Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blood ties in Indang

Yeyette grew up in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental. But Indang, Cavite is also a part of her personal history. Her dad, Jaime Perey, is from there. And she has spent many a happy childhood memory in that town, particularly during summer vacations. She has brought me there and Krystal many times in the past during the early years of our union.

Although not astunning aAbra de Ilog, Indang still has itshare of rural charm despite its proximity to Metro Manila and other urbanized areas. Rustic fields, clean rivers cutting through green-covered gorgesand small pocketof woodlands still abound the municipality and itsurroundings. The climate is cooler too since the place isituated at almost a thousand feet (Indang is just a few kilometers away from foggy Tagaytay).

Indang was named after the tree bearing the same name (Artocarpus cumingiana Trec.). Founded in 1655, it used to be a barrio of Silang for about 70 years. But the distance between Indang and the población of Silang caused great difficulty for the residents of the former to transact business and attend religiouservices at the town proper. They then petitioned to be separated from the town matrix, a request that was granted in the aforementioned year. Juan Dimabíling was its first gobernadorcillo (today's equivalent of a town mayor).

Indang could very well be the most archival-conscious municipality not only in Cavite but in the entire country awell. One major reason for that is because it has kept a complete list of all its town heads, from Dimabíling in 1655 all the way to Bienvenido Dimero in the present.

Behind Jefe and Juanito is the former municipal hall of Indang. Somebody here told me that this structure will soon become a museum which will showcase the history and tangible heritage of the municipality.

The ancestral homes here may not be as stunning compared to other towns, but they still add to the old-feel appeal of Indang.

While Indang figured prominently during the Tagálog rebellion of the late 1890s, the events which transpired there didn't figure the same in the classroom teaching of Filipino History. For one, many do not even know that Andrés Bonifacio's arrest was caused by his actions here. There was looting and even an arson attempt at the town church (I've read an account or two that he ordered the burning of the church, but I could not remember which book or document). The havoc he was creating was due, perhaps, to his bitter rivalry with Emilio Aguinaldo in leading the rebellion against the government.

Iglesia de San Gregorio Magno.

The most prominent native of Indang was Don Severino de las Alas (1851-1919), a lawyer who joined the Tagálog rebellion instigated by Bonifacio's Katipunan. In Filipino History, he is known as a member of the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan, hence an ally of Bonifacio's rival, Aguinaldo. He was appointed aSecretario del Interior during the Pedro Paterno cabinet in 1899. It was he who reported to Aguinaldo the untoward actions of Bonifacio and his men, particularly in Barrio Limbón. Thiwas one of the reasons that prompted Aguinaldo to have Bonifacio et al. arrested.

After Aguinaldo's capture by the U.S. troops in 1901, de las Alas, together with General Mariano Trías (whose hometown of San Francisco de Malabón is now named after him) and Ladisláo Diuà (one of the co-founders of the Katipunan) surrendered after realizing that all has been lost in the war of resistance against the U.S. invaders. Years later, after his release from prison, he tried to run for governor of Cavite in 1910 but lost to General Tomás Mascardo.

Speaking of Don Severino, Yeyette may not be the only one to have blood ties in Indang. Of course it is noticeable that Don Severino's last name is closer to mine. In fact —and this is according to the seniors in my clan, many of whom have already passed away—, our original last name was de las Alas, and that my great grandfather shortened it to Alas for reasons still unclear. I even remember seeing an old calling card of an uncle of mine; he was using de las Alas instead of just Alas. But I do remember that, as a child, whenever I inquire from them why our last name washortened, I never got a straight answer. "¡Basta Alas at de las Alas, parejo lang yun!was the usual curt reply that I got, as if they don't want to talk about it. That'why when I first encountered the name Severino de las Alas back in our college history class, I became more intrigued than ever. Parejo lang dao, eh.

Are we related to him?

During our brief stay in Unisan over a decade ago, when Krystal wastill a toddler, I asked my grandmother the name of her father-in-law as she and Auntie Nam (may they both rest in eternal peace) were preparing the ingredients for our lunch. It was a hot and lazy summer morning, so I thought of watching them do their culinary thingie (they were excellent cooks, if I may add). In response to my query, my abuela blurted out: "¡Severino!" My jaw dropped when I heard the name. So I asked her if he was the one who shortened our last name, and she said yes. I then told them of thiSeverino de las Alas in Filipino History, but they just shrugged. It seemed to me that they didn't even know who I was talking about. Bacá capañgalan lang dao. So I just stopped inquiring. At least I was left with a clue.

But they were correct. After all, Severino de las Alas (the historical figure, not my great grandfather) died in 1918, or seven years before my grandfather was even born (he wasurvived by hiwife Agripina Jeciel and their children Teófilo and Guadalupe). Or could it be that Don Severino fathered a bastard and named the child after himself but changed/shortened the child's last name to appease the real family?

started toying around with these questionwhen my great grandfather's name popped up again in a chit-chat during the final wake of my dear Auntie Nam a little over two years ago. My grandfather's only surviving sister, Lola Aida Alas de Jusoy, was alsin attendance. And so I engaged her in a casual interview about the Alas - de las Alas connection, but she said she only knew a little about the real score. Nevertheless, she did share what she fondly remembers about her Tatay Binoy (their nickname for their father): the patriarch knew many local languages, most especially Spanish. I also learned from another relative that Tatay Binoy was one of the first people in Unisan to use dynamite for fishing (but thiwas a time when dynamite fishing was not yet generally considered an environmental hazard). Lola Aida's theory about the change in our last name was that somewhere down the line, there existed a family feud, probably a dispute in inheritance (a common problem among old-school Filipinos) or something like that. But really, she was not sure. However, her theory may hold water because I've heard of a similar story before. According to a former officemate of mine whose last name is Magallona, a faction of their clan slightly changed their last name by removing one letter "L" after an inheritance dispute. From that feud thus sprang the nofamous Magalona surname (Enrique, Pancho, FrancisM).

Be it known that all this is just conjecture. But who knows?...

Krystal posing beside the monument and historical marker dedicated to Indang's most famouson, Severino de las Alas.

You can find this eye-catching stall at the town plaza. The home-made "calamay" (a local delicacy made from coconut milk, brown sugar, and ground glutinous rice) is cheap but exquisite!


Last March 22 (a Sunday), the Rojales clan, of which my wife is a part of, had a reunion. The last time they had one was four years ago. In our family, only me and Yeyette attended it. This time, we brought the whole Alas caboodle. Krystal had been to Indang many times when she was still a baby, so this was like a homecoming for her although she could barely remember those visits. As for the rest (Mómay, Jefe, Juanito, and Clarita), it was just their first time.

The event was made more special because the most senior member of the clan, Lolo Cenón Rojales, was on vacation. Born on 12 April 1925, he is the only surviving sibling of my father-in-law's mother, Lola Natalia Rojales de Perey. Lolo Cen, Lola Talia, and three more siblings were the children of Don Dionisio Rojales and Doña Epifanía Feranil. Lola Talia was married to Lolo Benvenuto Perey, the son of Don Lope Perey and Doña Catalina Ersando. Lolo Cen is a retired engineer who has been staying in the U.S. since the late 1970s.

We were not supposed to attend the reunion because we're on a very tight budget. But Daddy Jimmy, aYeyette's dad is known to family members, insisted that his uncle had wanted to meet Yeyette. This is because, according to many relatives, my wife bears a striking resemblance to her Lola Talia. Yeyette never met her Lola Talia who passed away before she was even born. Nor hashe met her Lola Talia's brother, Lolo Cen. Besides, Lolo Cen was only on a short visit and will have to fly back to the U.S. soon. So we obliged (we also took it as an opportunity to explore a little of the población before and after the event).

The Rojales Clan reunion was held at this postwar "bahay na bató" owned by an auntie of Yeyette.

Assorted Filipino cuisine such as paella, embutido, menudo, etc. filled our plates and satisfied our palates (photos courtesy of Yeyette's cousin Frances Jill Alcántara).

Daddy Jimmy (right) introducing Yeyette and our daughters to his 89-year-old "balicbayan" uncle.

Four generations of Rojales. Lolo Cen (right) is joined by his nephew, my father-in-law Jimmy Perey (wearing cap) and La Familia Viajera (photo courtesy of Frances Jill Alcántara).

Lolo Cen (seventh from left) with his grandnephews and grandnieces. Yeyette is at second from left (photo courtesy of Frances Jill Alcántara standing at right).

Three generations: Cenón Rojales y Feranil (middle) is the uncle of Jaime Perey y Rojales (left), the father of my wife Jennifer "Yeyette" Perey de Alas (right).

Click here to see more photos of our Indang visit!

The thing we like about family reunions is that we are able to reconnect to family members whom we have not seen for a very long time (such as Tita Lydia, Daddy Jimmy'sister) awell as meeting those whom we have not yet met (such as Lolo Cen). Time and distance may have separated family members, but the filial bond somehow remains. After all, blood is thicker than water.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Remembering the Battle for Manila

This year we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle For Manila. Today, actually, is the culmination of the month-long commemoration.

The official name should be Battle for Manila, not Battle of Manila. The image and text come from Malacañang Palace. So there.

While this, of course, does not call for any celebration, it is only fitting that we commemorate what was one of the bloodiest battles in World War II. It is often said that Manila wasn't able to recover from that war, and I have to agree. So many mayors have come and gone, yet all of them couldn't come close to putting back the old glory that was the Perla del Mar de Oriente. Even Malacañang Palace which sits on the site of the battle ground seems or has been rendered inutile to all this. I also dare say that Manila was more devastated than Warsaw, Poland because only a handful of buildings were left standing (including our country's first church and the Rizal monument in Bagumbayan), and thousands upon thousands of lives lost.

"Memorare - Manila 1945", inaugurated on 18 February,1995, commemorates the lives lost during the Battle for Manila (February 3 - March 3, 1945). It was sculpted by Pedro de Guzmán with a dedicatory inscription written by Nick Joaquín, National Artist for Literature. This monument is located at the "Plazuela de Santa Isabel" at the corner of Calle Real del Palacio and Calle Simón de Anda in Intramuros, Manila (photo taken during our family's Intramuros visit last 23 October 2013).

We have seen efforts of many cultural and heritage activists, travel bloggers, and tourism advocates in putting Manila back on the tourism map, but the task has been daunting as evidenced by many heritage crimes we've been hearing in the news lately. But still, we should not lose hope. While there is life, there is hope.

Left: Jefe sitting beside the small dedicatory monument at the center of the "Sala de Profundis" (now known as the "Cripta") inside the San Agustín Church and Museum. This monument is dedicated to the memory of the 141 prisoners of war who were mercilessly executed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the last few days of the Battle for Manila. Right: a list of friars who were among those executed (photo taken last January 11).

Manila was destroyed, leveled to the ground, pummeled and bloodied beyond recognition. But it still survived. Even in the midst of all the dirt and garbage and shanties we see in every dank alley and main road and heritage site, Manila is still there, merely waiting for people like us to lift her off her feet. Manila is only down  but not dead. Let us continue supporting Manila by visiting her together with our families. Let us continue patronizing her and enjoy what little beauty is left in her. Manila needs to be cheered up. Let us not forsake her. Manila is still worth saving!

In front of the Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica, considered as our country's "Mother Church" (photo taken last January 16 right after the Papal Mass).

Before this day ends, let us all utter a short prayer to all the innocent lives, most especially to the families, lost during the Battle for Manila. May they all rest in peace. And may this senseless mayhem no longer happen in any part of the world.