1. "There is no ‘legitimacy’ in revolution; power belongs to whoever can seize it; and the newcomer is most apt to gain it who is most ‘pure,’ strict, and systematic."
    — Jacques Barzun
  2. "Look at those toy soldiers playing at war. For years they had nothing better to do than to march in loyalty parades and bang the heads of civilians who could not fight back. Now they ask these same civilians to keep their asses from being blown off."

    - Anding Roces, February 24, 1986


  3. The internees reacted in a variety of ways to the sound of firing all around them.

    Fr. George J. Williams, S.J., had celebrated an early morning mass that morning. After mass, at 0700, he and his barracks mates lined up for the daily roll call. As he was moving to the lineup area on “shaky legs,” he turned and saw some planes coming across the lake from the north. He paid little attention because “planes had been a common sight in recent days. Only the previous afternoon the Japanese battery two miles west had been savagely strafed.” But as the planes came abreast of the camp, he noted objects dropping out of them and immediately deduced that the Americans were dropping leaflets to give them some encouragement. But then he and his friends saw the small objects blossom into parachutes. “They’re paratroopers,” they yelled and headed for their barracks as the firing around the perimeter started.

    February 23, 1945

    - Lt. Gen. E. M. Flanagan, The Los Banos Raid.

    I was talking with some of the survivors of the Battle for Manila last weekend and their stories are the stuff of nightmares and horror films. It is sobering when you realize that they lived through the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan; maybe even worse since this was their homes that were being burned and razed to the ground, their city being decimated.

    Aside from purely self-serving revisionist memoirs (like Carmen Guerrero-Nakpils’) almost to a man all are thankful that the Americans arrived. They hold no rancor towards them for shelling the city; in fact, they point out that the Japanese, by hunkering down amidst the civilian population and essentially using them as a hundred thousand human shields, left them little choice.

    They speak about the American soldiers who tried to rescue them, who offered them shelter, and for the first time in days (weeks in some cases), a warm place to sleep and hot food.

    And yes, they try to speak of the atrocities they witnessed, even as they stumble over the descriptions. There are stories of a man who survived a botched beheading, of listening to sisters and mothers being raped then gutted, of babies being bayoneted, of lovers and husbands and wives disappearing right in front of them.

    February is a fascinating month in Philippine history: It saw the most bloody fighting in the Philippine Revolution, the outbreak of the Philippine-American War, the end of the Japanese Occupation, the toppling of a dictator.

    The spirit of the Filipino, the love of his nation, and the blood shed in her defense, are writ large in February.

    (Source: ellobofilipino)


  4. diariodefilipinas:

    Spanish battery pounds Filipino positions in Cavite Province (Photo by Arnaldo Dumindin)

    Cavite, Philippines - (February 15, 1897) Governor-General Camilo de Polavieja has opened up his offensive against the revolutionary army of Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite with an assault on the…

    And so the end of the first phase begins…

  5. The Quote:

    Don’t you see how everything is awakening? The sleep has lasted for centuries, but one day the thunderbolt struck, and in striking, infused life. Since then new tendencies are stirring our spirits, and there tendencies, today scattered, will some day be united, guided by the God who has not failed other peoples and will not fail us, for His cause is the cause of liberty!

    - Jose Rizal, The Social Cancer

    The Painting:

    The Barricade, rue de la Mortellerie, June 1848 (or Memory of Civil War) by Ernest Meissonier, 1848. A haunting piece depicting the aftermath of the workers riots in June 1848 in Paris, France.

  6. The Quote

    On the field of battle, fighting with delirium,

    others give you their lives without doubts, without gloom

    The site nought matters: cypress, laurel or lily:

    gibbet or open field: combat or cruel martyrdom

    are equal if demanded by country and home.

    - Jose Rizal (translation by Nick Joaquin)

    The Painting

    Liberty Leading the People, Eugene Delacroix 1830. One of the most famous of French paintings, it depicts Liberty, represented by the woman, boldly leading Frenchmen in impassioned revolt to overthrow a repressive and antiquated Regime.


  7. Bad History - The Katipunan: A Society of the Poor

    Two days ago, on July 26, the Philippines celebrated with great pomp and circumstance the birthday of the first Supremo of the Katipunan, Deodato Arellano. Of course we all know his story. Born in Bulacan, Bulacan in 1844; Educated at the Ateneo de Manila in bookkeeping; Married to the sister (Hilaria) of famed propagandist Marcelo H del Pilar. He was one of those workers upon which revolutions are built: He was active in La Propaganda, helping del Pilar with fighting for political reforms in the Philippines. La Propaganda did not last long. But, its mission was to raise funds to support Propagandists abroad in Spain, while at the same time disseminating their works in the Philippine colony. With the failure of La Propaganda, Jose Rizal organized La Liga; where Arellano was elected Secretary. That disbanded as well after Rizal’s exile to Dapitan on July 7. 

    On the same day, the Katipunan was founded with Arellano as its first President. The revolutionary minded organization of the Katipunan took place at 72 Azcarraga Street, in Don Deodato Arellano’s home. Fancy that. 

    Other men who were there included Andres Bonifacio, Valentin Diaz, and Teodoro Plata. When Arellano was replaced as President, Roman Basa was elected in his place. Bonifacio in fact was the third President of the Katipunan. There is one another intriguing note: Like the rest Arellano was a Mason. And of course, as well all know, the Masonic Order is definitely a grassroots organization that only sought out the most downtrodden members of society for acceptance into the Order.

    We all know this story right? Right? Yeah…right.

    Sarcasm aside, this is not the Katipunan that we commonly know. The one that we popularly know erroneously paints a far different picture of the make up of the organization and its membership. Running through the list of those early leaders, even the location of the home where it was founded, demonstrates that the Katipunan was far from a ‘masa’ organization at the onset. Much like the hero mostly commonly associated with it: Andres Bonifacio. They were all professionals, middle managers in modern parlance; who were reasonably well educated and held positions of trust in various established business houses.

    Men like Arellano and Basa are little known for what, I suspect, is a simple reason: They are concrete links between the reform movements abroad and in the Philippines and the revolution. Not to mention they create an image of an organization with some affluence and education attached to it. These are links and perceptions that have been almost forcefully managed out of our histories; primarily because they do not fit the preferred narrative of the Katipunan and Bonifacio being exclusively of the ‘masa.’  They make a lie out of popular history (which really is not that hard to do by any means). Oh, and they also hint at the deep familial relationships that were at play in the reform and revolution movements. For some unfathomable reason some of our historians have this sort of perverse fascination with the odd idea that the Philippine revolution spontaneously sprang out of nowhere at the end of the 19th century. They work very hard to disassociate the revolution from the evolution of thought and the formation of a Philippine idea that came before. They refuse to connect familial relationships to the transmission of reformist and eventually revolutionary philosophies. As if it is a bad thing that families became involved in trying to free the Philippines from imperial ownership. These are the perils of histories written by historians who are so rigidly ideologically bound that they are practically wearing blinders. Well, in fact, they are. 

    There have been some intrepid historians who have tried to create a more accurate image of Philippine revolutionary history. One historian, Jim Richardson, has accomplished what is likely the most exhaustive studies of the history and organizational and membership makeup of the Katipunan. One aspect was delving into the income of various members of the Katipunan and comparing it to the standard salary rates of actual uneducated laborers (i.e. the real proletariat). 

    It is fairly obvious that Deodato Arellano was reasonably affluent. Roman Basa, who took over the Presidency of the Katipunan after Arellano, earned approximately 50 pesos a month; Bonifacio made approximately 20 pesos a month from his position as a trusted warehouse clerk, an income that he augmented through the creating and selling of walking canes and paper fans. The fact is that almost all of members of the Katipunan made or earned in excess of the median wage. As a matter of fact only one member of the Katipunan could be considered a ‘laborer.’ More often than not, laborers make up the majority of a proletariat; yet, in terms of members, the Katipunan did not quite represent them.

    Consider this, among the membership “…there is not a single servant, nor a single sailor, launderer, seamstress or coachman, and yet these modes of employment each occupied thousands. These were the people who truly had to scrape by on the most meager wages ,and these were the people, together with the unfortunates who had no regular means of livelihood, who truly belonged to the ‘lower stratum.’ (Richardson). To put wages in perspective, seamstresses earned about 5 pesos a month, servants and laborers 5-10 pesos a month. The most ‘affluent’ of the bunch were sailors, who made around 12 pesos a month.

    The Katipunan was far from comprised of impoverished members of the lowest stratum of Philippine society. Instead, it was formed by educated men of some social standing and economic means.

    While this may seem like an attack on the Katipunan, it is not. Let me be clear, you do not have to be of a certain socio-economic strata to fight for equal rights for all, including the ‘poor.’ It instead is a critique of the completely erroneous image of that organization that has been perpetuated and foisted upon us by gross leftist influenced propaganda masquerading as history. The truth is that revolution is preceded by intellectual and economic enlightenment. Those reformist efforts created the necessary awareness and awakening that launched a revolution. Revolution, successful ones at that, are not built on a moment of frenzied mindless ‘passion’ that is too often confused with patriotism. Men like Bonifacio, Arellano, Basa et al may not in fact have been of the ‘masa.’ They were too educated, too successful within the context of the period to be so. Yet, they fought for them. They believed in them. They dreamed of a better Philippines for all Filipinos regardless of social class.

    Just like the reformists did; just like men like Aguinaldo and Pardo de Tavera did. What some historians have tried to do is delineate our history along forced class lines: If you were rich, you were not a patriot. If you were poor, you were. Their chosen totems, the Katipunan and Bonifacio, in fact bely that untenable line of historical thinking. 

    At the same time, we have essentially undermined what it means to create a nation; the process that has to be undertaken and the sheer magnitude of cooperation across all socio-economic strata that is necessary. By twisting our history as we have, we have eliminated the very foundation upon which we can build our country. We have essentially excised out the patriotic and nationalist dreams and sentiments of any except the ‘downtrodden huddled masses.’ An error that has to be remedied soon, else our history will remain what it is today: The lurid fantastical tales created from the imaginations of deluded leftist historian’s. These fantasies create contentious misunderstandings which inevitably disassociate the Filipino from his past and his country. A situation that weakens the very fabric of our nation and makes it incredibly difficult to build a shared cohesive future.

    It is long past time to rescue and re-understand our heroes and their organizations. We can start with Rizal, we must continue with Bonifacio, the Katipunan, Aguinaldo, the Philippine Republic, and all those who were involved at every step of the way.

    PS: Happy Belated Birthday Deodato Arellano. And thank you.


  8. Anarchist Pirates and Enlightened Treasures (or Rizal the Pirate)

    The origin of the word filibuster is almost as interesting as how it was used during the 19th century; most famously (at least for us) as the title of Jose Rizal’s polemic El Filibusterismo

    Filibuster’s linguistic ancestor is the Dutch term vrijbuiter, or in English freebooter. In other words, a pirate, a buccaneer, a scalawag, the scourge of the high seas. And then the word evolved, as words their meanings are wont to do. In this case, leave it to the French to do so. The first known usage of filibuster in a positive political sense was found in a political and philosophical history of Europe, the phrase was "Les filibustiers desolent les mere d’Amerique Origine, moeurs, expeditions, decadence de cease corsairs." And yes, it does sound better in the original French. Essentially, the writers admired the filibuster, the freebooters, love of liberty and code of honor. Our story takes us then to Louisiana, where filibuster was used to describe liberals and fighters who joined with Narciso Lopez in his attempts to invade Cuba and throw off the chains of Spanish imperial rule. Ah, and as we know (well at least I hope we know) the Philippine revolutionaries drew inspiration from the successive and successful revolutions in Latin America. Rizal, in turn, planned on going to Cuba to study how the revolutionaries there were successfully prosecuting and preparing their country for self-governance. The word then arrived in the Philippines carried by a succession of high-ranking Spanish officials who served in the Caribbean and Latin America. The evolution of filibuster stayed true to its roots. At the heart was a dream, a demand, to fight for and remain at liberty.

    As a political brand, the idea of a filibuster was referred to differently in various areas of the collapsing Spanish empire. Fernando Terrida wrote: "The moths of these modern Inquisitors are always the same: torture, executions, slanders. If the wretched person whom they mean to destroy lives in Cuba, he is called a filibuster; if he lives in the Peninsula, an anarchist; if in the Philippines, a freemason." Within the language of Rizal and the various revolutionaries a filibuster was a brand of honor, a call to arms, and a desire for self-determination. How strange we have even glossed over his revolutionary wishes in the words that he employed; even as he criticized the methods that would typically be employed. What we have consistently failed is in understanding the political context of the words and descriptions employed by Rizal et al.

    There is little doubt, politically speaking, that some of our revolutionaries (especially those based in Europe) drew some inspiration from the anarchy movement of the 19th century. When we consider that, at the time, filibuster and anarchist (especially with Simoun presciently deploying well known anarchist techniques) the scope of El Filibusterismo broadens. While filibusterismo has lived on popular consciousness with positive connotations, one of its synonyms has not faired as well: ilustrado. In truth, the self description of ilustrado by Rizal and other reformists connected them to a wide and deep philosophical movement in Europe. Much like filibuster connected them to revolutionary agitations on-going in Latin American and the Peninsula, so to did ilustrado connect them to modern schools of philosophy and their social and political vehicles in Europe. Ilustrado, in its original sense, was derived from the Enlightenment; that Europe spanning intellectual awakening. At the time, ilustrado was less about class, less about material wealth, and more about the ideas that were espoused and believed in. In a sort of down and dirty comparison, ilustrado and the Enlightenment was the light, the Luz, that beat back and counteracted the ‘darkness’ of obscurantism and ignorance. At the time, social constructs like wealth, class, and even ‘formal education’ were far less important in creating an 'ilustrado' than we have been led to believe. The term had deep political connotations connected to criticisms of existing power structures. The desire to criticize and envision a new, hopefully better, society was at the heart of the European Enlightenment and ilustrado movement. Ilustrado existed in the same sense as a librepensador, in other words a “freethinker.” While existing in the same political strata, the idea of a filibuster was both more violent and radically subversive. An ilustrado could be an anarchist, he could become a filibuster.

    The connection between the use of ilustrado and filibuster found best expression with Rizal. In his essay, Filipinos dentro de cien anos, he described a clase ilustrada as “Filipino writers, free thinkers, historiographers, philosophers, chemists, physicians, artists jurists etc.” Basically, the ilustrados were to be the revolutionary backbone of a free and independence Filipinas. There are other connotations that ilustrado took on; including the idea of an ‘exile’, a person who has to leave home to learn more, to gain the tools necessary to free their countrymen. The wholly obscured historical idea is the need for Filipinos to become free-thinkers (ilustrados) and revolutionary anarchists (filibusters) to gain their freedom. And once they have attained that freedom, to maintain the ilustrado frame of mind through education.

    Ferdinand Blumentritt wrote: “…it is clear that the ilustrados who suffer so much suspicion and vengeful humiliation in the hands of the alliance of friar-scoundrels and Castilian illusocracy will in the end prefer to risk their life and liberty in a war of independence.” While certain elements in our historiography love to excise the ilustrado from the revolution, the fact is the ilustrado were positive integral parts of the prosecution of the revolution and the creation of the Philippine Republic; not to mention the creation of the awareness necessary for independence. That events and circumstances may have changed with the advent of American rule should not obscure the key role that ilustrados played in creating the Philippine identity, and the hope they carried for a free Filipinas.

    The meanings that words carry evolve; they shift and change with prevailing political and social circumstances. That is how a pirate becomes an anarchist; an ilustrado a free-thinking revolutionary. What we need to realize, to understand, is that the deployment of terms in the 19th century carried their connotations, completely at odds (at times) to modern meanings. In reconstructing those meanings we gain additional insights into the motivations of our ancestors, and hopefully new perspectives on what it means to be Filipino.

    And of course, who doesn’t like the image of Rizal et al as swashbuckling anarchist philosophy-quoting rum-swilling pirates trying to take down an empire? It almost demands a movie.


    Ilustrado by Caroline Sy Hau (essay in Philippine Studies March 2011)

    Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination by Benedict Anderson


  9. Useless: A Story about Philippine “Intellectuals”

    It is generally accepted that the Martial Law period politicized and corrupted the military. As well, there was a subversion of civil society leadership at the top of the socioeconomic foodchain. The art of capital cronyism, the repayment of support and favors through preferential treatment in public-private accommodations, undermined Philippine business. It concentrated assets, via government mechanisms of transfer and intimidation, in the hands of a few; a carefully selected and groomed cadre of men and women. Loyalists, who still maintain their patronage ties to the past. We still find visible and passionate defenses of that failed regime and its perverse ideas today. Defenses and gross misstatements that go unchallenged in the public sphere.

    As well the fourth estate, the social mechanism that is supposed to act as both the people’s voice and a check and balance to excess and abuse, was subverted. One of the first orders that went out was to round up journalists who were critical of the Marcos regime. And then jail them. Newspapers were shut down, writers intimidated and jailed. Editors went into hiding; along with some well-regarded and high-profile columnists. The intelligensia was under attack. And in muzzling their ability to speak, to criticize and explicate, to disclose and detail the indiscretions of the prevailing power bloc, one of the safeguards of the people was eliminated. When media and the ability of a country’s intellectuals to speak is controlled, the flow of information, the engagement of ideas, the forms of education are controlled as well. The best, the most effective way to rule with an iron fist, is to manage what people learn; what they discover and understand about themselves. It is part of the reason why an independent art and culture community, a vibrant one at that, is so important. Without it, sans those divergent and clashing views that exist in a dynamic society, a people stagnate. That is what happened during Martial Law. Eventually though, a people find new footing; it rediscovers its soul and voice. Broad response and reprisal follow soon after.

    That is one of the enduring lessons from that period, and any like it in world history. Effective and stable governance is not found through fear and intimidation, it is not found in the continuing miseducation of a people. In the short term, keeping a population compliant through intimidation and ignorance may work. In the short term. But over time, eventually, human spirit rebels. As Edward Said has aptly demonstrated, sometimes the soul of a people is defined in opposition to repression. Art and literature show the way. That is the reason why so much great literature, so much important art, is produced during times that try men’s souls. But the cultural and social process that births voices like Tagore or Rizal takes time. It is not instantaneous by any means. That though is in the case of colonialism from without. What of colonialism from within? What then when a people are trod under by their own?

    The same holds true. However, I truly suspect the process is accelerated in cases of internally imposed totalitarianism. At least initially. Once those early voices are silenced, and the mechanisms for public criticism sealed off, I suspect it takes time for new voices to find their bearing. Control in an authoritarian or imperial environment then does not just derive from political and economic means, it is reinforced through oversight of the intelligensia. That is the untold story of Martial Law: The subversion of the academe and the collaboration of public writers with the Marcos regime. 

    There were historians, columnists, social and cultural commentators, filmmakers, and artists who became part of the ruling elite during the Marcos years. They are still active today; fancying themselves social sages and purveyors of enlightened wisdom. And, in part, this helps explain why so much of the excess and abuse remains untold, unexplained in the public sphere. We still lack a comprehensive and cohesive tale of Martial Law; the reason is the people, the writers and storytellers, who are in the best public position to create it, collaborated. For every F. Sionil Jose, Nick Joaquin or Alejandro R Roces, or Pete Lacaba (public writers and social stalwarts all), who spoke and fought against the defilement of their country, you have even more who joined forces under some sort of ‘nationalist’ claim. In supporting the very regime that denigrated their countrymen, they made a mockery of the term ‘nationalist.’ One prominent example is Rio Alma. A man who fancies himself as a modern day avenging angel of Tagalog-ccentric nationalism; yet he was a speech writer for Marcos. A man who set-up a rival writers guild to PEN, under the aegis of Marcos. He is by no means an exception. Other so-called nationalist social commentators were working hand in hand with Imelda Marcos during those years. Benefiting from that relationship. Is it any wonder that members of our art and culture community frequently shy away from pointed criticisms of Martial Law?

    It was a storyline that played out yet again during the GMA years. The NCCA and NHI were brought inline with GMA’s interests. A negative artistic word was never allowed. The culture institutions were controlled and muzzled. The sad part is some people who were anti-Marcos ended up collaborating with GMA. They committed the same sins decades previously they had spoken out against. There is a lesson to be found here in the damage that results from allowing unfettered power and weaknesses in our institutions to continue.

    The fact is, in so many ways, our intellectual and academic communities in the Philippines have let the country down. They are supposed to be detectives and storytellers. The men and women who not only unearth social ills and iniquity, but are challenged to heal those wounds; to show ways out of the morass in which the country has found itself. Without public writers and artists digging deeper and creating new perspectives a country, and its people, will never evolve. That is the situation the Philippines finds itself in today. Our public writers and historians, with a few notable exceptions, are caught in some sort of cycle of pseudo-intellectualism and perversely twisted and superficial nationalism. Their changeability and lack of intellectual integrity comes most to the fore when commenting on political situations. Very few actually write from positions buttressed by research or even organic philosophies. More than anything, so many writers and historians are bound by ties of ideology and patronage. Those ties also encompass student-teacher relationships. One of the key issues in our historical community is the sheer reverence in which older historians are held. To write an opposing view, or critically of their positions, is almost forbidden. At the very least, it is frowned upon. 

    World views that are so bound by personal relationships or ideology result in almost worryingly limited commentary on all issues. It is the same when it comes to understanding history. It results in superficial understandings of the self and nation; past, present, and future. There are current examples of this limitation. For example, the on-going PCSO expose is one. There are many who glommed onto the pronouncements of Manoling Morato with nary a critical question asked or evidence-backed substantiation requested; yet remain curiously silent concerning the Commission on Audit reports detailing the excesses and errors of previous PCSO leadership. Well, except in the case of attacking wayward bishops. Consistency and constancy are in short supply sometimes.

    Even more amusingly, there are those who spoke glowingly and in whole-hearted support for Jose Rizal and his philosophies; describing in detail how he was their hero, and how his words and deeds were inspiration. Yet, defend warlordism as not only necessary, but appreciated. Our own history belies the very idea that concentrating power in the hands of a select few (and allowing political dynasties to flourish) is worthwhile. This distressing mutability in the basic philosophies results in almost humorous inconsistencies in positions on issues. And publicly, the act of framing and contextualizing issues is quite rare. More often than not, analysis, and criticisms there in, occur almost in a vacuum. Multi-disciplinary thinking remains elusive. And that is a continuing failure of our education system.

    The burden of not only identifying, but offering avenues to repairing, extant social ills falls most heavily on the art, culture, and intellectual community. The reason is simple: They have the ability to do so. In accepting the mantle of being a public historian, writer, artist, or journalist they are dedicating themselves to a higher calling; to national service in a sense. That is the reason why arts and culture are usually among the first civil sectors that are silenced in a totalitarian regime. In driving them underground, the public mechanism for ideas and resistance is abrogated. What else is art, but subversion?

    And that is what concerns me the most, on an intellectual level. It is not just how broken the system is, or the type of people who inhabit it. It is the fact that the road to redemption for the Philippines has become muddied by the very people who should be shining a light and creating paths out of our current situation. Instead of being the backbone of a strong, informed, and dynamic intellectual community, they have become withdrawn, elitist and even intellectually incestuous in a way. Their ideas of what it means to be Filipino are stagnant and old-fashioned. Instead of discovering new perspectives on the country, the same old hackneyed ideas are repackaged in pretty, albeit superficial, forms.

    But, serving the public good does not necessarily mean always being against government. What it demands is something far more difficult than that; because let’s be honest here, the easiest path is just to always be contrarian, to always try and tear down and criticize. Instead it demands adherence to a core set of beliefs; ideas and philosophies from which all personal ideas and positions derive. That means not allowing things like private relationships to influence. It means focusing on issues of content, and not personal likes and dislikes. I remember one writer telling me that he was most proud of the fact that he angered his friends and opponents equally during his career. If everyone agrees with what you have written, then what you wrote is meaningless.

    That is the challenge for the next generation, our generation, of artists and writers. To break the shackles of repressive historical and social thought and the strictures of perverse ideology. In other words, to come up with new meanings on what it means to be Filipino. For me, that starts historically. But for others? It has to begin where passion is found and where new ideas can flourish. Else we are failing ourselves and we will continue to stagnate.

    In a sense, we are even worse off than when we were colonial subjects. At least then there was fire and passion and energy to discover and create a new and cohesive nation. Verve that today seems to be in short supply.