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Filipino is more Hispanic

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2021 - 12:00am

There was a time when historians would describe Magellan as the person who “discovered “ the Philippines. Later historians would dispute this description since the Philippines had a civilization before Spain made it a colony. The “natives” had their own alphabet, religion, culture and government structures. There was trade between these islands and neighboring nations, including China and Indonesia.

In a monumental book on Philippine history, the term more appropriately used was that “Magellan arrived in these islands and died here.” The book is More Hispanic Than We Admit 3 (edited by Jorge Mojarro published by Vibal 2020). It is an anthology of 18 essays focusing on Filipino and Spanish interactions covering the period 1521-1820. I liked the title because most Philippine history books covering similar period would describe this era as the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

For most Filipinos, Spain was a villain in our history, and the friars and soldiers were the personifications of this evil. We grew up celebrating the heroes who led 300 revolts against the Spanish colonizers and Rizal’s books the Noli and the Fili were staple reading. It depicted the cruelty of our colonizers and became the spark for a revolution.

In this book there were only two essays devoted to the resistance against Spain. These essays were “Legazpi’s Army and Native Resistance” by Francisco Mellén Blanco and “Christianized Native Resistance and Rebellion during the First Centenary of Spanish Sovereignty, 1565-1665” by Fernando Palanco.

In its blurb the publishers summarized the book as follows:

“Based mostly on archival sources, the book offers insights on Ferdinand Magellan, the first recorded European on Philippine soil; Lapulapu, the first native to resist foreign domination; Fray Martin de Rada, pioneer defender of indigenous people’s rights; Rajah Tupas of Cebu, the first major ally of the colonizers; the three rulers of pre-Hispanic Manila and Tondo, Rajahs Lakandula, Matanda and Soliman; Don Nicolás de Herrerra, the first native civil servant or ‘brown Spaniard’ and indomitable Madre Ignacia del Espiritu Santo and Venerable Madre Jerónima de la Asunción.”

The story of the three noble houses – Lakandula, Matanda, Soliman – is also the story of how the original native nobility continued their positions’ influence during the Spanish era.

The genealogy of the three families showed that they were recipients of privileges from the colonizers. In fact, the genealogy of Lakandula is traced to the modern times even after their family name was converted to Macapagal. Among the descendants of Lakandula in the modern age are two former presidents, Diosdado Macapagal and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Other probable descendants of Lakandula are former Senate President Jovito Salonga and the international theatrical and musical celebrity Lea Salonga.

The most interesting essays are those that focus on culture, literature, arts and architecture.

Jorge Mojarro wrote an essay: “Colonial Spanish Philippine Literature between 1604 and 1808.” He defined Spanish Philippine literature as “…the corpus of Spanish language literary texts produced in the Philippines by Filipinos from the colonial period until today.”

This essay also covers the history of the printing press in the Philippines and even some private libraries that existed in the 17th century.

Mojarro also writes: “This synoptic overview of research area on colonial Spanish Philippine literature has uncovered the existence of at least five outstanding literary works, a preliminary canon that could be easily extended with yet to be discovered works that were written with extreme care and heretofore unappreciated originality.”

The development of Philippine art and architecture was heavily influenced by three cultural traditions – indigenous or Malay, Hispanic and Islamic. Five centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Philippines was already the “…eastern crossroads of Chinese, Indian and Islamic trading networks.” There was an existing history of long distance trading of artifacts and porcelain.

The introduction of Christianity began the popularity of religious art in the Philippines. The Sto. Niño or mother and child became very popular images reproduced throughout the islands. Churches became the most iconic and largest structures in every major town outside Manila. This chapter has colored reproductions of art works and prints, including the famous Sto. Niño of Cebu and Magellan’s original cross.

The essay “Battlefield Diplomacy and Empire Building in the Indo-Pacific World during the Seven Years’ War” by Kristie Patricia Flannery chronicles the British attempt to wrest the Philippines from Spain during the early 18th Century. The British invasion failed. But the most interesting part of this essay is the narration of the support of many Filipinos, especially the Kapampangan from Pampanga, who remained loyal to Spain. The story of why Pampanga remained loyal unlike the Ilocanos who, at that time, revolted under the leadership of Diego Silang is mentioned. When the British took over Manila, the interim Spanish governor Simon de Anda moved his capital to Bacolor in Pampanga for the next 19 months.

Perhaps the most controversial essay in the book is the one written by Stephen Acabado and Marlon Martin. Briefly it says that the long held historical view that the Ifugao rice terraces were started 2,000 years is wrong. Their view is that the rice terraces were started only 420 years ago was, in fact, a response to Spanish incursions. In short, the rice terraces served to consolidate economic and political resources that allowed them to fend off Spanish attacks.

This book with its 18 essays is a monumental contribution to Philippine history. It reminds us that Hispanic influences, especially the Catholic faith, is an integral part of Filipino culture.

*      *      *

An invitation for writers of all ages: Young Writers’ Hangouts via Zoom on March 13 & 27, 2-3 p.m. with Kim Derla and Divine Gil Reyes.

The Adult series begins on March 20 with Danton Remoto on “Autobiography as Fiction” 2-3:30 p.m.

Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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