The Accidental nation

Bill in Oz has asked “is the Philippines is a nation or an empire”? James Fallows wrote about a damaged culture (link) in 1987.

I think it is an accidental nation. Let us look at how it happened. And then look at how the damage to the culture could be repaired to make the place better in maybe one generation if a critical mass works at it.

Short historical background

This is a simplified view of how LuzViMinda became Felipinas, King Philipp’s islands, run from Manila:

  • Barangays under datus, some rajahnates as shifting alliances of datus and their barangays;
  • Kingdom of Tondo as a trading empire with a natural harbor, fertile plains, a river and a lake;
  • Kota Selurong founded by Muslim Malays from Brunei, called Maynila by the natives in Tondo;
  • Spanish conquest, Intramuros was built where Kota Selurong was, Manila became the new capital;
  • King Philipp II recognized privileges of datus in exchange for loyalty to him, they became principalia.

Forced labor was the norm for the normal people. There was a racial hierarchy in the islands, the Spanish casta. Indirect rule via Mexico was centered more on extraction than on government.  A society based on that perpetuated habits of power and subservience. Jose Rizal wrote in the El Filibusterismo: what if the slaves of today become the tyrants of tomorrow? Little really changed over the years:

  1. The Spanish modernized in the late 19th century, instituted laws, but they were often misused by the privileged;
  2. the Americans brought democracy and ordered land titles, but here again the privileged often bent the rules;
  3. Quezon constituted a republic, but that republic degenerated after the war due to elite group infighting;
  4. Marcos instituted authoritarian rule, but even he broke his own official rules, his followers as well;
  5. Cory re-established a republic with more checks and balances, but it got hogtied by infighting.

Finally the true constitution of the Philippines remained that of master and servant, and groups fighting to have their share because they knew nothing else but that in their lives. The short-lived Republic of Aguinaldo, especially if one looks at the movie Heneral Luna and what happened there, lived by exactly those rules, but let us look at the Three Constitutions that are relevant:

  • The 1935 Constitution gave the President massive powers, but the postwar republic still degenerated,
  • The 1973 Constitution tried another system but that also failed because of the people running it,
  • The 1987 Constitution was good in theory, but in practice slowed down reforms and progress.

So it is the people or how they interact that is the problem. As migrants and OFWs we are great when others lead us, but among ourselves we just create a mess.

Miscommunication and Resentment

Tagalog dress, early 1800s

One man envious, the other shows his status… this illustration is early 1800s!

Even within Filipino overseas associations there are the same phenomena as in Filipino politics that lead to no or little results or even harm, these I think are the following:

  1. Distrust, because the other will usually try to get what I have, and I might be left with nothing. The harsher types say, OK before I am disadvantaged I will disadvantage others. This leads to miscommunication, because of distrust and because of so many different languages. And because so many people say one thing, but have a hidden agenda behind it.
  2. Arrogance, because in all the centuries it was the only way to get a somewhat decent life. Humility meant you were nothing, courtesy meant subservience. This of course leads to resentment among those who are humiliated all the time, never can find simple normal pride and recognition – these people either become tyrants or rebels or resign totally.
  3. In-group formation with a high degree of uniformity. Strength in numbers to be able to get something for the group, but distrust leads to suspicion of other ideas or people with a certain degree of independence of thought or action. The power structure within the group is such that the leader may lord over others as long as he is nice to them, and may of course be arrogant in order to give the entire group more status.

These are summary observations and just my personal opinion. Family groups are still the most natural and human alliances I have observed among Filipinos, religious groups OK, but in political groups, the tone can get ugly because finally it is about “survival” for those involved. There is some degree of trust among groups that have formed naturally such as ex-classmates, co-workers etc. – all good to hold on to in an often hostile environment.

Three foreign ideas – Christianity (Mexico), justice (Spain) and democracy (America) tempered this, but only within the groups that had fully understood them. For other groups, they became tools in the game of power, their stated principles became arguments to defeat others. Or the in-groups used these ideas against the out-groups in a weird continuation of colonial power patterns.

Finding new arrangements

One could live well in the Philippines if one stuck to one’s own and did not care too much about many things. It can be a good arrangement. But it seems discontent is rising among Filipinos. The old ways of doing things may no longer work for them. Possibly many have seen how it can be elsewhere, may even have built better lives than before, and want another level of recognition. Somewhat like the ilustrados who profited from the economic boom of the late 19th century wanted the Spaniards to recognize them as full citizens, starting with recognizing them as people:

  • People need to be given opportunities. I like the initiatives towards promoting SMEs, the initiatives to help the poor send their kids to school, and improved public schooling.
  • People need to be given true justice. The present justice system is slow and seems to protect simple people little. One can rot in jail for years without trial as a poor man.
  • People need to be taken seriously. Those who do not have the capability to express themselves well have not learned it. But their concerns may nonetheless be valid.

Who does it does not matter. The entire elite bear a certain responsibility for this situation. Who bears fault is another question. But responsibility for ones legacy goes back four generations according to Jewish tradition, if I remember correctly. The advantaged, who have the knowledge and the capabilities to change things, are the ones who will have to remedy the situation. Otherwise there may come those who use the situation to their advantage, or even chaos. The accidental nation can only become a healthy nation if all people see they have a part in it.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 16. February 2016


On Filipino factionalism

Confused FelipeThe extreme factionalism of the Philippines never ceases to wonder me. It is the worst among the pro-Marcos people, a lot among pro-Duterte people and a little bit among pro-Aquino people. The French also had their issues for a long time between traditionalists or royalists, revolutionaries and Bonapartists. The scars of the country took long to heal. The Spanish had a long history of conflict between the Carlistas and the progressives which started with the massive confiscation of Church lands in a country most Catholic – Franco was the last Carlista reincarnation.

The Spanish only voted non-trapo parties into power last year. Real political parties by the people, with the people and for the people. The Spanish do not know the Filipino meaning of trapo – traditional politician, they only know trapo as a rag. Filipinos I very often wonder how they can be too supportive of politicians that represent any dynasty whatsoever – whether Duterte, Roxas or Marcos. Santiago is non-dynastic but she decided to support Bongbong. Poe is a showbiz politician with insufficient competence, even if she is several notches above Alma Moreno and Pacquiao.

I have written about the many defects of Filipino politics. Señeres was a viable option for me, in second place to Roxas inspite of his simplistic ideas, because of his non-dynastic background and his sincerity – but he is dead now after having withdrawn his candidacy. Trillanes is a bit of a modern politician in that he goes for what is right, no matter on which side the person is. His leaving the Senate majority group because of Enrile was a sign. Bam Aquino is also a modern politician in that he sees, most among all the Liberal Party people, the need to give opportunities to people. What do both have in common? They are younger. Seems that there is a cultural change slowly taking place. There is of course the opposite of this, which I see in Chiz Escudero, a potential Enrile in the making in his deviousness. Roxas also has one major plus for me in his pushing for the pardon of Erap, and his working for the country even if he may not have liked those above him – but he did show principle by going against Arroyo when things got to be too much for him. These are all just impressions. But going by principles and even by passion is better than factionalism.

Because in the end the goal of leaders should be to do what they think is right for the country – not what they think is right for a particular group. It isn’t right to think one’s own group is holy and above all others. It was what irked me to no end with hardcore KBL supporters during Marcos times. It annoyed me among many Cory supporters when I witnessed the February revolution. It annoys me among many Duterte supporters – in fact in combination with disregard for due process, it can become truly dangerous. Robredo and Poe supporters are the least factional of all.

Does it always have to be like in the olden days, when supporters and allies of one datu fought against those of the other? I don’t know. Maybe I have been away too long to understand certain things. Anyway, I think that there are three things lacking among many hardcore supporter types. An idea of what conscience is about, and an idea of what true forgiveness means – Christian values. Forgiveness does not mean not punishing wrongdoing – something Cory missed out on, unfortunately. Forgiveness can be letting go when someone has been punished enough – like with Estrada. My impression is that among some Filipinos, both Christianity and democracy are only skin-deep. Too many Filipinos just say “yes sir” to teachers, to priests and probably many just said “yes sir” to the Spanish priests, to the Americans who wanted to teach democracy, and continued their old ways with a new paint coating on top. Third is real principles of any sort – is it just about winning in the end, because that was what is was about among the tribes and datus before? Because I see very little consistency of principles, there is a lot of selectivity in their application. True, President Aquino has shown many principles but often selectivity, his supporters sometimes even more. How much is just simply a nice paint coating on top of the old tribal culture? I know this is not really nice to the Philippines and Filipinos. Is everything just like rido (vindictive feuds) in Bangsamoro, just disguised as politics and morals? I am asking, because I am really confused now.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 16. February 2016

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General McArthur leaves

McArthur goes to Australia

00680_1lby Bill In Oz

McArthur in his public communiques from Corregidor in January/February 1942 announced that he would stay at Corregidor in the Philippines and share the fate of his troops. But in late February Roosevelt ordered him to leave and go to Australia. In March 1942, he was instructed to go to Mindanao & fly to Australia from an airfield on the Del Monte pineapple plantation near Bukidnon. Traveling with McArthur were his family and 13 US Army officers from his staff and two naval officers.

McArthur and his party left Corregidor at dusk in three PT Boats on at 6:30 pm on 13 March 1942. The PT boats travelled at night & hid during daylight hours, because of the danger of being spotted by Japanese aircraft or warships. The PT boats travelled the western route past Mindoro & Panay island & then South through the Sulu sea. There was a severe storm during the journey with high 6 meter waves. The boats arrived at Cagayan De Oro on Mindanao on the morning of the 13th of March after a journey of 1200 kilometers.

McArthur then had to wait for the US Air force to send aircraft to pick him up from the Del Monte air field. Two B17’s arrived from Australia just before midnight on the 17th of March.The aircraft were unloaded and then MacArthur party quickly boarded. The aircraft took off again at 1.30 am. for the flight to Australia. The intended destination was Darwin but a Japanese air raid was happening there so they flew on another 50 miles to Batchelor airfield.They landed at 9.00 am after a journey of 2400 kilometers.

After he arrived in Australia, McArthur told the press “that his aircraft had been closely pursued by Japanese fighter planes and had narrowly escaped Japanese bombers as it was landing at Batchelor Field.” This story was good headlines stuff & captured the public imagination but it was all a lie. The wireless operator on McArthur’s flight from Del Monte Field in the Philippines, Master Sergeant Dick Graf, later said that McArthur’s story was a figment of his imagination. The flight to Australia was uneventful & McArthur’s aircraft was never under threat from the Japanese. ( James Dunn )

There is a photo of McArthur standing next to the US Air force B17 just after it landed at Batchelor airfield with his assistant General Sunderland.

(An Aside : Philippine President Manuel Quezon, his family, doctors, chaplain, and senior staff also escaped from the Philippines via the Del Monte airfield on Thursday, March 26, 1942. Quezon & his party escaped from Corregidor before MacArthur by a US submarine. they were then landed at Cagayan De Oro. Two US Air force B-17’s flew from Batchelor near Darwin to collect the Filipino Commonwealth government party. )

At Batchelor Field there were 2 new Australian National Airways DC3’s waiting to take the McArthur party to Melbourne. The DC 3’s cruised at 330 kilometers an hour with a range of 2,400 km. So flying to Melbourne would have taken about 3 days with a refueling & rest stops in Alice Springs and Adelaide. However Mrs MacArthur refused refused to fly any further. McArthur’s young son Arthur was suffering from severe airsickness. McArthur asked for cars to take them all to the nearest railway station. But the nearest rail way station was at the small town of Alice Springs 1600 kilometers away on an unsealed track across dry hot dessert country. The McArthurs then agreed to board the DC3’s to Alice Springs.

While flying to Alice Springs in the middle of Australia, McArthur had the opportunity to see the nature of the Australian continent below him : generally flat, dry & hot dessert country with no rivers and no large towns or cities. In fact the only sign of human presence were a few scattered homesteads of the large 1000 square kilometer cattle ‘stations’ or properties. Similarly in March 1942 the ‘town’ of Alice Springs itself had a population of just 950 people. But in March 1942 there were also roughly 3000 Australian military personnel recently deployed there because of the war. The only important thing about Alice Springs was that it was the end of the narrow gauge railway South to Adelaide.

At Alice Springs, the US party split up. On the 19th of March McArthur, his family and some close officers took a train organised by the Australian government. His son was still sick and his wife refused the offer of flying to Melbourne. The rest of MacArthur’s staff flew down to Melbourne via Adelaide in the DC-3’s McArthur and his family then traveled the 1531 kilometers of narrow gauge track to Adelaide in South Australia. It was not a luxurious train. It was just three wooden carriages with a steam locomotive. Passengers sat in a carriage with two hardboard seats running lengthwise along the carriage. The second carriage was a dining car with a long wooden table. It also had some washtubs full of ice and a wood stove for cooking. To move from one carriage to another the train had to stop.

This journey took another 70 hours. The train travelled through yet more hot flat ‘outback’ desert & salt lake country. There was no air conditioning. In March in this part of Australia the temperature can reach 48 degrees. At night because of the lack of clouds the temperature can fall almost to zero. So it was not a comfortable journey for the US Army commander & his family. They must have been exhausted.

But once again MacArthur had a hands on experience of the Australian ‘Outback.” and it’s physical nature. I think MacArthur realised that in Australia he had a a major military advantage he completely lacked in the compact and vulnerable islands of the Philippines : ‘Depth in defence’ with over 3000 kilometers of desert separating the North coast of Australia from the major populated areas & big cities in the South.

The MacArthur train stopped on 20 March at a very small town named Terowie then a major railway junction. Locals had heard from journalists that MacArthur was on the train and greeted him at the station. It was here in this tiny town that he was asked by Australian newspaper men if he would keep going to the USA. He then made his famous speech :

” “The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed “from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organising an American offensive against Japan, the primary purpose of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through and I shall return.” ( Peter Dunn website)

Finally on the 21st of March, MacArthur’s journey ended eight days after leaving Corregidor, when his train arrived at Spenser Street Station ( now renamed Southern Cross Station ) in Melbourne. The total distance travelled was 7400 kilometers by small PT boat, planes & 3 different trains. He was welcomed by Frank Forde the Australian Minister for the Army.

I have looked at the various photos of MacArthur available on the WWW. All of them show a fit well built older man. And that is interesting. When the Americans & Filipino troops retreated to Bataan & Corregidor in mid January, they were all placed on a ration of 2000 calories a day. By mid March they were very malnourished and prone to disease like malaria and A G E. Look again at the photo of MacArthur immediately after his arrival at Batchelor on 21/3/1942 (photo above, credits: John Curtin). Or take a look a the Youtube film clip of MacArthur arriving at Spenser’s St. Station in Melbourne. He does not look thin or malnourished at all. He looks fit, strong and proud. Sometimes a picture really does tell a thousand words, if you know what to look at !

Thank you once more to Bill in Oz for this informative article!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 15. February 2016

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Beauty and Confidence

Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach in Philippine TernoConfidently beautiful ang tumpak na description ni Miss Universe, Pia Alonso Wurtzbach, sa kanyang sarili. Napakaganda rin ng mahigit 7500 (heto ang link) na isla ng Pilipinas. Pero confident ba ang Pilipinas? Mukhang hindi pa. Maikli lang itong artikulong ito, pero tignan muna natin ang mga nangyayari:

  • Minsan ang mga may lamang, inu-under ang kapwa Pilipino. Kesyo mayaman sila, edukado sila, o mas maputi.
  • Minsan ang mga dehado, talangka sa kapwa Pilipino. Dahil mahirap sila, hindi nakapag-aral, o mas maitim.
  • Madalas na walang lakas loob ang Pilipinong tumayo sa sariling paa, o mag-isip para sa sarili (heto ang link).

Lahat iyan symptoms ng mga taong walang bilib sa sarili. Kung mahina siguro ang tiwala sa sarili ni Pia, baka katulad lang ni Maui Taylor ang bagsak niya. Hindi madali ang naging buhay ni Pia Wurtzbach. Ang Pilipinas ngayon, nagiging tila isang patapon gawa ng kulang ang tiwala sa sarili. Hindi talaga Miss Universe ng mga bansa. Patapon-tapon ng basura kung saan-saan. Ang ganda ng Maynila noon, binaboy ng Pilipino mismo. Pugad Baboy komiks na ba?

Paano magkakaroon ng tiwala sa sarili ang Pilipinas? Paano magiging confidently beautiful ang bansa, kinikilalang Miss Universe ika nga at hindi lang tila isang Viva Hot Babe o kaya iyong mga talagang patapon na? Valentine’s Day ngayon. Pagmamahal ang usapan. May nabalitaan akong Hapon na kusang naglilinis sa Pilipinas, si Mazakasu Nose (heto ang link). Dayuhan mahal yata ang Pilipinas, Pilipino hindi. Sa pagtanggap sa sarili nagsisimula iyan.

Iba’t ibang kulay ang Pilipino at iba’t-ibang beauty ang Pilipina. Lahat ng pagkahati ng Pilipinas, galing sa kasaysayan at may dahilan doon, pero panahon ni kopong-kopong, ng mga Kastila at ni Mahoma pa iyan (heto ang link). Hindi lang sa kulay ang usapin, marami sigurong iba pang dapat magbago sa lipunan:

  • Huwag na sanang maliitin ng mga may edukasyon ang mga kulang sa edukasyon. Turuan sila ng mabuti, bihira ang talagang bobong tao.
  • Iyon namang mga mahirap o kulang ang edukasyon, huwag na sanang umasa lang sa iba. Mga tanga, tamad lang mag-isip, gamitin ang kokote.
  • Magtulungan, mag-bayanihan (heto ang link) – pero huwag na sanang sobrang umasa sa iba dahil tamad mag-isip o takot tumayo sa sariling paa.

Nakita din ni Joe America na may kalooban ng Pilipinas (heto ang link), merong soul. Lakas-loob lang ang kailangan. To become confidently beautiful.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, Valentine’s Day 2016


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Pilipinas – Saan Patungo?

Philippine FoodQuo Vadis Philippines ang una kong artikulo dito sa blog na ito. Latin ang titulo, Ingles ang nilalaman. Magmula sa Latin at Ingles, Pilipino naman ngayon.

Limang modelo ng pamumuno ang nakikita ko sa limang kandidato sa pagka-Presidente. Tignan natin sila:

  • Si Binay parang isang katutubong datu, iyong kanyang mga sister cities parang mga alyansa ng mga datu noong araw – Raiding, Trading, Feasting
  • Si Duterte tila parang si Raja Mangubat sa teleseryeng Amaya, pero ang kanyang Federalism parang Kahimunan ng mga Lumad
  • Si Santiago naman, awtoritaryo at tradisyonal, ang kanyang pag-iisip mana yata sa mga batas na galing pa sa mga Kastila
  • Si Roxas naman, technocratic, tila gusto niyang tapusin iyong sinimulan ng mga Amerikano noong panahon nila
  • Si Poe, visionary – kaya lang para siyang prophet na kulang pa ang exact definition ng kanyang nais para sa bayan

Mukhang confused ang bayang Pilipino, hindi alam ang patutunguan. Apo ng Espanya, Anak ng Amerika, pamangkin ng Mexico at pinsan ng Cuba at Puerto Rico. Dalawang tanong:

  • Paano ang magiging pagsasama ng mga bahagi ng sambayanan? Sentralista ba (Santiago), Decentralized (Roxas) o kaya Federalism (Duterte)?
  • Paano itutugma ang panahon na moderno sa lumang kulturang Pilipino? Kung baga sa Lambanog at Coke, gaanong karami ang ihahalo sa baso?

Ewan ko ba. Desisyon ng mga nasa Luzviminda iyan. Ano sa palagay ninyo ang maganda?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 13. February 2016


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Philippine political maturity

Carex aurea inflorescence at maturityHow politically mature is the Philippines? Not very. Maybe I have lived abroad too long. Not that things are perfect over here. But I do see this:

Sure, there is some bayanihan at the level of practical matters. But the mindset when it comes to politics seems to be: follow the herd. There are some independent thinkers, but a true revolution in mind that is necessary has not yet started. There are groups that Joe America has called Filipino 100%ers. Conformity to a thought leader and his followers is expected, like in a church or sect.

You easily get labeled some color or group. Guess that is because in old Filipino culture, you were a follower of this datu or the other. The Spanish priests came and also had their followers. Schools of thought in the Philippines usually freeze up and become rigid repetitions of what their founders might once have had as original ideas, no further development. Could it be that it never was about the truth anyway, anytime – but just about face and power? Because the actions of followers of whatever group often do not match the meaning of words – not only in split-level Christianity:

  • Those who call themselves Communist rebels are often just extortionist bandits – nothing to do with Che Guevara ideals
  • Those who call themselves democratic are often just oligarchs and elitists – the system is there to perpetuate their power
  • Those who call themselves disciplinarians are often out to discipline everybody else, but are not very disciplined themselves

How often is politics in the Philippines NOT about getting things done in a better way, but just about one’s own skin at the expense of everybody else? Zero sum games.

It has its historical reasons. But I wonder if enough will be smart enough to finally get the country off that vicious carousel? I am happy I am not in the Philippines – yet sad for the people there.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 12. February 2016

P.S. Jose Rizal was an independent thinker. Now he is a statue, an anito worshipped like the Black Nazarene by many but probably still only understood by a minority until now.



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Comparing three programs

Finally the programs are out: Roxas-Robredo, Poe and Duterte. I can compare them and older statements of Poe and Duterte that I already analyzed. My take on the three:

  • Roxas is systematic and thorough
  • Poe is compassionate and visionary
  • Duterte is pragmatic and grounded

In an ideal Philippines they could be a great team. In an ideal Philippines, there might be something like the Swiss Federal Council where seven persons are collectively the head of state and one is President each year, but all decide as a team by consensus. Three people, each one President for two years, with the “walang sapawan” (no upstaging) principle that made Eat Bulaga last so long?

But we do not live in an ideal world, the Philippines is not Switzerland, it is the zero-sum game Philippines. But still I have ventured to have a look at the ideas of all three (from programs and statements) and see who has good ideas, who has stuff missing, and who has really bad ideas. The result, as food for thought and discussion, is this:


Some short comments:

  • I think a justice system reform is first priority to ensure faster trials. Rizal already mentioned swift and fair justice as a virtue of English colonies – while criticizing Spanish colonial justice.
  • Poe has really good ideas for citizen empowerment which go towards a modern political system and party system. She of course has a strong focus on children – it was her job before.
  • Roxas’ program is extremely comprehensive, the only criticisms I have are it does not mention children (but it does mention families) and citizen empowerment explicitly.
  • Duterte’s program is patchy, his only strong points are the justice system and the laws. His rejection of higher education (algebra) is not a visionary approach at all.
  • There is hardly any statement by any about higher education, which is vital for the future. Nothing on think tanks to help the government generate ideas.

If I have missed anything – which is possible given the extent of the topic – please tell me or correct me if there is a mistake. This is my humble input – I look forward to further discussion.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 11. February 2016

P.S. thanks to giancarlo and Edgar for posting the programs. An afterthought: free tertiary for all could be red for Grace Poe due to non-fundability… Binay is totally non-fundable of course.

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General McArthur’s debacle

Gen. Douglas McArthur Statue, CorregidorMcArthur’s Role in the Philippines Debacle in 1942-3

by Bill in Oz

In 1934 Quezon president elect of the new Commonwealth of the Philippines in Washington, asked Douglas McArthur if the islands could be defended after independence. MacArthur replied “I don’t think so, I know they can defend themselves.” Quezon was reassured and asked McArthur to be his military adviser for the new republic. Later Quezon made McArthur Field Marshall of the new Philippines defence forces.

How to defend the new Commonwealth of the Philippines was an urgent problem. Starting in the 1890’s Japan embarked on a policy of making war and seizing territory. Formosa was occupied in 1894 and made into a Japanese colony. In 1905 Korea was attacked & occupied. During WW1 Japan seized the German colony ( Tsingtao ) in China’s Shandong province. The Japanese navy seized Germany’s island colonies in the Pacific – the Marianas, Caroline and Marshall Islands. In 1931 Japan attacked the Chinese province of Manchuria and made it a ‘province’ of it’s own empire. In 1935 Japan started an all out war to occupy China and incorporate it into it’s empire. In July 1941 50,000 Japanese troops occupied French Indo-China. The key to Filipino fears was the simple fact of geography. The Japanese colony of Formosa ( now named Taiwan ) with large Japanese army, air force & navy bases, was just 250 kilometers north across the straits of Luzon.

In the period from 1935 till 1941 under McArthur’s leadership the Philippino defence forces developed into a force of one hundred thousand American & Philippine troops. They were largely poorly trained and poorly armed. But McArthur issued press releases and reports saying that that they new Filipino army was an effective defence. In July 1941 after the occupation of French Indo-China President Roosevelt appointed McArthur the commander of US Army forces in the Far East. Thus from 1935 until 1942 MacArthur was thus the man responsible for developing the Philippines defence forces. He also commanded the US forces. McArthur was also responsible for the ‘strategy’ adopted for the defence of the Philippines. This was also a key aspect of what happened. The US defence forces had since the 1920’s adopted a defence strategy of attempting resist any attack by holding on to just the Bataan peninsula & Corrigidor Island at the entrance to Manila bay, until US relief forces arrived. This was the US “Orange Plan”. This strategy required concentrating troops, vehicles, weapons, medicines , munitions & food in these strategic locations.

But in late 1941 McArthur ditched this strategy. He decided that the whole of the Philippines must be defended from a Japanese attack.And so the armed forces started dispersing weapons, vehicles, munitions, medicines and food stocks all over the country. This had enormous consequences once the war started in December 1941. Within weeks it was obvious that it was impossible to defend all of the Philippines from the Japanese attacks.The only available strategy was to try and defend key defendable points like Bataan & Corrigidor island. But by then the weapons, munitions, food, fuel, vehicles & medicines were not there. The attempt by Philippine & Us forces to withstand Japanese attacks at Bataan and Corrigidor in early 1942 were undermined by  MacArthur’s strategic stupidity.

The start of the War

On Sunday morning the the 7th of December 1941 Japanese naval forces attacked the US Navy base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. This attack was a surprise. But the fact that Japan had started the war was not. US cryptographers were already able to decode Japanese radio coded signals. An attack was expected. In early November 1941 the US War Department ordered MacArthur to prepare for hostile action by Japan “at any moment”.

McArthur decided to ignore this warning and order. He announced to his US colleagues that he knew ‘from the existing alignment & movement of Japanese forces” that there would be no attack until the Spring. When the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, happened, in Manila it was Monday the 8th. of December. That morning Japanese air force planes in Formosa and carrier based aircraft were warming up ready to fly and attack. The attacks on the Philippines were supposed to happen simultaneously with the Pearl Harbor attack. Meanwhile in Manila it was the last day of a long weekend. It was the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception. Following McArthur’s ‘knowledge & expertise’ Philippine & US defence personal were all enjoying the last day of a nice relaxing long weekend. The US bomber force having been asked to relocate all it’s planes to Mindanao out of range of Japanese aerial attack, had huge party in Manila on the Sunday night.

But all was not yet lost.There was some time to mobilise the defence forces. The weather early on the 8th was very foggy in Formosa and on the surrounding seas.The planes could not take off to launch their attack at the planned time. They were delayed for over 7 hours by the weather. If McArthur had acted immediately some defence could have been mounted. But this did not happen.

MacArthur was awakened very early on that Monday morning by one of his staff with the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly afterwards at 5.00 am his air commander Major General Brereton attempted to ask McArthur for approval launch an attack on Japanese bases in Formosa and the convoys bringing troops to invade Japan. McArthur’s chief of staff General Sutherland denied him access to McArthur and told him to await further orders.

McArthur stayed in his office that day and saw nobody except Sutherland. Later he said he was studying intelligence reports. There were no orders for 7 hours after he was told of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then McArthur issued an order allowing an an initial attack o take place at sunset that day. Some aircraft ignoring the lack of orders form McArthur did take off. But It was all too late and too uncoordinated. Clark & the other air force bases were attacked.Virtually all the US air force bombers & fighters in the Philippines were destroyed in these attacks as they were being serviced, before they could get off the ground..

The Japanese air force also attacked the US Naval bases at Cavite. It was a ruin. Faced with no effective base from which to operate from and no air cover, most of the US Navy ships in the Philippines left for the the Dutch East Indies or Australia within a few days. This included the the 27 strong US submarines force. Only a few patrol oats remained. In the space of a few days the US & Philippines lost all their air force and naval power. It was a total disaster.

In the fog of war many things can go wrong. Commanders can lose their nerve just as much as privates. Stalin went missing for 3 days when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. And in these key hours at the start of the Japanese attack on the Philippines, McArthur, the commander, the field marshal, the hero, for the first time since WW1, went ‘missing’ & hid in his office.

Japanese Invasion

The destruction of US Air power & the destruction or withdrawal of US naval power opened the Philippines up to Japanese invasion. There was no way to prevent this invasion. It started on December 22, 1941 when 43,000 Japanese troops landed in Lingayen Gulf 200 Kilometers North of Manila. On the 24th of December a second force of 10,000 Japanese troops landed at Lamon Bay in South Eastern Luzon. A third Japanese force landed at Legaspi in Bicol at the same time. A fourth invasion force landed in Mindanao. It was planned well in advance and the forces well equipped with tanks and artillery..

The Commonwealth of the Philippines armed forces & the US army forces were no match for the Japanese. Philippine & US troops could not defeat the Japanese. Philippine troops were unable to defend the Philippines from the invasion. In a month the Japanese had control of Northern Luzon and of Southern Luzon & Mindanao.

There were a number of reasons for this. One major reason was that McArthur’s policy was to recruit conscripts on low pay from all over the Philippines for the Commonwealth armed forces. This meant that they new troops spoke many different languages or dialects. And the low pay did not attract men with high levels of schooling. Also most did not speak English or spoke very limited English.They spoke Visayan, Tagalog, Illocano, Bicolano etc etc. This was true both among the troops and among the lower officer levels. The higher officer levels were filled by Americans. And while they spoke English well often they had no local language skills. This made for massive communications problems and a lack of understanding or empathy between the troops and American officers. A more sensible, effective policy would have been to offer good pay to selected volunteers with a higher level of education who knew some English language.

A second major reason was that the Commonwealth Philippines forces were very poorly equipped compared to the Japanese.There was a shortage of rifles and light artillery. And many of the rifles sold to the Philippines were old WW1 ex US army vintage. Modern armaments were promised by the US after July 1941.But most did not arrive before the Japanese invasion. Again the cheap defence had a price.

The third reason for Japanese victory was that the Commonwealth Philippines forces were completely inexperienced.They had not fought in battle before. By contrast the Japanese army had been training and engaged in battles since 1932. They were battle hardened.

The fourth reason was that McArthur had committed the stupid strategic mistake of spreading his troops thinly across the islands of the Philippines, instead of concentrating them on the main target of Japanese attack in Luzon and Manila.

The Retreat To Bataan & Corregidor

Faced with defeat in the plains of northern Luzon and Batangas, MacArthur decided to reverse his strategy. On the 24th of December he abandoned defending Manila and the rest of the Philippines. The US army headquarters & the Commonwealth of the Philippines government lead by President Quezon relocated to the Island fortress of Corregidor the small fortified island at the mouth of Manila Bay. Manila was declared an ‘open city’ that is ‘ an undefended city’. He did this to spare Manila being bombed or attacked by Japanese troops .He ordered all US & Philippine troops to retreat to the Bataan peninsular . However he made this declaration without any consultation with Admiral Thomas C. Hart, commanding the US Navy Asiatic Fleet at Cavite. Although most of the ships had already left this uncoordinated action forced the Navy to destroy all their valuable stockpile of military supplies at Cavite.

In the midst of all this major defence activity on the 28th of December 1941, McArthur is reported to have called from Corregidor & asked the mayor of Manila Jorge Vargas to buy $35,000 worth of shares in Lepanto mining company for him. This single special purchase was done the following day. It made McArthur a millionaire by the end of the war.

This fighting retreat to Bataan took three weeks up to the middle of January 1842. By all accounts it was well done. And for this McArthur was given a lot of credit. One wonders why as it was a consequence of his incompetence.

This did not stop him from seeking ‘awards’ for what he had achieved. James Bowen says of McArthur on Corregidor that he

“spent his first two weeks … pestering President Quezon for rewards for his “distinguished service” to the Philippines… Quezon responded to McArthur’s pressure for rewards by granting him the sum of $500,000 from the impoverished Philippine Treasury on Corregidor. MacArthur’s closest staff officers received smaller sums.”

Some may ask also why Bataan ? Why not defend Manila itself and the surrounding plains ? The problem was that the US & Philippine troops were not equipped to defend the city. And an attempt at defending Manila would have meant a huge number of civilian deaths. So But McArthur reverted to the original US “Orange Plan” which he had abandoned in July 1941.

Karnow says that McArthur also

“knew Bataan’s rugged terrain from his days as a young engineer. It’s five hundred square miles, dangling like an ear lobe from Luzon, are dominated by a spine of jungle clad mountains…..Few regions in the Philippines were better equipped for defensive warfare- on condition that it’s defenders had adequate supplies.” ( Karnow page 292 )

A total of 90,000 troops on Luzon reached the Bataan Peninsula in the fighting retreat. They were immediately all put on half-rations. Adequate military equipment and supplies for a lengthy defence of the peninsula were not there. In July August 1941 McArthur had ordered that huge quantities of military equipment, food, and medical supplies be spread across the nine major islands of the Philippines.

US army ‘Plan Orange’ developed in the early 1030’s with the threat of Japan in mind, required the Bataan Peninsula to be stocked with sufficient food and medical supplies to enable 43,000 troops to withstand a siege for six months. In the three weeks of the retreat only enough food was shipped to Bataan by barge from Manila, for a thirty day siege. By contrast enough supplies were ferried by barge to Corregidor, from Manila to supply 10,000 men for 6 months. What made it worse was that MacArthur issued orders forbidding his army commanders from buying or or seizing food & clothing from warehouses, even those owned by Japanese citizens. MacArthur also enforced a law stopping the movement of rice stockpiles across provincial boundaries. MacArthur also stopped army quartermasters buying rice to ship to the troops at Bataan from a stock of 50 million bushels located at the town of Cabanatuan. Later on specialists looking back at this decision came to the conclusion that 20% of this stockpile of rice would have fed the Bataan troops for a year ( Karnow page 294 )

MacArthur’s successor as commander of US & Philippine forces, General Wainwright said after the war when asked about the Bataan siege “ If we had something in our bellies……things might have been a bit more endurable”

Plan Orange was also predicated on the USA being able to come to the assistance of the Philippines.However in early 1942 this was not possible. The Japanese navy & it’s carrier force dominated the seas & air of the Western Pacific ocean. And at a political level the USA was gave a higher priority to assisting Britain against Germany. Reinforcements and supplies could not be sent and no attempt was made to send them.

The troops ill-equipped and poorly fed fought with great courage lead by General Wainwright. For the first 2 months they held off the Japanese attacks. But gradually they succumbed to malnutrition & diseases like malaria & dengue fever. There were also very inadequate medical supplies for the sick & injured. Psychologically they lost hope.They realised they were expendable. And they expressed this feeling is this verse reported by Rovere & Sclesinger ( page 57)

“We’re the battling bastards of Bataan
No momma, no poppa, No Uncle Sam
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces,
No rifles, no gums or artillery pieces
And nobody gives a damn”

Rovere & Arthur Sclesinger, page 56, also say this about McArthur :

“Most people when they think of Bataan, think of McArthur.Yet he visited Bataan only once during the months of grim resistance. “ The troops noticed McArthur’s absence from Bataan. They noticed he stayed well fed & safe in the Malinta deep tunnels on Corregidor. The following derisive verse was coined about McArthur in this period by an anonymous GI. It was sung to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic’

“Dugout Doug McArthur lies a shakin’ on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on…”

Another verse went :

“Dugout Doug not timid, he’s just cautious not afraid
He’s carefully protecting the starts that Franklin made
Four star generals are as rare as good food on Bataan
And his troops go starving on.”

MacArthur was tagged behind his back ‘Dugout Doug’ for the remainder of the war both in Philippines, in Australia, in PNG & Japan.

Meanwhile McArthur was sending communiques back to the USA reporting on the war in the Philippines. These communiques he personally wrote & edited. These communiques made very little mention of the other officers or men fighting in the battle. Richard Connaughton writes in his History of MacArthur in the Philippines:

“In the first three months of the war, McArthur or his staff wrote 142 communiques; 109 of which mentioned one man, McArthur. They carried brave, exciting, heartwarming, gripping though often imaginary accounts as to how McArthur’s guile, leadership, and military genius had continually frustrated the evil intentions of Japan’s armed forces. His picture appeared on the cover of Time at the end of 1941 and, early in the new year, the effect of these press releases upon the American public served to whip them up into a frenzy of fawning adulation of McArthur, American hero.” (page 225 )

They were exercises in self glorification. And as they were published in the US press McArthur became a US national hero.

In late February 1942 President Roosevelt decided to order McArthur to leave Corregidor and the Philippines. He was told to make his way to Australia and take up the role of Commander of US Forces in the South West Pacific. McArthur left Corregidor on a PT boat with his family and aides on the 11th of March. General Wainwright moved to Corregidor & became the commander of US & Philippine troops. Major General Edward King replaced him as commander of troops on Bataan itself.

Although ordered by General Marshall to take only one senior staff officer with him MacArthur took with him a large contingent of 14 of his closest and most trusted staff officers. They included his Chief of Staff, Major General Richard Sutherland who was involved in the stuff on the 8th of December when MacArthur was unavailable to his senior Air force general. . In the opinion of James Bowen these staff officers were notorious for their sycophancy and lack of combat experience. They were known in Australia as the “Bataan Gang”. A week later McArthur was in Australia.

On the 3rd of April 1942 the Japanese renewed their offensive against Bataan with fresh troops supported by heavy artillery, tanks, and air attack. McArthur from Australia ordered a general counter attack. He commanded that under no conditions should they yield. Instead they should seize a Japanese supply dump at Subic bay and then move into the Northern Cordillera and continue the fight as a guerilla war. McArthur also said that reinforcements & supplies were on their way. But it was a lie. Afterwards Brigadier General William E. Brougher, one of the US generals involved in Bataan defence said “A foul trick of deception played on a large group of Americans by a commander-in-chief and his small staff who are now eating steak and eggs in Australia”.  (Bowen )

But by then the Philippine & American troops on the Bataan were unable to offer any effective resistance. Their rations amounted to a 1000 calories a day. They were malnourished & starving. Malaria afflicted almost all the troops and seventy five per cent had dysentery. After 5 days of constant Japanese attacks, King decided to surrender. On the 5th of May Corregidor was also attacked. Wainwright surrendered a day or so later.

In the days & weeks after the surrender the Japanese ordered US & Filipino prisoners of war to walk to Camp O’Donnell about 130 kilometers to the North. This became know as the Death march.In the course of this death march many thousands of prisoners either died from lack of food, dysentery or were wantonly killed due to Japanese brutality.

Bowen says something about the Death March that is absent in all the other sources. More than 60,000 Filipino and 20,000 American prisoners of war were forced into the Bataan Death March to camp O’Donnell.“ That is there were 4 times more Filipinos than Americans fighting the siege of Bataan & the defence of Corregidor. However none of the accounts I have seen name any of the Filipinos who were involved. The only persons named are American.


  • James Bowen 2009 : This source is an interesting one as it reflects the Australian view of MacArthur for decades after he was there in 1942-45. The site was developed by James Bowen with the blessing of the Australian Returned Servicemen’s League ( RSL ) Bowen also has an extensive list of sources he used here.
  • Richard Connaughton History of MacArthur in the Philippines (2001) The Overlook Press.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica :
  • Stanley Karnow : In Our Own Image : America’s Empire in the Philippines, Ballantine Books 1989
  • Richard Halworth Rovere & Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: General MacArthur & President Truman : The Struggle for Control of American Foreign Policy. Transaction Publishers, New Jersey 1992
  • Wikipedia :

Thank you to Bill in Oz for this very interesting article.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 10. February 2016

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Filipino Virtual Bayanihan

BayanihanThere has been something forming quietly, without being noticed too much by the usual suspects in blogs. I suspect we are a bit too self-centered sometimes. While we have been discussing, some people have started to act – and make websites for virtual bayanihan. Yes bayanihan, the old Filipino community spirit of self-reliance and mutual assistance – as opposed to the oppressive, authoritarian barangay where one relies on a datu-type leader for everything, including what one should think and do. Let me show some examples:

Overseas Virtual Bayanihan

There are a few sites which I have noticed in Europe, possibly there are many more, maybe even in the Middle East:

  • This is an example of an article from Migreat – which gives practical tips about migration, studying and more for Filipinos in Germany, Spain, England and Italy.
  • This is an example of an article from Pinay In Germany – which is a group of Pinays married to Germans, giving tips to other Pinays and also writing about life in Germany.
  • This is from Pinoy in Amsterdam. I would say the site is still quite rudimentary, but it does explore a lot of areas. Here there is the possibility of a commercial/business link.

What is interesting is that the makers of these websites are very unassuming, unlike most bloggers on the political scene. I even would include myself as being a bit self-promoting at times.

Local Virtual Bayanihan

Locally, there are two sites that I have noticed. I am sure there are more:

  • Efren Nolasco gives not only computer tips, but also tips on how to deal with practical matters like SSS, Philhealth etc. – one example is this article.
  • Boklit also gives practical tips on the usual day-to-day stuff like SSS, Philhealth, PAG-IBIG…, but also self-help ideas like this article on how to get out of debt.

A New Spirit?

What is interesting is that Efren Nolasco is a former OFW.  My first article at Joe America’s blog foresaw a role of those who have been abroad in changing the Philippines. Those who are poorer or less educated in the Philippines are often kept from gaining too much confidence I think – by both the rich and the educated, many of whom want to keep a colonial-style monopoly of wealth and knowledge. Being abroad is not only about earning money, it is also about seeing how things can work differently, and gaining confidence by seeing one’s hard work finally having true results.

Joe America recently mentioned the possibility of people powered journalism. People Power was not a bad thing – it removed a dictator, or an authoritarian ruler, whatever one chooses to call him, who had plundered the country and driven it into inflation and debt among other things. But People Power only replaced one ruling group with another somewhat better ruling group.

Filipinos were still hopeful sheep then. It was a necessary stage in the country’s development – away from being intimidated sheep. Now they are regaining confidence as well as community. Virtual bayanihan is in my opinion a major step forward for Filipinos – away from being just masses to becoming empowered citizens. This start is oriented towards daily needs, which I think is a good thing because that is what counts for most people, first and foremost. Between the thought leaders and the virtual citizens, there is still a divide. Bridging it remains the main challenge.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 9. February 2016

P.S. in response to an article of mine about Rising from Victimhood, Joe answered that the way to rise is knowledge that gives confidence. Will Villanueva added faith to that, and I commented that faith in good things about being Filipino is essential. This is all essential to overcoming the slave mentality that Get Real Philippines points out – but their solution is dictatorial and self-hating.

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Panahon at Distansiya

Tag CV2010 CarreraHeto sana ang tema ko sa New Year. Di bali Chinese New Year ngayon. Anong ngayon? Hindi precise ang salitang ngayon. Ang maaring ibig sabihin nito ay ngayong taon, ngayong buwan, ngayong linggo, ngayong araw. Kung agad-agad ang ibig sabihin ng Pilipino, Now Na ang salitang ginagamit. Dahil sa Ingles, maliwanag ang ibig sabihin ng now. Sa Aleman jetzt, sofort ay agad. Iyong heute ngayong araw. Iyong heuer ngayong taon, pero sa mga dialekto lang ng Bavaria at Austria. Ewan ko ba kung may kinalaman ito sa Tag Heuer na relo.

Panahon at Oras

Anong oras na? Ang oras salitang hiniram sa Kastila. Kaya lang bahagi na ng Pilipino. Ang jeepney Pilipino kahit sa jeep nanggaling. Ang Jolibee mas masarap pa kaysa McDo kahit Hamburger. Ang Hamburger na orig galing sa Hamburg, doon napunta sa barko ang karamihan sa mga Aleman na nakipagsapalaran papuntang Amerika. Pero matagal na iyan. Panahon pa ni kopong-kopong.

Ang kopong kopong, galing pala sa 19-kopong-kopong. Iyong bago pa doon, panahon ng Kastila, iyong napakatagal na panahon pa ni Mahoma. Si Mahoma daw, si Mohammed – Muslim ang Maynila noong araw na mayroon pa raw nila o indigo na tumutubo sa pampang ng ilog na Pasig. Sa bandang Tundo, Kapampangan daw ang salita noon. Sa bandang Maynila, salitang Taga-Ilog. Medyo corny iyong narinig kong tawag sa panahon ng Amerikano at ni Quezon: before the prewar. Iyong McArthur sa salitang kalye, tae raw na bumabalik kahit iflush iyong toilet. I shall return.

Layo at Distansiya

'The Last Gleanings', oil on canvas painting by Jules-Adolphe Breton, 1895, Huntington Library

Mga magsasakang Pranses

Kaya huwag nating sabihin na walang sense of history ang Pilipino. Meron din. Mas precise lang talaga ang mga taga-kanluran. Mas isinusukat lahat. Hanggang ngayon wala akong masyadong pakiramdam sa distansiya. Mga Aleman kung magbigay ng direksiyon, minsan sasabihin sa iyo lakad ka ng dalawang kilometro tapos lumiko ka ng pakaliwa. Gaanong kalayo ba ang dalawang kilometro? Tinatanong ko na lang kung ilang crossing ang tatawirin ko, o kung ano ang aking dadaanan na gasolinahan, restorante, tulay at iba pa. Isang dangkal alam ko pa. Sa bote-dyaryo.

Mga Pranses ang nagsimula sa metro, sentimetro, kilometro, gram, kilogram at iba pa. Iba’t-iba ang mga distansiya, timbang at sukat noong araw sa Europe. Ang one foot paa daw ni Emperor Charlemagne, si Carlos na matangkad. Ang one mile galing daw sa mille passuum – isang libong hakbang ng mga sundalong Roman na nagmartitsya para sakupin ang Europe, North Africa at Middle East. Napadali ang negosyo sa Europa gawa ng itinugma ang lahat ng uri ng pagsukat. Wala nang conversion of units. Itinuloy ito ng European Union. Pati pera rito halos iisa na. Euro.

Bilang, sukat, tantsiya


Lumang kalendaryong Roman

Madalas ako magbiro na tatlo lang ang uri ng tao sa mundo – iyong marunong magbilang at iyong hindi. Nagulat ako kahapon sa isang barkeeper na taga-Munich, ang bilis ng utak niya at nakasagot agad… at ang pangatlo iyong marunong magtantsiya. Iyong lumang pag-iisip na Pilipino, simple lang – tantsiya. Panahon ni Mahoma, panahon ng Kastila, panahon ni kopong-kopong. Before the prewar pinanganak ang Tatay ko, 1934. 1935 pumasa sa bar exam iyong lolo ko, pagkatapos ng maitaguyod ang 1935 Constitution. Aba biglang pumasok ang kalendaryo sa usapan.

Si Julius Caesar ang nagsimula sa modernong kalendaryo. Bago siya ang maging Pontifex Maximus, isang mataas na pari ng mga Roman, binababoy minsan ng mga pulitiko ang kalendaryo para tumagal ang kanilang term kung malakas sila sa Pontifex Maximus. Para bang mga politikong Pilipino ngayon – kung may kapit sila sa Korte Suprema, iyong mali nagagawa daw nilang tama. Magmula sa reporma ni Caesar, hindi na papalit-palit ang kalendaryo. Hindi na weder-weder. Si Papa Gregorio XIII lang ang nagreporma ulit ng konti – halos 1500 na taon pagkatapos. Continuity.

Iyong titulo ng lumang pagan na pari na Roman, inangkin ng mga Santo Papa, pati na iyong iilang tungkulin nila tulad ng kalendaryo. Iyong mga Orthodox hindi sinundan ang reporma ni Pope Gregory, kaya ang October Revolution ng mga Ruso, sa Nobyembre nangyari. Saka lang nila inadjust iyong kanilang kalendaryo. Samakatwid, ang bentaha ng mga taga-kanluran, precise sila. Lahat ibinilang, ikinukwenta, isinusukat ng mabuti. Nakarating na rin sa Pilipino. Martial law ni Marcos: September 21, 1972. February 25, 1986: Presidente si Cory. May 9, 2016 may eleksyon.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München

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