Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ten Kapampangans The Nation Forgot

Ten Kapampangans The Nation Forgot | Discover the Pampanga, Discover Philippines
Written by Robby Tantingco

10. FELIPE SONSONG, the Macabebe Soldier-turned-Jesuit Missionary who died a martyr in Guam in 1685. While alive, he was already revered as a saint more than mission leader Fr. Diego Sanvitores, SJ and companion Pedro Calungsod, prompting another member of the same mission to write a detailed account of Sonsong’s life—so detailed that historian Fr. John Schumacher, SJ called Sonsong the most documented Filipino before the time of Jose Rizal. His reputation for sanctity was so widespread that it was the Spanish governor of Guam and the Spanish military commander who carried his casket to the cemetery. Sanvitores has since been beatified and Calungsod canonized, but Sonsong’s own cause for beatification is still neither here nor there.

It is not just the nation who forgot about Sonsong. The Catholic Church which has beatified and canonized many others with far less documentation and evidence of heroic sanctity, also continues to ignore this Kapampangan.

All the Macabebe warriors, the Voluntarios de Macabebe, the Macabebe Scouts, and by extension all of us Kapampangans, maligned by our fellow Filipinos and called all sorts of names, will get our ultimate vindication when one of the so-called traitors and 'dugong aso' is raised on the altar of St. Peter's Basilica by the Pope himself--a Macabebe Soldier as a canonized Saint of the Catholic Church!

9. THE MACABEBES, already known during prehistoric times as warriors (2,000 of them, led by "the brave youth from Macabebe," did battle with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Martin de Goiti in 1571). They were recruited by Spaniards as Voluntarios de Macabebe to help them fight their wars and stretch their colonial rule to 300 years, and recruited again by the Americans as the Macabebe Scouts to help them capture Aguinaldo and end his quest for independence. Even the British were awed by their ferocity: Gen. William Draper, head of the British naval fleet that invaded Manila in 1762, described the Macabebes as "fighting like beasts and gnawing at our bayonets.”
Call them mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, even traitors, but whatever their karmic debts to their fellow Filipinos, they already paid the price: Aguinaldo’s men burned their town in 1898, and they formed the core of the Philippine Scouts whose glorious record of patriotism includes defending Bataan in 1942, before finally fading away from history.

Lt. Matthew Batson recruiting Macabebe soldiers during the town's fiesta on Sept. 10, 1899.
You see their names on tombstones at the Clark cemetery, their faces on old photographs--there's also a small statue in their hometown--but mostly they are only talked about with derision as “dugong aso.”

The Voluntarios Macabebe street in Madrid, Spain
At least the Spaniards call them “the loyal companions of our glories and our disgraces,” and have memorialized them by naming a street in Madrid in their honor. Here, nothing.

8. THE MALAYA LOLAS, all 178 of them, whose horrific experiences in World War II would shock even the ISIS. On Nov. 23, 1944, the Japanese strafed their village (Mapaniki in Candaba) to smoke out the Huks who had ambushed a Japanese convoy the day before. The villagers were hauled to the local school, the men beheaded and castrated, their penises inserted in their mouths. The corpses were piled up inside a room and set on fire. Next the women, ages 13 to 30, were forced to walk kilometers away to the "bahay na pula" in San Ildefonso, Bulacan where they were raped all night and throughout the following day. The girls were raped next to their mothers. Some were taken away and turned into comfort women for three more months. The rest walked back to Mapaniki to collect and bury the bones and ashes of their fallen men. Then they dispersed in all directions and disappeared along with their shame and guilt.


Years later, they resurfaced as the empowered Malaya Lolas, thanks to a women's advocacy group called KAISA KA. They sued the Japanese government, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court which threw it out. When they found out that the decision penned by Associate Justice Del Castillo contained plagiarized portions, they sued again. Chief Justice Corona initiated an investigation but the ensuing impeachment case made the nation turn away again from the plight of the Malaya Lolas.

Today only a modest marker (erected by the HAU CKS ten years ago) stands on the common grave of the massacred men, where the few remaining Malaya Lolas still gather and sing their plaintive Kapampangan songs of sorrow and hope

7. REMEDIOS GOMEZ, the Huk squadron commander known as Kumander Liwayway. This legendary warrior polished her nails and wore makeup before going to battle, which amused and sometimes irritated her comrades, but she proved that a woman didn’t have to act like a man to fight like a man. "One of the things I am fighting for in the Huk movement is the right to be myself," she told them.

Kumander Liwayway upon her capture in 1947 (courtesy of Rizal Library, AdMU)
Her courage made Huk Supremo Luis Taruc declare that “the role of women was one of the proudest features of the Hukbalahap.” While many women played mere "guerilla wives," Gomez and her friends Felipa Culala (Kumander Dayang-Dayang) and Simeona Punzalan (Kumander Guerero) led armies in battle.
After her capture on Mt. Arayat, she was presented to President Manuel Roxas who scolded her for joining what he called a terrorist group, to which she replied, "You are wrong, Mr. President. We are only fighting for a decent livelihood and democratic treatment."

Kumander Liwayway shortly before her death in May 2014 (courtesy of Lydia Paraiso)
Beauty queens-turned-rebels like Nelia Sancho and Maita Gomez have always captured the imagination of Filipinos, and yet this extraordinary Kapampangan woman remains unknown and unrecognized by the rest of the nation.

6. MARTIN SANCHO, the 10-year-old Kapampangan prodigy who was shipped to Spain in 1587 to recite the entire Catholic Catechism (in Latin!) before King Philip II. His performance convinced the King that the natives he thought were savages were actually as erudite as Europeans, and that the colony he was ready to quit was worth keeping, after all.

Painting of Martin Sancho with King Philip II by Herminigildo Pineda.
(Can you imagine what would have happened to the Philippines if this Kapampangan boy did not impress King Philip?) After creating a sensation in Madrid, Martin next went to Rome where he finished his studies and eventually became the First Filipino Jesuit. Stricken with tuberculosis in Rome, he returned to Manila and died in his late 20s.
For all his extraordinary accomplishments, this Kapampangan only merited a tiny footnote in Jesuit annals (I found a one-sentence description of him in Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ's selected writings) and no mention at all in Philippine history books.

5. ZOILO GALANG, who holds not one, not two, but three Philippine records: he wrote the country’s first English novel (in 1921), the country’s first book of English poems (in 1925) and the country’s first encyclopedia (in 1934). Galang wrote the novel A Child of Sorrow three years before Paz Marquez Benitez wrote the short story Dead Stars, and yet all textbooks and anthologies of Philippine Literature in English begin with Dead Stars. No mention at all of this great Kapampangan writer, not even a line from his groundbreaking novel!

Photo of Zoilo Galang courtesy of Alex R. Castro.

So let me give you the opening lines of A Child of Sorrow:

"Lucio had just received his sheepskin diploma from the provincial high school, and had laid his books on the dust-covered shelves. He had not decided yet what he would do. Perhaps he would play the proverbial happy role of youth—the life of fun, frolic and adventure.
"It was April in the Fertile Valley, the month when the sampaguita began to open its petals to receive the soothing dew of the starry evening hour; when the rose, lovely and tender, gave its best and lured countless butterflies; when the dama-de-noche, fragrantly suffused the atmosphere at the magic touch of the night which gave it vitality."


4. BAMBALITO (a.k.a. Tarik Soliman), the Kapampangan chieftain who led two thousand Kapampangan warriors to Tondo to fight Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1571. Abandoned by Tagalog leaders Lacandula, Rajah Matanda and Rajah Soliman, he faced the Spanish conquistadores alone at the critical Battle of Bangkusay.

Photo of the Tarik Soliman monument in Macabebe town (by Ruston Banal)
Unlike Lapu-lapu who killed Magellan, this brave youth from Macabebe took a bullet and died defending his people--the first Filipino freedom martyr. His death sealed the fate of the Philippines as a colony of Spain. Yet who remembers him except us Kapampangans? Worse, Manila credits the Tagalog Rajah Soliman as the hero of Bangkusay (he wasn't even there).

3. LUISA GONZAGA DE LEON, the first Filipino woman to author a book (in 1844). This country has honored every woman who pioneered something, including first Filipina admitted to Harvard, first Filipina Ph.D., first Filipina scientist, etc.
Gonzaga de Leon wrote a book at a time when most women didn’t even read books, so it’s puzzling why the nation shows no appreciation for this Kapampangan woman’s extraordinary accomplishment.

2. PEDRO ABAD SANTOS, founder of the Socialist Party of the Philippines who inspired an entire generation of peasants and laborers to claim the land they tilled and the just wages they earned. He influenced his younger brother Jose to become a more pro-poor Justice Secretary and Chief Justice, and pressured his brother’s boss, President Manuel Quezon, to initiate land reform.


Because Jose later died a glorious martyr’s death and Pedro only died from a bleeding ulcer, we have streets, schools and hospitals across the country named after Jose, while all that Pedro got is one statue in his hometown (San Fernando).
Huk Supremo Luis Taruc wrote: "The Socialist Party that Abad Santos founded had no connection with, nor resemblance to, the Socialist parties of other countries. There was more psychology than theory in his approach to the movement. If a peasant came to him complaining about his landlord, Abad Santos would tell him, 'Go and kill your landlord, then come to me and I will defend you.' Later Abad Santos would explain to me, 'If I told that peasant to be patient, he would be discouraged and then give up. If i told him I would take care of his problem, he would go home and never lift a finger to help himself. But when i tell him to kill his landlord, I know he won't do it, but it will make him brave, it will make him lose his fear of his landlord, and give him self-confidence.'"

1. PEDRO DANGANAN, a.k.a. APU IRU, the miracle worker from Sapangbato (although born in Lubao, died in Guagua) who became such a national celebrity in the 1930s that pilgrims from as far as Ilocos and Bicol flocked to his house by the thousands, sometimes hiding under the batalan to catch his bath water which they believed to be miraculous.
Photo courtesy of Alex R. Castro, who also provided the research on this amazing Kapampangan.
Estampitas bearing his image were sold outside churches, while newspapers carried news stories proclaiming that he was “gumagamot nang walang gamot at walang bayad.” Two stories made him a celebrity: (1) as a little boy he created a commotion at the Antipolo pilgrimage site when he broke through security and climbed up the altar to embrace the miraculous image of Our Lady; and (2) after he became famous and devotees started flocking to him instead of their doctors, he was sued by noted eye specialist Dr. Carlos Simpao which resulted in his imprisonment; however, he was vindicated when Dr. Simpao lost his own eyesight and was cured by him!
It’s amazing how a country obsessed with faith healers and visionaries, from Felipe Salvador to Jun Labo to Judiel Nieva, would have absolutely no memory of this enigmatic Kapampangan.
(We recently visited his relatives' house in Guagua who shared with us more stories and memorabilia, including his supposedly miraculous clothes. They also led us to his grave site, almost lost in the sea of unmarked tombs in the public cemetery.)

About the Author
Robby Tantingco is currently working in Center for Kapampangan Studies, Graduate at St. Louis University.

Photos credit to all the respected owners.

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