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[This is part of a collection of posts serializing the second chapter of Pasyon, Awit, Legend.]

If the approach to awit and pasyon in Pasyon and Revolution is deeply flawed and fails to achieve its goal of understanding the consciousness of the masses, where can we look if we wish to find a source which can achieve this goal? In the legend of Bernardo Carpio, Ileto located a source with great potential for analyzing actual lower class categories of perception. How did he read this legend?

As mentioned above, Pasyon and Revolution, like all other scholarly work written on the subject, treats the legend and the awit as intimately connected; the legend is seen as the popular continuation of the Historia Famosa. This approach extends to the legend the elite, textual hermeneutic employed in reading the awit. It also undermines recognition of the legend as a ‘hidden transcript’ of opposition to the urban elite who produced, and read, the awit.1

Historia Famosa ni Bernardo Carpio

Historia Famosa ni Bernardo Carpio

Like other scholars, Ileto not only conflated awit and legend, but he also combined multiple separate legends and variations of legends into an admixture from which little historical insight can be gained. We must disambiguate and analyze the various sources of the Carpio legend, situate them in their original contexts, and recreate how they would have been performed.

To be clear, the narrative of Bernardo Carpio chasing lightning into the colliding mountains is not a legend. This is part of an urban literary tradition, and was an integral aspect of the original 1860 composition. It represented an attempt to proselytize irredentist native beliefs, which were identified with the nag-uumpugang bato, the colliding rocks. The nag-uumpugang bato, two sheer cliff faces separated by a narrow canyon, are a comparatively common geographic feature in the karst topography of the Sierra Madre massif. They feature prominently in many legends and would thus have been identified by the author of the awit with traditional native beliefs.

The earliest version of the legend which I have been able to locate tells of an ‘old man in the cave.’ Ileto and others treat later fragments of this story as part of the Carpio liberator legend. It is a separate legend entirely. Gironiere’s Twenty Years in the Philippines is a source to which we shall return in much detail. It contains an appendix written in English in 1853 by the British explorer H. Hamilton Lindsay. In this appendix Lindsay told of his journey with Gironiere to the cave of San Mateo. He concluded his account by summarizing a legend. No previous scholar has drawn attention to this text, so I shall quote it in its entirety:

They have a curious legend respecting the cavern, which has a singular resemblance to the German tale of the “Three Brothers,” in the Hartz Mountains.

An Indian one day entered the cave to catch bats, with the wings of which they compound some sort of medicine. On arriving at the stream of water he saw a venerable old man on the other side, who offered his hand to help him across the stream. The Indian was rather shy of his new acquaintance, and held out the end of his stick, which the old man took, and it instantly turned into charcoal. Upon this the Indian became anxious to return, and thanking the old man for his politeness, told him he did not mean to go any further that day.

The old man then offered him three stones, and, to remove any fear of their burning his fingers, deposited them in the stream. The Indian took them, and retreated as quick as he could, without looking behind him; and, on examining the stones at the mouth of the cave, to his surprise he found them to be three masses of pure gold. The story did not go any further, as to what use he made of his riches. The old Indian who told me this story said it happened long before the arrival of the Spaniards.2

Lindsay would have heard this legend through an interpreter. We do not have the actual text of the legend, evidence of the texture of its performance, or the context in which it was traditionally performed. What we have is a legend summary. It is nonetheless quite useful. It will allow us to separate the various elements which later became identified with the Carpio legend. As Lindsay’s account was published seven years before Bernardo Carpio entered Philippine literature in the 1860 Historia Famosa ni Bernardo Carpio, we can safely say that the original San Mateo cave legend had nothing to do with him.

[click to continue…]


Pamitinan and Tapusi

Over the course of the next week, I will be publishing in installments the second chapter of my Master’s Thesis, Pasyon, Awit, Legend, which I have already made available in its entirety on this site.

My goal in publishing the sections on Mount Pamitinan and the place known as “Tapusi” is to promote a wider popular discussion on these two separate locations and their significance in late nineteenth-century Philippine history.

Tapuzi / Tapusi.

Tapuzi / Tapusi. Detail from Gironiere 1853.

I think there are a great many points of interest here which future scholarship could take further: the need for comparable work on sources akin to the Carpio legend; the need for a more thorough examination of Gironiere; and most intriguingly, the exact character and current location of “Tapusi.”

Tapusi is regularly mentioned in Philippine scholarship, almost all based on Ileto’s misreading of the Carpio legend. Religious and quasi-religious groups conduct annual pilgrimages there. All of them get Tapusi entirely wrong, as my work establishes. It was not located anywhere near where they thought, nor did it represent what they claimed.



Pasyon, Awit, Legend

In December 2009, I completed my Master’s Thesis entitled Pasyon, Awit, Legend: Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution revisited, a critique.

Pasyon and Revolution

Ileto, Pasyon and Revolution, (1979)

I am making the pdf of this work publicly available in this post. Over the course of several future posts, I intend to quote and comment on several portions of this work, with an eye to updating and expounding on my earlier scholarship.

The LaTeX version of my thesis is available on github.

The basic structure and contention of my thesis is outlined in the opening section —

The publication of Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon and Revolution in 1979 produced a seachange in Philippine historiography. Ileto’s work shifted the focus of historical research from the writings and actions of individual members of the elite to the perceptions and revolutionary participation of the lower classes. All subsequent research in Philippine history has been written in the light of Pasyon and Revolution. Reference to Ileto’s conclusions is de rigueur for a field of studies whose subject matter ranges from the pre-colonial structure of the barangay to the economic policies of the Marcos regime. Benedict Anderson expressed the consensus of academic opinion when he wrote that “Ileto’s masterly Pasyon and Revolution … is unquestionably the most profound and searching book on late nineteenth century Philippine history.” Despite the preeminence of Pasyon and Revolution in Philippine studies, no one has written a comprehensive examination of the premises, source material, and conclusions of Ileto’s work. This paper aims to fill this gap.

The first section of this paper examines the argument of Pasyon and Revolution in detail. I find that Ileto’s project of reconstructing the ways in which the lower classes of the Philippines in the late nineteenth century perceived the world and their role within it failed to achieve its goal for several reasons. Ileto never clearly defined what class or classes constitute his amorphous analytical category ‘the masses.’ He ignored how the source material which he studied was accessed through performance. As a result, Ileto read his sources as texts, in an elite manner, and reconstructed categories of perception with no demonstrable relationship to peasant or working class consciousness.

The second section aims to carry forward Ileto’s project in the light of this critique. I study the legend of Bernardo Carpio in detail to demonstrate than when read with an attention to the significance derived from its performance, we arrive at a very different understanding of lower class consciousness than that which Ileto found. Rather than a counter-rational expression of peasant millenarianism, the legend was the “hidden transcript” of subversive historical memory. It celebrated the history of social banditry in the region.

I argue in the third section that consciousness and perception, however carefully reconstructed, cannot in themselves explain dramatic historical events such as the Philippine revolution. To understand the causes of the Revolution and to account for the participation of the lower classes in it, we must give explanatory primacy to objective historical events and to the changes which occurred in the relations of production in the nineteenth century Philippines. These changes shaped consciousness and transformed the ways in which people perceived the world.


gusali | building

My cobbled-together English translation of the epigraph to the first chapter of Edgardo M. Reyes’ Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag seems an apt text for the opening of this personal and academic site. This is a deliberately rough translation, far more literal than literary — the scaffolding for a later, and more polished, work.

Sa simula, siya’y isang kalansay na nakatalalan sa hangin. Isang matayog, buhaghag na bunton ng patapong mga piraso ng tablang gato, mabukbok, mabitak, masalubsob, pilipit, kubikong, na pinagpaku-pako nang patayo, pahalang, patulibas, kabit-kabit nang walang wawa, tulad ng kahig-manok sa lupa, at dito’y sisingit ang mga tadyang na bakal at ang mga yero at mga playwud at mga lawanit upang saluhin ang buhos ng labusaw na halo ng tubig, graba, buhangin at semento, at ang malabsang sangkap ay sisiksik at titigib sa hulmahan, matutuyo, titigas, yayakap sa mga tadyang na bakal at sa mga bitukang tubo. Bawat buhos ng malabsang sangkap ay karagdagang laman ng kanyang katawan, karagdagang guhit sa tutunguhing anyo. Unti-unting mapapalis ang mga kalansay na kahoy, kasabay ng unti-unting paglapad at pagtaas ng katawang konkreto. Kikinisin siya, dadamitan ng salamin, tisa, marmol at pormika, hihilamusan ng kulay upang umalindog ang kanyang balat. At sa kanyang ganap na pagkaluwal ay bibinyagan siya, at ang pangalan niya’y iuukit sa tanso.

Sa simula, siya’y isang kalansay na nakatalalan sa hangin. Pagyayamanin siya, maglalaman at lulusog sa dilig ng pawis at dugo. At siya’y matatayo nang buong tatag, lakas at tibay, naghuhumindig at nagtutumayog sa kapangyarihan, samantalang sa kanyang paanan ay naroon at lugmok, lupaypay, sugatan, duguan, nagtingala sa kanyang kataasan, ang mga nagpala sa kanya.

Sa simula, siya’y isang kalansay na napahahabag, at nagwakas na isang makapangyarihan, palalong diyos.

There is a great deal going on in this marvelous opening passage. There are shades of Feuerbach and Marx, as the alienation of the construction workers is expressed in language of fetish and projection. Among the workers — prostrate and collapsed — is the protagonist Julio Madiaga. There is a marvelous and untranslatable ambiguity to the verb nagpala, which conveys simultaneously shoveling and blessing. Bound up in this single commonplace word are both the spiritual alienation and economic exploitation of the working class in Reyes’ novel.

In the beginning it was a skeleton struggling in the air. A towering, loose heap of thrown-off pieces of rotten wood, worm-ridden, split, splintered, twisted, cubiform, nailed standing, jutting, crossing, senselessly cobbled together, like chicken scratches in the dirt, and here will joint the steel ribs, galvanized iron, plywood and particle board to catch the turbidly flowing mixture of water, gravel, sand and cement, and the pulped material will squeeze into and overfill the mold, dry, harden, embrace the steel ribs and the pipe intestines. Every pour of pulped material is added flesh on its body,an added line to the intended figure. The skeleton of wood will slowly be swept away as the concrete body slowly widens and rises. It will be polished, dressed in glass, tile, marble and formica, facewashed with color to pretty its skin. And at its complete birth it will be christened and its name engraved in bronze.

In the beginning it was a skeleton struggling in the air. It will be enriched, fattened and given health by the watering of sweat and blood. And it will stand in perfect stability, strength and sturdiness, erect and towering in power, while at its feet are – and prostrate, collapsed, wounded, bloody, faces turned upwards to its height – the ones who shoveled it.

In the beginning it was a pathetic skeleton; in the end a powerful, arrogant god.