Thursday, September 27, 2007

JUANA AND THE SAINT

JUANA is on her way to fetch water from the river when the Japanese finally came to Baloc. “So these are the mighty conquerors”, she mused as a column of dusty tanks and trucks passed by carrying small men with small eyes in drab olive uniforms. Except for the guns, they seemed harmless but with their arrival came a pall of unbearable sullenness in the barrio. She quickly turned back to their dampa. Her friend should know.

“I’m worried about Juana”, a shirtless middle aged man said to his wife who is preparing the sinaing for lunch. The wife paused to look at their daughter rush into the abong-abong near their house that serves as the Aglipayano chapel. Juana has been spending most of her time there ever since the santo was brought in. It is where she eats her meals that she says she shares with the santo. She roams the forest everyday to pick fresh flowers for the altar. And they can hear her talking to somebody they can’t see. But they are too afraid to stop her.



A few months after the war, Juana suddenly became ill. All the albularyos that came failed to cure her. “Sinaniban,” they all agreed as they watched Juana’s body contort in periodic spasms, as they tried to discern the strange words she utter. They and the neighbors came to hold vigil and say the novena. But one night when everybody strangely fell asleep, Juana disappeared from her sick bed. They found her the next day prostate before the santo, arms spread like a cross and in deep trance. A week later, she started healing the sick.

One day, Juana’s father and some neighbors are huddled under a kaymito tree. “If it won’t rain today, the rice crop will be lost. Where will we get food?” they worriedly tell each other. “Go and bring out the santo!” commanded Juana who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. The terrified men did as told, too scared to argue with the young woman. When they brought back the santo after carrying it in a prusisyon all over the barrio, it rained hard. It did not stop for 5 days.


And so the sick and those who believed came, seeking Juana’s cure and blessing, lighting red candles to bring their prayers to the santo. And yet another drought came but the santo would not budge as they tried carrying it for the prusisyon. “Go home,” Juana said, “The rain will come tonight”. It did for the next 5 days. And the faithful multitude increased…

BERTONG LANGIS never failed to attend San Geronimo’s feast day in Baloc ever since Olan came to work for the prophets. But it’s more for the pulutan that Olan’s wife prepared so well and the bottles of Colt 45 chilled in the basin of a washing machine. It was only recently when he came in the spirit of the panata (and curiosity), walking to the 3 churches of the Aglipayanos, Father Ahyong’s sect, and the Catholics who share the same patron saint. The highway is clogged with people and stalls. The churches are crammed with the faithful. But the star of the fiesta is Juana’s santo where the mass of believers slowly inch their way from the churchyard gate, inside the church, to the altar to touch the image and say thank you and ask for more favors.



PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) The faithful inching their way to the Aglipay church (2) while those inside are crammed as they pay their devotion (3) to the image of San Geronimo. (4) Vendors and stalls of red candles, (5) Sto. Ninos, and (6) rice cakes litter the church compound and compete for attention. (7) The faithful also come to Fr. Resty Ahyong’s breakaway sect and (8) Baloc’s Roman Catholic church.

NOTE: This story is fiction but Juana is a real person.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

TAONG PUTIK

1992.

The lanterns have been judged (their barbed wire and gold painted parol won third place), the floats are being dismantled (they lost), the college muse and her escort went home (their college uniform costume flopped).

Normally, this is the time to get drunk.

But Kimat T. Amianan would rather just sit the night away wrapped in that flimsy symbol of The Prophets, occasionally grabbing a handful of dried grass and throwing these in the cold midnight wind, gazing at the sky wondering why there are no stars tonight; the bands are playing gamely but they are out of tune; fishballs and isaw are selling briskly.

It has been some time since he moved out of the old apartment but the angst still clung to him like parasites sucking out all the light and happiness in the world.

He never felt so small, so helpless, and so alone…

Then she came, like the warm breath of an angel, chasing away the ghosts, shutting down the world for a moment.

And he felt good.

For a long time before he learned to sing another song, she would be a refuge and her place in the old sleepy town where a boy general was born many year ago his oasis.


1993.

They had chicken and pork adobo for dinner and they talked about lovers and bastard kids as the big Padre deftly slide a long string of floss between his teeth.

O has been bitchy and would be more the next day in Bibiclat; they did not talk much along the way.

The small Padre accommodated them but is as cold as Baguio in December as they have been warned.

“Look at the symbols!” O snapped as they squeezed into the bell tower, “This sign here means the Franciscans were here!” he almost shouted, and scribbled into his notes and glared and scribbled and glared some more.

He felt bad and would have pushed O off the tower if not for the poetry that bonded them…



2007.

While costumed lechons parade in Balayan and people douse or get doused elsewhere on San Juan’s feast day, the faithful of Bibiclat in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija wake up early to soak their cloaks of dried banana leaves, camote vines etcetera and their bodies in cold slimy mud.

Then they march around and to the church barefoot, a saintly procession of zombies and Taong Putik begging for candles, and people willingly obliging them as atonements for their sins.


I heard that the ritual originated during the war when Japanese soldiers herded the barrio’s male population in the churchyard to be shot.

It was an afternoon but the sky is almost midnight as the hard rain pounded the soil into a mush.

Suddenly, the sun burst out of the dark clouds when the Japs were about to fire.

It was a miracle for both captors who’s national symbol is centerpieced with a red sun, and the captives who realized it was the feast day of San Juan.

There were no executions that day…

And so I came as a pilgrim begging to scratch a 14-year itch and break a new Nikon D40 too.

The church has not changed much; I walked around amidst the ghosts of the past: bitchy O snapping at Kimat T. Amianan in the bell tower, a boy who would command an army passing through, and a doomed general on the way to his death.


“What print is this?” Bertong Langis, pointing to a stack of brownish red hued Taong Putik photos, once asked Oyet P.

“Sefia,” he was told.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

MURDER IN THE CONVENT

Gen. Antonio Luna was directing the establishment of a guerilla base in the Mt. Province from his headquarters in Bayambang, Pangasinan when he received a telegram summoning him to a conference with Mi Presidente in Cabanatuan. He immediately left for Nueva Ecija accompanied by his aides Col. Francisco “Paco” Roman, Maj. Simeon Villa, the brothers Maj. Manuel Bernal and Capt. Jose Bernal, and a bodyguard of 25 cavalrymen.

At the outskirts of Cabanatuan, the impatient General Luna left his escort at the broken bridge and proceeded to his summons with only Colonel Roman and Captain Eduardo Rusca. After all, it’s only a conference and they are in friendly territory. They arrived at the casa parroquial in Cabanatuan where the Malolos Republic was holding office at that time at 3 pm of 5 June 1899. Unknown to the general, Mi Presidente’s elite Kawit Companies were already deployed and instructed with a mission.


The first man the general met was an officer he had disarmed in Angeles for cowardice. His famous temper provoked, General Luna slapped a sentry who failed to salute him and, upon being informed that Mi Presidente went to San Isidro, let it out on Felipe Buencamino (whom he earlier accused of being an autonomista and slapped right in front of Mi Presidente). There was a rifle shot and when the general went down to investigate, he met Captain Janolino aka Pedrong Kastila who had refused to take orders from him and whom he had disarmed along with the Kawit Company for insubordination.

What happened next was the general being hacked in the head with a bolo and elements of the Kawit Company ganging up on him. Mortally wounded, General Luna still managed to stagger away from his assassins and fire his pistol while cursing them for what they are: “Cowards! Traitors! Assassins!”. Colonel Roman was gunned down (perhaps on the street that now bears his name) and Captain Rusca was shot in the leg while coming to the aid of the general.

As General Luna lay dying, an old lady looked down from a window of the casa parroquial and said: “Ano ba, nagalaw pa yan?”. She is said to be Mi Presidente’s mother who Gen. Venancio Concepcion later said to have been “groundworked” by Buencamino to convince her son on the Luna assassination project. And so it was that General Luna died from the more than 40 wounds that was hacked, stabbed, chopped and shot on him.




It did not end there. What followed was a purge of the Lunistas. The general’s closest men were disarmed and detained. Some were killed like Major Bernal who was tortured first and his brother Captain Bernal who was released but was later assassinated in the frontlines. But it was the resbak that rippled deep and long which almost broke the revolution. Vicente del Prado who signed the Malolos constitution in Pangasinan’s behalf bolted the Revolutionary Congress and organized the Guardia de Honor to fight the Americans and avenge General Luna’s death. The Ilocanos never fully trusted Mi Presidente’s Katipunan after that. While making his retreat through Ilocos, Mi Presidente bought along 2 well-known Ilocanos --- Pangasinan’s military chief Col. Juan Quesada and the vicar-general of the revolutionary army Fr. Gregorio Aglipay --- to help parry the hostility of the Ilocanos and the Guardia de Honor. Father Aglipay would move on with the revolution in Ilocos Norte, organizing his own fanatical army of peasants, and refusing to recognize the authority of the Aguinaldista and Tagalog Gen. Manuel Tinio. Apolinario Mabini also have his hands full covering up Mi Presidente to the Hongkong Junta (which included the celebrated painter and the general’s brother Juan Luna) who came to the point of dissenting with the Malolos Republic because of the assassination.

Post Script

It is interesting to note several “what ifs” related to the Luna assassination. First, the task of capturing General Luna dead or alive was given by Mi Presidente himself to his protégé (and hatchetman they say) Gen. Gregorio del Pilar in San Isidro a day before the assassination. Heneral Goyo immediately left for Bayambang to carry out his mission but as it is, General Luna was already on his way to Cabanatuan. What could have happened if the brash Heneral Goyo and the ill-tempered General Luna encountered in Pangasinan?

If he had not been bogged down by his wounds, Col. Benito Natividad who was then General Luna’s top aide and a Novo Ecijano could have accompanied the general to Cabanatuan instead of Colonel Roman. Would the assassination push through considering that an influential Novo Ecijano is accompanying the general? Or how would the Novo Ecijanos react if Colonel Natividad have been killed instead of Colonel Roman?


General Luna had good reports about the Brigada Tinio who was idling in Ilocos while the war went on around them. General Tinio made several requests to General Luna who was Director of War that they be assigned to the frontlines. General Luna then requested the Office of the Captain-General to do so but was refused, perhaps because of a wariness on a possible fusion of the brilliant military tactician and the great army of the north. But what if General Luna and the Ilocos’ Brigada Tinio did come together? Would have it propelled General Luna’s higher ambitions (that was insinuated by the Aguinaldistas)? Or would have it provoked a civil war within a revolution? But what if Luna had deposed Aguinaldo and his pro-autonomy cabinet?

CAVEAT: Most of the information contained in this article was taken from Nick Joaquin’s “A Question of Heroes” and Orlino Ochosa’s “The Tinio Brigade”. Any errors and fallacies in the interpretation of their work are mine alone.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) The Gen. Antonio Luna monument in Cabanatuan City’s Plaza Lucero just across the street where he was murdered. (2)The interior of the modern Cabanatuan City church. (3) Inconspicuous signs along a busy street (now named after the fallen general) where vehicles wait for their sundo from the school that used to be a convent marks the crime scene. (4) Remnants of the colonial era church where Capt. Eduardo Rusca took refuge after being shot in the leg are now tucked in the buttresses of the modern structure. (5) A photo of Gen. Benito Natividad scanned from Orlino Ochosa’s “The Tinio Brigade”.

Friday, September 07, 2007

THE BOY GENERAL

No, it’s not Gregorio del Pilar. He was 22 years old when he got his commission in June (or July) of 1898. In fact, he was still a lieutenant-colonel when the 20 year old Manuel Tinio of Nueva Ecija was promoted to the rank of a General de Brigada in 20 November 1897 by Mi Presidente Emilio Aguinaldo.

Gen. Manuel Tinio after which the town of Papaya was renamed was born on 17 June 1877 in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija to one of the province’s landed and richest families. But unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not have higher education because when the revolt against colonial Spain broke out in 1896, he dropped out of segunda ensenanza at the San Juan de Letran to join the Katipunan at the tender age of 18. His first battles were in his province and nearby Bulacan where he distinguished himself and was commissioned to captain by Mariano Llanera --- Gapan’s capitan-municipal and the Katipunan’s recognized supremo in Central Luzon. That was how he earned his feathers and got noticed by Mi Presidente who soon promoted him to colonel in June 1897, then to brigadier general 5 months later in Biyak-na-Bato.

The general was a protégé of Mi Presidente whom he joined in exile in Hongkong in the conclusion of the Pact of Biyak-na-Bato. He followed Mi Presidente back to the Philippines on May 1898 during the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, was immediately tasked with liberating the Ilocos region from Spanish colonial rule and was placed in command of the ragtag Ilocos Expeditionary Forces. As his Brigada Tinio marched through Ilocos, he linked with pockets of Ilocano revolutionaries and encountered stiff Spanish resistance until the town of Tagudin. From then on, it was a walk in the park as the “natives” in the Spanish colonial army deserted en masse to the side of the Katipunan. By September 1898, Apo Heneral Tinio has accomplished his mission.

However, his next battles in the Filipino-American War were not as glamorous and victorious. His Brigada Tinio was called to the frontline on September 1899 seven months after the war started in Sta. Mesa, Manila. They plunged to action 2 months later in San Jacinto, Pangasinan as the rearguard of Mi Presidente where they fiercely engaged the Americans troops that landed in San Fabian. From then on, it was guerilla warfare for the Brigada Tinio after the regular revolutionary army was disbanded by Mi Presidente before continuing his retreat to the Cordilleras. But aside from waging war, Apo Heneral Tinio also has to contend with the resentful Ilocanos and a deadly rivalry with Batac’s Padre Gregorio Aglipay as an offshoot of the Ilocano Gen. Antonio Luna’s treacherous assassination in Cabanatuan.

Despite the odds, it took the Americans 7,000 troops, 1 and a ½ years, and 2 generals to subdue the Brigada Tinio which has been said as the last remaining army of the Malolos Republic. On March 1901, Mi Presidente was treacherously captured in Palanan, Isabela and a month later issued a general proclamation of surrender. On 01 May 1901, the Brigada Tinio formally surrendered to the Americans. Thus ended what according to Gen. Arthur McArthur is the “most troublesome and perplexing military problem in all Luzon”.

After his military stint, Apo Heneral Tinio returned to Nueva Ecija and became a rich hacendero. He was rivaled in terms of landholdings by his brother Col. Casimiro “Kapitan Berong” Tinio (who served with him in the Brigada Tinio) who owned “the largest singularly-titled hacienda estate any Filipino has ever owned”. Apo Heneral Tino was Nueva Ecija governor from 1907 until his resignation in 1909. He died at the age of 47 in 1924 of cirrhosis of the liver. His grandson said he is fond of Tres Cepas brandy of which he consumed a bottle after every meal.

It is interesting to note that almost throughout his Ilocos campaign during the Filipino-American War, Apo Heneral Tinio was with another boy general from Nueva Ecija --- Benito Natividad, twice wounded in action and erstwhile aide to General Luna, who was promoted to General de Brigada at the age of 24. Nueva Ecija should be proud to having contributed the youngest and the third youngest generals in the modern history of the Philippine armed forces.
NOTE: Almost all the information and the Tinio photos in this article is from Orlino Ochosa’s celebrated “The Tinio Brigade” book which I recommend for reading to every Filipino (especially Novo Ecijanos) so they can better understand their past. I also have the chance of a short conversation with Martin Tinio Jr. --- a grandson of the Apo Heneral --- who confirmed the “youngest general” tag and shared surprising anecdotes that are not yet published. Any errors are mine alone.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) Manuel Tinio as the boy general of Ilocos; (2) the main altar of the modern church of Aliaga where Manuel Tinio was born 130 years ago; (3) Manuel Tinio as Nueva Ecija governor.