Philippine history as told by #RP612fic.

One of my favorite Twitter memes happens every year during the Philippine Independence Day.

#RP612fic (Republic of the Philippines June 12 fiction) was the brainchild of Paolo Chikiamco in 2009. During Independence Day, Twitter users post single-tweet stories of alternate histories of the Philippines.

Coming up with a good story in less than 140 characters (the hashtag should be included in the tweet) is quite challenging, but a lot of Twitter users rise up to the challenge admirably. You see tweets referencing famous (and not-so-famous) historical events, reimagining historical figures interacting with modern technology, and even re-imagining Filipino literary works (like the Rizal novels, Florante at Laura, or Ibong Adarna). A lot of the tweets are pop cultural mash-ups, but some remain true to the speculative fiction roots of the meme (like this beautifully illustrated story from Gerry Alanguilan).

This is the second year I’ve joined #RP612fic. Since it’s often difficult searching through the Twitter archives, I’m posting the tweets I posted this year:

  • “Yes, it was me who did it,” admitted the tearful senator on national television. “I hereby render my resignation.” #RP612Fic *
    1:03 AM 12 Jun 2014

* I should’ve used “tender”, not “render”; but I rarely bother editing my tweets.

  • 2054: Filipino netizens celebrate “Matuwid” PNoy, the inspiring leader who tamed Philippine politics and restored public trust. #RP612fic
    5:45 AM – 12 Jun 2014
  • Archaeologists puzzled over the fossil skeleton recovered from a Benguet mine. It appeared human-like, except for the horse skull. #RP612fic
    2:27 PM – 12 Jun 2014
  • After a momentous Vatican decision, the Philippines remained the only nation that outlawed divorce. #RP612fic
    2:35 PM – 12 Jun 2014
  • During his oath-taking speech, former actor Pio Pascua came out as the first gay president in Asia. #RP612fic
    2:38 PM – 12 Jun 2014
  • After heated discussions and (a some moments of physical violence), Congress was still divided on the National App Bill. #RP612fic
    2:50 PM – 12 Jun 2014
  • Experimental psychic beacons gathered Leftists in Santolan, to be gassed by the military. It was known as the 1986 EDSA Massacre. #RP612fic
    3:31 PM – 12 Jun 2014
  • The long-abandoned pit in Ortigas is deathly quiet. Except for an occasional hiss, like from a giant snake. #RP612fic **
    6:00 PM – 12 Jun 2014

** This had the most favorites and retweets from my #RP612fic posts (among them Paolo Chikiamco — I’m still a little giddy from it). Probably because of the reference I made to an Ortigas urban legend that was very popular during the 1990s. The idea of using this construction site has been in my mind for some time now; it was fortunate that I passed by the area yesterday and I was able to take a photo to accompany my story.

  • The giant kaiju is destroying Manila.

    “Mary, help us,” whispers the General as he activates the Monolith. #RP612fic
    6:22 PM – 12 Jun 2014

  • Rumors were confirmed! It was revealed that VPres Enrile, grandson of the former Senator, was actually JP Enrile in a cloned body. #RP612fic
    8:38 PM – 12 Jun 2014

  • Little Pepe was grounded after his mom found out that her favorite pair of Manolo Blahnik was thrown in the Pasig River. #RP612fic
    9:10 PM – 12 Jun 2014

  • “My phone was stolen,” explained Emilio Jacinto when his intimate videos with Andres Bonifacio became the latest public scandal. #RP612fic ***
    9:31 PM – 12 Jun 2014

*** Because I think they are among the cutest slash-pair from the Philippine revolution.

As much fun as it is writing tweet-length fiction, what’s even better is reading through the various submissions: laughing at the historical jokes, being satisfied at noticing the references, and admiring the creativity of many Filipinos on Twitter.

Thank you, Paolo Chikiamco, for coming up with #RP612fic. It’s a great way to celebrate Independence Day, whether you believe in Philippine independence or not.

Andres Bonifacio, atapang a tao.

I wonder if kids today still know this humorous poem:

Si Andres Bonifacio, atapang a tao.
Aputol a kamay, hindi atakbo.
Aputol a paa, hindi atakbo.
Apugot a ulo, hindi atakbo.
Aputol a uten, atakbo atulin.

They probably know the first line, but not the rest of it. I’ve wondered who wrote it, how and when it became popular; but like many popular poems and songs, it’s difficult to find reliable information in the Interwebs. The poem is disrespectful to the Supremo of the Katipunan, I know; but I’d like to think that Bonifacio would be the first to laugh if he heard it.

Today, of course, is 148th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio. Next to Jose Rizal, Bonifacio is the most popular Philippine hero. Many still argue that he should be the national hero, instead of Rizal.

In history class, Bonifacio and Rizal are often presented as opposites: the former was the poor, orphaned, uneducated, and hot-headed revolutionary, while the latter came from a rich family, calm and intellectual reformer.

I wish I had Ambeth Ocampo as a professor. His broadsheet column on Philippine history is always interesting, removing popular historical figures away from their idealized pedestal, making them more human and sympathetic. A recent column fancied a comparison of Rizal and Bonifacio if they were Ocampo’s students.

We have no school records for Andres Bonifacio who, according to the late Teodoro Agoncillo, barely finished the equivalent of today’s grade four. What is often forgotten by teachers and students who presume that Bonifacio was poor as a rat and barely made ends meet by peddling canes and fans on the street is that Bonifacio was home-schooled. His father may have been a tailor, but in the 19th century tailors were paid quite well and Bonifacio had a private tutor who taught him to read, write and do simple math. What the Supremo lacked in formal education he covered with a lot of reading.

If we are to believe Pio Valenzuela (a most unreliable historical source), as cited by Epifanio de los Santos in his 1917 Bonifacio biography, the Supremo often “went without sleep at night in order to read.” Valenzuela also provided a list of books that Bonifacio was supposed to have read, including “History of the French Revolution,” “Lives of the Presidents of the United States,” “International Law,” “Civil Code,” “Penal Code,” the Bible (in 5 volumes), Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables,” Eugene Sue’s “The Wandering Jew” and “Ruinas de Palmyra.” Valenzuela also said that Bonifacio liked talking about the French Revolution.

An even older article also listed the books from his library that Bonifacio read. Yes, Bonifacio had a library. And he read Les Miserables. I can’t even look at that doorstopper without my eyes hurting at the length of that monster of a novel. I wonder what he thought of the Cosette-Marius-Eponine love triangle.

That’s another difference he had with Rizal: Bonifacio’s life had no prominent love story. His most famous poem seemed to sum up his idea on love:

Aling pag-ibig pa ang hihigit kaya
Sa pagkadalisay at pagkadakila
Gaya ng pag-ibig sa tinubuang lupa,
Aling pag-ibig pa? Wala na nga wala.

(Which kind of love exceeds
In purity and nobility
More than the love for the homeland,
Which love is greater? None, none at all.)

Maybe Ambeth Ocampo could share something about Bonifacio’s love life in the future. Unlike Bonifacio, who was actually married twice, Rizal had several well-known love affairs and these were frequently mentioned whenever a new Rizal biopic comes out.

Rizal had at least three local movies made about his life. Bonifacio probably only had one.

Rizal and Bonifacio as students
November 30 is Andres Bonifacio Day in the Philippines

Interwebs chismis: Random links from Google+.

Despite the issues that have been coming out of Google+ as of late (such as the mandatory banning of NSFW material and its insistence on using one’s “real” name), I’ve been enjoying checking my G+ feed.

It’s true that part of it was because other blogs and social networks is no longer accessible at work (not that I’d make too much of an issue about that).

It’s also true that, so far, my general Stream is not yet populated by inane posts from games, Foursquare, or one/two-word status updates from people telling the world they’re bored or busy, or what day of the week it is.

And once the throng from Facebook start invading Google+, I could still easily shove them away by placing them in an appropriate “Not Worth Reading” Circle.

Here are two interesting links recently shared by friends:

The University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication issued a statement to President Aquino on the first year of his presidency:

End Human Rights Violations; Stop the Killing of Journalists!

‘Mr. Aquino was elected on a promise to end poverty by ending corruption. But in the first months of his term he also pledged an end to human rights violations and the killing of journalists, while assuring the press community that, unlike his predecessor, he would defend press freedom rather than undermine it.

‘But a scant month and a half in office, in August 2010, in apparent ignorance of the self-regulatory regime in the media, Mr. Aquino threatened to file criminal charges against some of the journalists who were in violation of the ethics of their profession during the coverage of the August 23 hostage taking incident, while refusing to take any action against his friends in government who were primarily responsible for its bloody conclusion. In the ensuing months Mr. Aquino kept up his criticism of the press, accusing them at one point of irresponsible behavior, while, in a call reminiscent of Joseph Estrada, he urged the business community to advertise only in “responsible” media organizations.’

Last night at the apartment, Leo suddenly said, “Today is Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, no?”

I was answering Bern’s text message while facing Markee, who was watching a DVD in Leo’s laptop. Both of us looked at each other after three beats and answered Leo: “So?”

I’m ashamed to say we’ve become politically apathetic.

Fact still remains that the Philippines is currently the third most dangerous country in the world for Journalists. While working in Manila is usually okay; but provincial journalists (who are outside the rather glamorous image of TV news anchors, and are actually working to bring about the news that are ignored or glossed over by the bigger media networks) are always at risk of getting killed by political enemies.

At this point I am abruptly changing my topic.

Tobie shared an entertaining blog post from Joe Mulvey about his attempt to engage a colleague to read comics despite said colleague’s indifference towards the medium:

What do you REALLY know about comics? The Great Debate

JoeMulvey: So I do this kind of online experiment where I get people who don’t read comics, to read comics. I interview them before and after they read the books and see if their perceptions about comics have changed at all. Would you be interested?

Dennis: Hmmmmm. Why?

JoeMulvey: Sorry?

Dennis: Why should I do it?

JoeMulvey: HA! Wow, to be honest, no one’s ever asked me that before.

Dennis: Really?

JoeMulvey: Yeah. I either get a yes or a no. You’re the first one to just ask why. I mean, do you want to hear my pitch for reading comics?

Dennis: Sure.

JoeMulvey: Ok. Well, honestly, comic books and comic book properties are a pretty big resource in other types of media right now. Millions of people are willing to see the movies, watch the TV shows or play the games but they don’t seem willing to give the actual books a chance. Which is why I’m doing this. I don’t know your personal thoughts on comics, but the most common perception I run into when it comes to them is that they’re for kids. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. I often compare comics to television. Where as TV DOES have programming for children, it also has programming for adults. Someone wouldn’t throw on the TV and see Spongebob and then walk away from the TV forever, designating it as a thing just for kids. You realize that that specific bit of programming isn’t for you and you search out one that is. It’s the same for comics. Superman, Richie Rich or the Flash might not be for you but there are a TON of other books out there that are. You just need to find the right channel for yourself. Because right now there is no other entertainment medium that is as innovative, exciting and diverse as what you’ll find in the world of comics. And it’s time people stopped missing out.

Dennis: Ok. I’m interested.

JoeMulvey: So you’ll do it?

Dennis: Well, here’s my thing. I get your point and I’m sure you have your opinions on it, but if comics are this great resource for entertainment and everyones making comics into something else, why is it that I’ve heard of or seen the other things but not even heard of the books? You get my point? How good can they really be?

JoeMulvey: Well they’re obviously good enough resources to make other things off of. But I get your point and that’s the problem. I mean there are tons of movies that I’m sure you’d have no idea were based on comics. A History of Violence and Road to Perdition. Hell, The Dark Knight is one of the highest grossing films of all time and Heath Ledger won an Oscar. The material can’t be completely for kids.

Dennis: Yeah but that’s exactly what I mean, in other mediums it can work, maybe just not comics.

JoeMulvey: Yeah but you’re saying maybe, because you haven’t read the books and seen the quality of storytelling that they have. That’s why we could have this discussion before and after you read the books, IF you do the interview.

Dennis: I just find it really hard to believe any great medium is completely hidden or some great secret treasure. If comics were as good as you think they are, more people would know about them. No?

I agree with the commenters that Dennis made some valid points (so he wasn’t being a complete douche; at least, initially). But there’s really no hope of winning over someone who had already made up their mind about something.

If I could have my way about it, I will likely end up spending the entire day online, reading. But mundane existence beckons (and I never forget to count myself lucky how I could talk about stuff I read in the Interwebs because that in itself is a privilege available only to maybe 20% of the world’s population).

My tummy is growling. It’s time for breakfast.

Let’s wear pink on June 18.

I’m not a guy who wears bright pink. It just doesn’t go with my skin tone. But some things are more important than the careful color-coordination of your outfits.

Whether you’re straight, gay, bi, trans, queer, asexual, undecided, or undefined, let’s wear something pink this Saturday (June 18) to support gender acceptance, tolerance and sensitivity in the Philippines. Ask your friends to wear something pink, too, and and encourage them to be more open-minded about people’s varying sexual preferences.

Wear Pink on June 18 was an event started by Tobie as (hopefully) a Philippine counterpart to Singapore’s Pink Dot. I invited some friends to spend the day in a picnic in UP Diliman so several people of various sexual preferences wearing pink shirts could converge and have a nice afternoon off near the lagoon of the Diliman campus.

Let’s just hope the weather agrees with us this Saturday.

‘Let’s Wear Pink this June 18’ on Facebook
Photo: Vintage 1960s Haute Couture Pink Ruffle Tuxedo Shirt

The literary works of Jose Rizal — a lecture by Virgilio Almario.

Jose Rizal

A few days from now, the country will be celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal. There will be several events throughout the country celebrating the birth of its National Hero.

Here’s a lecture on Rizal’s literary works by National Artist Virgilio Almario at the Filipinas Heritage Library:

RIZAL MAKATA: Makabagong Pananaliksik sa Mga Obra ni Jose Rizal (a lecture by Virgilio Almario)

July 2, 2011 (Saturday) – 1:00 p.m.
Filipinas Heritage Library

Jose Rizal is regarded as Asia’s Renaissance Man. He was a student of life, an extensive traveler, and a prolific writer of letters, essays, poems, and stories.

In celebration of Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary, National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario will shed new light on the merits and impact of our National Hero’s literary works. A forum with other noted Philippine writers will follow the seminar. Teachers are also invited to a workshop on How to Teach Rizal after the lecture and forum.

The participation fee is Php 250. It includes snacks, a copy of Rio Alma’s book Rizal Makata, and a certificate. Pre-registration is required to secure a slot.

For more information, please contact Camille at 8921801 local 13, 0917-5612413, email at, or visit