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December 11 2012 3 11 /12 /December /2012 12:41

Boys of Sumisip

In Sumisip municipality, Basilan Island, with friends, years ago...

 

No Ay Verdad-No Truth

________________

As a writer from Mindanao, this I can say: no truth that these peace talks between Philippine government and the Muslim rebels bring peace and welfare to Mindanao, to my hometown Zamboanga City and our island neighbor of Basilan. Of these towns I can speak with some familiarity and maybe a bit of some authority.   

______________________

           The first peace talk was held in Zamboanga Normal School, now named WMSU (Western Mindanao State University), first week of April 1976. At the peace talk all the members of the panel were military people; no civil participatcon save for representatives from Malacañang, and there was, I remember,  a Sulu governor appointed by the late Dictator Marcos, but he  always appeared dressed in impeccable military uniform as a full colonel. No invitation as member of the panel, even out of courtesy, was extended to our mayor Joaquin Enriquez.

            But all Moro rebels were invited to come down from their villages and hills and mountains, emphasizing it wasn’t ‘to surrender,’ but  to ‘integrate themselves into the society.’

            The over-all boss of the 1976 peace talks was Admiral Romulo Espaldon, Southcome chief, known that day as the ‘little president.’

_____________________

The outcome of this peace talk was the Tripoli Agreement of 1976, which gave life to the ARMM, autonomous region for Muslims in Mindanao. In no time disgruntled Christians put a  tag on it as the ‘monotonous government.’ Muammar Gaddafi was the one who brokered it. Activists showed a picture, smuggled somewhere, of the First Lady Imelda Marcos and  Gaddafi, very chummy together, while in the background ‘the rich and the famous’ were amusing themselves on the Presidential Yacht in Manila Bay.

_______________________

However, this agreement of Moro autonomy  did not bring peace to Mindanao; thus our government again entered into many more peace talks and agreements with theMoro rebels, sprouting like mushrooms on rotten logs. But before this Hashim Salamat broke away from Nur Misuari, took  with him 57 rebel commanders of Misuari, called his group the ‘New Leadership.’

                                      ____________________

            Por fabor, listen to this: ten years later in 1987, there appeared an instrument confirming the ARMM; and again Salamat refused to accept it .... then, a decade and a half later, 2001,  the Moro rebels, under Nur Misuari’s nephew, Julhambri Misuari, entered Zamboanga City, took over the LTP building complex in Cabatangan barrio, only some 4kms. from the city hall of Zamboanga.

            Then the Moros set up their own check points, yes, close to the Marine’s at the Edwin Andrew’s airbase, and in October and November, fully armed MNLF rebels arrogantly roamed the city on jeeps mounted with machine guns, waving their rifles … the police and military looked the other way.

            On November 20, Southcom attacked the LTP complex, firing mortars at it, and Tora-Tora single-propeller airplanes,  relics of WWII, and helicopter gunships took off from Andrew airbase, and, as if they were in an aerial exhibition, put forth sobre salliente excellente acrobatic flying.

            Zamboang on-lookers cheered! Arriba!

            But surprise of all mother and grandmother surprises, the Tora-Tora airplanes did not fire nor drop their bombs at the Moro rebels, but around and around the perimeter of the LTP complex. No one was obviously hurt; not  a fly nor even a grasshopper.

            The on-lookers ceased cheering.

            So, wisely, the Moro rebels had stayed in and never went outside the building.

            In the evening, of that same day, the civil and military celebrated. The Moro rebels, they boasted, were too scared to come out and fight them.

________________

            Then early dawn, city hall officials and military top brass still gloating over the simulated land attack and aerial bombings ¾the Moros struck. It was November 21, 2001.

            In the half darkness, stealthily they crawled to Cabatangan subdivision and abducted some 100 residents, afterwards they crept down to barrio Sta. Maria, and at eight o’clock that morning, halted right before  the western gate of Edwin Andrew airbase, and, pointing their guns at the hostages, challenged our Marine sentries, shouting, ‘Alahu Akbar!’ Then, the Moro rebels proceeded north toward Pasonanca, one of the most populated barrios.

            They got there about mid-afternoon, said the residents there, and promptly occupied their homes, then looted and ‘took everything we have ¾ even our cooking utensils!’ Again, the police and military looked the other way.

            Some concerned citizens tried to negotiate, and for a while there was a stalemate.

________________

            Later that afternoon, the military sent five ‘six-by’ military trucks and an armored personnel carrier, an APC, to barrio Pasonanca. As before when Tora-Tora airplanes and helicopter gunships were seen in the sky over the LTP complex, the residents greatly cheered. Arriba!

            It was a short-lived cheer.

             Because to the barrio folk’s surprise, the MNLF rebels boarded the military trucks with their loot, and then promptly the police and military escorted the Moros to Panubigan sitio on the east coast of the city and from there, Julhambri Misuari and the rebels sailed to Sacol and returned to Jolo, undisturbed.

             It was Zamboanga’s day of shame.

________________

             One morning, years later, our city mayor Celso Lobregat was shock when he heard on the radio that City Hall and his grandfather’s antique house, where he grew up, had been given away by the Philippine government to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Our distraught city mayor, in truth and appearance, was himself a squatter at City Hall and in his own grandfather’s antique house. It was July, 2008.

             That July morning was the first time he learned of  its content. A copy of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which had been drawn in Malaysia earlier that month, was later that morning smuggled to Lobregat by a trusted friend from Manila’s central office.

            MOA’s presidential adviser on Peace Process was General Hermogenes Esperon, whom the mayor knew as he was the former Southcom chief with headquarters in Zamboanga City. When Mayor Lobregat asked Esperon why City Hall and his grandfather’s antique home now belonged to the MILF, was inside its territory, Esperon, without batting an eye, replied, ‘I didn’t know that your place is inside …. ’ It was a shameful, brazen lie.

            Said Conchita Carpio-Morales of the Supreme court, ‘In sum, the Presidental Adviser on the Peace Process [ referring to General Esperon] committed grave abuse of discretion…amounting to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof.’

_______________

             All during this time, like a plague, a virus ¾ the Abu Sayyaf and the Al Qaeda and the Jamia Islamia furiously swept Mindanao: an everyday thing were  murder, kidnappings, and bombings. Ransoms paid grudgingly, but everyone denied it.

             And, once again, new peace talks and and agreements and cease fires continued to proliferate Mindanao like a swarm of deadly flies.

             But none of these worked. Terrorism and bombings further swept throughtout the southern region of our country; of my hometown Zamboanga, of my neighbor island Basilan, where in my youth, I used to hunt wild boars and monkeys, but now they say you’ll turn out to be the hunted.  

_________________

            What is to be done? I looked back, and hopefully have found the answer, a solution tested  by blood and time.

            Whenever freedom, human dignity, and truth were threatened writers rose to the challenge, to the occasion, as critics and and reformers. No need to look at other parts of the globe, it is easy to see, quite easy with our own models.

            In our country the Philippines we have: 1) Jose Rizal’s novels the Noli and Fili; and before he was shot by the colonial Spaniards, he wrote ‘Ultimo Adios,’ hiding it in an oil lamp.; 2) Carlos Bulosan, a socialist, wrote against racial prejudice in America, and astonished his reader with his paradox in America Is in the Heart ; 3) an unfamiliar and poor province Mindoro, begetting a legend, a son who championed against his town’s bog of poverty and destitute; 4) and Frankie Sionil Jose, a knight in not too rustic mail or shining armor, took up the lance and sword to stigmatize feudalism, the lusty friars’ and guardia civil’s nefarious heǧemony. Read Sionil’s novel, Po-on, and grind your teeth hard.

             Thus, it is for the writers today, to take up their pens as lances and swords ¾use them as commentators and reformers ¾ we call on the poets, the essayists, playrights, short story writers, and the novelists to write and free our country, free her of this charade of peace talks, free her of this hypocrisy of ‘cease fires’; do this as your grandfather writers had done before you.  

________________

             Just recently, just  before I left for this conference today, an Abu Sayyaf was caught in my hometown Zamboanga and found in his small room were complete bits and pieces for an excellent bomb. It was November 26, 2012.

             Quickly, authorities brought him to Manila, and we hope he does not break jail. It is not uncommon, you see, that terrorists do a ‘Houdini’ and disappear from their cells in Manila.

_________________

Thank you so much for your time. Buenas tardes.                 

 

 

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February 1 2012 4 01 /02 /February /2012 11:42

 

The Black Hole of Zamboanga History

                           By Antonio Enriquez

 

           

 

My hometown Zamboanga is no longer the “city of flowers”; it is now the city of bombs, kidnappings, terrorism; it is no longer “un rinconcito de España” — a little nook or corner of Spain; rather it is as our great poet said, “nuestro perdido Eden,”  our lost Eden or Paradise. We  even no longer have the purity of our mother tongue Chabacano, spawned and rooted by the Spanish language three and a half centuries ago. It is now so corrupted by migrants from the Visayas and Luzon, impregnating Chabacano with their own curious tongue.

Take this song “Zamboanga Hermosa,” which your romantic hearts had likely fluttered and perhaps in their romantic mood sung before:

Las bellas dalagas, que sen hermosean, tu deliciosa ciudad.”

Presently, however, this line would be written and sang thus:

Maga bonita dalaga, que ta hace guapa contigo, el di tuyo ciudad.”

Por fabor, notice the alien words “maga,” the singularity of “dalaga,” and the missing beautiful to the ear Latin word “hermosean.”

Indeed how crude, how awkward  it is; how like a stranger’s speech, an alien tongue; painful and miserable to the ear. As recent as the 1940s, our old folks wouldn’t  recognize it, if heard, this line, as belonging to their mother tongue Chabacano, and see it as nothing but gibberish.

….

You may recall the sham peace agreement (MOA) between the Philippine Government and the MNLF in Malaysia, or was it in Indonesia, a couple of years back? If there’s anything which could be a model for a comic play, an opera bouffe, it is this shameful, anomalous peace agreement. No doubt sychronized and orchestrated by both the Philippine panel and the MNLF, it was secretly and quickly signed —  this peace agreement.

So, the next morning, the mayor of Zamboanga City, Celso Lobregat and the Zamboangueños were jolted and shaken into grief and disbelief. For they woke up under a grey, heavy-cast  sky with their century old City Hall, built in 1907, and even the Mayor’s antique, wooden house gone: they now belonged to the MNLF, given up to the Moro rebels, without the cautiousness of a virgin and the perseverance of an old maid, through the anomalous, impetuous peace agreement signed and orchestrated by our Philippine panelists.

Of course, the Christians and the Moros of Zamboanga, whose ancestors had lived for centuries in peace, before the coming of the Spaniards and the Americans, rose sonoriously in protest, and you know what came to past. The Philippine Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional; nobody has any right to give away a chunk of Philippine soil, it said, as if it were Graham crackers or lemon candies.

Now, this was some time after the sham peace agreement. It was before the end of that year, we were at an informal dinner given by Mayor Lobregat at Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant, Zamboanga City, where, any day, one can have the delicious curracha steeped in coconut milk and the best homemade bagoon.  I think Frankie Sionil Jose was with us, Ateneo de Zamboanga , if I remember right, had invited the novelist for a lecture. I asked the Mayor what was the Philippine peace panelists’ reply to his complain that Zamboanga City Hall and his own antique, wooden house were included in the MNLF jurisdiction and territory. One of the panelists … I can’t recall his name now, said: “I didn’t know, Mayor Logregat, that  your City Hall and your old, antique house were inside the jurisdiction and territory  of the MNLF ... that we signed.”

Either he was lying outrageously, this honorable member of our Philippine panel, or had failed miserably in his geography class.

.…

A couple of decades ago, before writing Samboangan: the Cult of War,  I became ambitious, I said to myself I’d write the great Zamboanga  novel, which I believe is the ambition of all Zamboangueño writers, or should be. Now, I realize that I should have chewed my words first, before swallowing it. Because horror of horrors, I was to find out that there is little or no data available, or enough sources, I couldn’t find a single book passionately devoted to the history of  Zamboanga; though there is even a history book of the tiny island of Camiguin, of the mountainous province of Bukidnon, or of a small town like Dapitan.

Many of the Zamboanga ancients who would have known through the more ancient ancients of our history, had long ago kicked the bucket, so to say. No one in their time unfortunately thought to interview them, nor in their time to interview their progenies, no one in their time thought then of recording the past, not just in songs and dances and verses — and fill the empty, huge black hole  of our Zamboanga history.

Here is a sample of a gap, a black hole in Zamboanga’s history: it was the war between the Zamboangueño rebels and the Spanish garrison at Fort Pillar from March to May, 1899. Nothing of the Zamboangueño revolt is mentioned and recorded in Philippine history by either Filipino or foreign historians and chroniclers, that it seemed there was no revolt at all in this part of the archipelago; nor was mentioned the surrender of the last Spanish governor general of the Philippines, Diego de los Rios, former governor of Cebu, to General Alvarez and the Zamboangueño rebels and patriots; nor the lowering of the Spanish flag from the bastion of  Fort Pillar; nor the grand banquet given by the last Philippine Spanish governor general to Alvarez and the Zamboanga War Commission before being expatriated to Spain.

If the gap was filled, it was done piece by piece with hypocrisy and imprudent error. Listen to this, and I quote: “… Dewey scorned the torpedos and swept away the Spanish Galleon in Manila Bay …” Had Admiral Montojo torpedos in his Spanish Armada, for that matter were there torpedos at that time, of what we understand are torpedos today, particularly in Manila Bay, on May 1, 1898?

This blatant gap and hypocritical historical declarations can be set right and at best rectified through literature. It could be righted by the writing of the historical novel, even through apocalyptic modern literature. Have you paused long enough to reminisce the work of Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider? Or of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop?

But a question maybe asked: Why not just look back, way back before, and write history as one normally does? Because literature as we know it always seeks the truth, not the facts; it fills and synchronizes the gaps in between through words and imagination; and uncovers the mysteries that clatter and smudge history. Striking the frail and faithful heart — not the mind. And armed with an imagination as quick and fertile and strong as a child’s, to fill up the black hole of Zamboanga history and discover the unseen, the invisible facts.

For, damas y caballeros, who would remember decades later the history  book he has read? the dates he has memorized? But cannot and will not forget Ernest Hemmingway’s Farewell to Arms, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere!

                                            End

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February 1 2012 4 01 /02 /February /2012 11:42

 

The Black Hole of Zamboanga History

                           By Antonio Enriquez

 

           

 

My hometown Zamboanga is no longer the “city of flowers”; it is now the city of bombs, kidnappings, terrorism; it is no longer “un rinconcito de España” — a little nook or corner of Spain; rather it is as our great poet said, “nuestro perdido Eden,”  our lost Eden or Paradise. We  even no longer have the purity of our mother tongue Chabacano, spawned and rooted by the Spanish language three and a half centuries ago. It is now so corrupted by migrants from the Visayas and Luzon, impregnating Chabacano with their own curious tongue.

Take this song “Zamboanga Hermosa,” which your romantic hearts had likely fluttered and perhaps in their romantic mood sung before:

Las bellas dalagas, que sen hermosean, tu deliciosa ciudad.”

Presently, however, this line would be written and sang thus:

Maga bonita dalaga, que ta hace guapa contigo, el di tuyo ciudad.”

Por fabor, notice the alien words “maga,” the singularity of “dalaga,” and the missing beautiful to the ear Latin word “hermosean.”

Indeed how crude, how awkward  it is; how like a stranger’s speech, an alien tongue; painful and miserable to the ear. As recent as the 1940s, our old folks wouldn’t  recognize it, if heard, this line, as belonging to their mother tongue Chabacano, and see it as nothing but gibberish.

….

You may recall the sham peace agreement (MOA) between the Philippine Government and the MNLF in Malaysia, or was it in Indonesia, a couple of years back? If there’s anything which could be a model for a comic play, an opera bouffe, it is this shameful, anomalous peace agreement. No doubt sychronized and orchestrated by both the Philippine panel and the MNLF, it was secretly and quickly signed —  this peace agreement.

So, the next morning, the mayor of Zamboanga City, Celso Lobregat and the Zamboangueños were jolted and shaken into grief and disbelief. For they woke up under a grey, heavy-cast  sky with their century old City Hall, built in 1907, and even the Mayor’s antique, wooden house gone: they now belonged to the MNLF, given up to the Moro rebels, without the cautiousness of a virgin and the perseverance of an old maid, through the anomalous, impetuous peace agreement signed and orchestrated by our Philippine panelists.

Of course, the Christians and the Moros of Zamboanga, whose ancestors had lived for centuries in peace, before the coming of the Spaniards and the Americans, rose sonoriously in protest, and you know what came to past. The Philippine Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional; nobody has any right to give away a chunk of Philippine soil, it said, as if it were Graham crackers or lemon candies.

Now, this was some time after the sham peace agreement. It was before the end of that year, we were at an informal dinner given by Mayor Lobregat at Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant, Zamboanga City, where, any day, one can have the delicious curracha steeped in coconut milk and the best homemade bagoon.  I think Frankie Sionil Jose was with us, Ateneo de Zamboanga , if I remember right, had invited the novelist for a lecture. I asked the Mayor what was the Philippine peace panelists’ reply to his complain that Zamboanga City Hall and his own antique, wooden house were included in the MNLF jurisdiction and territory. One of the panelists … I can’t recall his name now, said: “I didn’t know, Mayor Logregat, that  your City Hall and your old, antique house were inside the jurisdiction and territory  of the MNLF ... that we signed.”

Either he was lying outrageously, this honorable member of our Philippine panel, or had failed miserably in his geography class.

.…

A couple of decades ago, before writing Samboangan: the Cult of War,  I became ambitious, I said to myself I’d write the great Zamboanga  novel, which I believe is the ambition of all Zamboangueño writers, or should be. Now, I realize that I should have chewed my words first, before swallowing it. Because horror of horrors, I was to find out that there is little or no data available, or enough sources, I couldn’t find a single book passionately devoted to the history of  Zamboanga; though there is even a history book of the tiny island of Camiguin, of the mountainous province of Bukidnon, or of a small town like Dapitan.

Many of the Zamboanga ancients who would have known through the more ancient ancients of our history, had long ago kicked the bucket, so to say. No one in their time unfortunately thought to interview them, nor in their time to interview their progenies, no one in their time thought then of recording the past, not just in songs and dances and verses — and fill the empty, huge black hole  of our Zamboanga history.

Here is a sample of a gap, a black hole in Zamboanga’s history: it was the war between the Zamboangueño rebels and the Spanish garrison at Fort Pillar from March to May, 1899. Nothing of the Zamboangueño revolt is mentioned and recorded in Philippine history by either Filipino or foreign historians and chroniclers, that it seemed there was no revolt at all in this part of the archipelago; nor was mentioned the surrender of the last Spanish governor general of the Philippines, Diego de los Rios, former governor of Cebu, to General Alvarez and the Zamboangueño rebels and patriots; nor the lowering of the Spanish flag from the bastion of  Fort Pillar; nor the grand banquet given by the last Philippine Spanish governor general to Alvarez and the Zamboanga War Commission before being expatriated to Spain.

If the gap was filled, it was done piece by piece with hypocrisy and imprudent error. Listen to this, and I quote: “… Dewey scorned the torpedos and swept away the Spanish Galleon in Manila Bay …” Had Admiral Montojo torpedos in his Spanish Armada, for that matter were there torpedos at that time, of what we understand are torpedos today, particularly in Manila Bay, on May 1, 1898?

This blatant gap and hypocritical historical declarations can be set right and at best rectified through literature. It could be righted by the writing of the historical novel, even through apocalyptic modern literature. Have you paused long enough to reminisce the work of Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider? Or of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop?

But a question maybe asked: Why not just look back, way back before, and write history as one normally does? Because literature as we know it always seeks the truth, not the facts; it fills and synchronizes the gaps in between through words and imagination; and uncovers the mysteries that clatter and smudge history. Striking the frail and faithful heart — not the mind. And armed with an imagination as quick and fertile and strong as a child’s, to fill up the black hole of Zamboanga history and discover the unseen, the invisible facts.

For, damas y caballeros, who would remember decades later the history  book he has read? the dates he has memorized? But cannot and will not forget Ernest Hemmingway’s Farewell to Arms, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere!

                                            End

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Repost0
February 1 2012 4 01 /02 /February /2012 11:42

 

The Black Hole of Zamboanga History

                           By Antonio Enriquez

 

           

 

My hometown Zamboanga is no longer the “city of flowers”; it is now the city of bombs, kidnappings, terrorism; it is no longer “un rinconcito de España” — a little nook or corner of Spain; rather it is as our great poet said, “nuestro perdido Eden,”  our lost Eden or Paradise. We  even no longer have the purity of our mother tongue Chabacano, spawned and rooted by the Spanish language three and a half centuries ago. It is now so corrupted by migrants from the Visayas and Luzon, impregnating Chabacano with their own curious tongue.

Take this song “Zamboanga Hermosa,” which your romantic hearts had likely fluttered and perhaps in their romantic mood sung before:

Las bellas dalagas, que sen hermosean, tu deliciosa ciudad.”

Presently, however, this line would be written and sang thus:

Maga bonita dalaga, que ta hace guapa contigo, el di tuyo ciudad.”

Por fabor, notice the alien words “maga,” the singularity of “dalaga,” and the missing beautiful to the ear Latin word “hermosean.”

Indeed how crude, how awkward  it is; how like a stranger’s speech, an alien tongue; painful and miserable to the ear. As recent as the 1940s, our old folks wouldn’t  recognize it, if heard, this line, as belonging to their mother tongue Chabacano, and see it as nothing but gibberish.

….

You may recall the sham peace agreement (MOA) between the Philippine Government and the MNLF in Malaysia, or was it in Indonesia, a couple of years back? If there’s anything which could be a model for a comic play, an opera bouffe, it is this shameful, anomalous peace agreement. No doubt sychronized and orchestrated by both the Philippine panel and the MNLF, it was secretly and quickly signed —  this peace agreement.

So, the next morning, the mayor of Zamboanga City, Celso Lobregat and the Zamboangueños were jolted and shaken into grief and disbelief. For they woke up under a grey, heavy-cast  sky with their century old City Hall, built in 1907, and even the Mayor’s antique, wooden house gone: they now belonged to the MNLF, given up to the Moro rebels, without the cautiousness of a virgin and the perseverance of an old maid, through the anomalous, impetuous peace agreement signed and orchestrated by our Philippine panelists.

Of course, the Christians and the Moros of Zamboanga, whose ancestors had lived for centuries in peace, before the coming of the Spaniards and the Americans, rose sonoriously in protest, and you know what came to past. The Philippine Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional; nobody has any right to give away a chunk of Philippine soil, it said, as if it were Graham crackers or lemon candies.

Now, this was some time after the sham peace agreement. It was before the end of that year, we were at an informal dinner given by Mayor Lobregat at Alavar’s Seafood Restaurant, Zamboanga City, where, any day, one can have the delicious curracha steeped in coconut milk and the best homemade bagoon.  I think Frankie Sionil Jose was with us, Ateneo de Zamboanga , if I remember right, had invited the novelist for a lecture. I asked the Mayor what was the Philippine peace panelists’ reply to his complain that Zamboanga City Hall and his own antique, wooden house were included in the MNLF jurisdiction and territory. One of the panelists … I can’t recall his name now, said: “I didn’t know, Mayor Logregat, that  your City Hall and your old, antique house were inside the jurisdiction and territory  of the MNLF ... that we signed.”

Either he was lying outrageously, this honorable member of our Philippine panel, or had failed miserably in his geography class.

.…

A couple of decades ago, before writing Samboangan: the Cult of War,  I became ambitious, I said to myself I’d write the great Zamboanga  novel, which I believe is the ambition of all Zamboangueño writers, or should be. Now, I realize that I should have chewed my words first, before swallowing it. Because horror of horrors, I was to find out that there is little or no data available, or enough sources, I couldn’t find a single book passionately devoted to the history of  Zamboanga; though there is even a history book of the tiny island of Camiguin, of the mountainous province of Bukidnon, or of a small town like Dapitan.

Many of the Zamboanga ancients who would have known through the more ancient ancients of our history, had long ago kicked the bucket, so to say. No one in their time unfortunately thought to interview them, nor in their time to interview their progenies, no one in their time thought then of recording the past, not just in songs and dances and verses — and fill the empty, huge black hole  of our Zamboanga history.

Here is a sample of a gap, a black hole in Zamboanga’s history: it was the war between the Zamboangueño rebels and the Spanish garrison at Fort Pillar from March to May, 1899. Nothing of the Zamboangueño revolt is mentioned and recorded in Philippine history by either Filipino or foreign historians and chroniclers, that it seemed there was no revolt at all in this part of the archipelago; nor was mentioned the surrender of the last Spanish governor general of the Philippines, Diego de los Rios, former governor of Cebu, to General Alvarez and the Zamboangueño rebels and patriots; nor the lowering of the Spanish flag from the bastion of  Fort Pillar; nor the grand banquet given by the last Philippine Spanish governor general to Alvarez and the Zamboanga War Commission before being expatriated to Spain.

If the gap was filled, it was done piece by piece with hypocrisy and imprudent error. Listen to this, and I quote: “… Dewey scorned the torpedos and swept away the Spanish Galleon in Manila Bay …” Had Admiral Montojo torpedos in his Spanish Armada, for that matter were there torpedos at that time, of what we understand are torpedos today, particularly in Manila Bay, on May 1, 1898?

This blatant gap and hypocritical historical declarations can be set right and at best rectified through literature. It could be righted by the writing of the historical novel, even through apocalyptic modern literature. Have you paused long enough to reminisce the work of Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider? Or of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop?

But a question maybe asked: Why not just look back, way back before, and write history as one normally does? Because literature as we know it always seeks the truth, not the facts; it fills and synchronizes the gaps in between through words and imagination; and uncovers the mysteries that clatter and smudge history. Striking the frail and faithful heart — not the mind. And armed with an imagination as quick and fertile and strong as a child’s, to fill up the black hole of Zamboanga history and discover the unseen, the invisible facts.

For, damas y caballeros, who would remember decades later the history  book he has read? the dates he has memorized? But cannot and will not forget Ernest Hemmingway’s Farewell to Arms, or Jose Rizal’s Noli Mi Tangere!

                                            End

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  • : antoniofermin's name
  • : See Deep South through folktales and literature, see the clash between Christians and Moros, see its history through tradition and myths, see Zambanga's mestizos as they fought against their Spanish colonizers, see how the Zamboanguenos sieze the strongest Spanish fort in the Visayas and Mindanao, see the new Imperialist U.S.A. trample the Zamboanga revolutionarios by starving the people, see the horror and terror of the dictator Marcos's martial law, & see ethnic cleansing in the evil regime.
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