From A History of Negros, by Fr. Angel Martinez Cuesta, Recollect

Chapter II: Discovery and Early Colonization (1565 – 1600)

Captain Martin de Goiti and one-hundred Spanish soldiers arrived in Negros because they had been told by other natives that “rice abounded” on the island:

However, they found the towns deserted and with hardly any provisions since the natives had fled to the hills … They stayed in Tanjay, meaning to make friends …

They found another abandoned town … the Spanish went there and found the natives ready to fight. A skirmish occurred and a native was killed and another captured while three Spaniards were wounded. The inhabitants took advantage of the fight to cross a river and escape. In the meantime, the Spaniards would not cross the river.

 

Reading About Stonehenge

Self saw Stonehenge for the first time in 2014. Her only souvenir from that time was an English Heritage Guidebook she found in the gift shop. All these years later, while dusting her bookshelves (which haven’t been dusted in probably a decade, she’s a very bad housekeeper) she finds it again and sits down to read it.

Stonehenge consists of a ditch, some animal bones (which in some cases pre-date the ditch, by hundreds of years), and a mixture of rock types.

The largest stones, “some of which weigh over 35 tonnes, are known as sarsens … a type of extremely hard sandstone.” The most likely source of these sarsens are 19 miles to the north, in Wiltshire.

The smaller stones, “known collectively as bluestones,” come from Wales, over 150 miles to the west. “There were originally at least 80 bluestones at Stonehenge, some weighing up to three tonnes.”

How did these stones get to Stonehenge?

Start with the sarsens: “… experiments have shown that stones this size can be dragged on a simple wooden sledge by a team of about 200 people. To drag a stone from the Marlborough Downs to Stonehenge, using a route that, wherever possible, avoided steep slopes, would take about 12 days.”

But why on earth — ? This is, for self, the real mystery of Stonehenge: not the origin of the stones, but why people would dedicate themselves to such a project.

It must have been during a long period of peace — for Stonehenge took time to assemble. And the society must have been fairly organized — or maybe they used slaves? The community that built them must have been fairly large, to spare the use of 200 men dragging stones for 12 days. Maybe they had hundreds of slaves?

Not only that, the stones were worked over, shaped into their current forms. Self can’t even. The strength it must have taken. Perhaps they used the equivalent of a wrecking ball. Did any workers die from accidents during the pulling upright of those stones? Maybe if some of them slipped … self’s imagination goes into such strange places!

What about the smaller stones, the bluestones? They were transported from much farther away (150 miles!) There is evidence that the sarsens were in place starting from around 2500 BC, and were subsequently never moved (Ha!), but the smaller stones were re-arranged several times.

Self remembers that she chose very carefully what kind of tour to take: she found a small group tour, led by a retired military officer, which left Southampton at sunset (since she arrived in London only a few hours before, and had to make a mad dash to Southampton after dropping her suitcases off at her hotel, she kept falling asleep on the bus and nearly missed the tour) and arrived at the stones by walking over a sheep meadow littered with sheep dung. She hadn’t slept at all on the plane from San Francisco and it was bitter cold on that tree-less plain. Her first sight of the monument was a very small bump on the horizon that grew ever larger until it began to resemble a claw against the sky. The approach was almost religious in feeling? The last big tour bus had pulled away. And suddenly: the stones! Approaching them on foot was the right thing: it’s how the earliest people would have approached. In fact, there would have been a long procession of people. Since there were no signs of human habitation in the vicinity, it’s clear the site was considered a place for one activity only: worship.

But worship of what?

Hopefully there will be an answer before she finishes reading the guidebook!

Stay tuned.

Henry Kamen, in his Preface to Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492 – 1763

Self has had this book for a very long time. Probably she bought it when she first started wanting to write about the early Spanish explorers: Magellan, Vasco de Gama, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo.

She didn’t even think to look up the author’s biography until now: She is absolutely shocked to read: Henry Kamen is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London . . .

From the Preface:

This book was born, in a way, on the battlefield of St. Quentin, a small French town close to the border with Belgium, where in the year 1557 the king of Spain, Philip II, scored a notable victory over the army of the King of France.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sentence of the Day: Hilary Mantel in NYRB, 11 January 2007

She had not been encouraged to consider physical decay; when she had made her triumphal entry into France, and crowds turned out to see her, ugly people had been warned to stay away.

— from The Perils of Antoinette, a review by Hilary Mantel

That is such a Hilary Mantel sentence. The tone is so calmly authoritative that one doesn’t even pause to ask: WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA FOR ‘UGLY.’ (Missing teeth? Pox-scarred skin? So many possibilities!)

The NYRB is making the entire piece available, through April 2020.

 

Poetry Saturday: Brian Komei Dempster

OVER THE EARTH

— Nanking, 1937

“Over the Earth” by Brian Komei Dempster from Topaz (c) 2013. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.   

I don’t want us
to end here, wondering
who will be first,

our eyes lowered
as the soldiers raise
their blades,

slicing those
ahead of us.
Kneeling by the gutter,

I conjure our home
in fading light.
At the kitchen table

you opened
a bottle of plum wine,
unwrapped paper,

lifted the vein
to filet soft meat.
Now their swords strike

closer, the ground shifts
with each head cut
from its stem,

I hear the thud
of your rolling pin
pounding flour,

the dust rising
like bone smoke.
The edge is near, my love.

Skies darken
into our room,
the clouds a line

of ivory buttons
on the blue silk
of your dress.


Brian Komei Dempster was editor of From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps (Kearney Street Workshop, 2001), which received a 2007 Nissei Voices Award from the National Japanese American Historical Society, and Making Home From War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday, 2011)

Samareños, 1649

Faithful readers of this blog know all about Francisco Alcina, Jesuit, who wrote A History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands (available in a bilingual translation from University of Santo Tomas Press)

He was sent to the province of Samar, in the Visayan Islands of the central Philippines, to replace two priests who had been murdered in an uprising.

From Bambi L. Harper, Philippine journalist:

. . . the 1649 uprising in Samar did not remain localized. It spread to Leyte, Cebu, Sorsogon, Camarines, Albay and Masbate … the island of Mindanao also followed suit. Churches were razed, friars and government officials killed.

Of course the Spanish quelled it, in the end. Spain remained in the Philippines until the Americans took over, in 1898. Self has written a 365-page novel that circles this traumatic event, which the clergy blamed on the “Evil One.”

In self’s novel, a young priest is sent direct from Spain. His task: to go the Philippines and fight demons (But the real demons are inside himself, who knew)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Currently Reading SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson

The book was a gift from the author, who self has never met. He mailed it to Redwood City from Oxford University, where he taught. Self was blogging about Stonehenge (and was also writing flash about Stonehenge — those flash can still be found in Wigleaf). He left her a message on this blog. Then sent her the book.

In 1992, a burial site was discovered, 5 km east of Stonehenge. It was the grave of an adult man, “around 35-45 years old.” The man was deemed to be important because “ten times the usual number of finds accompanied the body.” He “had been laid on his left side … facing north.” Buried with him were:

  • two archer’s wristguards (one of which was made from black sandstone and came from the coast, 50 km away)
  • three copper knives
  • He must “have been buried with a bow and a quiver containing arrows, for 17 flint arrowheads were also present.”
  • a type of miniature anvil known as a ‘cushion stone’
  • a pair of sheet gold loop earrings

In 1993, a second grave was discovered, 6 km east of Stonehenge. This contained “the remains of seven individuals, all males: three adults, a teenager, and three children.” The oldest individual was “buried with his legs tucked up” and his head again pointing north.

The man in the 1992 grave has been given the name the Amesbury Archer.

In 2001, at Rameldry Farm, in Fife, Scotland, “a farmer’s plough caught the capstone covering an early Bronze Age” grave. Inside “a stone cist lay the skeleton of an adult male around 40 – 45 years, whose bones produced a radiocarbon date of 2280 – 1970 BC.”

Why is self reading so diligently about Bronze Age graves? She’s trying to finish her horror story and it’s about a team of scientists who stumble on some very disturbing findings in Antarctica. Hoping she can absorb some of the language.

She has so many questions: Why were people buried with heads facing north? Did they come from the north? Why were the oldest individuals around 40-45 years old, was that the normal life expectancy in the Bronze Age? Why were the graves of males exclusively? Where were the females buried?

More:

Suddenly, around 1700 BC, there is a disruption in the quality and quantity of metalwork found in graves in Britain. This coincided with “the apparent abandonment of Stonehenge.” By 1400 BC, “it appears that Stonehenge, already some 1,000 years old, had been abandoned.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mesilla, New Mexico

Self read the following in a brochure she picked up from the Double Eagle, a restaurant facing Mesilla’s old plaza, itself a National Historic Landmark:

The name Mesilla is first found and inscribed on a map in a report to the King of Spain by Don Juan de Onate dated 1598. This makes it predate the arrival of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock by 22 years. It was first part of Mexico: the US border lay just 3 miles north. It became part of the United States as part of the Gadsden Purchase of 1854.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Looking Back: WIRED, 2010

SERIAL KILLER:

How the AK-47 became “the most deadly — and disruptive — technology of the past century

by C. J. Chivers

From the article:

The AK-47 was created by Stalin’s engineers in 1947. “When the Pentagon finally got its hands on a few of the weapons in the 1950s, officials scoffed.” Its name was the Avtomat Kalashnikova-47, and it “would become one of the most recognizable artifacts of the 20th century . . . It has helped ensure that even the poor, the small-statured, the dim-witted, the illiterate, and the untrained are able to acquire weapons and keep them functioning . . . . Stalin’s rifle became, and remains, the everyman gun, a success — and scourge — that is sure to last well into the 21st century.”

The M1943 cartridge: “In 1943, the Soviets captured an unusual cartridge from Nazi soldiers on Germany’s eastern front. The cartridge, roughly midway in size between traditional rifle and pistol ammo, lacked the power for effective long-range shooting but was more than adequate for most combat. It generated less heat and recoil, which meant that guns built around it could be lighter, cheaper, and easier to fire.”

Stay tuned.

Maybe Self Will Pull Some of the Letters in Her Novel and Send Out as Self-Contained Short Stories

Here’s one:

THE BISHOP OF MANILA WRITES TO HIS CATHOLIC ROYAL MAJESTY

26 Junio 1755

Most Powerful Lord,

When you assign someone to come to govern this land, your Majesty should take into account that you are not sending a person who will have to face investigation but an absolute king who does not have any superior, nor anyone to be accountable to but who should be solely motivated by fear of God, the service of Your Majesty and the zeal for the popular good, because there is no means to stop him, and all remedies are useless and without effect. In view of this, and of the fact that Your Majesty cannot make men of wax, nor know their feelings, nor have them close at hand, it does not amaze me that the person appointed does not turn out to be worthy.

 

20190906_132742

Manuel E. Benavides Library, University of Santo Tomas, Manila (founded 1611)

Self may have gotten a lot of things wrong, but not the tone. NOT THE TONE.

Stay tuned.

 

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