Saturday, May 26, 2018

Of Slaves And Toddy

TWO INTERESTING READS on Memorial Day weekend (in Lake Hopatcong) for something being worked on. The first came out of Cambridge University Press a few years back. I never thought of the Manila galleons as slave ships, given that there were only two trips made each year--one eastbound and one westbound--and the Acapulco-bound vessels were so crammed full of Oriental goods that space was limited for human cargo. But Vince Rafael of the University of Washington gives the book a nod, so I must read. The other is the collaborative work of El Colegio de Michoacán (especially Paulina Machuca who has done extensive work on Filipino contributions to Colima culture) and the Ateneo de Manila University, in Spanish. Such informative diversion, when I only originally intended to do a sea story about the fate of a galleon built in Mindoro, typhoons, tuba and coral reefs.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Slice Of Romance

I CAME ACROSS THIS brief and sad story of Santa Rosa de Lima pilot Gerónimo Gálvez and Doña Solina, beginning with the second paragraph on page 206. Was the spy he employed a Pinoy? Where is the spot where once stood the haunt of bandits and desperados on Calle Rada? Can anybody find the grave of Sebastián de la Plana? Sometimes this book reads like a novel.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Weekend Reading

THIS WONDER OF A BOOK will save you a trip to the Archives of the Indies in Seville if you want to learn more about the Manila galleons. No other book is as comprehensive as this on the subject; professor Schurz spent two years of research in the archives to document this forgotten chapter of our history. I am particularly interested in the role of the indio Pinoy seamen--how their unsung work contributed to the profits of this Spanish colonial enterprise. I wonder if he said something about coconuts, which brought the palapa huts and the tuba to Colima and Michoacán, and the mango and the bagoong and the kinilaw (from fish hooked or jumped onboard) that sustained the crew during the long and dangerous ocean voyage. Cried Nuestra Señora del Pilar commander Ignacio Martinez de Faura upon leaving Cavite in 1750 after passengers begged him to turn back because a leak was detected: To Acapulco or Purgatory! Wreckage from the ship later washed up on the east coast of Luzon.

Parts of a galleon 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Lost Then Found

GLAD TO REDISCOVER these lost sea marks from two of my endeavors. First, my gratitude to Linda Goin of La Grange, Kentucky for reuniting me with this issue of CARACOA IV: New Voices where some of my early poems saw publication in 1984, thanks to the Philippine Literary Arts Council, among kindred writers most of whom have passed on and are remembered today with respect, including one of the council's founding members Cirilo Bautista. (I lost my only copy after years of moving around in America.) Linda, also a writer, sells books and has acquired copies of the journal's back issues while on a business trip to Manila. The other is the five-year service certificate which the deputy chief misplaced and was presented to me only yesterday, almost five years later, with apologies. No matter, sir. The sea is still there, its shoals duly recorded. Here's to ten years in December!

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Kulo-kulo

BOTH AMUSING AND SAD to see that the Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park website put out this information as trivia for last year's Valentine's Day. The Mindoro bleeding-heart pigeon (Gallicolumba platenae), called kulo-kulo by Mangyans (possibly from the boiling sound of its coo), lado, manatad, punay, manuk-manuk or puñalada (from the Spanish ''stabbed'') by locals, is a ground dove endemic to the island of Mindoro. Only about 400 of these birds exist in the wild today, mainly in the lowland forests of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro and around Lake Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. Haribon Foundation is the most accessible organization to contact if you want to get involved in the effort to save this critically endangered Mindoro jungle denizen.

kulo-kulo tagged for monitoring

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


LAST WEEK'S GOOD and "bad" news from home. WTF? The threatened is now a threat? In their natural habitat? Like grizzlies in Yellowstone? Some idiots have no sense of the limits of their corner in the universe. But what can you do? The government's Gene Pool Farm and National Park program has a tendency to be tourist-oriented, and Far Eastern University's "Save The Tamaraw" campaign has ambiguous goals and is largely only symbolic, owing to the animal being its mascot. For more hands-on and meaningful involvement, check out AZA Ungulates' Tamaraw Conservation Program or contact Brent Huffman ( or James Burton ( to volunteer, donate or get more information about the project. Veterinarians, educators and funds for local community ranger salaries and camera traps to monitor tamaraw populations are needed.

A tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) on Mt. Iglit-Baco contemplating a deadly saga-saga shoot after a mud bathPhotos by Gregg Yan

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Rites Of May

MY ATTEMPT TO WRITE a children's story turned out to be a tad gory, but that's okay; Mindoro kids need to be freaked out to behave and go to sleep. This old story, a satire on how we respond by instinct to the unfamiliar, previously appeared in Mikrokosmos (sorry, I don't post unpublished stories), fiction then edited by lovely classmate Janet Peery. When Albie Goldbarth told us to bring our favorite poem to class, Janet brought in the same one I did: ''Fern Hill'' by Dylan Thomas, and she hasn't quite forgotten that. Reposting this short piece, in kaingin Rousseau, for the feast of San Isidro Labrador (May 15), the patron saint of farmers and laborers, and of proper Bansud, Oriental Mindoro. Credits go to Emil Nolde, Leonard Everett and Jean Lepautre for the woodcuts. Moral lesson from the story? Don't jump into a granary of mungbean seeds when playing hide-and-seek.

Kids with San Isidro Labrador on the pier in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro. Photo by Nonoy Millares
A Mangyan family  preparing dinner inside their hut with light from kerosene lamps. The women are removing peas from beans collected in the field, which will be used to make a tasty dinner. Photo and caption by Jacob Maentz