Published in Manila Standard Today
By Elizabeth Angsioco
I like things old. I appreciate Filipiniana and am fascinated with old Manila. Visiting places, hunting for gems from the past, reading about our history and rediscovering our heroes, finding new uses for old items, or simply thinking about how life was during the turn of the century—these I do to de-stress.
When I get frustrated with all the scandals rocking our country, I find assurance and hope in the knowledge that our forefathers and mothers bravely fought abuse and oppression.
When I get tired from dealing with issues and the hardships faced by people we work with, I take comfort in knowing that there was a time when life in Manila was relatively good even for ordinary folks.
When my colleagues and I get hit because our advocacies run against the interests of some, I get inspiration and courage from our heroes’ life stories. After all, what we face now cannot be compared with their sacrifices. They gave up their lives for our country!
Old homes, old clothes and textile, furniture, colored glass, home accessories, glassware, China, lamps, pictures, newspapers, books, documents —these I especially like. I am even charmed by their imperfections, scratches, and stains. To me, these add to their character.
I am the official “mambubulok” because whenever I have some free time, I go to second hand shops, tinker with dusty items in search of hidden gems. This, to me is treasure hunting.
Doing this connects me with our past, makes me appreciate our culture better, and convinces me that we, as a people, have a lot to be proud of. My love for country is strengthened.
However, I also get very disturbed by things I get to know. Having access to old documents and newspapers has revealed that we have not really moved forward significantly as a nation. It seems that we are not able to deal with and solve problems. The social ills we had many many years ago are the same problems we face now.
How I wish I can say that comparing the past and the present convinces me that we are doing well and that our people are better off today than years ago. Sadly, the contrary may be true.
Things I treasure (but make me sad) include:
A yellowed and stained 1905 Plan of Proposed Improvements of Manila done by Daniel H. Burnham and approved and submitted to then Secretary of War, William H. Taft. The plan showcased how Manila was to be developed into zones radiating from Intramuros and complete with a railroad system. The plan also showed then existing bodies of water that literally divided Manila into “islands.”
Fast forward 106 years later and with many millions more of Filipinos, we cannot even come up with a coherent and sensible urban plan and have yet to enact the National Land Use bill into law.
1922 and 1928 sample ballots printed in Malolos, Bulacan indicating among others the name of Felipe Buencamino as a Senatorial candidate in the former and Benigno Aquino as another candidate for the Senate in the latter. The Aquino ballot also has the following names: Eduardo Dimagiba, Hermogenes Dimagiba, and Dionisio Dimagiba as candidates for various local positions.
Fast forward almost a century later, we have had two Aquinos as Presidents of the country and politicians names’ remain the same. Political dynasties are as alive as ever.
An original copy of the November 27, 1950 edition of the Evening News which carried news reports such as “Solons Favor Strengthening of Armed Force,” “131 Huks, Slain in Clash with State Troopers,” “Find Treasurer Short of P4,859” and “Agree to Amend Divorce Proviso.”
Fast forward more than half a century after and change a word or two in these news items, and we deal with current issues. We still deal with a weak Armed Forces, insurgency problems, massive corruption, and a host of social issues including divorce.
An original copy of the May 7, 1969 issue of The Manila Times with news items involving then Senator Jovito Salonga, first lady Imelda Marcos, Justice Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, and Senator Gerardo Roxas. The paper also carries news about criticisms against educational standard and a piece by Maximo Soliven entitled, “Hacienda Luisita in Land Reform Deal.”
I really do not need to point out that most of the mentioned names (or their relatives) still occupy important positions now, that problems on our educational standards have worsened, and Hacienda Luisita remains an issue.
From these documents, it is evident that we have not really progressed.
My humble call to government and our people is, let’s move past and finish these problems. Our country cannot be forever haunted by issues of our past.
Two of my most treasured finds are hard bound facsimiles of the original manuscripts of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo released in 1961 by the Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission. I get goose bumps every time I open these books (though in original Spanish) because they are in the national hero’s impeccable handwriting complete with erasures and corrections.
A century and a half after, Rizal’s words continue to be relevant to us as a people. We still deal with the arrogance and abuses of the men in robes. We still have to struggle for our rights being blocked by the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in the name of dogma.
Sometimes I feel that our heroes, Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and others are calling us and telling us not to let their ultimate sacrifice for love of country and our people go to waste.
We need to rebuild our country. We have to finish the revolution our heroes started. This is the way to stop our past from haunting us.
Like Rizal who wanted to face the sky as he was martyred, we have to rise to the occasion.
Ours is a proud history. Let us reclaim it.