And Hermogenes Esperon is made a human Colt Revolver and named chief presidential peacemaker.
The Inquirer editorial looks at the appointment of Jesus Dureza, former head of the peace process, to the Press portfolio. The editorial says it can only result in Dureza’s reputation being diminished, and along the way takes a look at how Dureza’s predecessor shrank in public stature:
Bunye has appeared on television and been published in the papers countless times … But out of all that footage and film stock, one image will define him for all time: that time, three years ago next month, when he appeared before the cameras with two compact disks in hand, just as the “Hello, Garci” scandal was breaking. He told a rapt nation that he had evidence that the President’s alleged wiretapped conversation with election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano (the CD in one hand) were a fabrication, because the conversation was actually between the President and a certain political aide named “Gary” (the CD in the other hand).
This bold attempt to immediately contain a political crisis immediately backfired, because it turned out that the object of the wiretaps was not the President, after all, but Garcillano. In other words, and as the recordings and transcripts circulated or published online immediately made clear, President Arroyo’s supposed conversation with “Gary” could not have been part of the Garci tapes.
The flaw in the plan to cover up the crisis was that it was based on a faulty reading of the problem (Palace operatives thought it was the President’s phone which had been bugged). The faulty reading of the problem, however, proved that there was in fact a cover-up. A Palace official – the President’s spokesman, no less – had been caught with both hands inside the CD jar.
Much later, under questioning in Congress, Bunye alleged that the package of CDs had only come into his possession, sub rosa. He said he didn’t even know where the package came from. The brainless excuse, from an otherwise careful lawyer, led many to conclude that Bunye, at the very least, was part of a cover-up about a cover-up. If Bunye really did not know the provenance of the two CDs, why did he present them to the media? As his old and new friends from the banking industry might say, It doesn’t compute.
Fr. Joaquin Bernas offers up an interesting glimpse into the strict limits on the judiciary, and says the JELAC is basically unconstitutional:
Under our Constitution the judiciary as judiciary may not give advisory opinions whether to the President or to Congress. As judiciary, its language must have the force of law which must be obeyed. Advisory opinions do not command obedience. Giving advisory opinions can demean the judiciary.
It is true that individual justices sometimes give advisory opinions. But they do it on their own, and improperly. Neither they themselves nor the courts are bound by such opinion.
In the 1987 Constitution there is also a provision which says that the “Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions.”
(photo above taken at Mendiola last Saturday; “Suportahan ang Presidente. Ibagsak presyo ng koryente.”)
Amando Doronila says the government and the Lopezes would both be better off if they manage to pull off a compromise when the President and Manuel Lopez, big boss at Meralco, meet today:
The Bohol summit is the first time that the Arroyo administration is confronting the economic power of the Lopez family, which has during the past 50 years survived attempts to crush it by several post-war governments, notably those of President Diosdado Macapagal, Ms Arroyo’s father, in the 1960s and President Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s who confiscated Meralco and ABS-CBN with martial law powers. In those battles, the Lopezes fought with their media weapons, something they are now using to damage the present administration, with considerable success.
The current Arroyo-Lopez confrontation is no less fierce and no side is emerging unscathed. The summit in Bohol has far-reaching implications for the balance of power between the political sector’s interventionism in business and autonomy of private sector economic power centers. It is not a battle merely between Ms Arroyo and the Lopezes.
The meeting ought to be compared, then, to Napoleon and Czar Alexander of Russia’s Treaty of Tilsit, famously described as a meeting of two sovereigns on a raft. See Two hundred years after the ‘peace’ of Tilsit.
My column for today is An essential experience . Some reminiscing about a childhood visit to Santa Ana Church kicks the column off (some pictures over at Traveler on Foot). I’m uneasy with terms like “Kingdom of Sapa,” which is supposedly what the area we now know as Santa Ana was, because it may be a misleading description of the locality in pre-Spanish times.
Anyway, the column came about because last Saturday, I had the chance to visit Gold of Ancestors: Pre-colonial Treasures in the Philippines at the Ayala Museum. Any museum display involving gold artifacts is a sure crowd-pleaser (see Market Manila), and this display is no exception.
Until this exhibit was opened, the collection of the Central Bank of the Philippines was the focus of public awareness of prehispanic gold artifacts.
The sadly no-longer-updated blog, Pu-pu platter — a delectable selection of oriental appetizers, contains an extract from Ramon Villegas’ Ginto: History Wrought in Gold (see photos from the book, in Flickr):
Harrisson compared Borneo finds with gold artifacts in important Manila collections, particularly of Leandro and Cecilia Locsin’s (Harrisson 1968: 43). He concluded that the Limbang hoard shows close Philippine affinities, though the group is strongly “Javanese” as well. Second, small but significant “Hindu-Buddhist” influences are suggested, or more vaguely as Indonesian (“Indian”) influence rather than anything “Chinese.”
Also, “as in West Borneo, few gold pieces can be dated very early and the major goldsmithing appears to have occured after 1000 AD — and perhaps especially between 1200 and 1400 AD…as in Borneo so in Philippine pre-history, remarkably few fine things of gold seem to have been made later than about 1400 AD — perhaps because of a change in trade patterns and export requirements to the mainland after the start of the Ming dysnasty (or the equivalent), and/or the new attitudes evoked by Islam after 1400” (Harrisson 1968: 77)
Finally, he reiterated that Philippine gold artifacts in general tend to be more elaborate and better crafted than most from West Borneo.
Harrisson looked at the Dr Arturo de Santos collection (part of which was acquired by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) as well, and observed that “…the range of Philippine gold jewelry…includes many pieces of a complexity and finesse that is beyond anything attempted in Borneo” in so far as what had been found at that time (Harrisson 1968: 56).
Throughout Indonesia there was a relationship between gold artifacts and the ruling aristocracy, in the class-power centers which developed on the coastal plains around the middle of the 1st millenium AD (Harrisson 1968:44). Precious metals were worked ‘exclusively in those areas where the influence of Hinduism was strongest’: he includes Java, Bali, southern Celebes and the coastal districts of Borneo. These areas developed as centers with established hierarchies, which necessitated the conspicuous display of wealth (Harrisson 1968: 47).
There was a demand for gold, which the Philippines could have supplied. It would be reasonable to suggest that one of the main sources of Javanese and Bornean gold was the Philippines. That trade would have been important enough to have been direct, by-passing minor pass-on players say, in Sarawak or Sulawesi. Moreover, the early interest in gold from the Philippines would have been in the raw material rather than wrought artifacts. In turn, local interest would have been on goods not made of gold, which they had plenty of.
To paraphrase Harrisson, “This, in turn, liberated the (Filipinos) from conventions in gold-craft not ideally suited to local materials and outlook, thus producing the much livelier (forms) seen in Manila” (Harrisson 1968: 80). Indianization in Philippine gold ornaments, therefore, was a matter of selective adaptation, rather than wholesale adoption.
Incidentally, a comment by pupuplatter on May 3 in Market Manila is well worth reading, with its account of the conquistadores avidly excavating graves to loot them for gold:
Your ancestors in Bohol, Cebu, and elsewhere in the Visayas were also wearing beautiful pieces of gold jewelry that they crafted with their own hands. In 1565 Miguel Lopez de Legazpi issued a proclamation in Cebu requiring Spanish soldiers and sailors who dug up Cebuano graves in search of treasure to properly declare their finds to the authorities in order for the King of Spain to take his “royal fifths and rights,” his majesty’s “cut” in the loot.
Such a great “quantity of gold and other jewels” was found in the “many graves and burial-places of the native Indians” in Cebu and so invested were Spanish officials to collect what they deemed was their rightful share in the stolen goods that more drastic measures had to be taken.
The commenter then quotes a Jesuit writing about a hundred years after Legaspi:
“I do remember that once when I was solemnizing a marriage of a Bisayan principala, she was so weighed down with jewelry that it caused her to stoop - to me it was close to an arroba or so (1 arroba = 25 lbs.), which was a lot of weight for a girl of twelve. Then again, I also heard it said that her grandfather had a jar full of gold which alone weighed five or six arrobas. Even this much is little in comparison to what they actually had in ancient times.”
pupuplatter, in another comment on May 4, provides a reading list, too (and since all good things come in threes, pupuplatter also points to online resources for Philippine artifacts held in Spanish collections), and this caveat:
I doubt that the makers of what has been called the “Surigao Treasure” were Muslim. Islam came to the Philippine rather late, less than 200 years before the Spanish conquest. We should also avoid idealizing, even as we begin to appreciate, the pre-colonial past: some of the pre-colonial jewelry recovered in Mindanao and elsewhere may have been hastily buried to hide them from Cebuano, Tagalog, or Samal slave raiders and looters. And it is difficult to determine who the “original” inhabitants of Mindanao really are. For much of the Spanish colonial period, agents of the maritime state of Sulu conducted slave raids throughout much of the Philippines. (Bisayans in particular resented this since before Christian conversion they claimed that they were so mighty that they would have been the ones looting, pillaging, and slave raiding their way across the Philippine waters.) These slaves gathered pearls, bird’s nest, wax and other products that were then sold to the agents of the British East India Company who, in turn, sold those products to China. It’s a complicated, global history.
The danger of romanticizing things is something I pointed out in my column, too. All the bling was not freely given, I think it’s safe to assume. The exhibit actually goes to great lengths to use precise terms -e.g. “stratified society”- and to point out that these were items meant to convey wealth and status
Rizal’s “Nuestro perdido Eden” and Bonifacio’s nostalgia for the blissful, civilized, land of the Taga-ilogs may just have been places with societies not too different from the kind of society we criticize today. The rape and rapine of conquistadors took place with the help of native allies, leaders playing what may have been, to them, simply the latest round in the power games they were used to. Sociologists and anthropologists have been pointing out how local cultures have survived foreign influence; and we’ve all heard anecdotal evidence of this (a friend once told me, for example, that in the vicinity of Iloilo, babaylan could be found until the 1950s). I haven’t read anything on the subject but it seems circumcision could be a cultural holdover from the days of Islam.
There are two things I mention in my column all-too-briefly. The first is The Laguna Copper Plate Inscription (Ambeth Ocampo, in a column, recounted that he’d had dibs on buying it but rejected it; he also says there remain many unanswered questions concerning the artifact). Here’s the inscription, as reproduced by Hector Santos:
As Ocampo recounted in his column, the story behind the discovery of the copperplate, and the debate over its authenticity and what the inscription means, is quite interesting. See The Laguna Copperplate Inscription by Paul Morrow (which has a Filipino version) and Sulat sa Tansô´: The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, a Philippine Document from 900 A.D. by Hector Santos.
As for the inscription itself, Morrow puts forward the inscription transcribed into our Latin writing system, while Santos provides the first translation by Antoon Postma and then his own translation. Morrow was also asked by Santos to do another translation. Here is Morrow’s English approximation of his translation:
Long Live! Year of Siyaka 822, month of Waisaka, according to astronomy. The fourth day of the waning moon, Monday. On this occasion, Lady Angkatan, and her brother whose name is Buka, the children of the Honourable Namwaran, were awarded a document of complete pardon from the Commander in Chief of Tundun, represented by the Lord Minister of Pailah, Jayadewa.
By this order, through the scribe, the Honourable Namwaran has been forgiven of all and is released from his debts and arrears of 1 kati and 8 suwarna before the Honourable Lord Minister of Puliran, Ka Sumuran by the authority of the Lord Minister of Pailah.
Because of his faithful service as a subject of the Chief, the Honourable and widely renowned Lord Minister of Binwangan recognized all the living relatives of Namwaran who were claimed by the Chief of Dewata, represented by the Chief of Medang.
Yes, therefore the living descendants of the Honourable Namwaran are forgiven, indeed, of any and all debts of the Honourable Namwaran to the Chief of Dewata.
This, in any case, shall declare to whomever henceforth that on some future day should there be a man who claims that no release from the debt of the Honourable…
The Ayala Museum exhibit displays the text of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, and it made me chuckle, because of the way it bristled with honorable so-and-so and honorable such-and-such. Our obsession with titles certainly goes back a long, long way.
And the second item I mention is The Boxer Codex. A brief introduction to this document and what it contains was written by the late Petronilo Bn. Daroy. The codex is used as the launching pad for connecting the little we know about prehispanic life, with the items on display, in the video presentation of the Ayala Museum.
Take the image above, which is from Wikipedia, and is one of the Boxer Codex’s illustrations of Tagalog notable types.
And take a look at the biggest crowd-pleaser in the exhibit, below:
This is from the Surigao Treasure, and you can immediately make the connection between the 10th-12th Century object and the 16th Century illustration. Weight? About 4 kilos. It’s something the curators suggest might be an Upativa, a symbol of belonging to the Brahmin caste. A general sense of what an Upavita is, and its ritual significance, can be gleaned from reading Upavita and Rules of Chanting. In the extract from Villegas’ book at the beginning of this entry, and in the articles of Morrow and Santos, one grey area in our prehispanic past is how we define the colonial period, in the first place.
I recall attending a lecture by Prof. Luis Camara Dery (see Milestones in Moro historiography for a glimpse into some of his writing) and if memory serves me right, he said that Lapulapu was a Tausug.
It’s interesting to see how Lapulapu himself could be the subject for more interesting discoveries to come. See a lecture delivered in Biliran Province by Prof. Rolando O. Borrinaga, From Bagasumbul to Naval: A Historical Review:
These were the questions that led me to theorize that the great victory suggested by the folk mind was probably the native victory over the Spaniards in the Battle of Mactan in April 1521, that the person referred to as Bagasumbul was Lapulapu of history, and that the people who walked behind his steps were the legions of Lapulapu followers who were among the earliest settlers of Barangay Caraycaray.
And so, after the writing of the annotated history of Naval in collaboration with several local intellectuals in 1989-1990, which was published in Kinaadman journal in 1992 (Borrinaga, et.al., 1992), I proceeded to write another paper with the tentative hypothesis that Lapulapu was the person attributed to as Bagasumbul in our folklore. The paper was published in the same journal in 1995 (Borrinaga 1995).
A dozen years after its publication, I still collect evidence to strengthen the Mactan-Naval connection and to bolster the “Lapulapu was Bagasumbul” theory. At the least, this theory has not yet been totally debunked or refuted in the literature.
Returning to Dery, if Lapulapu wasn’t a Cebuano, this is a problem if you subscribe to the cartoon version of our past. Or take this article on The Muslim Rulers of Manila, which basically points out they were Brunei royals. You would then have to start defining what you mean by native and non-native, by colonialism, too: is it colonialism if involving alliance and conquest by a European power, and not if it means one ethnic group being ruled by members of a family from another ethnic group? What does it say of Cebuano assumptions concerning their identity, if Lapulapu was, indeed, Tausug? Or for Tagalogs if Rajah Matanda a member of an interrelated set of ruling families in Manila, Sulu, and Brunei and the grandson of Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei?
This is simple if you view it from the point of view of a pan-Brunei sort of identity, with Brunei as the center; but you’d be dodging the question of how they came to be leading families of those areas.
And this brings us to the Upavita above. In general in quest of a prehispanic identity we go back to a Muslim one; but that identity, in turn, was it imposed or adopted? If imposed, then the colonial period might have to include a possible Islamic conquest of areas that were formerly Hindu in terms of belief and culture (the story of the spread of Islam in Indonesia would be useful to look at, from this point of view, as Bali became the Hindu holdout in the otherwise succesful Islamic conversion and conquest of the rest of present-day Indonesia). If by conversion, and without force, how was conversion achieved? Was it a case of rulers ethnically different from their subjects, adopting a new faith and their subjects going along with the conversion? Or something in between?
Anyway, this goes to show how very many interesting questions need to be discussed both among the experts and with the public. See Jessica Zafra’s Newsweek article on the exhibit, Going for the Gold: A new permanent exhibit offers tantalizing hints to the Philippines’ precolonial history.
A sword hilt from the Surigao Treasure.
A belt. The collection features many other belts, and clasps, as well.
At times, the terse captions were frustrating. What on earth is a penannular, for example? The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archeology says,
In the shape of a ring, but with a break at one point. Often used to describe brooches and torcs as well as arrangements of posts, slots, and ditches forming the walls of round houses and enclosures.
These “chastity covers,” or “ancient pek-pek protection” as I overheard one young museum visitor excitedly put to to a companion, were conversation-starters but how they were used (were they to preserve the modesty of the pudenda of the dead, or meant to preserve the virginity of living daughters?)
A kind of costume for what may once have been a household image. The spread of Catholicism resulted in the destruction of household images, and while the image this gold costume was once meant to adorn no longer exists, it does indicate the general appearance of the image, and also, it’s not far removed from the lavish costumes for Catholic religious images.
There is also an extensive collection of porcelain and other kinds of wares on display, from China and places like Thailand, recovered from graves and shipwrecks, on display. I’m completely uncultured when it comes to appreciating pottery and when confronted with porcelain my eyes glaze over. All the porcelain brought in from overseas, though, points to what I described as the precolonial origins of today’s “Gucci Gang” types. The Datu’s wife may not have worn Prada, but she might have spat out betel-nut juice into a porcelain bowl from China.
Anyway, people who appreciate these things are quite delighted by the pottery objects on display.
My column closes with a mild criticism of the exhibit. This book:
among other things, discusses the problem of human remains when it comes to museums. Do you put them on display, and let people gawk at them, or having studied them, return them to the descendants of those remains? The question has led to a more respectful attitude towards human remains both during and after archeological excavations. I found little tangible signs that such an approach has had in impact here, at home. It’s something that needs to be pointed out in the case of exhibits such as the Ayala Museum’s, as one question that comes to mind is, what happened to the remains of those from whose graves these artifacts were taken? Not so much in terms of what can be done, decades after these excavations took place, but in case future finds come to light.
[Incidentally, once more, an appeal to the kindness of readers: if anyone can help be get a copy of Integrating History and Archaeology in the Study of Contact Period Philippine Chiefdoms, by Laura Lee Junker in the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, I’d be very grateful.] Thank you to pupuplatter for sending it to me!
See this 2005 entry on Pre-European Philippines and China over at ThirtySomething v 4.3.
In the blogosphere, Ellen Tordesillas points to a series of workshops citizens can attend, to understand how the national budget is formulated.
The journalist-versus-blogger debate, French style. See French Politics which is a great blog to follow for exposure to the richness of French political discourse.