By GEMMA CRUZ ARANETA
He said the way our ancestors lived was “more irrational than those of civilized men…” because there were no governors or rulers. “They based valor on betrayal, science in fraud and deceit, and nobility in the disdain of one’s neighbor. Even though education and the teaching of evangelical doctrine proved the error of their ways, their propensities led them to follow their forbears.” What an unkind assessment of the natives they encountered in this archipelago.
On the other hand, one wonders if the same can be said of us in this day and age should the zealous missionary, Fray Gaspar de San Agustin, should suddenly come to life. What he observed in the 17th century, it can be argued, has barely changed. Although we have what he referred to as governors and rulers ( in excess!), we natives seem to be incorrigibly following the unsavory behavior of our forebears. Neither have the natives of today (we Filipinos) benefitted from the evangelical doctrines so assiduously taught to us by the spiritual descendants of Fray Gaspar in the Order of Saint Agustin.
In addition, he said that “…if they loosened the reins of their animal appetites, the basis on which they established bravery lay in wounding by betrayal of two or three others, by which they earn the title of brave called pusung by the natives…” I feel that he was alluding to the battle of Mactan where Magellan was outnumbered, overpowered, and killed by Lapulapu and his warriors. “He is then so feared that he becomes lord and master of his home town, as well throughout the area, and not merely of all the land but even of women.” I could not help but laugh when I read that part, written by Fray San Agustin from his 17th century perch. The description applies to many political leaders in our time.
Fray San Agustin added that it would take more than a few chapters of a book to describe the natives. It is like trying to put an entire ocean in a tiny shell: “They have a genius and nature as opposed to the Europeans as to make them do everything in reverse, and this mortifies us more than slightly… I will conclude by saying they are a people that so far have defied definition by either experience or the application of numerous subjects.”
However, Fray San Agustin had a good word for the Kapampangan. He said they are “more animated and given to work, which is more in consonance with the Spanish nature. They alone signed up a soldier both to help in the garrisons in time of war. Together with the Spaniards, they display great bravery and loyalty.” He said the Kapampangan are “very generous, different from the rest of the islands.” He also heaped praise on the Kapampangan women for being “ brave and strong for working.” Though in that particular page, Fray Gaspar did not mention their prowess in the kitchen; those who had fallen in love and married Spaniards as faithful wives, whom God rewards with fecundity. “If the Spaniards of our time emulated their forebears by marrying Panpanguenas, the land would be more populated and have more soldiers because the Spanish women have wasted the former for a long time prior to this.”
Fray Gaspar de San Agustin was writing from experience so he knew what he was talking about. The Augustinians Order administered Bacolor, Porac, Guagua, Betis, Sexmoan, Lubao, Minalin, Mexico, Macabebe, Apalit, Candaba, Arayat, Magalang, Gapan, and Santor. The mountainous towns of Pantabangan and Caranglan were also under their care.
For more information about how we looked to them, I suggest you mine his monumental opus, Las Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas, 1565-1615. If Jose Rizal did it, you can do it too.