Saturday, February 28, 2009

Popularity vs. Obscurity

Since I was young, I've always been curious as to how it is to be popular among the masses. This could be thanks to the media; it seems very comfortable and glamorous to be rich and popular. However, as I grew up I realized I don't like being popular at all: I'd prefer to be obscure.

For example, there have been a lot of things that I could take credit for. The event I organized during the previous fiesta here is one thing; the many students I've helped finish their thesis are another. There have been a lot of other things that nobody except myself and those involved know about; I rarely talk about what I achieve. Sometimes I make up tall tales just for the hell of it, but that does not happen often except when I'm truly drunk and I seem to want to do that to entertain my friends and drinking buddies.

However, all the things I've done that could have made me popular, I've intentionally buried them.

The truth is, I hate the spotlight. I hate being scrutinized for what you do; I hate being pressured by other people. They don't have the right after all and, even though most people would consider it a challenge, I consider it a waste of time to persevere just to please other people. If I do make great efforts it's not for the approval of others; it's for my own approval and I don't care really what other people may say.

When I was younger, however, I balanced on a thin line: pleasing myself and other people because I didn't want anyone disapproving of my actions. However, it was something I wasn't happy with. After a while, it turned out that I was already teetering towards living my life for other people and it wasn't good. I wanted to live for myself, and I've barely begun.

Finally, I've always wondered why people are so attracted to you when you try to shut yourself off from them. Just this year, I've realized why: they're curious about you, and will always try to get into your personal bubble. You're fresh meat, figuratively speaking. Once they've found out what they want to find out about you, the interest wavers and then they start to leave.

That's why I've always preferred to have a small yet intimate group of people I call friends. It's quite melodramatic to have one big group of friends but yet so few of you understand each other. For me, it's just coming together because they need someone to be there for them. Along the way they forget their own strengths as they become overly reliant on their friends emotionally. They end up sucking each other's life forces by continually running and whining over to each other even with very small and trivial matters they consider big. That almost happened to me, but thank god I've learned in time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Antonio Pigafetta - A Forgotten Memorial

I was in the Cebu Post Office today to check on a package that has been sent to me from the US. It was the sustain pedal I bought in eBay, and they shipped it using USPS. Good thing I researched on it, or else I would've thought my package got lost with my money gone in the air. That's how inefficient the Philippine Post Office is; they should've called me and notified me of my package but they didn't.

Anyway, it was only yesterday that I noticed the neglected statue in front of the Post Office. I thought it was Ferdinand Magellan, but I noticed the quill he was holding and concluded before I even got close that it was Antonio Pigafetta. I was right, it was him. Up close, i noticed how derelict the statue is, and I think it's sad. Here it was, supposedly part of a historical park but it's standing right beside a basketball court.

Perhaps you might wonder why I'm so affected by this, considering Pigafetta was an Italian and a foreigner. The people living or working in that part probably don't even know who the statue was nor care to know about it. Foreigners visiting Fort San Pedro might also overlook this statue, because it is not located where they can see it.

It's quite sad because, like it or not, Pigafetta is an important figure in both world and Philippine history. He may be part of the first Spanish colonizers, that's why most people probably don't care about him. However, it was because of Pigafetta that people of the world and the Filipinos themselves get the first look of how pre-Hispanic Philippines or Cebu was.

It was also because of Pigafetta that we get an account of how technologically advanced Philippines was for its time, although I'll bet most Filipinos have an image of pre-Hispanic Philippines as backward and primitive. Nobody probably knows about the lantaka, and that it was probably used in the Battle of Mactan. I personally can vouch for that; for most Filipinos, the image of a lantaka is a bamboo or tin cannon used during New Year. The lantaka was a firearm; that means our ancestors must have been technologically advanced or had access to such technology by the time the Spaniards arrived. Chances are high that they did; the lantaka was a Malay weapon and Filipinos have had relations with the Malaysians at that time.

Some people actually overlook that, as they thought we got defeated because we did not have weapons as advanced as the Spaniards had. Perhaps some of my countrymen think that Filipinos at that time were similar to the American Indians or the Maori who first fought using bows and arrows. However, the fact that Filipinos had access to weapons made of steel -- the kampilan -- suggest an advanced society. How do we know that? Pigafetta described that in his journals.

Most of all, it is because of Pigafetta that we Cebuanos get a close look at the pre-Hispanic version of our language (I consider Visayan as a language on its own rather than a dialect). Pigafetta had described some words spoken by the natives as they referred to certain items.

For me, it is a sad reality that someone who is so important in history is delegated to some obscure part outside Fort San Pedro where visitors overlook him. Whether we Filipinos like it or not, Magellan and Pigafetta -- next to Miguel Lopez de Legaspi -- are two of the biggest figures in our history. Just because the Spanish colonized us for 333 years, it doesn't mean we should treat the Spanish figures with less importance as we give Rizal, Bonifacio and many others.

Photo copyright belongs to a good friend of mine, Mike Rafael.