Personality-based politics but political party-based machinery

Just this morning, I attended the round table discussion on the political party development act in Rockwell-Ateneo. Sa mga dai nakakaaram, digdi sa Pilipinas an pulitika inaapod na personality-based. Gustong sabihon, gabos na desisyon sa pagpili kan kandidato nakadepende sa personalidad kan kandidato bako sa saiyang partido (arog sa United States) o kaya sa plataporma na dinadara niya (arog sa Europa). This system makes it hard to exact accountability among the candidates kung kaya palpak an pangogobyerno digdi sa nasyon ta. To correct this malaise, political scientists and civil society groups are pushing for a strong political party system the first step of which includes the passage of political party development law.
But is this feasible?

In the Bicol region, it appears feasible. First, we were able to push for Bicol Saro, a regional political party which was able to withstood some tests of time. It bowed down, however, to the problematic party list system law kaya maski sarong representante, wara ining nasungkit. Even then, nagpapatunay lang na an mga Bikolano dai man mababayaan pag-abot sa political party organizing. Mala ta puwede man digdi idagdag an pag-organizar kan mga Imperial, Espinosa atbp. kan Independent Nationalist Alliance immediately the few years of the post-Marcos period.

Pero apuwera sa mga nabanggit, mapapatunayan na political-party-oriented talaga an mga Bikolano An pinakasimpleng ehemplo digdi iyo an pag-organizar kn political machinery base sa politica party na ever since, an mga Imperial kan Albay an nagpoon. The political machine being utilized by the Imperials is a pure Nacionalista Party-based machine and this started ever since Carlos A. Imperial, the uncle and namesake of Papay, ran for office in 1907. Nabago lang an pagiging solid nationalista kan mga imperial asin man kn makinarya matapos akoon ni Papay an membership sa Kilusang Bagong Lipunan ni Marcos. And, because of political survival, Papay also jumped to Lakas-NUCD and then to KAMPI.

Kaya lang, an makangalas, matapos na magbalyo ki political party affiliation si Papay, nagluya na man an amor kaini. Papay, running under the Laks-Kampi ticket, lostthe congressional seat to his closest rival, Al Bichara who won under the Nationalista Party — the reincarnate of the political party that Papay once left.


PPSA, Bicolanos, dishes and delicacies

There are two things that surprised me in the recently concluded Philippine Political Science Conference (PPSA): The increasing number of Bicolanos, and the absence of a dish or delicacy unique in the city where the conference was held.

This year’s PPSA Conference was held in Dumaguete City in Negros last April 11 and12. The host for the conference was Silliman University through its president, Dr. Ben Malayang III. While I saw familiar faces during the conference, a greater number of them were new.

The new looks include a few Japanese nationals, professors, and students from various universities in the Philippines. Kasabay digdi iyo an delegasyon hale sa Bicol University (BU) headed by Prof. Aileen Balean and Prof. Emil of the College of Social Science and Philosphy. There were four of them actually. Prof. Alex de Guzman, the supposedly fifth member, failed to arrive. Prof. Alex is the PPSA’s Representative for Luzon.

Apart from Bicol University, there are also delegates from Ateneo De Naga and University of Nueva Caceres (UNC). Sa Ateneo, saro lang samantalang sa UNC, apat man if I am not mistaken. This is as opposed to the previous conferences na halos BU lang an representante kan Bicol.

Sa mga ini, an mga taga UNC lang an dai ko nakaistorya. Medyo kaya mga silensiyo masyado. Kun bako pa dahil sa taga-Ateneo, dai ko maaraman na igwa palan duman na mga taga-UNC. Kun sabagay, arog man talaga kaan an mga Bicolano, bako maribok pero igwa palan na ibubuga. Garo arog kan pinangat na hona mo ordinaryong gulay lang pero sa laog palan an siram.

Which reminded of the menu dishes being served in Dumaguete.

Sarong kakaibang obserbasyon sa venue na pinili kan PPSA iyo an kawaran nin mga pagkaon na organic o noted na hale talaga sa lugar. Mala ta kadaklan kan mga ipini-puwesto sa lamesa, either Western o kaya man oriental dish. While there are also Filipino dishes an mga ini either a national dish (adobo) o kaya Bicolano dish (langka na ginulay sa natok kan niyog), o Cebuano (natong na Cebuano-style). And this is also true not only in the hotel but also in the restaurants that flourish in the area. Mala ngani ta feeling ko saro na akong European dahil puro French and British cuisine ang pirming nakalapag sa lamesa. Feeling lang. 🙂

Pero bako lang yan: wara man nin unique na delicacy sa Dumaguete bako arog sa pilinut candies from Bicol durian and durian candies from Davao, or dried mangoes from Cebu.

For these, I wondered: What binds these people apart from the long history of tenancy and sugarcane plantation?

Me kasabihan na an pagkaon daa an nagbuburunyog sa sarong banwa. Ini kaya an dahilan kun nata mas burunyog an mga Bikolanos kaysa sa mga Negrenses? For instance, apart from “pinangat” (pork and shrimp wrapped in taro leaves and cooked with coconut milk), we also have the famous “Bicol Express” (a sizzling hot cuisine made of pork, shrimp and pepper), “tinilmok” (crab meat and young coconut wrapped in banana leaves or in some cases taro leaves), and “tinutungan” (native chicken cooked with green papaya and charred coconut milk). Of course, pamoso man an “kinunot”, a concoction made from malungay leaves and shark or manta ray cooked in coconut milk. But of these, I missed the most a dish which is a version of the Spanish cocido but instead of fresh fish, what is used is sardines and young coconut meat and the young leaves of “lubas” (in some areas, “libas”, a variety of a tree locale in the region).

Whether or not the old adage with regards food and unity is true is still subject to research. But one thing is sure: Tunay na cohesive an mga Bikolano saen ka man magduman. Apwera sa mga Bicolano communities, kadakul man ki mga asosasyon nin mga Bikolano sa mga subdivision, eskuwelahan, asin mga darakulang kumpanya saen man na lugar ka magduman.

Larry Alcala: Cartoonist, Uragon

Who says Bikolanos are only good in singing (Imelda Papin, Nora Aunor), or acting (Eddie Garcia, Nora Aunor, Dina Bonnevie)?

For those who do not know yet, Bicolanos are also good cartoonists. One of the most successful Bicolano cartoonists is Larry Alcala who hailed from Daraga, Albay. Larry belongs to the Alcala clan one of the political clans in the pre-Marcos. His relatives include Tomas Alcala, one of Albay’s early governors.

Larry was born on August 18, 1926 and died at the age of 75 on June 24, 2002. He studied Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines and was given a travel study grant, the Australian Cultural Award in 1975.

In his 50 years of drawing cartoons, he was able to create more than 500 characters, twenty comic strips, six movies, two mural and 15,000 published pages. Among his public works include: Laugh and Live in “Life Today” (1981-2002); Slice of Life in “Weekend” (1980-1986) “Sunday Tribune” (1986-1987), then in “Sunday Times: (1987-1995), and later in the “Philippine Star” (1995-2002); Asiong Aksaya in the “Daily Express” and “Tagalog Klasiks” (1976-1984); Smolbateribols in “Darna Komiks” (1972-1984); and Mang Ambo, in “Weekly Graphic” (1963-1965), “Weekly Nation” (1965-1972) and “Manila Standard” (1993-1998). He was also famous for Kalabog en Bosyo which he drew for “Pilipino Komiks” (1949-1983) and later, in “Manila Times” (1984-1995).

Aside from his occupation as a Professor in the University of the Philippines, he also became an Art Director of the “Weekly Nation” and the Editorial Cartoonist and Illustrator of the “Weekly Graphic”.

For his achievements and contributions to the field of Fine Arts he was given at least 42 awards and citations. The names of these awards as well as the rest of his work can accessed here.

Larry, indeed, is one of the Bicolanos we can be proud of.

Bicol History: In search of the Imperials

Next week, I will be presenting in the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA) convention in Dumguete City my research on the decline of the Imperials, a political clan in the Province of Albay. To validate and substantiate the documents I currently have, I spent almost two days surfing as to what the Net has to offer. Too bad, it has offered less.
The first thing that came to my mind is that maybe, not all of the documents available printed form are already in the Net. But even scanning the libraries proved futile… at least for the moment. I think I still have to visit Ateneo De Naga as the university already has an Institute of Bikol History and Culture — an institute inaugurated in 2002.

Even then, hopes are not high for as I realized in my Internet research, while there are historical accounts during the Spanish period, darkness hovers the era starting from the American Period to the Japanese Liberation then to the Martial Law years. Garo naturog su mga historian during that time dahil maski title ki libro o citation, wara akong nahiling. Maski ngani su listing ki mga gobernador kan Albay, wara. Poor Bicol!

This realization was substantiated by the speech of Norman Owen, one of the US historians who had written something about the Bicol Region during the transition years from the Spanish to the American periods. In his speech in Ateneo De Naga, he said:

At least the first conquest and the evangelization of Kabikolan are reasonably well documented. Our knowledge of the next two hundred years or so of history is very much sketchier, however. Almost all that (Jose Calleja) Reyes records for this period is the role of Bikol shipyards in constructing Spanish ships – especially the great Manila galleons, many of which were built in shipyards along the Sibuyan Sea coast – and the impact of Moro raids. Yet this would have been the era in which towns were formed, landholding patterns, established, and the conceptual world of most Bikolanos, radically transformed. Of this cultural transfiguration we know almost nothing except for the origins of the devotion of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia.


The American period, like the Spanish, is known more for its start and its finish than for the intervening years. The conquest of Kabikolan by the United States, like its Spanish counterpart three centuries earlier, is well covered as is the brave Bikolano resistance. The building of schools can be seen as a kind of parallel to the Spanish establishment of churches, in each case introducing a foreign cultural presence which the Bikolanos soon came to accept as their own. But the next recognized “historical” event comes only forty years later – at least until Henry Totanes finishes writing the history of the American era. The Japanese occupation offers a scenario of vicious brutality and epic heroism, the latter symbolized by Wenceslao Q. Vinzons. Reyes enlivens his account of the period with his personal reminiscences; though they are interesting, they are not really incorporated into any larger attempt to assess political, social, and economic changes in Bikol society.

And then, with the Liberation of 1945, Bikol history virtually comes to end. Reyes does not actually stop his book there (as Gerona does), but most of his last seven chapters are on culture rather than history, although he does reflect on regional poverty in one chapter on the Bicol River Basin Development Program. But anyone who wants to know what has happened in Kabikolan since 1945, about the Huks and the NPA, or martial law and “People Power,” or even about that contemporary Bikol cultural icon, Nora Aunor, will not find it in Bikol Maharlika – nor, so far as I know, in any other text. Apparently the recent history of Kabikolan is still to be written, except in short journalistic essays.

So, what happened to my search for the Imperials? I must admit it remained a continuing quest. But even with the dearth of data, I still found something which, I guess, could help build a bridge in the historical gap. At least, for the Province of Albay.