Sunday, November 30, 2008


(November 30, 1863 – May 10, 1897)

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Gat Andres Bonifacio

Bonifacio and the Cry of Balintawak

Bonifacio Day in Manila

The Bonifacio Monument in Tutuban

all images © 2008 Señor Enrique

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:04 AM | 14 comments

Friday, November 28, 2008


All those hours that teenagers spend socializing on the Internet may not be such a bad thing after all. America’s youth are actually developing important social and technical skills online – often in ways adults do not understand or value. These findings were the result of the most extensive U.S. study on teens and their use of digital media, commissioned by the MacArthur Foundation.

Mizuko Ito, lead researcher on the study, Living and Learning With New Media, said that although i
t may look as though kids are wasting a lot of time hanging out online, whether it’s on MySpace or sending instant messages, their participation, however, is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world. And more important, these young people are learning how to get along with others, how to manage a public identity, how to create a home page.

Moreover, Ms. Ito, a research scientist in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, said that some parental concern about the dangers of Internet socializing might result from a misperception.

“Those concerns about predators and stranger danger have been overblown,” she said. “There’s been some confusion about what kids are actually doing online. Mostly, they’re socializing with their friends, people they’ve met at school or camp or sports.”

The study, part of a $50 million project on digital and media learning, used several teams of researchers to interview more than 800 young people and their parents and to observe teenagers online for more than 5,000 hours. Because of the adult sense that socializing on the Internet is a waste of time, the study said, teenagers reported many rules and restrictions on their electronic hanging out, but most found ways to work around such barriers that let them stay in touch with their friends steadily throughout the day.

“Teens usually have a ‘full-time intimate community’ with whom they communicate in an always-on mode via mobile phones and instant messaging,” the study said.

The researchers also identified two distinctive categories of teen engagement with digital media: friendship-driven and interest-driven. While friendship-driven participation centered on “hanging out” with existing friends, interest-driven participation involved accessing online information and communities that may not be present in the local peer group.

Significant findings include:

* There is a generation gap in how youth and adults view the value of online activity.

* Adults tend to be in the dark about what youth are doing online, and often view online activity as risky or an unproductive distraction.

* Youth understand the social value of online activity and are generally highly motivated to participate.

* Youth are navigating complex social and technical worlds by participating online.

* Young people are learning basic social and technical skills that they need to fully participate in contemporary society.

* The social worlds that youth are negotiating have new kinds of dynamics, as online socializing is permanent, public, involves managing elaborate networks of friends and acquaintances, and is always on.

* Young people are motivated to learn from their peers online.

* The Internet provides new kinds of public spaces for youth to interact and receive feedback from one another.

* Young people respect each other’s authority online and are more motivated to learn from each other than from adults.

* Most youth are not taking full advantage of the learning opportunities of the Internet.

* Most youth use the Internet socially, but other learning opportunities exist.

* Youth can connect with people in different locations and of different ages who share their interests, making it possible to pursue interests that might not be popular or valued with their local peer groups.

* “Geeked-out” learning opportunities are abundant – subjects like astronomy, creative writing, and foreign languages.

“This study creates a baseline for our understanding of how young people are participating with digital media and what that means for their learning,” said Connie Yowell, Ph.D., Director of Education at the MacArthur Foundation. “It concludes that learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century.”

The John D and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, with assets of $7 billion, supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the foundation work to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

To learn more about the MacArthur Foundation and the work of their grantees, visit their annual report online.

John D. MacArthur (1897-1978) developed and owned Bankers Life and Casualty Company and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife Catherine (1909-1981) held positions in many of these companies and served as a director of the Foundation.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:12 AM | 2 comments

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


General Douglas MacArthur's father was General Arthur MacArthur, Jr., son of Douglas MacArthur Sr., who immigrated to the United States from Scotland, studied law, served briefly as Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, and then became a federal judge.

His son, Arthur MacArthur, Jr., at 17, was commissioned and appointed as the Adjutant of the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862; at 18, led his regiment up Missionary Ridge for which he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, and was promoted to the rank of major (skipping that of captain); at 19, was made a full colonel and commander of his regiment.

In 1875 he married Mary Pinkney Hardy ("Pinky") of Norfolk, Virginia. Their first child, Arthur III died of appendicitis, while their second child, Malcolm, died of measles. Douglas MacArthur was born in 1880.

Arthur MacArthur, Jr. was promoted to brigadier general at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898, and was sent to the Philippines. He went on to become a lieutenant general (the Army's highest ranking officer at the time),
and was the military governor of the Philippines, but was passed over for the position of Army Chief of Staff. He resigned his commission in 1909 and died in 1912 at the annual reunion of his Civil War regiment.

Douglas MacArthur, though destined to outshine everyone in the family, always had tremendous respect for his father, and talked about him frequently for the rest of his life
. But there were those who claim that the two Generals shared various negative character traits as well; the most common criticism of Douglas MacArthur is that he was vain, arrogant, egoistic, or all of the above.

Colonel Enoch H. Crowder, the first General MacArthur's aide in the Philippines, remarked later, "Arthur MacArthur was the most flamboyantly egotistical man I had ever seen, until I met his son".

himself to living up to his father's example, In 1899, at 19, Douglas MacArthur enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point. On the battlefields during World War I, Douglas MacArthur was wounded, gassed, cited as "the greatest front-line general of the war," awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and was known for leading his troops into battle carrying a riding crop.

In 1922, at 42,
Douglas MacArthur married Louise Cromwell Brooks, a divorced socialite ten years his junior with two children -- and a fortune. The unlikely union between the high-flying flapper and general ended seven years later.

Douglas MacArthur might
have acquired intellectual virtues from his father but it was his mother who played a greater role than his father in shaping his character. "You must grow up to be a great man -- like your father and Robert E. Lee," his mother had whispered to him at bedtime.

But this great love and respect he had for his mother might have been the reason
why Isabel Rosario Cooper, was relegated to the background, never to be formally introduced to his mother.

In 1929, MacArthur fell head over heels for then 16-year-old Isabel Rosario Cooper, a Scottish and Filipino-Chinese mestiza more popularly known as "Dimples." She was an actress who appeared in forgettable B-movies; one of which -- Ang Tatlong Hambog -- featured the very first kissing scene in Filipino cinema; she was at its receiving end. But more interestingly,
Isabel Rosario Cooper aka Dimples was to become the general's mistress.

When MacArthur was appointed Army Chief of Staff and moved to Washington, his mother and Dimples followed suit. While his mother lived in Fort Myer, Dimples was ensconced in an apartment near MacArthur's office adjoining the White House. All along Pinky must have remained oblivious to Dimples' existence, as well as her son's torrid relationship with her.

According to William Manchester, MacArthur "showered Dimples with presents and bought her many lacy tea gowns, but no raincoat. She didn't need one, he told her; her duty lay in bed." Dimples eventually got bored with the setup and enrolled in law school where she met many interesting young men. The general had a fit and immediately ended their relationship.

When the secret affair was discovered by a Washington Post gossip columnist, Drew Pearson, MacArthur sued him for libel. But when Pearson revealed that he had obtained very intimate correspondence between McArthur and his young mistress, including having her as a witness to be deposed, McArthur withdrew the suit and paid Pearson a substantial amount of money in exchange for the letters.

Dimples, with the $15,000 received from the general, opened a hairdressing salon somewhere in the Midwest, before moving to Los Angeles some years later. In 1960, unable to recover from the lingering emotional anguish of her failed relationship with MacArthur, she committed suicide.

The general, on the other hand, with his second wife, Jean Marie Faircloth, spent the last years of their life together in the penthouse of the Waldorf Towers (a part of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan). It was a gift from Conrad Hilton, the owner of the hotel.
MacArthur died in Washington, DC, in 1964.

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The Exercise of Military Judgment:
A Philosophical Investigation of the Virtues and Vices of General Douglas MacArthur

by David W. Lutz
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota

The American Experience: MacArthur
produced by
Austin Hoyt (Reagan), co-produced by Sarah Holt


Landing at Leyte Monument
located at the foot of the MacArthur Bridge
Santa Cruz, Manila
© Señor Enrique

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:53 AM | 35 comments

Sunday, November 23, 2008


On February 19, 1937, had the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in London, Ray Atherton, not discovered the nature of the clandestine meeting that was to be held between President Manuel Quezon and the British Foreign Minister, Anthony Eden, the Filipinos would have been belting out "God Save the Queen instead of humming Yankee doodle de dum tunes at major local gatherings.

Two years prior to this discovery, m
aking good on his infamous sound bite, "I would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans," Quezon -- upon assuming the presidency of the Commonwealth of the Philippines -- immediately pursued the task of laying the foundations of the future Philippine Republic.

However, the relations between Quezon and his American overlords during the transition period were often less than amenable; the resulting tensions and exasperations eventually prompted Quezon to secretly approach the British and explore the likelihood of the Philippines becoming a part of the British Empire -- as a self-governing dominion, like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

As early as August 1933, then Senate President Quezon had already told his British friend and adviser, Frank Hodsoll, that should the United States abandon their protectorate interests in the Philippines, he would go to London, and on behalf of the 14,000,000 Filipinos, ask for admission to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Hodsoll, acting as Quezon's secret liaison agent, finally contacted top British officials on January 20, 1935.

At this time, Quezon was already coping with serious concerns about the threat of a Japanese invasion. He was also alarmed by the Americans' continued indifference on the issue, as well as their lackadaisical attitude toward strengthening the military defenses of the Philippines.

The British Foreign Office recognized the merits of Quezon's concerns and approved holding official, though initially clandestine, talks with Quezon. Unfortunately, the Americans got wind of the planned meeting in London. President Roosevelt and many high-ranking government officials were aghast; thus, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre
immediately censured Quezon as per orders received from Washington.

In his response, Quezon riposted that
for the survival of the Philippines, it was his duty to seek protection from another powerful nation; that is, if the United States were unable to provide it. He then pointed out the lack of palpable measures by the United States to fortify the archipelago and make her impregnable to a Japanese invasion.

Quezon also admitted that he would consider a treaty of amity and alliance with Japan if the United States and Great Britain refused to protect his country.

Ironically, despite their horrified reaction to Quezon's seemingly lack of loyalty, the United States' war plans from 1937 onwards, prioritized winning the war in Europe. Essentially, America was prepared to accept the initial fall of Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines to Japan. Such priority was mainly due to the fact that the American oligarchy at that time was mostly of European ancestry. Therefore, the Philippines was merely regarded as a not too significant a territory located in some far-flung remote region across the Pacific.

Furthermore, the U.S. did not appear to be in any position to guarantee, let alone provide, formidable military defense systems and logistics for the Philippines. This was made apparent when the American contingent at the 1941 secret Japan-US diplomatic negotiations
began to consider permanently declaring the Philippines as a neutral country. Regrettably, diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Japan came to a sudden halt when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

These days, local historians could only speculate that perhaps, the eventual massive carpet-bombing of Manila by the U.S. forces during its liberation, might have been America's ultimate true response to Quezon's disloyalty, though his death saved him from seeing the city -- the seat of his government -- practically reduced to rubbles.

Title: View of burnt-out Manila, 1945
Date: 1945-03-12
Place/Time: Post-war commonwealth / Philippines / Manila
Publisher: US Signal Corps

Description: Vividly illustrating the condition of burned-out, battle-scarred Manila, as U.S. engineers and thousands of Filipinos begin the huge task of reconstruction, is this aerial view looking southwest across the Pasig River toward hulks of sunken ships in the harbor. Tall building, left foreground, is gutted, Eastern Hotel, center, across river, is burned out, general post office, extreme left, across river is Metropolitan Opera House in ruins. Battered wall of Intramuros, Walled City, and destroyed buildings inside, occupies rectangular area beyond post office. Left is demolished Santa Cruz Bridge, repaired by Army engineers. The streets have already been cleared of rubble.

Rights: U.S. National Archives
Submitter: McCoy, Alfred W.: University of Wisconsin--Madison. Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
Local Identifier: SEAiT.Philippines.ph00835.bib

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History of the Filipino People
by Teodoro A. Agoncillo
Garotech Publishing

The Philippines: A unique Nation
by Sonia M. Zaide
All-Nations Publishing

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posted by Señor Enrique at 9:22 AM | 13 comments

Friday, November 21, 2008


During the 1930s, as the Great Depression unfolded -- scarring the lives of millions of Americans and spurring debates amongst seasoned economists as to what caused it -- the Philippines, a US protectorate, radiated confidence despite some dark clouds that hovered over its economic and political landscapes.

ruled ineligible for American citizenship and barred from immigrating to the United States, the Filipinos somehow never lost their faith in the Great American Dream. To ease this astonishing prohibition, the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1935 allowed a quota of 50 Filipinos a year to immigrate to the US, though the anti-miscegenation law enacted two years later deemed inter-racial marriage (between a Filipino and a white American) illegal.

Nonetheless, this seemingly unwelcome mat didn't sully the inherent hospitality of the Filipinos.

During the late 1930s, while
a Miami port turned away the liner St. Louis with a boatload of 900 Jews (reflecting America's anti-Semitic policy during that period), about 1,200 German and Austrian Jews found sanctuary in the Philippines. They arrived in Manila's port from Shanghai while it was then under siege by the Japanese. Thousands more of these European Jews were to come and call the Philippines their new home.

And as millions of folks
across the United States grappled with the oppressive burdens of the Great Depression, over at the ultra-modern Crystal Arcade building on Escolta -- which had become Manila's "peacetime" stock exchange -- stockholders of mining firms feverishly traded stocks amongst themselves, though most were worthless. That was because these gold companies very rarely conducted any actual mining; thus, the "gold profits" they boasted, if any, were nothing more than paper profits.

The blinding prospect of becoming rich overnight somehow obscured reality, allowing the gold mine boom of the hard-up 1930s to continue undeterred.

But what was to eventually become a major hit amongst the local folks, which made many of them rich overnight indeed, was the Sweepstakes. In one instance, on September 8, 1935,
jockey Ordiales rode "Sugar Babe" to a victory, giving a 12-year-old peasant girl from Tayabas -- who was the holder of the lucky ticket -- a whopping 75 thousand pesos. An enormous fortune at that time.

Meanwhile, back in the States, it was also a race horse that was becoming a symbol of hope; a cultural icon, in fact.

This stallion's riveting tale of grit, grace, luck, and an underdog's stubborn determination was swaying over the nation's imagination. Over terrible handicaps this horse triumphed; becoming a champion and a legend of the racetrack. But more astoundingly, this horse healed the wearied soul of a nation battered by a staggering financial collapse. The horse's name was Seabiscuit.


The Philippines: A Unique Nation
by Sonia M. Zaide
All Nations Publishing O, Inc.

Manila, My Manila
by Nick Joaquin

Seabiscuit: An American Legend
by Laura Hillenbrand
Ballantine Books

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Old Houses on Arlegui Street
© Señor Enrique

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:55 AM | 18 comments

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Came to be regarded as an anthem of the shattered dreams caused by America's Great Depression, "Brother Can You Spare A Dime" is one of the best-known American songs. It was written in 1931 by lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and composer Jay Gorney as part of the 1932 musical "New Americana."

The song was popularized by the recordings of Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee; released right before Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election to the presidency. Both recordings became number one hits on the charts. The Warner Bros.-released Crosby recording became the best-selling record of its period.

Brother Can You Spare A Dime
(Jay Gorney/E.Y.Harburg)

Once I built a railroad, made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a rairoad, now it's done
Brother can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower to the sun
Brick and rivet and lime
Once I built a tower, now it's done
Brother can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits
Gee, we looked swell
Full of that Yankee Doodle De Dum
Half a million boots went slogging through hell
I was the kid with the drum

Say don't you remember, they called me Al
It was Al all the time
Say don't you remember, I'm your pal!
Buddy can you spare a dime?


George Michael, one of pop music's greatest song stylists performs "Brother Can You Spare A Dime" live accompanied by a full orchestra. It's big band music at its best!

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Aperture: F3.2
Shutter: 1/160 sec
Flash: No
© 2008 Señor Enrique

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posted by Señor Enrique at 8:12 AM | 25 comments

Sunday, November 16, 2008


One of the more common sights in Manila are those of our young students beaming with youthful vitality, pride and promise; rightly so, for ahead of them are the best and exciting years of their life, with some seeking work/live opportunities in various distant lands. Indeed, a gripping future awaits these young folks.

However, there remains to this day, a dark aspect of student life that despite the perils involved -- its hazing rituals, primarily -- many are enticed to sign up due to the
sense of community and belonging that such groups offer, including the promise of a vast network of peers who could help one another professionally after graduation. And despite the Philippine Hazing Law, violent inititation rites continue to be condoned and practiced by many local Greek letter societies or fraternities.

Cris Anthony Mendez died on August 27, 2007, following severe beatings by members of the Sigma Rho Fraternity at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The beatings to his legs and chest were so severe that the 20-year-old was left with bruised lungs and huge bruises all over his body, according to the autopsy report.

Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and former Senate President Jovito Salonga has resigned as member of the Sigma Rho fraternity because of this incident. In a statement sent to the Inquirer, Salonga, one of the most prominent Sigma Rhoans, said that he was resigning “because of recent events in which Sigma Rho has been involved.”

Sigma Rho has been accused of two other fraternity-related violence: In December 1994, Dennis Venturina, a Sigma Rhoan, died in a riot between Scintilla Juris and Sigma Rho; whereas, on February 19, 1999, Niño Calinao, a senior journalism major was shot dead by suspected Sigma Rho members. He was mistaken for a member of the rival fraternity Scintilla Juris, which clashed with Sigma Rho members in a riot a week before the killing. Both incidents happened inside the University of the Philippines Diliman campus.

Prior to these incidents at UP Diliman, there was also the tragic fraternity-related case of 22-year-old first-year law student Leonard Villa of the Ateneo University back in 1991.

In joining the Aquila Legis Fraternity, Leonard Villa was allegedly subjected to a savage initiation rite in which he was kicked, mauled and beaten to death. His mother, Gerarda Villa,
recalled the struggles her family went through just to prove that her son's killing was murder and not homicide.

Yet t
o date, she cannot get the judicial system to mete out punishment to those found guilty of having participated in her son's killing. Villa said they won the case in the lower court against 26 members of the Aquila Legis but it was overturned by the Court of Appeals. The case is now with the Supreme Court.

Through six decades, Aquila Legis fraternity has inducted over 1500 members, 90% of whom are members of the Philippine Bar and include Cabinet Secretaries, Congressmen, Justices, and Ambassadors. Its name comes from the Latin phrase meaning "Legal Eagle."

Since the death of her son, her late husband, Romulo Villa, a lawyer and once a BIR Commissioner during the Marcos era, founded Crusade Against Violence (CAV) in which she is now the current president. During her interview with the Inquirer, Villa said that they expected cover-up attempts in the Cris Mendez case.

It should be noted that although not everyone who goes through such ritualistic tests endures debilitating physical injuries, other forms of hazing, though subtler, can cause lingering emotional or psychological trauma -- such as being subjected to constant verbal abuse or sleep deprivations. In other cases, new members or rookies are ordered to wear humiliating attire, deprived of a regular schedule to maintain personal hygiene, or required to provide personal services to senior members (e.g. cooking, cleaning, carrying books, errands, etc.).

Hazing is often used as a method to promote group loyalty and camaraderie through shared suffering (male bonding in fraternities), either with fellow participants, past participants or both. A tentative explanation from evolutionary psychology is that grave hazing can condition the habituation and internalization of the psychological trait known as Stockholm syndrome in humans.

Stockholm Syndrome argues that blatantly brutal hazing can, in fact, produce negative results; making the units more prone to break, desert or mutiny than those without hazing traditions. This was observed in the Russian army in Chechnya, where units with the strongest traditions of dedovschina were the first to break and desert under enemy fire.

Regrettably, hazing has transcended the walls of our universities and some local high schools. It has become a societal problem, a way of life in certain elitist organizations and professions. Incidents of which occur in the military, police forces, athletic teams, marching bands, religious cults, professional schools and various clubs.

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posted by Señor Enrique at 3:54 PM | 23 comments

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A few years back, a nephew couldn't wait to finish high school so he could go on to college; not to pursue a particular degree to set him up for a worthwhile career, but to be in the environment full of kolehiyalas. But alas! When he finally entered college life this year, he proved more of a torpe than a swain. As for the cause of his changed demeanor, he bragged about a goal to focus on his studies, of course; earning for himself in the process multiple pogi points from his approving parents.

Based on discussions with fellow Pinoys both here and abroad, I can safely assume that a great majority has a kolehiyala playing a prominent role in their fond memories of college life -- either as a girlfriend or someone idolized from afar. Same goes for the coed:
I bet they had a particular college guy (kolehiyelo?) in mind as a suitor; that is, if they weren't already entangled with one.

Be that as it may, I came across an old tune by Michael Franks which may be a perfect soundtrack during such moments of reminiscing:

How I Remember You

If it's true from the start
That the names of those we love
Are written on our hearts
And we'll search 'til we find
In this jungle of confusion
Something that reminds us
How we love each other
Then I think I've found the clue
Because I'm certain I remember you

Through my window I see
How the seasons change like notes
Within some harmony
But the love in our eyes
Is an endless summer
Is a joy that magnifies
Each time we touch each other
And it feels like deja vu
As my heart reveals
How I remember you

Day after day I'm amazed
How our love intensifies
In every way it resembles forever
Abandons us never

Like the sunlight that shines
Like the fragrance of the rose
No single word defines
We are tuned to the sound
That displays creation
That our lives revolve around
And searching for each other
From a million hearts we choose
You remember me and I remember you

A chorus of sparrows in summer
Is how I remember you
The fire of maple in autumn
Is how I remember you
The silence of snowfall in winter
Is how I remember you

And here's a video of the song:

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:53 AM | 21 comments

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


THIS WAS THE SCENE IN FRONT of 940 R. Hidalgo Street in Quiapo yesterday, about 14 hours after it was hit by a pre-dawn fire, which quickly spread to the building beside it. Both were two-story residential and commercial structures, made of light materials; causing the fire to spread rapidly, which reached the nearby abandoned Manuel L. Quezon University building.

No one was hurt in this fire that left about P2 million in property damages and several families homeless. Many residents, however, applauded the immediate response of the city's firefighters, including the many volunteer fire brigades with their gleaming trucks from all over Metro Manila. Their expeditious efforts contained the conflagration and minimized the extent of damages.

R. HIDALGO STREET WAS NAMED AFTER Felix Ressurreccion Hidalgo, one of the country's great artists of the 19th century. This street still shows, though in various degrees of decay, remnants of its old glory -- as Manila's premier residential street with rows of grand houses made of wood and stone.

However, back in those early days, fire-fighting was mostly of community or bayanihan effort. Tasked to drag the rickety fire wagon to a fire scene were the city's street sweepers, while volunteers helped in handling the hose, pumping the water, and searching for trapped victims.

There was also the ronda housed in a nipa hut with buckets of water, pails of sand, ladder and other firefighting equipment. Besides fighting fires, the ronda volunteers also acted as peace keepers; patrolling the community equipped with wooden clubs.

It wasn't until the 1890s when the very first motor fire engine arrived in the country, imported by the father of Don Teodoro Yangco, and manned by his own dock laborers. There were also the British merchants of Manila who organized themselves into a fire brigade; setting up their headquarters on Juan Luna Street in Binondo with an
acquired steam engine.

But as far as a brigade of professional firefighters in Manila was concerned, It was the American colonizers who began to establish it; comprised of American ex-soldiers and headed by Fire Chief Hugh Bonner. And under his watch, four stations were constructed: Station No. 1 (San Nicolas Fire Station), Station No. 2 (Sta. Cruz Fire Station), Station No. 3 (Paco Fire Station), and Station No. 4 (Intramuros Fire Station). At that time, the firefighting apparatus was still horse drawn.

Fire Brigade, Intramuros, Manila, 1900-1911
(University of Wisconsin Digital Collections)

The most famous fire station was Station No. 1 in San Nicolas. It had one of the first and finest gymnasiums, referred to as Manila's "Cradle of Boxing." American firemen of that station used to gather the neighborhood kids in the gym, furnish them with gloves, and make them slug it out for a purse collected from the station's firemen. Consequently, these kiddie prizefights spawned a bunch of professional boxers that would have its glory days in the 1920s.

AS A LOGICAL RESULT OF American policy to transfer the government's responsibility to the Filipinos, the first Filipino fire chief was appointed -- Jacinto Lorenzo -- on October 19, 1935, before the inauguration of the Commonwealth government.

Chief Lorenzo introduced the use of modern firefighting equipment and techniques similar to those used in America. He also reduced the schedule of duties of firemen from 4 straight days service with 7 hours day off and 15 hours night off to 48-hour duty and 24-hour off duty.

When Chief Lorenzo died in 1944 during the Japanese occupation, his assistant, Capt. Cipriano Cruz, was appointed as his replacement on May 11, 1944. Sadly, many firemen were massacred by the Japanese during the war.

Capt. Cruz rehabilitated the damaged fire stations when peace was restored after the war, and even increased its number to twelve. He also established the Firemen's Training School held at Tanduay Fire Station.

Enjoying a game of handball at Tanduay Fire Station in Quiapo, Manila

AT PRESENT, PURSUING A CAREER as a professional firefighter in Manila does not seem to be so enticing.

Manila Bulletin obtained records that showed while the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has a total of 15,093 personnel -- with 11,689 assigned to actual firefighting -- the bureau only has 3,742 coats, 3,214 boots, 4,731 helmets, 1,324 gloves, and no trousers with suspenders at all.

As for the breathing apparatuses, while the BFP requires 2,922 breathing apparatuses for its personnel, it only has 105 available nationwide.

The article also mentioned the following:

BFP public information officer Fire Chief Insp. Rene Marcial said based on available data, firefighters -- particularly those who do the actual firefighting -- often end up with serious lung diseases. This is the result of their exposure to smoke whenever they respond to fire incidents.

At the same time, given their primodial role of saving people’s lives, firemen are duty-bound to enter burning buildings or houses if they suspect or if there are signs that there are victims trapped inside – even with insufficient protective gear or without a breathing apparatus.

Not only does the BFP suffer from shortages of protective gears for its personnel, it is also short on firefighting equipment.

Fire Supt. Enrique Linsangan recalled an incident when a firefighter died when he fell from the aerial ladder he was stepping on while trying to help contain a fire. It later turned out that the fire ladder was already dilapidated.

Another risk factor is the location of the fire scene and the culture of the people living in the area. Linsangan said there were past incidents when responding firemen were stabbed or attacked in some other way by fire victims who blamed them for failing to save the lives of their relatives or their properties.

Some people, desperate to save their house from fire, also resort to grabbing the firehoses from firemen and training them on their house.

There have also been cases when firefighters get stoned after arriving late at a fire scene or being accused of choosing which house to save.

With all these challenges, a firefighter must be physically fit to meet the hazards of his work and must have the stamina to engage in strenuous activities for hours with little time to rest, a fire officer said. He hastened to add that firefighters like him must learn to live one day at a time, treating each day as if it was their last.

With all the risks and challenges they face in order to save lives and properties, do firefighters get enough compensation?

The answer is a resounding "No." Most of those interviewed by the Manila Bulletin said they could hardly make both ends meet with their meager salary.

A neophyte firefighter receives P7,119 basic monthly pay and P3,500 allowance. But they actually receive less than P10,000 a month because of tax and other deductions.

Although firefighters have ranks similar to police officers, they receive less benefits from the government than their police counterparts.

Many firefighters are informal settlers. Those interviewed by the Manila Bulletin said with their measly salary, they could not provide fully for their families. They complained that while many government employees are given affordable housing by the government, there is no housing program offered yet to BFP personnel.

Read complete article here.

However, according to a
GMA News report, a bill seeking to modernize BFP has passed the committee level and will be up for plenary debate when Congress resumes session Nov. 10.

Essentially, House Bill 5228, if passed in to law, will create an P8-billion Fire Protection Modernization Trust Fund.

Furthermore, according to the report:

The bill is in line with state policy to ensure public safety and promote economic development by stopping destructive fires that result in loss of lives and property.

It aims to modernize and adequately equip the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and make sure it is manned by competent and highly motivated personnel.

Also, it aims to acquire basic and modern firefighting equipment and facilities, especially in the local government units.

Under the proposal, the Fire Protection Modernization Program (FPMP) shall have key components to be implemented over a period of three years.

Read complete article here.

Scene from COMELEC building fire (March 10, 2007)

* * *


History of Firefighting - Bureau of Fire Protection

"The Fire Fighters" - from Manila, My Manila
by Nick Joaquin


A Fire in Quiapo

Aftermath: The COMELEC Fire

Manila's Volunteer Firefighters




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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:51 AM | 6 comments

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Coming home to Manila after a long absence, I felt like one of those old-time Manileños who resented finding Plaza Goiti gone. I also began to dislike the man whose name replaced it -- Arsenio H. Lacson.

But then, only a couple of years later, after immersing myself in Manila's colorful and multi-faceted culture, the loathing turned into profound admiration, especially after learning about the man's fearless, trenchant, and no-nonesense style of city governance.

Nicknamed the "Arsenic" because of the poison pen that he brandished, his accomplishments -- including being the first in Manila to be reelected to a third term as mayor -- made me reconsider; that perhaps, Lacson himself, would have not approved the idea of renaming Plaza Goiti after him, as well as having that imposing statue erected in his honor.

flamboyant and feisty Visayan, Lacson was a militant journalist and radio program host turned politico. His initial entry into public service was in 1949, when as a member of the Nacionalista Party, he ran for and won a seat in the House of Representatives; thus, becoming Congressman of the 2nd District of Manila. Two years later, for his excellence as a fiscalizer and lawmaker, he was cited as one of the "Ten Most Useful Congressmen" by the media group assigned to cover Congress.

His journey towards a phenomenal true leadership came to a crossroad in 1951, a time when Manila held its first mayoralty elections. Lacson chose to run the path against the Palace candidate Manuel de la Fuente (whose name later replaced Trabajo Street in Sampaloc).

Lacson's ensuing landslide victory was primarily attributed to the voters' aversion to then President Elpidio Quirino, which spilled to de la Fuente; not to mention that old-time Manileños' were known to harbor a penchant for anything opposition; thus, they voted all-out Nacionalista, sweeping in Lacson and almost the entire opposition ticket. Only one Liberal managed to win a council seat: Salvador Mariño.

Lacson's popularity continued to surge while in office
, for he personified an exhilarating gust of wind in an otherwise stifling political arena. With his trademark aviator sunglasses, gaudy shirts and stunning loud barks with equally debilitating bites, Lacson exuded an air of toughness, forcefulness and vigor; qualities that bode well with the post-war Manileños. Indeed, Lacson was not one of those statesmen from the elite class of privileged gentility -- like Quezon, who seemed vaguely jaded, though elegant and eloquent in every measure.

Born in Talisay, Negros Occidental on December 26, 1911, Arsenio H. Lacson obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree at the Ateneo de Manila University. While an undergraduate, he pursued his love for boxing; becoming an adept amateur with a broken nose to show for it, which became a prominent feature of his profile.

At the University of Santo Tomas, he studied law, and passed the bar in 1937. After which he joined the law office of future Senator Vicente Francisco. He subsequently worked at the Department of Justice as an assistant attorney.

Before the outbreak of World War II, Lacson worked as a sportswriter. And when the Japanese forces occupied the country, he joined the Free Philippines underground movement; acting as a lead scout during the Battle for Manila. He also fought in the battle to liberate Baguio City in 1945. For his gallant wartime services, Lacson received citations from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Sixth United States Army. Years later, when asked by the visiting Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi if he had learned Japanese during the war, Lacson responded, "I was too busy shooting the Japanese to learn any."

Lacson showed no respect for partisan politics; neither was he inhibited when expressing his sentiments against the Americans who, in turn, likened his brashness with that of Fiorello La Guardia. And like the rambunctious Italian-American New York City mayor, Lacson cleaned up a corrupt administration and a wide-open city by firing 600 incompetent job holders.

A Time article illustrated how Mayor Lacson conducted nightly patrols in a black police car; returning from time to time to a corner table at the lounges of Bay View or Filipinas hotels, where he listened to complaints and requests, or talked profusely on a plugged-in telephone -- "punctuating his conversations with shots of whisky and four-letter expletives." On Sundays, Manileños got to hear their gutsy mayor on a half-hour radio program, pre-recorded with expletives deleted.

Appearing more brawny than brainy, Lacson was forthcoming with his predilection to antagonize; challenging Ferdinand Marcos to a boxing match which the latter didn't accept, and branding a twenty-something city councilor named Ernesto Maceda, with a damning catchphrase, “so young yet so corrupt.”

There was also his feud with President Elpidio Quirino which resulted to Lacson's suspension as Manila's mayor. And years before, in 1947,
President Manuel Roxas, whom he nicknamed "Manny the Weep," ordered his suspension from the airwaves. The incident attracted much international attention: with the former United States Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes applauding the President's action, while the popular American radio commentator Walter Winchell lambasting the Interior Secretary for it.

Auspiciously for Lacson, in his seemingly endless battles, the popular public opinion remained vociferously on his side.

During his second mayoral term, a group of American mayors cited Manila as one of the ten best-administered cities in the world -- the only city deemed as such in Asia. And during his third term, his intention to run for the presidency became apparent. Unfortunately, he died in mid-term on April 15, 1962. The ten years he served as Manila's mayor were filled with sterling accomplishments, foremost of which was the liquidation of a 21-million peso City Hall debt incurred by the previous nine administrations.

When the second elective mayor, Antonio Villegas, took over the city's helm, he
admirably completed Lacson's unfinished projects -- such as a city hospital (Ospital ng Maynila), a city university (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila), a city compost plant to recycle garbage, and a city reclamation of the Tondo offshore.

The Manila Zoo and the Quiapo underpass were the other Lacson projects widely cherished by Manileños.
Villegas, upon taking office, immediately decreed that the latter was to bear the name of Arsenio H. Lacson.

Hence, with the issue of Plaza Goiti having been renamed Plaza Lacson, I've taken comfort to what Conrado de Quiros, in his column What's in the name?, had said: "I personally do not mind that Azcarraga gave way to Claro M. Recto and Forbes to Arsenio Lacson. Recto and Lacson were more than politicians, or they showed the best that politicians could be."

Statue of Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson on Baywalk
created by Julie Lluch

Top Photo:

Plaza Lacson (formerly Plaza Goiti) before it was reopened to
vehicular traffic as ordered by incoming mayor elect
Alfredo S. Lim.

Notable quote:

"When people say for instance that our corruption will never be banished, just remember that Arsenio Lacson as Mayor of Manila and Ramon Magsaysay as President brought a clean government." - F. Sionil Jose - Why the Philippines is Standing Still

Special mention:

The father of our fellow blogger, Pete Lacson (Noypetes), is a cousin of Arsenio H. Lacson. Although only a little tyke at that time, Pete remembers the mayoral election that ushered his uncle into City Hall. Pete also remembers visiting the mayor's house with his father on M. Earnshaw Street near the corner of Gov. Forbes Avenue and España.

* * *

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!




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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:57 AM | 36 comments

Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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