Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Kissing of the Hands- A Gift from the Ancient Spice Route

The World beyond the Two Worlds

The Philippines is a country endowed with rich history. Its custom and traditions reflect ancient established practices that transform the Filipino society into what is now a vibrant world-renowned community. Much akin to their Asian neighbours Filipinos possess an extraordinary reverence for their elders which is an envy of the west. This powerful cohesive social force remains constantly impacted by historic sociological factors. The responsibility to preserve these inherited gifts rests upon its people who must pass their culture to future generations. One shining trait Filipinos are known for though is the “kissing of the hand” (pag-halik ng kamay). How it became an accepted social norm is still everybody’s guess. Is it something indigenous to them, or is it a concoction of centuries of acculturation?

Long before the advent of the arrival of our European colonialists, the Philippine shores was already bustling of commerce with our Malayan neighbours (including the Japanese, Chinese, and the Arabs). It is interesting to note that in 1521, Magellan’s Malay guide Enrique (first truly to have circumnavigated the world) whom he met in Moluccas prior to his voyage, was described as someone who spoke fluently the dialect of the Cebuanos. The only question is, did the locals used the Indonesian language as their lingua franca, or was Enrique really a seasoned trader from Cebu who frequented the Mollucas?

Spicing Up the Whole World

The Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas) is an Indonesian archipelago in the maritime islands of the Southeast Asian region. The Chinese and the Europeans refer to it as the Spice Islands- five islands of volcanic origin (Ternate, Tidore, Moti, Makian, and Bacan). They are found off of the west coast of the island of Halmahera, in the Indonesian archipelago. These islands have been the hub of traders from as early as 300 BCE or even earlier. Medieval travellers including Marco Polo mentioned nothing about the Moluccas, but one of the earliest and most reliable reference to the Spice Islands came from the Arab geographer Ibn Khurdadhbeh (ca.850). Until the mid 19th century, Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) has been endemic to the Banda Islands of the Moluccas. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) is native to Indonesia and India. Both were highly valued food preservatives.

In the 7th century CE, the Srivijayan empire influenced much of the Malay world. Dominating the Malacca and Sunda straits, the Srivijayan Empire managed both the spice route traffic and local trade, charging a toll on passing ships. Serving as an entrepôt for Chinese, Malay, and Indian markets, the port of Palembang was accessible from the coast by way of a river accumulating great wealth. Envoys travelled to and from China frequently. Around 1293 CE, the last of the major empires of the Malay Archipelago defeated the Srivijayan empire reigning over the rest of the maritime Southeast Asia . Geographical and economic constraints suggest that the empire outside its seat of power from Java where connected mainly bu trade.

Buddhism and Hinduism managed its way to Indonesia when trading activity began in the early of first century on the Silk Road. The Silk Road is an extensive interconnected network of trade routes that started 3,000 years ago linking China across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, as well as North and Northeast Africa and Europe. It bonded powerful civilizations such as Rome and China. It brings to mind pictures of lush desert oases and far-flung crossroad settlements crowded with merchants, spiritual pilgrims, and adventurous travelers from many regions, the Silk Road has become in our time a metaphor for cultural exchange among people of diverse societies, distant places, and different religions.

The continuous trade contacts between the Moluccas and the Muslim merchants from Arabia and elsewhere in Asia brought along a new major religion to Southeast Asia. By way of Sumatra around 651 CE, Uthman ibn Affan, (C. 579-656) sent a group of Islamic Missionaries to China converting some Indonesians on their way. Around 1380, Karim ul' Makhdum, reached the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao converting the animist population into Islam. Muslim influences rapidly ascended northward up the archipelago, reaching as far as the current capital of Manila on the island of Luzon. They did not only bring their religion with them but also saw to it that political systems were established. The first official Sultan of Sulu was an Arab from Sumatra named Abu Bakr, crowning himself around 1450. Like many other Arab rulers, he established his dynasty's legitimacy by claiming to be a direct descendent of Muhammad. Hence, the arrival of Islam to the orient contributed to the rapid decline of the Hindu and Buddhist influences in the region.When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines two hundred years later they were dismayed to see Islamic influence being already prevalent around the country.

Cultural Amalagamation

The Silk Road to China and the spices of Asia did not only bring with them trade but also cultural and reliqious values. Layers of cultural incorporation antecede the arrival of Islam in Indonesia. Hindu-Buddhist traditons is still evident today when a Javanese military officer requires their prisoner to touch his forehead to his warden’s knee. The Indonesian acknowledgement of a superior or a guru is demonstrated by kissing his hand and pressing it to one’s heart or forehead is also a Hindu-Buddhist underlay of Islam. Arab salutation also requires a person of an inferior status to take one’s hand and kiss touchjng it on their forehead. A related practice is also alive in the Turkish culture that they lay claim to own the custom of Hand-kissing. In Europe, it was started by the Spanish Royal Court in the 17th and 18th century, and later on adapted by the rest of the continent in the 18th century becoming a common European upper-class tradition. In Western Christianity, the kissing of the hands began when Roman Catholics, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Catholic bishops since 430 CE started wearing rings regarded as emblematic of the mystical betrothal of the bishop to his church. Custom indicate that layman or clerics with inferior grade when presented before a bishop is expected to kiss his episcopal ring (baciamano in Italian). There is common misconception that performing the act of kissing the hand brings with it full or partial release from sin(indulgence). The pagans practice idol worshipping by kissing its hand when the idol was conveniently low enough. If not, the devotees kissed their own hands and waved them to the image. (Judges 2:18).

If the kissing of the hands is frowned upon in Islam since it is a form of Sajdah (prayer position) reserved only for the One and true God -where did it truly start? Does it mean the practice pre-dates Islam and Christian religion and denotes primordial pagan way? Conversely, is the Filipino way of kissing the hand an off-shoot of the old Turkish tradition when the Arabs engaged in the Silk Road trade via the Srivijayan Empire, or did our forefathers accede and emulated the church’s way of reverence for authority?

Mesopotamia is known to be the cradle of civilization. It is a land corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran. The form and content of Babylonian worship are entirely borrowed from the Sumerians. This is particularly true of the principles of formal worship or the gestures employed in religious devotion. As to the contents of the words spoken during their public liturgies of the Babylonians is no doubt Sumerian. Prayers of private devotion and all the intricate rituals of the magic cults are Semitic Babylonian in origin. The Assyrian religions traces their way of worship to their gods as Babylonian but tends to preserve more the Semitic way of private devotions. Also, the Assyrian liturgical offices were borrowed entirely from the old canonical Sumerian breviaries.

It is my opinion that the practicing of the kissing of the hands traces its roots from the oldest civilization known to mankind and may have metamorphosed to its present form . Very early Sumerian seals belonging to the pre-historic period (3,000 BC) reveal three traditional poses assumed by a Sumerian layman in private devotion, or when he stands before a seated deity to say his prayers.

1. The seal depicts a processional scene, where his protecting god (or the High Priest) leads the layman by the hand to a seated deity. During the pre-Sargonic period, the posture of the adorant’s hand was not yet fixed. There are times when the worshipper’s hands are free and would carry a lamb or a kid to offer. On one seal, the arm is folded across the waist. Quite amazingly, these traits are characteristic of both Sumerian and Egyptian religions suggesting a much more pre-historic contact between the two lands.
2. The worshipper stands with one hand raised parallel to the breast, palm inwards and fingers touching the lips; the other arm is folded across the waist. This is the very ancient salutation by throwing a kiss and is the most common gesture of early Sumerians and Babylonians, and down to the Neo-Babylonian period.
3. The third seal depicts a worshipper standing with both hands folded at the waist. The right hand is clasped by the left hand in extraordinary manner so that the right hand thumb rests on the body while the rest of the fingers lie horizontal to the body.

Before and during the Sargonic period the Semites lived in closed contact with the Sumerians and adopted the Sumerian principles of gestures. A seal dedicated to Naram-Sin (5th king of Sargonic period) represented a worshipper “lifting a hand” to employ a kiss hand “to pray” at the deity. In the period of Gudea and Ur Dynasty (2650-2358 BC), the processional rite was still being practiced, but the disengaged arm is always held in the attitude of praising the deities. During the period of Isin, Larsa, and the Babylonian 1st Dynasty (2356-1926 BC) archaeological evidences suggests that the processional rites with the raised arm gesture was discontinued for the independent attitude. The suppliant now stand with the right hand raised and touching the lips while the left arms remains folded on the waist.

Another best find from archaeology is the stele of the ancient Law Code of Hamurrabi.The Kissing of the Hand was also part of development taken out from the ancient Law Code of Hamurabbi (1760 BCE). Stelae were displayed in temples around during the Babylonian Empire. Of these only one example survives, inscribed on a seven foot, four inch tall basalt stone slab or stele, preserved in the Louvre.

The stele containing the Code of Hammurabi was discovered in 1901 by the Egyptologist Gustav Jéquier, a member of the expedition headed by Jacques de Morgan. The stele was discovered in what is now Khūzestān, Iran (ancient Susa, Elam).

At the top of the stele is a bas-relief image of a Babylonian god (either Marduk or Shamash), with the king of Babylon presenting himself to the god, with his right hand raised to his mouth as a mark of respect.

End of the Silk Road

There is a Turkish saying, “Alnında yazılıysa olur.” - If it is written on your forehead, it will happen. (on your forehead) (if written) (happen). Whereas, the forehead symbolizes one’s destiny, the head represents the self as a whole.
The practice of the kissing of the hands is a patriarchal tradition. Societies who have accepted this as a model allows a fatherly figure to have influence over the younger family members. By allowing a person of authority to touch our foreheads is a sign that we submit our own virtues and entrust ourselves to the guidance and blessings of who were there before us.

From Istanbul to Xian, from San Luca, Spain to Cebu, the journey of the kissing of the hands has gone thousands of miles and ends up in the Philippines. The quest for the trade routes to the orient yielded not only silk and spices, but golden traditions that unite families, and gave rise to empires and civilizations.

Sources: Indonesian Destinies by: Theodore Friend, Instant Indonesia: Religion of Indonesia, Between East and West by: R. Donkin, Syria and the Holy Land, Their Scenery and People, by: Walter Keating Kelly, International Perspectives on Family Violence and Abuse: A Cognitive Ecological Approach: by Kathleen Malley-Morrison, Marius the Epicurean, by: Walter Pater: Chap. V. Published 1885), L. Paine - Ships of Discovery P. 146, Caeremoniale episcoporum (Book II, viii, nn. 10-11)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Immortalizing Canlubang

Calamba is a city in the Laguna province situated some 54 kilometers south of Manila along the Laguna de Bay. Over the years this birthplace of our national heroe has turned into an important industrial hub and tourist destination. Canlubang is the biggest baranggay in Calamba. The name Canlubang descended from the tagalog term Kanlungan ng mga tulisan (bandit's haven). Its thick foliage must have been a good bastion for the marauding outlaws in the colonial times.

When the old mill's production stopped years ago nature started to reclaim what was rightfully hers. Grass meadows now invade open lands of once sugar cane fields. Rotting foundations strangled by vines stand defiantly against the ravages of a forlorn time. Pot-holed muddy roads snake through the neighbourhoods as a few brave and loyal souls struggle to reach their dilapidated homes hoping to survive the onslaught of an oncoming typhoon. Bulldozers roar like thunder devouring ancient houses along its path givimg way to the development of first class subdivisions that will cater to a new breed of upper class society.

They say Atlantis was a legendary city that submerged overnight 9,000 years ago. It sank as a result of a great volcanic activity. Apparently, it was the cradle of all civilizations, but no historical records pertain to its existence except in Homer's poem Odyssey. Canlubang's history on the other hand transpired only a little less than a century ago but its bountiful history seems to have been tossed to oblivion. The neck of the wood's heyday was seen after the last war when the sugar economy of the Philippines reached its pinnacle. A classic hacienda/enconmienda system was in effect to manage the self-sufficient private community of 45,000 who use to enjoy world-class perks of free hospitalization, dental, water, electricity, Christmas give-a-ways, housing and repairs including subsidized groceries and a public market. Added to the their long list of perks, this paradise boasted of free public pools, a drive-in movie, tennis courts, a golf course, a pelota court, parks and playgrounds on every sitio, a labour hall, a convent and a seminary, a pavillon, bowling alleys, a catholic church, a plaza, free private schooling in the primary and seconday levels, a baseball stadium (considered to be the oldest in the Philippines) that was home to its popular team- the Canlubang Sugar Barons.

Canlubang's demise was painful, and a gradual one. There are many factors for the death of the sugar industry in the Philippines. To name a few, one is the development in the 60's of High Fructose Corn Syrup in the United States that resulted in the tragic reductions in the sugar cane quotas in the US. In order to keep the sugar industry afloat, the Philippines was forced to sell its sugar to the world market dumped by subsidized and cheaper sugar from the European Community. Even international sugar agreements failed to cushion the massive fluctuations in the world prices over the past decades. But if you really want to dig further down to the root cause of all these problems you have to remember your lessons in history.

Noticed how former colonies in the world are mostly poor and politically unstable? Take for example past Spanish territories, most are poor not because they practice Roman Catholicism, but because a culture of rapaciousness is perpetuated. Six hundred years ago, colonial powers implemented land tenure arrangements. Peasants were divested lands, created plantation economies, maimed local wealth that relied solely on the exportation of raw materials, and destroyed industries that could have challenged foreign industries. Ravenousness is propagated in the midst of political freedom through unfair trade practices on tariffs that can be four times higher on former colonies than their former colonizers. International banking lenders loan huge amounts to finance large projects that still benefits foreign companies engaged in local resource extraction through the sustenance of foreign government powers.

Canlubang is but one of the casualties in this culture of greed. Thanks to an extremely biased world, we are poor because they are rich. The Canlubang of today is now a picture of destruction and progression. Its agonizing metamorphosis is a lost to many, and a gain for some.

Sons and daughters of Canlubang, her story begs to be told. Pause for a while and close your eyes. Try to recall the loud horn of the mill as armies of workers march to and from work while the three giant black chimney stack belches out a steam of smoke. Never, never forget for once, the sugar mill that brought sweetness to coffee cups and candie bars of the new world.

Note: I find it odd why a single article can not be found in print or electronic (Internet ) that gives credence to the grandeur of this once vibrant community. Be proud of your past. Show to the world how it was to live in Canlubang's glorious past by posting old and new photographs in this site. Blog articles are also welcome to be submitted for posting at

Friday, May 1, 2009

Reliving a Grandparent's Love

It is 6 pm on an evening in the summer of 1971. The velvety sun is almost ready to set on the horizon. Men, beast, and machines ground to a halt. The church bells ring in cadence like a poignant poem as the recitation of the Oracion emanate from her red belfry tower. Canlubang once again seems to be suspended in time except for the three iconic black chimney towers of the Azucarera which continue to waft-up a cloud of smoke as the melodious birda chirp while perched from the giant caballero tree(fire tree). Inside an ancient home still bearing the scars of the previous war, an altar raised to the wall sits the glass-encased image of the Cristo Rei in between Maria and San Jose. “Ave Maria Purisima. Sin pecado consebida” ("Hail most pure Mary, conceived without sin") a common exclamation is uttered as my grandmother leads the Santo Rosario(Holy Rosary) with her whole family. With our tiny palms clasped, the litany of prayers in Spanish is recited in unison by the grandchildren some of whom would remember by heart even until this very day. As the prayer ends, the young would pay their respect to our elders by uttering “mano po”,and touching the back of their palms held by our tiny hands to our foreheads to accept their blessings. The tradition is culminated with the blowing of the candles by the child in-charge who set the prayer table. Candles that end up clean after each prayer would mean a soul is under the grace of God. Too much candle-dropping on the candelabra would mean it is time to see the priest and receive the sacrament of Confession.

Lola Feling – Healer and Grandmother

Long before there were Chiropractors and Physical Therapists, my lola was known to be an esoteric mang-hihilot(Chiropractor). She attributed her gift of healing from a dream when she was young. In her vision, the Niño Jesus was in pain and in need of help. Not knowing what to do, the little boy imparted to her the knowledge of dealing with bodily sicknesses through manipulations and chiropractic massages. She applies coconut oil and strips of medicinal herbs to diagnose the area of strain and apply different massaging techniques. Grandmother also performed a diagnostic ritual to determine the cause of an illness called *Tawas (alum). This ritual is performed with a variety of other material such as a holy scapular, banana leaves, coconut shell, and some incense. One notable case she had was about this man who stayed bed-ridden at the hospital for so long until the doctors finally gave up on him. Thinking there was nothing to lose in using an unconventional way of therapy, the wife requested for grandma’s help. All what lola did was to ask for the patient’s shirt and performed the ritual of Tawas with it. The following day, that man was at her front door looking so well as if nothing really ever happened.

When my grandma was not battling the supernatural, she fulfills the role of being a mother who takes care of her whole family. On days when she arrives home from the palengke(market), grandma never fails to bring in our favourite bibingka (rice cake) as a pasalubong(take home present) or those native cocoa balls she kept in a jar for dessert. I also have fond memories of seeing her in the kitchen cooking those hot chilly recipes. According to her, it was a test of having a Bicolano(Bicol province) blood in us if we can endure such hot palatable dishes. Sitting on a rocking chair by the window on hot summer afternoons fanning with an abaniko (weaved native fan), we are all ears to her funny stories which either make us role over the floor with laughter, or be sleepless for many nights from her tales of the paranormal and myths.

In my later years as a boy, while the rest would collect play cards to trade, I gathered stampitas and rosaries and lovingly shared this with my grandmother. What ever level of spiritual conviction I may have in God today I am most certainly sure my grandmother played a strong part in it.

Lolo Jose - My Grandfather

I had a strong admiration for my grandpa who dressed quite impressively for a man who has reached his twilight years. Having a well-framed body and a good posture, it’s a no surprise he captured the attention of the elusive Felisa when he courted her. Being a butcher’s son who grew up during the wars of the Spanish-American-Filipino wars, Jose was privileged to own the very first car in their hometown while the streets still swarm with caromatas (horse drawn carriages). With a young brood on hand he took all their belongings and migrated to Canlubang where he worked for the Azucarera del Calamba (Canlubang Sugar Estate) as a personal driver for the owners of the company for more than fifty years outlasting two foreign occupations in the country and a tyrant dictator.

At the crack-of-dawn today he walked for a few hours from Barrio Mill to Barrio Old Stable armed with his favourite stick to ward off the unruly dogs that would come along his way. Even ten years into the future he would still refuse a beautifully engraved cane gift from my dad. Instead, he kept it on a corner of his bedroom with no intention of using it. Why should he? He can still carry two buckets of water without any problem at all at age eighty. I wonder why our family loves mornings. Mom loved mornings, I as well watch sunrises, and grandpa feels the same. Is there something magical about the dawn of each day? Perhaps, somehow we all cognitively process the rising sun as a beam of hope to our faltering faith, right?

After several stops along the way talking with his fellow old timers such as Mang Emong (Mr. Emong) - the boxing trainer at the Labour Hall, and Mang Dodo(Mr. Dodo) -the family photographer, he brings home a bag of freshly baked pandesal (sweet bread) bigger than an adult’s fist. As the aroma of hotly brewed kapeng barako (native coffee) coffee hangs in the kitchen, grandfather chimes an improvised bell made from a WWII bomb shell suspended at the back of his porch. The fowls from his small backyard farm scampers in a feeding frenzy as I watched with awe our aviary friends scoffing on the ground as if there is no tomorrow. Grandpa has just prepared a pinoy (Filipino) breakfast of daing (dried salted fish), itlog (egg), sinangag (fried rice), and of course our favourite butter Dairy Cream to go with the bread. After each breakfast, I would sit down next to him at the sala(living room) where he examines the pages of The Manila Times . Today headlines the student protests of the First Quarter Storm and while I enjoyed its cartoon pages.

I noticed he is never idle. When ever you can’t find him inside the house he must be in the chicken coup or at his small bodega (stockroom) where all the books, magazines, oil paintings, and materials forgotten by time that he refuses to let go are still stocked. There were times I saw him there fixing my shoe on a jig or sewing my ripped school uniform. The most memorable thing grandpa did on weekends would be to borrow the Yulo’s vintage cars from the company garage where he works and fill those gargantuan cars with his grandchildren treating them for a night joy-ride around Canlubang’s scenic places. A quick stop at the market site to get some Serg Chocolates for all his apo (grandchildren) to munch was a sure delight.

Somebody was quoted as saying, “One will never be a grandfather without stepping down from his easy chair.” I guess this statement is very true with my grandfather who managed to fulfill his life in a very short earthly time.
Surely, we would all agree that the impact of grandparents is not often felt until years later. Looking back, we acknowledge their sacrifices and tell stories about their gifts of love that only a grandparent can provide and I miss them dearly for this.

*The TAWAS is used to 'cross' (sign of the cross) the forehead and other suspicious ailing parts of the body as prayers are being whispered (bulong). It is then placed on glowing embers, removed when it starts to crack, then transferred to a small receptacle of water. As it cools, its softened form spreads on the water surface and assumes a shape that may suggest the cause of the illness, often one of several indigenous forces: dwarfs, devils or other evil spirits (na-nuno, na-kulam, na-demonyo). The water in the vehicle is then used to anoint the ailing part or parts of the body to counteract the evil forces or illness. The Tawas is then discarded and thrown westward, preferably into the setting sun.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The White Slaves of America

There is so much untold history out there that America and the Western countries seem to suppress giving an impression of a collaborated hidden world agenda that prevents many inconvenient truths from coming out. The 21st century economies triggered an influx of migrant workers from every corners of the globe to the first world including from the developing countries. But back in the 17th and 19th century there was also a similar demand for foreign workers in the countryside and emerging cities of the New World. The astonishing part about this is that the conditions on recruiting and employing these labourers are still prevalent in the modern times, yet quite surprisingly not too many know about. If you are picturing a scene straight out of Alex Haley’s Roots, you are dead wrong.

North Americans are so hammered about White guilt for enslaving Black people that they are made to feel eternal reparation should be done for whatever plight these people might have had in today's world as a result of slavery. Long before the first Black slaves arrived in America, slavery was already institutionalized in the ancient times by Egypt, Greece, and Rome and some other Muslim countries. Such institutions were a mixture of debt-slavery, punishment for crime, the enslavement of prisoners of war, child abandonment, and the birth of slave children to slaves. Starting in the year 793 AD, the Vikings made frequent raids in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean area, Ireland and Scotland and turned slavery as the pillar of their commerce. The Nordics marauders sold their “Thralls” to the Byzantine and Arab markets. Slavery was abolished in the Scandinavian culture when Christianity was introduced. In the 17th century, British America’s thirteen colonies created a huge demand for labour. This was at a time when Britain was suffering from a huge number of unemployed poor people living in the urban areas. Displaced from their land and not being able to find work in the cities, many of these people signed contracts of indenture and took a one-way boat ride to the Americas. The establishment coined the word “indentured servitude” for those who could not afford to pay their passage. It is a legal agreement enforced by the court binding them to work for an employer with no wages from three to seven years until their land and sea transportation including lodging had been covered. The papers were often forged by many recuiters. who conive with kidnappers and press-gangs. Although the papers do not literally specify a lifetime of bondage, the slave-owner had the legal right to increase the length of term on the slightest pretext.

Because of abuse of the system the indentures on British citizens in the Colonies were not legally enforced unless it bore the endorsement of the British Magistrate of the isles hence, they can bargain for their deal before leaving for North America. Non-British immigrants were in a worst situation since no law protected them from unscrupulous recruiters. They were forced to negotiate with their future masters before leaving the ship. England’s next door neighbour, Ireland, quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. The population fell from 1,500,000 to 600,000 within a decade. Irish fathers were not allowed to take their wives and children to their voyage to the Atlantic ripping families apart. In 1650, over 100,000 Irish children between 10 and 14 years of age were taken from their parents and shipped to work for the English Settlers in the West Indies, Virginia, and New England. In the same decade, 52,000 Irish women and children were sold to Barbados and Virginia. The list goes on and on.

The White slavery in America was an expansion of the same practice from the mother country, Britain. The legal form of contracted indentured servitude was just in reality a lifetime form of slavery. . The center of the trade in child-slaves was in the port cities of Britain and Scotland: Press gangs were hired by local merchants to roam the street seizing by force young boys for the slave trade. Children were driven in flocks through the town and confined for shipment in barns. What was outrageous was the fact White children were openly seized from orphanages and workhouses and made to labor in factories for up to sixteen hours locked-up and without any breaks. Children who fell asleep during work were lashed into wakefulness by a whip. Children were also beaten with the use of iron bars called “billy-rollers”. Thousands of children are mangled by factory machines that left them disfigured or disabled for life without any compensation. These Mills and kind of treatment continued to spread to the New World.
The White “freights” transported across the Atlantic took nine to twelve weeks of travel. They were cramped below the deck of the ship and prone to experience outbreaks of contagious diseases which often results in the loss of half of the human cargo. Also, before leaving the port from England, they are given food rations that are supposed to last up until the entire journey. Because the amount of food issued was usually inadequate than not, many starved to death before reaching their destination. And if a person dies half-way across the journey, the surviving family members had to shoulder the deceased fare including their own. Usually, travelers start their journey with sufficient funds to pay their way only to be overcharged when they arrive thereby causing them more money to owe and longer serving time with their new masters. Soon as they arrive at the port of entry, Whites were auctioned on the block with children, men and women separated from each other. Black slaves cost more than the White slaves. Between 1609 until the early 1800s, two-thirds of all the White colonists who came to the New World came as slaves who cleared the forests, drained the swamps, built the roads, sweated in the fields, and died in hellish factories. Since they have no rights, fugitive slave laws applied to them when ever they flee their masters. Black slaves were often not used beyond the limits of human endurance because they are expensive compared to the White slaves of Britain considered to be its unwanted “surplus population thus so easily expendable. The call for the reparation on the effects of slavery should not strictly be focused on Blacks alone. What should be done is to correct the ignorance and deliberate suppression of the truth that once upon a time, humans treated their fellow human beings like merchandise. Slavery in all forms should be rid among all the nations of the world.

Did you know that the expression "kidnapping," (originally kid-nabbing) had its origin in the abduction of poor White children to be sold into factory slavery in Britain or plantation slavery in America? Did you know that the expression "spirited away" likewise originated with the White slavers, who were also called "spirits"? The word "slave" itself is derived from the word "slav," a reference to the Eastern European White people who, among others, were enslaved by their fellow Whites, by the Mongols, and by the Arabs over a period of many centuries.

Reference: They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America and Industrial Britain: by Michael Hoffman

Friday, March 13, 2009

Claveria's Decree of 1849 - On Filipino Surnames

From the beginning of the 12th century people from Europe started using surnames but it took several centuries before everyone was using it. Generally, surnames are derived from the names of male ancestors (patronymic) although occasionally, it could also be metronymic. An occupational title was also a cause to use as a forename. Since people in the old days can pinpoint almost where everybody else lived, they used Topographical surnames as a means of distinguishing them from others with the same name. Another factor for making up surnames was by means of Nicknames. This indicates people use description and truncated names of their original names. Overtime, humans interact and migrate, so languages evolve due to changes in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.

The orginal way of naming filipinos during the pre-spanish times was patronymic, descriptive and concise. This means every personal name was taken from the name of a father, a grandfather, or their male ancestors adding a description of their physical appearance, prowess, occupation, ethnicity, habits or events.
When the spaniards arrived, the friars started baptizing the conquered population and made them choose the different names of catholic saints. Many people from the mountaenous areas of Luzon, Mindoro, Palawan, and Mindanao where able to escape the fate of the subjugated ones. Apparently, christianization worked so well that most people shared the same last names. This confusion prompted the spanish authorities to force them to change their last names unless they can prove they have been using such names for generations. Another early Filipino custom that created a problem was that siblings took on different last names like they had always done before the Spaniards came. All these "problems" resulted in a less efficient system of governing the general population.

On November 21, 1849 Governor General Narciso Clavería ordered a systematic distribution of family names for the natives to use. The Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos was produced and approved names were assigned to families in all towns. Civil servants assigned family names in alphabetical order causing some small towns with only a few families ending up with all names starting with the same letter. Names were also issued based on the town of origin. “A” for example was issued to primary capitals, “B” for secondary towns, and “C” for thirtiary towns. Surnames were also based on the first letter of the town. Before the modern human migration and inter-marriages among ethnicities, one can tell the hometown origin of an individual based on their Iberian last name. There was this story about a civil servant in Guinobatan, Albay during the day of the promulgation of the Claveria-Decree wherein in his haste to get the list from the capital and in order to avoid carrying a thick book of names randomly tore the “O” pages and issued it to the populace. But, in spite implementing regulated Castilian names, there were also clear indications of flexibility in choosing surnames. , i.e., the direct descendants of ancient rulers were excluded and were permitted to maintain their surnames. There were those who were ordered to take on unique surnames (usually names of flora & fauna) to make them more visible. Of course one could not argue the fact that there are indeed funny names issued to unsuspecting Indios by mischievous Spanish civil registrars.

The Chino Mestizos however were allowed to hold on to their Chinese surnames. This was authorized by the administrators so as not to lose their lineage and culture. There were also occasions that the Catholic Filipino Chinese would blend their native names to that of a Christian name, this adaptation is unique and is one of its kind in the world.

The Claveria’s decree though often maligned, was in reality one of the greatest gift of Spain (aside from Catholicism) to the filipino people. This paved the way for the native and non-natives alike to integrate as fully accepted citizens of the society. Thus, this explains why many Filipinos today bear Spanish names although they may not have Spanish blood.

Claveria’s explanation on the decree:

“During my visits to the majority of the islands, I observe that natives in general lack individual surnames which distinguished them by families. They arbitrarily adopt the names of the saints as their last names, this results to the results in the existence of thousands of individuals having the same surnames. Likewise, i saw the resultant confusion with the regard to the administration of justice, government, finance and public order and the far-reaching moral, civil and religious consequences to which thismight lead, because the familynames are not transmitted from the parents to their children, so that it is sometimes impossible to prove the degress of consanguinity for purposes of marriage, rendering useless the parochial books which in Catholic countries are used for all kinds of transactions.” he continues,”for the purpose of catalogue of family names has been compiled, including indigenous names collected by the reverend fathers provincial of the religious orders, and the Spanish surnames they have been able to acquire, along those furnished by the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, geography, arts, etc. In view of the extreme usefulness and practicality of this measures, the time has come to issue a directive for the formation of a civil register, which may not only fulfill and ensure the said objectives, but also serve as the basis for the statistics of the country, guarantee the collection of taxes, the regular performance of personal services, and the receipt of payment for exemptions. It likewise provides exact information of the movement of the population, thus avoiding unauthorized migrations, hiding taxpayers, and other issues.”