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               Mabuhay Mexico! Viva Filipinas!

                  by Alejandro R. Roces

Very few people realize this. The culture that most resembles our own in the whole world is Mexican culture. Our culture is totally different from all our neighbors. Taipei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Pakistan etc., etc. This explains the extreme popularity of Mexican telenovelas that have been dubbed in Tagalog. If you dub an American movie into Tagalog, it is not convincing because Filipino characters will not react in the same way to the same situation. But Mexicans and Filipinos have the same values Ėcompadre, fiestas and devotion to the saints.

In 1974, we were in charge of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Philippine-Mexican Friendship. The first Spanish Governor-General of the Philippines was Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who before going to the Philippines spent half his life in Mexico. Again most people are not aware of the fact that the name of Manilaís main river, El Pasig, is an anagram of Legazpi. It was Juan Salcedo, grandson of Legazpi, who was responsible for the peaceful pacification of the natives in the islands. It was Legazpi that started the galleon trade and the world has yet to recognize the fact that the galleon trade between Mexico and the Philippines was the very first step taken towards what we now call a global village.

Again it is not generally known but our most important vegetables came from Mexico: sugar, tobacco, cacao, camote, chico, avocado, mani, sincamas and many, many others. This is true even of some of our major religious cults. Take the Black Nazarene of Quiapo. Many believe that it is called the Black Nazarene because the wood used in its construction was black. The truth is that the Black Nazarene was a cult in Mexico. The story is that there was a priest in the church who had the devotion of starting his day by kissing the feet of the figure of the crucified Christ in his church. One of the parishioners asked the priest for permission to marry the priestís sister. But he had a very bad reputation so the priest refused to give his permission. The man, knowing about the priestís devotion to the crucifix, placed deadly poison on its feet. The next day, the priest kissed the poisoned feet of the crucifix. Nothing happened because the figure in the crucifix absorbed all the poison in its system and turned black.

There is another strong parallel between Mexican and Philippine history. In both countries, the call for independence started with the clergy. In Mexico, it was Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla that launched what has since then been called The Cry of Dolores. In the Philippines, it was three priests Fathers Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora. That is why the secret password of the Katipunan was Gomburza and Rizal, who dedicated one of his two novels to the three, went as far as to say that without Gomburza, he would have become a Jesuit.

Mexico and the Philippines will always be on the best of terms. What we need is a cultural program to strengthen our ties.

DE: Excerpts from PhilStar article "Roses and Thorns", April 02, 2002

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