A Postscript to RP Independence: Divorce Still Not an Option to Filipinos

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (July 6) –  The integrity of marriage has prevailed, so says the Lakandiwa (referee) Bart Tubalinal at the Balagtasan, a poetic form of debate in Filipino language that highlighted the 111th Philippine Independence celebration at the Kasarinlan (Independence) cocktail reception sponsored by Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago held recently at the Maharlika Hall of the Rizal Center in Chicago, Illinois.

The female makata (poetess), Yoly Tubalinal, was awarded a big trophy after trouncing her rival male makata (poet), Rolly Cailles.

From the script delivered in beautiful, haunting verses to pin each other’s arguments down, Tubalinal, co-editor-in-chief and co-publisher of the Chicago-based The Filipino Weekly Megascene, managed to stave off the rising popularity of divorce in the community, citing the Biblical edict that “what has God put together let no man put asunder.”

She had put forward another argument that it is not yet time to obliterate marriage as an institution in both the Filipino community in the Philippines and in the United States.

After the Balagtasan, Cailles, conceded that a Catholic country, like the Philippines, will not let divorce happen. However, he rued the double standard in the Philippines, where some men have “queridas” or “mga kulasisi” (mistresses) while their wives “continue to suffer in silence and stay married even if their husbands are monsters.”

Kasarinlan is a fourth portion of the Independence celebration in Chicago, one of the major communities with large concentration of Filipino Americans. Three fourths of the non-government celebrations of the event were sponsored separately by Philippine Independence Week Committee (PIWC) headed by Lydia Rhoton held at Hyatt Regency Hotel O’Hare also on June 13 while the two others were the Philippine Week Committee (PWC) celebration headed by Overall Chair Ely Natividad held on June 6 and Kalayaan (independence) headed by Judy Zarate held on June 13 both at Wyndham Hotel O’Hare in suburban Rosemont, Illinois.

Also featured at the Kasarinlan celebration was the ribbon cutting of the Arts and Cultural Exhibits of Balik-Tanaw (review): Philippine Images Beyond Nostalgia in the Rizal Center. It was an exhibition of Philippine Artworks from 1940’s to 1950’s by Filipino artists called the Manila’s Mabini Masters.

They were from the collection of Americans, who visited Manila after 1946 and bought the art works of the Mabini Masters that are now in private Filipino collection.

It showcased the artworks of Crispin Agno, Isidro Ancheta, Gabriel Custodio, Oscar Navarro and Serafin Serna. They were members of Conservative artists that focused on the “idealized and romantic” depiction of landscapes and portraits that deviated from Modernist artists era of the twenties.

Also unveiled were the Filipiniana collection of about 100 pieces of folk crafts from the Philippines donated by Don Tolen and his wife, Phyllis, who were both Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines.

Also on hand at the Kasarinlan was Rene Abella, FACC President, who gave the welcome remarks, Philippine Consul Orantes Castro, the guest speaker, who delivered the message of the Philippine government on behalf of Consul General Blesila Cabrera, and Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State, who arrived belatedly but still managed to greet about a hundred community members and guests after viewing the art and Filipiniana exhibits.

One other feature of the event was the toast to Kasarinlan 2009 participants and guests  led by Atty. Alfonso Bascos, FACC Chairman of the Board of Trustees, along with three  generations of Filipinos, including second generation represented by American-born Alex Gonzales, former FACC president; and first generation old timers, FACC Trustees Constance Santos and Paz Saladino, and the later wave of arrivals of FACC President & Mrs. Rene Abella. There was also a solo performance of Helen Mercado of Bogobo/T’boli Dance.

When asked for comment on the separate celebrations of Independence Day by different organizations, Ved Diamante, a director of the FACC Board, said he does not see anything wrong with the practice.

Diamante said that when the Philippines marks the Independence Day celebration in the Philippines, the Filipino people do not come under one roof to celebrate the event for the simple reason that there is no single location, where all the tens of millions of Filipinos will fit. The Filipino people usually celebrate Independence separately in their respective cities, towns or provinces.

He added that with Filipino Americans burgeoning numbers in the Chicago area or other cities, the community members can no longer be accommodated under one hotel ballroom to celebrate the event.

It was not discussed if the four groups should come together, like attending a parade or a picnic in one location.

Leave a Comment