Sunday, August 7, 2016

Discovering the Lopez Family of Balayan, Batangas in Boston, MA

The Lopez ancestral house, Balayan, Batangas. Photo taken by the author in 2014.

My fraternity brother based in New Haven, CT and I were on our way to Copley Square of Boston, MA when, out of curiosity, we paused in front of the New England Genealogical Society building and decided to check what can its library be holding. I keyed in 'Manila' to the desktop computer on one of the tables; a list came out including pdf version of the book 'The Story of the Lopez Family, A Page from the History of the War in the Philippines' published in Boston in 1904, and digitized by Google. A copy can be downloaded from Googlebooks. 

The editor Canning Eyot said that the letters of Juliana Lopez formed the backbone of the book, which also included exchanges among her other siblings. These chronicle the friendly-to-hostile turn of events during the Philippine-American war that affected their family, the province of Batangas and the Philippine Republic, all because of their brother Sixto Lopez, a very good friend of Jose Rizal.

The story said the family was from Balayan, Batangas, and this reminded me of visiting an ancestral house there two years ago in July during the annual 'Parada ng mga Litson' (Parade of Roasted Pigs) event there. I reviewed my files and found out that this was the house of the Lopez family which has been converted into a museum. It was full of historical memorabilia like heirloom pieces and pictures on the walls but I was more interested in the architecture and construction of the house, amazed at the envelope of capiz windows around the main floor.

Looking at the picture of the house I took, I noted that there were two large tarpaulin pictures hanging by the windows for passers-by to see. These are the same pictures included in the book:  that of Sixto Lopez and Jose Rial, and that of Clemencia Lopez.

Photo from page 32 of the book.
The first picture was "from a photograph taken in Hong-Kong on Rizal's return from Europe in 1891. ... It is interesting .. because of an incident which occurred when it was being taken. In response to the customary injunction to "look pleasant," Rizal said to Lopez, "Yes, -- imagine that you are just about to be executed by the Spaniards!" These were prophetic of Rizal's tragic death, which occurred five years later."

Before the outbreak of the war, Sixto was in Washington to seek recognition for the new Philippine Republic. He was also advocating for negotiating peace with the United States. 

At the start of the American occupation of Batangas, the Lopez family extended hospitality to the American officers stationed there, keeping their house in Balayan open to them.

Eventually, the US military forces would turn hostile to them even if Cipriano, who was an officer in Aguinaldo's army, surrendered with his men and arms. Mariano resigned from his post in the Malolos Congress to attend to their businesses, which included shipping. 

But Sixto did not want to take the oath of allegiance to the US. He failed to convince General Malvar and other die-hard generals from Batangas to surrender; they persisted in their armed resistance. The Americans considered Sixto still an enemy, and pursued a scorch-earth policy (water and fire methods) in the province just like they imposed in Panay and Samar. 

Photo from the frontispiece of the book.
Part of the narrative on the Lopez saga mentioned Felipe Buencamino, labelled here as evil genius and Judas, who recommended arrest of wealthy non-combatants, and 'extermination of the entire population of Batangas'

The Lopez house in Balayan, their estates and ships were seized by the Americans, and Lorenzo, Cipriano and Manuel arrested and imprisoned in an island on Manila Bay.

Clemencia went to the United States in April 1902 to "seek justice at the hands of the President [Theodore Roosevelt] for her imprisoned brothers" with the help of their friends in Boston but her petition was denied. 

There were other friendly Americans in Manila who vouchsafed for them, sending testimonial letters to civil and military authorities about the integrity of the family.

Eventually, the saga came to a happy ending, the family honor restored and their business losses incurred in their shipping business compensated by the Americans. 

This is not only the story of one family, It tells us how America made us Filipinos bow under the threat of water and fire in their so-called 'pacification campaign'. 

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