There’s truism in the saying “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” but in the case of historical facts , knowing the truth will keep one’s cultural identity and national pride intact. We usually revere accounts written in our history books as something incorruptible and absolute; some crucial information, however, still remains hidden from public’s attention. History, therefore, is more than meets the eye. For the fourth installment of The Peso Chronicles, we will try to delve deeper into the secret stories hidden behind those important characters and symbols captured by our new 200 peso bill. Through this article, you will be able to see President Diosdado Macapagal, the legendary Chocolate Hills, and the captivating tarsier of Bohol like you’ve never seen them before. This is not just another boring museum-turned-into-writing piece but something that will shed light to real stories hazed by excessive familiarity and distorted historical facts.
The Peso Chronicles is a series of articles written to put the limelight to some undiscovered treasures and untold stories etched in our new Philippine peso bills. These are not facts as superficial as the Philippine peso bills’ designs which were swarmed with criticisms or certain glitches printed on these bills or those newly designed special fraud-proof security features. Rather, we will try to look at our Philippine peso bills as if they are open books full of history, culture, and lessons to be learned.
PART IV: The New 200 Peso Bill.
“Poor Boy From Lubao” or “Poor Boy From Banton”?: The Untold Story of the REAL “Father of Independence Day”
Known in history as the “Poor boy from Lubao”, probably one of Diosdado Macapagal’s lasting legacies was his rags-to-riches story that chronicled his journey from being a boy raised in an impoverished family to one of the country’s most respected and celebrated presidents of all time. His land reform programs had gained him public’s support and the transfer of Independence day from July 4 to June 12, which has been fully credited to him, only added to his growing popularity as a “nationalistic” leader of his time. But just like a bolt from the blue, an unknown and almost forgotten name in history keeps on resurfacing and seems to be more worthy of the title “Father of Independence Day”. He was Gabriel F. Fabella and the “June 12 Independence Day” idea was HIS brainchild.
The year was 1962. It was the first time that the whole nation gloriously celebrated June 12 as Philippines’ new Independence Day. A grand celebration was held in Luneta with none other than former President Emilio Aguinaldo as the guest of honor. Shortly thereafter, Macapagal finally signed the Republic Act No. 4166 on Aug. 4, 1964 to ratify the independence day holiday. But before the law was even approved, it struggled first as Proclamation No. 28. And before it even caught the former president’s attention, Gabriel F. Fabella had to work hard to bring this idea to life. He is the real “Father of Independence Day” but, mysterious as it may seem, his important contribution remains completely obscured and overshadowed by Macapagal’s accomplishments up to this day. But who is Gabriel Fabella? And if he had really been robbed of the crown as the “Father of Independence Day, how did he come up with that idea in the first place?
His life and Macapagal’s have a striking similarity: they were both cradled in poverty. Born on March 18, 1898, Fabella was the 10th of 13 children of a poor couple from Banton (now Jones), Romblon. His was just another rags-to-riches story and an inspiration for a lot of Filipinos: through hard work and perseverance, he was able to pass the bar exams and eventually became a respected lawyer, educator and assemblyman in Romblon. And while serving as chair of UP Department of History and Acting Director of UP Clark Air Base, he had began his various efforts for his appeal to change our independence day holiday from July 4 to June 12. The idea was initially opposed because it was believed that during the time Emilio Aguinaldo and the revolutionary leaders converged in Kawit, Cavite to proclaim our country’s independence from the Spanish rule, Philippines was technically under the American control already. Hence, no freedom was attained after all. But Fabella, partly because of his strong emotional connection with the Aguinaldo family and the other octogenarian revolutionary leaders that were being taken for granted at that time, pursued his goal without any trepidation. In Celedonio Ancheta’s book, titled “Father of Independence Day,” Fabella said his inspiration came from Emilio Aguinaldo himself, whom he first met face-to-face when he visited the former president’s home in Kawit, Cavite in 1926. Since then, a strong tie had been established between the two. His efforts was unparalleled; from writing an article entitled “June 12 or July 4?” that was published in the Sunday Times Magazine on June 1960 to attending various public speeches, Fabella used every platforms available for him to make his advocacy known to the public. In a June 2008 issue of Philippine Daily Inquirer, U.P. historian Kristoffer R. Esquejo revealed in his article that Fabella was the brain behind the resolution made by the Philippine Historical Association (PHA) about the necessity to transfer our independence day from July 4 to June 12. Here are Fabella’s four arguments:
First, United States celebrates independence day every July 4, the day Americans declared their independence, not 3 September 1783 when Great Britain recognized their liberty;
- Second, if the Philippines celebrates its independence day every July 4, our celebration would be dwarfed by the US celebration;
- Third, June 12 was the most logical date since Filipinos were not actually particular about fixing of dates, what we actually cared for is independence itself;
- Fourth, if the Philippines celebrates common independence day with USA, other nations might believe that the Philippines is still a part of United States.
That historical move paved the way for Proclamation No. 28, which was signed by Macapagal on May 12, 1962, subsequently declaring June 12, 1962 a special public holiday. Sadly, we never heard of his name since then probably because the public was overwhelmed by Macapagal’s “monopoly” of the idea, a case of “political plagiarism” that has been buried and completely thrown in the oblivion. He has never received any credit for that achievement, a disturbing truth that is left hidden in our history books. This coming June 12, 2012, we will all be celebrating our country’s 114th Independence Day. I hope that during this day, we may all remember that beyond Aguinaldo’s achievements and Macapagal’s charisma, there was a simple teacher named Gabriel F. Fabella who once shared a part of his life to make June 12 a very special day in every Filipino calendar. He is, by the way, the REAL “Father of Independence Day.”
“Beyond Chocolate Hills”: The Riveting Story About Bohol’s Other Hidden “Hills”
Bohol’s famous Chocolate Hills is a quintessential masterpiece made by nature, holding a name that is a feast both for the eyes and ears of a certified chocoholic. The top of these hills contains green grass (Imperata cylindrica and Saccharum spontaneum) that turns green during rainy seasons and chocolate brown during dry periods, hence the name. These natural wonders were declared by the government as a National Geological Monument in 1988. The Chocolate Hills, which consist of 1,268 perfectly cone-shaped hills (some are even declaring that an actual count could reach as many as 1,800 hills), are scattered throughout the municipalities of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan in the island province of Bohol. The eccentric structure (the hills are strangely uniform in size and shape) and composition of these hills have baffled geologists over the years, the reason why there is no concrete theory yet explaining how all of these brown giants suddenly appeared in Bohol’s central area millions of years ago. However, one thing is for sure: the beauty of Chocolate Hills isn’t anything man-made because they are mostly composed of limestones, carved and shaped by nature through the years. It’s enthralling beauty is one of its kind but the worldwide attention it has received through the years has significantly overshadowed another relatively unknown treasure in Bohol: the Himontagon Hills.
Unknown to many, there are other less popular hills existing in the country, and Himontagon Hills is one of them. The unique thing about Himontagon is that it lies within the province of Bohol as well, just like the more popular Chocolate Hills which almost all Filipinos are quite familiar with. Situated at the municipality of Loay, Himontagon Hills is a beautiful sightseeing location found just 20 kilometers away from Bohol’s capital in Tagbilaran City. It is a less popular destination for tourists and frequently visited only by certain nature photographers, who usually stand in awe especially during sunset and sunrise, when the orange-red glow illuminates everything around. A far cry from the stressful ambiance in the city, Himontagon Hills is a gem of a place perfect for romantic lovers searching for tranquility and panoramic views especially of Mt. Hibok-Hibok volcano in Camiguin Island which is perfectly visible when the weather is clear.
The TARSIER MAN: Unsung Hero of the Suffering Superstars
From now on, don’t ever call the Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta) as “the world’s smallest monkey” because in a taxonomic point of view, our tarsier is neither a primate nor a monkey. According to www.bohol.ph, some scientists consider tarsiers to be a taxonomic suborder among the primates. While, because they are closely related to lemurs, lorises and bushbabies, others classify them with the prosimians to which these animals belong. The pygmy tarsier of Indonesia, by the way, is considerably smaller than the Philippine tarsier, while the pygmy mouse lemur, found only in Madagascar, is now being recognized as the smallest primate in the world. The name “tarsier” or “tarsius” is derived from the animal’s very long ankle bones. Its tail is used for balancing like a tripod; they prefer an erect posture at all times. And like an owl, the tarsier has a joint between its skull base and spine to allow head movement of a 180-degree arc. Its strong slender legs enable the Philippine tarsier to leap to the ground in haste and catch its prey.
Tarsiers live exclusively on animal prey; their diet includes primarily insects such as cockroaches and crickets, but may occasionally be extended with reptiles, birds, and bats. The Philippine tarsier is nocturnal; they hunt at night, exclusively for animal prey. One unusual feature is that they have multiple breast pairs, yet generally only the pectoral pair is functional. The other ones serve as anchoring points for newborn. Mating can take place any time of the year and tarsiers can become 12 to 20 years old. This animal is very special for Boholanos as far as its worldwide popularity is concerned. Indeed, this unique animal has been the mascot of the province’s strong tourism industry. But these will not be all possible without the support from The Philippine Tarsier Foundation Inc., a non-stock, non-profit organization for the protection of tarsiers, spearheaded by its field officer Carlito Pizarras more popularly known as The TARSIER MAN.
Pizarras has been known for his untiring advocacy that protects the welfare of the tarsiers, which, with only several hundred tarsiers left living in the wild in Bohol, have been declared by the govewrnment as a “specially protected” species in 1997, outlawing hunting of the animal, and effectively banning restaurants and souvenir shops from keeping them on display. The Philippine tarsier is categorized as “near threatened,” while species in other countries are already “vulnerable,” “endangered” and “critically endangered,” according to the foundation.
Ironically, the The Tarsier Man we know today started out as one of the Anti-Tarsier Men during his early years. According to his interview with Daily Inquirer, Carlito Pizarras used to hunt tarsiers for his father, who was a taxidermist. The tiny primates could be found on trees around the village. Of all the animals his father stuffed and sold, tarsiers were the bestsellers. His father was paid P250 for each tarsier. But as he grew older and became more aware of the plight these exotic animals had been through, he was able to cultivate a friendly relationship with them and has promised to protect their population since then. He was successful in breeding domesticated tarsiers and then released them to the forest once the right time came. He was instrumental in setting up the conservation program of the Philippine Tarsier Foundation – who, after 30 years of taking care of the tarsiers on his own, has been hired by the Foundation to take full time care of the tarsiers in the sanctuary. He has been adamant in protecting these exotic animals, which have a tendency to commit suicide under captivity due to severe stress. The Tarsier Man is best remembered as the guy who presented a pair orphaned tarsiers to Britain’s Prince Charles in 1997 when he visited the Malacañang palace, propelling the latter to also join his advocacy. The Tarsier Man should be equally considered as Bohol’s tourism symbol not just because of his advocacy for tarsiers but also for his selfless service for the whole Philippines: the preservation of a rare Philippine treasure for the next generations of Filipinos.