Past Squares 13: Philippine History

Self is a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines. Her Dear Departed Dad’s province was an island in the central Philippines called Negros (yes, really, the Spanish named the island after its inhabitants, who were dark-skinned)

For today’s Past Squares post (many, many thanks to Becky at Life of B for hosting the Squares Challenge), here are two books on Philippine History that she’s found invaluable while doing research for her current project, a novel about a 16th century Spanish priest who is sent to the Philippines to fight demons:

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 160: Your Inspiration

Wow! Self LOVES the quote from Agnes Martin that inspired this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge!

She had a lot of fun going through her archives to identify her sources of inspiration.

Which are MANY. Here are a few:

  • Gardens

Front Yard, May

  • Beaches

Ocean Beach, Carmel

  • History

The Jesuits in the Philippines, by Horacio de la Costa, S. J. (Harvard University Press)

Self is so glad she can share her inspirations with dear blog readers.

Personal Bookshelf: Eman Lacaba

He was from my school.

A poet.

Took to the mountains, joined the rebels.

Was shot — “salvaged” is what they called it back then.

The military says they did it in self-defense.

I still remember the whispers: “Did you hear? Eman Lacaba was shot!”

His funeral mass was held in my school.

Legend.

Sentence of the Day: from a Letter by Don Pedro de Acuña, Governor General of the Philippines, Manila, 1608

Apologies, dear blog readers, self’s veering between the Philippines in 1600 and Grimdark must be causing whiplash!

Anyhoo, here is the Sentence of the Day, from Blair & Robertson’s A History of the Philippine Islands, vol. 14:

Letter from Governor General Don Pedro de Acuña to the Viceroy of Nueva España:

  • Since the Spaniards are a sensible and prudent people, we must therefore be grieved for having slain so many people, and repent thereof.

After reading which, self can only say, Hell’s Bells. The “so many people” slain — indios, right?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Blair & Robertson: A History of the Philippine Islands, vol. 14 (1603 – 1609)

I pore over a list of Itemized Expenditures, 18 August 1608. Most of the items are salaries.

I mean.

No wonder the Fort in Manila was in ruins. No wonder there was never enough ammunition. Even the priests had salaries (“salaries for ecclesiastics”).

Salaried officials:

  • Government officials, alcaldes, and other local officials
  • Government workmen: pilots, sailors, and etc.
  • Ecclesiastics
  • Collectors of tribute
  • Soldiers and their officers
  • Wardens of forts

Meanwhile, the indios were paid nothing for their labor (Who built all those churches? Surely not the salaried officials!)

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Favorite Photos 2020

The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581 – 1768

Horacio de la Costa was dying of liver cancer before self arrived at Ateneo de Manila, and so she never took a class from one of the greatest Filipino writers.

Last month, she called Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino (Her go-to place for science fiction — she ordered the first six books of The Expanse from them — as well as hard-to-find books like The Laughter of My Father, by Filipino migrant worker Carlos Bulosan) and they were able to get her a copy of de la Costa’s The Jesuits in the Philippines, 1581 – 1768. The book arrived a few days ago, wowowowowow

From the Preface:

  • A grant from the New York Province of the Society of Jesus enabled me to spend several months in Europe in 1951, which I employed in gathering additional material in Roman and Spanish archives . . . In 1955 the Ateneo de Manila, of whose teaching staff I am a member, granted me leave of absence to undertake the actual writing of the history. A grant from the Philippine Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus permitted my doing this at Georgetown University, close to the great repository of the Library of Congress.

From Chapter One: The First Mission

In 1540, Pope Paul III granted the approval of the Holy See to a new religious order organized by a Basque gentleman . . .

Only 12 years later, the Jesuits were at “the gates of China.” They had founded “mission centers along the far-flung line of Portuguese trading posts from Goa to the Moluccas and obtained a foothold in Japan.” There were Jesuit missionaries in Abyssinia, the Congo, and Brazil. “The mission of Florida was opened in 1566, that of Peru in 1568, and that of Mexico in 1572.” In January 1581, a “little band” of Jesuit missionaries took “the road that dipped down from Mexico City to the little seaport of Acapulco where the galleon San Martin, 400 tons,” captained by Luis de Sahagosa, “waited to take them across the Pacific.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Doreen Fernandez: When the World Was New

In 1953 Albert Herre listed 2,175 marine and freshwater species inhabiting Philippine waters, the first extensive checklist. Twenty-seven additional species were added later, bringing the total to 2,202. Some of these are ornamental, some not edible, some not attractive as food fish, but usable as fish meal or fish balls or for fermentation into patis and bagoong. Most of them have regional names, and may be difficult to pin to their scientific and other names.

Doreen Fernandez, from an unpublished manuscript, When the World Was New

Self thought she had every book Doreen had written, until last year, when she went to Silay, Doreen’s childhood home. There was a book she didn’t have: Fruits of the Philippines. A few months ago, self found a copy by going on Amazon, and ordering from a third-party vendor in New Jersey. It arrived several weeks ago. Joy!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Blair & Robertson: A History of the Philippine Islands, vol. 13 (The Cure for Leprosy)

It’s taken self most of 2020 to read vol. 13. At this rate, she’ll be dead before she gets to vol. 58.

Anyhoo, there is this very interesting passage near the beginning of vol. 13:

Good reports come from Carigara and Paloc; the latter village is unusually prosperous because one of the Jesuits has aided the people to construct better dwellings. They have abandoned their idols, and take pleasure in scouring themselves on Fridays. At Dulac, many baptisms have occurred, and various diseases, among them leprosy, have been cured by this sacrament.

At which point, self has to pause in her reading and wonder which sacrament that was. After several instances of going back and reading over, she gets confused and thinks the sacrament referred to is the “scouring” of “themselves on Fridays.” As a cure for leprosy? Mebbe parts would start falling off, and . . .

She must be really dull today. The sacrament is “baptism.” It says so right there. But still, baptism as a cure for leprosy?

It’s amazing to self that in three sentences, all the ills of colonialism are laid bare: the Spanish priests taught Filipinos to “take pleasure in scouring themselves” — what?

Early 16th c missionaries, like Francisco Alcina and Pedro Chirino wrote that the “natives” took pride in their bodies. In fact, Alcina kept going on about what perfect physical specimens they were. Alcina even remarked that all native babies were born absolutely without blemish.

(About that: Self thinks Alcina was a bit naive. Surely if there was a deformed baby born, the natives would not bother feeding it. Ergo, the perfect physical specimens Alcina discovered, who he wrote bathed several times a day. Both men and women walked about unclothed, and the Bisayans had all kinds of adornments, which included tattoos on every part of their bodies. One can be sure those early missionaries did a lot of admiring.)

* * *

Digression: Has anyone looked at the Doctors Without Borders site for the Philippines?

When self used to travel regularly to Bacolod, she always stayed at the same hotel, and if it was December, that was the month for Doctors Without Borders. The doctors came and stayed a whole month, occupying several floors. In fact, the hotel staff actually mis-took self for a doctor several times, just because her visits frequently coincided with theirs.

HOLY COW WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CLEFT PALATES. And the enlarged heads that look like balloons. She knows there is a name for that condition: elephantiasis? All these terrible deformities are happening for a reason, they are not an Act of God, there must be some scientific explanation.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Alcina: To Replace a Murdered Priest

From A History of the Bisayan People of the Philippine Islands, by Francisco Alcina, S.J.

De La Lengua Bisaya; Si Es, Acaso, Alguna de las 72 Primitivas y de la Primera Confusion; de su Elegancia, Abundancia, Propiedad Y Calidades Particulares

(Concerning the Bisayan Language; whether perhaps it is one of the seventy-two original ones after the confusion of tongues; about its elegance, richness, propriety and special characteristics)

When Alcina was sent to the central Philippines, he was very young. He was sent to replace a murdered priest. How he came to write a multi-volume work on the Bisayan people (in addition to finding ways to keep himself alive, and founding a mission, and harvesting souls) self has no idea.

They have Alcina’s seminal work (published 1668?) in Stanford’s Green Library, but the library’s been closed most of the year. A Stanford librarian looked it up and said the text was available on-line and gave self the link.

What’s truly amazing about Alcina is that the Bisayan (Hiligaynon — there’s more than one Bisayan language but Alcina studied the one that’s used in Dear Departed Dad’s home province) words are ones she knows: words for ugly, beautiful; hot and cold; brother and sister. The language stayed intact, uncorrupted, even after three centuries of Spanish colonization. Or perhaps it was the translator who chose the modern equivalents of early Bisayan language? At any rate the language is in full use today: all self’s relatives speak it and literature is still being written in that language.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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