Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita and the Yamashita Treasure in the Philippines

Tomoyuki Yamashita was the commander of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines when the tide of battle was overwhelmingly in favor of the Americans and their Filipino allies and the defeat of the Japanese forces was imminent. The name of General Yamashita is also associated with the gold and other treasures which were said to be hidden during the war by the Japanese Army under him in many locations in the Philippines.

The Tiger of Malaya

General Yamashita was born on November 8, 1885 in Shikoku, Japan. He finished his education and military training at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in 1908  graduating number 18 in his class. Early in his career he was sent to different assignments one of which was in Shantung, China where the Japanese fought against the German Empire. He was also assigned as Japan’s ambassador to Germany.  Despite occasional falling outs with the powers that be, Yamashita still managed to get to the top of his career that culminated to his designation as the commander of the 25th Army in 1941. As the commander, he launched a successful attack with the use of only 30,000 men against the combined British, Australian and Indian forces whose strength was 130,000. His outstanding victory had earned him the title as the “Tiger of Malaya”.

Yamashita gained popularity at home because of his achievements in the battlefield. But his detractors who did not want him to be in the limelight caused his transfer to Manchukuo, China in July 1942.

The Manila Massacre

As the war in the Pacific progressed, the war situation was very dim for the Japanese. General Masaharu Homma the Japanese commander in the Philippines was sent into forced retirement. General Yamashita took over the Fourteenth Area Army. He had under his command 262,000 troops which were divided into three groups. He led the largest group, the Shobo, which had 152,000 men whose area of responsibility was Northern Luzon. The smallest group, the Kembu, composed of 30,000 men under Tsukada would defend Bataan.  The third group, the Shimbu, with 80,000 men under Yokoyama would defend Manila and Southern Luzon.

Under relentless pressure from the American forces, Yamashita ordered a retreat to Sierra Madre and Cordilleras in Northern Luzon. He directed a group of troops to withdraw from Manila and leave only security forces of about 3,500 men so that the city would not be turned into a battlefield. Acting in disregard of Yamashita’s order, Imperial Japanese Navy Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi entered Manila with 16,000 sailors. He then merged his troops with the remaining army security forces.

Iwabuchi’s defiance of Yamashita orders made the city a battle ground and fierce street fighting took place from February 4 to March 3, 1945. Overpowered by the Americans, the Japanese vented their ire on the hapless civilian populace. Many civilians were massacred and many others were caught in the crossfire between the two warring sides. The resulting battles left as many as 100,000 civilians killed with huge devastation to properties that included commercial and historic buildings and other national treasures.

Trial and Execution of a Japanese General

The Japanese surrendered on September 3, 1945. A military tribunal tried General Tomoyuki Yamashita for his war crimes. The trial was not without flaws. All of the 5 prosecutors had no legal training and combat experience. Hearsay evidences and unnamed witnesses were admitted by the court. There were also evidences that the defense could not reasonably challenge in court, and the defense counsels were not given adequate time to prepare themselves for the trial. Yamashita was made to answer for atrocities that were done by troops under his subordinate commanders who made actions and decisions that were contrary to his instructions. Yamashita’s defense counsels contended that during the chaos of the war he could not possibly control many of his commanders’ acts in the field because of difficulty in communication. Nevertheless, Yamashita was sentenced to die by hanging. And appeal to the Philippine Supreme Court, to the US Supreme Court and to President Truman was made by his counsels to save his life or to give him leniency. However, the fate of the Japanese general was left to the discretion of General Douglas MacArthur who affirmed the decision of the military tribunal. On 23 February 1946 Yamashita was hanged in Los Banos, Laguna.

Yamashita Treasure

In the aftermath of the Second World War there were rumors about huge quantities of gold being hidden in caves, tunnel and underground complex in different parts of the Philippines. There were claims that Japanese troops under Yamashita brought huge quantities of gold from Singapore to the Philippines. From the Philippines they were to be brought to the Japanese home islands. However, the changing fortune of war and the sinking of Japanese ships by American submarines, warship and planes made the Japanese leave behind large quantities of their loot in the Philippines. It was said that the Japanese during the war looted the countries of Asia of gold, silver, diamonds, jewelries and other valuables. Those looted included banks, depositaries, temples, churches, mosques, museums, other commercial premises and private homes.

The Golden Buddha and the Bars of Gold

A well publicized incident in the Philippines that ended up to be settled in the US court in Hawaii seemed to confirm the existence of the “Yamashita Treasure”.

Rogelio Roxas was a treasure hunter from Baguio City. One day in 1971, he was approached by a person who claimed to be a son of a former Japanese soldier under Yamashita. The man had with him a map on the location of a Japanese hidden treasure. They were soon joined by an interpreter of the Japanese who had also knowledge of the location of the treasure. Using the map, they along with Roxas’ workers dug under the plot of state-owned Baguio General Hospital. After seven months of painstaking diggings, the hunters found bayonets, rifles, radios, Samurai swords and skeletal remains with Japanese army uniforms. Digging further, they found a concrete- enclosed chamber. Breaking through it, they found inside a three-foot Golden Buddha that weighed about a thousand pound. Several feet below it were 5 to 6 feet high stacks of boxes that filled an area of 6x6 feet. When Roxas opened one of the boxes, he saw 24 bars of gold in it. Because of the massive finds and their excessive weight, Roxas and his companions brought only with them the Golden Buddha and the box of gold that was opened. And then they resealed the chamber and the diggings before they left.

Roxas had the find examined and he discovered that the bars is a 20 karat solid gold. He later sold 7 of them and kept the rest in his house. He later tried to find a buyer for the golden Buddha so that he could finance the retrieval of the gold bars that were left behind in the chamber.  Two prospective buyers approached him and later confirmed that the Buddha was made of 20 karat solid gold.  Before it could be sold, armed men with search warrant signed by Judge Pio Marcos, an uncle of the then President Ferdinand Marcos, broke into Roxas’ house, beat him and seized the Buddha and the remaining gold bars. Roxas was later jailed. Eventually, the incident reached the Philippine media and became news. Political opponents of Marcos even made the incident an issue against him. The “Golden Buddha” which became the subject of controversy was placed in the court. However, Roxas claimed that the Buddha in display was not the one that he dug up, and that it was just a brass imitation of the original.

US Court Judgment against the Marcoses

Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. He was deposed in the 1986 People Power Revolution and he fled to Hawaii. Rogelio Roxas organized the Golden Buddha Corporation to recover the treasure that was seized by Marcos. He filed a suit against Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in 1988 for theft and human rights abuse in a US State Court in Hawaii. Although he died before the trial started, Roxas had issued the court a deposition testimony. The court affirmed the claim of Roxas and judgment was awarded to the Golden Buddha Corporation and the estate of Roxas amounting to 26 billion US dollars and with interest to 40.25 billion US dollars. The Hawaii Supreme Court however did not concur with the decision of the lower court stating that the chamber full of gold was too speculative and there was no evidence unveiled to determine gold quantity and quality. After more years of legal proceedings, the Golden Buddha Corp. obtained a final judgment and Imelda Marcos was made to pay only the Golden Buddha and the 17 gold bars in the amount of $13,275,848.37and $6,000,000 to the Roxas state for human rights abuse .The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals summarize the judgment as follows: “The Yamashita Treasure was found by Roxas, and stolen from Roxas by Marcos’men.”

“Yamashita treasure”, the urban legend

The claim of Rogelio Roxas about his gold find was real in the light of the decision of the American court.  If there were remaining boxes of gold in the chamber under the lot of the hospital then their money value could be very substantial .The Marcoses were suspected to have stolen billions of pesos from the Philippine coffers during their unlamented rule in the Philippines. Imelda Marcos said otherwise claiming that their wealth came from the Yamashita treasure.

Many people are fascinated with the story of the “Yamashita Treasure”.  Many people do not believe the story and dismiss it as a mere urban legend. Other people who believe in it invested effort and money to look for the elusive gold. There were few unconfirmed reports of finds, but most of those who ventured in the search ended up losing their shirts.  

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mount Hibok-Hibok, a Natural Monument in Camiguin

Mt. Hibok-Hibok

Mt. Hibok-Hibok is in the volcanic island of Camiguin off the northern coast of Mindanao in the Philippines. It is listed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Philippines as one of its protected areas, and together with Mt. Timpoong also in Camiguin is included in the list of natural monuments of the country.   A natural monument is a relatively small area which is protected by the government because of its naturally significant features that are of interest to the people living in the area and also to the people at large.                                                                                                   

Mt. Hibok-Hibok
Mt. Vulcan
The only active volcano of Camiguin, Mt. Hibok-Hibok is a composite or stratovolcano and a dome complex that has a height of 1,332 meters and a base diameter of 10 kilometers. It has three craters that are sites of eruption: Kanangkaan-1948, Itum – 1949 and Ilihan- 1950. The inactive or dormant volcanoes include Vulcan, Mambajao, Guinsiliban, Butay, Uhay, Campana, Carling, Guinsiliban,  Minokol and Tres Marias. Active volcanoes are those with historical eruption while inactive or dormant volcanoes may start eruption with little warning, such as Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.                                                                                                                 

Mt. Tres Marias
Early eruptions occurred in 1827 and 1862. And these were followed almost a decade later. In February 16, 1871 there were rumblings in the earth accompanied with earthquakes. The lava of Mt. Hibok-Hibok instead of issuing from a central vent poured along a vertical fissure that extended for several distances across the land surface. The thick viscous lava solidified and accumulated and gradually formed into a mountain reaching a height of 590 meters.   

On May 13, 1871, Mt. Vulcan, the new mountain, exploded.  The explosion was accompanied by shower of rock, dust and ashes. Destruction was complete within a radius of 3 kilometers from the explosion of the new volcano mountain and buried to the ground houses, churches and other structures and submerged in sea water a portion of a ground area.                                                                                        

In 1897, Mt. Hibok-Hibok emitted white sulfuric vapors and damaged farms on the island. In 1902, the volcanic activity was only solfataric. In 1948, there was very little damage to the eruption. But in 1949, there were 79 deaths due to landslide. The most violent eruption was On December 4, 1951. There were avalanches of lava at 800 degrees Celsius. Gasses of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide were spewed into the air and there was formation of glowing cloud of dust. The pouring boiling lava fell down tree and charred houses, animals and people along its path. Mudflow of lava destroyed 19 square kilometers of land particularly in Mambajao and about 3,000 were killed.    

The volcanic eruptions terrified the people of the island so that a great number of them migrated to neighboring places of Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental and Bohol.  Before eruption the population of the island was 69,000. After eruption it was reduced to 34,000.         

Today one can see the trace of the devastation caused by the 1871 eruption. There are the ruins of the old church at Guiob, the new name of the place of the destroyed village. Just several distances away from it was the cemetery that was consumed by the sea as a result of that catastrophic event. In 1983 a cross marker was built right in the location of the old sunken cemetery. That structure along with the ruins serves also as monuments to the catastrophic event that destroyed an old colonial town.          

A view of Mt. Vulcan in White Island
The locals call Mt Vulcan as “Daan Vulcan” or “old Volcano” which is a misnomer because the fact is that it is the youngest volcano of Camiguin which was born with the explosion of Mt Hibok-Hibok. Mt Vulcan is a parasitic dome of Hibok-Hibok and is still considered a part of it.                     

Beyond the destructive power of Mt. Hibok-Hibok, there arise from its volcanic activity beauties and wonders of nature. There are six hot springs that issue from the volcano. Hot spring occurs when magma heats up water stored in cracks in rock. The water returns to the surface as hot spring. In addition to the hot springs there are also cold springs and soda water springs. These enjoyable natural spots provide rest and relaxation not only to the people in Camiguin but also to people in other parts of the Philippines and the world.                                                                                                                                                             

Mt Hibok-Hibok is an ideal destination for hiking and mountain climbing to reach the summit of the volcano with Ardent Hot Spring as the starting point. Along the way, the hikers or climbers navigate the different terrains and see the flora and fauna that are indigenous to the island. Reaching the summit, they can see the White Island, the eastern coast of Misamis Oriental, and the islands of Siquijor and Negros that lay amidst the backdrop of the breathtaking view of the sea.                                                                                                                                                      

One can reach the summit of Mt Vulcan through the Way of the Cross. Catholic faithful usually climb the steps of the 14 Stations of the Cross to commemorate the passion of Christ’s crucifixion during the Holy Week. Reaching the last station will bring the devotee to the summit of Mt Vulcan.   

Mt. Hibok-Hibok (left) and Mt. Vulcan (right)
Camiguin Island is one of the major tourist destinations of Northern Mindanao.  From Manila, the capital of the Philippines, one can reach Camiguin by plane through Cagayan de Oro and from there he takes a ride on a Bus or van going to Balingoan. At the port there, he can board a ferry that will take him to the port of Benoni in Camiguin.    

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Kagay-an Festival 2012 (Cagayan de Oro Fiesta)

Click picture to view an enlarged image or a slide show
In honor of Saint Augustine, Cagayan de Oro City celebrates its Kagay-an Festival 2012 or its fiesta on August 28, 2012. Unlike last year when the activities were administered by the City government in partnership with Promote CDO Foundation Inc., a private organization, this year’s activities are being undertaken solely by the city government. The pattern of celebration is very much similar to the fiestas that were held in the past. It involves the holding of different core events that culminates in the day of the festivity on August 28.  

The celebration of the fiesta is a manifestation that the city has gotten over the devastation caused by the ravages of Typhoon Sendong which claimed thousands of lives and resulted to the loss of millions of pesos in properties in December last year.

Miss Kagay-an 2012
This year’s Kagay-an Festival started with a marathon on the morning of August 19, 2012 from the Rodelsa Circle to the streets of the City. On August 25, the P.E. Rhythmic Festival was held at the Pelaez Sports Center Complex (PSCC). It was participated by students of the city’s schools. On August 26, 2011 there was the Cultural Street Dancing competition on which different representative groups started at the Rodelsa Circle and moved along the city’s thoroughfares. The colorful native costumes worn by the participants added liveliness to their show as they entertained people as they marched and danced in the streets. One of the most interesting events of the festival was the Miss Kagay-an 2012 Coronation Night which was held at Lim Ket Kai Atrium on the evening of August 26, 2012. The program was led by no other than Vicente Emano, the mayor. He was assisted by the different committees led by local city officials as well as private groups or persons who are sponsors of that particular event. Greanne Trisha T. Mendoza was crowned as the Miss Kagay-an 2012. On August 27, 2011 there was the Civic-Military and Float Parade in the main streets of the city. Participants of the parade included NGOs, military and police units and industrial and commercial entities. On the same day in the evening there was a Pyro Festival where participating groups display their fireworks in view of many people outside the Shoe Mart Mall.

Other activities that were held included the Agro Fair in which different agricultural products from the barangays of the city are displayed near City hall. On August 24 was the start of the Rodeo show near SM mall.

August 28 is the fiesta. The day is started with a mass at the Saint Augustine Cathedral. In the morning there is also a fluvial parade in the Cagayan de Oro River.                                        

The banquet in the homes of the Kagay-anons is an integral and the most important part of their celebration. The fiesta is the day where hosts treat their friends, relative and even strangers with sumptuous foods they can serve on the table. Guests are also served drinks such as wine and beer. The serving of foods and drinks is not complete without a lechon or a young roasted pig on the table.  

Most people hold their banquet at lunch. Others do it in the evening. Still others, especially those who have the means start the celebration on the eve of the fiesta and continue feasting the following day which is the occasion.  

Majority of them being Roman Catholics, Kagay-anons always celebrate the fiesta because the practice has embedded in their culture and traditions. Through it they are able to show their hospitality, friendliness and generosity to other people from other places. Those are some of the traits that have helped make Cagayan de Oro a prosperous City. The city fiesta also known as the Kagay-an festival is also a means to advertise the city to the rest of the country and the world that it is a good tourism and investment destination in the Philippines.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Historic Philippine-United States Relationship and the Philippine Independence

The bombing of USS Maine on February 15, 1898, which claimed the lives of 260 US sailors in the port of Havana, Cuba was an incident that had far reaching effect to the Philippines being then a colony of Spain. Although there was no evidence linking Spain to the incident, the United States nevertheless declared war on Spain on April 11, 1898.
Dr. Jose Rizal
Like Cuba, the Philippines had also revolted against Spain. The unjust execution of Dr. Jose Rizal had more than ever raised the nationalistic feelings and revolutionary fervor of the Filipinos. An organization named Katipunan called for the overthrow of the Spanish colonizer through armed struggle. Emilio Aguinaldo established himself as the undisputed leader of it after having his arch rival, Andres Bonifacio, executed. Aguinaldo sustained the rebellion by having an alliance with the United States.

The Spanish-American war reached the Philippine shore when Commodore George Dewey with his Asiatic Squadron entered Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. After short skirmishes he destroyed the Spanish Pacific Fleet which was commanded by Admiral Patricio Montojo. The Americans suffered 8 wounded and one dead (of heart attack). The Spaniards on the other hand suffered more than 300 casualties. On August 13, 1898, the Spanish-Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes surrendered Manila to Commodore Dewey.

Spain suffered resounding defeats in battles, and it had to agree to the terms of the United States to end the war. Relative to it the Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed by the United States and Spain on December 10, 1898. In the treaty Spain ceded Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States. The United States on its part had to compensate Spain $20,000,000 for the possession of the Philippines.

While Spanish authority was steadily waning, Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence on  June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite and the following year he established the first Philippine Republic. The Americans however did not recognize his government. The Philippine-American War broke out as a result. After about three years the American forces were able to quell the rebellion and put the country under their control. Aguinaldo surrendered to the Americans and pledged allegiance to the United States.

During the period of rebellion the rule and control of the Philippines were on the hands of the military governors-general. When peace and order was established in the Philippines, the executive authority was transferred on July 4, 1901, to the Philippine Commission which was headed by the American civilian governor-general who was appointed by the President of the United States with the concurrence of the senate. From 1901 to 1935, the Philippines was under the US Bureau of Insular Affairs which had the task to oversee US unincorporated territories like the Philippines. Some of the notable governors-general who served In the Philippines were Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur Jr., the father of General Douglas MacArthur, William Howard Taft who became the 27th President of the United States and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. who was a former general and the eldest son of US President Theodore Roosevelt.  

On January 17, 1933, the Hawes-Hares Cutting Act was approved by the US Congress which would pave the way for the granting of independence to the Philippines. However, provisions such as retention of US military bases in the Philippines for an indefinite period, setting quota and tariffs of Philippine export to the US caused the Philippine senate to reject it. Amendatory bill called Tydings-Mcduffie Law was passed by US Congress on August 24, 1934, which would give the Philippines Commonwealth status as a prelude to giving it full independence after a transition period of ten years. The law came into effect after it was approved by the Philippine senate.

Presidents Quezon and Roosevelt (second and third from left)
A Philippine constitutional convention was held on July 30, 1934 to February 8, 1935. It was approved by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was unanimously ratified by the Filipinos on May 14, 1935. A general election followed and Manuel L. Quezon was elected president and Sergio Osmena as vice president.  The commonwealth government was inaugurated on Nov ember 15, 1935. Some features of the constitution included a strong executive, a bicameral legislature, and a supreme court. In one of his moves as president, Quezon tapped the services of General Douglas MacArthur as a military advisor with a rank of field marshal.

Meanwhile, Japan became a growing power in Asia. The Japanese Empire which allied itself with Germany invaded and occupied China and other neighboring Asian countries. In one of its bold and daring moves Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, which resulted to about 3,400 American casualties. Several days later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt through the US congress declared war on Japan on December 10, 1941.

The Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 18, 1941. They overpowered the American and the Filipino troops who surrendered on May 1942. General MacArthur fled to Australia to direct the war there. Quezon and Osmena fled to the United States and established a government in exile in New York. While in the United States Quezon died of tuberculosis and Osmena took over as the President of the commonwealth of the Philippines. Meanwhile in the Philippines, the Japanese set up a puppet government called the Second Republic of the Philippines which was headed by Jose P. Laurel.

The landing of Gen. MacArthur in Leyte 
As the war progressed, the tide of battle turned against Japan. Macarthur returned to the Philippines and landed in Leyte on 20 October 1944 for the liberation of the country from the Japanese. The refusal of some units of the Japanese forces to leave Manila against orders from higher ups led to a deadly battle between them and the American and Filipino forces. The overmatched Japanese turned their ire on Manila’s civilian populace and massacred helpless and innocent civilians. WW2 resulted to a million of Filipinos killed with Manila, the national capital, as one of the most devastated cities of the world during the war. The formal surrender of the Japanese to the allied forces on August 1945 officially ended the war in the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite the interruption of WW2, the Philippines was able to have its independence as scheduled. That is 10 years after it was granted a commonwealth status by the US. The first election of an independent Republic of the Philippines was held on April 23, 1946. Manuel Roxas prevailed over incumbent Sergio Osmena who did not campaign in the election.

Since its independence, the Philippines has still had a friendly and cooperative relationship with the United States. Despite some issues regarding the stay of the Americans in the Philippines, the US has left some legacies that have some positive impacts on the Filipinos. The Americans gave the Filipinos the English language as well as western style democracy. In the main, the Philippines is a country that is geographically South East Asian, ethnically Malay and culturally western oriented.

Although the Philippines officially became independent from the United States on July 4, 1946, the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day in July 12. It is in commemoration of the day Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in 1898.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Star Apple (Caimito)

The chrysophyllum  cainito  commonly called caimito or star apple is one of the tropical fruits that were introduced in the Philippines by the Spaniards from its former colonies in Central America during the Spanish colonial era. Today, the tree of the fruit thrives like any other fruit trees that are native to the country. Many of the trees can be seen on the roadside or at the backyards of people’s houses.

When I was little there was a large star apple tree at my family’s old ancestral house which always bore abundant fruits during its fruiting season.  Other kids in the neighborhood could help themselves with the fruits for free. Back then, star apple was a fruit that was usually for the consumption mostly for the kids. Picking up the fruits that were then not commercially sold in the public markets was some of the children’s playful activities especially when they were off from school and not doing their household chores.                                                                                                                                                                      

The Star Apple Tree can grow as high as 25 to 50 feet tall when matured. The ovate-shaped leaf that is about 7.5 to 13 centimeters long is green on top and golden brown on the underside which is probably the reason why it is also called “Golden Leaf Tree”.  The tiny clustered flowers are purplish white. The wood of the tree is not considered hard and is not generally used for furniture or building constructions.      

Although it is not as popular as other fruits in the Philippines, the star apple is delicious, sweet and nutritious. It is round in shape and of the same size as the apple. And despite the name apple with it, the star apple is very much different from the real apple in taste and in texture of its skin and flesh. The core of the fruit has a star pattern when it is cut off vertically which is probably the reason why it is called “star apple”. The fruit has a purplish or brownish green skin depending on the variety. The purple variety has a thinner rind than the green. The rind which is rich in latex comprises about 1/3 of the totality of the fruit. The flesh of the fruit has a milk-like juice. It is usually eaten out of hand as a dessert. However, it is better to spoon the flesh off so that parts of the rind which is bitter will not get into the mouth. In the flesh of the fruit are the flat black seeds that are about 1 to 1.5 centimeters long each.  The fruit is rich in calcium, phosphorus, ascorbic acid and niacin and is it is also loaded with antioxidants.                       

In the present age when people are health conscious and prefer to eat organic food, star apple is one of the fruits suitable for their consumption. Its tree is hardy and can grow under extreme tropical weather conditions such as drought and long rainy season. The tree when planted is mostly left alone. It can thrive without the use of chemical fertilizer or pesticides. The fruits when harvested is just sold in the nearby localities because they spoil quickly. For this reason consumers are assured of buying a fresh, organic fruit that is good for the health.

Unlike the highly preferred Philippine table fruits such as bananas, pineapples, mangoes, melons and the expensive fruits such as durian and mangoosteen, the trees of the star apple are not yet extensively planted in commercial scale. The reason is that the fruit has a very short shelf life and is not as popular as other fruits.  
As herbal medicine in the Philippines, the decoction of the leaves of the Star Apple Tree is used against diarrhea. In countries of South America the fruit is used to sooth inflammation of the laryngitis and of pneumonia. The leaves and the bark are also used to treat ailments such as diabetes, dysentery and even cancer.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

"Honey", a Song Reminiscing Shared Moments with a Departed Loved One

In the song “Honey” the author tells on how a tree reminded him of his beloved “Honey”. She planted it despite his objection when it was just a twig. Now that it is big it reminded him of the happy and sad times he had with her. Although He loved her and was generous to her, there were times that he was uncaring and indifferent to her.

The lines “One day while I was not at home, while she was there and all alone the angel came” implies that Honey passed away while he was not there for her. That it happened when she was alone could mean that she took her own life.

The rest of the lines of the song tell on how he feels sad of her loss, and how he sorely missed her. The author’s narration aptly describes the feeling of a man reminiscing the times he had with a departed wife or a woman that he loved.  It makes my eyes misty hearing the song.

“Honey” is a song popularized by an American songwriter, singer and guitarist Bobby Goldsboro in 1968. It was composed by Bobby Russel and first performed by Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio. Bobby Goldsboro’s rendition of it made it as number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart in 1968. It has become Bobby Goldsboro’s signature song.   

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Christianity and Islam, the Religions That Shape the Course of History

The belief of an almighty creator is an inherent nature of man. To cater to that belief, some people established religions that attracted large number of people. These religions even survive long after the death of their founders. By following a religion, a man has to suit his lifestyle in a way that his religion requires him. People’s collective adherence to a belief will somehow create a distinctive culture in a community. Indeed, religion has a profound impact on the social, political and cultural aspects of our lives. Since time immemorial many religions have been created and their struggle for expansion and dominance have resulted to the demise of empires, the change of the ethnic composition of a territory, the eruption of armed conflicts and the boom and decline of trade and commerce. Christianity and Islam are the two religions that in one way or the other affected the way many people live their lives in the past and present.

Jesus Christ and Christianity

The largest religion on earth was founded by a man named Jesus who was born in Bethlehem in Judea at around 6 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. Little was known about his life in his younger age. He started his public ministry at the age of 30. With the help of his 12 disciples he preached to the people and healed the physically and spiritually sick. He told of the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God and of salvation. The Jewish high priests did not see Jesus’ activities in good light. For them he was a violator of the Jewish customs and traditions, and his claim to be the Messiah, the king of the Jews and the Son of God was highly blasphemous that called for a death penalty. The high priests plotted against him and put pressure on Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, to have him executed. To appease the Jews and to prevent them from rioting, Pontius Pilate had Jesus crucified.

Contrary to what the Jewish high priests and Roman authorities expected, the death of Jesus did not end the movement that he founded.  His disciples and other followers who denied and abandoned him when he was tried and executed became fearless even to the point of death to vouch for him. Many of them claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus before his ascension to heaven. For Jesus disciples and followers he was what he claimed to be.

Christianity is a religion that believes that spiritual salvation can only be obtained through Jesus. Christians also believe that Jesus is God’s promise Messiah whose life, death and resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Holy Bible. Different Christian denominations however are in constant disagreement as to the nature and or divinity of Jesus.

The early Christians were persecuted by the Jews and Romans and were falsely accused of having caused the disasters and other unfavorable things that happened in their community. However, despite the hardships and difficulties, they continued to spread the teachings of Christ.

Things started to change for the better for the Christians during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine I. He allowed freedom of worship in the empire. It was said that he saw a vision of the cross against the sun at the Battle of the Melvian Bridge in 312 AD, and that the sign would give him victory. Constantine later defeated his rivals and became the sole Roman emperor. The conversion of Constantine to Christianity which he made as the official religion of the empire enabled it to spread like wildfire within its territories. The Romans’ acceptance of Christianity also effectively eradicated their old polytheistic pagan belief.
During his reign Constantine transferred his capital from Rome to Byzantium, which was later called Constantinople in 330 AD. His move divided the empire into east and west, and the east became known as the Byzantine Empire.

Muhammad and Islam

Muhammad was born in 570 AD in Mecca. He became an orphan in his early childhood and at age 25 he married a rich widow named Khadija. Becoming a merchant, he traveled to Syria where he came into contact with Jews and Christians. At age 40 Muhammad had a vision of the Angel Gabriel in a cave which ordered him to go forth and preach. At first Muhammad was so afraid of the vision that he even believed that it was a malevolent spirit. However, his wife convinced him that it was from God.

Muhammad was later convinced that he was indeed a messenger of God. He started to preach, but was able only to get few converts. His activities put him in a collision course with the religious leaders of Mecca, who plotted for his life. Muhammad and his followers fled to Medina in 622 AD.  His departure was referred by Muslims as Hegira. Muhammad established an Islamic community in Medina and gained religious as well as political prominence. He was victorious in the Battle of Badr and Uhud and captured Mecca with little bloodshed. He then cleansed the Kaaba of idols and converted the people there of his new religion.                                                                                                                                                                          
During his lifetime Muhammad was able to convert all of Arabia to his new religion which is called Islam or submission. In the centuries after his death in 632 AD Muslim armies spread the faith by conquest and conversion and forged an Arab empire that stretched from Spain to India.                                                                                                                                                         

Islam is a monotheistic religion that has some component of Judaism and Christianity. Muslims live by abiding with the five pillars of their faith. They are: shahada- professing that  Allah is the only God and Muhammad is His prophet; salat- praying 5 times a day; zakat- giving alms to the poor; sawm of Ramadan- fasting during the holy month and haj- the pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam’s holy book is called the Koran which Muslims believe as the literal words of Allah. Muslims governs their action based on the Sharia, a legal system that is adopted from the Koran.

Muslims and Christian Conflicts

After Muhammad’s death, his armies conquered the Zoroastrians in Persia and the Pagans of Arabia and the Jews and the Christians in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Palestine and in the process replacing the original dominant religions with Islam.

Having conquered much of the east, the Muslims trained their eyes on Europe. The Moors and the Arabs crossed into the Iberian Peninsula and occupied Spain. Advancing toward the north, they crossed the Pyrenees Mountains but were halted by Charles Martel who defeated them at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD and forced them to retreat back to Spain where they stayed and established their own dynasty. 

In Anatolia the Turks posed a grave threat to the Byzantine Empire. The Turks were nomadic people from central Asia who migrated to the Middle East and to Asia Minor. They were converted to Islam and championed the religion. Overtime, they became the power to be reckoned with in those areas. The Turks defeated the Byzantine forces at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 in which Emperor Romanus IV was captured by Turkish leader Alp Arslan. Their capture of Jerusalem made it difficult for Christian pilgrims to visit their holy places.

To eliminate the threat of the Turks on the Byzantine Empire and to free Palestine from them, Pope Urban organized the crusades to deal with the situation. The crusaders were composed of troops from different European nationalities. There were eight crusades that were launched from 1095 to 1270. But these military campaigns ended mostly in failures because of the mutual distrust among their leaders and the primary cause of the crusades was obscured by their selfish political and economic interests. The fourth crusade in 1204 was diverted to Constantinople and sacked the city and replaced the rulers there with Latin emperors, an action that alienated the Byzantine subjects from their Christian allies.

Victories and Defeats

The marriage of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile strengthened their Christians kingdoms in Spain.  Their combined forces defeated the last Moorish kingdom of Granada in 1492, and the Moors were expelled from Spain. At first the Muslims and the Jews who opted to stay in the country were treated fairly. But later, the inquisitions made many of them leave Spain.

The Ottoman Turks were able to take over large area of Asia Minor and conquered some countries in the Balkan Peninsula thereby surrounding the city of Constantinople the seat of the Byzantine Empire and Christendom’s second most important city after Rome. It was just a matter of time before the moribund Byzantine Empire with its capital city would fall to the Muslim Turks. Finally, on May 29, 1453, forces under Sultan Muhammad II laid siege to the city and successfully captured it. The fall of Constantinople marked the end of the Byzantine Empire which was supplanted by the Ottoman Empire which made Constantinople as its capital. The Ottomans wanted to take Europe for Islam. Led by Suleiman the Magnificent, they attempted to cross Western Europe through Vienna in 1529. However, they were driven back by the city’s defending troops.

Alternative Trade Routes to the Sea and the Age of Exploration

The control of important traditional trade routes by the Muslims made it difficult and expensive for goods such as spices from Asia to reach Europe. To get around the trade routes that were in the hands of the Arabs and Turks, Christian European kingdoms particularly Spain and Portugal looked to the sea to reach India where those goods were said to come from. Early explorers thought that the source of spices in the east could be reached through the sea by sailing westward, and around the Cape of Good Hope. Queen Isabella sponsored and financed the expedition of Christopher Columbus into the Indies in 1492. He was not able to reach India although he discovered a vast unexplored land that was later named the America.

Columbus exploration paved the way to the settlement of new lands that were at that time unknown to Europe. Other European powers such as Britain, France and Netherlands joined Spain and Portugal in the exploration of the New World. As a result, colonies were established which later became independent countries. New countries such as United States, Mexico, and Brazil among others were born. Their people are composed of indigenous inhabitants and settlers of divergent nationalities around the world.  Some countries such as the United States and Canada even became richer and greater than their former mother countries.

The discovery of new lands during the Age of Explorations enabled the European powers to extend their territories beyond the sea. It provided them economic benefit and enabled them to propagate their traditions, language, culture and religion in those lands. Somehow, the Age of Exploration has paved the way for the spread Christianity outside of Europe and the Middle East. Although many people believe in God and adhere to a religious belief, there are others who consider religion as absurdity. But it is an undeniable fact that religion is one of the factors that shaped the courses of events in history.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Enhancing Exercise with Music

Having a good health is important for a person in order for him to live a happy and productive life. Eating a balance diet, having a positive mental outlook, adequate rest and sleep, recreations and moderate exercise will enable him to get the level of energy that is needed to reach his goals and aspirations in life.

Exercise increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol. On the other hand it decreases the amount of triglyceride which is unhealthy if there is too much of it in the body. Keeping the balance of good and bad cholesterol to their ideal level in the body will help prevent the buildup of fat deposition in the walls of arteries and brings about smooth flow of blood in the veins. That situation benefits the heart. An unimpeded blood circulation to the blood vessels also means a normal sex life because an abnormality adversely affects blood circulation through the veins of the reproductive organs which is a cause of such condition as erectile dysfunction.                       

Regular exercise or workout stimulates brain chemicals that reduce stress. A physically active person can therefore handle mental stress or depression better than a sedentary one. In addition a person who exercises burn more calories and reduce the risk of being overweight or obese. Obesity complicates health issues and may contribute to such illness as diabetes, heart and other diseases.                                                                                                                                    

Like all other things exercise should be done in moderation. Excessive exercise beyond one’s capability will do more harm than good for the body. As one gets older he should adapt an exercise regimen that is appropriate to his age. A man or a woman in his or her 40’s, 50’s or over has a different level of strength and endurance from a person who is in his 20’s or 30’s. For a beginner the progression of his exercise should be gradual. And he should bring it to a higher level when his body could already adapt to a more strenuous level of physical activity.  A short regular daily exercise like 30 minutes of walking or jogging is better than an abrupt and strenuous exercise that is done haphazardly. The latter situation puts more strain beyond the capacity of the body to handle. As a result a person will fell pain in his muscles and joints and in some cases he may even suffer an injury. It should be advisable to consult a doctor first if one is planning to include workouts or exercise as part of his regular daily activities.

What keeps everybody from exercising is the thought that exercise is a tiresome and boring activity. However, there is a way to deal with that problem. It is listening to music while exercising. Putting on one’s head or on his ear sports MP3 player headphones will do the work. Modern MP3 headphones are loaded with features such as being sweat proof, cord free and yes water proof. Some of these sports headphones can even be used while doing water sports like swimming.

Another advantage of listening to music while exercising is that one saves time doing these activities all at once. It takes much time to have a separate schedule of listening to music and of exercising. Merging these activities is beneficial to those persons who are busy or have tight work schedule for the rest of the day.

Music can influence one’s moods. The message that it sends to the brain can make a person react in certain ways. Hearing songs can make him feel happy, sad and lonely. The song can even prod him to do an action. For example, he feels the urge to dance to the beat of the song that he hears. Music or song is therefore a stimulator during an exercise. It can make a person more enthusiastic as he goes along with his exercise.                                                                                                                             

A person can do his exercise outdoors or at the comfort of his home or a gym. When doing it outdoors one should always remember that security and safety are of utmost importance. He may be oblivious to the dangers that are in his immediate surroundings when he has MP3 player headphones on his head and listening to music. Passing vehicles might be a threat to his safety. It is not a good idea to have MP3 player headphones on in physical activity that requires alertness and quick reflexes on the road such as cycling. In that situation a music is a hazardous distraction.  

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Douglas MacArthur, the Most Famous American General in the Philippines

Douglas MacArthur was born on January 26, 1880 at Little Rock, Arkansas, USA.  He was one of the three sons of Arthur MacArthur Jr. and Mary Pinkney Hardy.  Arthur MacArthur Jr., Douglas’ father, was a hero of the American Revolution and an American general.  At the end of the 19th century Arthur MacArthur Jr. was sent to the Philippines after the Spain ceded it to the United States in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. He was later named as the Governor General of the Philippines in 1900. His clash with the civilian governor, William Howard Taft, made his position short lived. Taft later became a President of the United States.

Scholastic achievements and early career

Douglas MacArthur enrolled at the West Texas Military School and graduated as a valedictorian. He further pursued his study at the United States Military Academy at West Point where he graduated as the first captain. He was also at the top of his class of 93 cadets in 1903.

After his graduation at West Point, Douglas MacArthur was commissioned in the Army Corps of Engineers. He was assigned in the Philippines, re-assigned to the United States and was posted to Europe during World War 1. He was the Superintendent of West Point from 1919-22. In 1925 he became the youngest major general ever to be promoted in that rank at the age of 44. That record was passed several years later by William Westmoreland who attained that rank at age 40. In 1930 General MacArthur became the US Army Chief of Staff, a position he held for five years which was longer than any of his predecessors. He retired from the US Army in 1937.

Services to the fledgling Philippine Commonwealth

In 1935, the Philippines was given a commonwealth status by the United States. It was a prelude to giving it full independence after an interim period. Manuel L. Quezon became the first elected president of the Philippines. He was a friend of Arthur MacArthur JR. and his son Douglas. To organize the army, Quezon tapped the services of Gen. Douglas MacArthur as his adviser on military affairs. He also made him as a field marshal, a status which was confirmed by President Franklin Roosevelt. When MacArthur retired from the army, President Quezon still retained his services as a military advisor in a personal capacity. MacArthur made many innovations to improve the Philippines Army. He increased the army’s strength as well as its number of units and proposed for increase of pay. Some of his innovations were however hampered with lack of funds. He also created the Philippine Military Academy whose curriculum and training were patterned after that of the West Point.

Marriages and love affair

During his tour of duty in the United States MacArthur was married in February 14, 1922 to Louise Cromwell Brooks in her family’s Villa in Palm Beach, Florida. Their relationship later soured and they separated in 1927. While in the Philippines, Gen MacArthur had an affair with Isabel Rosario Cooper, a Scottish-Filipina mestiza and a Philippine movie star. She later lived in an apartment in Washington D.C. At that time two journalists made a report critical of MacArthur dispersion of the “Bonus Party” demonstration in Washington D.C. during the Great Depression.  MacArthur sued the journalists. However, their threat to make Miss Cooper as one of their witnesses forced him to make an off court settlement and withdrew the case. Later, General MacArthur met Jean Faircloth. The two married on April 30, 1937 in a civil ceremony. While he was in Manila Louise obtained a divorce from MacArthur. In Manila, Jean gave birth to a baby boy who was named Arthur MacArthur IV.

The Fall of Bataan

With the armed conflict in Europe and the looming war with Japan President Franklin D. Roosevelt recalled General MacArthur to active duty with a rank of major general to command the US Army Forces Far East (USAFFE). The next day he was promoted to lieutenant general. On 07 December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. As a result 188 aircrafts on the ground were destroyed and 159 others were damaged.  In addition 4 ships were sunk and 2,335 servicemen were killed while 1,143 others were wounded.  The following day, December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. On same day the Clark Air Field in the Philippines was attacked by Japanese planes destroying dozens of aircrafts on the ground. MacArthur thought that the Japanese could not be stopped on the beaches and he ordered his American and Filipino troops to consolidate in Bataan for defense. He declared Manila an “open city” to spare it from bombardment by the Japanese and avoid huge civilian casualties. In 1942 the troops at Bataan were overran by the Japanese and General Jonathan Wainwright the American Commander there was captured. Thousands of Filipino and the American defenders were later brought by their captors to San Fernando through a long, forced and torturous travel which was infamously called “Death March”.

Escape to Australia and the New Guinea campaign

In his headquarters at Corregidor Island off the shore of Manila General MacArthur received orders from President Roosevelt to go to Australia. Macarthur, his wife Jean, and son, Arthur, along with his staff on board 4 PT boats left Corregidor and proceeded to Mindanao. They landed at the Macabalan wharf in Cagayan de Oro where American soldiers and Filipino guerillas were waiting to fetch them to Del Monte in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon where a B17 would fly them to Australia. It was in Australia where MacArthur made his famous speech that made headlines. “I came through, and I shall return”, he said.
In Australia MacArthur was made the supreme commander of Southwest Pacific area. Over there, he successfully directed American, Australian and British forces in campaigns against the Japanese at Papua and New Guinea.

The return to the Philippines

Easing Japanese resistance in New Guinea and Malaya, MacArthur then turned his focus to recapture the Philippines from the Japanese and fulfill his promise to return. On 20 October 1944, the 6th army landed in Leyte to engage the Japanese. MacArthur was aboard light cruiser USS Nashville. Near the beach the ship ran aground and he requested for a landing craft. But the beach master who was busy with his work did not hear him. McArthur and his staff disembarked the ship and they had to wade to the shore. Others who were with him were Carlos P. Romulo and Philippine President Sergio Osmeña Sr.

After Leyte, the American forces advanced to Mindoro and then to Luzon. Despite great dangers of his life, General Douglas MacArthur aboard USS Boise personally oversaw the conduct of the battle despite dangers of Japanese plane attacks and threat of enemy sniper fires on the shore. Such an action of a commander was a great morale booster for the fighting troops on the ground. As the battle raged on the Japanese were gradually dislodged from their hold on Luzon. Visayas and Mindanao also slowly fell into the hands of the Americans. From all indications the victory of the allied forces was drawing near.

The Battle of Manila

Manila was the final battle ground to liberate the Philippines and deal the Japanese a strategic defeat. To prevent huge civilian casualties, MacArthur refused to restrict traffic of civilians who clogged the road in and out of the city. He also ordered his troops to minimize the use of aerial bombardment if possible. When the American troops entered the city they freed about 3,000 POWs from the University of Santo Tomas on February 3, 1945. The Japanese commander Rear Admiral Saji Iwabuchi was determined to fight to the death. Heavy fighting that lasted for a month ensued between the Japanese and the Americans and their Filipino allies. In their desperation Japanese soldiers killed many civilians along the way as they tried to flee from the Americans’ onslaught. They also held civilian hostages who also perished when the Americans bombarded the enemy positions with artillery, tanks and plane bombs. The Americans eventually overpowered the Japanese and liberated the city on March 3, 1945. The victory came with a heavy price for the Filipinos. It was estimated that about 100,000 civilians died during the battle and national treasures such as historical buildings and important sites were leveled to the ground. It was estimated that 1,010 Americans were killed and 5,665 were wounded. On the Japanese side there were about 16,665 killed. After the Second World War, Manila emerged as the second most devastated city after Warsaw in Poland.

The rehabilitation of Japan

After atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese Industrial cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan tendered its unconditional surrender to the United States in August 1945. And fighting in Asia stopped. MacArthur the Supreme Commander of the allied power in Asia accepted the formal surrender of the Japanese aboard USS Missouri on September 2, 1945. Several Japanese Officers and collaborators were later tried for their war crimes. One of them was General Tomoyoki Yamashita who was tried in Manila. He was found guilty and sentenced by the military tribunal. On 23 February 1946, he was hanged in Los Baños, Laguna.

In the aftermath of the war Japan was occupied by the Americans and Douglas MacArthur was the one in charge for its reconstruction. With his power, MacArthur virtually became Japan’s interim ruler. To respect Japanese sensibilities and restore national unity, he spared the emperor and his family from investigation relative to the war. He also initiated the drafting of the new constitution and the implementation of land reform. General MacArthur’s reconstruction and reformation efforts helped made Japan one of the leading world economies after the ravages of the war.

The Korean War

In 1950 communist North Korea attacked South Korea, and another armed conflict erupted. The five-star General MacArthur was again designated as the Supreme commander of the allied forces. He landed his troops at Inchon and drove the North Koreans further north. However, thousands of Chinese reinforcement pushed the allied forces back to the south. MacArthur then wanted to bring the war deep into China, but President Truman refused because it might escalate the war. Later MacArthur wrote a letter that a Republican Rep. Joseph William Martin, Jr. read in congress on April 5, 1951. The letter which was critical of the administration’s limited war policy prompted President Truman to relieve MacArthur of his command in April 1951. MacArthur was replaced by General Matthew Ridgway.

The final years

Living as civilian, MacArthur got himself employed as Chairman of the Remington Rand Corp. Later his advance age took a toll on his health. The frail retired General MacArthur along with Jean and Arthur made a “sentimental journey” back to the Philippines. He was warmly welcomed by President Carlos P. Garcia who awarded him the Philippine Legion of Honor. In 1962 General MacArthur was honored by West Point which conferred him the Sylvanus Thayer Award for outstanding service to the nation. He made a speech with a theme “Honor, Duty, Country”. In that speech he uttered the unforgettable saying:  “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”. MacArthur died on April 5, 1964 at Washington D.C. where President Lyndon Johnson gave him a state funeral.

 MacArthur was an American general and hero who had somehow shaped the course of history of the Philippines and the world. He affected the lives of many people during the course his career. Perhaps, the Philippines had a special place in his heart. It was in Manila, Philippines where his mother died and his son Arthur was born. Above all, the Philippines was the place where he stayed most while he built his career as an officer. It was also the place where he fought and won most of his battles.

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