Home » Posts tagged 'Gregorio C. Brillantes'
Tag Archives: Gregorio C. Brillantes
Our wonderful Philippine University, editorial for June 26, 1909
Interview with the General, by Teodoro M. Locsin, June 11, 1949
Cover, June 11, 1949 issue
Revolt of the Masses—Marcos Style, by Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., January 30, 1970
Ferdinand E. Marcos: An Appreciation, by Gregorio C. Brillantes, August 29, 1970
Mary, by Teodoro M. Locsin, December 11, 1971
- Who owns this city? Editorial for October 3, 1908
- Marquardt Recounts Post-Landing Experiences, September 21, 1946 by Frederick Marquardt
- The Plight of the Displaced Population, February 22, 1947 by Federico Ayson
- They Saw Manoling for the Last Time, April 24, 1948 by Leon O. Ty
- In this corner: Lacson, May 11, 1957 by Quijano de Manila
- Strange Victory, November 23, 1957 (unsigned)
- The Phenomenon of Teilhard de Chardin, December 9, 1967 by Gregorio C. Brilliantes
- That was 1967, December 30, 1967 by Quijano de Manila
- Final round, November 1, 1969 by Napoleon G. Rama
- Remembering Teodoro M. Locsin, January 26,2002 by Manuel L. Quezon III
Ferdinand E. Marcos: An Appreciation
By Gregorio C. Brillantes
Don’t lose heart, folks—as The Man said, this nation can be great again!
August 29, 1970—CERTAIN Liberals and Nacionalistas with presidential ambitions, and scores of other Filipinos, including many who once idolized him, will likely dispute it; but in our time, in our country, Ferdinand E. Marcos remains destiny’s favorite son.
The trials he has had to endure, the fearsome obstacles he has encountered and overcome—tests of manhood which would have reduced lesser mortals to quivering blobs of jelly—have only added, it would seem, to the zest with which he has pursued, as the song puts it, his glorious quest. Charged with murder in his law student days, he defended himself with such flourish and skill as to win acquittal from the High Tribunal and went on from there to pass the bar exams with highest honors—a twin feat probably without parallel anywhere in the world. (It has been the sad fate of other men as great and as brilliant to meet an early end, behind bars, on the gallows or before a firing squad, their full potential unrealized, the noble promise of their lives unfulfilled, mankind thus rendered so much the poorer.) From his daredevil exploits in the last war, he merged with a chestful of Fil-American medals, the most decorated soldier of his country. The pride of his generation, he has since continued to win, with undiminished energy, the honors and prizes that the nation sees fit to offer only to the brave and the true, not the least of these rewards being the love of a fabulous lady. As everyone knows only too well, he became the first president of the Republic to be reelected, an awesome triumph which, true to form, he achieved with an unprecedented majority of two million votes over his LP rival, who, by the way, still thinks he wuz robbed.
That was but less than a year ago. Forward with Marcos and Lopez—the unbeatable Performance Team! Remember the tumult and the shouting, the sense of a vast master plan carried out without a hitch, of irresistible destiny fulfilling itself? Remember J.V. Cruz on TV working suavely for his ambassadorship, explaining what “extrapolation” was all about, and Serging Osmeña hoarse and tired in defeat, and then the morning after, the outcries about goons and massive fraud and vote-buying all the rest of that exciting week? Barely 10 months have passed—yet it seems like ages ago. Was it only last November that the Second Mandate dawned upon an expectant land? So much has happened since then that it feels as though not months but years separate us now from President Marcos’s day of victory. Propelled as it were by a combustible concentration of changes and events, the nation has moved forward, as President Marcos himself loved to predict, although he could not have guessed the precise direction—and such has been the distance we as a people have covered that Eelction Day 1969 seems much more remote in time than it really is.
The President, of course, is not one to stand still or lag behind while history is in the making; and since the auspicious first month of Marcos II marked by unusually festive fireworks in the vicinity of Malacañang, he has been striding with the usual confidence and vigor toward more achievements, more honors and distinctions. The gods who watch over the Filipino race must have reserved their fondest benediction for the likes of him, for it seems there is nothing that he wills or does, nothing that he encourages or allows to happen which does not exalt him, does not distinguish him from the common run of men. His is a light that was never meant to be hidden under a bushel of mediocrity; his life indeed is the stuff of legend, and he can no more evade fame and distinction than he can renounce his sworn duty to his people, which is to serve them and make the country, if not “great again,” at least not hostile to the idea of greatness. (He did say, after all: “This nation can”—not shall—“be great again.”)
Thus to the scroll citing President Marcos’s many achievements has been added some more honors earned in the six or seven months following the riotous celebrations of January. He has, for instance, in less than a year of the Second Mandate, merited the distinction of having the deepest and widest credibility gap ever to yawn at the feet of a Philippine president. (“If Marcos were to run today, Racuyal would beat him!” swears our barber from Pampanga.) Amazingly, for all the disgust and skepticism he has spawned, he has at the same time aroused the increasingly passionate attention of the populace, including even those citizens who normally pay no heed to politicians. (“What is Marcos up to? What will he do next?” wonder radicals and moderates, natives and aliens, labor and management , laymen and clergy.) Above all, his is the distinction of being held solely accountable, by more and more of the people, for the multitude of troubles that have of late descended upon the country.
Never before in our history have so many blamed so much on one man.
But so-called public opinion, the same history would testify, has not always been as enlightened as it should be; it has committed many gross and costly errors, and the living proofs of these blunders may be found today delivering privileged speeches in Congress. The voice of the people, in this country anyway, is seldom, alas, the voice of God; in the instances it has reflected divine wisdom, goons in the hire of the devil have been quick to silence it at the polls. Popular tastes and convictions are more often than not suspect, especially in so confused and clamorous an activity as politics, Philippine style. Public sentiment is rarely infallible, and as it applies now to the much-maligned President, it is wide off the mark, quite petty, misinformed, ungrateful, unjust, disproportionate, lacking in perspective. The accusation, spoken harshly where detractors of the President gather in rebellious force, as in Plaza Miranda or along Mendiola—the charge that he is a fascist, a fake patriot, a power-crazed, money-obsessed operator with the mentality of a small-town politico, is surely anything but a sane and reasonable conclusion. It is the emotional judgment of a people who believe, mistakenly, that they have been robbed of their faith and hopes in a man of destiny.
The course, the direction of Ferdinand E. Marcos’s destiny belies the indictment of public opinion, his motives and ideals repudiate it, his actions disprove it. True, his greatness has dimmed somewhat, as if the general dissatisfaction with his regime had formed a smog that the radiance could scarcely penetrate—but the greatness is still there, in the man, for those who seek it, a guiding light for all seasons. Even the elect of God, we are told, don’t arrive at divine knowledge without undergoing what mystics call the dark night of the soul; they must fast and pray for illumination. The perception of certain forms of greatness a notch or two below the Almighty’s likewise calls for some effort, but the strain would be well worth it in terms of inspiration, splendor of vision and peace of soul. It goes without saying that such irreverent cynics as columnists Maximo V. Soliven and Amando Doronila—O ye of little faith!—are denied the spiritual rewards bestowed on the pure and humble of heart, like Teodoro Valencia or Emil Jurado, who are reportedly in constant communion with the power and the glory.
Let us then follow the example of the truly wise and contemplate, without partisan rancor, dispassionately but with all the powers of intellect and will, as Jesuit retreat masters are wont to remind us, the issues that the people’s parliament has raised against President Marcos.
The President and his party, it is charged, spent P168 million in so-called barrio improvement funds and untold millions more in God knows what funds to “buy” his reelection, in the process of which he debauched the currency and brought down upon all our anxious heads a host of evils—ever-soaring prices, shrinking incomes, strikes, mass layoffs, business and industry in a state of suspended animation. Because of the economic dislocation—compound fractures is more like it, according to the President’s more cantankerous critics—there is now an upsurge of graft and corruption, violence and gangsterism as the low- or no-income sectors of the population strive to cope criminally with the rising cost of living.
The President, it is further charged, is a champion of imperialism, feudalism and fascism. He has demonstrated nothing less than canine devotion to the imperialist cause in Asia, as witness the infamous Philcag deal with what Senator Aquino brands the “Americanization” of his regime. He has conspired with the rapacious landlord class to perpetuate feudalism, depriving the land reform program of needed funds, so his accusers say. He is a veritable Hitler who relishes the use of force to smash dissent in the streets and resistance to fascism in Central Luzon, charge student militants. At the same time, he has proved to be the tuta of a tuta with his administration’s brutal deportation of the Yuyitung brothers to Taiwan.
The President, insist his persecutors, supports political warlordism—just think, they tell us, what a strong and moral president would have done after somebody’s goons burned and shot up that barrio in Bantay! He has not acted to stop rampant deforestation, his critics claim, and at the rate our forests are being destroyed—three hectares a minute—this nation before long will be a desert, a wasteland! And how many of the promises he made way back in 1965 has he fulfilled? (“Bring down high prices. . .Rule of law. . . Economy in the government. . .Nationalistic policy. . .Heroic leadership,” etc.) More savage questions are flung at us: Isn’t he already the richest man in Asia, but still insatiable, wanting more loot, at least half of PLDT, shares in Benguet, a TV station, choice real estate in various parts of the country? When will he renounce his worldly possessions, as he promised, and set up that foundation? Isn’t he just biding his time to impose martial law and install himself as the Great Dictator? Isn’t he plotting to rig the Constitutional Convention so he could run for a third term or become president for life? And so forth, and so on, a litany of outrage and apprehension.
Is President Marcos as detestable as these unkind critics, uncharitable detractors and irresponsible radicals have painted him out to be?
Could a man so favored by destiny and embodying a special greatness be such an abomination to his people?
One recoils from such malevolent thoughts. No! Of course not! Impossible!
It is time we put those wild-eyed and long-haired accusers of the President where they belong—in a padded cell and under sedation—and restored calmness and objectivity to the so-called public opinion of our disjointed times. This must be done in justice to the President, who has suffered enough in his mission to lead his people to peace and prosperity. The President is a man of heroic qualities, as we have seen; but he remains a man, vulnerable to the ailments that flesh is heir to. We gather from Luis Beltran of the Evening News that the President suffers on occasion from a curious disease which “makes tears fall from his eyes, renders him deaf and makes his throat hurt.” We could help ease the President’s aches and pains, help lighten his grievous burdens by reassuring him of our loyalty and our faith.
Assuming, for the moment, that the malicious charges leveled against the President are true, men of good will and unflinching faith in the Marcos destiny—and this unfortunate country is not bereft of them—would still perceive that whatever harm might have been done is far outweighed, rendered insignificant, by the national blessings resulting from these presidential “crimes” rashly condemned by a disenchanted, short-sighted people. It is all a matter of point of view, of angle and depth (or shallowness) of vision: what is so outrageous from a certain vantage point is revealed, from another, as good and desirable in its true nature. Filipinos who now view President Marcos as a sort of calamity—not a few even blamed him for those earthquakes—should change the slant of their perspective, regard the object of their ire from a different plane.
Then will they understand what they in anger or prejudice or despair have failed to comprehend: that the President, even in committing what appear to be crimes against the people, or refusing to act for their benefit, has had only the people’s welfare at heart. He knows that without the people, he would not be where he is today: at the seat of supreme power, his heart’s desire, his destiny. It is simply inconceivable that a man of such charisma, sensitivity and intelligence should willfully deliver them to disaster; their doom would be his own as well, for is he not one with them? Did he not fight and bleed for them in the crucible that was Bataan? And despite the expense and the hazards, didn’t he become congressman, senator and finally president the better to serve them?
No Filipino loves his country more than President Marcos—a truth that will reveal itself after the prescribed shift in viewpoint.
Consider anew the spending orgy during the last elections—was it not actually a laudable attempt to redistribute wealth and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor? As Senator Lagumbay, statesman and artist and one of the more perceptive of our solons, said recently concerning budgetary deficits caused by wanton election spending: “The father of children who are sick will not hesitate to go into debt to give them the medicines they need.” The fiscal and economic consequences of the President’s compassion for the electorate are not without their positive aspects—for has the price spiral not encouraged the people to give up vain material things and prodded them to practice austerity which, everyone will agree, is good for the soul and cuts down on cholesterol? “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust and moth consume…” As for the President’s alleged servility to imperialist America—is it not merely expressive of Filipino gratitude for American tutelage in the arts of democracy? And is not the “Americanization” of his administration the next best thing to the statehood that many Filipinos still dream of? And regarding the Yuyitung case, for which certain benighted sectors of the press would consign the President to the innermost circle of hell, didn’t the magnificent show of collaboration between Taipei and Malacañang further strengthen the ties that bind two “Free World” nations committed to the defense of freedom and democracy?
The President has a soft spot in his heart for the students, especially the nationalistic activists, and he has taken pains to provide them with issues to rouse them up and keep them from physical, mental and ideological stagnation. Suppose the President never bothered to give them cause for pickets and demonstrations—they would all be smoking pot and watching smut movies instead, languid preoccupations that would not predispose them to any politicalization. The rise of youth radicalism, which promises to restructure and revitalize our ailing society, the nation owes to President Marcos.
With regard to the Bantay case, the simple-minded had expected the President to do something dramatic, like helicoptering down on the burned barrio of Ora and poking among the ruins; but he wisely chose to maintain a statesmanlike distance from the protagonists, lest his presence be misconstrued as lending aid and comfort to one party or the other. It is true that he was photographed in a conspiratorial huddle with his Ilocano friend, Congressman Floring Crisologo, but that was nothing but a pose arranged by a weekly magazine for a promotional gimmick. If he has shown little enthusiasm for land reform, as he has been repeatedly charged, that could be due to his determination to spare long-suffering farm tenants the troublesome capitalistic burdens of ownership. As for the Philippines turning into a desert because of his alleged reluctance to stop illegal logging, has it not occurred to his simple-minded critics that rock and sand exports may yet resolve our balance of payments difficulties, and that as the Sahara of Asia, we shall probably strike oil and banish poverty for good from our underdeveloped shores?
True, he said he would renounce his worldly possessions and establish a foundation, but he didn’t say when; great men have their own timetables, and will not be rushed by vile insinuations. Possibly the President has decided to postpone his philanthropic endeavors to a future term in office, a prospect that alarms his detractors, who have been issuing dire warnings that he will pack the Constitutional Convention with his men. But why should anyone be alarmed by his desire to be president longer than eight years or perhaps for life? Isn’t it all of a pattern, the extension of the glorious quest, the irresistible command of that destiny which has brought us so many blessings?
If he wants to go on serving his people for as long as he can climb the grand stairway in Malacang unassisted, the least a grateful nation can do is let him. Ten or twenty years more of nation-building may sap his strength and make climbing that starway an ordeal, but neither age nor infirmity should deter him from his noble mission; Salazar of Portugal, one recalls, presided admirably over the affairs of his country from a wheelchair, if not a sickbed, for the better part of his reign.
“Politics galvanizes into action all the beautiful hopes that a man can nurture in his heart for his country and for his nation. Politics is my life,” Hartzell Spence quotes Ferdinand E. Marcos in his biography of the President, For Every Tear a Victory, a book we keep on a special shelf of inspirational reading, along with the works of Norman Vincent Peale and S. J. Perelman (not a Jesuit).
No President has done more for his people. Never have a people owed so much to their President.
Tadhana, fate, has decreed it: Ferdinand E. Marcos, the sixth president of the Republic, will long be remembered for what he has done, and for what he will yet do.
The Phenomenon of Teilhard de Chardin
By Gregorio C. Brillantes
One of the greatest minds of the 20th century, the Jesuit priest-scientist returned from journeys into the past with a vision of hope and unity for the future
December 9, 1967—TWELVE years ago, on Easter Sunday in New York City, a tall, gentle, white-haired French priest with wise, pensive eyes on the finely sculpted face of a nobleman was struck down by a heart attack. A month earlier, he had told friends of his hope that when God saw fit to take him, it would be on the Day of the Resurrection.
Fr. Marie-Joseph Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Tay-ar d’ shar-dann) died at 73 as he had lived for most of his life—an exile. His exile, in more senses than one, was not just from kin and country. Forbidden to teach and publish his works as a scientist during his lifetime, he spent years separated, as it were, from the contemporary current of history, probing into the secrets of rocks and bones millions of years old in the remotest corners of the earth. He was, for all his assurances of fealty, estranged from the official thinking of his religious superiors and the institutions of Rome. The Vatican at one time issued a formal warning, a monitum, against the dangers to the Faith posed by his reinterpretation of Christianity in the light of evolution, which to him was no mere theory but the existing and indispensable key to the meaning of the universe. Not a few of his companions in the Society of Jesus viewed the man, if not with alarm, at least with puzzled skepticism; and even fellow paleontologists—scientists whose particular discipline is the study of past geological periods as known from fossil remains—considered him an enemy of accepted methods and ideas. To learned men within and outside the Catholic Church, he seemed to be working against the greater glory of science and religion.
Thus, when Pierre Teilhard de Chardin died, the absence of pomp and ceremony at his funeral, aside from being a tradition among the Jesuits, might have been regarded by the more worldly as a fittingly obscure end for a man deserving of oblivion: the world would hear no more of him. The service at St. Ignatius Church in New York, we are told, was “simple to the point of poverty.” There were no more than ten mourners, and only one, Fr. Pierre Leroy, accompanied the body on the 75-mile trip to the Jesuit cemetery at St. Andrew-on-the-Hudson. The priest-scientist who had traveled far and wide over the earth, farther perhaps than any other man if we take into account journeys of the mind unreckoned by miles or even light-years, rests there today, under a stark headstone among others similarly fashioned, at the edge of a forest.
A photograph of the austere cemetery illustrated an article on Teilhard de Chardin by John Kobler in The Saturday Evening Post, in 1963. Three dates are inscribed in Latin on the headstone, beneath the name Pierre Teilhard, S.J. (“de Chardin” was added to the original family name after a 19th-century marriage): born May 1, 1881; entered the Society of Jesus, May 19, 1899; died April 10, 1955. In the fall the winds tear the last leaves from the forest and scatter them between the rows of tombs.
Today the winds of change and renewal are blowing through Christendom, the late Pope John, in his own words, having opened wide the windows of the Church: a metaphor Fr. Teilhard would have appreciated, for he had a passion, a poetic feeling for wide open spaces, gulls on the wing, skies and far-ranging horizons. And one of the moving spirits behind these winds, no less than Pope John himself conceded, is the Jesuit Tielhard. Indeed, the tone of the Second Vatican Council, with its stress on the need to “bring the Church into step with modern times,” its optimism and its hopes for Christian unity, and more recently, Pope Paul’s concern with the “development of peoples” appear to reflect Teilhard’s influence, grown wider and more pervasive since his death.
In an essay on Christ and the universe written in the last year of his life, Fr. Teilhard had observed that “if the truth appears once, in one single mind, that is enough to ensure that nothing can ever prevent it from spreading to everything and setting it ablaze.” The truth as the priest and scientist perceived it is no longer confined to unpublished manuscripts guarded by the Holy Office. More than a million copies of his ten published books have been sold; difficult, labyrinthine, original, controversial, his style nothing less than the involved reflections of a scientific and mystical Faulkner, he is being read by Christians and atheists, unbelievers, agnostics and the merely curious. Bibliophiles of any number of faiths who give up on Teilhard in Chapter 1—“The Stuff of the Universe”—of his most famous work, The Phenomenon of Man, reserve for him a place of honor among their Kierkegaards and Bertrand Russells. Far from complete, posthumous publication of his writings is being supervised by an international committee composed of, among others, historian Arnold Toynbee, the late nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer when he was alive, biologist Julian Huxley and the man of letters André Malraux. No less than men of science and philosophy, the writers of our time have paid tribute to his singular influence. He was the model for the philosophical Fr. Tassin in Romain Gary’s novel, The Roots of Heaven, which, appropriately enough, deals with the splendor and nobility of a form of life; and for the brilliant and humble Fr. Telemond in Morris West’s The Shoes of the Fisherman. Flannery O’Connor used as the title of her last collection of short stories Teilhard’s mystical axiom: “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”
In Europe and South America, associations dedicated to propagating his ideas have sprung up, and his vision of mankind has inspired numerous studies, interpretations, conferences, symposiums in various countries, not to mention the adulation of Marxists who see in his philosophy a confirmation of their doctrines on the socialistic and collective future of mankind. One of his most outspoken admirers is the communist Roger Garaudy, head of the Center of Marxist Studies in Paris and one of the leaders of the current dialogue between Christian and communist intellectuals in Europe. For his part the French-educated Catholic President of the African nation of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor, would advance Teilhard’s ideas as an antidote to communism. Marxism, according to Senghor, might “cure our underdevelopment,” but “it could not satisfy our spiritual hunger. Father Teilhard enabled us to transcend the paradox of materialism and spirituality.” The Jesuit thinker who proclaimed that “the most humanized groups appear always, in the end, as the product not of a segregation, but of a synthesis,” has found ardent champions, thanks to Senghor, among the political leaders and intellectuals of the dark continent where, one recalls with a certain awe at the profound aptness of it all, the phenomenon of man that so obsessed Teilhard is said to have had its mysterious beginnings more than a million years ago.
In an age of strife, class conflict, disintegration, dark forebodings and the ever present danger of nuclear war, the appeal of Teilhard de Chardin derives mainly, it would seem, from the boundless optimism of the man and all his works. To begin with, evolution to him was not a process of blind chance leading, inevitably, to that solar doomsday billions of years from now when all energy will have been expended, the hydrogen atoms of the sun will have been consumed and the sun itself will have expired into a cold cinder. This, as Teilhard himself was well aware, is what science says is the fate of our world. “I believe in science,” he wrote, “but up to now has science ever troubled to look at the world except from without?” Since evolution was a process planned by God, He must have provided, according to Teilhard, a kind of energy that transcended the laws of thermodynamics and would prevent “universal decay.” This “radial” or spiritual energy, which acted on the “Inside of Things,” or consciousness, he went on, is capable of producing higher forms of life ad infinitum, thus reversing the spiraling descent, as of a spent rocket, of the world into a cold, immobile darkness.
With this energy, the universe is constantly ascending, so to speak, striving to perfect itself. The stages of evolution, from the pre-life of atoms and molecules to life in plants and animals, to consciousness and thought in man, attest to this irresistible thrust toward perfection. And evolution does not end with man as he is today, the complex creature that moved Hamlet to both rhapsodic praise and ironic dismay: beyond present life and consciousness lies hyper-life, the threshold of which, Teilhard believed, 20th-century man has just entered: “Something is happening to human consciousness. It is another species of life that is just beginning.” The chief attribute of this new species is thought, and thought has generated around the earth a new layer which Teilhard called the “noosphere” (from the Greek term for mind: noos), a layer as real and recognizable to him as the hydrosphere, of water, and the atmosphere, of air. As if anticipating that other prophet of modern communications, Marshall MacLuhan, he wrote of “the earth not only covered by myriads of grains of thought but becoming enclosed in a single thinking envelope so as to form, functionally, no more than a single vast grain of thought….” Enclosed in this “thinking envelope,” the noosphere, men are destined to be united: “on a round planet they keep meeting, they intermarry, they interbreed—communication is inevitable.” As social progress brings about an intensification of the noosphere, men will in time arrive at the culminating synthesis of evolution, borne there by a unique quality of “radial” energy, the love of the “cosmic Christ.” United in and by this love to form a kind of universal mind, the human race will then be united with the Omega point: God: the final end of evolution and of the world.
Teilhard coined another word, “noogenesis,” for the movement that would take the human race to the point of final convergence. “Noogenesis rises upwards in us and through us unceasingly,” he wrote in the concluding chapter of The Phenomenon of Man. “We have pointed to the principal characteristics of that movement: the closer association of the grains of thought; the synthesis of individuals and of nations or races; the need of an autonomous and supreme personal focus to bind elementary personalities together, without deforming them, in an atmosphere of active sympathy. And, once again: all this results from the combined action of two curvatures—the roundness of the earth and the cosmic convergence of mind—in conformity with the law of complexity and consciousness.
“Now when sufficient elements have sufficiently gathered together, this essentially convergent movement will attain such intensity and such quality that mankind, taken as a whole, will be obliged—as happened to the individual forces of instinct—to reflect upon itself at a single point; that is to say, in this case, to abandon its organo-planetary foothold so as to shift its center on to the transcendent center of its increasing concentration. This will be the end of the fulfillment of the spirit of the earth.
“The end of the world: the wholesale internal introversion upon itself of the noosphere…detaching the mind, fulfilled at last, from its material matrix, so that it will henceforth rest with all its weight on God-Omega.”
As “our planet approaches the final stage of maturity,” Teilhard prophesied, “evil…will be reduced to a minimum. Disease and hunger will be conquered by science and we will no longer need to fear them in any acute form. And, conquered by the sense of the earth and human sense, hatred and internecine struggles will have disappeared in the ever-warmer radiance of Omega. Some sort of unanimity will reign over the entire mass of the noosphere. The final convergence will take place in peace….”
In the book’s epilogue, he wrote with lyrical confidence: “Christianity is the unique current of thought, on the entire surface of the noosphere, which is sufficiently audacious and sufficiently progressive to lay hold of the world…in an embrace, at once already complete, yet capable of indefinite perfection, where faith and hope reach their fulfillment in love. Alone, unconditionally alone in the world today, Christianity shows itself able to reconcile, in a single living act, the All and the Person. Alone, it can bend our hearts not only to the service of that tremendous movement of the world which bears us along, but beyond, to embrace that movement in love….
“The palpable influence on our world of another and supreme Someone….Is not the Christian phenomenon, which rises upwards at the heart of the social phenomenon, precisely that?
“In the presence of such perfection in coincidence, even if I were not a Christian but only a man of science, I think I would ask myself this question.”
Because his triumphant vision little stressed such doctrines as original sin and divine grace, orthodox theologians are quick to detect the odor of heresy in his works. Fr. Jean Danielou, a renowned Jesuit in his own right, and one of the theological experts who served at the Vatican Council, observes that a man should base his life on the hope of individual salvation rather than on the certainty of an evolutionary movement carrying humanity to absolute perfection in the remote future. The agnostic Julian Huxley, who wrote the introduction to the English translation of The Phenomenon of Man, voices the viewpoint of fellow scientists when he asserts that he finds it “impossible to follow [Teilhard] all the way in his gallant attempt to reconcile the supernatural elements of Christianity with the facts and implications of evolution.” Huxley points to certain possible shortcomings: “The biologist may perhaps consider that in The Phenomenon of Man he paid insufficient attention to genetics and the possibilities and limitations of natural selection…the social scientist that he failed to take sufficient account of the facts of political and social history.” Other critics have attacked him for his “sheer mysticism” and his faith in human progress and the certainty of universal survival in the face of the Bomb. Perhaps it was to detractors who would question his optimism that Teilhard addressed these words, in a letter to a friend:
“I do not see man as a static center of the world, but as the axis and leading shaft of evolution, which is something far finer, because in you and me, through matter, the whole history of the world is in part reflected. The trouble, as I keep emphasizing, is that we don’t look far enough. It’s the old problem of seeing. We are continually inclined to isolate ourselves from the things and events that surround us, as though we were spectators, looking at them from the outside, not elements in what is going on.
“If I say the word history, your mind probably races back six thousand years. That’s the most—and that’s because you are thinking of history in terms of dates and recorded events. But when you see history in its proper perspective, it’s far longer. In the history of the world’s evolution 30,000 years are like a flash. I have concentrated so much on the past, on the earliest phases of the universe before even man existed, because I believe it helps to give us surprising visions of the future. Man is no more static than the world, for he, too, like the world is evolving all the time.
“In the books which I read as a boy, man was presented to me as an erratic object in a disjointed world, a conscious being standing like an actor before an unconscious backcloth. This is where as a scientist I feel bound to make a protest.
“I am optimistic about man—and I am not forgetting the bombs that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Let me say why. Nothing on earth will ever saturate our desire for knowledge, so that as we advance toward a human era of science, so we shall find it will be eminently an era of human science. You will have the paradox where man, the knowing subject, will perceive at last that man, the object of knowledge, is the key to the whole science of nature. In short, man is the solution of everything that we can know. To decipher man is to try and find out how our world was made and how it ought to go on making itself….”
And on another occasion, he wrote on his favorite theme:
“As soon as the universe admits thought within itself, it can no longer be merely temporary nor can there be limits to its evolution. It must, from its very structure, progress into the absolute. Hence, whatever appearance of instability we may find in life, and however impressed we may be by its strict attachment to the spatial dimensions that delimit it and the forces that disintegrate it, one thing above all is certain (because it is as certain as the world itself): namely, that Spirit always will, as it always has, make sport of every sort of determinism and chance. It represents the indestructible portion of the universe.”
The worship of the durable, the indestructible, seemed to have always been a dominant quality of his temperament. As a boy in the tiny mountain village of Sarcenat, in the French province of Auvergne, “he looked always for durability in his possessions and was not greatly attracted by the frail coloring of butterflies or the evanescent beauty of flowers,” writes Fr. Pierre Leroy, who worked with Teilhard in China, in an introductory essay to The Divine Milieu. He collected commonplace objects which he called his “idols”: a little metal rod, a plow-spanner, nails, shell casings. “I withdrew into the contemplation of my ‘God of Iron,’” he was to reveal later. “Why iron? Because in my childish experience nothing was harder, tougher, more durable than this wonderful substance. There was about it a feeling of full personality, sharply individualized.” But iron, the boy soon realized with despair, could be consumed by rust: “I had to look elsewhere for substitutes that would console me. Sometimes in the blue flame (at once so material, and yet so pure and intangible) flickering over the logs in the hearth, but more often in a more transluscent and more delightfully colored stone: quartz or amethyst crystals, and most of all glittering fragments of chalcedony such as I could pick up in the neighborhood.” He and his father, who “demanded of his eleven children active cooperation in a disciplined family life,” went on long walks in the countryside gathering specimens of rocks and minerals. This early concern with the durable and the sense of spirit pervading matter were to shape his vocation as a priest and scientist.
At 18 Pierre Teilhard entered the Jesuit novitiate at Aix-en-Provence. Three years later, in 1902, he embarked on the first of the many journeys of his life: the religious orders were expelled from France by the anticlerical government, and he and his fellow-scholastics found refuge on the English island of Jersey. When not immersed in his philosophical studies, he went on scientific excursions around the rocky island, armed with a geologist’s hammer and a naturalist’s magnifying glass. In 1905 he was sent to teach physics and chemistry at the Jesuits’ Holy Family College in Cairo, where he endeavored “to deepen and extend his still imperfect knowledge of geology and paleontology.” Egypt’s strangeness, “nature in its richness and diversity,” exerted on him a strong fascination, and perhaps part of it was already the call of Asia: “The East flowed over me in a wave of exoticism; I gazed at it and drank it in eagerly—the country itself, not its peoples or its history (which as yet held no interest for me) but its light, its vegetation, its fauna and its deserts.” At the same time, as if to suggest that henceforth his preoccupations would be not merely with what he called “the cosmic in the solid state,” he was filled with “a sense of fulfillment, ease and of being at home” by the “world of electrons, nuclei and waves,” which he studied and taught. “There was the dawning attraction of the nature of plants and animals; and, underlying everything, one day there came my initiation into the less tangible (but how exciting!) grandeur brought to light by the researches of physics. On both sides I saw matter, life and energy: the three pillars on which my inner vision and happiness rested.” The physics of atomic structure prompted in him the thought that “to escape the inexorable fragility of the manifold,” one might “take refuge beneath it….Thus we may gain the world by renouncing it, by passively losing self in the heart of what has neither form nor dimension.” But he was too much of a Christian dedicated to action, notes Fr. Leroy, to succumb to the “eastern” solution: not for him the attraction of losing one’s identity in a vague impersonal universe. Shortly after, in England where he was sent for the last stages of his Jesuit training, he realized more than ever the “oneness, solidity and intensity” of the universe: “at sunset in particular…the Sussex woods seemed to be charged with all the ‘fossil’ life that I was then looking for, from cliffs to quarries, and in the clays of the Weald. Sometimes it seemed to me as though suddenly some sort of universal being was about to take on shape in nature before my very eyes.”
The Jesuits had returned to France, and he was by then an ordained priest and attached to the paleontological laboratory of the Paris Museum of Natural History when World War I broke out. He served as a stretcher-bearer in a Moroccan regiment. The horrors of war could not diminish his Christian faith and mystical ardor. After days of carnage at the front, he wrote to a cousin, Claude Aragonnes: “I’m glad to have been at Ypres. I hope I shall have emerged more of a man and more of a priest. And more than ever I believe that life is beautiful, in the grimmest circumstances—when you can see God, ever-present, in them.” The firing line was not simply “the exposed area corroded by the conflict of nations, but the ‘front of the wave’ carrying the world of man toward its new destiny. When you look at it during the night, lit up by flares, after a day of more than usual activity, you seem to feel that you’re at the final boundary between what has already been achieved and what is struggling to emerge.” A Christian who saw God even in the midst of forces that denied Him, he also proved himself a man of superlative courage. For valor he was awarded the Military Medal and made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. He volunteered often to serve in the forward trenches, and retrieved the bodies of fallen comrades “on ground torn by shellfire and swept by machine guns.” A fellow soldier asked him how he managed to keep so calm in battle; he replied with a smile: “If I’m killed, I shall change my state, that’s all.” He would remark later that the reality he found as a stretcher-bearer would be with him forever “in the great task of understanding creation and how it must become more and more sanctified.”
At war’s end, Fr. Teilhard returned to his scientific studies, earned his doctorate at the Sorbonne, was appointed professor of geology at the Catholic Institute in Paris. The novelty and daring of his lectures began to arouse an enthusiastic following, to the dismay of his superiors, who were only too glad to grant him permission to leave Paris and join a paleontological expedition to China sponsored by the Museum of Natural History and directed by another Jesuit, Fr. Emile Licent. At the start of what he called his “Asia Adventure,” the major goals of his life, says Julian Huxley, were clearly indicated. “Professionally, he had decided to embark on a geological career, with special emphasis on paleontology. As a thinker, he had reached a point where the entire phenomenal universe, including man, was revealed as a process of evolution, and he found himself impelled to build up a generalized theory or philosophy of evolutionary process which would take account of human history and human personality as well as of biology, and from which one could draw conclusions as to the future evolution of man on earth. And as a dedicated priest he felt it imperative to try to reconcile Christian theology with this evolutionary philosophy, to relate the facts of religious experience to those of natural science.”
A sea voyage from Marseilles took him to Tientsin, the northern Chinese port not far from Peking, in 1923, and in a China “more unsettled than ever,” he spent a whole year absorbed in the discovery and study of fossil deposits, in the process “consolidating his dangerous thoughts.” That such thoughts served only to confirm his convictions as a priest rather than weaken them is a measure of the depths of his unique vision: it was during this period, in the remoteness of the abandoned hills and canyons of the Ordos Desert of Mongolia, that he composed his poetic masterpiece, The Mass upon the Altar of the World:
“Since, once again, Lord—though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia—I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.
“One by one, Lord, I see and love all these whom you have given me to sustain and charm my life…those who surround me and support me though I do not know them; those who come and those who go; above all, those who in office, laboratory and factory, through their vision of truth or despite their error, believe in the progress of earthly reality and who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light….
“Christ of glory, hidden power stirring in the heart of matter, glowing center in which the unnumbered strands of the manifold are knit together; strength inexorable as the world and warm as life; you whose brow is of snow, whose eyes are of fire, whose feet are more dazzling than gold poured form the furnace; you whose hands hold captive the stars; you, the first and the last, the living, the dead, the reborn; you who gather up in your superabundant oneness every delight, every taste, every energy, every phase of existence, to you my being cries out with a longing as vast as the universe: for you indeed are my Lord and my God.”
He returned to France, only to find himself barred from teaching: his Jesuit superiors had come upon the two closely written pages on which he had set down for a young colleague his views on original sin, which he tended to regard not as a historical fact but as a mere theory to account for the existence of evil. He was ordered to limit his endeavors to scientific research abroad, and ever the obedient Jesuit, “deeply wounded but submissive,” in the words of his friend Fr. Licent, often depressed but bearing with patience “trials that might well have proved too much for the strongest of us,” hiding his suffering and abandoning himself to “Christ as the only purpose of his being,” he returned to China, where he was to live and work, with brief visits to France and the United States, and expeditions to Africa, India, Burma and Java, for more than twenty years. As scientific adviser to the Geological Survey of China, he collaborated with outstanding paleontologists of various nations and beliefs, made important contributions to the knowledge of paleolithic cultures in China and neighboring areas, and played a major role in the discovery of the 300,000-year-old skull of Peking Man, Sinanthropus, one of the great anthropological finds of the century.
Glimpsing into the life of the Jesuit explorer during this period Claude Aragonnes give us in her preface to Teilhard’s Letters from a Traveller: “Field work always had an enormous attraction for him. Although he had to spend so much time in the laboratory, he was essentially a scientist of the open air, and to touch Mother Earth—as in the Greek myth—made him feel younger….He was always ready to go anywhere….
“He was often a pioneer in uncharted regions. Teilhard the naturalist, geologist and paleontologist had to become an expert in topography, zoology, botany and ethnography. As he journeyed he studied the different races he encountered, their mentality, habits and culture. And this over vast territories. The China which he traversed in every direction from 1923 to 1940 was still the old immemorial China in which long caravans made their way along mere tracks, the China in which road and rail were still almost unknown—the Mongolian and Gobi deserts, the banks of the Hwang-Ho and the Yangtze, the lost corners of Honan and Shansi…it was no small thing to lead expeditions into those lost regions. First, a caravan had to be formed, mules to carry the finds, sometimes a military escort as a security measure. For transport—sometimes a two-wheeled cart, more often a horse or a mule. For shelter…a tent at the mercy of desert winds. Extremes of heat had to be reckoned with—extreme cold, extreme heat, snowstorms or sandstorms, or sudden floods threatening both travelers and their baggage….For months on end there was the complete solitude of slow monotonous days traveling across grey immensities, in which only the play of light on the bare horizon could engage the eye….
“When he emerged from the interior and arrived at Peking, Pierre Teilhard found a totally different China, a China brimming with intellectual and political ferment and an intelligentsia avid for knowledge and emancipation. This China welcomed scientific research and hence foreign scientists—Americans, Swedes, Danes, Germans. The value of Pierre Teilhard’s specialist collaboration was immediately recognized….Convinced that the internationalism of science was to be one of the mind’s greatest achievements, he served as a link between the cosmopolitan elements which made up Peking society between the two wars. He had many friends in the legations and the embassies….
“Ceaseless travel meant continual meetings. One day Pierre Teilhard came across a friend in some remote corner of the globe. He greeted him so warmly that the other expressed mild surprise. ‘Why am I so happy?’ said the traveler. ‘Why, because the earth is round!’”
It was at friendly gatherings in the Peking of the 1930s, according to Fr. Licent, that one saw the “real” Teilhard: “his mere presence brought an assurance of optimism and confidence. He had, too, that sort of mind that needs to retain and even multiply its contacts with the world outside…he had to discuss his way of seeing things with other people.
“Not that his conversation was always serious or pitched on a high level. He was often, on the contrary, lively and gay; he appreciated good cooking and a good story….He had a fine sense of humor: his face would light up like a child’s at a good joke; and if sometimes he could not resist an inviting target for his sly wit—after all, on his mother’s side the blood of Voltaire flowed in his veins—it was done with such unaffected good humor that no one could take it in bad part. It was one of his outstanding characteristics that he never gave way to bitterness, not even when decisions were taken that prevented the dissemination of his ideas….”
During all this time he was writing his books and his essays: the prohibition to publish he could accept, but nothing could stop him from writing. “If I ceased to write,” he said, “I would be a traitor.” The Phenomenon of Man was completed in Peking, in 1940. Rome would not relax its ban on the publication of his controversial manuscripts, and on his return to France after the last world war, in 1946, although elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, he was forbidden from accepting any academic post. But convinced by a sympathetic Jesuit, Fr. Raymond Jouve, that the vow of poverty did not cover manuscripts, he appointed a literary executor who would take charge of publication outside his order, after his death.
From South Africa in 1951, where he was on an expedition for the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research based in New York, he wrote to the General of the Jesuits in Rome, the Very Rev. John Janssens, explaining, “with the frankness that is one of the Society’s most precious assets,” why he believed there was no contradiction between his loyalty as a son of the Church and his faith as a scientist: “I feel that you might resign yourself to taking me as I am, that is, with the congenital quality (or weakness) which ever since my childhood has caused my spiritual life to be completely dominated by a sort of profound ‘feeling’ for the organic realness of the World. At first it was an ill-defined feeling in my mind and heart, but as the years went by it gradually became a precise, compelling sense of the Universe’s general convergence upon itself; a convergence which coincides with, and culminates at its zenith in, Him in whom all have their being, and whom the Society has taught me to love.
“In the consciousness of this progression and synthesis of all things in Christ, I have found an extraordinarily rich and inexhaustible source of clarity and interior strength, and an atmosphere outside which it is now impossible for me to breathe, to worship, to believe. What might have been taken in my attitude during the last thirty years for obstinacy or disrespect is simply the result of my absolute inability to contain my own feelings of wonderment. Everything stems from that basic condition, and I can no more change it than I can change my age or the color of my eyes…the immediate effect of the interior attitude I have just described is to rivet me ever more firmly to three convictions which are the very marrow of Christianity.
“The unique significance of Man as the spearhead of Life; the position of Christianity as the central axis in the convergent bundle of human activities; and finally the essential function as consummator assumed by the risen Christ as the center and peak of Creation: these three elements have driven (and continue to drive) roots so deep and so entangled in the whole fabric of my intellectual and religious perception that I could now tear them out only at the cost of destroying everything.
“I can truly say—and this in virtue of the whole structure of my thought—that I now feel more indissolubly bound to the hierarchical Church and the Christ of the Gospel than ever before in my life. Never has Christ seemed to me more personal or more immense.
“How, then, can I believe that there is any evil in the road that I am following?
“I fully recognize, of course, that Rome may have its reasons for judging that, in its present form, my concept of Christianity may be premature or incomplete and that at the present moment its wider diffusion may therefore be inopportune.
“It is on this important point of formal loyalty and obedience that I am particularly anxious to assure you that, in spite of apparent evidence to the contrary, I am resolved to remain a ‘child of obedience.’
“Obviously I cannot abandon my own personal search—and that would involve me in an interior catastrophe and in disloyalty to my most cherished vocation…the Wenner-Gren Foundation which sent me here is already asking me to prolong my stay in America as long as I can: they want me to classify and develop the data obtained from my work in Africa. All this allows me a breathing spell and gives a purely scientific orientation to the end of my career—and of my life.
“This letter is simply an exposition of conscience and calls for no answer from you. Look on it simply as proof that you can count on me unreservedly to work for the kingdom of God, which is the one thing I keep before my eyes and the one goal to which science leads me.”
He spent the last years of his life peacefully resigned, it seemed, to his fate. He continued to write: The Convergence of the Universe, Vision of the Past, The God of Evolution, The Appearance of Man, Le Christique. He read the monographs of Julian Huxley, and the novels of the other Huxley, Aldous, and of Graham Greene, also a Catholic with a penchant for the unorthodox. His letters to friends were serene as always, with a radiant fidelity to his hopes for mankind. He spent long hours in the laboratory, as he had done in all the stations of his exile; his days were devoted to work and prayer. Each morning he celebrated his private Mass. In an order famed for its discipline as much as for its achievements, he was an exceptional follower of Ignatius. The older Jesuits are dispensed from the custom of a monthly spiritual consultation with their superiors—but Teilhard, said Fr. Robert Gannon, former rector of New York’s St. Ignatius Loyola parish, “busy as he was, and living in rooms outside the parish,” would come to him every month “as humbly as the youngest novice.”
He often prayed, by his own account, for more than “a good death.” He asked to be granted “something still more precious than the grace for which all the faithful pray. It is not enough that I should die while communicating. Teach me to communicate while dying.”
It is perhaps in answer to Pierre Teilhard’s prayer that the world has not been deprived of the body of his work. He would speak still, communicate his vision, though his own body be returned to dust; the endurance of his thought speaks well of the faith he served so well to the last. At the heart of that faith shines the same hope that another seer and champion of Christ, the apostle Paul, uttered centuries ago: that someday “God shall be in all”: that despite all hardship, all pain and tribulation; despite hatred, strife and error, and all manner of cataclysm, ruin, disaster and evil, wars and rumors of war, the ultimate destiny of the human race will be a converge in unity, love and peace. The human soul, said Tertullian, one of the early Fathers of the Church, is naturally Christian. In our time, with its ovens for genocide, its napalm and hydrogen bombs, when not just nations but the entire planet and its future are imperiled, is not any optimism about the development of mankind in peace and love naturally, inescapably Christian? Saintly priest, revolutionary prophet, brilliant scientist, “the Aquinas of modern thought,” “a new Galileo,” “one of the greatest minds of the century”—all these Teilhard de Chardin has been called; but perhaps his greatest distinction was that, heart, mind and soul, he was simply yet astonishingly and magnificently a Christian optimist.
The Week the Free Press Said Goodbye
By Gregorio C. Brillantes
The January 3, 1942, issue marked the end of a world, the close of an era: never again would the country recapture the peace and the relative innocence of the 1930s, and the war would spawn changes more enduring than physical ruins.
December 12, 1964—ACROSS the bay, in the late afternoon sun, a black cloud hung over Manila: smoke from burning oil dumps in Pandacan. The crowd gathered about the wooden platform erected near the mouth of Malinta Tunnel could hear the explosions rolling across the graying water from Cavite and Nielson Field, as demolition squads, the tail end of a retreating army, set fire to ammunition stores that could not be transported to Bataan. There were about a hundred and fifty of them gathered about the platform, soldiers and marines and a few civilian officials, a quiet, subdued group, without the easy bravado that they wore so well in the earlier days of that disastrous month, their eyes straying from the ceremony before them to watch for the approach of bombers. For now the skies belonged to the enemy, and so did a large portion of the land.
But the words they heard as the day dimmed across the country spoke of hope, pride, courage, and, incongruous as it might have seemed then, of victory. It was the second inaugural of President Quezon and Vice-President Osmeña, who had swept the elections that previous November. There were no cheering throngs, as in 1935; no parades except for ragged processions of USAFFE troops withdrawing into Bataan; and in the place of brass bands, an American nurse played a faltering “Hail to the Chief” on an accordion. Quezon and Osmeña were inducted into office by Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, there was a ripple of applause, and then the President began to speak, haggard in his wheelchair but his voice strong and youthful with the old eloquence.
It was Tuesday, December 30, 1941—and it is a measure of how far the nation has traveled since then that the words should reach us now with a hollow, ancient, stilted echo, the faith they expressed remote and almost unrecognizable.
“At the present time we have but one task—fight with America for America and the Philippines,” Quezon said. “Ours is a great cause. We are fighting for human liberty and justice, for those principles of individual freedom which we all cherish and without which life would not be worth living….The war may be long-drawn and hard-fought, but with the determination of freedom-loving people everywhere to stamp out the rule of violence and terrorism from the face of the earth, I am absolutely convinced that final and complete victory will be ours.” He had been feeling dejected for days; the rumored convoy from San Francisco had failed to arrive, and he was considering, it was later said, some sort of accommodation with Japan that might take the Philippines out of the war. But he had reason that afternoon for optimism: he had just received from President Roosevelt a radiogram assuring the Filipino people that “their freedom will be redeemed, and their independence established and protected” and that the “entire resources of the United States stand behind that pledge.”
Quezon read Roosevelt’s message to his Corregidor audience, adding: “My heart, and I know, the hearts of all Americans and Filipinos in this country are filled with gratitude for the reassuring words of the President of the United States. My answer, our answer to him, is that every man, woman and child in the Philippines will do his duty. No matter what sufferings this war may impose upon us, we shall stand by America with undaunted spirit, for we know that upon the outcome of this war depend the happiness, liberty and security not only of this generation, but of the generations yet unborn….” Replying, US High Commissioner Frances B. Sayre expressed “America’s gratitude and pride for the loyalty, devotion, the gallantry, with which the Filipino people have entered this great struggle by America’s side.” General MacArthur’s brief remarks brought the ceremony to a close: “For 400 years the Philippines has struggled toward self-government. On the threshold of independence came the great hour of decision. There was no hesitation, no moment of doubt. The whole country followed its great leader in choosing the side of freedom against the side of slavery….This basic and fundamental issue will be fought through to victory….”
At the command post of Brig. Gen. Albert Jones in Plaridel, Bulacan, the men had neither the time nor the inclination for such lofty rhetoric. Officers chain-smoked over maps; dispatch riders came and went on motorcycles; truck convoys rumbled by in a storm of dust, headed south for Calumpit. Formerly commander of the Southern Luzon Force, Jones had been ordered north of Manila to delay Homma’s advance across the central plains and cover the last stages of the USAFFE withdrawal over the Calumpit Bridge.
Earlier in the day, a Japanese tank-infantry force had reached Baliuag, some five miles north of Jones’s command post. As a result of some mix-up in command, Wainwright’s 71st division, which was supposed to hold the town, had retreated to Bataan. Jones knew he had to push the Japanese back from Baliuag, to keep Calumpit Bridge open at least until New Year’s Eve and save the general withdrawal from total disaster. For the crucial job he had only ten tanks and half-a-dozen 75 mm. self-propelled guns.
After a covering barrage the tanks, commanded by Lt. Col. William Gentry, smashed into Baliuag and knocked out eight of their armored adversaries. As Gentry pulled out of the burning town, the 75’s again opened up, routing what remained of the Japanese force. The successful counterthrust gave Jones the respite he needed; a deadline, on which depended thousands of lives, would be met; and the bridge at Calumpit would not be blown up until after 5:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, when, with the last of his rear guard, he crossed the Pampanga River and headed west for Bataan.
In Manila, in a building facing Mori’s Bicycle Store on Rizal Avenue, on the day of the inaugural rites on Corregidor and the tank battle in Bulacan, another group of men were also engaged in a concerted effort to beat a deadline, to finish a job before the enemy arrived.
On the third floor of the Free Press building—the editorial offices of the magazine since 1922 and its third home since 1908—Mr. Dick’s staffers were working with a sort of controlled frenzy on the last sections of the FP’s “Farewell Issue.” Outside the sun shone palely through the smoke rising from the piers, and on the Avenida, only an occasional streetcar passed, or a gang of looters, or a truck loaded with evacuees; and in the office there was the sense of an entire world ending, the knowledge that the Japanese were not far from the city, but also there was the conviction somehow that help from America was on the way: America had lost the first round but it was the next one that counted, and the war would soon be over, in three months at the most. Meanwhile, Mr. Dick spoke uneasily of what had happened in Nanking, T.M. Locsin was worried about the safety of his treasured books, and Filemon Tutay announced that he had hidden a revolver—“just in case”—in a sack of rice. Was it true that fifth-columnists had poisoned the water supply? Was it safer to stay in Manila than in the provinces? No one, it seemed, knew the right answers; the present was a dreadful question mark, but by next summer, almost everyone felt sure, they would be back at their desks.
The Japanese took over the Free Press building as enemy property, confiscated magazine files and carted away most of the office equipment; liberation, ironically, destroyed what the Japanese spared, reducing the building to a gutted hulk. Mr. Dick spent the war years as an internee, first in Fort Santiago and later in a hospital. During the first months of the occupation, Mr. Dick’s men used to meet at office manager Floro A. Santos’s home in San Juan; but the group broke up finally as the war dragged on and each man went his own way: one worked as a bartender, another drew portraits for a living, a number joined the resistance. The Free Press was not to resume publication until February 23, 1946; but scarcely anyone on the staff during those last days of 1941 doubted that the Free Press would be back in the streets before the end of the coming year.
The Free Press printed only about 15,000 copies of its 24-page “Farewell Issue” for distribution in Manila. Dated Saturday, January 3, 1942, the magazine was being sold in the streets on the afternoon of Thursday, New Year’s Day, even as the Japanese entered the city from the north and south. One of those who bought copies was F.L. Pimentel, who lived then in Pasay City. For the last 22 years Pimentel kept his copy, but recently decided to “donate it to the Free Press.” In a letter to the FP editor, Pimentel recalls that he “bought it from a newsboy at the intersection of Taft Avenue and San Andres Street early on the morning of January 2nd. I rushed back to my house on Taft Ave. Extension, afraid that the Japs, who were said to be in Baclaran already, might catch me with it….I have since moved my residence a number of times—from Pasay to Sta. Cruz, Manila, then to San Miguel and later to Sta. Ana and finally to San Miguel Village, in Makati; but I brought my copy of the “Farewell Issue” with me wherever I moved. During the war and in the years since then, I have lost valuable things, but not this issue of the Free Press. I just can’t throw it away, after keeping it for so long….”
Pimentel’s copy looks its age: faded, torn in places, stained by decay, and half of the back cover missing, but otherwise intact, legible, a repository, as it were, of the heartbreaking gallantry, the pride and glory and also the fear and the chilling uncertainty of that distant time. The issue marked the end of a world, the close of an era: never again would the country recapture the peace and the relative innocence of the 1930s, and the war would spawn changes more enduring than physical ruins. To read it now is to marvel at those changes of spirit and attitude, sentiment and feeling the nation has undergone since 1941—more than half a century ago, more than enough time for two generations to be born and grow into adulthood and learn of that period of history only from books and old newsreels, as strange and unreal now in the age of the supersonic jet and the space-shuttle countdown as Verdun and the Treaty of Versailles must have been to the youth who went to war the year the Free Press said goodbye. How easy it seems today under the new nationalism to scoff at the brave slogans of those days; to pretend, even, that they never were, and that we had always been masters of our destiny—a comforting illusion but a denial of history. A nation builds on its memories, grows up and away from them; and whatever we have lost or gained as a people must be measured against what we once were.
The “Farewell Issue” of the Free Press carried on the inside front cover, under the legend “help is surely coming,” this message from the High Commissioner’s Office:
“This is the time when the courage of all the people of these islands, whatever their nationality, is being put to test. We are being afforded a rare opportunity to show stuff of which we are made.
“Anyone who has been in Manila since the outbreak of the war must be convinced that we can take it as well as the people of London, of Moscow, or of Chungking. We have all been thrilled as we read of the valor of the troops that are defending us. Let us continue to show the same courage as the boys at the front….
“Help is surely coming—help of such adequacy and power that the invader will be driven from our midst, and he will be rendered powerless ever to threaten us again. Obviously we are all hungry for news but details cannot be disclosed. It is part of our duty not to demand details, but to have an abiding faith that help is on its way….”
The editorial cartoon on the first page, entitled “Heroes All,” showed Uncle Sam telling an American soldier and his Filipino comrade-in-arms, “Boys, America is proud of you!” The text was unabashedly inspirational. “To the thousands and tens of thousands of Filipinos and Americans out there on the front lines America takes off its hat. America is thrilled by their gallant defense, by their heroic stand against tremendous odds, by their stirring feats of valor.
“Here in Manila we may think we are suffering or have been suffering, but we know nothing of the thirst, the hunger, the utter exhaustion, the weariness unto death of the men out there at the front….Stories innumerable of their fearlessness, their fortitude are pouring into Manila. No sacrifice seems too great for them, there is no hazard that they will not dare.
“Among all of them—the Filipinos—there is the consciousness that they are fighting for their homes, their loved ones, their native land. For them they are ready to lay down their lives, and gladly.
“Lacking such inspiration, the Americans, as the world everywhere has come to expect of them, fight not one whit less courageously. Over them flies their beloved flag, proud symbol of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ and they think of what the folks back home are saying of them.
“No wonder America, yes, and free men everywhere, are thrilled. For these our men, Filipinos and Americans, Americans and Filipinos, out there in the bloody field are writing a dateless page not only in the Philippines but in world history. Heroes All.”
The Free Press reprinted the cartoon editorial in its first issue after the war.
The next seven pages traced the daily progress of the war, from Monday, December 23, when “a huge enemy fleet estimated at 80 transports” was sighted off Lingayen Gulf, to Sunday, December 29, when “Manila was again bombed by Japanese planes and once more, the ships lying in the Pasig River, still there despite the fact that they drew Japanese fire yesterday, were largely responsible for attacks on the open city.
“Beginning at about 11:45 a.m., Japanese bombers carried out an unceasing attack along the Pasig River, with most of the bombs falling on civilian property. The raid lasted until approximately 1:10 p.m. casualties were light since most of Intramuros had been evacuated. However, the bombers inflicted heavy damage. Letran College and the dmhm plant burned down. The Intendencia building was again on fire. Most of the buildings near Letran College and Santo Domingo Church were wiped out by fire. The Naric [warehouse] on the south side of the Pasig went up in flames….”
According to Usaffe headquarters, “the fighting was desultory in the north but very heavy in the south.” The Japanese had reinforced their troops in the north as well as in the Atimonan area, and “continued to advance slowly.” There was “heavy enemy air activity” throughout the country. The British were retreating in Hong Kong and Malaya, but were on the offensive in Libya; the Nazis were suffering “serious reverses” in Russia. In Washington “as well as throughout the [United States], people were horrified by the continued bombing of Manila—an open city.”
The last Usaffe communiqué received and printed by the Free Press was issued at 8:03 a.m. of New Year’s Day: “In order to prevent the enemy’s infiltration from the east from separating our northern and southern forces, the Southern Luzon Force for several days has been moving north and has now successfully completed junction with the North Luzon Force.
“This movement will uncover the free city of Manila which, because of the previous evacuation of our forces, has no longer any practical military value. The entrance to Manila Bay is completely covered by our forces, and its use is hereby denied the enemy.”
The regular editorial page urged President Quezon “to take a day or two off and visit the firing line and sit down with the boys, those young heroes who are fighting like lions…..What an electrifying effect such a visit would have! For days the boys would be talking about it. How they would be nerved to greater feats, to still greater heroism!” Another editorial stressed that the government “keep the people informed of the war situation” to offset the “insidious work of fifth-columnists who are spreading rumors of the wildest nature to terrify and demoralize the populace.” A third editorial noted that “the most encouraging sign in the heroic struggle being waged today is the eagerness of the boys who have been relieved from the front for a day or two, many of them with wounds, to go back to the fighting.” The same page carried a reprint of an editorial from the December 31 issue of the Philippine Herald:
“Japan is racing with time. That is why she has tried to employ Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics in the campaign against Hawaii, Midway, Wake, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaya, hoping thereby to get a firm hold in these regions before American help arrives….
“Our job in the Philippines therefore is to hold the enemy until help from America reaches us. We have held our lines for 23 days, and gained that much time for America to recognize her power for a telling blow against the enemy….”
Staff writer Locsin wrote his impressions of that final week, with a kind of philosophical detachment: “The war has blacked out everything in our lives but a few essentials—books as in my case, the instruments of my craft. A man has few needs, really. Peace multiplies them and gives the superfluous the urgency of the necessary. We confuse indulgence with need. The war leaves man with only the bare wish to survive with honor, the obligation to do one’s work as well as ever, without deterioration, and a new humility….
“The war reveals the parasite, the nonessential man self-confessed. He who does not produce is regarded, with suddenly clear eyes, as an enemy. In peacetime he occupies an honorable position, being then only a thief who is allowed to live on what his neighbors make.
“The war leaves only human values and human worth. It either shows a man or shows him up. Out of this new revelation may yet come a new society—a true society—a society of men.”
The Japanese bombed the city on December 24: “I was in the Wilson building and I had a ringside seat. We saw the bombers—there were nine of them, in perfect formation—gleaming in the sun….There were three strong explosions and the building shook. I crouched against a wall, changed my mind and ran to the window. I saw the bombs flower—as young Mussolini so prettily put it—in Port Area….
On December 28, “the city authorities lifted the blackout order. The city is now open night and day. The people may keep their lights shining. Few did.
“I have just gone out of the house for a breath of fresh air. I saw two or three lighted windows. The rest along the street were dark. Intramuros, however, burning on my left, made up for them.
“The city is lighted up, all right.
“Seven days a week. Three weeks now. Twenty-one days. More coming up!”
An unsigned article, illustrated with a pen-and-ink portrait of fighter pilot Jesus Villamor, paid tribute to “those who fight in the air.” They introduced a new element into the “mechanical, collective murder that is modern war…the personal element of individual skill and initiative….And when they died, they died—not as their comrades on the ground did, in the mud, but amid the stars….
“What do these men of the air, men such as Capt. Jesus Villamor, take with them when they go up, usually outnumbered, to meet the enemy? One likes to think that they take with them the loftiest sentiments of which they, with their unclipped wings, are such stirring symbols. And certainly, in the lull between battles, they must think often and long of the rights and obligations of free men…those ideals that fall so smugly from the lips of our orators.”
The advertisements—the few that found space in the issue—also offered their own commentary on the times. “Uncle Sam has never let you down,” declared an ad of the San Juan Heights Co., J.L. Myers, general manager. “you can be absolutely sure of that! The San Juan Heights Co. wishes to reassure its purchasers that their interests will be protected….Records of purchases are in Uncle Sam’s hands in New York City vaults and he is pledged to protect them. we wish you a new year as happy and prosperous as possible.” The monthly first-prize winners of La Estrella del Norte’s silhouette contest, held from July 1 to December 20, 1941, revealed in their entries the favorite idols of the time: Uncle Sam, Joe Dimaggio, Simon La O, the Ateneo basketball star. Yco offered camouflage paints “to make your factory or building blend with its surroundings,” and presumably save them from enemy bombs.
The last four pages contained “Sidelights on the War.” The lead item reported the death of Buenaventura Bello, president of the Northern Colleges of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, who was shot by the Japanese when he refused to remove the American flag draped on the wall of his home. Two of his sons, noted the Free Press, were serving the Usaffe. There was an account of the Japanese landing at Mauban, Quezon, by Sgt. Regulo Lippago of Abra: “We waited until they were 70 yards and then we let go. We mowed down the first wave, but as the succeeding ones came on and stretched the battle line around the bay we had to retreat. During a two-day period, we halted the enemy four times, twice in the daytime, and twice at night.” As the Japanese approached a town in Tayabas, the mayor ordered his people to evacuate orderly; while the evacuation went on, the mayor continued working “as usual”; he was the last to leave the town. “We were not robbed,” the evacuees told each other, “when we elected this man.” Another town mayor, Nicomedes Suller of San Manuel, Pangasinan, led civilians against a Japanese tank. He was killed, but not before he had clambered up the tank and emptied his revolver into its occupants. “He, too, justified his election.” According to a report from Baguio, “the Igorots know the [United States] is at war with Japan and that all Filipinos are under the solemn obligation to fight the invader side by side with the Americans. Because they are Filipinos, too, the Igorots have armed themselves and are out looking for the enemy to put him out of business.” American bombers attacked Japanese transports in Davao Gulf, sinking one. A number of Japanese planes were shot down over Corregidor. While the fighting raged in Pangasinan, farmers went about their harvesting—“a banner crop this year.” There were more accounts of the “indomitable spirit and courage of our men” in the Lingayen area—a trooper was wounded when he tried to open the hatch of an enemy tank, a company commander routed single-handedly a 30-man Japanese patrol. Thousands of civilians had returned to Manila from evacuation sites in Laguna and Rizal after learning the capital had been declared an open city. Manila Mayor Juan Nolasco appealed to all citizens to “remain calm during the present emergency….”
The last page bore, in boldface, a quotation from US High Commissioner Sayre: “Death is preferable to slavery.”
The back cover appealed to all and sundry to “stop stampeding! don’t get panicky! keep your chin up! show the world we can take it!”
And then, from the direction of Grace Park, Maj. Gen. Koichi Abe marched down Rizal Avenue at the head of three battalions of his 48th Division.
It was four months before the fall of Bataan and the men dying on the road to Capas, five months before the surrender of Corregidor; three years before Leyte, and four before the liberation of Manila and the death of the old city; and two confused crowded decades before Filipino First, the Twelfth of June and Maphilindo. The war ended long ago—“a war not of our own making,” some would remind us now—and we have traveled an almost immeasurable distance since the first bombs fell on Cavite and Nichols Field.
How vast the difference between the country then and now—more than time separates us from the “Keep ’em Flying” posters and “God Bless America,” the soldiers in denim and pith helmets riding off to the front in commandeered buses, and Manila waiting for the drone of planes in the blackout. We have since grown in nationalistic age and wisdom, and the suave slogans and the simple loyalties of that era are perhaps best forgotten, together with the ugliness, the terror. But certainly some memories from 1941 are worth cherishing: the country was still young and unmaimed in spirit, patriotism was not an uncommon virtue, and men believed enough in a way of life to fight for it with courage and honor.