Fr. Gianni Sandalo 1950-2020

Dear confreres,

in a time were we already are experiencing so much suffering for the Corona Virus, I inform you of the death of Fr. Giovanni Battista (Gianni) Sandalo, which took place in our Home for elderly in Lecco, Italy, yesterday Friday 20 March at 8.10 am. He was 70 years old.

Fr. Gianni was born on 6 January 1950 in Villadose (Rovigo, Diocese of Adria). He moved with his family to Caronno Pertusella (VA) and entered the archiepiscopal seminary of Milan, completing his classical studies in Venegono Inferiore (VA). In 1972 he entered the PIME seminary in Monza as a student, issuing the Final Promise of belonging to the Institute on February 12, 1977. Ordained Presbyter on June 18 of the same year, by Mons. Pirovano, in Sotto il Monte (BG), he dedicates the early years of priestly life studying (Moral Theology) at the Gregorian University and teaching in the Theological Seminary of Monza. In January 1986 he left for the Philippines, and in Paranaque, Manila, founded the new Parish of Mary Queen of Apostle with fr. Giulio Mariani (1933-2019). As the Director he run also the Euntes Mission Center in Zamboanga City which was then closed on 2012. He remained in the Philippines until 2018. During these years was also the Regional Superior of Pime-Philippines and lived in the Regional House in Zamboanga City from 1999 to 2009.

Some of his letters, as Regional Superior, were published on Bayanihan, a quarterly paper bulletin sent to all the confreres of the Philippine Circumscription, and which was always preceded by the letter of the Regional Superior. In his last letter (September 2008) he wrote as follows: “Someone said that, because of our lifestyle choice, we missionaries are experts in preparing packages and suitcases. Among the many parcels that we have ready, two are tied together by a string: the parcel of Hope and the parcel of Co-responsibility. They are special and accompany us, they are heavy and at the same time light as the dreams that accompany our life. (…) How many times have we tied our packages with twine. For our packages, the string has a name: Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Master. He is always the excess novelty. It is his Easter, his cross, his resurrection, his imprudence, his forgiveness, his closeness of being a school of life for each of us, for our community that starts again, that resumes walking remembering the past 40 years (in the Philippines) with an eye to the future

He then, in 2009, returned to the parish of Mary Queen of Apostle, in Manila, where he was parish priest until 2018, when he was reassigned to the Community of Gaeta (Latina), Italy, and appointed by the local Archbishop, mons. Lugi Vari, as parochial vicar of the Parish of Saint Paul Apostle. But after few months, he was diagnosed with a tumor to the colon and transferred to the PIME House in Rancio. From here he wrote in the last days: “I thank the people I met on my way. Despite my bad temper they have always been close to me with the support of their friendship and their prayers. God You are (my) Father, accept me, make me always feel your faithfulness and friendship “.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus emergency, it will not be possible for us to attend the funeral and the burial rite. We PIMEs in Milan are joining spiritually today March 21 at 9.30 am, for the funeral that will be celebrated in our House in Rancio. Afterwards, the body will be brought to Caronno Pertusella (VA), for burial at the Pertusella Cemetery in the chapel of the native priests of that city.

Rest in peace, dear Fr. Gianni and the Perpetual Light shine on you.

Father Marco Villa
General Secretary of the P.I.M.E

Corona virus (Covid-19) Philippines

National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines

As the entire country has just been placed under the state of calamity due to the escalating spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), we offer our prayers for our people, particularly the poor and most vulnerable sectors, who will bear the heavier burden caused by the present crisis.

With the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) we also acknowledge our responsibility to participate in addressing this national emergency: “This is a time of difficulty but also a time for growing in true discipleship as we strive to follow the Lord in selfless love and service of others.”

In the spirit of solidarity, and in support of our government in our efforts to adopt decisive measures to respond to this pandemic crisis, we would like to offer our recommendations, re-echoing the appeals of other civil society organizations, in ensuring that the welfare of all, particularly the poorest and the most vulnerable, is considered in government policy and interventions.

We strongly call on our government to consider the following points, to plug the gaps in the government’s response:

  1. Food and medical assistance should be provided for free to the affected households giving priority to the depressed areas in Metro Manila, and in Luzon, in general. The government must provide support and subsidy (financial or in kind) to support the basic needs of the poorest in the communities.

The government should look at its fiscal space and free up funds that may be used to acquire food, medical supplies, and other goods that will address their daily needs.

The Office of the President has large budgetary allocations by way of Intelligence Fund, Confidential Fund, President’s Social Fund, and other items in the GAA 2020 that should be scrutinized for flexibility as additional resources that can be mobilized immediately.

  1. Workers, especially daily income earners, should be provided with substantial emergency assistance package including displacement insurance to compensate for loss of income during the whole period of forced quarantine. It should be in the form of comprehensive financial assistance and unemployment benefits, and not loans. The one-time financial assistance of PhP 5,000.00 to cover the unpaid leaves of the affected workers, under DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (DOLE Department Order 209), is not enough.
  2. The community-based package of assistance providing emergency employment for the displaced workers, called TUPAD or Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged and Displaced Workers must be implemented and made operational efficiently and should cover the entire affected workforce.
  3. Treatment should be made readily available at cost to the government, in cases of confirmed COVID cases. Mass testing should be conducted in all areas as a prevention and containment measure. There is emerging evidence of best practices from other countries on how testing can be ramped up and scaled up. If a house to house approach is necessary, then it should be done.
  4. Mass disinfection should be undertaken in areas where people usually congregate including terminals, government offices, public transport, courts. In the spirit of bayanihan, the people should be mobilized in the effort. All those part of the drive should be medically equipped. The government to must ensure the protection of the frontline workers by providing them the necessary gears and apparatuses for protection and also access to free transportation services.
  5. Checkpoints must be supervised by health professionals who are trained to respond when there are cases of suspected COVID carriers. Remember that any potential carrier should NOT be treated like criminal offenders. We are confronting a health crisis, not a military problem. Extreme compassion should be exercised at all times.
  6. Congress must appropriate additional funds for the response. To fund these initiatives, the existing calamity funds, MOOE of concerned government institutions including schools, courts, among others must be maximized. The interventions should not be debt-creating given that the government intends to access loans from international financial institutions.
  7. A moratorium on payment of mortgages, interests on loans, and financial obligations including payment of utilities and household bills, waiving of rentals, and the like, should be enforced. Filipino families must be un-burdened with these obligations at a time when the preoccupation should be prevention, containment and treatment.
  8. Community level citizens desks should be set up as a feedback, grievance, and action mechanism. Support must be prepared and provided for the psychosocial wellbeing of our fellow Filipinos, on an individual, family, and community level, as this will be an urgent need in the coming days and weeks.
  9. The Government should speak in a unified voice. If DOH is the lead agency that should oversee the enhanced lockdown, they must be the sole source for information and direction to avoid confusion and miscommunication. Hourly updates, as to the progress of the intervention, must be communicated by health experts and experienced science communicators who should be the ones holding the press conferences.

Again, united with our Bishops, we continually entrust our country to our compassionate God: “In this time of crisis let us put our trust in the Lord who accompanies and strengthens our faith. May He open our hearts to help those in need and move us to genuine compassion for our brothers and sisters who suffer.”

City of Manila  March 18, 2020

Optics of power vs voice of science

by Randy David – Inquirer

What were the people in charge of Malacañang’s communications office thinking last Thursday evening when they made President Duterte announce the lockdown of Metro Manila — with uniformed police generals seated behind him? Clearly, it was their way of saying this is henceforth a peace and order issue.

Indeed, Mr. Duterte said so himself at one point in his rambling speech. But, hearing this, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that someone was rushing to deploy the coercive arm of the state using as pretext a public health emergency whose risks and ramifications have yet to be fully explained to the public. I do not wish to be misunderstood: I happen to believe that the threat from this coronavirus is very serious indeed, and warrants the coordinated response of all domains of society.

But, the effect would have been different and reassuring if, after a brief introduction, the President had yielded the microphone to the health secretary and the team of infectious disease experts working with his department. They should have been allowed to explain in the clearest terms possible the scientific basis for declaring the urgency of a community quarantine.

By the same token, a credible spokesperson from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, preferably a scientist, would have done an immensely better job of laying down the basic principles behind putting an entire city on community quarantine. Then it would make sense to ask someone in charge of enforcement—possibly the local government secretary—to explain the parameters of a Metro Manila-wide lockdown. That’s not the way it happened at the press conference the other night, because someone in this government chose exclusively to project the optics of power, rather than give space to the voice of science.

In his two previous public appearances where he addressed the same topic, the President had tended to make light of the protocols that were put in place to protect him from infection. “I’m not afraid to die,” he kept saying, as though it was just his life, and not that of others, he would be putting at risk by choosing to mock the need for social distancing. This attitude certainly did not prepare the public for the month-long quarantine he would declare just a few days later.

It is now clear that the exact terms of such a draconian measure had not been thoroughly thought out. The initial guidelines were, if anything, sketchy, leaving the public to conjure dire images of the severe lockdown in Wuhan, China. Not even the resort to the more benign-sounding phrase “community quarantine” was enough to allay the ensuing public fear of finding oneself locked up indefinitely in one’s own home.

As one might expect under these circumstances, people instantaneously took action, seeing in the brief two days between announcement and enforcement a narrow window to do what they thought needed to be done. They went on a frantic buying spree, emptying the shelves of supermarkets, and swarmed bus stations, seaports, and airports in a frantic rush to leave the city.

In modern society, it is clear that a highly communicable disease like COVID-19 can, ultimately, only be defeated if science is given enough space to speak its truth. Unfortunately, the voice of the scientific community is all too often drowned out by the voices emanating from the political and other sectors of society. Under our present setup, the science community can hardly be heard above the din created by the political sector. It can’t even be heard by those in government except through the health secretary and the science and technology secretary, who may not have the gravitas and assertiveness needed to be heard in times like these.

When scientists defer to the requirements of politicians, or constantly beg for budgetary support for their research, or permit themselves to become the tools and mouthpieces of corporate interests, they lose not only their credibility but also their capacity to help solve the problems of humanity.

This certainly does not mean that science can or must perform its function in isolation from the rest of society. Not at all. It only means that it must have sufficient autonomy to do its work and produce findings that may be useful to society. Such autonomy needs to be institutionalized in the form of independent institutes and centers, assured of regular funding support, and protected from undue interference and pressure through appropriate legislation. Only by recognizing the necessity to respect functional boundaries can society move closer to solving its increasingly complex problems.

But Philippine society remains premodern in many ways. At no other time perhaps is this more evident than when, in the face of a hitherto unknown killer infectious disease, the President shows lack of appreciation of the limits of his office by taking on the specialized task of expounding on the nature of viruses and vaccines, and infectious diseases and pandemics. These subjects do not belong to the field of politics, and President Duterte is not a known expert on these topics.

It is certainly the function of government and of the political system as a whole to produce collectively-binding decisions aimed at protecting the public against the dangers of a public health emergency such as COVID-19. An example is the drastic move to place an entire city in quarantine. In this, government must defer to the findings of science, even as it strives to respond to the exigencies of the economy, education, law, religion, the family, etc. But, for the nation’s sake, let the experts speak.

Mindanao clergy mission

About 724 priests aptly reflected on the significance of ‘dialogue, communion, and mission’ during the 44th Diocesan Clergy of Mindanao (DCM) Convention hosted by the Diocese of Malaybalay on Feb. 17 to 19. The annual convention reflected on the theme “DCM Commits to Dialogue, Communion and Mission Towards Harmony”, which is a play of words echoing the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples.

Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay thanked the Mindanao clergy for giving meaning to the letters ‘DCM’, acknowledging the grace they asked for a deeper reflection of the words dialogue, communion, and mission. In the event’s opening Mass, Cabantan in his homily recounted Archbishop Romulo Valles’ words of gratitude to the Mindanao Church “especially its first leaders, bishops, priests, religious men and women who started Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference in 1971.

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reportedly said these words on their formators’ meeting, the night before the official start of the convention The MSPC, Bp. Cabantan added, brought forth many activities and one of these is the gathering of its clergy – the DCM Convention; for its youth, the MSPC Youth Conference, and for its catechists, the Mindanao Catechists’ Convention.

Through the MSPC, we have different activities in the (Mindanao) church where we gather, we bond, we get additional strength and where we share, so we can continue the mission entrusted to us by the Lord,” he said. Reflecting on the convention’s theme, he also made one good example in the life of the late prelate of Marawi, Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud. “His life in Marawi is an apostolate of presence, a dialogue of life and faith, together with the Protestant Dansalan College of Marawi,” said Cabantan. He also acknowledged that even before the formal setting up of the interreligious dialogue movement particularly in the Mindanao Church, the first missionaries, especially in these largely Muslim inhabited areas, have long been in dialogue with the community.

Bp. Cabantan said that Mindanao has a vast history of promoting and catalyzing dialogue – the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City that was started by Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra PIME in 1984 and the Bishops-Ulama Conference in which retired Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao was among the co-convenors. Bp. Cabantan’s homily also discussed how the life of the clergy and missionaries in Mindanao started and improved the dialogue and communion with the indigenous peoples.

“In Bukidnon, we have Fr. Vincent Cullen, SJ,” he said.

The basic ecclesial community (BEC) in the country is also one of the legacies of the Mindanao Church, he added. According to the CBCP-BEC official website, “In the late 1960s, immediately after Vatican II, foreign missionaries in the frontier mission areas in Mindanao and Negros formed the first BECs.” The Mindanao-Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC), which was first held in 1971 and since then meets every 3 years, was instrumental in propagating these BECs all over Mindanao.

Some dioceses and parishes in Visayas and Luzon soon adopted the formation of BECs as their pastoral thrust. Bp. Cabantan encouraged the Mindanao clergy to celebrate dialogue, which started in the Mindanao church and was adopted by the whole Philippine church.

It is a grace given to us by God, and we should rightfully give thanks for this,” he added.

This year’s convention, a one-of-a-kind in the whole Philippine Catholic Church, was held in Malaybalay as the diocese celebrates its Golden Jubilee that will culminate in April 2020.

Annual assembly of all PIME missionaries present in the Philippines. Today we had the privilege to have Bishop Pablo David of the diocese of Kalookan, and one of CBCP vice Presidents, as resource person. Topic was the present situation of Catholic Church in the Philippines. Very interesting!

Cardinal Tagle is the new Prefect of Propaganda Fide

By Vatican News


The Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle is the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The appointment by Pope Francis was announced on Sunday 8 December. The current Prefect, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, assumes the post of Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher in place of Cardinal Edwin Frederick O’Brien, who resigned in April 2019 and turned 80.

With the appointment of Cardinal Tagle, an Asian cardinal returns to head Propaganda Fide (the original name of this important department for evangelization, which is also responsible for episcopal nominations in mission lands), after the years of Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias (2006-2011). Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle was born on 21 June 1957 in Manila to a Catholic family – his father of Tagalog ethnicity and his mother of Chinese origin – and was ordained priest in 1982. He studied in the United States where he obtained his doctorate in theology with a thesis on the evolution of the notion of episcopal collegiality since the Second Vatican Council. He spent seven years in Rome to deepen his studies and in 1997 joined the International Theological Commission.

After serving as parish priest at the Cathedral of Imus, at the age of 44 he was consecrated bishop of that diocese by Saint John Paul II in October 2001. He dedicated himself in particular to youth ministry and inaugurated the first meeting of young Asians in Imus. On 13 October 2011 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila and made him a cardinal thirteen months later, in November 2012. In addition to leading the Manila Archdiocese, Cardinal Tagle is President of Caritas Internationalis and the Catholic Biblical Federation. With this choice, announced a few days after the end of his trip to Thailand and Japan, Pope Francis once again shows great attention to the Asian continent. With the designation of Cardinal Tagle, which follows a few weeks after that of Spanish Jesuit Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, two new heads of department will be installed at the beginning of 2020 in the Roman Curia.

Pope Francis has also appointed 73 year-old Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of Propaganda Fide from 2011 to the present, who becomes Prefect Emeritus of the same Dicastery, as the new Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Cardinal Filoni was Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq from 2001 to 2006 and lived in Baghdad during the war of 2003. For a year, he was the Pope’s ambassador to the Philippines before being called to the Secretariat of State as Substitute, a post he held until 2011. His experience in the Middle East will be valuable in his new role, as the Order of the Holy Sepulchre cooperates particularly with the Middle Eastern Christian communities and supports them with many projects.

In a statement, Cardinal O’Brien expressed his great appreciation for the Pope’s decision, and said he is particularly happy that Cardinal Filoni has been chosen as his successor: “His long and extensive partoral and administrative service in our Universal Church”, Cardinal O’Brien said, “will be precious in guiding the Order on its future path”.

ABS-CBS and quo warranto petition


Local and international organizations have thrown out their support to the ABS-CBN’s struggle to continue operations. On Feb. 10, the Office of the Solicitor General filed a quo warranto petition against broadcasting giant, ABS-CBN as well as its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. In the 63-page quo warranto petition filed before the Supreme Court, the OSG accuses the network of ‘unlawfully exercising their legislative franchise’ and urges the High Court to revoke ABS-CBN’s networking franchise.

In response, ABS-CBN said in its official statement that they “did not violate the law,” adding that the filing of the petition is Solicitor General Jose Calida’s effort to shutdown the network,as well as the thousands of Filipinos working in the company. The ABS-CBN maintained that the claims Calida made were without merit, and all their broadcast offerings have received the necessary government and regulatory approval and are not prohibited by their franchise.

The network also answered Calida’s accusation of foreign funding through ABS-CBN’s Philippine Deposit Receipts, and said that the PDRs have been used by other broadcast companies to improve their services. “We reiterate that everything we do is in accordance with the law. We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN.” The network also said that they have no issue with tax payment. The Bureau of Internal Revenue even recognized the broadcasting station as one of the top 200 non-individual taxpayers in the country, having paid over P70.5 billion worth of taxes in the past 17 years.

Following the protest action led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines last Friday, various groups issued statements condemning Solicitor General Jose Calida’s move as “an attack on press freedom.” The Freedom for Media Freedom for All, a consortium of Philippine media organizations, said “the attempt to close down ABS-CBN is a direct attack against the shared freedom of all citizens, for silencing the network is similar to depriving the Filipino citizens of their source of news and information.” The coalition also called for a ‘collective front’ from the Filipino people who believe that the press should remain autonomous in a democratic country like the Philippines.

In a statement, Reporters Without Borders has called on Supreme Court justices “to reject this crude request and we call on members of parliament to immediately renew the ABS-CBN franchise in a spirit of respect for the separation of powers and freedom of the press, as required by the Philippines’ 1987 constitution.” Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, also questioned Calida’s motive in filing the petition. “It’s either Jose Calida had told the truth; and also casually admitting his incompetence by failing to call out these ‘abusive practices’ when he assumed position in 2016, or the SolGen had told a lie purely for political fabrication and as a way to pressure the network,” he said.

In the same vein, Carlos Conde of the Human Rights Watch said that the OSG’s action ‘has all the indication of political harassment.’ “President Duterte has not made secret his displeasure toward ABS-CBN and has expressed his intention to shut it down,” he said. He also said that the petition filing had placed undue pressure on the legislators.

Eleven bills in support of the ABS-CBN’s franchise are pending with the House Committee on Legislative Franchises. Conde noted that some legislators have stated that this could jeopardize the franchise renewal, which ends March 30.

Meanwhile, Isabela 1st District Rep. Antonio Albano, who is also the vice-chair of the Committee on Legislative Franchises, said that the network can still operate even if its renewal is not granted after its expiration. Albano said that the network’s services will not be terminated until the end of the 18th Congress. Echoing Albano’s reassurance, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that as long as there are bills filed, the franchis is deemed extended as long. “As there’s no hearing, it could extend until the end of the 18th Congress,” Sotto said. Sotto added that the quo warranto filed by the SolGen would not affect the current bills filed seeking for the network’s franchise renewal, and even added that ABS-CBN can ask the permission of the National Telecommunications Commission for an extension.

NUJP announced that it would continue to urge the Congress for action until the bills for the network’s franchise renewal are heard. The organization, along with ABS-CBN employees and other advocates, would be holding its fifth Friday protest this Valentine’s Day in front of Esguerra gate.

La Cina di Duterte

kissIl presidente Rodrigo Duterte ha deciso di concludere l’accordo di difesa militare con gli Stati Uniti conosciuto come VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement). L’accordo forniva alle truppe statunitensi una base legale per esercitazioni bilaterali nel paese. La decisione di Duterte è una risposta meditata dopo che a Ronald Dela Rosa, oggi senatore ed ex capo della polizia, era stato annullato il suo visto d’entrata negli Stati Uniti; Dela Rosa aveva supervisionato la famigerata guerra contro la droga che ha provocato migliaia di morti nelle Filippine.

Molti hanno espresso preoccupazioni per questa decisione che favorirebbe la posizione aggressiva di Pechino verso la sovranità sulle isole del mar della Cina rivendicate tuttavia anche da altri paesi, tra cui le Filippine. La rottura del VFA viene comunque interpretata come una mossa per allinearsi non solo con la Cina ma anche con la Russia con la quale Duterte sta discutendo un accordo di cooperazione tecnico militare.

Oggi tuttavia il presidente è preso di mira da molti filippini per aver abbracciato la politica di Pechino, un sentimento che si è consolidato con il suo modo blando di affrontare la minaccia del coronavirus Codiv19 scoppiato a Wuhan.

Il 30 gennaio, nelle Filippine è stata segnalata la prima morte di coronavirus al di fuori della Cina, sollevando timori di contagio in un momento in cui la porta era spalancata ai turisti cinesi. Da allora il governo di Duterte ha inasprito le misure contro i viaggiatori cinesi, annunciando un divieto generale il 3 febbraio. Le politiche pro-cinesi di Duterte hanno facilitato un grande afflusso di cinesi continentali nelle Filippine, una migrazione che ha suscitato sentimenti anti-cinesi.

Si stima che 1,6 milioni di viaggiatori cinesi abbiano visitato le Filippine da gennaio a novembre 2019, rappresentando il 22% di 7,5 milioni di visitatori stranieri di quel periodo. Un numero sconosciuto di questi è poi rimasto a lavorare illegalmente presso l’industria dei giochi offshore d’azzardo, la maggior parte dei quali sono gestiti da uomini d’affari cinesi.

L’epidemia di coronavirus e le politiche del governo del Duterte, percepiti come privi di buon senso, stanno aumentando il numero delle persone che criticano la crescente influenza e presenza cinese nelle Filippine.

Duterte nella sua apparizione pubblica il 3 febbraio, per annunciare un divieto ai viaggiatori cinesi di entrare nel paese, ha anche ammorbidito questa decisione temporanea: “China has been kind to us, we can only also show the same favor to them,” (La Cina è stata gentile con noi, possiamo solo mostrare lo stesso favore a loro). Ha anche aggiunto che bisogna fermare la xenofobia verso i cinesi assicurando i filippini che tutto va bene. Del resto l’economia filippina, anche con in ballo il corona virus e la crescente incertezza globale per le pressioni inflazionistiche, rimane robusta e si prevede un 6,0 per cento di crescita del PIL per il 2020.

Filipino Literature during the spanish time

From The Literary Forms in Philippine Literature by: Christine F. Godinez-Ortega

While it is true that Spain subjugated the Philippines for more mundane reasons, this former European power contributed much in the shaping and recording of our literature.   Religion and institutions that represented European civilization enriched the languages in the lowlands, introduced theater which we would come to know as komedya, the sinakulo, the sarswela, the playlets and the drama. Spain also brought to the country, though at a much later time, liberal  ideas and an internationalism that influenced our own Filipino intellectuals and writers for them to understand the meanings of “liberty and freedom.”Literature in this period may be classified as religious prose and poetry and secular prose and poetry.

Religious lyrics written by ladino poets or those versed in both Spanish and Tagalog were included in early catechism and were used to teach Filipinos the Spanish language. Fernando Bagonbanta‘s “Salamat nang walang hanga/gracias de sin sempiternas” (Unending thanks) is a fine example that is found in the Memorial de la vida cristiana en lengua tagala (Guidelines for the Christian life in the Tagalog language) published in 1605.

Another form of religious lyrics are the meditative verses like the dalit appended to novenas and catechisms. It has no fixed meter nor rime scheme although a number are written in octosyllabic quatrains and have a solemn tone and spiritual subject matter. But among the religious poetry of the day, it is the pasyon in octosyllabic quintillas that became entrenched in the Filipino’s commemoration of Christ’s agony and resurrection at Calvary. Gaspar Aquino de Belen‘s “Ang Mahal na Passion ni Jesu Christong Panginoon natin na tola” (Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Verse) put out in 1704 is the country’s earliest known pasyon. Other known pasyons chanted during the Lenten season are in Ilocano, Pangasinan, Ibanag, Cebuano, Bicol, Ilongo and Waray.

Aside from religious poetry, there were various kinds of prose narratives written to prescribe proper decorum. Like the pasyon, these prose narratives were also used for proselitization. Some forms are: dialogo (dialogue), Manual de Urbanidad (conduct book); ejemplo (exemplum) and tratado (tratado). The most well-known are Modesto de Castro‘s “Pagsusulatan ng Dalawang Binibini na si Urbana at si Feliza” (Correspondence between the Two Maidens Urbana and Feliza) in 1864 and Joaquin Tuason‘s “Ang Bagong Robinson” (The New Robinson) in 1879, an adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s novel.

Secular works appeared alongside historical and economic changes, the emergence of an opulent class and the middle class who could avail of a European education. This Filipino elite could now read printed works that used to be the exclusive domain of the missionaries. The most notable of the secular lyrics followed the conventions of a romantic tradition: the languishing but loyal lover, the elusive, often heartless beloved, the rival. The leading poets were Jose Corazon de Jesus (Huseng Sisiw) and Francisco Balagtas. Some secular poets who wrote in this same tradition were Leona Florentino, Jacinto Kawili, Isabelo de los Reyes and Rafael Gandioco. Another popular secular poetry is the metrical romance, the awit and korido in Tagalog. The awit is set in dodecasyllabic quatrains while the korido is in octosyllabic quatrains. These are colorful tales of chivalry from European sources made for singing and chanting such as Gonzalo de Cordoba (Gonzalo of Cordoba) and Ibong Adarna (Adarna Bird). There are numerous metrical romances in Tagalog, Bicol, Ilongo, Pampango, Ilocano and in Pangasinan. The awit as a popular poetic genre reached new heights in Balagtas’ “Florante at Laura” (ca. 1838-1861), the most famous of the country’s metrical romances.

Again, the winds of change began to blow in 19th century Philippines. Filipino intellectuals educated in Europe called ilustrados began to write about the downside of colonization. This, coupled with the simmering calls for reforms by the masses gathered a formidable force of writers like Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Mariano Ponce, Emilio Jacinto and Andres Bonifacio. This led to the formation of the Propaganda Movement where prose works such as the political essays and Rizal‘s two political novels, Noli Me Tangere and the El filibusterismo helped usher in the Philippine revolution resulting in the downfall of the Spanish regime, and, at the same time planted the seeds of a national consciousness among Filipinos. But if Rizal’s novels are political, the novel Ninay (1885) by Pedro Paterno is largely cultural and is considered the first Filipino novel. Although Paterno’s Ninay gave impetus to other novelists like Jesus Balmori and Antonio M. Abad to continue writing in Spanish, this did not flourish.

Other Filipino writers published the essay and short fiction in Spanish in La VanguardiaEl DebateRenacimiento Filipino, and Nueva Era. The more notable essayists and fictionists were Claro M. Recto, Teodoro M. Kalaw, Epifanio de los Reyes, Vicente Sotto, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, Rafael Palma, Enrique Laygo (Caretas or Masks, 1925) and Balmori who mastered the prosa romantica or romantic prose.

But the introduction of English as medium of instruction in the Philippines hastened the demise of Spanish so that by the 1930s, English writing had overtaken Spanish writing. During the language’s death throes, however, writing in the romantic tradition, from the awit and korido, would continue in the novels of Magdalena Jalandoni. But patriotic writing continued under the new colonialists. These appeared in the vernacular poems and modern adaptations of works during the Spanish period and which further maintained the Spanish tradition.