Saturday, January 27, 2007

Unsung Manongs In The USA

We still remember from dog-eared history lessons the “waves” of Filipino worker migrants or sacadas wrenched from their hardy homelands and transported to continental USA to work in its agricultural fields. An agricultural industry that was perpetually in need of more field workers as the awakening voracious appetites of its burgeoning economy commenced to flex and make known its intractable demands for more products.

Thus, many of our ancestral compatriots, trained in and culled from the harsher environments of the still primitive agricultural and almost pastoral economy of a dislocated country, willingly extricated themselves from close familial traditions and idyllic rural areas to cast their lot in a strange land 7,000 miles away.

Since this happened during the currency of the American colonization of the Philippine archipelago which ended in 1946, many of these early immigrants have passed on, mostly unremembered and the remaining few living obscurely in their adopted homelands. Many unable to “return” to their homeland of origin because of financial constraints or because having been gone for a long, long time any nostalgic remembrances of the past have been consigned as simply hazy and detached figment of some distant best-forgotten past.

Thus, regardless of how life in the new land dealt with them, many stayed on, carved new lives and relationships for themselves, and ultimately in a manner of speaking, fertilized the same land they came from afar to make productive and in the process assist them eke out lives for themselves.

I choose today to spotlight two of these unheralded persons, both Ilonggos (coming from the Visayas islands of either Iloilo or Negros), whose own lives touched ours in the same arena where we too as a family had decided to cast our fortunes in.

One of them died a couple of years ago, at the ripe old age of 93 years. The other one is still alive, living in a new for-seniors high-rise smacked in the middle of Daly City. However, apart from both being Ilonggos, no two people could come from very different beginnings and present circumstances.

Sammy PedregosaThe first one was Sammy, formally christened as Simplicio M. Pedregosa. I and the wife had spent countless hours with him during a period of at least two decades. The association first came because he and his German wife, Frieda, were clients of the wife in the bank that she worked. Later on, I started doing his taxes. Since they married very late in life, they had no children and when Frieda died, Sam lived by himself in the same house they shared.

Here’s a little backgrounder, written by a very grateful and youthful family member already born in the US, during his 90th birthday celebration in 2001: (Sammy had been very instrumental in bringing almost his entire family to the US, though he had returned to the old homeland only once after he had initially left.)

The strength of a family lies in its roots. Strong roots enable the family tree to grow, develop its branches, and bear fruits. From a distant land many miles away, the seed of our tree came, and took root in American soil. Our family tree stands strong and proud because of its roots and the way its seed was planted, with hardship and sacrifice.

Our tree started as a seed in Iloilo, a province of the Philippines. It was in this rural town that Simplicio Pedregosa was born on July 24, 1911. At the age of 16, even before he could establish his own roots, he decided to travel to new soil. It was clear to him that he must move in order to perpetuate his existing family, as the soil of his homeland was not rich enough to allow him to grow.

In sending him to America, his family made a great sacrifice. Pawning the farm, their source of livelihood, was the only means of raising money for his fare. Realizing that sacrifice is important for his growth, they made the deal and sent Simplicio on a boat to America in May 1929 with a hundred dollars in his pocket. It took 30 days of life on the sea before he could touch American soil.

From the port of San Francisco, Simplicio went immediately to work on the celery fields of Lodi, CA. Although diminutive in stature compared to his American counterparts, he persevered physically on the field. For every hour of his labor, he earned 10 cents. Despite his meager wages, he saved his earnings for two months to send to his family back home, as restitution for his family’s initial sacrifice. His sacrifice allowed his family to grow in his native soil, fostering better living conditions for his parents and his younger brother and three sisters. After months of hard labor, he resigned his job at the farm to obtain an education.

And so Sammy spent his remaining youth in pursuit of his dreams. He had served in the armed services of the US and later worked for the Post Office, where he met his future wife, who was also a first generation immigrant from Germany. And success for Sammy was all we hope for and more. Two very valuable RE properties close to the SF Zoo, very adequate pensions from his employer and SS, a nice and quiet family life, and a life laced with altruistic endeavors for both family and good causes.

Let me just summarize as his unofficial accountant that Sammy when he died was worth several million dollars, mostly liquid assets. What most of us would hanker for and may not be able to acquire.

But for me personally there was one aspect of his life few may remember including his intimate family members, and maybe even Sammy himself. This I initially gathered when we started discussing about his stint in the US Navy.

For when WWII broke out, Sammy enlisted in the armed forces of his new adopted country. And as was customary during those early unenlightened times, only certain low-ranking positions were opened to immigrant enlistees or draftees. In short, Sammy became a cabin assistant of an admiral in one of the ships of the US Navy.

Turned out, it was no ordinary ship. It was the USS Missouri, led by the commander of the fleet, Adm. William F. Halsey. The same ship that cautiously sailed into Tokyo Bay when Japan sent out surrender feelers. And where Gen. MacArthur and his aides would board to sign the surrender terms with his Japanese counterparts.

Recalling his own unique eyewitness account of the entire proceedings, Sammy in his usual dispassionate almost dismissive way, told us about where he was and how he felt, and how his admiral’s demeanor was. With full convoy streaming into Tokyo Bay, the admiral did not really know what awaited them as they approached land – Japanese land. He had probably thought that the Japanese could not be trusted. Pearl Harbor was a stark reminder. Thus, the stiff standing order for the entire fleet was: Battle stations! - with all armament ready for any hostile move.

But fortunately for the world, things as planned all fell into place. Japan was reconstructed and is now the economic power second only to its primary benefactor, the US.

The other Ilonggo is still alive and will continue to remain anonymous, other than the initials, L.M, to protect his and his family’s privacy.

Anyway, L.M. came to the US post-war. He started his young life as a personal chauffeur for one of the patriarchs of the few financially powerful families in the Philippines, the Lopez family which is deeply involved in media. L.M. recollected the start of his employ with the late Eugenio Lopez, Sr. as his personal chauffeur in the Visayas and then Manila. He was particularly struck and impressed by the unaffected simplicity, gentleness, and egalitarian personal traits of his employer. L.M. was even surprised that he got his job given his very limited educational attainment and his very humble origins. And the old man trusted him very much that when he moved to the US for an extended stay, L.M. also trudged along as his chauffeur.

Since, I know next to no one about the Lopez family, other than that they had a huge estate along Dewey Boulevard, close to Manila’s boundary with Pasay, I had asked L.M. about it. He confirmed that fact and added that many stately affairs were held in that place for local and visiting dignitaries.

Anyway, after his employ with the Lopez family ended here in San Francisco, L.M. was left to fend for himself. He continues to have family members left in the old country which he yearns to visit. However, at present L.M. only has sufficient resources to keep him here, which sources would be cut off once he leaves the country. When we were still residing in Daly City, I and the wife used to go see him and at times he would walk to our house which was nearby for a visit. Again, our association with him started because he was a client of the wife. And we have always valued it since then.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Harmonize With A Harmonica

Ever been asked: Do you play any musical instrument?

Bet you, many of us have been and sadly, many of us will reply in the negative.

Of course, many of us can belt tunes, using our excitingly unique vocal chords as our musical instrument.

Okay, aside from that, which else?

Click to read more.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Face Of The Filipino Diaspora

In the least likely, though unavoidably accessible, medium, one can actually get a good glimpse of the ever growing Filipino Diaspora. While on vacation home and enjoying and taking things lightly. For engaging in such things is inextricably Filipino. Too eager to leave the old homeland, but cannot stay out long enough without taking a vacation back to “home”. An outbound trip short enough and a return visit frequently enough to be able to safeguard all of one’s Filipino-ness – in speech, closeness to extended families , acquired taste for local cuisine, and all the other good stuff central to being Filipino.

The Filipinos have been streaming out, both steaming and flying out, of their country in large numbers for many years now, sufficiently enough to now count the outsiders as maybe over 10% of the total population of the country. And with obvious though tacit government blessings and prodding, large expectant numbers wait in the wings to continue to feed the exodus to any and all places where work opportunities are available, and/or where they are allowed to go, either as contract workers or migrants. And many even feeling deaf to the second option. Thus war-torn countries like Iraq and Lebanon, destinations where the government frowns on their citizens going, count a considerable number of Filipinos working among their populations.

And yet while the numbers of ex-pats continue to burgeon, other Filipinos and the rest of the globe are quite in the dark at composing a good picture of who these people are, beyond just trickling numbers being added to a total. The local government itself, maybe reticent or embarrassed enough to extol or admit this mass exodus of its own citizens, is quite content to limit its exposure in the effort by limiting its participation to lip service, calling them the new “heroes” of the republic. Coupled with the not too subtle reminder to them to keep the flow of their precious earned dollars back to their left-behind loved ones, since inward remittances now amount to about 10% of total GNP. A nice enough boon to help keep a fledgling or floundering economy afloat and capitally infused.

So where can one catch a glimpse of those transplanted Filipinos, or as they are called, OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers)?
wowowee_mainwowowee willie

On one of two cable channels owned and operated by Filipinos, but beamed to many corners of the globe, especially where outbound Filipinos may find themselves lumped in considerable numbers. The two channels are The Filipino Channel (or TFC) and the newcomer, GMA, which in the US, for a little over $20 per month, can be added to a subscribers’ viewing pleasure. Yes, $20 or 1000 pesos which is about a third of what many unskilled workers in the Philippines gross each month.

And the one particular TV program that yours truly is familiar with – is the daily game show, cum soap opera, and charity bazaar, and fulsome comedy skit show, named WoWoWee on TFC, which is most likely a play on the name of its irrepressible main host, Mr. Willie Revillame.

It is indescribably simple as to make futile my many attempt to try and categorize it, especially amidst the almost screechy hysterical and ear-splitting cacophony of dialogue delivered by its hosts and participants, giving it characteristically the quality of being almost one big shout and scream session from beginning to end. But it does effectively deliver its message or messages to its intended audiences – global Filipinos scattered throughout the four winds.

But as an integral anchor to what I perceive is the program’s overall purpose and presentation is the use of visiting Filipinos working or living abroad, enjoying a vacation or trip to the old homeland. Using them both as audience participants and benefactors. Thus, visibly arrayed and prominently ensconced on the front tiers of a huge studio set that resembles somewhat the physical format of the ubiquitous cockpits in the country, are maybe a hundred or two of these beaming and excited visitor Filipinos, interspersed with ethnically different companions, and aptly described as TFC subscribers, thus non-local Filipinos subscribing to the channel’s outlets abroad. Complete with the flashing and waving of dollar bills in their hands, though not to bet on a cockfight but as a visible signal of their generosity and good-heartedness.

For these dollar bills will be collected by the different hosts and used as additional prizes to the different contests common in most game shows; but for this show, the main participants are picked from among the lowliest and most destitute among the metropolitan citizenry - Unemployeds, tricycle drivers, itinerant vendors, and from numerous dispossessed groups which abound in a country known for its decidedly pervasive poverty-stricken population.

But looking past the initial patent display by the fortunate Filipinos from abroad of their new-found prosperity but now somehow translated as their show of generosity, the overall mood of both live audience and TV viewers appears to be that some good is being done for these poor selected people. Some kind of unsanctioned redistribution of resources from those who have and those who do not have. And the many prizes shouldered by the programs’ sponsors are by no means puny or cheap, especially taken into account the general penury of the participants. Thus, at the end of each show, all parties appear justified and satisfied, all the better relieved of any insipient guilt feelings and without diminishing any personal worldly pleasures.

A fresh batch of these ex-pats are hauled in daily, coming from an almost unflagging number of new arrivals, cavalcaded and highlighted at times to the point of ennui by the different hosts planted in the different places where these prospered Filipinos may be seated or standing, shouting, waving their dollar bills, and intoning on mike a ceaseless litany of names of loved ones left behind in the old country or in their now adopted countries.

In this continually unfolding vista then a regular follower of the program, both local and foreign, can’t help but be witness to these “new” Filipinos, as they call out their new origins, names and places from all corners of the globe – Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, UAE, London, Belgium, Japan, etc., and of course, cities in the US, where invariably many are coming from. After all, at last count where over four million Filipinos are now either permanent residents, citizens, contract employees, or even undocumented aliens.

Over time, one cannot help but be able to form a rather decent picture of the typical Filipino in Diaspora, many of them now entwined with other cultures through intermarriages, and long residences in their new surroundings.

In closing, who can then say how in the coming future this group will look, feel, and maybe, regard the old country that gave them birth or from where their ancestors originated from?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Philippine News In The Internet and Philippine Media

When I sat down to open my PC and read from Google News, this breaking news riveted my attention:

Philippines says Abu Sayyaf leader killed in clashAbu Sayyaf18_wo_philippines_sali_4

This was at 5:00 PM PST of January 17th, Wednesday.

Of course, I welcomed the news and its reportage, except that to my dismay it cited a foreign news source, Reuters.

Decided to try another one, this time googling the words, Abu Sayyaf, under Google News. The following came out as having been posted 18 minutes earlier:

Atrocities allegedly committed by Abu Sayyaf leader slain in Philippines

Again, giving a foreign news source, Associated Press. And both items were also published on foreign on-line sites, the latter from the International Herald Tribune.

From the Google News results using the words, Abu Sayyaf, I scanned down the pages which were sorted by date and time. I went to as far as 24 hours ago, only to realize it was only SunStar that reported the same item, its latest being 6 hours ago from the time of googling, which was 5:00 pm PST. And yet the same item had been on-line in the news since about 24 hours ago.

My speedy on-line scans showed that the reportage was done essentially by foreign sites around the world. Some from MidEastern sources, others from SouthEastAsian sources, and even one I can recall that came from Lompoc, a small California town.

I also tried the Philippine blogosphere, searching through Google’s Blog Search section a few minutes after 5:00pm.Again, I couldn’t find any entry for the last 24 hours that dealt with the same item – the death of a very significant Abu Sayyaf leader.

In fine, the overall pattern so far has been that this significant event that happened in the very remote southernmost part of the island of Mindanao, in Southern Philippines, was initially and essentially reported by foreign sources.

I am supposing that part of the problem may be because foreign news organizations and groups may be extending their operations globally simply by hiring local Filipino journalists as their local correspondents, feeding them news but putting their names as sources. Another case of outsourcing?

The question then is: Where is the vaunted Philippine media? Hopefully, not playing second fiddle to or co-opted by these foreign news organizations?

Many of us originally from Mindanao may begin to believe, if we have not already done so, that Philippine media and all the accoutrements of what many now term as Imperial Manila may be too focused with its own regional politics and other metropolitan issues, as to be unconcerned with issues which though may be geographically happening in Mindanao, but definitely have grave national repercussions and consequences. Maybe, internationally, too.

Graphics Credit

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

What’s In A Dream?

Graphics credits

A very trite question? Why not. It’s only been since time immemorial that man has been asking those grating questions about his inexplicable dreams – what they mean and where they come from.

Over time by sheer dint and patience, we have collectively learned a lot about them through the sciences. Thus, many of us now hardly register any surprise or interest when people say that dreams emanate from one’s subconciousness, (or should it be unconsciousness?) as distinguished of course, from his wakeful consciousness which is in use in dealing with the realities of his existence. And we now accept as common knowledge that scientists have postulated that dreams typically are initiated during REM sleep (rapid eye movement), a kind of deep sleep that comes after the initial phases of sleep. And we know loads more, more than any one person can learn in his lifetime.

But still, the world of dreams, or the dream world, continues to be as mysterious and confusing as ever, if there ever was one phenomenon in human experiences.

Thus, many of us continue to be perplexed when we experience dreams that appear not only out of this world, but appear to have no basis or reflection of the multitudinous experiences of our consciousness. In other words, dreams that are completely unknown and unattached to any of our previous experiences that are stored in memory.

And so we continue to be mystified and continue to untiringly search for relevance and meaning. Not many will dispute though that our typical dreams are somehow reflections of our realities or even our known fantasies, thus many dreams are experienced and subsequently discarded without much reflection or anxious concern. The power to fly appears quite common in most dreams.

But there are those unusual ones that stagger one’s imagination for their otherworldly eeriness and complete detachment from our individual realities. We wonder how they can be concocted by an unconsciousness or subconscious mind completely from thin air, strictly outside the purview or parameters of the person’s experiences or thoughts.

One such dream the other night hit me so hard as to nail me down on my tracks. Immobile and unable to wiggle out of it for a good time.

Thus decided that maybe by thinking about it and lending words to it, the mystery or mystique may be slowly unveiled and may lead to some kind of acceptable understanding and resolution.

So here goes.

A dream that occurred in the early cold morning, while lying crouched in fetal position and thickly bundled up with a multi-ply layer of blankets.

The surreal scene unravels in the inside of a rather typical multi-storey house with wooden floors in a large hallway between two rooms. There are at least 7 characters involved, including me as observer installed unobtrusively in front of everybody else. Two sweaty men in sleeveless shirts are conspicuously on their knees on the floor, both looking tired and weakened. More like in some kind of drunken stupor. From the looks of it, the rest of the characters are trying to get to the other room up front, using the backs of the two men as their transport. One man had just gotten off the back of the man on my left and a rather large lady is trying to mount his back with some obvious degree of difficulty. The guy on the floor is being both verbally and physically prodded to prepare himself to carry the lady. The guy on the right is in the same predicament, where one guy is also trying to mount his back with no success. This bent man is again in obvious difficulty, unable to carry the other man trying to mount his back. This prospective rider finally is frustrated and pushes the bent man rudely, signaling for him to proceed to the other room on his knees and by himself. He continues to have great difficulty get started, leaving a wet trail as he plods along on his knees until suddenly one leg becomes unbelievably distorted at a horrible angle. That anybody looking will conclude that that leg has been broken.

Then just as suddenly wakefulness interrupts the unfolding drama and brings me to the cold reality of an unheated room with temperature having plummeted in the 20’s.

This whole dream experience is utterly senseless and meaningless to me. And still is.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Is Shame Getting To Be A Sham?

O Shame, where goes thou now?

We typically define the sense of shame as pain felt emotionally because of one’s inadequacy or guilt.

But from the high Middle Ages, we are taught by one of the intellectual luminaries of those times, Thomas Aquinas, an added dimension to the above by defining a quality of man provided to guide him toward the virtue of temperance, which essentially is the control of his flawed human nature that tends toward unrestrained and wanton excesses when unregulated. He called it shamefacedness, as the twin partner to honesty.

And culling from one’s own personal experiences and readings, we might come to a conclusion that in contemporary times as a species we appear to be markedly remiss in its practice, or as many of us may exhibit. One may observe this unhealthy trend as exposed by an entire community collectively, or individually, even among the numbers of those possessing high degrees of intelligence and/or education.

Some pundits point sadly to the collective case of the Palestinians in their perpetual mortal struggles with the nation state of Israel. Needless of much elaboration, one may readily see the stark contrasts between the two peoples. The Israelis, occupying one of the tiniest piece of God-forsaken real estate in the entire greater Middle East and tightly hemmed in by all those hostile countries around it, continue to thrive in relative prosperity and continued economic successes, in very diametric opposite to those around them, but more particularly to the pervasive poverty and squalor in Palestinian settlements, which share precious space with them, and many of whose residents derive gainful employment from Israeli employees. Palestinian settlements that can survive only with continued and uninterrupted infusion of foreign aid and assistance; and lacking basic economic institutions that could give its people some yeoman chances of producing something of economic value for their survival.

But yet undeterred and unhampered by their dire conditions and spurred by some indescribable dark force, the Palestinians continue to do fierce combat with the harangued Israelis, asking for more land amidst protestations by many of them that Israel ought to be completely removed from that place. This, incontrovertible facts that point to the unreasonableness of their demands, notwithstanding. Like, that for example a good majority of the residents of neighboring Jordan are reportedly ethnic Palestinians and which country does have much larger geographic territories where these “displaced” Palestinians in present tight co-existence with Israel could reasonably be relocated, if only to diffuse the unbearable existing tensions and allow the area to attain some degree of resolution and peace. And albeit added concessions such as that Israel has ceded some territories and will continue to cede more, hoping against realities to bring about some tolerable resolution. But no, it has to be Israel that has to go and to make all the sacrifices, for Palestinians see themselves as the perpetual victims deserving of any and all demands that they may bring to the table.

To shed some possible light on all this, some have advanced that in psychology, one psychological mechanism that may address what may be adjudged as a pathological condition has been that of projection. That a people in grave penury and squalor because of felt numbing shame as a result of its glaring inadequacies and guilt, would find it more palatable to project this reality toward another object, and in the process converting it into some kind of morbid hatred and/or envy against that object. I suppose the stronger sense appetite of hate could trump and deaden the gnawing feelings of shame and guilt. Many may point to this as yet another classic manifestation of the victimhood syndrome. And this may be one big underlying root cause of all these ugly convulsions in that part of the Middle East and thus deserve more serious study.

And transmuted and applied to everyday interaction with individuals who form part of our circle of relatives, friends and acquaintances, and fellow workers, many may also find this “pathology”, though expressed in somewhat different modes, but still showing the same basic lack of shame or shamefacedness.

When close family members through their actions or inactions tacitly or blatantly infer that they are entitled to all the assistance from siblings, regardless of duration and frequency, simply because they cannot support themselves and/or their families; but with the obviously lame justification or rationalization that they are different and thus by inference cannot be expected to be like the others who can and are able to take care of themselves exposed to the same set of circumstances. This appears to be another classic case of playing the victimhood card and laying the blame on same perceived extraneous forces, instead of taking personal responsibilities and addressing the issues head on. Another clear instance when the sense of shame has been trumped by something else, or projected elsewhere as to numb the felt pain of shame, if indeed such a sense is felt..

And then we encounter close associates, friends, or kins committing their word and full faith in no mean terms to comply with certain agreed arrangements in exchange for some good offered to them. Yet when your back is turned, that stiff commitment readily melts away and becomes no more worthy than the air into which they were thrown into. Yet even with continuing strong lamentation about how shamed they are, they continue to neglect their words, not because of any inevitability occasioned by circumstance but by at times awkward limp excuses, because you know them better than they think you know them. Again, another case where the sense of shame is allowed to be deadened, so life can continue for them. With you stewing on the side, wondering how and why anybody would be so crass and blatant to allow that neglect to happen to a relationship that you had built and regarded as trustworthy and somewhat sacrosanct.

Let me end with this question: Is man perfectible in this world?

Graphics credit

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Moros of Mindanao

Wretchard over at The Belmont Club weaves a very enlightening account of what he calls the Islamic Insurgency in early Philippines, at the turn of the 20th century when the US acquired the Philippine Islands as victory booty grudgingly relinquished by the war losers, the Spaniards. He essentially retraces the historic confrontations between the new colonizer, the US, and the recalcitrant elements of a splintered country, particularly in the south. In the end, Wretchard hypothesizes that that particular era is eerily reminiscent of the US’s current struggles in Iraq, with a similar religious component, Islam; and additionally, as another turn of the century milestone, this time the 21st century. The comparison is not entirely new since another blog, Philippine Commentary, ably tenured by Dean Jorge Bocobo has touted the same hypothesis. Notice that on the banner portion of his blog, Dean has included the phrase, The First Iraq.

mindamapMindanao Old MapSE-A119

But the account at the Belmont Club is specially significant to yours truly, having been born and raised in the island of Mindanao, the second biggest island in an archipelago noted for its 7100 islands. And adding to the personal interest is the little issue of genealogy from my father’s ancestry. He owed his lineage to a rajah of Lanao (Samporna) whose time dated back to 1520s when Magellan first discovered the islands. In 1779, a Spanish friar named Pedro de Santa Barbara took the entire Samporna family, baptized it, and gave it a Christian name which we carry to this date.

Given these two significant details, our family has always been very eager and proactive to learn as much as we can about our origins, both in ethnicity and geography. Thus, most of the facts as detailed by the account at the Belmont Club have been common knowledge to most of us diligent enough to listen and/or do some of our own researches.

The following commentaries then are advanced either to supplement or clarify some of the issues brought out.

It is good to note right off the bat that one of Wretchard’s sources is a Jesuit, in the person of Fr. Javellana, who I gather is also from Mindanao. I say this because the Society of Jesus has been in the forefront of quality education in Mindanao, establishing 3 Ateneo schools many years ago. Two in the south, Zamboanga and Davao, and one in northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro, with the latter having been established way back in the 30’s.

When Wretchard calls it the Islamic insurgency, I surmise the intent is to tie it up with the current problems with radical Islamists under the umbrella of the GWOT. But for those growing up in Mindanao, the problem was simply the stubborn problems with the moros, a catch-all pejorative to denote those bandits who were not Christians, nor members of any of the many indigenous tribes scattered throughout the island but concentrated on the upland areas. As far as I know no religious tone was ever injected to the problem, not like the current upheavals. The violence and savagery may have been similar, but religion rarely got into the picture. To this day, the word Moro continues to be viewed with derision on both sides of the current conflict.

It was revealing to learn that the issue of slavery was a stiff determinant in the US resolve to deal with the Moslem problems in the south. This time slavery primitively practiced not by Rebs of the south, but by Moslems in their Morolands in the south.

Wretchard’s piece talks about basic infrastructures, such as roads and bridges, as enticements and offerings of noble intentions brought by the Americans to the island. And to this day we continue to see visible vestiges of those long-forgotten efforts. The No. 1 road distance marker, called kilometraje uno, is located in a place deep in Lanao called Camp Keithley, and from there it stretches throughout the entire island. As far as I know the main highway in Bukidnon continues to be called Sayre highway, obviously named for some past American.

On the issue of the cedula, which as related was quite a thorn on the side of the then-Moslem situation, beyond just noting that it was a carryover from the old Spanish regime, as I far as I know, it continues to be in effect in the current republic – still a thorn on the side, as expressed by many Filipinos. As a matter of fact, it comes in two versions. The cedula, which is called the residence certificate, is either A or B. Res. Cert. A is an annual fixed levy for, what else, being a resident of the country; and Res. Cert. B is based on a certain percentage of one’s income, both required before paying income taxes, and for most transactions with any government entity.

The case of the juramentados, or suicide attackers, as an apt juxtaposition of the current Islamist suicide bombers is an interesting analogy and I must admit the idea did not cross my mind until now. Again, growing up in Mindanao, one cannot be a stranger to the craziness and fatalism of the juramentados. Sordid tales abound on what we then considered a very unusual practice. That the subject, suffering from some irresolvable conflicts would induce himself into some kind of ghoulish trance, wrap a red bandana around his head, paint his face and body, arm himself with a long bolo (typically, a kris), go to any crowded place like a market place or your typical small town tabo, and start hacking strangers. And it stops only when the subject himself is killed.

But this we learned was derived from an earlier practice widely used during the Moro wars against the US occupiers. Moro warriors armed with bolos, resolutely convinced that they were invincibly protected by their amulets, or anting-anting, would daringly charge head on to US entrenched positions, and would be met with a fusillade of rifle or pistol fire. And surreptiously validating the claim of invincibility, confused people related how these warriors amidst those formidable volleys would still be able to reach the US soldiers’ positions and use their bolos to inflict their damage.

As it turned out the problem was not invincibility but was as mundane as “stopping power”. The typical US Constabulary officer was carrying a smallish .38 caliber revolver, with no sufficient power to stop an assailant dead on his tracks. Thus, Colt was commissioned to manufacture a higher caliber revolver to replace the standard issue. Thus was given birth the Colt .45 revolver, designed specifically to effectively stop a marauding moro warrior, or juramentado.

Some mementoes from that past taken from American Rifleman Magazine of January 1980: (The one on the right is the Colt .45, which replaced the earlier versions on the left.)

Old GunsNEw Colt<

A quote from Belmont Club:

In 1911, Pershing won that approval and announced a new law requiring Moros to surrender their firearms and forbidding them to carry edged weapons. Many Moros, for whom weapons were precious possessions, refused to give them up, and fighting broke out between them and the troops sent to enforce the order.

There is a lot more than meets the eye to the statement that Moros considered their weapons their precious possessions. Weapons continue to be regarded as both precious and prized possessions, and for many Moslem “warriors” more precious than their own families. They would rather be bereft of any material possessions or such abstractions as respect and honor, so long as they have their weapons to carry with them.

A family member used to recount his family company’s experiences logging in forest areas deep in Moroland. How these Moslems, most with no gainful employment, would approach their logging camps to ask for jobs. Except that there was only one type of job that they would accept – as security guards. And as further enticement, they commit to bring and carry their own weapons so the logging company does not have to issue them any.

As part of the appeasement process and since one is exploiting forest products in their own lands, companies had to hire them to survive and to operate in relative peace. But in turn, these companies had to hire their own security guards to watch over the Moslem guards. This rather odd arrangement had to work for them.

Extrapolate as much as you will what this almost innate love for and attached interest in weapons those Moros in Mindanao have and juxtapose that with what is similarly found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and yes, Iraq. The trading of arms, amidst all the squalor and poverty, in those areas appears to always enjoy brisk business.

Quite unlike the Judeo-Christian axiom, from guns to plowshares.

Monday, January 01, 2007


Happy Fifth Anniversary to us all!

According to Bill Quick of Daily Pundit today, January 1st, was the day in 2002 when he formally coined the term blogosphere.

But like most everything else in this medium, where nothing much is writ in stone, Wikipedia declares that prior to Quick’s pronouncement:
The term blogosphere was coined on September 10, 1999 by Brad L. Graham, as a joke.

Take your pick, anyway.