Tuesday, August 30, 2011

JP Rizal and Ateneo students: a then-and-now look

We were watching the live TV coverage of the basketball game between archrivals Ateneo and La Salle at the Smart-Araneta yesterday--the Blue Eagles of course walloped the Green Archers, securing their 11th straight wins in the ongoing UAAP season--but were we surprised at half-time by a Jose Rizal among the blue cheering squad!  Then at the last beat, they all stripped their blue jackets to reveal black tees with Rizal's figure on them.

That's now, 2011.  Of course Rizal lovers know that the chairman of the AdMU history department is the Rizal expert himself with a large Facebook following, Ambeth Ocampo. Sir!

But a century ago, the students from Catholic schools like the Ateneo could not participate in the Rizal Day celebrations. The religious orders did not allow them.

The caricature below from the 25 January, 1908 issue of the satirical weekly Lipang Kalabaw tells it all in good humor.

"Why were you not there when Rizal was given honors [the civic parade of Rizal Day]?," a student from the Trade School (a public school) asks those from Ateneo, San Juan de Letran and San Beda.

"Well, because there's no San Rizal, bishop, martyr or even virgin," they reply.

"Oh, yes, I forgot," says the Trade School boy, "you're only allowed when there are processions of saints and friars!"

Source:  Lipang Kalabaw (25 January, 1908).

We're surprised that there are no Thomasians among the students.  The Letran boys probably represented them as well since they're all wards of the Dominicans.

Ramon Magsaysay@104: "Daang Matuwid" 1954

Source:  Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation Website.

We were innocent schoolboys when Ramon Magsaysay was president of the republic, and the only memory we have of him is his signature campaign jingle Mambo Jambo and the grief of the neighborhood and our teachers when he died in a plane crash on 17 March, 1957.

We knew he was from Zambales from our principal who tearfully recalled before our grade 3 class the pranks he played on them when they were classmates in our town's private high school.  We'd have the bragging rights years later when we've become an alumnus like him of the same school, Zambales Academy.

We remember Filipino First, the catchphrase associated with Carlos P Garcia.  It was under him or Diosdado Macapagal that the country was placed in an austerity program, and so for some years we scrimped on town fiestas or canceled them altogether.  But definitely it was Macapagal who changed independence day from 4th of July to June 12.

Our political consciousness matured through the long years of living dangerously under the Marcos regime.  We too were in the thick of the EDSA revolt of 1986, and the highs and lows in the aftermath from Cory Aquino to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  

We've always maintained a certain wariness of the so-called Yellow Magic, too many myths have been woven around it, we think.  Thus, we try hard to dissociate Benigno Simeon Cojuanco Aquino III from his mother to give him a chance to shine in his own color.  

We wish him well in leading us in the struggle for that "Daang Matuwid".  It's not a new battle cry,  it's vintage Rizal in another form and context, it also harks back to Ramon Magsaysay, who had as much charisma and magic like his (PNoy's) mother, who called for "morality in government" in his first state of the nation address (SONA) on 25 January 1954.

Here's the pertinent excerpt from The Guy's SONA, an echo that still rings very true today--


"And now let us consider the moral state of the nation. There is little in the immediate past of which we may be proud. Since the change of administration, we have unearthed one case after another of outrageous corruption, abuse of power, and manipulation of the laws for self-enrichment.  The sordid record is just beginning to unfold. I fear that further inquiry will yield even uglier facts.

"What, we have been asked, are we going to do about all this?

"We must, first of all, remove unworthy government officials and employees.   Where the evidence so warrants, we will prosecute those who justly deserve prosecution.   Not only considerations of morale and discipline but also the very progress of our work make this demand upon us.· We shall not be able to move ahead for as long as those entrusted with the promotion of the public welfare are busy exploring and exploiting opportunities for selfish ends. We simply cannot tolerate such men in the government. They must go.

"I wish to make clear that the spirit of justice, not of persecution, will guide us in this undertaking.  The innocent, the honest and the efficient need fear nothing from us.   This Government will protect and defend their rights by enforcing impartially and without political bias our civil service rules and regulations.  In the Executive Department, I will not permit anyone to exact political vengeance on honest and efficient employees by dismissing them without cause or harassing them in any other way.  The victory we have won is not a license for political persecution.

"To guide us in the conduct of public business, we must return to the timeless moral and political principles which we have either forgotten or taken for granted. There is the principle that honesty is the best policy in public as well as in private life. There is the principle that, while politics is indispensable for the workings of democracy, it cannot be superior to the interest of the nation.

"In the effort to secure for ourselves and our children a government of integrity and efficiency, I will welcome whatever legislation may be enacted by Congress that will serve to prevent, deter; and discourage corruption, increase the penalty for malfeasance in office, and lay down definite rules of ethical conduct in government.

"In the last few years there has been a decline of morality.   Character building alone, without a solid moral foundation, has been found inadequate in developing a sound citizenry. We should improve and strengthen the implementation of the Constitutional provision on optional religious instruction through practical and just measures.

"I shall address to the Congress on another occasion  a special message on the problems of students who have proved their right to participate in public affairs, as well as on the need to stimulate and foster the growth of our native culture among our youth. 


"These, then, are the problems that we are committed to solve. To be sure, many more will arise in the course of this administration. But I sincerely believe that solutions to them will be found, just as I am confident that we· shall be able to dispose of the difficult business at hand.

"I must remind you of an all-important fact: that what we have set out to do can be realized only through concerted action and unity. More than ever, we must think, plan, and work as one, with only one supreme goal in mind-the promotion of the welfare and happiness of our people.

"Perhaps you will say that the people are asking for a miracle. But they too performed no less than a miracle when in one great irresistible movement they dared every peril to preserve the right to have a government of their choice. Thus, they proved to the whole world, to our friends and enemies, that democracy has come of age in our land, that it has become truly and actively a part of the Filipino way of life.

"We have pledged to enrich that life.   We can do it.  We must do it. With the aid of Divine Providence, we shall    begin and continue the work until we shall have fulfilled the great promise that gave our people strength to prove themselves worthy of their heritage of freedom."

P.S. The complete first SONA can be retrieved through the hyperlink in the reference below.The second to the fourth SONAs can also be accessed from the Official Gazette online.


Official Gazette Online. Ramon Magsaysay, First State of the Nation Address, January 25, 1954.  Retrieved from http://www.gov.ph/1954/01/25/ramon-magsaysay-first-state-of-the-nation-address-january-25-1954/

Saturday, August 20, 2011

MLQuezon@133: Balugbugan - a fictional Pilipino debate between Aguinaldo & Quezon

Cover (left) and frontispiece (right) of Balugbugan by Florante T Collantes (1926) a.k.a. Kuntil Butil.

We discovered this booklet buried under another name [A competitive assessment of the U.S. wood and upholstered furniture industry, obviously an error] in the digital library collection of the University of Michigan.  

The work is in Tagalog.  There was no Pilipino yet at the time, and Manuel Luis Quezon has yet to argue for a common tongue and earn his sobriquet as "Father of the National Language". 

We thought this Balugbugan (rhymes and sounds like bugbugan) would be a good read this August, the Buwan ng Pambansang Wika or National Language Month.  It's a fictional comic debate, balagtasan-style, crafted by Florentino T. Collantes (a.k.a. Kuntil Butil in the literary circle of his time), between Emilio Aguinaldo and Manuel Quezon.

Just like in a balagtasan, there's a Lakandiwa (Mastermind, in today's terms), and in this fiction, it's Tio Sam (Uncle Sam, the United States).  Gat Puno (Chairman) is Leonard Wood, the American governor; Gat Payo (Adviser) is Juan de la Cruz (the Filipinos, of course), and the Paraluman (Muse) is Bb. Pilipinas (Miss Philippines). 

The author Kuntil Butil wrote in his introduction -- 

          "ito'y [this Balugbugan] lumabas na sa Buhay Lansangan
           nalagay sa pitak ng mga biruan,
           at sapagka't biro at katatawanan
           kaya pati tula'y biro-biro lamang.

The Lakandiwa says this is a debate to ferret out the "taksil sa kasalukuyan" (the traitor of today) between two presidents, one of a samahan (obviously, Aguinaldo's veterans organization) and of a partido (Quezon's political party).

           "Ito'y balugbugan ng dalawang tao
             na kapuwa bantog sa lupaing ito;
             si Manuel Quezon at si Aguinaldo
             sa harap ng lahat ngayo'y magtatalo,
             ang dalawang iya'y kapuwa Pangulo
             isa'y sa Samaha't isa'y sa Partido.

            Tayo'y manahimik at ating pakinggan
            itong bagong uring pagbabalagtasan;
            Muli't muling samo'y ang katahimikan
            ulinigin natin itong Balugbugan;
            Ang paksa po nila na pagtatalunan:
            Kung sino ang taksil sa kasalukuyan.

           Ang dalawang ito'y magkaibigang putik
           sa pagmamahala'y katulad ng pagkit,
           at pagka't ganito di samakatunwid,
           kapagka nagtalo'y pihong parang lintik;
           "cuando se pelean" itong "Magkompadres,"
           makaasa kang "salen las verdades."

The last stanza contains two idiomatic expressions, the first one in Tagalog about two friends who are very close to each other like clay (magkaibigang putik) who spit fire when they quarrel; and the second one is Spanish, about truth coming out when two gossips quarrel.

The debate opens with the fictional Quezon alluding to the protest staged by the veterans during the Rizal Day.

We hope to see a translation of this Balugbugan.


Collantes, Florentino T. (1926, Abril). Balugbugan Aguinaldo vs. Quezon. Pagtatalong may uring Balagtasan na nilahukan ng sili’t paminta.  Maynila, K.P. Retrieved http://name.umdl.umich.edu/afm7572.0001.001

ML Quezon@133: His arguments for independence in 1925.

Manuel L. Quezon's autographed picture to Edward Price Bell (1925).

Yesterday, 19th August, was the 133rd anniversary of Manuel Luis Quezon's birthday.

Quezon is often quoted to have emphatically said, "I would prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to one run like heaven by Americans, because no matter how bad, a Filipino government might be improved,” during the campaign for Philippine independence, which he and other prominent Filipinos led here and in the United States. 

A contextual framework of his firm belief can be read from relevant excerpts of his interview by Edward Price Bell of the Chicago Daily News in 1925.  Quezon's views may be as valid today as they were 86 years ago.  There may however be great dismay about his assessment of the Filipino leaders and the electorate if applied today. He also had a very positive outlook regarding the Moro problem at that time when issues of autonomy or sub-state were completely unheard of.  

Here are those excerpts restructured in a Question [Bell] & Answer [Quezon] format --  

Q [Bell]:   "What is your estimate of America's contribution to Philippine development?" 

A [Quezon]:   "It has been a great contribution. America has been remarkable not only for what she has done but also for what she has not done affecting Filipino development. She had it in her power to practice in these islands the creed of the military despot, and she did not do so. She co-operated with us in our efforts to make the Philippines a prosperous country. She promoted education, liberal and political. She fostered applied science. Economic and financial aid accompanied the Americans into the Philippines. All America did and all we did, as we consistently have been led to suppose, were predicated upon the theory that one day the Philippines would be free. We believe the day when they ought to be free has arrived." [highlighting ours.] 

Q:   "You think the Filipinos are able to maintain order and administer justice in the islands?"

A:   "Decidedly so. What Filipino of any class or type could wish to see the American flag come down here, if he were able to believe that our civilization would come down with it that we should have a welter of slaughter, villages on fire, people shelterless and hungry, a stricken country?" 

Q:   "You do not believe in alien control, however benevolent?"

A:   "No. Alien control and native progress to the maximum of native capacity are incompatible. For material and for moral reasons I am pleading for the independence of my country. It is arguable, and I consider it true, that mutual benefit may accrue for a time to a dominating country and the country dominated. There has been this time of mutual benefit as between America and the Philippines. But, in such a conjuncture, a stage is certain to be reached at which the dominating country begins to stand in the way of the interests, material and moral, of the country dominated. [highlighting ours.] 

"Let us call America the most generous, as she is the most powerful, nation in the world. She always, none the less, must remain America. America must come first with Americans. American sovereignty must be inviolate. There must be no fiscal arrangements, no fixing of channels of commerce, not concordant with American interests, though such arrangements or direction might promote Philippine interests. We claim the right on behalf of the people of the Philippines to consider their interests first, just as America has the right to consider American interests first. [highlighting ours.] We want to make our own tariff laws and our own commercial treaties and do everything else belonging to national sovereignty exclusively with a view to what is best for the Filipinos.

 "That is the material side of the matter. Now the moral side, in my opinion, is still more vital from the standpoint of the welfare of the Filipinos. As it is deadly to an individual to lack liberty, reasonable liberty, the liberty stopping only at the boundary of the liberty of others, so it is deadly for a nation to lack that liberty which stops only at the boundary of the liberty of other nations.  [highlighting ours.]

"When we have our unfettered selfrule [sic], I dare say we shall make mistakes, but in that respect we shall not be original or monopolistic. It is by our mistakes that we shall learn. America has aided us to learn much of the art of government, but we can master that art only by self-practice. In politics, as in law or medicine or music or painting, concrete achievement is not in the scholastic sphere, but only in the sphere of scholasticism applied. And, anyway, even in the United States and in England, democracy is still on its trial."

Q:   "It is better for the Philippines to be ill-governed by the Filipinos than well-governed by the Americans?" 

A;   "By the Americans or any other non-Filipinos." 

Q:   "Have the diverse peoples of the islands, with their varied dialects, a recognizable psychic homogeneity--a national soul?"

A:   "Indisputably. This national soul already has crystallized in striking national decisions--for independence, for joining America in the world war, against huge landed estates, against applying United States coastwise shipping laws to the Philippines. Our people are politically keen and peculiarly democratic. 

"There is not a barrio (city, town, village or rural district) without its political vigilance, interest and discussion. Ten per cent, over 1,000,000, of our people have the franchise and between 80 and 90 per cent of the registered electors go to the polls on election day. You speak of dialects. We have many. But our major dialects are only three--Tagalog, Bisaya and Ilokano--and whoever commands these can make himself understood in every part of the Philippines. All of our people speak one of these languages, which have an extensive printed literature.

"To regard the Filipino peoples as sentimentally and mentally diversified in proportion to their diversities of ethnography or religion or dialect is to misunderstand them completely. They all are Filipinos. They all have nationalistic emotions and aspirations. They are intelligent and proud and ambitious. Independence they know would mean equality of opportunity for Filipinos. Of a political or social caste depriving them of their liberties or otherwise wronging them they have no fear. Such reports they dismiss as contrary to their experience and knowledge. Have they not seen their humblest neighbors rise to positions of dignity and influence in the country? Do they not know that nearly all their leaders have been and are of the people? 

"Take myself, for example. Holding the premier elective position in the Philippines, I am a farmer's son, born on the soil, born poor and without influential friends, reared in one of the remotest villages in these islands, compelled to climb over trackless mountains to come to college in Manila."

Q:   "So it will be mettle that will count in a free Philippines?"

A:   "It will be mettle, just as it is mettle in the United States and in every other country where men are free." 

Q:   "You say you are peculiarly democratic."

A:   "We are so because we are unincumbered by monarchic or oligarchic traditions or institutional inheritances. We have nothing of that sort to destroy. Our ground upon which to erect a pure republic is clear."

Q:   "It is alleged that freedom of speech in the Philippines is suppressed--that the people fear their leaders." 

A:  "That word 'fear' should be changed to 'respect.'  If respect be fear, then the Filipinos fear their leaders, as they have shown on many occasions.

"My advice to any honest Inquirer who wishes to know whether free speech is or is not suppressed in these islands is to go out among the people and sound them on any of the burning questions of the hour. He will get their opinion without any trouble. And, if he be a Filipino politician, and venture to speak or vote against independence, he will discover on election day that while the Filipino people have no reason to fear and do not fear their leaders, their leaders have some reason to fear them. Public opinion in the Philippines is not only unsuppressed, but vocal and militant. We have two parties and they must be careful to learn what the people want. Our electors do not vote by ethnographic group nor by language or dialect nor according to their religion; they vote as their hearts and minds tell them is right and for the good of the country." 

Q:   "One is told that an independent Filipino government would solve the Moro problem by stamping out the Moros."  

A:   "We practically governed the Moros during the seven years of the last administration and had no trouble with them, whereas whenever they have been governed by Americans there has been continual trouble with them. 

"We naturally understand every element of our population better than can foreigners. We never have been guilty of persecuting the non-Christian peoples of the Philippines. We have been fair and generous to them in respect of education, roads, sanitation and everything else. From this practice there would be no departure under independence. We believe in educating all our people and promoting their prosperity and happiness in order that we may have a great and contented nation. As for tne Filipino leaders, it should be plain to all thinking persons, in my opinion, that they can hope for a future only if their country has a future. They cannot build up fame, joy or even enduring material success upon the ruins of their fatherland." 

Q:   "Certain advocates of American annexation of the Philippines, among the points they make, state that 'we need them in our business'."  

A:  "Ahh, that is not an ethical argument. That is the argument of the sugar. That is the argument of the sisal, the copra, the coconut oil, the tobacco, the rattan, the lumber, the pulp, the dye, the rubber. It is not the argument we expect to prove conclusive with the American people. But even this argument has no value because under an independent Philippines you may have our sugar, tobacco, copra, hemp and the rest."

Q:   "Opponents of independence describe your argument--the argument for independence--as 'doctrinaire'."  

A:   "Our argument is no more an argument of apriority than is that against independence. It is true we base our case, to some extent, upon principles, upon philosophy; but we base it to a larger extent upon the general history of humanity and upon our own particular experience and knowledge. Our argument is a posteriori."  

Q: "It is argued that America's title to the Philippines is of triple validity, resting upon conquest, purchase and formal cession."

A:  "Our reply is, first, that conquest is no moral justification for the seizure of a country and the deprivation of its inhabitants of liberty; and, secondly, that purchase is not valid when the seller has no right to sell, and cession not valid when the power enacting it is ceding what belongs to others."[highlighting ours.] 

Q:   "It is declared that no Malay people, of all the millions of Malays, ever created a nation."

A:   "That is not true. About the thirteenth century there existed a Malay empire. But, not troubling to question the sweeping dictum concerning the political ineptitude of the Malay race, I should not regard this point a; worthy of serious notice. If no Malay people in all the centuries yet has built up a free civilization of its own, I think it high time one were given a chance to try." 

Q:  "What would happen in the islands if the congress of the United States declared the Philippines permanent American territory?"  

A:   "Our people would be profoundly disappointed and depressed. They also would be unutterably surprised. I do not think there would be an uprising, but the Philippine question would not be settled. It would live on as an embarrassment to Americans and Filipinos alike. You have promised us freedom. Our people are being educated for freedom. We Filipino leaders have assured the Filipino people that, if they bore themselves patiently and with dignity, if thev strove to lift themselves up, the United States undoubtedly would set them free. They believed us. Their faith is unshaken to-day. To destroy their hopes would be immoral, illogical, inhuman and a blunder that history one day inevitably would put right. ..."
The Bell interview gives us a view of Quezon's mind with regard to Japan. One is amazed that he had no inkling whatsoever that the thousands of Japanese who came to seek jobs here were part of a war strategy. He might have been shocked when the Japanese forces attacked the Philippines surreptitiously and he was forced to go to exile.

But he had very strong views with regard to 'colored races' achieving power, specifically about the 'colonial possessions' in Asia of the United States and the European empires.  He was emphatic about numbers in the fight for independence, citing India's and China's large populations. 

"What do I mean?," he replied to Bell. "I mean that when the millions of the Indies, of Java and Sumatra, and of China are ripe for freedom they will take their freedom regardless of what the muse of history shall have meted out to the Philippines. If America elects to hold the Philippines she can hold them for all time, so far as we can see, because we Filipinos are numerically weak. But look at India! Four hundred millions of people! Forty millions in the Dutch islands--more than in unconquerable France! And China--her people are countless! When those peoples become nationally self-conscious, when they are unified and organized, no power on earth will be able to dominate them or retain so much as a toehold on their territory against their wills."