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Bacolod City, Philippines Sunday, March 18, 2018
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Letís not ignore March 16

Ninfa Leonardia

Yesterday I suddenly remembered: It was March 16, and the anniversary of the day the Philippines was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan! Alas, nobody seemed to have remembered it. I didn’t see any national or local media noting it. Perhaps our people, and our media, are all so concerned with the goings-on in the country, like our President being eyed by the International Court of Justice, and his reactions to it, the barangay and SK elections, and of course, the case of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

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But it is a bit sad that we seem to have forgotten to mark such an event, although all of us who have studied in the Philippines had been taught about how our country came to the attention of the world, well, it could not have been called a country yet, but it was populated by our ancestors. And the man who led the expedition, initially set to prove that the world was round, was Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese, not a Spaniard as many still think. He did bring his idea to make the trip to the king of Portugal but was not believed, so be approached the king of Spain, who was excited by it and not only gave him the funds but also five ships and 100 men, and off he went on September 20, 1519.

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After a long and terrible journey wracked by sickness, mutiny from his men and shipwreck, he finally reached what is now Samar, on March 16, 1521! Fifteen days later, they celebrated the first mass in the country by Fr. Pedro Valderama who was on his team. Then started the Christianization of several natives, whom they found to be quite advanced and not primitive at all. Well, we all know how Magellan was later killed in an “encounter” with Lapulapu and his resistant men. The rest of Magellan’s men sailed back to Spain whose rulers became interested in the newly discovered territory and sent more expeditions to the place, colonizing it, and spreading Christianity.

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No, I did not recall all this from high school studies of Philippine history. I got the help of the internet that even provided a picture of Magellan, the adventurer, who was so upright, he yielded the credit and the spoils to the Spanish king who had faith in him. Suppose the Portuguese king then had been more open-minded? How would you like having Portuguese names, ideals, and outlooks? But my hope in writing this is to remind our people and our officials that this is one date that we should not ignore.

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Yesterday, too, I saw an item in one of the national dailies that former President and former General Fidel V. Ramos was turning 90. If I am not mistaken, his birthday is on March 18. I remember this because sometime during the Martial Law days, when he was frequently in Bacolod monitoring the insurgency problem and the local camp of the Philippine National Police, he told us that he would come to Bacolod on his birthday, and he would do it “by coming down from the sky”.

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At first we did not understand what he meant but later the head of the PNP told us that the General will parachute down at the PNP Headquarters that afternoon. We could not believe it, but afraid to miss the event – in case it really happened – we went to the HQ camp and waited to see if it would happen. And it did! Soon an army plane roared over us, and suddenly there was General Fidel V. Ramos, jumping off, and we held our breaths as we waited for the parachute to open! And when it did, there was the general, waving and smiling, before landing and rolling on the grass for a bit!

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So he is now 90, but I think that if anyone will challenge him to perform that feat again, he will still oblige. At that age, he is still as sharp in mind and body, and has even turned columnist for a national daily. I don’t know why he never thought, or allowed himself to be convinced to run for public office as a senator. I am sure he can contribute a lot to the country as one, and maybe even instill some military discipline among the black sheep there. Anyway, I hope he reads this, so I will say “A happy birthday in advance, and may God bless you with many more years to serve our country!”

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In the meantime, it looks as if the barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections will be a “go” because the resolution of the House has not yet gotten to the Senate that will have no more time to take it up before the Lenten break. Ergo, those aspiring for positions or for reelection, had better take the cue and get themselves ready for the campaign. But what about the so-called list of 9,000 barangay officials the President is said to be holding, when will he release it? In case he does reveal their names, what will happen if some of them can prove that they are not in any way connected with drugs? Can they sue the President? That would be something to see.*

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