Friday, June 29, 2007

Philippine Body-Politics: a Didactive and Eclectic Narration

by: R.Q. Inocencio

The writing of this meta-analysis was drawn from virtually nominal interpretations of those events in the works of individual political-historians in an unorthodox approach.

The Pre-Spanish government
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the Philippines was composed of settlements or villages, each called barangay or confederation for bigger ones. This was ruled by a chief called datu or rajah, sultan or hadji in others. Society before was divided mainly into three classes, namely the Nobles (maharlikas) or the barangay aristocracy, freemen (timawas) or the middle class Filipino and slaves ( either namamahay or saguiguilid) they occupied the lowest social hierarchy before. One could become a chief by inheritance, wisdom, wealth or physical prowess. The early Filipinos had both written (Maragtas and Kalantiaw codes) and unwritten laws, which had been passed down from one generation to another. However, these laws warrant in-depth study to test not only its veracity but more importantly its very existence.

Government during the Spanish period
It was based on the discovery made by Fernao Magalhaes in 1521, consummated by its conquest by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi forty-five years later and long possession for almost four centuries, until it was terminated in 1898, when by the Treaty of Paris, the Philippines was ceded by Spain to the United States. From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was indirectly governed by the King of Spain through Mexico. From 1821 to 1898, the county was directly ruled by Spain. The political structure was divided into alcadias, corregidores, ayuntamientos, down to pueblos and cabecerras. The Governor-general and other Spanish officials exercised absolute authority and enjoyed many privileges such as cumplase, indulto de commercio, and tribute. They were benefited because of polo y’ servicio, bandala, encomienda tobacco monopoly and galleon trade. To limit its powers the King of Spain created through Leyes de Indias the Royal Audiencia, Residencia and Visitador.

Governments during the revolutionary era and the First Republic in Asia
The most important achievements during this period were the founding of the Katipunan government of Bonifacio, the Dictatorial to Revolutionary government of Aguinaldo until the establishment of the First Philippine Republic in Malolos, Bulacan after 1898 constitution. The said republic was not recognized by the family of nations but nevertheless its authority was accepted by the Filipinos. This government lasted only for one year as a result of American colonization.

Governments during the American regime to Commonwealth period
America introduced the science of self-governance and improved almost all phases of the human lives of the Filipinos. In the beginning, they established a Military Government with Gen. Wesley Merritt as its first military governor then followed by William Howard Taft’s Civil Government which consequently instituted the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines for a transition period of ten years. This started the republican form under presidential type of government. It pave way to the separation of the Church and State, the check and balance principle in the executive, legislative and judiciary branches and democratization of all government services and functions. This political renaissance produced many illustrious government servants such as Manuel L. Quezon, Jose P. Laurel, Sergio Osmeña, and Manuel Roxas. Two of the most important accomplishments in these 50 years of body politics incubation were the inauguration of Philippine Congress and the approval of the 1935 constitution.

Government during the Japanese occupation and the Second Republic
In year 1942 the country experienced again the dissolution of their collective aspirations of an independent state. The Japanese ended our brief taste of sovereignty when they annexed us for three years under the pretext of regional cooperation. They established the so called Japanese-sponsored government with Jose P. Laurel and Jorge B. Vargas as front liners. Many labeled them as traitors, dissenters still others as fence sitters. To balance the point of views, it is important however, to stress that there were also who believed that they were not conspirators rather heroes for they sacrificed their own lives and principles to protect and save the Philippines. This brutal occupation ended when Japan recapitulated after the Fat Boy and Enola Gay atomic bombs almost destroyed the latter’s everything.

From Independence to Contemporary Philippines
Out of the ashes of World War II emerged the Third Republic with Manuel A. Roxas as its first president, followed by many eminent country leaders such as Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal all carried the postwar problems of the republic. Ferdinand Marcos was the last president of the Third Republic and the first and only president of the Fourth Republic. Under his administration the nation experienced incremental changes and improvements. He became the most undisputed leader in the political arena and the most powerful person in postwar history of the Philippines. (without overstatement) Proving Lord Acton’s wisdom, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” Marcos declared Martial Law which started his reign of terror. The grand dream of Marcos of a New Society only plunged the country into its worst political and economic crisis. The assassination of Ninoy hastened the growth patriotism which resulted to world acclaimed “People Power”, which unseat the dictator and consequently inducted to the highest office the country’s first female president, Corazon Aquino. Despite the parade of post-martial law problems and being stormed by many coup d’ etas she was able to prove that her transitory government and provisional constitution were fruits of the Filipino’s love for freedom and human dignity. Aquino’s administration was applauded by the international community and admired by her fellow Filipinos for bringing peace and progress in the mainstream once again. (with fear of criticism) Former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada had already left its legacy to the Filipinos. (be it laudable or horrific) To be both sensitive and objective in their achievements as well as controversies, I still stand foursquare, that they accomplished things in humble hope of serving the greater Filipinos. History is yet to weight Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo… her political stewardship in terms of government programs have meant various reactions to various people at different level. Some finds it highly feasible; many doubt its success and find it an abominable list of lies. The future is hard to foresee…Fiat Justicia Ruat Coelum.

Underscoring Historical Revisionism

by: R. Q. Inocencio

There is this obvious, undeniable difficulty in the attempt to form an objective historical judgment generally because of some hindrances like authority, tradition, mystification and dogmatism. Having been a student of the social science discipline, we were thought to observe an impartial outlook in judging the intricate and composite interrelationship of the life stories of our nation. Graham Clark exhorted that one’s vision of historical events is stimulated and even shaped by one’s personal experience of the time. I am of honest belief that the idea of this leading British prehistorian came after reasoned comprehension of all factors that will make the study of history based on laid objective. This historical judgment is generated by the manner in which one judge the continuity, discontinuity, change and duration of the historical facts in certain events. Therefore, writing a self-conscious historical conception is just a modernist project of phenomenology and objectivity is sometime lost or put into box.

The re-examination of accepted history, with an eye towards updating it with newly discovered, more accurate and/or less biased information is really a challenge and an issue among contemporary historians. I stand foursquare that there is a need to employ historical revisionism. Dispelling historical fallacies must be done regardless of historical timeline but importantly within time-bound- that is now! Let me anchor my opinion to a fact that, most recently surfaced historical facts came about with the aid of technology. George Santayana, a 19th century philosopher has something to say about historical development. According to him “Those who do not learn from the history of the past are destined to repeat it”. This admonition serves to remind us that if we fail to learn from the lesson of the past, we will make no progress at all. That is without keen understanding of present developments we will continually find ourselves re-inventing what was already invented and likewise discovering what was previously discovered by persons whom we followed. That is one reason why modern historians are now keeping up with the fast paced discipline thus become technologically oriented individuals. To mention, during the Paleolithic Age or old-stone age up to Neolithic Epoch or new-stone age even rarely at present, historians, archaeologists, paleontologists, anthropologists and other professionals of the same discipline, devise carbon 14 or potassium 40 dating as a means of tracing back the age or more or less the physical structure of a primitive person. But that was before, today with the advent of technology, historians now are using computer imaging to address historical problem with humble precision. Take for example, in intermediate up to secondary, students learned that the first man or the earliest man who live in the Philippines was the Dawn Man. This is according to what was postulated by Dr. Otley Beyer, a renowned American anthropologist who founded the same branch of knowledge at UP, the first of its kind in our country before. But latest discoveries proved that the theory made by Dr. Beyer was just a hoax! For new findings shows that it was not the Dawn Man rather the Tabon Man which can be found in one of the caves in the southernmost part of Palawan. This was made possible after the steadfast work done by Dr. Robert Fox. This historical breakthrough was shown in one of the episodes of National Geographic. There the remains of this primitive man was entered in a machine which transmogrify as a big oven and right there and then with the aid of computer it appeared on the screen of the device all the facts and figures, which led to better understanding of our ancestry. This is just one way of showing how computer can serve as a potent tool in removing cobwebs in historical works. So the darkness of the past, the uncertainties of the future became a reality at present.

Other dismaying historical misrepresentations include: the Magellan’s date of arrival, Maragtas undecoded, Sri Vijaya and Madjapahit controversial empires, Suzanne Jacoby and Suzanne Thill Tales, Luna-Hidalgo Bogus medal claims, Magdalo-Magdiwang in the case of the Oakwood mutineers and even the historically correct celebration of Christmas: December 25 or April 17? Moreover, questions like did Bonifacio’s strong fanatical admiration to Rizal led to latter’s early death? And similarly did Aguinaldo plot the death of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna? Even the now placid life of Rizal was stormed with many trivial questions like did he really retracted to Catholicism? Is he the biological father of Adolf Hitler? Is he really an American-made hero? Is he a brawler, womanizer, gambler and a beer drinker? Why he did not wear a Barong Tagalog? (questions which were given answers by my former students mostly in chicharon way) And many more which all warrant an in-depth probe and careful explanation.

In the context of Philippine history alone, Dr. Sonia Zaide discussed that there were several ways to explain why most historians ended writing inventive stories and fabulous tales, to wit:

1. The iconoclastic policy of the Spanish colonizers which destroyed many of the relics in ancient Philippine society.
2. Ancient Filipinos preferred oral or verbal history
3. Poverty and lack of cultural enlightenment
4. Wars, fires and other calamities
5. Finally, sources are sometimes too regionalist and in western perspectives and there is a great distortion in interpretation because of many languages or dialects. Moreover, the author’s personal biases.

To bridge the gap and to antidote the problems, an intensive program of awareness should be done in order to shed light on how historical objectivity can become beneficial to the placid living of teachers in history. To discriminate historical facts to fiction, May I humbly share the following suggestions:

1. Zealous students in history must not only think of their own time and interest but rather beyond his own interest and cause of his own age.
2. The teachers must teach the subject as a science and not as a branch of literature only. The science of sound interpretation or Hermeneutics must be observed at all cost. Furthermore, philosophical approach such as epistemological documentation and meta-narration of an event must never be overlooked.
3. The teachers must teach the subject using the “spirit of detachment approach”- understanding rather than judging the event. Personal bitterness and/or antagonism must not interfere or influence into his discussion.
4. Underscore the pragmatic use of voluminous raw data in micro-history i.e. local history making it an empirical grounding of a truly dynamic, representative and blunder-free history both in national and local perspective.

For my Parthian shot, let us all be reminded that at the bottom of this is the fact that everybody safeguards his own historical judgment against others, however this does not come as absolute, just and an elixir to all qualms for a historical objectivity…

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Local Dr. Jose Rizal Story

A Spark into the Darkness: The Life and Death
of Dr. Dominador Uybarreta


The Japanese were into the last days of their occupation of the Bicol region and Gen. McArthur had landed in Leyte. To weaken them in preparation for the liberation of the region, American planes were raiding Japanese installations and strafing retreating Japanese convoys. Emboldened Filipino guerillas stepped up operations and Japanese reactions were severe and brutal. Using local collaborators as informers, the Japanese heightened arrests and interrogations of suspected guerillas in a futile but determined attempt to capture and execute them.
In the early months of 1945 when Japanese casualties from American raids were high, the Japanese soldiers retaliated with intensified searches and arbitrary arrests. The first to disappear in these vicious Japanese measures were two local Baaoeños and the Chinese residents Dio-gna, Pana and Amado. All arrested were being taken to the Japanese Headquarters in Pili whose personnel were responsible for the Agdangan massacre months before.
In the twilight of February 4, the Japanese with the help of a masked informer, began to round up a second group of Baaoeño residents and started for the forested barrio of Salvacion. This barrio, on the skirts of Mount Simurai is where most Baaoeños had evacuated to wait out the end of the war. Like most Baaoeños who owned property in the poblacion but fearing Japanese atrocities, the young brood of the family of Mr. Cosme Uy Barretta stayed in the house of a relative in this barrio. Their house in the poblacion was periodically visited and guarded by the elder male members of the family to protect it from looters. The Uy Barretta’s stayed in the house of Ambrosio Baroño and at this house the raiding Japanese with their informer came knocking to look for Dr. Don Uy Barretta.
The Japanese excuse was that they needed a doctor to treat their wounded. Not suspecting anything wrong, Dr. Uy Barretta’s elder brother Santiago told them that his brother was at their residence in the poblacion and with a companion, Jesus Baroño, went with the Japanese to look for him. It was dark when they arrived at the house and with insistent knocks the house was opened by Dr. Uy Barretta’s companion, Feliciano Babilonia. As the Japanese began to search the house, Babilonia hid himself on the opposite side of the creek behind the house and only after a while returned to peep through the upstairs window to see the Japanese truck leaving with the doctor with them.
That night, the Japanese continued rounding and picking up others, like Messrs. S. Amilano, P. Blando and M. Botor, they arrested Mr. Perfecto Palma who was sick with dysentery. Seeing him being led away, his wife of 13 days, Mericia Badiola Palma volunteered to accompany him. The arrests that night also included Engr. Rufu Martirez whom they came upon awakening from sleep in one empty house they searched.
Mrs. Mericia Palma narrates that they were taken to a house in Pili which appeared to be used at the time as a temporary prison. Upon arriving, they met a group of prisoners which was being led away by Japanese soldiers and an officer. A while later, Mrs. Palma then saw the soldiers return with out the prisoners and the officer in the motions of wiping his sword of blood. It became clear to her that executions were taking place nearby.
While inside the house, Mrs. Palma counted 15 prisoners including themselves. For five days these prisoners endured interrogation, abuse, torture and the constant anticipation of death. Despite suffering no worse bodily harm than slaps to her face, she however, could not silently endure the sight of the suffering of her fellow prisoners and the inhuman treatment accorded by their Japanese captors. Coming only to ease the suffering of her ailing husband, she soon volunteered to feed all the prisoners herself. Thus, she witnessed personally the brutal torture the prisoners were made to endure.
By the questions constantly being Dr. Uy Barretta, Mrs. Palma gathered that he was being forced to confess being a supporter of the guerillas. Hung from the ceiling with only his thumbs to support his body weight, he was swung to and fro by his torturer and with each swing a wooden club was slammed into his chest. This torture lasted until the torturer exhausted himself and Dr. Uy Barretta will then be carried to his cell with his chest swollen and badly discolored.
After five days of interrogation, Mr. Palma helped by the fact that he had papers proving that was once an employee of the Japanese Mitsubishi company, convinced his captors of his innocence and along with his wife and Santiago Uybarreta was released. Not waiting any longer for the promised Japanese truck to take them to Baao, the three hiked the 15 kilometer or so distance to Baao on foot to the surprise of their families who thought they would never come back. As for the rest, they would never to return and the whereabouts of their deaths are not known to this day.
The search for Dr. Uy Barretta commenced as soon as the hope of his family that he will be released faded. Mr. Cosme Uy Barretta enlisted the help of Baao wartime Mayor Tomas Guevara to intercede for him with the Japanese authorities but as the war of liberation raged they came up with no information about him. The question of what really happened to him remains unanswered to this day and, Dr. Don Uy Barretta is officially listed as a “casualty of the Resistance’.
Is there truth to the Japanese suspicion that the doctor was a member of the resistance for which reason he was being made to confess during his torture and apparently the grounds the Japanese had to have him executed? His companion during the night he was taken away, Feliciano Babilonia affirms that although he had no official affiliation with any guerilla group he was constantly called upon to treat guerilla sick and wounded in an undisclosed place. Perhaps it is for this reason that the doctor would often take overnight fishing trips to nearby Lake Baao both as means for alibi and avoiding encounters with the Japanese.
Whether he was an active supporter of the guerillas in their operations with the Japanese or merely obeying an oath to help those in need either friend or foe we will never know. What we can be sure, nevertheless, from his actions that he did not hesitate to help civilians, guerillas and even the Japanese who used this reputation of his in their ruse to capture him. What was known of Dr. Uy Barretta before his arrest and death?
Dr. Dominador Uy Barretta was a bright young man and a scion of a wealthy Chinese-Baaoeño Family engaged in business in Baao. Equipped with the best education that could be afforded by his family, he trained to be a Doctor at the University of the Philippines graduating in 1943 in the height of the Japanese occupation the country. In the early days of the war right after the bombing of Manila when transportation and communication to the provinces were in shambles, the young student had his taste of the hardships of war when he made a 400 kilometer hike to Baao from Manila to the astonishment of his worried family.
Years later, returning home to Baao after his graduation, he quickly set up a simple clinic in the family residence and treated all kinds of ailments and wounds without the benefit of medical supplies and medicine. Using only available resources, he treated infected wounds with maggots he cultured himself and used traditional herbal medicine for common aches. The later part of the war saw an escalation of violence and with very few doctors around, his makeshift clinic became swamped with patients. Some of his patients were the survivors of the Agdangan massacre who endured grueling walks or boat trips across the Baao Lake to come to him for help. Later, those who received his services were the pitiful victims of American stray bullets discharged during strafing runs against the Japanese.
In life, his willingness to help others might have been the very cause of his death. While there were other doctors around who may have aroused the suspicion of the Japanese, Dr. Uy Barretta was singled out for arrest possibly due to the treachery of the Filipino informers who could very well have known of his activities.
Because he provided aid to the Filipino resistance, his death therefore in the hands of the Japanese comes as no surprise. But what surprises us is the horrible fate that befell so promising a life, the fate that Dr. Uybarreta may very well have known would come to him if his actions were discovered. His death at the young age of 26 for which perhaps he accepted in the end as a final sacrifice in war comes as a spark into this chapter of darkness in our history. That spark, all the more made bright by his deeds while he was alive should guide our youth to the ideal that risking a comfortable life, even a promising future, for the opportunity to serve those in need truly makes life and death heroic.