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Treasure in Paete


Laguna offers a variety of attractions for tourists. Nature has blessed the province with lush mountains, hot springs, cold pools, and postcard-pretty landscapes. It offers folk crafts and distinct cuisine. It is the birthplace of heroes, and Jose Rizal is its most illustrious son.

Posted: March 5th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Remember Figueroa?


There was a time when all our coins, down to the near-worthless one-centavo coin, had the image of a historical figure engraved on them. One could then learn some Philippine history by looking at the face of the coins and about significant Philippine flora and fauna on the reverse.

Posted: February 28th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

‘Flora de Filipinas’


Known to Filipino bibliophiles as an oversized set of books, “Flora de Filipinas,” published in the 19th century, contains obsolete text and timeless illustrations of Philippine flowers as classified by the Augustinian botanist Manuel Blanco. It is rare to find a complete set in mint condition, which accounts for its hefty price tag. Three decades ago my father and I walked past the Amsterdam coffee houses that served marijuana, and pretended to be uninterested in the red-light district where women of all colors, shapes, sizes, and perversions were displayed in open shop windows. My father wanted to buy an old map of the Philippines, so we went to the shop of Nico Israel who had reprinted Carlos Quirino’s pioneering “Philippine Cartography.”

Posted: February 6th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Featured Headline,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Adventures with soy sauce


My first morning in any foreign country is usually spent trying out the local breakfast and going over the local newspaper. Before visiting any of the recommended tourist spots, I head to the local market or the grocery closest to my hotel to get a sense of prices and learn a few useful words for fruit, vegetables, bottled water, and chichiria to help me navigate restaurant menus later. One can learn a lot about a new place and people by sampling their food.

Posted: January 28th, 2014 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Michaelangelo’s grocery list


At a recent blockbuster exhibition on Michaelangelo in the Tokyo National Museum of Western Art, I avoided the crowds in front of major works and concentrated on two works dismissed as minor or unimportant: a marble relief depicting the Virgin and the Child Jesus, said to be Michaelangelo’s first work of sculpture; and a piece of paper with what appears to be Michaelangelo’s grocery list. Michaelangelo’s relief sculpture “Madonna of the Steps” reminded me of a copy presently in Manila where it is being passed off as—hold your breath—a work by National Artist Bencab!

Posted: December 11th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Archaeology and our territorial dispute with China


Textbook history often organizes the story of our nation into periods marked by our colonial experiences: the Spanish period 1565-1898, the American period 1898-1946, and the Japanese period 1941-1945.

Posted: December 6th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

St. Francis Xavier in Mindanao


In a map of the Philippines drawn up by the Jesuit Murillo Velarde and engraved by the Filipino Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay in 1744, my attention was riveted by St. Francis Xavier shown close to Mindanao, because it was once believed that he visited the Philippines in his missionary voyage through Asia. At Francis Xavier’s feet is a crab carrying a crucifix—a portrayal that retells one of his famous miracles.

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

History repeated


Finding sympathy after a tragedy is easy; finding the same generosity in good times is not.

Posted: November 14th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

A Tripoli Agreement inside story


Nur Misuari’s mayhem in Zamboanga City resulted in some commentary about his place in Philippine history, as well as the ups and downs of his own story. Longevity is often a liability in history especially for those who start out right and end badly like Emilio Aguinaldo. Another example is Juan Ponce Enrile who entered history as martial law administrator. He redeemed himself during the Edsa 1986 People Power revolution, but fell from favor and history during the administration of Corazon Aquino. Elected to the Senate on the catchy slogan “gusto ko happy ka!” Enrile’s last high point was presiding over the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Today he is charged with plunder. Life, according to a Filipino saying, is like a wheel—sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down. The problem is that when you are down, the wheel stops spinning.

Posted: October 1st, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Sunken treasure in Corregidor


Browsing through antique shops, malltiangge and swap meets in search of old books, I come across a lot of Philippine stamps and coins that served to start up many collectors who later branched out into: phone cards, paintings, action figures, movie memorabilia, colonial furniture, or jewelry.

Posted: September 17th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

Of whirlwinds and waterspouts


Whenever I watch TV weather reports that cite Pagasa or the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, I remember Fr. Federico Faura (1840-1897), founder of the Manila Observatory.

Posted: September 3rd, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »

A letter to Baby Quezon


August is almost over and I have not written anything on Buwan ng Wika, the Philippine Revolution, or the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. Nothing on Manuel L. Quezon, nor the unending debate fired by those who still challenge the choice of Tagalog as our national language. I missed a deadline overwhelmed by the banter at the Luneta march where gays suggested that the Priority Development Assistance Fund should be renamed the Benigno Aquino Development and Assistance Fund or “Badaf.”

Posted: August 29th, 2013 in Columnists,Columns,Featured Columns,Inquirer Opinion | Read More »



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