U is For The Letters Between Urbana and Feliza

UI thought I’d hit a wall with letter U in the A to Z Challenge, even though I do have something to write about – or had something to write about.  Then I changed my mind because some of it rankles me, so I went for the second choice (there aren’t that many U words to choose from really), but that rankled me even more.  I mean, how pleasant can writing about uprisings against the Spaniards (none of them successful) be?

So I’ll return to the first choice, and that is Urbana at Feliza, a missive written by D. Modesto De Castro in the early 19th century that exhorted how Filipinos were supposed to behave.  It was based on the world that De Castro lived in as a secular priest, which was dictated by Christian morals and values as well as European influences in conduct and ethics.

urbana

One of the things that set Urbana at Feliza apart was that it was written in Tagalog instead of Spanish, so its intended target market was quite obvious.  The narrative is presented through letters written between two sisters, Urbana and Feliza.

The letters go through all the stages of one’s life on earth – from birth, childhood, adulthood, old age and death.   In the preface, De Castro emphasizes the link between one’s love of God to that of his love of his neighbor.

“…one who loves God knows how to deal with his/her neighbor well, and anyone who does not know should strive to learn, because this knowledge springs from good action which God delights in.

…Thus this knowledge is a precious gem to a woman, honor to a gentleman, ornament to a young man, beauty and loveliness associated with good behavior that captures the heart.”

- Via Urbana at Felisa by Soledad S. Reyes, Philippinestudies.net

De Castro stressed the importance of parents teaching their children good manners, and should they lead “bad lives,” woe then unto the parents for they have been neglectful (I really would have sucked big time if I had lived in this era…), adding that he saw himself as the sower who sows the seeds in the field with his teachings.

The novella goes on to teach about how women and men were to act in just about every aspect of life, from keeping oneself clean, how to act at school, at church, at dealing with vices which for men included gambling and drunkenness.   And then there is this regarding women’s indiscretions which, compared to men’s gambling and drunkenness finds its equivalent in lust:

“In time, after numerous dalliances, her honor is shattered, her family’s reputation is tarnished while the townsfolk tattle, but the most painful is the lost of the souls of these unfortunate women, and the many people who sinned because of these women’s bad examples?  Who will God blame for these sins but the negligent parents?”

Via Urbana at Felisa by Soledad S. Reyes, Philippinestudies.net

Oy vey, now you know how trying the letter U has been so far for me.  As they say, I can’t even…

But moving on, apparently he also differentiated with the “taong-labas” or the outsider.  And this would not just include the tulisanes or robbers and bandits, but those who ate with their hands instead of using a spoon and a fork, and shared bowls of food with their family members – all actions of a native community.

Those who could not afford to throw lavish parties and use lace tablecloths, linens and silver, and even differentiate the many different kinds of writing paper belonged to the taong-labas (outsiders) and were taga-bukid (from the mountains), that group of people who refused to be subjugated by the Spanish and adapt to their colonizer’s ways.

I must have studied this in high school but I feigned not understanding how to read Tagalog.  And probably for good measure.  I would have been exorcised from Catholic school if I had read this then.

So anyway, that’s as far as I’m going with the letter U.  Maybe I should have stuck with all those uprisings against the Spanish government after all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemonade

I’m drinking coffee from the cup
you gave me, wishing you well
on this spring day
and hoping you’re feeling better
than the day before
I miss the happy words
that you say in your messages
and your smiles -
You make every trial worthwhile
I want to banish all your pain
away; you see, I want it no other way.
But life often gives us lemons
so let’s just make some lemonade
Let’s smile and hold our heads up high
and enjoy the journey we’ve made
So for now, I’ll leave wishes in the ether,
and hope that they will get to you
I miss our talks,
I miss our jokes
I guess I just miss you.

T is for Tobacco

T

If you happen to have many colonies under your control, it can be quite an expensive habit to maintain.  And when it came to the Philippines, it proved to be a drain on Spain’s treasury.  Expenses incurred in the colony were usually paid via an annual subsidy sent from Mexico, another of Spain’s colonies.

But with each year’s maintenance proving to be more expensive than the year before, the Spanish government had to come up with a plan.  So Francisco Leandro de Vianna, royal fiscal in Manila, came up with a tobacco monopoly.

Tobacco was already widely consumed by both the Spaniards and the indios, as well as foreigners in Manila, and though it would take some time before King Carlos III would issue a royal decree to set the plan in motion (when later on, Governor General Basco claimed that such a monopoly would make the colony self-sufficient), when he did, the tobacco monopoly was born on February 9, 1780.

By this decree a monopoly was created which remained in operation for a hundred years. This monopoly strictly supervised the growing and grading of the leaf and had factories in Manila for the manufacture of cigars, cigarettes and smoking tobacco . In the field the chief appraiser residing at the provincial capital had a force of subordinates known as “alumnos aforadores”. These were in charge of districts composed of municipalities and in each municipality there was a “caudilo” (headman) who was also the “gobernadorcillo” (little governor) who by the aid of his ” tenientes ” (lieutenants or overseers), supervised the growing of tobacco being remunerated for this service by a percentage of the crop produced.

via Tobacco Monopoly – Wikipilipinas: The Hip ‘n Free Philippine Encyclopedia.

Manila cigar factory, 1899
Manila cigar factory, 1899

Though slavery did not exist in the Philippine islands under Spanish rule (there could have been exceptions, of course), this did not prevent the mistreatment of tobacco workers. And of course, a lot of bribery and harassment, from the tobacco fields all the way to the cigar factories in Manila.

“Tobacco is an important crop in the Philippines, and from the year 1781 was cultivated in Cagayan as a government monopoly. In the villages of that province the people were called out by beat of drum and marched to the fields under the gobernadorcillo and principales, who were responsible for the careful ploughing, planting, weeding, and tending, the work being overlooked by Spanish officials. Premiums were paid to these and to the gobernadorcillos, and fines or floggings were administered in default. The native officials carried canes, which they freely applied to those who shirked their work.

“…I have referred to the series of abuses committed under the monopoly: how the wretched cultivators had to bribe the officials in charge of the scales to allow them the true weight, and the one who classified the leaves, so that he should not reject them as rubbish and order them to be destroyed; in fact, they had to tip every official in whose power it was to do them any injustice. Finally, they received orders on the treasury for the value of their tobacco, which were not paid for months, or, perhaps, for years. They sometimes had to sell their orders for 50 percent of the face value, or even less.

However, even the Spanish official conscience can be aroused, and at the end of 1882 the monopoly was abolished.

Here it is only right to honourably mention a Spanish gentleman to whom the natives of the Cagayan Valley in a great measure owe their freedom. Don Jose Jimenez Agius was Intendente General de Hacienda, and he laboured for years to bring about this reform, impressed with the cruelty and injustice of this worst form of slavery. The Cagayanes were prohibited from growing rice, but were allowed as an indulgence to plant a row or two of maize around their carefully tilled tobacco-fields.

Possibly this circumstance has led the author of the circular I have before quoted to make the extraordinary statement: “Tobacco, as a cultivated crop, is generally grown in the same field as maize.” Does he think it grows wild anywhere?

via The Inhabitants of the Philippines, by John Foreman, 1910

The tobacco monopoly was abolished in June 1881, at around the same time when Filipinos were thirsting for independence from Spanish rule.  Smoking is believed to have helped fuel the fight for independence.  According to historical documents, among the expenses by the First Philippine Republic in the late 1890′s were cigarillos distributed to the soldiers of the budding “Philippine Army.”

Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas, better known as Tabacalera today, was founded in 1881, just before the abolition of the monopoly took effect the following year.  It was founded by the Marquis of Comillas, Antonio Lopez y Lopez.

But before I conclude my post for letter “T” in the A to Z challenge, here’s one more little tidbit about tobacco in the islands.

Filipinos, it turns out, smoked like it was going out of style.  In those days, even children as young as 2 or 3 years old smoked these huge cigars.  And they were H-U-G-E.  When I started this blog, one of my first posts was on a newspaper article  about an “embarrassing use of an instrument of hospitality.”

The Family Cigar
The Family Cigar

It was not unusual to have a “family cigar” hanging on a string from the ceiling and this would be lit and passed around from one family member to another, then to you, their lucky guest.  You, as the guest, would be offending the host if you said, “no, thank you.”

Here are a few pictures from Old Manila for your smoking viewing pleasure.

Blogging A to Z Challenge

 

I Used To Sleep Naked

I used to sleep naked in my bed,
covers all around me
come morning, bed head
luxuriating, deviating,
always titillating
till the earth shook one day
this was no time for play
rolling, shaking,
ricocheting
it’s certainly not fun
when you’ve come undone
So I’ve stopped sleeping naked
in my bed
though it’s not just earthquakes
that fill me with dread
there’s one more thing to add
to my list of insecurities
just one more thing -
and that’s zombies.

 

The Home We Live In – Happy Earth Day!

We’ve really only got this one home,
this I know is true
It sustains us, it nourishes us,
no matter what we do
For it gives us everything we could ever need
each and every hour
from its highest peak to its deepest trench
there’s beauty in every flower
There’s grace in every sunrise
sweet repose with every sunset,
clouds to bring us quenching rain
how can one ever forget?
With every drop of morning dew
there’s a secret to behold
if only one stops to listen
and allow earth’s beauty to unfold
So we do what we can
to care for what’s been given
It can’t ever stop -
this is the home we all live in.

Cacophony

There’s screaming in the darkness outside my window
Unintelligible because of the noise within
TV blaring, technology deafening,
A child singing, there’s nothing here but din

while outside a woman is crying
screaming her pain through her tears
car door slamming, questions pouring
how did I get used to all this through the years?

As I wonder if I should peer out,
and make sure she’s alright
but it’s too noisy and I can’t hear anymore,
before all goes dark in the night.

 

R Is For Rio Pasig, the River That Fed Old Manila

R

Come to the banks of Pasig, oh darling of mine,
Come, for the light of the day is about to fade,
Come right now, only for you my banca’s waiting
By the side of the quite bank underneath the leafy bamboo shade.

Excerpt from By the Banks of the Pasig River,
poem by Jose Rizal, 19th century

Rio Pasig or the Pasig River (Ilog Pasig in Filipino) was Manila’s lifeline and center of economic activity.  During pre-Hispanic times, some of the prominent kingdoms of Namayan, Maynila and Tondo thrived along its banks.    When the Spanish established Manila as their site of operations in the Far East, they built the walled city, Intramuros, along the river’s southern bank.

Map of Intramuros with Pasig River in the upper left side
Map of Intramuros with Pasig River in the upper left side

To get to and from the different districts outside of Intramuros and along the region, ferryboats were the mode of transportation.  However, by the 1600′s, bridges were built to connect one district to another.

Among the well known bridges built over the Pasig River was the Puente de España (Bridge of Spain), which connected the districts of Binondo and Santa Cruz.  This was the first bridge to ever cross the Pasig River and was opened in 1630, replacing the ferry service before it.  Interestingly, it was built at no cost to the Spanish royal treasury, because it was built by the Chinese mestizos or sangleys to relieve  themselves of the ferryboat charges.

Puente de España
Puente de España

The bridge was damaged during the 1863 earthquake and damaged again during a flood in 1914.  It has been replaced by the Jones Bridge during the American Occupation.

Esteros or canals all emptied into the Pasig River from various districts and municipalities of Manila. Houses along the banks had the view of the water which no doubt fed their gardens and provided them with water for bathing.

Another geographical feature of the city of Manila is its system of esteros. These esteros were actually the Pasig river’s estuaries branching throughout the city. Through the esteros, farmers all the way from Laguna peddled their vegetables and other goods to the residents of the city who waited for the boats of these vendors to pass by the back of their homes. The products were usually tossed up to the buyers. The esteros served also as drainage, as a means to easily put out fires and to give off that cooling effect. Imagine having clean streams of water running behind your house!

via Manila’s Edge: Its Geography | HECHO AYER.

Phillipines2a

Mangroves called “nilad” and bamboo plants used to grow abundantly by its banks—Pasig River was never still, as bancas, cascos, and steam boats cruised by and residents took quick afternoon dips to cool off from the tropical heat.

via The once thriving urban waterfront of the Pasig River | The Manila Times Online.

Phillipines1aOne of the main modes of transport along the Pasig River were the cascos.  Cascos were wide flat-bottomed boats with arched roofs that transported people, livestock and cargo through the many districts found along the river.  Families lived on these cascos as well.

LoadingCascosAtPasigRiverManilaCirc
Loading cascos at Pasig River

 

Washing clothes, Pasig River, Manila, Philippines, late 19th or early 20th Century
Washing clothes, Pasig River, Manila, Philippines, late 19th or early 20th Century

The Pasig River of today, however, is but a memory of what it used to be.  With industries cropping up along the banks of the river, and temporary dwellers lining up every space available along the esteros and the river itself, it has become so polluted that ecologists have considered it unable to sustain life.

There are ongoing programs to clean the Pasig River one estero at a time.  It will take time to recover its grandeur, which American urban planner Daniel H. Burnham described in 1910 as the “Venice of the Far East,” but with hard work and education, it will happen.

(left photo) Prior to its rehabilitation, the Estero de Paco was overflowing with tons of garbage. The second photo (right) – taken on January 17, 2013 after the rehabilitation of the creek – shows the same spot as the first, highlighting the vast improvements done to rehabilitate the waterway using PAGCOR’s P20 million donation for the “Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig” project spearheaded by ABS-CBN Foundation. (Photos courtesy of ABS-CBN Foundation’s KBPIP)
(left photo) Prior to its rehabilitation, the Estero de Paco was overflowing with tons of garbage. The second photo (right) – taken on January 17, 2013 after the rehabilitation of the creek – shows the same spot as the first, highlighting the vast improvements done to rehabilitate the waterway using PAGCOR’s P20 million donation for the “Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig” project spearheaded by ABS-CBN Foundation. (Photos courtesy of ABS-CBN Foundation’s KBPIP)

Blogging A to Z Challenge

Vintage Paymaster

Share Your World – Week 15

share-your-world2

It’s that time of the week again, when I share my world, thanks to Cee’s lovely questions that seek to pry the answers from my perennially distracted brain.  Here are the answers that I’ve managed to lasso so far this week.

For your blog do you basically use Windows or Mac, laptop, desktop, pad, or phone?

Except for Mr. M’s kindle, we have an Apple orchard in the house.  I usually write on my Macbook Pro, and when that is turned off, I continue on my iPad.  When I am on the go, I often continue the craziness on my iPhone.  I used to be a Dell girl for the longest time, till my brother convinced me to buy a Macbook in 2005.  It took me a year to warm up to it, but the moment I did, there was no turning back.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to own a business like my father.  I loved hanging out in his office as a little girl, and I loved playing with the check imprinter and all the other cool things on his desk.  I loved how everyone looked up to him for everything they needed.

Vintage Paymaster
Vintage Paymaster

But when my parents divorced, and we lived next to my maternal grandparents, I decided that I wanted to be an archaeologist or a geologist.  I had a favorite book on geodes that I read every night, and I was also obsessed with mummies, especially Tutankhamun.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

I grew up in a big city – at least for the Philippines, it was a big city.  Cebu City was the first Spanish settlement and the oldest city in the country.  But it was also very crowded.  We lived in a nice house, but because we lived close to a medical university, we were surrounded by boarding houses, and anyone who was smart rented out their rooms to the students needing room and board.  There were no sidewalks on the narrow streets and so you basically had to watch yourself as you walked to the convenience store (which we called sari-sari store) though there was one that was just across the street from the compound where we lived next to my maternal grandparents and my aunts and uncles.

I guess I liked it.  It was the only world I knew, and while we did go on vacation to less crowded places, I learned early on it’s not the place that matters, it’s the people around you.

(From top, left to right) : Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, Magellan's Cross, Ayala Center Cebu, Globe Innove IT Plaza, Cebu Taoist Temple, Cebu City at night
(From top, left to right) : Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, Magellan’s Cross, Ayala Center Cebu, Globe Innove IT Plaza, Cebu Taoist Temple, Cebu City at night

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

Probably 30.  Old enough to know better, but young enough to still get away with crap I wouldn’t be able to get away with now.   30 was also the time that I had the best time of my life being single – playing beach volleyball, hanging out with friends and discovering myself.

So there you have it – my world for the week!

Share Your World

 

Let Your Soul Play

Pacific Northwest Photo by Rkirbycom
Pacific Northwest. Photo by Rkirbycom

Well, what do you know?  It’s Saturday!
One of the best days of the week,
when the world slows down and says, “Hey!
Life really isn’t that bleak.”

So throw all your worries away,
forget about every one’s tantrums
The week is over; it’s time to play
Time to smell all those flowering blossoms

Or write a poem and read it out loud
even if there’s no one there to listen
Let your thoughts spring wings and fly
Let your dreams find their haven.

Or maybe hike up that hill in the distance
and watch the birds fly high above
Blink at the sun’s rays warming your skin
Be with the people you love.

Tonight, let’s pop open the wine
And turn up the volume just a bit
so we can dance like no one is watching
This is no time to sit

But laugh, and even sing if the mood hits you
Forget the housework for just one day
It’s time to rest, it’s time to let go,
time to let our souls play.

Daily Prompt

 

 

 

Q is for the Quiapo, the Downtown of Manila

Q

The area outside of Old Manila before the Spaniards came used to be farmland, flanked by water canals because of its close proximity to the Pasig River flowing into the Manila Bay.   Among the many water-based plants growing in the region was a variety of cabbage called Pistia statiotes, which the natives called kiapo.  As time went on, the areas were reclaimed from the marshes and along with the areas of Binondo, San Nicolas and Ermita, the district of Quiapo was born.

Pistia stratiotes, or Kiapo, a type of water cabbage.
Pistia stratiotes, or Kiapo, a type of water cabbage.

Through the years, Quiapo became home to many notable entities, such as the Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel (beer!), the Spanish Royal Navy Club, and the El Renacimiento of the Katipunan movement.  It came to be known as the “downtown of Manila” and here, one also found grand residential houses along the many esteros or waterways that channeled clean water for their gardens as well as provide an efficient mode of transportation via cascos.

method_of_propelling_boats_thru_canal
Men on board a casco with their long bamboo poles called tikines, which they used to push their way through the waterways of Manila.

In a time when the main modes of transportation were chiefly naval, such geographical feature made Quiapo a suitable site to establish trade and commerce, an open port and an easy entrance to the heart of Luzon.

via History – THE QUIAPO REPUBLIC.

Quiapo was and is also where one finds two grand churches – Quiapo Church and the  Basilica Minore of the Black Nazarene, home to the black Jesus of Nazareth statue revered by millions of Catholics.

The Quiapo Church, also known as St. John the Baptist Church in present day Quiapo
The Quiapo Church, also known as St. John the Baptist Church in present day Quiapo
San Sebastián church in Quiapo. Revista de Obras Públicas. 1897 This was a pioneer in the field of prefabricated construction. It incorporates metal constructions made in Belgium in accordance with the design drawn up by the engineer Genaro Palacios y Guerra.
San Sebastián church in Quiapo. Revista de Obras Públicas. 1897 This was a pioneer in the field of prefabricated construction. It incorporates metal constructions made in Belgium in accordance with the design drawn up by the engineer Genaro Palacios y Guerra.

One of the best known streets in Quiapo is Hidalgo Street, considered in the 19th century as “the most beautiful street in Manila.”  This was where many of the wealthy residents lived (outside of Intramuros) and some of their homes are still there to this day, though one, the Enriquez Mansion which was called “the most beautiful house in the islands” in 1910 was transferred to Bataan and in its place is a 10-story commercial building.

Known as the Home of the Heroes of the 1896 Revolution, the Nakpil-Bautista house was home to Julio Nakpil, musical composer of the 19th century revolutionary movement, the Katipunan and Gregoria de Jesus, organizer of the women’s corps of the Katipunan.

Clockwise: Sala, A typical kapis window of a Bahay na Bato, Tumba-Tumba where Oryang would seat and contemplate about life, Bed of Oryang.
Clockwise: Sala, A typical kapis window of a Bahay na Bato, Tumba-Tumba where Oryang would seat and contemplate about life, Bed of Oryang. From Lonelytravelogue.com
Bahay Nakpil-Bautista prior to World War II: Behind the house was a freely flowing stream which was clean enough to swim in and contained healthy fish that Lola Goria turned into excellent meals. Photo courtesy of Roberto Tañada. From Memories - Lola Goria
Bahay Nakpil-Bautista prior to World War II: Behind the house was a freely flowing stream which was clean enough to swim in and contained healthy fish that Lola Goria turned into excellent meals. Photo courtesy of Roberto Tañada. From Memories – Lola Goria

Quiapo not only had the most beautiful street of Manila, it also housed the loveliest park in Manila, the Plaza del Carmen, and the most spacious public market, the Mercado dela Quinta.

Teatro Zorilla, from the GBR Museum
Teatro Zorilla, from the GBR Museum

Quiapo was also the home to Manila’s early theaters, the only surviving 19th century theater being the Teatro Zorilla, located at the corner of Calle San Pedro and Calle Iris.   Also known as Dulaang Zorilla sa Maynila, it was named after Jose Zorilla, Spanish poet and playright.

“The Teatro Zorilla…was built to serve as theatre or circus without any regard to its acoustic properties; hence only one-third of the audience could hear the dialogue.  There was a permanent Spanish Comedy Company…and occasionally a troupe of strolling players, a circus, a concert, or an Italian Opera Company came to Manila to entertain the public for a few weeks.”

- Via The Philippine Islands: A Political, Geographical, Ethnographical, Social … – John Foreman (F.R.G.S.) – Google Books.

Quiapo today is  a bustling mix of old and new, home to the Black Nazarene and also a large Muslim community in Manila, and is a place to see not just the historic homes (preserved or not), but also experience the food and shopping.

Best though, to have a guide…

Blogging A to Z Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Writing Prompts & Other Musings

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