Sunday, December 25, 2005

2005: The Last Days

2005: The Last Days

ni Mila D. Aguilar
a.k.a. Clarita Roja


Kagabi, may mga nagpaputok
Labintador lang naman
Pero ipinagtaka ko,
Dahil wala yata sa panahon.

Pagkalabas ko kinaumagahan
Naintindihan ko kung bakit.
Walang katao-tao sa daan.
Nagsisiksikan ang mga bus

Sa dalawang gilid ng EDSA,
Naghihintay ng mga pasaherong
Di dumarating.
Hawan ang kabilang parte

Ng nakatiwangwang na daan.
Sarado ang mga mall.
Alam na nilang ngayong araw
Walang magbibilihan,

Dahil sa mga linggong
Nakaraan, di rin karamihan
Ang nagpuntahan
Upang mamili, o magparaya man.

Masahol pa sa Biyernes Santo
Ang mga panahong ito.
Pasko na, Gloria, o!
Anong ginawa mo sa bayan ko?


“What is real?
Asked the rabbit one day….”
Only my hair having been loved off,
My dear.* Otherwise,
What is real in a world
Manufactured by liars
In high places?
What is truth?

Are there more jobs?
Are the exports rising?
Are the investors investing?
Is the peso really rebounding?

Were there ever WMDs in Iraq?

The people know, but do not move,
As if they were waiting
For the stones to fall
Until not one is left on another.

The people know:
He will come on a cloud
But before that
One is already here
Who will claim to be Him,
He and she being it.

What is Truth?
Will you be able to stand firm
In the face of it?
Will you be able to stand before
The Son of Man, escaping
All that is about to happen,
Not a hair of your head perishing
As others are taken prisoners
To all the nations?**

What is truth
In the age of deception?


Ngayong araw,
Panay pa rin ang paputok
Ng mga iskwater
Sa tabi-tabi.

Ibang klase silang
Magpaputok ngayon.
Di tulad ng dati,
Na masaya.

Ngayong taon,
May kahalong galit
Ang mga putok,
Para bagang sinasabing

Ito na lamang ang aming
Tutal binigyan niyo kami
Ng kahirapan.

Walang ikababahala:
Labintador lang naman.
Ewan ko lang sa susunod na taon
Kung ano pa ang kayang makaon.

December 25, 2005
7:00 – 9:00 pm

* The question and answer are derived from Margery Williams’ poem entitled “What is Real?”
** This stanza and the two preceding it use the words of Luke 21, New International Version, almost exactly in some parts.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


An N.O., USA

By Sophie Bodegon

Sie haben die Windungen meiner Fluesse
gerade gelegt

das Wasser meiner Marsch
austroknen lassen

die Macht meiner Stroeme

Naja, bis Morgen
wenn Katrina kommt.

You are wondering why I have a German poem in my blog for English students. Sophie Bodegon, who founded Philippine News and Features, is currently Asia Secretary for United Evangelical Mission, working with the churches in the tsunami areas of North Sumatra, Nias, Mentawai and Sri Lanka. She wrote the poem, she says, while studying the German language in Germany, where she is currently based. I asked her to translate the poem for me into English, and she did:

To N.O., USA

You have
straightened the curves
of my streams
dried up
the waters of my marches
held captive
the power of my rivers

Oh well, till tomorrow
when Katrina comes.

A poem in any language, you see, is still a poem. If you've been my student in English 11 and listened to me well, you would know why this is a well-written poem.

Monday, October 31, 2005

After the Rain

Some people wonder how I can be so hopeful in the midst of the morass in the land. 

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tatiana, Sophie’s child

Lavigny 9

By Mila D. Aguilar

There she was,
A mere 18 months,
Foraging on the ground
Below me,

Blond and green-eyed
With a sharp upturned nose
That promised to grow
Like her father’s.

She loved the pebbles
And would bring them up
To her mouth, till
I leaned down to

Look her in the eyes
With a knowing smile.
So she began to be
Interested in the nettles

But they were too spiky
For her small hands
Until she saw, among
The nettles, little

Elongated pieces
Brown with pale green
Patches. I too
Wondered what they were,

Like her. She picked
Them up to show to me.
I did not imagine them
To be as hard as they felt,

Until I looked up to see
They were the same color
As the trunk of the tree
Some feet away from me.

Bark, Tatiana, bark
Falling off the trees!
Bark falls off in autumn
Too, not only leaves!

As amazed at the
Discovery as the child
Was. I have always
Shied away from

Autumns, leaving
Before it comes
To full winter fruition,
But with the knowledge

Of the bark
Falling off like leaves
I think, awaiting 60,
I am ready now

For the dark of winter.

September 25, 2005
5:45-6:13 AM

Friday, September 16, 2005


Aubonne is a brisk 30 minutes' walk from Lavigny through the outskirts of a village, then a forest, a river, and a hill. It is composed of two parts: the old town and the new town. I wasn't much interested in the new town. This seems to be the center of the old one.

Photo taken by mda

Friday, September 09, 2005

She sells Swiss watches

Lavigny 8
For Sindiwe Magona, South African writer

by Mila D. Aguilar

She sells Swiss watches,
This woman reeded by age.
We had walked to Aubonne,
Two coloreds,
One black and one brown,
And found a shop selling
Watches, Swiss-made,
But cheap enough to wear
Without fear of getting
Arms snapped off.

The door was open,
There was nobody in,
So I called out
With the few French words
I know: "Bon jour!"
And she came out
With a smile that,
Though not ear to ear,
Was candid enough
Not to condescend.

I would not have bought
A watch for my gradddaughter
Or a Swiss knife for my son
Had she been other than
Unassuming. Do you accept
Credit cards, I asked,
And she said, "Oui oui,"
In the usual Swiss way.
So I chose my two gifts,
One after the other.

It was her manner of wrapping
That struck me and, I guess,
Bored my African companion
And translator, she with
Her native rhythmic sense.
I would not have understood
Yet would have accepted it,
Being Filipino, apt to take things
As they are, then leave all
To her Lord and Master.

I was a nurse, she said--
Wistfully, I imagined--
But my husband had two shops,
One in this house, the other
Across the street, so I had
To tend one--as she
Folded the wrapper
Ever so carefully
As if she were applying
Bandage on a wound.

After what seemed like an hour
She finally managed
To place her shop sticker
On the ribbons
With her finely gnarled
White hands.
I could have made
A short story out of it
But the image of her
Standing there,

Serious and honest,
Is good enough for me.

September 9, 2005
11:30-2:15 pm

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Whether Weather

Lavigny 7

by Mila D. Aguilar

Autumn's slow in coming to these parts.
One tree is turning red,
One other yellow green,
But most persist in their old color

Despite the onset of the chill.
Suisse is not unlike
Its washing machines
Their shortest cycle

A long 45 minutes
Gentle on any fabric,
Not apt to shear or tear.
I can remember New York

One summer, on Broadway
When I had to buy
Some synthetic jacket
In a bargain basement

Because the autumn wind
Had suddenly descended
Without warning.
And the brusque whoosh

Of their washing machines,
So massive, so utterly
Without compunction
Or civility.

Weather can be
A gauge of our humanity.

September 8, 2005
4:30-4:44 pm

Swiss Hibiscus

Swiss Hibiscus
Photo taken by mila d aguilar.
Here is the Swiss gumamela I wrote about earlier.

She sells Swiss watches

The woman in this photo is a nurse, but she gave up her profession to sell watches and jewelry for her husband, who is also an optometrist and runs their other shop. Both shops are in Aubonne, only a street apart.

Church Steeple

Church Steeple
Photo taken by mda.
The church steeple of Lavigny, like most other steeples in Switzerland, has a clock, one on each side, to make sure everybody knows the time.

Swiss Chalets

Swiss Chalets
Photo taken by mda.
Just outside the Chateau de Lavigny are other houses, small but old, sometimes with tiny yards put to productive use in terms of flowering or table plants like tomatoes and pears. Every inch of ground yields something for the eyes if not the stomach.

The Churches of Switzerland

Lavigny 6

by Mila D. Aguilar

The doors of the churches
Of Switzerland are closed
All day. No schedules tacked

On doors, as they are in
Shops in the villages.
Pastors come once a month,

Being in short supply.
The bells ring to tell time,
Signalling the start and

End of working day for
Farmers in the vineyards.
There are barely people

In the streets, even in
Junctions. So different
From my country, where the

Churches aren't big enough
For the teeming millions,
And so people gather

In the streets, geared to fight,
Tolling evil's end and
Telling the world about

The coming of the Light.

September 8, 2005
4:00-5:52 am

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The reading at the Chateau

Beate Rygiert, a German short story writer and novelist, was one of those who read their works at the "lectur" on September 4, held in the living room of the Chateau. Seated on the right is her husband, Daniel Oliver Bachmann, also a novelist. To the left, seated on the sofa, is Sophie Kandaouroff, the Chateau manager.

Man, her pair

Man, her pair
Photo taken by mda.
A meter and a half away from the woman in the lower garden stands the bust of a man. They are surrounded by tall bushes which also serve as a fence around the large yard. In front of them are backless stone benches.

Woman in the Lower Garden

Woman in the Lower Garden
Photo taken by mda.
On one end of the lower garden stands the bust of a woman with classic Greek features.

Chateau Trellis

Chateau Trellis
Photo taken by mda.
The Chateau trellis is right next to the veranda. It goes down to the parking area and on to what used to be the servants' quarters, now the manager's home.

Chateau Veranda

Chateau Veranda
Photo taken by mda.
The Chateau veranda is where the five to six resident writers eat dinner served by some of the best home chefs in Switzerland.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Bells and howitzers

Lavigny 5

by Mila D. Aguilar

As the church bells
Toll the hour in Switzerland,
The village fountains
Flow their way.

Every hour on the hour
Signalling the start and end of day
And if you cannot hear
It rings again five minutes after

More insistently.
But the village fountains
Just go on and flow their way,

Towards August's end
The waters of Switzerland
Overflowed on Bern and Lucerne
Taking dozens to their death.

But the bells of Celigny
And Lavigny continued tolling
And the village fountains
Kept on flowing.

By September, some days after,
It was New Orleans.
A hurricane had struck her.
How many thousands died

In that disaster.
The bells of Celigny and Lavigny
Have kept on tolling,
The fountains still are flowing.

In Europe and America
Calamities are unusual.
In the Philippines,
We await our next.

Will it be
Political this time, we wonder.
Or shall an act of God
Finally stop her.

In Celigny and Lavigny
The bells keep tolling,
The fountains flowing.
But in the rest of the world

Both men and women
Have been sowing.

September 4, 2005
6:05-7:10 pm


Lavigny 4

by Mila D. Aguilar


The tropical








September 2, 2005
4:20 pm


Lavigny 3

by Mila D. Aguilar

Nobody seems to like
Bush in these parts,
Especially not his
Fellow Americans.

But look at the hills,
How placidly they plunge
Into ravines and rivers
The paths, whether paved

Or unpaved, all
Neatly laid out.
Nobody seems to like
Bush in much of the world,

Not even in America.
Maybe more in America
Than in the rest of the world,
But most of those just

Standing aghast
At every darned blast
Of calomelic casuistry
And blind bigotry.

Meantime, nobody moves
But Whitman's blades of
Glass twinkling under
Moonless nights

While the owls of our souls
Hoot ominously
Day and night
In the forests of Switzerland.

August 30, 2005
3:52 pm

Winged things

Lavigny 2

by Mila D. Aguilar

There are flies here too.
But they are longer,
With elongated wings
Covering elongated bodies.
They do not rub their forelegs
As much, and are not as quick
To fly off at the sight
Of a hand swatting.

The mosquitoes do not seem
To bite as much, at least not
Those who have had their
Dinner wine whether red or white.
You do not see them, tiny
As they are, except
Out in the forest,
Bunched too, but not
Hovering over heads.

But the mayas, ah, they are
Almost exactly the same.
Les moineaux, they call them,
A little fatter, perhaps, but not
Much bigger. They fly
Together, too, in small
Communities--cantons, you
May call them, or villages--
Barangays, if you will;
Feeding on scrap, or
Whatever you may
Throw their way.

For their nests they use
The sycamore trees
Remaining well-hidden until
Someone who knows them

August 29, 2005
3:34 pm

My barangay

Lavigny 1

by Mila D. Aguilar

This was not a place for kings.
Chateau does not mean castle.
A library certainly can be
Sumptuous, and so a living room,
Or a garden, a habit brought
By one British aristocrat's
Daughter clothed by

Yves St. Laurent
To these rolling hills.
But five rooms do not make
A castle, not even ten.
Look at the vineyards,
Never more than a hectare,
Patched by the roadside

With corn, or pear, or forest
Like the tribes of old
This is my Swiss canton
My barangay
My country led not ruled
My beloved land.

August 26, 2005
1:53 pm

And now the poems

I wanted to upload seven photos but flickr got only four through, so now I'm forced to insert the poems I've written so far at the Chateau de Lavigny.

There are five. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lamp & Lake Geneve

Lamp & Lake Geneve by Mila D Aguilar
Originally uploaded by mda.
Another corner of the garden looks down on vineyards and, over the horizon, Lake Geneve, with the Alps beyond it.

Woman of the Chateau

Chateau Woman by Mila D Aguilar
Originally uploaded by mda.
On one side of the garden, beneath an arch of sculptured bushes, stands a half-bodied woman of exquisite beauty, the lower part of her torso but a pedestal.

Chateau Garden

Chateau Garden by Mila D Aguilar
Originally uploaded by mda.
But the garden takes all the beauty.

Chateau Front

Chateau Front by Mila D Aguilar
Originally uploaded by mda.
You enter the Chateau de Lavigny through an unassuming frontage.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Photos from Switzerland

I am now in Switzerland, at the Chateau de Lavigny, for a three-week international writers' residence. With me are five other writers from around the world, among them Sindiwe Magona of South Africa, a novelist; Xuxi of Hongkong, another novelist; Beate Riegert and Daniel Bachmann of Germany, both novelists; and Andrew Zawacki of the United States, a poet. In the next few posts I will be downloading the photos I have taken here so far, both for your delectation as well as for my own disk security. (What if I lose them all of a sudden without having printed them out? That would be a disaster.)

The poems will come later.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Today’s Struggle
By Mila D. Aguilar
"Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: 'Thus you say, "If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?" '

"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'

"If the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

"None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

Eze 33:10-11, 15-16

Many will be surprised at the combination of my title and quoted verse, thinking them at odds with each other.  I will proceed to demonstrate, however, that at this juncture of Philippine history, they jibe perfectly.
This is not to say that the present point of contention, the Madame of the land, is about to or can still change.  Politically, she is already a goner; whether her inner character can still make that momentous turn is apparently belied by reported movements in the Palace, at the airport, and in Hong Kong.  The truth of these reports, however, is not for us to judge, in the same way that it would be unjust to judge the state of the Madame’s soul.  All we can say for sure is that politically, she is a goner, and it is only a matter of time before she bids us goodbye, in her uniquely ineluctable manner—still sounding highly insincere.
Since the end of this particular drama is a foregone conclusion, we should therefore start turning our attention to the greater problem, the nation.  Why can’t we have enough of the Marcoses, the Eraps, the Glorias?  Why, indeed, do we even have to put up with a Cory?  Or, for that matter, a Ramos?  If they cannot express and advance the aspirations of the people, how then can we live?  More appropriately, “if our transgressions and sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?”
The Biblical answer is very simple, but the answer in terms of everyday reality bytes, of everyday living, indeed, of everyday struggle, is much more complex.  In the end, however, both will amount to the same thing: “If the wicked restores the pledge…he shall surely live.”
Between the question (“How can we then live?”) and the answer (“If the wicked restores the pledge…”), what lies between?  To resolve this, we have to look back at the past.  What are the “transgressions and…sins [that] lie upon us,” and why have we been “pining away in them” for so long?
The co-optation of the datus
The truth is that we have a history to overcome, and in order to overcome it, we have to see it correctly, first and foremost.
When the Spaniards came upon the separate tribes in the islands that they eventually came to call the Philippines, the most common leaders of these tribes were not sultans, but datus.  Sultanates, structures which approached the level of organization of Spain’s own fiefdoms, had been put up in Islamized areas like Sulu and the southwestern parts of Mindanao, as well as, a trice before the Spaniards came, in Manila.  In most areas of the archipelago, however, barangays, those small communities of only a few scores of families, were led by datus, who owned no great armies nor ruled no high princes of their own.
These were the datus whom the Spaniards co-opted and made to live in the town centers, in the municipios, there to be unobtrusively guarded against potential rebellion.  As it turned out, save for the failed Tondo conspiracy and communities in unreachable or hostile mountainous areas such as the Cordilleras, most datus were co-opted rather easily, their sons and daughters eventually becoming favored in Hispanicentric society with their mestizo progeny.  The datus, given the gift of becoming tax collectors by the Spaniards, would learn to survive among the Spanish elite by pinching from the public bin the reales they needed for their private pleasures.
It was this corrupted, diminished datu class that became the base of the principalia, as well as, through the miracle of mestizoization, the ilustrados.  This native, Hispanized elite carried down to the next centuries our Spanish colonial legacy not only of feudalism and patriarchalism, but also of corruption.
Feudalism and corruption are in reality twin evils, especially in a colonized society in which the elite could survive only by dipping into the public bin because the colonial lord has already taken away much of the fruit of the land.  Corruption in the public arena copies the practices of feudalism in the private arena:  since the landlord merely sits while waiting for the fruit of the land to arrive at his dinner table, the government official also sits, waiting for the moneys of the land to arrive at his desk drawer.
The continued rule of the datus
When the Americans took over, they did not remove the ilustrados whose ancestors had made it a habit for three centuries to plow into the public bin.  Instead, they placed them in the highest “elected” positions in the land. 
To their credit, however, they did train young men and women from the lower classes to take over senior and junior positions in the bureaucracy.  The training that these young men and women got as pensionados in the United States was steeped in the honesty bestowed on George Washington, mythically or not, and that may be why they came back serious in the business of running government.  But more than that, the basic reason these young men and women became honest civil servants is that they generally came from classes which had not been thoroughly co-opted by the Spaniards, and therefore still held on to the native principles of hiya and katapatan.
Due to the presence of these young men and women who eventually grew old in the bureaucracy, we are wont to think that our government, before Marcos, was as clean as immaculate.  That is not entirely true.  What is truer is that the bureaucracy remained, for several decades, clean enough to cover up the stealthy little robberies of our upper-class elected officials.
It is also true that these robberies were very little compared to the robberies conducted by our officials today, who are capable of robbing the people blind whether they be elected or not, whether they be in the upper or lower rungs of the bureaucracy or not. 
But the robberies of yesteryears, small as they may have been compared to what we see today, were robberies nonetheless.
Marcos, a datu
Marcos was a local datu before he became a congressman.  He it was who, in breaking the barriers of the imagination in robbery, broke the barriers of upper-class robbery.  In involving bright young minds from the middle class in his administration, whether as officials or as cronies, he lowered the stakes for robbery-in-band.  With the proliferation of possibilities in the art of corruption, the population itself soon learned the art of corruption.
That is why many say that when democracy was restored in 1986, corruption was also democratized.  The Filipino people had learned, by way of osmosis as well as journalistic declaration, that their leaders were corrupt; being an indigenously democratic people who had lived by consensus before the coming of the Spaniards, why should they not be able to do what their leaders were doing?
Marcos’ breaking of the barriers of corruption also facilitated another phenomenon:  after martial law, the old ruling class, whose wealth had been based on feudal property, ill-gotten perhaps through one or two centuries of corruption but feudal nonetheless, found themselves with strange bedfellows in politics—they were joined now by sons and daughters of the professional middle class, sons and daughters who had themselves gotten rich quick through the auspices of cronyism but had no social backing in terms of land.
The “old” ruling class, as Cory’s kind must be called even if their wealth may have come out of a fluke in the Philippine Revolution, looked down on this new variety of the ruling class, though they were exactly the same not only in terms of skin color but of eyeglass color—they looked at the economy in exactly the same feudal way: that is, they sat and waited for the moneys of the land to come to their desk drawers.  Only, the new ones were more active and obvious in their search for it, while Cory herself, like some of the presidents before her, may not have directly engaged in it, having been guilty of it only by proxy.
It was not, therefore, because Erap came from the masa that Cory’s kind abhorred him.  He is, after all, the son of an engineer, and most of his brothers and sisters are professionals.  It was because he had broken through the barriers of corruption, of which the old ruling class thinks they have the priority, the practice having been traditionally their sole privilege.
Land reform made matters worse for the expanded ruling class, which are now rightfully called ruling elites rather than one ruling elite.  After land reform, which was dictated by the U.S. on Marcos (as well as Magsaysay before him) as an instrument for creating a cash economy and therefore a wider market in the countryside, as well as for stymieing peasant insurgencies, the traditional elite could not rely anymore on good old feudalism to feed their fancies.  They had to look for newer sources of “income.”  Since they were so used to sitting and waiting for the produce of the land to come to their tables, few of them thought of applying whatever capital they had accumulated on productive enterprise.  Instead, they thought of the next best thing: to engage in bureaucratic enterprise—that is, sitting and waiting behind desks for the moneys to flow into their drawers.
This added to the current glut we see in electoral politics.  Too many want to become politicos—it is the only way to earn, barring conscientious application of hard work in legitimate business.  Not only the nouveau riche elite, but the traditional elite, want a piece of the pie.
Even the few of the traditional elite who are into big business mistakenly think that they need government in order to survive, and therefore dabble in it.
This is the circus we see now playing itself out before us:  the Gloria camp representing the traditional elite (now you see why Cory has had to defend her, and is working out a replacement for her); the Erap camp representing the nouveau riche elite, with their billions earned not only from illegitimate sources but from the movie fiefdom (which, by the way, behaves very much like a feudal fiefdom, in the sense that the star sits and waits long hours to get into camera, earning millions, while everyone else works his butt off around him/her, earning a pittance).
It’s been a tug of war between the two elites, beginning with Edsa I and going on to Edsa II.  That each time the traditional elite won is indicative of its continued strength.  This continued strength is fueled by their allies in big business, which happen to be peopled by their kind. The problem is, while these few businesses depend on the masses even more than on government, their owners, like their cousins in politics, cannot get themselves to like their own customer base.  It is this internal contradiction within the traditional elite that will spell their disaster after Gloria, if they choose not to shape up. 
Their likely alternative of a puppet known to have been corrupt-to-the-core from the start will not help them any.  They are on the way out, in the same way that Gloria is, because the semi-feudal order that used to nourish them is already crumbling.  All the masses have to do to turn them to powder is to boycott their products.
But there is a third factor to the current situation; without this third factor, our story will not be complete.
The rising entrepreneurial class
Marcos, in his twenty-one year reign, did two other things that would turn the tide of history after his political demise in 1986:  first, he shortened the 99-year lease on the U.S. military bases to a 25-year lease, renewable; and second, he opened the doors to the sending of overseas contract workers abroad, an act which was indefatigably carried through by Cory Aquino.
Let me discuss the second one first, because it is an internal development that can become a basis of thoroughgoing change, and the first one later, because it points to an external factor that could accommodate, or stunt, the second.
But first, we must be clear about the reasons for the OFW policy of both Marcos and Cory:  not being productive, its head caught in the vise of foreign control and its tail snagged in the laziness of its ruling elites, the economy has been on a downward spin for decades, the only way to salvage it being to rely on the remittances of millions of Filipinos working their butts off abroad.
In its first one-and-a-half decades of encouragement, the OFW phenomenon produced a consumer-oriented local market.  The families of OFWs spent their loved ones’ earnings on appliances and every imaginable consumable, so that when the OFWs got home, they were still as penniless as ever.
But one gets over consumption sooner or later.  As expected, the Ilocanos were the first to overcome the urge.  By the middle of the second decade, some of them were already starting to buy not only houses and lots, but farms, putting these to good productive use.  On the other hand, most bought service vehicles, earning their daily bread from these when they had exhausted their contracts abroad.
There is a limit to one’s earning from service vehicles, however.  The rapid spread of information technology in the 90s provided other ways of investing smaller amounts of capital on businesses that even young children of OFWs could engage in.  The discovery of franchising opened up other venues of investment for those who had accumulated more capital, whether by being OFWs abroad or by having been children of less greedy jueteng lords or government officials or, for that matter, children of legitimately wealthy Chinese businessmen—or by just exercising plain ingenuity.   The discovery that Filipinos eat a lot, and love dressing, opened up even more venues of investment to anyone who was willing to work darned hard to earn reasonably.
Today, there are a substantial number of these micro, small and medium-sized enterprises all over the Philippines.  Their owners constitute the engine behind the movement against corruption in the bureaucracy.  These owners know that without corruption, they would not have to slave to get their papers through city hall, the BIR, SEC, DTI, and other government agencies.  They know that once unleashed, their wealth-creating energies could save the Philippines from economic disaster.
They also know that “E”-Vat may kill them. 
Not yet quite a distinct, existent class, they are a rising entrepreneurial class nourished by the breasts of the middle and lower classes, waiting desperately to start walking on their own.  They are the new and more robust seeds of the vaunted national bourgeoisie described by the Left in the 60s and 70s, a national bourgeoisie that did not quite survive the onslaught of foreign capital after the imposition of martial law.
Their beginnings, and strengthening, run parallel with the born again Christian phenomenon in the Philippines.  Like the beginning of the OFW phenomenon, born again Christianity went through a revival in the 80s. By the 90s it was already starting to influence Catholics in their attitudes towards the Bible.  With the advent of the 21st century, born again Christians were already starting to reach out to the Muslims, not necessarily to convert them, but to show them where Jesus—Issa Almasih—is in the Koran.
It is significant that born again Christians never thought of their belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God as a religion, but as a personal relationship with their Savior.  In so starting, they have been able to approximate in the Philippines the effects of the Reformation on Europe, releasing a great well-spring of hope within a crumbling semi-feudal order because it unleashes the energies of the most basic seeds of capitalism—almost, but not quite the same kind of nascent capitalism that the merchants brought to Europe centuries ago.  In so starting, they were, in the 90s, able to rethink their initial closed-mindedness, thereby reaching out to the Philippines’ traditional religions, and lately, even to the agnostics and atheists of the Left, the power-prone of the military Right, and, most difficult of all, the unbelievers of the University of the Philippines.
Tenuous as the continued existence of the rising entrepreneurial class may be, therefore, having the born again Christian phenomenon as its ideological spearhead means its inevitable formation.  Furthermore, even before its full formation, it has already found a leader in the person of Bro. Eddie Villanueva, himself a professor of entrepreneurship as well as entrepreneur.  His concern for both OFWs and entrepreneurship, clearly and methodically expounded in his platform and program of government, drew both groups to his cause during the May 2004 elections, and will continue to draw them to him beyond Gloria. 
As to whether this new OFW-entrepreneurial-born again Christian force will be able or even be willing to immediately unseat the traditional elite, however, is another matter.   In the May 2004 elections, eschewing all tactics and strategies of traditional politics including the expenses (though not the wobbly machinery) of poll watching, they were roundly cheated of millions of votes, exactly how many millions only time, and God, will tell.
But who knows?  The God of those who believe is an extremely powerful God.  This optimism, this overwhelming sense of belief, is expressed in a recent missive written by Jeric Soriano, a born again Christian-entrepreneur who runs JCSFX Media, Inc.:

Listen, we need to stop preaching what the politicians are doing and start telling what God is doing! God said He is healing this land. We must start speaking about this country by faith instead of going around spouting bad news all the time. Of course, that will sound odd to most people. Some of them may even think we've slipped a few cogs. But that's nothing new.

Let me tell you something: One handful of believers who are listening to, trusting in, and speaking out the good news of God are more powerful than all the devils on earth. One handful of believers is more powerful than a whole army of unbelieving doomsayers. Their unbelief will not make the faith of God of no effect!

That's why you need to turn a deaf ear to the bad news and just start praising and thanking God for His deliverance. Every word of praise we speak releases faith in our heart.

Get determined. Take a firm stand that things are changing in this country. Settle it in your heart as you pray. Speak it out. Call it forth. God is healing the land!
The missive, harmless as it may sound, is in fact based on Nehemiah 6:1-16.  At the time of the early Jewish diaspora, Nehemiah had built a wall to house the Jews who had returned to their land despite its having been overrun by foreign powers.  Enemies of the Jews tried to discourage him by spreading the rumor that he was planning to become King of the Jews, and therefore, because of that, he was going to be killed.  He, however, remained unfazed, and went on with his work, finishing the wall in 52 days.  When the wall was finished, the tables were turned on the enemies of the Jews, for it was they who became disheartened, finally realizing that the wall was, after all, the work of God, not just Nehemiah.
As the passage from Nehemiah demonstrates, the language of born again Christians is not only a prayerful language; it is a language that integrates action into its prayer, and prayer in its action.  Their models include not only David, who slew Goliath and became King after long years of pursuit by the power-protective Saul; they also include Paul, who was constantly in and out of prison, but never flagged in the evangelistic goals assigned to him by Jesus.
Today, born again Christians, who constitute not only fellowship-based, religion-less Christians but born again Protestants and Catholics alike, and at this very moment, even born again Muslims, cut through at least 20 percent of the Filipino population, whether in the Philippines or abroad.  Among them are a substantial number of micro, small, and medium-sized as well as millions of would-be entrepreneurs who hold fast to their Bible’s promises of prosperity and blessed nationhood.
Perhaps it is not so much the millions Bro. Eddie Villanueva is capable of calling forth that bothers Gloria, as Tony Abaya enunciated in a June 23 column entitled “Who’s Afraid of Bro. Eddie?”, but this overwhelming faith and confidence in a righteous God.
That is, if she herself believes.
The external factor
There is an external factor to Philippine society, however, as there was even in pre-colonial times due to the inordinately hospitable nature of the people, and that factor always has to be taken into consideration in any study of the ongoing Philippine crisis, especially today, in the light of the global situation.
That factor is the United States.
When Marcos cut the 99-year lease of the U.S. military bases to 25 years renewable, not even the United States guessed that nationalists would get to the Senate by 1991 and vote not to renew the lease.  They thought they had ensured as far back as 1983, before the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, that the powers of these nationalist legislators would be clipped.  Dragging their feet while making the motions of moving out of the main bases, they were finally jolted out of them by a deus ex machina: Pinatubo revolted, erupting right before their eyes.  They packed up fast, and left.
But the Philippines remained the apple of their eyes, not so much for sentimental reasons, but because the apple was shown in the late 90s, through their sophisticated satellites, to contain more than the riches they had ever suspected it to have, riches that they never even had, or had exhausted in their greed.
When Erap was in power, they therefore foisted the Visiting Forces Agreement on him—all they could manage in the meantime.
The pressures have been mounting since due to the floundering American dollar, aggravated as its fall has been by the US misadventure in Iraq.  So what to do with the Philippines?  The options have already been laid out, planned for and partially implemented well in advance, but subsequent events will tell whether any of them can prosper.
One thing is certain, though: the US government has not taken kindly to Gloria’s flirtations with China.  When she goes, therefore, it will be good riddance to her.
Whom will they support in her place?  Any one of the pretenders will do, including the most corrupt, because, in the present configuration of Philippine society, a configuration which started at the end of the 19th century when America became interested in the Philippines, anyone who comes to power must contend with the United States.  Unless Filipinos are able to develop their own national capital, they will not be able to get out of that configuration.  The traditional elite with their feudal superciliousness, best exemplified by Gloria, will not let today’s millions of potential small capitalists do it for the country, mistakenly thinking they can continue their centuries-old dalliance with whoever is in power in the world.  The nouveau riche, flabby at the knees like Erap, dead as FPJ, and movie-bound as Susan, would not know how to do it, used as they are to making money some other way.  The entrepreneurial class is still rising, and can be easily killed off by a measure like the “E”-Vat.
Unless, of course, the righteous prayers of born again Christians rise up to the heavens and produce a miracle, breaking up the traditional elite so that the big corporations join in the crusade to develop small capitalism, for their own eventual greater gain; pushing the nouveau riche to productive enterprise, more productive than the present service enterprises of Guia Gomez and Laarni Enriquez; convincing the Left that economic production is necessary in the protracted struggle to the socialist stage; inducing the US to leave national capitalism well enough alone, because if they are ever able to take Mindanao, which they covet because that is where the main resources lie, they wouldn’t want to feed, clothe and shelter 16 million dependents; and mobilizing the masses to take hold of their destiny by creating their own wealth, thereby acquiring a voice in the economic and political affairs of the nation.
A pipe dream.  The only way the wicked can restore the pledge.  But as Christian prayer-points, entirely possible, especially under a revolutionary transition government that truly understands the basic problems of the nation, and how these problems can be overcome, one by one.
July 7, 2005

Friday, July 08, 2005

Hong Kong before turnover

I took this photo in Hong Kong in 1996, before the turnover. Notice the people all walking at a forward slant. That is how active Hong Kong was, and is up to now.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Today's Poem

Strictly Politics
(For Pia Hontiveros)

by Mila D. Aguilar

Listen to the apologist
As he speaks,
Wriggling his way out of
Her closet, like a worm.

Look at the two black blotches
On what could have been
His cheeks, acned
By years of excess

Sweets and tar having
Eaten up his teeth,
The better to hiss
His sibilant sounds

His eyes shifting left
And right, his darkness
No match to the
Handsome men and host

Facing his venom
As he sneers at the
Sheer logic of the
Clean man of God.

In my garden
The mariposa has not visited
My mother's santol tree
For years.

No big colorful butterflies
Here anymore,
Only the small ones
Who flit about fast

And then disappear.
This summer
The santol fell to the ground
In their dozens,

Leaving us little to eat.
Something in the air
Dwarfs all beauty around me.
Something in the heat

Smothers the truth.
I wish for the rain,
Though it be too far between
To wash off the scum.

June 25, 2005
5:30-6:15 am


Mila D. Aguilar was also known as Clarita Roja when she was underground for thirteen years during the period of Martial Law.

She had chosen the name Clarita Roja, which means "clear red," thinking it to signify the red of communism. Little did she know then that it also means the blood of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to redeem mankind from its sins.

Clarita Roja it was who wrote such books of poetry as The Mass Line and Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.

When she emerged as Mila D. Aguilar again, this time in prison, she came up with three more books, one published in San Francisco (Pall Hanging Over Manila, 1984), another in New York (A Comrade is as Precious as a Rice Seedling, 1984, 1985 and 1987), still another in Manila by the Free Mila D. Aguilar Committee (Why Cage Pigeons?, 1984).

Almost all her poems, including those she wrote from age 15, were collected in a volume published by the University of the Philippines Press in 1996 (Journey: An Autobiography in Verse).

Her latest collection, still unpublished, is entitled Chronicle of a Life Foretold: 110 Poems (1995-2004). This poem, as well as five others, is not included in that collection.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

How many short stories?

Break-Up Stories
5 short shorts

by Lilledeshan Bose

I. Oh, what a night

The last time I saw trees shaping strips of moonlight into curves, I was ten.
We--my sisters, my yaya, bunches of kinchay, strawberries and jars and jars of peanut brittle--are bundled up in a car, parked outside my father's house.
My father is outside, reading a letter just handed to him by my mother, who is getting into the car.

She slams the door, adjusts the rearview mirror, and asks, "Who has to go to the bathroom?" My sister starts crying, but no one answers, so my mom starts to drive away.

When I look back at my father, he is tearing the letter up into tiny pieces. They're carried across the moonlit strips, until we turn into a curve, and then I can't see anymore.

II. Christine

Everybody has a girlfriend named Christine. Chris, Kristy, Tin-Tin, Ina Christina, Tina, Kat, Trina.

They’re freshly powdered and Nenucoed, long hair ponytailed, books held tightly to their chests. To pick things up they never bent down crassly by the waist but discreetly buckled at the knee, tucking the hair behind their ears.

These Christines have flowers and chocolates from you, teddy bears and pursed lip kisses are all you give. You practice enunciating your "I love you" s with a Christina.

You ride at the back of a pick-up to the beach, counting streetlights like stars as you whiz past with Chris. At a party, you get so drunk that Tin-tin has to take you home in a cab. Ina cuts class to bring you lunch if you are hungry in school. With Kat you ignore curfew and lie to your parents. With Tina, you learn to love.

In the times when you’re about to fall asleep, deep breathed and rested, a girl named Christina strokes your arm, smelling like cologne and bread.

But during the rainy season when the traffic at EDSA slows to a crawl, or when dusk gleams through night lights in pink and orange, you dream of a different woman.

Head thrown back, her laughter like dancing, asking you to join her in the rain.

III. Out to Sea

She took him out to sea, which was brown and curled up at the edges with seagrass. It wasn’t like she remembered; the sea looked less blue, the sky less infinite. His presence filled her vision so she could hardly see the view. The tide was receding and they walked in ankle-deep water. There were sea urchins and dead coral they had to watch out for.

When the water got deep enough they sat down facing each other, and he wrapped her legs around his body. He tried to fuck her in this position, but it didn’t work too well—it was noon, and it was as tight as the first time.

Facing the beach, she kept looking over his shoulder to watch out for people on the shore. When he finally cried out, "I love you, I love you," she stared at the twinkling waves, her eyes brimming with salt.

IV. Heartbeat

With other boys her heart would beat a fast drum pound dug-dug-dug-dug-dug not stopping for breaths in between. These boys she watched out for; looked for the tops of their heads in crowded rooms, waited for their calls.

She lived for their comings and goings—they made her heart beat-buzz through her veins like a telephone—ringing in her ears, the sound vibrating on her tongue.

Jose was different, though. When they were in bed together she hugged him to look over his shoulder, her heart resting against his. He said his "I love yous" a countless million times, and her heart slowed down with every declaration.

Some days he hugged her stomach, and tried to listen for her heartbeat. It was there—a slow thunk- thunk- thunk of hollow tin.

V. Questions.

My mother had her eyebrows tatooed on her face when it was uso, in the early eighties. They were perfectly placed, new moon thin above her eyes. As she grew older and her face started to droop, her eyebrows remained perfectly placed on her forehead—a few inches above her eyes that drooped down at the edges like an upside down smile, a few inches below the hairline that crept every year like higad.

With her eyebrows, she looked like she was always asking a question. Good morning, honey? She seemed to be wondering at me, when I woke up. Go fix your bed? Her mouth queried, in afternoons. I hate your father? She would exclaim after too much wine at night.

Leave me? She'd wail, when we were alone.

Copyright by Lilledeshan Bose. Previously published in The Philippine Free Press.

It's a story and it's short

I am uploading the first two stories for English 10: First, in this post, "The Boy Called Juan Pusong," and second, in the subsequent post, "Break Up Stories" by Lilledeshan Bose. I had asked students to Google Lille's story, but one reported that he couldn't find it. True enough, it isn't there anymore.

The Boy Called Juan Pusong

Once there was a boy whose name was Juan Pusong. He was very mischievous.

One day he went to the fields to see the cows of the King. He thought of playing a prank on the king. He cut the tails of several cows and then drove the cows away. Then he stuck the tails in mud holes, with half of each tail sticking out of the mud.

Then he went to the King’s palace and told the King that many of his cows had jumped into the mud holes and drowned.

The King was very sad. He went to the fields to see his cows. When he saw the tails sticking out of the mud, he became even sadder.

But when he asked the people nearby he learned of Juan Pusong’s mischief. The King became angry. He ordered his men to put Juan Pusong in a cage. The following day the cage was to be thrown into the sea so that Juan Pusong would drown.

Early in the morning, Juan Pusong cried and cried. A man came along and asked, “Why do you cry, Juan? Why are you in that cage?”

Juan Pusong answered, “I am crying because the King is forcing me to marry his beautiful daughter but I don’t want to.”

The man thought that to marry the King’s daughter would make him a very lucky fellow. So the man suggested that they change places. The man put on Juan’s clothes and placed himself in the cage. Juan Pusong put on the man’s clothes and went home.

The following day, the King’s men came and carried the cage with the man in it and threw it into the sea.

The next day, Juan Pusong passed by the King’s palace. The King was surprised to see him. He thought that Juan Pusong had drowned the day before.

The King was about to put Juan Pusong in prison again. But Juan told the King that he had returned from the bottom of the sea. There he had seen the King’s dead parents and relatives. They were all very happy and they wanted the King to come for a visit and see their beautiful houses.

The King marveled at Juan’s story. He wished to see his parents and relatives in their beautiful houses. So he had himself put in a cage and ordered his men to throw the cage into the seas. And thus the silly king was drowned. And clever Juan Pusong became king in his place.

(Eugenio 369-70, as taken from Cebuano Folktales 2, ed. Erlinda K. Alburo)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Poem for the first semester

by Mila D. Aguilar

I don't know the language
Of which they speak
As they fly busily about

After the rain.
I can't tell why
After some minutes

They stop
Going about their business.
Is it the wind rustling

Gently through the leaves?
Or are they done?
The skies may be gray,

But I share their joy
Over the coming and going
Of the rain, the way

The plants green and preen
Over the end
Of a long withering summer.

June 8, 2005
10:00-11:06 am

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I found this statue in the Arzobispado of Vigan. It's one of the most realistic depictions of Jesus' suffering on the cross that I have seen, carved right here in the Philippines centuries ago. A blessed Holy Week to all! Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pagoda Tree

I would never attempt to translate a poem--any poem, not even mine. Look here, I first wrote a poem in Pilipino about the calachuchi, then wrote about it again in English. Some of the things the two poems say about the calachuchi may be the same, but the general thought is different. This is because the flow, the rhythm, the sound, of each language is so different. And poetry is first and foremost rhythm, sound, flow! My admiration goes for those who can translate poems well.

Pagoda Tree
By Mila D. Aguilar

The pagoda tree,
as they call it in English,
is our calachuchi,
the same name we give
to mistresses.

But how strange the name sounds.
Pagoda tree, I mean.
Towards the summer solstice,
It sheds its leaves

A body made up of so many arms
Dancing their way to the skies
Their fingers growing
The purest freshest flowers

This even in its old age.
I have seen it at 50 or so
Joints already gnarled
By so much twisting
Still offering its flowers
With the daintiest of fingers.

Without sacrificing the grass.
Other plants could be grown
Below it
Because its leaves don't take
All the sun
And its roots not too much
Of land and water either.

Cut a branch and let it stand
On an inch of soil, then see
New roots grow
Out of the salved wound
Once dried up,
As long as a month after.
Its moisture keeps.

Yet for all that
It's not a pagoda tree to me.
It's still my lovely calachuchi.

March 16, 2005
10:35 pm


Why a poem in Pilipino on a blog for students of English? "Wait a while," as we Filipinos would say; you'll see the point soon enough.

Ni Mila D. Aguilar

Bakit ang kalaguyo,
Tinatawag na calachuchi?

Sa kainitan ng taon,
Nawawalan ng dahon

Labas kaluluwa
Laking tuwa!

Habang tumatanda
Paikot lalo ang sanga

Sa mga kasukasuang
Maga na kung tingnan.

Pero masdan ang mga daliri
ng tinatawag na kiri

Gaano mang paikot ng katawan
Tuon pa ri'y kalangitan

Handog sa dulo ng mga ito
Mga bulaklak na purong-puro.

At mantakin mo,
Anuman ang itanim sa ilalim

Nitong puno,
Maging ito ma'y damo,

Hindi siya matakaw sa araw

Hindi siya mapanipsip
Ng lupang kinatatayuan.

Kung bakit ba tinawag na calachuchi
E iba naman ang kasalanan.

Marso 16, 2005

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Vigan is a beautiful place. You can't find these ruins anymore if you went there today; I took the photo years ago, when I was there with some friends. Posted by Hello

Teresa Casas' paper on the Batangas revolt

Below find one of the best-written papers I got last semester.


The Batangas Revolt: Whose Revolutionary Feat?

by Ma. Teresa Salao Casas

The disparity between the elite and the masses has always been like the unquenchable flames of a raging fire; it simply burns more intense with time. Such conflict has left flickering flames in our country’s history, reflecting a timeless struggle between the haves and have-nots. Historical accounts would reveal that such a social rivalry is not limited to a fight for equality or freedom from prejudice, but extends to a competition in revolutionary history.

In Batangas, for instance, questions have been raised as to who wielded the mighty balisong in battle against the colonizers. Were the masses truly responsible for the revolution? Or was there another formidable force in Batangas that held its own might in the face of the Spaniards?


Renowned historians prefer the former. For many years, the concept of a mass-based revolution has appealed to many. People prefer the idea of a nation formed by the sweat and blood of the common people. The elite were presented as enemies who belittled the strength of the common people; they were portrayed as a mighty aggressor from whom the latter must gain freedom. Upper-class society was also depicted as traitors to their fellow citizens because of their condescending notion that the masses were incapable of a nationalistic movement and that only the educated could initiate reform for the country, thus explaining why they collaborated with the Americans (Agoncillo “Katipunan”).

Since historians lean towards the plight of the masses, Philippine history tags the Revolution against Spain as a “revolt of the masses” (Agoncillo “Revolt” 1) (Ileto 3-10). People have the common belief that impoverished provincials primarily led the Philippine Revolution. Historical texts claim that the Revolution was led by the uprising of lower-class society and that succeeding revolts were also powered by the masses.

Since the common man usually received the brunt of Spanish abuse particularly that of the friars, such a perception of the Revolution is understandable and much more convenient to believe. In Lian and Nasugbu of Batangas, peasants held uprisings against the friars who usurped their land and exacted taxes for occupying such land. The peasants refused to pay the amount demanded by the friars and attacked and plundered the houses of the Jesuit fathers in 1745 (Agoncillo “Revolt” 3). According to Dr. Jaime B. Veneracion, the 1745 Tagalog revolts that included that of Batangas were the most widespread revolts in the country. Such discontent was caused by the conversion of land from pastures to plantations where forced labor was thrust on the masses (Veneracion 103-105).

Teodoro Agoncillo, one of the advocates of the revolt of the masses idea, further states that the poor initiated the Revolution and constructed the idea of forming a sovereign nation, whereas the elite merely sought reform in the Propaganda movement. The masses were heavily taxed, had little livelihood opportunities, and were the objects of ridicule among friars. Because of this, they were ripe for the Revolution that was the goal of the secret Katipunan society. The elite joined the masses in the Revolution only when the former realized that the latter was succeeding in the battle against Spanish oppression where the former had not. Though their published writings awakened a patriotic fervor in many of the Filipinos, the ilustrados or the intellectual elite were unable to obtain the reform they sought (“Katipunan”).

In addition to this, it is normal to assume that the Revolutionary force in Batangas consisted mainly of lower class individuals, since the province’s elite made up only 4,500 to 6,000 individuals, or about one to two percent of the population. This is a considerably small number in relation to the hundreds of thousands of Batangueños who joined the battle. Even Glenn May acknowledges that there were only a few rich Batangueños in the province (19).
However, even if the elite were small in number, their participation in the Revolution was not minimal. Even Agoncillo admits that the wealthy engaged in the Revolution to become the “top bureaucrats of the revolutionary government and later of the Republic (“Katipunan”).

Another argument noteworthy to consider is the question regarding the reasons lower-class society participated in the Revolution. Widely accepted historical texts cite the masses as key actors in the Revolution because according to Reynaldo Ileto, they were aware that they were fighting for a “change in the nature of society” (Ileto according to May 51). They rebelled against foreign power and wished for freedom. However, he later expresses doubt over the masses’ perception of independence, and asks whether the peasants merely “blindly and irrationally reacted to oppressive conditions” (Ileto 5). May likewise indicates that the reason for the masses’ participation in the Revolutionary forces is highly questionable, and he claims that they took part in battles only because obligation to their wealthy patrons compelled them to do so (May 52). May uses Gen. Miguel Malvar of Batangas as an example and cites how his 75 men in the army were convinced to fight in the victorious reclaiming of Sto. Tomas and Lipa, and also Talisay, Batangas. May insinuates that it would have been impossible to form an army so quickly if Malvar had no tenants or retainers whom he could have mobilized immediately (May 50-52) (Ilustre 11).

Disagreement among historians regarding the greater prominence of either the elite or the masses connotes that, behind the belief of a mass-based struggle may lie a truth unrecognized by many. Disparity of conclusions on something as truthful as history must mean that something is amiss. Perhaps, in our country’s history, certain historical facts have remained cloaked by many years of scholarly denial.


Recent historical accounts, for instance, argue that the Revolution was not a revolt of the masses, but was a rebellion led by the affluent and influential as evidenced by the Revolution as it happened in Batangas. The Batangueño political and economic elite were the prime movers of the province’s Revolution; they were leaders in the army; they provided food, sustenance and “general support to the resistance forces” (May xii). To illustrate this, Teodoro Kalaw writes in his memoirs how the wealthy helped during the siege of the convent to which the Spaniards had withdrawn in 1897. The rich contributed their cattle, rice, and horses for the Filipino officials and forces at the time. The mansions of the wealthy were also used as bases in attacks of the Spanish garrison. One of those allocated for the occupation of Filipino forces was that of Señor Manuel Luz, who had one of the best stone structures in the town. (14-15).

Most of the educated individuals who were significant icons in the province’s political history belonged to rich and prominent families. Among those who obtained degrees in the University of Sto. Tomas were Lipeños Jose Luz, Sixto Roxas, Cipriano Calao, and Gregorio Catigbac, as well as Vicente Olmos and Pablo Borbon from Batangas City. A few other Batangueños like Galicano Apacible from Balayan, Gregorio Aguilera Solis, Lauro Dimayuga, and Baldomero Roxas from Lipa even went to Spain to pursue their studies. Once exposed to liberal ideas in Spain, some of these Batangueño elite like Solis and Dimayuga became propagandists (May 28-29).

Leaders of the Batangas Revolution also belonged to upper-class society. Among the most notable was Gen. Miguel Malvar who came from a political family in Sto. Tomas. Others were Arcadio Laurel who belonged to the Laurel clan of Talisay, Pedro Ruffy who was a one-time gobernadorcillo of Nasugbu, Santiago Rillo de Leon who was a gobernadorcillo of Tuy, and Ananias Diocno of the Diocnos in Taal (May 50).

One interesting point to consider is how the economic prosperity of Batangas affected the Revolution. Natives of the province believe that Batangas was one of the financial backers of the battles against the colonizers.

In relation to this, it is important to note that the province of Batangas was agriculturally and financially prosperous during the Spanish occupation. In fact, even before the Spanish arrived, Batangas was already economically wealthy. Taal, in particular, was a natural port to the outside world and to the lakeshore communities, thus making it the province’s center of commerce. It was the richest town in Batangas “until traders transferred businesses to Lipa and Tanauan because of the growing inland trade” (Yson 54).

In subsequent years, however, Lipa played a much more important role in the prosperity of the land of the barakong Batangueño. On the average, a doctor from Lipa would make more than P70,000 in fees alone. Calle Real, Lipa’s main road filled with many business establishments, was the town’s commercial center; it was, in fact, likened to present-day Manila (Kalaw 1). During the 1880s, Lipa had an annual income of P 4,000, 000 from the coffee industry alone. According to the Lipeño scientist Dr. Manuel Roxas, for about six months in 1886-1888, Lipa was the sole world supplier of coffee beans. This was because coffee plantations around the world were infected by a virus that killed virtually all the coffee plants globally (Katigbak “When Coffee Bloomed in Lipa”).

Money was flowing quickly and quite effortlessly into Lipa because of the coffee industry. Many businesses set up branches in Lipa to take advantage of the wealth the industry brought. People were so rich at the time that women would wear diamond buckles on their satin shoes and clothes with gold and silver accessories (Katigbak “Few There Were” 7, 85-86). Most women’s apparel was imported from France, Spain, and other European countries. Even the poor were not exempt from such ostentation. According to Retana, there was a poor woman in Lipa who wore diamonds worth six to eight thousand pesos during feast days (Katigbak “When Coffee Bloomed in Lipa”).

Now, how could have all this wealth aided the Revolution?

Fr. Tom Villafranca, one of Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales’ researchers of Batangas history, says that it could have been possible for the wealthy to contribute to the Katipunan in the province, but no existing written accounts could prove this (Villafranca). Kalaw notes in his memoirs, however, that during the strained years of the Revolution, the Lipa aristocrats were “in constant fear because several persons actually involved in the Katipunan, and many others under suspicion, were known to be their friends” (Aide-de-Camp 11). Even Agoncillo mentions that Andres Bonifacio sent his trusted men to wealthy individuals in order to persuade them to help the cause of the Katipunan, or join their society (“Katipunan”). Agoncillo did not mention, however, whether these wealthy individuals included those of Batangas.

Traditional sources claim, though, that the Katipunan was a purely mass-based society and that no elite or intellectual from Lipa joined it. Juanito Marquez, in particular, cites a few prominent lower-class individuals who were among the first members of the Katipunan in Lipa (Marquez 31) (Agoncillo 1). If Retana’s previous recount is to be believed, then even the poor were capable of contributing to the Katipunan whether in terms of manpower or financial aid. May nevertheless contends that the identified members of the Katipunan were not solely from the lower class; in fact, a few of the members Marquez cited were among the political elite if not notable families of the province. Prominent among those mentioned were Major Gregorio Leviste and Lieutenant Felix Leviste of the landed Leviste clan; these men were said to hold key positions in the Katipunan (Marquez 32) (Battle 39).

Glenn May even goes as far as to question the existence of the Katipunan lower-class society in Batangas; he claims that it cannot be proven that the Katipunan reached the province, but later concedes that neither can it be proven that it had not (Battle 39).

Such discrepancies in well-founded historical records and studies are enough to doubt the legitimacy of the belief of a solely mass-based Revolution. Upper-class society created an imprint in revolutionary history that was far from inconsequential and far from merely financial. Because the elite were educated and thus well equipped with liberal thoughts, they had powerful connections and means to manipulate the particulars of the battles for freedom. It was because of such education that the elite “were convinced of their capacity to rule, and were more likely to resist alien overlordship than the uneducated downtrodden masses” (May 30). Upper-class society knew that with the Spaniards out of political and economic power, the wealthy and educated would take the latter’s place in the country’s seat of power. It was for political, financial, and influential gain that the wealthy gambled their lives as well as their money, land, and possessions. Where the elite are believed by some to be the moving power behind the Batangas struggle, it is speculated that the masses were merely used as cannon fodder.

Nevertheless, from all these, the question of the nature of the Revolution remains undecided. Who really wielded the balisong to fend off foreign cruelty?


Evidence favors an elite-led Revolution; tradition holds firm to a revolt of the masses. But perhaps beneath the muddled facts and natives’ hearsay regarding the Revolution in Batangas, one thing has remained clear: the Batangueño role that marked the reclaiming of the province and the freedom of our country was not monopolized by a single force. Though scrutiny of historical truths and openness to what these reveal would confirm that the elite were the leading force behind the Revolution, Batangas could not have been regained were it not for the masses’ participation, however arguable the reasons for this. Likewise, the masses could not have reclaimed Batangas were it not for powerful leaders, most of whom were from the elite. The Batangueños of different social strata, but of similar patriotic spirit, together raised the balisong to severe the suffocating ties binding them to blind acquiescence to Spanish rule. The Revolution need not be the revolt of the masses nor of the elite alone; the Revolution was a Revolution because the elite and the masses played their respective roles in order to jointly yet differently put an end to Spanish oppression.

While the elite may have the canon, without the fodder, it will be a useless piece of equipment. Reductively, as the bow is to the arrow, so is the elite unto the masses; useless each without the other.

This is the balance of the reality of the Batangas Revolution.


Agoncillo, Teodoro A. “Katipunan: Army in the Shadows.” Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation. Ed. Alfredo Roces. Philippines: Lahing Pilipino Publishing Inc., 1978.

------------------------- The Revolt of the Masses. Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1956.
[This book was responsible for the belief of a “revolt of the masses” and is one of the paper’s major sources for the foundations of such a belief.]

Ileto, Reynaldo C. Pasyon and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines 1890-1910. Quezon Ciy: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979.

Ilustre, Aurea G. Maikling Kasaysayan ng Lungsod at Probinsiya ng Batangas. Quezon City: Vibal Publishing Inc.,1991.

Kalaw,Teodoro M. Aide-de-Camp to Freedom. Trans. Maria Kalaw Katigbak. Manila: Teodoro M. Kalaw Society, Inc., 1965.

Katigbak, Maria Kalaw. Few there were (like my father). Manila: Teodoro
M. Kalaw Society Inc., 1974.

--------------------- “When Coffee Bloomed in Lipa.” Filipino Heritage: The Making of a Nation. Ed. Alfredo Roces. Philippines: Lahing Pilipino Publishing Inc., 1978.

Marquez, Juanito. “Lipa and the Philippine Revolution, 1896-1899.” MA Thesis. Ateneo de Manila University, 1969.

May, Glenn A. Battle for Batangas: a Philippine Province at War. Quezon City: New Day Publishers with permission from Yale University, 1993.

Veneracion, Jaime B. Agos ng Dugong Kayumanggi. Quezon City: Abiva Publishing House, Inc., 2000.

Villafranca, Fr. Bartolome. Personal Interview. Aug 2004.

Yson, Danny. The Birth, Growth and Demise of Kumintang: A Great Tagalog Nation in the 13th Century. Dannyson and Associates, 1997.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Mother and Child

Digitally transformed, an idolatrous statue can become art. Guess what statue this piece of digital art came from. Posted by Hello

Micah Patricia Rivera's paper on women

Sorry, boys, but the best papers were about women, and most of the good papers were by women too! So what can we do.

This one is very well organized, so sit up and take notice.


Filipino Women During the Spanish Colonial Era

by Micah Patricia Rivera

The roles of Filipino women have undergone numerous alterations because of the diverse ethos that penetrated the inherent Filipino customs through hundreds of years. During the three centuries of Spanish rule in the Philippines, the Filipino woman of influence and power was transformed concurrently with the conversion of the country’s social system into a male-dominated society. The shy, self-effacing and vulnerable image of a woman emerged as they were immortalized in literature by the writers of that era.

The incessant oppression of the Spaniards ignited various uprisings and awakened the patriotism of many Filipinas. Before long, women were seen playing crucial duties both in battle and behind the trenches, fighting for the liberty of their motherland.

A. Changes during Spanish Colonization

1. The Christianization of the Filipinos

The dawn of Spanish colonization paved the way for the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines. Spain brought with her not only the power of the sword but also the influence of the cross. It is widely recognized that one of the main objectives of Spain’s conquest was to introduce the Gospel to pagan nations. The missionaries believed that by doing so, they would merit eternal salvation (Alzona 21).

Religion took a vital part in Spain’s interaction with the native people for the Spaniards regarded baptism into the New Faith as a sign of adherence to their power. Many Filipinos were successfully converted to Christianity. The pageantry of the church had a wide appeal, supported by the integration of Filipino social customs into religious observances. The new religion appeared to be similar to their pagan beliefs such as God, who was comparable to their Bathala and the Christian saints, who resembled the spirits that they prayed to. What attracted the native Filipinos even more were the huge cathedrals, grand altars and festive celebrations that the friars presented to them (Alip 113).

Women were the ones greatly influenced by the changes brought about by the New Faith. Alzona records that the niece of Cebu’s supreme leader, Chief Tupas, was the very first Christian here in the Philippines. Not long after, women who came from other distinguished clans were also drawn to the new religion and baptized into Christianity (22).

There was resistance to this introduction, however, and this came from women as well. The babaylans and catalonans deemed Christianity as a hindrance in the performance of their vocation. They refused to embrace the new religion and held on to their customs and traditions. These babaylans and catalonans were forced to flee to the mountains where they could continue practicing their native religion.

2. Political Status of Women

In order to strengthen their colonization, Spain introduced a new form of government and with this, the important roles held by women in the political field were particularly affected. Men completely took over, acquiring positions such as cabesa de barangay and gobernadorcillo, the highest position a Filipino could occupy. They overshadowed the women who, until that time, enjoyed their own authority in pre-colonial society. Apart from those who were born into influential Filipino families (principales) or those who were married to men with high ranks, the Filipina did not possess any political power.

The Spanish law limited women’s rights. Married women were not permitted to deal with their personal possessions and to involve themselves in trade and commerce without their husband’s approval. They were denied the right to occupy any public position aside from the position of a teacher (Alzona 39).

On the other hand, Filipino women participated in the economic progress of their communities. They managed farms and retail shops in provincial towns; only a few engaged in large-scale businesses. Women in the rural areas were also involved in the field of agriculture. They were usually wives, daughters or relatives of farm workers who helped in the numerous tasks around the farmlands (Alzona 37).

B. Women in Colonial Society

1. The Changes in the Position of Women

Men and women had an egalitarian relationship in the early Philippines, enjoying equal privileges in all aspects of living. The two genders were given the opportunity of having an education and of practicing his/her profession. Man regarded woman as his partner who had her say in both domestic and public issues.

In the colonial setting, young girls were sent to colegios or beaterios where they studied not to be learned citizens but to be pious, upright, and humble ladies who would later take their role as mothers and wives (Alzona 28). Women who finished schooling were allowed to teach once they received a license from the government. However, most Filipinas were not able to go to school; thus, their functions in the community were limited to those of managing the household, and rearing their children. A great part of their time was dedicated to visiting churches and praying lengthy novenas.

In his book, Alip states that the Catholic faith marked a development in the lives of Filipinos. As Hhe pointed out, that, “It raised the position of women and exalted motherhood. These changes explained why Filipino women enjoy more rights and privileges than the women of most Oriental countries” (115). There are still prevailing beliefs that the Spanish colonization raised the social standing of women, confirming the preceding statement. However, Lorna S. Torralba-Titgemeyer comments otherwise in her paper, La Mujera Indigena (The Native Woman). She says that the arrival of the Spaniards abolished the honored position of the Filipino woman and replaced it with the new Filipina shaped into the perfect lady as perceived by society.

2. Women According to the Writings of Men

Our national hero, Jose Rizal, criticized women for permitting themselves to be deceived by the friars. He states in his Letter to the Women of Malolos that Filipino women had the misguided conception that showing respect to friars, to the extent of kissing their hands, was the way in which they could manifest their strong faith (Alzona 35).

Apolinario Mabini wrote in The Philippine Revolution, “One of the greatest virtues recognized in a brave and honorable man was the respect for women because the behavior which protects the chastity and the life of one who is weak shows greatness of heart and nobility of soul” (Camagay 12). In addition, Emilio Jacinto reminds Filipinos, “Do not look at woman as a mere plaything but rather as a partner…treat the women’s weakness with utmost respect” (Jacinto’s “Teachings of the Katipunan” as quoted by Camagay 11) These statements from Mabini and Jacinto confirm the notion that women are indeed weak and should therefore be shown consideration.

Andres Bonifacio, on the other hand, recognizes the Filipino women’s competence when he writes in his essay that even before the Spanish colonization women were already literate (Camagay 11). Camagay states, however, that Bonifacio’s statement still suggests the opinion that women became unwise during the time of the Spaniards.

Although our heroes were evidently concerned about the degradeding status of women, their writings still reveal the undeniable view of the Filipino woman as someone inferior.

C. Women in the Philippine Revolution

1. How Women Started to Take Part in the Fight for Freedom

For years, many Filipino women struggled to break through the roles that had been delineated for them. They shunned the Maria Clara image that Rizal portrayed in his novel, Noli Me Tangere. For as much as Maria Clara was the epitome of perfection in the Spanish era, she also served as a sign of women’s submission to the rule of men. Although a lot of Filipinas never rose above these expectations (Balangue-Apilado 49), there were still those who made a mark in history for their efforts of going against the norm and proving the real competence of the female gender.

The start of the consciousness of an “alternative order” was the result of the institution of Logia de Adopcion, the first masonic lodge for women. This organization paved the way for the women to recognize the ailing system of the Spanish reign, particularly the Christian church. Some of these women were Trinidad and Josefa Rizal, the sisters of our national hero, who were once faithful to the church but later refused to attend mass because of the exploitation of the friars (Camagay 14).

The acknowledgment of the Filipino woman’s worth in the pre-Hispanic times was also restored in the foundation of Bonifacio’s Republika ng Katagalugan. The Katipunan, which was formerly exclusive for men, was opened to women not only to avert the enemies’ focus but also to expand the membership of the association (Martinez-Sicat 174). These women, who were commonly close relatives of katipuneros, involved themselves in the uprising and voluntarily presented their assistance. The duties assigned to them were not limited to simply feeding the katipuneros and sewing flags. They performed the risky tasks of transporting guns and ammunitions from one town to another, stashing them in their skirts and tricking the guardia sibil that they were carrying food.

As Policarpio puts it, “Certain it is that women were not silent spectators of the great drama that was to overthrow the Spanish rule.” Apart from being nurses and messengers, the Filipino women also fought alongside their fathers, brothers and/or husbands. They donned men’s clothes and faced combat armed with a rifle and a bolo (21). The women of Ilocos, as told in Apilado’s essay, participated in real warfare in the Battle of Batac in 1900, wherein the forefront of the guerilla troops was a row of women. One account claimed that women were actually shot, as if in a firing squad, and their bodies were left on the ground as the combat ensued.

2. Women of the Revolution

Even before the Revolution began, women already showed active participation in numerous uprisings. Perhaps the most distinguished among them is Gabriela Silang, wife of Diego, who was one of the major forerunners of Bonifacio’s revolution. This heroine of Ilocos led armies into battle and carried on her husband’s causes despite threats to her own life. Later, when she was arrested, she faced the ultimate sentence during the Spanish rule; she was hanged.

Another woman who gained prominence for her contributions in the Revolution was Melchora Aquino or Tandang Sora. She was an old lady who owned a small store where tired and hungry soldiers often found relief. Her house was used for the clandestine meetings of the Katipunan. Because of these, the katipuneros called her the “Mother of the Revolution” (Policarpio 21).
Trinidad Tecson, on the other hand, was considered the “Mother of Biak-na-Bato” for her services in periods of war. She participated in several battles, dressed as a man, and never showed “proverbial female weakness” (Policarpio 24). Aside from taking part in battle, Trining likewise nursed the injured soldiers and collected the dead bodies of men in Biak-na-Bato and burned them.

The abovementioned personalities were some of the few women who are presently given great recognition for their commitment to the Filipinos’ fight for freedom. Equally important, however, are women like Cresenciana Sanchez San Agustin de Santos, the first Filipino volunteer nurse who served in a hospital in Cavite and Agueda Kahabagan Ruiseñor, a woman soldier who acquired the position of a general (Alzona 55).

Other revolutionary women rarely seen in historical records are Patrocinio Gamboa, a Filipina from Western Visayas who carried out intelligence tasks for the rebels in the war against the Spaniards; Teresa Magbanua, a revolutionary leader who won several battles in Iloilo despite having only a small number of men and weapons; and Nazaria Lagos who treated wounded soldiers by applying her skills in folk medicine (Locsin-Nava 62-63).

Most Filipinos of those times thought battle was not something a woman should engage in. Nevertheless, these brave women continued to take part in the uprising and found ways to offer their services for their motherland.

D. Arrival of Americans in the Philippines

1. The Role of Women in the American Era

The coming of another colonizer posed a new threat for the Filipinos in their endeavor to attain sovereignty over their own nation. When the Filipino-American War broke out, women found themselves in the midst of another struggle. The war stimulated the patriotism of the Filipinas, whose assistance became even more indispensable. A great number of them signed up in the army to defend their country in war. Others stayed behind the trenches to sew uniforms and nurse the sick and wounded soldiers.

The humanitarian missions of these women were organized by the establishment of Asociacion de Damas de la Cruz Roja, which was spearheaded by General Emilio Aguinaldo’s wife, Mrs. Hilaria Aguinaldo (Policarpio 30). This Red Cross association solicited contributions to support the war and bring gifts to the soldiers. The members labored tirelessly, going from one town to another, to collect food, clothes, matches and cigarettes for the men in the battlefront. The beneficiaries of these benevolent works were not only Filipino soldiers but also American and Spanish captives (Alzona 57).

The Revolution of 1896 and the Filipino-American War illustrated the innumerable selfless acts that the women performed for their beloved nation. These acts attested to their strength, which at the same time opposed the assumed frailty of the women under colonial rule.

When the war finally ended, Filipino women, led by Miss Constancia Poblete, founded Liga de Paz in 1901 to help create a harmonious relationship between Filipinos and Americans. As soon as peace was restored, they focused their concentration on social work and education (Policarpio 36). Under American rule, Filipinas gradually took their place in political affairs as educators, as administrators and later as politicians themselves.


Filipino women did not have an established position in the government during the Spanish colonial rule. Not unlike the prominent communal functions they had in the pre-colonial era, most Filipinas were deprived of their right to practice their preferred occupation and were regarded inferior to men. They, nonetheless, managed to demonstrate leadership and service during the course of the Revolution. Their participation in the uprisings, as well as in the restitution of peace, carried on even after the arrival of other colonizers.

The commitment of Filipino women to the nation’s endeavor to achieve independence refutes the impression of women as fragile and powerless individuals. Furthermore, it proves that the Filipino woman has been essential in Philippine history and in leading our country to what it is now.

Works Cited

Alip. Eufronio. A Brief History of the Philippines. Manila: Alip and Sons, 1972.

Alzona, Encarnacion. The Filipino Woman: Her Social, Economic and Political Status. Manila: Benipayo Press, 1933.

Balangue-Apilado, Digna. “The Women of Ilocos During the Revolutionary Era.” Review of Women’s Studies. Thelma B. Kintanar, ed. Quezon City: University Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, 1996. 41-52.

Camagay, Ma. Luisa T. “Women in the Text and Reality.” Review of Women’s Studies. Thelma B. Kintanar, ed. Quezon City: University Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, 1996. 11-18.

Dery, Luis Camara. Remember the Ladies and Other Historical Essays on the 1896 Philippine Revolution. Las Pinas, Metro Manila: M & L Licudine Enterprises, 2000.

Hilario-Soriano, Rafaelita. Women in the Philippine Revolution. Quezon City: Printon Press. 1995.

Locsin-Nava, Ma. Cecilia. “Teresa Magbanua: Woman Warrior.” Review of Women’s Studies. Thelma B. Kintanar, ed. Quezon City: University Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, 1996. 61-65.

Martinez-Sicat. “The Filipino Woman And/In The Filipino Rebel.” Review of Women’s Studies. Thelma B. Kintanar, ed. Quezon City: University Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, 1996. 173-182.

Policarpio, Paz. “The Filipino Women During the Revolution.” Review of Women’s Studies. Thelma B. Kintanar, ed. Quezon City: University Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines, 1996. 19-40.

Torralba-Titgemeyer, Lorna S. La Mujer Indigena: The Native Woman. Austrian-Philippine Homepage. 1 March 1997.

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