Category Archives: Cultural Heritage

Ten Best OPM Music Videos Featuring Philippine Society and Culture

It’s true. We’re getting better at music videos, so I thought now would be a good time for a list of top ten best OPM music videos. A few requirements were factored in for this compilation. Naturally, there had to be astig, kick-ass elements, but each video also had to prominently feature a PH factor — some aspect of Philippine history, society or culture.

Let’s get things straight. This list is highly subjective. Because I am numerically handicapped, I am not inclined to mount a statistical study to prove the worthiness of these choices. Also, unless I wanted to groom more realistic panda eyes for lack of sleep, I could not have made myself watch every OPM video in existence. I have had to take my pick from the last five years.

Top Ten OPM Videos

#10 – Tayo’y Mga Pinoy

We are Filipinos

This would have been even more breathtaking if it weren’t part of Smart Communication’s marketing campaign. Notwithstanding the prominent brand display and the cringeworthy neon depiction of internet connectedness however, this was still nicely done.

PH Factor: Bringing together four OPM icons to sing a 1978 patriotic piece espousing pride in our heritage is already a cultural boon. It is a stroke of even greater genius that the four are made to sing ostensibly in different locations: Ely Buendia in Manila’s Intramuros, Rico Blanco in Bohol’s Chocolate Hills, Raimund Marasigan in Albay’s Mayon and Barbie Almalbis in Mindanao (actually in Calatagan?). There is that emotional jab seeing the attempt to unify an extremely diverse nation. You can’t accuse imperialist Manila of exclusivity now, can you? 😉

Favorite Moment: Raimund perched at the back of a moving truck with majestic Mayon as his backdrop. I doubt anyone can sing on a partially rough road without sounding like a chipmunk with hiccups, but that was still cool.

Bonus Trivia: You can see Mayon from anywhere in Albay.

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2013
Music & Lyrics: Heber Bartolome
Director: Mark Querubin

#9 – Halik ni Hudas

Kiss of Judas

Dizzyingly pulsating scenes of Wolfgang performing plus scenes from Erik Mati’s visually unique Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles equals one intense, slightly scary plunge into the dark side of Philippine folklore.

PH Factor: Move over Twilight. We have our own mythical creatures of the night and never have they looked more detestably beautiful than in popular media. Aswang is a general term for various types of carnivorous creatures that have human forms but can also transform into animals such as birds, pigs and dogs. They feast on human internal organs but have a special liking for fetuses.

The tiktik is an aswang that transforms itself into a bird and is called so because of the sound it emits.

Favorite Moment: The boy Abel ridding the world of those foul creatures by spitting salted, garlic flavored cornick through a blow tube. Clever and very Pinoy! We don’t need silver bullets here, yeah. Several packs of dehydrated corn will do.

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2012
Music & Lyrics: Wolfgang

#8 – Dati

Like Before

The song is the 2013 grand winner of the PhilPop Music Festival, a competition organized to put Filipino composers in the limelight and to renew interest in OPM. Its triumph is a confirmation that simple themes can work.

The video is just as straightforward: Sam Concepcion and Tippy Dos Santos reminiscing in song about a wonderful childhood amidst some… um… grass!

PH Factor: Julio’t Julia, Sarah, Marvin at Jolina, Mylene at Bojo Molina – all elements of a colorful 90s Filipino subculture. These names however, aren’t the only touch of Filipino in the video. At the end, the young versions of Sam and Tippy look through a passport. The reason why things have changed between them as adults is because one of them left.

The passport is a painful reminder to me of the Filipino diaspora. I respect and admire the achievements of Filipinos in other lands, but I wish our government could do its job better to keep more of us home.

Favorite Moment: Sam’s moves. This dude can dance even when he isn’t dancing.

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2013
Music & Lyrics: Thyro Alfaro, Yumi Lacsamana
Director: Toper Santos

#7 – Huwag Ka Nang Humirit

Don’t Object

I know of purists who would flinch at the seeming desecration of historical landmarks with the infusion of pop culture. I, on the other hand, do not wholly object, especially if the veritable meeting of old and new serves to suggest the importance of heritage conservation.

PH Factor: James Reid’s nocturnal romp around the Manila Central Post Office is, I think, stylishly executed, bringing to the fore, the structure’s strikingly elegant lines. The muted colors bring even greater depth and, in my opinion, some measure of respect to one of Manila’s old treasures.

Designed following the neo-classical style by Juan Arellano, Tomas Mapua and Ralph Doane, the building features imposing Ionic columns and wide, high-ceilinged spaces. Completed in 1926, it has stood for nearly a century as a mute witness to the ever vigorous flux of the life and times of ‪‎Manila‬.

Favorite Moment: That looming interior and the play of light and shadow in the hallway sequences… oh, and that smooth as silk mic tip.

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2015
Music & Lyrics: Thyro Alfaro, Yumi Lacsamana
Director: Miggy Tanchanco

#6 – Sige Lang

Just Go Ahead

This catchy tune has become the anthem of Filipinos facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, from the beleaguered Gilas Pilipinas in FIBA to the takatak boys in Divisoria.

PH Factor: Quest is the first rapper I’ve listened to who radiates such a pervasive aura of positivity. He is so infectiously upbeat that he makes the haze and turbulence of Manila life seem charming. And that is what makes this video entirely Filipino — the indefatigable cheer, the never say die attitude, the enduring hope.

Favorite Moment: Rooftop shots and the sense of conquering and rising above life’s troubles.

Bonus Trivia:

  • Manila’s LRT, featured in the video, was the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.
  • That symbol on Quest’s white cap is ka in Baybayin, a pre Hispanic Filipino system of writing.

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2012
Music & Lyrics: Quest
Director: Nolan Bernardino

#5 – Papel

Paper

There’s some excellent strings here and brilliant wordplay from a living legend singing about paper.

PH Factor: Joey Ayala has always remained true to his roots. As with all his other compositions, this one fuses indigenous elements with modern themes and digs deep into social realities.

Paper here is a representation of the constraints of society. Society defines us by the documents we posses without which we are nonentities. The song progresses into other forms of papel society requires of us to be deemed somebody, such as the predefined roles we must play, sucking up to bosses and money.

Favorite Moment: Joey rocking that T’boli Hegalong!

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2013
Music & Lyrics: Joey Ayala
Director: J.Pacena II

#4 – Dedma

Indifference

Rapper Abra redefines badassery and takes Julie Anne San Jose along for the ride. This video is not for the faint AND shallow hearted. Warning: Some blood, and lyrics prone to be misunderstood up ahead.

PH Factor: Because the lyrics and video seemingly question the existence of God, it isn’t unexpected for some citizens of this predominantly Catholic nation to feel scandalized. That however, is the misfortune of people who are quick to “Facebook” but slow to analyze.

It isn’t the loss of faith that is at the core here; it is, rather, the indifference towards the injustices in our midst despite our outward religiosity and piety. In the end, Abra drives home the point: The question of God’s existence is not the point of argument. The Being who created us gave us free will. We are responsible for our own suffering and ultimately, its resolution.

Bonus Trivia: The video was shot close to the Jones Bridge which was originally a 1921 neo-classical structure designed by Juan Arellano. It was reconstructed after World War II. Its 1875 predecessor, the Puente de España and its earlier iterations dating back to 1630 were the first to cross the Pasig River.

Favorite Moment: The gravity of the theme communicated through dark shades in mild contrast to various points of color: the pinkish jeepney light, the yellow prayer book, the bluish lights, Julie Anne’s brown hair.

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2014
Music & Lyrics: Abra & Julie Anne Sane Jose
Director: Joy Aquino

#3 – Hari ng Tondo

King of Tondo

I would equate the movie Manila Kingpin with having a massive hangover. You wake up remembering only incoherent bits and pieces of your indiscretions, and you struggle to explain how you’ve ended up in the middle of the Estero de Vitas on a raft with his royal flabbiness, ER Ejercito, impersonating a baddie half his age. The hangover gets worse when you recall Ejercito’s love scenes with Carla Abellana and Valerie Concepcion, the stuff horror movies should be made of.

This is therefore, most certainly not an endorsement of the movie. I just like the unofficial version of the music video found on the official video director’s YouTube channel.

PH Factor: Asiong Salonga was a legendary gangster who held sway over Tondo in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At one point he became one of the Philippines’ most wanted for a slew of transgressions including murder, extortion and illegal possession of firearms. Despite his life of crime, he was supposedly benevolent towards his poor neighbors, thereby earning him the moniker, Robin Hood of Tondo. He died at the age of 27.

Favorite Moment: John Regala, Roi Vinzon and Baron Geisler in character. These three were born to play mean boys so well, you’d actually find yourself rooting for them instead of Asiong.

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2011
Music & Lyrics: Gloc-9
Official MV Director: Rico Gutierrez

#2 – Lupang Hinirang

The Philippine National Anthem

Yes, I know. This isn’t a pop song, but its music video is so stunning, it had to be on this list. Despite the liberties taken for dramatic effect, GMA 7 deserves a salute for this display of patriotism.

PH Factor: The entire clip is a mini history tour: Triumph in Mactan 1521, GomBurZa Martyrdom 1872, Cry of Pugad Lawin 1896, execution of Jose Rizal 1896, the making of the Philippine Flag 1898, Declaration of Philippine Independence 1898, Battle of Tirad Pass 1899, Philippine-American War 1913, establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth 1935, Second World War 1945, EDSA Revolution 1986.

Favorite Moment: Everything except that part where folks dressed in white take us to the Mall of Asia after the revolution.

2010
Music & Lyrics: Julian Felipe & Jose Palma
Director: Paul Ticzon

#1 – Aking Pangako

My Promise

It is impossible to watch this and not feel some measure of pride, respect and admiration. This is proof that some people can be tough as nails and still be the good guys.

PH Factor: The Philippine Army traces its roots to 1897 with Aretmio Ricarte as its first general. Admittedly, the institution has drawn some flak in more recent decades for its outdated equipment and various institutional controversies. The shots in this video supposedly demonstrate how much the army has evolved.

To me however, the focal point is still the soldiers, the sacrifices they endure pushing their minds and bodies to the limit; leaving home and family behind; staring death in the face and all for a pittance. I salute the men and women of the Philippine Army.

Favorite Moment: That epic Van Damme-ish leap into the net.

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2014
Music & Lyrics: Kjwan
Director: Joaquin Valdes w/ Lt. Bala Tamayo

Did I miss any other good ones? Let me know in the comments below.

Simala Shrine – Monastery of the Holy Eucharist in Sibonga Cebu

I visited the Simala Shrine in May 2011, making this post nearly four years delayed and entirely deserving of a procrastination award. I was then in my former hometown, Cebu, for a blogging summit and my mother suggested a quick side trip, reminiscent of days of old when my family and I used to go on spur of the moment trips to wherever we fancied. As with most of our impulse trips, this one was a mad flurry of sensory stimuli, leaving me with a case of mild visual indigestion, slightly uncertain of what I’d ingested.

Simala Shrine - Monastery of the Holy Eucharist
The Simala Shrine in 2011

The Marian Monks

The shrine, also referred to as the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist, sits atop a hilly portion of Upper Lindogon in Simala, Sibonga, Cebu and is home to Our Lady of Lindogon. Various accounts say that the lady’s image originally came from Pampanga and was handed over to the Marian Monks of the Eucharistic Adoration after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. The monks then brought the image with them to Simala in the 1990s, where they purchased a piece of land with the inherited wealth of one of their members.

The welcome mat wasn’t quite rolled out for the monks. The locals supposedly weren’t very accommodating at first and the rough terrain was unsuitable for planting. The general outlook towards the monks may have taken a turn for the better however, when the Virgin Mary was said to have interceded through the Penitential Rosary Walk in 1998 to stave off an epidemic that had already claimed the lives of several local children.

Building the Shrine

The construction of the shrine was reportedly made possible in part by the donations of faithful pilgrims. At the time of my visit, the structure already resembled a sprawling castle, but there were still traces of unfinished portions. I assumed they weren’t quite done building and that they may have proceeded in gradual phases.

Our Lady of Lindogon Sanctuary Castle Church in Simala
A note at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the church thanks devotees and pilgrims for their help and support in the building of Our Lady of Lindogon’s Sanctuary Castle Church.

To my unskilled eye, the shrine’s façade appeared European inspired, but too diverse to pin to a particular period or unifying theme. It was almost as if various sections were put together at random, straining the boundaries of architectural styles. I came to imagine that perhaps construction may never decisively finish, that the shrine would continue to encompass more of the hillside in an almost unending organic growth.

To those who came on a spiritual journey, perhaps the shrine’s continually expanding form may only be a concrete representation of a deeper, less visible meaning understood only by personal faith.

Miracles of the Virgin

Simala Shrine in Sibonga, Cebu
Mother Mary’s grotto situated within the grounds of the Simala Shrine in Sibonga, Cebu

Despite having spent all of my formative years in Catholic schools, I have never become a serious devotee of Mary or of any saint. If anything, my liberal arts education taught me to be discerning about what I choose to believe. That, and my pretensions to art connoisseurship, is perhaps the reason why my interest was drawn first towards the physical structure rather than the stories behind it. I must admit though, I eventually found the accounts about Mary quite absorbing.

Aside from interceding during the epidemic, Our Lady of Lindogon is also credited for numerous miraculous occurrences and prayers answered. Most notable is of her statue shedding tears resembling oil on various instances in 1998, first in August 17, and then in September 8, October 13 and December 29. She was said to have wept again a year later in September 8, 1999.

One need not witness miraculous tears however, to experience a sense of amazement. The space adjoining the chapel where mass is held, houses hundreds of letters and remembrances sent by devotees testifying to prayers answered. I felt the hair at the back of my neck standing on end as I read through numerous rows of testimonies. Of course, one only has to look around to be even more astounded. There is no end to the press of people coming in droves to visit the Lady.

Letters to Our Lady of Lindogon
Letters of thanks for Our Lady of Lindogon’s intercession
Healing Testimonies - Simala Shrine
Testimonies of healed devotees – Photo used with permission from TravelTaBai.com

What I witnessed then reminded me of accusations I’d read on various occasions that we Catholics are idol worshipers. I’ve been told by my professors in theology that this is not an accurate assessment. In our belief, statues of the Lady or of saints are treasured keepsakes, like photos of loved ones we hang on a wall. We do not worship the images themselves. It is perhaps the visibly extreme devotion shown by some of the faithful that lead observers to think otherwise.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that in Catholic teaching, Mary does not grant prayers. She simply intercedes or prays for us. I hope I’ve made the nuns and professors at my old school proud for remembering that.

Whatever the case may be, the throng of people in serious contemplation or deep prayer in Simala is a powerful sight, perhaps enough to coax respect even from the skeptical.

Mass Schedules

Masses are celebrated in the shrine Mondays through Fridays at 12 noon, Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., Sundays at 12 noon and 3 p.m. and every 13th of the month at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Monastery of the Holy Eucharist church at Simala, Sibonga
The interior of the church at the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist where masses are celebrated – Photo used with permission from TravelTaBai.com

Those who simply wish to visit and pray can light candles at a designated area. I bought a packet of colored candles, each one representing an intention: red, love; blue, perseverance; black, souls; green, prosperity; gold, healing; violet, achievement; white, purity; cream, conversion; pink, thanksgiving; yellow, peace; orange, reconciliation; brown, vocation; gray, deliverance.

Colored candles at the Simala Shrine
Colored candles light a hallway at the Simala Shrine with prayer intentions

As with any place of worship, visitors are asked to dress appropriately as a sign of respect. Form fitting clothes, sleeveless shirts, tubes, shorts, mini skirts and the like aren’t allowed.

Getting to the Simala Shrine

Simala is a little over two hours away from Cebu City. To get there, you can grab a bus at the Cebu South Bus Terminal located along N. Bacalso Avenue beside Elizabeth Mall. Tell the bus conductor or driver to drop you at the road leading up to the shrine, at which point you will have to ride a motorcycle for hire, known locally as habal-habal to get to the shrine’s entrance.

Another option is to walk past the South Bus Terminal, Land Transportation Office, Bureau of Fire Protection and the Cebu City Medical Center to get to the Citi Link Transit Station where you can ride a van that’ll take you directly to the entrance of the shrine. At the conclusion of your visit, another van waiting near the exit can take you back to the city.

I’m not sure how much the fares cost now, but to be on the safe side, prepare a little over P200 per person for the ride to and from the shrine.

Related Articles for Further Reading:

1. Biyahilo, Monastery of the Holy Eucharist at Simala Sibonga (2012)
2. Florence Hibionada, The Miracle in Lindogon (2005)
3. Mimi Ortega, Our Simala Experience (2012)
4. Jessica Ann R. Pareja, The Simala Shrine Controversy (2010)
5. Candido Ortega Wenceslao, Simala Shrine Experience (2009)
6. Janeth Pelayo Mantalaba, Birhen sa Simala the Monastery of the Holy Eucharist (2012)
7. Ding Aban, Simala Shrine in Sibonga Cebu (2014)
8. Catholic.com, Praying to the Saints (2004)

Remembering Bantayan Island – Old Memories of a Young Traveler

When a relative came home from Manila, my pasalubong (souvenir) was a box of Pan de Manila coffee. Although the box art showed what I would assume to be an idealized rendition of old Manila, it reminded me of a different place, Bantayan Island. My mother was born and raised there, but I’d only been there twice.
Pan de Manila
Unfortunately, I went there in the early 90s, before the age of digital cameras, smartphones and indiscriminate photography. In my time, film was expensive. We did not have spare shots for selfies, sceneries and food. Photos had to be two in one, beautiful scenery with loved ones posing awkwardly in front of it.

It is partly because of my lack of presentable photos that I’ve decided to use images here that are older than me. I feel there is no mismatch though. At the time I was there, I felt I had stepped back in time, making my experience seem much older than it was.

Cebu to Bantayan

Every trip to the island starts with an hour and a half drive from Cebu City to Hagnaya where travelers can take a lancha (small motorized boat) to Sta. Fe, a ride that’ll take another hour and a half. My mother says, summer is the best time to go. The cooler months during the rainy season are for those who want to experience a gut-wrenching carnival ride at sea.

The island is divided into three municipalities, Sta. Fe, Madridejos and Bantayan. We have relatives in all three. An uncle once joked that the island is so small, that most people are related to each other in varying degrees, so that marrying a fellow islander is risking marrying a relative.

Dancing in Bantayan
I wonder how many of them here were our relatives. Photo used with permission from Old Bantayan Island.

A Glimpse of the Past

My great grandmother lived in Binaobao, thirty minutes away from Sta. Fe. She was still alive and well when we first visited, and I wish I had the courage to talk to her then. She could have told me stories of a time long past, but I was too shy. All I could do was to stare in awe at her and her seemingly ancient house.

My great grandparents. The baby is my grandmother. The date at the back suggests this was taken in the 1920s.

Her house looked a lot like the ones on my coffee box. The second floor was made of wood and had sliding Capiz shell windows. The first floor had been remodeled but retained its old feel with its wide wooden doors secured by a thick bar of wood. During the day, the doors were wide open. A table was set right by the door jamb and filled with an assortment of items for sale.

The interior of the house was dark, but surprisingly cool. Most of what I saw inside I no longer remember, except for the house’s wooden posts made of tree trunks in their original form and the huge clay pots filled with water at the back.

My mother somewhere in there. Guess who. 😀

Sumptuous Repasts

One more truly unforgettable facet of Bantayan is its food. Because it is a stone’s throw away from the sea, my relatives’ tables were always teeming with its bounties; crabs, fish, shells, squid, shrimp and guso (seaweed); cooked simply and with little flair, demonstrating the superiority of nature’s flavors.

The seafood of course, is usually consumed during the main meals of the day, except in one. I remember waking up at dawn on my first day to a table laden with suman (rice cake) and sikwate (chocolate drink). We thought we were being served breakfast, only to be told later that it was painit, a dawn meal taken before the morning mass. Breakfast didn’t start until 7 or 8.

Holiest of Weeks

Bantayan Island has always been a popular Holy Week destination. It has gained even more attention in recent years because of the continued circulation of the story about an old Papal exemption allowing residents to eat meat even on a Good Friday. Catholics in other parts of the country abstain.

My mother has always been adamant though. Many seniors, she says, remain true to their tradition, that is, abstaining from meat every Friday of Lent. In my case, I wouldn’t want to eat meat anyway in the presence of all that seafood.

Over and above the question of food, the people of Bantayan have remained steadfast to Catholic traditions observed elsewhere, but with noticeably more intensity. According to my mother, the yearly procession in Binaobao may vary from year to year in minor details but remain true to its majestic, awe-inspiring form.

Every year, intricately decked carrozas (carriages) depicting the people and events surrounding Christ’s life and death are driven through the main street leading to the church. Most memorable for me were the Mater Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows) and the Santo Entierro, Christ, supine and encased in blindingly clear glass.

Bantayan Church
The Holy Week procession always led to the church. Photo used with permission from Old Bantayan Island.

Even more impressive were the people I witnessed during my visit, praying and walking solemnly in between each carroza. Devotees from all walks of life, carrying lit candles, rippled through the streets in soft burning waves. I remember the heat rising up, touching my cheek as I looked down from one of my great grandmother’s windows.

White Sands, Blue Waters

My mother has two enduring rules on Good Friday shortly before and after 3:00 p.m., the time Christ is believed to have died on the cross. First, we must keep silent up until the end of Black Saturday. Second, we must not bathe. Naturally, she imposed these while we were in her hometown. The silence part I can easily understand, but the reason for the gross temporary restraining order obtained by the bathroom against all of us eludes me.

We therefore invariably ended up at the beach on Easter Sunday, when both rules were no longer in effect, to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with a much needed bath. In other places I’d been, I know it is customary for many families to bathe in the sea on Easter. Even if it weren’t that day however, it is a must to visit one of Bantayan’s beaches before leaving. Pure white sands and calm blue waters restore serenity.

Regaining serenity in Bantayan’s waters. Photo of Sayao used with permission from Old Bantayan Island.

The Official National Symbols of the Philippines

I was among those who grew up believing that sipa, maya, mango and anahaw were national symbols. After all, those were what were in our textbooks. I learned as a grown up that not all of the symbols we were taught in school are recognized by the law. I would not be surprised if others who had gone to school with me are unaware that there are official symbols. A recent episode of GMA News TV’s Investigative Documentaries (ID) showed members of older generations fumbling for answers to questions about national symbols. Thankfully,  the show has ventured to set the record straight and inform the public.

Official National Symbols

ID, in their January 30, 2014 episode listed ten. I’ve added the notes to these based on government website sources.

1. National Flag

The first version of our country’s national flag was first waved by Aguinaldo as he stood on the balcony of his residence in Cavite on June 12, 1898, following the proclamation of independence from Spain. In the following decades, the national flag underwent numerous changes, including at one point, the blue portion shifting to light blue.

In 1998, during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos, Republic Act No. 8491 or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines was enacted stipulating the regulations for its design and display as well as conduct towards it.

The Evolution of the Philippine Flag
The Evolution of the Philippine Flag. Image from the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

2. National Anthem – Lupang Hinirang

The law stipulates that the national anthem should always be sung in Filipino and following the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe. According to the National Historical Institute, the correct tempo is 2/4 and is in keeping with its original form as a march and not 4/4 as some sing it.

3. National Coat-of-Arms

Republic Act No. 8491 dictates that the Coat-of-Arms shall have:

“Paleways of two (2) pieces, azure and gules; a chief argent studded with three (3) mullets equidistant from each other; and, in point of honor, ovoid argent over all the sun rayonnant with eight minor lesser rays. Beneath shall be the scroll with the words “REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS,” inscribed thereon.”

4. National Language – Filipino

With more than a hundred (close to two hundred) languages and dialects in the Philippines, some people still get a little testy over discussions about the national language. Some contend that Filipino is but a formal term for what is essentially Tagalog, in which case the implication is that all others have been excluded. Others maintain that Tagalog is but the nuclei of the national language.

In any case Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution states that:

“The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.”

5. National Motto

Republic Act No. 8491 states that the national motto shall be: Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan at Makabansa

6. National Sport – Arnis

Republic Act No. 9850 which was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on December 11, 2009, made arnis the national martial art and sport of the Philippines.

7. National Tree – Narra

In 1934, the American Governor General Frank Murphy declared the narra as the national tree, through Proclamation No. 652

8. National Flower – Sampaguita

It was also Murphy who declared the sampaguita as the national flower in the same proclamation.

9. National Bird – Philippine Eagle

Once known as the monkey-eating eagle, it is now known as the Philippine eagle by virtue of Proclamation No. 1732 by President Ferdinand E. Marcos in 1978. It was declared the national bird by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1995 through Proclamation No. 615. It is currently critically endangered.

The Majestic Philippine Eagle. Photo owned by V Malazarte

10. National Gem – South Sea Pearl

President Fidel V. Ramos contributed yet again to our list of national symbols by declaring the south sea pearl, also known as the Philippine pearl as the national gem in 1996 with Proclamation No. 905

A Question of Heroes

Among those not included in the list of national symbols is Jose Rizal, who, nonetheless is called by many Filipinos as the national hero. The title goes back to the time of the Americans where it is said our colonizers preferred Rizal for national hero. Apparently, there is no official Philippine law that has officially conferred the title to him.

In an interview by ID, NHCP historian Ian Christopher Alfonso clarified that there can’t be a national hero simply because all our heroes did what they could for the Philippines. The implication is that, it would be unfair to pick one to elevate to the position of national hero over all the others.

Cultural Sensitivity

Other commonly known symbols are not recognized by law because they are more representative of regional cultures rather than the Philippines as a whole. In ID, Cultural Anthropologist Nestor Castro explained that not all Filipinos are Tagalogs and therefore do not all wear Barong Tagalog and Baro’t Saya. Kerby Alvarez of the UP Diliman Department of History also added that it would be culturally insensitive to pick Lechon as a national symbol because not all Filipinos eat this.

Cultural diversity can also be deemed as the reason why the government cannot recognize the Bahay Kubo, Adobo, Sinigang, Bahay Kubo and Bakya as national symbols.

Political Motivations

Older generations would remember being taught in school that Tinikling was the national dance. Interestingly, Castro in ID, recounted how in 1992, DepEd replaced Tinikling with Carinosa as the national dance. This may have been a self-serving declaration, since the Education secretary then was named Carino. In any case, neither Tinikling nor Carinosa have been officially recognized by law as national symbols.

Castro also pointed out the case of the Waling-Waling. There is a move by legislators to make it a national flower. The orchid is endemic to the Philippines which is perhaps one reason why it would make a good national symbol. Castro is of the opinion however, that legislators have only really taken into consideration the views of people from the orchid industry, and there he thinks is the problem. Castro thinks politicians keep making laws about national symbols without consulting the general public.

The Waling-Waling. Soon to be national flower? Photo by Dalton Holland Baptista.

Uniquely Filipino

Those who went to school in the 1980s would remember sipa as the national sport. The justification for its having been replaced by arnis is that sipa is a sport that is not distinctly Filipino and is commonly played in other Southeast Asian countries. Hence, the predominant idea here is that national symbols are chosen too for how distinctly Filipino they are.

It is worth noting however that there are existing national symbols that are not purely Filipino in origin. The sampaguita and narra for example are found in numerous other countries. The sampaguita in particular is said to have originated from India and is also considered a national symbol in Indonesia.

The question now really, is whether our symbols should be chosen based on cultural uniqueness or on public recognition and perception.

Common Experience

There are a handful of other symbols that many Filipinos would think are national symbols, not just because they were taught in school but because, once upon a time, they were widely and commonly seen and experienced. These include the maya that has been supplanted by the Philippine Eagle. Others that have not been officially recognized by law are the anahaw leaf, mango fruit, bangus and carabao.

Undoubtedly, there will be those who will argue that there are far greater national concerns than debates and laws about national symbols. It is worth keeping in mind however, that our symbols and their evolution are part of our identity and development as a people and a nation. It’s important to know what makes us who we are.

Bohol – Cebu Earthquake: Remembering Our Fallen Churches

When calamity strikes, we grieve first for the loss of life and for families deprived of loved ones. The recent earthquake however, which struck Bohol and Cebu has created in us who love history and culture another level of grief. For among the many casualties are our old churches, priceless specimens of our cultural and historical heritage.

I am even more grieved by the suggestion that the damage could have been reduced if our old churches were retrofitted and strengthened as suggested by Jes Tirol many years ago.

Rappler lists ten old churches from the Heritage Conservation Society as having suffered damages but news reports say there were more. Here are seven of them before and after the October 15, 2013 earthquake. I speak of them in the present tense because I cannot bring myself yet to talk about them in the past tense and because there are hopes of restoration.

San Pedro Apostol in Loboc, Bohol

The church is situated close to the Loboc River and was first reportedly built in 1602 but was later rebuilt after having been damaged. The Jesuits are credited for having begun construction on the Baroque inspired structure. When the Agustinian Recollects took over, they added buttresses, a portico façade, a funeral chapel and the bell tower.

Photo courtesy of Jaie Principe Pimentel

Loboc Church after the earthquake.

Photo courtesy of Liza Macalandag

Our Lady of Light in Loon, Bohol

The church is said to be one of the finest examples of Augustinian architecture. Made primarily of crushed coral, the structure is flanked by octagonal towers, presenting a symmetrical façade. Built sometime in 1853 or 1854, the church carries both Neoclassical and Baroque influences.

Photo courtesy of Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral

Loon Church reduced to rubble.

Photo courtesy of Liza Macalandag

Santissima Trinidad Church in Loay, Bohol

According to the official website of Loay, the municipality was founded by Fr. Juan J. Delgado in 1748 and was itself called Santisima Trinidad. The church may have been built in the early 1800s.

Photo courtesy of Joel Aldor

Loay Church partially damaged.

Photo courtesy of Liza Macalandag

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Baclayon, Bohol

Baclayon Church is one of the oldest in the Philippines. Its construction by 200 laborers under the Jesuits took ten years to finish starting in 1717 and features both Baroque and classical influences. Equally as celebrated as the church is its museum which houses antique relics.

Photo courtesy of Roman Leo Reyman

Baclayon Church now.

Photo by Baclayon Mayor Alvin Uy via @jurisparens

Our Lady of the Assumption in Dauis, Bohol

Online sources do not agree on the date of construction of Dauis Church but Jesuit priests Diego de Ayala and Joseph Gregorio are credited as its founders. It features a rich mix of Byzantine and Romanesque architectural influences. Of special note are the 1916 ceiling paintings of Ray Francia.

Photo courtesy of Jaie Principe Pimentel

Dauis Church after the calamity.

Photo courtesy of Liza Macalandag

Santa Cruz Parish Church in Maribojoc, Bohol

The church that survived into modern times was constructed from 1852 to 1872. The Maribojoc website however mentions that the foundation of an earlier structure was laid in 1768 which took 18 years to finish.

Photo courtesy of Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral

Maribojoc Church in ruins.

Photo courtesy of Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral

Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu

According to the church’s official website, Fr. Diego de Herrera built a church of wood and nipa in Cebu in 1566. Construction of the present stone church began in 1735. Its façade shows integrated influences of Muslim, Romaneque and Neoclassical architecture.

Photo courtesy of Berniemack Arellano of HabagatCentral

Sto. Niño Church minus its bell tower.

Photo courtesy of Kim Filoteo

Let us not turn this into a question of religion. An appeal to logic would simply reveal that these are centuries old churches made out of crushed coral and limestone held together supposedly by egg whites, molasses or mud; standing on an earthquake fault. We don’t need an angry heavenly power to level these structures to the ground. A small fart from the constantly shifting earth will do the trick. Setting aside the question of religion, it is important to recognize that what we have lost here is a piece of our nation’s cultural and historical identity.

We should bear in mind though that more important than these structures are the people of Bohol and Cebu, many of whom do not have access to clean water, food and medical assistance. If you wish to help, visit Rappler to find out how.

Information Sources:

Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador Misamis Oriental

Rudy, who left a comment on the video I shot says it all, “Spain in the Philippines.”

Of course, those of us who live here know he isn’t referring to the structure itself. There is no Spanish influence anywhere on it. Rudy was referring to the religious and perhaps spiritual fervor that is the influence of more than 300 years of colonial rule that has resulted in the creation of shrines like this one.

Tucked away in the quiet hills of barangays PSB and Ulaliman in El Salvador Misamis Oriental is the Divine Mercy Shrine. Popular among both tourists and pilgrims, you would not imagine that its origins are fraught with uncertainty.

As the story goes, a local charismatic group first began receiving visions in the year 2000. They were told to build a church on top of a hill overlooking the sea. Initially beset with fears, doubts and financial uncertainty, the group did not take immediate steps in answer to the visions.

When they did decide to take action, the search for land on which to start building was long and arduous. Among the places they originally visited were Surigao, Camiguin and Davao. It was only in El Salvador however that the group received signs that they interpreted to mean that they had found the location.

With only 2,000 pesos in funds, work began on the shrine in 2003. Today the shrine is within the Divine Mercy Hills which spans 9.8 hectares. At its heart is a 50 foot statue of Jesus overlooking Macajalar Bay. It is currently the biggest statue in the world for the Divine Mercy.

The blood and water streaming from the heart of Jesus are made of glass and tiles and encase stairs leading to a chamber of adoration. At the base of the statue are reconciliation rooms.

The statue alone attracts visitors in droves. Numerous testimonials, healings, conversions and answered prayers have since been reported.

The 50 foot statue of the Divine Mercy

Once completed, the ongoing development project will also feature a church, retreat facilities and places for reflection. Construction is now largely funded by donations. It is currently jointly managed by the Divine Mercy Foundation of Mindanao, Inc., The Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Inc. and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

To get to the shrine, you can ride a public jeepney in the Bulua terminal in Cagayan de Oro City. The trip will take no more than 30 minutes. At PSB-Ulaliman you can ride up to the entrance of the shrine on a motorcycle for hire. Another option is to take a 15 minute walk up.

To enter the shrine, visitors are required to wear proper clothing. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not permitted. Long skirts and pants are provided at the entrance.

For more information on the shrine, visit www.divinemercyhills.com.