Monday, 17 June 2013

The Living River in Iloilo City

I just came across this article in Philippine Star about reasons why it floods in Manila. ( ).

 Having lived in Manila for more than 30 years, what immediately came to my mind without reading the article first, was Manila’s dirty and choked-up river. A river that has been suffocated by the city bursting with dirt and undisciplined people. A river that has been the victim of man’s adulteration of nature. The urban poor lifestyle in Manila just seeking abodes in the waters where the last parcels of  land of the metropolitan are swallowed by more buildings and people squeezing in.   It is only us human beings who are at fault for what nature inflicts us in return. My mother asked me once—“My son, why do most Filipinos love to make their life more difficult?”  Manilans suffer from horrendous floods because it chose to make its life difficult by pushing nature to the edge of death.

What comes from Earth do not leave the Earth. They remain  in our planet. This is what we must instill in our people that we throw on  and  in to  the river, the poor river  will not expel it somewhere out there like a magician. The degradation of the river system in Manila comes from undisciplined people—people who want  to make their life difficult. Even much more difficult to the poor river. 

Blame it to huge informal settlers? Sustainability not taught in Philippine schools? Urban planning is co-terminus with public office rather than co-existing with nature?   Perhaps also political will because as far as we know, the Pasig River rehabilitation started as far back as when  former First Lady Imelda Marcos dipped her polished nails into the murky waters  in the 70’s and yet, 40 decades past, not much have changed, if not nil. Even worse. Many of the past leaders in Manila had diarrhea of the mouth promising to clean up the rivers, yet the rivers have had severe indigestion of their OPM’s ( Oh Promise Me).

Everytime, I pass by Pasay City to go to the airport, the river tributaries are simply  covered with corrugated sheets along the bridges to hide the magnitude  of garbage dumped on the already dried up river. I have lived as well in Pasay for so many years, yet after 30 years, the same corrugated sheets I saw when I first came to Manila  are still  there.   Cosmetic  treatment, a bad habit in Manila for many leaders, never fail to back fire to make the life of its inhabits doubly difficult. Nobody can conceal beyond those corrugated sheets and cement walls the ugly sights, stinky smell, illnesses, chaos, headaches, floods and  shame.  The Pasay City local  government perhaps has the worse act one can imagine with managing its garbage on our natural water eco-system making its rivers the basin of their toilets by just covering them so our eyeballs will not pop out of our eye sockets.   

While Iloilo river, on the other hand, surprised the world with just less than one year and a half  of rehabilitation, there is not much secret except the Ilonggos opted to make their life easier. Ilonggos did their best to cooperate and be disciplined. Also, to  support our  leaders to make ours better, if not the best, because they do not sing OPM’s.

There were river bank settlers in Iloilo river way back then. I remember travelling from Jones bridge crossing the river with shanties in La Paz district fixed to my eyes. They were gone. They were settled somewhere better for their own good.Now, there are only fishermen hobbists lining the bridge enjoying the time of their life catching fish from the beaming river. 

 Here, I present comparative pictures of Manila/ Pasig River with that of Iloilo City River. The pictures will tell a lot of stories.  The Iloilo Metropolitan Times wrote about Iloilo City river as : “….  a recipient of a gold award under the Environmentally Sustainable Project Awards of the International Awards for Liveable Communities (LivCom) in 2010 for its Iloilo River Development Project.” It is not bronze or copper, it is gold! Thanks to our leaders like Sen. Frank Drilon, Congressman Jerry Treñas and Mayor Jed Mabilog and on top of all the Ilonggos who respect the river as sacred as our man-made heritage as well.  It is as precious as our soul as people. In Iloilo city, rich or poor, formal or in-formal settlers, we are reverent to our river like it is our Queen. It is a living legend untouchable to those who will  end its life. ( )

In terms of tourism, the First Philippine International River Summit hosted by Iloilo City last May 30 to June 1, 2012 marked as a peak of the development of the Iloilo River. From that time on, the Iloilo River sparkled  like a gem,  the former Regent Queen of Spain, if she is still alive today, will probably give Iloilo City its second title as the Queen’s River of the Philippines.  

There is a great old hotel  by the river bank of Iloilo City called River Queen Hotel---perhaps should be buffed up as it can be a remembrance for old timers because the hotel stood by until today by the much more magnificent river of Iloilo.My thought is perhaps we will can also call our precious Iloilo City river, the River Queen or The Queen's River---say to glorify the status of the river as one of the finest in the world.  

The city has an ambitious plan to make our river a total center point where Ilonggos can converge. preserve and enjoy nature in the middle of the city. Everytime I pass by the river, I have joy in my heart because where can one find lush mangroves within a city? Where can one find herons co-habits with people in a city?Even as far back as when I was at the University of the Philippines Iloilo Campus, which was near the river, my classmates and I would sneak out of our class and jumped into the river in bamboo rafts and just frolick there.Soon there will be visiting folks who can experience the same.

I remember,  I did a fashion show called River! in Iloilo City in 2005.  It was in  celebration of the Second Iloilo Jetski   Competition  in Iloilo River as presented by  the JCIP Metro Iloilo Dinagyang.  Writer Ronelo S. Ladiao wrote: “River… smoothing cascading as it flows, murmuring beyond memory and filling one's journey into the bliss of elemental fashion. This exceptional fashion event was organized to preserve the Iloilo River as one of the cultural and environmental gem of Iloilo City beyond the flickering fad of contemporary vogue. In fact, the fashion show was conceptualized by international Ilonggo lifestyle designer PJ Arañador and in-demand fashion event director Bombette Marin to fuse elemental forces with the latest impression fashion .”

Eight years ago, my visualization of Iloilo city river as an artist came true today. I reckon now that  PJ Aranador’s “River” fashion show, perhaps forecasted the things to come as I wrote its design inspiration from Iloilo City river from which I created sportswear and swimwear in tandem with international brand Nike meant to be used in Iloilo river ( which was unimaginable to be used in Pasig river):

My creative brief for River the Fashion Show was, thus,  written:  “ The Sun represented by the color of yellow clothes symbolizes the eternal energy, shimmering, alive in vibrancy, binding with contrast, giving life to greeneries and reflecting the beauty of the river.

 Blue apparels replicate ‘Water' as cooling tears from heaven, showering the symphony of nature   and refreshing the   womb of the Earth through the veins of the river.

 Pink and red attires harmonized the vibrant horizon of the ‘Earth', transforming the unique layers of the earth. Black and gray outfits symbolize the warmness of ‘Stones' as the bed of the river where cooling ripples of water run in endless flow and finally the ‘Sky' is seen in white colored wardrobes that ceaselessly roof the river from the translucent mystic of heaven that coincide to the beat of the drums.( )

God bless our dear  Iloilo River---a living testimony that it is possible for Filipinos to clean up our rivers and let them live to make our life easier and more enjoyable.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Celebrating Philippine Independence in memory of Graciano Lopez Jaena from Jaro, Iloilo City

Today is our 123rd independence day of the Republic of the Philippines—a country colonized by Spain for 300 years and the United States for 45 years. We gained the nation’s freedom from the Spanish rule on June 12, 1898. This is the bigger picture.

I have the smaller picture which I can share today. It is a landmark that tells so many bigger picture behind it.  It is just right where I live two houses away from it in Calle Arguelles and Fajardo in Jaro, Iloilo City. Everyday, I pass by it. It is a shrine. It says Graciano Lopez Jaena. A shrine that many folks from Jaro may not notice driving and walking it through  everyday. ( PICTURES AND CAPTIONS OF THE SHRINE, BELOW).

Lopez is always associated a family name with Iloilo. The wealthy Ilonggo family we associate with ABS-CBN empire or the past Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. The magnificent mansions in Jaro are owned by the Lopezes. Jaena is another Jaro family name. My Jaro landlord is a Jaen. It is interesting in Iloilo because  during the Spanish period, the first letter of one’s town, say Jaro, should have the same letter in one’s family name. Jaro   with letter “J”, ex., Jalandoni, Javelosa, Javellana or Jaena. ( Sta. Barbara town with Santillan, Sucaldito, Sobrepeña, etc.) My great grandfather helped construct the ancient Jaro belfry but his family name was not “J” so it was changed to Jutare.  

Yet many Ilonggos may only know Jaro main street artery as Graciano Lopez Jaena Street. Or perhaps our town plaza is called the same name. Still many, I assume, the young ones may have bleak idea who was Graciano Lopez Jaena.

 I reckon,  the bigger picture from the small picture of an  almost 60 sq meter space of the miniscule shrine is--  Graciano Lopez Jaena was already global during the 19th century. ( It was in  1879 which was written then as MDCCCLXXXVIII or  19th century as the first two digits, in case 18, is always one year ahead). It was a period in time that there was no concept of such word “global” existed as we define it today. Somehow global today in Filipino context  means work abroad.

What is interesting is this, according to Wikepedia:” Of these three ilustrados Jose Rizal and Marcelo H. del Pilar, López Jaena was the first to arrive in Spain and may have founded the genesis of the Propaganda Movement.I was blown away. To land first in Spain from Iloilo was amazing.  I remember this was taught to us in high school. But now, the meaning for me became bigger than life itself. While Iloilo is host to many “firsts” in the Philippines, this one dates as far back as the turn of the century.

Because  the shrine has meaning greater than what we see, today, we may have to reflect how we can preserve the sense of pride for Jaro and Iloilo through our own home-grown hero.

Sadly,  the shrine today has no sense of place. It is home to dump trucks and is just an empty lot. Perhaps forgotten by time. But yet history will not forsake itself. Some historical lapses in dates or details may fall into the cracks, but the bigger picture of our memory and sense of connection will linger and should remain nourished.This is when a smaller picture will have meaning to create the whole big picture in our society.

Our fast lane generation today is sometimes lost within  the bigger picture which can be polarized with the smaller pictures around us. What we see everyday is no longer novel to most of us. As a designer, my former Italian mentor always reminded me to look at our sorrounding pictures with our fresh eyes. Memory and inspiration is not too far-fetched, it can just be in one’s neighborhood. In my case, it is just two houses away where I live and I thought I must do something---even just writing it today to celebrate the independence of our dear country, the Philippines.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Graciano López Jaena(December 18, 1856-January 20, 1896) was a journalist, orator, revolutionary, and national hero from Iloilo, the Philippines,  who is well known for his written newspaper, La Solidaridad .
Philippine historians regard López Jaena, along with Marcelo H. del Pilar and José Rizal, as the triumvirate of Filipino propagandists. Of these three ilustrados, López Jaena was the first to arrive in Spain and may have founded the genesis of the Propaganda Movement.

His parents sent López Jaena to Jaro which had been opened under the administration of Governor General Carlos María de la Torre y Nava Cerrada. While studying at St. Vincent Ferrer Seminary in Jaro, López Jaena served as a secretary to an uncle named Claudio López who was the honorary vice consul of Portugal in Iloilo. His ambition of becoming a physician, convinced his parents that this was the better course of action.
López Jaena sought enrollment at the University of Santo Tomas but was denied admission because the required Bachelor of Arts degree was not offered at the seminary in Jaro. Instead he was appointed to the San Juan de Dios Hospital as an apprentice. Unfortunately, due to financial problems, he dropped out and returned to Iloilo to practice medicine.

During this period, his visits with the poor and the common people began to stir feelings about the injustices that were common. At the age of 18 he wrote the satirical story "Fray Botod" which depicted a fat and lecherous priest. Botod’s false piety "always had the Virgin and God on his lips no matter how unjust and underhanded his acts are." This incurred the fury of the friars. Although the story was not published, a copy circulated in Iloilo but the friars could not prove that López Jaena was the author.

He got into trouble for refusing to testify that certain prisoners died of natural causes when it was obvious that they had died at the hands of the mayor of Pototan. López Jaena continued to agitate for justice and finally went to Spain when threats were made on his life. López Jaena sailed for Spain in 1879. There he was to become a leading literary and oratorical spokesman for Philippine reform.

López Jaena pursued his medical studies at the University of Valencia but did not finish the course. Once Rizal reproached Lopéz Jaena for not finishing his medical studies. Graciano replied, "On the shoulders of slaves should not rest a doctor's cape." Rizal countermanded, "The shoulders do not honor the doctor's cape, but the doctor's cape honors the shoulders."

He then moved to the field of journalism. Losing interest in politics and academic life, he soon enjoyed his life in Barcelona and Madrid. However, his friends would forgive him these indiscretions due to his appeal with words and oratory. Mariano Ponce who was another of the Filipino propagandists in Spain observed, "... a deafening ovation followed the close of the peroration, the ladies waved their kerchiefs wildly, and the men applauded frantically as they stood up from their seats in order to embrace the speaker."

Rizal noted, "His great love is politics and literature. I do not know for sure whether he loves politics in order to deliver speeches or he loves literature to be a politician."

La Solidaridad
In addition he is remembered for his literary contributions to the propaganda movement. López Jaena founded the fortnightly newspaper, La Solidaridad. When the publication office moved from Barcelona to Madrid, the editorship was succeeded to Marcelo H. del Pilar. A student will discover his talent in the publication Discursos y Artículos Varios(Speeches and Various Articles).

López Jaena died of tuberculosis on January 20, 1896, eleven months short of his 40th birthday. The following day, he was buried in unmarked grave at the Cementerio del Sub-Oeste of Barcelona. His death was followed on July 4 by Marcelo H. del Pilar and on December 30 of José Rizal by firing squad, thus ending the great triumvirate of propagandists. He died in poverty just shy of two and a half years before the declaration of independence from Spain byEmilio Aguinaldo. His remains were never brought back to the Philippines.
In his honor, the Jaro Plaza has been renamed the Graciano López Jaena Park, where there is also a statue of him.
The Graciano Lopez Jaena Foundation Inc works to continue his legacy and supports various public recognition of his life and works, such as the Dr. Graciano Lopez Jaena Poetry Contest.

An Order of DeMolay Chapter, a youth fraternal group for young men originating in freemasonry, was founded around 1965 in Jaro, and named Graciano Lopez-Jaena Chapter because Lopez Jaena was the first and foremost Freemason from Jaro.