Thursday, February 24, 2011

Culturallly significant Marinduque

Six years ago I posted a blog in my old website about Marinduque's cultural significance which I am re-posting as introduction to more articles henceforth on this subject:

Yeah, 'John G' thanks! I guess it's different when you often find yourself in the midst of it all. SEE troubles brewing everywhere and watch how people merely LOOK at what transpires around through rose-colored glasses, or through dollar-rimmed ones or not look at all and pretend to be blind. Based on electronic 'impulses' of the last few days (a few emails reaching me that is), there's putting forward of 'strong advocacy work' in the matter of turning Marinduque into a center for excellence in tropical mining and as eco-tourism ground. I could only support these views with the following cultural viewpoint from my side that couldn't be, mustn't be, brushed aside if we are to step forward in the right direction:

Old Marinduque

It must be stressed that the beginnings of archaeology in the Philippines began right here in our now-troubled island. Prior to 1900, only one important archaeological investigation had been carried out in the country: Alfred Marche’s exploration of Marinduque from April to July 1881. While many other accidental finds have been recorded from time to time, and a few burial caves and sites had been casually explored by European or local scientists, no really systematic work had been done elsewhere prior to that except for the efforts of Marche. After his, the next important work was by Dr. Carl Gunthe in the Central Visayan Islands in 1922.(Beyer)

"An abundant yield of Chinese urns, vases, gold ornaments, skulls and other ornaments of pre-Spanish origin,” was what Marche's finds represented. He brought back to France in 40 crates the artifacts he uncovered. They are now said to be housed at the Musee de l’Homme in France. (Solheim). The finds also included a wooden image of the Marinduque anito called ‘Pastores’ by the natives. (Marche's local adventure was tackled in my 1995 play: 'Moryonan: Ikalawang Yugto' and I still keep a replica of the anito for stage productions).

Ambeth Ocampo, chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), conducted a research a few years back and discovered that part of the Marche loots had found their way into the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He wrote thus:

“Imagine these fragile jarlets traveling from China to the pre-colonial Philippines. Buried in a cave in Marinduque for centuries, they were excavated in the late 19th century, brought to Paris and eventually ended up in a museum bodega outside Washington, D.C. Part of our history lies in museums abroad and it will take sometime to analyze these artifacts to piece together our pre-colonial past”. (The Philippines' pre-colonial history, that is; and it shows what happens if we keep looking the other way!)

Cultural researchers and national artists (and probably even you, yourself, John G), had been naturally drawn to Marinduque for here, there's undeniable certainty that they'd find what inspiration or ‘that something, something’ they were looking for. Alejandro Roces (Literature) discovered the Moryonan (though he must assume responsibility for introducing it wrongly to the outside world as 'Moriones'); Lucresia Kasilag (Music), found the Putong ritual and songs (or Tubong as it is called in Boac) and replaced it with a shorter version that eventually became popular to the defeat of around 80 or so 'unglorified' versions that the natives used to sing on the island at any given day; Celso Carunungan intervened to write a script for the Pugutan beheading ritual because to use his own words “it was meaningless”. Arsenio Manuel wrote a detailed account of the 'Marinduque' name’s origin. (He's also a national artist, you know).

There were a few, staunchly pro-Marinduqueno: Cecilio Lopez, acclaimed Father of Philippine Linguistics got thrilled with the Tagalog spoken here, for “such provincial forms of speech have been originally the roots, or among the roots, from which modern national forms have spung” - the Filipino language we speak today in the urban centers. In Marinduque we could find “remnants of the more archaic speech of our forefathers”, he wrote conclusively.

Even the acclaimed British-writer James Hamilton-Paterson discovered this "stunningly beautiful world" of sand and offshore reefs where he learned his Tagalog and came to love the people. Since 1979, he has lived off and on in “enforced solitude” in a makeshift shelter, teaching himself to spear fish for food, then writing about his adventures here the book became one of his biggest best-sellers. (“Playing with Water” has sold more than 4-million copies).

Recent studies conducted by cultural anthropologists Patricia Nicholson on the negative effects of politics on ‘Moryonan’, and by Catherine Coumans on the struggle of poor Calancan Bay fisherfolks against mine waste disposal on their fishing grounds accounted for the systematic advance of cultural and political degradation on the island.

Then we have to be reminded of days when fighting for and dying for Marinduque was considered glorious and not anachronistic. The Marinduqueno’s struggle for independence from Spanish rule saw the first declaration of freedom from Spain by Martin Lardizabal a month before the Kawit declaration was made; the fierce resistance against the American rule in the 1900s where local revolutionaries led by Maximo Abad underscored the first major battle won by Filipinos at Pulang Lupa; the united resistance against the Japanese during World War II which dramatically exploded on the feast day of its Patroness – all attest to the strong sense of cultural identity and striving for peace and freedom that our Marinduqueno forefathers held, don't you think?

Martial rule and the negative side of local politics, greed and selfishness, complacency and the Marcopper mining disasters of 1993 (Mogpog) and 1996 (Boac) not to mentioned the decades of pollution in Calancan Bay, have impacted on our lives and on our environment, wreaking untold misery and endless manipulation, so certainly dividing our people now even under further threat of a new armed conflict.

All of these are adversely affecting that which we hold most dear to us, threatening to get them buried beneath tonnes and more tonnes of toxic waste as our country's singular and toxic legacy to Marinduque, what could be our only tool left for salvation: Our cultural significance to the Filipino nation!

“Heart of the Philippines” we love to say of Marinduque. Makes sense, doesn't it? Yet the will to change, the vow to assert ourselves as a people can only come first from the very Heart. The Marinduqueno’s Heart.

Got to do it, 'John G'!

There was an email response to the above article that, I am sure triggered, somewhat, something inside me to just keeping aflame that Marinduque fire:


"Hi Eli,

I very much enjoyed reading your cultural piece on Marinduque. And to hear where Ambeth is now. I first met him at Cornell but had been reading his columns for years.

Your piece resurrected for me some of the sense of history and magic I felt when I lived in Marinduque - when the roads beyond Mogpog was not yet paved, there were so few personal cars on the island that they were known individually by who owned or drove them.

I have almost forgotten that joyful feeling of being in a special place over the years now of solidarity struggle for justice over the damage done by Placer Dome. Very soul sapping on the whole.

But the raiding of Marinduque's cultural treasures was going on at the same time as her natural treasures were being raided even as I lived there. While I was in Marinduque a Ming dynasty era wreck was found near Tres Reyes and trust me, not all the treasures of this ship made their way to the national museum.

Best,
Catherine"

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