Iloilo, The Most Noble City by Policarpio F. Hernandez, O.S.A. (162 pages, in press)
This book tells me of an Iloilo City that I largely don’t know, and it’s edifying. It covers the years 1566, when Spaniards first visited the place looking for food, up to 1898, when the Katipunan Revolution was raging. For instance, on March 10, 1898, Queen Maria Cristina called Iloilo City La Muy Noble Ciudad
(The Most Noble City) for the Ilongos having organized and fought against the Emilio Aguinaldo Katipuneros right in Cavite (page 147). Based on my own research, I know our national hero Jose Rizal was totally against that Revolution.
There was more I learned reading the book, among them:
- Filipinos were the best educated Asian colonials under the Spanish regime. The province of Iloilo had one of the highest literate populations in the country.
- The first printing press of Iloilo was set up in 1875 by Jose Ma. Escasi, the Enriqueta. The newspaper El Porvenir de Bisayas was published first on July 1, 1884. The papers helped much in the improvement of Iloilo City.
- Panay was the rice granary of the Philippines.
- The cloths of Iloilo were already world-famous in the 18th century.
- Sugar plantations started in the 17th century; the first commercial sugarcane was grown in Panay.
- It was the export success of sugarcane that caused the decline of the textile industry in Panay.
The book describes Mother Spain in the decades preceding the Propaganda Movement
in these words: ‘The political situation was deplorable and the economy … was lamentable’ (page 127). Given that context, therefore, I believe that the European campaign for reforms led by Dr Jose Rizal was in fact doomed to failure right from the start. The Spaniards could not have shared their attention with peoples outside Madre España when they had big troubles of their own.
The Filipinos themselves couldn’t put their act together. Consider this: With only their bare bolos as weapons of mass destruction, when the Katipuneros led by the brave Andres Bonifacio launched the Revolution of 1896 by tearing their cedulas, the Iloilo elite ‘immediately responded with protestations of outrage and affirmed their loyalty to Mother Spain’ (page 143). I cannot help but believe that this shows the Katipunan was doomed from the start. From Iloilo came the great orator Graciano Lopez Jaena whose patriotism was unquestioned. But no one can win a war by the sheer brilliance of propaganda, let alone spellbinding oratory.
I have one complaint, about the Maragtas Code. The book says, ‘Perhaps more research is needed on the history of the Maragtas before it could be dismissed as a legend altogether’ (page 13). I think not. In 1984, William Henry ‘Scotty’ Scott published his New Day book Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History
, with a whole chapter ‘The Maragtas: History or Myth?’ (pages 91-103) showing a very through historical investigation of the matter. Scotty concluded that the Maragtas Code was fiction, not fact. I have great respect for Scotty, bless his soul.
The matter of the Maragtas Code notwithstanding, there is much to recommend in Hernandez’s book. The historical facts it mentions make this volume invaluable.
The book ends where the dream of the Filipinos for independence is shattered – Iloilo is burned almost to the ground by the Filipinos themselves. Today? We have yet to learn from history.