Category Archives: History

‘Ownership’ of the Hacienda de Angono

This is a repost of an article containing the researches of the blogger debrwall. This article was discovered by our cousin Christine Eustaquio, an Asuncion cousin coming from Romana Asuncion line, daughter of Antonio Asuncion (born 1794) , an older brother of Justiniano Asuncion (born 1816). Romana was married to Andres Trinidad Carrillo of Binãn. This is part of the interesting finds of my increasingly passionate cousins who work day and night as ancestry investigators. It’s nice to have such cousins. This article is to help us understand Antonio Asuncion, a painter, who married Remigia Sta. Ana whose family is mentioned in this article. We give our thanks to debrwall for this very valuable information. / jun asuncion
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General Don Domingo Antonio de Otero Bermudez consolidated a number of properties, the Hacienda de Angono[1], along with other lands and estancia (farms) of Binangonan and the lime quarries of San Guillermo. Señor Don Juan de Ozaeta y Oro, special judge of the Land Commission in 1699, pronounced the documents produced by Don Domingo as ‘good’. He was a member of His Majesty’s council, oidor (Associate Justice) of the Real Audiencia of Philippine Islands.  He also saw the record of proceedings instituted by the natives of the town of Binangonan before the Superior Government, claiming that some of the lands allegedly belonging to the estancia were theirs.

The original objection to the townspeople’s claims was that no one said or did anything to the contrary when the tape passed through their town that marked its boundaries. It was argued that no one pointed out a different stream or river from Mabalan. Rivers or streams separated the lands and traditional practice often used the stream as an unwritten kind of boundary. The people who revolted were subsequently forbidden to work the lands that they occupied without Don Domingo Bermudez, the owner’s consent. Otherwise, they were subject to penalty:  the gobernadorcillo officials and cabezas de barangay  (local native government leaders/heads) were to be deprived of their offices and to be confined with hard labour in the Cavite prison on ration and without salary.

The oidor favoured the claims made by Bermudez and approved the titles and the boundaries of the property based on the demarcation and survey that had just been made.

As an expression of gratitude for his blessings, Don Domingo formed ‘four capellanías (pious trust funds) with a capital of 2,000 pesos each ‘between 1733-1736. Three of these were offered to the Archdiocese of Manila and one to the Order of Preachers. Santiago (2002:30) wrote that ‘all four foundations are still extant.’ Professor Ligaya G. Tiamson Rubin pointed out that Justice Calderon Enriquez found a fake survey in Silang, Cavite that was undertaken in 1743, claiming that the lands belonging to the Binangonan townspeople were already given to the Dominican Order. The Clerk of Court of the Audiencia, Juan Monroy was suspended for two years and asked to pay a penalty of P2,000.[2]

The Royal approval was issued on the 16th December 1749. A comment associated with the issuance of the title was: it was issued ‘without prejudice to third persons who might show a better right’. I interpret this comment to mean that Don Andrés Blanco Bermudez’s (Don Domingo’s nephew) ownership and possession were not ‘absolute’. In 1745, the natives of Binangonan led by their town officials occupied the lands belonging to the hacienda by force of arms —  ‘several towns mutineed and revolted.’  Special Judge Don Pedro Calderón Enriquez, Ozaeta’s successor investigated the Binangoneños’ grievances.

In 1745, the following were recognized as the owners of Hacienda Y Estancia de Angono: General Don Domingo de Otero Bermudez; Alferez Don Andres Blanco Bermudez; Josep Blanco Bermudez; Don Miguel Cacho of Manila. According to Santiago, Don Andrés presented the certificate of the title issued by Judge Ozaeta in 1699 and thereupon, a re-measurement of the dimensions and retracing of the hacienda’s boundaries as described in the certificate were apparently painstakingly undertaken. The landmarks (natural — e.g. huge trees and boulders, and man-made — boundary stones) were still in place. Hence, in 1749, the judge declared the documents ‘genuine and legitimate’.

Don Pasqual de Sta. Ana of Pasig, after two years of negotiation, bought the Hacienda y Estancia de San Clemente de Angono y Lagundi measuring over 3,000 hectare on 14 September 1818 from Don Miguel Cacho of Manila for 12,000 pesos.

Don Pasqual, by oral tradition, belonged to the pre-hispanic nobility of Caintá and Pásig. Santiago referred to the Jesuit chronicler, Chirino who pointed out that at the time of the conquest, Caintá was one of the rare vast towns ruled by a rajah (Sanskrit root: ‘to rule’ — referring to ‘king’, ‘Chief’). During Don Pasqual’s growing up years, his family had ‘gone down in the world’ apparently as a result of the ‘devastation wreaked in these parts by another invader, the British military (1762-64)’. The Sepoy (from India) soldiers in the British army decided to settle in Cayntá, and Don Pasqual and his descendants employed them and their children with native women, in their farms. Although Don Pasqual’s grandfather lost their ancestral lands and his own parents were unable to redeem these lands, through hard work and entrepreneurialship, he and his wife were able to buy back the lands his grandfather lost. Don Pasqual bought two haciendas: Isla de Talim and Hacienda y Estancia de San Clemente de Angono y Lagundi.

As experienced by the other hacenderos, Don Pasqual ‘inherited from his predecessors the wearisome problem of tenants refusing to pay the customary fees (terrasgo) for their houses and fruit-bearing trees inside the estate (Santiago 2002: 32).’ On 22 December 1819, Don Pasqual filed a suit against the tenants at the Royal Audiencia. The outcome of the case was not available.

Don Pasqual’s granddaughter (a Spanish mestiza), Doña Dominga de Sta. Ana Lara of Pasig inherited the Hacienda. Doña Dominga’s father, Don Jose de Sta. Ana married a Spanish lady from an illustrious criollo clan of the city, Doña Maria Escalante, daughter of Don Mariano Escalante and Doña Clara Miranda. Doña Maria Escalante was the young widow of Don Jose Matheo de Rocha, son of Don Luis de Rocha, the owner of the Malacañang estate (the future site of the presidential palace). She was first married in 1842 to the Licenciado Don Benancio Gonzalez de Lara, a lawyer from Toledo, Spain. They had a son, Don Eugenio Gonzalez de Lara (1844-1896). When Don Benancio died, Doña Dominga and her son, returned to Angono to live in the casa hacienda for good. In 1852, the hacendera next married Capt. Francisco Guido, another Spaniard who hailed from Villafranca del Berzo, Leon Province, Spain. Doña Dominga and Don Francisco Guido were my great-great-great grandmother and grandfather, and the next owners of the Hacienda.

The State granted absolute ownership through the real cédula (certificate) on 15 October 1754 to those who legally acquired the estate under the Spanish regime: Don Domingo Antonio de Otero Bermudez, Don Andres Blanco Bermudez and their successors: Don Miguel Cacho, Don Pasqual de Sta. Ana, Doña Dominga de Sta. Ana and Don Francisco Guido.

The boundaries of the property were formed with important towns: in the South were with the town of Binangonan; in the Southeast, with the town of Antipolo; and in the North, with the town of Taytay (where my grandfather, Hermogenes Guido and his wife, Aquilina brought up their ten children — Esperanza, Alfredo, Eufronia – my mother, Gliceria, Priscilla, Rosa, Profetiza, Buenaventura, Buensuceso and Carlos).[3]

Based on the outcome of a court case [4] in relation to the Hacienda de Angono between Justo Guido et. al., plaintiffs and appellees and Agustin de Borja et. al. (defendants and appellants),  the de Borjas were tenants of the Hacienda until 1903. A judgment of the Court of First Instance of Rizal supported their claim that they were the owners of the Hacienda. The Guidos (Justo, Buenaventura and Juliana and others) appealed against that judgment and won their case. Consequently, the de Borjas were asked to return the property to the Guidos, pay the legal cost and pay in money and paddy (rice field) as owed them, considering that the fruits, crops and plantings on the Hacienda were not theirs. Justo Guido of Singalong, Manila, who had the Hacienda de Angono titled in his name under the Torrens System in 1909; Joaquin, Victoria, and Benito, children of Justo Guido who had the Hacienda subdivided and sold to different owners.

According to Professor Tiamson Rubin, it wasn’t clear whether the entire territory of Hacienda y Estancia de Angono owned by the heirs of Dona de Sta. Ana had been declared ‘Public Lands’ that, in due course, were given to various people who had constructed under their own names their titles through the Torrens Title System. She speculated that due to the scarcity of documents pointing to legitimate Deeds of Transfers concerning the estate, it could be construed that the heirs of Doña Dominga had not shown sufficient interest in asserting their ownership of the property.

[1] Santiago distinguished the hacienda from an encomienda. The hacienda formed boundaries with entire towns and ‘comprised a whole barangay or barrio or a combination of barrios and sitios which eventually developed into a town itself.’ An encomienda was a royal grant of the tributes (not the land) ‘of a particular locality’. The encomenderos’ privilege lasted for two or three generations of the beneficiary’s family (see Santiago, L.P.R.1990.‘The Filipino encomenderos’, Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society 18: 162-84)

[2] Tiamson Rubin, L.G. 2003. Angono Rizal: Mga Talang Pangwika at Pagkasaysayan. Espana, Manila: UST Publishing House, p. 63.

[3] Santiago, L.P.R. ‘Don Pasqual de Sta Ana (1762-1827): ‘Indio Hacendero.’ Philippine Studies, Vol 50 (2002): 23-49 First Quarter, Ateneo de Manila University Press, p. 29

[4] Philippine Reports, Vol 12, February 4, 1909; case no 4013


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Filed under Art And Culture, Asuncion's History, Bulan Families, History

Old Master found again: He had fun

by: Eric Torres

from The Times Journal, Sunday, October 26,1975


Any one who wants to study the works of early Filipino painters will find a small if lacklustre collection in our National Museum to start with. The real glories, unseen by many and unknown even to connoisseurs, hang in ancestral homes – or are kept in the garages – of some of the premier families of Manila and neighboring provincial towns. Just to see these masterpieces in a house –to-house quest is a matter of such Odysean resourcefulness and frustration to make one imagine that a camel’s passage through the eye of a needle simpler.

The relative obscurity today of painters born in the early decades of the 19th century is undeserved though explainable. Perhaps the cultist attention to those late 19th-century laureates who made it to the fashionable salons of Europe, Juan Luna and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo, has made many lose sight of the genuine, and no-less-brilliant, achievements of such artists who stayed home and contributed to the development of a native aesthetic tradition as Antonio Malantic, Lorenzo Guerrero, Simon Flores, and the legendary Justiniano Asuncion, alias Capitan Ting.

At the peak of his creative life Capitan Ting enjoyed a reputation matched only by that Master of Tondo, Malantic. A work done in his prime, which has been in the possession of the Castrillo sisters of Biῇan, Laguna, for generations, is an oil portrait of his grandniece, Romana Asuncion Carrillo, dated 1870 and signed “J.A.” is a florid script. It is as sophisticated as one could ask for, in late Renaissance style characteristic by a mirror-image illusionism, classical clarity of outline, and veristic modelling. It is certainly more full-fleshed than any portrait by Damian Domingo, the mestizo who directed the first school of fine arts in Manila; by comparison, Domingo’s portraits look like whimsical dolls or mannequins.

Idealized Rendering

The portrait of Romana tells us much about the conventions of portraiture at that time. The subject is idealized: forehead, nose and mouth are rendered with pearly smoothness; no trace of epidermal imperfection is allowed to appear; eyes peer at the beholder in a manner piercingly limpid and alive; not one strand of the well-combed hair is out of place.

One convention demanded that the appearance of the sitter be impeccably correct, in unimpeachable taste, for the portrait was meant not merely to decorate the growing expanse of the walks in the house of Indios whose wealth derived from trade and commerce. It was also a cachet of status for the rising ilustrado class eager to win the respect of everyone and to perpetuate an image of superior education and breeding in the best possible light.

As in Renaissance icons of European nobility, the portrait of a lady was calculated to show the comfort and leisure of her class, and to show these by her putting on the finest and most expensive clothes – fulsome panuelo and camisa of piῇa, billowy skirt of brilliant silky stripes and such accessories as perfumed lace handkerchief and ivory fan. Sitting for a portrait also provided a splendid excuse to deck herself with the treasures of her jewel box, and these consisted of comb, petache (a hair ornament), earring, tamburin (pendant) or rosary – all studded with pearls and diamonds – and rings on most fingers (three for each hand was a standard number). Each exquisite detail of rococo embroidery and filigree was delineated with a virtuoso precision designed to astonish.
Above all the artist was expected to capture an ambience of decorum and highmindedness, which among other things meant keeping the sitter’s mouth shut.

Delicate tension

What gives pictorial clout to early portraiture by painters of Capitan Ting’s calibre was a certain delicate tension created between the exuberant linear and textural details of finery on one hand, and the rather plain Pilar expression of the face on the other – and again between the stiff transparent planes of dress and the roundly sensuous modelling of the face, hands and sometimes forearms, if shown at all. Evident in Capitan Ting’s best portraits is a wide-eyed, provincial curiosity about the status-seeking attitudes and material splendour of his ilustrado patrons, whom he saw at their Sunday best – a curiousity mixed with just the right measure of enthusiasm and detachment, which accounts for the crisp sentimentality in the portraits he did of the women in the Paterno family of Quiapo.

Capitan Ting was born in Sta. Cruz, Manila, on September 23, 1816 to a family of Chinese extraction. (In a double portrait he did of his parents, his father strikes a pose which clearly displays his Chinese queue.) He was second to the youngest of 12 children. Five of his brothers were all-around painters and sculptors, the most gifted of whom was Leoncio, who carved fine religious images in ivory and baroque furniture as well.

Barrio captain

About 1855 he served as barrio captain for Santa Cruz, and was well liked for his worldly wisdom and congeniality. That he had a stone house built on Calle Quiton is a sign that he enjoyed some measure of economic prosperity from commerce. There he lived most of his long life, raised six children, and supported a number of relatives. In his late years, he retired to Bulan, Sorsogon, where two of his sons, also painters, had settled down. In his Bicol retirement, he raised some of the best fighting cocks in the region. He died in Bulan in 1896 at the age of 80.

A self-taught artist, he painted for pleasure rather than for money. Like the other masters of his time, he applied his prodigious skill to all kinds of art work, including colourful genre illustrations depicting such local types as a mestiza cooling herself by the river, a vendor of mats, an aficionado of the cockpit coddling his gamecock, and so on, which must have delighted foreign visitors.

Miniatures, too

He did works of monumental scale as well as miniatures no larger than the size of one’s palm. His one magnum opus of imposing dimensions depicting bigger-than-life figures of four saints, Jerome, Agustin, Gregory, and Ambrose, painted on the pendentives of the Santa Cruz church, was destroyed by fire, before World War II.

But the miniatures have survived as heirlooms among fourth generation Asuncions. These are portraits in oil or watercolour on thin, flat pieces of ivory whose texture was used to enhance the luminescent quality of his hues and to give the superfine rendering of the skin and hair the highest degree of verismo.
A branch of the Asuncion family tree, the Gomezes of Ongpin street, has a few examples which clearly reveal the miniaturismo method. This consisted of first polishing the surface of the ivory to a fine sheen and then drawing the outlines of the figure in pencil. The last stage, the most painstaking, called for the application of paint by means of a tiny brush (which appears for all intents and purposes to have had no more than three or four hairs) in a pointillistic system of dots, or points.

The result was a pellucid illusion of the model which no mere photography could possibly achieve.
“He must have had a sense of humor,” comments one of his descendants, Mrs. Corazon Galang of Cubao, Quezon City. Compared to Capitan Ting’s, Malantic portraits look glum, somber and unsmiling. A quiet cheer or optimism pervades the canvases of the Master of Santa Cruz, especially when he painted women of all ages, of which the portrait of Dolores Paterno, the composer of the languid “Sampaguita,” in the Carmen Gabriel collection, is a fair example.

Good cheer

This optimism radiates with an inspired luster in a portrait of a favourite niece, Filomena Asuncion, a moon-faced beauty whom he painted with a robust sensuousness and a discreet smile ready to break out from her moist lips – a relief from the general uptightness of portraits by his contemporaries. This one, signed “J.A.” and dated 1860 carries a matter-of-fact notation, “A los 22 aῇos y 10 dias de edad,” as if to twit the vanity of human wishes, especially for recuerdos of one’s youth. In doing her portrait, perhaps the best he ever did, Capitan Ting raised the quality of lifelikeness to the level of trompe l’oeil.

His facility for the fool-the-eye lifelikeness was once put to a severe test when he chose for a model the image of no less a celebrity than Our Lady of Antipolo. The final version he did, now in the possession of a descendant who lives in Paco, is in pencil and opaque watercolour. Earlier versions were dismal failures. Each time he painted her the trompe l’oeil turned out gloriously for the rich gold embroidery of the cape and gown and the numerous diamonds that studded her apparel and the gold jewelry she wore from head to fingers. But he just could not get the cool, aristocratic face right. Somebody suggested the reason why she was so elusive was that he was not approaching her properly enough. He had better paint kneeling down, he was told. And that was how he painted the face in the final version, on his knees.

Two anecdotes show Capitan Ting’s humor to advantage, and both deal with his reputation as a magician of visual effects.

Gasps and giggles

He used to hang an oil painting on a wall in his house facing the street and visible to pedestrians (through an open door). Its purpose? To gull the unwary passerby into seeing a baby falling off a split-bamboo bed, or papag, as much as to draw gasps of amazement from the unsuspecting witness of the “accident” – and giggles from the painter and his household who were in on the joke, of course.

Another Capitan Ting fool-the-eye steals a leaf from the Zeuxis, that hyper-realistic painter of ancient Greece who was said to have painted a bunch of grapes so accurately that birds came to peck at them. For want of something better to do in his late years, he painted on the flat top of a wooden trunk, or baul, a scattering of coins painted with such finicky fidelity to the real thing that house guests would try to pick them up.

Did he leave any self-portrait?

Mrs. Galang recalls one which he painted of himself as a gaunt-looking old man with thinning gray hair, deep-set eyes, and mouth unceremoniously open. The children of her sister, who inherited the autoretrato, used to play with it as a means of scaring other kids in the neighbourhood with cries of “Mamaw!” When last heard of, it lay in the basement of her house, a rolled-up piece of canvas gathering dust. And now this sister thinks it might have been inadvertently thrown away.

Tracking them down

One of these days, a great grandnephew of Capitan Ting, Rafael Asuncion, a painter in his own right (whose father, Jose Asuncion, a painter of prewar renown, was the grandson of Leoncio Asuncion), intends to carry out an ambitious plan: a family reunion of all living Asuncions in an attempt to track down and recover extant works by their illustrious ancestor. “None of Lolo Ting’s relatives ever paid very much attention to his paintings,” confesses Mrs. Galang. “None of us ever imagined he would be historically important someday.”

What might yet turn up, if ever the project pushes through, is that missing self-portrait of an artist who is all but forgotten in our time and who, in his peak years, painted masterpieces which now deserve to be declared National Treasures.

A tale likely to be recounted in this planned grand reunion has to do with the last years of Capitan Ting in his Bulan retirement, the best I have heard yet.
His fighting cocks proved to be such persistent winners in the pit that in time (so the story goes) nobody wanted to put up a fight against his champions, as though they had charmed lives. So he decided to employ a little cunning. He changed the colors of his champions by dyeing (one version says “painting”) their feathers so nobody could recognize them, and this way managed to con his fellow cockers – a master of illusion, or deception, to the very end.


Transcribed from the clipping by Anna Rojas, September 28, 2017.


Filed under Art And Culture, Arts, Asuncion's History, Bulan Families, History, Uncategorized

Art & Family: The Asuncion Legacy

Ayala Museum, with the support of Bench, DivinaLaw, Araneta & Faustino Law Offices, and AuraStrat, will be presenting an exhibition of 19th century paintings, illustrations, and sculptures by preeminent Filipino artists of the time, the brothers Justiniano, Leoncio, and Mariano Asuncion.

Entitled Art and Family: The Asuncion Legacy, the exhibition will be on display at Ayala Museum’s Third Floor Galleries and will run from 8 August 2017 to 14 January 2018.

Justiniano Asuncion
Portrait of Filomena Asuncion
Oil on canvas
81 x 61.5 cm.
Dr. Eleuterio Pascual Collection

Selected works include paintings and sculptures, miniatures, medallions, portraits, and watercolor illustrations by the aforementioned artists loaned from both private and institutional collections.  Many are commissioned by the artist’s patrons and families and showcase both popular religious and secular motifs of the time.





The union of Mariano Asumpcion and Maria dela Paz Molo de San Agustin of Manila produced 12 children: Manuel (born 1732); Antonio (1794); Victoria (1796); Mamerta (1789); Justo (1800); Mariano(1802); Epifanio (1806); Ambrosio (1808); Pascuala (1811); Leoncio (1813); Justiniano (1816); and Canuta (1819),  who had devoted their lives to the arts through paintings and sculpture.  As a big family, art kept them a closely knit clan. Many of the original works of the Asuncion family have been lost through fire, earthquakes, floods, and wars.

The descendants hold regular meetings and reunions and have initiated this exhibition to honor the memory and legacy of the Asuncion family, whose works are held in high esteem in Philippine art history.

Mariano Asuncion (1802-1888) is the eldest of the featured artists and enjoyed a wide patronage of religious clientele. His subjects were mostly about the miracles of saints, the Passion of Christ and images of the Virgin Mary. His works are compared to Italian painters of the 13th – 15th centuries. Leoncio Asuncion(1813-1888) is considered as the Father of Modern Religious Sculpture. He is remembered for his santos made of ivory and wood. Justiniano Asuncion (1816-1896), fondly remembered as Kapitan Ting after having served as cabeza de barangay of Sta. Cruz, Manila, in 1853, was a painter known for his portraits. Aside from exposure from practicing artists in his family, he also received artistic training under Damian Domingo (1796-1834) noted painter of portraits, miniatures and religious imagery, who established an art school in Tondo in 1821.

Additional support for this exhibition was provided by Via Mare. Talks and activities will be scheduled during the exhibition run and will be announced through Ayala Museum’s website and social media channels.

For more information, visit or call (632) 759 82 88 or email


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In a span of less than a week, my fellow Bikolanos lost their two favorite sons – Congressman Salvador H. Escudero III of Casiguran, Sorsogon and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo of Naga City.

While Congressman Escudero lost his battle with colon cancer at the age of 69 and Robredo lost his life to a plane crash at the age of 54, both certainly died ahead of their time.


Of the two, I had a close-up look at senior Congressman Escudero, a classmate of my elder sister, Dona L. Hernandez, in the college of veterinary medicine at the University of the Philippines in the 60’s.When Dr. Escudero became Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, my sister worked for a few months as a Sorsogon provincial veterinarian, where she met her future husband, the late Jose E. Hernandez from what used to be Bacon and now part of Sorsogon City as a district.

My sister, Dr. Hernandez, parted ways with Dr. Escudero when she immigrated to the United States in the late sixties.

Dr. Escudero’s work ethic and being workaholic served him well him and had not gone unnoticed by the martial law government of President Marcos, who later appointed him as Director of the Bureau of Animal Industry and later as Minister of Food and Agriculture, not Minister of Education as listed in the House of Representatives’ press release. He also became Agriculture Secretary from 1996-1998.

Because of his incorruptible image and as my role model, I sought him out as one of my wedding sponsors.


Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Escudero attended my wedding sometime in 1977 on the day that the Marcos government adopted the first daylight saving time. Making it to an early appointment was no stranger to Ninong Sonny Escudero, who as a teetotaler, usually reported to work at 7 a.m.

Less than two months before his death, I got word that he was very sick as his mobility was confined to a wheelchair. My nephew, Manuel Villamor, in Sorsogon City, told me in a Facebook message, “your Ninong wants to say hello to you. But he is now in a wheelchair.”

But I was surprised that he died so soon last Aug. 13. I wish I could have reached out to him sooner as I emailed his son, Sen. Chiz Escudero, to condole on his father’s death.

The email messages I sent a number of times to some members of the Philippines House of Representatives had never generated a response. I suggest the HR should investigate the inefficiency of its Webmaster, who should be replaced if HR wants to receive feedbacks from the public.

Ninong Escudero has sponsored and co-sponsored numerous bills. But one that left a lasting impression for him was HR 01135, which he authored in his capacity as chair of the Committee on Basic Education and Culture. HR 01135 is a resolution, urging the Administration of President Benigno C. Aquino III to allow the burial of the remains of former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The bill never gained traction in the House. But one of these days, if my research will check out, this resolution might see its light of day. If I find out something compelling that will vindicate the House to pass the resolution, I will dedicate my effort to the memory of my Ninong Sonny. For now, goodbye, my Ninong. May you rest in peace!

In the case of Secretary Robredo, whose tragic death caught the sympathy and interest not only of the Filipinos but also overseas Filipinos and their friends, I still find it shocking three days after his remains was recovered from the bottom of the sea that he died.

Although, he was not known to have a good “pr” (public relations) or sociable with the media, Mr. Robredo made up for this lack of this knack by being accessible and straightforward with full public disclosure of available information at hand. And this demeanor should make him popular to media types.



Never known to take public issue with local politicians, who opposed his confirmation as full-fledged secretary of the department of interior and local government before the Commission on Appointments, Mr. Robredo was a silent worker, who was never distracted by petty politics. He just performed his job while he enjoyed the trust of President Aquino.Unlike Dolphy, whose deteriorating health was detailed in the news on a daily basis and made the people, who are conferring him the National Artist award, appear to be dragging their feet, the members of the Commission on Appointments found themselves being hit by lightning when they procrastinated for two years to confirm Robredo as cabinet secretary with the plane crash on Aug. 18 (Philippine time).

But from all the comments after the death of Mr. Robredo that I find intriguing is that of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who appeared to have dishonored the memory of Mr. Robredo, who was made to appear to be harboring a criminal. Lacson said he tried to seek the help of Secretary Robredo to convince Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to respect a Court of Appeals decision that set aside the arrest warrant against him when he was running from the law.

If what Mr. Lacson was saying was true, I think, Mr. Robredo, being a non lawyer, might have also asked the opinion of his lawyer friends if what Mr. Lacson was asking him to do made sense. I’m sure Mr. Robredo’s lawyers advised Mr. Robredo that complying with Mr. Lacson’s request for help was premature – the Court of Appeals’ decision was not yet final and was still appealable to the Supreme Court!

I just hope President Aquino and the Commission on Appointment will honor the memory of Secretary Robredo by replacing him with and confirming someone, who has no criminal record. How can a once fugitive from the law have moral ascendancy over lawbreakers?

When Secretary Robredo will be honored at the Philippine Consulate in Chicago, Illinois on Friday, Aug. 24, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. by his APO-USA fraternity brothers and by his fellow Bikolanos, particularly the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest, I will be praying not only for the soul of Secretary Robredo and my Ninong Sonny Escudero but also for President Aquino to appoint an independent-minded Supreme Court Chief Justice, a more sensible replacement for Secretary Robredo, who will be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, who should not be distracted by petty politics. (



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President Noynoy Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2011 (English translation)

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.; Vice President Jejomar Binay; former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Chief Justice Renato Corona and the honorable Justices of the Supreme Court; honorable members of the diplomatic corps; members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; Local Government Officials; members of our Cabinet; members of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police; to my fellow servants of the Filipino people;

And to my beloved countrymen, my Bosses:

I stood before you during my inauguration and promised: we would do away with the use of the wang-wang. This one gesture has become the symbol of change, not just in our streets, but even in our collective attitude.

Over the years, the wang-wang had come to symbolize abuse of authority. It was routinely used by public officials to violate traffic laws, inconveniencing ordinary motorists—as if only the time of the powerful few, and no one else’s, mattered. Instead of behaving like public servants, they acted like kings. This privilege was extended to their cronies and patrons, who moved along the streets as if they were aristocracy, indifferent to those who were forced to give way and were left behind. Abusing privilege despite promising to serve—this is the wang-wang mindset; this is the mindset of entitlement.

They had no right to do this. The law authorizes only the President, the Vice President, the Senate President, the Speaker, the Chief Justice, and police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances to use sirens in the fulfillment of their official duties—no one else. Yet the flagrant abuse we bore witness to prompts us to ask: if they felt it their privilege to flout the simplest traffic laws, how could we expect them not to help themselves to a share of projects funded by the Filipino people?

Do you want the corrupt held accountable? So do I. Do you want to see the end of wang-wang, both on the streets and in the sense of entitlement that has led to the abuse that we have lived with for so long? So do I. Do you want to give everyone a fair chance to improve their lot in life? So do I.

We have fought against the wang-wang, and our efforts have yielded results. Just this year, the number of Filipinos who experienced hunger has come down. Self-rated hunger has gone down from 20.5% in March to 15.1% this June—equivalent to a million Filipino families who used to go hungry, but who now say they eat properly every day.

As for business, who would have thought that the stock market would reach seven record highs in the past year? At one time, we thought that for the PSE Index to reach 4,000 points would be, at best, a fluke. We now routinely exceed this threshold.

Our once low credit ratings have now been upgraded by Moody’s, Standard and Poors, Fitch, and Japan Credit Ratings Agency—in recognition of our prudent use of funds and creative financial management. These improved credit ratings mean lower interest on our debts. Our innovative fiscal approach has saved taxpayers 23 billion pesos in the first four months of this year. This is enough to cover the 2.3 million conditional cash transfer beneficiaries for the entire year.

Let me remind you: in the nine and a half years before we were elected into office, our credit ratings were upgraded once, and downgraded six times by the different credit ratings agencies. Compare this to the four upgrades we have achieved in the single year we have been in office. This was no small feat, considering that the upgrades came after ratings agencies have grown considerably more conservative in their assessments, especially in the wake of criticism they received after the recent American financial crisis. But while they have downgraded the ratings of other countries, they have upgraded ours, so that we are now just one notch below investment grade. Our economic team is hard at work to sustain the momentum.

And allow me to share more good news from the Department of Energy: having rid the DOE of wang-wang, we have revived the confidence of investors in our energy sector. 140 companies, all ready to participate in the exploration and strengthening of our oil and natural gas resources, can attest to this. Compare this to the last energy contracting round in 2006, which saw the participation of only 35 companies. Just last Friday, a new contract was signed for a power plant to be constructed in the Luzon grid, so that by 2014, our country will have a cheaper, more reliable source of energy.

There is confidence and there is hope; the government is now fulfilling its promises. And I cannot help but remember a woman I spoke with during one of my first house-to-house campaigns. She lamented: “It won’t matter who wins these elections. Nothing will change. I was poor when our leaders campaigned, I am poor now that they are in office, and I will still be poor when they step down.” This is a grievance echoed by many: “Our leaders didn’t care about us then, our leaders don’t care about us now, and our leaders will not care about us tomorrow.”

Given the persistence of the wang-wang attitude, wasn’t their sentiment justified? This was the attitude that allowed helicopters to be bought as if they were brand new, but had in fact already been extensively used. This was the attitude that allowed GOCC officials, like those in the Philippine National Construction Corporation, to pay themselves millions of pesos in bonuses, even as they failed to render decent service and plunged their respective agencies deeper into debt. Before they stepped down from their positions, the former heads of the PNCC gifted themselves with two hundred and thirty-two million pesos. Their franchise had lapsed in 2007; their collections should have been remitted to the national government. They did not do this, and in fact even took advantage of their positions: the bonuses they allotted to themselves in the first 6 months of 2010 was double the amount of their bonuses from 2005-2009. Yet they had the audacity to award themselves midnight bonuses, when they had already drowned their agencies in debt.

To end the wang-wang culture in government, we employed zero-based budgeting to review programs. For this year and the last, zero-based budgeting has allowed us to end many wasteful programs.

For example, we uncovered and stopped an ill-advised plan to dredge Laguna Lake. We would have borrowed 18.7 billion pesos to remove 12 million cubic meters of silt—which would have re-accumulated within three years, even before the debt could be fully paid. We also uncovered a food-for-school program with no proper targeting of beneficiaries, and other initiatives that were funded without apparent results. All of these were discontinued, and the funds rechanneled to more effective programs.

The budget is the clearest manifestation of the straight path upon which we tread. I say to those who would lead us astray: if you will further disadvantage the poor, do not even think about it. If all you would do is to fill your own pockets, do not even think about it. If it is not for the benefit of the Filipino people, do not even think about it.

I wish we could say that we had completely eliminated the wang-wang attitude, but in some parts of our consciousness, it still persists.

It still exists in the private sector. According to the BIR, we have around 1.7 million self-employed and professional taxpayers: lawyers, doctors, businessmen who paid a total of 9.8 billion pesos in 2010. This means that each of them paid only an average of 5,783 pesos in income tax—and if this is true, then they each must have earned only 8,500 pesos a month, which is below the minimum wage. I find this hard to believe.

Today we can see that our taxes are going where they should, and therefore there is no reason not to pay the proper taxes. I say to you: it’s not just the government, but our fellow citizens, who are cheated out of the benefits that these taxes would have provided.

We are holding accountable—and we will continue to hold accountable—those who practice this culture of entitlement in all government offices, as there are still some who think they can get away with it. A district in Region 4B, for example, began a project worth 300 million pesos, well beyond the 50 million pesos that district engineers can sign off on their own. But they could not leave such a potentially large payday alone.

So they cut the project up into components that would not breach the 50 million peso limit that would have required them to seek clearance from the regional and central offices. They tried to keep this system going. And often, since lump-sum funding was being used for the projects, no questions were asked about the plans or project details. They could have been spinning webs and they would have still been given the funds, so long as they knew someone in power.

Secretary Babes Singson did not let them get away with this. He removed the district engineer from his post, and suspended the awarding of the project in an effort to uncover other anomalies that may have happened. A thorough investigation of all those involved in the case is underway; we will blacklist all contractors proven to have engaged in foul play.

Because the project had to be delayed, Filipinos who would have otherwise benefited from them are still made to face unnecessary inconveniences.

These anomalies are not limited to Region 4B. We are putting an end to them. We are eliminating the patronage politics that had been prevalent in DPWH, and replacing it with a culture in which merit prevails. All projects must have work programs; we will require those involved in projects to submit well thought out plans for consideration, so that each project complements the other. We have also instituted an honest and transparent bidding process to provide equal opportunity to interested contractors.

Because of this, we have already saved 2.5 billion pesos, and expect to save 6 to 7 billion by the end of this year. The most important thing, however, is that now, we can count on well-paved roads—as opposed to the fragile pothole-ridden paths that our people had grown used to. Once, we believed that the system in the DPWH was impossible to fix; but look—it’s possible, and we’re fixing it.

Even in agriculture, the culture of wang-wang once persisted. Before we came into office in 2010, the Philippines imported 2.3 million metric tons of rice, which was already a million metric tons more than the 1.3 million that we needed. We even had to pay extra for warehouses to store the rice acquired through excessive importation.

How many years have we been over-importing rice? Many Filipinos thought that there was nothing we could do about it.

We proved them wrong in the span of a year. What was once an estimated yearly shortage of 1.3 million metric tons is down to 660,000—that’s almost half of the original amount. Even with our buffer of 200,000 metric tons as contingency against natural calamities, it is still significantly less than what was once the norm.

Our success in this sector was not brought about by mere luck. This is simply the result of doing things right: using the most effective types of seedlings, and careful and efficient spending on irrigation. In the past year, we irrigated an additional 11,611 hectares of fields, not to mention the near 212,000 hectares of land we were able to rehabilitate. The result: a 15.6 percent increase in rice production.

We envision two things: first, an end to over-importation that only serves to benefit the selfish few. Second: we want rice self-sufficiency—that the rice served on every Filipino’s dinner table is planted here, harvested here, and purchased here.

Let us look back on the situations of many of our policemen a year ago. The average salary of a common PO1 in Metro Manila is around 13,000 pesos. Around 4,000 pesos or about a third of their salaries goes directly to paying the rent. Another third goes to food, and the final third is all that is left for electricity and water bills, commuting, tuition fees, medicine, and everything else. Ideally, their salaries match their expenses—but this is not always the case. Those whose salaries are not enough would probably resort to taking out some loans. What happens when the interest piles up and they end up having to spend even more of their salaries? Will they still be able to do the right thing when tempted with an opportunity to make a quick buck?

This is why, this July, we have followed through on the housing promise we made in February. We were able to award 4,000 Certificates of Entitlement to Lot Allocation. This is only the first batch of the 21,800 houses we will have constructed by the end of the year. Awarding our men in uniform these houses will turn their 4,000 peso rent expense into an initial 200 peso per month payment for a house that is all theirs. The cash they once paid for rent can now be used for other needs.

I hear that there are still more than a thousand houses left, so for our policemen and our soldiers who have not yet submitted their papers, this is the last call for this batch of houses. But do not worry, because this housing program will continue next year, covering even more people and more regions. The NHA is already preparing the sites for housing projects in Visayas and Mindanao, with an expanded list of beneficiaries that will also include employees of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

Speaking of security, does enhanced security not also enhance our national pride? There was a time when we couldn’t appropriately respond to threats in our own backyard. Now, our message to the world is clear: What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue.

At times I wonder if the stories about some of our past stand-offs are true—that when cannons were aimed at our marines, they could only reciprocate by cutting down a coconut tree, painting it black, and aiming it back. True or not, that time is over. Soon, we will be seeing capability upgrades and the modernization of the equipment of our armed forces. At this very moment, our very first Hamilton Class Cutter is on its way to our shores. We may acquire more vessels in the future—these, in addition to helicopters and patrol crafts, and the weapons that the AFP, PNP, and DOJ will buy in bulk to get a significant discount. This goes to show how far we can go with good governance; we can buy equipment at good prices, without having to place envelopes in anyone’s pockets.

We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours. We are also studying the possibility of elevating the case on the West Philippine Sea to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, to make certain that all involved nations approach the dispute with calm and forbearance.

Our efforts to enhance the capabilities of our men and women in uniform are already succeeding. In the first six months of 2010, we had 1,010 cases of car and motorcycle theft. Compare that to the 460 cases in the first six months of 2011. Unfortunately, it is the one or two high-profile cases that make the headlines, and not the bigger picture—the fact that there is a large drop in car and motorcycle thefts, and that we have returned a higher percentage of stolen cars to their rightful owners.

And here is another example of positive change in law enforcement. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was signed in 2003. Unfortunately, because the government did not properly implement it, only 29 individuals were convicted in a period of seven years. In just one year, we have breached that amount, convicting 31 human traffickers. Perhaps, this is the “sea change” that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was referring to; and because of this change, the Philippines has been taken off the Tier 2 Watchlist of their Trafficking in Persons Report. If we had not been removed from this watchlist, the assistance we have been receiving from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, among others, would have been jeopardized.

Allow me to talk about jobs now. Our foremost pledge to the Filipino people was to create more jobs, and we have delivered. In April 2010, the unemployment rate was at 8%; in April 2011, it was at 7.2%.

To put things into perspective: We must all remember that the ranks of the unemployed represent a moving target. Every year, thousands of fresh graduates join the ranks of job hunters. Last year, the number of unemployed Filipinos in our labor force grew after many of our countrymen who earned a temporary living from election-related jobs—the people assigned to hanging buntings, the people tasked with clearing a path for politicians in crowds of people, the drivers, and other campaign staff—were laid off. But, despite all this, our results make our success evident: one million and four hundred thousand jobs were created last year.

Before, our foremost ambition was to work in another country. Now, the Filipino can take his pick. As long as he pursues his dreams with determination and diligence, he can realize them.

The number of jobs generated in our country can only grow from here. According to the Philjobnet website, every month there are 50,000 jobs that are not filled because the knowledge and skills of job seekers do not match the needs of the companies. We will not allow this opportunity to go to waste; at this very moment, DOLE, CHED, TESDA, and DepEd are working together to address this issue. Curricula will be reviewed and analyzed to better direct them to industries that are in need of workers, and students will be guided so that they may choose courses that will arm them with the skills apt for vacant jobs.

Despite the demand for these jobs, there are still people who are being left behind. What do we do with them? First, we identified the poorest of the poor, and invested in them, because people are our greatest resource. Of the two million families registered with the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, 1.6 million are already receiving their conditional cash transfers. Through the initiative and leadership of Secretary Dinky Soliman, we have been able to give much needed assistance to an average of more than 100,000 families per month. I am optimistic that we will reach our target of 1.3 million additional beneficiaries this year. With a compliance rate of 92%, millions of mothers are already getting regular check-ups at public health centers, millions of babies are being vaccinated against common diseases, and millions of school-aged children are now attending classes.

With these significant early results, I am counting on the support of the Filipino people and Congress to expand our Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. Before the end of 2012, we want to invest in the future of 3 million poor families.

We are giving these poor families a chance to improve their lives, because their progress will be the country’s progress. How can they buy products and services from businesses if they do not have a proper income? When a poor father turns to crime in order to feed his family, who would he victimize, if not us? When people cannot properly take care of themselves and fall ill, do we not run the risk of getting sick as well?

We are laying down the foundations for a brighter future for the poor. For example, in the health sector: PhilHealth beneficiaries increased during elections, as the agency was used as a tool for dispensing political patronage. Today, we identify beneficiaries through the National Household Targeting System, to make sure that the 5.2 million Filipino families who benefit from PhilHealth are those who really need it.
Let us turn our attention to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The politics there have been dominated by horse-trading and transactional politics. During national elections, whoever is in power in ARMM is free to manipulate the electoral machinery in his region, ensuring that non-allies do not get votes. That Mayor or Governor then demands payment for his services come the ARMM election, and it is the administration’s turn to manipulate the electoral machinery to secure the win of their candidate.

According to the Commission on Audit, in the office of the regional governor of ARMM, eighty percent of the funds disbursed were for cash advances that cannot be justified. If those funds had not gone to waste, a child could have gone to school. Instead, we built ghost bridges to reach ghost schools where only ghost teachers went to work.

We want ARMM to experience the benefits of good governance. And so, the solution: Synchronization—candidates in ARMM will run at the same time as candidates in other parts of the country. There would be less opportunity for them to employ command votes for political patrons. The result would be fairer elections. Thank you to Congress for passing the law synchronizing ARMM with the national elections.

And why do we need to postpone the elections? Because, in their desire to return to or retain power, many are prepared to engage in corrupt practices just to win again. Imagine if we had listened to the critics, and allowed the election to proceed under these circumstances. We would have perpetuated the endless cycle of electoral fraud and official abuse that has led ARMM to become one of the poorest regions in the country.

I do not doubt that the reforms we are putting in place will yield concrete results. When we talk about the straight and righteous path, we talk about that new road that was built in Barangay Bagumbayan in Sta. Maria, Laguna. When we say clean government, we are talking about the clean water that residents in Barangay Poblacion in Ferrol, Romblon now enjoy. When we refer to the light of change, we also refer to the electricity that now powers light bulbs in Barangay San Marcos in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur. This is happening in many other places, and we will make it happen everywhere in our country.

Government agencies are now focused on realizing this; they are working together to creatively solve the problems that have long plagued our country.

Have we not had flooding problems, which we know are caused by the incessant and illegal cutting down of trees? The old solution: A tree-planting photo opportunity, whose sole beneficiaries are politicians who want to look good. They plant trees, but they do not ensure that the trees would remain standing after they leave.

One of the possible solutions we are studying is to make the stewardship of these trees beneficial to communities. They will be given coffee and cacao seeds to plant. While they wait for harvest, they will receive stipends for safeguarding the trees planted to mitigate flooding. We are looking at informal settlers, who are currently crammed into our cities, as possible beneficiaries of this program. We will be investing in the people, even as we invest in the environment.

Who could have thought that little over a year ago, we could accomplish this? Today, we dream; one day soon, these dreams will be a reality.

This same creativity is in display with the innovations that are already being implemented. We have developed low-cost traps that kill mosquito larvae, probably contributing to the nearly fourteen percent decrease in dengue incidents; coconut coir fibers that are normally just disposed of have been used as a cost-effective way to strengthen our roads; we have landslide sensors that warn when soil erosion has reached dangerous levels; we have developed early flood warning systems for riverside communities. All of these are products of Filipino creativity.

DOST and UP have even teamed up to develop a prototype monorail system, which could potentially provide a home grown mass transport solution that would cost us as little as 100 million pesos per kilometer, much cheaper than the current cost of similar mass transit systems. The potential savings could result in more kilometers of cheap transport, decongesting our urban centers and allowing rural communities easier access to centers of commerce and industry.

Let me reiterate: These proposals were developed by Filipinos for Filipinos. Do you remember the time when we were unable to even dream of these kinds of projects? I am telling you now: We can dream about them, we are capable of achieving them, and we will achieve them. Isn’t it great to be a Filipino living in these times?

All of these things we are doing will be wasted if we do not do something to end the culture of corruption.

To my colleagues in public service, from those at the top and to every corner of the bureaucracy: Do we not feel the pride that working in government now brings? That, now, we are proud to be identified as workers in government? Will we waste this honor?

I call on our Local Government Units: Those of you who are in the best position to understand the needs of your constituents can expect greater freedom and empowerment. But we trust that in providing for your communities, you will remain committed to the straight path, and will not lose sight of the interest of the whole nation.

For instance, there are some municipalities that want to tax the electricity transmission lines that run through their jurisdictions. Although this will augment local coffers, the rest of the Filipino people will have to deal with higher electricity rates. Let us try to balance the interests of our constituencies with that of the nation as a whole.

It is imperative that our programs remain in sync, because the progress of the entire country will also redound to progress for your communities. Let us do away with forward planning that only looks as far as the next election, and think of the long-term national good.

Ultimately, we have to unite and work together towards this progress. I thank the Congress for passing laws regarding GOCC Governance, ARMM Synchronization, Lifeline Electricity Rates Extension, Joint Congressional Power Commission Extension, Children and Infants’ Mandatory Immunization, and Women Night Workers.

Last year, Congress demonstrated their support by approving the budget even before the year ended. The timely passage of the budget allowed projects to be implemented more quickly. Tomorrow we will deliver to Congress our budget proposal for 2012. I look forward once again to its early passage so that we can build on our current momentum.

We have already made progress, but we must remember: This is only the beginning, and there is much left for us to do. Allow me to present to Congress some of the measures that will bring us closer to the fulfillment of our pledge to the nation.

We aim to give due compensation to the victims of Martial Law; to grant our house help the salaries and benefits that they deserve; and to improve the system that awards pensions to our retired soldiers. We likewise support the expansion of the scope of scholarships granted by DOST to outstanding yet underprivileged students; the advancement of universal quality healthcare; the responsible management of the environment; and the formation of facilities that will ensure the safety of our citizens during times of great need and calamity.
Our agenda also includes the development of BuCor, NBI, NEA, and PTV 4, so that, instead of lagging behind the times, they will better fulfill their mandate of public service.
Not everything we want to do will be explained today, but I invite you to read the budget message, which contains a more comprehensive plan for the coming year.

Some of my critics say that I take this campaign against corruption personally. It’s true: doing what’s right is personal. Making people accountable—whoever they may be—is personal. It should be personal for all of us, because we have all been victimized by corruption.

What is wrong remains wrong, regardless of how long it has been allowed to persist. We cannot simply let it pass. If we ignore the crimes of the past, they will continue to haunt us. And if we do not hold people accountable, then they will do it again and again.

The truth is, we have uncovered so many anomalies. In PAGCOR, the previous management apparently spent one billion pesos on coffee alone. At one hundred pesos per cup, that would be ten million cups of coffee over the last several years. Where did all that coffee go? Who drank it? Perhaps we can find the people who consumed all that coffee and ask if they have been able to sleep in the last few years.

When the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, takes office, we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office, not one that condones the corruption and abuses in government. I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty.

We are aware that the attainment of true justice does not end in the filing of cases, but in the conviction of criminals. I have utmost confidence that the DOJ is fulfilling its crucial role in jailing offenders, especially in cases regarding tax evasion, drug trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, graft and corruption, and extrajudicial killings.

We are not leaving anything to chance; good governance yields positive results. Think about it: We have realized our promise of providing the public with the services that it needs and implementing programs to help the poor without having to raise our taxes.

This has always been the plan: to level the playing field; to stop the abuse of authority; and to ensure that the benefits of growth are available to the greatest number.

We have put an end to the culture of entitlement, to wang-wang: along our roads, in government, in our society as a whole. This will bring confidence that will attract business; this will also ensure that the people’s money is put in its rightful place: Funding for infrastructure that will secure the sustained growth of the economy, which will then give rise to jobs, and public service that guarantees that no one will be left behind. More opportunities for livelihood will be opened by tourism; the strengthening of our agriculture sector will ensure that every Filipino will have food on his table. We will invest on those who were once neglected. All this will create a cycle wherein all available jobs are filled, and where businesses flourish through the empowerment of their consumers.

I am aware that, until now, there are still a few who complain about our style of governance. But you have seen our style, and its ensuing results. You have seen their style, and, especially, where that took us. Anyone with their eyes open can clearly see which is right.

We are steering our government in a clear direction. A country where opportunity is available; where those in need are helped; where everyone’s sacrifices are rewarded; and where those who do wrong are held accountable.
I remember a woman warning me during the campaign: “Noy, be careful, you will be stepping on many toes.”

Sometimes, I do worry about what I am doing. But I am heartened because you are with me, and we stand on the side of what is right.

I thank the priests and bishops who have continued to dialogue with us, like Cardinals Rosales and Vidal. Cardinal Rosales and I may not be the closest of friends, but I believe that he did all that he could to reduce the tensions between the church and the government. The election of Archbishop Palma, defender of human rights and of the environment, as head of the CBCP only bolsters my confidence that the state and the clergy will be able to engage each other in a positive manner. I likewise thank my Cabinet, who have sacrificed their personal comfort to fulfill the national agenda. I give special mention to PAGASA, who now truly delivers reliable advice and warnings during times of calamity.

And to those who may resist the change we are trying to bring about, this I say to you: I know what I must do, and my personal interests are nothing when compared to the interests of the nation. There are many of us who want what is right for this country; and there are more of us than you. To those of you who would turn back the tide of reform: you will not succeed.

To those who have chosen to tread the straight and righteous path alongside us: it is you who created this change, and it is you who will bequeath our success to your children. To the jeepney driver plying his route; to the teachers and students coming home from class; to the artists whose work inspires our sense of nationhood; to our policemen, our soldiers, our street sweepers, and our firemen; to you who work with honor, in the Philippines, in the oceans, or in other countries; our colleagues in government who stand steadfast with us, whatever province you come from, whatever party you belong to; every Filipino listening to me now—you made this happen.

You created a government that truly works for you. We still have five years left to ensure that we will not return to what once was. We will not be derailed, especially now that what we have begun has yielded so many positive results.

If you see a loophole in the system, do not take advantage of it. Let us not acquire through patronage what we can acquire through hard work. No more cheating, no more taking advantage of others, no more one-upmanship—because in the end we will all realize our shared aspirations.
Let us end the culture of negativism; let us uplift our fellow Filipinos at every opportunity. Why are there people who enjoy finding fault in our country, who find it so hard—as though it were a sin—to say something nice? Can we even remember the last time we praised a fellow Filipino?
Let us stop pulling our fellow man down. Let us put an end to our crab mentality. Let us make the effort to recognize the good that is being done.

If you see something right, do not think twice—praise it. If you see a policeman directing traffic, coatless beneath the rain—go to him and say, “Thank you.”

If you fall sick, and you see your nurse caring for you, when she could easily be treating foreigners for a higher salary—say, “Thank you.”

Before you leave school for home, approach your teacher who chose to invest in your future—say, “Thank you.”
If you chance upon your local leader on a road that was once riddled with holes, but is now smooth and sturdy—go to him and say, “Thank you, for the change you have brought.”
And so, to the Filipino nation, my Bosses who have steered us toward this day: Thank you very much for the change that is now upon us.

The Philippines and the Filipino people are, finally, truly alive.



Filed under Graft and Corruption, History, Politics

The Noodle In Asuncions’ Soup

 by jun asuncion            



Clarifying some confusions.            

Old Sta. Cruz, Manila


  I’ve tried to know whether our patriarch Mariano Kagalitan was originally a  native Muslim. He was for sure not a mestizo of any kind or a Spaniard for he also had to change his family name later on to a Christian name (which is Assumption, later  developed to its present form  Asuncion)  under the Claveria Decree of 1849.            

What was known was that Mariano was one of those prominent people who resided in Sta. Cruz, that he was an accomplished artist himself who, as many of you know by now, produced master artists  like Leoncio, Justiniano, Mariano, Jr. and Antonio. Marianos’ ancestors were unknown to us until now. But about his wife Maria de la Paz Molo much is known.            

 The Beginnings…Of What We Know Only Today.            

Maria De La Paz Molo’s father was Ming Mong Lo, who- according to the family history – was a Chinese apothecary of Mandarin origins and married a local woman. Ming Mong Lo adopted the Christian name Jose Molo upon baptism –  and that was before the Claveria decree of 1849 and prospered as a merchant in the district of Binondo. He was said to have bequeathed five children, among them Paterno Joseph Molo and  Maria de La Paz Molo.            

 No doubt Maria de La Paz was half-Chinese and half-Filipino – assuming that her mother was not a “local” Chinese ( I have problem understanding what a “local” woman or man meant at that time).  Her mother’s  identity is totally unknown to me until a few days ago.            

And there was some sort of confusions in my search because of this:            

Old Binondo, Manila


 In his book,  Brains Of The Nation (published 2006 by Ateneo de Manila University Press), Resil B. Mojares took up as subjects of study his  “three figures of Filipino Enlightenment”, namely, Pedro Paterno, Th. Pardo De Tavera and Isabelo De Los Reyes and their influence on the production of modern knowledge in the Philippines. He mentioned that Ming Mong Lo, the earliest known patriarch of both the present day Asuncion and Paterno families, got married to a local woman with “blue blood” in her veins, she being  the “direct descendant of the Great Maguinoo, or Prince of Luzon”.            

My question was: Does this mean that the Asuncions could go as far as Raja Soliman as one among their patriarchs? This Great Maguinoo or Prince of Luzon could only be Raja Soliman, the famous King Of Tondo who initially resisted the Spanish adelantados. Resil’s argument had led me to wrong places which increased the confusion.            

 Until I was summoned by Maning Yatco by way of his comment here at BO to visit Toto Gonzalez’  Blog Remembrance Of Things Awry because of the interesting discussions there about the Asuncion-Molo-Yatco’s connection. It was in this site where I got an authoritative argument coming from Mickey and Jean Paterno who said that Ming Mong Lo (Jose Molo), their ancestor, married Anastacia Michaela , the proofs of which are the “baptismal records of his sons circa 1780’s.” They argued that their ancestors originally belonged to the “parish of the Parian” and that most probably they moved to the “upcoming barrio San Sebastian in Quiapo, the place “which his children cite as their principality in their legal documents.”            

It was probably in Quiapo where Maria De La Paz was born to Ming Mong Lo and Anastacia. ( Her birth had fulfilled already one requirement among others for the realization of the Asuncion clan.) By this point, it was clear to me that we couldn’t count Raja Soliman as among our patriarchs, the “blue blood” in our veins is out of the question then. Resil’s argument was not right, unless Anastacia Michaela, the wife of Ming Mong Lo, could be proven as descendant of Rajah Matanda or Raja Lakandula, both uncles of Rajah Soliman (political dynasty is as old as our history!)            

But who was this woman with this blue blood in her veins whom Pedro Paterno was explaining to the English author Mr. Foreman?             

Well, at this point we have to clear up first another confusion about Molo and Paterno. Substantially, they are the same. The  family name Paterno of the succeeding Molo generations came to be adopted by 1849 (most probably in fulfillment of the Claveria decree) to honor Paterno Joseph, a son of Jose Molo (originally Ming Mong Lo). Notice that Paterno is actually a first name. But it was common at that time among the Chinese mestizos to acquire the first names of their parents as their family names- exactly what the Molos did, at least with certainty by Paterno Joseph’s son, Maximo Paterno who was the father of the widely known historical figure Pedro Paterno of the Pact of Biak- na- Bato.            

It was probably from the lineage of Paterno Joseph where this “blue blood” in the veins could be traced back among the succeeding generations of Paternos due to his marriage with Miguela Yamson, the daughter of Juan Yapson and Maria de la Cruz- the name which is claimed  to be a descendant of Raja Soliman. (Note that during the introduction of the Claveria Decree, those natives who couldn’t read and write were just asked -or ordered- to draw a cross after their first names, hence the family names De La Cruz).  But it was through this  “marriage to Miguela Yamson that opened to Paterno Joseph Agustin (Molo) opportunities available only to local royalty, or the “principalia”. Hereafter, he was addressed as Don Paterno Agustin and qualified to run for public office”, commented Micky and Jean Paterno of today.            

The Asuncion and Paterno (Molo) Connection            

This started with the marriage of Mariano Kagalitan Asuncion to Maria De La Paz, the sister of Paterno Joseph. Paterno’s son Maximo was therefore a cousin of the first Asuncions — Justiniano, Leoncio, etc. It was Maximo who supported Justiniano Asuncion by commissioning portraits for the ladies of his house. Maximo had an astute sense for excellent investments and he had maximized his  fortune  in his capacity as gobernadorcillo of San Sebastian and Quiapo. He himself married thrice, the first with Valeriana Pineda, the second with Carmen De Vera Ignacio and the third with Carmen’s sister Theodora De Vera Ignacio whose portrait is shown here as painted by Justiniano.             

Hence, two things are clearer to me now: First,  that the Asuncions have partly  Chinese blood in their veins, second, that though they had also engaged in politics, like Mariano, Justiniano, etc., down to Don Zacarias and Adonis Asuncion their strength was not in politics, i.e.,  the way we understand “political strength”  in the Philippines before and now, but it is in the arts and the humanities and sciences that they excelled and earned recognition even beyond their times.            


Acknowledgement:  Sonny Rayos- Asuncion, Toto Gonzales’ Remembrance Of Things Awry, Micky and Jean Paterno, Resil B. Mojares, Wikipedia            



Filed under Arts, Asuncion's History, Bulan Families, Culture, Education, History

From Code Of Kalantiyaw To Mt. Sinai


by jun asuncion


This post is not intended as an academic work but just my personal thoughts on this Independence Day and as my reply to a comment on my earlier post Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Filipino Political Character.


A Hindu-Muslim Archipelago. We know of Datu Puti as one of the Bornean Datus who ruled in the south during the pre-Hispanic period. During the Spanish time Raja Colambu was the King of Limasawa, Rajah Humabon of Cebu, Sultan Kudarat Of Maguinadanao, Datu Lapulapu of Mactan, Rajah Lakandula of Tondo, Datu Macabulos of Pampanga, Datu Urduja of Pangasinan and Rajah Sulaiman III of Manila. There were many other Datus and Rajas all over the archipelago whom the Spanish colonial power called Las Islas Filipinas,  the Islands of the Philippines. Hinduism came to the Philippines via traders between 1350 and 1389 from the island of  Java during the Majapahit Empire (1293-1500) and exerted great influence on the natives of the archipelago only to be superseded within a short time by the Islamic conquest of Majapahit empire and the coming of Islamic Indonesians and Arab missionaries in the 15th century. 

Hence, the archipelago was dominantly a Hindu- Muslim archipelago as Sultans, Datus and Rajahs are all Hindu-Muslim titles of rulers and nobilities. If I identify myself with the pre-Hispanic archipelago, then I’m a Hindu- Muslim; if I identify myself with the time and culture I was born in, then I am a Christian. 

Genetically of Malay race, our dominant ancestral, pre-Hispanic civilized society was a Hindu- Muslim society. However, not all people at that time were Hindu-Muslims as there were people who were trapped or isolated themselves up in the mountains and were neither islamized when the Muslims came nor catholicized with the coming of the Spaniards. They still exist today as “cultural minorities” (a label I dislike) like the Igorots, Aetas, Ati (Negritos ethnic group) etc. with their own culture, political organisation and system of beliefs.

 The very first people who inhabited the archipelago- or some places of it- long before the invention or evolution of today’s dominant religions were animistic in their belief and world view. If I identify myself with those primal ancestors of 20-30 thousand years ago – in the belief that my family and genetic lineage can be traced back to them-  then I am an animist, a being who is one with the forces of nature and see spirits in them, or much later a syncretist of Hinduistic origin who believes in Anitos, Diwatas or Bathala.

Hindu-Muslim Social Hierarchy. The independent Hindu-Muslim barangays in the archipelago and the sultanates in the south all attest to existing social communities, communities with hierarchical systems of Ruling class as Sultans, Datus or Rajahs, of Intermediate class as the Freemen or Maharlikas and of the Ruled or Unfree-class as the Alipins or slaves. 

There were interbarangay commerce, cultural exchanges, etc., all transactions suggesting a kind of confederative co-existence,yet  no common identity,  no common laws, no central government that kept them together or a court that settled interbarangay conflicts. The mythical legal code of Kalantiyaw which was supposed to bring order to the folks of Negros was proven to be a forgery.

From Code of Kalantiyaw to Mt. Sinai. This changed with the coming of the Spanish colonizers who already have in them the concept of  national government, of a nation or country, of a central powerful monarchy that rules over vast territories and colonies. But before that there was this catholization that took place, the biblization of the Hindu-Muslims, and later the changing of names, like Rajah Humabon becoming Carlos, or Mariano Kagalitan to Mariano Asuncion. 

But the social structures remained the same, more or less. Allowed to keep up their lordships over their barangays, the now catholized datus had to subjugate themselves however to the new ruling class, the Spaniards, or to the new omnipotent Catholic King of  Spain. In effect, the whole archipelago with all its barangays was reduced to the lower class level, if not to that of oppressed or slaves, the Alipins. In fact the new ruling class introduced a new form of intricate slavery- the polo y servicio which is a system of forced labor within the encomienda throughout the island colony. 

From Suppression to Explosion. The suppression of emotions through centuries of encomiend and hacienda slavery and injustices ultimately led to explosion. This big-bang in the history of the archipelago gave birth to the concept of freedom and nation during this colonial period which culminated by the end of the 19th century; by June 12,1898, 112 years ago, the Spanish dominion (which historically started in 1649 with the Sumoroy uprising in Samar) has ended and the first Philippine Republic was born. 

This short historical review is not meant to refresh our knowledge but to remind us that the past explains a lot of things the way that the Filipinos are now, our character strengths and weaknesses and offer us clues as to why reciprocity, “debt” of gratitude, passive-aggressive traits and the like are so intense and complex among the Filipinos for the Western observers. 

As one Western commenter has observed about Reciprocity and Utang Na Loob: 

“I am guessing that this (Reciprocity) basically a very deep instinctual drive in all cultures, but I am curious as to why it is so exaggerated and complex in Philippines…Philippines has intensely hierarchical family and tribal structures, probably even before the foreign oppressors arrived. Within such a system those beneath perceive themselves to be powerless and lacking in rights. Without rights, any act of support would therefore seem like a gift rather than a duty. I am guessing the intensity of Utang Na Loob is derived from this.” 

Utang na Loob is a form of reciprocity which, as the name suggests, a Filipino version or expression of it. The short historical review has shown that for the majority of the Filipinos- before, during and even after colonial times- their history is a history of slavery or servantry, from our tribal past to the alipin sagigilid or mamamahay during our Hindu- Muslim past and   to encomienda,  hacienda and peonage slaves during the catholization. (It is said that  peonage was the employed by the conquistadores wherein the Filipino workers were granted debt to their own slavery afterwards for failure to work off the debt, becoming permanently tied to their Spanish employers). Even up to now, the servantry is still very much a part of our  socio-economic culture. Only that now, the government exports this “labor force” to other countries. 

With the coming of other colonizers, the Americans and the Japanese, the Filipinos were again forced to assume the slave mode and to suppress aggression in order to survive. 

Nature or Nurture?Against this historical backdrop and if we believe that personality is also moulded by external forces, then we can rightly assume that the Filipino collective personality is a product of his total experience which is layered in complex mixtures of genetics and external circumstances over a long time. The resulting product is a distinctly Filipino character. This explains the complexity of our traits when juxtaposed against other Asian people and other cultural groups. 

We Have Our Own Identity. Hence, this cry for the search of Filipino identity is a travesty, a political distortion in my view aimed at controlling the masses by sneakily activating their slave mode. We already have our own identity. I’m very cautious when I hear such phrase as “landslide victory” for then I suspect that the old trick has functioned again, that  psychology has been politically abused or misused again. Also, it’s not wrong when a Westerner observes that there is exaggeration in our reciprocity trait, wrong maybe in the sense that it collides with their Western concepts of democracy and bureaucracy but in themselves our Filipino traits can never be wrong. It is not the search for identity but it’s about the search for a political system that fits our own character without sacrificing universal virtues as justice, freedom, human rights, etc. 

In truth, the past still lingers in us and this is where self-serving politics get their power. Our Western commenter has mentioned that “a number of deep human traits… could potentially be exploited. One of these was called reciprocity”. 

Landslide Win.When politics is just about power, then it’s only there to exploit available resources to support that power. This is very visible in our politics especially during elections. The character traits of the people are the number one target of this exploitation, material resources comes next to it. It’s not the vote that’s being bought but that Utang Na Loob of the people. A politician who is good in that will have that landslide win. 

Still In Progress. Indeed, the trait of Utang na Loob- as all other Filipino traits- has evolved out of this collective past, of the confluence of events and the need to survive physically, psychologically and socially. All traits had developed and been retained because they have this survival value. And while our social evolution is still in progress, I think that these traits that we have are also undergoing some mutations. Our Filipino traits are not static and final, we are changing or are being changed by events and time. We ourselves are witnesses to how these traits conflict with things new to us or  things which require other cultural tools or constructs that are either foreign to or less develop in us. 

Our Utang Na Loob is easily related to our slave mode than to our noble or lordship mode. This trait can only develop with such intensity and character out of social and economic survival necessity. You cannot experience the attitude of thankfulness with such intensity for things that are natural to you or that you have in abundance. Hence, from those who live in paradise, don’t expect Utang Na Loob; the same with our Tabon man in Palawan, our pre-historic ancestors who inhabited our caves thousands of years ago. I don’t think they knew Utang Na Loob as we know it now- or Hiya, Delicadeza, Freedom, Corruption, Alipin or Injustice. These things came to the archipelago with Islamization and Catholization. With these foreign oppressors, heaven is won but paradise is lost. 

You’ll find this Utang Na Loob in abundance from those who experienced hell or deprivation of basic things. For the majority of us our history was a history of deprivation. Those were hellish times under foreign enslavement. There were some Filipino families who profited from these periods of hell, who maintained their feudalistic vast haciendas even until now, who still practise landgrabbing and colonial slavery practices as peonage and force labor and many of them are in the government posing as public servants. But in truth they are masters of exploiting Utang Na Loob, Hiya and Pakikisama. 

Passive-Aggression. Certainly, with such a background of slavery where it was not safe to express anger or opinions but rather safer to resort to suppression and pakikisama in order to survive, we can only expect that passive-aggression is a part of colonized Filipinos’ coping or defense mechanisms. We know in psychology that families who forbid or deny their children the natural need to express feelings of hostilities produce adults who have this disorder. But it’s out of context to say- as our Western commenter has said- that it is a form of national sabotage if he means by it that Filipinos are using passive-aggression actively and consciously to destroy their nation and political development.

A Happy Nation? Though I can confirm the presence of this negative trait in our society, I disagree with its willful or conscious use of national sabotage. Yet I believe that this goes on in the unconscious level in our political dynamics and hinders progress. Passive-aggression might have been a form of rebellion- or sabotage- against the colonial government at that time, a conscious one. But now, I look at it instead as extension of colonial destruction. For the destruction of the people through colonial oppression and maltreatment doesn’t end with the disappearance of the oppressors but it continues, this trauma, this learned helplessness and passivity. Combined together, i.e., Spanish, Americans, Japanese, those were 425 years of trauma, suppression and slavery, of abuse and insult to the Filipino psyche. And add to that those nightmare decades under Marcos and Arroyo. Do you expect a healthy and happy nation by now?

I wish the Filipinos a happy Independence Day!



Filed under History, Over a Cup of Coffee, Views and Concern