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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gabii sa Kabilin Sked

2011 Gabii sa Kabilin
May 27, 2011, Friday
4 p.m. Mass the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral
5 p.m. Blessing of tartanillas and buses; Yap Sandiego Ancestral House: Santacruzan sa Parian Procession start
5:30 p.m. Opening Program at the Cebu Normal University
Opening by Dr. Marcelo Lopez, president of Cebu Normal University
Message by Cebu City Councilor Margarita Osmena, chairman of the Committee on Tourism
Message by Agnes Magpale, Cebu Provincial board member
6 p.m. (All museums open) Museu Sugbo: Cebuano Sayaw; Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House: Dinner for a Cause; Plaza Independencia Fiesta Band
7 p.m. Yap-Sandiego Ancestral House: Cultural show of folk dances; Jesuit House: Harpist performances; Fort San Pedro: Movie on Cebu History
7:30 p.m. Casa Gorordo Museum: Youth and Music (featuring the Children’s Orchestra Marigondon Public School)
8 p.m. For San Pedro: Cultural Dances
8:30 p.m. Plaza Parian: Awarding of AboitizLand Photo Exhibit
9 p.m. Casa Gororod Museum: Performance by Izarzuri Vidal; Fort San Pedro: Tribal Band; Cathedral Museum of Cebu: Storytelling; Plaza Parian: Haran and Baile by Barangay Parian
10 p.m. Jesuit House: Cebuano songs; Plaza Independencia: Trivia Night; Casa Gorordo Museum: Panagtagbo Festival Launch by Barangay Tejero
11 p.m. Plaza Independencia: Fire Dance; Sacred Heart Alternative Gallery: Performance Art by Russ Ligtas

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Child and the Cross

Christianity came to our shores in the form of the Cross, which Magellan planted at the site of the present kiosk that house and commemorate it, and more successfully in the little statuette of the Holy Child, the Sto. Niño.

There is so much violence and love on the cross. I can imagine the original cross splattered with blood and bits of flesh probably from Jesus’ body, bloodied and wounded from lashing. He must have writhed in pain from fresh cuts as well as dried up ones. I think Mel Gibson was right in realistically depicting the violence on the cross.

It must have been so hard to endure such a sight for His loved ones, and much more for Him to withstand all that pain. And with a human body, He breathed His last on the cross, giving in to pain, exhaustion, violence.

Yet the cross, now we look at it, was overcome with so much love. All the ill will, hatred, conspiracy, envy that had Him crucified, were washed away (together with all the blood that dried) with His love for them who persecuted Him and for mankind. He lived as He preached. He turned the other cheek.

But apparently, it was easier for the Cebuano natives to embrace the new religion as symbolized by the God-Child. It’s hard for them to grasp why would Jesus, the Man-God be so seemingly powerless as to endure pain and death on the cross.

Like a child with less than remarkable parents, Christianity came crawling into our shores and tugged at our hearts. It doesn’t matter if men with dubious purposes carried the child on their shoulders.

The Sto Nino triumphed because we see the idea of the loving, forgiving God in the innocent child who holds no rancor and makes us genuinely happy.

Love is central to the message of Christianity. To love is to see the face of God (Les Miserables).

It’s not so hard to understand it. Love is like a flower blooming. It blossoms beautifully, quietly because it is. The birds fly because they do. The tide rushes to the shore and recedes back to the sea. It doesn’t need a reason why. It just does.

One loves. One just does. And lives like a palm swaying to the wind’s whisper. Or like the brook murmuring as it meanders down among the rocks.

It made us see Him in His creations and not worship them no matter how beautiful they are like the moon and the stars that illumine the night, or the sturdy tree that gives ample shade.

Let us just remember God didn’t stay a child. He grew up and was crucified on the cross. There is as much love on the cross as in the face of the smiling God-Child.


I spent the past 20 years almost entirely in just about the same place. Except for a few years working at an advertising agency in the city’s uptown area and going freelance for several projects with various companies, I’ve found myself at home in the P. del Rosario St. area.
I don’t want to romanticize the way my life revolved around this street but someone else beat me to it. The artist Celso Pepito - who used to have an art gallery in what is now ‘Till Dawn convenience store – used to tell me his fondness for this street.

The buildings here are of relatively recent construction. Among the architecturally and culturally significant buildings in this street are the exceptionally modern Sto. Rosario Church (but which now has an eclectic look inside) and the classic building of the University of San Carlos.

The school's history is worth discussing here in detail as its past was deeply interwoven with the city's history.

The university traces its roots to the Jesuit founded grammar school of old Parian in the 16th century and was instrumental in the Christianization of the Chinese settlers of Parian. In 1595, Jesuits priests Antonio Sedeno, Pedro Chirino, and Antonio Pereira came to Cebu and established the school. In Fr. Pedro Chirino’s Relacion de as Islas Filipinas was the first mention of the existence of a Chinese quarter in Cebu.

The Jesuits founded it to help the Chinese residents of Parian learn reading, writing, arithmetic and Christian doctrine. In 1604 the school was named Colegio del San Ildefonso. It was closed in 1767 with the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines.

Bishop Joaquin de Arevalo reopened the school in 1783 and turned over the administration to the diocesan clergy. Fr. Ernesto Lagura, SVD in a paper delivered at the Centennial Congress on Higher Education wrote:

“…the Diocese of Cebu turned it into a Seminary, the Real Seminario de San Carlos, named after the great patron of ecclesiastical training of the Renaissance. The diocesan clergy administered the Seminario until 1862 when the Dominican Order assumed its administration. To assure a sufficient number of teachers, the Bishop of Cebu (Fray Romualdo Gimeno) asked the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul to succeed the Dominicans. In 1867, the Vincentians assumed the administration of the school, now named Seminario-Colegio de San Carlos as it began to admit externos, that is, students who were enrolled without the intention of joining the priesthood.”

The school the Jesuits founded metamorphosed into two schools in the 20th century. IN 1924, by virtue of a papal decree the seminary was separated from the college for externos. The college was transferred from Martires St. (now M.J. Cuenco Ave.) to its present location in 1930. Now named Colegio de San Carlos, it expanded extensively under the German priests of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) who took over the school in 1935. In July 1, 1948, it became a university.

The university benefited greatly from the expulsion of German SVD priests from China in the 1950s and 1960s. A whole generation of Filipinos living in Visayas and Mindanao studied under these German priests who were also men of science. There were psychologists, ethnologists, demographers, philosophers, anthropologists, and more. Among them were Father Joseph Goertz, whose interests in Philippine folktales lead to the establishment of the Cebuano Studies Center and Fr. Rudolf Rahmann, last German president of USC who founded the well respected Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society (PQCS).

My favorite writer Henry David Thoreau said he traveled extensively in Walden Pond where he lived a hermitic existence. I can say the same of the P. del Rosario St. area. How is it that one has traveled so far and wide when he has just practically stayed in the same place for some time?Perhaps, the only journey there is, is the journey within no matter where it may have taken us.

Leon Kilat

My friend Max’s cyber name is Leon Kilat. The guy is doggedly a fan of the revolutionary hero, you can’t help but get curious yourself of both the hero and Max for his silent yet moving "hero worship." So one day, I asked him about it. Fact is, I kind of suspected already that he’s the man’s great great-grandson or some blood relation. I have been harboring all these sort of notion for sometime, I was beginning to think that Leon Kilat looks like Max himself.

Well, contrary to my fantastic imagination, Max, said he just admires the man and is amazed and touched by his tragic plight. And I guess, me, too. That puts us in the same boat.

No other man stands so boldly and mightily in the struggle for independence against Spain in Cebu than Leon Kilat. He who was reputed to be invincible and brave, who sowed the seeds of the revolution in the city, only to die of deceit and betrayal at the hands of the nervous elites of Carcar.

Like the death of Bonifacio at the hands of Aguinaldo, Leon Kilat’s death touches a sensitive nerve even until today. A former officemate who hailed from Carcar once told me in a hushed voice who were principally behind Leon Kilat’s death. It’s funny why he should be speaking to me almost in a whisper. He said that’s just how it is dealt with in Carcar.

Just a few days before his death, the Katipuneros roamed the city victoriously after having driven the Spanish authorities to a pathetic retreat at Fort San Pedro.

I related the story to my 7-year-old son Joshua while touring him around the city, and every now and then he would pepper me with questions of the siege, the drama and the tragedy of those eventful days that began on April 3, 1898.

The Katipuneros intended to starve the Spanish forces holed up in Fort San Pedro, hoping they would eventually surrender. The rest of the city celebrated the triumph of the local Katipuneros. Well, the Parian elite was mostly nonchalant as expected. It was mostly the native sons of San Nicolas who comprised the revolutionary forces.

It still baffles me why they didn’t deliver the decisive blows by storming the fort. Or perhaps they they were just incapable. The ambivalence (if it was) gave time for the Spanish colonialists to send for reinforcement to Cebu, thereby ending the Cebuanos’ short-lived victory.

What happened afterwards is blood curling. Those who participated in what was later known as the battle of Tres de Abril were sought and executed. Even those merely suspected were not spared. Blood of martyrs flowed in the days after Spanish forces regained control of the city.

Others retreated from the city in time. One of them was Leon Kilat or Pantaleon Villegas, leader of the revolutionary forces, native of Bacong, Negros but who came to Cebu to organize the local Katipunan.

He arrived in Carcar, treated to a sumptuous dinner, made to lie in a warm bed. In other words, received with deceitful hospitality for that was all part of the plan. A historian friend of mine disputes some of the known details concerning the treachery. He said ; it was one of Leon Kilat’s men who gave away the secret of his seeming invincibility.

Why the treachery? The group of Carcar leaders who hatched the plan were afraid Spanish forces might storm the town, having heard of what happened ‘ in the city. So they thought killing Leon Kilat would spare them the ire of Spanish authorities.

Today, Leon Kilat’s statue stands proudly riding a horse in a corner of the street leading to the Carcar church.

We are all guilty of killling Leon Kilat or Ninoy Aquino, for that matter when we lose faith in ourselves as a people, in our capacity for greatness. We become a people unworthy of our heroes, a people not worth dying for. It’s when we take pride and inspiration from those whose deaths help us believe in ourselves that they shall have not died in vain.

Well, I’m waxing sentimental again. In this cyber age, my friend Max is making quite a notable contribution. He is making a lot of people interested on the guy Leon. He is bringing him to everyone’s consciousness in chat rooms, discussion groups, blog sites, etc. I guess that’s what I meant about being a Bisaya in the cyber age.


My friend Chad (not his real name) didn’t quite imagine he would one day travel and see the whole world. Born to poor parents who were farmers tilling a portion of the vast Velez-Paulin landholdings in Minglanilla, he went to school barefoot. His teachers sensing his sincerity and determination encouraged him to keep on with his studies.

Over bottles of fundador and other imported wine, he and his fellow seamen shared to me their lives and adventures traversing the world’s oceans. It’s not as colorful and enviable always as others often picture the lives of OFWs to be, they said. As a matter of fact, they all dream of being able to settle in the country one day, not having to work abroad and be separated from their loved ones.

Our kids were classmates at a school in the south where mostly children of OFWs went to study. And just as our kids bonded, so did we.

What struck me most during our conversations was Chad’s tale of fascination with Magellan’s arrival in Cebu. He said, when he was a kid helping his father till the land, he would often think of Magellan’s journey across the oceans and reaching Cebu in 1521. As a young boy, he fancied being able to do same when he grows up. He, like Magellan, wanted to circumnavigate the world.

There is much interest on Magellan’s supposed first circumnavigation of the world as evidenced by the numerous websites that touch on the matter. Naturally, Cebu and the two protagonists: Lapulapu and Humabon figure prominently in these websites. But it is Magellan who is taking centerstage. Magellan seems to have captured the imagination of people around the world for his dogged, brave almost impossible quest of finding an alternative route to the spices of India.

Before his discovery of the narrow straits at the tip of South America that now bears his name and his voyage across the Pacific ocean, the first by any European navigator, Vasco da Gama discovered for Portugal the route to India via the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa, thereby winning the race for a sea route instead of the land trip from India across Asia and into Europe of the much needed and valued spices of the East.

Magellan was a Portuguese who presented himself before the Spanish crown for a chance to lead a voyage across the Atlantic and finding an altenative route to the Indies. He was given less than remarkable ships and men and just enough provisions that He had to sneak in into Portuguese territory somewhere in what is now Brazil to get some supplies.

In Cebu, Magellan met his tragic end, denying him the honor and reward of his exploits. His death put the island (more particularly, Mactan) quite unexpectedly in European maps.

Pigafetta’s account of the battle of Mactan talked of the captain, Magellan stucked in the mud. Before the battle commenced, they made the fatal error of getting off their galleon and wading the treacherous, swampy shores of Mactan. (Pigafetta, may be the first travel writer in history as he paid for the chance to ride with Magellan in his search for a route to the valued spices of Asia just to be able to write about his travels.)

He observed that Magellan’s galleon couldn’t come nearer the shores of Mactan as the water was shallow and had to anchor farther from where Lapulapu’s forces were gathered. The Mactan warriors were not also within reach of the Spanish cannons, their most reliable, deadly weapon thereby forcing Magellan to get off his galleon and take that stupid walk in the swampy shores of Punta Engaño.

In the first place the battle was unnecessary as he was already welcomed by the native leader of Cebu, Humabon. I can’t say if Humabon is a cool, crafty, visionary or a cowardly sell-out but he did make it easy for Spain to make its first colony in the Indies and a vital post in the protection of its interest in this side of the world. Talk of geopolitics. Was that good for Cebu? It’s hard to tell what could have happened otherwise if he drove him away.

Pigafetta recounted that when Magellan sensed defeat, he ordered his men to retreat. Arrows rained on his warriors ironically after he lost the advantage of his cannons. He obviously underestimated the locals who can be defiant, proud and brave as opposed to his amiable newly found comrade Humabon. Lapulapu knew hand to hand combat with the big, tall white men was not necessary as they made for a good target practice. When Magellan clad in armor, big and heavy that he is ordered retreat, an arrow hit him in the leg.

Lapu-lapu’s warriors then lunge on the helpless Spaniards, probably cutting them to pieces. And who knows maybe some of his vital parts may have served as amulet and prize catch for the warrior tribe of Mactan.

One funny website made this hallucinatory claim that Magellan’s men were able to claim his body. They did so by maligning Pigafetta to discredit his eyewitness account. The fact is, Magellan’s body was left in the shallow shores of Mactan.

Some five centuries later, his story still inspire some people. Like my friend Chad whose dreams of seeing the world traversing the vast oceans, probably began with a classroom discussion, in Grade 3 of how Cebu came to be "discovered" by a Portuguese sailor in the service of the Spanish crown.

The world has indeed become smaller with the internet, cable tv and cellular phones. But it was Magellan who probed first that it was round.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Velez Family Tree

As researched by Fr. Genesis Velez, SVD and Prof. Michael Cullinane of University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Visiting Magallanes

One Sunday afternoon, a quiet summer day, I felt a strange and irresistible urge to take the jeepney for the old section of the city passing through San Nicolas, Colon and then Magallanes St. With my wife and kids, we got off in front of Magellan’s Cross and went inside the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.

I have long vowed to bring the kids inside the church and that Sunday I brought my three girls (their only brother was on a summer vacation). Before the image of Senor Sto Niño, I explained to my daughters where we are and why we’re there.

It was an ordinary Sunday at the basilica perhaps giving visitors and tourists who now mingle with the faithful a glimpse of the Cebuano people’s life – that of centuries of veneration of the holy image.

(I sometimes feel annoyed by the tourists’ presence as they stood there ogling at what probably was a mere tourist site to them, without an iota of reverence for such a holy place.)

For centuries Cebuanos visited the basilica in veneration of the holy child’s image that Magellan gave to Queen Juana during her baptism and conversion to the Christian faith in 1521. Legaspi’s men discovered the image some 40 years later venerated by the natives.

Like other Cebuano families, we, through the years, bring the kids to the basilica to pray for good health and the children’s well being. That Sunday was one such visit.

In that old section of the city where the basilica stands was also where Cebuanos did their shopping and congregated before the advent of shopping malls. Today, a whole new generation is unaware of a time when Magallanes and later, Colon St. was the center of the city’s life.

After the mass we walked to Manila restaurant in Manalili St. where we had dinner. Walking, I remember when I was a little boy walking with my parents in Magallanes, looking at the shops and stopping by in one of the restaurants to celebrate my birthday.

On another birthday, it was my Lola Dalena (my father’s aunt who adopted him after his mother died) who brought me to the Augustinian church at the back of the University of San Jose-Recoletos across Carbon Market.

It was a nostalgic visit. Walking, holding my daughters’ hands, I was quietly reminiscing the past. Then I realized it would soon be my birthday. And there was I, a parent with my wife and daughters strolling to have our dinner in one of the few remaining restaurants in that old section of the city.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Being young

One leaves one’s hometown to be educated and be ready for the real world or the big city where one works eventually. For today’s youth, it even means any of the big cities of the world. One returns to one’s hometown either a success or a failure, depending on one’s or society’s definition of these words.

For the young of a not so distant past, youth meant idealism in changing the status quo and to a great extent, we owe much of the freedom we now enjoy to them. Today’s young is privileged for not having been born during war times or despotic regimes when being young meant fighting the establishment or a foreign power.

One leaves one’s hometown to join the struggle and to return with an amputated spirit. As Al Pacino said in Scent of a Woman, "there’s no prosthetic for that." One returns home with dreams nipped in the bud, idealism demolished after a bout with society’s inequities. And in the end, becoming not so different from the enemy one wished to vanquish. Violence is not only during war but also even at deceptively peaceful yet suppressive times.

I left the mainstream years ago for an alternative subculture and returned eventually when the subculture would no longer hold. Then I again tried to find my niche in the very society I wished to change. Occasionally, one’s beliefs are validated and you feel that you are being patted in the back, as when the first Senate after Marcos’ ouster, repudiated a treaty that would have extended the US bases’ stay in the country.

One adjusts to a society far from what one envisioned during years of struggle. The diaspora has gotten even worse now with hospitals running out of health workers. As in far worse times, those who leave the country are considered heroes even if they leave hospitals and other industries in dire need of staff. But who can blame them? Ironically, it’s when one leaves that one can practically help kin and friends. It would be better if we export products instead of workforce. But one can’t wish for too much.

I’m a product of my time. I wish I were not as socially determined, but I am.

I don’t typify the success I must have promised to be years ago. But one sees some truths that not anybody who had not joined the struggle can quite see, if that’s any consolation.

One’s face now bear the lines and marks of years of searching for life’s intangibles in a time of peace, when one was used to living in danger and fear during a not-so- peaceful past (which paradoxically used to define one’s constructed frame of reference.)

I returned to my hometown years ago, to family and friends to lick some wounds before I again set out to find my niche in the world – an adolescent of turbulent times and an adult in peacetime.

I cannot quite imagine the troubles I must have brought upon my parents for not having tread the paved road of life and instead, explored an uncharted path.

Parents suffer from the daring exploits of their kids, which now as a parent I can quite relate with. It must have been terrifying for my parents to see me risk everything when they very much wanted to protect me.

It must had been just as terrible for a parent like Don Jacinto Velez y Roa, gobernadorcillo of the gremio de mestizos, and father of Marcial Velez, after whom the street is named, to be arrested by the Americans and imprisoned at Fort San Pedro because of his son’s involvement in the revolution.

(Marcial with General Mateo Luga,and Pantaleon del Rosario fought the Americans when many of their contemporaries had long surrendered and capitulated. He surrendered in Leyte eventually in 1902. He remained active in the city’s politics and even in the nation’s quest for independence after that through peaceful means. He never married but sired three children.)

In peacetime, one returns to the mainstream, plant the fields, love and bring kids to the world. Guns are made into ploughshares. Then in the far distant future, somebody’s kid will again find a cause to fight and leave the beaten path and scare the wits out of their parents. Years later he would return to be among his or her people as either a success or failure, depending on how one defines those words. He will come back to plant the fields, love and bring kids to the world…..

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I used to wonder where have all my high school friends gone because I’ve not seen or bumped into them for years. I would later know several of them have flown out of the country.

Many of my friends are now in Toronto, Dubai, Doha, London, California, New York, etc. Some have left for good, never coming back. I feel like I’m the only one left.

Not that I’m bothered really, but it’s queer feeling that you’re getting old and your peers are nowhere because they’ve left.

You find new friends but you can’t really replace those you grew up with. They are like a map of one’s journey through life. You trace the contours of your own winding journey through adolescence and beyond looking at their faces.

I studied high school at St. Scho in Talisay under the unforgettably progressive Benedictine nuns. Later in life, I toyed with the idea of entering the religious life by becoming a Benedictine monk.

If I did and would be writing history like what I occasionally do here, that would prove my friend Insoy (a.k.a Missing Filemon’s Lorenzo Niñal) more than priestly; he’d be prophetic. He likens me to the monk Ambeth Ocampo who writes a history column for the Inquirer.

So much for dreams of what I’d rather be. People are leaving the country at frenzied pace. In Cebu, art departments have been raided clean of graphic designers. They’re all holed up in Dubai. The few of us left are enticed to go, now and then.

It’s not easy leaving when you’ve got kids already. But who knows?

Our ancestors were globetrotters as early as the 19th Century. With money from trade with foreign markets, they were sent to study in Manila, Hongkong, Europe and some to the US.

Cebu opened to the world market in 1860. That changed the course of the city’s history. After centuries of sluggish growth, it shot up to become the country’s second premier city, overtaking Iloilo City (which after Legaspi left Cebu and before he went to Manila, became the Spanish seat of power.)

Cebu became an entrepot, a trading center and a busy port where local products, usually agricultural, were sent off to foreign buyers who had agents set up brokerage firms here. These firms helped fund the local elite’s economic enterprises.

Being a mountainous island yet with excellent ports, Cebu became a core with commercial and service functions that processed the products from the peripheral islands. There was a considerable agricultural activity though in Talisay, Minglanilla, Banilad, Carcar and Carmen where lands were planted with cash crops by the Parian elite for export to the world market.

In Carmen the Ralloses had an hacienda (which was recently bought by the Lhuillers - talk of the rise and rise of the local elites.) In Minglanilla, a long stretch of land adjoining the national highway was a Velez farmland, now subdivided into villages for low and medium cost housing.

It would be a lie if I say I’m not inclined to leave myself. Well, there’s a time for everything under the heavens.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for my dream machine, the Mac mini to hit the market in Cebu and see how it wipes out the PC. Everybody leaves, the Mac lands.

I’ll be riding the next wave of IT revolution, now with the real McCoy that started it – the Macintosh and see where it will land me; or like my ancestors, trade with the rest of the world, not with cash crops anymore but with IT services maybe.

Dream on, friends. It’s a new world unfolding.

Men's Talk

There’s something about drinking that makes one merry. Maybe it’s the booze, ice cold, bitter and bubbly. It brings out the poet, the dreamer, the debater and the lover in the tipsy drinker.

So one cold starry, starry dawn I found myself with a glass of beer doing the tagay with fellow artist Kahlil and editors Noel and Jobanni in the eskinita leading to Kamagayan.

It’s an interesting place where the Sun.Star building stands. After work, which is usually twelve or one in the morning, we go out into a street brightly-lit by a sodium lamp.

SunStar’s building stands on Don Pedro Cui and P. del Rosario St. It’s not in the corner (another building stands there) forming an L shape of a building instead of a box. Across it on the opposite side of P. del Rosario St. is Barangay Kamagayan, known for pimps and commercial sex workers or CSWs (to be politically correct) who are made to line up the streets as customers in taxis and expensive cars (as well as dilapidated ones) line up to "appraise" and pick up the girls.

The light dims in the eskinita leading to the heart of Kamagayan.

The eskinita looks innocent in the daytime, hiding the harsh realities that lurk in its corners. In the day, it’s nothing more than a parking place for cars of college kids, office workers and businessmen. But as night falls, it stealthily comes to life.

It was here, surrounded yet oblivious to the traffic of girls and customers brokered by the negotiator-pimps, that Kahlil waxed poetic, Noel sounded mushy and Bani, as always, the nonchalant man-kid. And I, was the foolish critic.

Kahlil and Bani were just fresh from the Cornelio Faigao Writers’ Workshop and our drunken talk span from workshop fellows and writing to Kamagayan (which was the subject of their submitted short stories and Noel’s work in progress) and of all topics, love.

In such a loveless, lonely place, we talked of love, unmindful of the CSWs’ chatter, or the pimps’ frenzied dealings and customers’ hushed bargaining inside tinted SUVs with half drawn windows.

I said I would love to read a story about such a place, if it’s done like Henry Miller’s Quiet Days in Clichy or his Tropic novels. Or the phenomenal movie Moulin Rouge, with a story within a story.

Just then a thought crossed my mind as I looked at the quiet, deserted Don Pedro Cui St. I remember the story I read in Prof. Mike Cullinane’s emails to my brother Genesis, which he also got from Gavin Sanson Bagares, regarding the man after whom the street was named.

I told them, across the street where we were drinking is a street named after someone who chose to stay single the rest of his life after being turned down by the woman he loved.

The philanthrophist Don Pedro Cui vowed never to marry (and he never did) after failing to win the heart of Jorgia Velez, hija natural of Jacinto Velez y Roa.

Jorgia Velez chose to marry Prudencio Sanson Camara with whom she would have three children, among them was Mariano Camara who would be the second husband of Florentino Rallos’ other daughter Concepcion (the other one was the childless Carmen Rallos Sotto)

I said, talking of love, Jorgia Velez looms large in my mind because of the two men who loved her.

One chose not to marry, after she turned him down, because he couldn’t love anybody else.

The other one was the one she chose who devotedly loved her being her husband.

From across Kamagayan where lonely men at a price of a few hundred pesos seek momentary relief from loneliness with equally lonely women, we - tipsy with beer, drunk with literature and mushy with all the lovetalk - stared at a quiet street named after someone who chose not to love anybody else.

It’s sad that she didn’t love him in return. But she didn’t have to. Loving is giving without expecting anything. Even when unreciprocated, loving is already rewardingly humanizing, and redeeming.


There are some things I can’t quite explain. So I don’t bother understanding them anymore, in a logical kind of way, that is. Yet, I know there’s a gem of truth at the way I feel about certain things.

Like for instance writing here. I feel like being on stage and washed by floodlights. One gets conscious with the attention and couldn’t help not playing up sometimes to the audience, giving in to what pleases them.

There’s nothing wrong with that per se except when you end up not enjoying or fulfilling yourself anymore at what you do.

One feels it inside the inner bliss and contentment derived from an intimate communion with the audience or for that matter, you, the reader.

The challenge is how to remain oblivious to the attention without getting insensitive to you, and keeping the intimacy albeit imagined, with you. No writer would want to lose his or her readers.

So much for that. I have a feeling I’m thinking aloud.

But that’s not just the only thing I find unexplainable.

I shouldn’t be bothering myself with things that happened more than a century ago yet, unexplainably, I feel moved by them.

Take for instance the demolition of the Parian Church in 1879 as instigated by the Spanish Augustinian friars who felt jealous and bitterly envious of the opulent, marvelous church built by the Mestizo Sangleyes of Parian. In the first place why would supposedly religious people do such an unchristian act of ordering a church’s demolition? Well, given the record of the friars during the Spanish colonial period what they did shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Still, every time I read about it or pass by the fire station where it once stood - and whose pillars are said to be that of the old church - I feel an unexplainable rage, sadness, a feeling of tragedy and loss. Just imagine how life in the downtown area would have been like, had that church remain standing up to this day. Maybe it would have helped preserve the way of life there and more of the physical structures that once stood in the 19th Century (or am I just being too nostalgic?)

Now one returns to Parian and console oneself with a scattering of old houses and seemingly nondescript structures. Perhaps it’s the neglect that renders them nondescript.

I said in the preceding paragraph "…one returns to Parian" as if one used to live there and returns. One’s ancestors did and it’s the descendants who come back to visit the place. One finds not the warmth of home but the feeling of loss like a gaping hole; so huge it leaves a hollowness inside one can’t quite explain.

The Parian Church became the center of Parian’s life. The rich mestizo Sangleyes lavishly supported the Church partaking of their vast wealth amassed from trading and planting cash crops for export to the world market.

Parian was a separate town from 1755 to 1849 before the gremio (administrative ward) system was put in place. (Mojares, 1983) Also in 1849 Parian parish which was founded in 1614 ceased to be a parish and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Cathedral. In 1879, the Parian Church was demolished.

One doesn’t dissect feelings or their expression in works of art like a laboratory cat. So bear with me here as I try to write (not explain) the unexplainable like my feeling a terrible loss for the demolished Parian church, and the old Parian itself whose absence paradoxically, left a haunting presence in the lives of a generation born long after it ceased to exist.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I love to travel. It’s exhilarating being new in an unfamiliar place, away from the comfortable confines of one’s world with its usual patterns and predictable routines.

I usually go on strolls, whenever I’m new to a place, to acquaint myself of the strange territory. My lungs hungry for adventure suck in the refreshing breeze of the unfamiliar air.

Be it in a bustling city or a remote island I usually leave the pack and explore on my own unhampered. I like seeing a place with fresh new eyes and musing lightly, alone in my thoughts or sometimes entertaining myself with a good book when there’s nothing much to see. It’s relaxing, soothing experience.

Sometimes, I think I may have taken after my adventurous ancestor Ramon Velez y Santos (born 1840, father of my great greatgrandma Rosario). He owned a 13.32-ton ship which he named Paciencia. Like the Parian merchants of his time, he used it to scour the islands for products like copra, pearl, cacao, tobacco, etc. for sale to foreign merchants. He was also a renowned photographer in 1880s when photography was first introduced.

Unlike him however, I don’t scour the islands for products I can trade. I used to travel a lot as part of my job. I took on that job even if it meant the demise of a quite lucrative business I was starting due partly to the lure of travel and of seeing new places.

Whenever I got home I always brought with me souvenir items to remind me of the place I’ve been to. I searched around for icons of unique cultural peculiarities, just inexpensive ones but quite significant.

Sometimes, it’s food that took my fancy.

Now, I travel a lot because my family lives on an island frequented by tourists.

On one of my trips, I read a book Recollections of a Voyage to the Philippines written in the 1870s by a Belgian writer J. De Man and translated to English from French by E. Aguilar Cruz. Reading the book gave me a refreshing perspective of 19th century Philippines from the eyes of a tourist.

There’s something about travel that’s rejuvenating. I like being aware of my sweat dripping on my back, trickling on my forehead while I go strolling under the sweltering heat of the sun in light casual clothes. Or feeling the hurried breathing of my nostrils taking in the fresh gust of wind on top of a hill or on a wet, damp shore when the tide has ebbed..

More than the physical exhilaration, I love the feeling of not being claimed by a place while I absorb everything in. It’s like dining places. I wrote a poem once of a mountain I climbed:

I’m hungry,
And I’m having my fill.
Of rugged mountains,
And pouring rain.
Of overcast sky,
And blowing wind.


"My life would have been the poem I would have written. But I could not both utter and live it."
- Henry David Thoureau

It’s either we write or we are written about. One can’t be both. I tried once, twice I guess, but always went back to where I began, back alone to my pen, so to speak.

So here I am on my third or fourth reincarnation as a writer. I don’t exactly know how many times I died and was born again, but at least, with every rebirth is a chance to grow wiser and give back to the giver of talents - to the muse - my efforts with my gift.

One can’t be like the man in Jesus’ story who went out to bury his treasure and returned it to the master a year later nothing less, nothing more. It never pleased the master that he never made anything of it.

But this isn’t exactly about that (although in a runabout kind of way, it is) but of reacquainting or more appropriately, of reconciling. It is a necessary first step, in a first column, for to write is to be true, to be honest and it’s never easy. Going through a broken rib, an aching tooth, a head splitting migraine, is not something anyone would like to experience anytime.

To write is to heal as well. Nothing heals like forgiveness and reconciliation. So here I reestablish ties with an old lover, friend, critic, enemy – my readers whom I may have failed countless times over.

It’s nice to be familiar again with the cadence of your footsteps, the song of your voice, the bright colors of your smile, or the dark clouds of your anger, and the unfathomable stillness of your silence.

But to be present to someone, to make a gift of ourselves, one has to be able to stand a beloved’s absence and silence. For he who can’t stand both would not be much of a presence either. Still, nothing beats a good read. It’s like a refreshing, cold drink that quenches one’s deep, old thirst after a long, long journey.