Saturday, January 14, 2012

PEDRO BUKANEG: Father of Ilokano Literature

Pedro Bukaneg is one of the colorful figures in the history of the Philippines, particularly in the annals of Samtoy (ancient name of Ilocos, or Ylukon to the neighboring regions). From meager written sources and abundant oral traditions, biographers are able to weave the elusive strands of his life and remarkable achievements. They rhapsodized him as the first Ilokano man-of-letters. They compare him to Moses because as a newly-born baby, he was found floating down the river by a woman; to Homer, for he was born blind and grew up to be a popular bard; and to Socrates, because he was not good-looking as a man but wise. As the first Ilokano poet, orator, musician, lexicographer, and linguist, to appear in the limelight of history, whose name and deeds enhance the glory of Ilokandia’s literary heritage, history has bequeathed upon him the title of “Father of Ilokano Literature.”

Many aspects of Bukaneg’s life are obscured by legendary mists, so that it is quite difficult to dissociate the historical Bukaneg from the legendary Bukaneg. It is speculated that Bukaneg might have been born early in 1592. It is said that one day in March, 1592, a laundry woman found a little baby crying inside a floating tampipi (big basket for keeping clothes) along the bank of a stream (now called Banaoang River), a tributary of the big Abra River, which flows between the town of Bantay and Vigan, Ilocos Sur. She took the baby and saw it was a boy, ugly and blind. This story parallels that of the Biblical Moses, who, was an infant found by an Egyptian princess (daughter of pharaoh) inside a basket floating down the Nile River. The only difference is that Moses was neither ugly nor blind. Evidently, Bukaneg was a victim of the brutal custom of destroying infants born with physical defects, practiced not only in Samtoy, but also in Sparta, Persia, and other nations of anquity.

After saving the poor infant from a watery grave, the kind-hearted woman brought him to the parish priest of Bantay, who baptized him as Pedro Bukaneg. The name Bukaneg is said to be a contraction of the Ilokano phrase “nabukaan nga itneg,” meaning “Christianized heaten.” History still has no information as to who were Pedro Bukaneg’s parents.

God had invariably given Bukaneg certain wondrous qualities to overcome the handicap of being blind, such as intellectual brilliance, retentive memory, sensitive musical sense, magnetic eloquence, and gift for learning languages. He was brought up and educated by the kind Augustinian priests in the convent of Bantay, a priory (motherhouse) for new missionaries assigned in Ilokandia.

As Bukaneg reached manhood, he proved to be a remarkable Ilokano who was well liked and appreciated by the Augustinian friars. A gifted linguist, he mastered Latin, Spanish, Ilokano and Itneg (Tinggian) languages. He possessed an extraordinary talent for assimilating all things pertaining to theology, the Bible, and Spanish literature which his Augustinian tutors taught him, and also the Ilokano folk songs and traditions he heard from the old barrio people. Being a romanticist, he composed poems and songs which were so tenderly sweet that he gained fame among the Ilokano masses as a gifted troubadour.

The authorship of Biag ni Lam-ang, the famous Ilokano epic, was attributed to him by some authors. This was, however, a disputed issue. For the epic poem, containing 294 stanzas, about 1,500 lines, and the syllables of each line range from six to 12, was chanted by the Ilokano folks since pre-Spanish times. It is possible that Bukaneg, being blind, might have dictated it from memory to an amanuensis; consequently, it was put into writing and was preserved for posterity. We owe it thus to Bukaneg that this priceless Ilokano popular epic was saved from oblivion.

Bukaneg was good not only in poetry but also in oratory. He preached the Christian religion in the streets of Vigan, Aringay, and other towns, and persuaded many of his people to discard their old beliefs. Large crowds of people always listened to him when not minding his ugly face and blindness. Because of this, he came to be called the “Apostle of the Ilokanos.”

The Augustinians friars recognized Bukaneg’s talent as a linguist. During the early days, Augustinian missionaries who arrived from Mexico and Spain studied the Ilokano language in the Augustinian convent of Bantay by way of preparing them for their apostolic labors in the mission fields of Ilokandia. Bukaneg was their teacher in the Ilokano language. Aside from his teaching, he wrote Christian sermons in Ilokano, translated the novenas and prayers from Latin and Spanish into Ilokano, and helped in the preparation of the first Ilokano catechism and grammar.

The first Ilokano catechism was the Ilokano translation of a book containing Christian doctrines by a certain Cardinal Bellarmine, which was printed in the Augustinian Convent of Manila in 1621 by Antonio Damba and Miguel Seixo. Bukaneg was a great help to Fray Francisco Lopez, an Augustinian missionary- linguist, in the preparation of the book titled Libro a naisurat amin ti batas ti Doctrina Cristiana nga naisurat iti libro ti Cardenal a angnagan Belarmino (Book Containing the Laws of the Christian Doctrine written by Cardinal Bellarmine).

The first Ilokano grammar, also authored by Fray Lopez, titled Arte de la Lengua Iloca (The Art of Ilocano Language), and printed at the University of Santo by Tomas Pinpin (c. 1580-c.1650) and Tomas de Aquino in 1927. In the prologue of the book, Fray Lopez admitted the considerable assistance given by Bukaneg. The book is now considered extremely very rare. One copy of it is preserved in the British Museum in London. Later editions of this valuable book were printed, with certain revisions, such as those made by Fr. Fernando Rey (1792), Fr. Andres Carro (1793), and by Fr. Cipriano Marcilla (1895).

Unfortunately, many of the poems, sermon prayers, and other works written by Bukaneg have all been lost. It is believed that a large number of linguistic works, poems, novenas, and prayers which were attributed to the Spanish friars were really composed by Bukaneg.

The Ilokanos also recognized Bukaneg as seer. They came to consult him whenever they were in trouble for they had implicit faith in his wisdom. Even the Spaniards look for him for the guidance in their hour of need. An anecdote was told that one day the Servant Don Nicolas de Figueroa, Spanish encomendero of Narvacan and Bantay, was shot to death by arrows and the arquebus which he was carrying was stolen. Shortly afterwards, a band of Itnegs (Tinggians) were captured near the scene of the crime and were taken to Bantay. One of these Itnegs was believed to be the murderer, but the authorities could not determine the guilty party in as much as all of the accused refused to talk.

In the midst of their judicial perplexities, the Spanish authorities called Bukaneg to help them in the trial. When Bukaneg arrived at the scene, he asked that all the Itnegs be freed from their bonds, explaining that “it was not right that all should suffer from the deed of the guilty man.” He walked around the circle of Itnegs who stood silently, betraying no emotions on their stolid faces. He placed his right hand over the breast of each one, feeling their hearts throb. After this strange ritual, he pointed one Itneg, declaring him the guilty murderer. Taken aghast by Bukaneg’s clever deduction, the Itneg broke down and confessed. He was accordingly punished. His companions, who were set free, returned to their village in the hills and related the tale of Bukaneg’s strange power of second sight.

Beloved by his people, Bukaneg died about 1630. His death was mourned by his people who had come to revere him as a man of remarkable talents. To his enduring fame, the Ilokanos, in recognition of his literary legacy, named the traditional Ilocano literary joust as Bukanegan, after his name, just as the Tagalogs name their literary joust Balagtasan, in honor of Francisco “Balagtas” Baltazar (1788-1862), the laureated “Prince of Tagalog Poets.”

Whether legendary or historical, Pedro Bukaneg’s greatest heritage is evident in the fact that compare to regional literature that developed consistently from the Spanish Period, Ilokano literature progressed at a pace as fast as that of the Tagalogs. In poetry, for example, from the time of Pedro Bukaneg, we have seen the likes of Leona Florentino, Isabelo de los Reyes, Mena Crisologo, Leon C. Pichay, Godofredo Reyes, Jeremias Calixto, Juan S. P. Hidalgo Jr, Jose Bragado, Reynaldo Duque, and many more. Aside from poems, stories and novels published in the magazine Bannawag, numerous books being published in Ilokano are clear indications of the wealth, as well as health, of writing in the Ilokano language.


Almario, Virgilio S., “Writer’s Circle and How They Moved Philippine Literature Ahead,” Filway’s Philippine Almanac, Quezon City, 1991. ISBN 971-121-156-4

"Pedro Bukaneg: Father of the Iloko Literature." Retrieved: 2011-02-18

Ribo, Lourdes M., Reyes, Linda M., Language and Literature, Philippine Setting, Manila, 1998. ISBN 971-071-309-4

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Calendar Evolution

The term “calendar” originated from the Latin word kalendae, which pertains to the “first day of every month.”

It is not known when the first calendar was made and who made it. But we know for a fact that, in the Bible, there were already chronological records even before Noah's time in the Book of Genesis, which is approximately 4,300 to 6,800 years ago. This approximation corresponds to the oldest archaeologically verified civilization, the Sumerians, and to their system of recording time.

Even much earlier, Stone Age people marked the passing of days by etching the walls of caves. Ancient Filipinos reckoned time by tying knots in a string to remember the days, or counting the full moons and carving the counts on bamboo poles. This is important for them in knowing when the palay should be harvested after planting, or monitoring the onset of the rainy seasons, as well as keeping track of their ages.

Later on, the periodic occurrence of natural phenomena helped the ancient people to measure time. The day equals the time the earth rotates on its axis, the complete passing of morning and night. The lunar month marks the time it takes the moon to complete its revolution around the earth. The solar year is the equivalent to a full circle of the earth around the sun.

In Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), the first calendars of the Sumerian city-states were lunar (based on the movement of the moon). The Sumerian month begin with the moon's first crescent, and the lengths of the months varied with the period of the moon – 29 or 30 days – which is the same breakdown found among certain Stone Age recordings.

The Egyptians were the first people to adopt a predominantly solar calendar. They were also among the first astronomers of ancient times, and their knowledge of astronomy helped them device their calendar. They noted that the Dog Star, Sirius, reappeared in the eastern sky just before sunrise after several months of invisibility. They also discovered that the annual flood of the Nile River came soon after Sirius reappeared. They used this event to fix their calendar, and came to recognize a year of 365 days, made up of 12 months, each 30 days long, and an extra dividend of five days added at the end of every year. But they did not allow for the fractional difference of about a fourth of a day, and their calendar slowly drifted into error. According to the famed historian and Egyptologist James Henry Breasted (1865-1935), the earliest date known in the Egyptian calendar correspond to 4236 B.C. in terms of our present-day calendar system. That's 6,247 years ago!

The Mayan people believed the world had been created and destroyed twice before the birth of the era they lived in, and dated the inception of the era as August 13, 3114 B.C. (Gregorian calendar). They reckoned time from this date on two systems, the "long count" and the "calendar round." The long count was based on a 360-day year called a tun, divided into 18 months of 20 days each. The Mayan counting system was based on 20 rather than ten, and years were not calculated in decades but in groups of 20 called k’atuns. Twenty k’atuns (which is equivalent to four centuries) was called a b’aktun. The calendar round simultaneously counted days according to a 260-day and a 365-day year. The purpose of this elaborate counting was to arrive at a especially significant point of coincidence: every 18,980 days or every fifty-two 365-day years, both systems come together.



Speaking of the Mayan calendar, because of the misinterpretation of certain over-zealous doomsayers, it circulated worldwide that the world will end on December 21, 2012, in conformance to the end of a Mayan calendar cycle. It was featured in an episode of the hit TV series The X-Files, and the 2009 science fiction apocalyptic film 2012 was based on this belief.

While the date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican (Mayan Long Count) calendar, it is simply the day that the calendar will go to the next b’aktun. The date December 20, 2012 has a Long-Count value of It is not the end of the calendar but is the last day having a b’aktun value of 12. The next day, December 21, 2012 is Such end of b’aktuns occurs approximately every 400 years, and no cataclysmic event has occurred at the end of the 12 previous completions.

The maximum date that can be designated in the Long-Count notation is It corresponds to the Gregorian date of October 12, 4772. This is the “true” last date of the Mayan calendar. So, enough of the doomsday paranoia, it’s creating so much negative energy!


The Greeks and the Romans have a similar calendar system – having a year of 300 days composing of ten months – during ancient times. This was an approximate of the earlier Middle-eastern lunar calendar.

The earliest known Roman calendar consisted of a year of 304 days. The Romans seemed to have ignored the remaining 60 days, which fell in the middle of winter. The ten months composing the calendar were named Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December. The last six names were taken from the Roman words for "five," "six," "seven," "eight," "nine" and "ten." Romulus, the legendary ruler of Rome, supposed to have introduced this calendar about 738 B.C.

The legendary Roman ruler Numa added two months, Januarius and Februarius, at the end of the calendar year. To make the calendar corresponds approximately to the solar year, he also ordered the addition of a month called Mercedinus, which had 22 or 23 days. This month was inserted between February 23 and 24 every other year.


During the reign of Emperor Julius Caesar (c. 100-44 B.C.), the accumulated error caused by the incorrect length of the Roman year had made the existing calendar about three months ahead of the seasons. In 46 B.C., Caesar asked the astronomer Sosigenes to review the calendar and make ways of improving it. Acting on Sosigenes' suggestion, the emperor ordered the Romans to disregard the moon in calculating their calendars. He re-divided the year into 12 months of 31 and 30 days, except for the last month, February, which had only 29 days (this was later reduced to 28 days by his successor to the throne, Augustus Caesar) during regular years and one day more during leap years. To realign the calendar with the seasons, Caesar ruled that the year we know now as 46 B.C. should have 445 days. The Romans called it "the year of confusion."

The Romans renamed Quintilis to honor Julius Caesar giving us "July." The next month, Sextilis, was renamed "August" by the Roman Senate to honor Augustus Caesar, adopted son of Julius Caesar. Later, the fifth month became the seventh month and the sixth became the eighth and so on. This is why September, which came from the word Septem, meaning "seven," is now the nine month of the year.

The Julian calendar was widely used for more than 1,500 years. It provided for a year that lasted 3651/4 days. But it was actually about 11 minutes and 14 seconds longer than the solar year. This difference, again, led to a gradual change in the dates on which the seasons began. By the year 1580, the spring equinox fell on March 11, or ten days earlier than it should.


The Gregorian calendar was designed to correct the errors of the Julian calendar. In 1582, on the advice of astronomers, Pope Gregory XIII (1502-1585) corrected the difference between season and calendar by ordering ten days dropped from October 15, 1582. This procedure restored the next equinox to its proper date. To correct the Julian calendar's errors regularly, the pope decreed that February would have an extra day in century years that could be divided by 400, such as 1600 and 2000, but not in others, such as 1700, 1800 and 1900. This is the calendar in use today in most part of the world.

The Gregorian calendar is so accurate that the difference between the calendar and solar years is now only about 26 seconds. The difference will increase by 0.53 seconds every hundred years, because the solar year is gradually getting shorter.

Roman Catholic nations of Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar almost immediately. German states and Protestant countries kept the Julian calendar until 1698. Britain did not change to the Gregorian system until 1752, Russia until 1918, and Turkey until 1927.

In other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, there were also independent origins of the calendar. But it is interesting to note that both Hindu and Chinese calendars were lunar in character slightly more accurate than its Middle-Eastern and European counterparts.
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Sunday, January 1, 2012


Diario de manila ia an influential Spanish-language daily newspaper in the Philippines during the Spanish regime founded by Manuel Moreno, and later bought by Ramirez Campaña, which covered both local and foreign news.


The Spanish-language daily broadsheet newspaper Diario de Manila was conceptualized and founded by Manuel Moreno on October 11, 1847. Its first issue was released on January 1, 1848. It ceased publication in 1852 but was reopened in 1860 by printing press owners Manuel Ramirez and Baltazar Giraudier with Jose Felipe del Pan (1821-1891) as editor-in-chief.

Under the publishing enterprise Ramirez Campaña, whose headquarters were based in Intramuros, Manila, and business and editorial offices in Binondo, Diario de Manila became quite influential. It covered both local and foreign news. It became the major competitor of La Esperanza, the first Philippine daily in Spanish founded by Felipe de la Corte, in just about more than a year of publication, and in a time when several newspapers in Spanish came into existence. The publication lasted for nearly four decades up to the end of the Spanish regime.


Jose Felipe del Pan, became the editor-in-chief of Diario de Manila from its reopening in 1860 up to his death on November 23, 1891. Under his helm many notable contributors, both Spaniards and Filipinos, worked with the newspaper.

The most prominent among Diaro de Manila’s journalists is Filipino nationalist Isabelo de los Reyes (1864-1938). He wrote several articles for the broadsheet, including “Invasion de Limahong” (“Invasion of Limahong”), which appeared on November 1882. He eventually became associate editor of the newspaper.

Baltazar Giraudier, Spanish-Filipino writer, artist, printer and co-founder of the Diario de Manila, and who also wrote for another newspaper, the illustraciones Filipinas, was commissioned by Spanish Governor-General Malcampo to draw the landscape of Jolo. He was accompanied by Malcampo to Jolo during an organized military expedition on February 1876 against the Muslim pirates who had been receiving substantial amount of arms and ammunitions during the previous years. Giraudier’s resulting drawings of the landscape of Jolo, which appeared on the newspaper, were considered to be among the best lithographic illustrations of Jolo.

In 1897, an article titled “El Gran Problema de las Reformas en Filipinas” (“The Great Problem of Reforms in the Philippines”) was published in Diario de Manila. It was written by Camilo Milan y Villanueva, former governor of several provinces in the archipelago and government adviser. It raised and laid down the issues for instituting reforms in the country.

Jesuit priest, Fr. Jaime Nonell, published an article which described observations of the typhoon that occurred on September 1865 done by Fr. Francisco Colina. The article prompted the establishment of the Observatorio Meteorologico del Ateneo de Municipal de Manila.

Spanish diplomat and writer of plays, operas and novels, Enrique Gaspar de Rimbau, also wrote articles for Diario de Manila while he was serving as consul in Hongkong.


On July 7, 1892, the revolutionary movement Kataastaasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan nang manga Anak nang Bayan or Katipunan was founded by Andres Bonifacio. It laid down three fundamental objectives: Political, moral and civic. The political objective consisted in working for the separation of the Philippines from Spain.The moral objective revolved around the teaching of good manners, hygiene, good morals and attacking obscurantism, religious fanaticism, and weakness of character. The civic aim espoused the principle of self-help and the defense of the poor and the oppressed.

In 1894, after more than two-and-a-half years, the Katipunan took a step further to propagate its teachings and principles and to win more adherents to its side through the establishment of a printing press. One difficulty encountered was the lack of funds to purchase even a small printing press.

Two Katipuneros from the Visayas, Candido Iban (1863-1897) and Francisco del Castillo, who came from Australia, had one thousand pesos between them for having won in a lottery. With a magnificent gesture, the two bought the small printing press of Bazar El Cisne from Antonio Salazar for four hundred pesos.

Unfortunately, the printing press lacked many types, particularly that of the letter “a,” which is the much-employed letter in Tagalog. Emilio Jacinto (1875-1899), the “Brain of the Katipunan,” who is much interested in the press, borrowed twenty pesos from his mother and bought some of the letter types from Isabelo de los Reyes. It was, however, not enough, the printing press was still inadequate to make any printing job. The problem was solved by four Katipuneros working at the printing establishment of the then popular daily Diario de Manila. They stole some types from the printing plant and gave them to Dr. Pio Valenzuela (1869-1956). They conducted their activities under the unsuspecting eyes of the management, who were mostly active members of the Spanish colonial reserve forces. Most of their secret activities took place during the two-and-a-half hour lunch breaks when the Spanish personnel took their meals and their siesta.

Valenzuela suggested the name Kalayaan (Freedom) for Katipunan’s newspaper, and Bonifacio at Jacinto approved it. It was agreed that Jacinto will be its editor but that the name of Marcelo H. del Pilar be made a front as the editor. It was also agreed that to fool the Spanish authorities as to the place of printing, “Yokohama” should be placed on the masthead. The first printing, although run through several difficulties, was successful. The second printing was, however, stopped when the Spanish authorities raided the printing press.

On August 19, 1896, Katipunan member Teodoro Patiño, who said he was the one being blamed for the missing types on the printing plant of Diario de Manila, told the story about the Katipunan to his sister, Honoria, who was then living with nuns in a Mandaluyong orphanage. Honoria was deeply disturbed by his brother's revelation and decided to inform the orphanage’s Mother Superior, Sor Teresa de Jesus, about the existence of the secret society. Sor Teresa in turn reported it to Fr. Mariano Gil, the parish priest of Tondo, who accompanied by several Guardias Civiles immediately searched the premises of Diario de Manila and found evidences of the Katipunan’s existence. They quickly informed Governor-general Narciso Claveria, who ordered the printing press to be padlocked.


1. Agoncillo, Teodoro A., Milagros C. Guerrero, History of the Filipino People, R. P. Garcia Publishing Co., Quezon City, 1984.
2. “First Newspapers in the Philippines,” RR’s Philippine Almanac – Book of Facts, 1990. ISBN 971-588-000-2
3. “Newspapers in Philippine History,” Filway’s Philippine Almanac, Quezon City, 1991. ISBN 971-121-156-4

4. Zaide, Gregorio F., Sonia M. Zaide, Philippine History and Government, All-Nations Publication, Quezon City, 2002. ISBN 971-642-192-3