Opinion & Commentary

On Mabini, paralysis and intrigue

There’s screencap of a tweet going around social media about how a girl who watched Heneral Luna was clueless as to why Apolinario Mabini was always seated in every scene he was in.

Netizens were quick to do a collective facepalm and throw some barbs, puns and memes about the said girl.

Push ARTICLE: Epy Quizon, nagbigay ng komento sa viral tweet tungkol sa isang netizen na hindi alam ang kanyang karakter…

Posted by Abs-Cbn on Thursday, September 24, 2015

I wasn’t that surprised at all, only fearful of what young folks today know and understand, or the lack of it, about our own history. The girl, is clearly ignorant of who Apolinario Mabini is and why he was stuck in a chair.

There’s also greater chance that the girl is not alone. Many others might also be unaware of why Apolinario Mabini is always seated in the textbook images, statues and iconography.

So why was he always seated in a chair or in a wheelchair? The latter would obviously mean he is paralyzed from the waist down. According to historical records, Apolinario Mabini was stuck by Polio in 1895 and he completely lost the use of his legs in January 1896, months before the Philippine Revolution broke out through the leadership of Andres Bonifacio and the K.K.K. or Katipunan movement.

What’s interesting is there were other theories about Mabini’s paralysis. Historian Ambeth Ocampo shares some of these theories as recounted by Alejandro Mabini:

“It was a rainy day and Manila was flooded when he [Mabini] noticed that his pet horse was missing, Kaka Pole ignored the rain and went out to look for the horse. When he returned hours later with his horse he was drenched to the skin. The following morning, Kaka Pole felt a numbness in one of his legs. The numbness kept spreading until a week later, his body was almost completely paralyzed.”

The other theory, and this one is more controversial, is that Mabini’s paralysis was caused by syphilis! Again, I refer to Ambeth Ocampo who had a great discussion about this in his column that appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer back in 2009:

“I still remember the afternoon in the National Library when senior members of the National Historical Institute were looking out the window towards T.M. Kalaw Street. Teodoro A. Agoncillo and E. Aguilar Cruz first commented on the statue of pre-war National Library director Teodoro M. Kalaw by National Artist Napoleon Abueva that stood guard in front of the library. Then they looked at the statue of Apolinario Mabini that also adorned the lawn. One of the historians quipped, “Oh, from the sublime to the syphilitic?” and both laughed like college students enjoying a dirty joke. I was to learn later that Mabini was supposed to have lost the use of his legs because of syphilis.

I was always warned that syphilis could lead to blindness and even madness, but paralysis? Both historians did not seem to know that in 1980 the remains of Mabini were exhumed by a team of orthopedic specialists, led by Dr. Jose M. Pujalte, whose son Brix is now the president of the Philippine Orthopedic Association. After careful reconstruction, X-ray and analysis, the team concluded that Mabini’s paralysis was not caused by syphilis, as some people would like to believe, but it was the result of adult polio.

Unfortunately, juicy rumors like this have a long shelf life because some people just want to believe the worst of someone as upright as Mabini. In contemporary times isn’t Elpidio Quirino remembered for a “golden orinola” under a P5,000 bed? One can only hope that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be remembered for something more substantial than breast implants.

In case someone objects to the topic of today’s column, the rumor of Mabini’s syphilis should really be forgotten especially in the light of the findings that he had polio. But the story resonates as we approach the coming presidential elections when we will see, hear, and read similar mud-slinging.

The more important lesson in the Mabini syphilis rumor is why the story was created. If you take the time to study Mabini’s short stint in government, you would see how he rose to become the most powerful man in the First Republic. Mabini went through all of Emilio Aguinaldo’s papers, often drafting replies and recommending action. Mabini’s wise and principled counsel was always at Aguinaldo’s disposal so that he made many enemies who described him as the “camara negra (dark chamber) of the President. Mabini was not the same as a crony in the Marcos administration or “we bulong” in the Aquino administration or even the “midnight cabinet” in the Estrada administration. Mabini felt it was his job to protect the President and the Republic at all cost. He was criticized and insulted for doing his job. And when no anomaly could be laid at his door, his enemies concentrated on his disability and tarnished his reputation with the syphilis rumor.

Mabini was removed from office through political intrigue, which was probably a good thing because, failing in that, his enemies would have probably resorted to assassination in the same way they disposed of Antonio Luna.

It is unfortunate that few people read our history because they are jaded by boring textbook history. With the exception of Teodoro Agoncillo, who tried to write history and make it as engaging as fiction, most academic history is written by academics for fellow academics, their research buried in deadly prose and entombed in academic journals squirreled away in university libraries. Our history has everything, from the inspiring to the depressing. If more people read and learned from it, then the Philippines would be a better place today.”

Hopefully, the discussion about our national heroes, their lives, their deaths and even the trivialities would encourage the youth not just to study our own history more diligently, but ultimately, learn from the rich lessons it carries for I believe that we make our own history. It is entirely up to us whether the history that we make, is something that we can be ashamed of, or something we can be proud of.

Opinion & Commentary

Heneral Luna – a film every Filipino must see

Heneral Luna movie
Heneral Luna is a must-watch film for every Filipino. For one, it is far from a boring re-enactment of textbook history. It is not 101% historically accurate, it did not need to. What it greatly succeeded at was telling the story of General Antonio Luna’s struggles when he led the Philippine Revolutionary Army against the American colonizers who came to our shores and disrupted the growth of our fledgling Philippine republic.

General Luna’s struggle was on two fronts: against the American invaders which given the lack of arms, trained men and resources was already a very tall order, and the second, which what made the first even harder, was his struggle against his own countrymen.

His rival Pedro A. Paterno who supported the American occupation had the ears of President Emilio Aguinaldo. Then out on the field, other Filipino commanders refused to recognize and obey his orders, sticking to their regional ties and giving more problems for General Luna than the Americans did.

Numerous times throughout the film, this has been emphasized by General Luna, that the greatest enemies we Filipinos faced, is ourselves. And that is why the Revolution was defeated and despite being taught how to run a civil, democratic and constitutional government, our progress has been painfully slow and that millions of our countrymen remain locked in poverty to this very day.

In the words of Apolinario Mabini, who had personally witnessed what General Luna and the Philippine Revolution at large had had gone through, history teaches us the following:

“To sum it up, the Revolution failed because it was badly led; because its leader won his post by reprehensible rather than meritorious acts; because instead of supporting the men most useful to the people, he made them useless out of jealousy… He judged the worth of men not by their ability, character and patriotism but rather by their degree of friendship and kinship with him; and anxious to secure the readiness of his favorites to sacrifice themselves for him, he was tolerant even of their transgressions.”

So when the audience applauded at the end of the movie, I cannot help but smile and be jittery, hoping that the important lessons discussed in the film has awakened their sense of history, patriotism and being a Filipino.


No more UNLI Data, but let us keep the bandwidth we paid for

When Smart and Globe started rolling-out Volume-based data subscriptions sometime last year, it was the beginning of the end for the good old unlimited data plans. Yesterday, at the Senate’s Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship public hearing on the slow internet connections in the country, both telcos have stated that they have already shifted to volume-based data plans on their mobile internet services.

The trade off is that the much criticizedFair Use Policy” would also be dropped as well. We really don’t need to worry about keeping tabs on how much data we have already consumed as telcos regularly warn us via SMS alerts whenever we are about to use up our data allocation or when the subscription is about to expire. Also, built into most Android phones is a bandwidth meter showing you how much you have already consumed.

What the Senate or regulators can do, if they are really after the welfare of us consumers is to require telcos and ISPs to let us keep the bandwidth that we paid for. At present, when you sign up for 4GB of data for 30 days but only used 3GB, the remaining 1GB will disappear once the 30 days is over. Remember that we already paid for that unused 1GB of data.

US mobile carrier T-Mobile came out with “Data Stash” where the remaining unused data allocation is carried over to the next month once the subscriber renews the subscription. So again, if you still have 1GB of unused data from your previous month, it will be added to the new 4GB of data once you renew the subscription so you’ll end up with 5GB of data in total. Astig ‘di ba?


Messenger or Hangouts 4.0?

With Google updating Hangouts with new features and the material design treatment, Android users like me are asking the question: Should we now switch to Hangouts for all our messaging needs: chat, video calls and SMS/MMS?

Released to much good reviews last year, Messenger was Google’s good messaging app for SMS and MMS. While Hangouts did receive the capability to send SMS/MMS as well back in April 2014, Google actually recommends that we use Messenger for SMS over Hangouts.

I myself had set Messenger as the default SMS app on my Nexus 5 while Hangouts was used for online chat with my Google contacts. So up until Hangouts 4.0 was released, my setup was just like that. Everything was stable. I overlooked the subtle redundancy.

Now that Hangouts is also dressed in the beautiful material design, it also has new features that makes it a better messaging app, like keeping your video call connected while switching between Wi-Fi and mobile network. So we go back to the question raised earlier. While the answer seems obvious thanks to the updates to Hangouts, security concerns about Android is a compelling argument to stick to my current setup.

Hopefully, Google will finally get its act together on solving the security issues with Android and deciding on which messaging app should be the Google messaging app.

Daily Dose

Star Trek Trivia: Sulu was named after Sulu Sea

Not really a Star Trek fan and most likely fanboys already know this trivia that I found very interesting and cool:

“The problem [Roddenberry] had was to find a name for this Asian character from the 23rd century because every Asian surname is nationally specific,” said Takei. “Tanaka is Japanese. Wong is Chinese. Kim is Korean. And 20th century Asia was turbulent with warfare, colonization, rebellion, and he didn’t want to suggest that.”

As Takei described, “He had a map of Asia pinned on the wall and he was staring at it trying to get some inspiration for the Asian character. And he found, off the coast of the Philippines, the Sulu Sea. And he thought, ‘Ah, the waters of the sea touch all shores, embracing all of Asia. And that’s how my character came to have the name Sulu.”

It’s from a piece on Time.com by Nick Romano about how the best-selling Sci-Fi series dealt with the issue of gays and lesbians and diversity, in general, as told by George Takei.

Daily Dose

What if the Hiroshima bomb was dropped on Manila?

Yesterday the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The nuclear bomb, dubbed “Little Boy” packed an energy equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. Some 90,000 to 166,000 people were killed. It ushered in the age of nuclear warfare and to date have been the only time when such devastating weapons were used in actual combat. A few days later, on August 9, 1945 a second atomic bomb, “Fat Man” was dropped in Nagasaki killing almost 80,000 people. While it was commonly believed that the atom bombs led to Japan’s surrender and ended World Ward 2, that notion has been debated and challenged.

The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been seared in the collective memory of mankind, it haunts all of us as the next global conflict would be fought with nuclear weapons and the only thing that we know for sure is that the damage caused and the lives that will be lost would reach unimaginably horrific scales.

And I can’t help but ask the question: “What if the a nuclear bomb were dropped on Manila?” Thankfully, Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology has come up with Nukemap, an app that lets you plot the area damage of a nuclear bomb over a city of your choice on Google maps.

For a simulation of a nuclear bomb hitting Manila, I chose Malacanan Palace as the hypocenter1 of the blast area for two things: killing the President would lead to a collapse of the government and second, it sits in the middle of heavily a populated area causing as much civilian casualty as possible:

A simulation showing the areas hit if a nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima was dropped on Manila.
A simulation showing the areas hit if a nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima was dropped on Manila.

The parameters of this simulation are as follows:
The nuclear bomb is the same one as “Little Boy” which was dropped on Hiroshima, it has a yield of 15 kT or 15,000 tons of TNT exploding in mid air at an altitude of 600m
Estimated fatalities: 386,620
Estimated injuries: 812,950

Effects of Airblast
The effects of an airblast from a nuclear bomb dropped on Manila

Aside from Malacanan Palace being wiped off the map, LRT lines 1 and 2 would be damaged as well. Most universities and colleges in the U-Belt area would also be hit. The bottom line is, Manila as ‘the gates of hell’ would take on a whole new meaning, literally. How would the remaining government officials respond? How would our allies respond? Maybe this is something we should also hold a metro-wide drill for. We’ve been preparing for natural disasters like typhoons, floods and earthquakes for some years now. Are we prepared for man-made catastrophes?

As to the question of who would drop a nuke on Manila, I leave that for another discussion at another time. For now, let’s continue to work towards a nuclear weapons-free world, it’s the rightful thing to do, specially for those who lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago.

  1. The term hypocenter also refers to the point on the Earth’s surface directly below an atmospheric explosion[back]

OMG! American Naruto Live Action Movie Coming Soon

Let me be clear that the OMG in the title was said with dread more than excitement. And the next word pretty much explains why is that so. Yeah, I know…I’m still trying to recover from the shock and despair as also try to find the words to write this news, but here’s an excerpt from Variety:

Lionsgate has signed Michael Gracey to direct an adaptation of the popular Japanese manga series “Naruto.”

The studio is in negotiations for the film rights to the “Naruto” series written and illustrated by Masashi Kishimoto, first published in 1997. The manga, which has sold more than 200 million copies in print, follows adolescent ninja Naruto Uzumaki, who dreams of becoming the village ninja, the community’s protector and leader.

Being a Naruto fan, I should be excited as finally, the awesome Naruto universe would be brought to life on the big screen with real actors and sets and costumes and visual effects, but then the abomination that is Dragon Ball Evolution, which was the last American effort of adapting a classic anime series into a live-action film, kills the excitement and replaces it with gut-wrenching dread and literally makes me cringe.

At this point, I’m tempted to start an online petition to either stop the project so that the Naruto universe would not be ruined by Hollywood or better yet, to give the project to the studio that gave us Rurouni Kenshin which basically drove home the point that anime or manga live action adaptations is best left to Japanese hands.

I feel crossing fingers and hoping for the best would be of little help. Starting today, this has just been added to the list of things that would keep me awake at night.