Archive for June, 2010

A Contrapuntal Reading of History

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 by Rica Cristina Baldomar

In Post-colonial studies, a concept called contrapuntal reading exists. As defined by Eduard Said in his book Orientalism, contrapuntal reading “involves a simultaneous awareness, both of the metropolitan history that is narrated and of those other histories (emphasis mine) against which (and together with which) the dominant discourse acts”. That is to say that while we may have a history which is considered the canon for teaching school children in the elementary and secondary level, we as of the academe must be aware that other versions of the canon history exists. And this trend of the canon/metropolitan history versus the other existing versions of history is a polar opposition most prevalent in post-colonial countries like the Philippines, who was placed under Spanish occupation for more than three hundred years and up till today is still feeling influences of the once occupying culture.

            A sad thing which we must realize about our history is that most of it has been written by the powers which have occupied us. They have distorted and manipulated history to serve them and the most ideal examples of these are the histories written by the frailes wherein they were able to make it seem that before the coming of the Spaniards, the Filipinos did not have any form of culture and hence, history for us only began with the Spanish occupation.

             Funny thing is, even before the term was coined by Eduard Said, the Spaniards who took over our islands were already practicing the concept of Orientalism. Orientalism is ‘relations between discursive formations and discursive domains (institutions, political events, economic practices and processes) and with intersection of knowledge and power’ (Childs & Williams, Said: Knowledge and Power, 1997, p. 98). The staples of oriental knowledge were cruelty, decadence, sensuality, laziness, mendacity, irrationality, violence and disorder. ‘Orientals were rarely seen or looked at: they were seen through, analyzed not as citizens or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined, or – as the colonial powers openly coveted their territory – taken over’ (Childs & Williams, Said: Knowledge and Power, 1997, p. 100).

            And because of the fact that the majority of our history was not even written by those we would consider our own, we have to read between the lines of the texts offered to us by the powers who had once occupied us. This is because the knowledge of our past is not our knowledge but a knowledge which exist because those in power say that such knowledge must exist. As Foucault’s model of power/knowledge goes: ‘one does not occur without the other (emphasis mine); knowledge gives rise to power but it is also produced by the operations of power’.

            Most of the time though, reading between the lines is not enough and because of this, modern (or/and post-modern and/or neo) historians have gone through the route of trying to reconstruct the past by the use of representation. This technique also spills over to literature – as something most prevalent in post-colonial literature – as seen by the proliferation of deconstructed fiction. Unfortunately, the problem with representation is that ‘the way in which discourses produce specific representations of the world’ and that ‘the tendency of any discourse is to elicit forms of knowledge which conform to established paradigms’ (Childs & Williams, Said: Knowledge and Power, 1997, p. 104).



Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 10, 2010 by Rica Cristina Baldomar

The tip flares, smoke rises.

The trip begins, to reach cloud 9.

The taste of caramel, the scent of chocolate I start to float, I feel so high.

The flare dies out, paper reduced to ashes.

I’m back on solid ground, with the aftertaste of caramel.

The Creole in the Rizal Hero

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by Rica Cristina Baldomar

The Creole in the Rizal Hero

(A reading of Nick Joaquin’s “Why was the Rizal Hero a Creole?”)

 The work by Nick Joaquin, Why was the Rizal Hero a Creole? discusses the main protagonist/antagonist of the Rizal novels: Juan Crisostomo Ibarra a.k.a Simoun the merchant. Nick Joaquin’s premise for his discussion centers on Ibarra’s lineage and his metamorphosis to Simoun.

 Joaquin first makes mention of Maria Clara and questions Rizal’s choice of heroine/damsel in distress. Maria Clara, is the bastard child of Padre Damaso but is raised as Capitan Tiago’s own daughter (the poor man was made to treat the girl as his own daughter, knowing that she was the product of his wife being raped by the lecherous prayle). She becomes the love interest of Ibarra yet there is no consummation of love between the two: Maria Clara is also pursued by another man, Linares; Tiago is reluctant to give over his daughter to Ibarra because Damaso is clearly against the match; Ibarra becomes entrenched in the whole revolution drama and is hunted; when everyone is made to think that Ibarra is dead, she enters the convent; when Ibarra re-emerges as Simoun and tries to spring her out of the convent it is too late, she has already committed suicide due to the strain of Padre Salvi’s lecherous advances. The way Maria Clara was conceptualized by Rizal, made his novels irreverent in his choice of a weak-willed, helpless bastard who commits suicide because she cannot handle the pressure imposed on her. The 1930s tried to gloss over Maria Clara by saying that she was not really a heroine but an object of satire: unfortunately this is negated by the fact that Maria Clara, in no way, resembles a satire (she’s too tragic a figure to be satirized). The thing here is, that while Rizal might have been enamored by her, most of his readers are not. What the iconoclast of today simply do is to reject Maria Clara and all the obscure notions of her as being the symbol of Mother Country.

Maria Clara though, is just an introduction to Joaquin’s discussion – a segue of sorts. As was stated at the beginning of this paper, Joaquin’s discussion centered on Ibarra/Simoun and the idea of the Creole as the main character of the novels. For Joaquin, Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, “offends the racial pride” for he is not an Indio Filipino but rather a Spanish Filipino. Ibarra belonged to the Creole class which used the name Filipino in those days.

The Philippine Creole, according to Joaquin, was not Creole “in the pure sense of the term”. For one thing, the Philippine Creole had more native than Spanish blood, because the Spanish “didn’t come in such numbers as to establish a large community that could intermarry within itself and keep the blood pure”. For another, “even Spaniards who did establish families could keep them Creole for, at the most three generations”. For the Creoles, purity of blood was not really an issue until around the 19th century when the Peninsulares started showing up. Before the Peninsulares started to flock the country the measure of being Filipino (Creole) “was not so much the amount of Spanish blood in their vein as by their culture, position and wealth”. Joaquin goes further to illustrate the idea with an example: “So, a friar’s bastard by a peasant girl might look completely Spanish but would have no status as a Creole, while a man like Ibarra, already two mixed marriages away from a Spanish grandfather, would still be a Creole because a landowner and gentleman”(sic).

As Joaquin would have it, the thing about great writers is that s/he is always writing about her/his times, even when s/he seems to be writing about something else. With this idea in mind, Joaquin established, early on in his discussion that Rizal was not being prophetic and discussing the Revolution of 1896, rather, he was discussing the Revolution of 1872 and looking back on the things that happened then. Rizal, according to Joaquin, was “chronicling the Creole revolution in the Philippines”.

Before the 19th century, “the Creoles were Filipino in the sense that their lives were entirely devoted to the service of the country”. The Creoles’ achievements lies in their keeping the Philippines intact throughout the 200 years when the islands were under threat of invasion from the Chinese, the Japanese, the British and the Dutch. In a sense, Spain acquitted itself from the Philippines because it did its duty as a mother country by protecting us from invasion as compared to the Americans, when less than 50 years after conquering us, we fell to the Japanese.

Everything changed when the Peninsulares began to flood the country. Cheaper, quicker voyage brought the Peninsulares in droves and they usurped the Creoles from the Army, Church and Government. The Creoles were left hanging somewhere between the Peninsulares and Indios and resentment towards the Peninsulares mounted. So begins the Creole Revolution which Rizal was animating in his novels.

During the Creole Revolution, four figures stood out prominently as icons of the school thoughts which circulated during the time. These were Pelaez and Burgos and del Pilar and Tavera. Pelaez and Burgos were eventualists who believed that with sufficient propaganda, reform could be won eventually. The two also thought that the Peninsulares could be expelled without the need for violence. Sadly, eventualism died with Burgos. Tavera and del Pilar on the other hand were filibusteros. The two were affiliated with the Masonic Order and were subversive.

According to Joaquin, the Rizal novels present the two phases of the Creole revolution. The Noli Me Tangere is still in the epoch of Pelaez and Burgos, the eventualists. “Ibarra, who believe that education and propaganda will eventually create a climate of reform, follow the fate of Burgos even to the point of being, like Burgos, implicated in the uprising he knows nothing about”. Ibarra’s “family traces the evolution from the Spaniard to Creole to Filipino”. His line begins with Don Pedro, a Spaniard who comes to San Diego and buys land. He then disappears and his body is found hanging on a Balete tree in his own property. Next is Don Pedro’s son, Don Saturnino who comes to live on the property his father bought. He turns San Diego “from a ‘miserable heap of huts’ into a thriving town”. Then along comes Don Rafel, Ibarra’s father. Don Rafael outrages the Peninsulares “though of Spanish blood, he wears the native camisa”. He defends a native child who was being beaten up by a Peninsular, which landed him in jail where he stays until his demise.

Don Pedro and Don Saturnino are examples of the Creoles, who, after about 200 years of fighting, turn “from arms to plow, from battlefield to farm and shop”. Father and son have the gloom of the frustrated knight who has not been given the chance to play at being hero but have been instead relegated to lesser tasks. Don Pedro goes into business and then commits suicide. Don Saturnino on the other hand turns into a frontiersman, utilizing soldier like qualities, to develop a farm at the edge of the jungle. According to Joaquin, in this instance, “Rizal sees the latter-day Creole as engaged in another conquest, this time of the soil” and “ as long as the Creole was merely defending the land as empire (sic), the land was his but he was not the land’s. But “when the Creole began to work the land himself, he became possessed by what, formerly he had merely possessed”. This is exemplified the third generation Ibarra, Don Rafael who became a part of the land and lost the last vestige of his being Spanish. 

Here, it can also be seen that an attempt is made to ally the Creoles with the Indios. As Joaquin would have it, “Rizal was making an ironic comment on the alliance between the Creole and the Indios: … he makes Elias die to save Ibarra the Creole and it’s Ibarra, not Elias who becomes the revolutionary”.  The funny thing here is that Ibarra never wanted to be a revolutionary: all he wanted was to educate and empower the masses. Unfortunately, the innovations that Ibarra tried to present did not endear him to Peninsulares. It did the opposite. Resentment against him and other Creoles amassed and at the end things turned violent and Ibarra was made to cast off all his innocence and dreams and become an entirely different person. “In the accursed woods where his Spanish ancestor hanged himself, the embittered Ibarra ceases to be a naive Edmund Dantes and becomes a malevolent Montecristo”.

Ibarra, losing everything became Simoun as Dumas’ Edmund Dante became Montecristo. But unlike Montecristo who finds a certain pleasure in exacting revenge, Simoun is unhappy in his quest for retribution. Simoun is “a man who believes salvation can come only from total corruption”. Simoun adhered to the idea that to create one must destroy, kind of like the concept of the Hindu Goddess Kali, the destroyer. As Simoun puts it: “I have inflamed greed… Injustices and abuses have multiplied. I have fomented crimes, and acts of cruelty, so that people may become inured to the idea of death. I have maintained terror so that, fleeing from it, they may seize any solution. I have paralyzed commerce so that the country, impoverished and reduced to misery, may have nothing more to fear. I have spurred ambition, to ruin the treasury; and not content with all this, to arouse a popular uprising, I have hurt the nation in its rawest nerve, by making the vulture itself insult the very carcass that feeds it!”

In Simoun, the reader is made to see that the Creoles also wanted independence and not just liberty. Simoun, like Tavera wanted to destroy all vestiges of what is Spanish in our nation to create a new entity. As Simoun would say: “to make the youth resist these insane cravings for hispanizaion, for assimilation, for equality of rights. Instead of aspiring to be a province, aspire to be a nation”. With Simoun, being the binary opposite of Ibarra, Rizal, as Joaquin saw it to be, able to make a sharp contrast between the two phases of the Creole Revolution.

Those who think of the novels as prophecies think it ironic that while Simoun was all for the revolution, Rizal was vehemently against it. To those, however, who are aware that the novel is a retelling of a revolution already past, the reader sees that Rizal is warning against committing the same mistakes Simoun and his compatriots made: the revolution was just a half-hearted attempt and its potential was not fully realized. Because their hearts was not wholly into it, the revolution failed. Dying, Simon flees and seeks sanctuary with Padre Florentino. Before dying, he makes a confession and offers up his treasures to the priest to use as he sees fit.

As Joaquin would see it, “Rizal seems to annul what he has been saying so passionately, during the novel, through Simoun.  What has sounded like a savage sneering at reform becomes a celebreation of reforms, of spiritual self-renewal. Salvation cannot come from corruption; garbage only produces toadstools”. For Joaquin, Rizal would have the Filipino people “suffer and toil”.

Joaquin sees the Noli Me Tangere as mocking the reformist for being naïve and making the reader see that collaboration will get the nation nowhere. By rights then El Filibusterismo should have been about a revolution that succeeded, but this is not the case. Sadly, the Creole Revolution has failed.

It is interesting that Joaquin has used Alexander Dumas’ Count of Montecristo as a basis of comparison with the two Rizal models. It is interesting because Dumas was Rizal’s favorite writer. The comparative analysis between Edmond Dantes and Crisostomo Ibarra and Count Montecristo and Simoun is quite an insight.

There are some points in the discussion of Nick Joaquin wherein we would like to digress. For Joaquin, the revolution of Simoun failed because it was doomed to failure from the beginning: how can something which was created from hatred succeed? As we would like to see it from this perspective: Simoun attempted to use the teachings of Machiavelli wherein the prince must either completely destroy or not destroy at all. Simoun’s plan had merits but what they lacked was will to have it carried through. Those who were part of the revolution were not fully ruthless and this was their downfall: at the very last moment they decided they had hearts and could not truly destroy those who would stand in their way. Hence, in their moment of weakness they were taken off guard and failed. Simoun might have succeeded if he had not been distracted by the death of Maria Clara. Unfortunately, he was.

It could be said that the novels might have talked of a past failed rebellion. But they could also be prophetic warnings: if you do not have the courage to destroy your humanity and become ruthless in your annihilation of those who stand against you; if you cannot not love; if you cannot truly hate and kill to create love and life you are most obviously doomed to failure.

Filipino Nationalism in the Face of Today’s Glabalization and a little bit on Gloria

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 8, 2010 by Rica Cristina Baldomar

They finished canvassing today and have the declared the new president. Gloria is now out the window and Noynoy in the room. There will be changes to the people governing this country and the alliances which exists will be broken and reforged. People *coughNoynoycough* are talking about how they plan to eradicate all the rottenness of Gloria’s regime and to begin anew. Nationalism, it would seem to many, is on the rise now that Gloria is gone. 

While many believe our ex-president to have brought nothing but heartaches and headaches to this country, I beg to differ. Sure, when you come down to it, not many are a fan of Gloria but that doesn’t meant that she was fascist dictator like Hitler or Stalin or Marcos. Heck, even these guys had a good side and did their countries a favor by becoming who they were. That is of course, before they turned into the power-hungry, freedom hating monsters that the world knows them today: Hitler created a unified Germany and raised it from the ashes of World War I; Stalin stabilized Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution and is a pioneering figure in Communism and; Marcos improved education and revamped the government structure to make it more efficient.

As for Gloria, you might ask, what has she done for us? Is she something we can be proud of or should the people think of her as blight in our history? 

In my fourth year in college, I took this class called Postcolonial Studies. From that class I was able to thoroughly understand a concept I learned from my Literary Criticism class: the idea of deconstructing.  In deconstructing, you go beyond the text to look for what it hides, what it implies. Ever since Lit 121 I have always tried to look beyond what is offered to me, to read the text from a different perspective. After Lit 160, I have come to see that beyond reading the text we also have to look at how we read the text and its implications on our positioning and orientation and where our reading of the text comes from. And so let’s discuss nationalism in this age of globalization and Gloria.

The idea of what is considered nationalistic must be deconstructed. To begin with, how do we define nationalism? For me, I would define it as being for the country. Now what can I mean by saying that nationalism is by being for the country? To elaborate on it, I could tell you that this would mean that your actions would come to define your nationalism. Being nationalistic is not about wearing the Barong or about speaking Filipino (by the way, what exactly do we mean by Filipino? I remember that in high school, I would be fined for speaking in Hiligaynon but when you think about it, isn’t Hiligaynon a Filipino language?). Being Filipino is thinking about what we can do to help the country. When I speak about nationalism, I’m not about to give you some crap about buying Pinoy. And anyone who says working for call centers isn’t nationalistic, well, screw you! For me, to be nationalistic is to be the best of who I am in order to serve the country. Besides, it’s either call centers or unemployment and frankly I would rather this country becomes a hive for outsourcing than us becoming a nation of degenerate bums. The so-called “nationalists” might have lambasted GMA for selling out to the foreigners, but think about it this way: in the ranking for influence in world politics, the Philippines is somewhere in the 30s. There are about 200 countries today and being in the upper 25% of the strata isn’t so bad. We rank this high because our president is willing to kiss foreign ass. How much more nationalistic can you get? You’re willing to debase yourself for the good of the country. Sure, people might call GMA a puppet or tuta ng mga kano, but what the heck! GMA brings in the foreign investors which need to keep our country floating above the poverty line.

Right now, the trend is globalization. As the world becomes one huge global village and national identities become blurred, we must also adapt. Essentializing, is becoming fast obsolete. The idea that there is an essential Pinoy can no longer be applied because to begin with, there is no such thing. That means that the traits which we have always attributed to ourselves: crab mentality, Filipino time, katamaran, gaya-gaya, Fiesta culture, ningas cogon and colonial mentality – to name a few, cannot apply to us alone because these so-called essential Filipino traits, albeit negative ones, are traits which we share with other cultures across the globe. To be nationalistic in this globalized world is to be a better person in every sense of the word. This is because each of us, no matter how different, is a bit of the Philippines. Whatever we do to better ourselves is also doing and being for the country.

This is how I deal with Filipino nationalism in the face of today’s globalization and how Gloria fits into all of this. What do you think? 



Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 7, 2010 by Rica Cristina Baldomar


 Isa ka Sabado ako nagdagyang.

Nagkadto sa Smallville, ginkalimtan ngalan ko.

Nagbugtaw sa Queen’s Court, daw ginamartilyo ang ulo.

Isa ka Sabado ako nagdagyang.

Duha na ka bulan, wala kagamit with wings.

Dekada 70 and Women

Posted in Uncategorized on June 6, 2010 by Rica Cristina Baldomar

While cleaning my room today (ok fine, while attempting a.k.a. planning/looking around and deciding I should clean but then came up with an excuse not to do it) I came across one of my history books, “The History of the Filipino People” by Agoncillo. For some weird reason, just looking at the book gave me the urge to watch a Filipino movie. I gave  in to the urge and settled with Dekada 70. I went for the movie not because I’m a Vilamanian (Vilamasian?) but because it was the fastest to stream (God bless the generous souls who post free movies on the net).

Anyway, the movie Dekada 70 is an adaptation of a novel with a similar title by Lualhati Bautista. The setting is in the 70’s during martial law and is a portrayal of the times as seen through the eyes of its main character, Amanda. Amanda is a middle class housewife with five sons. The movie shows the things that occurred in Amanda’s family with the Marcos’ regime as a background for the conflicts happening within her household.

 In the movie, one can see that the gender roles and division of labor has been divided between men and women and that it’s a big NO to try and cross the said division and take on the roles which are supposed to be for the other gender.

Take for example the scene wherein Amanda’s husband and his friends are discussing a book: the moment Amanda contributed an opinion concerning the said author of the book there is instant silence. An awkward silence which is tantamount to the men expressing their surprise and outrage that a woman would know about said book and would go as far as to comment about it.

There was also an instance when Amanda asked her husband if it were all right for her to work. Her husband becomes angry and asks her why she would need to work when he was able to provide for them. He then leaves in a huff after a tirade following the question. The scene can be interpreted as the man not angry because he thinks that he can’t provide for his family but as the man is angry because his wife, a woman, someone lower than him in their society, would have the audacity to compete with him in the financial world to earn a living. The scene makes one wonder at the husband’s reaction: why does he not want Amanda to work? Is it because he thinks people will think that he is not able to provide for his family or is it because he is afraid that his wife would surpass him in her work and might bring home a higher salary?

 In the movie, I’ve also noticed that only the women enter the kitchen, and are seen doing chores. The men on the other hand are always outside and should they have scenes inside the house, the scenes would be either be in the bedroom, dinning room or living room. This can be seen that during this time  (or perhaps until now) men were not expected to play a big role in the home and in the family. As long as the father provides financially for the family and teaches his boys sports and about sex then he is already a good father. The mother on the other hand must take care of the home, facilitate the maid, fix the meals, worry about the children and keep an eye on their moral upbringing.

 Amanda was both a mother and wife (in this order) and she had to play a difficult dual role not made easy by the fact that she lived in a time of great turmoil. It was difficult for her to stay at home and wait for things to happen around her because she was a strong woman forced into a role of docility. Most of the time she felt out of place when her family conversed because she was the only woman in her family. As a mother she had to deal with sons who did not deem it necessary to confide everything to her, only coming to her when they were in dire straits. Yet she dealt with them all in a manner wherein everything ended up all right for them, even if it wasn’t for her. As a wife, Amanda had to deal with the demands of her husband. Her husband was a man who did not think it necessary for a woman to have her own opinion or believed that a woman ‘s self worth could not just be based on her family. Despite everything, Amanda was able to survive and at the end come to terms with her husband.

 The political situation of the time also was a factor to the shaping of gender roles. It was at this time that Martial Law was enacted and there were also the presence of the American military bases. Because of Martial Law, women became active participants in the fight against the Marcos regime. The role of women (particularly of the young) was slowing changing. Women were no longer confined to the home. Some took to the streets to march in protest, others going as far as to join the fighting in the mountains. Also, with the establishment of the military bases, women became a commodity. The Americans were looking for entertainment and a lot of “night clubs” sprang up near bases. In these “clubs” men could pick up prostitutes for a price. With this, the Filipino woman’s image was changed drastically from the Dalagang Pinay into the International Whore.

In my opinion, women’s role has changed since Dekada 70. Women of today are no longer constricted to the home. We are now allowed to voice our opinions and are not required to just stay quiet when men converse because what we say now has weight. The men of today would not dare to brag about their sexual conquests or future sexual conquests in front of women in fear of being made fun of. The woman of today, although not as free as she would want to be is still a lot better off than the women of Dekada 70.

Another realization that came to me after wathing the movie was that that there are so few movies out there that do justice to the books from which they were based on. Dekada 70 is one of those movies which will disapoint the novel’s readers. I should know, since I have had the good fortune to have been able to read the novel a couple of years back and I must say that the impressions the novel has left with me barely compares to the movie. In the novel, Amanda is given a voice, narrating the story. But rather than just narrating the novel, Amanda, on a side note gives out her opinion on certain matters and shown to be a philosophical woman, questioning the norms society imposes.

Take for example the scene in the movie wherein Amanda is cleaning and her husband calls her. She tells him that she is busy and despite the number of times her husband tells her to come up she ignores him. After she has finished with her chores she goes up to her husband and asks him why she was being called. Her husband replies with a huff that he has lost interest. The innuendo here is that her husband was horny and was wanting to have sex but did not say it outright and maybe Amanda got it, or maybe not, but when she comes up later her husband had already lost interest. In the novel while Amanda is doing the laundry her husband calls to her and tells her to go inside. When she asks why, her husband tells her to just come in because he was in the mood. She asks in the mood for what and he ends up irritated with her. After this scene, the readers are given a glimpse into Amanda’s mind. She asks herself the question why is, that when a husband is in the mood for sex, he assumes that his wife would cater to his mood? She also wonders why is it that it is only the man who is allowed to voice out his desire for coitus, but not a woman? She then wonders at how her husband would react should she be the one in the mood for coitus.

I suppose to some extent, the producers did try. But they dramatized the novel to an extent I did not like. Then again, not many people know about the book. Ironic that a Filipino writer only gains popularity when her/his book is made into a movie, even then some still do not become popular. A lot of Lualhati Bautista’s books have been made into movies, yet not many know about her.