10 Kapampangans the nation forgot

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By Robby Tantingco

Peanut Gallery

Monday, January 27, 2014

HOW sad indeed that aside from Jose Abad Santos, most Filipinos cannot name another Kapampangan who deserves to be in the nation’s pantheon of heroes and patriots.

The reason for this ignorance is Manila’s control over national history—the same control it has on national language and, unfortunately, pretty much everything else. Nothing in this country ever gets national attention or national recognition unless Manila says so.

Because Manila is a Tagalog city dictating its Tagalog identity on the rest of the nation, we are made, for example, to read all 377 stanzas of Florante at Laura and not even one stanza from the equally great Gonzalo de Cordoba, the country’s longest literary work written by a Kapampangan.


We are also required to know the name of practically every Caviteño, Bulakenyo and Batangueño who ever fought in the Revolution, while all the equally heroic Kapampangans, Ilocanos, Cebuanos, etc. are completely ignored.

If there’s any justice in this country, these 10 Kapampangans must have their statues erected in parks all over the country and their names written in history books:

Pedro Abad Santos, the Socialist Party founder who inspired an entire generation of peasants and laborers to claim the land they tilled and the just wages they earned. He influenced his younger brother Jose to become a more pro-poor Justice Secretary and Chief Justice, and pressured his brother’s boss, President Manuel Quezon, to initiate land reform. Because Jose later died a glorious martyr’s death and Pedro only died from a bleeding ulcer, we have streets, schools and hospitals across the country named after Jose, while all that Pedro got is a small statue in his hometown.

Bambalito (a.k.a. Tarik Soliman), the Macabebe chieftain who rallied thousands of Macabebe warriors to Tondo to resist Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1571. Abandoned by Tagalog leaders Lacandula, Rajah Matanda and Rajah Soliman, he faced the Spanish conquistadores alone at the critical Battle of Bangkusay. His death sealed the fate of the country, and yet who remembers him except us Kapampangans? Worse, Manila credits the Tagalog Rajah Soliman as the hero of Bangkusay (he wasn’t even there).

Martin Sancho, the 10-year-old Kapampangan prodigy who was shipped to Spain in 1587 to recite the entire Catholic Catechism (in Latin!) before King Philip II. His performance convinced the King that the natives he thought were savages were actually as erudite as Europeans, and that the colony he was ready to quit was after all worth keeping. After creating a sensation in Madrid, Martin next went to Rome where he studied and eventually became the first Filipino Jesuit. Yet he only merited a tiny footnote in Jesuit annals and no mention at all in history books.

Remedios Gomez, the Huk soldier known as Kumander Liwayway who polished her nails and wore makeup before going to battle. Her feminine ways amused and sometimes irritated her comrades, but she proved that a woman didn’t have to act like a man to fight like a man. Her courage made Huk Supremo Luis Taruc declare that “the role of women was one of the proudest features of the Hukbalahap.” When President Manuel Roxas scolded her after her capture, she told him “You are wrong, Mr. President” to his face. Filipinos romanticize to death the stories of Nelia Sancho, Maita Gomez and other beauty queens-turned-dissidents, yet don’t even know or care that Kumander Liwayway is still alive and living in Metro-Manila.

Felipe Sonsong, the Macabebe soldier-turned-missionary whose reputation for holiness eclipsed that of mission leader Fr. Diego Sanvitores, SJ and mission companion Pedro Calungsod, and prompted a contemporary, Fr. Lorenzo Bustillo, SJ, to write a detailed account of Sonsong’s life—so detailed that historian Fr. John Schumacher, SJ called Sonsong the most documented Filipino before the time of Jose Rizal. When he died (in 1685), the top civilian and military officials of the Ladrones islands (Guam) carried his casket to the cemetery. Sanvitores has since been beatified and Calungsod canonized, but Sonsong’s own cause for beatification is still neither here nor there.

Zoilo Galang, who holds not one, not two, but three Philippine records: he wrote the country’s first English novel (in 1921), the country’s first book of English poems (in 1925) and the country’s first encyclopedia (in 1934). Galang wrote the novel A Child of Sorrow three years before Paz Marquez Benitez wrote the short story Dead Stars, and yet all textbooks in Philippine Literature in English begin with Dead Stars.

Luisa Gonzaga de Leon, the first Filipino woman to author a book (in 1844). This country has honored every woman who pioneered something, including first Filipina admitted to Harvard, first Filipina Ph.D., first Filipina scientist, etc. Gonzaga de Leon wrote a book at a time when most women didn’t even read books, so it’s puzzling why the nation shows no appreciation for this Kapampangan woman’s extraordinary accomplishment.

The Malaya Lolas of Mapaniqui, Candaba, all 100 of them, raped all night by Japanese soldiers when they were still young girls and forced to witness the massacre of their husbands and fathers—a story more horrific than anything to ever come out of World War II. And yet the nation has paid more attention to other comfort women with far less compelling stories to tell.

Pedro Danganan, the miracle worker from Sapangbato who became such a national celebrity in the 1930s that pilgrims from as far as Ilocos and Bicol flocked to his house by the thousands, sometimes hiding under the batalan to catch his bath water which they believed to be miraculous.

Estampitas bearing his image were sold outside churches, while newspapers carried news stories proclaiming that he was “gumagamot nang walang gamot at walang bayad.” It’s amazing how a country obsessed with faith healers and visionaries, from Felipe Salvador to Jun Labo to Judiel Nieva, would have absolutely no memory of this enigmatic Kapampangan.

Voluntarios de Macabebe, not the better-known Macabebe Scouts of the American Period, but their earlier version in the Spanish Period, who helped the Spaniards stretch their colonial rule to 300 years, for better or for worse. Even Gen. William Draper of the invading British Navy in 1762 was in awe of their ferocity and military skills. Their do-or-die defense of the fleeing Spaniards so angered Gen. Aguinaldo that he had the whole town burned to the ground. By the time the Americans took over, the Voluntarios were ready to morph into the Scouts to avenge their fate. Today the Scouts are the stuff of debates and movies, while the Voluntarios, whom the Spaniards fondly described as “the loyal companions of our disgraces and glories,” only had a street named after them—and it’s not even here in the Philippines.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 28, 2014.


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