Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Martin Luther and Reformation Day

Does anybody know what day it is today? Ok wise guy, I know it is Monday. But other than today being Monday, is there anything else that makes today special? Payday? No, that’s not it. The day we mail the mortgage check? Not that either. Halloween? My family does not celebrate that. Well, with too many wise crackers out there, I might as well tell you the event that is being commemorated today—Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk and professor of theology named Martin Luther nailed a notice on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. The paper became widely known as the “Ninety-five thesis” on which Martin Luther protested the sale of indulgencies. In those days, if you want to schedule a debate, you put up a sign.

In 1516, a Dominican friar named Johann Tetzel was named as the papal commissioner of indulgencies. Tetzel was sent to Germany by the Roman Catholic Church to sell indulgencies to raise money to rebuilt St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Tetzel became known for the couplet “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”.

The act of indulgence is strongly disputed by Martin Luther because the practice basically says that freedom from God’s punishment for sin can be purchased with money. This is clearly not in line with the Holy Scriptures for God is the only one who could forgive sin. Luther taught that salvation is not earned by doing good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as the redeemer from sin.

Prince Frederick III, an elector of Saxony, banned the sale of indulgence in Wittenburg. But in spite of the ban, many churches still traveled to purchase them. Some of these indulgence purchases in form of letters of pardon were shown to Martin Luther claiming that they no longer need to repent of their sins since they already paid money for them.

Martin Luther’s "Ninety five Theses" letter was quickly translated from Latin to German. Eventually, a copy made its way to Rome and an effort began to convince Luther to recant his claims. On April 18, 1521, Luther appeared as ordered before the Diet of the Worms, which was a general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire. The general assembly was held at the town of Worms which is one of the towns in the Rhine. It was conducted from January 28th thru May 25, 1521 and was presided by Emperor Charles V.

During the assembly, Johann Eck (assistant of the archbishop of Trier) asked Luther if copies of writings laid across the table were his and if he stood by its contents. Luther confirmed that the materials were his but requested additional time to answer the second question which was if he stood by its contents. Luther prayed and consulted with friends. The following day, Luther gave this answer to the assembly:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen”

On May 25, 1571, the emperor declared Martin Luther as an outlaw, banning his literature and ordered his arrest. It was also made a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter. It permitted anyone to kill Luther without legal consequence.

Prince Frederick III was a supporter of Luther and wanted to save him from harm. While Luther was on his way home, masked men hired by Prince Frederick “kidnapped” Luther and brought him to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.

During his stay in Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the New Testament of the bible from Greek to German finishing it in 1522. He and his collaborators also translated the Old Testament completing it in 1534. He continued to refine the translation of the bible until the end of his life.

In June 13, 1525, Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora who was one of the 12 nuns that Luther helped escape the Nimbschen Cistercian Convent in April 1523. Luther arranged the 12 nun escapees to be smuggled out of the convent in herring barrels. Luther’s wedding set the seal of approval on clerical marriages. The couple moved into a former monastery called “The Black Cloister”. They had six children, two of which died.

Referring to his wife, Luther confided to his friend, Michael Stifel (German monk and mathematician) on August 11, 1526: “My Katie is in all things so obliging and pleasing to me that I would not exchange my poverty for the riches of Croesus.”

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Gossip: The whispers of Gehenna.

I wrote this article to unmask a spiritual desease that constantly creeps in and around our tongues that will lead our souls to its ultimate demise. ALL of us (including myself) have committed this sin against our Creator. It is time that we hold our tongues to prevent it from getting hold of our souls.

Years ago, I remember an incident that happened in the company where I used to work at. I was quietly eating my lunch at the cafeteria while reading a newspaper when a group of female co-workers decided to sit down around the table next to mine. I was not too thrilled to be next to these ladies because they are kind of loud when they converse amongst themselves. This chatter box group brought with them a stack of the latest copies of magazines and tabloids like The National Inquirer, Globe, Star and Us. Their faces were glued to these magazines and after a few minutes of silence, one of them said, “Hey, look at this!” pointing to an article that has a picture above it. Their heads congregated in front of the magazine and their eyes widened while their jaws dropped to the floor in perfect unison. A lady in the group said, “Well, this actress is now a bonafide slut!” Another article seemed to have been detected by the group’s radar and they all started chattering away like excited chipmunks. They started saying things like:

“She is going out with that?!” (Pointing to the man next to the celebrity in the picture)

“Ah huh, ah huh!. Let me tell you girls, she is just in it for the money and fame!”

“Her underwear is longer than her shorts! She looks sooooo cheap!!!”

“After having that baby, she now looks like a frog!”

“The clothes that she wears ought to be worn only during Halloween parties!”

“I betcha their marriage will only last a month!”

“Did you hear about their daughter doing this? She is out of control like her mother! The father is no better than the mother because he has women stashed all over the place. They all need to be in rehab!!”

“Guess who moved in together in an apartment? They look so hot together!”

“Hey, hey, did you know………”

It would be a needless effort for me to identify this type of conversation because all of us are familiar with its tone. Gossip had been in existence since the early years of mankind. It is some sort of twisted action or behavior of people that accuses and charges another human being whose actions they viewed as immoral, scandalous, intriguing or humorous.

How does gossip start? Does the following sound familiar to you?:

“Did you hear about what this person did?!”

“No, please tell me”

“Well, just between you and me, he/she…”

After a brief period of time, a mob of tongues has charged, convicted & condemned the subject of the gossip. Gossip does not discriminate. It exists among the young, old, rich, poor, average and intelligent. Its venomous veins are attached to every culture and nationality in this world.

What do you feel when you gossip? Do you feel a sense of satisfaction that you are a better person than the subject of your gossip? It is my personal belief that gossip is a sinful tonic that is used by careless minds to boost self righteousness.

If you are a gossip recipient, do you feel that a deep sense of curiosity is satisfied in you upon hearing the gossip? Does the mystery of the gossip trigger your curiosity? Do you crave for more like it was a potent drug?

Do you feel safe from the moral liability since you are just a hearer and not the source nor the transmitter of the gossip? If you don’t feel morally liable, let me ask you this question: When you recognized that what you were listening to is gossip, what made you continue to listen? Why didn’t you walk away or reprove it?

Recently, I was able to locate a friend through the internet. Through our conversation, I found out that my friend enjoys attending social gatherings whose attendees are from the same region where my friend grew up at. My friend told me that during these gatherings, gossip swarms like bees around a hive. When I told my friend that I find this behavior quite disdained, my friend dismissed my opinion as silly. My friend said that they were just “simply updating themselves” about the affairs of other people whom they find interesting. My friend said that they were just “merely sharing information” to enable themselves to know where everybody has gone to or is at in their lives.

What does gossip generate? From what I know, it sows hate, lies and creates discord among people. What people do not realize is that gossip is a very potent toxin that harms the gossiper more than the person who is the subject of the gossip. Why do I say this? Unbeknownst to the gossiper, whenever this person flicks out his/her tongue, he/she places himself/herself under the crosshairs of God’s wrath. God thunders in His 9th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

Well, supposing the gossip is true. What then? In Psalm 101:5, the Almighty God says, “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy”. Leviticus 19:16, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.”

There are endless but futile attempts to moralize gossiping. It had been used as a way to warn other people by demonizing the character of another person. Be fearful in falling into this belief because your seemingly righteous act is actually an act of slander. Your act of disparaging towards another person creates a window in your heart for the evil one to come and take residence.

There are some that believe that without incorporating gossip during conversations, the substance of the conversation becomes dull and boring. It has occurred in the past when idle talk became the essence of the life of conversations. Both gossip and humor has become intertwined during social gatherings.

Nowadays, I have seen people take an evil act or behavior and detoxify it by giving it a new description or respectable name. Pornography is called adult material; Divorce is called dissolution or parting ways; Revenge is called an Act of Vindicating Honor; Lie is called modified facts and information; Gossip is sometimes called a human nature’s yearning for concealed knowledge.

Gossipers have been known to don the coat of a crusader for transparency like Wikileaks whose existence is to publish private, secret and classified information to the world. They cruise their crusade by seeking out cracks and gaps in the private lives of others for them to peer through. They do their grimy deed while guarding their own lives with sealed bricks and barbed wires.

Do you feel like gossiping? Does it feel uplifting when you relay or receive a gossip? Do you feel like you are a righteous judge when you gossip? Look at the mirror and observed yourself when you hear a gossip. Does your eyes widen and your mouth opens up when you hear a juicy scandalous news about a person that you know? What is your first instinct? Do you feel the urge to pass on the gossip to selected friends? What level of thrill do you experience while being a conduit to a gossip?

Do you feel that your thirst for gossip is unquenchable? You promised yourself that you had enough of gossip but when you hear its poisonous whispers, you pretend to ignore it but your ears are ardently atone to every word in that whisper.

It is sad that people’s hearts nowadays have hardened and have accepted gossip as a part of their daily lives. Many support the spread of gossip as long as they are not the subject of the gossip.

In the history of mankind, there had been countless attempts to tame the tongue without any success. In the book of James 3:8-9, it states, “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.”

How you use your tongue reflects the nature of your heart. Do you use your tongue to edify and praise others? Does your tongue value virtue and produces good fruits by building up the spirit of other people? Does it give comfort to the individuals who are discouraged? Does your tongue bring life or does it bring death?

Honestly reflect on how you have used your tongue and remember this: The road to hell is paved with gossiping tongues.

Your tongue, your soul, your decision.....Your Eternal Destination…

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The first Filipinos in America?

A few articles ago, I wrote about a Filipino who served as a soldier for the Union army during the American civil war. In that article, I mentioned about the “Manila Men” that were recruited by French buccaneer Jean Baptiste Lafitte and fought alongside with the American troops under the command of Major General Andrew Jackson in the war of 1812.

After posting that article in the blog, I began to wonder if there is any recorded history that tells about when the first Filipinos arrived in United States. Filipino historians had written articles about the Filipinos that arrived in North America for the first time during the 18th century (1700s) riding the Manila galleon ships. These Filipino seafarers settled in the bayous of Louisiana and became fishermen. Though historical evidence points to early Filipino settlers in Louisiana, I felt that there are Filipinos who arrived in North America prior to the 1700s.

About 250 miles north from my house is the city of Morro Bay. On the entrance of Morro bay is a large volcanic rock formation called Morro Rock. This 581-foot rock was called “El Morro” in 1542 by Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo because it resembled a turban worn by the north African people. Near Morro Rock is a small bronze memorial plaque containing this inscription:

During the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade era from 1565 to 1815 Spanish galleons crossed the pacific between the Philippines and Mexico.

On October 18, 1587, the Manila Galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza commanded by Pedro de Unamuno entered Morro Bay near here. A landing party was sent to shore which included Luzon Indios, marking the first landing of Filipinos in the continental United States. The land
ing party took official possession of the area for Spain by putting up a cross made of branches. The group was attacked by native Indians two days later, and one of the Filipinos was killed. Unamuno and his crew gave up further exploration of this part of the coast.

There are two things in the inscription that caught my attention—October 18, 1587 and the words, “Luzon Indios”. If the historical claim on the plaque is indeed accurate, this means that Filipinos arrived in North America before the pilgrims. Though the plaque was unveiled by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), there are a few historians that question its accuracy.

As an amateur historian, I have observed that accuracy becomes harder to attain as historians research further and further back in time. Written accounts left by our forefathers who witnessed significant historical events sometimes does not match physical evidence to validate its accuracy. As I write this article, I am hoping that new physical evidence will be unearthed that would sweep away any doubts regarding the exact date of the arrival of the first Filipinos in America. Until that happens, the available record of the first journey of Filipinos to America happened in 1587.

In 1586, two Spanish ships left the port of Manila under the command of Pedro De Unamuno. The ships were bound for Acapulco. Before the ship’s departure, the Spanish authorities instructed Captain Unamuno not to go to China per the instruction of Mexico Archbishop Pedro Moya De Contreras. The archbishop gave this instruction because the church authorities in Manila were worried that if the merchants in Acapulco establish a direct trade route to China, they would no longer go to Manila to pick up Chinese goods. If this happens, the Spanish post in Manila would be abandoned.

After Captain Unamuno left the Manila port, he disobeyed the instructions given to him by the archbishop of Acapulco and sailed to China. When the Portuguese officials saw Unamuno’s ship in China, they confiscated both ships and reported the incident to the Spanish authorities in Manila. Captain Juan De Argumedo was dispatched from Manila to China to arrest Captain Unamuno for defying direct orders from the Spanish church authorities.

Captain Unamuno and his men avoided capture and later met two Franciscan priests: Fr. Martin Ignacio De Loyola and Fr. Francisco De Noguera. Fr. De Loyola is the grand nephew of Ignatius De Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

Fr. Martin Ignacio de Loyola was the first person to circumnavigate the world twice during his missionary efforts in China. He was later imprisoned then expelled forcing him to move back to the Portuguese outpost in Macau.

Fr. De Loyola loaned money to Captain Unamuno to purchase a small Portuguese made merchant ship which he named Nuestra Senora De Buena Esperanza. Using the funds given to him by the Acapulco merchants, Captain Unamuno loaded the ship with Chinese goods. His crew consisted of Spanish soldiers, two Franciscan priests and Luzon Indios. On July 12, 1587, the Nuestra Senora De Buena Esperanza set sail to Acapulco, Mexico.

While sailing to Acapulco, the mast of the ship broke forcing Unamuno to seek land to repair and resupply his ship. In October 18, 1587, they spotted land and entered a bay whom he named Puerto De San Lucas. This land Unamuno found would later be called the state of California.

A council met in the ship and it was decided that a landing party be sent to shore to explore and take the port in the name of King Philip. Two groups were sent to shore: The first group of 12 Spanish soldiers was lead by Captain Unamuno. The second group of unknown number of Luzon Indios was lead by Fr. Martin De Loyola. The Luzon Indios were armed with swords and shields while Fr. De Loyola carried a cross.

While exploring the land, two of the Indios saw five Indians, two of which were carrying babies on their backs. They tried to make contact with the Indians but the Indians ran up the hill leaving behind the explorers. Fr. De Loyola later erected a cross.

On October 19th, Captain Unamuno came to shore with soldiers and the Indios was lead by Fr. De Noguera. They discovered an empty camp, foot prints, seventeen dugouts and other evidences that people live in the area.

On October 20th, the landing party were attacked by the Indians. Three of the soldiers were wounded while one was killed. A Luzon Indio was killed when he failed to cover himself with his shield when a javelin was thrown to him by an Indian attacker. More Indians started pouring down the hill to attack the landing party. Fortunately, reinforcements came from the ship and they were able to repulse the attack with one additional soldier being wounded. As the darkness started to roll in, the Indians withdrew. That evening, Captain Unamuno decided to continue their voyage to Acapulco.

Eight years after the first landing of Luzon Indios in California, another Spanish galleon ship named San Agustin with a crew of Luzon Indios landed in Point Reyes near the San Francisco Bay area on November 6, 1595. The Spaniards named the place “La Bahia de San Francisco” (The bay of San Francisco).

I found this article that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on November 14, 1995 written by Carl Nolte.

“The San Agustin, which was probably a small warship in the Spanish navy, was commanded by Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno and had a crew of Spanish officers and Filipino sailors, according to historian Raymond Aker, who has studied the ship and its voyage. The expedition turned out badly: The San Agustin was the first ship known to be wrecked on the California coast.

The San Agustin’s voyage began in the summer of 1595 when it sailed from Manila to Acapulco with a cargo of 130 tons of Ming Dynasty porcelain, silk and other trade goods from China bound for Spain. It was part of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade that would dominate the economy of the Philippine colony from 1565 to 1815. On occasion, a galleon ship would also carry gold and silver, extracted from Philippine mines. This was the case with the Santa Ana, a galleon ship that left Manila the year after Pedro de Unamuno’s voyage, in 1588. It was hijacked by English pirates off the coast of Mexico.

When the San Agustin landed in Point Reyes, the ship’s Spanish officers wanted to quickly resume the voyage to Acapulco but Captain Cermeno wanted to explore the land. By then the ship had made contact with the local natives, the Coast Miwoks, who lived in about 6 villages in the area. Cermeno gave them cloths and other gifts while the Miwoks gave them seeds and a banner of black feathers.

At Cermeno’s direction, the Filipino sailors “assembled a small launch on the beach for exploring the shallow waters nearby. They stayed at the bay for three weeks, in gentle fall weather.” Unfortunately, a storm came which pulled the ship’s anchor up and blew the ship to the rocks, killing a dozen men including a priest. What happened to the cargo of the San Agustin? According to Nolte, “the Miwoks picked up the cargo, slept on the silk meant for the royalty of Europe, ate from the priceless blue porcelain of the Wan Li period of the Ming Dynasty.”

Captain Cermeno and his crew of Filipino sailors and a dog then built a larger launch from the materials they could find in Point Reyes and sailed out to Acapulco, which they reached without losing a man. They did lose the dog, though, which the Filipino crew and their Spanish captain ate to survive.”

The first Filipinos who landed in America were not immigrants but were members of an exploration team. Being explorers, they did not need any visas. The Filipino seafarer who deserted the Spanish galleons and established the Saint Malo settlement in the marshlands of Louisiana were the first Filipino illegal aliens in America. These Filipino T.N.Ts (Tago-Nang-Tago) who lived in the bayous of Louisiana kept away from mainstream society. Their existence was only known after a journalist named Lafcadio Hearn wrote an article about the Filipinos in America and published it in the American political magazine “Harper’s Weekly” in 1883