Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Sultan was a no-show for his photo shoot on Christmas day, 1879

The photo session was scheduled 25 December 1879, but was postponed for the next day, because the Sultan was not well.  But Montano dated his account of how this portrait was taken on 27 December.

The Sultan of Sulu Mohammed Yamalul Alam  [Jamalul Alam] was a no-show for his photo session with the French scientists  Joseph Montano and Paul Rey on Christmas day, 25 December 1879.   They were told the Sultan has a terrible headache.

Everything had been prepared for this major photo-op.  They had, in fact, been allowed to install a dark room under the palace. 

They had been waiting for this big event since arriving in Tianggi (Jolo) on 15 November as part of their biological and anthropological mission to the Philippines and some Malayan islands for the French Ministry of Education .  Their letter request for a photo session with the Sultan was never answered. They were finally able to have an audience with the Sultan and his court, and a photo date agreed on, after they were introduced by Herman Leopold Schuck, a German in good relations with the Sultan ever since they met in 1864.

Still they waited, reminiscing about Christmas day being devoted to reunions with their family and friends in their country, entertaining ridiculous questions from the crowd about portraiture without pencil or brush and beards of white men against thin hair on the Chinese or Malay chins, and listening to loud objections to their task because Allah forbids the making of portraits, and the Sultan would die of it. The datus swore that no portrait would leave the royal village of Maibun.

Before this appointment with the Sultan, they had been subject to violent encounters. They were visiting with Schuck when his place was assaulted by armed men.  There was also an instance when huramentados attempted to attack them but their Spanish guards gunned them down.  

All they needed now was a jewel, a portrait of the Sultan Jamalul Alum, since they have already collected interesting biological specimens, and have logged down their observations on the physical and cultural structure of the place and the people. 

They then pretended to depart, destroying the dark room with heavy crashes, packing their bottles of chemicals, and shouting that they would be punished by their own “Sultan” for not completing this assignment.  The pretext had an immediate effect.  The son Brahamuddin appeared suddenly half-naked and without his turban and told them his father would be well the next day, which we take to be 26 December but this was dated the 27th in Montano’s account of their mission from May 1879 to June 1881.

It turned to be a great day for the French scientists when the Sultan, pale and magnificently dressed, appeared, surrounded by his court, all in their gala costume with the clothes and ornaments glittering under the sun. 

They mounted the camera, measured the distances, and when everything was ready for the shoot, the Sultan withdrew and had his son take his place.  The click proceeded just the same and the result served as the test shot.  The plate was developed, and Brahamuddin almost came out perfectly.  The Sultan then became very enthusiastic, losing his usual serious mien.  He imposed silence among his datus, and pretty soon, he had himself photographed—bust, sitting, standing, alone or in company.    “If I listened,” Montano wrote, “I could have taken photos up to the last slave.”

Montano and Rey had to strategize next how to leave with the plates and return to their haven within the Spanish fortifications in Jolo without any hindrance.  They were quite certain the Sultan would allow them to bring the plates but not the Sultan’s men.  They developed several copies while the armed datus kept the dark room under surveillance.

The scheme worked. They brought back the portrait not only to Jolo but also to the world. With his portrait in Montano's “Voyage aux Philippines et en Malaisie”, which was published in 1886,  Sultan Jamalul Alam remains very much alive to this day. We see him in almost in every book or publication about Muslims in the Philippines either in the cover or as an illustration of an article on Muslim cultural or political issues.   

Anybody who asks who he is would be surprised to know that significant events in the history of the country under Spain and of Sulu happened during his reign (1863-1881), and until today, the Sultan continues to impact on our country’s foreign relations particularly with regard to the Sabah claim.

Jolo fell to the Spanish forces under Admiral Jose Malcampo on 21 February 1876. Two years later, the Sultan signed a treaty putting the whole of Sulu under the protectorate of Spain on 22 July 1878.

Six months earlier however, on 22 January 1878, Sultan Jamalul Alam  and his datus signed the “Land Grant of 1878” or the “Grant by the Sultan of a Permanent Lease Covering His Lands and Territories on the Island of Borneo” to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck of Hongkong and to Alfred Dent, Esq., of London, who were acting as representatives of the British Company, for the “sum of five thousand dollars annually, to be paid each and every year to his heirs and successors “until the end of time.”

There had been disputes among this Sultan’s heirs and successors to this day, and of course, conflicts in the interpretation of the January and July 1878 agreements had been subjects of arguments among the signatory countries with regard to the land grant.


    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    77 fathers & sons in Jesus Christ's genealogy according to Luke 3:23-28

    This is one of two framed genealogy charts at the Family History Center of the Philippine Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Quezon City.  The other one is that of Jose Rizal.

    We've been doing genealogical research at the Family History Center on Temple Drive, Quezon City, poring through microfilmed baptismal, matrimonial and baptismal records dating back as early as 1795 in the church documents of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, and 1849 for those of our hometown, San Narciso, Zambales, in search of Ilokano roots in both our maternal and paternal sides of the family.

    The first time we visited the center, our attention was immediately caught by two framed genealogy charts: that of Jesus Christ right beside His portrait near the entrance door, and that of Jose Rizal close to the cubicle of microfilm readers.

    What intrigued us right away was the mathematics in the design of Christ's genealogy chart:  7 columns with 11 rows each, or a total of seventy-seven (77) names to trace from God to Jesus, based on Luke 3:23-28.   Sometimes we ask new friends there if they've looked at the frame closely and if so, to tell us how many names there are in the Jesus tree.  If we get a 'what' expression, we tell them to do a little math with the rows and columns. 

    While the number is less than 77 in 'the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah'  according to Matthew 1:1-17, his summation of generations are interestingly multiples of 7:  "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations (Matt. 1:17)."  

    Luke, according to church scholars, traced Jesus Christ's lineage to Mary while Matthew traced it to Joseph.  This we gleaned from 'Why are there different genealogies for Jesus in Matthew 1 and Luke 3?' by the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.   

    References (without the footnotes) from

    Luke 3:23-38
    New International Version (NIV)

     23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
       the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
       the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
       the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
     25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
       the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
       the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
       the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
       the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
     27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
       the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
       the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
       the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
       the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
     29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
       the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
       the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
       the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
       the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
     31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
       the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
       the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
       the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
       the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
     33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
       the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
       the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
       the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
       the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
     35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
       the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
       the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
       the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
       the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
     37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
       the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
       the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
       the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
       the son of God.

    Matther 1:1-17
    New International Version (NIV)

    The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah
     1 This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:
     2 Abraham was the father of Isaac,
       Isaac the father of Jacob,
       Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
     3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
       Perez the father of Hezron,
       Hezron the father of Ram,
     4 Ram the father of Amminadab,
       Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
       Nahshon the father of Salmon,
     5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
       Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
       Obed the father of Jesse,
     6 and Jesse the father of King David.
       David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
     7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
       Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
       Abijah the father of Asa,
     8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
       Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
       Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
     9 Uzziah the father of Jotham,
       Jotham the father of Ahaz,
       Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
     10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
       Manasseh the father of Amon,
       Amon the father of Josiah,
     11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
     12 After the exile to Babylon:
       Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
       Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
     13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,
       Abihud the father of Eliakim,
       Eliakim the father of Azor,
     14 Azor the father of Zadok,
       Zadok the father of Akim,
       Akim the father of Elihud,
     15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,
       Eleazar the father of Matthan,
       Matthan the father of Jacob,
     16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.
     17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    A Philippine Christmas tradition--Misa de Aguinaldo then, Simbang Gabi today

    Belen on the grounds of the Philippine Temple of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, Quezon City.

    The countdown began yesterday morning (16 December) with the first of the nine dawn masses in Roman Catholic churches all over the archipelago. As we write, that would be 8 days to Christmas proper--the 'twelve days of Christmas' of the popular song that starts with a partridge on pear tree and ends with twelve drummers drumming--the twelve days between Christmas day, 25 December, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, and the feast of the Epiphany, the traditional Three Kings day of 06 January of the next year.  

    We remember that our father was not a church goer.  But until he retired from his job at the US naval facility, he never failed to hear the dawn masses before boarding the Victory Liner bound for Subic, almost an hour away.  

    For some time, we were utterly confused if this aguinaldo mass was the same as the misa de gallo, and which one referred to the midnight mass on the eve of Christmas . The first means 'Christmas presents,' and 'gallo' insinuates the cockcrow that should rouse us up from bed for the morning mass.

    Childhood in an Ilocano-speaking coastal town of Zambales meant braving the chill of December dawn to attend the misas de aguinaldo.  When we moved to Manila, the misas became Simbang Gabi (night mass, literally) and we missed the peaceful walk on unpaved streets to the church in the town plaza.  

    To Puerto Ricans, and probably other Hispanic countries, aguinaldos refer to their Chrismas songs; hence, in their nine-day dawn masses, they sing aguinaldos, villancicos (which the indios of las yslas Filipinas learned to sing) and other religious hymns.  They call the midnight misa de aguinaldo of Christmas eve the misa de gallo.

    According to popular legend, the Spanish friars had the misas at dawn so that the indios labradores can hear them before they hie off to farms outside of town to tend their crops. A recent account suggests that our Simbang Gabi has its roots in Mexico when, in 1587, the pope approved the petition of Fray Diego de Soria of the San Agustin Acolman convent there to hold Christmas mass outdoors for the overflow of churchgoers attending the evening service.

    Church historians however tell us that the midnight mass had its origins among the Christians of Jerusalem, citing the account of Egeria, a woman pilgrim to the Holy Land in 381-384, about the commemoration of Christmas "with a midnight vigil at Bethlehem, followed by a torchlight procession to Jerusalem arriving at dawn [at] the Church of the Resurrection" on January 6.  The second dawn mass is said to have been celebrated around 550 by the Pope at the Church of Anastasia on December 25, which happened to be also the feast day of St. Anastasia.

    Belen in the lantern made of dried coconut materials. Photo taken at the Lantern Parade of UP Manila.

    More than a century after the Christianization of the Philippines, Fray Juan Sanchez (1683-89) was writing about the misas de aguinaldo being contaminated "with practices that were superstitious, and contrary to the holy rites of the church."  Thus, there was a time after 1680 that the archbishop prohibited the celebration of the masses here.  

    Around a century later, Fray Pedro Murillo Velarde (1749) was writing about the nine-day early morning misas de aguinaldo being sung with great solemnity.

    More than a hundred years later, Fray Pedro Rosell (1885) described to his superior the religious ceremonies being held "to honor the birth of our Blessing, Jesus."   To prepare for Christmas, he wrote of the celebration of the immaculate conception "a week beforehand", and then followed by "a daily mass of the [Virgin Mary]," which we read as the nine-day dawn misas de aguinaldo.

    "On the last day or the vigil of the feast," wrote Father Rossel, "a pleasing, although simple Belen was made at one side of the presbytery in which were placed the images of the Child, Mary, and Joseph. Christmas eve came, and at eleven o'clock the bells were rung loudly, and from half past eleven until twelve, a continual ringing of bells two at a time announced to the people that the mass called Gallo was to be celebrated in memory of that holy hour in which the eternal Son of God the Father, made man in the most pure entrails of the Virgin Mary willed to be born on that poor and abandoned manger threshold [portal de Belen]. Hence when twelve o'clock had struck, the missa-cantata  was said, which was followed by the adoration of the holy Child. That was made enjoyable by the singing of some fine Christmas carols. The twenty-fifth dawned bright and joyful."

    That scene still rings familiar today although the Belen is constructed as early as the first day of December.  There was one big reason why we went to the midnight mass when we were very young. That was to watch the lighted star lantern moved high above us from the choir loft to the Belen at the side of the altar at some part of the mass with all the lights turned off.  

    We haven't seen a "moving star" in midnight masses for a long time, nor an adoration of the image of the newborn Jesus, especially if these are celebrated outside the churches - in grandstands, parks and shopping mall grounds. 

    The fact is there are no longer misas de aguinaldo or gallo at midnight on the eve of Christmas. These have been moved earlier to 9 o'clock these recent years, which we'd like to think, is an accommodation of another Christmas tradition, the noche buena after the mass, when family eat together the best food they can lay on the table.

    Whether you're still of the old Roman Christian faith or not, whether you still go to the dawn masses as a matter of devotion or not, Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas), everyone! 

    • Sanchez, Juan, et al. (1683-89). Felipe Pardo as archbishop. The Pardo Controversy. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 : explorations by early navigators, etc. (Blair, E.H. & Robertson, J. A., Eds., Bourne, E.G., Tr.).   39(1):245-246. Mandaluyong, Rizal: Cachos Hermanos, 1973.  Retrieved from 
    • Velarde, P. M. (1749). Jesuit missions in the seventeenth century.  The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 : explorations by early navigators, etc. (Blair, E.H. & Robertson, J. A., Eds., Bourne, E.G., Tr.).   44(1):108-109.  Mandaluyong, Rizal: Cachos Hermanos, 1973.  Retrieved from
    • Rosell, P. (1885, Apr 17). Letter from Father Pedro Rosell [S.J.] The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 : explorations by early navigators, etc. (Blair, E.H. & Robertson, J. A., Eds., Bourne, E.G., Tr.).   43(1):225-228.  Mandaluyong, Rizal: Cachos Hermanos, 1973.  Retrieved from

      Monday, December 5, 2011

      The Pinoy's Marian religiosity

      In the 1900s, the 'war' among the religious was as to who should be proclaimed the patroness of the Philippines.  The Dominicans wanted Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (La Naval); the Jesuits favored the Immaculate Conception.  The Aglipayans insisted on Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Antipolo) because she's katutubo, a native of the country. (Source:  Lipang Kalabaw, 04 Jan 1908)

      The rains yesterday, 04 December 2011, did not stop the grand Marian procession from the Manila Cathedral to wend its way around Intramuros, the walled city.  The annual event held on the first Sunday of December is an echo of the first procession held on 08 December 1619 to commemorate the feast day of the Immaculate Conception.

      Thus, as photo-documented by the media, some eighty flower-bedecked and beautifully lit carrozas of Marian images, under an umbrella or covered by clear plastic, were pulled by devotees through the streets along the ancient walls of Old Manila.  Because of the rains, we could only recall the pleasure of photographing the event from various vantage points atop the walls during the last two processions.

      The images invoke the many titles of the Virgin Mary.  Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (La Naval de Manila), Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Our Lady of Antipolo) are some of the more popular ones, and they happen to have figured in intense religious arguments in the early 1900s, more than a century ago.

      We found two issues of the satirical weekly Lipang Kalabaw in 1908 heckling the Dominicans and the Jesuits because of their un-holy war on who should be Patroness of the Philippines.  The Dominicans were rooting for Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, and the Jesuits, the Immaculate Conception. In one of these satirical illustrations (04 Jan 1908), Gregorio Aglipay was depicted arguing for the Our Lady of Antipolo.

      A perplexed Marian devotee asks a Dominican friar and a Jesuit priest on who should be the patroness of the Philippines.   

      The Dominican tells her to stop this nonsense when told about the Jesuit claim, that it's thedevotion to Our Lady of the Rosary that's most profitable being the patroness of these unhappy islands. He calls the Jesuits rogues.

      The Jesuit tells the woman that the Holy Father has not yet resolved the issue, but the Immaculate Conception is the official patroness. He admonishes the woman to honor the La Purisima if she wants to save her soul.

      Since she doesn't know who to believe, she thinks she will just go to the [Philippine] Assembly.  (Source:  Lipang Kalabaw, 30 May 1908) 

      The Dominicans and the Jesuits had very strong historical arguments for their respective Marian titles.

      The Immaculate Conception was invoked in 1578 by Pope Gregory XIII with the construction of the Manila Cathedral, and in 1595 by Clement VIII with that of the Nueva Segovia and Caceres cathedrals. 

      The image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary arrived in the Philippines in 1587 and has been honored ever since with the La Naval procession in October every year. To her has been attributed the incredulous Spanish naval victories against the Dutch invaders in 1646.  The image was canonically crowned on 07 October 1907.

      The Antipolo image also had its own history.  It was brought to Manila in 1626 from Acapulco, Mexico and was placed in the San Ignacio church of the Jesuits in Intramuros. Tradition has it being transferred to a new church where it disappeared twice to be found in the branches of a tipulo (breadfruit) tree.  The Antipolo church was built near this site. This popular lore and its dark color could have made Aglipay to claim, in the words of Lipang Kalabaw, that Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is a katutubo, a Philippine native, and therefore the right patroness.

      We can imagine this debate among the clergy and the Marian devotees that rankled for years until the Vatican stepped in.  First it was Pope Pius XI who declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the Philippines in 1935. However, seven years later in 1942, Pope Pius XII declared the Immaculate Conception as the country's principal and universal patroness of the country.  Thus today, Our Lady of Guadalupe is considered the secondary patroness. 

      The pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in 1975 entitled "Ang Mahal na Birhen. Mary in the Philippine Life Today" spoke of "over 100 of the parishes honor[ing] the Immaculate Conception, over 60 are dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, while others carry various titles like the Assumption, Our Lady of Carmel, Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Lourdes, etc." ... and "some of the shrines dedicated to Mary have won nation-wide popularity either as focal points of national pilgrimages or as well-known centers of devotion [like] Our Lady of Charity and Our Lady of Badoc in Ilocos, Our Lady of Piat in Cagayan Valley, Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan, Our Lady of Salambao in Obando, Bulacan, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo, Rizal, the Purification of Our Lady (or La Candelaria ) in Mabitac, Laguna, Our Lady of Caysasay in Taal, Batangas, Our Lady of PeƱafrancia in Naga City, Nuestra SeƱora Virgen de Regla in Lapulapu City, Our Lady of the Pillar in Zamboanga, etc."

      The Marian religiosity of the Filipinos was the subject of that pastoral letter, which was addressed to "the people of God in the Philippines, especially the clergy, religious men and women, and members of the mandated organizations" so as to encourage them "to continue fostering a fervent and authentic devotion to Mary."

      The CBCP acknowledged "that the cult of Mary and the devotion to her image have helped many simple people to remain Catholics" but it called for "reform and renewal" with regard to the "aspects of the devotion [possibly deflecting] from genuineness and purity."

      We wonder how Marian devotees with their images, medals, scapulars,and novenas, and organizers of Marian processions, Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan events, take to heart paragraph 85 of the pastoral letter: "Above all we wish to emphasize that all veneration of Mary is to be subordinated to the adoration of the triune God and of Christ who is the Mediator.  Mary's dignity is the most exalted among all the saints because of her divine maternity and hence she is worthy of special veneration as the Mother of God.  Her place and role in the economy of salvation is to be clearly proposed to the faithful, as the Second Council of the Vatican has expressed.  This, we think, is a very important point and, if wrongly understood, is the root and source of any ill-advised form of Marian devotion." 

      The next time we visit our churches, let's check if the parish priest remembers this particular instruction of the CBCP:  "We cannot approve, for instance, of the presence of several images of Mary in the same house, chapel or church -- even parish churches -- with their devotees extolling the power of their statues over the others as if they were rivals."