Published on February 4, 2014.
The Akbayan party-list group invited me to speak, as “an outsider looking in,” at its 16th anniversary program last Thursday. I began by adverting to what I supposed was “a time of mixed emotions” for the party I had occasionally voted for, following its entry into mainstream politics and its mingled success and failure in last year’s election. Then I offered three points for reflection, as follows:
You cannot go back again.
By that I mean that now that you are part of mainstream politics, you can no longer act as though you are an alternative political party. At least, public opinion won’t allow you that leeway…. Let me explain with an example from a previous political crisis. Continue reading
Bonifacio in the imagination. Column No. 225, published on December 4, 2012.
Rizal carefully chose the last image his countrymen would see of him; he went to his execution dressed like a European, complete with derby hat—as if to say that he was a citizen of that free republic that knew no boundaries, and thus an equal of the Spaniards who had ordered his death. Bonifacio was not as lucky.
Nobody knows how Bonifacio looked or what he wore when he was killed by members of the revolutionary army he had founded, mere months after launching the revolution. We “see” him today mainly as the sculptor Ramon Martinez immortalized him: his 1911 Balintawak monument portrays a stylized Bonifacio in white camisa and rolled-up red pants, with a bolo in his raised right hand and the Katipunan flag in his left.
If Bonifacio had had a choice, what image would he have chosen?
Without meaning to, I ended up writing three related columns on the Egyptian revolution and Edsa 1986, and the light they shed on each other. This first column was published on February 15, 2011.
PREPARED a second column on the daang matuwid as the standard by which we should measure the Aquino administration’s performance, especially where it comes up distressingly short (working title: “Crooks in the daang matuwid”). But the sweep of history in Egypt and some sweeping remarks in this newspaper and in several comment threads online about the nature and legacy of Edsa 1986 force me to leave that for another day. Continue reading
Published January 11, 2011. The “Kartilyang Makabayan” is on my wish list of book projects: I hope to complete an annotated translation in time for Bonifacio’s 150th birth anniversary. Bahala na!
IN 1921, largely through the efforts of poet-politician Lope K. Santos, an official holiday to mark the birthday of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio was celebrated in the country for the first time (it came a generation after his execution at the hands of Emilio Aguinaldo’s men). The day before the new holiday, labor leader Hermenegildo Cruz later recalled, his school-age children asked him: “Sino ba iyan si Bonifacio (Who is that [man] Bonifacio)?” Continue reading
Published on December 21, 2010.
Google Books is controversial for several reasons; in this ambitious corporate attempt to digitize as many books as possible, copyright and monopoly issues may only be the most vexing. These and other issues are contentious even though, or especially because, casual reader and scholarly researcher alike already enjoy the benefits of digitized books directly.
Many of the books are available only in Preview format, but even the limits of this format can be liberating: some books offer a few pages (so we can read Fr. Miguel Bernad on “The Nature of Rizal’s Farewell Poem”); others several dozens, perhaps even a couple of hundreds (such is the case, for instance, of the massive and minutely detailed Indonesian-English dictionary by Alan M. Stevens and A. Ed.
Schmidgall-Tellings). Continue reading
Published on December 14, 2010.
Very interesting feedback in the last two weeks, in response to the column on Chiz Escudero and Andres Bonifacio, moves me to revisit the topic. Instead of worrying the definition of “ilustrado” again, however, I would like to discuss the class composition of the Katipunan—and argue that somebody like Vice President Jojo Binay would have fit right in.
I am sure I am not the only one to wonder, reading the standard accounts of the Philippine Revolution, about Pio Valenzuela, the medical doctor, co-founder and Katipunan emissary to the exiled Rizal. What was someone like him doing in a revolutionary organization described (by the fecund Isabelo de los Reyes) as “a plebeian association” consisting of the “pobres y ignorantes” or (by the influential Teodoro Agoncillo) as “a commoners’ society” made up of “the unlettered masses.” Continue reading
Published on November 30, 2010. It was a thrill to receive, a few days after the column came out, a letter from Jim Richardson (about whom, well, see below).
I don’t think there is any question that Senator Francis Escudero’s campaign support for the vice-presidential candidacy of Jejomar Binay proved pivotal in the May elections. One political ad of Escudero’s was especially well-timed and well done; it featured the popular first-term senator asking the simple question, Who is my vice president? against a backdrop of Binay images. His lengthy answer began this way: “Ang bise-presidente ko, hindi mayaman, hindi ilustrado, kulay Pilipino (My vice president is not rich, not an ilustrado, looks Filipino).” Continue reading