas Company (one of the most successful trade companies in history). Those two institutions were responsible for much-needed technological and capital infusions in the Philippines at end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. There are contributions then from the Basques in terms of secularization of the government, economic development, educational development and so forth. All factors that lead to the flourishing of nationalism in the 19th century.

    The fact is, the influence has barely been studied, except in the broadest and most superficial of terms. Again, a by-product of our marginalization and vilification of our Spanish history.