Morga writes that Governor De Vera established a foundry to make artillery “under the hands of an old indio called Pandapira, a native of Pampanga. He and his sons served in this line of work until their deaths many years later”. Rizal clarifies the reference to Pandapira, or Panday Pira: “an indio who already knew how to found cannons even before the arrival of the Spanish”.
Neither De Morga nor anyone else refers to Pandapira as a cannon maker. Indeed, De Vera, the governor who actually hired him, proves that he was not. De Vera wrote to the Spanish Viceroy in Mexico to plead “I cannot find anyone who knows how to found cannons, because those provided are by Indios who do not know how to make large cannon. I request your excellency to send from New Spain founders and officers to manufacture cannons”.
So when Rizal comments upon De Morga’ statement about a later governor, Perez-Dasmarinas, that he “established a foundry for artillery in Manila where, owing to the lack of experts or master founders, few large piece were made” that “This demonstrates that, when the indio Pandapira died, there were no Spaniards who knew how to do what he did, nor were his children as skilled as their fathers”, he is, frankly, talking out of his bowler.
Let’s talk about boats. De Morga describes Filipino vessels big enough to carry 100 rowers outboard and 30 soldiers on an upper deck. Alcina describes such vessels in the Visayas and expends several chapters describing how to build one, a precise of which, along with an artist’s rendition can be found in the works of William Henry Scott.
Rizal mourns that such vessels had disappeared by his day but goes on to make the astonishing assertion that “The country that at one time, with primitive means, built ships of around 2,000 tons (Has to buy ships from Hong Kong)”. For the non-nautical, 2,000 tons here refers to displacement, the weight of water displaced by the hull of the vessel, not the weight of the ship.
Nowhere in the historical or archaeological record is there a trace of pre-Hispanic Filipino vessels of such size outside Rizal’s commentary and imagination.
As for Filipino warships carrying 100 rowers and 30 soldiers, the only reason we know how to build one today is because the technology was recorded in detail by an admiring Spanish friar.
A similar situation surrounds Rizal’s assumption that there was a significant written literature which was destroyed by the Spanish. Literacy was, according to De Morga and others, widespread.
That pre-Hispanic Filipinos had a written language is certainly true. Even if one disregards the 900 AD Laguna Copper Plate as a probable import, because its markings are in no known Filipino script and it has never been translated, something similar was presented to the Chinese court by the ruler of Butuan in 1011 AD as did later trade missions which also presented the Emperor of All Under The Sky with a long narrow scroll written on bamboo.
Spanish writers comment upon the literacy of the Filipino and Spanish friars and missionaries have preserved both the languages themselves and the scripts in which they were written while, at the same time, Spanish script replaced them.
No pre-Hispanic documents have survived, noit even a fragment. The documents from which, for instance, the Code of Kalantiaw are drawn are demonstrably fraudulent although they still find a place in the curricula of Philippine law schools. The Maragtas, while not actually a fraud is a collection of folklore, the author of which states that no pre-Hispanic documents were used in its preparation, which is still misrepresented again, in Philippine law schools.
Notably, there is only one account, of the burning of a single book, of anything that might be taken as pre-Hispanic Filipino literature. What happened to the rest of it?
Did the Spanish destroy it? Outside Iloilo and Cebu the Spanish hold generally extended little more than 15 kilometres inland or more than 300 metres elevation until the mid 19th century. Friar and missionaries extended that coverage, of course, but even so, there were only a few hundred of them, insufficient to eradicate an entire written literature in every part of the archipelago including the non-Christianised and Muslim domains.
In fact, the earliest Spanish records state explicitly that the Filipinos had no literature as such. All, including those Rizal himself consulted, echo independently the observation of the late 16th century Boxer Codex: “They have neither books nor histories nor do they write anything of any length but only letters and reminders to one another.”
So, no literature existed for the Spanish to destroy.
Obviously, then, Rizal’s commentaries on the De Morga must be treated with circumspection. They must be viewed for what they actually were – committed scholarship, not revelations of historical fact. Rizal created a mythical ‘golden age’ with the implicit message “We don’t need the Spanish”. The intended question in the reader’s mind is ‘If we don’t need the Spanish and cannot be their brothers, what do we do with them?” To which there is but one answer: revolution.
The committed scholar first creates his framework then seeks out data to fit that framework in order to inspire the reader to take a course of action. Data which does not fit the framework is either ignored or tyre-ironed into place with exaggeration and imagination until the data says what the scholar wants it to say. It is a form of deliberate confirmation bias.
Just as Rizal created a Filipino Golden Age of cannon-makers and ship-builders with a great literature, Constantino used the same methodology to promote a similar disputable ‘Golden Age’ of a revolt of the masses and a cowardly reformist man of clay called Jose Rizal.
For Rizal, to dispute his data and analysis was an unpatriotic, anti-Filipino act. When Isabelo De Los Reyes, a contemporary researcher in Philippine history questioned some of Rizal’s assertions and citing the Spanish Fr. Rada, Rizal wrote: “… had we no positive proof of de los Reyes patriotism, we would believe that by giving so much credit to Fr. Rada, he had intended to denigrate his own people”. To question Rizal was unpatriotic, pro-Spanish and anti-Filipino. Similarly, to question Constantino is to be regarded as anti-Filipino, anti-masses and pro-imperialism. Committed scholarship admits of no middle way, it says in effect: ‘If you’re not with us, you are against us. If you question us, you are the enemy’. Thus George W. Bush, Jose Rizal and Renato Constantino meet on common ground.