Tuesday, June 24, 2014

KALAYAAN, KASARINLAN, KAGULUMIHANAN

Pahabol sa Araw ng Kalayaan... isang lumang kolum na sinulat noong sentenyal ng ewan ko nga ba kung ano.


SA MADALING SALITA
Jose F. Lacaba
Diario Uno, 1998 Hunyo 10

Kalayaan, kasarinlan, kagulumihanan


SA HUNYO 12 ay ipagdiriwang ng buong bansa ang ika-100 taon ng proklamasyon ng … ng ano nga ba?

Kalayaan, ayon sa mga opisyal na poster at banderitas.

Kasarinlan  o pagsasarili, kung susundin ang makabagong salin ng salitang independencia.  

Pareho rin iyon, hindi ba? Kung titingnan ang mga diksiyonaryong Ingles-Tagalog na mabibili sa kasalukuyan, pareho nga rin. Nagkakaisa ang mga diksiyonaryong ito na ang katumbas ng salitang Ingles na independence ay  “kalayaan, kasarinlan, pagsasarili, independensiya.”

Pero ayon sa mga nakapag-aral ng siyensiyang pampulitika, may bahagyang pagkakaiba ang gamit ng salitang independence, o kasarinlan, sa mga salitang freedom at liberty, o kalayaan.

Kapansin-pansin ang pagkakaiba noong panahon ng batas militar sa ilalim ng rehimeng Marcos. Masasabing nagsasarili o may kasarinlan ang bansa dahil hindi na ito kolonya o sakop ng Espanya, Estados Unidos, Hapon, o anupamang bansa. Pero hindi masasabing malaya o may kalayaan tayong mga mamamayan noong panahong iyon, dahil nabubuhay tayo sa ilalim ng isang diktadurang militar.

Iyan ang isang problema sa okasyong ipinagdiriwang natin tuwing Hunyo 12.

Ang dokumentong Espanyol na binasa sa Cavite Viejo noong Hunyo 12, 1898, ay pinamagatang Acta de la proclamaciĆ³n de la independencia del pueblo Filipino. Ang isang nalathalang opisyal na salin nito ay may pamagat na “Katitikan ng Pagpapahayag ng Pagsasarili ng Bayang Filipino.”

Malinaw sa nasabing “Katitikan” na ang “mga naninirahan sa mga Islas Pilipinas” ay “malaya at nagsasarili [libres e independientes] at may karapatang maging malaya at nagsasarili.”

Idinagdagdag pa na “sila ay dapat lumaya sa pagsunod sa Korona ng Espanya; na ang lahat ng pampulitikang ugnay sa pagitan ng dalawa ay ganap na pinuputol at pinawawalang-bisa at dapat na maputol at mapawalang-bisa; at tulad ng alinmang malaya at nagsasariling Estado, mayroon silang ganap na kapangyarihan na magdeklara ng pakikidigma, makipagkasundo sa kapayapaan, magsagawa ng mga kasunduang pangkalakalan, pumasok sa mga alyansa, pangasiwaan ang kalakalan, at magpatupad ng lahat ng gawain at bagay na tungkuling ipatupad ng mga nagsasariling estado.”

Maganda na sana. Kitang-kita ang hangaring maging “malaya at nagsasarili.” Eto ang siste. Ang “taimtim” na pahayag ng pagsasarili ay ginawa “sa ilalim ng proteksiyon ng makapangyarihan at makataong bansang Norte Amerika.”

Sa kagustuhang makawala sa krus at espada ng Espanya, isinabit ng pamahalaan ni Emilio Aguinaldo ang ating tadhana sa mga kuko ng agila.

Kahit nga ang bandila natin ay masasabing kopya ng bandila ng Estados Unidos. Ayon sa proklamasyon ng pagsasarili, “ginugunita ng mga kulay na bughaw, pula at puti ang watawat ng Estados Unidos ng Norte Amerika, bilang pagpapakita ng ating malalim na pasasalamat sa dakilang bansang iyon, dahil sa walang-pag-iimbot na pangangalaga  na idinudulot niya sa atin at patuloy na idudulot sa atin.”

Kung ngayon lumabas ang ganyang proklamasyon, tiyak na sisigaw tayo: “Sipsep!”

Eto pa ang mas matindi. Ang pamahalaang Aguinaldo na gumawa ng proklamasyon ng kasarinlan sa Cavite Viejo ay hindi pamahalaang demokratiko, hindi republika, kundi isang diktadura: el Gobierno Dictatorial de estas Islas Filipinas.

Si Aguinaldo mismo sa panahong ito ay hindi presidente kundi diktador. Sa Kasunduan ng Biak na Bato ay kinilala siyang “Presidente ng Gobyernong Republikano.” Pero sa proklamasyon sa Cavite Viejo, kapag binabanggit ang pangalan niya ay pinangungunahan ito ng titulong diktador: Eminente Dictador … Don Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy; nuestro famoso Dictador Dn. Emilio Aguinaldo.

Sabihin na nating panahon ng giyera noon, panahon ng magulong rebolusyon, panahong nangangailangan ng mga pambihirang hakbangin. Kahit na. Magugulumihanan pa rin tayo na ang proklamasyon ng ating diumano’y kalayaan ay gawa-gawa ng isang diktadura.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

WHEN JOE MET MISS J.

MATTER OF FACT
Jose F. Lacaba
Manila Times, January 4, 1997


When Joe met Miss J.

I HAVE a feeling that the pop historians currently outing Jose Rizal—that is, exposing him as an alleged closet queen—are really just having a little fun and pulling our collective leg. When you examine the evidence they trot out, you just have to conclude that they can’t be serious.

Rizal must have been gay, goes one argument, because he kept dreaming he was being chased by men. I have been told that a number of political activists who were detainees and exiles during the martial-law era have recurring nightmares that they are being chased by men—military men, to be sure, but men nevertheless. Does that mean the male dreamers are gay and the female dreamers are closet nymphomaniacs?

According to another argument, Rizal must have been gay because he “never wrote about sex, not even once.” That’s seen as proof that he had no sexual experience and wasn’t really interested in women. In contrast, Filipinos revolutionaries of his time slept around a lot, and Mao Zedong had a great appetite for sex.

Mao may have been a sexual glutton, as his alleged doctor claims, but as far as I know, he never wrote about sex either, unless you consider “In Memory of Norman Bethune” a homosexual tract.

The English novelist Charles Dickens was also silent on the subject of sex, if memory serves. But he fathered nine children and in his old age abandoned his wife to shack up with a stage actress who was 27 years his junior.

Dickens and Rizal lived in the same century, a time when a character like Dr. Thomas Bowdler was publishing a 10-volume Family Shakespeare from which all explicit sexual references and vulgar words—anything that could not “with propriety be read aloud in a family”—had been expunged. From Bowdler’s name came the English verb bowdlerize, which now means to expurgate or censor.

Chronologically, Rizal was a proper Victorian in a Catolico cerrado country, at least in his writings. To expect him to write like Chaucer before him and D.H. Lawrence after him is a little like expecting a bamboo tree to bear a durian fruit.

But, as I said, I think the proponents of the gay theory are being playful and tongue-in-cheeky. Using their methods of argumentation, it could probably even be proved that Rizal, a great admirer of the national discipline and order of Germany and Japan, was a proto-fascist.

In the same jokey spirit, I could trot out other circumstantial evidence to show that Rizal may have been a cradle snatcher.

His first great love was Leonor Rivera. She was 13 and he was 18 when they first met and started writing mushy love letters to each other.

In Rizal’s relationship with the Austrian Ferdinand Blumentritt, there’s supposed to be the hint of a homosexual attraction. But anyone who has read Rizal’s letters to Blumentritt from Dapitan will notice that, in closing, he never fails to extend his fondest regards to Blumentritt’s prepubescent daughter.

I don’t have the volume of Rizal-Blumentritt correspondence with me as I write, so I can’t quote chapter and verse. But I remember with what tremulous joy he describes his last vision of her, running after his departing train and waving goodbye. The girl’s name, if I remember correctly, was Dolores, and he called her Loleng—which is etymologically the sister of Lolita.

When Rizal met Josephine Bracken during his exile in Dapitan, he was 34 and she wasn’t quite 18. Of course, her age would preclude a charge of statutory rape if he had engaged in consensual sex with her. Still, the age gap between them—sixteen—was considerable.

She called him Joe, and he called her Josefina, Miss B., and Miss J. The amazing thing, in the sexually hypocritical and uptight atmosphere of the time, is that they dared to defy Church condemnation, social convention, and scandalized family reaction to get into what we would now call a live-in arrangement.

He wanted to marry his dulce extranjera, but priest and bishop laid down the condition that he could be wed in church only if he retracted everything he had written against Spain and the Catholic religion. A civil wedding being unheard of in those days, Miss J. simply moved in with Joe, despite the obvious scandal this caused in a small-town setting.

To Dapitan’s credit, it stood by him. His patients continued to consult him, and the parents of his students refused to pull their children out of his private school despite threats of excommunication. Rizal’s own mother, like many a kunsintidorang matanda, said it was better for her son and Josephine “to live together in the grace of God than to be married in mortal sin.”

Josephine suffered a miscarriage while she was living in with Rizal. The child was premature and did not survive. The incident might belie current insinuations that Rizal had no sexual experience, but the proponents of the gay theory have a ready explanation. They say the stillborn child was not Rizal’s but George Taufer’s.

Taufer was Josephine’s blind stepfather, and some historians have speculated that there may have been something unnatural or unsavory about his relationship with his stepdaughter. She may have accepted Rizal’s marriage proposal just to be able to get away from him.

There are indications that Taufer was back in Hongkong in March of 1895, when Josephine was staying with Rizal’s sister in Manila. Miss J. came back to Dapitan to live with her Joe in May of the same year. She had her miscarriage toward the end of 1895.

Between March and December is nine months, and between May and December is seven months. It cannot be proven that Josephine’s baby was not Taufer’s, but neither can it be proven that it was not Rizal’s. Either way, those of us who are connoisseurs of historical trivia can neither prove nor disprove gay or macho status.

Me, I suspect that if karaoke had existed in Rizal’s time he would be singing along with Maurice Chevalier to “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.”

MESSING WITH HISTORY 2: RIZAL IN DRAG

Rizal sa Dapitan: The movie in VHS

MATTER OF FACT
Jose F. Lacaba           
Manila Times, December 31, 1996


Messing with history 2: Rizal in drag

FILMMAKERS have been getting a bad rep lately for messing with history, but it isn’t just filmmakers who are guilty. Historians themselves mess with history all the time.

There’s a difference, of course. Filmmakers, following in the illustrious footsteps of playwrights like Shakespeare, often play fast and loose with the facts for dramatic purposes. Historians, on the other hand, normally stick to the facts (or at least the facts available to them at a given time), but may extract varying, even conflicting, interpretations from those facts.

It has been argued, for instance, that Andres Bonifacio was not plebeian but bourgeois because, in the only existing photograph taken of him, he’s dressed to the nines—coat, cravat, slicked-down hair, the works. On the other hand, the very fact that there is only one existing photograph of him, a studio shot, could be cited as proof that he was too poor to have his photograph taken as often as did Jose Rizal and the Filipino exiles in Madrid.

When you can only afford one shot for posterity, you want to be seen in your Sunday best. That’s why in Philippine barrios in the Sixties, when instamatic cameras were not as common and as inexpensive as they are now, the poorest hovels often had these framed and colorized photos of husband and wife in barong Tagalog and terno. More often than not, those costumes were provided by the studio photographer.

Also cited as evidence of Bonifacio’s alleged middle-class status is his work as a traveling salesman for a multinational company. That’s like saying that those door-to-door promo girls selling soap and shampoo shouldn’t be classified as urban poor because they hawk multinational products instead of puto’t kutsinta.

Yesterday being the centenary of Rizal’s assassination, the national hero has been coming in for his share of iconoclastic scrutiny. A question often raised these days is: Was Rizal gay?

It’s a truism that each age reevaluates the past from the vantage point of the present. Especially in the present century, historians are fond of breaking up the icons of the past and scraping off the myths that attach themselves like barnacles to historical personages and events.

Back in the Fifties, Rizal was described as a Filipino Hamlet because of his wishy-washy attitude toward armed revolution. After the First Quarter Storm, student activists denounced Rizal for his decisively reactionary repudiation of the armed revolution.

Filipino machos used to take pride in the fact that the national hero was a great womanizer. Today, with women’s liberation and gay liberation in the ascendant, it is not surprising that a new view of Rizal is coming into focus.

Womanizing is no longer the glamorous activity it was before Henry Miller got the shaft from Kate Millet. It isn’t just immoral; it’s politically incorrect.

Today you have pop psychologists claiming Casanova, whose name used to be synonymous with libertine, was gay. His many amorous affairs with women are in fact cited as proof of his gayness, because it supposedly implies an inability to sustain a long-standing relationship with any woman. In the old days, he would have been seen as just a guy who liked effing around.

In Rizal’s case, the F word may simply have stood for flirt. Since he was not the kiss-and-tell type, we’ll never know if he really scored with the women he came to be acquainted with at every port.

Among the circumstantial evidence cited of Rizal’s alleged gayness is a photo taken in Madrid showing Rizal and other Propagandists in drag. I have yet to see the photo myself. But I have seen Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze, not to mention Dolphy and Eddie Garcia, in drag. And I have seen priests and abbots in skirts. I don’t know if that makes them, or the other Propagandists in the photo with Rizal, gay.

Another supposed case in point is Rizal’s ambiguous relationship with Nelly Boustead, allegedly “a liberated Frenchwoman who, like many European women of the time, didn’t have qualms about sleeping with men before marriage.”

Actually, although resident in France, Nelly wasn’t French. Her father was the bastard product of a liaison between an Englishman and a Filipina. According to historian Austin Coates, Nelly considered herself a Filipina, “though for the present I am an English subject.”

Far from being liberated, she was a devout Protestant. My own suspicion, based on nothing more substantial than the fact that she liked engaging Rizal in disputation, is that she belonged to that disputatious variety of Protestantism now known as fundamentalist or born-again.

It was Nelly herself, and not her family, who laid down the condition that Rizal, the lapsed Catholic and active Freemason, would have to convert to Protestantism—in her own words: “embrace Christianity as I understand it”—before she would marry him.

Nelly seemed to have been something of a George Sand, the French woman novelist who liked dressing in men’s clothes and smoking cigars. Coates says Nelly had “a boy’s face,” enjoyed men’s sports, and “thought nothing of fencing with Rizal.”

George Sand had a long-running affair with Chopin in which she took on the aggressive and he the passive role. Does that mean their relationship was one between butch and closet queen? Or did they simply ignore social and moral conventions that today would be labeled as gender stereotyping?

And what of Rizal and Nelly Boustead—was their relationship of a similar nature?

How would I know? I’m no historian. But I’ve just worked on a script about Rizal’s exile in Dapitan, so I’ve done a little rereading of the Rizalist canon lately. I’ll have more speculation and extrapolation in my next column, about the scandalous live-in relationship between the 35-year-old Rizal and the 18-year-old Josephine Bracken.


MESSING WITH HISTORY


Today being the 153rd birthday of Jose Protacio Rizal, I’ve dug up a series of columns I wrote nearly two decades ago, at about the time I was writing the script of a film with the working title Dapitan. The title became Rizal sa Dapitan when the film was shown. The film, directed by Tikoy Aguiluz, starred Albert Martinez as Rizal and Amanda Page as Josephine Bracken.

Here’s the first column, which is really more about film adaptations of historical material.

MATTER OF FACT
Jose F. Lacaba
Manila Times, December 28, 1996


Messing with history

“ARE filmmakers,” a recent Associated Press feature asks, “beholden to historical accuracy?”

The question has cropped up in connection with a new film, The English Patient, touted by critics as among the best of 1996. It’s a question that has always bothered me, having written or co-written a number of screenplays based on true-life stories about real people.

The English Patient  is based on a novel by Michael Ondaatje—in other words, on a work of fiction, a work of the imagination, not a history. But the principal character, Count Laszlo de Almasy, a Hungarian in wartime North Africa, happens to be a historical figure.

As played by Ralph Fiennes, Almasy is, in the words of the AP report, “a brooding, handsome dreamer—a haunted desert explorer who pursues the woman he loves obsessively and collaborates with Nazis in a last attempt to save her life.”

That creates a problem. The real Almasy, according to the daughter of a Hungarian diplomat in wartime Egypt, was a willing collaborator who gave the Nazis lists of people to be arrested.

Elizabeth Pathy Salett, the diplomat’s daughter, describes the film as “amoral and ahistorical” and contends that “movies like this should be more faithful to what actually happened.”

The problem, as I have discovered in my other incarnation as a screenwriter, is that it is devilishly difficult to be faithful to what actually happened when you’re writing drama. You have to bend reality a bit because your producers and your audience expect heightened action and raging passion where historical records show only uneventfulness and anticlimax.

In Operation: Get Victor Corpus, the Rebel Soldier, for which I did the first draft of the script (but don’t blame me for the kilometric title), history was a little skirmish between an army unit and a small band of New People’s Army guerrillas, according to my informant, Victor Corpus himself. Cinema was a slew of helicopters dropping bombs, deafening explosions, and stuntmen somersaulting all over the jungle.

In Eskapo, for which (again) I did the first draft of the script, history was two escaped political prisoners hiding in the trunk of a car that succeeded in leaving a prison camp without incident, according to my informants, Geny Lopez and Serge OsmeƱa themselves. Cinema was guards learning of the escape at the exact moment when the car goes past the prison-camp gate, then firing at the wildly fleeing car.

In Dapitan, a film-in-progress for which I did the third and fourth drafts of the script, history was two politico-military commandants named Ricardo Carnicero and Juan Sitges with contrasting attitudes toward their prisoner, Jose Rizal. The fourth-draft script has an unnamed composite character identified as Komandante.

A hyper-realistic script on Rizal’s four years of exile in Dapitan would have to be written in many languages—the Spanish of Rizal’s “jailers” and Jesuit mentors; the Hongkong English of Josephine Bracken; the Laguna Tagalog of Rizal’s sisters; the Cebuano Visayan native to Dapitan; plus German, French, Italian, Latin, even a smattering of Hebrew, the languages that the polyglot Rizal used in his correspondence with Ferdinand Blumentritt and other European scientists.

Not being a polyglot, I made do with dialogue that is mostly Spanish-flavored Tagalog—no ngunits, subalits, and marahils—but shifts to English when Josephine comes into Rizal’s life.

In my own defense, I can only say that the explosions in Victor Corpus and the gunfire in Eskapo were not in my script drafts, but even if they were, I wouldn’t have been the first to mess with history for cinematic purposes.

The real Bonnie and Clyde were small-time hoods, not the tragic, romantic lovers portrayed by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

The real Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were nondescript gunslingers, not the glamorous outlaws played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

The real Pocahontas was not—according to Everything You Know Is Wrong by Paul Kirchner—a sexy Disney cartoon with “Barbie-like figure and attire,” but a girl of only 11 or 12 years old at the time in question, who “would have gone around almost naked.”

In the journal that screenwriter-director Neil Jordan kept while filming Michael Collins, he speaks of creating a composite character, the double agent played by Stephen Rea, who dies violently midway in the film. But this character was given the name of an actual double agent who lived on to a ripe old age, outliving Michael Collins himself, whose death ends the film.

Filmmakers aren’t the only ones who have shown little respect for historical accuracy. Shakespeare himself was never bothered by the question raised by Associated Press. The real King Macbeth of Scotland, for instance, was not the murderous whoreson depicted in the play, and he didn’t die when Birnam wood came to Dunsinane, according to the Reader’s Digest Book of Facts.

“Far from being an ambitious usurper, as Shakespeare describes him, Macbeth had a claim to the Scottish throne which was at least as good as that of his rival, Duncan. Furthermore, Duncan was killed in open battle in 1040 and not murdered by Macbeth as Shakespeare’s play claims. In fact Duncan was a young, ineffectual king—not Shakespeare’s venerable and gracious sovereign. And after Macbeth seized the throne by force, he went on to reign for 17 prosperous years, from 1040 to 1057, when he was killed by Duncan’s son Malcolm III.”