Thursday, April 13, 2017

Santo Entierro (Holy Burial)

Santo Entierro is also taken to mean the Dead Christ. In our town, we do not use the Spanish term, We refer to the image of the Dead Christ as "Apo Natay," which can be translated as "Dead Lord."

We were in San Agustin Church this Holy Wednesday afternoon, There were two Santo Entierros that were drawing the fervent attention of people doing their visita iglesia: a reposeful image whose body is covered by a gold-embroidered white shroud, and the other, a dark antique image covered with an ornate red shroud.

Reposeful Santo Entierro at the San Agustin Church
Dark antique Santo Entierro originally from Lemery, Batangas.

According to the explanatory caption, the antique image was the 'crucified Christ' acquired by the Medina-Morales family in the 18th century. Before World War II, it was used in Lemery, Batangas during the re-enactment on Good Friday of the crucifixion and burial of Christ..

The wooden image is described as having moveable hands. This reminds us of the "Senyor Sepulcro" of Paete, Laguna whose hands and feet can be bent at the joints. Six years ago, we witnessed how the image was made to sit under a tent of linen and smoked, which was very similar to the ritual of the dead practiced by the Cordillera people until recent times.

Paete's Senyor after the ritual of the dead.
The "Senyor Sepulcro" was dressed in white and covered with an ornate red shroud for the burial: the men carry the senyor in his glass coffin to the church in choreographed rhythmic steps.

In Lucban, Quezon, the men also carry the Santo Entierro but the journey through the procession route takes hours: the ritual is almost similar to that of the Nazareno of Quiapo with the barefoot male devotees struggling with the ropes and clambering to touch the glass-covered sepulcher, The Senyor here is richly garbed with jewels and a golden shroud.

Lucban's "Santo Senyor Sepulcro"

I remember that at ten o'clock in the evening of Good Friday, a good two or three hours after the customary procession, my mother would tell us that she and her friends in the neighborhood were going to the "funeral" of "Apo Natay." It would be much later when we learned that they were actually accompanying the "Apo" from the church to the "burial ground," meaning the house of the caretaker of the image until the next Holy Week.

That is no longer practiced. What is significant in my hometown is that the "Apo Natay" of the Aglipayan church is the unifying icon of the descendants of Don Timoteo Fernandez and Dna Isabel Ramos, their rallying symbol for gathering all of them in a grand reunion. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Skimboarding in my neighborhood by the beach in Zambales

Lyric Farala, 10, is top of the grom class in barangay La Paz, San Narciso, Zambales.

Almost everyday since November, I have been watching skimboarders riding the waves close to the shore near my bamboo house by the West Philippine Sea in barangay La Paz, San Narciso, Zambales. They can be as young as five years old or in the early '30s.

Skimboarding is the water sport of choice of the young men in the southern part of the coastal barrio. In the northern part, it is surfing: the local boys teach the neophyte surfers from Metro Manila and other parts of the country the rudiments of this sport at the Crystal Beach Resort.

The skimboarders have shorter boards than the surfers, and they ride the waves or swells nearer the shore, Skimboarding is a fast game on shallow waters. The surfers do the waves farther out, and bigger and finned boards allow them longer and more stable rides on the waves surging to break on the shore..

Both are imported sports: surfing from Hawaii and skimboarding from California.

But both have become native to our provincial haven; hence, we're claiming that San Narciso is the 'surfing and skimboarding capital of Zambales.'

These three A players, Angelo Ceneta, Peter Pagar and Jay Agagas competed in Tiwi, Albay last December.

In a local skimboarding competition event this month, there were competing groups: groms, Class B and Class A.

A grom (derived from grommet) is a skimboarder 14 years old or younger. Their seniors are either B or A, the A being the top players.  Veteran A players did not compete in the recent event, they instead judged in the three categories.

Champion in the groms category was Lyric Farala, a 10-yeat old pupil of the barangay elementary school. His father, uncles and cousins are skimboarders too. One of them teaches surfing at Crystal Beach.

Among those who judged in that January event were the three Class A players who represented the town in the skimboarding competition in Tiwi, Albay last December (2016): Angelo Ceneta, Peter Pagar and Jay Agagas.  Pagar won the top price in the individual category. The two others went into the qualifying rounds but did not make it to the cut for the final rounds.

Pagar has joined the labor force in Manila, and he skimboards when he comes home to take a breath. Ceneta may also give up his boards as soon as he is done with his marine transport education. Agagas does construction jobs to earn his keep, but he's still very much around the beach front with other skimboarders.

Typical skimboarding sights.

All these young sportsmen belong to the San Narciso Shorebreakers Skimboarding Group managed by Mia Casal, who takes time out from her potter's wheel and clay to watch their routines on the surging and swelling waves of the nearby sea.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The first droga war killed a government revenue source

The first droga war in the Philippines took place more than a century ago. It happened soon after the American conquest of our country: their war against opium, an addictive drug .

It was part of the American military government's efforts “to reform the public morals of Manila’s inhabitants” although it was primarily intended to protect the American soldiers. They regulated prostitution and alcoholic beverages; they banned cockfighting; they closed lotteries and gambling houses; and contracts for the sale of opium to the Chinese were discontinued.  One American writer considered these as attempts to remake the Filipino in their own (American) image.

Those reform measures were 'costly'. They killed the sources of revenue during the Spanish colonial period.

“The exclusive right to sell opium, which was farmed out in 1849, yielded five hundred thousand pesos per annum,” Charles Elliot (c1916) wrote. “Cockpits were also sources of government revenue. A royal order of March 21, 1861, provided for the regulation of this popular amusement. The privilege to operate cockpits was sold to the highest bidder and yielded the government from one hundred thousand pesos to two hundred thousand pesos per year. In 1891 this source of revenue was relinquished to the local governments. Lotteries were encouraged and from 1850 to the American occupation they brought in about eight hundred thousand pesos per year. Three-fourths of the receipts were distributed in prizes, and all unsold tickets were "played" by the treasury.  …. The trade in quicksilver, salt, playing cards and, in later times, spirituous liquors, explosives, opium and tobacco, was reserved to the government and the profits were large.” 

The Spanish colonial laws forbade Filipinos to use the drug, but they allowed the Chinese do it in duly licensed smoking establishments. The contracts for the sale of opium were revenue sources of the Spanish government.

In the Noli me Tangere of Jose Rizal, Capitan Tiago, surrogate father of Maria Clara, and a Chinese exploited the opium contract for rich profits.

In 1903, the Americans found that the opium habit was spreading across the country even up to the Muslim south. Initially, they wanted to enforce regulations patterned after the Spanish laws but this was opposed especially by what was called the “Evangelical Union” of non-Roman Catholic clergy. The Philippine Commission decided to investigate first and sent a committee to visit neighboring countries and study their opium laws. When they returned, they recommended a measure to completely suppress this vice, modelled after the Japanese law in effect in Formosa.

The Commission enacted the Opium Law (Act No. 1761) in October 1907 with the view of finally suppressing the opium traffic. It came into effect on 01 March 1908: opium importation was prohibited except by the government and for medicinal purposes.

In its report in 1909, the Bureau of Customs said,“The importation of opium for any except medicinal purposes having been prohibited March 1, 1908, by Act No. 1761, the legitimate entry of this drug during the past year amounted to but a little over 52 kilos. upon which only $215 in duty was collected. The effect of this legislation upon the treasury has been the elimination of a source of revenue averaging some $300,000, gold, per year. The restriction also resulted in an enormous increase in the local value of the drug, and the high premium on any that could be smuggled in has proved an incentive to many [people] to engage in the illicit traffic. ... Some idea may be gained of the extent of this traffic from the fact that nearly one and one-half metric tons were seized during the year in attempts at illegal importation, mostly by Chinese. ..."

To replace opium, and to thwart that law, there were attempts to smuggle a replacement: cocaine. 

Thus, through the years, drug laws evolved to regulate/prohibit addictive substances that appear in the market. 

Heroin was the menace of the 1960s. It was either smoked or injected. The noted journalist Rodolfo Reyes of the Manila Times penetrated a 'dope den' in Malabon and exposed a drug syndicate. His story earned him awards including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM).

The current menace - shabu - has created an underground world of its own: users, pushers, dealers and drug lords, and, protectors. The audible/visible scenarios are gleaned from House and Senate hearings, reportage in the print and social media, on the purported "who's who" in that underworld and the money that's involved. There's no money that goes to the coffers of government, but there's money that allegedly pays for the protective cloak over the underground.