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‘Anting-anting’ in Philippine history


“Anting-anting,” like those crude bronze objects sold outside Quiapo church, may have gone out of fashion, but people still believe in luck and charms that are supposed to attract good fortune and repel the bad. Take a look at the rear view mirror next time you are on public transport there, most likely you will see a rosary, Chinese coins and/or laminated holy pictures. Some jeeps and taxicabs have an entire mini-altar on the dashboard to insure a safe trip. Despite his being stricken off the official list of Catholic saints, Christopher or Cristobal in sticker or magnetic form still guard us on the road. It is surprising that the Virgin of Antipolo that protected galleons that sailed the Manila-Acapulco route, the same miraculous image given the title “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage,” is not used on the road as well. When Rizal travelled to Europe a lithograph of the Virgin of Antipolo was glued to his trunk to protect against loss or delay in his luggage.

Posted: February 26th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Bonifacio’s revolver


Posted on my Facebook Fan Page is a faded photograph showing the exhibits relating to Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan in the prewar National Library.

Posted: November 26th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Bitukang Manok: Fork in road to revolution


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra said. His advice was confusing; it gave no clue as to which road to take.

Posted: August 26th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »



When General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, he had only the vaguest idea of how to proceed to establish a self-governing nation. The act was mainly the initiative of the military chiefs of the revolution. Missing was the civilian component. It fell on Apolinario Mabini to work out what a people must do next after proclaiming their emancipation from colonial rule.

Posted: June 12th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Philippine elections split rather than unite


Textbook history is riddled with cardboard characters to hide the complexity of human nature that some teachers find difficult to explain. With the exception of the rivalry between the two Cavite factions of the Katipunan (Magdalo vs. Magdiwang), or the overblown but poorly explained conflict between Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio, or between Aguinaldo and Antonio Luna, all the characters in the story of the nation are selfless and only thought of the country’s interests. In order to make sense of the way we in the present deal with elections—local or national—we have to go back and confront the ghosts of the past.

Posted: May 21st, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

A question of heroes


Of the varied fare produced by this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, it was “El Presidente,” the film depicting the life of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, that I was most eager to watch. Films about a nation’s heroes are always tricky affairs. If they show nothing new about the persons or the circumstances in which they lived, they risk becoming utterly boring. If, on the other hand, they set out to project heroes in a new light, they are likely to face the question: What is fiction and what is fact?

Posted: December 29th, 2012 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Christmas Eve fiasco, 1914


Textbook history records the rivalry between two Cavite factions of the Katipunan. “Magdalo” was headed by Emilio Aguinaldo, who chose his nom de guerre Magdalo in honor of Mary Magdalene, the patron saint of Kawit.

Posted: December 20th, 2012 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

The flag of our fathers and mothers


One of the iconic images of the 20th century is undoubtedly the raising of the US flag on the peak of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima Island during the American offensive against Japan at the Battle of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.

Posted: June 13th, 2012 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Independence Day: 1898 and 2012


It is said that “We, the People” means something different to the generation that risked life and limb to win the revolution, and that that meaning is diluted with each passing generation.

Posted: June 7th, 2012 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

‘Desgracia, desgraciada’


March 22 was Emilio Aguinaldo’s 143rd birthday. In his memoirs, Aguinaldo narrated how he came into the world with a bang in 1869. His mother had started a long and difficult labor, so to speed things up his father lit a big firecracker under their bed, producing a loud explosion that jolted baby Emilio from his mother’s womb!

Posted: March 27th, 2012 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Murder in Cabanatuan


Cabanatuan today is a first-class urban city that for a time was designated as the capital of Nueva Ecija. Its present claim to fame, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, is that it is the “Tricycle Capital of the Philippines,” which probably puts it in the running as one of the noisiest and most polluted cities in the country.

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Blocked from being chief justice


There are two statues of seated figures in flowing robes on the wide steps of the Supreme Court building in Manila. I don’t know if they are silent sentinels keeping watch on the entrance to the Court. Perhaps they represent historical figures, former justices who were there to protect the institution.

Posted: December 15th, 2011 in Columnists,Columns,Editor's Pick,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »



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